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TEEN: Nori Carino: Blade of the Blackout Killer [COMPLETE!!]

I laughed whenever Nori tried to refute all of Anthony's claims, and he actually makes a good point about whether eye contact means insta-battle should apply to people who are blind or those who hate eye contact. I know I'd be the latter, being autistic and all.
I mean, Nori knows an autistic person, so it might've been his inspiration. That said, he was absolutely being cheeky here and passive-aggressive. It's kind of a dumb thing in the games. A fun aside too: you can actually skip the guy who claims this in RSE until you have the Acro Bike and hop facing backward into his field of vision.

I also love the punchline about someone asking if it's a bird...and realizing Skarmory is technically a bird. Nice spin on an old joke there.
It was actually last second. I needed something to split up the chapter title and since I already had "up there" the joke wrote itself.

I am kinda surprised the old couple was very understanding of Nori hanging around with a murderous Pawniard, especially since it tried to go after them without provocation.
More like in their 20s or even early 30s. This was also partially a jab at in-game trainers in how they want battles, although to a more subdued extent than Anthony. Aside from that, it was intended to show how much respect Nori now carries. He makes up an excuse and they take it because well, he's the famous Nori Carino. He's a professional and he knows right. They trust he knows what he's doing. And yes stuff will be made of this

Also, I know Nori mentioned his reasons for not catching more Pokemon in Official-In-Training, but considering Anthony's lineup of Pokemon, he really ought to consider catching more Pokemon. Pachirisu knows Grass Knot, which could help against Anthony's Quagsire, but type advantage moves aren't always the be-all end-all solution to everything.
As Nori has also said before, he's not really into battling. It'd be good to have more Pokemon to have a more well-balanced team for cases like these, but it's like why bother since he isn't aiming for the top? Of course, he knows well that type advantage moves aren't always the be-all end-all solution to everything, and that it goes both ways. And that if he went out and caught something, it wouldn't be as good as a trained Pokemon.

Nori very much has a "work hard" mentality to him. Luckily, it works in this world (also see: Bruno), and having a type expert as a mentor helps with some of how to work with that. How will it work out? Find out soon!

Anyway, I'll read your newest Prema story over the weekend, once I have some time on my hands.
I might actually publish the next chapter here by that time, too. Which will be interesting since you'll be able to read and compare the shared scene.
 
Slice 5: Piercing Eyes
Nori made sure to wake up extra early on Wednesday. He had a quick if unbalanced breakfast of an asahi biscuit sandwich with milk before skating off to school. He couldn't afford to waste any time.

He proceeded directly to the clubroom after entering the building. When he found the door locked, he plopped down beside it, pulled out his laptop, and started working. Last night, he'd been the one to discover a story. It only felt natural to report on it! They distributed the newsletter on Wednesdays, so he had to get the article in immediately!

It was written from his perspective. He got help from some salarymen who were passing by. They went inside to find the incoherent workers, some of the more delirious ones mumbling about a ghoul. He brought out the Demon right away, but whatever it was didn't appear. They called 119 for an ambulance, and the police also showed up. Nori gave some testimony before heading back home, whereupon he immediately started work on the article. He actually would've started at the scene if he had a notepad or something. He made a mental note to pick one up when he could. Then it would just be a matter of remembering to take it with him everywhere.

Eventually, he spotted a pair of people coming down the hall. Mitsu was following the chunky teacher in charge of the room, Mr. Rosso. He wildly waved to them.

“Nori!” said Mitsu as they got closer. “What're you doing here so early?”

“We've got breaking news from last night!” Nori said, closing up his laptop and jumping to his feet. He held it under his left arm and did a fist pump with his right. “Reno workers injured in Ghost Pokemon attack! Article title still pending.”

“Huh? I think I heard something about that on TV this morning.”

Mr. Rosso nodded at them, unlocking the door to the computer lab. He went inside and sat down at the desk, allowing Nori and Mitsu to do business undisturbed.

“Yeah. Around 8pm last night, a thirteen-year-old male – me, by the way!” He pointed a thumb inward. “I discovered an accident at the old Magcargo Express warehouse!”

Nori winced. Maybe he'd need practice to do it neutrally like Arumi did. He got a little overly excited there. Like, it wasn't actually an accident. But hey! He discovered the bodies! Well, the unconscious bodies. It was kind of exciting once the shock wore off!

“It'd be rare to get a firsthand account of something.”

“Indeed, this reporter is an eyewitness!” Nori boasted. Their weekly newsletter covered all sorts of stories, school-wide and city news taking precedent over regional, with at least one each week from elsewhere in the world. “I was thinking we run this article today! A lot of people likely haven't heard of it yet!”

Mitsu nodded. “Yeah, when you put it like that.” Nori felt relieved to hear his crazy idea made sense. He didn't want all the work he'd done so far to go to waste!

The young official grinned. “So you up for some quick editing before school starts?” They got everything printed out Wednesday morning, so it was ready to distribute by lunch. In other words, they – or rather, Mitsu, because Nori didn't know how to work with the program – would have to put it in and rearrange everything else to make it fit.

The technogeek nodded emphatically. “Can do! We'll run it on the front page!”

---​

,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.Slice 5
Piercing Eyes,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.

The article turned out to be a smash hit. One of the school's most well-known students discovering a near-deadly assault? It got all sorts of attention. They actually had to go back and print out extra papers due to the demand. Over a dozen people or groups came up to him at lunch, afternoon break, and after school asking about it. Nori told them all the same thing, everything he could say was in the article. Which was everything, given freedom of the press.

After classes had ended for the day, he stopped by the clubroom. He didn't have a chance to really chat with the others prior to that point, as he was handling distribution during lunch. It was no surprise that Mitsu had gone home early. He was a little surprised it was only Yumi, Reiko, and Terrance with none of the others. The trio were sitting at the large table.

There was little celebration after distribution day. The most they did was discuss how people received the newsletter for the week. After all, they needed to start planning for next Wednesday right away.

“Nice job, Carino,” Reiko droned as he approached and sat down. The other two nodded, much more genuinely.

“That sounded like something of a backhanded compliment from you…” he remarked. It was just from her tone.

“That's because it was. Wish I could've done something like that.”

He could only laugh. It's why he liked Reiko. She was like him in how she always spoke her mind. “Sometimes, news is about being in the right place at the right time. Or wrong, depending on how you look at things.”

“Well, you did do a good job, Nori,” encouraged Yumi. “It was really well-written and thoughtful. I'm proud of you.”

“Thanks, Yumi,” he said with a beam. “But a lot was with Mitsu's help.”

Reiko crossed her arms. “Way you wrote it, think you're planning on being a journalist.”

“I actually thought about it,” he admitted. It's part of why he was at the club. “If being a Pokemon Rehabilitator doesn't work out for any reason, I wouldn't mind working in the news. Plus, Arumi could help with that.”

“And you know so many people too. Gods!”

“Could you calm down already, Reiko?” Yumi fired a glare at her. “I'm sure Nori didn't come here to listen to you complain you're jealous.”

“Aren't you?” she countered.

Yumi didn't deny it. “A little, but I'm still happy for Nori.”

“It's fine, Reiko!” he encouraged her. “I know if you keep working at it, you'll be able to do great things too!”

“I know that! It's just…” She sniffed, rubbing an eye. “I want it to happen already, dammit!”

Nori and Yumi shared a thoughtful gaze. He hadn't known Reiko for very long, but he still considered her enough of a friend that it hurt seeing her like that. But what could they do for her?

“I…can't believe it, though…”

They turned to Terrance. “What can't you believe?” asked Yumi.

“Weren't you scared when you saw them, Nori?” he meekly inquired.

The young official shook his head. “Nope! I was a little surprised, but my first thought was to go help them! It was kind of exciting, actually!” Those were his honest thoughts! They took everyone aback, although Yumi's gave way to a giggle. “And I did help them, plus it's really good there were no serious injuries! I got to give a police statement too, and–”

“Don't forget, you have your Pawniard to worry about,” Reiko cut in. “Shouldn't you be doing your job, not your hobby?”

“I know that, I know that!” he snapped. Much as Reiko spoke her mind, she sometimes went too far with it. “Actually, I found it when coming back from training him!”

Yumi sat up straighter. “For Friday?” she asked.

“Er…probably, hopefully not.” He rubbed his neck.

She sighed. Nori was able to hear her whisper, “That's good,” to herself before speaking up. “So are you training your other Pokemon for the battle?”

“Not as much as I'd like to yet,” he admitted. “But I'm gonna do a little more this evening.”

“Still should train your Pawniard,” grumbled Reiko.

“It's a marathon, not a sprint.” She had a point, but it wasn't like he had deadlines there. He glanced up at the wall. “Well, I should get going.”

“You're not going to…stay and help?” Terrance inquired.

“I'm gonna go see Prema. I want to tell her about this! And maybe ask her about Pawniard, too.” Hearing what she had to say for sure would help a lot. He considered something else. “Maybe I'll tell Arumi too, but I'll have to email her.”

“Okay, see you later, Nori.” Yumi adjusted some of her bangs. “If Nariya's there, tell her I said hi.”

He nodded. “No problem, I'll pass it along.”

---​

Nori was certain Prema would have heard about the incident at the warehouse on her own, but he wanted to go see her anyway. The incident just gave him yet another reason to go to the Kannagi Shrine after school.

While walking up the stone steps with Pachi, he paused momentarily on a grassy rest spot to pull out the extra copies of the paper he'd brought along. He probably brought more than was necessary, but better to have too much than too few. As he continued and eventually made it up, he found himself unable to resist. He shouted out his headline and waved it over his head as he approached.

“Read all about it! Renovation Crew Injured in Mysterious Pokemon Attack!”

He caught a lot of peoples' attention with his boisterous shouting. About half of it was negative, but Nori didn't let that bother him. He swiftly turned his attention to a girl with raggedy black hair sitting on her knees on a placemat. She had to be over 200 cm. Her orange shirt, dark gray jacket, and light gray sweatpants clashed, but Nori came to expect that with Nariya Yaznik. She wore whatever she liked.

“Oh. Hi, Nori,” she greeted him, making a vague gesture that seemed almost reflexive. Nariya was another former member of YAMS, who had also left due to conflict. “Prema had to step inside, if you were wondering.”

Nori took it in stride with an irreverent shrug. “Ah well, I can wait. Oh!” He better say it now before forgetting. “And Yumi says hi.”

“Okay?” Pachi gave a little wave to Nariya. She returned it before looking back at him. “Um, sorry if this is impertinent. What was with…the dramatic introduction?”

Again, he shrugged. “Get it from a friend of mine back in Sunyshore. We were in the news club together, and she always did that when handing out newsletters.” Good ‘ol Arumi. He rubbed his neck with a sheepish chuckle. “So have you heard about what happened at the old warehouse YAMS used to use last night?”

Nariya shook her head. “I don't really…look at the news. I know…um, you and Lady Prema enjoy it, however.”

“You should check this one out. It's right here on the bottom of the front page.” He passed one of the set of stapled-together sheets to her. “It has this reporter's firsthand account of happening upon the scene!”

Nariya accepted it. As she was reading, Nori noticed there seemed to be a few other interested looks from people. He waved the stack in the air to offer them copies, although only a little blond kid took him up on it.

After about two minutes of reading, Nariya spoke up and asked, “Oh, I see. You're thinking they might be Pokemon you might be rehabilitating?”

“Yup!” he confirmed. “Well, only one of them and now that you mention it, but still!” That hadn't actually occurred to him, but it gave him another reason to be interested.

“But you're still rehabilitating that Pawniard. R-right?”

Nori stood up a little straighter. He was not expecting Nariya of all people to take the wind out of his sails. He glanced over at the shrine. “Yeah, I know. And that's not going so well. I took him to train in the wild yesterday, but…” Well, that was a story in itself, one he didn't feel like sharing with the world. “Oh, never mind. So how've you been?”

“Oh, I've just been me.”

It wasn't a very clear answer. It was even more vague than the one Prema had given him on the weekend. Nori was about to say something about it, when Prema herself emerged from the shrine. Dressed in her Kannagi Shrine robe, as she often was.

He caught her attention right away. She smiled at him. “It is good to see you, Nori. I was not expecting you to visit today.”

He laughed, both at her pleasant smile and her surprise. “Thought I'd come by. I wanted to talk to you about a few things.”

She solemnly nodded, lowering her head. “I see,” she said in a neutral tone. “What is it that you wished to speak about?”

What to start with? Probably what just happened. “Well first,” he started with a clap of his hands, readying another newsletter. “Did you hear what happened down near the old Magcargo Express last night?”

Prema glanced up in thought. She herself took a few moments to respond. “Yes, although I cannot confess to knowing in detail.”

Nori could tell from her hesitation that she probably knew a little more than she was letting on. Probably only as much as the cops did, though. Still, he didn't press. “It's really crazy,” he said. Prema was walking over, but Nori met her halfway, presenting her with the newsletter. “They got attacked by Pokemon. A Crobat, a Sinnohite Zoroark, and one other – might be a Dusclops or Dusknoir from the sounds of it, knowing what's native.” It was only his speculation from the description. It wasn't rotund enough to be a Gengar, and those two were the next most common humanoid ghosts in the region. “I found them by accident! Got some bystanders to help and went right in there to investigate! Some of them were delirious, mumbling about a ghoul.” He could've gone on, but didn't want to come across as too excited about it.

“It is not unusual for Pokemon to come to inhabit a place that humanity left behind,” Prema mused while reading. “These miniature colonies gather together for their own benefit and protection, much like groups of similar species in the wild.”

Yeah, she was absolutely right. “Still, it's crazy!” he emphasized. “They attacked unprovoked from the sounds of it, and in the city no less!”

“They can be territorial, but they…” Nariya tried to speak up, yet hesitated. “Human territory, respect it too…”

Nori got what she was trying to say. “Yeah, they don't get this violent in urban areas. Even then, you have to go to the deep wilds to see ones like this!”

Wild Pokemon weren't as dangerous as some of the stories said. The ones you find in the city know they're in human territory, and respect that. Attacks on people generally only happened if they were provoking the Pokemon or outside designated routes. That's what made places like caves and the deep wilds more dangerous.

“As every person is different, so too is every Pokemon. The ones inhabiting this abandoned warehouse are unlike most urban Pokemon. While I cannot speak as to why they act this way, I am certain they have their reasons.” She handed the newsletter back, although Nori flashed the others he'd brought to indicate she didn't need to. She folded it and placed it in a pocket in her robe, before asking, “What else did you wish to see me about?”

And this was the bigger one. He stretched his arms and legs before speaking. “So the second thing is, since you didn't say, what were your initial impressions of Pawniard?”

Prema did not react at all initially. “Nori…” she eventually said. One second, two seconds, then three passed without her saying anything more.

He took a step towards her. “You think he's irredeemable, don't you?” He did not mask his concern and frustration. He just wanted her to be honest, no matter what.

Under his scrutinizing, maybe pleading gaze, she eventually relented. “I suppose it would be for the best to tell you. I sensed an implacable malice within your Pawniard I have felt in but a few Pokemon before.” She paused for a second and a half. “I would not go as far as saying he is irredeemable, however. It will simply be a far more difficult task than with the Demon Nidorina, who was merely misunderstood and seeking a purpose.”

Nori slowly nodded. Being honest with himself, given how evasive she was being, it was about what he expected. She was even a little vague there. He put a hand on his assignment's capsule as he looked up at the skies. Pawniard and his former trainer had sent many innocent trainers and Pokemon to the afterlife. That alone made him irredeemable in the eyes of many. It was his job to prove otherwise. Even if he succeeded as far as the government saw it, there were going to be many people who would never forgive Pawniard. And…that was okay. It would be hypocritical of him to think otherwise.

When Nori looked down, now it was Prema who was pleading with her eyes. All he could do was smile and laugh. “I kind of figured,” he quietly said, although still with self-assurance. “Both from how you clammed up like a Shellder and from what I've been seeing.”

Prema closed her eyes and folded her hands. Her vague sigh of relief did not escape his notice. “Nori. If you at any point feel you are unable to handle this Pokemon, do not hesitate to tell the Officials as such.”

“I know, I know!” he repeated. “I can recall Pokemon really fast if I need to. It won't come to that, though. I'll find a way to rein him in, just you wait!”

Prema chuckled. Even Nariya and a few others around the shrine did so. It was a happy laugh; he could tell they at least weren't making fun of him.

“We are having a late lunch if you wish to join us,” Prema offered, bowing and smiling at him. “I take it you also wished to spend time here, given our time the other day got cut short?”

“Yup!” That was the third reason he'd stopped by. He glanced downward upon noticing Pachi swishing his tail eagerly. “If you don't mind, that is.”

“Of course.”

Together, they sat down with Nariya. This was exactly what Nori needed right now, some time away from school and work to rest and unwind with his friends! Especially after yesterday.

---​

After spending time with Prema, Nori hurried home. His mom was always understanding that he might not come home from school right away, especially now that he had become a Pokemon Rehabilitator. He tried to inform her of his plans ahead of time all the same, and she only asked that he got back before dinner. It was more on the basis of not wanting to use power to keep it warm, rather than any imposed curfew.

His mom was in a simple black outfit with a white apron over top when he stepped into their trailer. She was standing in front of the stove.

“So how was school today?” she asked him.

“It was great, ma!” He still called her that by habit. He used to have something of a light rural accent before he broke out of it from spending a lot of time around those who didn't . “Everyone loved the story!”

She smiled. “I'm glad to hear that, Nori.”

It was ultimately his mom's insistence on getting into Pokemon last August that indirectly set him on the path to being a Pokemon Rehabilitator. Only now that he was a little older did he understand some of the reasons why.

“Here, I brought it back for you!” He took off his bag and placed it on his bed. He fished around and retrieved another paper. “Front page, right here!” He couldn't help but do a little twirl as he passed it over to her.

His mom sat down to read. After several seconds, she came up with a smile.

“Well, it's good that people liked it.” She didn't seem too interested, for one reason or another, but Nori didn't let that hold his mood back.

“So when's dinner?” he changed the subject, waving his legs over the side of the seat. “What is dinner?”

“I just started it now. It should be ready at around six. Brussel sprouts and rice.”

“Sounds good!” he said. He missed having good meals back at Sunyshore Gym, but they had to make do with what little money his mom got from the government before his first paycheck came in.

With this, Nori stepped into the bathroom to take a quick whiz. After doing so, he made for the door leading out of the trailer. His mom spoke up as he opened it.

“Heading out again?”

He nodded. “Yeah, going to try to slip some training in before dinner.”

She put a hand on her hip. “It's good you're keeping up with Pawniard, but you don't have to overdo it.”

“No, no, not him, Pachi and the Demon. I have to get some of their rust off.” The little squirrel did a flex. Nori put a hand on his hip. “Some Kallisto fanboy challenged me to a battle Friday after school.”

“I see,” his mom slowly said. She had never explicitly disapproved of what he'd done in Sunyshore, but he never did hear her actual opinion. He was kind of afraid to ask. “Just stay out of trouble.”

“Don't worry, I'll try not to cause any. No promises if I get dragged into stuff.” With this, he went out the door and closed it behind him.

Anthony Morris. Someone with a grudge against him based on his rivalry with another. This would be his first serious battle since coming back to Veilstone City. He was sure the Demon was looking forward to it, and maybe even Pachi. He had some ideas as to how to approach things, but strategy wasn't everything when it came to battles. So he would do basic workouts today and sparring – maybe even at a battling spot – tomorrow. Then, on Friday, it'd be time to show the school his stuff.
 
Well, it's good that Nori has a backup plan in journalism if being a rehabilitator doesn't work out. Getting overly focused on that one future career idea can end poorly. And he has good connections for it.

Prema's initial reaction to Pawniard made her thoughts clear enough, but her comment on having met others with a similar malevolence is interesting.
Hmm, I wonder if Pawniard was "corrupted" by his trainer or if two monsters found one another? Could be explored later.

Sinnoh Zoroark? Guess they're not extinct in this setting.

She had never explicitly disapproved of what he'd done in Sunyshore, but he never did hear her actual opinion. He was kind of afraid to ask.
I think a lot of people know what variations of this feel like.

Still have an ominous feeling about the battle, just not sure which will happen of the various bad possibilities. The one good thing is unlike in Sunnyshore he's not cut off from his main support network yet.
I guess if things get really bad he could try to get some advice from Volkner.
 
Wow, have you been writing these chapters out in advance or something? This came out pretty fast, I gotta say. But hey, I used to do the same thing to an extent before I stopped. I should probably get back into the habit. I don't have much to say about this chapter overall, but it's cool that Nori found himself involved in an incident, tried to help, and got to report on it, even getting some positive attention from it. I also appreciate him and Prema talking things out in regards to her feelings on Pawniard. Great job as usual!
 
Well, it's good that Nori has a backup plan in journalism if being a rehabilitator doesn't work out. Getting overly focused on that one future career idea can end poorly. And he has good connections for it.
Nori is much more intuitive than he seems at first glance. He considers things kids his age might not even be thinking of. Like, Reiko even hints that she might not want to be a journalist herself, for example.

Prema's initial reaction to Pawniard made her thoughts clear enough, but her comment on having met others with a similar malevolence is interesting.
Also be sure to check out her fic where she makes her thoughts more clear (before the very end). Not in that scene, though, forgot to mention that was the first scene shared between the fics, but it's from Nariya's perspective there.

Hmm, I wonder if Pawniard was "corrupted" by his trainer or if two monsters found one another? Could be explored later.
Indeed.

Sinnoh Zoroark? Guess they're not extinct in this setting.
I didn't see any reason to have them restricted to a past that makes no sense in the context of my fic let alone a lot of Pokemon's own canon. That went double once it turned out they're in Paldea too. SV aside, one interesting complication, Studd was conceived as Portuguese, which Paldea envelops. But it also justifies my real-world language name use, because it includes Spain too. Spanish and Portuguese are two different languages, so it's not as simple as saying Paldish or whatever. The insistent would either need to break form and use a city name or lolgetowned.

I think a lot of people know what variations of this feel like.
Sometimes, not knowing is better.

Still have an ominous feeling about the battle, just not sure which will happen of the various bad possibilities. The one good thing is unlike in Sunnyshore he's not cut off from his main support network yet.
Heh heh heh...

--

Wow, have you been writing these chapters out in advance or something? This came out pretty fast, I gotta say. But hey, I used to do the same thing to an extent before I stopped. I should probably get back into the habit.
See, this and MoaG being developed together. The middle scene being shared, they were edited at the same time. Which meant most of the work was already done.

I don't have much to say about this chapter overall, but it's cool that Nori found himself involved in an incident, tried to help, and got to report on it, even getting some positive attention from it.
Well, not really involved. He just discovered it. Of course, he might or might not still be involved on Prema's side.
 
Slice 6:
After dinner on Wednesday, Nori went to Pokemon Workout World (or as people called it, PWoW) for an hour to prepare for the battle with Anthony. Thursday was shopping, training in the wild, and even some battles at Mynwest Court. By the time Friday rolled around, the young official was confident they were ready for their first major battle in a while.

He went to the clubroom after class ended. Reiko and Terrance had gone home for the day, while Mitsu wasn't too interested in watching. Yumi, Adelle, and Yasmin all came with him.

Tobari Junior's arena was bog standard, able to act as either one large battlefield or three smaller ones. Spectators could observe from the auditorium-style seats. Nori had never been in the room before, but from speaking with others, he knew there were rooms to accommodate training. There was one that had exercise equipment for Pokemon and a few for humans. There was an infirmary right next to it. The dressing rooms under the stairs allowed for the battling team to get into their uniforms, and included toilets and showers. Finally, besides the pair of entrances in from the school, there were also double doors which served as an exit out of it.

Nori's gaze swept over the stands, impressed at the number of people who had shown up to watch. There were students, faculty, and people who seemed to be neither, with more piling in.

“Took you long enough!” Anthony shouted at him, already situated on the near part of the battlefield where they stepped inside. “I have been impatiently awaiting your arrival!”

Yumi's lip curled and she put a hand on her hip. Raising her chin, she asked, “And did you run over here right after class?”

“I–” the Kallisto fanboy choked. “I wasn't talking to you!” A pang of laughter echoed through the audience.

“Well, did you?” Nori asked in turn, flashing a grin at Yumi. He already had the psychological advantage thanks to her. Perfect.

“So what if I did?!” came the retort. “I have been eagerly anticipating this, and you cannot hold that against me!”

The young official shrugged, conceding that one. He gave a nod to Adelle and Yasmin as they went to find seating. “So, I'm here. What's the plan?”

“A simple, standard battle. Nothing more!” Anthony boisterously declared. He flashed a mirthless grin. “Do you think you can handle that much?”

“Wait, standard battle? As in, three-on-three?” Yumi picked up on it right away, as did part of the audience. His other clubmates paused in their tracks. Even the coach – a rather stout woman wearing a faculty uniform and her black hair tied up in a bun – sort of looked at Anthony questionably. Being famous meant your Pokemon were famous too, and everyone knew Nori had only three Pokemon.

“Correct!”

“I can't do that!” he yelled, angry yet firm.

“You have three Pokemon, so of course you can!”

Nori put a hand up. “One of them is the Blackout Killer's Pawniard! I can't fight you with that yet, and I'm NOT doing another two versus three fight like I did that one time!” He was sure he could win, but he wasn't that sure!

“I simply do not care!” countered Anthony. “I do not want a one-on-one, those are foolish and almost entirely up to Pokemon choice. I do not want any kind of two-on-two, either. I want a simple standardized three-on-three. Do you accept?”

Nori glared. This guy really was waiting until he got a third Pokemon to challenge him. “Of all the things, you–” he started, holding back his insults. He looked over at the crowd, who was watching with bated breath. Then he looked at Yumi, who was tightly pinching her lips.

“Speak up!”

He let out his frustrations with a huff. He was tempted to just walk off, but he knew he wouldn't hear the end of it if he did so. “If you're that intent, fine. I can do something to allow it, if you're willing.”

“Allow what? What are you rambling on about?” the Kallisto fanboy asked, tapping a foot. “Yes or no? This should be but a simple question to answer!”

Nori calmly took off his bag. He unzipped it, reached in, and retrieved a folder. It had various papers associated with his work, such as identification and information. He'd been given a few copies of the form he was looking for, and it didn't take long to find it.

“This is a simple legal agreement.” Nori held it up like he was a prosecutor presenting evidence to a judge. “By signing this, you agree to not hold myself or the Officials accountable for any injury that might incur in a battle against a Pokemon I am actively rehabilitating.”

Just like that, it was like his hearing was gone. It wasn't, but with how silent it went, it sort of felt like it. Most of the crowd was watching Anthony for his answer if not his reaction, but some seemed so stunned they couldn't look away from the document Nori had whipped out.

Yumi put a hand on his shoulder. “Nori, is this–”

“What are you trying to pull on me?!” Anthony demanded, taking a preliminary step towards him.

He looked his opponent dead in the eye, a gesture which made him stop in his tracks. “In other words, I'm telling you your Pokemon might get badly hurt – or worse – if you face this Pawniard. I'm obligated to try not to let that happen, but I can't promise you anything.”

He put on the most devilish smirk he had. Finally, the overeager fanboy had taken some pause. Nori figured that would be more than enough to dissuade him. Maybe it'd even scare him off altogether, best case scenario.

“But Nori–” Yumi again tried to ask, squeezing his shoulder.

“All right, you're on!”

Nori was one of many who went, “What?!” Anthony marched up and snatched the paper out of his hands. He took a pen out of his shirt pocket, signed the thing on the floor without even reading, and handed it back to him. It nearly slipped from Nori's fingers in his bewilderment. Whether he wanted to or not, the battle was on.

“I guess that matter's settled,” remarked the team coach, with a heavy sigh. “Get to your position, Mr. Carino.”

He signed the paper autonomously on a clipboard, dated it, folded it up, and stowed it away. Maybe it wasn't entirely bad, he thought. These agreements existed for a reason. The only way he was going to help Pawniard would be to try to understand him. What made the Blackout Killer's Pawniard tick? So far, he had established the bladed Pokemon seemingly existed for battle and had a sadistic streak. And that he would listen to his commands. Maybe he needed to be super specific.

As he walked to his side of the battlefield, Yumi followed. There was a lost look in her eyes until the coach spoke to her.

“Battling trainers only on the battlefield, Ms. Takao. Go to the stands.”

She slumped, turned on a dime, and after a moment of looking around, spotted her twin brother. “I'll be fine!” Nori assured her as she moved to sit with him. “I'll recall Pawniard if things get too dicey!”

A few people laughed. “Oh, so now you're a comedian?” Anthony snapped.

“What do you mean?” Right after saying that, he realized why they were laughing. Slice and dice. “Ah, I didn't mean to pun.”

“Yeah, well, the only one getting cut down to size is you, your ego, and your Pokemon!” Anthony glared at the coach, motioning to hurry up. “Prepare to suffer complete and utter defeat, Demon Tamer!”

The coach stepped into her position as judge. “This is a battle between Anthony K. Morris and Nori Carino. Each side will have a maximum of one substitution permitted. As the one who issued the challenge, Mr. Morris, you are to send out your Pokemon first.”

“I was well aware of that fact, and that disadvantage is irrelevant to my success! Carmen, the stage is ours!” he said, using a variation of Kallisto's catchphrase for sending out Pokemon.

Anthony's first Pokemon was a hovering plant. It had multiple flowing tentacles beneath it and a mouth that reminded of a flytrap. That was the Carnivine he'd heard about.

“Mr. Carino, your first Pokemon, please.”

Choices. He would prefer not to use his assignment if possible. The Demon was effective here, but using her against the first Pokemon seemed excessive. Especially since he needed to save his one switch if he needed to use Pawniard. So that just left…

“Pachi!” he said as he sent him out. The little squirrel eagerly emerged, happy to hop into the fray. There was a small type disadvantage, but they'd overcome worse odds together.

The coach raised a set of flags. “Trainers, begin!”

“It is time to begin, Carmen!” declared Anthony, dramatically flipping his bangs behind his head. “Kick this battle off by using a Stockpile!”

Nori thought for a second as the flytrap started to inhale. There was an opportunity. “Thunder Wave, Pachi.”

Pachi focused as air flowed into the Carnivine's maw. Just before the other Pokemon had finished and ended up with a slightly bulging throat, he emitted a weak blast of electricity. She (being named Carmen implied a female, right?) tried to dodge, but couldn't quite make it.

Anthony growled, stamping a foot. “I must admit, I was not expecting that immediately!”

That confirmed Nori's suspicions. Anthony had grossly underestimated him, and possibly outright misunderstood him. He only smiled at his opponent, as did Pachi.

“But it is irrelevant! For it only shows your amateurishness!” he dismissed, further confirming them. He may have had a point in how it was odd to use a status move so early, but the fact was he presented the opening to make it work. “A scattered Seed Bomb, Carmen!”

Anthony's Pokemon trembled, but her head tilted upward. Nori didn't explicitly have to tell Pachi to dodge, although he was still caught indirectly by the miniature explosions. Their blast radius was larger than expected.

“You'll have to move further away if they do that again,” he stated the obvious. “But for now, Swift.” A handy Normal move; stars that fly around erratically and home in on their target.

The other trainer cringed. “Gah! Brace yourself, Carmen!”

The little squirrel didn't show any signs of major damage. To contrast, the flytrap had to take a second to catch her breath after the near-unavoidable attack struck.

Anthony sneered. “Get in close, Carmen! Do it again to cover your approach!”

Nori sighed and looked to Pachi. This time, the seeds were aimed around behind to cut off his escape. The squirrel answered by moving inward, completely escaping the blasts. He turned around, waving his tail tauntingly and haphazardly batting an Electro Ball. It wounded the flytrap's pride more than her body, but the battle was already taking its toll on her.

If Anthony was worried by his Pokemon weakening, he wasn't showing it. “Stockpile again, Carmen!”

Building up for an attack, or healing? “Back up and Swift again, Pachi.” Evidently, their opponent had limited options at a range. Weakness scouted.

Their opponent snickered. “Okay! Seed Bomb! Launch yourself!”

To the surprise of Nori and his Pokemon, the flytrap fired some Seed Bombs directly below and behind herself. The momentum caused Carmen to careen towards Pachi, who was clipped by the makeshift tackle.

“Cut a swath!”

She lashed her vines to slice at Pachi, which he barely evaded. To contrast, Pachi was better at range, although that wasn't to say he couldn't fight up close.

“No you don't!” Anthony took notice as the squirrel tried to fall back. “Acid Spray!”

It would be problematic if Pachi was hit because of the switching limitation. Even if it wasn't in place, it would mean a bit of recovery time in his Poke Ball rather than staying out of it. Nori wasn't sure how that neutralized stat changes faster, but it did.

“Dodge inward,” he told his Pokemon as Carmen started to rear back. It was aggressive, but tied into what he wanted to do next. He hoped Pachi could make it under the spit of corrosive fluids.

It turned out to be unnecessary. The Carnivine froze up before she could attack. The audience gasped.

“Crap!” Anthony clenched his fists.

Nori grinned. Time to pile on. “Sweet Kiss, Pachi.”

“Stun Spore!”

The young official could only roll his eyes. As Pachi leaned in, Carmen barely managed to expel the useless golden spores out of her body. The squirrel halted and started coughing upon getting a whiff of them.

“Impudent moron!” shouted Anthony. “Now make'em pay with Power Whip!”

Carmen wound up her vines and twisted them into one big one. She put everything she had into a vicious swing. Pachi was sent rolling across the floor, taking his first serious hit of the match.

“Okay, what?” he could not help but ask. “How did that work?” If he knew Electric types, and he did because he trained at a Gym with them, he knew their abnormal nerve impulses usually prevented paralysis. What happened there?

“Why don't you try inhaling pollen?” Anthony taunted, standing on the tips of his toes in attempt to appear taller while crossing his arms.

Nori frowned, understanding at once. It wasn't about the paralysis. It was just meant as a countermeasure. “Well…still winning.”

He awkwardly mumbled that sentence fragment, yet it was the truth. Pachi was a little shaken from the blow, yet Carmen's exhaustion could not be concealed. She probably wouldn't be able to take more than one or two good hits.

Anthony cackled. “Use Swallow, Carmen!”

Or that could happen. The good news was, Pachi was already on his feet and ready. After a moment to consider, Nori shrugged. “Rush in and use Super Fang.”

Few were expecting that, least of all Anthony, although his reaction was far more negative compared to the audience. The little squirrel raced forward using Agility, getting into range right as the flytrap devoured the energy to restore her health. His fangs glowed with a mysterious power as he jumped up and chomped on her midsection.

The cheers from his supporters in the crowd were infectious enough to bring a smile to his face. It undid a good portion of the healing. Pachi gave a cheeky grin, as Carmen almost lost control of her levitation due to another bout of paralysis.

“Bind, Carmen!” Anthony was furious, for many reasons. “Completely foolish for you to come back into melee range! Did Volkner train you at all?!”

“Yes, let it happen and Discharge.”

Anthony slapped his forehead, realizing his mistake. Nori was hoping he might try something like that. When you grab an Electric type, you invite your Pokemon to get zapped.

And Pachi put everything he had into what was his strongest attack. Carmen's entire body lit up like a light. She let go of Pachi and fell to the floor as it concluded. The move had completely overwhelmed her, type disadvantage or not.

“Carmen is unable to battle!” ruled the coach, raising a flag in the air.

Nori soaked in the cheers. It had been far too long since he'd gotten them. They felt great.

“I'm sorry, Carmen. And I…I must admit!” conceded Anthony, as he recalled his Pokemon. “I was not expecting your Pokemon to exhibit that level of power!”

A little humility? Maybe he wasn't as egotistical as Nori thought. “All that training by Volkner wasn't for nothing,” he replied, beaming plainly. In the end, this was power versus strategy. Nori was used to being the former. “Of course my Pokemon are strong.”

“Nevertheless, it is irrelevant!” Anthony declared. Okay, maybe his head really was swollen. “Your staunch refusal to exhibit technique shall prove your downfall! And this next Pokemon shall be the harbinger of your defeat!”

“Are you trying to be a Shakespearean actor on the side?!” shouted Yumi from the stands. She got several laughs, including from Nori. It was uncouth, but he had to admit, it felt nice having someone to stick up for him.

“Don't underestimate Tony's skill!” another girl countered. “He's just getting started!” By contrast, that got cheers.

“She is correct! Prepare yourself, Nori Carino!” Anthony brandished his second Pokemon. “Quade, the stage is ours!”

Nori tensed up at the sight of the chunky bipedal blue Pokemon with stubby feet, hand-like flippers, and a flat tail. A Water type. A Ground type too, but he wasn't too worried about that part. Anthony seemed to be worried too, for a different reason, given he was already using his best Pokemon.

“Okay,” the coach said. “Restart the battle!”

Power versus strategy. It wasn't like Nori couldn't be strategic, just not super creative strategic. Sometimes, it's best to keep things simple. This was one of those times.

Anthony snickered. For someone who claimed to have studied him, he seemed unaware of the threat. “Start it off with a Mud Bomb, Quade!”

Nori nodded to his Pokemon, who seemed to have the right idea as their foe was rearing back. “Wait for it…” he said. And as soon as the Quagsire started spewing a ball of goop, Nori gave the signal. “Quick Attack!”

It was not yet time to use that move. So Pachi charged. The Ground-type move whiffed as he closed the distance in a flash and slammed his body into Quade's. However, their foe stood his ground.

“In that case, unleash your Mega Kick!”

The young official hummed. He decided to take an aggressive approach. “Pachi…” he started, watching to see how Quade was going to act. Once he saw the movement, he said, “Under the right, and Grass Knot!”

Now it was time! The squirrel used it at the perfect moment. As Quade lifted his leg, Pachi rolled beneath. His motion spun him around and was set to end with him facing down Pachi, but the squirrel tapped his feet before he could do so. Vines came up from nowhere and whipped at their foe's single grounded foot, sending him to the floor.

“You are joking!!” exclaimed Anthony. Did he somehow not know Pachi knew that move? Or was he thinking he could just avoid it? “On your feet, Quade!” The Quagsire was trying, but struggling.

“Get some distance, and use it again.” Pachi hustled off a few meters and raised his own foot.

“Disregard that Quade, roll away!” To Anthony's relief, Quade managed to do so, getting up in the same motion. “Return fire! Unleash Water Pulse!”

At once, Nori's muscles stiffened. A huge pulsating sphere of water emerged from the abyssal monster's maw. It was sizable, twice the size of his head, easily enough to envelop and drown someone. It moved forward like a massive bullet, flashing yellow as a smaller sphere impacted it and exploded into a shower of–

Nori snapped out of his reverie. Pachi had stopped it with a Electro Ball. “Thank you…” he huffed under his breath.

“Toxic!”

“Er, watch out.”

The young official breathed in and out to compose himself. It never got easier. He had some bad experiences with water in the past, and seeing it in a Pokemon battle always proved distracting at the best of times. He thought he was getting better about it, but…

“Mud Bomb!”

“Focus, Nori!” he yelled at himself under his breath. He was in the middle of a battle, he could think about that stuff later!

The good news was, Pachi was understanding when it came to his phobia. Plus, he knew how to fight on his own to some extent, albeit not as much as the Demon. He escaped the blob of liquified dirt and returned fire with Swift.

“Good. Slowly, but surely.” There was one good takeaway. Given how Anthony wasn't using Surf as a counter to their evasive tactics, maybe Quade didn't know it.

“I've had enough!” Anthony screamed. “Try dodging this! Quade, Earthquake!”

Oh, or there was that. Nori knew one way to actually avoid that, but Quade was too quick in carrying the command out. He leaped up and stomped down with both legs. The ground shook, ravaging Pachi as he was thrown around by the shaking floor. Nori stood strong, confident his Pokemon could handle it and Quade wouldn't be able to use it again so soon.

“You all right?” he asked for posterity. The squirrel answered by standing tall. “Okay! Quick Attack, do a hit-and-run!” Nori shouted, a little more worked up from his aquaphobia than he expected.

“Counter, Aqua Tail!”

Quade lined up like a baseball player might, yet couldn't hit Pachi before Pachi hit him and got away. The Quagsire briefly huffed, clutching where the squirrel had impacted.

“Quade!” shouted Anthony. “Use Mud Bomb, and shoot it all over the battlefield!”

Nori understood where his opponent was going at once. “Don't let them! Grass Knot!”

Quade unleashed glob after glob of mud, haphazardly all over the place. He cringed and cried out as the vines lashed out at his legs, but by the end of the attack, he was standing tall. Maybe defiantly.

The young official frowned. Pachi was quick and agile, but not both at once. They were trying to nullify their speed advantage. At least they'd gotten another big hit in the process. One more should do it!

“Ice Beam!” Anthony followed up before Nori could even open his mouth. “Sweep it across the whole battlefield!”

Nori had a split second to think of something. “Swift.”

He was counting on Pachi to fire off the homing stars in time. However, Pachi instinctively went on the move to try to avoid the beam.

“Wait, no!”

The fact that Pachi actually managed to get his attack off and avoid the beam was no consolation when he slipped on some mud and fell to the floor. Anthony was ready to pounce.

“Gotcha! High Horsepower!”

Although straining – perhaps he was more damaged than Nori had believed – Quade cloaked himself in brownish energy and charged. He rammed right into Pachi, sending him tumbling.

Nori watched carefully as his Pokemon stumbled around in the process of trying to stand up from the vicious blow. It was going to take more than that to knock them out of the match!

“Pachi is unable to battle,” the coach suddenly ruled, and the crowd cheered.

Nori could only shoot the coach a dirty look. “Pachi can still fight!” To punctuate it, Pachi got up and clapped his hands together. Wobbly, but no worse off than Quade.

“My ruling is final, Mr. Carino,” she dug in her heels.

Nori growled. That was stupid, if not rigged! If they wanted him to be a part of the battling team, that just gave him another reason not to want to! Pachi whined, a mix of pain and frustration.

“Yeah! Eat it!” Nori thought that was just a taunt at first, then he noticed Quade snacking on a berry. The mud skipper stood up strong after doing so. “How do you like that? What's next out of you?!”

Nori rolled his shoulders as Pachi started sulking over. The young official approached, picking his Pokemon up and giving him a light hug.

“You did good,” he encouraged, patting the squirrel on the back. “We'll get'em back for that, somehow. Just stick back and enjoy the rest.”

Pachi lightly chirruped, nestling into his trainer's chest while he still could. Nori carried him over to their side of the battlefield and let him down by his feet.

“Hey!” barked Anthony, irritated at being ignored. “Do not ignore my question to you! Answer me, answer us all, what is your next Pokemon?”

Well, what next, he thought? He pulled out the capsules of his remaining two Pokemon. Pachi had nearly won before he got prematurely declared out of the match, and that berry had thrown a wrench into things. How much damage did that undo? Either of his other Pokemon was at a type disadvantage. Whatever the third was though, he'd have to rely on the Demon to either break through (or just zap) tough Skarmory scales or not get destroyed by Hitmontop. It would be for the best if she was as fresh for that as possible.

Which meant…using Pawniard next. That gave him the best chance of winning anyway, and he couldn't just roll over and lose – especially in front of everyone watching. Nori took a deep breath as he gripped the capsule of the Blackout Killer's Pokemon. It would be possible to try to just win with the Demon. Unfortunately, he only realized that after he had thrown the Poke Ball and the bladed creature was out in the open.

At once, the young official became cognizant of everything around him. He saw Yumi tense up (along with half the crowd), whispering something to her brother. There was a faint squeak from Pachi. The battling club's coach visibly forced herself to remain stoic and steely. Anthony rubbed an eyelid, yet tossed his head about, crossed his arms, and smirked. Quade growled and spat, showing no fear even as the Pawniard made a threatening motion. The bladed monster drew a listless slash across his throat.

The coach slowly raised her two flags. She shuffled her feet momentarily before saying, “All right, resu–”

“Hold on a second,” Nori said with authority, waving the teacher off. He turned to his assignment, “Okay, listen up,” Maybe he was going to end up looking like a tryhard, but he couldn't think of anything else. “Do everything I tell you, nothing I don't. Got it?”

No response. Nori frowned. He liked giving his Pokemon a say in strategy. It threw people off, felt more respectful, and they thought of things he didn't. Yet there was a purpose behind not doing so here; he had remembered something Volkner had once said to him. His mentor had brought up that if he left some of his assignments to their own devices, they might end up doing something he'd regret. Was this Pawniard one of those cases where Nori had to keep a tight leash? A few days ago showed he would listen to him, at least.

“Done with your heart-to-heart?” Anthony asked, twirling a finger as he dismissively looked away from him.

“I am,” he sighed. “Nothing to do but do it, Nori,” he whispered to himself under his breath. “You still have your swap, use it if you have to.”

“Continue the battle, in that case,” the coach said.

“Let's get this party started!” Anthony pointed with dramatic flair. “Unleash a Mud Bomb!”

Quade reared back. Exact orders, Nori repeated in his head. “Cleave that Mud Bomb apart vertically,” he specifically stated.

It was a bold maneuver. But it was also a good chance to test the full extent of his assignment's abilities, especially with the floor still something of a mess. To everyone's surprise but Pawniard's, he did so, avoiding damage entirely.

“You are JOKING!!” cursed Anthony.

“Use Torment on Quade.”

All too happy to oblige, Pawniard made some cruel gestures while mouthing off. Quade quivered, clutching at his head. Pawniard cackled, a wicked screeching sound.

Anthony was undeterred. “Mud Shot, then!” Well, he didn't expect that. It was the advantage of redundancy. Nori supposed their last move was of limited effectiveness because of it.

“Hit Quade with a ranged Psycho Cut,” he requested. The officials had given him a list of Pawniard's moves, and was well aware of the exertion that one would take at his level. Maybe it wasn't the best tactical choice, but it was good to test Pawniard's potential.

The wicked Pokemon made all sorts of slashing gestures, producing violet crescent arcs which rammed into Quade. Meanwhile, the mud skipper's own ranged move impacted Pawniard right after. The bladed creature stumbled, turned back and snickered, posing and showing off the spot where it hit him. Nori remembered he didn't say to dodge.

“Then close in,” Nori said. “Go and use Slash on Quade.”

“Stop it with Water Pulse!”

Nori jumped at mention of the move, choosing to look away from it. “Go…around? Dodge?” he meekly asked. He didn't hear the pulse hit, so…

“Run that monster down with High Horsepower!”

Nori turned back. Pawniard had gone so far around that he wasn't anywhere close to slashing range. “Um, hit it with Iron Head when it gets close!”

A lot of people gasped at that one. No wonder, given it was a ridiculously gutsy counter. If Pawniard didn't land that move, he was going to take a huge hit. But if he did…

He timed the move perfectly, but Quade ran Pawniard down anyway. It sent his assignment rolling across the floor, although their foe was unable to follow-up, clutching a flipper to his forehead.

Pawniard was still splayed out. The coach looked at him in puzzlement, then at Nori.

“Get up,” Nori quickly said, before she could make another hasty judgment. Pawniard got up, ready for more, cackling at him in the process. Exact orders. He sighed at his assignment taking it too literally.

“Are you okay?!” asked Anthony. By contrast, their opponent's Pokemon was critically weak. Quade groaned but waved a flipper. It was clear from his posture that he was not okay. “Then one last big one!” said Anthony.

Nori braced himself. “Don't let it, N–”

“Quade, RIDE THAT SURF!!”

Surf?! “Why would you–” Nori started to shout, but it gave way to mere screaming as the wave started to form. No, no, no! He had to get away! He ran. All the way to the battlefield's side to get absolutely out of range. The young official fled in seconds. He almost curled up and covered himself, but stopped short, bashing his head against the wall.

“Nori, that was…” he started to whisper to himself, tensing as the wave crashed down behind him. That was embarrassing, but he couldn't help it.

Stupid panic attacks. He was expecting the laughter of his peers over his phobia being exposed before them. What he got was gasps and shrieks. The young official slowly turned around.

The scene was graphic. Pawniard's legs were shaking, yet he stood triumphant. He was pressing his hand against Quade's snout. The latter's mouth was open in a silent shout of terror. The tip of the wicked blade was jutting out of the roof of the water skipper's mouth. A light ooze was trickling down from it.

The bladed Pokemon snapped his arm back, and with that, a horrible guttural cry pierced the air.

Everything started happening all at once. There was screaming and shouting. The words were all blending together. Nori thought he heard ‘disqualified’ in there, his name several times, Anthony crying for Quade, the word ‘recall,’ and lots more. The only thing he was sure about was his profuse apologizing. There were suddenly many Pokemon on the battlefield, but Pawniard slashed his way out and hid behind Nori, cackling lowly yet madly.

The young official turned to his assignment. Pawniard flashed a sick grin, standing a little taller. He pointed his claws towards Nori, although he kept his arms slack at his side. Nori trembled. He couldn't sneer, or frown, or make any kind of expression. Without a further word, he retrieved the monster's Poke Ball and stowed him away.

Nori took another look at the scene unfolding before him. Pachi had rushed to his side, but his expression was nearly empty. Yumi was nowhere in sight. The fieldworkers were filming on their phones in shock. Some were gathered around Anthony, others looked like they wanted to come his way. One part of him thought about helping. But he also figured that anything he said or did was just going to make things worse. Plus, there were too many people throwing leers and insults his way. It wasn't worth sticking around.

“I'm sorry. I'll go.”

Ignoring their retorts, he wasted little time in scooping up Pachi and going through the doors out of the school. He was running, even though he knew he couldn't escape. There was going to be so, so much fallout. He simply didn't want to face it right away.

---

Slice 6: Sword of Damocles

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From here on out, expect spoilers for Memory of a Ghoul to start showing up. If it's a problem and you want to read both fics, read up through C3 of MoaG before the next chapter. That said, it's foreshadowing by design there (what it alludes to won't be dropped until after that chapter's publication). I'll have explicit WARNINGS later on for more serious instances.
 
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Somehow, I had a feeling Nori's Pawniard was going to do something it shouldn't, and sure enough, my hunch was right. I know Nori had that panic attack because of Anthony's Quagsire using Surf, so he likely wasn't able to command Pawniard to hold back, but in fairness, Nori really should have seen this coming to an extent. This is the same Pokemon that was owned by a serial killer. But I am curious to see how this plays out.
 
Somehow, I had a feeling Nori's Pawniard was going to do something it shouldn't, and sure enough, my hunch was right.
I mean besides being extremely obvious from a plot perspective things were going to go wrong, (minor MoaG spoilers for C3) in C3 of MoaG, set on Friday afternoon, Nori apparently wanted to go see Prema and was upset about something. This was that thing.

I know Nori had that panic attack because of Anthony's Quagsire using Surf, so he likely wasn't able to command Pawniard to hold back, but in fairness, Nori really should have seen this coming to an extent.
He was confident, yet wrong, in that Quade didn't know the move, and if so that he'd use Earthquake instead. He wasn't expecting everything to go wrong all at once. Of course, the other big thing was the coach prematurely ruling Pachi out. If he stayed in, he might've stood a better chance and thus not felt the need to use Pawniard. Really, everything went wrong!

This is the same Pokemon that was owned by a serial killer. But I am curious to see how this plays out.
Find out, next time.
 
Slice 7: Dagger in the Heart
Sorry for delays, depression and distraction both struck pretty hard. And needing to buy a new computer. Also, shoutouts to leaks being true with the SV release. Which I need to figure out what I'm using on; not necessarily limited to six either.

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Slice 7: Dagger
in
the Heart

How had things ended up this way?

“It was an accident, Nori. Just an accident.”

It was just an accident. One that he could've avoided if he wasn't so stupid! His aquaphobia made Pawniard act on his own. He did what felt natural, violence. But no one was in the mood to listen to him. Even Pachi didn't seem to want to talk with him and wanted to be recalled. Ultimately, he was left alone with his thoughts.

“You can do this. You made it through worse…”

Nori didn't know what to do or what to think. Everything had been going smoothly until those five seconds of fear, then everything went wrong. Even though he had Anthony sign the waiver, there were going to be consequences. Some people were not going to ever forgive him, maybe rightfully so. The Officials weren’t going to be happy. It hadn’t even been a week and their new operative caused trouble. He was not looking forward to the inevitable talk about it.

“So just…” He halted. “You'll just have to…” He wasn't sure. He didn't know what to do next. But he knew what he wanted to do.

He was far, far away from his school. The young official had silently skated to the northeast side of town. He started up the stone stairs, each step heavier than the one before. He was initially uncertain why he was going to see Prema, settling on his motivations as he was heading up to the shrine. She would be able to help. She had always been there for him. She might know what to do, and if not, just seeing her would help immensely.

By the time he reached the top, Nori needed to pause to catch his breath and rest his legs. It felt wrong. He'd never felt so lethargic before in his life. Maybe it was in his mind. No matter how it happened, the fact was, his Pokemon may have killed another. Whatever might happen to him – and Pawniard – as a result were things he didn't want to think about.

Eventually, Nori found it in himself to pass under the red arch. Nariya and some others were sitting on the grass. He flashed a weak wave – barely lifting his hand, actually. He approached the entrance.

That Kaede woman from Wednesday stood guard in front of the shrine, along with a middle-aged man he knew was named Jirou. The two seemingly glowered at him. Had word already reached them? Nori would not have been surprised, given the internet. Still, he was going to ask. It was the only way to get anything.

“Is Prema here?” he inquired, straight and to the point.

The male on the left, with simple short black hair and brown eyes, leered and snapped at him. “You shall refer to her respectfully as Lady Kannagi.”

He returned the expression. He hated this guy already, but he didn't have it in him (and was aware enough that it'd be unwise) to argue at that moment. “Is…” Nori paused, considering how to most formally word his request. “Is Lady Kannagi present? I wish to speak with her.”

“Lady Kannagi is busy,” the man replied.

“With what?” Nori said, before bowing lightly and adding in a more reserved tone, “Um, might I ask?”

“It does not concern you.”

His hostile and dismissive attitude set Nori off. “I'm her friend. I have a right to know!”

He realized how stupid those words were right after they came out of his mouth. Mercifully, it was Kaede who answered, “No, you don't,” and in a plain if somewhat mocking tone.

“Sorry, I just…” Nori paused and took a deep breath to compose himself. “I know that I actually don't have a right, but, but I really, really need to talk to her about something. Is there no way this can be arranged?”

Kaede shrugged. “Sorry, you heard the guy. She's busy with shrine stuff.”

Nori frowned, feeling his lungs had all the air let out of them. A clear enough answer, although not one he was hoping to hear. “When's she going to be finished?”

“Not any time soon,” said the man.

“That doesn't tell me anything! Look, something happened–”

“That is–”

“And I need her advi–guidance!” he corrected himself. “If not her, is there no one I can speak to?”

“I'm not posted to chat with visitors, least of all non-worshipers.”

“Sorry, man,” said Kaede, before he could tell that jerk next to her exactly what he thought about him. “It's important training and an all-day sort of thing. I'll let you know that much.”

“We're not here for your consultation,” the male guard cut in. “So if it is not clear, we're asking you to leave. If not, you will be removed.” Even Kaede glowered at her coworker, although she did not speak up.

“Do you really have to be so rude?” he asked. Before he could answer, Nori said, “And fine, I'll go.”

Nori turned on his heel and left. A fair portion of the people about the grounds were giving him harsh or indifferent looks. When his eyes fell upon Nariya, she averted her gaze.

“I…can't…” she squeaked as he started to approach.

“Whatever, I don't care.”

He fought off tears, twisting it into anger as he left. Nori knew. He knew full well! Not everyone at the shrine liked him, let alone approved of his friendship with Prema. It was going to be a problem eventually. That was inevitable. So then, why? Why did it have to be now?!

He wanted to run down the steps. He wished he had a bird to fly away on. As it was, he could only walk quickly. Enough to get away as soon as possible, but not fast enough that he might end up tripping.

Prema was busy. He could understand that! Being the heir to the shrine was probably a busy life! But they didn't have to be so cold about turning him away! They wouldn't even hear him out or just let him stay there and relax! If their goal was to eventually get him to be a follower, well, they just ruined any chance they had of that!

A mix of buzzing and beeping cut through the air, interrupting his anguish. His official's radio, and the pattern meant it was for him. He took off his backpack and reached into the side flap, retrieving his earpiece. He fumbled to get it into his right ear before pressing a button on the side.

“Yeah, what?!” he unwittingly snapped into the receiver.

“Nori Carino, be reporting in immediately,” came the unmistakable voice of Studd. “Same place.”

“Sure…all right.” Terse and quick. He hung up and put the radio back in his bag.

Nori had to sit down on the steps. He thought he might have more time to get ready, but he had already gotten the call he was dreading. There was nothing to do but…prepare for the worst.

---​

It took Nori around forty minutes to make it to the elementary school, simply by virtue of not having the energy. He had been repeatedly going over what to say in his mind, and mentally preparing for everything that could be said to him. Only one thing was for certain, however. He was going to fight. For himself, and the Pawniard. This was an accident, nothing more.

As he raised his arm to knock on the gymnasium door, he felt his body lock up. He took a deep breath and said to himself, “Just push through, Nori,” and knocked. No going back now.

The young official waited. Yet after a minute, there was no response. Had he arrived too early? Too late? Had he not been heard? He knocked again with no hesitation. He waited. There was some noise from the other side of the door, yet there came no answer. After another minute, he decided to go around to the front of the school.

The doors were still open. The young official walked in as if it were perfectly natural for him to be going there. While it was his first time being inside Crescent Hills Elementary, he found his way to the gymnasium easily enough. He paused when he heard an annoying rhythmic sound coming from within.

Basketball.

That explained everything. With a grumble, he stepped inside.

He was under the assumption there was after-school practice happening. That thought was proven wrong when he saw only one person in the room, Agent Studd. The scruffy man was ignorant of his presence as he haphazardly hurled the orange and cream-colored sphere with one hand, missing not only the net but the backboard entirely.

“Bah!” went Studd as the basketball rebounded and came back his way, scrambling and stopping it with a foot. “I will be showing you! Time to lay it up!”

The man wailed as he charged for the net. With a mighty leap into the air that barely took him off the floor, he threw up the ball with both hands. It hit the rim from below and went straight down as Studd was unable to stop himself from going straight into the wall.

Nori had been holding his breath, but could not help but burst into laughter as the agent teetered and crumpled backward onto the floor.

“That is not funny!” shouted Studd, slipping as he tried to get to his feet.

“Yes…sorry.” He was going to say yes it was funny, but thought better of it.

“You are in much trouble, youngling!” Studd said, trying and failing to sound stern. He coughed and held his gut with one arm, but wagged a finger with another. “I need not tell you what it is that you did, because–”

“It's fine, it's fine!” Nori interrupted as he placed his bag on the floor. He retrieved the legal agreement and showed it to Studd. “I had him sign this!”

The man scanned it. “I see!” he said, and for the briefest of moments from his tone, Nori thought himself in the clear. “Nevertheless, it is not your meal ticket to do whatever wanted with whoever signs!”

“It was an accident, okay?!”

“Irregardless, it is not reflecting well! Especially that you cannot handle on your first outing.” Nori averted his gaze. “Look at me! This is a strict warning to you!”

About what he thought, now the only question was, what was going to come of it? Nori waited and waited. Eventually, it seemed like he wasn't going to say anything else. “Is anything…?” he tentatively started to ask. “Is it really just a warning?”

“A warning!” Studd confirmed.

“You could've made that more clear!” he snapped. All that stress over nothing! He couldn't believe himself, but more than that, he couldn't believe this guy! Just a warning. Ridiculous, as someone he knew would say. He wasn't going to complain, but still!

“I apologize for the lack of clearness, sir!” said Studd. “Well, if there is death, you do not wish to know what will be happening, signed or not! But one more and the same thing will happen!”

“I get it, I get it!” Nori repeated. He had a possible second chance, but there wouldn't be a third. He just wanted to get out and go home.

“Now I am still expecting your report, so be calling in.”

“But I can do it now, and you know what happened.”

“I said call in on Sunday!” Studd hastily said before picking up the basketball. “Now if you will be excusing me, I have revenge to get.”

He wasted no time in leaving, not bothering to look back as there was a loud crash followed by the kooky agent screaming. He couldn't tell if it was in pain or frustration, and didn't really care either way.

---​

Nori was perfectly aware that the most difficult person to explain himself to was going to be his mom. He had spent eight months training to be a Pokemon Rehabilitator. He got into the position in the first place partially because his mom was worried about his future, and things were already going awry. He had one thing working in his favor: they did not own a phone. So she'd likely be hearing about it from him before anyone else.

His mom was on her bed at the back of the trailer, reading one of her library books. They always had limited means of entertainment at home, and while she was social, Ayume Carino was never as outdoorsy as her son. Nori hoped their financial situation would improve before long, but it all rested on his ability to do his job.

“Ma?” he spoke up to get her attention.

His mom initially did not as much as look up from the book. Nori got a glance at the cover. It had a husky man with long, flowing hair embracing a plain woman in a forested grove while a Zangoose watched on. The Wild Mink, a romance. No doubt with some saucy content from what he knew about her. Nevertheless, she acknowledged his presence. “How was school today, Nori?”

He inhaled deeply before answering. Nothing to do but do it, he thought. “Not good. There was…an incident, I guess.”

That got her attention. She grabbed her bookmark, closed her book, and put it on the side. “What happened?” she asked, sitting up and facing him.

He got right into it, explaining how Anthony had insisted on a three-on-three battle. The agreement he had him sign. How he came to the conclusion to use Pawniard. What he could remember of the battle before his aquaphobia got triggered and everything went wrong.

“And that's about it,” he concluded. The young official held his breath, waiting for the reaction.

It did not take long. His mom leaned back, sighing. However, it was not one of frustration or exhaustion, rather an irreverent one. “I guess it can't be helped.”

“You're not mad? Or disappointed?” he chanced asking her. He'd rather know than have doubts!

“Well, I was expecting you to run into trouble with a Pokemon some day.” She smiled a little. “I didn't expect it to be so soon, although I suppose I should've given they gave you something tough to start out with.”

“That’s putting it lightly…” Nori was expecting his first assignment to help ease him into the process, but they were holding nothing back from the get-go. Was it simply too much too soon?

His mom put her hands on her hips. “There's something else you're not telling me, is there?” she asked. “You took a while to get back.”

“I was gonna get to that,” he clarified. He wasn't going to hide this or anything. “I got called in to see that Studd guy. He let me off with just a warning, thankfully. As long as that guy's Pokemon doesn't die.”

Ayume huffed vaguely. “I see,” was all she said about it. “Anything else?”

Caught off-guard. Nori paused a second too long. His mom leaned in closer, eyes narrowing. He didn't want to talk about it, because he knew what her answer would be. But with her prodding, he had no choice.

“Before I saw Studd, I wanted to see Prema to get her thoughts on what happened, so I went to the Kannagi Shrine. She was too busy to see me though, and there was this really stupid guard who turned me away rudely and like, demanded I call her Lady Kannagi and threatened to throw me out if I didn't leave right away. So I just had to leave.”

His mom blanched at the mention of the future head priestess of the Kannagi Shrine. Her nose crinkled momentarily as she peered forward flatly. Nori may not have cared for religion, but she had even stronger feelings against it. As he went on, her lip started to curl and her eyebrows tilted down.

“Typical,” was all she said.

“But Prema's not that kind of person. She's always accepted me.” he defended, even as his mom didn't actually attack her. “It'll be fine.”

“Nori, I'm a little worried she's going to end up another Claris for you.”

He did a double take. That was his mom's reasoning? Claris Willins. His dear friend from first grade to partway through fourth. His only real friend in that frame of time, too. A child actress who wanted to go on a journey with him…until he said some pretty cruel things. What happened to her because of it was all his fault…

“N-no, this would be…closer to what happened with Lux…” he said, slightly shaken. “But things are different from that, too. Prema's not going to stop being friends with me just because one jerk said so.” Even if the worst case did somehow come to pass, Prema wasn't his only friend, like Claris and Lux were at their respective points.

“We can only hope,” his mom spat, words dripping with venom.

“Actually,” he said, eager to change the subject. “What I'm most worried about is how bad my reputation's going to be after this.” Not that he cared what others thought too much, but…

Ayume snorted. “This coming from my son who became one of the most hated people in the region months ago,” she sarcastically quipped.

He was forced to laugh a little. Guilty as charged. “Yes, but I'd prefer if I wasn't in that same spot ever again.” It wasn't pleasant.

“I'm sure you'll be all right, Nori.” His mom nodded. “If the worst happens, it won't be as bad as before.”

“Thanks, ma…” He knew it wasn't going to reach that level, but hearing it from someone else validated his thoughts. With a smile, he gave her a hug of appreciation. It was just positive reinforcement, but it did a lot for his mood.

“Get some rest,” she patted him on the back. “And if anyone bothers you, let me know.”

With that out there, Nori almost hoped they would. He wanted to see what his mom would do to shut them up. Plus, he had friends like Arumi and Volkner over in Sunyshore who could help out. Maybe, just maybe, he would come away relatively unscathed from what happened after all.

##########​

The time on the dashboard read 11:14pm. Nori was sitting in the front seat of the trailer, quietly listening to the news on the radio while his mom and Pachi slept. He found himself unable to join them no matter how long he closed his eyes, the events of the day still lingering in his thoughts. He reasoned hearing what was going on around the region and world might help take his mind off it long enough to rest.

Most of it was uninteresting or stuff he'd already heard during the evening news. That was, until the anchor said, “We've just received breaking news out of Veilstone City.”

Nori snapped to attention. Breaking news at this hour? Whatever it was couldn't be good news. Did somebody get shot? Was there a big gang bust? Could Quade have died on the operating table? He leaned his ear up to the speaker and listened close.

---​

It was not a story he was expecting to hear. Far from taking his mind off things, it gave the young official another thing to worry about. It wasn't about him, but about Prema.

The people at the shrine hadn't lied to him, she had been very busy today. She had gone to the old Magcargo Express warehouse they met at to perform an exorcism. As the report went on, he found himself upset and concerned in equal measure. The good news was, Nori had found some direction. He knew what he needed to do first thing tomorrow morning.
 
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This is pretty on par with how I thought it'd turn out, minus the shrine guard being rude to Nori. Glad to know his mom's on his side, though I am curious about something the story brought up: Why DID they assign Nori a Pokemon owned by a serial killer right out of the gate, rather than have him deal with a slightly easier Pokemon to ease him into the process? It probably would have caused Nori a lot less hardship had whoever was responsible not put him in charge of a violent Pokemon. So I wouldn't say Nori is entirely at fault for this one, as Studd is equally responsible for what the Pawniard did. I am kind of surprised there's going to be more leaning towards Prema's situation here, though the outcome will probably be covered in your other story, so what do I know? Another good chapter like always! I hope Quade doesn't die.
 
Incredibly late part 6 review (sorry, during the contest I was focusing on my entry instead of reading here).

Nori's really improved a lot from the old days; he definitely seems to have an advantage here barring referee interference.

And then...well, pretty much what I expected to happen has happened. Hopefully Quade pulls through but, ah, that doesn't sound good at all.
Nori, Nori, Nori. There's nothing I can say you aren't going to hear from your superiors and yourself.
 
Incredibly late part 6 review (sorry, during the contest I was focusing on my entry instead of reading here).
Stuff happens. Like getting pretty demotivated.

Nori's really improved a lot from the old days; he definitely seems to have an advantage here barring referee interference.
It's certainly a how far has he come demonstration. He's definitely still his power-favoring self, but he applies it differently.

And then...well, pretty much what I expected to happen has happened. Hopefully Quade pulls through but, ah, that doesn't sound good at all.
Indeed. Everything that could've gone wrong did go wrong.

Nori, Nori, Nori. There's nothing I can say you aren't going to hear from your superiors and yourself.

This is pretty on par with how I thought it'd turn out, minus the shrine guard being rude to Nori.
What did you expect, Prema not wanting to see him?

Glad to know his mom's on his side, though I am curious about something the story brought up: Why DID they assign Nori a Pokemon owned by a serial killer right out of the gate, rather than have him deal with a slightly easier Pokemon to ease him into the process?
That is a very good question indeed. Probably has something to do with how they just weren't thinking, or thought hey he tamed the Demon he can handle anything. Or maybe this is going to be the norm!

I am kind of surprised there's going to be more leaning towards Prema's situation here, though the outcome will probably be covered in your other story, so what do I know?
As I mentioned, there's some crossover between the two, although they are separate plots otherwise.

I hope Quade doesn't die.
Heh heh heh
 
Slice 8: Carving a Path
It was far from a front page headline, but neither was it a footnote, witnessed and written by one Akari Schrader who was staking the place out. Last night, Prema Kannagi had attempted an exorcism at the old Magcargo Express building – where those spirits who attacked those workers were. It ended in disaster, and one person was seriously injured. Nariya Yaznik, aged 16. The important takeaway was knowing why Prema was so busy. If he'd been able to help her, though…

First thing in the morning after breakfast, Nori skated off to East Veilstone General where e figured Nariya should have been admitted. Not only was he concerned about her condition, he had his fingers crossed about something.

Nori walked over to the receptionist's desk, where a man with navy blue hair sat. “Hi!” the young official greeted him.

The man's eyes went round as Voltorbs, even sparkling like they might. “Nori Carino…” he gushed.

“Mhm, that's me!” He struck a pose and pointed inward at himself.

“It's an honor, sir!” The man meekly stuck out his hand, which Nori promptly grabbed and gave a firm shake. The young official found it strange to be getting used to stuff like this. “What brings you here today?”

“I've come to visit a friend of mine, Nariya Yaznik,” he kept it straight and to the point, even given the warm welcome. “I can go see her, right?”

“Of course, Mr. Carino!” the receptionist replied. “She's in ward C5. Head down the right hallway. I'll let the doctor know you're coming.”

“Okay, thank you!”

“The pleasure is all mine.”

Step one, complete! That was easy! Maybe it was his fame at work, but he wasn't going to complain about that part of it. Step two, hope he actually could speak with Nariya. Or maybe even…

---​

SliCe 8
,,,,,,,arvi
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,ng a P
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,ath


He wasted no time, walking through the halls just fast enough that it wouldn't be considered running. He made his way over to the C-wing, avoiding carts and people along the way. The room numbers were to the right of each door. The first he came to was C20, on his right. He kept going. He counted the numbers off under his breath. Suddenly, a gurney came out of C10, way faster than Nori expected.

“Coming through!” he shouted a warning. He swiftly turned left, just barely avoiding crashing into a uniformed nurse.

They glowered at him, but he spoke first.

“Sorry, sorry!” Maybe they were moving too fast, and maybe he was getting overenthusiastic, but this wasn't the time or place to argue. He turned around and kept going, more slowly.

“Ah!” Nori jumped at the sudden sight of Prema Kannagi. It was exactly who he was hoping to see. If she wasn't present, he wanted to have Nariya pass a message along to her. But now that she was in front of him, he had no idea what to do! He glanced away to find a balding bespectacled doctor with the name tag Whitman, and a woman who looked a lot like Nariya. They were all standing before a door.

“Room C5! This is the one!” he blurted his thoughts aloud.

Before he knew what was happening, the doctor was in front of him. “Hold on, sir, you can't just walk in without permission. Who are you and what business do you have?”

“I'm one of Nariya's friends,” he introduced himself. He stole a look at Prema, who was simply watching on in stunned surprise. “I heard she got hurt last night, and I want to go see her!”

Visit her at the same time as Prema. That made the most sense now. The doctor glanced over at the woman. It was safe to assume she was Nariya's mother. With an angry noise, she walked over to the door and stood in front of it.

“This is a private ward,” she declared. “Family only.”

What?! That made no sense! Nori stomped, taking a step towards her while shaking a fist. “Do you really think not letting any of her friends see her is going to do her any good?!”

“Considering she is in here because of her so-called friend?” She fired a hateful leer at Prema, who shut her eyes in response. “I think so, yes. I don't know you well enough to trust you, and Lady Kannagi is clearly a toxic influence.”

“You let her into YAMS, though!” he countered. “You let her be with a toxic protest group!”

“Yes, but she never got hurt over the course of their protests.”

He scowled. Mental and social injury is way worse than physical! He knew! He had his arm broken at Sunyshore Gym, but having to wear a cast on his dominant arm for a few months was nothing compared to becoming a pariah! Not to mention emotional injury! He couldn't claim to know autism like Nariya had, but he imagined not being able to see a friend again would feel horrid for anyone!

This woman was being more stubborn than a Mudbray, but he knew what he could do about that. He reached into his jacket, pulled his wallet back out, and retrieved his Officials' ID. “My name is Nori Carino, doctor,” he introduced, just for the sake of formality. “SPRT-01. I'm requesting permission as an official to see the patient.”

He caught sight of Prema, who was suppressing a surprised gasp. The doctor raised an eyebrow, but his expression was otherwise blank. If it didn't work, he'd still get to see and talk with Prema.

Nariya's mom was unamused. She marched up and crossed her arms, standing over him in a feeble attempt to intimidate. “Mr. Carino,” Nori was a little surprised she was addressing him that way. “What reason do you have for wanting to see my daughter?”

He knew the rules! He aced his test about this stuff! The young official stood on his toes and powerfully explained, “This incident concerns a highly dangerous Pokemon. As a Pokemon Rehabilitator, it is my job to work with these Pokemon. And as a Special Trainer in the International Police, I have the authority to become involved in Pokemon-related incidents if I deem it necessary.”

The mom shook her head. “And what about speaking with Nariya do you deem necessary?”

“Nariya–” he caught himself. “Er, your daughter, the patient, is an important witness. It is important to know what we're dealing with.” He turned to face Prema. “For the same reason, I'll have to speak with you about it as well, Miss Kannagi.”

“Very well, Mr. Carino,” she replied. Nori couldn't help but smile wildly at her deciding to play along. “I will do what I am able. I'm afraid I will be busy for the rest of the day, however.”

“That's fine,” he said to her. “Do what you can, when you can, as long as you do.”

Mrs. Yaznik sighed in exasperation, holding her temple with her palm. She and the doctor spoke for a bit before Dr. Whitman addressed him.

“Your request is granted, Mr. Carino,” he said. Nori had to contain his grin. “The patient needs to rest, but I can give you fifteen minutes to speak with her.”

“Thanks a–” He paused. Have to be formal, right. “I mean, thank you for your cooperation.”

“It is I who should be thanking you.” Nori felt a warmth in his chest as Prema gave him a light bow. “The Kannagi Shrine truly appreciates your assistance with this matter.”

“Happy to help.” He flashed her a thumbs-up and winked before heading to see Nariya.

His heart was nearly pounding out of his chest, not from that tense situation, but from getting to speak with Prema there. She was still his friend! Everything was going to be okay! But for now, he'd gotten himself a chat with Nariya. He had to admit, he was curious about what happened. Maybe it was the newshound in him. Either way, he said he was here to do something, so even though it wasn't really what he came for, there was nothing to do but do it.

##########​

Nori had an intriguing conversation with Nariya, who was thankfully in the condition to speak with him. She said she heard the word ‘ghoul’ in her head, just like he heard those workers say. While she felt guilty for burdening Prema, Nori assured her otherwise. And got some reassurance in kind when musing she had been far more of a friend to her than he had been able to. After all, she'd been able to be there. He pondered if there was something he could do for her in this situation. At the least, it would be something other than homework to distract himself with.

After his time was up, the young official skated back home. As he entered the trailer park and made his way over to his home, he found somebody leaning against the vehicle. She was engrossed her cell phone.

For whatever reason, the thing that distinguished Yumi Takao the most to Nori was her trendy sense of fashion. She was wearing white sneakers, bellbottoms, and a small vest with an Elekid pattern (Electric types being popular since June thanks to a certain individual) over a splotchy pastel shirt. Her rectangular sling bag was at her side.

He called out to her. “Oh, hey!”

Yumi glanced up, pocketing her phone when she saw it was him. “Hey. Your mom had to step out for a while.”

“Well, come in,” he said, walking over and unlocking the side-door. Pachi, at his feet, hurried on ahead and jumped into the bed at the back; he liked doing so whenever Nori's mom wasn't around. “I was just visiting Nariya in the hospital.”

The girl with light-brown hair was halfway inside, pausing mid-step. “What? What happened to her?”

“She got hurt protecting Prema from a ghost.”

“Oh no…” Yumi closed the door behind them. “Is she all right?”

“I don't know much about any side effects from the attack, but she seemed fine physically.” He walked over to his bed and folded it up. “I was able to talk to her for a bit.”

His friend let out a sigh of relief. Nori had properly met Yumi at the same time he'd met Prema and Nariya, at the same meeting of Youths Against Mistaken Society. There were never any hard feelings between her and Nariya, although both were hesitant to approach the other for their own reasons.

Nori sat down at the table where his bed had been. He scooted over in case Yumi wanted to sit beside him – there was plenty of room. Her feet became frozen to the floor, eyes darting from the seat across to the space to Nori's right. Ultimately, she chose the former.

Yumi slumped in her seat. “So I came to let you know that I heard Quade's surgery was successful.”

“That's a relief,” he said, leaning back. That wasn't high on the list of things he was expecting her to come here for. That said, “It sounds like there's more to it than that.”

She nodded solemnly. “Yeah, the good news ends there,” she continued with a heavyhearted sigh. “He'll never be able to safely battle again.”

He knew it. “He was Anthony's strongest Pokemon, wasn't he?”

“By far.”

Nori felt more than a little guilty. Middle school battling wasn't as noteworthy as high school battling which had an entire national circuit. You'd still see battling clubs, but some of them – Tobari included – still competed on a regional scale. It had to have been a big blow to lose one of their best battling Pokemon, to say nothing about possibly Anthony himself. And no matter what, it was still partially his fault for agreeing to the battle…

Yumi leaned over the table, her brow wrinkling. For a second and from how her arms moved, it seemed like she wanted to grab his hand. “Nori, about Pawniard…”

“I know, I know!” he said as she trailed off. “But I still have to keep trying. I have to. Plus, I still want to.” Nori may have been uncertain about a lot of different things, but that was one thing he was sure about. “If I stop now, everything so far will have been a waste. Including what just happened.”

“Are you afraid?” she tremored. It was almost a yell that was choked back. “That he might hurt another Pokemon? Or even…even y…” She trailed off and, for a moment, she appeared to be staring off into space.

“Yumi…”

He wasn't sure what to do or what to say. The fact was he worked in a dangerous profession. Just because he approached it with optimism didn't mean he wasn't aware of what could happen to him.

He took a deep breath. “It's a risk that comes with what I'm doing. It's going to come with many of the Pokemon I rehabilitate. Even with all my training to prevent these situations. I know, I get that you're worried about me, I really do. And it means a lot that you care. I swear I'll be as careful as I can be.”

All he could give was his word. And that hurt. But it wasn't as if he could give a guarantee. Anything could happen. In fact, knowing his own luck, he fully expected to be hurt by one of his Pokemon at some point. It was yet another reason why he usually kept Pachi out of his Poke Ball, besides the squirrel liking it. He was a means of protection.

He was thinking about actually explaining that part, when Yumi lightly smiled. “Okay,” she sighed. It was more of a happy one than relief or sorrowful. Maybe his words alone really did reassure her. “What are you going to do next?”

That was a good question. He had mostly been considering damage control or worrying about fallout from the incident. “I think I need to go back to the basics. That is, looking up Pawniard behavior, just like I did with the Demon. I don't know how much of it is going to be applicable, but it can't hurt to do the research.”

Yumi nodded. “That sounds like a good idea.” She turned her head lightly away, although kept looking at him. She held her bag close. “Are you heading to the library? I'll come with you if you are. I need to return the books I finished and check out some new ones.”

He rubbed his neck. “Actually, I was thinking an internet place. I'm not sure if there'll be many books, given the really detailed ones only cover Japan-natives.” They pretty much had to, given there were thousands if not tens of thousands of species out there.

Yumi fidgeted in the seat. “Well, they have free Wi-Fi at the library if you want to bring your laptop. You'll still be able to look at any books while you're there.”

Nori could take a hint. He understood that Yumi wanted to hang out with him. And frankly? He wanted to hang out with Yumi.

“When you put it like that, sure.” He flashed a smile at her. “Just let me get ready.”

Nori got up, pulled up a rug, and unlocked a hatch on the floor of the trailer. He pulled his laptop out from its case underneath and grabbed his backpack. It was not something he was expecting, but he was glad about it.

##########​

Of the two public libraries in the city, the one known simply as the Veilstone Public Library was both the older and closer of the two. One wouldn't necessarily be able to tell from looking, however, given the renovations over the years. Nori did not have a library card himself, so he primarily came by with his mom. It would be something to rectify as soon as he was able to afford to get his own. Thankfully for his purposes, reading in the library itself was permitted.

He found a good open table to sit at and open his laptop while waiting for Yumi. He was able to figure out how to connect to the internet on his own easily enough. The young official was starting to learn this computer stuff. By the time his friend came and found him, twenty minutes had already passed.

“What took ya?” he asked. Nori very slightly moved his machine to the right to open up some more space.

Yumi blinked rapidly for a second before sitting down beside him. “Just had trouble deciding what to check out,” she stated.

“So what did you get?”

“I picked up three, since that's my limit.”

Yumi held out her loaned books one by one. The first of these depicted a sapphire citadel over a sunset backdrop, entitled The Crystal Kingdom. The second depicted a teenage girl who could've been any aspiring trainer: a League hat, a backpack, travel-ready clothes, and a starter Pokemon (specifically a Flambear) at one side; on the other, in step with her, was an exasperated male trainer. Love of Journeys. The third caught Nori off-guard. It was The Wild Minx.

“What's wrong?” asked Yumi as he stared at it in a bit of disbelief. After a second, she retracted the book and placed it face down.

He blinked. “Oh, just my mom was reading that last one.”

Yumi leaned back, a smile slowly reaching her lips. “That's…a surprise,” she remarked, pressing a hand over her heart.

“You like romances?”

“That and fantasy. Those are my two favorite genres.” She hesitated before asking, “What about you?”

“Well, I like crime and mystery the most. Romance can be nice sometimes, but I like sci-fi over fantasy. Don't really have any genres I hate.”

Nori had to admit, that wasn't what he was expecting out of Yumi. But he felt he should've, given how sensible it seemed in hindsight. From the smirk on her face though, she evidently completely expected his response.

Yumi adjusted her bangs before picking up The Wild Minx. “Did your mom like it?”

“She didn't hate it,” he answered as he shut his laptop. “If she did, she'd have ranted about it to me.”

His friend giggled a little as she opened the book. “Well, I guess I'll get started on it myself.”

Nori stood and stretched. “Okay, look after my stuff,” he told Yumi as he cracked his knuckles over his head. “I'm going to see if I can find any behavioral books.” He knew where they were from the last time he came to the library. Hopefully they didn't move stuff around.

“I'm surprised you didn't get them before sitting down,” she said, glancing up from the book.

“I wanted to make sure we got a spot for ourselves!”

Yumi laughed. “I guess that makes sense.” She placed her bag on his seat as he set off.

Like a homing missile, Nori went directly to the Pokemon resource section. His eyes darted across the many rows of books. As he thought and knew from before, many of them were regional or national focused and would never include information on Pawniard. Others seemed way too broad, likely only to have regional information. Then there were very specific ones like Pikas Worldwide or Be a Better Bird Keeper. There were a few that seemed promising, so he grabbed them and took them back to the table.

“That was fast,” remarked Yumi. She briefly folded up her book, using her finger as a bookmark as she picked up her bag and placed it between them.

“I work fast!” he boasted, showing her the four books he'd grabbed for now. “This one's about the Dark type, this one covers Pokemon from the US regions, there's one on handling Pokemon with sharp claws for hands, and finally, grabbed a Pokemon A-Z (and more) book just in case.”

“Hopefully, they'll be able to help,” she remarked before diving back into the novel.

“Yeah, let's hope.” He'd already been looking online, and what he'd found so far hadn't been helping. With any luck, he'd be able to find something here.

---​

Nori periodically got up to put books back and grab more. He jotted things that were important enough in a notepad he'd bought on Thursday. Yumi eventually left after reading a hundred pages, wishing him luck. As the hours went by, Nori's investigation started going in circles.

The information he was finding on Pawniard as a species, be it in a book or online, was generally unhelpful and most of it was repeated between different sources. The best he found spoke about their pack mentality, which at least seemed to correlate that Pawniard would listen. The wild ones were led by the Bisharps, and sometimes, a Kingambit. Some of them left their packs in pursuit of their own goals, but this was rare. Mostly carnivorous, but also known to feed on metal like many other Steel types – often gorged by the alphas in packs. The most interesting bit of information came from their different slashing motions; it appeared they had knowledge of how to slightly adjust their angle to get the desired cut on various targets. It was intriguing in a scientific sense, but not particularly helpful for taming one.

He had the sense to look up the Blackout Killer, thinking the behavior had something to do with their training. That mostly got information on the man and not his Pokemon. From the accounts, there was no way to tell anything was wrong when battling him. One of them even fought and beat the Pawniard, so assuming it wasn't a lie, it put a kibosh on the theory that the killer slew his own Pokemon for failure. That said, the killer had only two Pokemon at the time of his death. He had to have had others, at least at some point, given standard battles were typically three-on-three.

He sighed. “Come on, Nori,” he whispered to himself. “There has to be something here.”

The young official went over what he knew in his head. Fact, Pawniard belonged to a murderous trainer. Fact, he instinctively hurt and killed. However, he did not default to killing. The other Pokemon the Blackout Killer owned was not involved in any incidents after the fact – maybe it was a possible avenue? Pawniard would listen to him, perhaps seeing him as the leader? Pawniard had a cruel side, once called a malice like few others. Perhaps he was a misanthrope? This was only according to Prema who was either vague or couldn't get a read, but…

His mind drifted to Prema. She was dealing with a group of wicked Pokemon, seemingly far more dangerous than Pawniard. At least he wouldn't attack people. But she had it far worse than him, come to think of it. And there actually was a chance he would be rehabilitating those Pokemon after she got through with them.

Nori paused. He was sort of using semantics. Yet part of him wanted to do something to help Prema. She'd done so much for him already. How could he return the favor? It was kind of a crazy thought. But given how poorly researching Pawniard was going, he figured it might actually help. After all, distractions can help you step back and get some retrospective.

“Well, let's do it,” he whispered to himself as he brought up the search engine.

##########
=========
##########

The scene where Nori goes to see Nariya wasn't important to the overall plot of this fic. Read it in Memory of a Ghoul if you're curious. Random aside, publication/editing took so long that I was able to name Kingambit directly rather than just saying "Bisharp's evolution." It was in there since I learned of the leaks and they turned out to be credible. Too much gaming and distractions.
 
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It's a good thing Nori has Yumi by his side on this. She seems like a good chap. Relieved to know Quade is okay, but I do like that you had it not be able to battle anymore. It makes Nori's situation with Pawniard feel that much more palpable since he has to face the consequences of Pawniard's actions. Curious to see what Nori finds out and plans on doing to help Prema.
 
7+8
So mixed news on Quade. Could be better but it could have been a lot worse. I doubt it's quite ended there, though; if nothing else YAMS feels likely to react to this.

Nori's already using his position to get around regulation; they get started so young.

I think Nori should try to ask Volkner for ideas. He may not have any but it couldn't hurt.
 
It's a good thing Nori has Yumi by his side on this. She seems like a good chap.
I mean given some of the implications from fics set later...well. You'll see.

Relieved to know Quade is okay, but I do like that you had it not be able to battle anymore. It makes Nori's situation with Pawniard feel that much more palpable since he has to face the consequences of Pawniard's actions.
Some wounds will not heal with just a Pokemon Center. Of course, it is a weird situation as a reviewer on AO3 mentioned. After all, Anthony did accept the battle knowing what could happen. It doesn't change how Nori himself might feel about it or what happens, of course.

Curious to see what Nori finds out and plans on doing to help Prema.
You will find out in a couple Prema chapters from now. Or two Nori chapters from now.

So mixed news on Quade. Could be better but it could have been a lot worse. I doubt it's quite ended there, though; if nothing else YAMS feels likely to react to this.
I mean there's two former members who've reacted to it already! Yumi's definitely made her stance clear, and Nariya doesn't know what to think. Of course, there are the others out there...

Nori's already using his position to get around regulation; they get started so young.
He probably subconsciously felt like he was like a secret agent on TV or something.

I think Nori should try to ask Volkner for ideas. He may not have any but it couldn't hurt.
I may or may not pick up on this, heh heh heh...
 
Heya! I've seen this one floating around for a while (eight chapters in six months??? incredible), but haven't gotten around to checking it out. I did want to take a look at your more recent work, and I simultaneously think it's really cool that you 1) juggle a metaseries with interconnected plots and characters while 2) making each of them more or less independently accessible. My brain prefers to finish what I have in front of me rather than jumping around, and it cares less about spoilers, so for now I've read up to the end of what you've got published despite the Memory of a Ghoul overlaps.

Overall I thought the world of this was really fun. Both in the physical sense of the Crescent Hills in Veilstone or the deep wilds, but also just in the general ways that this world feels and operates. It's firmly rooted in Pokemon imo--both in the sense that, hey, let's give this small child a ton of responsibility, but also in the hope that things might be solvable with the power of friendship and being nice to strangers. Jury's still out on the second one, rip Quade. I do like the slight grounding that you've added; Nori's being asked for a lot, but he's not being asked to solely defend the country from the mob or capture god or whatever. The stakes still feel really serious, but it lets you juggle some of the more introspective chapters like "oh no my mom might not be proud of me" and some of the lighter subplots like "the super mysterious and powerful interpol guy does not seem to be the brightest" in a way that some of the games fall short for me. There's also a nice build for things--as soon as I saw that Nori was getting pressured to battle because sChOoL sPirIt, I had a feeling Pawniard was going to make things very rough, and it was nice to see those plots converging with all the grace and peacefulness of a pair of freight trains.

I also thought there was something quintessentially cute and youthful about a lot of the smaller details here. The way he's got a little pocket laserpointer that he uses to practice recall aiming on pokeballs, and then he shows this off to his friends to prove that it's actually super fine that his newest Pokemon has a massive body count, he's GOT this ... it's so wonderfully middle school and I love it. Nori skateboarding around, the way he twangs "ma" a lil, the way he breathlessly describes his day to Prema, the way he doesn't really seem to understand why Naryia's mom might be a little stressed sitting at her daughter's hospital bed--there's a really tangible sense of a small kid making his way into a larger world, starting to interact with new responsibilities, perhaps realizing that despite his previous experiences (which sound awful! sunyshore what are you doing), he might not be quite ready for everything that the world has to throw at him. I think it cuts to the coming-of-age bits in the Pokemon franchise, and in general I really liked that sense of growing up without quite realizing you're doing it.
“I see,” his mom slowly said. She had never explicitly disapproved of what he'd done in Sunyshore, but he never did hear her actual opinion. He was kind of afraid to ask. “Just stay out of trouble.”
And like, oh, lil dude. Sometimes disappointing our parents is one of the worst things we can do. "He was kind of afraid to ask", oh no.

The central premise is also super interesting to me, and one that I'm glad to see getting explored in fic(s). What do you do if the power of friendship is not enough for some pokemon? You friendship harder. Or attempt murder. I also think this theme of rehabilitation is an interesting one to see in a fic about teens--learning that the world doesn't exist in extremes is an important part about entering adulthood, as is learning that while everyone is capable of redemption, you might not be the right person to do it. I was waiting for the shoe to drop with Pawniard, as it seemed like Nori was really being set up to fail there. I don't quite agree with his reasoning in the aftermath of the Quade bit--indemnity contract or no, it's not like Quade signed it, it's not like you can really sign away your rights to be upset when your pet/friend takes a sword to the stomach, it's not really responsible to be asking people to sign up to have their pets/friends potentially murdered when the alternative of "just don't" is actually right there and the only thing stopping you is the desire to avoid humiliation--but I also don't think it's out of character or strictly unfair of him to think this way. Kids do silly things, he's been thrust into a lot of responsibility (by a bunch of adults who have decided it's not their job), and it does seem like most people aren't really treating the contract between two children as legally binding. Plus, it makes for good drama. I love dramatic formatting setups, so I am ofc biased, but I liked the decision to hide chapter six's title until the end. In a story about rehabilitating serial killers, it's an interesting refrain--the weight of power and responsibility does hang heavily, and it's also becoming increasingly clear that Nori's job might not be as easy as he'd intended, and that there might be very dire consequences if he's unable to perform his duty.

(I think it's an interesting choice, too, since the sword of Damocles was originally intended to strike specifically those who have the most power--which to me doesn't seem to be Quade/Anthony. Nori even specifically points out that he's used to having the upper hand in power, not strategy. Ironically the phrase gets evoked now by people who do have power/who the sword was metaphorically for, sort of a weird "we're all in this together" thing, and I wonder if this is the case here or if there's more risk for Nori specifically later down the line. Nori's loss in chapter six is one of reputation, but the sword destroys, not just maims ...)

He was thankful most people were either uncertain or neutral about what happened in early July. Yet it wasn't uncommon to see those whose faith in Kallisto wasn't shaken or were hopeful he could move beyond what had happened. Then you had kooks like these who thought he put out fake news, or did worse.
And I did think it was interesting, too, that there were these little mentions of other people and their reputation, their fans. Kallisto seems like a pretty bad dude, but there are some people who think that he could be redeemed. None of those people are Nori. It seems like the Pawniard is in the same boat. And even though Quade's not dead, it seems like Nori might rapidly be being pulled down and might have to face a similar reputation/redemption arc.

I thought the side characters in this were really fun. One of the neat things about sequels is that, imo, it lets authors feel less obligated to "set up" relationships, so to speak, and instead jump straight into the parts where the characters are talking to one another. It makes for a way more interesting story and it's nice to see Nori going around getting advice from people--to me it also tied into the idea that redemption is, in a sense, a point of view. I keep waiting for the shoe to drop and for one of his friends to distance from him after the Quade stuff, but this might not be that kind of drama. I do like your running trend of these friend groups having different kinds of people, specifically people who "the world" doesn't think should get along--this came up briefly with Claris, and it's back with Prema as well. And so many nice parents doing nice things for their kids!

Pretty fun stuff. I can't promise I'll be back soon--I prefer to read in large swaths when I can, and also these days I rarely can--but I thought this was a cool world you've set up, and hope to get back to it eventually.

Some misc prose things, if you're interested:
Dressers and cabinets were under the beds and stove, as well as to left of the latter.
This felt a little clunky, especially since 1) it's not uncommon for cabinets to be under stoves and 2) it's uncommon for dressers to be under stoves. It also felt a little unnecessary--I don't know if knowing that there were also dressers to the left of the beds, or parsing the nuance between dressers and cabinets, added much to the scene for me. "Dressers and cabinets were under the beds and stove" would've conveyed roughly the same vibes to me, or something like "The beds had dressers below and to the left of them, while the stove stood over a set of cabinets". Or, if the main focus of the description is that their home is small and has to be efficient in space (which does track), emphasizing that the dressers are under the stove is to your favor, since it focuses on that lack of delineation between bed and kitchen--"Dressers and cabinets were tucked everywhere possible, under the two beds and even beneath the stove".

Your call, though--I think most other readers seem fine with the methodical descriptions.
He looked back to check on his Pokemon, Pachi. Thankfully, the squirrel with vibrant white and blue fur hadn't gotten roused from his nap by Maylene's shrieks.
The "the squirrel with vibrant white and blue fur" also feels a bit overdetailed to me--I imagine it's to telegraph to the reader that Pachi is a Pachirisu--and might come out more naturally if it came out slower. "He looked back to check on his Pokemon, Pachi. Thankfully, the squirrel hadn't gotten roused from his nap by Maylene's shrieks, his vibrant blue and white fur instead rising and falling in relaxed slumber"
The Kannagi Shrine was founded nearly a millennium ago in what is now called Celestic Town. The Veilstone location was its first branch in history and was being personally overseen by the Master of the shrine, Haruto Kannagi. It sat at the former site of the WGPR station Nori listened to, which had since moved operations to Hearthome.
This one is almost certainly because I don't have familiarity with Prema's stories, but I would've had an easier time parsing this section on first pass if it had said "The original Kannagi Shrine".
"I think the nation knows, thanks to you," she laughed again. Guilty as charged, Nori thought to himself. "I simply hope he realizes the error of his ways."

"Doesn't matter to me if he does or not," he replied with a shrug. That guy was still a sore spot from his time at Sunyshore Gym, one who ironically and incidentally practiced the Kannagi faith. Nori hoped it was behind him forever, but knew that was just wishful thinking on his behalf.
"one who ironically and incidentally practiced" is located in a way that it looks like the gym is the one practicing. I think "That guy, who ironically and incidentally practiced the Kannagi faith, was still a sore spot from Nori's time at Sunyshore Gym" might help.

Also, hey, the interplay between someone realizing they're wrong versus the world knowing they're bad in a story about trying to redeem a murderer, this can only go well.
All it would require was filling reports of Mr. Carino's reports and all such stuff associated with him. It was too perfect and too easy! Even he could fill out those all proper, crossing his Ts and uppercasing his Ps.
yes what could possibly go wrong
"It is my codename!" The man struck a pose. "I, of course, am called Studd because I am a stud!"
and the second D stands for--
He locked eyes with his first assignment, the Pokemon he would be working with.
I thought the modifier ["the Pokemon he would be working with"] was redundant, as the first half of the sentence explains that pretty clearly.
"Nori, I am begging you," a little more humility in his tone.
["Nori, I am begging you." A little more humility in his tone.]
["Nori, I am begging you," he said, a little more humility in his tone.]
"It's quite all right, Mr. Carino," the man replied, almost seeming to snicker a little. Nori wasn't sure whether to be relieved or even more worried about the competitive glint in the adult's eyes. "We're always up for a battle, even on a picnic." His girlfriend or wife nodded in agreement, also seeming to find the idea fun – to say nothing of their Pokemon. They were shaking their little arms and beckoning Pachi to bring it.
I didn't quite follow how they knew his last name, since from the description he's never seen them before? This seemed tied into the "most hated people in the region", so I'm almost certain this is because I'm rolling into the fifth book demanding answers that were made clear in the first four.
Yet from the stylistic portrait of Kallisto Keravnos engraved on the dark orange and pink shirt
"Engraved" suggests a literal cut/incision--matches the blade theme, but doesn't quite work for a shirt, at least in the sense that I imagine it. Something like "emblazoned" might help.

Also, lmao, this guy is incredible.
"Okay, so first?" Nori snipped. He tapped a foot and put his hands on his hips. Pachi tried mimicking his pose, finding it difficult to do so with stubby arms. "We're not in the wilderness. This park isn't even–"

"What is a park but government-handled urban wilderness?!" Anthony cut in.
you know, he's got a point, just think about it bro

I do like the flavor of arguments here. They feel childish but not overblown--I think making it more about the one kid digging his heels into the ground to justify his silly reasoning feels a lot more realistic than just shitslinging insults.
"Sure, why not?" Nori threw up his arms. He would accept because he wanted to, not because someone else wanted him to. He added for clarification, "Tentatively, unless my rehabilitating makes me reschedule."
"he would accept because he wanted to" you tell urself that buddy :c
"End it with Iron Head." To his relief, there was nothing cruel or sadistic about it. Pawniard simply smashed his hard head against the Vulpix's temple, completing the Slash in the same motion. It fell back, a noticeable and open wound in its side.
This is a really bad choice of words, Nori. Luckily nothing bad will happen!
Magcargo Express
This feels like a recurring thing/something that crops up in your other work, but I'd love to see the marketing for this. As fast and delicate as lava slug ...
“My ruling is final, Mr. Carino,” she dug in her heels.
This isn't a dialogue tag, so you'll want: ["My ruling is final, Mr. Carino." She dug in her heels.]
The bladed Pokemon snapped his arm back, and with that, a horrible guttural cry pierced the air.

Everything started happening all at once. There was screaming and shouting. The words were all blending together. Nori thought he heard ‘disqualified’ in there, his name several times, Anthony crying for Quade, the word ‘recall,’ and lots more. The only thing he was sure about was his profuse apologizing. There were suddenly many Pokemon on the battlefield, but Pawniard slashed his way out and hid behind Nori, cackling lowly yet madly.
I thought this was a really cool moment, is all. The chaos is nicely described.
“Nori, I'm a little worried she's going to end up another Claris for you.”
!
Nori skated off to East Veilstone General where e figured Nariya should have been admitted.
"where he figured"
What?! That made no sense! Nori stomped, taking a step towards her while shaking a fist. “Do you really think not letting any of her friends see her is going to do her any good?!”

“Considering she is in here because of her so-called friend?” She fired a hateful leer at Prema, who shut her eyes in response. “I think so, yes. I don't know you well enough to trust you, and Lady Kannagi is clearly a toxic influence.”
I wasn't sure why Prema hadn't been kicked out already if Nariya's mom was so mad + was blocking Nori so adamantly. It didn't seem like Prema would do what Nori did and choose to flex her authority to be let in.
That said, the killer had only two Pokemon at the time of his death. He had to have had others, at least at some point, given standard battles were typically three-on-three.
This seems like a very innocent detail that won't be important later.
 
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Time for more Nori from me. Another I've been reading as they come out, just caught up on what I missed. Time for another set of general opinions.

I just like the name of the chapter titles, love doing alternative titles instead of just calling it chapter something.

I find it weird that the people who Nori work for decide to give him a fucking murderous Pokémon as his first real assignment instead of starting with a troublesome but not as murderous choice for a first assignment before easing him into this. Kinda like how they're setting him up to fail considering the very lucrative benefits that he has despite his role and age (I mean a house man!)

The Pawniard is something interesting since we really haven't Pokémon explicitly killing people in media outside of implied cases, with the Froslass in Legends being a top result for me when I think about it. The fact that people aren't really reacting in a way one would expect until this pawn starts slicing and dicing sounds like it isn't common here either, or literally everyone who is a main character here still fall under main Pokémon canon logic somehow.

Nice to see people are still idiots when dealing with Nori, with one person willing to fight a murderous Pawniard to prove what happen Kallisto was like a set up and save his honor. Like he's saying no every time but nope three on three battle. Well, Nori is going to have a find a new school...again. Think people would learn about now when he literally tamed something called THE DEMON.

Honestly, I excited to see how Kallisto still as some influence on the story despite being out of commission and a town or two away outside of his fanboys and fangirls fighting to reclaim something in his name. Will wonder if Volkner or any other characters from In-Training will reach out (and vice versa) if Nori needs help (also I just want Nori to meet Nori again so the world implodes). Plus with mention of Claris, I wonder if they'll come back in some form, probably not here and literally yelling at Noir for the ultimate irony since he didn't want to be a Pokémon Trainer back in the 202o one-shot.

Nice to see Nori's relationships are staying strong though unlike In-Training, with Prema despite her own story going on being a strong supporter with her friends like Nariya (though I forget if she was in the first story since they mentioned YAMS.....yum) latching onto Nori and him having a strong group of friends this time though outside of Prema and Yumi, unsure about this new News Club. I know his mother will always has his back, with his existential dread of what happened in Sunnyshore probably still on his mother's mind and him dreading what she thinks.

Anyways don't know what else to say, excited to see where this goes on. Hopefully I don't come back to any Ryoma Homura cameos and start spit taking at the sight.
 
Okay, getting to these two...

I just like the name of the chapter titles, love doing alternative titles instead of just calling it chapter something.
I do too when it fits, but I go a little further here and give them alternate formatting. I do a similar alternative title with MoaG too, though without the last part. Both also all have a consistency across the titles!

I
find it weird that the people who Nori work for decide to give him a fucking murderous Pokémon as his first real assignment instead of starting with a troublesome but not as murderous choice for a first assignment before easing him into this. Kinda like how they're setting him up to fail considering the very lucrative benefits that he has despite his role and age (I mean a house man!)
Some of the characters themselves acknowledge this. It's ambiguous at this point if yes, being set up to fail or if they're just that confident (or dense). That said, they gave him a second chance, so it's likely the latter.

The Pawniard is something interesting since we really haven't Pokémon explicitly killing people in media outside of implied cases, with the Froslass in Legends being a top result for me when I think about it.
There is a light implication it was the one who killed others' Pokemon, and the Blackout Killer ultimately took care of the trainers. Still, yes, killer Pokemon don't show up often in the official media.

The fact that people aren't really reacting in a way one would expect until this pawn starts slicing and dicing sounds like it isn't common here either, or literally everyone who is a main character here still fall under main Pokémon canon logic somehow.
"He's Nori Carino, he's got this!" Probably.

Nice to see people are still idiots when dealing with Nori, with one person willing to fight a murderous Pawniard to prove what happen Kallisto was like a set up and save his honor. Like he's saying no every time but nope three on three battle. Well, Nori is going to have a find a new school...again. Think people would learn about now when he literally tamed something called THE DEMON.
Anthony is a special kind of idiot. :p And then he goes as far as to sign the waiver when Nori makes explicitly clear what could happen...and it happens. It remains to be seen what the fallout will be.

Will wonder if Volkner or any other characters from In-Training will reach out (and vice versa) if Nori needs help (also I just want Nori to meet Nori again so the world implodes). Plus with mention of Claris, I wonder if they'll come back in some form, probably not here and literally yelling at Noir for the ultimate irony since he didn't want to be a Pokémon Trainer back in the 202o one-shot.
I mean I may as well say, yes. Claris is getting so many mentions not just because the failure there still haunts Nori a lot, it's because she will eventually come back. Nori even acknowledged that people might think badly of him for going back on his word of not wanting to train Pokemon in the first fic. It was in his mind from the start, and there certainly will be a payoff.

In general, any major character from a fic has a chance of coming back. So not like characters like Billy Ordride, but Volkner, Arumi, Lux, and the Gym Trainers might. As for Nori meeting Nori...heh, didn't think you saw that far. She's in the minor character spot, that said. I thought of one scenario at least, but that's WAAAAY down the line. The world was just fine the first time, though!

Nice to see Nori's relationships are staying strong though unlike In-Training, with Prema despite her own story going on being a strong supporter with her friends like Nariya (though I forget if she was in the first story since they mentioned YAMS.....yum)
Yeah, both Nariya and Yumi were in YAMS. They were background characters, with Louis and Mariko being the mouthpieces. Nariya of course was a centerpiece in A Move to Adjudicate, but she was there from the start (in-universe too).

though outside of Prema and Yumi, unsure about this new News Club. I know his mother will always has his back, with his existential dread of what happened in Sunnyshore probably still on his mother's mind and him dreading what she thinks.
Yumi definitely seems like she's sticking by him at least, doesn't she? It remains to be seen with the others at least, heh heh heh...

Anyways don't know what else to say, excited to see where this goes on. Hopefully I don't come back to any Ryoma Homura cameos and start spit taking at the sight.
Again, a minor character who was basically just a name and also Getter Robo reference in the extra notes. :p It is tempting just to have him scream MUSASHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

Thanks for reading and reviewing!

#####

My brain prefers to finish what I have in front of me rather than jumping around, and it cares less about spoilers, so for now I've read up to the end of what you've got published despite the Memory of a Ghoul overlaps.
There's no really bad overlaps here yet anyway. The ones so far is finding out Nariya got injured during the first attempt at the exorcism in MoaG, and Nori's first major battle with Pawniard not going well. But those were obvious results in the narratives.

Overall I thought the world of this was really fun. Both in the physical sense of the Crescent Hills in Veilstone or the deep wilds, but also just in the general ways that this world feels and operates.
When you set a fic mostly within one city rather than across a whole region, you kind of have to expand upon it majorly. The same applies for any story, really.

The stakes still feel really serious, but it lets you juggle some of the more introspective chapters like "oh no my mom might not be proud of me" and some of the lighter subplots like "the super mysterious and powerful interpol guy does not seem to be the brightest" in a way that some of the games fall short for me.
I go for relatively low-stakes conflicts in the grand scheme of things with this series. This doesn't mean they can't feel serious or be deeply personal to the characters, though. Even some of the side-characters have their own goals here, like Chad (who gets some perspective time in the next chapter), or Yumi (who is really worried about her friend)

I also thought there was something quintessentially cute and youthful about a lot of the smaller details here. The way he's got a little pocket laserpointer that he uses to practice recall aiming on pokeballs, and then he shows this off to his friends to prove that it's actually super fine that his newest Pokemon has a massive body count, he's GOT this ... it's so wonderfully middle school and I love it.
Now this, heh. This is a detail that seems cute, but he in fact received actual training for this. Albeit also with purpose to use a subduing tool, aka a tranq gun. Nori thinks it's just as awkward. Also in respect to this, he in fact demonstrated his aiming skills chapter 2, so that's a thing too.

Nori skateboarding around, the way he twangs "ma" a lil, the way he breathlessly describes his day to Prema, the way he doesn't really seem to understand why Naryia's mom might be a little stressed sitting at her daughter's hospital bed--there's a really tangible sense of a small kid making his way into a larger world, starting to interact with new responsibilities, perhaps realizing that despite his previous experiences (which sound awful! sunyshore what are you doing), he might not be quite ready for everything that the world has to throw at him. I think it cuts to the coming-of-age bits in the Pokemon franchise, and in general I really liked that sense of growing up without quite realizing you're doing it.
Pretty much what I'm going for with Nori! He may be in an adult position, but he still only turned thirteen a couple months back and it shows. The opposite is happening with Prema, actually: she's someone who's learning how to be a kid. Of course, she also gets to learn she's not ready for everything the world has to throw.

The central premise is also super interesting to me, and one that I'm glad to see getting explored in fic(s). What do you do if the power of friendship is not enough for some pokemon? You friendship harder. Or attempt murder.
Yeah. In games, pretty much all Pokemon can be tamed by anyone with love and friendship. In some other fics, this gets expunged, but they still run with the idea that a good or strong trainer can tame any Pokemon. This was actually inspired by the fic's inspiration, Juliko's Pokemon: A Marvelous Journey. It had care facilities for Pokemon that have severe trauma, etc. that even Lance the Dragon Master had to use on his Dragonite. So I thought to take it one step further, what about Pokemon with issues that don't really fit there that even they don't want to touch? You need a special sort of person with an offbeat approach. And Nori...sort of blundered into making that a reality.

I don't quite agree with his reasoning in the aftermath of the Quade bit--indemnity contract or no, it's not like Quade signed it, it's not like you can really sign away your rights to be upset when your pet/friend takes a sword to the stomach, it's not really responsible to be asking people to sign up to have their pets/friends potentially murdered when the alternative of "just don't" is actually right there and the only thing stopping you is the desire to avoid humiliation--but I also don't think it's out of character or strictly unfair of him to think this way.
Funny, another reviewer on AO3 thought just the opposite, thinking that Anthony was the one who signed the contract so Nori shouldn't be being held accountable. It is interesting to think of it from the Pokemon's perspective, however. Could be a big source of debate. How much opinion should they have in the matter?

I love dramatic formatting setups, so I am ofc biased, but I liked the decision to hide chapter six's title until the end. In a story about rehabilitating serial killers, it's an interesting refrain--the weight of power and responsibility does hang heavily, and it's also becoming increasingly clear that Nori's job might not be as easy as he'd intended, and that there might be very dire consequences if he's unable to perform his duty.
Stuff he's all too aware of and still isn't fully ready for when it actually hits. And yeah, I thought that would be a fun little twist with the ending on the chapter title. It certainly is in reference to the myth, sort of an impending doom in that sense.

And I did think it was interesting, too, that there were these little mentions of other people and their reputation, their fans. Kallisto seems like a pretty bad dude, but there are some people who think that he could be redeemed. None of those people are Nori.
Actually, here's a funny thing. I originally had that in, but to be a little more consistent with his character, I changed it. In the conversation with Satomi, the original response to her saying she hopes he realizes the error of his ways was something to the effect of "I doubt that". But Kallisto potentially finding redemption is a possibility, one Nori was actually forced to acknowledge since he's working with bad Pokemon who need to find it themselves. He just doesn't want anything to do with Kallisto anymore, while avoiding whether or not his once tormentor could genuinely reform.

I thought the side characters in this were really fun. One of the neat things about sequels is that, imo, it lets authors feel less obligated to "set up" relationships, so to speak, and instead jump straight into the parts where the characters are talking to one another. It makes for a way more interesting story and it's nice to see Nori going around getting advice from people--to me it also tied into the idea that redemption is, in a sense, a point of view.
Yeah. I give a bit of backstory, but that's it. And very true on the last point, like I was implying. For example, Kallisto might reform and become a better person, but getting Nori to forgive him is a whole different kettle of fish.

I do like your running trend of these friend groups having different kinds of people, specifically people who "the world" doesn't think should get along--this came up briefly with Claris, and it's back with Prema as well.
I'm a big fan of odd friendships. It also arguably lets people grow the most!

Pretty fun stuff. I can't promise I'll be back soon--I prefer to read in large swaths when I can, and also these days I rarely can--but I thought this was a cool world you've set up, and hope to get back to it eventually.
Well, by the time you get back, it'll probably be done! Assuming no sort of disaster happens...

I do like the flavor of arguments here. They feel childish but not overblown--I think making it more about the one kid digging his heels into the ground to justify his silly reasoning feels a lot more realistic than just shitslinging insults.
Gives a bit of characterization! Even when being a big dorky ham, the arguments still make sense, in a generous term of making sense.

I wasn't sure why Prema hadn't been kicked out already if Nariya's mom was so mad + was blocking Nori so adamantly. It didn't seem like Prema would do what Nori did and choose to flex her authority to be let in.
This makes a bit more sense seeing Prema's perspective. She arrived shortly before Nori did, and he interrupted the conversation when she was asking why she couldn't get in to see Nariya and was trying to reason. She does get asked to leave after, that said.

This seems like a very innocent detail that won't be important later.
Heh heh heh...

I'll see about making the prose tweaks when I can, got some more to do anyway. Thanks for the review, and hope to see you back eventually!
 
Slice 9: Split Priorities
“So that's my report for the week,” Nori concluded to his superior. He had written it before going to sleep, although it turned out to be mostly a wasted effort. He just needed to give it verbally. In fact, for whatever reason, Studd outright refused to even see the pages for whatever reason. At least they helped him to remember everything. He was vague about the Vulpix in the deep wilds, but otherwise covered everything from their first meeting near the docks to yesterday's research.

“That had many more details than I had been expecting!” replied the boisterous man. “You are knowing that you could've said just fine?”

“But you know it wasn't just fine,” he replied, as he folded and pocketed the handwritten sheets of paper. “Besides, I didn't know what you expected from me. I didn't even know how to contact you. That's why I came here.”

“Yes! Fortunate thing that I, too, came to the same place.” When Nori arrived though, Studd was sulking over how he wasn't allowed into the school. “Why had you not called?”

“Well, I don't know how to call you. I don't even have a phone to do it with.” The agent never like, gave him a number or anything. And as far as Nori was aware, his Official's radio only received calls. There didn't seem to be a way to enter a number or anything. “I thought you were going to call my radio like before.”

Studd's jaw nearly became unhinged. “N-never mind that!” he said in a panic. “How could you live without a real phone?!” he shouted, attracting the attention of everyone around them (which the agent was unaware of).

“I just do?” It wasn't the first time someone had asked him that, nor the first time he'd given that answer.

“Bah!” The agent reached into his jacket and whipped out his phone, contained in a Zubat-themed case Nori had seen for sale in a 100P shop a few days ago. He flipped it open and hoisted it proudly over his head. “I never go anywhere without my trustworthy Sharpe GX dash 25!”

“Isn't that, like, super old?” said a random black-haired little boy, peering down at them from the playground.

Studd sputtered in disbelief for several seconds. “It's more than you can afford!” he eventually yelled back at the kid.

In response, the boy pulled out his own cell. It was like the ones Nori saw everywhere. “The Sharpe Suicune Crystal mark 2!” he boasted with a cheeky grin. “Dad bought me it for my birthday!”

“Well, not every man has money for one of those!” Studd screamed, with both anger and anguish in his voice.

The boy pulled down an eyelid and stuck out his tongue. “My dad makes more than you!”

“Grr, I don't care!” he lied. At least he had the sense not to dignify it further. But as soon as whirled around and caught sight of Nori, he snapped, “Wipe off that smirk out of your face, sir!”

Nori couldn't help it, it was too funny. Kids making fun of adults wasn't uncommon, but it was rare that the adult was so bothered by it. “Hey, as long as it still works, you don't need something new,” he reassured Studd.

The man flipped the phone up, and put it back in his jacket. “You should still get one,” he grumbled, crossing his arms and turning his nose up.

“Never had a reason to.” Besides, he'd only really use it to talk with Arumi or Volkner. Everyone else he could meet face to face.

“Anyway, I'm done here. Same time and same place next week.” Agent Studd spun on his heels and began marching away. “As they speak in your language, sayanora sucker.”

“That's not what we say!” yelled the kid on the playground. Nori wanted to explain the two mistakes more politely, but Studd started walking faster to his car, trying to ignore the kid.

He shrugged it off. That was one thing taken care of, Nori thought to himself. With that out of the way, he could continue what he'd started last night. He got on his skateboard and set out.

At first, he had thought that he could be of some help to Prema with just a little bit of research. He was also a little curious, due to sort of being involved. Instead, he found a rabbit hole that set off his burgeoning reporter's instincts. He knew there had been an earlier accident, but the problem was, he couldn't find much information about it. He didn't know where it would lead, but he jumped in.

And if nothing else, it'd make a great story for the school newspaper!

He knew from the scarcity of information that it would take a lot of effort to find what he was looking for. Luckily, he had a friend with the right connections.

---​

Slice 9
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Nori had first met Arumi Schrader earlier in the year. They became fast friends at his middle school in Sunyshore, and she was one of the few people willing and able to stick with him through all that had happened. Her last name was third only to Joy and Jenny, belonging to a widespread family of reporters. If there was anyone who could help dig up a buried story, it'd be his bestie.

He went into a manga café. After paying the fee and signing a couple of autographs, Nori went to his rented booth to check his ElectronMail account. After a bit of fumbling with the browser, he got in.

He had two new emails. One was news from the service itself, and the other was a reply from Arumi. After briefly skimming the former, he clicked into what he wanted to check.

“Hey, Nor!” were the opening words of her reply. That was her nickname for him. It was strange seeing it written out rather than spoken, though.

“Nice to hear from you! I've been just fine. Used to my newfound fame, and helps things have settled since the summer. You would've loved to see how Beau and the others reacted to my article. They all said to say sorry to you. Yuki still wishes he believed in you since things might've gone way different, lol. He wants to know your email. Is that okay?

“I heard about that accident last November, but I had no idea it got buried! You might want to ask my aunt Akari about it. If anyone would be in the know, it'd be a Schrader in Veilstone. You should also ask the guys at the Veilstone Times. Don't worry, told them both you'd be coming by. Just do not accept an interview request with my aunt, okay? Trust me on this one.

“As for the Blackout Killer, all I could find on short notice was some articles you probably already found. Sorry I couldn't do more. School's been crazy lately. I'll try to see if I can dig more up for you. Heard what happened with your assignment though, and yikes! Knew there was a side I wasn't hearing though, i.e. yours. Glad it didn't really make headlines, huh?

“Oh yeah, you hear about that tiny island tribe they found extinct? The Kaltor people? And we only just found out now five years later since they were so isolationist? Real crazy news.

“Miss you lots, man! Mail me back when you can and lemme know how things go!”


The young official smiled and nodded. They might have been a town apart, but they were still best friends. He wasn't expecting much, given he emailed her late last night. Yet the help she gave was enough to exceed his expectations. He composed his reply.

“Thanks! I'll head over to see them later today. I miss you lots too. Gonna have to find a way to hang out sometime in person.” If he got a chance to take a vacation, he was definitely picking Sunyshore! Not just to see her, but to see Volkner again too! “I'll keep you posted on Pawniard and the accident.”

He paused. That was sufficient, but brief. Looking over what she'd written to him again, he added, “Not surprised to hear about the others. Begging your forgiveness to get in your favor, I take it? I don't know how you feel about them now, but tell them I said thanks for the sorrys. Things would be way different if even one of them had believed in me besides you.” Although, he supposed, it would've meant making even more friends he wouldn't be able to regularly see. Speaking of which, “Sure, go ahead and tell Yuki how to email me.” He didn't anticipate talking with him as much, but he felt it couldn't hurt.

He mused her last point. Arumi liked talking about random news from elsewhere that really didn't affect them. “I haven't heard of the Kaltor people before. I've been too busy” Mid-sentence, he realized, duh! He was at a computer, so he could just look it up! So he did some brief research, finding out that they had lived on a remote island in the southern Pacific Ocean. He backspaced over his last four words and typed, “But I looked them up just now. That is really crazy, and freaky too. We knew so little about them, because they were so aggressive and xenophobic, they even refused aid after natural disasters, and now we'll never know. So they're sort of lost to time. It's ironic since they're saying resource scarcity and tribal infighting did them in. They must've had weird worldviews or culture.”

He wasn't sure what else to say about these people. Maybe there was a reason why they hated everyone outside their bubble, but he had the feeling that things could've turned out differently if they hadn't. They didn't need to change completely, just a little, while still being themselves. Nori had to do that before.

It also wasn't lost on the young official that he himself was dealing with a Pokemon with a definite twisted take on life. How much Pawniard would have to change remained to be seen. But Nori would do everything possible to try to push him through it.

He finished the message up with a goodbye and hit send.

Nori leaned back in his seat. He would never deny that he missed some people from Sunyshore. Some who he had no way of contacting. He had sent out some letters to certain people like Lux (who didn't live there anymore), but given the circumstances, he had no way of knowing they actually reached him unless he got a reply. Yuki…he left on odd terms with, but was willing to see where it would lead.

He checked the clock. He'd rented the booth for an hour, and still had plenty of time left. The young official decided to spend some of it on news sites, and the rest on researching his assignment. He closed his email and began browsing. He knew what he wanted to do after leaving, but he wanted to make the most of the money he spent.

##########​

It was a breezy autumn afternoon in Veilstone City. A gray curtain hung over the sky, with a few darker clouds dangling below. The temperature was pleasantly mild, only 14°C at the most.

Chad Shosha was named after his father's favorite foreign actor. The two kanji that made up his family name were also the first two kanji in the Japanese term for Champion. His great-grandmother, a former Champion herself, had coined their motto: ‘shōsha to wa uinā.’

Even before Chad received formal trainer's license, his parents and older siblings had constantly pressured him to live up to their name. He had yet to go on a journey; Chad didn't want to rush headlong into it as soon as possible, he wanted to be fully prepared. That meant excelling in his studies and with Pokemon in the meantime.

He was the president of Tobari Junior High School's battling club. They met to talk about everything related to Pokemon battles: strategy, training, their favorite trainers, battles (both their own and those they'd watched), and so on. They also sparred with each other to practice and hone their skills. The best of them made up the battling team which he led.

For a serious trainer, there were no days off when it came to championship aspirations. That was the attitude Chad took with his team. However, only three of them wanted to bother on Sundays: himself, Anthony, and Emi Pikaru. Four of the others weren't serious enough, and a fifth attended a Ceutholic church. But even Anthony and Emi were absent today, for the same understandable reason.

The Demon Tamer Nori Carino, a person who would be a tremendous asset to the team. Chad did not blame him for the incident on Friday, if only due to the futility of pointing fingers. However, he had the sinking feeling he was alone in that belief. It had been an unspoken topic yesterday, and the focus had been on Quade on the day of the incident. He was praying to the Great Azelf that Anthony could overcome the turmoil of his partner's forced retirement.

Part of Chad's weekly ritual around town was to visit a battling spot on Sunday. He rotated, playing among them all. One week it was Mynwest Court. Another, Fightopia. Today, it was the battling cages.

Many schools, sports fields, and larger parks had areas cordoned off by metal fences where outdoor battling could take place. With only a few exceptions, they were open to the public. You could usually find a challenge there if you waited, and they were popular spots for trainers who wanted to have it out in front of an audience. Chad enjoyed them because of the variety of competition you could see. Battling facilities were generally only frequented by serious local trainers, but you could find all types at the cages.

Today seemed to be one of those rare times when it wasn't worth coming by. Everyone was too far below his skill level, so he just sat with his companion and relaxed while they watched. He hoped someone better would come by, but had no expectations.

“Kids, huh?” he remarked to his Pokemon, as a young boy's Buneary rammed into a girl's Shinx. He leaned back on the bleachers. “Remember when we were starting out?”

A quiet nod. It was objectively strange to speak with one who could not answer you back. It was something of a habit of his. When he was young, and his parents were arguing or yelling at him or one of his siblings, Theodore was the only one he could talk to. The now Noctowl had always been willing to listen, even offering him wing hugs after he evolved.

The fights were monotonous, tackles being met with tackles or the odd weak elemental move. Watching other people's battles could be useful to glean information about different strategies, but Chad knew there was nothing to see today.

He looked down at his feet. The bond between humans and Pokemon was expressed in many ways. Battling was only one of them. Most Pokemon were more than happy to do so. Yet what happened on Friday made Chad question things.

What does a Pokemon feel when they are badly hurt in a battle? Why do they take that risk for what was basically a sport? People had hypothesized, and even some Pokemon had given their own answers when they were able to. Yet the only thing clear was there was no single answer. He would not be able to bear seeing Theodore or any of his other friends get seriously injured. It turned his stomach to see what had happened to Quade, and he could only imagine how Anthony felt about it. There was always the possibility of an accident, and yet that Pawniard…

“Oh, look. Someone's all sad.”

Had he not recognized her voice, he would have looked up with a leer. Instead, he just frowned without amusement at the teenager, who had a fluffy fennec following at her feet. Her boyishly-short red hair matched the fur of her Pokemon. Her attire was equally masculine, though it was contrasted by her moderate bust size.

“For the record, I was contemplating.” He knew she was probably joking, and only wanted to set the record straight for anyone who might have overheard.

“By sitting around watching newbies play with each other.”

Chad did not react outwardly, but he still felt the heat in his face and the prickling at the back of his neck. Emi's snark often stung, and this was no exception. “I wasn't really watching,” he said slowly. “But I am glad you're here.”

She sat next to him. Her Flareon, who had no nickname, trotted over to greet Theodore. The fox spat a couple small Embers, and Theodore replied with a light one-winged Gust. Exchanging attacks was their way of saying hello.

“So lemme guess,” Emi asked him, leaning back and putting her hands in her pockets. “You're thinking of trying to guilt-trip him into joining the team.”

She didn't need to specify who she was talking about. He confirmed. “I think there's a very good chance he will accept.”

“I think so too,” Emi agreed. “But that doesn't mean I want him with us.”

Chad had to do a double take at that. He knew full well that the others might think ill of him. But they were failing to see the bigger picture. “Emi, be reasonable,” he pleaded with her. “I know it may sound horrible to say, but we can benefit from this.”

She shrugged. “Yes, what happened on Friday was definitely the best thing that could have happened to us,” she said, so sarcastic that it bordered on parody.

“He will help.” Chad was sure he felt bad enough to do so.

“What, you don't think we're good enough?” Emi said, standing over him and clenching her fists. “You and the coach have been so fixated on getting him to join since the semester started. I'm sure he'll make a great team player and not cause any friction at all. Especially after what just happened.”

Chad looked up toward the sky. He wanted to say yes, they were not good enough as things stood, particularly with Anthony's status unknown. But now was not the time to say bring those points to bear.

“I want to give us the best chance of victory as possible,” he explained carefully. “Nothing more, nothing less. That is all there is to it.”

Some would say he was taking things too seriously for a middle school battling team. Nevertheless, Chad wanted to win. No, rather, he had to win. After all, he was a Shosha. And Shoshas were winners.

Emi rolled her eyes. “Sure. But just so you know, it's not just me you'll have to convince. Good luck with the others. This whole idea was dumber than a Slowpoke to begin with, and now?” She paused and threw up her arms dismissively. “It's never happening.”

Chad felt like he had been hit in the stomach. He didn't dare say anything else, for fear of making things worse. It wasn't that he didn't believe in his team. He had personally chosen each of them based off a multitude of factors. But as a whole, they were missing something: that immeasurable element of chaos that someone like Nori Carino could bring to the table. Chad knew they would go far with the team they had, but their chances of winning the annual national middle school tournament were slim without him. It may not have meant much to most people, but it did to his family. If they could not at least reach the regional finals, then…

“We don't need him,” she attempted to reassure him with a hearty pat on the shoulder. She motioned to Flareon. “Now, let's show these kids how real trainers battle.”

Chad could only let out a heavy sigh as he followed her into the battling cage. This was not how it was supposed to go. Almost everyone had agreed that Nori would be a huge help, maybe even the difference maker. Ironically, the only one who had initially dismissed the idea was Anthony. His motivation for challenging Nori Carino was to prove his case to the others. The bitter irony was that he had succeeded. Just not in the way anyone had expected.

He also knew what would happen next. His parents would hear about it. They would find a way to blame him for the rest of the team's opinion, like saying he didn't do a good enough job of convincing them. Every missed step forward was a step toward defeat, as they put it. Chad was not looking forward to that inevitable scolding.

##########​

There was a gentle knock at the door of the dim and dusty room. Nori turned to see an elderly man entering. He wore a black blazer with matching trousers. The derby covering his bald scalp indicated the man was ready to go home.

“Sorry, son,” he said. “It's past closing time. You should get home. Your mother is probably worried sick.”

Nori glanced at the wall clock. 9:17pm!! “What?!” he gasped. How did time slip from him like that?!

The man could only chuckle at his shock. “Ah, I understand. I've known more than a few folks who lost track of time trying to reach a deadline.”

He started to gather his things and put them in his backpack. “It's okay, I got all I needed. And I told my mom I might be late.” Well, okay, he might've been pushing it, but still. “Thanks again for the help, Mr. Sanaka!”

“It was my pleasure, Nori.” The man bowed respectfully, before handing him a stick of dango. “And happy Tsukimi.”

Nori blinked. How could he forget about the holiday?! In the past, it had been one of the few he could fully enjoy. He didn't need to buy anything or do much to have a moon viewing! “Thanks again, Mr. Sanaka!” he said as he bit into it. Chewy and tasty!

The man smiled. “You take care, and stay safe on your way home.”

“I will, sir!” He would be more worried about the safety of anyone or anything that tried to mess with him.

Nori left the Veilstone Times building with a spring in his step while taking bites of the snack. He got a chance to see what real newspaper writers were like! More importantly, he found all the information he needed between their archives and Arumi's aunt. And as they say, it was an eye-opener. He had to put it all together and get it to Prema as soon as possible!

##########
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WARNING! WARNING!
WARNING: If you want to read Memory of a Ghoul, get up through at least Chapter 4 and ideally Chapter 7 (not yet released) before the next chapter of this fic. It contains big spoilers!
WARNING! WARNING!
 
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