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Frontier Town The Wanderin' Zera

"Well, ain't that somethin'... At least they're safe fer now." Gerome nodded along, though he seemed pensive regardless. "Somethin' about it doesn't settle right. Seems awfully peculiar, in my time here."
Lyle gave a blank look at Sonora and her account of this 'trafficking'. From the way that she spoke of it, he was pretty sure that it was some type of snatching ring, except somehow much worse.

Gods above, here he thought he was getting a break from his own world, but it sounded like the more he spent time in it and looked into its shadows, the more alike it seemed. At this rate, someone would tell him that there was a massive war raging on somewhere on this continent, too.

Even so, Lyle couldn't help but wonder if there was some sort of connection between this and the events in Blaguarro.

"Would it make sense to ask any of these Pokémon your gang freed if they saw something similar before being snatched?" he asked. "It's a bit of a shot in the dark, but given that your run-in with this Charmeleon thing happened while trying to get to the bottom of this ring, would it make sense to try and figure out whether or not the two are related?"
Sonora looked sceptical, but gave the notion some actual thought.

"Guess I could ask around. If there are more monsters like this out there... maybe you could try asking the Escarpa. Their warrior scouts patrol this region better'n anyone. Or the rangers... They ain't so bad."

She wiped her nose with the back of her paw and huffed.

"Gerome's right. This whole business is disturbin'. Whatever happens... You folks oughta take good care."

Safe in the saloon, it could almost feel like the 'demons' of the Soja' were the urban legends they'd sounded like. But from the look in Sonora's eyes, she'd be seeing that thing in her waking vision for a while to come.

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Ch03: Cactus Whiskey [Grace, Gerome, & Dave]
She was tired.

Grace waddled towards town, the path feeling a hundred times longer to her than many others, but she didn't mind all too much. Togepi Grace was the type to enjoy both the journey and the destination. There was fun to be had wherever she went, even as her body still kind of ached from that Charmander the other day. She'd taken up a scouting mission, and hadn't expected to be attacked like that-- it was a struggle to get away.

But she was mostly recovered now, and with new coins in her little bag, Grace decided to live a little. What's the point in having currency from another world if she didn't know how to spend it?

The togepi waddled towards the saloon she'd been pointed to-- apparently this one was nice and usually peaceful. She hopped up towards the door, never losing her cheer, and she opened the wooden door. Would anyone even notice her at first? Gods, she was eager to evolve, but all that scouting definitely put her behind on the friendship front.

Well, she had to start somewhere!

"Hello!" she called out as she strode up towards the bar.
Tyranitar Gerome, who was an order of magnitude taller than Grace, and then some, gave her a very stone-faced yet somehow skeptical look.

"Hello," Gerome replied, looking her up and down--the gesture not even requiring him to move his eyes. "...Are you lost?"

He was washing a cup before setting it down, reaching under the shelf to get a shot glass about the size of Grace's arm.
Grace waved her arm after refixing her little pink bow on the side of her head. "No-- No, I'm twenty-three!" she answered, "I'm old enough, but I don't want alcohol, just something refreshing! I heard this was a good spot, I'm just relaxing after a job!"

She looked around. Was there a place she could sit, or even get closer to Gerome's eye level? "My name's Grace, I came here with a few other travelers a while back, but I'm still finding my bearings..."
The closest she could accomplish was one of the higher chairs meant for smaller Pokemon, and that only got to Gerome's belly just from how tall he was.

"...Oh. You're one of the 'offworld' folks, then," Gerome remarked. "Don't remember seeing you."

He filled the shot glass with some shredded ice and something pink and sweet-smelling. Perhaps Pecha juice? He slid it over to Grace. It was, indeed, about the size of her arm.

"Good thing y'didn't ask for alcohol, Fairy girl. Pretty sure even a drop would be too much."
"Oh, I'm aware, it's pretty hard to spot me as I am," Grace said with a light giggle, either ignoring or dismissing his remark. "I've been away. I was hoping to get a bit stronger before assisting my teammates. I have to try and get a head start as I am! I don't want to be stuck as a Togepi..."

She slowly put her coins on the bar, taking a moment to count them out. "They're not causing trouble, are they...? I think it's a good sign I'm not immediately captured or anything..."

Well, it beat getting jumped by a wild charmander, at least.
"Any time your kind show up it's to cause trouble," Gerome said. "So if we're going by a relative scale, you've been pretty damn well-behaved. Who knows when that'll change? Certainly got word around, though, havin' your names plastered on the newspapers.

"How come?" Gerome pressed. "Have you run into trouble?"
"None that I'm responsible for!" she chirped. "I was attacked by a wild charmander while I was out--" of which she was certain he wasn't just wild, something was definitely going on. "--So I haven't really been in the loop lately. I'm sorry if trouble has reached you personally, Sir."
"Eh. Give it time." Gerome took the coins from the table and slipped them into a small cup behind the bar. "It'll catch up t'me eventually. Feel it in my spikes."

Gerome hummed just then. "A wild Charmander. Those aren't native to here. And only a few days ago, a frenzied Charmeleon attacked the team and did a real number on 'em, last I heard."
Obviously, once he'd thought about it for two seconds, the Zera wasn't actually open in the middle of the night, so wait until morning it was. He'd tried his best to get some more sleep, with mixed success, until he'd passed out sometime in the morning and then woken again in the afternoon feeling like death. Okay. Now he could hit the bar.

When he arrived, Gerome was chatting up a tiny Togepi. Unremarkable, except as he approached, he heard them talking about her being attacked by a wild Charmander, and the blood froze in his veins for a moment.

He clambered up on the stool next to her. "Hey, sorry to barge in. A wild Charmander? Did it, uh, look kind of lanky, fight on all fours, dodge fucking everything?"
Grace looked Dave up and down, trying to remember if she'd seen him on the team. Gosh-- she really should have gotten to know everyone before she up and went.

"Ah, yes! He-- I think it was a he, just attacked totally unprovoked! I can't say I've seen anything like it before, and in the panic I almost missed that it even was a Charmander!"

She paused for a moment, smiling thankfully at Gerome before finally sipping her drink. Dave and Gerome saw her struggle as she first went to pick it up with her little arms, gave up when she thought it was going to spill, then very carefully picked it up with her localised telekinesis. Grace looked quite embrassed.
Gerome studied her from afar and hummed. "Mmhm. Telltale body language of someone who ain't never lived a month in this world," he hummed. "You all make it real obvious sometimes." He shrugged. "Well, Dave. Sounds to me like Togepi here had an even earlier run-in with your little Charmeleon friend. Your Treecko pal came here for a real strong drink and told me about it. Guess it's real awkward, finding out a former mate turned into a frenzied killer." Gerome shook his head, sighing. "Hope you find 'im soon."
Jesus. If this Owen had been running around Shadowed since he was a Charmander, how many people had he attacked? Grace was lucky she'd encountered him when he was unevolved.

"Not sure awkward is the word I'd use," he said, adjusting to a more comfortable sitting position, as he dug coins out of a pocket of his belt. "Anyway, last night we nearly got shredded again by a Skorupi-slash-Drapion smashing its way through the Traveller's Haus and at this point, fuck it, let's have the cactus whiskey."

He pushed the coins toward Gerome on the counter and glanced back at the Togepi, raising an eyebrow. Togepi as Pokémon were hard to take seriously, and her difficulties holding a glass didn't help, but for all he knew she could be a grown adult, and who knew what species she even was originally. "So you're one of us? I don't remember seeing you around."
The Charmander was someone's ex on their team? Ouch. That sounded awful. Grace winced. Hopefully they were okay-- or will be.

She smiled at Dave. "Sorry, yeah! I've just been getting that traveling itch out of the way before I got into the mess here. I didn't want to get distracted! Ben would have been able to stay focused..." she said, looking slightly frazzled. Then she raised a hand, a little spray of confetti popping out. "I'm Togekiss Grace! Nice to meet you!"

After a beat, she paused and lowered her arm. The confetti slowly disappeared. "Mm... I guess that's Togepi Grace, for now!"
He raised an eyebrow at the confetti. Neat trick. Fairy-type thing? Fuck if he knew.

"Dave," he said. "So... has someone filled you in on all the shit that's been going on?" Was he going to have to recap the past several weeks? Not what he'd been expecting on this trip.
"Oh, if you came here to relax, then the recap can wait!" Grace sang, waving a dismissive arm, but not before sipping from the shot glass again. "Have you always run this place, Tyranitar, Sir?" she asked. "It's a lovely place."
"A while," Tyranitar replied specifically. "Thanks. Just try'na keep a low profile while things kick up again, I guess. Somethin' tells me it's just delayin' the inevitable, though. Trouble follows folks."
“Well, I also came to talk to Gerome,” Dave said. It sounded like the big guy was expecting shit to hit the fan, huh. “We learned the other day that Jesse Stranger supposedly planned to stop by here when he left five years ago. Did he come by? Learn anything useful?”

He glanced back at Grace so as not to leave her totally lost. “Jesse Stranger, former sheriff, human-turned-Delphox, left town five years ago, had a daughter with the chief of the Escarpa Clan who’s also missing and possibly being chased down by a group of human supremacist pricks.”
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