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

A pretty low key chapter, but still a nice one all the same. That scene in the beginning was pretty funny, with some kid making fun of Studd for his lack of a modern phone. Funny story: I myself never started using a cell phone until I was in my junior year of high school, and our schools banned students from even having cell phones on their person, which was why I was against getting one at first, because I was afraid if a teacher saw me with one, even if it was to contact my parents or for an emergency, I'd get in big trouble. The first phone I had was my dad's LG one, which he passed onto me around that time.

Curious to see what this Chad kid's deal is and what he wants with Nori. It's also nice to see Nori keeping in contact with Arumi, considering all she's done for him in the previous story. Again, can't wait to see how this goes.
 
A pretty low key chapter, but still a nice one all the same. That scene in the beginning was pretty funny, with some kid making fun of Studd for his lack of a modern phone. Funny story: I myself never started using a cell phone until I was in my junior year of high school,
Just something I thought could spice it up and make clear that yes, Studd is basically a manchild. And also probably not paid well or terrible at money management. Subtle character detail without saying it outright. And me neither, told you exactly when I got my first phone.

Curious to see what this Chad kid's deal is and what he wants with Nori.
You already know! He was pestering Nori to join the team in Slice 3 and told him about Anthony's challenge! This scene was about picking up and telling exactly what his deal is: he's from an affluent family of battlers and there's high expectations upon him. He's trying to use the situation to his advantage to guilt trip Nori into joining, but his #2 shows up to say "no now no one but you and maybe the teacher wants him, he almost killed one of our top members' best Pokemon". Which hits him pretty bad, needless to say.
 
Slice 10: Point of it All
What was he doing?

That was the question Nori Carino was asking himself, over and over. It was around eleven at night. He could count the number of times he'd been up so late on one hand, but he was in bed those other times. Right now, he was walking up some steps. He had been skating, but he couldn't continue doing that.

As he ascended, he repeated to himself the stupidity of what he was doing. Sure, he was excited. And sure, he needed to get what he'd found over to her as soon as possible. But would she even be awake? Would they even want him to see her? Would coming so late ruin his chances of doing it at all?

The last thought made him pause, almost freeze up. Left foot on one step, right foot on the one above. The shrine was visible, faintly illuminated in the darkness. He looked over his shoulder. No, it was not too late to turn back.

And yet more questions assaulted him, running counter to his doubts. What if that jerk of a guard was back tomorrow? What if Prema left in the morning? What if they understood that it had to be important since he was here so late? Yeah, that's what he'd go with. Even if they turned him away, at least they'd be reasonable about it tomorrow. And there was only one way to find out if it was okay now. Summoning his nerve, he took the last few steps needed to clear the stairs.

The shrine had a different feeling to it at night. A tranquil silence had set in under the stars, befitting such a sacred place. Yet there was a strange eeriness that was detached from the calm. Was it the presence of the gods, Nori wondered? Or was it just his imagination or apprehension about the whole thing?

Another thought came to mind. What if they already knew? Well, it was too late to go back now, anyway. Besides, with how much trouble he had finding the info, he was willing to bet that it would be news to them.

As he expected, there was someone standing guard. Whoever it was didn't notice him until he stepped on a carelessly discarded chopstick – right, they probably held a moon-viewing festival – and snapped it like a twig. The guard instantly turned to face him.

“Halt.”

He only slowed down. “Oh, you're…” It took Nori a few seconds, but he'd seen the tall, black-haired brown-eyed man before. “Naito, aren't you? Naito the night watchman, heh.” That was a little funny.

Naito eyes flashed with recognition. His hostility turned to suspicion and irritation. “What are you doing stalking around here so late?” he demanded with a curled lip.

“I came to see Prema. I have something important to show her.” After a second, he added, “Um, sorry that it's so late, but I wanted to get it to her as soon as possible.”

The guard crossed his arms. “You have nothing she would be interested in.”

He had come ready to explain himself. He was rehearsing what to say in his head, and it was finally time to say it. “I can assure you otherwise, and that it is very important. I've uncovered some information that will help Prema, Lady Kannagi that is, on her mission to expunge the ghosts that haunt the old Magcargo Express warehouse. Your cooperation in alerting her to this would be greatly appreciated by both myself, and no doubt by her as well.”

“I highly doubt that,” came the dismissive reply, accompanied by a wave of the hand.

Did he try too hard with the speech? “You don't understand, guardsman Naito,” he said, speaking from the heart instead. “I found something that's really telling about the spirits' true nature. This could make the difference between Prema succeeding and failing! I know she's been in the news, and I know the Mitsutris are watching. As a faithful member of the Kannagi Shrine, isn't it on you to help her however you can?”

The guard scowled. He pointed towards the red arch and said one word, “Leave.”

Nori deflated. “Should I come back tomorrow?” he asked hesitantly. Maybe he did come too late after all.

“No, you should just leave and not return. Lady Kannagi does not need your help.” With a snort, he added, “I'm going to tell Acolyte Jirou not to let you near the shrine until this is done.”

Nori couldn't believe it! He'd done all this work, and it might've been for nothing! He was trying to help Prema out and this stupid moron was so arrogant and dismissive that he was going out of his way to stop him? The whole shrine didn't hate him, thank goodness. Nori almost thought about leaving and trying his luck tomorrow regardless. But no. He had to try harder. Plus, screw this guy! He wanted to see him crash and burn…

“Where's Priestess Satomi?” he demanded. He knew she would listen to him! And talking to her about it would be the next best thing.

Naito crossed his arms. “She is in a meeting with Master Haruto Kannagi.”

“Prema's dad?” So people were awake. That was perfect! “Well, tell him, then!”

The guard stumbled back a couple steps, sputtering all the while. He actually put his hands up. It gave way to a furious yet delighted grin. “Fine. Once I do, we'll be rid of you forever.”

Nori only let the smirk reach his lips once Naito had turned around. If Prema's dad wanted him out of his daughter's life, he would've acted on it a long time ago. But he hadn't. The worst he was going to do was tell him to come back tomorrow. And maybe, just maybe…

---​

Monk Naito was in disbelief. No, utter shock!

He had been a devout member of the Kannagi Shrine for many years. He was willing to give up any semblance of a normal life by watching over the front gates at night, which earned him his present rank. Naito had no doubt that he would soon be bestowed the title of Priest for his service. To be so thoroughly disrespected by a brat for whom Lady Kannagi had a strange fascination with was nothing short of insulting. But no more. He had just dug his own grave. It was the end of the line for him.

Swiftly, he made his way to the office of the head of the shrine and knocked. “Master Haruto Kannagi!” he called respectfully. He spoke just loud enough to be heard.

“What is it, Monk Naito?” came his voice.

“I apologize for the intrusion this late at night, but we have a situation outside.”

“What kind of situation?” he pressed. “And why did it involve leaving your station?”

He clutched at his side. True, he was not at his post. But he had good reason to leave, and he was certain the head of the shrine would understand. “That Nori Carino character's at the gate,” he scoffed. “He's insisting to see Lady Kannagi and refusing to leave. What should we do?”

For several seconds, there was no answer. A part of him got worried. It was cut and dried, why was this taking any amount of thought?

To his surprise, it was Priestess Satomi who answered. “So why's he asking to see her?”

It took him a second to collect his thoughts. “He claimed,” he said in a mocking tone, “That it's important to what Lady Kannagi is doing. He demanded to see either of you if he couldn't see Lady Kannagi.”

Priestess Satomi spoke quietly to the head of the shrine. Naito could not hear their words, but he didn't need to. He rubbed his hands together, suppressing his snickering. This was it. This was when they would finally free themselves of Nori Carino forever.

“We will allow this.”

The words struck him like a charging Tauros. What did Master Haruto Kannagi just say?

“Satomi, go see if Prema is awake. If she is not, I will speak with him and see what it is about.”

“Consider it done.”

“And, thank you once more.”

“Anytime.”

Priestess Satomi opened the door. He bowed as she passed him by. While she held no special rank, her seniority placed her on a pedestal above all but the Kannagis themselves. She gave a friendly wave as she trotted down the hall to Lady Kannagi's quarters.

“But Master Haruto Kannagi…” Monk Naito began to say. Normally, he was not one to question his superiors, but he could not help but voice his concern. “This boy is–”

The head of the shrine raised a palm. “This is the decision I have made. Go tell him either myself or Prema will be out to join him shortly.” He lowered his gaze and gave a stern order. “And do so respectfully.”

The man could only bow. As deeply as he could. “Y-yes, Master Haruto Kannagi.”

It was a bitter pill to swallow. Naito was not the only one who despised Nori Carino. Some of it was because of his status as an outsider. Others, such as him, disliked the Demon Tamer in general. What Lady Kannagi – and evidently Master Haruto Kannagi – saw in him was beyond Naito's comprehension. But he supposed he had no choice but to trust their judgment. For now.

---

Slice 10
i
o n

The P t of it All

The young official waited patiently for several minutes. The dejected sneer on Naito's face when he finally emerged revealed what had happened before he said it.

“I…apologize, Mr. Carino.” The man shuddered as he forced a bow. “Either Lady Kannagi or Master Haruto Kannagi will be out to see you shortly.”

The young official could not help but beam from ear to ear. “You sure changed your tune,” he couldn't help but tease a little. “Did they yell at you?”

Naito leered. “Don't push your luck,” he grumbled, reaching into his satchel and flashing a Poke Ball. The threat was clear. If he kept it up, he'd find himself in a battle. Not necessarily to remove him from the grounds, but out of spite.

“Sorry,” he apologized. It would be better if he didn't aggravate things anyway. “And thank you.”

“Yeah, sure.”

Only then did it strike Nori. He had never spoken to Mr. Kannagi before, or even met him. This could well be his first time doing both if Prema wasn't awake. What if he said something to screw things up? No, no, he wouldn't. He would just have to be on his best behavior. Her dad didn't hate him, right? That's why he agreed to his objectively insane late night request. It's why he let him be friends with Prema in the first place. He was more like Claris' parents and not Lux's. Right?

The door soon began to move, and Nori felt his limbs tighten. He could handle it if it were the shrine's head…but he would prefer it to be Prema!

A figure stepped out, no more than 20cm taller than him. It was Prema, much to his relief. She was in her formal robe. Nori pondered if she slept in the thing as she silently told Naito he could step away. The guard did so, eager to get away from him.

“Prema!” he blurted as she turned her attention to him. He didn't realize how fast his heart was beating until trying to speak. “Um, good…evening, I guess.”

“Good evening, Nori. What did you wish to speak to me about at this hour?” If she was tired or annoyed at him for coming by so late, she wasn't expressing it.

Well, now that he was here, he had no idea what to say. He fidgeted with his feet. “Well, I'll get right to it.” It was better if he was direct and didn't waste time. “This is about the thing you're doing at the warehouse.”

Nori had always known Prema to be patient and caring, so it was something of a shock when she frowned and spoke sternly. “Nori. If you wish to accompany me, I must refuse.”

“That's not what I came here for!” He gasped and recoiled at his tone, which was angrier than he intended. “No, no, Nori.” he turned away and whispered to himself. He shouldn't be like that to friends, especially her. “Um, I mean, sorry,” he apologized, lowering his head. He looked over his shoulder. Naito was over by the gates, ignoring them. “B-but if you want me to, I will!”

Prema remained still and unreadable. She soo shook her head vigorously. “Nori, I…” She suddenly paused and let out a huff. “I cannot.”

For a moment, there was hesitation in her voice. “Why not?” he decided to prod. He had only thought about it in passing, but he would if he could!

“You do not belong to our shrine. You cannot accompany us on business.” Despite her words, she sounded like she was going to choke up at any moment. For that matter, Nori actually was. This wasn't like her. Something was wrong.

“Forget your rules! Prema, I…I just…” He was hyperventilating so much he had to take a moment to get it together. He breathed in and out, quickly. “I'm worried you'll get hurt, okay?!”

There, he said it! He was worried about her, that's why he wanted to do all that he could! Sure, he'd done all that research, but if there was more he could do, he'd do it! She'd helped him more times than he could count! And if those spirits beat her once before and hurt Nariya badly…

“I will not.” She straightened her posture. “I myself do not want to risk another friend getting injured.”

A flood of emotions and feelings washed over Nori. He could tell. She was just saying that to make him feel better, while knowing it was something she couldn't promise. Yet she was concerned about him, too. He turned to start pacing, only to stop partway. What was he doing? What was he thinking just now? He covered his face and shook his head at himself. This had nothing to do with it.

“Never mind, never mind. It was just a thought.” She brought it up, he had to see if it could happen. What was he even thinking? He had to get back on subject. “I have something to show you that's related, that's really what I came here for.”

Prema blinked, pressing a hand to her heart. It took her several seconds and a bit of composing herself to reply. “Do you mean something related to the spirits at the warehouse?”

“Yeah.” He felt something in his left eye and involuntarily went to wipe it. Only when he felt the slight moisture did he realize it was the beginning of a tear. He took a deep breath before he continued speaking. “It took a while to dig up, but I think you need to see this.”

He put down his bag and took out his papers, as well as his mini flashlight from his pocket. He straightened the sheets out before approaching Prema to show her.

It was admittedly a bit slapdash. The focal point of his findings was a horrific accident at the warehouse. It happened last November, when another renovation company was in on behalf of another owner. The details were vague, but the short of it was a worker got crushed under some crates. He was killed instantly, and his Pokemon – in their Poke Balls – went with him. They were a Crobat, a Zoroark, and a Dusclops. The same kinds of Pokemon that were haunting the building!

That was the first breakthrough. But there was more to the story. A lawsuit followed, which was settled in mid-February. The owners sold to recoup their losses. Nori had included all he could, such as what little news about the story he could find, the worker's obituary, and his personal musings. Then there were the rumors. They were often comically exaggerated, like saying the company had killed him on purpose. Or, how it started to get around the place was haunted, and how it was a popular spot in town for tests of courage. A few of the documented attacks were indeed on teenagers trying to prove they were brave. It was only due to how high-profile the attack on the workers from Kim & Kim was that led to the city hiring the Kannagis to take action. It wasn't lost on Nori that his discovery might have triggered all these events.

“This is very illuminating,” Prema finally said.

Nori nodded. “I had to get some help and really search for this. They sort of buried it.” It sounded like his instincts were right. The shrine really didn't know about this.

“I see…” She took several seconds to process it. “If this is true, it would explain many things.”

She still had some doubts. If it was just the background on the Pokemon, he might have waited. But he had a massive realization about it. He didn't know when or if Prema was going to try again. That's why he ran over in the middle of the night, just in case she left in the morning. Maybe it was too unlikely to assume, now that he thought about it, but here they were.

“Did you see the guy's name, too?” he asked. He checked the page she was on, and upon seeing it was there, pointed to it.

“Konrad Guhl,” she spoke, saying his last name as if it rhymed with skull. “What of it?”

He shook his head. “Not like gull. It's properly pronounced like ghoul.”

That was how Akari Schrader had pronounced it. The realization had only struck him when thinking back on Nariya and the delirious workers. In fact, it lined up so much that he had to rush over to his neighbor's place to check on his friend Rashid al-Bahar's phone. That actually was how you said the name.

“Guhl…” Prema repeated. Her eyes slowly widened as she came to the realization. “Is that what Nariya was saying?”

“Yeah, the construction guy said it too.” Nori still remembered when he ran in there. The guy looked up at him like a Slowpoke and spoke the word before passing out. “And Nariya told me she heard it shouted in her head. So that's what I'm thinking it is.”

After a second to process, she said, “So they are his Pokemon.”

His Pokemon? So she hadn't figured what he figured! “Not just them,” he said, taking a deep breath afterward.

Prema blinked slowly. “Nori, is there something else?”

Nori put his hands on his hips, posing proudly. It was something of a front, because while he was dead certain about the name connection, this was his speculation. “Well, I'm not sure if this is how ghosts and spirits and stuff really work. I don't even know if this will help you or make a difference. But I think given all these things, you might be dealing with a trainer's ghost.” It was just a guess, really. But why else would his Pokemon still be around trying to pick fights unless he was there with them?

And that took Prema completely aback. It wouldn't be a stretch to say she was in abject shock for a moment. She opened her mouth, but it just hung there. Was he really onto something?

His friend's surprise turned to gratitude. She actually bowed slightly to him. “This explains almost everything. I cannot thank you enough, Nori.” Her joy could not be contained in just her lips and radiant eyes. She was actually trembling a little trying to keep it modest. “You have provided the last piece of information I was missing. I feel more confident now that I know what I am dealing with.”

He flashed a grin. “It's like Volkner always told me, know your enemy! And you're welcome! I'm happy to help!” He'd done it! All those times Prema had helped him, and he finally really helped her back! He felt warmth and a fluttery feeling welling up in his chest. It was so much that he couldn't help but chuckle and ask, “But since I know your enemy too, maybe I can help you even more?”

“Nori.” Her mood shifted on the spot.

“Come on!” he argued, stepping forth with a light stamp. “I don't mind the risk! Besides, you can't invite me, but there's nothing stopping me from going there on my own, is there?” The thought had occurred to him. If Akari Schrader did it, so could he!

“You have done more than enough already.” She smiled at him. “And do not forget, you have your own duties. It would be unwise to be distracted from them.”

“I'm not getting distracted!” Okay, he actually kind of was. He'd spent a day and a half on this with no progress and barely thinking about Pawniard. But he had a real reason! “I'm just trying to take some time off to think!”

Prema's guise softened. She was silent for many seconds, before taking the tiniest step closer. “I understand if it is difficult,” she said softly. “Yet it is all the more reason to focus your efforts on it. A break is acceptable, but you should not put it off for much longer. As commendable as it is to help others, your immediate goals moving forward should be on your own responsibilities.”

He wanted to protest. But no. All he could do was lower his head and nod. She was right. He'd helped her, just as he wanted. Now, he had to get back to his own job. Just as she had something to do, so did he.

“I can promise to aid you however I can, after I have completed my task.”

He looked up at Prema. She lightly folded her hands as he met her earnest eyes. Knowing that helped a lot.

“Thanks,” he said, doing a fist pump. “But if I finish before you, I'm helping you no matter what you say!” He wasn't going to back down from that one.

Prema stared blankly. “Nori, do you believe you can reform another Pokemon in a matter of days?” she asked, unmasking her concern.

“I won't know unless I try!” he declared, with an irreverent shrug and smile. He doubted it and didn't intend to seriously push to do so, but you never know! “I guess it's a race?”

His friend, too, smiled at him. “I believe I will win.”

Nori stifled a giggle. Not only was it so out-of-character for Prema to say something like that, but her attempt to sound competitive came across flatly. It was adorable. “Just don't get hurt, okay?” he requested.

“I will not,” she repeated. This time, when she said it, Nori could believe it.

Both of them were suddenly quiet. Nori never had any problems talking to people, but he was unsure what to say next. He shuffled his feet, looking at her as she was looking at him. He was hoping she would speak first. But she didn't. Nori opened his mouth, and had to clear his dry throat before any words came out.

“Um, so how was the festival?” he casually asked. He spared a glance at the moon. “I know you guys hold some here.”

Prema relaxed. However, she also lowered her head. “I could not particularly enjoy it,” she whispered, just enough that he could hear.

“Sorry,” he said, letting out a huff. She didn't have to tell him why. She had no one to enjoy it with. “If I remembered and wasn't busy with research, I would've come by. Almost forgot about the day, actually.”

“I suppose both of us could not enjoy it, then,” came her almost mirthful reply.

“I guess,” he agreed, with a soft chuckle. “Maybe next time.”

It was just an impulsive thought, but maybe he could come by during the next major festival or holiday? What would that be, Halloween? No, it'd be taiiku no hi. He didn't have much interest in shrine-related stuff, but he could put up if it to hang out with a friend. Besides, he didn't mind trying new things. To a certain extent, anyway.

More silence fell between them, more awkward than before. He was swifter to dispel it this time. “Well, guess that's it. Good night, Prema.”

Prema nodded gently. “Sleep well, Nori. And be safe on your way back home.”

“I will be.” He took a few steps away before realizing he had forgotten something. He turned and added one more thing. “And…good luck.”

“Thank you, Nori.”

It was cool, probably cold outside, yet Nori felt heat radiating through his chest. His heart was pounding again, but it felt good! He couldn't help but grin wildly as he set off. Naito's look of apprehension as he passed him by barely registered.

Yes! Everything worked out for once! The fact that he had his own problems he was going to have to start dealing with again starting tomorrow meant nothing to him. For now, he was going to skate back home and sleep. He was sure it was going to be the best sleep he'd had in over a week.

Heck, it even gave him optimism for Pawniard's rehabilitation. Sure, he'd gotten off to probably the worst start imaginable, but all that mattered was how he finished. Maybe Arumi would find something that would help him. Prema had promised she would too; Nori didn't actually think he'd be done first anyway. He'd been in bleaker situations before, and they had worked out. And this would too, he was sure of it. Mistakes could be corrected, wrongdoings could be made up for, and people and Pokemon alike could change – while still being themselves, if need be.

Speaking of which, the thought reminded him. There was one thing he needed to do at school on Monday, as soon as possible. He was sure it was going to make at least one person happy.
 
Not much to say about this one, as it's basically the same chapter as the one from Memory of a Ghoul, but told from Nori's perspective along with some additional new scenes. I did think it pretty funny to see Naito put in his place, even by his own boss. Way to be an overzealous religious zealot, dude. At least Nori got the information to Prema before anything bad could happen, and I hope things work out for the both of them. Though considering how tough to handle that Pawniard is, I highly doubt Nori would be able to reform it within days, especially at his age. Can't wait to see more!
 
Not much to say about this one, as it's basically the same chapter as the one from Memory of a Ghoul, but told from Nori's perspective along with some additional new scenes. I did think it pretty funny to see Naito put in his place, even by his own boss. Way to be an overzealous religious zealot, dude.

So the big thing about these shared chapters, you kind of need to compare the two to some extent. It's not necessary about what happens sometimes as it is about what the characters are thinking or feeling. It's not one-to-one either, as there's occasionally breaks that have thought paragraphs. (To spoil a bit, the last chapter of each fic will be mostly built on this shared scene stuff.) But like examples from these ones...

- Naito thinks he's a shoo-in to ascend to the title of Priest. On Prema's side from Haruto's perspective, the Master doubts he'll make it unless he grows, because yeah, "overzealous religious zealot."
- It's made clear that Nori's harsh reaction to Prema's assumption isn't out of anger or annoyance, but probably because of his shock at her tone. From the other side, Nori does pick up on her stress, but doesn't get just how bad a mental state she's in.
- Prema's first "I will not" is a facade of confidence. Prema says as much, and she even thinks Nori might see through anyway. Indeed, he does, and even sees she doesn't really believe it herself. Similarly, she knows he's getting distracted and he knows it, which he doesn't assume she'd know despite other things.
- Prema assumes Nori is about to walk away in disgust after that line, only to change his mind. He never was.
- Nori meeting Akari Schrader was set up in BotBK but only shown in MoaG. It was actually the other way around at first, but it was more important to the latter. This is because the scene with Nori here is about his thoughts on feelings rather than what happens, as well as the fact that he's trying to put Pawniard off. And as Prema outright realizes in her narrative, she was also sort of dreading and putting things off, hence her empathy.
- A mild spoiler for the next Prema one: Nori is sincere when he says he'd visit the Kannagi Shrine for a festival. Prema, however, doubts it. This is a sign that despite even while her narration shows confidence, she still has a lot of self-doubts in general
- And another even milder: they both have descriptions of each others' eyes after Prema's promise.

At least Nori got the information to Prema before anything bad could happen, and I hope things work out for the both of them.
Heh heh heh...

Though considering how tough to handle that Pawniard is, I highly doubt Nori would be able to reform it within days, especially at his age.
Well, if anyone can, it's him. That said, he outright admits as such, so at least he's self aware.
 
Slice 11: Razor's Edge
Slice 11: Razor's Edge
¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯

Nori was ready for any sort of reception at school on Monday. He was no stranger to being disliked; there was even a point in June when it felt like he was despised by almost everyone. He didn't think it would end up like it did back in Sunyshore, between his standing and the lower stakes. But if it did, he figured what he had planned might turn things around a little.

The young official arrived as early as possible, deciding to wander the halls in search of someone. To his relief, he received no more attention than he normally would. No harsh leers, no hushed whispers, and certainly not the entire school walking away from him all at once. Maybe they didn't care or forgave him. But he hadn't forgiven himself for his part in the matter.

Eventually, he found who he was looking for. He hustled to catch up with Chad right as he was about to enter a classroom; thankfully, it was not too difficult because of how slowly the platinum blond was walking. “Um, hey!” Nori called out.

The president of the battling club stood rigid. He slowly turned around, his expression blank. “Nori,” he sounded. There was a faint sense of dread, but no other emotion.

No hostility. That was good. The young official shuffled his feet. He could hardly believe what he was about to say, but knew it was the right thing to do. And it was also what he wanted to do.

“I just wanted to let you know that…” He paused, catching his breath and going over what he wanted to say and how to say it one final time. “I changed my mind. I will join the battling team. I feel awful over what happened. You guys lost one of your best Pokemon because of me. Maybe even one of your best teammates, depending on how Anthony feels about continuing. I know it's going to be awkward having me there now, but I want to make it up to you guys.”

The platinum blond's jaw had gradually creaked open. He stood in silence for about ten seconds after Nori had finished speaking. “Well…” His voice briefly hit a high register. “I did not see this coming.” A mirthless laugh escaped his mouth.

“Yeah. I know.” There were probably going to be people criticizing him for going back on things, like Reiko for sure, but he was ready to accept that. “I won't be able to be a full-time member, mind you. I'm still dedicated to the school newsletter and my club. But there's no rule that says I can't be a member of one club and the battling team at the same time. It doesn't say I have to join the battling club to join the team.” He ruffled his hair. “Um, does it?”

“It does not.” Chad bit his lip, hard.

That was a relief. The whole idea hinged on that one thing. He wasn't going to give up the newsletter if he had to pick one or the other. It was going to be a lot of work for him, but it was just for the rest of the year. He was willing to ride it out that long.

“Then I'll join you.”

The battling team's leader emitted a heavyhearted sigh, holding and lowering his head. He muttered an f-bomb before saying, “Thankful as I am for the offer, I'm afraid it's not going to happen.”

Nori put his hands on his hips. “Why not?” he demanded, taking a half step forward. “You were trying to get me with you guys ever since I came to school here!”

“Yes, well…things have changed. I'd still be glad to have you, but most of the others don't want you around. They feel uncomfortable at best, considering what happened.”

“Oh,” he blurted. Come to think of it, that made too much sense. “I guess I should've saw that coming,” he echoed, internally shaking his head at himself for not doing so.

“Sorry.”

“I'm the one who should be saying that,” Nori said. “So, I'm sorry.”

“Point taken,” Chad said, a hard edge to his words. “Guess you got your wish to be left alone after all, though.”

The irony wasn't lost on Nori. Under any other circumstances, he'd be relieved. But not now. He couldn't be completely happy about it. Actually, he was almost expecting Chad to try to guilt-trip him, or express intent to. Maybe he was, but the others' opinions settled the matter, whether either of them liked it or not.

Chad turned around. A thought abruptly occurred. While he couldn't join the team, he could still help.

“One thing.”

He looked over his shoulder. “Yeah?”

“Eddie is a very strong trainer. He doesn't rely on any particular strategy, besides several Electric-types, but his Pokemon are tough. His strongest is his Magnezone, but watch for that Octillery. Both can do things you might not expect, like the last can use its tentacles to grab from anywhere. He's good like that.”

Nori would need to think and reflect to give him more specifics than that. And it would only do him good to help prepare for one person. Whether it would be enough was up to them.

Chad nodded. “I appreciate the help.”

“It's all I can give. Right now, at least.”

With an understanding nod, Chad stepped through the door. Nori checked the time on the wall. 8:21. Better get to his homeroom too, he thought.

He'd made the offer, and it seemed the bridge had been burned. The two questions now were, what else could he do? And the club hated him, but what about everyone else? Just because they weren't saying or doing anything didn't mean they didn't hate him.

[center##########[/center]

Chad was doing all he could to contain his bitter laughter. He reckoned he would have cracked into hysterics had he not been self-aware enough not to cause a scene.

He was right! Nori Carino felt bad enough to want to join the team in penance! He had even approached and made the offer of his own volition! But it meant nothing. He doubted that anyone would be swayed by this fact. He was going to try, but only to tell his family that he had tried.

The battling club was one of the few that had a specialized space at the school instead of using a classroom. It had large tables, a television, school computers, and even supplies like Potions. The only thing that it lacked was a full-sized battlefield; they had to go elsewhere to do anything more than practice and sparring. But it was close to the battling cages, so they could easily go to them if needed.

When afternoon break rolled around, Chad got to the clubroom as soon as he could. He wanted to wait until the whole team was present before making his pitch about accepting Nori onto the team. These plans blew up like an Electrode upon Anthony's arrival.

While Anthony's favorite trainer was Kallisto Keravnos, he wanted to be more like the Wallaces and the Gashas of the world: a powerful trainer with a character. He conducted himself appropriately when it came to publicity. His boisterous demeanor was an exaggeration of his real personality as a suave, confident person who knew his own talent. He was always a light that shone on them and brightened their days. That was why seeing him walk into the room, clothes rumpled and hair disheveled with dark bags under his eyes, was perturbing enough to bring everyone to silence.

He stood in the doorway for several long, agonizing seconds. Kiara, a cobalt blue-haired girl with a deep respect for him and an even deeper crush on him, leapt to her feet.

“Tony, are you okay?!”

He didn't answer or even acknowledge her. Instead, he gazed in Chad's general direction. There was nothing in his eyes.

Soon he started moving toward him with a hunch and heavy gait. They all knew what was weighing him down. He came to a stop a meter before the team's leader, lowering his head.

“This is all my fault…” he whispered. His legs quivered; Chad got ready to catch him if necessary.

Blaming himself went over as well as expected. All around them, their clubmates protested otherwise.

“It's not your fault!”

“It's that damn Demon Tamer who did this!”

“He was the stupid moron, as he likes to say!” Emi quipped loudly. “Not you.”

“Please!” Anthony shouted as he held up a palm in the air. The others fell silent as he covered his face. “I'm at least partially culpable. I knew the risks, I never should have agreed to battle that thing.”

None of them said anything in response, except Kiara, who said his name and trailed off. Nobody knew what to say. A few of them had been aghast he had signed the waiver, but they weren't going to tell him that, let alone rub it in. Most of them had also expected better from Nori Carino. As for Chad, he felt that no one could have predicted that things would turn out so badly. But there was no sense in blaming anyone.

“I need some time away from the team,” he finally said what Chad was dreading. “I don't know if I'll be back or not.”

“I…” Chad choked on his words. “I get it. It's fine, Anthony.”

“Thanks.” Anthony stuck out his hand, and Chad rose to accept it. He bowed lightly before turning to leave, each step heavier than the last. Some followed him worriedly, but Chad paid them little heed.

After the rain, the earth becomes firm. Chad would leave the door open, and Anthony did not rule it out entirely. But Chad wasn't betting on his return anytime soon. It was as much of a hypothetical as this having never happened, and thus, not something to think about too much.

The captain of the battling team started to walk back to the tables, as his own feet started to falter. It felt like he was marching through deep snow. Somehow, he made it to where Emi was and took a seat next to the auburn-haired female.

“I'm gonna end him,” seethed Emi, her hands gripping the table.

Chad sprang to attention. “Emi, don't.”

“He deserves it,” she snapped. She was always the first person to stick up for her friends, perhaps to a fault. “Someone needs to make him pay, since the Officials clearly aren't going to.”

“Emi…” Chad gasped from the sudden pain in his throat. He leaned in close, giving a woeful stare. “He offered to join us,” he explained, hushed. “He even offered advice on the side when I told him. You can't…”

She covered her mouth with a clenched fist. Her eyebrows lowered as quickly as they had shot up. “Go figure.” She rolled her shoulders.

As he leaned back, he noticed everyone else. They were all despondent, shaken, irate, or some combination thereof. Chad suddenly wanted to throw up. “Can we not talk about him?” he asked.

Emi conceded. “Fine. I don't want to either.” She crossed her arms. Whenever she dropped her usual attitude, it was a sign that she was really ticked off. “So Pete Stephens is coming to Japan.”

Her sudden change of subject barely registered. “Uh-huh,” he sniffed.

“Yeah, he's going on a filming tour across the four big regions. Some of it's going to be shown live.” She sat a little taller, even managing a faint laugh. “Can't wait.”

Chad forced a smile. He was glad she had something to look forward to. Something besides battling, even if it was something as simple as the Krookodile Tracker. Chad wished he could do that. But Pokemon were his entire life. His family expected it of him. At this point, he was not sure what to do or where the team would go.

Suddenly, an arm was on him. Chad froze as Emi gave him a half-hug.

“Don't worry, we'll make it through this.” She patted him. “We owe it to Quade and Anthony.”

Chad leaned into it slightly. He needed that. “I hope so.”

##########​

“You son of a bitch!”

The moment Nori walked into the small computer lab of the newsletter club, Reiko was up in his face. The fiery orange-haired girl flew into a tirade.

“How could you do something so damn stupid?! Do you have any idea what you've done?! You really call yourself a Pokemon Rehabilitator? You aren't even–”

“Reiko, stop it.”

Adelle interposed between them. She stood in front of Nori like a vanguard, arms lightly outstretched and feet planted firm.

“Get out of my way, Richards!”

“Reiko, calm down. You're acting immature.”

For a few seconds, Nori thought a fight might break out. He gave Reiko a sad frown. The young official was expecting her to be the one to yell at him about it, but not right as he walked through the door and not so aggressively. Actually, he was more worried about what the others would think. He didn't want to be kicked out of another news club.

Reiko leered for a second before letting out a single violent sob. “Damn it!”

She stormed over to the corner of the room. She slumped into a chair and pulled out her mobile phone, still glowering as she started using it. Terrance kept glancing between her and the rest of them. It looked like he wanted to say something, but instead he only squinted and sniveled.

“Should ask you, prez,” said Mitsu, still engrossed in typing. “Do you want us to write an article about what happened?”

His casual tone put Nori's concerns to rest. As for his question, Nori had thought about it. He almost thought about asking Arumi what to do, but he was confident what the right choice was. “Yeah,” he said. “It's still school news, even if it involves me. If we don't, it'll look bad, like we're trying to avoid the subject. So just make sure it's unbiased and make clear I had no part in the article. That way, there's no conflict of interest.”

“Will do!”

“You know what the funny thing is?” Yasmin said. “Most people are blaming Anthony.”

The young official felt strange, like a nagging sensation was poking at his mind. “Really?”

Adelle confirmed. “He knew the risks when he signed that waiver. He shouldn't have done it.”

“And I shouldn't have offered in the first place!”

Adelle frowned. “I don't know what else to tell you. If you feel bad, do something to make up for it.”

“I tried, they wouldn't let me in the team. So all I could do was give Chad some advice.”

The duo nodded. “Well, we will get to working,” Yasmin said as they went to help Mitsu with the article. “Just take it easy.”

Reiko was still leering from the corner, and Terrance was shrinking away from the whole situation. He decided to sit alone at the smaller table and think.

Nori was very unsure what to feel about the revelation. No one would have let him get away with it if he wasn't Nori Carino, the Demon Tamer. It didn't sit well with him. What made it worse was that in the past, people had gotten away with doing malicious things to him because they were popular. Well, maybe there was a difference in how he didn't mean it, but still! He didn't hate this outcome, since it was better than the alternative. But it still bothered him. Maybe all he could do at this point was to rehabilitate that Pawniard.

The door to the room slowly opened. “Nori?” came a soft voice.

“Oh, hey Yumi,” he greeted the light brown-haired teenager as she entered. He looked around at the others. They probably weren't going to say anything about what had happened just before, so he wasn't going to either.

Yumi sat across from him. “So how did your studying go?”

“It went fine. Thanks again for the help.” She grinned, wildly. “I found out a few things about Pawniard behavior and the Blackout Killer that might be useful. Prema, Prema Kannagi offered to help when she gets done with her own business. But I don't know how long that will take, so it's up to me before that.”

“Right, her. That's good to know.” She lightly tugged at her pink shirt. “What are you going to do next?”

Nori paused before speaking. “I don't think I'm going to be able to avoid battling with Pawniard. I could, but I don't think he'd like it. I might just unwind and try to bond with him over the next couple days and try more training on Wednesday. Preferably with wild Pokemon, just in case.”

That was the plan he came up with. Suddenly realizing every one of his clubmates was staring at him, he hastily added, “Um, does that make sense?”

“You're the so-called expert around here!” Reiko shouted. “You tell us!”

“What's your problem?” he fired back, beginning to get annoyed by the almost irrational behavior of the slightly overweight girl. “What did I ever do to you?”

“You…” she started, before pausing to think about it. “You're not a good trainer if you let them get out of control like that! Seeing that just pisses me off, hydrophobic attack or not!”

He eyed Yumi, who had opened her mouth. But she said nothing. Neither did anyone else. Maybe they didn't know what to say. Nori could admit, she had a reasonable point. It was what was expected of most trainers. But he wasn't like most trainers. That was part of how he got his position. Also, it was aquaphobic, because people used hydrophobia for rabies, but no point in bringing either of those points up.

So he just chuckled. “Well, thank you.”

That only set her off more, probably more than he would have by arguing with her, though that wasn't his intent. “Why the hell are you thanking me for being pissed and insulting you?”

“It makes me feel a little better that some people are,” he earnestly said. “If everyone uninvolved was just glad and willing to forgive me just because I'm Nori Carino, that wouldn't sit well with me.” Sure, there were probably others who weren't saying anything besides the battling team, but she was doing it to his face.

That caught everyone off guard, Reiko herself being the most unsure how to interpret it. It was weird to say, for sure. But Nori had been called weird before. Everyone was weird in their own little way.

“It is fine if you are upset at him, Reiko,” said Yasmin. “Just do not keep hating him. It would not do well for our club.”

She grumbled and went to sit down next to Terrance. She did not otherwise give an answer.

He flashed her a thumbs-up. “It's all right, Reiko. And I know, I won't say you're completely wrong. I'm working on Pawniard in my own way though, that's what a Pokemon Rehabilitator does.”

Yumi agreed. “You'll find few others who could get as far as Nori did, Reiko. Just leave it to him.” The young official had to admit, while he didn't like people defending him to the point of being able to get away with things, it always felt nice having people stick up for him.

“Fine, but I still don't like this.” He smiled at her and breathed a sigh of relief in the same lip motion. Situation diffused.

“So…what now?” Terrance was the next to speak. “Will you…be fine?”

“Me?” asked Reiko. “Or him?”

“You…”

She grumbled, but uncrossed her arms and put her hands on her knees. “I guess I'll get over it,” she admitted, far more gently than before. This pleased Terrance to no end, although his smile was very restrained and barely noticeable. It also relieved Nori. He appreciated the criticism, but he'd prefer her not to hold a grudge.

“Well, getting back to it. I think your plan makes sense, Nori,” Adelle said. “Just be careful not to rush things.”

“Yeah,” Reiko chimed in. “Case in point. You shouldn't have even let it fight that guy.”

The other girls glared at her, yet Nori laughed it off. “Believe me, I know. But let's get off this subject and get to working. And eating.”

Everyone agreed on that. He was finally able to bring out his lunch. It was only some rice balls with an apple and a bottle of water, but that would change near the end of the month when he'd have more money on hand than what he'd saved from Volkner.

He turned his attention to Yumi, who had taken out a vacuum flask. She noticed his gaze and smiled. “Miso soup,” she said.

“Delicious.” Simple, but still delicious.

Yumi pulled out a spoon. She started to unscrew the lid of her flask, only to pause. She set it down on the table and looked right at Nori. “Um, hey?” she said, gripping the spoon tightly.

“Yes?”

She hesitated a moment before whispering, “Be careful.”

He nodded gently, closing his eyes. “I will. Thanks.”

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

So this is how I handle the issue of Anthony signing a waiver. Differing opinions in-universe, but ultimately, not to the significant detriment of Nori's reputation...although he doesn't feel completely good about it.

Style on the chapter title might not line up depending on your theme, just know it's intended to be three lines in a row.
 
To be honest I'm a bit surprised Nori's not getting much worse, though it's not an unrealistic outcome, I don't think. He's just usually unlucky.

Of course I in many ways agree with Kintsugi from earlier--Quade didn't sign the waver. Did they even know there was a special danger?

“You know what the funny thing is?” Yasmin said. “Most people are blaming Anthony.”
The young official felt strange, like a nagging sensation was poking at his mind. “Really?”
Adelle confirmed. “He knew the risks when he signed that waiver. He shouldn't have done it.”
“And I shouldn't have offered in the first place!”
This reminds me of a line from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that fits in nicely; there's plenty of blame to go around.
 
So here we get everyone else's reactions to what happened with Pawniard and Quade. I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised Anthony wound up blaming himself for it. With his earlier behavior in previous chapters, I thought for sure he'd either blame Nori entirely or try to absolve himself of fault, since I've seen other characters do the same in other stuff. But I do feel bad for the guy, even if Quade ultimately turned out somewhat okay, being unable to battle ever again notwithstanding. He does acknowledge that he was partly responsible for what happened, so I'll give him that. I will say that I'm super glad you didn't have literally everyone hate Nori like in the previous fic. Nori has enough on his plate to deal with, and he doesn't need to be made into a pariah yet again. Plus, repeating it a second time might have come across as a bit edgy. I am a little worried about that Emi girl, though. I have a feeling she might go through with her threat to get revenge. But who knows? Another good chapter as always!
 
So here we get everyone else's reactions to what happened with Pawniard and Quade. I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised Anthony wound up blaming himself for it. With his earlier behavior in previous chapters, I thought for sure he'd either blame Nori entirely or try to absolve himself of fault, since I've seen other characters do the same in other stuff.
This scene wasn't in at first, but I decided it was necessary, especially with rearranging a lot of stuff around this point (and this made it absolutely needed to avoid going too long in one chapter). Anthony blaming himself was supposed to be a minor plot twist. You find out the insane over-the-top boisterous dude is really just putting on an act. He feels he got too caught up in the character and his personal dislike for Nori that he made a stupid decision and it nearly cost him one of his closest companions. So he's taking a step back and reflecting.

I will say that I'm super glad you didn't have literally everyone hate Nori like in the previous fic. Nori has enough on his plate to deal with, and he doesn't need to be made into a pariah yet again. Plus, repeating it a second time might have come across as a bit edgy.
To be honest I'm a bit surprised Nori's not getting much worse, though it's not an unrealistic outcome, I don't think. He's just usually unlucky.
This is basically the reason why out-of-universe. In-universe, yeah, Nori has his fans who are going to take his side no matter what, and they outnumber Anthony's. There's few that really are completely against him, and some of them were biased to begin with. Most however are taking an objective look at the situation and not really picking a side.

I am a little worried about that Emi girl, though. I have a feeling she might go through with her threat to get revenge. But who knows?
Well, I absolutely know. ;) She seems to have been talked out of it for now, but if something else were to happen that were to draw her ire...

Of course I in many ways agree with Kintsugi from earlier--Quade didn't sign the waver. Did they even know there was a special danger?
This is naturally like I think I said before something that's more of an in-universe moral problem that many hadn't even considered. Will it come up? Oh, probably eventually, knowing Nori's luck.

This reminds me of a line from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that fits in nicely; there's plenty of blame to go around.
Indeed.
 
Slice 12: Severed Nerves
/Slice 12\
Se |vered Ner| ves

After school on Monday, Nori set out with purpose. He was ready to start dealing with Pawniard again and had figured out a way to make progress.

He paused to let out Pachi after leaving the school grounds. For obvious reasons, the faculty didn't allow non-guide Pokemon to be outside their balls except in designated areas, namely outdoors or in classrooms built for them. Pachi generally liked being out, and Nori hadn't given him much of a chance to do so over the weekend. He was no doubt itching for fresh air and exercise.

The little white squirrel emerged with a scintillating flash of light. He stretched out his stubby little arms and legs, giving each a roll. It was followed by a flex, with stray sparks coming out of his cheeks.

“Sorry about the weekend, I was at a lot of places that didn't let you have Pokemon out,” he said to his fluffy companion.

Even though most humans could hardly understand Pokemon, Pokemon were able to understand humans well for the most part. He wasn't sure how. Pachi squeaked a reply. Nori had no idea what it meant, but the squirrel's continuing grin and wagging tail indicated it wasn't a sticking point.

“So!” He clapped his hands and did a small hop. “Want to go for a run?”

Pachi mimed his actions and dashed a circle around him. Yup, that said everything without needing to say anything. The young official giggled as he took his skateboard out of his bag and snapped the two pieces together.

“Then let's get rolling!” he said, quoting one of his favorite characters from a radio drama. He kicked off, Pachi following by his side.

Nori knew Veilstone City well. He explored it all the time as a kid, and that was just on foot. Now that he had a skateboard, he didn't have to walk or take buses (that he'd now have to pay for) to get around. There was something he needed to do, and the question was, where to go? It couldn't be anywhere too public, since it involved Pawniard. Nor could it be anywhere that was too secluded or far away, like the docks. With those criteria, Nori knew the perfect spot.

Veilstone was home to all sorts of rocks and minerals. Near the east side of the city was the Geological Research Facility and Museum. Its crown jewel was a meteorite they had dug up within their property line. But the stones weren't what interested Nori. He wanted to go into the quarry.

Nori wasn't sure why they decided to dig a big ugly pit in their backyard. Sure, they found the meteorite, but people said that was just dumb luck. The museum turned the pit itself into a tourist attraction, but they didn't get any business. No one wanted to pay to see an empty hole in the ground. So they eventually opened it up to the public and put light security on watch, since they didn't want to fill it back in.

It was just as vacant as he was hoping it'd be. Barely anyone came by, and most who thought of using it for questionable purposes thought twice upon seeing the camera keeping a watchful eye over the place. The worst that happened was unsanctioned battling and teenagers engaging in intimacy. Some of them were smart about it and went behind rocks, but others didn't know they were being caught on video or didn't care. Then again, the museum didn't care much either. Their rules went unenforced except for the most egregious acts.

Nori dismounted his skateboard and started down the slope with it under his arms. His eyes flicked to the side, then behind him. Pachi was warily trailing behind. Was it anxiousness over going somewhere new? Nori wasn't worried about it. If this place was dangerous, they wouldn't keep it open.

There was nothing to see at the bottom. It was just dirt, dust, and rocks the museum had considered unimportant. Nori thought there might be trash at least, but evidently someone (or something?) was keeping the pit clean.

Pachi crept out in front. He leaned forward and looked at his trainer with wide eyes and a slightly open mouth. Nori understood enough about body language to know that it was nervousness and curiosity.

“Just having a little meeting,” he told his companion while disassembling the board.

After he had done so and put it back in his bag, he took a deep breath. It was time to do this. He'd come to a nice quiet place that his assignment had no hope of fleeing from. Help was nearby if it was needed. He reached into his pocket.

The mere sight of the black and red ball made Pachi screech. Before the squirrel could protest further, Nori had flicked the capsule to the ground.

The bladed monster's eyes quickly fell upon Pachi, who hurried to hide behind Nori's leg. What ensued from there was a rapid-fire exchange between the two Pokemon that Nori could barely follow. Pachi angrily chittered, Pawniard snorted and replied coolly, Pachi cried out, Pawniard clanged his blades and cackled, Pachi screeched again, which only made Pawniard advance mockingly.

Then Pachi shook off and squeaked. Two familiar syllables. Most Pokemon couldn't speak the human language, but they sometimes tried – especially when it came to names. And Pachi was saying his name while pulling at his left leg.

He looked at Pawniard, who only raised his blades irreverently. With a sigh, Nori knelt and gave Pachi a hug.

“It's all right,” he comforted. “Er, I'm guessing you want back in?” The left leg was where he kept his Poke Balls.

His name again, and more words with a look of desperation. The same sort of look Yumi had given him before. He liked having an easy-to-read Pokemon in that regard; others weren't so simple to understand. Though he knew Pachi wasn't going to like what he said next.

“I have to, sorry.”

Pachi continued to protest in anguish, begging him to reconsider. He closed his eyes momentarily, forcing himself to tune it out as he recalled his friend.

Pawniard fell over laughing at the display. Nori pocketed the ball stood tall in reply, hands on his hips. Not the start he wanted. But that didn't mean it couldn't go the way he wanted.

“Guess he's afraid of you,” Nori stated the obvious. He couldn't blame Pachi, either. That was going to be awkward to deal with, but it would have to come later.

His assignment agreed, getting to his feet with a grin. He looked at Nori, a mocking smile on his face, as if waiting for whatever he was going to do.

Nori sighed heavily. “Well, I have something to give you.”

The Pawniard laughed and assumed a fighting pose as Nori took off his backpack. The young official kept one eye on him, just in case, and pulled out his lunchbox. His assignment's sick grin faded to a blank stare as he saw the leaves of spinach.

Iron is an important part of the diet, especially for Steel-type Pokemon. It's necessary to promote healthy growth and a hardy body. Those unable to eat earth or metals directly were left with plants, prey, or supplements in the case of captured ones. In wild Pawniard colonies, the leafy greens are a luxury reserved for the pack leader and their favored soldiers. The rest of them needed to get it from meat, which wasn't as good a source.

The red-and-black Pokemon didn't know what to make of the gesture, eventually giving Nori an inquisitive, maybe even suspicious leer.

“It's for you,” Nori encouraged, placing them on the ground and taking a couple steps back.

The Pawniard leaned in daintily to sniff the spinach. He looked up at Nori for a moment, back down at the vegetables and back up. He flashed all of his fangs, a twisted and deranged expression. Then he lunged. He pierced the spinach with his claws and began to tear into it, greedily shoveling the greens into his maw.

The young official put his hands on his hips, watching the spectacle with approval. He supposed it might be seen as a bribe, but it was intended as a friendly gesture.

As he was close to polishing it off, Pawniard scooped up the rest and swallowed it in one last massive bite. He belched and turned to Nori, a sick grin etched into his face. The bladed creature stood deliberately, perfect posture, arms slack, but his claws pointed forward.

Nori recognized that pose. He saw it after the disastrous battle with Anthony, and it was described in one of the books. He took out his notepad and flipped through it, trying to figure out what it meant. Specific body language was something he had researched; it was part of how Pokemon communicated with each other and with humans. Most of it was obvious, but some had more meaning to it.

He had written it down. Though he had summarized it in two sentence fragments, the greater description of the book returned to him.

When a Pawniard shows its claws in a relaxed manner, it is a sign of respect for someone worthy. By doing this, the Pawniard shows off its sharpness without being aggressive. It means something to the effect of ‘my blades are yours.’

“Well, thank you?” he said. He had suspected as much, and that confirmed it. But respect wasn't what this was about.

Nori considered what to do next. Prema's words echoed in his mind. Connecting with a Pokemon can be a difficult issue. It is not as simple as showing compassion. On the other hand, it could still help. Pawniard respected him, sure, but he could easily lose that respect by being too demanding. Nori hoped that his small act of kindness would make Pawniard more receptive to what he was about to say.

It hit him at that moment, he had no idea how to word it! Not in a way that Pawniard would like, anyway.

“Um.” He flinched, then stiffened, knowing he had to look strong. What to say? Maybe he should just speak from the heart. “Well, let's start with something positive. Good job with the battle the other day. I can see why your old trainer chose you. When I freaked out because of the water, you did something on your own. Even if that something was…very, very bad.”

The bladed monster cackled maniacally, even gleefully. His eyes seemed to gleam as he held his head high.

“It's not funny!” he snapped at the Pawniard. Taking initiative was good, but not what he did! “You almost killed that guy's Quagsire! If you keep going like that, it's going to be you taken away and killed!”

Pawniard halted in place. He tilted his head and snarled, flashing fang and blade at him. He trembled vigorously. Nori wondered, did he strike a nerve? Mentioning the consequences–

“Wait!” he blurted. To his credit, Pawniard waited.

Wait, wait, wait. Something clicked. The young official shuddered at the thought. It was never proven, people just speculated based on how the Blackout Killer operated and how few Pokemon he owned at the time of his death. But could it be true? There was one who might know, and he was standing before Nori.

He gulped, firmly gripping the Pawniard's Poke Ball just in case. “Did your old trainer…kill your teammates?”

His assignment burst into hard laughter. It was tough to tell where it came from. He could've said something stupid or assumptive, but he also could've figured it out. Pawniard gave no further indication, and Nori felt he wasn't going to get a definite answer. If only understanding Pokemon was easy! Why weren't there, like, Pokemon translators or something?

“Okay, fine. Whatever.” Better get off the subject.

The two things made clear from that were Pawniard respected him as a leader, and he didn't want to die. Could he potentially use the threat of execution to get Pawniard to stay in line? No, that would be…well, it was an option. But neither of them would enjoy that.

Was he wrong? Prema said she sensed some kind of malice in Pawniard. Was he just an evil Pokemon on his own, not because he was corrupted by his trainer? If so, could he really do anything about it? Or was he – and everyone else – making assumptions and approaching from the wrong angle?

Still, he had to keep moving forward. “Well, that's it for today. I just wanted to talk.” It was simple, small progress. There was all there was to it. One step at a time. “Just try to rein it in from now on, okay?”

The half turn and flippant wave of the claws said more than any words could. Even if Pawniard saw him as a worthy trainer, he was going to fight how he pleased. But Nori knew he had to try. He had ideas, at least. It remained to be seen whether any of them would work.

“Let's head home.” He gestured for his assignment to walk alongside. Pawniard squinted, although there was something in his eyes. He snorted and snickered lowly as he followed nonetheless.

Activity had picked up since they had gone into the quarry. A group of five high school students were loitering around. A young boy was playing with his Shinx. Two adults, likely employees, were having a smoke nearby. A security guard who hadn't been there earlier sat on a lawn chair.

All of them stilled when Nori came walking out with Pawniard at his side.

They parted, giving the pair a wide berth. Nori kept a firm grip on the painted Poke Ball as they passed by. Pawniard only gave them a glare of challenge. One of the teenagers looked as if she was about to accept, but was swiftly talked out of it by her friends.

Nori wanted to see if Pawniard could do something simple like a walk, and it appeared he could. He gave some threatening looks, mostly at gawkers, but nothing more. That was progress from last week at the park. He was going to take any bit of it at this point.

##########​

Monday passed without further incident and Tuesday was quiet. In the end, it was true that his reputation hadn't taken too much of a hit. There was enough to notice, especially with anyone involved with the battling team shooting him dirty looks in the halls, but nothing that majorly affected him. He decided to reluctantly accept it for what it was, for now. His focus had to be on Pawniard. If there was anything he could do to break him out of his habits, then he had to do it.

After school on Wednesday, he went to an alley near the school. He once again had some leafy greens for Pawniard to have.

“It's time,” said Nori as his assignment finished eating.

Pawniard glanced up and tapped his foot. He just looked, without any emotion.

“We're going to train for real today.”

The bladed creature grinned at his declaration. He sharpened his blades on the pavement and started out without waiting for Nori to do so. The young official reacted swiftly, running ahead to take the lead. He stayed close enough to keep Pawniard in his peripheral vision.

He led Pawniard in the general direction of their destination. It would be a half-hour walk at most without his skateboard. Heads turned as they walked down the street. No wonder, given they were both a presence in their own right. Word had to have spread even if most people didn't seem to hold it against him. Everyone knew who he was, and most had heard of the Blackout Killer by now, if not his Pawniard.

Along the way, Nori found a surprise. A pink-haired girl with pigtails walking down the sidewalk, probably taking a different path back from school to explore more of the city. He was planning on going to see her sometime, so fancy running into her before that. What's more, she perked up immediately when they locked eyes.

She hurried over, but stopped when she spotted Pawniard. “Um. Hi, Nori…” she meekly greeted.

“Hey, Maylene!” he greeted her. He kept an eye on the Pokemon, but Pawniard just eyed her impatiently. “How are you?”

“Um, pretty good. But it's been boring. How are you?” She was talking to him, but her focus was elsewhere. “How's…that going?” She shakily pointed.

“Well, I've been worse. And things are okay with him. Better than I expected.” The fact that Pawniard was able to walk down the street with him without causing problems twice now was already a sign of improvement.

She nodded cautiously. Her eyes kept going to his assignment. “Hey!” She suddenly perked up, clasping her hands together. “Wanna come over and watch cartoons?”

The young official could only laugh slightly at her sudden suggestion. “Maybe Thursday or Friday. We were just about to head out and train.” Any other day, he'd have said yes in a heartbeat, especially since he hadn't seen Maylene in over a week.

“Oh, okay.” She gave a wild wave. “See ya then, then!” With that, she merrily skipped away.

That was unexpected. But it was one less thing Nori had to worry about, and it made him feel a lot better. Maylene's dad had forbidden them from being friends when he was training the Demon. He changed his tune later, but not hearing anything from Maylene in over a week made Nori worry that the same thing had happened. Or if not that, she was avoiding him. It was a relief to know he hadn't lost another friend. Not like Lux or Claris.

He was snapped away from his thoughts by a growl. Pawniard motioned to get moving, by pointing and walking in place. After a moment of hesitation, Nori thought better of part of his plan.

“It's a bit far,” he said, glancing in the direction of the city limits. “We'll get there faster if I skateboard there, and you sit tight until then.”

He was expecting Pawniard to protest or otherwise react with annoyance, but the Pokemon only nodded. He stood still and allowed Nori to recall him. The young official pocketed the ball and started to retrieve his transportation.

He planned to head back out to Route 214. This time, it was going to be a formal training session for Pawniard alone. The plan was to keep it simple, no challenging passing trainers and certainly no going to the deep wilds. He wasn't expecting another miracle that bonded them like what happened with the Demon, but hoped he would at least make some positive progress.
 
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Progress! Don't you just love progress? It's small, but hey, Nori is getting somewhere with Pawniard, just a little bit. Nice to see Maylene come back for a little bit, too. Not sure what Nori plans to do in the end, but I doubt it'll be that easy considering what happened with Pawniard the last time. Things never go as planned, as I'm sure Nori is well aware. Another good chapter like always.
 
Well, that's progress but I have a very bad feeling about this training session. Some poor wild Pokémon's gonna die.
The young official put his hands on his hips, watching the spectacle with approval. He supposed it might be seen as a bribe, but it was intended as a friendly gesture.
Honestly, a good chunk of society runs off what some could call bribery. Nori is simply trying to employ proven leadership strategies.
 
Slice 13: Cut Out For It
Nori led his assignment out of Veilstone and onto Route 214. It was a place that Nori was quickly growing familiar with. He had done a lot of training on this stretch of wilderness ever since getting the Demon. He would have to cross the length of the city to reach Route 215, whereas the rugged path was around seven blocks south from his home.

After passing by the rest stop at the edge of town, he headed into the hills. There were all kinds of Pokemon up there, with grassy, rocky, and even some wooded areas to prowl around in. It was simply a very good and very quiet spot to train, although a part of him worried that given his fame and followers, many more people were going to discover it.

Today, however, it was relatively empty. There was only one adult male who seemed to be so engrossed in studying rocks that he wasn't aware of his surroundings. Thankfully, he was sensible and had a Girafarig by his side to keep watch. It locked eyes with Pawniard, rear tail twitching. His assignment seemed to take this as a challenge and took a few steps forward, cackling. Their would-be opponent stood its ground.

Nori interposed and shook his head. “Not that one,” he urged. “Wild ones.”

Pawniard waved a claw and pointed. A gesture that preceded a hunt. The young official huffed and pressed a finger to the bridge of his nose.

“I'm sure it wouldn't be much of a challenge. It's Dark against Psychic, trained killer against…research assistant?” It seemed like one. Even if it had a Fighting-type move or pulled a miraculous evolution out of nowhere, it wouldn't be too tough for them to beat. “And I don't think they'd want to be interrupted.”

The bladed Pokemon growled, yet did not press the issue further. Nori led him to the grassy area above.

---​

S l i c e 1 3: C u t O u t F o r I t

Pawniard towered menacingly over their opponent. He made mocking gestures while mouthing off, delivering a Torment for no good reason. Despite having a type advantage, the Ponyta was no match for Pawniard. It was struggling to stand after suffering a foot injury courtesy of a Slash. His assignment was going too far.

“Just…” Nori gritted his teeth. Better be specific here. “Back of the blade, Feint Attack.”

His assignment begrudgingly grumbled, gathering shadows around his body. The Ponyta scrambled to its feet and turned around. The thing gained a burst of speed as it darted from the scene, jumping over the cliff face and making a clean break in spite of the cut to the tendon.

“Was that the Run Away ability?” Nori guessed aloud. He could hardly blame the fire horse. Pawniard spat some venomous words, followed by a sinister chuckle.

That was their fifth battle. Nori had been experimenting with different ways of acting as a leader for his assignment. He'd quickly found that just being normal with a little leeway worked fine. He tried exact orders again the first time, and the bladed monster behaved as defiantly as before.

Pawniard was listening and had good initiative. He was talented and gritty enough that little healing was necessary between fights. Yet he remained utterly ruthless, and not one of his opponents escaped unscathed. The worst part was he was inconsistent. Sometimes a Slash would be as expected, other times Pawniard would sink his claws in. One time he even seemed about to gouge out a Stunky's eye — if not worse — necessitating a quick recall.

His assignment clanged his claws against each other. He stood before Nori with a devilish smirk, waiting for the next battle. He wasn't restless at all, simply waiting patiently like a predator for its prey.

Nori took out his Official's radio and checked the time on the display. Just after five. “Maybe just one more before we head back,” he suggested. His mom usually had dinner ready around six.

Pawniard stood stoically, awaiting his orders. If he had any thoughts on the matter, he didn't voice them.

“All right, let's go.” Nori set out further south, the bladed monster dutifully following.

The young official had to admit that the former Blackout Killer's Pokemon was doing better than expected. Yet he had a long way to go. Injuries sometimes happened in Pokemon battles. It was even permissible to do so intentionally to a certain extent, like targeting a quick Pokemon's legs to slow it down. But Pawniard was injuring opponents for the sake of it, and far more than would be considered acceptable. It was almost as if he enjoyed–

“Help me!”

A female's scream cut through the air, cried out in Japanese. Tasukete. Someone was in trouble!

Nori glanced at Pawniard. “Let's go!” He bolted off, not bothering to look if his assignment was following.

Nori knew Route 214 well. He ran over hills, past trees, and through grass. She repeated her plea twice, each more distressed than the last. He followed the sound of her voice, and gasped as he finally caught sight of her below.

She was a pretty young girl around his age, with her leg pinned under a heavy stone. Her cream-colored hair was disheveled and tears were in her ruby eyes. She wore a green, form-fitting yukata with a sunflower pattern. A black canine — her Poochyena? — lay unconscious several meters away.

The young official rushed to the edge of the cliff overlooking the scene, a two-meter drop. “Are you okay?!” he shouted in Japanese, knowing better than to rush in right away. He had to help, but what did this to her?! It could still be lurking nearby, so he knew he had to be careful.

“No. It hurts. Help me…” she replied. Yeah, stupid question.

He heard a low growl. Nori looked around, but the only Pokemon in sight was the Pawniard at his legs – the one snarling. The sight of the sadistic Pokemon made the girl gasp and recoil in horror.

“Pawniard!” he scolded with a stomp of his foot. “What's wrong with you?!” Attacking Pokemon was one thing, but scaring injured people?!

She put on a brave face for a second, sneering at the vicious Pokemon. It quickly gave way to a terrified expression. She opened her mouth, but couldn't find any words.

Nori gave the girl a reassuring smile, then glared at his assignment. The Pokemon did not falter, still leering over the cliff. He was about to grab his Poke Ball and throw Pawniard back inside when something clicked. Was there a reason for his attitude?

My blades are yours. Pawniard trusted him as a leader. So he decided to trust Pawniard. “What's wrong?” he repeated, more inquisitively. Was whatever attacked this girl really lying in wait for them?

The Dark and Steel type suddenly jumped down, claws raised and ready to strike. Before he landed, a jet of flame consumed him.

Nori immediately reached into his pocket and felt around for the Great Ball. He found it and had the Demon out in two seconds. A pale blur sped past him as he did so. He glanced back at the girl, only to find that she had vanished. A look in front of him and he immediately realized what was going on.

Before him stood an elegant fox Pokemon. Cream-colored fur, ruby eyes, and many flowing caudal appendages. That was a Ninetales! Since when can they make illusions?!

She barked a three-syllable word. Maybe she was trying to say “Kisama,” but was unable to do so with her canine mouth. Whatever what was going on, he needed to fight back.

“Don't hold back,” he told his Pokemon. She glanced back, grinning with anticipation. It had been a while since she'd been able to rampage. “We need to stop her, fast.”

The Demon understood at once, charging forward. The Ninetales' eyes turned an eerie pink, and the surrounding air started to distort violently. An Extrasensory! But it wasn't enough to stop his Pokemon from slamming into her. Nori clenched a fist and grinned, only to stop when the angry fox's eyes shined blue and fired a sphere of light.

“Confuse Ray?!” Nori complained.

Normally he'd have had the Demon close her eyes to get around it, but that came out too fast. The Demon was fighting through it by sheer force of will, but it was by not an ideal situation.

So he just recalled her. This wasn't an official battle, so he could do things like that. “Calm down, please!” he tried to beg the Ninetales. But she turned up her nose and opened her mouth.

As she reared back, Nori jumped off the cliff while sending the Demon back out. He landed in a crouch as a Flamethrower blasted above his head. The first thing he did was look around. That Poochyena had made tracks, but Pawniard was nearby. Burnt, but standing.

“You all right?!” he asked, as he heard the sound of a Shadow Claw followed by a roar of pain from above. When his assignment hummed lowly, Nori took off his bag and searched the front pocket. He found it easily, a tiny bottle of green fluid. “Hold still.”

Pawniard complied. A quick spray over the affected area and the effects started to fade at once. The bladed monster nodded, ready to continue.

A swirling pillar of flame rising into the sky drew their attention. Nori ran to the rockface, jumping and grabbing the ledge to pull himself halfway up. No Demon in sight, which meant she was in the Fire Spin. The Ninetales looked like she'd taken some bad hits herself, however. In particular, the Demon had gotten her right in the muzzle with that Shadow Claw.

“Demon! Earth Power!” Nori shouted as loudly as he could. He wasn't sure if she heard him or not.

Whatever the case, the fox roared and spat a white ball of flame directly at the vortex. The Inferno struck true, and she turned to Nori. As soon as he saw her crouching, he let go.

Quick Attack. She overshot. Thoughts raced through his mind. Wild Pokemon were never this aggressive! Why would a Ninetales…wait! Was this about last week? He didn't have much time to process further as the Pokemon turned around and started to rear back.

Nori dove aside while reaching into his pocket for Pachi, only for the flames not to come. The Ninetales screamed in pain and rage. Pawniard had sliced into her heel.

She roared and scurried five meters away. She turned to hurl venomous words at him. He was the one who had hurt that Vulpix in the deep wilds. More than Nori, he was undoubtedly the greatest object of her hatred. Pawniard gave a cold, terse reply that got her to start forming another Inferno.

“Pawniard, look out! Slash!” he shouted.

His words of warning were not necessary as the flames launched wide anyway, making Pawniard's approach even easier. The bladed monster showed her no mercy; bits of fur went flying as he swung his claws. She answered by throwing her entire body at him, another Quick Attack which managed to send him stumbling away.

“Don't look at her!” Nori warned, thinking he knew what was coming next. “Just Night Slash!”

He looked anyway. The Ninetales' eyes indeed started to shine, ready for a Confuse Ray. But Pawniard was much too quick. He slashed right across the eyes, stopping the attack cold. He leaned back, maybe ready to follow up with an Iron Head.

That's when the Ninetales whirled around and whipped Pawniard with all of her tails before dashing off. She was hurt badly – she was running with a limp and breathing heavily. For the briefest of moments, Nori thought she was fleeing and it was over.

Then she halted and looked directly at Nori, barking lowly while all of her tails started to take on an eerie purple aura. That wasn't an attack, not a formal one at least. The young official tensed up. He wanted to run from this, but he knew that escape was impossible at this point.

It happened a second later. Pawniard wasn't as deterred by the tail strike as expected. Still in hot pursuit, he briefly glanced between him and the Ninetales. The bladed Pokemon cartwheeled and leaped over their attacker, hovering menacingly at the apex of his jump. Then he ran his right claw directly through the Ninetales' backside, just as she was about to speak.

For three horrible seconds, the world stood still. The glow around the fox's tails had dissipated instantly. Nori could tell something vital had been pierced inside her. The Ninetales' legs quivered, what little life she had left fading fast. She somehow managed to look back and open her maw, but nothing came out of it – no flame, not even sound. Pawniard shook his head and muttered something as they locked eyes. With an evil beam at Nori, he started to retract.

Nori shut his eyes and turned away for good measure. Unfortunately, he still heard the Ninetales fall to the ground with a wet thud. It was a sound far more haunting than he anticipated, yet it was nothing compared to the deafening silence that followed. Even the wind seemed to momentarily halt out of respect for the fallen Pokemon.

When he opened his eyes, the carnage was laid bare before him. A dead Ninetales in a heap, mouth open in a silent scream. A rapidly growing crimson pool beneath her. Pawniard standing over the body, posture devoid of emotion. The Demon, watching from the edge of the cliff in utter shock. Himself, just standing there, alone amidst Pokemon.

If there was any doubt about what was going on, it was erased with a glance over to the tree line. There stood the Poochyena from before beside a Vulpix, tears streaming from the latter's eyes. The red fox let out a primal scream. Nori braced himself, only for the Poochyena to step in and block the Vulpix's advance. The two roared and shouted, pushing against each other. Even the Demon was shouting things. Nori, meanwhile, found himself at a rare loss for words. He was just as silent as his Pawniard, who was simply standing ready while beckoning to the Vulpix.

“I'm sorry!” he eventually let out an anguished shout. “I didn't mean–” He wasn't sure what to say. That its parent attacking him in revenge wasn't right? That he was just defending himself? That he didn't mean for her to die? This was…

With a final push, the Poochyena shoved the orphaned Vulpix back into the forest, where it was dragged away by some unseen Pokemon. The black canine looked back at him. It gave him a frown that could have meant any number of things before heading back into the deep wilds.

The young official fell to his hands and knees, slamming a fist into the dirt. What the hell had gone wrong?!

He looked up to see Pawniard standing over him. He was puffing out his chest, holding his chin high and smiling toothily. There was no regret or remorse about slaying their attacker.

“Did you really have to kill her?!” he cried out, clenching his hands. He crumpled into a sitting position and stole another glance at the Ninetales' broken body. He regretted it almost instantly, turning back and trying to contain the bile threatening to rise from his stomach. Even if she was trying to kill them, even if she was trying to curse him, even if it was self-defense, it still felt wrong!

His assignment–no. His Pokemon crossed his blades. Pawniard's posture stiffened, and he turned his head to the side. For a second, it seemed like he was about to walk off in disgust. Instead, he only belittled him with a snort. Nori peered at the Demon, whose frown and lip biting indicated she was as conflicted as he was.

“But…” Nori trailed off, his throat aching. He squinted for a moment, wiping the tears from both eyes. He breathed in and out, his exhalation coming in many rapid spurts. The adrenaline was wearing off, and it felt like he was going to choke. “But thank you,” he managed to whisper. His Pokemon had saved him. Maybe even stopped that curse. That was a fact, no matter what had happened.

Pawniard relaxed and silently nodded. Once more, he stood with his claws slack and pointed at him. My blades are yours. His bloodstained blades. He couldn't bear to look at them any longer.

Breathe in, breathe out. He was still trembling. Those weren't tears of joy in his eyes. “I'm going home, home now. Just rest,” he said as he stood and brought Pawniard back to his capsule. He nodded at the exhausted Demon before doing the same for her. With a heavy sigh, he started to limp back to the city.

Nori had so, so many mixed feelings about what had just happened. He was glad to be alive. He was happy to know Pawniard had protected him. But did that Ninetales have to die? Why did she have to try to kill him? There had to have been another way to resolve things. What would people think if they knew?

But it was too late now. All he could do was try to move forward and hope he could get over it. And hope, maybe even pray that nothing bad came of today.

#########
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If you want to read Memory of a Ghoul, get up through Chapter 11 before the next chapter of this fic. Bigtime spoilers will be had. If you don't care or think it'll give you a different perspective though, go nuts.
 
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Poor Nori. It always seems like whenever he tries to make progress in anything, it all comes crashing down to some degree. I'm guessing the Vulpix was the Ninetales' child. I do wonder why Ninetales lured and attacked Nori the way it did. Here's hoping Nori doesn't get too much flack over this. He's been through enough of it as it is. I can't wait to read the next chapter!
 
Poor Nori. It always seems like whenever he tries to make progress in anything, it all comes crashing down to some degree. I'm guessing the Vulpix was the Ninetales' child. I do wonder why Ninetales lured and attacked Nori the way it did. Here's hoping Nori doesn't get too much flack over this. He's been through enough of it as it is. I can't wait to read the next chapter!
Huh? This was MASSIVE progress for Nori. Pawniard acted to protect him, so that's confirmation that yes, he's on the right track. There was something huge from his end in the chapter, too: up until now (and after some editing), he's almost always called Pawniard "his assignment" - the intended exceptions being as a collective or in C7 where it's intended to show he's feeling responsible for Quade's injury. Shortly after this, he very deliberately corrects himself and calls Pawniard "his Pokemon". That's big from his end.

As for the Vulpix, I all but outright state it's the one that got attacked back in C4, and its mother was out for revenge. Couldn't exactly communicate after she shifted to Pokemon form.

But will he get flak? You'll just have to wait to find out!
 
Well, that was the inevitably horrific outcome of taking a barely restrained killer into repeated battles. Frankly Nori is lucky the first death could be argued as needed to save him from Ninetales.

Studd said another injury or death would mean serious consequences, but
a: Wild Pokémon may not count
b: Possibly no witnesses?
c: As mentioned above, self defense.

Still, a form of progress.
 
Should comment on this before I post the finale, kept forgetting...

Studd said another injury or death would mean serious consequences, but
a: Wild Pokémon may not count
b: Possibly no witnesses?
c: As mentioned above, self defense.
Though easier to answer now, as mentioned, there is a strong probability that it's just going to be a blanket thing regardless of circumstance. So Nori's relying on B. Unfortunately, there's still a long ways to go with Pawniard's rehabilitation, but.......

Next chapter is the end of BOTBK? Felt like there was still a lot more to go.
This makes a lot more sense once you see the next chapter, or read its counterpart in the finale of MoaG. This one is going to take much more than one fic. But it's a marathon, not a sprint. So he has time. Of course........well. You'll see there. Heh heh heh.
 
Final Slice:
Nori decided to walk, rather than skateboard to school on Thursday as September gave way to October. He did so for no particular reason other than to have more time to collect his thoughts. He had a lot of mixed emotions about what had happened.

Several of the young official's favorite radio dramas had death in them. Cops shooting criminals, criminals killing cops or other criminals, innocents getting caught up in violence, Pokemon killing and being killed. But this was the first time he'd seen something die with his own eyes. He knew it was different in real life compared to fiction. It was always awful to hear about it on the news, and besides the brush yesterday, he had nearly drowned three times. Despite knowing all that, he still wasn't prepared for just how horrible it would be to see in person.

He listened to the morning news, and it had nothing on the brutal slaying of a wild Ninetales. But that didn't mean much, since it hadn't even been a full day since it had happened. Maybe they hadn't found the body yet. If they did, he hoped they blamed a Scyther or something for her death.

When the young official arrived at school, he spotted a vaguely familiar blue sedan pulling up beside the curb. Touya Takao got out of the passenger side. He wore a pastel-blue duffle coat, bell bottom jeans, and raised platform shoes. Just as fashionable as his twin sister.

“Hi, man,” Nori greeted him with a wave. “How's things?”

“Been pretty good,” he passively replied with a shrug. “Know how you've been, so.” The beige-haired teenage male didn't say more, just nodding at him before heading in the building. They were only acquaintances. Besides, his presence meant…

“Oh, hey.” It meant that Yumi would be with him. Unless she caught a cold or something, but she hadn't. She adjusted her bag, ensuring it was snug on her back. She waved to her dad as he drove off.

“And how are you?” he asked.

“Good, I guess,” she said, although the way she briefly avoided eye contact and her light sigh made it somewhat unconvincing.

She dragged slightly as they walked into the school together, with elbows tight at her side. Nori slowed his pace to stay alongside. He expected what was on her mind. He wasn't sure if she was going to speak up, or if he'd have to bring it up himself.

“So…” She swallowed some air, trying to compose herself. “Did the training go fine?” There was unhidden dread in her tone.

“It went okay,” he replied. He had prepared for that question and was ready to answer it, even if it was only with a half-truth. “Pawniard still wants to hurt other Pokemon. I'm not sure what I can do about that. But he's showing promising improvement, so I'm keeping at it.”

It was what he told his mom and what he planned to tell Agent Studd on Sunday. He knew trainer law, it wasn't illegal to kill a wild Pokemon in self-defense. Yet he didn't want to take the chance something might go awry, and they'd go after him for killing again anyway. Especially since Pawniard did that to protect him. He couldn't betray that!

His friend gave him a listless, almost empty gaze. For a second, Nori was concerned that Yumi sensed there was something that he wasn't telling her. But finally, she slumped and let out something like a whimper. “Thank goodness…” she remarked while she pressed a hand over her heart.

Nori felt a faint warmth in his chest. He had to admit that it felt pleasant to have someone who was so concerned about him. Even his mom had mainly shown confidence in him when he told her where Pawniard came from. Come to think of it, Yumi was arguably the biggest help in all of this. Even Prema hadn't done much, although he still wanted to speak to her about it once she finished her work.

“Thanks for being here for me through this, Yumi,” he made his feelings clear.

“Oh!” She snapped up, tucking her bangs behind her ears. “Um, you're welcome. I just…” She chuckled nervously. “I don't think I did much, and I was trying to talk you out of it.”

“You still helped anyway, but point taken,” he conceded. An irony occurred. “Guess it was just like before, in a different way.” When she was with YAMS, she tried to convince him to abandon the Demon to her fate. He even remembered she was nicer about it than most of the others.

She sighed longingly, as if reminiscing on their past. “I guess so,” she agreed.

They had been walking through the school halls to their respective homerooms at that point. She was an eighth year, one grade above him. Right as they were about to part ways, Nori impulsively spoke up.

“Hey!” he said. “Want to hang out after school?”

Yumi blinked. A sad smile appeared on her lips. “I'd love to,” she started. Nori could already tell there was a ‘but’ in there before she said so. “But I have a science project due on Monday, and I really need to work on it. Plus, mom and dad don't like us having friends over without plans.”

Nori could imagine several reasons why they wouldn't. “Ah. Maybe some other time.”

“Yeah.” She took two preliminary steps down the hall. “So I'll see you at lunch, Nori.”

“See you then, Yumi.”

Once he was sure she couldn't hear him anymore – looking over his shoulder for good measure – he relaxed and sighed. He didn't want to worry her by telling the whole story. There were a lot of people he didn't want to worry. Yet…part of him was screaming to tell someone, just to get their take. Really, there was only one person he felt he might be able to talk about it with. And she could help if…

##########​

The rest of Thursday passed smoothly, and Nori hung out with Maylene on Friday as they planned. On Saturday, Nori went to the Kannagi Shrine. To his relief, there was no issue with seeing Prema. She seemed a little relieved to see him, actually. She suggested a walk behind the shrine. He added that it should be the two of them without their Pokemon. It was a good day to be outdoors, the sun shining and the temperature being just right.

“I never knew there was a path back here,” he remarked as they traversed the leaf-covered trail. Well, he never actually looked. He didn't want to loiter around the old radio station or go somewhere he shouldn't have. The young official glanced around for any side paths, but there didn't seem to be anything reasonable to explore. Not that he'd go running off without her.

“Most are unaware of its presence,” Prema elaborated. “It does not lead anywhere in particular, simply from one end of the shrine to another.” So just a place for a walk, in other words.

“That's so cool!” he gushed, unable to resist jumping slightly. “It's like your own private trail! You can get peace and quiet whenever you want!” He would love to have a place like this! It seemed a good hiding spot from the public, actually.

Prema shook her head. “There are rooms in the shrine better suited for that purpose. Moreover, it is untrue I can come here whenever I wish.”

Maybe on the first part, though she was taking things too literally on the second. He imagined there were still soundproofed rooms in the building given its former purpose. “But it's still nice to get fresh air and exercise.” If it was between indoors and outdoors, he'd take the outdoors every time.

“Yes.”

Prema continued to lead the way until they reached a clearing. Its biggest feature was a log to sit on, but there were rocks and even grass and weeds poking out from the ground. The sounds from the shrine were inaudible this far away from it.

“I come sit in this grove on occasion,” Prema remarked.

“How often do you?”

She lightly turned away. “Admittedly, only thrice,” she said while looking at the log. She fixated on it for a second.

Was she here recently? Nori supposed she had to have been. Maybe it was something she only recently learned about. He did wonder how she found it, it wasn't like her to go exploring. Maybe he didn't know her as well as he thought!

“We should continue,” she eventually said before he could ask about it, moving to the other end of the clearing.

He didn't follow her right away. When he did, he ran out in front of her and turned around. “Wait, Prema,” he said, putting his palms out. “Can I ask you something while we're out here?” It was now or never. Probably.

She gave a calm and serene nod. “Of course, Nori.”

Okay, good. She didn't mind talking about it here. Here seemed perfect, away from anyone else. Just in case. He paced around in front of her. How was he going to say this?

“I, um.” He simply started talking, hoping just doing it would help. “Am I cursed? You can tell if I am and break it, right?”

Prema's expression faded. After a few seconds, she folded her hands. “Nori, I understand that there are times when life is frustrating. You have had to deal with far more adversity in yours than anyone should have to at your age. But I do not believe that it would be as a result of a curse.”

Where did she get that idea? Wait, no. “No, no, no!” He shuffled his feet. This was hard to explain! “I mean, I think a Pokemon might have cursed me recently. Or um, maybe it didn't. But I want to be sure! Can you check?”

That wasn't weird, was it? No, that definitely was. He slapped his forehead. But it was a peace of mind thing. He wanted to know for sure if that Ninetales did so before Pawniard…

Prema thought about it and eventually nodded. “I understand. Stand there.” She gestured near the center of the clearing, right in front of the log, and began to walk there herself.

He moved to where she indicated. “Okay. Now what?”

“Hold as still as you can.”

Prema stood in front of him. She reached out, fully outstretching her arms. Nori nearly jumped to the canopy as Prema put her hands on his shoulders. After that and as she moved her thumbs off, he froze up entirely. He wasn't expecting physical contact! Well…she said to hold still…so it sort of worked?! It was easy to hold himself steady with how tense he was.

When she released him, it was both a relief and a strange disappointment. “I do not sense one upon you,” she said simply.

He let out a heavy sigh. His legs felt like jelly. He stumbled over to sit on the log to avoid collapsing. “That's good,” he said, more to himself than to her.

Okay, so he wasn't cursed. But he could've been, if Pawniard hadn't acted fast. But if he was, Prema should've been able to break it no problem. That was good to know.

“Nori.” Prema saying his name made him look up. She was leaning in slightly, her eyes locked upon him. “Is this the only reason you wanted to visit?”

For a moment, he thought she was about to ask him what happened. But where did that come from? Whatever, he gave her a smile in response. “No, no. I wanted to see you, since you have time for me now. Plus it's the weekend, too. That was just…” He hesitated. What would she think of this? Probably nothing good, right? “Something I was wondering and figured to ask, since I'm here.”

She exhaled and simpered slowly. Her own relief did not escape him. With a gentle bow, she said, “Forgive me if you are uncomfortable with sharing. I am intrigued as to why you would worry about having been cursed.”

He should've known. He bit his lip and looked away, but kept eyeing her. Prema patiently waited, folding her hands. She gave him an out, but was it one he should take? No, she was going to wonder if he didn't tell her, so he might as well.

He rubbed his neck. “Well. I…” He huffed, scratching an itch on his neck. There was no getting around this. “Pawniard…” That was wrong, too. He forcefully shook his head, saying the last words through squinted eyes and clenched teeth. “No, we killed a Ninetales.”

Prema recoiled. Her hands flew to her mouth in a failed attempt to suppress a gasp. “What…?”

Nori leapt to his feet and started explaining as fast as he could. “We were out training on Wednesday when I heard a girl calling for help.” He started pacing aimlessly. “She was pinned under a rock. But when Pawniard saw something was wrong, she changed form and tried to kill us. I think it was because we fought her young in the woods the week before. She was angry enough to fight off the Demon. But Pawniard killed her, right as her tails were glowing.”

He only stopped when he ran out of breath. He took looked at Prema at that moment. She didn't seem to be judging him, but she usually wore a stoic mask. So who knew what was going through her mind?!

“I don't know,” he continued after a deep breath. “I don't know what to think or how I should feel about what happened. Like, I just feel like I'm going to fail my Pokemon, even though I know I'm making progress. There's good signs. But he's still…” He hurt Anthony's Pokemon, but that paled in comparision to what happened on Wednesday.

Nori didn't know what to say. He stared at Prema, non-verbally pleading with her. The longer she remained silent, the more Nori began to regret telling her what happened. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe he screwed up yet another friendship! It wouldn't surprise him at all.

“I empathize,” was what she eventually said. “I have also felt that way as of late.”

She changed the subject?! Or was she simply avoiding it? Nori gulped before asking, “What do you mean by that? That you'll fail?”

Prema raised her shoulders, a faint groan escaping her. She wandered over to the log and sat upon it. Nori followed and plopped down next to her.

The future head priestess of the Kannagi Shrine turned her head to look at him. “Where should I begin?” she pondered aloud.

“Well, it's about Wednesday, isn't it?” Something evidently happened during the exorcism.

It took her a bit to verify. “Your research was correct. The spirit in the warehouse was that of Konrad Guhl.” She made a long blink.

Huh, that was a surprise. It was just an educated guess, but it was right. He couldn't help but sit up taller and smile a little.

“He wanted to battle a strong trainer before truly passing on.” She squinted and lowered her head, trembling lightly. “I could not oblige him that.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“I could not defeat him. My training, both as a priestess and a trainer, was insufficient. Moreover, he attacked me after the battle. Priestess Satomi had to save me and help me send him to the afterlife.”

He sneered. “He attacked you for losing to him?!” he yelled. “What's wrong with him? He's no better than Lochlyn Nuzzo! Well, besides killing, but still!”

“Nori…” Prema gave a helpless look. Her eyes darted around, and she even looked behind them.

He got to his feet. “Screw him!” he made his thoughts perfectly clear, waving a fist for emphasis. “He got what was coming to him! I'm glad you're okay, Prema. If I was there, I would've done the same thing!”

He sat down again and crossed his arms. Good thing she got rid of Guhl, because if she didn't, he would've let Pawniard and the Demon loose on him and his Pokemon.

“You do not understand,” Prema said, a little more forcefully. “In spite of having sympathy for him, I am under no illusions that Konrad Guhl had to be dealt with. But I feel as if I should not have needed aid at the end.” She sighed. “I am ashamed of myself.”

Oh. “I don't get why you think that. I mean, I helped you! Nariya and the others helped you! Why do you feel bad about Mrs. Kurusu helping you?”

“Because…” She paused. After about ten seconds, she chuckled quietly. “I suppose I do not really have an adequate answer.”

Nori wasn't sure what to say to that. Instead, he decided to just listen.

She looked up at the skies above. “I suppose it feels like the logical conclusion. I am the future Master of the Kannagi Shrine. I have been training for that role for a decade. I should have been able to do better.”

He shook his head in utter disgust. He put his hands on the log and leaned back. “Yeah, well, that guy was training Pokemon for even longer. No wonder you couldn't keep up.” That stuff was why he had no desire to be a serious trainer.

“But that aside,” he assured, “You have a bunch of people willing to help you and throw themselves into danger and protect you! I'd be glad to have people like that, especially if I'm leading something! And besides, there's always room to grow!”

“I suppose so,” she admitted before going quiet. She mulled over his words for over a minute.

He decided to change the subject and chance asking a question. “Well. What do you think about my situation? And Pawniard, now?” He felt his skin prickle after speaking.

She turned to him, but did not answer immediately. Eventually, she stood. For a moment, Nori was afraid she was going to walk off without answering, but instead she turned and faced him.

“Without being able to observe his behavior on a long-term basis, I cannot say for certain. Yet it is evident that he has some degree of honor and respect for you. It would have been easy for him to abandon you in the chaos of the attack. Instead, he stood and fought. He did neutralize that Ninetales, but I find it likely that he did so to stop her.”

That was…not what he was expecting out of her. Pretty to the point. It made sense, but still. Pawniard had killed again. If he'd told this to anyone else, that would be it, no matter his reasons. What was he supposed to feel about this? How should he have felt? And…

“I believe his saving you is proof that you are making progress on his rehabilitation,” Prema added.

After some more seconds to think about it, he leaned forward and stretched his limbs over his head. “I feel like her death could've been avoided. Maybe if you were there…”

Prema's expression suddenly changed to that of realization, followed by determination. “Nori, there is no sense in dwelling upon a hypothetical. There was no guarantee that my presence would have helped, or vice versa. With that said, going back to your Pokemon, I feel as though his protecting you – even if he chose to subdue your attacker lethally – is a sign that he can yet find redemption under your care.”

He blinked. Actually, it was something he had been thinking. It was something of a relief to know someone else had reached the same conclusion.

Something randomly occurred to Nori at that moment. He pressed a finger to his nose while considering it. Both him and Prema had their task go astray. Also, just like how Priestess Satomi had to step in to help, Pawniard's hand may have been forced. Maybe he was using it as an excuse to kill, but he didn't want his trainer – him – to be cursed. He respected him enough to protect him. That really was proof his rehabilitation was coming along.

“Thanks,” he said, putting his hands on the log for support. “I was thinking that, but I didn't know if it made sense.”

“It does,” she assured him with a soft nod.

“Well, for that matter,” he encouraged, getting to his feet and walking toward her. “I think you're going to make a great head priestess some day. Who cares if you needed help to send some dumb dead trainer to wherever he's going? Even if it means anything, not like you'll be head of the shrine tomorrow.”

He was just talking from the heart, but it seemed to help. Prema even had to stifle a laugh. She put a hand on her chest. “Tomorrow's wind will blow tomorrow,” she quoted a proverb.

“Right. You still have plenty of time to be worthy of taking over, and I still have time to rehabilitate Pawniard.”

“We will simply need to keep working towards our goals, little by little.”

One step at a time, one day at a time. He remembered what Priestess Satomi had told him, that Prema would be there to support him if he needed it. It seemed that he would be able to support her as well!

Then they were quiet. Again, neither of them had any idea what to say to the other from there. Nori wanted to laugh. He almost did, before Prema – who was eyeing the trail – spoke.

“We should return soon.”

“Yeah.”

They continued on. Before they left the clearing, however, Prema went “ah!” and paused in her tracks.

“One further thing,” she said, staring vacantly down the path. “Father said I should not tell anyone that I needed Priestess Satomi's help.”

He blinked. She went against her dad's wishes? Wasn't that, like, dangerous? “Really? Why did you tell me?”

The priestess inhaled and exhaled. “Because I needed to tell someone.”

In sync, the two of them turned to face each other. Their eyes met. There was a brief but long pause before Prema spoke once more.

“And, I trust you.”

He beamed. “I trust you too, Prema.”

Silence fell between the two of them once more. Yet this was more of a happy quiet. It wasn't an awkward one where neither of them had any idea what to say. It was comfortable, just being with his friend. If only he could spend more time with her.

“Let's go back,” he declared, stepping lightly.

“Of course.” She was right beside him.

Nori felt like he might just float away. Prema had opened up and looked to him for moral support. Part of him wondered if she was only friends with him to be polite, but this was proof otherwise. And he was glad to be wrong about it.

##########​

Later that evening, Nori went to Gabbron Park to relax, reflect, and let his Pokemon get some exercise. Each of them was an irreplaceable companion, and Pawniard now counted among them.

There was good and bad news to come from it. The good news was that Pawniard was just sitting beside him. He wasn't picking fights or looking to cause trouble, finally seeming to realize there were more ways to enjoy life than hurting or killing. The bad news was that he was there because Pachi and the Demon didn't want to be anywhere near him. On top of that, there was still no guarantee he was going to be different in battle.

It was a strange sight to see the Demon actually playing with Pachi. A step forward for her, too. Even if it was play fighting to the point of being sparring, that was still a form of play. Nori couldn't fault them for excluding Pawniard; he had terrified and tried to attack Pachi before, and despite how violent and aggressive she had been, the Demon had never intentionally killed another Pokemon.

Pawniard, for his part, had taken it in stride. He even seemed to get a little arrogant about it before coming to sit on the bench. Maybe it was because he knew Nori wouldn't give up on him, not even for his other Pokemon. Still, Nori couldn't shake the concern from that. What was he going to do if they kept hating Pawniard? Or future assignments? It was going to be awkward at the very least.

Nori glanced at his assignment, his Pokemon. Prema had given him a lot to think about, and confirmed a lot of what he'd been thinking. Rehabilitating the Demon was a stroke of luck; this was going to take a lot more time and effort. But when he boiled it down, it was all about teaching Pawniard what was and wasn't acceptable in battle. You could bend those rules sometimes, just not cross the line completely.

Instinctively and impulsively, he reached a hand out. Pawniard's head snapped at him. Nori halted briefly, but kept moving. His Pokemon did not stop him as he gave a gentle pat on the forehead.

“We'll keep at it, a little bit at a time.”

Pawniard barely responded, but he did. Just a slow blink and a low hum. The bladed Pokemon peered upward as Nori let go.

The young official wasn't sure what he'd do from here or where the road to Pawniard's rehabilitation would take him. It was not going to be easy to tone down his Pokemon's worst habits. And he already knew he could forget about breaking them entirely. It was certainly going to take longer than it did with the Demon. But even if it was a long and arduous path, he would go wherever it led.

Continuing Slice: Blade of the Demon Tamer

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

And so this story comes to a close! If you've made it this far, thanks for sticking through it. Pawniard's rehabilitation will continue across future fics, since it's not always going to be realistic for Nori to be able to fix a Pokemon in the span of just one. Like he even realized, it was fortune with the Demon.

The idea of two concurrent fics came about as a desire to try an experimental style. Not everyone likes omniscient third person, especially if sudden. So I figured, how about the same scenes from different perspectives with different info/thoughts in each? Yes, it would have been easy to blend them: just have Prema accept and have Pawniard play a role in stopping Guhl. Besides the above, there were a couple other reasons that I didn't. The first is the plots were unrelated. Prema's contributions to Nori's plot are almost nil. Nori does step into Prema's plot, but it's as much about developing their bond and he does other things in the meantime - a big part of it was he was distracting himself from Pawniard. If they were in the same fic, I'd effectively have an A plot and B plot. It'd be possible to have merged them as brought up in the fic itself, but the second reason I didn't was because I felt I could get more development out of NOT doing so, particularly on Prema's side.

The next fic is already like 37k words done encompassing prologue to chapter 11 plus parts of chapters 12 and 14 (and some beyond), not sure how long it'll end up being in the end. It will be called Nori Carino: Abyssal Despair. What happens when a beloved celebrity dies in an accident, and the Pokemon responsible gets given to the Pokemon Rehabilitator? Not good things for anyone, really. I'll probably start posting it once it's closer to two-thirds done, depending on my pace.
 
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And with this, another fic of yours has come to an end. I liked this one, too. Dare I say even better than Official-In-Training, what with not having to deal with Nori being utterly crapped on by practically everyone around him for things that aren't even his fault. Though that's more of a me thing than anything. Since I already mentioned the details on the scene between Nori and Prema in Memory of a Ghoul, I'm not gonna repeat myself here, as that'd be kinda redundant. But this was a great fic you wrote, and definitely an interesting start to Nori's job as a Pokemon rehabilitator. Following two fics that intertwined with one another was an experiment, for sure, and I think you pulled it off well in my opinion, especially since the differing takes offer different perspectives from the characters involved, with one side expanding on Prema and one side focusing on Nori, which is good. Consider this fic a job well done. Looking forward to Abyssal Despair when you're ready to post that!
 
Dare I say even better than Official-In-Training, what with not having to deal with Nori being utterly crapped on by practically everyone around him for things that aren't even his fault. Though that's more of a me thing than anything.
I wanted to take on a more positive tone in this fic all around. Even though Official In-Training's message was "things have a way of working out in the end", I can admit it could get bleak at times. To contrast here, there's hope at every turn in some way.

Since I already mentioned the details on the scene between Nori and Prema in Memory of a Ghoul, I'm not gonna repeat myself here, as that'd be kinda redundant. But this was a great fic you wrote, and definitely an interesting start to Nori's job as a Pokemon rehabilitator.
There's a few different details on Nori's side. But there's also some very similar ones. Note in particular their last paragraph. Or the stuff around it. Basically the last little bit was framed as a love confession. I mean, feeling joy and that it was a special moment. And especially "I trust you."/"I trust you too." Though it isn't actually love (yet) from either end.

Following two fics that intertwined with one another was an experiment, for sure, and I think you pulled it off well in my opinion, especially since the differing takes offer different perspectives from the characters involved, with one side expanding on Prema and one side focusing on Nori, which is good. Consider this fic a job well done.
Thanks! This is certainly not something I'm going to try again however, at least, not on this large a scale. If I do, I'll keep them much more separate and they'll exist just so Nori or Prema can't rely on the other for whatever crisis they're being ailed by.

Looking forward to Abyssal Despair when you're ready to post that!
You've already seen the first scene of it. The actual posting should hopefully be soon enough.
 
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