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Frontier Town Nina's Place

Prim only got an fisheyed glimpse of the bisharp's precipitous cranium before her viscera went weightless and her world became a sea of waltzing stars on a field of black. She distantly felt herself bowling through the other patrons' drinks as she skidded across the bar, but rather than lifting herself back to her feet could only muster a deep sense of lethargy—the stench of whiskey and the disgruntled jeers of peeved customers were faraway disturbances, like a parent coaxing her gently from a deep sleep.

It took her a few seconds to come back to herself, and a few seconds more to process the words she had heard without hearing:
"This is how it is done in Tsainan," he declared, reaching for another saké. He found Nina's stern glare instead.

"No fighting in my bar," she told him, gesturing with a tip of the head to a sign.

"There is no fighting," countered the Bisharp, evenly. "I am just here to drink. If the sapling will get up and shake my hand, all will be well and you will receive more of my gold. How does this please you, Madam?"

The Girafarig stared him down for a moment, then glanced at Prim. It seemed how she reacted would determine the bartender's response.

The petilil did not respond at first. She lifted herself quietly, all manner of spirits dripping off her fleshy-leaf body, and rubbed idly at her forehead. That had better not welt. After a couple bleary blinks, she closed her eyes for a second and willed a minor vacuum emanation from her body—all the drink she'd been soaked in beaded off her skin and hovered an inch off her body for a moment before splashing back onto the bar with an audible splash. She punctuated it with a glob of spit streaked with honey-brown. The musky-sweet terpenes of plant ichor lingered on her tongue.

Finally she shot the bisharp a glare as she considered her options. She was still angry, but the mind-clouding fury was gone from her and had left her psychically shriveled. Part of her still longed to try again—hit him with another attack, grab his hand like he asked and leechlife the soul out of his body, show him that she's not a sapling to be beaten into submission—but with a huff and a downward glance, she decided against it.

After all, she needed to save her strength. Surely she had been brought into this world to contend with evils greater than some macho asswipe with an alcohol addiction.

"I'm not shaking your fucking hand. You don't have fingers anyway," she grumbled. "Sorry about the mess, Nina. Maybe your generous guest can take care of it."

The saloon doors she teetered to were just high enough that she could pass under without having to open them. She could only chuckle subvocally at that. It was one way to put an exclamation mark on this infantilizing catastrophe, wasn't it. Fuck it.

She knew Ferry would have fought harder. He would have stood again and again until his fur was crusted maroon, until his eyes were too swollen to throw another punch. She respected that about him. To accept your smallness, your weakness, was the place of the wastrel. It was better to be crushed into pulp than it was to live a life to completion having challenged nothing.

Prim did not walk that road. She accepted nothing. But she had no use for nihilistic abandon. Certainty took its place.

Certainty that she had been brought here for a purpose. Certainty that she would grow strong again, stronger than ever before.

When that day came, she would kill that bisharp dead.

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Ch02: The Kanto Kids (Jade & Leaf)
Technically, the distraction Leaf had been hoping for when she'd left the Haus that afternoon had been lunch. Not that Nidoran and his mystery button hadn't been a very welcome alternative! She actually hadn't even pressed the button yet, which was very cool and good of her and she deserved a medal for it. Trouble was, the very unfair stress of that herculean act of resistance, combined with her concern about Nidoran himself, just opened up space for the earlier tornado of frustrating thoughts to come high-speed waltzing right back in. This was not as cool and good as the other thing.

So! Lunch. Lunch made lots of things good again. Nina's Place wasn't too far off, thankfully, and wasn't even that busy in between the big meal rushes, so she was able to find an unoccupied booth and get right to digging in. Nina's really did have the best food in town, she thought, even nodding to herself a little as she ate. Easily worth at least a good thirty minutes of not worrying about magic disappearing pokémon or wagon-eating monsters or things like that. Twenty minutes, at least. Or...

...know what, maybe she just wouldn't even go there and enjoy the sandwich instead, hm?
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There weren't a whole lot of things you were supposed to do while recovering from heavy injury. Jade had learned that lesson several times back home, and she was learning it again now. But unlike when she was a human, she hadn't been stuck in a medical bed for days on end, so that was at least something. This place didn't exactly have Pokemon Centers or healing machines, but even in Forlas, Pokemon were Pokemon.

Still, even if she could walk around the next day, it didn't exactly leave her in the state to do much. Training was right out, as was taking a trip out to that bulletin board, at least for a few days until she got any kind of stamina back. Standing for too long was tiring, so she couldn't even do much in the way of part-time work. That didn't leave a whole lot to pass the time with.

It was frustrating, but it couldn't be helped. (Would've been more tolerable if her team was here with her.)

So Jade wandered into Nina's Place and ordered lunch, then sat slumped so low in her chair that she could barely see over the table, legs resting on an adjacent stool, bored out of her mind. She hadn't seen anyone else on the team since the wagon crew had parted ways at Drungfield's. They were probably all off doing more important things.

Wait, the Ponyta who'd just taken a seat a table over; Jade was pretty sure she recognized her. Not a normal Ponyta--instead of fire, her mane was a shimmering purple-green.

Normally, starting a conversation with a stranger wasn't exactly Jade's specialty, but she was too bored to care.

"Hey, um, it's Leaf, right?" she asked with a raised paw, hoping that she'd remembered the names she read at the Haus correctly.
Her ears flicked forward a half-second before she realized the voice was talking to her. A meowth a table over was waving at her. "Oh, yeah, hi! That's me." There weren't a ton of people outside the group who knew her name, so probably she was from the Haus? Leaf had definitely seen a meowth around the Haus before. (More than just Laura, she meant.)

Well, company was yet another distraction, right? "Mind if I join you, uh... sorry, not sure I know your name?"
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Leaf levitated her sandwich over to Jade's table and followed behind it. "Thanks! Good to meet you."

She thought about the question as she made herself comfortable. Still easier to just sort of lie down on a bench seat instead of sit up like a human. "Same as everyone, I guess? Busy? Not busy enough, at least not until, y'know, the whole gala thing. Still a lot of people I haven't had a chance to even talk to yet, so it's still pretty chaotic. But the people I've talked to and worked with so far have mostly been nice, so not too bad overall.

"Oh, but I did go on a run through a local dungeon with some of the others yesterday! You've been having those dreams, right? We were supposed to go get a piece of the dungeon's... heart? and bring it outside a little, to make it easier to stay in touch with everyone even when we're not fighting. That'll be a relief, right?"
Jade gave a bit of a sheepish laugh. "Yeah, I haven't talked with half the team yet either. At first it was just cause I got here after everyone else, but it's been a while since then. Heck, I've probably fought alongside more of them than I've actually met." Now that was a weird thought.

Her ears perked up a bit when Leaf mentioned the dungeon trek. "Whoa, I haven't gone anywhere near that deep into the dungeon. Just a bit of item scavenging around the entrance, really. You guys got a piece of its heart? I guess I do remember the voice saying that we'd be able to hear them better inside a dungeon..." She trailed off, taking a bite of her sandwich and chewing it as she thought back to the increasingly-clear dreams they'd all been having.
"I hadn't before, either," Leaf said. Mostly because all the fun jobs were already taken when I got there... "But this time we took Ranger Nico with us and pushed all the way inside. The heart was this tree at the center of it—not as weird as I thought it'd be, but it was definitely some kind of... magical, or uncanny, whatever the word is. Growing different kinds of berries all at once and everything. You should go if you get the chance! Never seen anything like it back home, that's for sure.

"Anyway, we cut off a piece and planted it outside, which is supposed to take... whatever it is that makes 'reception' clearer inside the dungeon and bring it outside, I guess?" She shrugged, still not clear on exactly how it all worked. But hey, as long as it worked, right? "Then they said all they'd need was some time alone to really connect with it, and once they wake up again, bang. Finally some actual coordination."
Jade already couldn't helping wishing she'd gone on that mission instead of... the one she did go on.

She swallowed a bite of her food and said, "I guess that's good if we'll get to talk with the voice more and get more of an idea of what we're doing? Well, outside of battle, anyway... you've noticed it too, right? Like, how we all just sorta know where we're at--I swear it feels like we'd be hitting each other with our own moves like crazy without it. Took months to be able to get a big team to battle in sync like that back home."
"Yeah, it's like... I'm not even really thinking about it, but they're just... there? It just works, somehow? Wish it were that easy back... home, yeah." She frowned a little as she realized what Jade had said sounded familiar. "You fought with a team back where you come from? Did you do other kinds of 'dungeon' exploring, or were you more like a trainer?"
'Trainer.' That was the magic word, so Leaf almost definitely came from somewhere with trainers.

Jade found herself sitting up straighter. "Yeah, actually--I guess I had a team in more than one way. My Pokemon team, and also me and a bunch of other trainers all learning how to fight together. It wasn't that different from this, now that I think about it. We were pretty outmatched, but we had to make the most out of synergy." (It had worked well, until it hadn't.)

Jade rubbed the back of her head. "Well, I guess being a Pokemon technically makes it pretty different."
...Had Leaf actually met any other trainers here before? Koa sounded like he might've been one, but they'd both been too distracted by the whole gala disaster to actually talk about anything. Most folks around here had been nice so far, interesting to talk to the annoyingly tiny handful she'd talked to, but there weren't that many people who actually understood things the way she did. She gave Jade a huge grin. "Oh, that's cool! I'm a trainer, too! My team and I have done a few leagues, but not any sort of... group thing? Nothing that was like any of this stuff." She swished her tail in an arc to indicate all the everything that was... everything.

"Were you and the other teams part of some kind of big event or something, or did you mean you were..." She had to stop and think for a moment. "Like 'like this' means actually fighting? Against who?"
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Jade couldn't help grinning slightly. So Leaf was a trainer. Somehow she hadn't expected to keep meeting people who'd used to be trainers, especially after learning how many teammates came from worlds like Forlas, without any humans.

"You did leagues? Like multiple? That's awesome, part of me always wished I had. My friends were always more into competitive than me, though. I mostly just traveled around to keep my team busy," she added with a bit of a chuckle.

Jade leaned back in her seat, tail swishing idly. "A big event... I guess you could call it that. We were all brought together to learn how to fight, and..." She didn't want to talk about the Rebellion like it actually was. But she didn't want to make it sound cool either. It didn't feel right.

"Well, it was a lot like this, actually. We wanted to help people, stop criminals from using Pokemon, that sort of thing. I know that probably sounds really, really naive," she added quickly. "We were just kids. It didn't seem so unrealistic back then. Er, not that I think it's unrealistic that we'll be able to help out here! I guess we already have... kinda?" It felt like rambling but she wasn't sure where to stop.
"Yeah, my team and I started in Kanto and did the badge circuit there, and then spent some time in Johto, too—dunno if those names mean anything to you? We were hoping to travel Hoenn next, maybe take a shot at it or maybe just take it easy and see a new region, but, well." Another swish of the tail, a slight frown, a shrug. "Guess this comes first?"

"Oh... oh, huh." Leaf stared for a moment, lunch and a fair few other things temporarily forgotten. "I'd just meant some kinda competition format I didn't know about, like I dunno, doubles but a lot more people or something. But you were fighting criminals? A whole bunch of you?" Leaf nodded slowly, impressed. Sure would've been a whole lot easier if a whole squad of guys had backed them up in Celadon, damn. "That's amazing! What did you have to do?

"And it's not unrealistic!" she added, maybe a little more heatedly than she'd intended but screw it, it did just fine at cutting off the memories of pointless nagging. "If someone believes they can help, why shouldn't they do it? Especially if no one else is going to. That's why we're all here, isn't it?" Hopefully why all of them were here.
"You're from Kanto?" Jade blurted out suddenly. "That's--that's where I'm from! I grew up in Viridian City. Man, and I thought it was coincidence enough that Koa was from Sinnoh."

She scratched her whiskers awkwardly at the next bit though, realizing that she really hadn't needed to say anything about the Rebellion. There was no way not to feel really, really self-conscious at how it would come off... "It was, er... we just... we wanted to make a difference so we... welearnedhowtofightTeamRocket," she finished quickly, ears flat.

But then, Leaf had immediately come off as very much not the kind of person who'd say that it was stupid and dangerous, so there shouldn't have been anything to worry about. (Even though it was stupid and dangerous.)

If someone believes they can help, why shouldn't they do it? Especially if no one else is going to.
"Oh, no way!" Leaf said. "Viridian's not far from where I live! Currently live. Used to be in Celadon, but blah blah small towns are safer than big cities or whatever my parents' reason was." She rolled her eyes. "But yeah! You know where Pallet is? That's where we are now."

The second clarification took another few beats to process. "Really? Training specifically to fight Team Rocket? Wow." Now her eyes were wide, maybe even shining a little. "That's incredible! I mean, yeah, the police deal with whoever they can catch when they pull something obviously huge or stupid, but for some stuff you kinda have to shove their noses in it before they figure it out. But you're working with a whole group that's just for taking Rocket down? Oh, man! It's great to see someone digging them out from wherever they're hiding these days." She sure wouldn't mind being part of that, but no, after last time she wasn't allowed.
Jade had already sort of suspected it, but this just confirmed it. The Ponyta's shining eyes and wide grin told all--Leaf was absolutely the sort of trainer who would've been recruited for Stalker's Rebellion. She sounded pretty much exactly like Rudy had, back before everything.

"Yeah, we... well, we did have a bit of success, I guess," Jade said, rubbing the back of her head. "Three of my Pokemon were rescued from Rockets. We destroyed a lot of their tech and stopped some captures. This was all last year, though. We had to call the team off because things were getting too dangerous." It didn't seem like there was much point in sharing the grisly details. What would it achieve anyway--'no, fighting Team Rocket is a bad idea, don't do it unless you have to?' Either things were different in Leaf's Kanto, or she wouldn't remember this conversation enough to get any bright ideas once she was back home. Or both.

"Pretty wild that you live that close," Jade went on, idly picking at her sandwich. "Pallet's like, what, half an hour south of Viridian? If we've got a third person from the same country here, I'm gonna start wondering if something's up." She was pretty sure Laura wasn't, at least.
"Dang," Leaf said, still wide-eyed. She'd have whistled if she had figured out how to do that with a horse mouth. "One of my teammates was rescued from them, too! They were keeping her and a bunch of other pokémon locked up in part of their headquarters, so my team and let them all out! They destroyed a bunch of computers and stuff on their way out, too. It'd have been hilarious if it hadn't been because they'd all been treated so horribly beforehand. I hope they're doing better wherever they are now. Minerva seems like she's a million times happier, at least."

She might've looked ever so slightly disappointed at Jade's explanation, but she nodded understandingly all the same. "It's too bad you had to stop, but if it was dangerous then that makes sense. At least you did what you could while you could, right? As long as there's somebody somewhere willing to do something—" and perhaps if Jade was watching, she'd notice another flash of that heat and frustration "—they'll have to be shut down for good eventually."

Leaf had to stop and consider the coincidence, idly tapping a front hoof as she thought. "I dunno... yeah, maybe? I... guess I'm not sure how weird it is?" She shrugged. "It's weird that there are so many different places we've all come from so far; I'm still not used to that being, like, a thing. But if literally everyone else is from completely unrelated worlds or places within worlds or whatever, then three really close together is pretty different, yeah. I'm not sure what it would mean, though... we all came here by choice, right? It's not like we were picked. I think."
"At least you did what you could while you could, right? As long as there's somebody somewhere willing to do something, they'll have to be shut down for good eventually."
Jade nodded distantly, running a claw along the edge of the wooden table. "Yeah... yeah, I hope you're right." Leaf sounded so sure. And Jade couldn't tell if that was because the Rockets weren't as powerful in Leaf's Kanto, or if Leaf was just someone like Ajia--strong, capable, optimistic...

Shaking her head slightly to clear it, Jade forced a bit of a smile. "Hey, you said one of your team was rescued from them--what's she like?"
Jade seemed sort of distracted, now Leaf looked a little closer. Had something happened while she'd been fighting Team Rocket? She wanted to ask why they'd had to stop, but probably Jade wasn't in the mood for that.

"Oh, Minerva's great! She's an aerodactyl. She—uh, I don't know if you have those in... your Kanto?" 'Other Kantos' hadn't stopped being weird, either. "They figured out how to make new ones from fossils. But Team Rocket also figured out how to do the same thing? Or stole it, more like." She rolled her eyes, but then smiled as she imagined the aerodactyl launching herself into the sky, bear-trap teeth showing in a huge grin. "Adjusting to life without the Rockets was rough, but she loves battling, now she's found a way she's comfortable doing it. And flying, especially. Every time we go, it's almost like it's her first time again... maybe not a good idea right after lunch when she wants to do the barrel rolls, though, heh.

"What about the pokémon you rescued, and the rest of your team?" she asked. Getting to brag on their team usually brightened most trainers up, right?
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