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Frontier Town Sun Stone Saloon

"I'll take it as a compliment that you believe I can divine actionable information from all this in the space of a scant few minutes. On this occasion, at least, perhaps I can."
"Ah, um, I'm sorry--" Steven stuttered, taken aback by Nolan's comment. Had he been too forward with his expectations? He and Laura had figured some things out and neither were auditors nor familiar with this world in any meaningful way, so surely someone of Nolan's regard would be more adept. Gods, he was just so desperate for information--

"I had thought given your expertise with such things-- I didn't mean to be presumptuous-- oh."

Steven leaned forward in his seat, any earlier discomfort forgotten as his eye danced along the path traced by Nolan's finger. A solid lead! Now two! He eagerly glanced to Laura again, hoping she was making a record of these discoveries. No doubt Nolan would report back to his own organizations on what they were finding, but the rest of the Wayfarers should be kept in the loop as well.

"And, of course, though it would trouble me to explain the reasoning, I am now more certain than ever that these Shadow operations are centred in Blaguarro. I'm sure that won't surprise you."
Despite his excitement, Steven patiently waited for Nolan to finish his explanation. He didn't want to risk offending their best lead yet again. He shook his head when Nolan finished.

"No, I don't think that's a surprise," he confirmed, but quickly continued as respectfully as he could," but what makes you say that? I don't want to trouble you, and I apologize for rushing you in the first place, but please, the more we know, the more ammunition we have to take down whoever is responsible."
Nolan's mouth pulled back like he was swallowing bile, but he nodded, and suppressed a sigh.

"Frontier Town is 'clean', Blaguarro is the only plausible urbanised settlement with any logistical position sufficient for this operation, short of some concealed underground city, or fanciful intra-dungeon settlement. Were that not enough, Puzzle Gulch is a landform not far from Blaguarro proper, the Schwartz family are prominent in that town specifically, and very nearly all of the businesses and realty mentioned in these documents that are not in Frontier Town are instead in Blaguarro. Further to this, Blaguarro has very few public figures of note with any claim to legal legitimacy, and of those persons, I observe that they are listed here and here alongside Frontier individuals as either targets for coercion, or otherwise of intererst to Voclain. There are additional, trivial details, but I would prefer to move on rather than elucidate on such drudgery."
"Ah, of course, that's quite alright," said Steven. "This has already been incredibly illuminating. No need to get into the minutia, at least not yet. You've given us plenty to mull over, and in such short order."

He gave Nolan a polite smile. As much as the others had said Nolan wasn't to be trusted, Steven couldn't help but marvel at the inteleon's thoroughness. At least there was plenty of information they could corroborate with their own investigation. Although, the thought left a sour note on Steven's palette. All signs pointed to Blaguarro; a venture he certainly didn't relish given the notion that that's where the shadow pokemon were originating from.

Steven sat in silence as Nolan resumed his combing of the notebook, an idea niggling at the back of his mind. An idea to see what Nolan knew about the rumored power with which to combat the shadows. On one hand, Nolan himself had been the one to bring the subject up in their first meeting, and since then they'd gained a name to call it by. On the other, those associated with Radiance were known entities of Nolan's ire...

Steven's internal debate didn't last long. The desire to not have to walk into Blaguarro totally unarmed against a shadowy foe outweighed upsetting Nolan's 'delicate' sensibilities.

"Excuse me," Steven began, chiming softly as if he were clearing his throat. "Not to interrupt, but I have a question unrelated to the mayor's documents. In your travels, have you by chance heard of the term 'Radiance'?"
Nolan clicked his tongue, and nodded slightly.

"The light for which my organisation is named, yes. Radiance is the power to defend the world from darkness, good sir. The power of the Saints, and the power of such summoned human heroes as can truly master themselves. It would be an incredible boon to harness such a power, and mortals have been said to learn its use. However..."

He sighed, and looked aside.

"So very few Saints remain active in this modern era, Steven. Any agent of the Covenant should dearly like to make contact with one."
Steven nodded along as Nolan spoke. "Ah, so the light you've referred to before is the very same. I knew you spoke of such a thing when we first met, but we'd only heard of its name afterward."

At Nolan's downcast expression, Steven gave a thoughtful hum. "I see. I've heard much the same about the Saints' disappearance, especially those here in Sojavena." The conversation with Ralsen came to mind, and he wondered how the young grovyle was faring in his quest.

Then, a thought occurred to Steven. He began slowly, trying to tread lightly in implying anything about Nolan's organization. "So, if I'm understanding correctly, there isn't currently a member of the Covenant who is able to use Radiance. But has your organization had a member able to do so further back in its history?"
Nolan made a face, and gesture, that suggested it wouldn't be a simple answer.

"Well, occasional members do sometimes discover some mild Radiant ability, although only uncommonly. This is not the same as mastering Radiance, whereupon we believe one could generate it, sustainably enough to pass the power to others."

He frowned, catching himself talking too freely about his organisation and its capabilities.

"Does this have some relevance to the matter at hand, sir? The crux of the subject as I see it is that if we could locate a Saint, they may be able to banish the Shadows, or empower others to do so."
Steven regarded Nolan with an apologetic tilt of his head. "Ah, I had thought it might. Perhaps if there was a history to learn from, it might give hints as to how to proceed now. I'm sure those in your organization would have already scoured everything looking for answers, but just as with the notebook, a fresh set of eyes might be able to lend a hand."

He didn't want to outright admit how powerless he felt at the notion of walking into Blaguarro without a way to protect himself should the shadows attack again. He suppressed a shiver

"In my world, it took years of study of ancient texts and murals to uncover secrets long thought buried." His expression darkened, and he sent a short glance towards Laura, recalling her story from when they had met Ralsen. "Some of those secrets were better left unearthed, but here, if Radiance has the power to stop these shadows, we should be looking from every angle to find it."
Nolan nodded seriously. "Indeed. I am always attentive for signs of the Saints, Steven."

Laura cupped her chin pensively in one paw.

"We know of a few leads to look into, there. There's this 'Wandering Light', at least. What about you, Nolan? Have you got any leads?"

The Inteleon lightly rubbed his temple, and made a non-commital noise of discontentment.

"Alas, many of the known extant Saints are remarkably elusive. The Sword Saints, also known as the Knights, for instance. Or the Two Aeons..."

"What about the Wishing Star and the Saint of Song and Step...?"

Nolan waved a hand airily. "I've found no evidence of either of them being active for several generations."

"And the Saint of, uh... Victory?"

"A myth," replied Nolan, quickly. And a little sharply. "Not worth investigating. I suggest you follow your leads on the Wandering Light, which may prove productive. Alternatively, I have heard tell that while he is deeply intractable by nature, the Roaming Cyclone is yet living and at large in the Sohavenian plains and deserts. Mind that he doesn't simply kill you."
Odette had gone in for two things: her shift, and to discuss her living arrangements. Well, the former more than the latter. She wasn’t due to take the stage for a couple of hours, but simply couldn’t wait until later to talk about moving. She was far too anxious about it.

However, during their talk, when Greasewood let it slip that Steven and that other meowth Laura were talking to Nolan in one of the meeting rooms, she suddenly decided that she was in the mood to do some waitressing for extra tips. And being the renowned singer she was, it surely wouldn’t be out of place for her to show face to higher-end clientele like Nolan. And being in Greasewood’s better graces, she hoped he wouldn’t be too opposed to her doing some extra targeted work.

She stacked a couple glasses of champagne on a tray, and after practicing her balance with it on her shoulder for a few minutes—ensuring she could somehow still carry it with the bandages she had on—before she hustled her way through the bar, toward the private rooms, where she found the one where the other three were meeting.

Clearing her throat, she steeled herself (*rimshot*) with a breath before knocking politely. When she received any sort of confirmation she could enter, she trained a friendly smile on her lips before entering with a minutely timid step.

“Good afternoon,” she greeted. “I apologize; I hope this isn’t a bad time.” She gestured to the tray. “But I bring refreshments if anybody is interested?”
The sound of a knock made Steven jump slightly, forgetting momentarily that they were in a public establishment, even if it was a more private area. Expecting Greasewood, it was a surprise when a more familiar face stepped into view.

"Odette!" he said, surprise still evident in his voice even as his eye winked into a friendly smile. He fidgeted with the clasp of his cloak, drawing it a bit tighter around himself. "No, the timing is fine. You remember Nolan, right? We were just conducting some business, but at this point I think we can take a small break."

He eyed the tray of drinks but made no move to take one for himself.
Nolan cleared his throat lightly.

"I do remember, yes. I would care to take some time to become familiar with the minutiae of these document, so refreshments would certainly be appreciated."

He didn't look or sound particularly appreciative, but he did offer a quiet 'thank-you, ma'am' to Odette.

Laura put up her paw for a little wave/salute and offered a tired smile and a "Thanks." Champagne wasn't really her drink, but she would take anything drinkable right now.

"So, uh, Nolan..." she began.

"Yes?" he asked, stiffly.

Laura forced down her nerves. Pretended she was talking to Alisha or a gym leader or Professor Magnolia. "From what I heard from Wayfarers who met with you last week, it sounds like your organisation is, essentially, a society for human and human-descended individuals? One that gives them a purpose and a community in Forlas?"

The Inteleon's expression wavered, then softened, if only slightly.

"That is one, quite reasonable way to describe it, yes... Yes. A society for Forlasan humanity. With the noblest purpose – to use our individual powers responsibly and collectively for the good of the world. But also, I concede, to be a community to which humans here may belong."
She nodded in greeting toward Steven, put a little more at ease by his warm welcome.

“I do, yes,” she said. It was hard not to, but she couldn’t say that out loud. “It’s good to see you, Nolan. I hope Sun Stone has been to your liking.”

As she approached with the drinks, she returned Nolan’s acknowledgment with a short, courteous nod, swallowing down the minute annoyance at the disconnect between his words and tone and demeanor. Maybe it was just her. Or maybe it was him. This might be harder than she initially thought.

She also nodded politely toward Laura as she took a glass. “Of course. Let me know if I can get you anything else.”

For a moment, she wondered what she should do next. She wanted to linger, but she didn’t want to overstay her welcome or seem too suspicious or even eager. But if she kept leaving and coming back, that had room to get annoying to someone like Nolan. Besides, she’d been there for the negotiations around this “business deal.” It wasn’t like she was a clueless party; she knew they were looking at the ledger.

However, Laura’s question gave her an opening. The timing could not have been more perfect. Holding the tray under her arm, she stood by respectfully as Nolan responded. Something about the inflection in his voice triggered her fight reflexes, but that wasn’t obvious through the admiring smile she trained on her lips.

“Yes, we talked a little about that in our meeting, didn’t we?” she said eagerly. She played through the motions of dialing herself back, doing so by clearing her throat and readjusting her stance as if she were embarrassed by her interjection. “I mean, not to butt in. But I’ve been thinking about it since we parted ways that day. I’m really intrigued by the idea of having an established way to use my abilities for something good. Especially with likeminded ‘mon, too.”
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Nolan nodded to indicate that Sun Stone had been to his liking, insomuch as he liked anything. He took the glass. He sipped, neatly. He listened to Odette imply she would join the Covenant, and his eyes examined her, that analytical inclination of his moving from Ignatius' black books to the human-turned-Mawile.

"I could put in a good word for you," he said, evenly. "I say this bluntly – the Covenant is always recruiting. You would not have trouble becoming a member in the slightest, once the administrative side got wind of you. However... Miss Odette, you don't strike me as interested in idle membership. What is it that you profess expertise in? Will you describe your 'abilities' to me?"

Laura grew quiet, nursing her champagne, cogs ticking away behind her eyes.
Steven let his eye drift from Odette to Nolan, then back to Odette. He remembered what Odette had said back at the team meeting, something about joining the Covenant for information. When she'd mentioned it, he hadn't exactly thought it would be as straightforward as walking up and asking Nolan, but here they were. It seemed almost too easy, and yet by all signs, it did seem that easy. Nolan had been very interested in them right from the start...

He shifted in his seat, partly from discomfort, partly to fill his silence. Was he nervous? Why was he nervous? This was on par with walking up to Nolan with the mayor's ledger in hand, wasn't it? With a small psychic nudge, he scooted the last unclaimed champagne flute towards himself and waited to hear what Odette had to say.
Odette didn't need to look at Laura or Steven to know their eyes were on her. She made the conscious decision to avoid making eye contact with either one of them, lest it be enough to break her current stride. She just hoped they weren't looking at her too hard--the bumbling of others could get someone undercover in just as much trouble as their own actions. But Nolan seemed to only have his eyes on her.

Something about the ease of it struck her as odd. She supposed she wasn't shocked that the Covenant was always looking for new members, but this was a stark difference from the way he'd acted in their first meeting. He'd been a little dodgy about the methods of joining, aside from stating he would put in word for them, but now he was here with the forthrightness she wasn't expecting so soon. Still, her smile inched wider.

"You'd be stricken correctly, sir. I'm not much of an 'idle member' type of lady," she said with a soft nod of her head. "In my old world, as a human, not only was I a renowned trainer of Pokemon—keeping them in line, so to speak…” she had to resist the urge to cringe, “but I was also part of an operation that was focused on taking down an institution that built itself on the wrongful treatment of them and their handlers. An integral part of it, to be more specific, as it was my sworn duty as a handler myself. I worked as a detective of sorts to hunt down those perpetuating the institution and bring them to justice," she explained.

That wasn't necessarily a lie. At its core, that was the whole truth. She suddenly felt like a talking resume--highlighting all the good while siphoning out all the shit that had hit the fan while it happened.

"That said, I have a pretty sharp sense when it comes to cracking mysteries open. Especially if they involve something I think is morally wrong. I have a very strong sense of justice, to be perfectly frank; something I think aligns well with what I know of the Covenant's ideals."

Her smile then shrunk into something slightly more demure. "But I hope you'll let me know if I'm a little off base."
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"You'd be stricken correctly, sir. I'm not much of an 'idle member' type of lady. In my old world, as a human, not only was I a renowned trainer of Pokemon—keeping them in line, so to speak… but I was also part of an operation that was focused on taking down an institution that built itself on the wrongful treatment of them and their handlers. An integral part of it, to be more specific, as it was my sworn duty as a handler myself. I worked as a detective of sorts to hunt down those perpetuating the institution and bring them to justice. That said, I have a pretty sharp sense when it comes to cracking mysteries open. Especially if they involve something I think is morally wrong. I have a very strong sense of justice, to be perfectly frank; something I think aligns well with what I know of the Covenant's ideals. But I hope you'll let me know if I'm a little off base."

"A detective? Fascinating. If you prove credible and competent, it's not impossible you might find a placement in my own department," murmured Nolan, thoughtfully.

He drummed the fingers of one hand on the table, and sipped at his drink.

"I know what a pokémon trainer is," he added, eventually. "You have seen, of course, that the urban-dwelling pokémon of Forlas have sapience, culture, technology, and social institutions. Don't confuse your relationship to non-sapient 'mon with that to sapient ones."

Not every human world had non-sapient 'mon, but maybe Nolan didn't know that...

"You mentioned a strong sense of justice. You were doubtless part of the incident in which the town's mayor was arrested...?"
Don't confuse your relationship to non-sapient 'mon with that to sapient ones."
Would it be worth mentioning that the Pokemon from her world were indeed sapient? Would that even make much of a difference toward what she was saying? She couldn't think too hard about it, she had to respond quickly.

"Well, you should know the Pokemon from my world wouldn't exactly be classified as non-sapient," she said. "However, yes. I do fully understand things are quite different here regardless."

That would work. Some bit of info about her own world while having him know she was aware of the differences. That sounded fine even as she said it aloud.

Regarding her place in Ignumbnuts' overthrowing, she nodded respectfully. "I was, yes. I actually helped fetch that ledger you're looking at from his heavily guarded little safe, to be more specific."
"Is that so?" Nolan muttered to himself, quietly, as Odette clarified that her pokémon were sapient. The lizard's reactions were hard to read at the best of times but if anything, he seemed a little perturbed to imagine a trainer keeping sapients 'in line'.

Whatever his real feelings, he didn't let it waylay the conversation.

"I see! Well, I'm certainly glad you did, Ms Odette. It's already proving useful, and I'm sure I will come to learn more following painstaking perusal."

The Inteleon adjusted his glasses and thumbed his chin. After all this new information, he would be reassessing Odette with fresh eyes.

"Confidence, social graces, capability in combat, investigative experience, virtuous motivation... I imagine Personnel would take an interest in you after all, ma'am. I'll mention you in my next report, and following a wait... such as you might expect with telegrams and bureacracy... I shalln't be surprised if they should elect to contact you for recruitment."

He chuckled drily to himself, as if he only had limited regard for other departments in the Covenant.

"And then I expect the floodgates shall open, once they identify the rest of your cohort."
Shit, she thought as she eyed Nolan with a calculated yet level gaze. Maybe she shouldn’t have said as much; she’d evidently miscalculated just how highly he thought of himself and humans compared to other Pokemon…had she? What was his definition of sapient anyway? …What was her definition of sapient?

Okay, keep it moving, she thought in haste.

As quickly as his doubt had appeared, it was gone. She didn’t pick up on any sort of suspicion or doubt in his words, which convinced her it was okay to widen her smile a little more.

There was no cause for backpedaling now. She’d made at least a decent enough impression that he seemed honestly certain she’d get the job, so she had no immediate reason to risk that. She’d just have to watch her stupid mouth going forward.

“That’s very kind of you, sir,” she said, taking a good note of his demeanor as he spoke. “I’ll look forward to potentially hearing from them. And perhaps some of my qualified cohort will as well.”
Nolan ran a fingertip against his temple, and hummed in thought – not disagreeably.

"I wish you and your 'cohort' the best of luck, Ms Odette. In truth, Personnel will eagerly take any human hires they can find, whether there's gainful employment for them or not, but I imagine you won't be satisfied with that. Acquit yourself exceptionally well, and I'm sure it will be taken into account. Remember, the Covenant's objectives are to further the common good, but..."

His reptilian eyes half-lidded, and looked aside. Nolan made a soft, weary grumble in his throat, and adjusted his cravat.

"The common good is whatever the recruitment agent you speak with believes it to be. Whether that be secular law and order, charitable works, or more esoteric matters. Personally, I believe our responsibility is to safeguard against the unacceptable use of power in this world by rogue agents. This is my own priority, hence my attention to Voclain. See that you give due consideration to this before you are contacted."
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