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Frontier Town The Wanderin' Zera

Ch02: “Workin Hard, or Hardly Workin?” Wes and Jaak
The Zera was, thankfully, not too busy at this time of the day. After unsuccessfully trying to locate Lucien, Wes wandered in to the pub for some reprieve from the hot afternoon sun and an excuse to be off his feet for a bit. He nodded to Gerome as he padded up to the counter, and, as luck would have it, he spotted Jaak a few seats away. Maybe…

He stood there awkwardly for a moment, wondering whether he should approach him. He’d had a few questions for the Vigoroth, but he’d been in quite the rush earlier and Wes didn’t want to slow him further. Now was a perfect chance, but starting a conversation wasn’t exactly Wes’s strong suit…

Oh, screw it. He took a seat beside Jaak and asked Gerome for the sweet drink he’d had a few days ago, then hesitantly cleared his throat.

“Didn’t expect to see you here.” A pause. “How’s, uh. The weather?”

"Hey!" Jaak greeted. "Just been checkin' out the local saloons. Don't have much money to work with, so I'm stickin' with the cheaper options for now. Must say, this ain't bad for the price." He let out a laugh at Wes' following question. "Exactly what you'd expect outta Soja!" he replied. "What brings you here? Become a quick regular or what?"
Wes was grateful for the friendly response and felt himself automatically relaxing. People like Jaak could be taxing in large doses sometimes, but the Vigoroth had a way of making him feel much more at ease with his relentless friendliness. Rui would like him, he thought.

“You could say that,” he said with a small smile, accepting his drink with a nod and enjoying the sweet taste. “Just needed a breather for a bit.” He paused and drummed his claws on the countertop, unsure how to continue. Then he simply but the bullet and went for it. “Actually, I was glad to see you here because I wanted to chat with you a little more. Specifically about…your thoughts on those human heroes you mentioned when we first met.”

He dropped his voice lower, hoping that Jaak would take the hint and continue their conversation a little more quietly than his usual booming voice.
"Could do a lot worse!" Jaak said with a boisterous laugh. "I expect all that work will get tiring after a time."

At his question, Jaak scratched his chin with a claw. "Well, they're heroes, ain't they?" he answered. It seemed that the bustle of the bar would be enough to make their conversation blend in. "It ain't every day you encounter a living, breathing legend, especially ones you've been told about since you were just a bab." He quirked a brow at Wes. "Why? Having doubts? I'm sure you lot will do fine."
Doubts? About himself? Hah, that wasn’t new, but Jaak probably didn’t need to know Wes was questioning his motives, either. “I suppose a little, yes,” he said. “So you…were raised hearing about humans? Remind me, did you say you’ve ever met one yourself? Aside from those of us new in town, I mean.”
"Well, it must be a daunting task, don't blame ya," Jaak said. He took a swig of his drink, a simple ale. "Not until you lot, no," he admitted. "But I heard all the stories and I have friends who have friends who met folks like Jesse. Not to mention that there are some folk out there who'll pay you generously for hearing any new stories." Jaak nodded to himself. "Can respect folks who'll shell out anything for their passions. Those stories are worth way more than any coinage around."
"Well, I assume folk who are just as passionate as I am about them," Jaak replied. "'Mon who want to hear something new or be there to witness history. Most interested in any recent human sightings for that reason," he explained. "What's the best way to learn of a new legend beyond being there to witness it first-hand?"

Jaak took another swig of his ale. "'Course they want proof of it. Gotta make sure they ain't wasting their time, so they're always sure to investigate, since anyone can waltz up and spin a good thread."
Wes pondered that information for a moment. “I see.” He took a swig of his drink. “Sounds like you’re familiar with this crowd. But I still for the life of me can’t understand why they think a former human is so special.” He chose his next words carefully. “I don’t know that I’d say a former human is any better than any other mon.”

He observed Jaak closely for his reaction.
"It's 'cause of the added punch that they seem to have to their abilities," Jaak explained. "And that ain't me putting anything on a pedestal, it's observable fact. It's how and why they become heroes," he added. Another drink. "But that doesn't mean a 'mon can't be special too, especially when paired up with a human. They say that when a pokémon pairs up with a human, they get a similar boost in strength. It's how Jesse's partner was able to keep up with him. It's been a dream of mine to pair up with one but I don't think I'm lesser for it, I just love the stories 'cause it's something truly special there."

As far as Wes could tell, Jaak didn't show any negative reaction. He appeared genuine with every word.
“Huh. Fascinating…” And it really was. Humans and Pokémon making a stronger team together? Sounded like cheesy crap on the surface, but it wasn’t too dissimilar from trainers and their mon in his world.

He gave Jaak a small grin and raised his glass. “Well, I dunno if you’re much of a battler, but if you’d ever like to test that theory or have a spar, you’ve got yourself a former human right here.”

His worries began to ease. Jaak truly didn’t seem like bad news. But…had he heard about these human supremacist groups? Could Wes trust him enough to ask…?

He decided to risk it. “It’s good to know not everybody is wary of us. That we have some supporters.” And truly, he did mean that. “I’ve heard from some folks that this distrust isn’t totally misguided, though. That apparently some former humans have been causing trouble in other parts, acting like they’re superior than others and all that.” He shot Jaak a sideways glance. “Have you…heard anything like that? Know anything about it?”
"I might take you up on it!" Jaak replied, raising his glass in turn. "I may not battle much but I do a fair amount of labour so that should help me out a bit. Appreciate it."

However, as Wes went on, Jaak's smile began to weaken with concern for a moment. "You sure?" he asked. "Humans causing trouble?" He shook his head. "No, never heard of such a thing. Don't think I can even imagine it. Where'd ya hear about it?"
In hindsight, maybe he shouldn’t have offered to spar with the much larger Vigoroth…a single Break Break and Wes would surely be down for the count. He chuckled anyway and took another drink. Oh, what the hell. He liked a challenge anyways, and with the way fighting had come so naturally to him at the gala…he was eager to try it again.

Jaak’s reply seemed pretty genuine, but Wes wasn’t about to throw Gerome under the bus. He simply shrugged. “Been hearing bits and pieces here and there. Haven’t seen anything of it myself personally yet, but I don’t think they’re just mere rumors, either.” He paused. “I’d been wondering if maybe it was somehow connected the issues you’ve been having in Blaguarro.”
"Mm." Jaak shuffled awkwardly in his seat for a moment. "Well hopefully they are," Jaak replied. He then scratched his chin. "Can't say for sure. Nobody can put a claw on anything goin' on there." He looked back at Wes for a moment. "So you and your group have decided to go check it out?" he asked.
Wes nodded and turned back to his drink. “Yeah, just a little investigating, nothing too serious. We’re not lookin’ to cause trouble or anything, I promise. Just…well, I’m sure you caught wind of what’s become of the mayor here in town, and between that and the rumors and Blaguarro, something is going on. Dunno if it’s all connected yet, but I feel like it has to be, in some way.” He decided not to share what he’d learned about Ignatius’s connection to Blaguarro and trafficking. “So if you can tell me anything else about what’s happening there, or even share a theory or two, I’m all ears.”
Jaak shrugged. "Already told ya most of what I know," he replied. "Though it does seem that most of the sightings are around less populated areas, like the town's outskirts. That's why the sentries, besides Erva of course, are makin' such a fuss about it. Though that makes me wonder why they're gathered close to town and not out in the wilds. Someone ought to surely notice some foul play happening right in the middle of town. Assuming it ain't a huge hoax, of course."

He leaned back a little. "It'll be a few days before I'm clear to head out again, so I can take your group there if you can wait for just a bit longer."
So, near town but not out in the middle of nowhere…that was interesting. Lined up well enough with it being connected to trafficking, all right. Although Wes was already going to be investigating that later this evening, and if they didn’t happen to be connected…

“I’d like that,” he said after pondering for a moment. “Hopefully coming to poke around won’t spook the locals more than they already are.”
"You'll get a cold reception for sure but I'm sure they'll come around once they realise what you're doin'. Though I would recommend picking a smaller group for it." Jaak took a final swig of his drink, placing the empty glass on the counter. "Anyway, I'll let ya know when I'm good to go and I'll give ya some time to prepare before we head out." He stretched for a moment before looking back at Wes.

"Until then though... Are ya up for another drink?"
“Thank you for that,” Wes said. He was relieved that Jaak truly showed no sign of ill will, and even felt slightly guilty for distrusting him. No, he reminded himself, caution is necessary. Gerome had warned them to be careful of who to trust, after all. And now…Wes felt confident he could trust Jaak, a conclusion that, for some reason, brought him a little swell of happiness.

He grinned at Jaak’s invitation and shrugged. “What the hell. Why not.”

He signaled for Gerome, feeling the most at ease he’d been since his first day in town.

[Ch02] ~ Starting Fresh
The Zera' had a new patron. A Floragato, who only drank water – or milk, with or without coffee – and who stood near the door, watching the patrons and looking new arrival up and down with a discerning eye. Every now and then she'd appear beside a table and remind patrons that be it as it may that the 'mon playing cards with them is a no-good cheatin' lyin' son-of-a-whore, starting a fight in their drinking house of choice might not be the wisest decision of their evening.

Sonora looked more or less at ease in her role as a bouncer. She spent enough time at similar enough saloons to know how people worked, and so far into her trial stint, nobody had decided to test her mettle.

In a quieter hour, she'd even have time to shoot the breeze with a conversational partner or two...
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