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Frontier Town The Wanderin' Zera


Gerome finally broke his silence, placing a cup on the shelf. Finally all cleaned, at least for now until the next crowd came in and whatever else Luz was going to do to add to his cleaning.

"I'm not interested in getting into the fight because I've got a family and a normal life t'live," Gerome said. "But even I know something's inescapable when I see it. Who I am, what I can do. I know one day I'm probably gonna have to step in, too.

"But let me tell you somethin'," Gerome said to Luz. "Whatever was happenin' in the world before? It wasn't gettin' any better. Whether these guys are a wildcard or not, are you gonna let them go to the winds, or are you gonna guide them? If you're done fightin', then you're a mentor now. It ain't just a mantle t'pass on. It's knowledge, too.

"Besides." His claw tapped on the table and trailed over to the Wayfarers--a sound-like version of pointing a direction. "They won't be around for long. Treat it like practice."
Luz's face bore a forced grin that was halfway to a grimace.

"Y'ain't wrong, big fella. Alright. I'll mentor them, then."

She made it sound like a threat.

"When I said y'all were wildcards, I mean that I can't honestly say I know what'll happen with ya. I won't take a chance on somethin' I know will go sour, but you lot? I don't know that you won't keep on succeedin' where others might fall short."

The grin looked a little more genuine, even if there was still a kind of subtle grief in those blind eyes of hers. Something she'd yet to confide.

Luz clenched a fist and planted it on the table, in a decisive gesture.

"I got business with my kin before aught else, but I'll see you angels when you make your way to Black Water. I'll be there. And I'll show you how to carry the lantern with you."

To carry the lantern. To wield Radiance in battle.
"Gotcha." Nova accepted his whiskey from Gerome. He clinked it against Luz's glass. "Hope things go well with your kin. Guess I'll be seeing you around."

He downed the whiskey. It wasn't bad, but he had other preferences. Nova mentally noted that for the future.
Well. Slightly rocky start aside, this probably couldn’t have gone much better.

“Good luck with whatever you need to do,” she said. “And thank you for taking a chance on some wildcards.”
The Wandering Light nodded, and after finishing her glass, stood from her seat at last. Zeraora Luz was tall when she stood upright, and with such a striking appearance besides, it was hard to imagine how she'd avoid attracting attention as she traveled. Still, she pulled her cloak over her head, and tapped the table again. (Gerome had made a dragging sound with one claw earlier to mimic pointing – perhaps this claw-tapping habit was helpful to her in a similar way. The Saint certainly didn't seem to lack confidence in her abilities despite the loss of her sight – it was no safe bet at all that she had a less than excellent awareness of her surroundings...)

"I'll be there," she said again.

She brushed her paw against Gerome's bartop and nodded a quiet thanks to him, and then she left the saloon without another word.

Ch05: Home Sweet Home
Shadows on the horizon, sabotage somewhere at home, and all kinds of Saints and other deities amongst them. In all the chaos the world threw at the Wayfarers, they at least had solace in The Wanderin' Zera, where the closest they brushed with all that chaos was when its namesake paid a visit for a nice little drink.

For the regulars, it seemed to be just another day -- though they did note Gerome's more pensive nature. His wife and son, Floinsa and Lucis, were not around just yet; they were doing errands in town, but would return soon.

As usual, Gerome washed a glass and tended to the bar. It was a quiet morning, just before the lunchtime rush. Mhynt had briefly visited sometime earlier for a pick-me-up, but had left with an acknowledging nod before anyone else could spot her.
When the message about the quarry had arrived the previous night, Dave'd been in no state to respond, or to really remember the messages about it much. It was only when he'd dragged himself down the stairs at the Haus in the morning that he'd bumped into Koa, had an indistinct memory of Nova's message float into his head - something about Koa's Drapion bestie - and asked what exactly had happened there.

Well. That was some fucked-up shit to miss. And why in God's name had Koa been there for it. But apparently it'd turned out sort of all right, somehow. The Shadow Charmeleon (his shoulder stung with phantom pain, and God, why the fuck was that still a thing) had gotten away but they'd been well on their way to snapping him out of it. They'd retrieved the Drapion that'd attacked them (Koa had apparently been bonding with that thing?), they'd retrieved the now-Shadowed Ignatius, and then they'd been left with... Mewtwo? Hold the fuck on.

Okay, whatever. He had way too much of a headache to process this. He blearily chewed his way through a breakfast and coffee and then headed back for the Zera. There weren't enough drinks in the world.
Steven didn't frequent the Zera often. Not a whole lot for his species to do at an establishment where the primary activity was drinking. However, he'd since learned the Zera was a good place for other things, like conversation and information gathering. Which was why Steven found himself sidling up to the counter this particular morning.

He grabbed a stool and slid it out, not to sit on it, but to make room for him to comfortably float at the bartop. He'd heard around town about the barkeep and his unusual family, and figured this might be the place to ask a question he'd had on his mind for a while, now.

But as he situated himself at the bar, Steven caught sight of a more familiar face. One he'd tried to meet up with at this very establishment, but missed his chance. Dave had been hard to pin down, Steven only having seen him briefly here and there, never having time to share a proper conversation with his teammate.

What had been on the table the day he missed Dave and met Odette? An empty glass of whiskey, and several at that. He raised a claw to make the order, and when it arrived, nudged the glass in front of his Poochyena companion. That's how you struck up conversation at a bar right? (Hey, it had worked when he met Silver.)

"Good morning, how are you holding up?" he asked, aware of just how tired Dave looked. (And that he'd just offered the man whiskey after breakfast.)
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Everything had been flying around Ghaspius — from Mewtwo to a shadow Charmeleon to even retrieving hostages, oh dear! With how serious things were getting, he couldn't simply ignore the calls any longer — no matter how much he enjoyed the new lab equipment courteous of the Cipher raid and Gare's workshop. Besides, he needed to see how the 'brews' of the local watering hole compared.

He leisurely floated over to counter and raised a tassel to try to get a menu. As his glance registered the two other Wayfarers, his posture relaxed. "Howdy Steven, Dave. Got any reccomendations from this place?"
Grace felt exhausted. After the fight against Alexander's shadows and Owen, at lot had been on the togetic's mind. Doubts, concerns and fears had been plauging her mind, and she couldn't let any of them win.

There were a few places she'd been getting into the habit of frequenting. The bulletin board, the markets, and The Zera. While she wasn't a drinker by any means, Grace had found herself coming here often, sipping some juice and being one of Gerome's smallest customers.

She'd been meaning to check on Lucis, as well, but mostly she just needed a moment to wind down and collect her thoughts.

Apparently, other Wayfarers had thought the same.

The tired smile turned into a bright one at the sight of her companions.

"Ah, Ghaspius! Dave! Have you all decided to visit Gerome, too?" she asked.
"Well, look at this. We've got a whole party arrivin' before the crowd," Gerome drawled, pouring several drinks for the regulars and their preferences. "Well, just don't forget that we're pretty early in the day here. Don't black out too early, y'hear?" It was, for the most part, a joke he occasionally said in his stone-faced, monotone way.

"...Heard what happened," Gerome commented. "Figure it's hard seein' one of your own like that. Ain't easy. But you got through a little. Who knows. Maybe that means somethin'." He slid a small drink over to all of them. "First one's on the house."
"Good morning, how are you holding up?" he asked, aware of just how tired Dave looked. (And that he'd just offered the man whiskey after breakfast.)
Dave looked up. "Oh. Hey." He lifted a paw in greeting. He'd only just sat down, still trying to clear the fog out of his brain, holding off on ordering because Christ, it really was a bit early. But Steven had apparently not only decided to strike up a conversation, he'd ordered him a whiskey, unprompted.

Dave blinked, brow furrowing. Was Steven coming on to him? As a floating metal thing, to a fucking dog who probably looked about as dead as he felt at the moment? What was happening?

But no, the look on Steven's face was more just concern, and he was now glancing sheepishly at the glass of whiskey like he wasn't quite sure about it.

"Thanks," he said, grabbing the glass and downing about half of it. "I'm fine, just having my head split apart with a jackhammer. You, uh... You weren't at the quarry last night, were you?"

Without warning, though, before Steven could answer, a whole crowd was settling in around him, Ghaspius and Grace both arriving around the same time before he could object.

"...Heard what happened," Gerome commented. "Figure it's hard seein' one of your own like that. Ain't easy. But you got through a little. Who knows. Maybe that means somethin'." He slid a small drink over to all of them. "First one's on the house."
...Huh. "You heard?" Someone'd come by last night after it'd happened at told Gerome first thing, then? "Well, I wasn't there. But sounds like it was pretty fucked-up all around."
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"It was hard," Grace said softly after thanking Gerome. She took her way too big seat and her very small non-alcoholic drink and sipped from the top of the cup. "I'm still feeling the aftermath and everything. We gave it our all, and it still wasn't enough..."
"Thanks," he said, grabbing the glass and downing about half of it. "I'm fine, just having my head split apart with a jackhammer. You, uh... You weren't at the quarry last night, were you?"
"Oh," Steven said, eyeing the now-half-empty glass of whiskey with a wince of regret. That probably wasn't what Dave needed right about now. "No, I wasn't there. I found out about it afterward, same as you." He watched Grace with a look of sympathy, trying to figure out who looked more tired, her or Dave.

A bright spot though, as Ghaspius joined their little group. He gave a small wave and a smile, though his gaze slid over to Dave at the Mismagius's question. "I'll have to defer to the regulars for any recommendations," he said with a chuckle.

"If there's one thing I've learned, it's that word travels fast in this town. One way or another." He left a lingering glance at Gerome, implying that if the barkeep wished to divulge exactly how he'd heard, he was welcome to (considering the news only reached most of the Wayfarers through Betel's telepathic network.)
Gerome nodded at Dave and Steven. "Mm. Mhynt came along, asked for a few drinks, talked about all that. She seems better than before. Just needs time."

He set the glass he'd been working on down.

"Better than the last encounter. That's progress, isn't it? Last time, you barely stood a chance at all."
"Yeah. Definitely helps when nobody's dead."

Sometimes he hated his fucking shoulder. Dave downed the rest of the whiskey Steven had ordered. The Wayfarers were engaged in a dozen different quagmires of convoluted mysteries, but at least it didn't sound like anyone'd come particularly close to dying this time. Take your fucking victories where you could get them.

Then his brow furrowed. "And hey, Gerome," he said. "On top of everything else, there's... Did you know the other day someone bumped into someone disguised as you? Looked the same but asking probing questions about what we're up to; didn't leave footprints, just a 'skittery trail'. And supposedly Nova also bumped into a doppelganger recently. You have any idea if there's anybody around here with that kind of power who might be trying to get info on us?" Presumably not the fake Wolf Zoroark, given that guy was dead. Unless it was somehow Bellatrix.
Gerome nodded at Dave and Steven. "Mm. Mhynt came along, asked for a few drinks, talked about all that. She seems better than before. Just needs time."
"Ah, straight from the source," said Steven. Seemed like some people went to the bar even earlier than Dave. "Glad she's doing alright."

He snuck a peek at Grace, wondering if Mhynt had fared better or worse than she had in the encounter.

"Last time..." Steven murmured, his gaze falling to the bartop. The wagon mission. Gerome was talking about the wagon mission. "I wouldn't know."

But he nodded at Dave's blunt point, only to quirk one eye at his next question. There was someone impersonating people around town and talking to their group? His first thought was of Seth and his Cipher impersonator, but from Dave's description, this seemed much more benign. Odd...
"Well, glad we got one on the house then, Steven. And sure did, Grace," Ghaspius replied to the others, "Just glad everyone's alright. Would've been a good time to test my brews, but..." The Mismagius chuckled. "Funny to think about the end goal when it comes to bein' a medicine man is to make his own job obsolete."

A good-natured smile slid onto his face as he listened in on the conversation and took a sip of his drink. "Not bad," he said as his smacked his lips. "That 'imposter', right? Andre had some kinda encounter with the same the other day, right? Disguised as Gerome too, no less."
"Impostors?" asked Grace, greatful for the change of subject as she glanced at everyone else. She needed to get the guilt and negative emotions out of her system so she could keep going. If she didn't get it out of her system, Grace knew she'd struggle to help everyone and be at her best.

Owen... she had to get stronger. At this point she'd taken it upon herself to help Mhynt and save Owen... and she barely knew either of them.

"I guess we should be pretty careful with what we talk about then, huh?" she sighed. "Have these impostors done anything bad while being us, yet? That's what we should look out for."
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