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Frontier Town Nina's Place

Dakota rubbed his chin with the hand holding his cigarette, and skewed his mouth in thought.

"Well, it's really nothing I know much about, myself. I think my recollection comes from an expedition I made to Malantau a long time ago. That's very far from here, though, and nobody much has lived there in generations... Still, I remember one of the local guides, a native boy, telling me that his people thought 'Shadows' still lived there. Still sighted them."

He shook his head, looking perturbed.

"I never much believed any of that – I put it down to superstition, and sightings of rare fauna that had been misunderstood. Perhaps that was closed-minded of me, now that I'm hearing of such things out here. Not for the first time, either..."

There was a rustle from above as Adele peered down from her perch. "Well, good sir? Do not leave us hanging on your trailing prelude...! What more is there to tell?"

Dakota scoffed lightly at the Emolga's attitude. "It's not really my place to explain. I'll just say that an old associate of mine has been looking into strange happenings in Sohavenia, and may have learned a great deal more than I could tell you. He's an investigator of sorts. You might call him a 'consulting detective', if you enjoy certain kinds of pulp novel, ha. But I crossed paths with him just recently, and he mentioned a disturbing encounter with some kind of... demon. Or a demonic feral. Something of that nature."

The primate shook his head and seemed to shiver at the thought.

"Hmph... In any case, I can put you in touch with him, if that would be helpful? He may be of a great deal more use to you than I can be."
Demons and demonic ferals... A rather horrifying concept to say the least... and judging by how Dakota described them, there seemed to be a pretty good chance these shadow-beasts, or whatever they truly were, were related in some fashion.

"Look, Mr. Dakota, we need any information we can get our hands on here. If you know a guy that might be able to inform us of what we're up against, by all means we'd be grateful if you could contact him for us."
"Malantau? Where's that at?" Ghaspius asked. He made a mental note to check if that was mispronounced differently by the natives as well. "Maybe we can try to figure out some kinda connection between all these places and see where the source of these 'demon' or 'shadow' Pokémon is."

He smiled at the Monferno's offer. "Well that's mighty generous of ya sir; would much appreciate it if you can give us a name and put a good word in for us." He hummed to himself as he briefly mused how his sister would've gone about the whole investigation. Probably with a bit more gusto. "Sorry for fluttering about the topic there earlier; dunno if my associates here would've appreciated me just droppin' their identities like that."

The Misdreavus chuckled. "How 'bout a drink on me? Since you've given us a mighty few more stories than we were able to."
Dakota smiled warmly and nodded in gratitude. "Thank you kindly, Mr Ghaspius. I'll gladly take a gin and tonic, if you'd be so kind."

Nina went about preparing the drink as if she'd sensed the request before it was given. That was a service you couldn't get just anywhere.

"Malantau is on the other side of Luctemar from here," explained the Monferno. "East of the unincorporated territories is Landsverd, north-east of there is Tyrrier, and more northerly still is Malantau. It's mostly known for the Wight Barrens – a wasteland hostile to most forms of life."

He swallowed uncomfortably, clearly not relishing the memory.

"I'll find my man for you. He's an organised sort – I expect he'll mail you an invitation to meet him somewhere. His name is Nolan."
Malantau. Tyrrier. Wight Barrens. Steven's head was spinning with all the new names, new places. Promises of information. Promises of adventure. That's not what you're here for, Stone... He made mental note of them, for later. Right now, there were more pressing matters, and help was closer than a whole continent away.

"Yes, that would be most helpful!" he chirped. Steven was less enthused when he heard the term 'detective', but help was help, and they could use any kind of information they could get. "Most of us are staying in town at the Haus. Or you can direct your friend to send his mail to the mayor's office. I can receive it there as well."

He echoed Dakota's formality, if for no other reason than habit. "Thank you, good sir, for extending such a generous offer.

Steven gave Ghaspius a sheepish smile once more. "It's no problem. If I've learned one thing about this town, it's that word gets out about things in all sorts of ways. In this case, it's probably better when it comes from a first-hand source." Steven tipped his head to indicate he meant Ghaspius himself.
"Gin and tonic pl—" Ghaspius let out a light noise of surprise at Nina's quick act. With a gentle smile, Ghaspius set some coins on the counter. "If I weren't my typing, I'd think you had read my mind!"

The Misdreavus turned back to the Monferno as he bit down on his scarf in thought. "Right, Luctemar's the big continent we're on, right...? So we got Frontier Town... here, Little Scriven a teeny bit north, Ranger HQ south, Sojaveña in the west grass plains, Landsverd east, Tyrrier north-east of that, and Malantau north of the northeast of the east with the Wight Barrens inside it..."

The gears in his head were practically squeaking. "Y'all got a piece of paper I could borrow?"
Corey merely looked at Ghaspius with a hint of incredulity at his question.

“Uh… I’m afraid I left my notepad in my other suit…” he remarked in a deadpan demeanor.

“Nonetheless… I’m sure we’ll attune to the whole geographic nature of the area eventually. Maybe this Nolan will even be inclined to give us a map or something.”
Dakota chuckled. "Not many proper maps of the continent this far out, but I hear tell that the CA – that's the Commonwealth Army – have an expedition out in the region doing some kind of geographical survey. Maybe in a year or so we'll finally have some good maps of Sohavenia, or even the whole continent." He shook his head and toyed with the cigarette. "Don't get too excited about comparing 'Shadow' sightings around here with the rumours I mentioned about Malantau. That's well over a thousand miles from here, I believe."

He took a long drink of his gin, with evident enjoyment.

"Well, this has been most fascinating," cooed Adele from above. "I'll have to commit this all to ink and paper just as soon as I can, before any memory of it fades!"

Dakota just raised an eyebrow in a dry sort of way.

"Gentlemen, it's been a pleasure. Perhaps we'll see each other around town! But in any case, when I next correspond with my contact, I'll let him know how eager you are to meet with him. I'm sure he'll oblige, if only as a favour to me."
Ghaspius's expression deflated for a moment, but he quickly shook it off and smiled. "Guess that just means we'll have to sketch up our own lil' maps in the meantime!" He suggested before doing a little twirl. "It mighty fine meeting y'all as well. Don't be strangers now, ya hear? Unless it's the Jesse kind, of course!"

He floated away as he completely forgot the original reason he came to Nina's Place to begin with. Those stories were too enticing not to ruminate on and want to tell the others about. The sense of excitement, wonder, and bit of spookiness he felt — no wonder his sister had been so into this human business!

[Ch03] Paws n’ Jaws: Wes and Odette
Wes had far too much on his mind to relax properly, so he figured a drink might do him some good. A tiny voice in the back of his mind wondered if this new pattern of seeking out bars to decompress should be a worrying one or not…but he was quick to silence it. Without Neo and Novo, Wes was going to make do with what he had, and if that turned out to be a glass or two of mead or ale or whatever the hell was their equivalent here, then so be it, dammit.

He pushed through the doors of Nina’s Place and instantly decided he liked this joint. It wasn’t quite as home-y as the Zera, which was comparable to Orre’s Outskirt Stand, but it was quaint and humble enough, and above all, not too noisy or crowded. Certainly not as uppity as the Snob Stone Saloon or whatever.

He greeted the hostess, no doubt Nina herself, with a polite nod and requested a glass of something sweet, keeping his voice down so others wouldn’t hear. He wasn’t sure why he cared, really—it wasn’t like he had a reputation to uphold. But he wasn’t keen on broadcasting it, regardless.

Wes was content to sit quietly and enjoy his drink, a similar concoction to Gerome’s one that he liked, until he caught sight of a familiar face—a bandaged face—entering the bar.

His stomach dropped. Oh, scorching hells.

He turned back to his drink with a disgruntled sigh and deliberated, with no small amount of churning guilt, over whether he should greet her or ignore her.
Odette had had half a mind to walk to Sun Stone. She thought better there; felt more at home in the booths there. Familiarity of her workspace would help settle her head. But, that’s where Nolan was staying, and if he caught her there—especially deliberating over her notes—she might look a little too eager.

So, she settled on Nina’s. The tea was pretty good there, anyway. Upon entering, she took one quick glance around, making note of everyone she saw. Her eyes soon landed on a familiar blue rockruff, and she caught the backside of his head as it seemingly turned around.

She stiffened. Fuck, I hope he didn’t see me. But that was wishful thinking, he had to have seen her. But that didn’t mean she had to act like she saw him. With a slow breath, she adjusted the straps on her dress and trudged to the bar.

She nodded in polite greeting to Nina before ordering her usual black tea. As she waited for it to steep, she fished her journal and pen out of her bag and got to work combusken-scratching down her thoughts about the meeting between F-bombs and occasional margin notes referring to the putain de lézard raciste (Translation: racist fucking lizard). Though, she could hardly keep those straight as the sane voice in her head fought with the insane one.

Say something. Say anything.

Yes, ask him how the piss water tastes.

No. Maybe it would be nicer if—

If you called him Blueball outloud? Absofuckinglutely.

Sighing quietly, she reached for her tea and took a sip. “Fucking lizards making me nuts,” she muttered quietly after the gulp.
He saw her sidle in a few seats away, order a drink, then mutter to herself—not quite loud enough to be a clear invitation for conversation, but not quiet enough to be solely for herself, either. Wes knew that tactic well enough, the awkward middle ground between ignoring and acknowledging someone who was neither a stranger nor a friend.

He sighed. Oh, screw it.

“Still on your mind, too, I take it?” he said. When she looked up, Wes gave her a nod and raised his glass, then made an effort not to stare at her bandages. “Heard you got a little banged up in Blaguarro the other day, too,” he said, forcing a levity he didn’t feel into his voice. “Healing up alright?”
She didn't let the relief show on her face. Instead, she looked at him out of the corner of her eye before turning her head. At least he sounded far more calm now than he had during the talk.

"Yeah, it was..." she trailed off, trying to find the right words. "It gave me a lot to think about. And really be angry over." She picked up her teacup again and started dipping the teabag a few times to coax a faster steep. It still wasn't quite dark enough for her tastes.

"Was it obvious?" she asked, the humor creeping into her tone. She tried her tea again, and when it still didn't taste strong enough, she went back to dipping. Probably to focus on something other than the fact that something about him seemed shaky. She couldn't pinpoint what it was, though. Lasting anger adrenaline from the meeting?

She shrugged. "Decently. Hurt more on the initial impact, now it's just like...what's the word..." She snapped a few times, trying to will the Galarian to work in her head. "Itchy-sore," is what she settled on, and it sounded dumber coming out than it had in her mind. She paused and shook her head to herself. "But yes. I'm fine."

She gave him a brief once-over. She was mostly appreciative of the concern--because he'd been there--but she also had to remember he was on that wagon crew. Whatever he'd endured had to have been far worse.

"You?" she asked.
He let out a small huff of amusement at Odette’s choice of descriptive words. “Sounds about right. I know Dave had similar symptoms. It seems we all experienced it a little differently.”

Including creepy dreams...

Wes hadn’t asked if anybody else had had such dreams—he wasn’t sure he dared. And surely that’s all it had been, just a symptom from the panic of that night, or maybe from the pain meds he’d been given, or just some kind of weird Shadow side effect. Nothing more than that.


He clenched his jaw and roughly downed a few more gulps to shove the thoughts away. Whatever. Didn’t matter. Wasn’t worth thinking about.

“Yeah,” he said, a little more curtly than he meant to. “I’m fine.” As if to prove his point, he nodded to his mostly-healed leg. “Fine and dandy now.”
His remark got her thinking. Similar symptoms, but experienced differently.

After speaking with Ridley, who had also gone on the wagon, she knew that he'd had a dream similar to hers. Equally as unnerving, equally as cryptic. Wes was there too. Did he also...?

She blinked at the curtness of his response. It seemed a little out of left field. Maybe it was aggravation on the topic. Surely it wasn't something he wanted to talk about.

But, if anyone else could have had a similar dream, she wanted to know. Maybe that's what he was annoyed about. Or, she was just being too hopeful on that front.

However, she took in his demeanor again, and the way he spoke, and she was suddenly put off by the idea of pressing. She'd already made him wary before, and finding some other way to double down on it didn't feel ideal.

She put a mental pin in it. Later.

"Uh huh," she said in agreement. "You do look the finest of fine. That's good."

She felt the space between them swell with awkwardness, only fueled by the fact that she wasn't sure how to continue. This was the most downtime she'd had with him in her presence, as it seemed every other time they met up, they were being flung new ominous information or in the middle of toppling the political landscape in town. If she wanted to set the record straight, there was no time better than now.

"Mm...I don't think we've ever properly met and introduced, now that I'm thinking about it," she said, trying to hide the nervousness she felt building in the back of her mind. "I'm Odette." For good measure, she leaned over with an outstretched hand to shake. Friendly, she was being friendly. And he had paws, so...hopefully it wouldn't be too strange. "Hard to say hello's when everything's happening so fast, you know?"
Wes blinked in surprise at the sudden shift. What was…happening? He looked at Odette’s outstretched hand in confusion for a moment. Was she trying to pull something? Get something out of him?

No, you idiot, he chided himself. She’s just trying to be friendly. Get a grip.

He reached out a paw and accepted the handshake—albeit awkwardly, because how the hell were handshakes supposed to work when you didn’t have hands? But as he looked at Odette’s apprehensive expression, he found himself relaxing a bit. She was just as uncertain about this interaction as he was, and somehow, that thought was comforting.

He offered a tired grin. “Wes,” he said. “Don’t believe we started off on quite the right foot before. In my defense, I’m not the best at socializing even when I’m not stuck in the damn body of a small dog.”

His eyes flicked to Odette’s second pair of jaws before he could stop himself. “Might as well say it up front. Can I ask about that, or…?”
She felt her chest tighten when he didn't immediately accept her shake. Was it because he was a dog? Fuck, she knew it. Was it somehow demeaning to dogs to ask them to shake? Not that he was a dog to start, but perhaps he decided it was something worth being offended over. Or their touchdown in Blaguarro just left things totally and completely unsalvageable that she had no business trying to explain herself, because--

Oh. He took it. Equally as awkward, equally as unknowing. It was comforting to know she was pushing this interaction with someone who was just as socially stupid as she had the propensity to be. Maybe (hopefully) this wouldn't be too difficult.

"No, I get it. It's not exactly my thing either; it takes me a couple of passes," she admitted. Especially with--

Ah, yep. She didn't even have to say it. She nodded a couple of times, shooting a look over her shoulder as she felt Jawile's stem twitch with excitement at being acknowledged.

"No, it's fine. I was going to say something anyway," she said. She indulged in another sip of her tea as her mouth suddenly felt dry at the thought of having to explain the Wrath incarnate attached to her head.

"I'll start by saying I don't control them. Have a complete mind of their own." Sort of. Watch what you say. "I admittedly don't know how else to explain it without boring you with a really, really convoluted backstory, and I think we're convoluted out for the day." She offered remnants of an annoyed grin, hoping the attempt at commiseration would land.

"So, to put it as simply as possible...I have a Pokemon partner. In my world." She'd said she was a human during that meeting with Nolan, so, hopefully, he was catching her drift. "She's...strange. The easiest way I can explain it is that she's an embodiment of anger. Just pure, undiluted, obnoxious rage." She sounded somewhat exasperated just saying that. "But our bond is very strong." Extremely strong. Perhaps in a different situation, she would gush about it a little.

Another sip. "Even so, when I accepted the call here, I was under the impression none of my partners were going to follow me. And that rang true...for the most part." She glanced over her shoulder again. "She's not here. It's just me. But somehow, it seems our bond took a..." she trailed off to find the right word, "...bizarre turn, and I guess some aspect of her royally fucked personality has taken up shop in these jaws I have that should otherwise be totally latent. I don't know how, I certainly don't know why, and I'm not exactly thrilled about it. At least when she's separate, I can tell her to shut up, and she usually listens. These just...don't do that. Not without a locked chain, at least."

With that, she sighed. "So, that said," she breathed, "I don't exactly remember if they said anything offensive or offputting to you, but if they did, I really do apologize. If I'm being completely real with you, I've felt a little bad about how that whole drop-in went for a while now..."
Wes’s eyebrow raised higher and higher as Odette spoke. “I mean, that sounds like it’s anything but a boring story.”

He had to admit she’d lost him with the “very close bond” thing. “So…I guess your partner was a ghost mon or something?” And she possessed you? He wasn’t sure he dared say that out loud in case he was completely off base and it was somehow offensive, but had no idea what the hell else it could have meant.

He shook his head with an amused snort and turned back to his drink. “Well…that story is a first, I’ll say that much. And considering the nonstop insanity we’ve experienced since coming here, that’s really saying something.” He shook his head again when she apologized. “But anyway…don’t worry about it. I mean, as long as you can promise your possessed jaws won’t eat me or anything, I think we’ll be just fine.” He said the last part with a grin, but quickly felt a stab of internal panic. Shit, I hope that wasn’t offensive. How am I supposed to respond to this, anyway??

He covered his uncertainty with a cough. “And, uh, besides—I wasn’t at my best then, either. Didn’t exactly handle being thrown into all of this—” he gestured to their surroundings, “and this—” he indicated to himself with a sweep of his paw, “in the best way. So, I apologize for that, too.”

In his defense, he’d been crushed by a chimera three times his size, but Odette had been dumped in a runaway cart herself. So…he supposed they both had their excuses. Even if he still had no idea what to make of her demonic jaws.
At the mention of ghost types, she pursed her lips and averted her eyes. He was smarter than she gave him credit for.

“Close,” she said. “No. But close. I suppose that was going to segue into a ‘possession’ question, so I’ll save you the trouble and tell you, yes, that’s exactly what it is.”

Should I have said that? Is that going to freak him out? Of course it’s going to freak him out, look at his face right now.

“I can’t lessen how creepy that sounds so I’ll try to undercut it with an insistence that I train ghost types and…the others like them, so I’m more than qualified to deal with it.” She scrunched her brows as she tried to think of some way to follow that up. After the almost-argument she’d had on the watchtower, it had become apparent her that people were more than just annoyed by the type; they were deeply unsettled by them.

“And it was a family thing, so I didn’t actually have a choice.”

That was somehow worse than the previous statement, and her eyes slipped shut as she cringed outwardly. Trying to make someone from a different world, someone she was trying desperately to smooth things over with, understand the specifics of her predicament felt about as difficult as explaining algebraic concepts to Hau while he was high. And she sucked at algebra.

Maybe it was the approach? She couldn’t figure out a better way to explain “I got possessed by a parasitic Pokemon because I’m a cult leader’s bastard kid and that Pokemon’s personality is in my second head because I’m a human who got turned into a mawile.” Perhaps if she baked a cake and wrote it out in frosting, that would help ease the blow.

“I…do not expect you to know how to respond to any of that. Just know that right now, I only have plans to use them on fat pompous birds and skinny pompous lizards. You don’t seem to fall under any of those categories so I think you’re square,” she said quickly, returning his grin with a little more nervousness than she intended.

“And, you’re fine. I’m right there with you; all of this was reeeaaaallllyyyyyy unexpected, so…” She forced another sip of tea. Something to stop herself from talking for a moment so she could catch her breath. “I’d say we both earned a pass.”

She began to dip the tea bag again, though she could tell by how dark the water had gotten, she didn’t need to be doing it anymore. It was just something to keep her hands busy. “I don’t mean to dump all this on you while you’re trying to enjoy your ale. I might need a glass myself after that fun little outing.”
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“Well, not that I’m biased or anything, but I never did see the point in drinking leaf juice,” Wes said with a slight grin.

Odette was clearly on edge talking about this sort of thing—and somehow, that was more reassuring than the way she’d angrily and defensively doubled down in their first meeting. It felt more…sane, in a strange way. Of course she was unnerved by her situation, but she was probably used to jumping to the defensive thanks to people always reacting the way he initially had.

“I admit I’m not entirely following your whole…situation. Or what you mean by ‘other’ types similar to ghosts. Or whatever kinda family issue you’ve got going on there.” He shrugged. “But I’m not gonna pry if you don’t want to get into it. Stars know we all have stuff we’d rather not spill out to any random stranger.” He supposed they weren’t quite strangers by this point, but still.

He took another swig and cleared his throat. “Anyway. I’m not gonna pretend I get it, because I’ve never heard of something like that. But I’m…I shouldn’t have judged you, either.” He snorted. “Hell, I’m the least qualified person to go around judging people. So…sorry for that. If it helps, I thought you handled yourself pretty well while chatting with that lizard prick.”

The corner of his mouth twitched. “Don’t think I’d mind watching you set those jaws loose on him, if you ever get the chance.”
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