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Frontier Town The Wanderin' Zera

The Zeraora turned to face the kid who'd just spoken to her, her ears pricking for the sound of his voice, dog claws on the wooden floor, anxious breathing. Then towards the sound of a drink being poured, of coins on the bar, of a different voice – adult body, heavy, with talons and paws. A quiet curse from nearby.

She sniffed the air, and drew one paw closer to her, her body tensing up further. Her tail flicked, catlike and restless. Her eyes looked at nothing; they stared – sightless – past the pokémon approaching her, clouded and without pupils.

The Wandering Light was blind.

"...Can it wait?" asked the Saint.
Gerome rumbled in his casual way, "They're uppity, but they ain't got that urgent sound unless it's important," he said. "So, they're either mistaken or they found somethin' that'll need the light's touch." The Tyranitar, apparently familiar with their recent needs, vouched for them in his own way. "Probably about that crazed Charmeleon I told y'about. Or related."
Bellatrix had planned to do more of her illusionary training, this time building enough confidence to test it in the Zera but said thought was very quickly quashed the moment she saw the Light sitting at the bar. She walked into the bar, acting as if she had also come to see the Saint. The others were far quicker on the draw to get their first requests in and based on the Wandering Light's answer, it was best to simply cut to the chase.

"No," answered the approaching zoroark, standing straight and folding her arms behind her back to give a brief report. "Shadows have gotten loose across Sojaveña, we heard Radiance was the best way to deal with them, we're told the best way to get said Radiance was from you."
The Zeraora's ears flicked again to listen to Gerome, and then to yet another new voice. Sounded like a tall biped, sharp claws on the floor, confident stride. Confident voice – direct, clear. Luz's paw clenched, and her mouth curved into a slight, mirthless smile.


She took a drink, unhurried.

"That's new."

She looked towards the last speaker, the one who sounded like she wanted to be a leader, and blinked slowly.

"Neither aspirants nor beggars. That's new, too. You want Radiance to fight this battle yourselves, is that right?"
"Our goals overlap with others such as the Escarpa," Bellatrix answered. "It would be foolish to turn down mutual aid for a common goal, no?"
The Zeraora chuckled. Her lip pulled back over sharp teeth in a humourless grin.

"It'd be foolish to give Radiance to a gaggle of strangers I know nothin' about, darlin'," she growled.

She went for her glass again, shaking her head.

"'Mutual aid'," she muttered to herself. "Gotta have consensus to have that."

She took a drink.
By now, Nova had his drink and took a sip. "Mutual aid in more ways than one. That charmeleon? He's someone close to a friend of mine." Another sip. "And Soja 'mon have been going missing. Taken by a group that corrupt 'mon with shadows. We're planning a raid on the ones responsible. Escarpa have been helping some of us train.

"But you're right. To you, we're strangers." So best Nova cut to the chase. "What would it take to prove our convictions?"
“You’re right. It would be stupid,” Odette said. No point in hanging back now. Not like she could really be seen. That didn’t stop her from pointing to herself out of habit.

“I’m Odette. Then there’s Bellatrix, Koa, and…Nova,” she said. “If we get a formal intro from you, we’ll be slightly less strange.”

Then she huffed. “Look, I’m not particularly thrilled we have to hunt down someone we don’t know from a hole in the wall to ask for help with this, but here we are, time crunch and all. I’m not a beggar but I’ll do whatever it takes to make it clear I’m not here to bust your balls.”
Luz' ears perked at Nova's mention of Escarpa. Flattened down again at Odette's huffing.

"Do I look like I'm here to thrill anyone?" said the Zeraora, drily. Her cloudy eyes, dilute with amber, drifted in the vague direction of Odette's face. They never quite fixed on each person she looked at. "Y'know... Walkin' up to a stranger in a bar and askin' her to give you power ain't exactly a torturous ordeal, little lady. If you were here to bust my cunt, I'd give you a trip to the town sawbones."

Rough attitudes and vulgar speech were hardly uncommon in the working class parts of Frontier Town, but this still earned a sharp intake of breath from an eavesdropping patron or two, as Luz took another sip of her drink. Perhaps it came as a shock to hear it from a Saint.

All the same, the message was clear: Luz didn't care for complaints.

"I can think of nothin' a 'mon could say or do inside a dozen minutes that'd get me to teach 'em Radiance, to tell you the truth. If you're in such a rush that you can't even wait for me to finish my drink – or ask to sit at my table and buy me one – you don't have time to figure out Radiance anyhow."

So, Luz wouldn't be rushed or hassled by anyone. Her sightless gaze moved to face Nova's general direction.

"Maybe you've picked up by now that the Soja' runs on reputation... I want to hear more about who you people are and what you've done before today – surely something, if the clan takes you half seriously."

At least the legendary wasn't unwilling to hear the Wayfarers out, or to explain what she expected. If the Wayfarers were all that, they'd have proven themselves already – with their acts and deeds until now, and in the eyes of other 'mon who would vouch for them. Just like with the Escarpa and Brisa's earring, or the Rangers and the sponsorships a recruit would need to join them. Gerome's vouching for them might be why she was even listening to begin with.
Koa narrowed his eyes at her reply to Odette.

Claws on top of him, pinning him, a feral fury blazing in its eyes. 'One mercy'.

The bite of her words made him wince. Luz wasn't at all what he expected... And yet she reminded him of the one he'd met, in a way. Still, a small part of him felt almost frustrated. Didn't she care? About the kidnapped Pokemon Nova mentioned, about Cipher, about the shadow crisis? The one he'd met had been fighting to help Pokemon. Surely she had to care. That had to be why she was here.

"I'm sorry. We're in a hurry because this is serious. It's important. The only reason we're all here is because we want to help. Cipher is kidnapping Pokemon and abusing shadows and hurting innocent people." He thought of Seth, and his team, and Drapion, and who knows how many others.

Still. They were strangers to her, and it wouldn't make sense to expect anything without earning it. Maybe a physical battle wouldn't be enough to prove it. Words then. Reputation. Not like you have a good one. What could he offer to change her mind?

"But you're right, giving it to strangers would be stupid. If you'll share a drink with us we can tell you about our reputation." He glanced at the others. "We have the respect of the Rangers. We helped drive out that corrupt so-called Mayor Ignatius, and we helped an innocent mon who'd been framed for crimes he didn't commit."

Surely that meant somethingt o her. If she was a saint she cared about that.
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"Hole in the wall?" Gerome growled.
“Yeah like…I don’t know her?” she said hesitantly, wondering where the sudden animosity came from. It dawned on her, then and there, where she was standing, and her eyes slipped shut.

“Sorry. Wasn’t talking about…yeah.”

Her anger only expanded at the way Luz responded, and despite the way her entire body tense, her face remained deadpan. She wanted to snap back, with every fiber of her fucking being, but there was indeed a point to be made here—they’d approached her first, she’d spoken first, but she hadn’t spoken exactly been sweet about it. Maybe the feeling of urgency was getting to her head. She needed to take a breath and chill the fuck out.

Exhaling evenly, she raised her hands up to frame her chest. “You’re right. My bad. Didn’t mean to be so heavy handed.”

With another breath, she shoved her hands into her pockets. “Well, to start we exposed the mayor here. Ignautius. Fought him and took him down. Found out about how he’s been shipping ‘mon off in wagons. His ties to a one Terminal Two.” She paused, thinking. Wondering what else she should say. “And we fought a shadowed Drapion. And a wanted outlaw called The Wolf.”
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"Reputations? Sounds familiar." Nova sat down. His large frame meant no chairs were necessary. "Whiskey, right?" He tossed a couple of coins on the table behind him where they clattered around before resting. Nova signaled to Gerome. "It'll sound crazy, but up until earlier this month I had this big stone mask stuck on my head. Muddled all my senses, so I'm kinda learning smells and tastes on the fly." He finished off his small drink. "My friends helped me break it, even though I thought it was unbreakable.

"And yeah, we haven't been around too long. But it's been a whirlwind." Nova's feathers brightened a bit. "They mentioned the mayor. The floragato in the back's someone he was framing for a number of crimes."

Nova admittedly did not have the best grasp of time. He didn't even remember what month they'd shown up in. "And outside of the clan, a group of us beat Chief Ayda and some of the Rangers in a friendly spar. Heck, a few of us here just got back from delving into Timeless Oasis with Wyrdeer Sybil. Ended up having to protect the shrine inside from some of the folks we're out to stop."
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Luz listened to the Wayfarers tell of what they'd accomplished in their time on Forlas, and gave a laconic "Alright," to Odette's walkdown and a "Thanks," to Nova's purchase of a whiskey. He was correct – it was her drink. She took a long, relaxed sip of it as she considered what they told her. Her ear flicked with particular interest at the mention of Sonora, and of guarding the legendary relic inside Timeless Oasis.

"Y'all have been busy, then," she remarked. "Not a bad track record on the whole, for a band of angels only a few months in."

Either she knew already that they were offworlders, or she'd worked it out from context. Their reaction – or lack of one – to the word 'angels' would confirm it for her.

She tapped a claw on the table, still mulling it over. Then she pointed it to Koa.

"Boy, when you rushed in here you used my sobriquet and said it was an honour. Then after you heard me speak, your voice hitched and your heart rate spiked. Somethin' troubled you, ain't that so?"

The blunt tone of the legend's voice made it clear she expected Koa to 'spit it out'.
Nova glanced at Koa, too. Come to think of it, the kid looked rather nauseous around the heart of the Oasis. Archie, too. And those were the two who had gotten tricked by a certain zweilous, if he remembered correctly. Was Koa still feeling guilty over that? Was whatever Zweilous did to him somehow reacting to Luz's presence?

He kept those thoughts to himself, though.
Koa resisted the urge to flinch at her addressing him. His mouth dried and he swallowed. For a moment, he instinctively sought for an excuse, something he was used to saying, then gave up. He couldn't lie to a saint. Not this one.

Meeting her gaze, he spoke. Haltingly, but determined all the same. "You... You reminded me of another Zeraora I met. Far from here. I made a mistake the first time I met him, and did something I shouldn't have. We settled things later but I'm not proud of it. That Zeraora was trying to help innocent Pokemon from being hurt. Nova told you why we're here. Kidnapped Pokemon. An evil group using shadows. Innocents being hurt." Mhynt's friend.

He pushed forward. "That's why you're here too, right? To help and protect those who can't?" Despite the tremor in his tone at speaking to her like this, there was a yearning in the question, a desire to understand. They wanted the same things, right?
Luz's mouth twitched, flicking her whiskers. Her true emotion couldn't be known, but it certainly wasn't happy. She didn't say anything immediately, just 'watched' him, one claw lightly tapping the table again.

"It's what I've done all my life," she said, at last. (Which was not, technically speaking, an answer).

After a moment, she asked, "How old d'you reckon I am, boy?"

Back to the whiskey, clouded eyes narrowing.
That helped and yet... She hadn't agreed had she? She never said she was here to help the shadow crisis or help Blaguarro. Didn't declare that she was here to help them. To fight Cipher, or do something to balance the shadows.

"Old," he said finally, voice serious as he searched her face. The legendaries of his world were thousands of years old as far as he knew. But saints here could die, or pass on the mantle, right? What was old for a saint? "A century? Maybe more?"

Why did that matter? It didn't change her duty, it didn't change the fact that she was a legenda- a saint. They needed her, one way or another. "Does that change your answer to why you're here?" It couldn't.
Luz' expression settled into a kind of hard, weary indifference. Her voice grew quieter.

"I'm over three-hundred years old," she said, calmly. "I'm tired. In case you can't see too well yourself – I'm blind. I've been doing this long enough that I've seen more people pass away than you've ever known in your life, kid."

There was the slightest hint of a sigh, and a clenching of her paw around her glass.

"I've been doing this long enough."
And there it was. Nova had talked with Koa before and the kid certainly had an idealistic view of these sorts of powerful pokémon. But at the end of the day, Luz was still a person. She had her own thoughts and feelings.

"I get it." Nova stayed seated, giving the cat her space. Still didn't exactly know the species. He might've met one way back when, but couldn't recall. "You stick around that long — a lifetime most folks can't wrap their heads around — and it weighs on you." He glanced at Luz's cloak again. It was similar to the tattered one draped over his body back home. A journeymon... of a different sort. "Days and nights blur together. Faces and voices are hazy. You look for the small comforts where you can get them."

If you can get them.

"For me — all of us, really — this is all a big change from my old routine. But for you... we're asking for more of the same." Nova tilted his own empty glass back and forth with a beak. "Even if it's teaching and not fighting directly, that still takes time. Time and patience with, well, strangers. Who might not've made the best first impression.

"Personally, I can't make you say yes. Hell, I'll confess I wouldn't even put that power to much use compared to these guys. I let people punch me... so they can get their hits in."

He sighed. "I do know what it's like to be cloaked in shadows for 'long enough,' though. And I don't want any Soja having to go through that, if we can help it."
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