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Frontier Town Sun Stone Saloon

Jeez. Archie hadn’t even touched the mayor and he still felt like he needed to take a dip in the river later to wash off the slime that practically oozed from the Empoleon’s every pore. Oh well, it was over now, and even though things had gotten rocky there for a little, overall it seemed the conversation went well. At least, they hadn’t lost the opportunity to take the job. And Wes and Corey hadn’t started brawling.

“Yeah, I need to make a few stops on the way,” Archie said. It seemed like no matter what universe he went to, the Oshawott simply was incapable of escaping The Bank. Oh well, hopefully the pay for this job would be worth it. And then there was Lorenzo’s as well. “It shouldn’t take too long, you two get started and we’ll join you once we’re done.”

And with that, the Oshawott tipped his hat to Bellatrix and Wes – giving the latter a “Nice meeting you, by the way,” as well – and then followed Corey out.
Wes was more than happy to let Bellatrix do the wrapping up so that he wouldn’t have to exchange any further words with Pompous Ignition. He quietly followed after her as she led the way out of the saloon.

“If you’ve got a problem with me, pal, I’d prefer you tell it to my face when it’s next convenient for you,” he said with a hint of sarcastic politeness before fully excusing himself.

Wes raised an eyebrow at the snarky Ralts, but before he could respond, the guy was already hustling away, as if afraid his moment of bravado would come back to bite him. Wes didn’t bother to give a reply to Corey’s retreating form—instead, he scoffed loud enough for him to hear and rolled his eyes. Spitting out a challenge before immediately scampering away was precisely the sort of thing a coward would do. Good to know Wes’s impression of this guy was remaining consistent.

He flicked an ear at Archie’s diplomatic farewell and gave him a nod. “Nice meeting you, as well.”

Then he slipped out the door, pondering what he should do next.

[Ch01] Nova & Lucien at the Saloon
Nova was pleased that had work had gotten him somewhere on a personal scale. What was wholly unexpected was a not from Lucien asking him to meet. And on the heels of these strange revelations about this mysterious gala, no less. As much as Nova wanted to consider the timing coincidental — he hadn't met with the mayor and had no idea what the empoleon was telling his son — he wasn't a firm believer in coincidences. Nevertheless, given what he'd heard on the railyard, he thought it best to accept the invite. Nova wasn't sure what he'd actually do, and was still considering his options even as he entered the saloon and followed the instructions in the letter.
Lucien hadn't opted for a fully screened private booth, as Ignatius had. Just a two-'mon table, out of the way, not at peak business hours. He was already there, this time, rather than arriving to a waiting Nova.

"I am glad you came," said the Prinplup, standing to greet the 'Graydian'. "Please, will you take a seat? Forgive my bluntness, but think nothing of the bill, I shall cover it." Then, with a small smile on his beak, "I am not at all out of pocket for your group as I had anticipated. You have all been quite diligent. Yourself especially."
Nova slowly approached, giving a light chuckle at the unintentional pun. He doubted Lucien would realize it. "Well, suppose you can chalk that up to folks not wanting to sit around pawing idly at the ground." He sat down. There was, of course, enough room for him, but it always felt awkward sitting at a restaurant table. Perhaps because he pretty much never did it back home? "Had the energy and motivation to find stuff to do. Make routines that are close to what they're useful. It's what people rely on when they're thrown for such big loops. Familiar comforts."
"Yes, everything must be terribly un-familiar for all you," mused Lucien, sitting back down. "I've heard very little about any of your homelands. In fact, I don't think I could place any of you to any nation I've heard of."

The sentence sounded like yet another challenge, a trap, but something about Lucien's tone of voice didn't match it. It sounded too... sympathetic. Was he just that good at dissembling...?

"I feel similarly," he admitted. "As times change, I too bury myself in work. Routines remain familiar. There's comfort in that, but it does make one all the more sensitive to disruption. Not so much novelty; rather, disorder."
"Not surprising for me," Nova said. "Dungeon creature. Unfamiliarity and uncertainty define me." It was still the best thing Nova could come up with. Still had a measure of truth to it, too. "Thoughts and dreams full of disruptions. Offering glimpses of places far beyond this land.

"I'm sure some people would consider me disorderly. Maybe some of the others, too." He resisted tapping a claw on the floor. "But there are different kinds of disorderly, in my experience."
"You seem orderly enough to me," said Lucien, mildly. "Organised. Reliable."

He shook his head thoughtfully.

"Perhaps that makes perfect sense – you thrive in disrupted times, while I struggle to. Perhaps the kind of placid years I should like best would be unstimulating for you. We should order food. Is there something you favour?"

Lucien looked momentarily anxious, as if he was wondering how Nova managed to eat anything with that mask of his. But it had been a week, and he hadn't starved to death...
Nova recognized the expression. And he had rehearsed a lie for this, too. "I didn't always have this mask. But it became necessary. The welder who built it made a hatch." He pointed at a specific item on the menu: a decent mix of protein and veggies. "Though I imagine it's unsettling for everyone else. Typically I just eat in private."

Lucien's actual thought did ping his attention, though. "Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses." And Nova thought he had plenty of the latter, but hadn't been thrust into the types of situations that would drag them out into broad daylight. "I'm not in any sort of leadership position... whether by choice or expectation." Nova didn't want to make any assumptions about Lucien's rank and what he thought of it. Better to leave an opening for the prinplup and try to see whether he actually liked picking up the family political business.
Lucien nodded. He looked very faintly apologetic.

"I can't promise I won't find myself unsettled... but that's entirely my concern."

He smiled, and it certainly could have been genuine.

"Your group doesn't appear to have a leadership structure," he observed. "From what I can tell, you are all... unacquainted with each other from before your arrival. I should worry that you might be all too easily... riven against each other. Perhaps, by some influential individual or another."

He paused, as a waiter approached, and politely ordered two grilled steaks, with roast vegetables. And... a bottle of house red.
And there was the possible opening. But how could Nova approach the subject gently. "Influential. Like, say, the mayor?" He figured it most polite not to flat out state the family connection. Nova decided against adding anything else for the moment.
"Not me, personally. But a few of them." Nova nodded slowly. "Ones who don't have the best choice in locales for seemingly private conversations." He looked at the dish and carefully maneuvered his beak. The mask's hatch was a sliding one. It let Nova lean over to take in some of the food. The hatch slid shut. "And, maybe it's the dungeon upbringing messing with my head, but his offer to them sounds... positively baffling."
Lucien's face remained expertly controlled as Nova spoke, and thanked the waiter for delivering their meals in such short order.

"I am sorry to say that whatever this offer is, knowledge of it has so far not been shared with me," said Lucien, carefully. "Perhaps it would be less baffling for you if you were aware of additional context... such as may be relevant."

He took the wine bottle and offered to pour Nova a glass.
"I know it surrounds some sort of gala," Nova said. He looked at the glass and simply nodded slowly. It was polite, if nothing else. "Which sounds fancy. And crowded. Neither of which go well with graydian."
"To provide some security for it, in a manner of speaking." Nova slowly took another bite of food so that could sink it. "Which is baffling, because the ones he made the offer to could pass as children. They wouldn't cut it as proper security or bouncers or whatever you want to call it."
Lucien considered this while he swallowed a mouthful of food. Being a pair of avians, they'd make fairly short work of their meal, evidently.

He spoke cautiously, as if keen not to offend, "You might be saying that in all fairness and with sound mind, Nova. However, I would note that in the short time your party has spent in town, they have already grown in strength, and noticeably so. Further to that, were a number of your group to accept this offer, they would be supplementing an existing security detail. Eyes and ears are similarly valuable whether the 'mon in question is feeble-bodied or otherwise."

Lucien clacked his beak and reached for his glass.

"I am quite sure by now that with few possible exceptions, the collective whole of you are no children. My father, too, will be aware of this by now. He will be taking you seriously, as he should."

By way of elaboration, Lucien produced the latest issue of the Gazette from his person and set it on the side of the table, facing Nova. The front page article was a piece on Mhynt, who the chief editor had interviewed just recently. It described the group of heroic spirits as serious about their intention to lend aid to the region, and made note of Mhynt's unique talent for Teleporting.
Nova looked at it. And Mhynt's picture. So, she had taken up his offer after all. Good to know. "Guess you could say I found someone reasonable after all." He gave a light chuckle, which faded into a sigh. "I'm pretty sure I know what the mayor sees. Perhaps you're seeing it, too. Or thinking it."
Lucien sighed. It was a suffocated sort of sound, barely a sigh at all.

"I suspect, if I know him as well as I believe I do, that he sees an army. A potential one, at least. My father always sees things as he believes they ought to be, once shaped by his will. Perfected."

He shook his head, and sipped his wine.

"I see other potential, but that does not mean he's necessarily mistaken."
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