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Frontier Town Nina's Place

Silver hummed to himself while his gaze wandered on the table. That was such a broad question; what did he want to know?

Then, he glanced at his glass of sarsaparilla. The cold liquid reminded him their first real meeting with Sonora, as well as the way Lyle and Rodion sympathized with her and understood her plight. So maybe… that was yet another important thing they had in common? He needed to know.

“Well, if you don’t mind me asking…” Silver stared intently at Rodion, his eyes filled with curiosity. “What prompted you to start your, shall we say, profession in your world? Was it because you wanted to, or because you had to?”
"Wanna know why I became a pirate, huh?"

Rodion took another sip from his tankard, before leaning back in his seat with a small smile.

"I grew up in a nomadic clan of water Pokémon, not too dissimilar to the Escarpa, except we moved around the ocean and weren't as obsessed with battling," the Buizel began. "While I liked travelling and seeing different places, life underwater just wasn't for me, so I left for a new life on the surface."

He stretched his arms and put them behind his head, before continuing on.

"The troublemaker as I was back then, I ended up joining a pirate crew for a one time job. It's where I met Hess, and the two of us quickly became friends," Rodion explained. "I ended up sticking around since I liked the work and he seemed like the type who needed someone out looking for him. Can't say that it didn't work out for us. He always had a dream of creating his own crew so he could run things his way, and I helped him do just that."
Despite himself and his best efforts, Silver stared at Rodion with eyes wide with awe and a bright grin, while a series of soft dooks dooks echoed in his throat.

Darn, he was behaving and sounding like a kid, or at least like an excited weasel kit? Yeah, he definitely was, but… oh whatever! For once in his life as a Sneasel, he could afford to lower his guard a little more than usual and to let the language of his body speak.

“Whoa! That sounds so cool!” he exclaimed, smiling toothily. “And! I know how hard it can be to find good friends, so I’m happy you found someone you can rely on and who can rely on you!”

Just like I have. I… yeah, I can consider myself lucky for finding Kotone…

“And what’re some of your most successful missions? Or, well, some achievements you’re proud of?” he asked, placing his head on his crossed arms. “I bet that pirate life must be rough.”
As Rodion listened to Silver, he couldn't help it as a proud smile began to form on his face. It was rare to see someone from outside his own crew admire his choice and reasons to become a pirate, let alone with such enthusiasm.

"Well, I don't know if I would call it a mission, but there was that time where we managed to steal from an Imperial ship that tried to capture us."
Silver tilted his head in puzzlement. “Imperial ship, huh?”

He smirked and leaned back on his seat, conjuring up many potential scenarios in his mind. Most of them involved cannon balls like in those pirate movies, but he wondered if that’s what they used in Rodion’s world, too.

“Well, you must’ve pulled off quite the stunts to get the attention of the empire or whatever government you’ve got in your world! And how did that story end?”
"So, this all happened after we took care of some business on Haipheh Island," Rodion began. "It's an island that houses a large naval base, so going there wasn’t without its risks, but it all seemed to be worth it when we sailed away… at least until we realized we were being followed by a ship faster than us.

He leaned in closer as he continued. "Now, I noticed fairly quickly we couldn't outrun the ship, so me and some of the other swimmers scattered with all the Blast Seeds that we had on the ship, while Hess pretended to surrender to them. Luckily none of those Imps had noticed us, so we were able to regroup on the other side of their ships while they were all focused on ours…"


Rodion abruptly smacked the table with one of his paws, shooting Silver a visible smirk as he continued his story.

"Which is when we blew up their rudder, along with a hole in their ship. The moment those Imps were distracted by that, our ship burners took the initiative to set their sails on fire. With all the chaos going on, we were able to get into their armory and steal several crates full of orbs, seeds, and wands. After that, it was a simple matter of just sailing off and leaving those Imps to limp off back to shore with damaged sails and no rudder. I’d have liked to see them try to follow us after that, it’d have probably been worth a laugh."
Ohoh! That was gonna be interesting!

Silver idly wished he could have some popcorn to eat while listening to the tale, but with that not being an available option (and even if it were, it probably wouldn’t be edible for him), he limited himself to snacking on a little bowl brimming with fried Tepig rinds.

While he wasn’t exactly an imaginative person, Rodion was describing his story with such an intense excitement and enthusiasm that he could easily visualize the entire scene in his mind.

The now-Sneasel was so absorbed that he leaned forward when Rodion mentioned the Blast Seeds…


Rodion abruptly smacked the table with one of his paws, shooting Silver a visible smirk as he continued his story.

Whoa!! Silver’s ears shot upright, so surprised by the sudden slam that all he could do was to blink rapidly and stop chewing on his rind. Who would’ve thought that Rodion could get so passionate about his pirate life?

‘Rodion sounds… so happy and proud of what he and his crewmates have done…’ He gave a nod to let Rodion know he was listening alongside a tiny smile. ‘Hehe! It’s kinda adorable to see him so fired up!’

There was a tiny, near invisible side of him that wondered if he should celebrate what sounded like a success heist. But at the same time, as far as he knew, probably the Imperial army wasn’t a glorious nor positive force in his world, and they probably had done plenty of dubious businesses. After all, no government was immune to the allure of power.

Besides, he could tell that Rodion had a good heart underneath those layers that society would label as questionable, and that was what mattered. Nothing of that was gonna change the fact that Rodion was his friend, if not his closest friend. To the contrary, it was more obvious than ever that they were way more alike than he imagined.

“…Okay, not gonna lie, that was impressive,” he commented once Rodion was finished, his eyes sparkling in awe. “Heck, that was such a clever strategy! You managed to turn the tables on those losers!” He chuckled mischievously and flashed a smirk of his own. “You really showed ‘em who’re the bosses of the sea, huh?”
"Heh, that we did."

Rodion leaned back in his chair again, putting his arms behind his head as his smirk softened into a warm smile.

"That said, my proudest achievement isn't any mission that I've done," the Buizel insisted. "It's the fact that I build this crew with Hess and Kichiro. One that stays away from the darker parts of piracy, and where we offer a place for 'mons that other pirate crews look down on and don't find good enough. Yeah, maybe we're not the largest or the strongest crew out there, but we still get by at the end of the day, and we all try to look out for each, almost like a found family."

He looked away for a moment, his smile fading as he let out a quiet mutter under his breath.

"At least until recently..."
Forming a crew out of folks who are looked down by others while avoiding the pitfalls of darkness… now that was something that Silver could definitely get into and understand.

If he were born in Rodion’s world and the now-Sneasel didn’t promise himself to not get involved in a life of crime anymore, then perhaps they might have crossed paths at some point in their lives. Heck, perhaps they could even be crewmates! That simple idea made Silver chuckle softly.

But then, Rodion’s smile faltered, and Silver couldn’t hold back a frown. Uh oh, that didn’t seem promising at all!

“…What happened?” he asked, pushing the bowl with the remaining fried rinds toward his friend.
Rodion nodded in appreciation, letting out a small chuckle as he took the bowl from Silver.

"To give you some background information, the place in my world that I'm from, Anyilla, is ruled by two factions: the Company and the Empire. Each control about half the islands in Anyilla."

The Buizel grabbed one of the fried rinds and bit down on it. As he chewed his snack, he carefully considered his words on where toe begin.

"About two weeks before I got to Forlas, a Company ship ambushed us at sea. Its captain, one asshole of a Samurott called Commissioner Lyn, forced us to make a choice: either help him catch… a certain Pokémon he had trouble catching himself, or life was going to get uncomfortably short for us. As in 'get sent to the hell prison on Nagrobek Island or starve inside an Apricorn' short."

He let out a sigh as he took another one of rinds and stared at it, playing around with it in his paw.

"Obviously we didn't have much of a choice, so we went along with this elaborate plan of his," Rodion said, shifting his gaze back to Silver. "The first part of that plan was for us to raid every Imperial island with the sails of the ship that particular Pokémon was traveling with. The idea was that if the real ship docked at an Imperial town, all the villagers would come out and attack it, thinking they're defending their home against a second pirate raid. Of course it would take a day at most before the locals would realize they got the wrong Pokémon, which is where we would come in… along with most other pirate crews in Anyilla."
Once again, Silver stayed quiet as he listened to Rodion’s story with keen interest. A displeased frown appeared on his face when he heard about that jerk Samurott threatening Rodion and his crew — like wow, that whole thing about a prison of starvation made out of an Apricorns, of all things, was both bewildering and disconcerting! And to think that Apricorn Balls were such a safe place for any Pokémon to stay, back in his own world…

Silver leaned back when Rodion paused, giving enough time to digest the events of the story.

So, this Lyn fella basically negotiated at best and blackmailed at worst all the pirate crews he could find, huh. And just for this certain Pokémon. I wonder what’s so special about that ‘mon…

Though, by judging Rodion’s expression, there was more that he had yet to say. As such, Silver got the attention of the bartender to ask for some extra snacks.

“Wow, that Lyn sure sounds like quite the nasty piece of work!” he commented, before raising an eyebrow and pulling the sarsaparilla to himself. “But now I gotta ask: What Pokémon was that guy looking for?”

That was gonna be a long afternoon with many incoming long stories, it seemed like!

To be continued…

Ch04: A Chat Over an Illusion
Practice took on many forms. Whether it be a physical spar, a quite meditation or the building of a skill. Often, it was in a zoroark's best interest to use their illusion ability regularly lest they become unconvincing and there was no better way than attempting to mass-fool an audience.

And that was exactly what Bellatrix was doing this evening in one of the local saloons. Though she was never exactly one for drinking, drunkards provided a far more generous margin for error. Picking the locale was also a rather simple process of elimination: Odette, working for Sun Stone, would've probably blown her cover and she felt that Gerome, having built enough of a rapport with the Wayfarers, would have likely noticed her rather quickly as well. Bellatrix wasn't familiar with Nina, Nina didn't know her, so Nina's it was.

The form Bellatrix had settled on was that of a meowstic who sat near the bar with a simple order of cider and food; quite pleased that she had managed the order without so much as a raise of the brow or any comments regarding underage drinking. So pleased, in fact, that she had failed to notice that a couple of her characteristic red gems were beginning to show on her arms...
Nova's taste testing with Leaf and Archie had confirmed that he did enjoy both savory meats and assorted berries. Just not necessarily together. This left Nova some room to experiment and tracking down these RKS System answers had gotten him hungry.

He figured he could give Nina's Place a shot today. See what struck his fancy on the menu. Nova's talons clicked on the floorboards as he walked toward the bar to see about sitting down. He paused mid-step at the sight of meowstic with red jewels in her arms. Those sure didn't look like accessories. And he doubted this was some part-rock Forlasian variant. She didn't look different enough.

Wait, there was a ghost zorua on the team, right? Bell-something. Maybe she'd evolved? And getting put into a new body on Forlas meant having to relearn illusion powers?

But her gems looked so much like...

Nova shook his head. If Forlas had no Uxie, Azelf, and Mesprit, it had no Red Chain. He was fine. Don't think about it.

He approached the bar. The seats weren't exactly designed for someone of his stature but he was large enough he could just sit on the floor.

"Nice accessories," Nova said to Meowstic, while signaling to get some sort of menu by flashing his eyes like lights. "Must've hurt to put 'em in your arms like that." There was a tiny hint of tongue and cheek to his tone.
Well, it had been going well up till now. When Bellatrix noticed one of the chimeras approach - Nova based on that pelt - she couldn't help but jolt slightly in surprise. Thankfully, most of it was concealed beneath the illusion making it easy to save face.

"Yes, thank you," she muttered in response, batting the spots with a paw, the gems quickly vanishing in response. "Simple parlour trick," Bellatrix explained, looking up to meet Nova's gaze. That was when she noticed the second thing: the conspicuous lack of mask. She had wondered what they looked like beneath that thing and the result was far less terrifying than she'd expected, hadn't they been a vanity thing?

Not relevant, she decided. "Come for a bite or a drink?" she asked instead, tracing the rim of her glass with a paw. Part of her wondered about the logistics of how Nova had eaten up to this point, if he had eaten at all though she wasn't sure how rude it would be rude to ask.
"Yes, actually." Nova's eyes and tail brightened. He accepted the menu that was offered. "I've been trying to sample different stuff now that everything doesn't taste like musty stone anymore."

Though when he looked down at the menu he was quickly reminded that Nina's Place was a bit on the pricier side as far as Frontier Town went. Ouch. "Gotta re-learn the stuff I like. Though so far I wouldn't call myself a picky eater."

He scanned the actual descriptions. Everything sounded good to him. Or was that just some inner desperation of his?
"I see," Bellatrix replied. "Well, since you're already here I have no qualms if you decide to sit next to me." There was a slightly awkward pause. Small talk. Not exactly her forte but she could adapt. "I take it that it's been quite liberating for you, the removal of that mask, I mean," she began. "Significantly easier to eat too, I imagine. What's been your favourite thing so far?"
"Probably steak." Nova nudged the menu back across the bar, tapping a steak sandwich with the edge of his beak. "Something about the savory taste, I guess?" He watched Nina collect the menu and head away.

"And, yeah, it's liberating. Back home that thing was... stuck on me for so long I'd forgotten what all of this is like." His head crest fanned out a bit. A gentle hum came from his beak.

"What about you?" Much quieter, Nova whispered, "Happy to be back on two legs again?"
"Far from a bad choice," taking a sip of her drink. "And do enjoy it."

Her ear flicked as she considered his question. She assumed that Nova simply thought that she was a zoroark prior to her arrival on Forlas. Nobody here knew about the human thing except her given that she saw little reason to delve into it much.

Either way, the answer to her questioned remained the same. "I am," she whispered back. "Admittedly, a slight learning curve to go from two, then four, then back to two again but the muscle memory is slowly starting to come back. Stronger illusions too. Funny how evolution works."
"Imagine it's much harder for the humans on the team," Nova mused. "Though I guess when you're built and not born things just kinda... lock into place." He shifted weight from hip to hip. "Like you spit fire on a log and it just... catches fire."

Sighing, he accepted a glass of water from Nina. "That analogy sounded better in my head."
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