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Frontier Town The Wanderin' Zera

The seconds seemed to stretch on for an eternity, but, eventually, Kimiko did answer in the affirmative. The Oshawott was sure the Snivy would probably rather a trusted friend be the one watching her back, but unfortunately, the best he could offer was a comrade-in-arms. At the very least, she seemed to agree that it was better than nothing. So he nodded his head in her direction, and gave her his best reassuring smile. Hopefully in the meantime the others would be able to get an idea of the town they’d found themselves in, and hopefully meet up with any of the others from the nexus who might’ve arrived here as well.

“No problem!”

And soon enough, the pair were alone with Gerome. Well, not quite, but their first task was to clear out the last straggler, the still sleeping Granbull. Figuring there was no time like the present, Archie marched up to the slumbering menace, and gave him a firm but gentle shake on his shoulder.

“Hey buddy, closing time,” he said, before adding more humorously, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

No dice, and it didn’t seem like Kimiko was having any better luck, either. Well, at least the Tyranitar was able to wake him up. The Oshawott at least took the time to escort the patron to the door. The Granbull didn’t seem the surest on his feet – not that the Oshawott could’ve done much to help had he fallen. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that! He also closed the door for good measure, just so no one would think to walk in while they were cleaning up, before rejoining Kimiko and Gerome near the bar.
"Mrggghhuh?" Granbull sneezed and blinked himself awake, staring at Kimiko. "...Kids ain't supposed to be in here..."

The snivy felt her cheeks flush and couldn't stop herself from pouting with her leafy arms crossed. Was that what they all thought of her? Had she said something, or was that just how all unevolved pokemon were seen here?

Granbull murmured something as he wobbled up, dropping a few coins on the table before lumbering out.

Then Gerome showed up and shooed the granbull away. Kimiko watched his back as he headed out. At least she hadn't had to fight. She gathered the coins and returned to the counter, pulling herself up to the top as she had with the table, where she set them down for the tyranitar to collect. "I had that under control," she said casually.

She grabbed the broom Gerome had returned with and proceeded to sweep up the broken glass, from the countertop. With her much smaller-than-normal form, it was a lot easier to see from up here. Thankfully, her vines offered her plenty of reach.

"Anyway... I got the feeling you had something to say, and you didn't want to be overheard." She pointedly ignored looking in Archie's direction, focusing intently on her sweeping.
Well, that was one task done, on to the next. Given that Kimiko was presently sweeping, Archie took the it upon himself to grab a wet rag and wipe down the tables, starting with the one with a respectable amount of Granbull spit forming a messy puddle. He pointedly kept his back to the bar while doing this, but kept his ears tilted towards Kimiko and Gerome, just in case. Whatever the Tyranitar had to say, the fact that he wanted to be all alone to say it especially peaked the Oshawott’s interest.

So he couldn’t help but momentarily freeze when what it was, exactly, that Gerome wanted to talk about came to light. Okay, no need to show any kind of panic, he didn’t hear this conversation, he wouldn’t speak unless called upon. The Oshawott redoubled his efforts on the tables, bustling from place to place, keeping dead quiet as he listened.
"You're human, ain't ya?"

It was there that Kimiko realized her mistake.

Gerome had heard Eco all the way by the door, whispering about the payment (or so she herself thought). If that were true, why wouldn't he also have have heard Kimiko talking to Astrid? She hadn't kept her voice low, distracted as she was at the time.

She'd frozen but for a moment before resuming sweeping, inspecting the ground carefully for any glass she may have missed. Her heartrate started to speed up, but she had to keep her cool. She had to.

"Oh, you... know what humans are?" she asked. Good, she held her casual tone. She didn't need to lie, but until she knew why Gerome was asking, she didn't want to admit to anything, either. "I got the impression there weren't any around here."
Gerome answered her with silence. Studying her. Those eyes of his only gave away that he could have been retired from law enforcement in the past. Interrogating eyes that pried stories out of bar patrons time and time again. And now Kimiko was the main victim. But he also eyed the Oshawott who had elected to stay behind. It was impossible to tell what he was gleaning.

The silence festered. Gerome allowed it to crawl through the room.
Unable to spot any more glass, Kimiko cautiously lifted the dustpan to the counter, looking for a trash to dispose of it in. So this is how he was gonna play, was it?

Unfortunately, she knew this wasn't a game she could win. She certainly couldn't run, nor fight her way our of here. Not only was she essentially powerless in this form at the moment, but she'd be putting Archie in immediate danger too, and the rest of her squad could follow if anyone caught up with them. And even more should anyone learn the rest of the members of Nexus party's identities. She silently cursed herself for being so careless, and hoped she hadn't doomed their mission before it even began. Gerome had seemed earnest enough, though, between the drinks and the clothing; she could only bank on him being an ally, and not an enemy.

Still, she elected to play cautiously. She only really had to endanger herself here. "What would it matter if I told you I was?" she asked, glancing at Gerome out of the corner of her eye. "You don't put any stock in those kind of wild fairy tales, anyway. Hell, you probably would sooner believe Dayle's Psychic War nonsense, I imagine. Which I can't help but notice you refused to elaborate on, by the way."
"Because there's nothing important about it," Gerome replied idly. "Like I said, he'll have something new to call the end of the world by the time three dinners pass. Maybe dinner's what gives him the idea." He shrugged.

"...It matters in some parts," Gerome said. "I'd be careful about giving off human tells here, even if you aren't one. Maybe you got caught up in some of that culture. There are folks in the world... who are very keen on humans, one way or another. For their power, for their knowledge, all sorts of tall tales.

"Watch your back. You're lucky I'm the one you met first and not someone else."
After dumping the glass, Kimiko allowed herself to look Gerome in the eye. What could he mean by that?

It confirmed that at least some inhabitants of this world were familiar with humans. But... There were things that humans could do that pokemon couldn't? Her mind instantly went to trainers, but even then, their power came from their pokemon, not because they were human.

She glanced back at the bow on her tail - and subconsciously, her leafy hand drifted to her necklace. It was a strange contradiction, she noticed, to be warned about human tells while also being told that pokemon dressing up here was normal. Kimiko wasn't sure what to make of it.

She cast a quick glance at Archie, still wiping down tables. He'd given no indication he'd been paying attention, but he'd probably at least been trying to listen in. And if not, well, she'd have to pass this along to the rest of her squad, anyway. She wasn't sure if any of them were former humans, but better safe than sorry.

Kimiko took a deep, calming breath, then turned on a dime, grabbed a nearby cloth, and started wiping down the countertop. "I guess I'll have to be extra cautious, then," she said, allowing herself a slight smirk. Gerome was probably trustworthy, if he were bothering to warn her about this. "Thank you for the words of warning. And again, for the drinks. I'm sorry we caused a commotion."

(To Founder's Square)
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Honestly, he felt really bad leaving Kimiko out to dry like this. It seemed like she kept digging herself deeper and deeper into this hole. Was she actually human? Archie hadn’t seen her at the nexus to know for sure, but judging by her responses, the Tyranitar had correctly identified her. In the world he’d arrived in when he first became an Oshawott, humans were the stuff of myths and legends. The world he’d arrived in didn’t bear the scars of human activity, and most Pokemon put little stock in the tales of them. Even Spencer hadn’t believed him at first.

Apparently, there were Pokemon here that were true believers, and were especially interested in humans. Enough to make them a danger to even normal Pokemon who acted a certain way. It was a warning he would do well to keep in mind. He thought he was pretty decent at presenting as a Pokemon after so long being one, but who knew how well the others would adapt. Even the ones that had always been Pokemon had been reduced or changed in other ways, it seemed.

He’d finished with the last table by now, and stepped back up to the counter, all smiles. Gerome didn’t need to know he’d listened in, and he’d have plenty of opportunities to talk about it with Kimiko once they were away from the Tyranitar.

“Did someone say something about drinks? I could really use a water before moving on to the next task,” he say, innocently, a bit of a wag to his tail.
Gerome nodded, but he still didn't offer a smile. Instead, he diverted his attention to the Oshawott and frowned.

"You gonna pay for it?" he questioned.

Meanwhile, satisfied with what she'd heard from outside the shop, Mhynt quietly stepped away from the building and went down the road. She picked up the pace once sufficiently out of earshot so she could catch up with the others.
Mhynt tossed the hat toward the top of Clover's horn. "I'll find something more suitable later," she said, nodding toward Gerome.

Clover caught the cap on her horn, then tossed it back into the box. The Treecko really needed to open up a bit. Being so stoic was boring.

Granbull murmured something as he wobbled up, dropping a few coins on the table before lumbering out. Gerome sighed, shaking his head.

"Thanks for the hugs!" Clover called as the Granbull stumbled out.

Archie took the it upon himself to grab a wet rag and wipe down the tables, starting with the one with a respectable amount of Granbull spit forming a messy puddle.

Now equipped with actual appendages, Clover helped wipe off tables with her scarf-arms. She worked with Archie, getting the middle where he couldn't reach with his stubby arms.

"Hi! I haven't talked to you yet. I'm Clover, and I travel around to help Pokémon feel better about themselves! What's your name?"
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Kimiko finished with a shrug, noting the approaching oshawott. "Anyway, you got the name right. If I recall, I think you mentioned yours was... Astrid?"

"Thanks! And yup," Astrid said, relaxing a little and even beaming at the compliment. "Hehe, I hear you. I'm still getting used to the whole..."

Her tongue skidded to a stop mid-sentence and a beat passed. Humans? Were they behind this entire fever dream?

"...multiple worlds thing. But it's nice to meet you!"

"...It matters in some parts," Gerome said. "I'd be careful about giving off human tells here, even if you aren't one. Maybe you got caught up in some of that culture. There are folks in the world... who are very keen on humans, one way or another. For their power, for their knowledge, all sorts of tall tales.

Astrid lingered with the others as the bar cleared out, not making a fuss or getting in anyone's way as she did what she could to help. But when even the barkeep started talking about them, she couldn't help herself.

"Sounds like a colorful history, huh. Any... important beats we should know of?" she commented idly, trying to catch Gerome's eye from so far below him. "Does that rope into those 'heroes in the dark' you mentioned earlier, or is that less history and more conspiracy?"
Gerome's expression, for only a moment, darkened at Astrid's question. But then it was back to normal, and he shook his head. "No," he said. "Just be careful who you talk to, an' who to trust. There's a lot out there that ain't in your best interest, even if they say yer gonna be, I dunno, meant fer greatness.

"That's the nature o' the frontier."
“Archie,” the Oshawott answered, before huffing in amusement at Clover’s introduction, “You help Pokemon feel better about themselves? I think you’ve got your work cut out with this place.”

But, once he’d turned his attention back to Gerome, his natural smile got a bit more forced again, “my payment’s the spotlessness of your tables. That’s more than you got from the Treecko, and you were quite content to let her walk out. So why not spare some water for a thirsty otter?”

Normally, he might not be so forward, but Archie was more than a little interested in seeing this topic get buried. He felt like they were seeming more suspicious with every passing second. It was like the Tyranitar told Astrid, they had to be careful who they talked to, and who they trusted, and the Oshawott wasn't sure he trusted Gerome.
Astrid was biting her lip again, subconsciously. "...I'm not human, just so y'know. But I am lost. We all are. You don't have to tell us what all that's about if you think it'll hurt more than help, but information's what we need right now. Basic stuff y'all from around here take for granted."

Suddenly, she felt the flower in her ear again. Astrid flushed a little. "Guess I shouldn't take your hospitality for granted either. So, um, thank you, really. If--when I get money, I'll come back and be a proper customer."

With a wave at Gerome and a nod to the others, she bumped the swinging doors open and started heading after that strange Treecko.
"Get a lay of the land," Gerome suggested as she left. "Maybe we can talk again later. Just be careful, like I said. This world's stirring with activity while dying of rot. Like I said... the nature of the frontier. Eventually, things are gonna get cut off that can't keep pace. And the zealots're gonna try to get the 'humans' especially." Gerome glanced left and right, but then shook his head as if to rid himself of an unnecessary thought. "Be careful what humans you trust. But don't mess with 'em, either. Y'ain't strong enough."

Reluctantly, Gerome eyed the Oshawott and offered a simple glass of water.
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“You help Pokemon feel better about themselves? I think you’ve got your work cut out with this place.”
Clover's eyes darkened to magenta. "Well, I think it's different here than where I came from. I feel like the Pokémon here are familiar with loss and pain, more than where I come from. They cope. I imagine if you can't here, you die."

Her eyes brightened to green. "Funnily enough, I bet I'm going to have more work with half of our group than this entire town. The Treecko, Mhynt i think was her name? she's buried her feelings for a long time. And there's two or three that got some *really* mixed up bodies. Any Pokémon would freak out waking up different than when they went to sleep. I'm still a Shuppet, but I'm different. This is different fabric than I was in before here. At least it's not corduroy." She mock gasped. "Still, I can't imagine how mixed up you have to feel to get the body of a dog and tail of
a fish. But still, they chose to come here to help. That means their core is still good, at least."

Clover shook off her arms outside, the dust andfilth magically falling off. Then she zipped up to Gerome and wrapped him in up a hug as far as she could reach. She didn't even get halfway around his chest.

"Thanks for helping my friends and giving us clothes! We'll be sure to stop by again sometime!"
Clover followed everyone else out the door and down the street, somehow giving the impression of skipping, without having any feet.
Gerome grunted and waved them off. Soon, the area was clear of the newcomers, and Gerome quietly settled against the wall, bringing two claws to his rocky temple. The sand blew as it always did in the wind, howling its comforting and familiar tune.

"Yep," he muttered. His eyes trailed to the ceiling, then at a window as the sun's rays reflected off of the glassware, sparkling like an oasis.

"Looks like the quiet days're... dwindlin' fast."

Ch01: The Dog and Rock (Koa & Aige)
Koa had spent most of the day exploring town, relieved to find they at least had a library (it was woefully small compared to his back home, but all libraries were good in his eyes) but he soon found himself both rather hungry and thirsty. Surely a town like this had to have some kind os restaurant, right? There hadn't been any maps, but he had managed to glean a vague sense of the layout of town.

It took him longer than he would have liked to finally find a rather rundown-ish looking spot at the edge of town. 'The Wanderin Zera'? Like... Zeraora? With a mix of curiosity and apprehension, he poked his nose inside.

The first thing he noticed was the smell, a strange unfamiliar aroma - oh, alchohol. Wait was this a bar? Oh gods this was a bar. An honest to goodness old-timey bar with the tables and the actual bartender (a Tyranitar) and everything. Not the sort of place he should be, nope. He'd never been in any back home but they always seemed nicer from the streets than this. He started to turn back towards the exit.

Just as he was about to leave, he spotted a vaguely familiar looking pokemon. He almost didn't recognize the Roggenrola beneath the massive hat, but the hat itself stuck out like a sore thumb. All the other 'heroes' seemed to have had to make do with whatever clothes they'd found.

Get to know the other pokemon. He didn't particularly feel in the mood to, but thats what he was supposed to do. They were his-- er, a team. Putting on his best amicable face and trying to look like he'd definitely been in bars before, he wandered over to the Roggenrola. "Hey there," he said casually. "You're one of us right? I mean, you were summoned here?"
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