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Frontier Town Sand Veil Archives

Jackie Cat

A cat who writes stories.
Heartache staff
they or she

This was the aphorism engraved on the eaves of the place that served as Frontier Town's library. Nestled closer to the center of town rested a well-cared for building, surprisingly clean considering the dusty town, built mostly of rough-hewn, flaxen, sandstone blocks. A hand-painted sign above the door read ‘Sand Veil Archives’. The faintest scent of leather and paper drifted from within.

Inside was a cozy arrangement of mismatched, second-hand furniture and shelves upon shelves of catalog material, packed tightly together. The library was small for a town institution, and its selection of books was limited. Many had thoroughly creased spines, faded lettering, or yellowing pages – the furniture, too, appeared much-repaired. Only so many of the shelves stocked novels and other fiction – more stocked non-fiction reference material and academic or practical writings, and still more stocked newspaper back-issues and other archival material. Not having multiple floors or a mezzanine, the taller shelves were reached either with assistance, or by the use of a sliding ladder.

Despite its crowded, ageing appearance, the library was stewarded with care and attention to detail. The room was clean, the catalog meticulously organised, and its several reading nooks arranged strategically around the floorspace, with chairs and couches set up for reading. Near each of these, certain shelves had hand-written notes affixed to them, synopsising and recommending particular reading material. It was not uncommon to see small groups of 'mon gathering in these areas for small games or discussions. Certain social or practical clubs in town used the library as a meeting-place when Frontier Hall would not suit, particularly the more avid fans of chess, backgammon, and go.

A keen-eyed Gliscor, quiet but approachable in demeanor, kept watch over the books. She often hung from the library rafters, reading or seemingly sleeping, though even in sleep she seemed quite aware of all that was going on inside. Townies – regular patrons or not – spoke favourably of her, and she was known to provide a listening ear to any in need, providing they were respectful of her 'charges'. Word among town was that Gliscor Tlalli was a friend to any outcasts, given they were willing to put in a good day's work.

Many thanks to @Tetra for assisting with the writeup.
Ch01 - Leaf's Lucrative Library Visit
It was a pity that Frontier Town's own library wasn't as expansive as Little Scriven's. More books meant more information, more to work with, more stories. And more time on the really cool tall sliding ladders in the stacks.

Fortunately for everyone who wasn't Leaf and who likely would've appreciated some actual work getting done, the Archives' smaller selection also meant fewer distractions. The pile of detailed dungeon-related books was disappointingly small, but at least it'd get to the point that much faster. "Hm, Silver Ravine, Silver Ravine..." she muttered, horn flickering as she tried to turn the thin pages one at a time, and also to ignore the mild headache that level of finesse was giving her. This had been easier when it was a menu filled with overpriced made-up cocktails.
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It was another peaceful day, more or less, in that quiet little library. Some of the staff were giving nervous glances at someone else in the area, though it wasn't obvious to Leaf why just yet.

It was a little Nidoran. His ear twitched at the sound of any little noise and he bunny-hopped to one of the shelves, staring at the spines of the books. He pulled out a book one by one, looked at the cover, and then put it back. He sniffed at the pages, tilted his head, and then inspected another book. Around his neck was a worn-out, patchy satchel filled with very little. It jingled with coins every time he jumped, and was stuffed with a few other items and papers, but little else.

A staff member, a nervous Watchog, continued to observe him from afar. She occasionally glanced at the books.
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Okay, there was no way this one was just her. Pages 76 and 77 were definitely stuck together. She tried focusing on pulling them apart and just about caught herself before tearing them clean in half. Maaaaaybe best to ask for an assist with this one.

"Excuse me," Leaf asked, approaching a watchog librarian with the book hovering in front of her. "Sorry to bug you, but it looks like two of these pages are stuck, and I didn't want to damage the book by being too clumsy. Would you mind...?"

The watchog seemed kind of distracted when Leaf tried to hand her the book, though, and apparently not just her. A nidoran? Was that all? Wasn't even like he was "naked" or anything; he had a little bag right there. He was pretty adorable, but in a world with only pokémon, wouldn't you get used to that?

"...Something up with that guy?" she asked.
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"Oh, of course," Watchog replied, helping to split the papers with delicate hands. Though, she then glanced at the Nidoran again and whispered, "I'm... not sure. The mannerisms... and he hasn't said a word, either..."

His ear twitched again, the ear facing them. It seemed like that meant he was listening in on the conversation...

"He's not a feral who stole a bag, is he?"
Feral. Leaf still didn't have the greatest handle on that term. Sometimes it meant "pokémon who didn't live in town", but other times it meant "pokémon that 'aren't thinking people'", which was an entire new tier on the This Place Is Kinda Weird Cake.

Whatever the latter meant, though, this guy couldn't be that if he was reading the book spines, right? And he didn't seem particularly nervous for someone who'd stolen something. No more twitchy than nidoran tended to be by default, anyway. "I can check if you want," Leaf said, the dungeon book all but forgotten as the curious nidoran continued his furtive browsing. (So much for fewer distractions.)

"Hi there! Need help finding something?" Leaf moved a little closer, but not too close. No need to scare the guy off or get spiked if it was nothing; after the first four times back home that lesson had finally sunk in, at least. "I don't work here, I mean, but my friends and I've been checking this place out a lot lately, so I could probably help out, if you'd like."
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Nidoran's head jerked toward Leaf in an instant. Eyes stared at her with little recognition and civility, but it was a neutral stare.

There was a brief moment where perhaps Nidoran should have talked. He blinked a few more times, then reached for another book and showed the picture. It seemed to be one about history...

"Mn." Nidoran nodded. It was... not a word, but it was a noise. His ear twitched again, and then he offered a friendly smile.

Watchog observed quietly, still looking convinced it was some kind of... intelligent feral.
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Not much for talking, huh? Couldn't, or just didn't want to? He still wasn't giving off any particular "wild" vibes, though. More like a shy kid or something.

"What've you got there?" she asked, moving a little closer to take a better look at the history book. "Is this the one you wanted, or are you looking for more like it?"
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Nidoran looked at the book again, then at the other books. His eyes shined a little when Leaf suggested more like it. That seemed to be the case--this Nidoran was looking for history books.

He placed the book down and began to look through the other ones, pulling out another one and showing the cover. This one seemed to be about... berries. The similarity between the two books was that they both featured berries on the cover.

"He's just picking random books," Watchog said, frowning. "Excuse me? Do you... need help with something?"

Nidoran stared at Watchog, tilting his head. Watchog fidgeted. "It doesn't look like he wants to cause any trouble... Sorry for assuming. Ah, I'll... be on my way." She shuffled off...
"It's okay, I'll keep an eye on him," Leaf said, her eyes entirely on the two book covers. Huh. A history book, and he wanted more, but also berries? Did he want more history books, or more berry books, or... a history of berries...?

Didn't seem like any direct clarification from this chatterbox was gonna happen, so might as well throw some spaghetti at the wall and see what stuck. "I'll search up here," she offered, gesturing toward a higher shelf with a nod. She was tall—well, pretty small for a pokémon, but taller than him, anyway. She reared up and scanned the spines for anything relevant-looking. Maybe something about berry farming, or an account of how long pokémon had lived on this continent, or, dunno, a book about Sojaveñan tax law but the publisher just thought some nice persims on the cover would look less intimidating. Or... hadn't she heard that berries usually grew in dungeons around here? Maybe one of the dungeon books would pique his interest.
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Nidoran stared in fascination, tilting his head every now and then. When Leaf took her eyes away from him, Nidoran seemed to reposition himself to another spot near the shelves. And then, another glance away, Nidoran had appeared on the second floor. He must have jumped.

He tilted his head again, watching with childlike wonder as Leaf looked through the books so expertly.
"Expertly" was one way to put it, perhaps. "An increasingly haphazard pile of books teetering next to her, the likelihood that she was not going to remember the right places to return them to likewise increasing" was another. At least the history-type books were plentiful enough, although books specifically about berries were in shorter supply. Still, the Leaning Tower of Publications did contain some agricultural texts, an almanac or two (those were supposed to be for farmers back in the old days, right), one book that looked like a field guide for identifying strange plants. "Any of these look-- huh."

When had he gotten all the way up there? Kid sure had a lot of energy. "Man, you're a busy little guy. Anyway, any of these look like good reading?" She indicated the pile with a swish of her tail. "Or are there any other kinds of books you wanted to go with?"
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His eyes glimmered with approval. He seemed to like those books, whatever they were, and picked out a few that appeared to seemingly be at random...

Though, Leaf wouldn't have to take long to realize the pattern was he seemed interested in ones with good, bright covers or pictures of nature on them. He took a few and balanced them on his back--at this point, the load of books was probably heavier than he was--and grunted a wordless grunt that might have been of gratitude.
Huh. It really did seem like he was mostly just interested in the pictures. That, or he was gonna be turning in one hell of a paper at school if he needed to reference both Maschiff R. Rockhill's Northwestern Sojavena Boundary Survey and The Power of Movement in Dungeon Perennials at the same time.

"Glad I could help! I hope— whoa there—" She stopped just in time to steady some books threatening to topple off the nidoran's back, only wincing slightly at the abrupt literal weight on her mind. "That stack looks awful heavy for just one kid. You want help carrying these? I don't mind." She held onto one of the books while waiting for him to decide. "Oh! My name's Leaf, by the way. There anything I can call you, if that's okay?"
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Nidoran's eyes glimmered with something akin to gratitude again, but he shook his head and twitched his ears all the same. A thankful deny of Leaf's offer. He seemed to, despite everything, be able to carry this on his back without too much trouble, even if it was bulky.

But he also didn't answer Leaf. He squinted like he was trying to think of the words, but only let out a little nod in reply. Was it a vow of silence? A mission of secrecy? Or... was this actually merely a particularly intelligent, feral Pokemon? Because, looking a little closer, he did seem to be one... Or, something "between."
"Okay, if you're sure you've got it," Leaf said, setting the book back on top as carefully as possible. Well, it wasn't like pokémon weren't made of tough stuff, right? The ones that weren't a bunch of confused cloud-summoned pseudo-babies, anyway.

She watched as the nidoran got himself situated for his hop back to... wherever home was. In the back of her mind, though, something still seemed ever so slightly off about him. No, wait, not something off... something familiar? He clearly wasn't "just some dumb animal" that someone might dismiss out of hand, but he only sort of acted like the pokémon that lived here in town, either. He was almost...

Almost like the pokémon she knew back home.

(She'd wished, before, that her friends could have come on this adventure with her. In her daydreams, she'd imagined being able to talk to Tank and actually understand him back, rolling her eyes in mock exasperation when Rey inevitably said something snooty, finally actually getting the entirety of one of Clyde's jokes. But would the pokémon here have treated them differently just because they didn't naturally act human back home? What if they hadn't been able to talk back at all?

Now she imagined, for just a moment, a different pokémon standing in his place. Imagined a little kangaskhan who only wanted to look at pretty pictures, stared at by a bunch of other pokémon just because she was by herself and being herself, chased away with a broom and a kick like she was some kind of pest just because she couldn't answer questions when the librarians asked.

It wasn't the fun kind of imagining.)

"...Hey," Leaf added before he could turn away. "You get home safe, okay? And if anybody bothers you and—" and what? How likely were they to even cross paths again anyway? But she had to offer, she had to, after the looks the rest of the library had given him "—if you see I'm around, you can come to me, okay? I won't let them give you a hard time just because you want to do something fun." She tried to shake off the building frustration so she could give the nidoran a reassuring smile.
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The Nidoran tilted his head again, looking puzzled. He could tell that Leaf was upset about something. "Mn!"

He rummaged through his bag and produced something for her. It looked like it was nothing more than a fine red ribbon. The way it was weaved, it didn't appear to be particularly magical... though the material seemed fine, or at least rare in these parts. He gently placed it on the ground and nudged it forward with his nose.

Then, the Nidoran went down the halls and hopped around the corner, presumably to another hall of books, giving a nod of parting thanks to Leaf as he did...

After a few more hops out of sight, he seemed to stop advancing.
Leaf blinked down at the ribbon, momentarily confused. "What? Oh, thank you! That's so sweet..."

Tying the ribbon on somewhere was still a bit beyond her at the moment, but she made sure to tuck it somewhere safe for now. Oddly, the nidoran was still there when she looked up again, just kind of hovering near the doorway to another room.

"You okay over there?" she asked, moving closer again.
"...hey, wait, where'd you go?" Wow. She'd literally blinked and missed him. Didn't get that every day.

A few quick glances around some shelves and corners seemed to confirm he really had slipped away. Leaf sighed, not entirely sure whether she was relieved or worried. At least his disappearing rabbit trick probably meant he wouldn't get harassed on the way out. Hopefully she would get a chance to see him again at some point, just to make sure he was okay.

Nothing left to do but get back to the reading she'd actually come here for, then. At least the watchog had gotten the pages unstuck before awkwardly shuffling away. Leaf retrieved the book and headed back to the desk to pick up where she'd left off. It did occur to her faintly that she ought to return what was left of Berry-Adjacent Book Mountain to the proper shelves, but eh, she'd get to it when she was done with her own reading—it was pretty important that they learn more about these dungeon-thingies, after all. Wasn't like she was going to forget everything about where they were supposed to go. (And if she did forget a little bit... well, that was just too bad, wasn't it.)

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