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Frontier Town Sun Stone Saloon

When it came to crowds, Ghaspius wasn't one to pay much attention. The Misdreavus bounced along in all his floating vibes as he listened to Laura's announcement and the bits he could ascertain from the others.

"Right, Nolan. So lemme first say that while we were looking for more deets on these shadow-mon, another 'mon was lookin' for us first. Monferno Dakota," he finally spoke up. "A groovy if a bit reverant dude from Landsverd. Was pretty intimately familiar with human stories. Seemed surprised at the fact that non-human mon like me could be summoned." Ghaspius's lips pursed as he looked to the side. He much preferred floatier, flowing talk, but he understood when it was time take to inventory.

"He told us 'bout an investigator who might've known more about Shadow pokémon and other Forlasan stuff 'bout why we were summoned. That was Nolan." He flipped upside down. "I was gonna meet with him, buuuut Drungfield gave me an earful for taking too many breaks." He looked to Steven and the others that attended. "How'd that meeting go? Find anything new?"
"Can anyone who encountered the Shadow charmeleon describe their appearance...? I think Mhynt had some suspicion about them?"

"It looked like a fairly standard charmeleon, except that its tail-flame was weird," Ridley answered. "Very faint, barely there at all, and it didn't give off any light."
Steven gave Ghaspius a nod of thanks as the conversation continued. "We learned some new things, but not as much as I'd hoped..."

He turned to the group at large. "Nolan is an auditor contracted by the Commonwealth government. He's here in Frontier Town to look into the mayor's illegal activity, but he's also part of an organization that's trying to find the origin of these shadow pokemon, too."

"He's had a run in with shadow pokemon of his own. A shadowed lycanrock attacked him, and like us, he luckily managed to escape."

Steven paused with a small shiver. "Now that I think about it, he said he was injured, but never mentioned hearing anything from a mysterious voice afterward. I wonder if he did but didn't think it relevant to mention?"

He shook his head, returning to the facts at hand. "The thing is-- this shadow lycanrock-- Nolan said he suspected they are a former human."
Mhynt tapped her arms, shaking her head. "Shadow Pokemon are running around, causing problems. But the Charmeleon has me concerned. For... reasons." The vagueness was probably not helpful, but she didn't want to worry anyone.

"What was his body type? Properly standard? How did he fight?" Mhynt said.
Gladion's eyes widened. Everything he knew about shadows was secondhand from Wes, so he was letting the guy speak for himself there, but what Ghaspius said drove him to speak up himself.

"Landsverd, huh? If I remember correctly, that is east of here is it not? Because the Coven isn't actually based in the frontier here, they're meddling in this place from further east. \"East of here\" is going to be a lot of people, so I'm not saying we have to paint them all with the same brush or anything asinine like that, but combined with knowing tons about humans, revering them, and knows the distinction between them and outworlders but is still surprised that you could be you were summoned... I would hazard a guess that if he knows what's happening here, it's probably because he's got his fingers in the pie."
Jade tapped her paws together. “I wouldn’t really have said it looked like a standard Charmeleon…” she said pensively. She’d seen plenty of Charmeleon, not just Firestorm. This one was… off. “The shadow was really long and gangly and, honestly I didn’t even realize it was a Charmeleon at first.”

She realized that Mhynt was looking her way, so she went on: “Uh, fighting style… I guess really evasive. Couldn’t catch it by surprise with anything, really. I felt like, no matter what we did, it just knew.”
Jade, looking at Mhynt, would spot a deep, dark dread in her once stoic expression. She masked it instantly and nodded firmly. "I see," she said. "Thank you."

She said nothing afterward, concentrating on her drinking glass as something to focus on. Sorting things out in her head.

Her right hand was shaking.
Nova squinted at Mhynt. It would have been the kind of squint to say "What aren't you telling us?" but, well, giant helmet covering his head. This wasn't just ex-psychic paranoia talking. She knew something.

... So did Gladion, apparently. The fuck was a "Coven?" Nova didn't ask the other null, though. He got the feeling someone would answer him without the need for him to ask.

Which left Nova to keep eyeing Mhynt and her shaking hand.

... Yeah. Definitely sus.
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Bellatrix eyed Gladion curiously. "I hate to interrupt, but did you say 'Coven'?" she asked. "Where might have you heard that name and do you have any clue on what they might be doing?"
Gladion felt somewhat unnerved by the way Bellatrix looked at him. He'd more or less only seen her before when they first arrived, but so far she always seemed to have a strangely disconnected demeanour that put him on edge.

"Met someone who told me about them. Short for 'Covenant of Light' and they're our human supremacist group. The people I spoke to were concerned when they heard about dozens of humans showing up, and sent someone to size up how bad we were gonna be. Worked out alright in the end, I think they're leaning more 'cautiously optimistic' now that some of us went out to meet them, and the gave me some info. They're set up out east, and we were warned to watch out for their influence spreading here once the railroad finished. The way they described the Coven sounded almost... I-It sounded strange, like people who mistrusted them gave them an inch at one point and got snapped up into the group. I don't wanna say 'mind control' because it sounds fake, but I got the impression it at least felt like their recruitment process looked almost like a soft-mind-control or brainwashing to outsiders looking in."
Odette quirked a brow at the mention of “Coven.” That was short for “Covenant of Light”? But a Coven and a Covenant weren’t even the same fucking thing. That’s so confusing.

She shook her head. Whatever. Nicknames were nicknames.

“Then I guess Nolan’s a human supremacist,” she said quietly, knowing damn well he was somewhere within the walls here. “Because he mentioned that that’s the ‘government agency’ he was a part of, and something about their goal to ensure former humans and their descendants use their apparent ‘power’ for good. This lycanrock guy, ‘The Wolf,’ he mentioned, is one apparent human they’re after, who’s been doing the exact opposite of that.”

She was tapping her foot now. “He mentioned something about employment within the Covenant.” She paused, somewhat cringing over what was to come next. “Those of us who went mentioned we—Steven—had Ignaughty’s ledger. He asked to see it. We agreed to look it over as a collective group to attempt to find out what the Shadow Pokemon are, and where they’re coming from. Because he seemed adamant that they didn’t know that much either.” She raised her hands defensively. “But before you all lambast us for that decision—keep in mind that he’s staying here, so inside voices—it’s not like we willingly went with everything he said. It’s a matter of getting the most information we can out of a direct source to what is apparently this ‘Coven.’ Something we noticeably do not have right now.”
"But you never thought it was a bit weird?" Isidora finally spoke up. She kept her tone tempered and serious as she leaned against the table. "I mean some monferno comes in, primes you with some talk about humans, says he knows a few things about why you're here, and then points you to another guy, who just so happens to be investigating the same thing you are?"

Isidora glared. "And then that guy gives you the help you want, makes it seem mutual, before mentioning his employment?" She had been afraid of this, but she wasn't going to let them trust him with anything without a challenge. "It sounds to me like you were scouted."
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Nova lazily raised his foreleg. "Well, I practically told that monferno to pound sand and left before he threw out his pitch to some others. So, I'm probably on their shit list now."
Odette shot a glare back at Isidora. “Yeah, thank you for the play by play. His ‘The Covenant might benefit from having you as permanent employees,’ definitely didn’t clue me into that much,” she retorted sarcastically, a little more venom in her tone than she initially intended. “Nolan went on and on about how he doesn’t work for free; why the hell else would he speak to us out of tHe GoOdNeSs oF hIs HeArT if he wasn’t trying to goad an interest in former humans joining? That’s even clearer now that I know for sure it’s likely a cult.”
She gave a wary look toward Kimiko, but decided to not acknowledge her.

All Kimiko got was a brief glance. Working opposite shifts made it difficult to tell, but she'd felt like Odette had been avoiding her since the watchtower mission. Was it something she'd said? Or was the mawile just more shaken by the whole ordeal than she'd let on?

Yes! Hello, heroic spirits. I am with you.

"Hey, Voice," Kimiko started, quiet enough (she hoped) to not disrupt the ongoing chatter. "Do you have a name? What should we call you? 'Voice' just sounds so... informal."

“Koa and I were theorizing that maybe whatever process made them Shadow Pokemon was incomplete somehow, and the Pokemon’s original personality was still fighting underneath, and that the long term goal of whoever’s doing this might be trying to unlock the power of a Shadow Pokemon without suffering the mental drawbacks themselves.”
The timing seems way too convenient to be coincidence, and doesn’t gel with what Wes and Corey told me about Shadow Pokemon being mindlessly aggressive killing machines.”

"I don't know how either of you are familiar with shadow pokemon outside of what's going on here, but... maybe the process here is more refined compared to what you're used to? If they're trying to make shadows that can be controlled..."

The way they described the Coven sounded almost... I-It sounded strange, like people who mistrusted them gave them an inch at one point and got snapped up into the group. I don't wanna say 'mind control' because it sounds fake, but I got the impression it at least felt like their recruitment process looked almost like a soft-mind-control or brainwashing to outsiders looking in."
We agreed to look it over as a collective group to attempt to find out what the Shadow Pokemon are, and where they’re coming from. Because he seemed adamant that they didn’t know that much either.”

Well, that didn't sound good. "If some of us have already agreed to work for - with - this guy, that could be considered 'giving an inch'. Not that I'm implying anyone who met with him had been mind-controlled or anything, but whoever's playing that game needs to be extra cautious." She turned specifically to Odette because of course they'd have beef while important shit was hppening. "You said he's staying here? What species is this Nolan guy?"
What, was his reaction to my admission not enough proof of that? Bellatrix shuffled a little in her position, rubbing a temple with her paw. "That doesn't surprise me," she said to Gladion. "He seemed to put humans on a pedestal and spoke of how pokémon leeched the powers of humans they spent time with. Not that he had any conclusive evidence on that matter," she added with a roll of her eyes. She knew that Dave certainly had thoughts on that.

"Nolan himself - who is an inteleon, by the way - is also terrible at hiding his true feelings. He gags at the mere mention of the word 'pokémon' and when I told him that I was not human, he appeared to have lost any and all interest in speaking to me fairly. At least, that was how I perceived his body language. He could have showered me in compliments after that and I would still feel the same way."
Odette regarded Kimiko with a look that bordered on disinterested neutrality and pointed coldness.

She nodded to Bellatrix, who announced his species. “Dressed to the nines, goofy ass top hat. Greaswood knows he’s here. I also offered to act as a messenger between our group and him, as I’m keen to milk him dry of everything he’ll tell us about these fuckers.” Though the mention of mind control might put a damper on things…
Jade shook her head. This was a lot to keep track of… “Okay, hang on… the way I see it isn’t it a good thing for the shady organization to think we might be willing to cooperate with them? That’d give us an opportunity to infiltrate, which we wouldn’t be able to do if they just brand us all as enemies right from the start.”
Odette regarded the new voice with surprised enthusiasm. She gestured to her with an excited hand. “Yes. Exactly,” she said. “Thank you.”
Nova tilted his head. What was with this sassy... lost child?

"I'm sorry, do I know you?" He hadn't exactly introduced himself to everyone on the team and, thus, couldn't keep everyone straight in his head.

"Nope!" Tarahn said cheerfully. "I'm Tarahn, I used to be a Raigar and now I'm a Toxel. What's your name?"

I regret that a better outcome did not come to pass, but at least I can assure you that his soul has returned to his true body, and he will be alright.

Tarahn's attention on Nova faltered as various conversations went back and forth, and finally the voice from when they first arrived mindspoke to him about Corey. Tarahn didn't think Corey would just get bored and decide to leave, but maybe he was needed back home. At least he was OK.

Or at least the cloud thought he was. Or unless the cloud was lying. Everyone recounting different events and things other pokemon had said had reminded Tarahn about all the ways people could try to trick you. Sometimes it was a mistake, like they could tell you something fake they thought was real. There were people who could lie so well that psychics couldn't tell, or who could tell you the truth in a way that would make you do the wrong thing.

They did exercises at pokemon ranger school about it, but he usually just got frustrated unless it was more like, in a battle, and not so much with words. He wasn't so good with long speeches and arguments and going back and forth about stuff. It was easier to just have a battle and settle it right then.

His teachers would tell him to concentrate on the now and let his trainer worry about the planning. Moriko wasn't here, but some of the other pokemon were secretly humans, or were good planners like humans, so he'd do his best to be a good teammate.
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