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Chapter 1: The Spark

cynsh

full-time quilava
Location
Deepden
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. quilava
"They teach you in school that our ancestors who fought day and night were some kind of lesser beings to us now. It’s all bullshit. Fighting is what we are as pokémon. Taking it away is like taking away our ability to speak, or mate. It’s just pokémon nowadays don’t realise that."



Summary: Many generations have passed since all forms of fighting were banned in the pokémon city of Deepden. Now the city is flourishing – but for two pokémon at the bottom of the work ladder, life isn’t so rosy. And so, when an opportunity presents itself, they take a chance and begin an illegal, underground fighting society, unaware that it could alter the very fabric of their society.

For a bit more background: this story is about pokémon, and pokémon only. Most stories of that kind are tagged under 'PMD', but I'm hesitant to make that association here, as very little about this story – the setting, the plot, to name two – is similar to those that are PMD-based. Nevertheless, if you like reading about pokémon doing stuff rather than, say, human trainers, maybe this story is for you!

Huge thank you to my wonderful beta-readers and friends: Shadow of Antioch, Talgoran, and Will1231. There's still a long way to go in writing this story, but it feels like a significant achievement just to get it out here. There's no way I would have made it this far without the help of these three. Also, thanks to AarowTheBlacksmith for making the wonderful cover art. You can find him on deviantart under the same name.

Content warnings. This is rated T, and will feature some strong language, violence, trauma, alcohol use, and possibly some other stuff but I'm not sure yet. If any chapter is particularly bad I'll give a specific warning at the start of it (and probably update the section here too).

Preferred Feedback: Anything, really! I really like hearing people's thoughts on the macro things like characters or plot, since they are what I tend to agonise over, but if you're seeing some fatal flaw in my prose then I'd be happy to hear about it. :quag:

FFN Link | AO3 Link

----

Chapter 1: The Spark

There were few sounds Raskin could imagine that were as dissonant and demonic as his alarm.

That, of course, was why it was exactly what he needed. Less focus on the tiresomeness of weekday existence, more focus on silencing the damned sound before he broke his clock.

The nickit slid out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen-living room, reaching up with his hind legs to flick on the light. He paused. He wasn’t usually the first up on a weekday—Sid’s job at the greenhouse started at 8 o’clock, and it was half-past seven now. Sid should have been about to leave at this time, but Raskin saw no sign that he had moved; there were no crumbs on the kitchen table, the daily newspaper lay untouched at their doorstep, and Sid’s bedroom door was closed.

“Sid?” Raskin called cautiously. The walls in the apartment were thin, so they could hear each other from practically anywhere. It also meant that any social gathering directly above or below them was like a radio broadcast, but those were fortunately rare on a weekday.

Raskin heard a brief scuffling from behind Sid’s door. Then the quilava burst out, eyes bleary yet wide-open at once.

“Stupid alarm,” he muttered, grabbing two pieces of bread from their counter and immediately stuffing one into his mouth. “That’s the second time this week now. Must be broken.”

Raskin frowned. Alarm clocks cost more than they should. “Let’s have a look at it later,” he suggested. “Might just be something jammed in the circuitry.”

“Don’t pretend you know how a clock works,” Sid quipped. Though he looked like he might say something more, he had to keep chewing his bread. He hurriedly washed it down with a glass of water. When he finished, he hesitated over the kitchen tap.

“Don’t do it, Sid,” Raskin said—but by the time he had spoken, it was too late. Sid thrust his head under the cold tap and turned it onto full blast. He squealed. A second later his head reemerged, dripping wet. He shook himself like a meowth in the rain.

Raskin winced. “Why do you do this to yourself? That must be so painful…”

“That’s exactly why I do it,” Sid said breezily, stuffing a water flask into his rucksack and heading to the door. “Right, see ya later. Make sure you’re around to let me in this evening, yeah?”

“You mean you still haven’t found your key-?”

The door slammed before he could finish. I guess not.

With a sigh, Raskin rose up onto his hind legs to compose his own breakfast: a bowl of Rice Snaps with milk and pinap juice. He shovelled the food down with practised efficiency, then put the remains in the sink for later.

He showered quickly, dried himself even quicker, then, noticing that his wet tail had been dripping copiously on the floor, gave it a quick trimming with his electric razor. It had taken some time to get used to doing this, but he had it down to a fine art now. He sat in front of the mirror, with his tail curled around his body, then used one paw to pin down the point he wanted to trim to. This was usually where the first streaks of black started coming through its orange fur—the black fur always grew thicker for some reason, and tended to droop on the ground, gathering dust. From there, Raskin just had to keep his paw holding the razor steady.

He wondered how his nickit ancestors had ever managed with their bushy, uncut tails. Even if they were useful for brushing the ground to cover one’s tracks, they must have been so heavy, so unwieldy. Thank the gods for razors.

With that done, he grabbed his wallet and keys from his room and stuffed them in his bag. He sat up, using his front paws to fasten the bag’s single clip around his stomach, with its contents held tightly to his side to prevent it bouncing around when he walked on all-fours. Raskin was adept enough at moving on two feet, as were most quadruped ‘mon in Deepden, which owed to the bipedal training they received almost straight from hatching. Still, all-fours remained more comfortable.

He checked the clock again—he’d left just enough time—glanced very briefly in the mirror, finding his fur in reasonable order, then left. He started locking their door but, remembering Sid’s lack of a key, decided against it. The crime rate around his district was non-existent right now. Besides, even if someone did notice their apartment door was unlocked, there was scarcely a thing worth stealing. Most of their possessions were already second-hand or beaten down with use.

The first thing he saw upon leaving his apartment was a familiar skitty across the street, who caught his eye at once. Raskin groaned inwardly.

“Raskin! Fancy seeing you here!” she said, cheerfully trotting over. Like him, she wore a small bag clipped around her middle.

Raskin forced a smile. “Morning, Locki.” She was a new face at work, and their manager had chosen Raskin to help show her the ropes for the first couple of weeks. Having gotten to know the skitty fairly well, Raskin was sure that the manager had done it purely to irritate him.

“Hey, since we’re here, fancy running to work together?” Locki asked. “I was just about to set off.”

“Oh, I usually catch a ride,” Raskin explained, silently breathing a sigh of relief that she wasn’t joining him.

“Oh,” Locki said. “Is… there any reason why you don’t run?”

Raskin shrugged. “Not really. Just not for me.” It was a half-truth.

“Well, it’s a really nice route through the park. You should try it sometime!” Locki chirped. “See you at work!” With that, she turned and galloped happily away.

Why would any ‘mon run such long distances, Raskin wondered, to places they could get a ride to for barely a poké? The mundaneness of work was bad enough as it was; he didn’t want to be in pain before he even arrived.

Harmony Square’s transport stop was a short walk away. He trudged down the pavement, past various food stalls and the postal service, sidestepping and squeezing past bigger pokémon that were in his way. On a good morning, sunlight would light up the dull brick buildings and the streets surrounding it, but today, like most, it was covered by clouds, setting a grey tinge on everything.

Two services operated at transport stops: the more common and cheaper option was the ground rides, which consisted of large-backed quadruped pokémon—mudsdale and arcanine were the ones Raskin saw most—who arrived every few minutes at the stop, going in a loop of either the north or south side of town. The other option was air taxis. A few lean flying pokémon were already waiting at the stop, ruffling their wings impatiently. These would take a ‘mon straight to anywhere in the city they pleased, much quicker than the predestined routes the ground rides followed. The downside was mostly the extortionate price. It would also be freezing in the wrong weather, Raskin imagined, though the air was pleasantly warm today.

Even as Raskin waited at the stop, an expertly groomed grovyle with an elaborately patterned scarf strolled up and spoke with a waiting staravia. After dropping a few coins into the pouch around the flyer’s neck, the grovyle climbed onto its back and soared away, rising above most of the surrounding apartment blocks and businesses in just a couple of wing beats.

Rich show-off, Raskin thought.

By the time three arcanine and a tropius arrived moments later—the rides travelled in packs, with their exact numbers varying depending on how busy the time—there were more pokémon waiting with Raskin than he was used to. He had to squeeze up tightly between two passengers on the arcanine’s back, and once they set off he found the tail of a minccino uncomfortably close to his face.

Raskin huffed, trying to take his mind off the discomfort. His first thought was of how much low-brow banter Locki would give him once he arrived at work, then of what basic computer function she would forget today. Determined to fight that nightmare off, he mused over a logic puzzle that had been frustrating him the previous night. If four machamp can chop down four trees in four seconds, how many can twelve machamp chop down in twelve seconds? He wouldn’t check the answer until he was certain he had it right; and it definitely couldn’t be twelve.

At least one benefit of the rides were that they stopped practically on the doorstep of Pokémon Bank, his workplace. One of several throughout the city that were government-owned, the name gave a pretty good reflection of how interesting a place it was. He stepped between the stone columns marking the bank’s entrance, paws clicking lightly on the marble floor. Whichever president had been in charge of designing these government buildings had an obvious liking for old-fashioned design.

After signing in, Raskin headed to the offices on the top floor. It was an open room, filled with desks where the dozen-or-so pokémon that shared this department worked. The twin skyscrapers of paper he had left on his desk over the weekend had not cleared themselves, though at least the whole of his little computer screen was visible for now.

He had only been at work for a few minutes before Locki, who had arrived before him and hid no smugness about it, asked for his help.

“I’ve got all of this customer’s inflows and outflows typed up,” she said, which Raskin was glad to confirm, “but—sorry if I’m repeating myself here—how do you easily sum up the totals? I could calculate it by hand, but—”

“Yeah, don’t do that,” Raskin said, moving his chair over to her desk. “You click and drag—” He had to practically lean on her desk to move the cursor, such was the small reach of his front legs. He highlighted every inflow. Jeez, I’m glad you didn’t try doing it by hand, he thought, staring down the huge list. “—then type SUM into the little box that appears here. That’s it.”

“So…” Locki carefully tried the same procedure on the next column. “Awesome!” she cheered. “Thanks, Raskin!”

“No worries,” he muttered, eager to return to his work.

Except… he wasn’t eager in the slightest. He knew why this task was important: the bank was transferring its entire, enormous monetary records onto the recently arrived computers. The capabilities and speed of these new machines were mind-boggling to Raskin initially—and even now, after a couple of weeks experience, he struggled to grasp how they were possible. Once all the data could be accessed and processed through these magic electricity boxes, the bank’s efficiency would undoubtedly skyrocket.

Yet none of that could shroud the faint, perpetual despair he felt about it all. Before the computers, the bank had calculated everything by hand. It was repetitive, hand-aching work, yes, and it was almost as low-paying as Sid’s job on the farm—but it was at least a little stimulating. And he was good at maths; better than any of his co-workers, for sure.

Transcribing pages and pages of numbers onto a little screen was just… nothing. And once that job was done, as his manager was so keen to point out, every operation could be handled by computer. The bank could run practically paperless. He would be a little input machine.

I need to get out of here. I’m wasting my life.

He paused typing, and told that thought, very clearly, to stay in the back of his mind where it belonged. He’d only make himself feel worse by lingering on the bad. Besides, he was still young; he would get a break in time. He wasn’t sure how, but he would. He had to believe that.

“You thinking of heading to the athletics tonight?” Raskin heard a co-worker ask.

“Sure,” replied Luis, a zangoose. “It’s the grounded ten thousand metres, right?”

“That’s the one. I think it’ll be close.”

“I hope it’s not,” Luis said snidely. “That linoone fella’s gonna do the business for the commons again. You heard it here first!”

“Nah, I reckon Horus Manectric’s got it on lockdown,” a kirlia close to Raskin piped up.

“Pfft, you wish.” Luis caught Raskin’s eye. “Are you gonna go, Rasky?”

Raskin shrugged. “I dunno yet. Maybe.”

Athletics was a strange entity to him. It was tremendously popular throughout all of Deepden, and he understood why. There was usually at least one of each pokémon type competing per event, giving everyone someone to cheer on, even if the same types tended to dominate the events suiting them. The throwing events had genuinely astounding feats of strength, while running-focused ones often went right to wire, leaving emotions on a knife-edge between euphoria and despair.

Even so, whenever he watched it, either with Sid or work colleagues, he felt like it was… incomplete, somehow. There was something crucial missing. That, or he just always inexplicably found his eyes drawn to the stewards scattered all around the stands, florescent-jacketed and grim-faced. Whatever it was, he could never get very excited about the athletics.

----

An hour or so of aimless keyboard tapping passed. Then, Raskin heard distant noises from the office window, overlooking the street below. The closest ‘mon to it poked their heads over. One of them gestured urgently to the rest of the room. “Get a look at this!” she said.

Though Raskin hesitated, nobody else seemed to, so he eventually followed the crowd, leaning his front paws on the window to get a better view, since most of his co-workers were bigger than him.

He arrived just in time to see a burly raticate shove a distinctly lighter-looking ivysaur to the floor on the street below. A crowd was quickly gathering around them.

“Setting up business right opposite my bakery is bad enough,” the raticate growled, stomping towards the ‘mon, “yet you have the nerve to raid my ingredients too?!”

“Raid your—what?” the ivysaur yelped, vines held out in front of him like a peace gesture. “You are mistaken, sir. My business runs on a firm set of morals, and I would never—”

“Don’t you lie to me!” The raticate suddenly swiped a set of claws at one vine, which the Ivysaur only pulled away by a whisker. The crowd around them gasped. In response, the Ivysaur dropped a little closer to the ground and widened his posture. He suddenly looked like a different pokémon; one ready to fight back.

Raskin frowned. Why was no one trying to intervene here? This raticate had some pounds on him, sure, but he was far from unstoppable—there were more than enough bodies gathered around that could get in his way.

“D’you reckon we’ll get a street fight?” a scraggy asked, her head pressed against the window.

“I hope so,” Luis replied, rubbing his paws together. “Been too long since I’ve seen a good one.”

Oh… so nobody wants to stop them, Raskin realised. Why is that?

Sure, a fight would be fun to watch—at least, that was what everyone seemed to think—but they had been illegal for years now. And that was before considering how much physical harm fighting could do. Surely, these two won’t think that fighting is the best solution…?

“If you attack me,” the ivysaur said, “I won’t roll over for you.”

“Why don’t I put that to the test?” the raticate hissed.

“Y’know, my money was on Raticate,” someone at the window said, “but now I’m not so sure.”

“I reckon Mister Vines there’s got more about him than he lets on,” Luis said, grinning.

But the raticate only took one more step forward before a sudden, horizontal blast of water pierced the air, slamming into the tawny ‘mon’s chest. The raticate stumbled backwards, mouth open in shock, before falling over onto his back.

A huge empoleon stepped out from behind the ivysaur, wearing the white scarf and badge of a police officer. It wiped its mouth with a vast flipper. “Stay right where you are, or you’ll get it too,” she warned the ivysaur, who unsurprisingly did as she ordered.

The empoleon looked around the gathered crowd dimly. “Show’s over, folks. Get back to work. You two.” She pointed to the ivysaur, then the raticate, who was slowly coming to. “Come with me.”

No one complained as she led them away, for the empoleon had only done the right thing. Still, Raskin could sense the air of deflation around the street even from where he stood.

“That’s a shame,” Luis said, trudging back to his desk, as if echoing Raskin’s thought. “I would’ve paid to see how that ended.” A few co-workers chuckled, agreeing.

As Raskin turned he found Locki, standing resolutely at her desk, staring at the group of them with fury.

“What is wrong with you all?” she demanded. “Fighting is a terrible thing! Don’t encourage it!”

The room looked at each other, exchanging confused looks. Eventually Luis spoke up. “You’re right, Locks. Sorry.”

A few other pokémon murmured their own apologies, and Locki seemed to calm down. As Luis passed Raskin though, he mouthed to him, ‘Her dad’s an officer.

Raskin understood at once, and had to suppress a smile. Why else would Locki be so vehemently opposed to fighting?

He still found the contrasting reactions of his other co-workers intriguing. I guess a possible fight is just a distraction more than anything, he thought. Something to interrupt the predictable monotony of everyday life?

…Damn, I sound depressing today.

----


Raskin passed the two bakeries on the route home from work. Both ‘mon were back at their counters, serving customers in the evening rush; the empoleon’s attack would have only stunned the raticate, rather than cause any lasting damage. Raskin noticed that both shopkeepers were making an effort not to catch the others’ eye, and focused with unnerving concentration on serving customers.

Curious, he went to the ivysaur’s shop, as it had a slightly shorter line, and the ‘mon seemed significantly less scary. He quickly scanned the glass display for what might be cheap, before the customers cleared.

“Yes?” the ivysaur asked him moments later.

“Small cinnamon roll please,” said Raskin. As the ‘mon pulled one out for him, he leant over and added, “And um… about what happened in the street earlier…”

The ivysaur paused, narrowing his eyes. “Don’t tell me Chaka sent you here?”

That must be the raticate, Raskin thought, amused. “No, I was just wondering what happened.”

“Not much to it,” the ivysaur grumbled, putting a paper bag on the counter. “Chaka clearly lost count of his stock, somehow thought I was responsible for it, and won’t let it go for some reason. That’ll be a half-poké.”

Raskin passed him a bronze coin. “Would you really have fought Chaka if the officer hadn’t intervened?”

The ivysaur glanced around the shop suddenly and Raskin, realising he may have spoken slightly too loudly, quickly held up a paw of apology. Then, satisfied, the grass ‘mon dropped his money into the till and went on. “After the warnings we were given, I might be more careful next time,” he said. “But if there had been no police? Why not. It could hit some sense into him.”

Raskin thanked him for the roll and left, contemplating his words. Street fights seemed to have a mythical aura attached to them. Though they had been outlawed long before Raskin was born, it didn’t stop them occasionally happening. Raskin had never witnessed a proper one, mind: whenever a fight had threatened to break out near him, either some police officer had been in the perfect place to intervene, like today, or the ‘mon themselves had realised their foolhardiness and walked away. Plus, for any fights that he had heard about, they never seemed to appear in the newspaper. He suspected that the subsequent eyewitness accounts always became exaggerated as a result.

The combination of talking to the ivysaur and stopping to eat the sweet roll, which was delicious, made him miss his usual ride home, and the next one was running late. The air was significantly colder than it had been this morning. By the time he finally got off the ride and crossed the street to his flat, it was almost seven o’clock, and he felt weary.

The door was still unlocked, so he gave it a firm nudge with his shoulder to open it. The first thing he saw was Sid, stretched out on the sofa, eyes staring upwards at nothing, with a newspaper lying across his torso.

The quilava turned his head at the sound of the door. “Oh, hey Rasky,” he said quietly. “You’re back a bit late.”

“Got caught up with some stuff,” replied Raskin, shivering. The warmth of the indoors was most welcome. “How was work?”

“Tiring,” Sid mumbled. He put the newspaper down and sat up. “Sorry, you’re probably hungry, right? I should’ve gotten started on dinner already… lost track of time.”

“I don’t mind waiting a little bit.”

“Nah, I should eat too,” Sid said, dragging himself over to the kitchen. He peered into the fridge. “Fancy heating up the rest of that stew from the other night?”

“Sounds good,” Raskin replied. They had tried following a recipe a few nights ago for a ‘herby vegetable stew’. The recipe had served four, but even though they halved all the ingredients, it had been far too much for the two of them. It turned out that it had said ‘four large pokémon’, which made Raskin even more exasperated. Who decided what size was large?

Raskin took Sid’s place on the sofa, stretching and letting out a deep sigh. He pulled the newspaper, Deepden Daily, closer to him while the quilava got to work. The back pages were previewing the athletics that had been the talk of work today. Indeed, it was the talk of most days: events were held several nights a week, and it was rare for the Coliseum to not be pushing its twenty-something thousand capacity.

It would be starting in just over an hour from now. Raskin glanced over at Sid. “Did you want to go watch the 10,000 tonight?”

“Oh? Uh… nah, I don’t think so,” Sid replied.

Raskin frowned. “Why not?”

“Well…” Sid paused for a moment. “Horus has got it wrapped around her paw, hasn’t she?”

The manectric was very good, that was undebatable. Still… “That hasn’t stopped you from going before,” Raskin said.

Sid shrugged. “Just haven’t been feeling it, I dunno.”

Perhaps there was some truth in that, Raskin thought. He wouldn’t expect even the most ardent fan to watch every night, at least while they had to work too, since the exertion and costs involved would quickly get overwhelming. But even so, Sid’s apathy concerned him. The quilava loved sports, as much as anyone he knew.

Sid served up their stew shortly afterwards. Raskin lifted the bowl to his mouth and took a sizable mouthful; it was good, perhaps better than when they had originally cooked it. The vegetables were much tastier than he remembered.

“Something pretty interesting happened at work today. There was a commotion—”

He broke off upon seeing Sid opposite him. The ‘mon’s head was cradled in his paws, muzzle almost pressing against the table. He had pushed his stew to the side.

This sight was most unusual—Sid was nearly always the one keeping Raskin’s spirits high. Raskin felt his heart begin to race. “Sid?” he said carefully. “What’s up? Did something happen today?”

Sid breathed heavily. “Nothing in particular,” he said, his gaze flitting unsuccessfully between Raskin and the floor. “I just… I’m struggling, Rasky.”

“How so? With work, or…?”

“Everything.” Sid’s voice cracked. “I slave away at this job six days a week. I come home exhausted, I want to go out but I need to save money as well, and keep myself fresh. But the thought of saving myself just for another day of picking berries is… oh, I hate it!”

He got up from the table and began pacing, rubbing his paws up and down his face. “I don’t know if I can keep this up, Rasky. I don’t wanna spend the rest of my life in a greenhouse, but… what else is there? What can I do?”

That’s true for both of us, Raskin thought sadly. When most pokémon reached the end of compulsory education, they chose a field to specialise in, and got further training from there. But training cost money, the one thing Raskin and Sid had always struggled for. Sid’s parents didn’t earn much and had raised him among four other children. Although they loved him dearly, and the quilava still visited them regularly, they barely had a quarter-poké of their own to offer. As for Raskin, his parents were in no position to even try funding him.

Raskin got up and patted Sid’s arm comfortingly. “I know how you feel,” he said. “It’s rough. I wish I could do something to help you.”

“Same goes for you,” Sid said, with a flicker of amusement. He sighed. “You know, sometimes at work, if no one’s watching… I go out behind the back of the greenhouse and scream. Just to… release some of this frustration.”

Raskin raised an eyebrow. That sounded a little worrying. “Does screaming help you?”

“Yeah, a little.”

“Well, you can always do it here, you know. I wouldn’t mind.”

“Actually, I can’t. ‘Cause when I properly let off steam, my flame sacs sometimes get ignited. And in this house…”

Raskin glanced around at the wooden table, doors and floor, and he understood. Sid couldn’t possibly risk setting the whole apartment block on fire. “Right. Sorry about that.”

“Hey, it ain’t your fault. I just wish clay fittings weren’t so expensive.” Sid got down onto all-fours to meet Raskin at eye level, and smiled. “Thanks for being there for me, Rasky. It means a lot, honestly.”

“It’s nothing,” Raskin said, feeling sudden emotion well up in his chest. “I could say the same for you.” Unsure what else to do—and feeling too awkward to hug him—Raskin made a tentative smile. “Now, you should get some food down ya. It’ll make you feel better.”

Sid nodded, sitting back at the table. He took a couple of hearty mouthfuls of stew, and Raskin did the same.

“What was it you were saying about work?” Sid asked. “Has to be more interesting than my day, right?”

Chuckling, Raskin explained the scene with the raticate and ivysaur. Halfway through, Sid had put down his bowl, listening intently.

“Damn, that is unfortunate,” he said when Raskin had finished explaining the empoleon’s intervention. “That raticate sounded ready to take a few bites out of him.”

“I don’t doubt that he would have,” Raskin said. “I spoke to the ivysaur after work as well. He said that he’d still be willing to fight the ‘mon, just to knock some sense into him.”

Sid chuckled. “I’d pay to watch that happen.”

Hearing the words made Raskin’s ears perk. It was the same phrase Luis had used about the two ‘mon. “Would you really?” he asked.

“What?”

“Pay to watch a street fight.”

Sid eyed him curiously. “Yeah, I think so. I told you about that arrest I saw happen in the south district a couple years ago, right?”

“You’ve told me a few times.”

“It was awesome,” Sid said, a childish excitement in his eyes. “The sneasel was never gonna take down those officers, but he covered practically half the street in ice before they got him under control. I love the athletics, but you just don’t see stuff like that happen! So brutal! Raw! I dunno.”

Raskin nodded. His mind was racing. “Say, what if we found a way to put on this fight between raticate and ivysaur? We… find somewhere out of the way of police, so they won’t intervene. Get a load of people along who wanted to watch, like us. They pay us for it. And as well as money, we get to watch a proper street fight with everyone else.”

Sid froze, staring at him. “Where did that come from?”

Raskin laughed, the response unexpected. “My massive brain, obviously. Well, what do you think?”

Sid frowned. “It’s a brilliant idea. I bet every ‘mon in Deepden would pay for something like that. But it’s very illegal, bro. Being involved in a street fight is bad enough, but staging one, charging people to watch like it’s some kind of business… what would the punishment even be for that? You’d go to prison, for sure.”

That thought made Raskin pause; sent shivers down his spine. He remembered the stories he’d heard about life in the cells, of pokémon that picked fights with every newcomer, pokémon that could crush his little body in the snap of the wrist.

He recalled seeing his father in the visitors room, watching the hope slowly being crushed from him with each successive visit he made. “No matter what happens,” Raskin had said, “I’ll be here for you when you’re released. I’ll make something of my life. I promise.”

Then Raskin shook his head, clearing the cloud of thoughts. I can’t think about him now. That’s out of my control.

“The police won’t find out,” he told Sid. “Not if we held it somewhere right on the outskirts, where nobody lives. As long as we didn’t make a complete catastrophe of the place, I don’t think the authorities would notice.”

Sid hummed in thought. “Well… I guess Oldden might be okay. Everyone would know where that is. And there’s tons of abandoned stuff there... Must be something suitable for hosting a fight.”

Raskin smiled. “That sounds perfect.” But Sid didn’t look so convinced. “What is it?”

Sid rubbed his muzzle. “Oldden’s not a nice place, that’s all. I’ve heard it’s where all sorts of homeless ‘mon gather. What if we’re attacked?”

Now Raskin was the one hesitating. He hadn’t considered the possibility. If the constant police presence in central Deepden was good for one thing, it made him feel safe. He had no idea how he’d respond to an unprompted attack.

“We’ll just have to be careful,” he said. “Besides, we’ll have each other. If there was anything truly dangerous in Oldden, I’m sure we would have been made aware of it.”

“You’re probably right,” Sid acknowledged. “Another problem, though. Even if the police aren’t aware of what we’re doing, couldn’t someone still go to them about it?”

Raskin considered for a moment. “Unless we invite an undercover officer along, I doubt that’ll happen. What I’ve learnt today is that a lot of pokémon are crying out to see a street fight. They won’t want to ruin it.” He paused. “How much would you pay to see this fight?”

“Uh… maybe ten poké? Twenty?”

“Twenty might be pushing it. Fifteen sounds reasonable though.”

Sid nodded in agreement.

“Then if we got… thirty ‘mon to join for this, each paying fifteen each…”

“Wait,” Sid interrupted. “Thirty? What hat are you pulling these people out of?”

“Well, there’s all my co-workers at the bank,” Raskin said, counting on his paws. “There’s your friends we go to the athletics with. There’s the raticate and ivysaur themselves—they probably have friends who’d be just as keen to see this. If we told everyone to spread the word—with caution, obviously, ‘cause we don’t want it to spread to the cops—I think thirty is a reasonable target.”

Sid pressed his paws to his chin. “Which would give us…?”

“450 poké overall. 225 if split between us.” Raskin frowned. “225… that felt like it would be more when I was counting the people.”

“That’s still practically what I earn in a week,” Sid said encouragingly. “I’d take it, for sure.”

“Good!” Raskin said. “Then… we just need to figure out how we go about this. When’s your next day off?”

“Uh… tomorrow, actually. But after that I’m s’posed to be in all week.”

“I see. It would be best if we worked on this together, so… well, I could always write in sick tomorrow. Pangoro wouldn’t suspect anything.”

“You sure?”

Raskin nodded. “I haven’t missed a day of work in months. So, the first thing we’d need to do is talk to raticate and ivysaur, to make sure that they’d be willing to do this. It can’t work without them.”

“Then we need a location,” Sid added.

“Right. We can go to Oldden and scout it out. If we find somewhere, then we can start spreading the word around, which should be simple enough. I can catch my workmates once they finish for the day. Where would the athletics gang be tomorrow evening?”

Sid thought for a moment. “Having a drink, most likely. Since there’s no athletics on.”

“Perfect. You can go to the White Entei and tell them the details—where it’s happening, what time…”

“So, let me get this right. You’re planning to do all this in time for… tomorrow night?”

“Sure.” Raskin grinned. “Why not? The sooner the better, right?”

Sid was shaking his head, but he smiled too. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Rasky…”

Despite Raskin’s grin, inside, in his chest, he couldn’t stop himself shaking. And yet, there was something very exciting about this all. He couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come around now, and struggled to remember the last time he had felt like that. He had needed this, he realised: something different, something wild, something so out of keeping with the life he had gotten used to sleepwalking through.

It just so happened that this something was very illegal.
 
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canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
Hello there, and welcome to the forum! I've read the first chapter, and here are my thoughts.

I think my first realization was that this was the only fic I'd read so far that had sapient pokémon live in a modern(ish) setting without humans - at best I'd seen cyberpunk from DeliriousAbsol. PMD really likes to focus on pre-industrial times even with original settings, huh. Anyway, props for establishing this fast and subtly with the mention of radio. Computers being new also accommodates the readers that missed the first indicator. It felt a bit strange that automobiles didn't seem to appear, but upon further thought, the upper class likely wouldn't have need for those with the more mobile and flexible air taxis.

The characters and their motivations are established at a brisk but natural pace. Raskin and Sid's dissatisfaction with their lives hits home, especially with the latter's seemingly random breakdown, and it motivates their transition to the other side of the law well. Still, they hesitate, as one would expect, and I doubt they'll be fully confident by the time the first match is to begin.

Something that perhaps broke the immersion a little was the amount of exposition. It's definitely not as distracting as it could be, but in places it felt like Raskin felt compelled to pause and explain things to the reader. Some of this information gets more of a pass for establishing features of the setting, but some felt like they could be made more subtle or left for the reader to pick up on their own.

Contrasting that point of criticism, I would have liked some more description on the environment in places to better paint a picture. The apartment is shown to have much wood in it when Sid mentions his fire, but this comes towards the end of the chapter. Describing the apartment more could also show more of its run-down state and help establish the pair's monetary situation - though not that it needs much help, as I think you did a good job at it already.

Then some quote comments:

“Stupid alarm,” he muttered, grabbing two pieces of bread from their counter and immediately stuffing one into his mouth. “That’s the second time this week now. Must be broken.”

shit shit im gonna be late for anime high school

With that done, he grabbed his wallet and keys from his room and stuffed them in his bag. He fastened the clasps tightly around his back, with the bag’s contents held against his stomach below. This way it wouldn’t bounce around when he walked on all-fours. Raskin was adept enough at moving on two feet, as were most quadruped ‘mon in Deepden. But despite being taught how to be functional in a bipedal stance almost straight from hatching, all-fours remained more comfortable to him.

I'm somewhat skeptical of the ergonomics of this bag. I'm used to seeing quadrupeds carry things with saddlebags, which have the luggage placed on the creature's sides. Having the bag under the belly does sound better than having it on the back in terms of it slipping around, but I just wonder how it works without limiting the range of motion for the legs.

He checked the clock again – he’d left just enough time – glanced very briefly in the mirror, finding his fur in reasonable order, then left. He started locking their door but, remembering Sid’s lack of a key, decided against it. The crime rate around his district was non-existent right now. Besides, even if someone did notice their apartment door was unlocked, there was scarcely a thing worth stealing. Most of their possessions were already second-hand or beaten down with use.

Unfortunately, the first thing he saw upon leaving his apartment was a familiar skitty across the street, who caught his eye at once. Raskin groaned inwardly.

The "unfortunately" here after all this talk about crime made me initially think this skitty was a notorious thief or so, but it seems like that's not the case at all upon reading further.

That's it for my thoughts! This story did catch my interest and I hope to continue along with it as more is posted. Good luck in writing!
 

NebulaDreams

Ace Trainer
Partners
  1. luxray
There were few sounds Raskin could imagine that were so dissonant and demonic as those which constituted his alarm.

That, of course, was why it was exactly what he needed. Less focus on the tiresomeness of weekday existence, more focus on silencing the damned sound before he broke his clock.

The nickit slid out of bed and stumbled into their kitchen-living room, reaching up with his hind legs to flick on the light. He paused. He wasn’t usually the first up on a weekday – Sid’s job at the greenhouse started at eight o’clock, and it was half-past seven now. Sid should have been about to leave at this time, but Raskin saw no sign that he had moved; there were no crumbs on the kitchen table, the daily newspaper lay untouched at their doorstep, and Sid’s bedroom door was pulled to.

Overall, I like this opening section. Starting with someone waking up (as much as it's a cliche calling out a cliche) doesn't usually make for the most interesting of openers, but the fact that it starts with the novel image of quadruped Pokemon using and navigating the apartment, especially when it doesn't appear to accommodate for them that much, grabbed my attention. It does make me wonder if there are apartments built for ease of access with quadruped or specific elemental Pokemon in mind since it seems like Raskin is coaxing his body into doing mundane tasks, but it mentions clay fittings later on so I assume there is.

Raskin winced. “Why do you do this to yourself? That must be so painful…”

“That’s exactly why I do it,” Sid said breezily, stuffing a water flask into his rucksack and heading to the door.

It's like a really masochistic version of standing under a cold shower.

“Something pretty interesting happened at work today. There was a commotion–”

He broke off upon seeing Sid opposite him. The ‘mon’s head was cradled in his paws, muzzle almost pressing against the table. He had pushed his stew to the side.

This sight was most unusual – Sid was nearly always the one keeping Raskin’s spirits high. Raskin felt his heart begin to race. “Sid?” he said carefully. “What’s up? Did something happen today?”

Sid breathed heavily. “Nothing in particular,” he said, his gaze flitting unsuccessfully between Raskin and the floor. “I just… I’m struggling, Rask

I really like how this scene unfolds from the moment Raskin walks in. Sid's breakdown seems to come out of the blue, but there were also moments that foreshadowed his mental state such as him staring at the ceiling or being late to start dinner. This was probably my favourite part of the chapter since it establishes how desperate the two are to get out of this rut and also showcases their friendship, which made for a heartwarming moment.

--

Alright, so when you first mentioned the premise, I was already interested in reading this fic, and I'm glad I did because this is a very solid opening chapter. It establishes character motivations quickly (also hinting at Raskin's backstory in a tantalising way), already has me asking questions about the world (in a good way), and I'm hooked to see how Raskin and Sid's schemes will develop throughout the course of this story. On that topic, you've provided a good hook in terms of showing how Pokemon have to cope with their fighting nature and potentially hinting at what happened to make fighting outlawed, as well as how these two will get around that by running an underground club. A fight club, if you will, hehe.

The prose, for the most part, is also solid. I've read a few first chapters lately that've gravitated more towards being flowery and wordy, but this flows nicely and doesn't linger on a scene for too long. Similar to what Canis said though, I would've liked to have seen more description about the setting (particularly buildings like the apartment, the streets and the office) since there aren't a lot of modernised PMD stories, and I imagine it would be somewhat different to what a man-made urbanised area would look like. I like the attention to detail in some places (like the nature of Raskin's work, the logic puzzles, the clay fittings again, etc.), but I also wonder how certain things would work (like how the infrastructure would be designed for Pokemon of all types), since it gives off the impression that the city looks exactly like something if it was built by humans. Then again, it's not something that has to be answered straight away.

I have one nitpick when it comes to adverbs. Adverbs in dialogue tags are a bit of a peeve of mine since they redundantly express the emotion that's being inferred in dialogue. Stuff like '“Don’t do it, Sid,” Raskin said wearily' could just easily stand on its on without the 'wearily' part. The same could be said about the thoughts Raskin's narration expresses in phrases like this, 'Rich show-off, Raskin thought bitterly', where the 'bitterly' part wouldn't be needed. What else is he going to think about the whole matter?

Ah well, this is a really small gripe that doesn't affect your story. It's just preference on my part, and as I said before, this is a strong first chapter. Thanks for sharing and I hope to read more chapters of it in the future when they come out. ;)
 

cynsh

full-time quilava
Location
Deepden
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. quilava
Something that perhaps broke the immersion a little was the amount of exposition. It's definitely not as distracting as it could be, but in places it felt like Raskin felt compelled to pause and explain things to the reader. Some of this information gets more of a pass for establishing features of the setting, but some felt like they could be made more subtle or left for the reader to pick up on their own.

Contrasting that point of criticism, I would have liked some more description on the environment in places to better paint a picture. The apartment is shown to have much wood in it when Sid mentions his fire, but this comes towards the end of the chapter. Describing the apartment more could also show more of its run-down state and help establish the pair's monetary situation - though not that it needs much help, as I think you did a good job at it already.

Gotcha. I actually realised today when writing a segment several chapters on that I'd described very little of the apartment. Will take a look at correcting that in editing/future chapters.
As for exposition, yeah, maybe it was a bit heavy. I wanted to paint a pretty good pictureof what the world is like, since first chapters are important and all, but I guess it's a tough balance to strike with keeping things moving along swifty.

I'm somewhat skeptical of the ergonomics of this bag. I'm used to seeing quadrupeds carry things with saddlebags, which have the luggage placed on the creature's sides. Having the bag under the belly does sound better than having it on the back in terms of it slipping around, but I just wonder how it works without limiting the range of motion for the legs.

Hmm, good point. It would just have to be small enough, I suppose. In Raskin's case he only needs to carry the essentials around with him. I feel like a bag on the side of a quadruped would still be prone to bouncing around unless it was tightened really securely. I guess what I'm trying to say is there's no convenient solution 😅

The "unfortunately" here after all this talk about crime made me initially think this skitty was a notorious thief or so, but it seems like that's not the case at all upon reading further.

Hahaha I see it, good spot.

Starting with someone waking up (as much as it's a cliche calling out a cliche) doesn't usually make for the most interesting of openers

> me, unaware how much of cliche it was, now panicking

I really like how this scene unfolds from the moment Raskin walks in. Sid's breakdown seems to come out of the blue, but there were also moments that foreshadowed his mental state such as him staring at the ceiling or being late to start dinner. This was probably my favourite part of the chapter since it establishes how desperate the two are to get out of this rut and also showcases their friendship, which made for a heartwarming moment.

Thanks! I'm glad you picked up on the little hints sprinkled in there. I'm a sucker for heartwarming friendships and moments.

A fight club, if you will, hehe.

:SCREM:

I have one nitpick when it comes to adverbs. Adverbs in dialogue tags are a bit of a peeve of mine since they redundantly express the emotion that's being inferred in dialogue. Stuff like '“Don’t do it, Sid,” Raskin said wearily' could just easily stand on its on without the 'wearily' part. The same could be said about the thoughts Raskin's narration expresses in phrases like this, 'Rich show-off, Raskin thought bitterly', where the 'bitterly' part wouldn't be needed. What else is he going to think about the whole matter?

Makes sense! I'm just as nickpicky about unnecessary words in prose, so I'll be sure to watch out for that in future.

Thanks guys! More is on the way soon I promise
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
Hey there! This fic had some interesting themes floating around and I was curious to see how they unfolded. How would multi-species society function in a modern context? Is that primal instinct to punch things in the face something we all share? Can foxes hold spoons when they eat cereal or do they just slurp it out of the bowl? All highly compelling things that keep me thinking at night.

There were few sounds Raskin could imagine that were so dissonant and demonic as those which constituted his alarm.
I thought the intro here is a lot of fun--feels very Douglas Adams in how being both nonchalant but slightly amused. You introduce Sid and Raskin to us in close order, and you do a great job of sketching out their characters in broad strokes in the first few hundred words. In particular I liked the cold shower that Raskin takes, since it starts to divulge a lot of information: he does what has to be done and puts a brave face about it. Really effective! And then Sid just goes back to eating breakfast lol, so we also get to see that these guys have known each other for a while and are used to the other's antics.

He fastened the clasps tightly around his back, with the bag’s contents held against his stomach below. This way it wouldn’t bounce around when he walked on all-fours. Raskin was adept enough at moving on two feet, as were most quadruped ‘mon in Deepden. But despite being taught how to be functional in a bipedal stance almost straight from hatching, all-fours remained more comfortable to him.
The anatomy here was a bit confusing to follow. I don't really know how he'd get his forepaws to tighten the clasps on his back, since I don't think the elbow/hip joints would really bend that way. I noticed that someone else had pointed out that a belly bag would get in the way of walking, which I agree with--I think the side-mounting bags are pretty effective! And I don't really see them bouncing around any more than an under-mounted bag would assuming they're both secured just as tightly. And like! Ignoring the anatomy of how most quadruped hips don't bend to allow for a sustained bipedal stance, is there a benefit to teaching them to have bipedal stances in the first place? Humans evolved bipedalism because it allowed for tool use while walking, but since nickit don't have opposable thumbs/their primary tool use body part is their mouth, there's no additional benefit here and it's biologically quite bad for them to maintain stances for extended periods of time.

I also sort of struggled to understand what characters were doing between scenes, what they looked like, how they were actually performing these actions. In the office scenes I pretty much pictured humans since they're sitting at desks, using keyboards--these seem difficult for a nickit to do, and you reference that he's got a short reach of his paws. And then there's Locki, and skitty don't even seem to have elbows, let alone grasping/dexterity. But she uses a mouse and keyboard and microsoft excel. I couldn't really imagine how all of these pokemon were performing all of these actions in environments that are basically designed for humans. Humans have desks because the size of our torsos and our natural sitting stance puts our arms/eyes significantly above our legs, but imagine when dogs/cats/similar and play with objects--they usually lay on their bellies, where their paws/eyes are all pretty much in the same area.

And that's just one body type! Do amorphous pokemon like gastly/grimer not get office jobs? Fish pokemon like goldeen or lapras definitely couldn't make this work. I think one of the interesting things about the pokemon setting is imagining how societies populated by people who are very different from us would evolve in very different ways--if sentient cats ruled the world I doubt they'd have the inclination to invent desks or the masochism to invent microsoft excel tbh. I guess to me this section felt very much like Office Space crossed with Fight Club--but both of those narratives functioned perfectly fine with human characters. I'm curious to see what aspects of the world and story change to accommodate the pokemon-centric narrative here!

Final weird thought--why the word "mon"? I get that in some settings it evolves as a natural allegory to "man", but if humans never existed then there'd be no reason for characters in this setting to seek out that parallel--or even refer to themselves as monsters.

“Sounds good,” Raskin replied. They had tried following a recipe a few nights ago for a ‘herby vegetable stew’. The recipe had served four, but even though they halved all the ingredients, it had been far too much for the two of them. Raskin was mystified as to why more recipes didn’t specify the size of pokémon they counted a serving for.
“Actually, I can’t. ‘Cause when I properly let off steam, my flame sacs sometimes get ignited. And in this house…”

Raskin glanced around at the wooden table, doors and floor, and he understood. Sid couldn’t possibly risk setting the whole apartment block on fire. “Right. Sorry about that.”
And this one too! It's a funny moment at first, but why wouldn't they specify that? "Serves 4" makes sense when your society is all humans and eat roughly the same amount, but if your society evolved with vastly different sapient species working in harmony, they probably would realize that you can't just say "serves 4" and introduce an appropriate substitute. Or for Sid's issue, it seems weird that they'd not have special accommodations for fire types--quilava can unignite their flames at will, but what about pokemon like charmander or magcargo? Or the fish issue (fishue?) from before--seems like their problem wouldn't be about letting off steam, but about not suffocating immediately in a wooden building. I don't really see why they would go for one-size-fits-all apartment buildings that look like human apartment buildings, especially in a world without humans.

“Sure,” replied Luis, a zangoose. “It’s the grounded ten thousand metres, right?”
I thought this was a really fun bit of worldbuilding though! 10,000 meter dash makes no sense for humans, but for all of the crazy speed feats that pokemon can accomplish, this seems super reasonable! I forgot to quote but I also liked the tropius/arcanine public transport details, and the descriptions of the city in general. It's always fun to sell people on your setting as early as possible, especially when there's a lot of new things to explain.

Sid frowned. “It’s a brilliant idea. I bet every ‘mon in Deepden would pay for something like that. But it’s very illegal, bro. Being involved in a street fight is bad enough, but staging one, charging people to watch like it’s some kind of business… what would the punishment even be for that? You’d go to prison, for sure.”
I sort of didn't get their plan though? If they're staging fights and selling tickets for people to see, that doesn't really seem any more or less legal than showing a play where someone gets murdered in the play--since that actor isn't actually dead, that doesn't count as murder. I think from the premise they aren't actually staging fights, but just organizing an underground fight ring (which would be more illegal, certainly)--in which case I don't know if you want the word "staging" here since it implies a level of fakeness.

But in general, I think this is a strong first chapter. Your style is really fun to read, and you set up your characters well! I appreciate that you cut to the chase with the premise right away. I like the double pun in fighting nature--are they fighting against nature, or is it because they're naturally inclined to fighting? That's a really interesting dichotomy that I'm pretty sure you're going to revisit later in the fic, but I'm glad that the first chapter sets up the premise/characters in a really concrete way.
 

cynsh

full-time quilava
Location
Deepden
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. quilava
The anatomy here was a bit confusing to follow. I don't really know how he'd get his forepaws to tighten the clasps on his back, since I don't think the elbow/hip joints would really bend that way. I noticed that someone else had pointed out that a belly bag would get in the way of walking, which I agree with--I think the side-mounting bags are pretty effective! And I don't really see them bouncing around any more than an under-mounted bag would assuming they're both secured just as tightly.

...I had no idea that those bags you linked were a thing. Hm. Maybe that is a better option. I'll have to think about it.

And like! Ignoring the anatomy of how most quadruped hips don't bend to allow for a sustained bipedal stance, is there a benefit to teaching them to have bipedal stances in the first place? Humans evolved bipedalism because it allowed for tool use while walking, but since nickit don't have opposable thumbs/their primary tool use body part is their mouth, there's no additional benefit here and it's biologically quite bad for them to maintain stances for extended periods of time.

Regarding opposable thumbs, I'm taking some PMD-esque liberties here in assuming that pokemon with paws can still handle things. Similar thing with what you say about skitty. Skitty's body ordinarily has absurdly short legs, so I'm just assuming that they're actually longer than that. Sorry if that's... not a good excuse, haha. Maybe I should have clarified it somewhere, but lots of PMD stories make similar assumptions, so I guess I'm going off those. The forced bipedialism is one thing that I will look to explore later in the story.

And that's just one body type! Do amorphous pokemon like gastly/grimer not get office jobs? Fish pokemon like goldeen or lapras definitely couldn't make this work. I think one of the interesting things about the pokemon setting is imagining how societies populated by people who are very different from us would evolve in very different ways--if sentient cats ruled the world I doubt they'd have the inclination to invent desks or the masochism to invent microsoft excel tbh.

Hey, I agree! My setting is not trying to contradict this. There's not much I can divulge yet that wouldn't verge into spoilers, but in time this will make sense (I hope). There was only so much I could get across in the first chapter.
I thought this was a really fun bit of worldbuilding though! 10,000 meter dash makes no sense for humans, but for all of the crazy speed feats that pokemon can accomplish, this seems super reasonable!

Actually, 10,000 metres is an olympic event (albeit a very long-distance one) 😅 would probably be much more fun to watch with pokemon involved though!

I sort of didn't get their plan though? If they're staging fights and selling tickets for people to see, that doesn't really seem any more or less legal than showing a play where someone gets murdered in the play--since that actor isn't actually dead, that doesn't count as murder. I think from the premise they aren't actually staging fights, but just organizing an underground fight ring (which would be more illegal, certainly)--in which case I don't know if you want the word "staging" here since it implies a level of fakeness.

Yeah, the fight is real. By 'staging' I meant 'providing a stage for the fight to happen' (since if it was done in the open, it would quickly get cut out and the perpetrators punished). Didn't realise that might cause confusion!

Thank you so much for leaving such a thorough review! I'm glad you could enjoy it even while picking apart the environment.:quag:For the most part I'd just say: sit tight, things will fall into place as the story goes on. o7
 
Chapter 2: Sticks and Stones

cynsh

full-time quilava
Location
Deepden
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. quilava
Chapter 2: Sticks and Stones

Even though Raskin wasn't going to work, he got up as early as usual. The first thing he did—after eating breakfast, of course—was scribble a quick note on paper, addressed to his manager at the bank, Pangoro, explaining he was sick and wouldn't be in.

One good thing about modern Deepden was that one could seldom get more than a street away from a post office. Perhaps the city's burgeoning population meant that this was simply required to keep all the flying pokémon in work. Even so, there certainly wasn't a lack of demand—the post office at the end of their apartment block's road had a short queue outside, despite the early hour. Or perhaps because of it. It was difficult to tell.

A yellow-hided sandshrew was at the reception desk. She glanced at the address on the note, making note of its distance, before charging Raskin a small fee. Then she passed on the letter to a spearow, one of several pokémon waiting behind the desk. The letter was slipped into a pouch around the 'mon's neck, with a small flap making it easy for the spearow to reach in with its beak and pluck out each letter.

Next, Raskin and Sid took the familiar ride towards Pokémon Bank. They stopped at both the ivysaur's (whom Raskin learned was called Aster) and Chaka the raticate's bakeries, with Raskin taking the lead in explaining their plan to them. Both reacted with surprise and a little apprehension—especially Chaka, who at first just laughed nervously. But once Raskin explained that the venue would be as far from police control as possible—and that, if anything did happen, he and Sid would take responsibility—the two 'mon warmed to the idea.

Raskin suggested they meet him at nine at the Founding Oak: an enormous tree that had apparently been one of the first seeds planted in the development of the 'new' Deepden, over two hundred years ago. The tree had made a natural hub for all kinds of commerce and gatherings in the city's early days, but as Deepden continued to grow in population and modernise, businesses obtained their own trading spots further inland, and pubs or bars became the place to socialise. The slowly-dying Oak had long stopped being cared for, making it little more than a relic of the past.

It was, however, the easiest place to draw a line between Deepden and Oldden. Both bakers gave Raskin their approval.

"Rasky," Sid said, as they headed back to the transport station. "Why did you say we would take all responsibility if we get caught? That's… a bit of an unnecessary risk, isn't it?"

"Perhaps," Raskin acknowledged. "But I figured that, as the obvious organisers of this, pokémon will be quick to blame us in any circumstance. May as well turn that fact into a positive negotiating tool, eh?"

"I see," Sid said, face screwed up in thought. "Another question, then. The timing of this, at 9…"

"I figured the later the better."

"No, I get that. But what about rides back into town? They stop after about 11, don't they?"

"I don't think we'll be sticking around for that long," Raskin said, then paused. "That's a good point though. It might look suspicious if thirty 'mon all get the same obscure, late-night ride. I'll ask people to break up their travel a little. Walk or fly if they're able, too."

Is that overly paranoid? he wondered. No. We should take as many precautions as we can.

He saw a flash of white fur in his periphery, and looked over to see a familiar zangoose heading in the opposite direction. Luis took much pride in keeping his coat sleek and shiny, which always made him stand out.

Raskin's eyes lit up. "Luis!" he called, getting the 'mon's attention.

Luis found him, and they consciously stepped to the side of the street, avoiding the masses of commuting bodies.

"What's up? Where are you going at this hour?" Luis asked, clearly confused.

"I'm kind of... not going into work today," Raskin said. "But it's good that I found you. Do you remember the dispute in the street yesterday between those two bakers?" He quickly explained his plan again, as well as what he had already agreed between Chaka and Aster.

Once he had finished, Luis blinked at him for a moment. Then he grinned. "Did somebody sneak chesto juice into your dinner last night?"

Raskin frowned. "I'm sorry?"

Luis laughed, giving the nickit a clap on the shoulder. He knew Raskin found that annoying. "What I'm saying is that you're a mad bastard. I thought you didn't even like sport!"

"I mean, I don't not like it, but…" Raskin looked away, feeling his face heat up. He'd never admitted that to anyone directly except Sid. Was he that easy to see through?

He managed to clear his head. "Anyway Luis, I need your help. Sid and I have to sort out the venue in Oldden, and I don't want to risk Pangoro seeing me around the bank when I said I was ill. Could you spread the word about the fight? Just the time and location of the Founding Oak are sufficient." He hadn't told Luis that they still needed to find a venue.

"Sure thing," Luis smiled. "Though I doubt it'll take much for this to spread like wildfire."

"Well, try not to whisper it too loud then. If the wrong person overhears…"

Luis nodded. "I know. I gotcha covered."

Raskin thanked him, and they quickly agreed to meet again later before Luis had to rush off to get to work on time.

----

Raskin and Sid hopped off their next ride at the closest street to Oldden, though that itself was a good fifteen-minute walk away. It was like walking gradually back in time: the streets became rougher and hole-ridden, buildings grew sparser and increasingly dilapidated. A silence grew over them, eerier still for it being in broad daylight. Raskin was used to Central Deepden which practically never slept, especially not at this hour.

Even given the gradual shift in conditions, passing the Founding Oak and into Oldden was like entering another world. It was situated in the dip of an immense valley, which stretched far either side of their entrance point. The upside of this position was that it was well-shielded against winds. That, Raskin remembered being taught, was the main reason why stray pokémon had first chosen this area to settle. But one factor they seemingly hadn't considered was how often it would naturally flood. The central, flattest parts of the province had either standing water or a swamp-like layer of mud covering it almost all year-round. Raskin had to watch his footing to avoid large puddles that had yet to dry out.

Unsurprisingly, most of the structures—'buildings' felt like too generous a term—still standing were further up the valley, and this was where Raskin and Sid began searching. Pokémon had lived together in large numbers back then, which was still evident from the enormous slices of wood and piles of hay left behind. Being built on the edges of the valley's big trough, most structures were lopsided. Raskin wondered if his ancestors had realised that it was useful to build on flat ground. Perhaps it was merely a trade-off between living on an angle or living in a swamp.

Their search was fruitless for quite some time: buildings that looked promising were in fact missing large sections of wall, or were built on wood so rotten and flaky that it looked like the whole thing would crumble under a slight breeze. Raskin was starting to get uncomfortable - every time he heard a rustling of wind or a twig snap underfoot he tensed, expecting something to jump out at them.

But then they turned a corner, revealing a building that seemed perfect. It had a wider radius than most of the dens, no gaps at all, and its wooden beams were packed with nails, some parts even covered in a glossy substance that looked like glue. It had been built on level, firm ground, and had a door, albeit one without a visible lock.

"Look at this beauty!" Sid exclaimed as they drew near.

Raskin smiled, relieved. "Better check the inside before we get too excited."

He gave the door a firm nudge to open. Then, he almost jumped out of his fur.

A purple nidoran was lying right in front of them. It opened an eye, then upon seeing Raskin suddenly leapt to its feet.

"Who are you?" he barked, baring his teeth.

"What?" Raskin yelped. "I… uh, we…"

Then, the nidoran tackled him.

At first Raskin was too startled to react. A fight? He hadn't had to fight since he was a kit!

Then some survival instinct kicked in. He squirmed, suddenly panting, trying to wrestle the thing off him. But the nidoran did not relent. There was no nuance to his attack; he clawed, kicked, bit all at once. Raskin's limbs seemed to have forgotten how to respond. The nauseating smell of the nidoran's dirt-stained hide in his face only made things worse.

Suddenly, a flash of red and blue shoved the nidoran away from him, and the pressure relented. Gasping for breath, Raskin saw Sid on all fours, facing down the rogue creature. Fire was spitting at the quilava's head and rear—another sight Raskin had almost forgotten existed.

The nidoran hissed an awful, shrill cry, then his haunches twitched, which Sid read as a sign of its intentions. He leapt to the side of the attempted tackle, then while the nidoran was unbalanced, took a deep breath. He arched his back forward and opened his mouth, but rather than fire, all that came out was a spattering of smoke. Sid started coughing violently, giving the nidoran more than enough time to tackle him to the floor successfully.

"Stop!" Raskin cried, but the nidoran didn't seem to hear. Raskin watched in horror as he thrashed with what seemed like even greater intensity than before. Every time Sid tried to escape, one of the 'mon's limbs pinned him down again.

A thick, purplish substance was gathering at the spike on the nidoran's head. Raskin didn't want to find out what would happen if that got under one of their furs. I have to do something!

Two ideas came to mind. Neither filled him with much hope, but he did them both.

"HEEEEELP!" he howled, as loud as he could, before struggling to his feet and running towards the nidoran. He looked up, snarling; Raskin could see every bone under his thin hide tensed. He tried scratching at it with his front claws, but with a single swipe, the nidoran caught him across the face, making the nickit stumble back. The nidoran then kicked Sid in the nose, which made the quilava's flame sacs flicker, before extinguishing.

Just as the nidoran turned its attention on Raskin again, the door of the house was slammed open. All three 'mon froze to look at the figure in the entrance: a bipedal pokémon with red-and-white fur, as well as an enormous white mane, whose mottled colour made it difficult to distinguish what was fur and dirt. Lycanroc.

A ring of rocks and stones levitated around the lycanroc's feet. She swept her paws forwards and the rocks flew with them, moving together into a kind of unconnected sphere. Raskin gave an involuntary yelp even though the rocks crashed into the nidoran, knocking the 'mon into the air until it collided with a wall.

"I told you before to stay out of here," the lycanroc said angrily. "Don't make me ask again!"

The nidoran raised its head and hissed again, despite its obvious defeat. "What about them?" he spat, nodding to Raskin and Sid.

"They have nothing to do with your trespassing," the lycanroc replied. "Now get out!"

With a slow inevitability, the nidoran got up and began trudging towards the door. Then, at about halfway there, he suddenly broke into a sprint and vanished into the valley.

Raskin barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief and process what he'd just seen before the lycanroc's crimson eyes bore into him. "I'm gonna require a very good explanation for what you pathetic hatchlings are doing here," she said.

In his periphery, Raskin saw Sid look imploringly at him. I was the one who organised this mess, he thought wearily. I guess I should explain.

"Firstly, we had no idea you…" He paused. "Live here?"

He was hesitant to say so, since this lycanroc seemed too… well-off to be living in Oldden. Unlike the nidoran, she looked like she ate enough, and though her fur was a little scruffy, it did not compare to the ungodly scents their attacker had worn. He couldn't pin down her age, but he would guess she was older than him and, more importantly, she had Shifted from a rockruff—he doubted a 'mon living as rough as the nidoran would have the strength to do that.

"Not exactly," she said. "But this place does belong to me. And you haven't explained why you thought you could mosey in."

Raskin exchanged another look with Sid. The quilava shrugged, as if to say, What harm could it do to explain? Raskin was mostly in agreement. This 'mon seemed about as far from Deepden's police force as one could be.

"We're holding a kind of street fight tonight," Raskin said. He saw a flicker of surprise cross the lycanroc's face. "We figured Oldden would be a good place to host it, since police don't really patrol here. We were just looking around, and—"

"You thought you'd found the jackpot?" the lycanroc said flatly.

"Well…" A thought occurred to Raskin. "Would you disagree? This is by far the nicest house we've seen here."

The lycanroc gave him a critical look. "I'm flattered." She sat back against a wall, folding her arms. "Tell me about this… street fight."

Raskin pawed the floor for a moment, thinking of how best to explain. "How much do you know about life in Deepden?" he asked eventually.

"I live there, dummy."

He cringed. Not the best start. "Right, well, you know that fighting is illegal, and that any fights that threaten to break out are instantly quashed. But pokémon still want to see it happen. They want to watch. And, given you can't do that anywhere else, I expect they'll pay to do it here. We already have two 'mon that want to fight each other. Now we just need to make the event happen."

The lycanroc still regarded him with suspicion. "You speak like it's a business to you."

Raskin wasn't sure how to respond. Sid got in before him. "We want to have fun, too!" the quilava said. "Life has been kinda shitty for me recently, and doing this feels… liberating. I think there's a few 'mon we're inviting that feel similarly."

The lycanroc nodded, looking thoughtful. "And how much money were you hoping to make tonight?"

"If we get 30 people paying 15 each, 450 poké," Raskin said.

"450..." The lycanroc ran her paws through her mane, doing little to smooth it out. "I think I can cut you a deal. You can use my place to host your little fight. But," she added, noting Raskin and Sid's delighted faces, "I take a third of your proceeds. Two-thirds if anything in the house is damaged. Plus, if it gets discovered by police or whoever, I'm outta here. You're fully responsible."

Raskin had expected as much already, so that was no problem. His thoughts turned to her other proposal. What is there to be damaged? he wondered, looking around the room. Compared to what he knew, it was staggeringly empty. A stack of rocks stood in one corner—some of them had been manipulated to attack the nidoran, he realised—and near that was a thick pile of hay with a slight lycanroc-sized indent in the top. There was nothing else, unless it had been concealed. No seating, food storage, bathroom… Raskin was at a loss as to how anyone could live this way.

"If I can ask you something," Raskin said. "If you don't live here… then why is it yours?"

The lycanroc sighed. "I have some very loud neighbours. Sometimes, the only place I can get sleep is out here… like last night, for instance."

"And it's easier to sleep in this?"

"Sure." She shrugged. "Our ancestors didn't live in nice soft beds, y'know. We haven't changed that much."

"Why don't you at least make a noise complaint?" Sid asked. "We have, before. Things cleared up pretty quickly."

The lycanroc narrowed her eyes. "I have reasons," she said evasively. "You didn't answer my proposal, anyway."

Raskin turned to Sid. "What do you think?" the quilava asked him.

Raskin did that for a moment. "We'll make less money, but from what I've seen of Oldden, it'll be hard to find a better location than here. At least, one that's still relatively close to the city."

Sid nodded. "We've already travelled far enough for my liking." He gave a slight shiver at the words.

Raskin agreed. He was willing to take some risks tonight, probably more than would normally be reasonable. But he did not want to take his chances of getting attacked, mugged or beaten. You never knew what would happen out here—the nidoran had already proven that.

"We'll do it," he said to the lycanroc.

She nodded, satisfied. "I'll leave it to you to get the place prepared, then," she said, turning to leave. "I'll be back tonight."

Her words made Raskin pause. She was a couple of pawsteps out of the door when he called, "Wait! Uh… Miss Lycanroc?"

The lycanroc stopped. "Gods above," she muttered, looking to the sky. "Just call me Lyco next time."

Lyco? Raskin thought, puzzled. Surely her parents wouldn't have called her something so… impersonal. That was the least of his concern though. "Lyco, then," he said. "What do you mean about getting it prepared? I mean, this place is almost empty already. Surely that's all we need."

Lyco turned to face them. "Nonsense. You'll need to mark a perimeter."

"Perimeter…?"

"You think you can just give this raticate and ivysaur the entire room to fight in?" Lyco said cuttingly. "Where will the crowd stand? Anyone could get hit by a missed attack."

I hadn't thought of that, Raskin noted. Are we really as naïve as she seems to think we are?

"Could we use those rocks of yours?" Sid asked, gesturing to the pile.

Lyco frowned. "We could, but it's hardly ideal. They could get kicked, tripped over and such. There's a big chalk deposit close to the Dividing River that would make a much better tool."

Raskin saw Sid took an involuntary step back at the mention of the river, and Lyco rolled her eyes, reading the quilava's face immediately. "I'll go with you," she said wearily. "Now, don't tell me you two haven't thought of lighting, either?"

"Hm? Why would we…" Raskin trailed off, his ears drooping in shame. "Oh, right... it's gonna be dark later."

Lyco raised her eyelids at him, as if sarcastically saying 'well done'. "We'll need torches. Proper torches, not those shitty electric ones."

Raskin wished he could pretend he knew what she was implying. "Just tell us what we need to do, then," he said.

That brought a smirk from the lycanroc. "Gather some cloths that you don't mind getting burned, and some cooking oil. Maybe some lengths of string, too. Everything else should be available here."

Raskin nodded, about to confer with Sid, but his friend spoke first. "I can get those things," he said. "If you don't mind going to the river, Rasky?"

It was more of a plea than a question, Raskin could tell. Sid had come off significantly worse from the nidoran fight, with red scratch marks littering his stomach and arms. Raskin felt relieved, and a little ashamed, that he hadn't been so involved in the fight. Sid would have a task explaining where those marks came from when he returned to work.

"That's fine," Raskin agreed, then gestured Lyco towards the door. "Shall we?"

----

The Dividing River stood at the bottom of Oldden's valley. This was the final frontier standing between Deepden society and the Wilderness. The river was vast in length and width, its distant shore at the other end only a fingerprint on the horizon. In autumn and winter, when rainfall was heaviest, the river could get even wider.

Raskin had never been this close before. He had seen the river once, while at school: as part of a special history class, a team of flyers had hovered his class over it. He mainly remembered them just emphasising its danger: how the river was littered with bloodthirsty fish pokémon who would rip into any meat they could sink their teeth into. And in the unlikely event that anyone made it all the way to shore, the pokémon of the Wilderness would be no less compromising.

He had suspected then, and still did now, that those stories had been exaggerated; designed to scare off any foolhardy kids from venturing into the freezing water for a dare. But even if one did see through the stories, the sight alone of the river's murky expanse, followed by the huge, unending mass of Wilderness forestry on its other side, was enough to dissuade almost anyone. For stories of missing people in Deepden were very rare nowadays and, perhaps most tellingly, no pokémon had been to the Wilderness and come back alive—at least, no documented 'mon.

Raskin stuck as close to Lyco as he dared, not wanting her to get even more irritated with him. He noticed that her movement over the rocks and mud of the valley was somewhat jilted, as if she carried an injury somewhere. He couldn't see any marks on her though; the nidoran certainly hadn't done anything.

"Are you alright?" he asked, making her glance at him. "You're… moving kinda stiff."

"I'm fine," she said gruffly. "Attacking that 'mon took a bit out of me. Haven't had to do that in a while."

That only raised more questions to Raskin. "How did you do that?" he said. "Move those rocks, I mean."

"Not all rock-types have to be covered in armour and weigh a hundred kilos, you know."

"I know what type you are," Raskin said, trying not to get irritated. "I've never seen another pokémon do that with rocks, though."

"Well, if you've never seen a proper fight, it's no wonder."

Raskin frowned. "It's not just to do with fights. What about for construction, or street-works, say? If 'mon could move rocks around that easily, it would—"

"Are you listening?" Lyco snapped, kicking a rabble of pebbles away. "I can't move rocks 'easily'. Why bother with fireplaces if you could just get a typhlosion blowing a constant stream of it into the room? Pokémon abilities don't work like that. Especially if they're not practiced."

Alright, Raskin thought, her tone giving him an involuntary shiver, I'll pretend I never asked. I was just curious…

The chalk deposit was close to the edge of a bank that dropped straight down into the river. He found a firm-enough chunk, and it held well when he tested it on the hard ground. Then he grabbed another piece just in case.

"Good," Lyco said brusquely. "Let's head back then."

Raskin's gaze lingered on the river for a moment. He could see ripples here and there, and had the vague hope that something would leap up from the water—perhaps a gyarados, that mighty, serpent-like creature that featured greatly in antique artworks, flying into the air to catch vulnerable flyers. Of course, nothing did appear, because no flyers would be stupid enough to cross within a mile of the river's territory nowadays. So he reluctantly turned back to the gloom of Oldden.

Lyco instructed him on how the room's perimeter should be drawn, without doing the actual work herself. Raskin was getting the impression that she just enjoyed pushing him around. Drawing out a massive circle of chalk in the rough, dirt floor with his unpractised paws was also more tiring than he realised. The circle covered the majority of the room, but left roughly equal space at all four corners, the reasoning being that this way, as many 'mon as possible could get a good view. Important not just for enjoyment, but to jump out of the way of a stray attack.

Sid returned shortly afterwards, with oil, string and a bundle of old tea towels. The quilava had very bad habits around tea towels, frequently burning them on the stove or inexplicably mistaking them for a washing scourer and getting them stained. They needed replacing often, despite Raskin's best efforts with Sid, and the nickit was strangely pleased at the thought of this tattered set getting incinerated.

The three of them then collected some pieces of wood to light. Lyco suggested that eight torches would be ideal for the room's squarish shape: one at each corner, and one at each midpoint of a wall. One problem not even Lyco had foreseen was how the wooden logs would stick in place. Fortunately, pouring water onto patches of dirt softened it enough to drive the logs firmly into the ground. As per Lyco's instruction, they tied a tea towel around the top of each log.

Raskin could see where things were going now. But as he moved to pour oil on one of the towels, Lyco yelled at him to stop.

"You can't light them yet!" she scolded. "It's hours until this fight is meant to start. They'll have burnt to the floor by then."

"But… how can we be sure that this'll work?" Sid frowned.

Lyco made an annoyed grunt. She sliced off a dangling piece of cloth from one of the logs, then picked up a nearby stick and roughly tied the cloth around. Taking the oil from Raskin, she carefully added a few drops to it.

"Try lighting it," she said to Sid.

"What—with my fire?" he spluttered.

She stared at him. "Can you not even do that?"

"N-no, I can!" Sid took the log in his paw, stared at it for a second, then exhaled forcefully. A small flame appeared, catching quickly on the oil-soaked cloth. Almost instantly, a fire had sprung up.

Sid laughed nervously, his relief obvious. "That is cool."

"Glad to have reassured you," Lyco said, taking it back and stamping out the flame.

"If that's everything for now, we should be getting back," Raskin said. "There's still work that needs doing." Getting an actual audience, namely…

Lyco shrugged. "Make sure you're not late."

Raskin doubted she was going to just sit in the house for the whole afternoon, but the lycanroc made no move to leave. She seemed to be waiting for them to go first, as if she wanted to keep her own whereabouts a secret.

Strange 'mon, Raskin thought as they left. Let's hope she stays on our side.
 
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kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
Thank you so much for leaving such a thorough review! I'm glad you could enjoy it even while picking apart the environment.:quag:For the most part I'd just say: sit tight, things will fall into place as the story goes on. o7
Haha, naturally! I'm curious where this is going, and what it means for some things to fall into place, haha.

This chapter eases off on the existential despair, which is nice. There's some really interesting worldbuilding here with the idea of pokemon who don't live in the city, and how Sid/Raskin see/animalize them. Ripe for some real world allegory there, but my brain is too tired right now to properly connect the dots.

Lyco's a gem! She asks all the questions I wish someone would ask our heroes, but at the same time it's pretty clear that she has no idea what's going on either. I like this idea that you're setting up that these characters aren't ... like, very competent, and are sort of stumbling through things. It feels a little comedic but also realistic, since this really smells like their first time trying to lash out against authority and they're really just doing things that they feel would be effective/interesting instead of thinking things through, haha. There were some really fun character details this chapter! Luis keeping his fur shiny, Rasking being like "oh shit, you're right, we probably all shouldn't take this bus back from nowhere at the exact same time." Baby's first illicit activity. Bless him, he's trying.

Otherwise, this one feels a bit quieter--I wish it focused more on Lyco/the pokemon who don't live in the city, since there's a really fascinating bit of information that isn't posed in ch1 (compare with the first scene with the bakery/tell all your friends we're gonna do COOL ILLEGAL SHIT, which was already canvassed pretty thoroughly last chapter). Lotta interesting things tho!

Some dumb grammar things real quick, and then some more line-specific thoughts:

The first thing he did – after eating breakfast, of course – was scribble a quick note
My soul is owned by the em dash lobby and as such I am legally obligated to say this:
There are actually two (and more, but shhh) types of horizontal lines used in a grammar application. The short one (-) is a hyphen, and the long one (—) is an em dash. Unfortunately the em dash is the one you use more often and is also the one that isn't on your keyboard.
  • - / hyphen: this is used to join two words, and sometimes niche applications like expressing a stutter. Half-baked, reddish-orange, etc.
  • — / em dash: this is used to join two thoughts, usually to show interruption. If you're putting a dash between two words and you aren't intending to join the words, but instead the sentences they're part of, you'll want to use an em dash.
You want the long ones in almost every case that you use hyphens here (and also in ch1, but that review was already quite lengthy rip)--you can also use double hyphens to get the idea across, but basically the gist is that - means something and --/— mean something completely different. Kind of stupid and very arbitary, like single and double quotation marks, but it really helps with readability.

his manager at the bank, Pangoro, explaining he was sick and wouldn’t be in.
Is the manager's name just Pangoro? Felt weird to see it capitalized here since afaik everyone else had regular names or were just addressed as "a _____"

The slowly-dying Oak had long stopped being cared for, making it little more than a relic of the past.
Lowercase on the tree name, unless Oak is also a name.

“Perhaps,” Raskin acknowledged. “But I figured that, as the obvious organisers of this, pokémon will be quick to blame us in any circumstance. May as well turn that fact into a positive negotiating tool, eh?”
Ha! I liked this moment of self awareness.

Unsurprisingly, most of the structures – ‘buildings’ felt like too generous a term – still standing were further up the valley, and this was where Raskin and Sid began searching. Pokémon had lived together in large numbers back then, which was still evident from the enormous slices of wood and piles of hay left behind. Being built on the edges of the valley’s big trough, most structures were lopsided. Raskin wondered if his ancestors had realised that it was useful to build on flat ground. Perhaps it was merely a trade-off between living on an angle or living in a swamp.
And likewise, I really liked this moment of self unawareness--Raskin is over here completely miserable and out of his mind in his beautifully crafted home and special-engineered desk job, talking shit about how his ancestors were too stupid to build houses on flat ground (even though Raskin also didn't build his house, and quite likely would not have hypothesized the benefits and tools needed to build on flat ground if he hadn't grown up in his current timeline). It's really interesting to see how he's still inclined to punch down, even subconsciously.

He arched his back forward and opened his mouth, but rather than fire, all that came out was a spattering of smoke. Sid started coughing violently, giving the nidoran more than enough time to tackle him to the floor successfully.
I think this is a really interesting concept, one that sort of nagged at me in ch1. Would jobs change if pokemon could use their powers? Why can't they here, and why has society evolved in a way to encourage them not to do so?

The nauseating smell of the nidoran’s patchy, dirt-stained hide in his face only made things worse.
I struggled to understand what "hide" was in this case--nidos seem dinosaur-like, so I'd assume some sort of scaly hide, but patchy doesn't make sense. Is it more like boar/rhino skin, where it's mostly smooth but devoid of fur, but in that case patchy still doesn't really work. Patchy and smelly made me think fur?

The nidoran raised its head and hissed again, despite its obvious defeat. “What about them?” he spat, nodding to Raskin and Sid.
Oh! This is really interesting. Why doesn't the nidoran say anything until Lyco walks in? Even like, "hey, get out of my house" or "stay the fuck back"--the subculture here is something I wish we got to see more of, since the initial nidoran appearance is treated more like a zombie jumpscare than the idea that our protagonists are breaking into people's houses for a laugh.

“Not exactly,” she said. “But this place does belong to me. And you haven’t explained why you thought you could mosey in.”
srsly

“If we get 30 people paying 15 each, 450 poké,” Raskin said.
hahahaha I really love this confident statement. 30*15=450, 2+2=4, 3^3=27, and other completely arbitrary math facts from Raskin! I like how this gets introduced early, and Sid questions it, but now it's just Raskin taking it for fact lol.

He had suspected then, and still did now, that those stories had been exaggerated; designed to scare off any foolhardy kids from venturing into the freezing water for a dare. But even if one did see through the stories, the sight alone of the river’s murky expanse, followed by the huge, unending mass of Wilderness forestry on its other side, was enough to dissuade almost anyone.
I like the subtext here that pokemon who choose to live away from society are intentionally villainized, and the secondary subtext that the ones who live in society are still too comfortable to try to explore outside of it. It's... definitely an interesting way to take these elementally-powered creatures, since that's just so far from their element, but I'm curious to see how it plays out.

Raskin frowned. “It’s not just to do with fights. What about for construction, or street-works, say? If ‘mon could move rocks around that easily, it would–”

“Are you listening?” Lyco snapped, kicking a rabble of pebbles away. “I can’t move rocks ‘easily’. Why bother with fireplaces if you could just get a typhlosion blowing a constant stream of it into the room? Pokémon abilities don’t work like that. Especially if they’re not practiced.”
What! A! Great! Question! Lyco! Why do they have so many human-like jobs and constructs if they're pokemon? Especially since Lyco makes the rock throwing look relatively easy in her initial appearance, haha.

Is this, like, an AU where pokemon don't have the ability to do what they can in canon, or is there some intentional meddling here that leads to pokemon gradually semi-voluntarily/being tricked into de-powering across generations to make for a more controllable populace?

She stared at him. “Can you not even do that?”
Lmao the lack of self-awareness from everyone is amazing. "I can't move rocks easily" / "you can't make fire???" these guys are great lol
 
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Cresselia92

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
She/Her/Hers
Partners
  1. ho-oh
Hey there! Kinda belated, but here's your Catnip review! :D

Not gonna lie, when I first read the title "Fighting Nature" I thought about some apocaliptic movie with creatures being forced to fight Mother Nature. It's obvious that it isn't the case here, haha.

Anyway, forward we go with the story!

For a bit more background: this story is about pokémon, and pokémon only. Most stories of that kind are tagged under 'PMD', but I'm hesitant to make that association here, as very little about this story – the setting, the plot, to name two – is similar to those that are PMD-based. Nevertheless, if you like reading about pokémon doing stuff rather than, say, human trainers, maybe this story is for you!

So, in other words, this is "Zootopia, but with Pokémon". I dig that!

“Don’t pretend you know how a clock works,” Sid quipped. Though he looked like he might say something more, he had to keep chewing his bread. He hurriedly washed it down with a glass of water. When he finished, he hesitated over the kitchen tap.

“Don’t do it, Sid,” Raskin said – but by the time he had spoken, it was too late. Sid thrust his head under the cold tap and turned it onto full blast. He squealed. A second later his head reemerged, dripping wet. He shook himself like a meowth in the rain.

Raskin winced. “Why do you do this to yourself? That must be so painful…”

“That’s exactly why I do it,” Sid said breezily, stuffing a water flask into his rucksack and heading to the door.

Oh, yeah! Nothing better to wake you up in the morning that a sudden drop in body temperature! You'll be lucky if you don't catch a cold this way! :p

He showered quickly, dried himself even quicker, then, noticing that his wet tail had been dripping copiously on the floor, gave it a quick trimming with his electric razor. It had taken some time to get used to doing this, but he had it down to a fine art now.

Okay, how does that even work? Does he keep the electric razor with his mouth? Or is it specifically made to be worn on a paw by Pokémon without opposable thumbs? Or maybe he even had opposable thumbs and he and the other Pokémon are half-anthro?

With that done, he grabbed his wallet and keys from his room and stuffed them in his bag. He sat up, using his front paws to fasten the bag’s single clip around his stomach, with its contents held tightly to his side to prevent it bouncing around when he walked on all-fours. Raskin was adept enough at moving on two feet, as were most quadruped ‘mon in Deepden, which owed to the bipedal training they received almost straight from hatching. Still, all-fours remained more comfortable.

Hmm... Then I suppose he isn't half-anthro and he has a full canid body. Huh... Makes sense, I suppose. Just be careful to not fall into the "and then, anthro gesture!" trap and have him perform human actions that his fox body wouldn't be able to replicate. I've seen this mistake happening way too often in this kind of story.

“Well, it’s a really nice route through the park. You should try it sometime!” Locki chirped. “See you at work!” With that, she turned and galloped happily away.

It feels a bit awkward to see the use of "gallop" for a creature that isn't an equine. Like, this is a gallop...



And I'm having a really hard time picturing a cat doing that. Maybe "scurry", "scuttle" or similar verbs would work better here?

Why would any ‘mon run such long distances, Raskin wondered, to places they could get a ride to for barely a poké? The mundaneness of work was bad enough as it was; he didn’t want to be in pain before he even arrived.

Hey! Exercise is good! You wouldn't want to become a Purugly, would you?

If four machamp can chop down four trees in four seconds, how many can twelve machamp chop down in twelve seconds? He wouldn’t check the answer until he was certain he had it right; and it definitely couldn’t be twelve.

It's 36.

12 trees in four seconds.
24 trees in eight seconds.
36 trees in twelve seconds.

Unless those are really out-of-shape Machamp, of course. :p

Except… he wasn’t eager in the slightest. He knew why this task was important: the bank was transferring its entire, enormous monetary records onto the recently arrived computers. The capabilities and speed of these new machines were mind-boggling to Raskin initially – and even now, after a couple of weeks experience, he struggled to grasp how they were possible. Once all the data could be accessed and processed through these magic electricity boxes, the bank’s efficiency would undoubtedly skyrocket.

Raskin:



Transcribing pages and pages of numbers onto a little screen was just… nothing. And once that job was done, as his manager was so keen to point out, every operation could be handled by computer. The bank could run practically paperless. He would be a little input machine.

I mean, dude! Think about all trees that won't be cut down anymore to make paper. Sure, it sucks for the paper-making Pokémon and companies, but still! More green!

I need to get out of here. I’m wasting my life.

This is a mood.

“D’you reckon we’ll get a street fight?” a scraggy asked, her head pressed against the window.

“I hope so,” Luis replied, rubbing his paws together. “Been too long since I’ve seen a good one.”

Oh… so nobody wants to stop them, Raskin realised. Why is that?

Sure, a fight would be fun to watch – at least, that was what everyone seemed to think – but they had been illegal for years now. And that was before considering how much physical harm fighting could do. Surely, these two won’t think that fighting is the best solution…?

“If you attack me,” the ivysaur said, “I won’t roll over for you.”

“Why don’t I put that to the test?” the raticate hissed.

Heck, yeah!



But the raticate only took one more step forward before a sudden, horizontal blast of water pierced the air, slamming into the tawny ‘mon’s chest. The raticate stumbled backwards, mouth open in shock, before falling over onto his back.

A huge empoleon stepped out from behind the ivysaur, wearing the white scarf and badge of a police officer. It wiped its mouth with a vast flipper. “Stay right where you are, or you’ll get it too,” she warned the ivysaur, who unsurprisingly did as she ordered.

The empoleon looked around the gathered crowd dimly. “Show’s over, folks. Get back to work. You two.” She pointed to the ivysaur, then the raticate, who was slowly coming to. “Come with me.”

*grumbles* Spoilsports!

As Raskin turned he found Locki, standing resolutely at her desk, staring at the group of them with fury.

“What is wrong with you all?” she demanded. “Fighting is a terrible thing! Don’t encourage it!”

The room looked at each other, exchanging confused looks. Eventually Luis spoke up. “You’re right, Locks. Sorry.”

Oh boy! This gave me one heck of a flashback! Because... I have seen a Pokémon fanfic who pulled off this card.

It was called Pokémon Revolution and it was a story about Pokémon overtaking humans and basically beginning doing human activities. There was also an aristocrat who lampshaded the "Fighting is wrong! Why are you even talking about that?! Glad they're banned!"

...Yeah, the similarities are uncanny, even if that other story is seen through more cynical and dystopic lenses.

Something to interrupt the predictable monotony of everyday life?

…Damn, I sound depressing today.

Don't we all?

Raskin thanked him for the roll and left, contemplating his words. Street fights seemed to have a mythical aura attached to them. Though they had been outlawed shortly before Raskin was born, it didn’t stop them occasionally happening. Raskin had never witnessed a proper one, mind: whenever a fight had threatened to break out near him, either some police officer had been in the perfect place to intervene, like today, or the ‘mon themselves had realised their foolhardiness and walked away. Plus, for any fights that he had heard about, they never seemed to appear in the newspaper. He suspected that the subsequent eyewitness accounts always became exaggerated as a result.

Hmm, okay. This here is the crux of the matter: Why are fights banned, I wonder? Are they banned because they are barbaric, and the Pokémon are trying to become "civilized"? Or maybe there was some huge war with a huge body count that convinced Pokémon that "fighting is bad, outlawed"?

However, I find it weird that there isn't something to redirect and repurpose those fighting instincts in a controlled environment. Think of stuff like wrestling, martial arts, fencing and similar activities. Sports have basically been created to test human abilities, so I'm surprised there isn't a Pokémon equivalent. Sure, there are athletics, but I think that's pretty limited in the long run. 🤔

Also, there is another question: How do Pokémon evolve? If they tend to evolve because of becoming stronger after fighting, does that mean that most Pokémon are doomed to stay unevolved after the fighting ban? Will we get to see some Pokémon frustrated because they want to evolve but can't, or maybe a Pokémon who ends up in trouble with justice because they evolved and it's implied that they got themselves in a scuffle?

Those could be interesting scenarios to explore.

“Sounds good,” Raskin replied. They had tried following a recipe a few nights ago for a ‘herby vegetable stew’. The recipe had served four, but even though they halved all the ingredients, it had been far too much for the two of them. Raskin was mystified as to why more recipes didn’t specify the size of pokémon they counted a serving for.

Oh? So they don't have labels like "For small Pokémon", "For middle-sized Pokémon", "For big Pokémon" and "For enormous Pokémon"? That's bizarre because it would make perfect sense. Not all Pokémon have same body size, after all.

This makes me wonder about the infrastructures. How are cities built to accommodate Pokémon of all sizes?

“Everything.” Sid’s voice cracked. “I slave away at this job six days a week. I come home exhausted, I want to go out but I need to save money as well, and keep myself fresh. But the thought of saving myself just for another day of picking berries is… oh, I hate it!”

Ouch! Sounds rough. I have seen some videos of people working in camps and yeah. That's a really tough and thankless job. And yet, they're the ones who bring food to the cities. It's evil irony.

He got up from the table and began pacing, rubbing his paws up and down his face. “I don’t know if I can keep this up, Rasky. I don’t wanna spend the rest of my life in a greenhouse, but… what else is there? What can I do?”

Ah, I dunno. You're a Fire-type, maybe you could be a firemon? You wouldn't have any trouble handling burning houses or using fire breaking lines to stop wildfires.

If all, the fact you're a Fire-type working with plants makes me raise an eyebrow.

That’s true for both of us, Raskin thought sadly. When most pokémon reached the end of compulsory education, they chose a field to specialise in, and got further training from there. But training cost money, the one thing Raskin and Sid had always struggled for. Sid’s parents didn’t earn much and had raised him among four other children. Although they loved him dearly, and the quilava still visited them regularly, they barely had a quarter-poké of their own to offer. As for Raskin, his parents were in no position to even try funding him.

Wait... So what you're doing is clandestine work? And yet you are worried about doing illegal stuff later? :o

“It was awesome,” Sid said, a childish excitement in his eyes. “The sneasel was never gonna take down those officers, but he covered practically half the street in ice before they got him under control. I love the athletics, but you just don’t see stuff like that happen! So brutal! Raw! I dunno.”

Some 'mons just love seeing hell freeze over, it seems.

Raskin nodded. His mind was racing. “Say, what if we staged this fight between raticate and ivysaur? We… find somewhere out of the way of police, so they won’t intervene. Get a load of people along who wanted to watch, like us. They pay us for it. And as well as money, we get to watch a proper street fight with everyone else.”

Ah! So basically you're pulling the Ryme City's illegal ring card, huh?

Hmm... It makes me wonder if this world could be considered a "Bad Ending" from Detective Pikachu. Like, maybe the humans were forever trapped in Pokémon bodies and started their new lives as critters? It would explain the modern setting, if all.

Sid frowned. “It’s a brilliant idea. I bet every ‘mon in Deepden would pay for something like that. But it’s very illegal, bro. Being involved in a street fight is bad enough, but staging one, charging people to watch like it’s some kind of business… what would the punishment even be for that? You’d go to prison, for sure.”

You have 'mons pretending to stab dragons in theatrical acts, that doesn't mean they will be arrested as if they had stabbed a real dragon! :p

That thought made Raskin pause; sent shivers down his spine. He remembered the stories he’d heard about life in the cells, of pokémon that picked fights with every newcomer, pokémon that could crush his little body in the snap of the wrist.

He recalled seeing his father in the visitors room, watching the hope slowly being crushed from him with each successive visit he made. “No matter what happens,” Raskin had said, “I’ll be here for you when you’re released. I’ll make something of my life. I promise.”

Then Raskin shook his head, clearing the cloud of thoughts. I can’t think about him now. That’s out of my control. In the past.

...Gosh, did his father die? What did he do to end up in prison? :c

Despite Raskin’s grin, inside, in his chest, he couldn’t stop himself shaking. And yet, there was something very exciting about this all. He couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come around now, and struggled to remember the last time he had felt like that. He had needed this, he realised: something different, something wild, something so out of keeping with the life he had gotten used to sleepwalking through.

It just so happened that this something was very illegal.

Careful. You are undergoing adrenaline rush. It can get addictive.

---

Well, here we are, at the end of the review.

So, all in all, this was a really nice read! The prose flowed really well and it was nice to see the perspective of common 'mons who are unhappy with their lives and crave for something more. This is extremely relatable and accurate.

I really wonder how it reached this point, but I suppose we'll get the answer throughout the story. Now it's a matter of getting this WWE event started!

I don't really have any criticism or deep commentary in particular, but I'll surely keep checking this out. Nice work! (y)
 

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Partners
  1. custom/mew-adam
  2. custom/celebi-shiny
  3. custom/roserade-adam
CHAPTER 1 REVIEW

Hey Cynsh, I decided to check out this fic and so I'll be reviewing the first chapter for now..

I've seen a number of pokecentric fics, whether pmd or otherwise, and this just adds to that tally. Though I've seen a pokecentric fic set in a futuristic dystopian setting, this is the first one I've seen in a more relatively not far from modern times fic.

I found Raskin and Cid to be pretty relatable characters, probably because they're just as dead inside as I am. I found it weird that they all have to walk bipedally, even having them trained to do it from childhood. I felt it'd have been easier if it was just implied the pokemon in this world were more anthropomorphic than the canon mons for instance. Something in a similar vein to Beastars or Aggretsuko I feel.

Others have already brought up the implausible fact that there's no fighting sports of any kind e.g. Wrestling, in this story especially since it'd definitely have already been something common place in the underground and slums, so I won't touch on it much. I'm curious to see how exactly Raskin and Cid are going to pull off their fighting pits plan and what kind of troubles they might run into along the way.

All in all it's a decent first chapter that sets the tone and premise of the fic well enough. Looking forward to more.
 

cynsh

full-time quilava
Location
Deepden
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. quilava
Thanks guys! I feel so spoilt right now. :quag: There's many points I can't say much about for spoiler reasons, but I can reply to a few of them.

@kintsugi

My soul is owned by the em dash lobby and as such I am legally obligated to say this:
There are actually two (and more, but shhh) types of horizontal lines used in a grammar application. The short one (-) is a hyphen, and the long one (—) is an em dash. Unfortunately the em dash is the one you use more often and is also the one that isn't on your keyboard.
  • - / hyphen: this is used to join two words, and sometimes niche applications like expressing a stutter. Half-baked, reddish-orange, etc.
  • — / em dash: this is used to join two thoughts, usually to show interruption. If you're putting a dash between two words and you aren't intending to join the words, but instead the sentences they're part of, you'll want to use an em dash.
You want the long ones in almost every case that you use hyphens here (and also in ch1, but that review was already quite lengthy rip)--you can also use double hyphens to get the idea across, but basically the gist is that - means something and --/— mean something completely different. Kind of stupid and very arbitary, like single and double quotation marks, but it really helps with readability.

I was actually aware of this already. I'd just gotten used to using the en dash (–) with spaces either side, not least because Word does that automatically. You're the first person to point it out. I dunno what to say really - I know my version is gramatically wrong, but it gets the same point across, and... well, that's it. 😓
Is the manager's name just Pangoro? Felt weird to see it capitalized here since afaik everyone else had regular names or were just addressed as "a _____"

Not really a spoiler to reveal that being referred to by species alone is like a mark of authority in Deepden.

And likewise, I really liked this moment of self unawareness--Raskin is over here completely miserable and out of his mind in his beautifully crafted home and special-engineered desk job, talking shit about how his ancestors were too stupid to build houses on flat ground (even though Raskin also didn't build his house, and quite likely would not have hypothesized the benefits and tools needed to build on flat ground if he hadn't grown up in his current timeline). It's really interesting to see how he's still inclined to punch down, even subconsciously.

I love this comment, and must ashamedly admit that it goes deeper than I think even I was thinking about when I wrote this part. 😅

I struggled to understand what "hide" was in this case--nidos seem dinosaur-like, so I'd assume some sort of scaly hide, but patchy doesn't make sense. Is it more like boar/rhino skin, where it's mostly smooth but devoid of fur, but in that case patchy still doesn't really work. Patchy and smelly made me think fur?

I was thinking scales. On reflection I don't think 'patchy' makes sense either. Will fix!

@Cresselia92

It feels a bit awkward to see the use of "gallop" for a creature that isn't an equine.

'Gallop' was used to illustrate Locki's serene happiness. Like if a human 'pranced', or 'skipped'. Though I also added 'happily' after it, so perhaps the confusion could have been avoided 😅

It's 36.

12 trees in four seconds.
24 trees in eight seconds.
36 trees in twelve seconds.

Unless those are really out-of-shape Machamp, of course. :p

I absolutely love that you took the time out of reading to answer this :quag:
I actually stole the basis of the question from a deck of brain-teaser cards I have, and I've forgotten the answer, but your explanation makes sense!


If all, the fact you're a Fire-type working with plants makes me raise an eyebrow.

Hasn't been covered yet, but there's definitely no risk of Sid accidently spewing out some fire and burning down the whole thing. And being a fire-type, he's very adaptable to temperature, which is useful as greenhouses can get very hot!

@Adamhuarts
I found Raskin and Cid to be pretty relatable characters, probably because they're just as dead inside as I am. I found it weird that they all have to walk bipedally, even having them trained to do it from childhood.

Raskin doesn't walk bipedally all the time - he still prefers all-fours. They do get trained though since there are many situations that would require a bit of bipedal work. (also it's 'Sid' :P)

There's more I could touch on, but people's thoughts are making me think of a few things that I should explicitly explain/clear up in-story that I hadn't originally planned on. So that's all I'll say for now. Thanks again! :veelove:
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
Glad I was helpful! Rip Raskin’s galaxy brain haha

I was actually aware of this already. I'd just gotten used to using the en dash (–) with spaces either side, not least because Word does that automatically. You're the first person to point it out. I dunno what to say really - I know my version is gramatically wrong, but it gets the same point across, and... well, that's it. 😓
ooh! I can actually help with this if you’re in Word! Similar em dash conversion as en dash conversion, just have no spaces. So:
hi--em dash here!
will auto to em dash, whereas
hi - en dash
will auto to en dash. Usually I feel bad pointing this out to folks who don’t use Word since a lot of other editors don’t have this feature, but you’re already set haha.

And I guess it’s like, feels needlessly nitpicky for someone who knows what the story is saying already, but as a reader who’s experiencing this blind, sometimes it doesn’t get the point across to me. An extreme example:
In the strange light, the green crystal was tinted grey—blue, almost.
In the strange light, the green crystal was tinted grey-blue, almost
Or actually, using an example word from your ch1:
As Sid walked over to the kitchen-living room, he corrected himself blearily, fumbling with the letter as he went, [...]
As Sid walked over to the kitchen—living room, he corrected himself blearily, fumbling with the letter as he went, [...]
And that completely changes the meaning to me, a reader! What color is the crystal? Which room is Sid in? Conflating the two sort of introduces confusion when you really don’t need to.
 
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TheGOAT

🗿
Location
Houston, Texas
Pronouns
Him/his
Partners
  1. serperior
Here's my new story, and the first I'm uploading to Thousand Roads: Fighting Nature!



Summary: Many generations have passed since all forms of fighting were banned in the pokémon city of Deepden. Now the city is flourishing – but for two pokémon at the bottom of the work ladder, life isn’t so rosy. And so, when an opportunity presents itself, they take a chance and begin an illegal, underground fighting society, unaware that it could alter the very fabric of their society.

For a bit more background: this story is about pokémon, and pokémon only. Most stories of that kind are tagged under 'PMD', but I'm hesitant to make that association here, as very little about this story – the setting, the plot, to name two – is similar to those that are PMD-based. Nevertheless, if you like reading about pokémon doing stuff rather than, say, human trainers, maybe this story is for you!

Huge thank you to my wonderful beta-readers and friends: Shadow of Antioch, Talgoran, and Will1231. There's still a long way to go in writing this story, but it feels like a significant achievement just to get it out here. There's no way I would have made it this far without the help of these three. Also, thanks to AarowTheBlacksmith for making the wonderful cover art. You can find him on deviantart under the same name.

FFN Link | AO3 Link

----

Chapter 1 - The Spark



There were few sounds Raskin could imagine that were so dissonant and demonic as those which constituted his alarm.

That, of course, was why it was exactly what he needed. Less focus on the tiresomeness of weekday existence, more focus on silencing the damned sound before he broke his clock.

The nickit slid out of bed and stumbled into their kitchen-living room, reaching up with his hind legs to flick on the light. He paused. He wasn’t usually the first up on a weekday – Sid’s job at the greenhouse started at 8 o’clock, and it was half-past seven now. Sid should have been about to leave at this time, but Raskin saw no sign that he had moved; there were no crumbs on the kitchen table, the daily newspaper lay untouched at their doorstep, and Sid’s bedroom door was pulled to.

“Sid?” Raskin called cautiously. The walls in the apartment were thin, so they could hear each other from practically anywhere. It also meant that any social gathering directly above or below them was like a radio broadcast, but those were fortunately rare on a weekday.

Raskin heard a brief scuffling from behind Sid’s door. Then the quilava burst out, eyes bleary yet wide-open at once.

“Stupid alarm,” he muttered, grabbing two pieces of bread from their counter and immediately stuffing one into his mouth. “That’s the second time this week now. Must be broken.”

Raskin frowned. Alarm clocks cost more than they should. “Let’s have a look at it later,” he suggested. “Might just be something jammed in the circuitry.”

“Don’t pretend you know how a clock works,” Sid quipped. Though he looked like he might say something more, he had to keep chewing his bread. He hurriedly washed it down with a glass of water. When he finished, he hesitated over the kitchen tap.

“Don’t do it, Sid,” Raskin said – but by the time he had spoken, it was too late. Sid thrust his head under the cold tap and turned it onto full blast. He squealed. A second later his head reemerged, dripping wet. He shook himself like a meowth in the rain.

Raskin winced. “Why do you do this to yourself? That must be so painful…”

“That’s exactly why I do it,” Sid said breezily, stuffing a water flask into his rucksack and heading to the door. “Right, see ya later. Make sure you’re around to let me in this evening, yeah?”

“You mean you still haven’t found your key-?”

The door slammed before he could finish. I guess not.

With a sigh, Raskin rose up onto his hind legs to compose his own breakfast: a bowl of Rice Snaps with milk and pinap juice. He shovelled the food down with practised efficiency, then put the remains in the sink for later.

He showered quickly, dried himself even quicker, then, noticing that his wet tail had been dripping copiously on the floor, gave it a quick trimming with his electric razor. It had taken some time to get used to doing this, but he had it down to a fine art now. He sat in front of the mirror, with his tail curled around his body, then used one paw to pin down the point he wanted to trim to. This was usually where the first streaks of black started coming through its orange fur – the black fur always grew thicker for some reason, and tended to droop on the ground, gathering dust. From there, Raskin just had to keep his paw holding the razor steady.

He wondered how his nickit ancestors had ever managed with their bushy, uncut tails. Even if they were useful for brushing the ground to cover one’s tracks, they must have been so heavy, so unwieldy. Thank the gods for razors.

With that done, he grabbed his wallet and keys from his room and stuffed them in his bag. He sat up, using his front paws to fasten the bag’s single clip around his stomach, with its contents held tightly to his side to prevent it bouncing around when he walked on all-fours. Raskin was adept enough at moving on two feet, as were most quadruped ‘mon in Deepden, which owed to the bipedal training they received almost straight from hatching. Still, all-fours remained more comfortable.

He checked the clock again – he’d left just enough time – glanced very briefly in the mirror, finding his fur in reasonable order, then left. He started locking their door but, remembering Sid’s lack of a key, decided against it. The crime rate around his district was non-existent right now. Besides, even if someone did notice their apartment door was unlocked, there was scarcely a thing worth stealing. Most of their possessions were already second-hand or beaten down with use.

The first thing he saw upon leaving his apartment was a familiar skitty across the street, who caught his eye at once. Raskin groaned inwardly.

“Raskin! Fancy seeing you here!” she said, cheerfully trotting over. Like him, she wore a small bag clipped around her middle.

Raskin forced a smile. “Morning, Locki.” She was a new face at work, and their manager had chosen Raskin to help show her the ropes for the first couple of weeks. Having gotten to know the skitty fairly well, Raskin was sure that the manager had done it purely to irritate him.

“Hey, since we’re here, fancy running to work together?” Locki asked. “I was just about to set off.”

“Oh, I usually catch a ride,” Raskin explained, silently breathing a sigh of relief that she wasn’t joining him.

“Oh,” Locki said. “Is… there any reason why you don’t run?”

Raskin shrugged. “Not really. Just not for me.” It was a half-truth.

“Well, it’s a really nice route through the park. You should try it sometime!” Locki chirped. “See you at work!” With that, she turned and galloped happily away.

Why would any ‘mon run such long distances, Raskin wondered, to places they could get a ride to for barely a poké? The mundaneness of work was bad enough as it was; he didn’t want to be in pain before he even arrived.

Harmony Square’s transport stop was a short walk away. He trudged down the pavement, past various food stalls and the postal service, sidestepping and squeezing past bigger pokémon that were in his way. On a good morning, sunlight would light up the dull brick buildings and the streets surrounding it, but today, like most, it was covered by clouds, setting a grey tinge on everything.

Two services operated at transport stops: the more common and cheaper option was the ground rides, which consisted of large-backed quadruped pokémon – mudsdale and arcanine were the ones Raskin saw most – who arrived every few minutes at the stop, going in a loop of either the north of south side of town. The other option was air taxis. A few lean flying pokémon were already waiting at the stop, ruffling their wings impatiently. These would take a ‘mon straight to anywhere in the city they pleased, much quicker than the predestined routes the ground rides followed. The downside was mostly the extortionate price. It would also be freezing in the wrong weather, Raskin imagined, though the air was pleasantly warm today.

Even as Raskin waited at the stop, an expertly-groomed grovyle with an elaborately-patterned scarf strolled up and spoke with a waiting staravia. After dropping a few coins into the pouch around the flyer’s neck, the grovyle climbed onto its back and soared away, rising above most of the surrounding apartment blocks and businesses in just a couple of wing beats.

Rich show-off, Raskin thought.

By the time three arcanine and a tropius arrived moments later – the rides travelled in packs, with their exact numbers varying depending on how busy the time – there were more pokémon waiting with Raskin than he was used to. He had to squeeze up tightly between two passengers on the arcanine’s back, and once they set off he found the tail of a minccino uncomfortably close to his face.

Raskin huffed, trying to take his mind off the discomfort. His first thought was of how much low-brow banter Locki would give him once he arrived at work, then of what basic computer function she would forget today. Determined to fight that nightmare off, he mused over a logic puzzle that had been frustrating him the previous night. If four machamp can chop down four trees in four seconds, how many can twelve machamp chop down in twelve seconds? He wouldn’t check the answer until he was certain he had it right; and it definitely couldn’t be twelve.

At least one benefit of the rides were that they stopped practically on the doorstep of Pokémon Bank, his workplace. One of several throughout the city that were government-owned, the name gave a pretty good reflection of how interesting a place it was. He stepped between the stone columns marking the bank’s entrance, paws clicking lightly on the marble floor. Whichever president had been in charge of designing these government buildings had an obvious liking for old-fashioned design.

After signing in, Raskin headed to the offices on the top floor. It was an open room, filled with desks where the dozen-or-so pokémon that shared this department worked. The twin skyscrapers of paper he had left on his desk over the weekend had not cleared themselves, though at least the whole of his little computer screen was visible for now.

He had only been at work for a few minutes before Locki, who had arrived before him and hid no smugness about it, asked for his help.

“I’ve got all of this customer’s inflows and outflows typed up,” she said, which Raskin was glad to confirm, “but – sorry if I’m repeating myself here – how do you easily sum up the totals? I could calculate it by hand, but–”

“Yeah, don’t do that,” Raskin said, moving his chair over to her desk. “You click and drag–” He had to practically lean on her desk to move the cursor, such was the small reach of his front legs. He highlighted every inflow. Jeez, I’m glad you didn’t try doing it by hand, he thought, staring down the huge list. “–then type SUM into the little box that appears here. That’s it.”

“So…” Locki carefully tried the same procedure on the next column. “Awesome!” she cheered. “Thanks, Raskin!”

“No worries,” he muttered, eager to return to his work.

Except… he wasn’t eager in the slightest. He knew why this task was important: the bank was transferring its entire, enormous monetary records onto the recently arrived computers. The capabilities and speed of these new machines were mind-boggling to Raskin initially – and even now, after a couple of weeks experience, he struggled to grasp how they were possible. Once all the data could be accessed and processed through these magic electricity boxes, the bank’s efficiency would undoubtedly skyrocket.

Yet none of that could shroud the faint, perpetual despair he felt about it all. Before the computers, the bank had calculated everything by hand. It was repetitive, hand-aching work, yes, and it was almost as low-paying as Sid’s job on the farm – but it was a least a little stimulating. And he was good at maths; better than any of his co-workers, for sure.

Transcribing pages and pages of numbers onto a little screen was just… nothing. And once that job was done, as his manager was so keen to point out, every operation could be handled by computer. The bank could run practically paperless. He would be a little input machine.

I need to get out of here. I’m wasting my life.

He paused typing, and told that thought, very clearly, to stay in the back of his mind where it belonged. He’d only make himself feel worse by lingering on the bad. Besides, he was still young; he would get a break in time. He wasn’t sure how, but he would. He had to believe that.

“You thinking of heading to the athletics tonight?” Raskin heard a co-worker ask.

“Sure,” replied Luis, a zangoose. “It’s the grounded ten thousand metres, right?”

“That’s the one. I think it’ll be close.”

“I hope it’s not,” Luis said snidely. “That linoone fella’s gonna do the business for the commons again. You heard it here first!”

“Nah, I reckon Horus Manectric’s got it on lockdown,” a kirlia close to Raskin piped up.

“Pfft, you wish.” Luis caught Raskin’s eye. “Are you gonna go, Rasky?”

Raskin shrugged. “I dunno yet. Maybe.”

Athletics was a strange entity to him. It was tremendously popular throughout all of Deepden, and he understood why. There was usually at least one of each pokémon type competing per event, giving everyone someone to cheer on, even if the same types tended to dominate the events suiting them. The throwing events had genuinely astounding feats of strength, while running-focused ones often went right to wire, leaving emotions on a knife-edge between euphoria and despair.

Even so, whenever he watched it, either with Sid or work colleagues, he felt like it was… incomplete, somehow. There was something crucial missing. That, or he just always inexplicably found his eyes drawn to the stewards scattered all around the stands, florescent-jacketed and grim-faced. Whatever it was, he could never get very excited about the athletics.

***​

An hour or so of aimless keyboard tapping passed. Then, Raskin heard distant noises from the office window, overlooking the street below. The closest ‘mon to it poked their heads over. One of them gestured urgently to the rest of the room. “Get a look at this!” she said.

Though Raskin hesitated, nobody else seemed to, so he eventually followed the crowd, leaning his front paws on the window to get a better view, since most of his co-workers were bigger than him.

He arrived just in time to see a burly raticate shove a distinctly lighter-looking ivysaur to the floor on the street below. A crowd was quickly gathering around them.

“Setting up business right opposite my bakery is bad enough,” the raticate growled, stomping towards the ‘mon, “yet you have the nerve to raid my ingredients too?!”

“Raid your – what?” the ivysaur yelped, vines held out in front of him like a peace gesture. “You are mistaken, sir. My business runs on a firm set of morals, and I would never–”

“Don’t you lie to me!” The raticate suddenly swiped a set of claws at one vine, which the Ivysaur only pulled away by a whisker. The crowd around them gasped. In response, the Ivysaur dropped a little closer to the ground and widened his posture. He suddenly looked like a different pokémon; one ready to fight back.

Raskin frowned. Why was no one trying to intervene here? This raticate had some pounds on him, sure, but he was far from unstoppable – there were more than enough bodies gathered around that could get in his way.

“D’you reckon we’ll get a street fight?” a scraggy asked, her head pressed against the window.

“I hope so,” Luis replied, rubbing his paws together. “Been too long since I’ve seen a good one.”

Oh… so nobody wants to stop them, Raskin realised. Why is that?

Sure, a fight would be fun to watch – at least, that was what everyone seemed to think – but they had been illegal for years now. And that was before considering how much physical harm fighting could do. Surely, these two won’t think that fighting is the best solution…?

“If you attack me,” the ivysaur said, “I won’t roll over for you.”

“Why don’t I put that to the test?” the raticate hissed.

“Y’know, my money was on Raticate,” someone at the window said, “but now I’m not so sure.”

“I reckon Mister Vines there’s got more about him than he lets on,” Luis said, grinning.

But the raticate only took one more step forward before a sudden, horizontal blast of water pierced the air, slamming into the tawny ‘mon’s chest. The raticate stumbled backwards, mouth open in shock, before falling over onto his back.

A huge empoleon stepped out from behind the ivysaur, wearing the white scarf and badge of a police officer. It wiped its mouth with a vast flipper. “Stay right where you are, or you’ll get it too,” she warned the ivysaur, who unsurprisingly did as she ordered.

The empoleon looked around the gathered crowd dimly. “Show’s over, folks. Get back to work. You two.” She pointed to the ivysaur, then the raticate, who was slowly coming to. “Come with me.”

No one complained as she led them away, for the empoleon had only done the right thing. Still, Raskin could sense the air of deflation around the street even from where he stood.

“That’s a shame,” Luis said, trudging back to his desk, as if echoing Raskin’s thought. “I would’ve paid to see how that ended.” A few co-workers chuckled, agreeing.

As Raskin turned he found Locki, standing resolutely at her desk, staring at the group of them with fury.

“What is wrong with you all?” she demanded. “Fighting is a terrible thing! Don’t encourage it!”

The room looked at each other, exchanging confused looks. Eventually Luis spoke up. “You’re right, Locks. Sorry.”

A few other pokémon murmured their own apologies, and Locki seemed to calm down. As Luis passed Raskin though, he mouthed to him, ‘Her dad’s an officer.

Raskin understood at once, and had to suppress a smile. Why else would Locki be so vehemently opposed to fighting?

He still found the contrasting reactions of his other co-workers intriguing. I guess a possible fight is just a distraction more than anything, he thought. Something to interrupt the predictable monotony of everyday life?

…Damn, I sound depressing today.


***​

Raskin passed the two bakeries on the route home from work. Both ‘mon were back at their counters, serving customers in the evening rush; the empoleon’s attack would have only stunned the raticate, rather than cause any lasting damage. Raskin noticed that both shopkeepers were making an effort not to catch the others’ eye, and focused with unnerving concentration on serving customers.

Curious, he went to the ivysaur’s shop, as it had a slightly shorter line, and the ‘mon seemed significantly less scary. He quickly scanned the glass display for what might be cheap, before the customers cleared.

“Yes?” the ivysaur asked him moments later.

“Small cinnamon roll please,” said Raskin. As the ‘mon pulled one out for him, he leant over and added, “And um… about what happened in the street earlier…”

The ivysaur paused, narrowing his eyes. “Don’t tell me Chaka sent you here?”

That must be the raticate, Raskin thought, amused. “No, I was just wondering what happened.”

“Not much to it,” the ivysaur grumbled, putting a paper bag on the counter. “Chaka clearly lost count of his stock, somehow thought I was responsible for it, and won’t let it go for some reason. That’ll be a half-poké.”

Raskin passed him a bronze coin. “Would you really have fought Chaka if the officer hadn’t intervened?”

The ivysaur glanced around the shop suddenly and Raskin, realising he may have spoken slightly too loudly, quickly held up a paw of apology. Then, satisfied, the grass ‘mon dropped his money into the till and went on. “After the warnings we were given, I might be more careful next time,” he said. “But if there had been no police? Why not. It could hit some sense into him.”

Raskin thanked him for the roll and left, contemplating his words. Street fights seemed to have a mythical aura attached to them. Though they had been outlawed shortly before Raskin was born, it didn’t stop them occasionally happening. Raskin had never witnessed a proper one, mind: whenever a fight had threatened to break out near him, either some police officer had been in the perfect place to intervene, like today, or the ‘mon themselves had realised their foolhardiness and walked away. Plus, for any fights that he had heard about, they never seemed to appear in the newspaper. He suspected that the subsequent eyewitness accounts always became exaggerated as a result.

The combination of talking to the ivysaur and stopping to eat the sweet roll, which was delicious, made him miss his usual ride home, and the next one was running late. The air was significantly colder than it had been this morning. By the time he finally got off the ride and crossed the street to his flat, it was almost seven o’clock, and he felt weary.

The door was still unlocked, so he gave it a firm nudge with his shoulder to open it. The first thing he saw was Sid, stretched out on the sofa, eyes staring upwards at nothing, with a newspaper lying across his torso.

The quilava turned his head at the sound of the door. “Oh, hey Rasky,” he said quietly. “You’re back a bit late.”

“Got caught up with some stuff,” replied Raskin, shivering. The warmth of the indoors was most welcome. “How was work?”

“Tiring,” Sid mumbled. He put the newspaper down and sat up. “Sorry, you’re probably hungry, right? I should’ve gotten started on dinner already… lost track of time.”

“I don’t mind waiting a little bit.”

“Nah, I should eat too,” Sid said, dragging himself over to the kitchen. He peered into the fridge. “Fancy heating up the rest of that stew from the other night?”

“Sounds good,” Raskin replied. They had tried following a recipe a few nights ago for a ‘herby vegetable stew’. The recipe had served four, but even though they halved all the ingredients, it had been far too much for the two of them. Raskin was mystified as to why more recipes didn’t specify the size of pokémon they counted a serving for.

Raskin took Sid’s place on the sofa, stretching and letting out a deep sigh. He pulled the newspaper, Deepden Daily, closer to him while the quilava got to work. The back pages were previewing the athletics that had been the talk of work today. Indeed, it was the talk of most days: events were held several nights a week, and it was rare for the Coliseum to not be pushing its twenty-something thousand capacity.

It would be starting in just over an hour from now. Raskin glanced over at Sid. “Did you want to go watch the 10,000 tonight?”

“Oh? Uh… nah, I don’t think so,” Sid replied.

Raskin frowned. “Why not?”

“Well…” Sid paused for a moment. “Horus has got it wrapped around her paw, hasn’t she?”

The manectric was very good, that was undebatable. Still… “That hasn’t stopped you from going before,” Raskin said.

Sid shrugged. “Just haven’t been feeling it, I dunno.”

Perhaps there was some truth in that, Raskin thought. He wouldn’t expect even the most ardent fan to watch every night, at least while they had to work too, since the exertion and costs involved would quickly get overwhelming. But even so, Sid’s apathy concerned him. The quilava loved sports, as much as anyone he knew.

Sid served up their stew shortly afterwards. Raskin lifted the bowl to his mouth and took a sizable mouthful; it was good, perhaps better than when they had originally cooked it. The vegetables were much tastier than he remembered.

“Something pretty interesting happened at work today. There was a commotion–”

He broke off upon seeing Sid opposite him. The ‘mon’s head was cradled in his paws, muzzle almost pressing against the table. He had pushed his stew to the side.

This sight was most unusual – Sid was nearly always the one keeping Raskin’s spirits high. Raskin felt his heart begin to race. “Sid?” he said carefully. “What’s up? Did something happen today?”

Sid breathed heavily. “Nothing in particular,” he said, his gaze flitting unsuccessfully between Raskin and the floor. “I just… I’m struggling, Rasky.”

“How so? With work, or…?”

“Everything.” Sid’s voice cracked. “I slave away at this job six days a week. I come home exhausted, I want to go out but I need to save money as well, and keep myself fresh. But the thought of saving myself just for another day of picking berries is… oh, I hate it!”

He got up from the table and began pacing, rubbing his paws up and down his face. “I don’t know if I can keep this up, Rasky. I don’t wanna spend the rest of my life in a greenhouse, but… what else is there? What can I do?”

That’s true for both of us, Raskin thought sadly. When most pokémon reached the end of compulsory education, they chose a field to specialise in, and got further training from there. But training cost money, the one thing Raskin and Sid had always struggled for. Sid’s parents didn’t earn much and had raised him among four other children. Although they loved him dearly, and the quilava still visited them regularly, they barely had a quarter-poké of their own to offer. As for Raskin, his parents were in no position to even try funding him.

Raskin got up and patted Sid’s arm comfortingly. “I know how you feel,” he said. “It’s rough. I wish I could do something to help you.”

“Same goes for you,” Sid said, with a flicker of amusement. He sighed. “You know, sometimes at work, if no one’s watching… I go out behind the back of the greenhouse and scream. Just to… release some of this frustration.”

Raskin raised an eyebrow. That sounded a little worrying. “Does screaming help you?”

“Yeah, a little.”

“Well, you can always do it here, you know. I wouldn’t mind.”

“Actually, I can’t. ‘Cause when I properly let off steam, my flame sacs sometimes get ignited. And in this house…”

Raskin glanced around at the wooden table, doors and floor, and he understood. Sid couldn’t possibly risk setting the whole apartment block on fire. “Right. Sorry about that.”

“Hey, it ain’t your fault. I just wish clay fittings weren’t so expensive.” Sid got down onto all-fours to meet Raskin at eye level, and smiled. “Thanks for being there for me, Rasky. It means a lot, honestly.”

“It’s nothing,” Raskin said, feeling sudden emotion well up in his chest. “I could say the same for you.” Unsure what else to do – and feeling too awkward to hug him – Raskin made a tentative smile. “Now, you should get some food down ya. It’ll make you feel better.”

Sid nodded, sitting back at the table. He took a couple of hearty mouthfuls of stew, and Raskin did the same.

“What was it you were saying about work?” Sid asked. “Has to be more interesting than my day, right?”

Chuckling, Raskin explained the scene with the raticate and ivysaur. Halfway through, Sid had put down his bowl, listening intently.

“Damn, that is unfortunate,” he said when Raskin had finished explaining the empoleon’s intervention. “That raticate sounded ready to take a few bites out of him.”

“I don’t doubt that he would have,” Raskin said. “I spoke to the ivysaur after work as well. He said that he’d still be willing to fight the ‘mon, just to knock some sense into him.”

Sid chuckled. “I’d pay to watch that happen.”

Hearing the words made Raskin’s ears perk. It was the same phrase Luis had used about the two ‘mon. “Would you really?” he asked.

“What?”

“Pay to watch a street fight.”

Sid eyed him curiously. “Yeah, I think so. I told you about that arrest I saw happen in the south district a couple years ago, right?”

“You’ve told me a few times.”

“It was awesome,” Sid said, a childish excitement in his eyes. “The sneasel was never gonna take down those officers, but he covered practically half the street in ice before they got him under control. I love the athletics, but you just don’t see stuff like that happen! So brutal! Raw! I dunno.”

Raskin nodded. His mind was racing. “Say, what if we staged this fight between raticate and ivysaur? We… find somewhere out of the way of police, so they won’t intervene. Get a load of people along who wanted to watch, like us. They pay us for it. And as well as money, we get to watch a proper street fight with everyone else.”

Sid froze, staring at him. “Where did that come from?”

Raskin laughed, the response unexpected. “My massive brain, obviously. Well, what d’you say?”

Sid frowned. “It’s a brilliant idea. I bet every ‘mon in Deepden would pay for something like that. But it’s very illegal, bro. Being involved in a street fight is bad enough, but staging one, charging people to watch like it’s some kind of business… what would the punishment even be for that? You’d go to prison, for sure.”

That thought made Raskin pause; sent shivers down his spine. He remembered the stories he’d heard about life in the cells, of pokémon that picked fights with every newcomer, pokémon that could crush his little body in the snap of the wrist.

He recalled seeing his father in the visitors room, watching the hope slowly being crushed from him with each successive visit he made. “No matter what happens,” Raskin had said, “I’ll be here for you when you’re released. I’ll make something of my life. I promise.”

Then Raskin shook his head, clearing the cloud of thoughts. I can’t think about him now. That’s out of my control. In the past.

“The police won’t find out,” he told Sid. “Not if we held it somewhere right on the outskirts, where nobody lives. As long as we didn’t make a complete catastrophe of the place, I don’t think the authorities would notice.”

Sid hummed in thought. “Well… I guess Oldden might be okay. Everyone would know where that is. And there’s tons of abandoned stuff there... Must be something suitable for hosting a fight.”

Raskin smiled. “That sounds perfect.” But Sid didn’t look so convinced. “What is it?”

Sid rubbed his muzzle. “Oldden’s not a nice place, that’s all. I’ve heard it’s where all sorts of homeless ‘mon gather. What if we’re attacked?”

Now Raskin was the one hesitating. He hadn’t considered the possibility. If the constant police presence in central Deepden was good for one thing, it made him feel safe. He had no idea how he’d respond to an unprompted attack.

“We’ll just have to be careful,” he said. “Besides, we’ll have each other. If there was anything truly dangerous in Oldden, I’m sure we would have been made aware of it.”

“You’re probably right,” Sid acknowledged. “Another problem, though. Even if the police aren’t aware of what we’re doing, couldn’t someone still go to them about it?”

Raskin considered for a moment. “Unless we invite an undercover officer along, I doubt that’ll happen. What I’ve learnt today is that a lot of pokémon are crying out to see a street fight. They won’t want to ruin it.” He paused. “How much would you pay to see this fight?”

“Uh… maybe ten poké? Twenty?”

“Twenty might be pushing it. Fifteen sounds reasonable though.”

Sid nodded in agreement.

“Then if we got… thirty ‘mon to join for this, each paying fifteen each…”

“Wait,” Sid interrupted. “Thirty? What hat are you pulling these people out of?”

“Well, there’s all my co-workers at the bank,” Raskin said, counting on his paws. “There’s your friends we go to the athletics with. There’s the raticate and ivysaur themselves – they probably have friends who’d be just as keen to see this. If we told everyone to spread the word – with caution, obviously, ‘cause we don’t want it to spread to the cops – I think thirty is a reasonable target.”

Sid pressed his paws to his chin. “Which would give us…?”

“450 poké overall. 225 if split between us.” Raskin frowned. “225… that felt like it would be more when I was counting the people.”

“That’s still practically what I earn in a week,” Sid said encouragingly. “I’d take it, for sure.”

“Good!” Raskin said. “Then… we just need to figure out how we go about this. When’s your next day off?”

“Uh… tomorrow, actually. But after that I’m s’posed to be in all week.”

“I see. It would be best if we worked on this together, so… well, I could always write in sick tomorrow. Pangoro wouldn’t suspect anything.”

“You sure?”

Raskin nodded. “I haven’t missed a day of work in months. So, the first thing we’d need to do is talk to raticate and ivysaur, to make sure that they’d be willing to do this. It can’t work without them.”

“Then we need a location,” Sid added.

“Right. We can go to Oldden and scout it out. If we find somewhere, then we can start spreading the word around, which should be simple enough. I can catch my workmates once they finish for the day. Where would the athletics gang be tomorrow evening?”

Sid thought for a moment. “Having a drink, most likely. Since there’s no athletics on.”

“Perfect. You can go to the White Entei and tell them the details – where it’s happening, what time…”

“So, let me get this right. You’re planning to do all this in time for… tomorrow night?”

“Sure.” Raskin grinned. “Why not? The sooner the better, right?”

Sid was shaking his head, but he smiled too. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Rasky…”

Despite Raskin’s grin, inside, in his chest, he couldn’t stop himself shaking. And yet, there was something very exciting about this all. He couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come around now, and struggled to remember the last time he had felt like that. He had needed this, he realised: something different, something wild, something so out of keeping with the life he had gotten used to sleepwalking through.

It just so happened that this something was very illegal.

(Crossposted from FFN)

(Note that any references to the summary in this review are specifically referencing the summary on FFN)

Howdy Cynsh! How’s writing been? This is a neat-looking story you’ve got here.

— Summary is better than adequate. Drew me in straightaway.
— When it comes to hooks, I’m usually ultra critical of the opening and progressively less critical from there. And to be frank, the first sentence almost strikes me as an anti-hook. It’s very purple-prosey for something so simple and stereotypical as waking up in the morning to begin a story.
— “Tiresomeness” is a mouthful; I think a word like “exhaustion” or “grind” would read smoother.
— I do want to briefly mention that mixed in with some of this awkward phrasing and unnecessarily strong words is some truly excellent prose. When it doesn’t read like you’re trying too hard to be descriptive, it’s very pleasant! And it becomes far less of a concern further into the chapter too.
— Third paragraph, first sentence: I noticed you refer to the nickit with gender-neutral and male pronouns in the same sentence. Just a small consistency nitpick, but in case it’s an error I figured I’d point it out. Alternatively, if “their” was referring to both Sid and a Raskin, it reads especially weird since only one character’s existence had been acknowledged up to that point.
— Excellent worldbuilding. Reminds me of how some TV shows and movies will pan the camera around town and play intro music near the start.
— You do a great job of showing vs telling. In the summary you make it clear that Raskin and Sid aren’t pleased with their position in the societal food chain, but in the story itself you ease the reader into agreeing with that themselves instead of outright stating. Very immersive stuff!
— A passing “oh shit” thought I had (when Raskin was thinking about how he was still young) was that he’s gonna be putting that youth and freedom on the line based on what I know from the summary. Setting the stakes early, I see.
— Are you a Breaking Bad fan? The scene with Raskin watching the street fight draws a bunch of parallels to the scene where Walter White was watching a drug bust on TV that ended up convincing him to start producing drugs. Just wondering.
— Half poké for a cinnamon roll? Talk about a lack of inflation. lol
— Sid is based.
— Woah. That was fast. I suppose it’s better to skip straight to Raskin and Sid agreeing to the formerly jdea rather than have them deliberate excessively, but… still. It’s kinda jarring that they were regular working ‘mon one minute and unironically conspiring to create an organized crime ring the next. I feel like it would’ve been a smoother transition if they explored the stakes a bit more, especially since Raskin has literally witnessed his father suffering the same capital punishment that he’d be receiving if he got caught. Regardless, I’m excited.
— The ending one-liner alludes more to the legal ramifications I just talked about, but again, it doesn’t really touch on it in any meaningful detail. I’m hoping there’ll be more of that in the coming chapters.

Overall, the opening scene fulfilled its purpose of introducing the characters, but didn’t do a whole lot else for me. But it didn’t last long, instead jumping straight into the worldbuilding and daily routine of Raskin, which was where the real first hook was for me.

I think you deserve credit for establishing quite a few characters this early on. Even though you can only fit so much detail into one chapter while covering other necessities, I still already feel like I have a basic understanding of several seemingly important characters. It will make picking this book up again to read more chapters easier, I imagine.

I’ve stated it already, but the summary may be one of the best I’ve ever seen just as far as function goes. It’s rather simple, perhaps even a tad spoilery, but it has the rare quality of spoiling specific details that make reading up to them even more interesting than they would’ve been otherwise. You know I’m a pretty spoiler-proof guy anyway, but still, it’s how I felt. And the summary also acts as a good hook in and of itself, so overall, kudos for that. Summaries are hard and I think you’ve nailed it.

Immediate thoughts on Raskin: he’s not as smart as he thinks he is. One thing that caught my attention in particular is that he dismissed the notion of someone snitching on them by justifying it with a generalization. “A lot of Pokémon are crying out to see a street fight,” he says, but you don’t need a lot of Pokémon giving them police tips; it only takes one.

Anyway. I’m looking forward to Raskin’s decisions catching up with him, as well as how the planned crime ring affects his immediate livelihood. Consider me hooked!
 
Chapter 3: The Fight

cynsh

full-time quilava
Location
Deepden
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. quilava
Response to @TheGOAT's review below:
When it comes to hooks, I’m usually ultra critical of the opening and progressively less critical from there. And to be frank, the first sentence almost strikes me as an anti-hook. It’s very purple-prosey for something so simple and stereotypical as waking up in the morning to begin a story.

Hm, I see your point. A word or two could certainly be cut there.

Third paragraph, first sentence: I noticed you refer to the nickit with gender-neutral and male pronouns in the same sentence. Just a small consistency nitpick, but in case it’s an error I figured I’d point it out. Alternatively, if “their” was referring to both Sid and a Raskin, it reads especially weird since only one character’s existence had been acknowledged up to that point.

It was referring to both Sid and Raskin. I suppose it is an error, huh. Good spot!
Are you a Breaking Bad fan? The scene with Raskin watching the street fight draws a bunch of parallels to the scene where Walter White was watching a drug bust on TV that ended up convincing him to start producing drugs. Just wondering.

Hahaha, I'm not a big Breaking Bad fan but I know the scene you're talking about. Don't think it was ever in my mind, unless it was a subconscious thing :quag:
Half poké for a cinnamon roll? Talk about a lack of inflation. lol
To make life easier for myself I thought I'd make poké values closer to what dollars/pounds are worth, rather than constantly multiplying by 100 or whatever as is the case for the canon :quag:


Woah. That was fast. I suppose it’s better to skip straight to Raskin and Sid agreeing to the formerly jdea rather than have them deliberate excessively, but… still. It’s kinda jarring that they were regular working ‘mon one minute and unironically conspiring to create an organized crime ring the next.
Heh. Well, yeah, I wanted to jump right into things. Perhaps that came at the expense of exploring some scenes in more depth, but I'm happy enough with how I managed it. And you said you feel hooked, so I must have done something right!

Thanks for all the comments! And to answer your first question, writing has been the usual--very exciting in parts, very much a slog in others. Progress is progress, I guess ^^;


Chapter 3: The Fight

Raskin rinsed the paint from his paw and looked at his work. He had found himself with a little spare time back at their flat, and his mind was too preoccupied about the impending fight to do anything unrelated to it. So instead, he’d dug out a wooden board that used to be part of Sid’s wardrobe door—a drunken accident had put an end to that—and the remainder of a tin of paint they had painted the walls with long ago.

BATTLE OF THE BAKERS INSIDE, the board read. Part of Raskin loathed himself for using a cheesy title that Sid had come up with, but it didn’t matter a great deal. The sign wasn’t designed to attract attention—in fact, he hoped that their location would do the very opposite of that. It would simply convince the pokémon coming, particularly those he didn’t know, that they were walking into something a little more professional than a loner’s wooden shed in the middle of a wastetown. Even though that was the truth.

He reached Lyco’s house at 8:30, half an hour before the fight, and the lycanroc was already waiting outside. She had a bottle of cheap-looking whisky in one hand. She didn’t offer Raskin any.

“What the hell is that?” she said disdainfully, jabbing a paw at his sign.

“I knew you’d like it,” Raskin said. “I figured a little decoration wouldn’t do any harm.”

“As long as it’s destroyed once tonight is finished,” Lyco grunted. “Where’s Sid?”

“He went to find his friends at a pub,” Raskin said, sitting down close to, but not next to her. “They might’ve roped him in for a few drinks.”

“Well, he’d better return soon: we need him for the torches. You didn’t bring any matches, did you?”

Raskin had not. He was alarmed at the speed that the sky was darkening; it was already difficult to see more than a few feet ahead of him. They really did need Sid.

When his watch reached quarter to 9, he could not wait any longer. “Wait here,” he told Lyco. “I’ll go to the Founding Oak and see what’s happening.” Lyco just nodded.

He fumbled his way back through Oldden’s slopes, mainly guided by the distant electric lights of civilisation in the distance. He reached the Founding Oak, and after waiting a few minutes there came a lively babble of conversation, accompanied by a thudding of several sets of paws. Raskin cursed. People were already arriving!

“Rasky!” a voice called, and Raskin relaxed, but only a little. These were Sid’s friends, and the quilava had travelled with them.

“Hey, buddy!” Sid said loudly as he emerged from the darkness. “Everything set? You excited?”

Raskin took one look at his woozy expression, then yanked him to the side. “This wasn’t an opportunity to get smashed, Sid,” he hissed, quiet enough so only Sid would hear. “You need to light the torches, remember?”

“Sorry,” Sid said, suddenly straightening up. “Don’t worry, I’m not too buzzed. Just… excited. If you act really excited, other people will get excited too, y’know?”

At that nugget of wisdom, Raskin managed a smile. “Well done for getting so many to come along,” he conceded. “I trust that no one found out that we didn’t want to?”

Sid puffed out his cheeks. “C’mon, dude. I’m better than that.” He paused, scratching his head. “What do you want me to do again? Light the torches?”

“Yes.” Raskin thought for a second. He searched around for a piece of wood, soon finding one about the length of his foreleg. “Take this crowd to the house,” he said, “but before you do, light this for me. Then I can show everyone else the way when they show up.”

“Sounds good.” Sid inhaled for a moment, then blew out a solid ember onto the wood, igniting it.

Perhaps some beer loosened his… fire chords, or whatever they are, Raskin thought. “Oh, and make sure they all pay!” he called, as Sid led the band of pokémon away.

There were… a lot of pokémon, he realised. More than Sid usually drank with. He counted the number of faces: 10, 12, 15...

“Sid!” he called, running back for the quilava.

Sid’s surprised face was lit up in the torchlight. “Rasky?”

“Who are all these people?” Raskin muttered, glancing behind him at the group.

“Oh, just some guys we got chatting to at the pub. They heard what we were planning and wanted to know more. That’s okay, isn’t it?”

“I…” Raskin’s face contorted, unsure whether to feel happy, or infuriated, or both. “You took a big risk with them, Sid. We were meant to keep this strictly to ‘mon we could trust!”

“Oh chill out, Rasky,” Sid said, grinning. “Have you ever met a ‘mon at the White Entei who’s not totally sound?”

Raskin gave the pokémon another look. The reason he hadn’t noticed the newcomers at first was due to how seamlessly they were mingling with Sid’s friends. Though alcohol does do that to people...

“They seem okay,” he admitted. “Just keep an eye out for trouble.”

“Of course I will, ya dolt!”

As Sid strolled past him again, a particular member of the group caught Raskin’s eye. It was a snubbull called Bushu, who carried a hardwood drum that was practically as big as his stocky body.

“Bushu!” Raskin exclaimed. “I didn’t know you still played.”

The snubbull paused to turn to him, a glint in his eye. “Once I heard about this gig, I figured it was worth dusting off the lil’ boy,” he smiled. “Here’s hoping those skills never left me.”

A few moments after the group had gone, another thought occurred to Raskin. Crap! What if Bushu’s thumping alerts the police? Then he told himself to be calm. It’s only one drum. And we’re a good mile from any civilisation here. This was exactly the kind of thing that led us to choose Oldden...

More pokémon soon began arriving in rapid succession. Chaka came with a group of ‘mon as grizzled looking as himself; Aster hopped off moments later, accompanied only by a shy-looking deerling. Luis was the latest to arrive on the stroke of 9, but he improbably brought an even larger group than Sid.

“We just managed to get a ride in time,” he told Raskin with a grin. “I think those arcanine were preeeetty confused by the crowd of us.”

Doing a quick head-count, adding it to the numbers he had already noted, Raskin was stunned. He had targeted thirty pokémon, and that had been optimistic at best. If his counting was correct, this was closer to fifty.

“Is everyone here for the fight?” he asked, getting a surprisingly loud roar of approval back. Evidently Sid’s friends weren’t the only ones a little imbibed. “Follow me, then.”

He took a couple of steps, then paused. “Actually, can a two-legs carry the torch?” On the uneven ground, he didn’t fancy balancing on his back legs with a flaming stick in paw. Thankfully, Luis was happy to help.

As the two of them led the way, Raskin noticed Aster and his deerling friend walking ahead of the main rabble, only exchanging a few quiet words.

Raskin caught the ivysaur’s uneasy gaze. “Hey. How’re you feeling?”

“Honestly?” Aster came closer to him. “I’m wondering what the hell I’m doing here. Or maybe that’s just my girlfriend’s influence on me.”

Raskin laughed nervously underneath a thought process of shit, shit, shit. Aster absolutely could not back out now. “She still wanted to watch you, though?”

“Yeah.” Aster smiled thinly, giving the deerling a glance. “I feel like we both know it’s a bad idea, but we both wanna see it happen. I don’t understand it, to be honest.”

Raskin glanced behind him. Chaka had a beer bottle raised high to his mouth. He certainly looked well up for the fight, wearing a tawny-coloured bandana around his neck, and his fur being purposefully ruffled up, adding a couple of artificial inches to his stature. “If you keep your head around Chaka, I reckon you’ve got him under lock,” Raskin said.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Aster replied. “Have you seen him kneading dough all day, though? Those limbs are more flexible than you’d think.”

Soon, an orange beacon guided their path to the house. Sid managed to light those torches then, thank the gods. Lyco was leaning beside the entrance, holding out a cheap paper bag, telling ‘mon to pay in the most exact change they had. Raskin felt glad she was on top of the money side of things, because he doubted Sid would be.

When he entered the room, he had to pause for a moment to take stock. The lighting was far better than what he could have imagined: bright at the edges of the room, but dim, flickering, somehow primal around the centre, where the ‘mon would fight. The room was packed out even before this latest group entered, and there was a loud buzz of discussion. Either there was some serious excitement for this fight, or everyone had just gotten really drunk… or most likely, both.

Raskin gave it a few more minutes, mainly to give everyone a chance to find a place in the room to stand. When it seemed settled, he caught up with Sid and got him to fetch Aster. Raskin escorted Chaka to one side of the chalk centre, the raticate beating his fists together at the sight of Aster moving to the opposite end.

Raskin walked between the two pokémon to the centre of the circle and stood up on his hind legs. “Everyone!” he announced, then repeated himself, having to shout to get their attention. The gathered faces turned their heads to him. He did his best not to flinch. They didn’t look dangerous, he reassured himself, just very… lively.

“Thank you all for coming to our little event,” he said, which brought a significant cheer in itself. “I know what you’re all here for, so we’ll get the fight right underway shortly. Just a couple of things. Please try not to damage anything in here, since Lyco might kill me if you do.” That got a good laugh, though the look Lyco gave him from the back of the room made his fur stand on end. Crap. Please don’t actually kill me.

“In addition, when we finish, try not to all get the same rides back into the city centre. I don’t want the police to get suspicious… especially because there’s a few more of you than we expected. So walk, or wait a few minutes extra if you can. With that said…” He glanced at Sid. Raskin didn’t feel right doing this last bit. “Can you say it?”

Sid grinned like a child. “Everyone,” he roared, the flames on his back spitting, “it’s time for the BATTLE OF THE BAKERS!”

The sound made by the crowded pokémon was unlike anything Raskin had heard before. He’d been to the athletics finals once growing up, one of the biggest events in Deepden’s calendar. It took place in a stadium filled with many thousands of pokémon, who whooped or booed depending on how their favourites or, more often, their type representative was performing.

Yet this rickety room of scattered groups of ‘mon, most of whom didn’t even have a favourite of the two fighters, produced a roar more passionate and visceral than any athletics event could. It made Raskin’s neck-fur stand on end again, this time in a good way.

Sid tugged the nickit’s ear. “We should get out of the arena,” he suggested, rather urgently.

Before Raskin could move, a ball of cream fur shot past him, missing so narrowly that he could smell dough for a second.

Chaka barrelled into Aster’s chest, producing a thump like a geodude hitting its head on the ceiling. It looked for a moment like Aster would fly straight into the pokémon behind him and through the wall of the building, but his vines dug into the rough earth and flung him back towards the chalk arena like a slingshot.

Raskin scrambled backwards faster than he could think, and Sid was just as alert. The quilava retreated clumsily to where most pokémon stood, at the very edge of the fighting ring. Raskin couldn’t understand that. He backed away, pushing through bodies, until he was up against a wall, getting onto his hind legs so he could still see the arena. Even then, seeing how easily Aster had been tossed through the air, he didn’t feel very safe. At least I’ve got a good second to react from here...

Chaka started running at Aster again, but the ivysaur jumped out of reach of Chaka’s little arms, using his vines like a pair of crutches to balance himself. Aster backed away towards the centre of the arena, his vines hovering either side of him, and he and Chaka slowly began to circle each other. Raskin relaxed a little; perhaps they would calm down now.

Bushu’s drum started playing.

The rhythm was simple; a whole beat, then two half-beats. But it changed the atmosphere at once. Some of the crowd had been exchanging words over the current lapse in action; this hushed them. There was suddenly an air of anticipation.

Dum… dum-dum dum… dum-dum dum…

Both Chaka and Aster started snarling at each other as they circled. Each impatient, waiting for the other to show their hand. The drum beat a little faster.

Dum, dum-dum dum, dum-dum dum…

“Take him, Ast!” someone shouted. The crowd roared into life at the words.

“Tackle him, Chaka!”

“Take his legs!”

“You’re faster than him!

“You’ve got this grass-muncher!”

“Hey, what did you call him?”

Raskin flinched. The deerling who had been with Aster was right in front of him, glaring at a krokorok who had instinctively backed away a little, leaving a hole in the crowd between them.

“You wanna see what us grass-munchers can do?” the deerling challenged, kicking one of her hind legs against the ground.

For a moment the krokorok looked apprehensive, but then his snout bent into a smile. “Bring it on,” he growled, widening his stance.

The deerling didn’t hesitate. She hurtled forwards and swung a hoof at the dark-type, who threw himself to the ground, almost falling on her in doing so. He reached out and yanked her nearest hoof, making the deerling squeal and her legs collapse from under her.

“Hey, HEY!” Sid blundered through the crowd until he could get in between the two pokémon. “You’re not in the arena, so you don’t fight! Break it up!”

Neither the deerling nor krokorok seemed to mind getting pushed apart much. Sid glanced Raskin’s way, and the nickit gave him a smile and wave of thanks. He was impressed that Sid had been so aware to the situation.

A howl from Chaka caught his attention. He had almost forgotten about the two bakers in the midst of that scuffle, but from the ‘mon’s intense expressions, they hadn’t even noticed the distraction. Neither had Bushu the drummer.

Dum, dum-dum-dum, dum-dum-dum, dum-dum-dum…

Chaka lunged at Aster with a clawed hand. Aster swerved away again and slapped the raticate in the face with one of his vines. Parts of the crowd laughed. Chaka howled with anger, then suddenly whipped his tail into Aster’s body, catching him by surprise. As Aster stumbled, Chaka finally hit his body with scratch, scratched again with his other arm, then clenched his first paw, getting a glancing punch on the side of Aster’s head. This brought the first cry of pain from the ivysaur. His vines came together and pushed outwards, moving Chaka backwards a little.

Both pokémon paused for breath. Chaka was on all-fours now, and Aster was already about as low to the ground as he could be. Both ‘mon were bruised and cut, bodies shaking with fatigue.

Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum—

Chaka leapt directly at the ivysaur and opened his mouth. His teeth seemed to grow, somehow—either that, or they just caught the torchlight unnaturally—and he brought them straight down onto Aster’s arm.

The crowd gasped. The drum stopped. Raskin felt his breath leave him. The only sound was Aster’s scream, both in shock and agony.

Aster tried to shake Chaka off him, but the raticate held on. Aster was still, mouth pulled in a grimace, then he flung his body to the floor, taking Chaka with him. The raticate finally released his teeth, leaving a nasty-looking gash in Aster’s scales. But the ivysaur jumped straight back up, facing Chaka. His rose-coloured bud began glowing, its folds expanding and straining. Then he tipped his body forward, letting a volley of seeds fly out of the bud, each one the size of a fist.

The first three all connected with Chaka, hitting him with such force that he toppled backwards and out of the arena’s circle altogether. But whatever had possessed Aster did not stop there. The seeds kept firing at where Chaka had been, and as the pokémon behind flung themselves to safety, the only barrier left was the house’s wooden wall.

It took two hits for the wood to give way. Three more seeds punched the hole wide.

“Stop! STOP IT!”

The sudden roar broke Aster out of his stupor. It was Lyco, storming into the circle to confront the ivysaur. “What the hell are you playing at?” she snarled. “This is my house, not a fucking scrapyard!”

“I-I’m sorry!” Aster yelped, backing away. All of a sudden, his bud had deflated again, his vines shooting back inside it. “I just got… carried away…”

“Damn right you did,” Lyco seethed. She looked around the room, which was motionless. “Yeah, party’s over, folks. Go home.” After a moment’s hesitation, a few pokémon from the crowd started trudging towards the door.

A couple of Chaka’s friends moved over to him, helping him to his feet. Chaka brushed off their concerned questions, though he did require an arm on each shoulder for a few steps.

“Hey,” he said, eyes fixed on Aster, who was practically huddling next to his deerling partner. She, however, was muttering something to the krokorok who had challenged her.

Aster looked up, wide-eyed. “Chaka,” he breathed, “gods, I am so sorry. I don’t understand what happened, I never meant to—”

“Eh?” Chaka interrupted. He laughed, a great throaty boom. “Don’t apologise, lad. I deserved it! You outsmarted me in there. Had to resort to nasty tactics.” He grimaced, holding out a paw to the ivysaur. “Good fight, eh? Haven’t fought like that since I was a kit.”

Aster, after looking stunned for a moment, managed to relax and return Chaka’s smile. “Good fight,” he agreed, slapping the paw with one of his own.

Raskin observed them with faint wonder as they started leaving together, chatting like old friends. I thought they would end up hating each other. Didn’t they already hate each other? It’s like they let the fight happen in a different mindset to normal life. And they both seem better off for it.

“Hey, uh…” the krokorok from the crowd was approaching Lyco, though also keeping a safe distance from her. “Could we have the room for just a minute, to finish what we started…?”

Lyco’s face would have stopped even the most confident speaker in their tracks. “You are not finishing anything in here,” she said, then grabbed hold of the ‘mon and shoved him towards the door. The krokorok made some annoyed mutterings, but he got the picture.

“Uh, thanks for coming, everyone!” Sid called from the back of the room, wearing a brave smile. “Hope you enjoyed yourselves. Remember to make your way home sensibly!”

Luis’s voice came from somewhere in the crowd. “Hey, why don’t we give it up for Raskin and Sid for organising this!”

It prompted another huge roar their way. Raskin, feeling a little sheepish at the praise, just raised a paw in thanks as the pokémon, finally, began streaming out of the door. He exchanged a glance with Sid, and could tell they were thinking the same thing: This fight went down really well. Incredibly well.

Unfortunately, the only ‘mon in the room who would disagree had stayed with them.

“Well,” Lyco growled, her red eyes reflecting the torchlight like burning coals. “We had our deal. I’ll be taking two-thirds of that money. Gonna need it to repair the hole that plant left.”

“I doubt it costs 300 poké to buy some wood and nails—”

“Shut your scrawny mouth,” she snapped, cutting Raskin off. She slung the sack of money off her shoulders, tipping it at her feet. A vast pool of coins tumbled out. Even the lycanroc looked a bit surprised by it.

“There were more than thirty pokémon here,” she remarked. “More than 300 poké.”

“Yes,” Raskin replied. “I wasn’t expecting so many.”

Lyco nodded, dragging the coins into piles. “Can’t say I’m too surprised.”

Raskin expected some kind of explanation to follow that up, but none followed, and Lyco didn’t seem in the mood for much conversation with him. Eventually she had made two piles, one significantly larger than the other, and she pushed the smaller pile towards Raskin. He counted the coins, with some difficulty given the mud from the floor that had already become stuck to some of them. 200 poké.

“How much have you got there?” he asked. Lyco had already stuffed her pile into the paper bag she had collected the payments in.

“Twice what you have,” she replied.

Raskin gritted his teeth. “If you’ve deliberately counted wrong, I’ll-”

“Why would I have done that?” Lyco snapped. “Gods, I gave you my house for the evening and you still don’t trust me?”

Sid had a paw on Raskin’s shoulder before he could do anything more. “Let it go, Rasky,” the quilava said. “We still made more than we expected to.”

But... she’s getting the bulk of it. Raskin sighed. There was little use in trying to argue. He didn’t know what to argue, in truth, and even if he did, Lyco was twice his size. He and Sid scooped up their money and dumped it into his rucksack.

“Goodbye then,” he said, glancing back at Lyco.

She didn’t respond until he was almost out of the door. “Don’t forget to get rid of that stupid sign!”

It was a sensible idea, in fairness: the sign was evidence they didn’t want to leave behind. The wood broke easily when he put his weight on it. “Did you like the sign?” he asked Sid.

Sid smiled amusedly. “It did a job. How long did you work on it?”

“Like, five minutes,” Raskin lied. It had taken at least ten to remember where their paint was.

The ride stop was empty when they arrived there. Even the electric lights were out. Raskin looked around, confused. “The service hasn’t stopped yet, has it?” He checked the watch on his foreleg. “It’s only quarter to 11.”

“Dunno,” Sid said. “Lights off is usually a sign they’ve finished. Do you wanna wait until the hour?”

A gust of wind blew past them, making Raskin shiver. “Forget it,” he muttered. “Let’s just walk.”

Soon they were back into inner Deepden. As they walked, Raskin realised he had been ever-so-slightly tense while they had been moving through Oldden. He felt much safer here among the well-lit streets and the orderly, secure concrete buildings. Bars were virtually the only commerce open at this hour, but the ones they passed were still lively, bringing a muffled ambience of laughing pokémon and acoustic music.

“What’s up, Rasky?” Sid asked after a while.

“Huh?” Raskin looked up from his semi-daze.

“You’re annoyed about something, I can tell.”

Raskin scowled. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m annoyed that Lyco scammed us out of half our money. We couldn’t have done anything about what happened!”

“I… get that,” Sid said slowly. “But Rasky, aren’t you proud of what we did tonight? We hosted a proper fight. And it was amazing! I mean, have you ever seen anything like the final move Aster did? Sure, we didn’t make as much as we could have, but who cares? I would have done it all again for free.”

Raskin couldn’t help smiling at his enthusiasm. He was pleased to see Sid in much higher spirits than he had been last night. But he also felt a little embarrassed at the ‘mon’s words. Throughout the fight, the main emotion he had felt was… fear. And it had been Sid who intervened with those ‘mon in the crowd, not him.

Was it a fear of getting caught in the crossfire? Or… that Chaka or Aster would severely hurt the other? Or just that an officer could bust open the door at any moment?

Suddenly, he was back in his first home. Watching a lucario with glowing palms march through the front door, with half a dozen more hulking officers behind him. His father had kicked and spat trying to fend the officers off, until the lucario slapped him across the face, knocking him to the ground. Raskin heard himself scream—

“Rasky!”

Raskin started, then shook himself vigorously. He had forced those memories out of his mind. They would not be returning now, not tonight.

“Sorry,” he said to Sid. “Tired and stuff.”

Sid nodded. They both knew, Raskin could tell, that there was more to it than that, but Sid did not question him. Little pieces of understanding like that were why Raskin valued his friend so dearly, whatever his flaws might be.

“Well anyway, I’m glad you had a good time,” Raskin said.

Sid smiled. “Pity we broke whatever we had going with Lyco, though. Her house… thing was a perfect venue. If we ever wanted to do this again, I mean.”

Before Raskin could reply, he heard a familiar voice from across the street. Following the direction of it, he froze. It was Aster and his girlfriend. A white-scarved rhyperior was bent down talking to them. If he had stood at full height, Aster would have barely reached his waist.

“I had an accident with some broken glass,” Aster was saying, gesturing to his bloody leg. “Lost balance, dropped the glass and fell right on top of it.”

“I see,” the rhyperior said gruffly. “And those bruises?”

“I was… on a table when I fell,” Aster said, blushing. “It was a long way down to the floor. We’d had a bit to drink...”

The rhyperior didn’t smile. “You should get that bandaged up,” he said.

“I had run out of bandages,” the deerling said quickly. “That’s why we were heading to Aster’s place to sort it out.” Aster nodded with her.

“Well, just be careful,” the rhyperior said, finally looking to move away.

“We will, sir!” Aster said, his voice quivering just a little. He and the deerling looked around quickly when he had passed—Raskin and Sid had ducked behind an alleyway, just as keen as they were to avoid the police officer—and when they found nobody, the grass pair hurried away into the night.

Maybe, Raskin thought as he watched them, it’s a blessing we won’t be doing this again.
 
Last edited:

TheGOAT

🗿
Location
Houston, Texas
Pronouns
Him/his
Partners
  1. serperior
Chapter 2: Sticks and Stones



Even though Raskin wasn’t going to work, he got up as early as usual. The first thing he did – after eating breakfast, of course – was scribble a quick note on paper, addressed to his manager at the bank, Pangoro, explaining he was sick and wouldn’t be in.

One good thing about modern Deepden was that one could seldom get more than a street away from a post office. Perhaps the city’s burgeoning population meant that this was simply required to keep all the flying pokémon in work. Even so, there certainly wasn’t a lack of demand – the post office at the end of their apartment block’s road had a short queue outside, despite the early hour. Or perhaps because of it. It was difficult to tell.

A yellow-hided sandshrew was at the reception desk. She glanced at the address on the note, making note of its distance, before charging Raskin a small fee. Then she passed on the letter to a spearow, one of several pokémon waiting behind the desk. The letter was slipped into a pouch around the ‘mon’s neck, with a small flap making it easy for the spearow to reach in with its beak and pluck out each letter.

Next, Raskin and Sid took the familiar ride towards Pokémon Bank. They stopped at both the ivysaur’s (whom Raskin learned was called Aster) and Chaka the raticate’s bakeries, with Raskin taking the lead in explaining their plan to them. Both reacted with surprise and a little apprehension – especially Chaka, who at first just laughed nervously. But once Raskin explained that the venue would be as far from police control as possible – and that, if anything did happen, he and Sid would take responsibility – the two ‘mon warmed to the idea.

Raskin suggested they meet him at nine at the Founding Oak: an enormous tree that had apparently been one of the first seeds planted in the development of the ‘new’ Deepden, over two hundred years ago. The tree had made a natural hub for all kinds of commerce and gatherings in the city’s early days, but as Deepden continued to grow in population and modernise, businesses obtained their own trading spots further inland, and pubs or bars became the place to socialise. The slowly-dying Oak had long stopped being cared for, making it little more than a relic of the past.

It was, however, the easiest place to draw a line between Deepden and Oldden. Both bakers gave Raskin their approval.

“Rasky,” Sid said, as they headed back to the transport station. “Why did you say we would take all responsibility if we get caught? That’s… a bit of an unnecessary risk, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps,” Raskin acknowledged. “But I figured that, as the obvious organisers of this, pokémon will be quick to blame us in any circumstance. May as well turn that fact into a positive negotiating tool, eh?”

“I see,” Sid said, face screwed up in thought. “Another question, then. The timing of this, at 9…”

“I figured the later the better.”

“No, I get that. But what about rides back into town? They stop after about 11, don’t they?”

“I don’t think we’ll be sticking around for that long,” Raskin said, then paused. “That’s a good point though. It might look suspicious if thirty ‘mon all get the same obscure, late-night ride. I’ll ask people to break up their travel a little. Walk or fly if they’re able, too.”

Is that overly paranoid? he wondered. No. We should take as many precautions as we can.

He saw a flash of white fur in his periphery, and looked over to see a familiar zangoose heading in the opposite direction. Luis took much pride in keeping his coat sleek and shiny, which always made him stand out.

Raskin’s eyes lit up. “Luis!” he called, getting the ‘mon’s attention.

Luis found him, and they consciously stepped to the side of the street, avoiding the masses of commuting bodies.

“What’s up? Where are you going at this hour?” Luis asked, clearly confused.

“I’m kind of... not going into work today,” Raskin said. “But it’s good that I found you. Do you remember the dispute in the street yesterday between those two bakers?” He quickly explained his plan again, as well as what he had already agreed between Chaka and Aster.

Once he had finished, Luis blinked at him for a moment. Then he grinned. “Did somebody sneak chesto juice into your dinner last night?”

Raskin frowned. “I’m sorry?”

Luis laughed, giving the nickit a clap on the shoulder. He knew Raskin found that annoying. “What I’m saying is that you’re a mad bastard. I thought you didn’t even like sport!”

“I mean, I don’t not like it, but…” Raskin looked away, feeling his face heat up. He’d never admitted that to anyone directly except Sid. Was he that easy to see through?

He managed to clear his head. “Anyway Luis, I need your help. Sid and I have to sort out the venue in Oldden, and I don’t want to risk Pangoro seeing me around the bank when I said I was ill. Could you spread the word about the fight? Just the time and location of the Founding Oak are sufficient.” He hadn’t told Luis that they still needed to find a venue.

“Sure thing,” Luis smiled. “Though I doubt it’ll take much for this to spread like wildfire.”

“Well, try not to whisper it too loud then. If the wrong person overhears…”

Luis nodded. “I know. I gotcha covered.”

Raskin thanked him, and they quickly agreed to meet again later before Luis had to rush off to get to work on time.

***​

Raskin and Sid hopped off their next ride at the closest street to Oldden, though that itself was a good fifteen-minute walk away. It was like walking gradually back in time: the streets became rougher and hole-ridden, buildings grew sparser and increasingly dilapidated. A silence grew over them, eerier still for it being in broad daylight. Raskin was used to Central Deepden which practically never slept, especially not at this hour.

Even given the gradual shift in conditions, passing the Founding Oak and into Oldden was like entering another world. It was situated in the dip of an immense valley, which stretched far either side of their entrance point. The upside of this position was that it was well-shielded against winds. That, Raskin remembered being taught, was the main reason why stray pokémon had first chosen this area to settle. But one factor they seemingly hadn’t considered was how often it would naturally flood. The central, flattest parts of the province had either standing water or a swamp-like layer of mud covering it almost all year-round. Raskin had to watch his footing to avoid large puddles that had yet to dry out.

Unsurprisingly, most of the structures – ‘buildings’ felt like too generous a term – still standing were further up the valley, and this was where Raskin and Sid began searching. Pokémon had lived together in large numbers back then, which was still evident from the enormous slices of wood and piles of hay left behind. Being built on the edges of the valley’s big trough, most structures were lopsided. Raskin wondered if his ancestors had realised that it was useful to build on flat ground. Perhaps it was merely a trade-off between living on an angle or living in a swamp.

Their search was fruitless for quite some time: buildings that looked promising were in fact missing large sections of wall, or were built on wood so rotten and flaky that it looked like the whole thing would crumble under a slight breeze. Raskin was starting to get uncomfortable - every time he heard a rustling of wind or a twig snap underfoot he tensed, expecting something to jump out at them.

But then they turned a corner, revealing a building that seemed perfect. It had a wider radius than most of the dens, no gaps at all, and its wooden beams were packed with nails, some parts even covered in a glossy substance that looked like glue. It had been built on level, firm ground, and had a door, albeit one without a visible lock.

“Look at this beauty!” Sid exclaimed as they drew near.

Raskin smiled, relieved. “Better check the inside before we get too excited.”

He gave the door a firm nudge to open. Then, he almost jumped out of his fur.

A purple nidoran was lying right in front of them. It jumped up, hissing manically, and Raskin yelped in shock.

The nidoran showed no such hesitation, tackling Raskin to the ground. He squirmed, suddenly panting, trying to wrestle the thing off him, but the nidoran did not relent. There was no nuance to its attack; it clawed, kicked, bit all at once. Raskin hadn’t had to fight like this since he was a kit, and his limbs seemed to have forgotten how to move. The nauseating smell of the nidoran’s patchy, dirt-stained hide in his face only made things worse.

Suddenly, a flash of red and blue shoved the nidoran away from him, and the pressure relented. Gasping for breath, Raskin saw Sid on all fours, facing down the rogue creature. Fire was spitting at the quilava’s head and rear – another sight Raskin had almost forgotten existed.

The nidoran hissed an awful, shrill cry, then its haunches twitched, which Sid read as a sign of its intentions. He leapt to the side of the attempted tackle, then while the nidoran was unbalanced, took a deep breath. He arched his back forward and opened his mouth, but rather than fire, all that came out was a spattering of smoke. Sid started coughing violently, giving the nidoran more than enough time to tackle him to the floor successfully.

Raskin watched in horror as the nidoran thrashed with what seemed like even greater intensity than before. Every time Sid tried to escape, one of its limbs pinned him down again.

A thick, purplish substance was gathering at the spike on the rogue’s head. Raskin didn’t want to find out what would happen if that got under one of their furs. I have to do something!

Two ideas came to mind. Neither filled him with much hope, but he did them both.

“HEEEEELP!” he cried, before struggling to his feet and running to the scene of the fight. The nidoran looked up, snarling. Raskin could see every bone under its thin, patchy hide tensed. He tried scratching at it with his front claws, but with a single swipe, the nidoran caught him across the face, making the nickit stumble back. It then kicked Sid in the nose, which made the quilava’s flame sacs flicker, before extinguishing.

Just as the nidoran turned its attention on Raskin again, the door of the house was slammed open. All three ‘mon froze to look at the figure in the entrance: a bipedal pokémon with red-and-white fur, as well as an enormous white mane, whose mottled colour made it difficult to distinguish what was fur and dirt. Lycanroc.

A ring of rocks and stones levitated around the lycanroc’s feet. She swept her paws forwards and the rocks flew with them, moving together into a kind of unconnected sphere. Raskin gave an involuntary yelp even though the rocks crashed into the nidoran, knocking the ‘mon into the air until it collided with a wall.

“I told you before to stay out of here,” the lycanroc said angrily. “Don’t make me ask again!”

The nidoran raised its head and hissed again, despite its obvious defeat. “What about them?” he spat, nodding to Raskin and Sid.

“They have nothing to do with your trespassing,” the lycanroc replied. “Now get out!”

With a slow inevitability, the nidoran got up and began trudging towards the door. Then, at about halfway there, he suddenly broke into a sprint and vanished into the valley.

Raskin barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief and process what he’d just seen before the lycanroc’s crimson eyes bore into him. "I’m gonna require a very good explanation for what you pathetic hatchlings are doing here,” she said.

In his periphery, Raskin saw Sid look imploringly at him. I was the one who organised this mess, he thought wearily. I guess I should explain.

“Firstly, we had no idea you…” He paused. “Live here?”

He was hesitant to say so, since this lycanroc seemed too… well-off to be living in Oldden. Unlike the nidoran, she looked like she ate enough, and though her fur was a little scruffy, it did not compare to the ungodly scents their attacker had worn. He couldn’t pin down her age, but he would guess she was older than him and, more importantly, she had Shifted from a rockruff – he doubted a ‘mon living as rough as the nidoran would have the strength to do that.

“Not exactly,” she said. “But this place does belong to me. And you haven’t explained why you thought you could mosey in.”

Raskin exchanged another look with Sid. The quilava shrugged, as if to say, What harm could it do to explain? Raskin was mostly in agreement. This ‘mon seemed about as far from Deepden’s police force as one could be.

“We’re holding a kind of street fight tonight,” Raskin said. He saw a flicker of surprise cross the lycanroc’s face. “We figured Oldden would be a good place to host it, since police don’t really patrol here. We were just looking around, and–”

“You thought you’d found the jackpot?” the lycanroc said flatly.

“Well…” A thought occurred to Raskin. “Would you disagree? This is by far the nicest house we’ve seen here.”

The lycanroc gave him a critical look. “I’m flattered.” She sat back against a wall, folding her arms. “Tell me about this… street fight.”

Raskin pawed the floor for a moment, thinking of how best to explain. “How much do you know about life in Deepden?” he asked eventually.

“I live there, dummy.”

He cringed. Not the best start. “Right, well, you know that fighting is illegal, and that any fights that threaten to break out are instantly quashed. But, pokémon still want to see it happen. They want to watch. And, given you can’t do that anywhere else, I expect they’ll pay to do it here. We already have two ‘mon that want to fight each other. Now we just need to make the event happen.”

The lycanroc still regarded him with suspicion. “You speak like it’s a business to you.”

Raskin wasn’t sure how to respond. Sid got in before him. “We want to have fun, too!” the quilava said. “Life has been kinda shitty for me recently, and doing this feels… liberating. I think there’s a few ‘mon we’re inviting that feel similarly.”

The lycanroc nodded, looking thoughtful. “And how much money were you hoping to make tonight?”

“If we get 30 people paying 15 each, 450 poké,” Raskin said.

“450...” The lycanroc ran her paws through her mane, doing little to smooth it out. “I think I can cut you a deal. You can use my place to host your little fight. But,” she added, noting Raskin and Sid’s delighted faces, “I take a third of your proceeds. Two-thirds if anything in the house is damaged. Plus, if it gets discovered by police or whoever, I’m outta here. You’re fully responsible.”

Raskin had expected as much already, so that was no problem. His thoughts turned to her other proposal. What is there to be damaged? he wondered, looking around the room. Compared to what he knew, it was staggeringly empty. A stack of rocks stood in one corner – some of them had been manipulated to attack the nidoran, he realised – and near that was a thick pile of hay with a slight lycanroc-sized indent in the top. There was nothing else, unless it had been concealed. No seating, food storage, bathroom… Raskin was at a loss as to how anyone could live this way.

“If I can ask you something,” Raskin said. “If you don’t live here… then why is it yours?”

The lycanroc sighed. “I have some very loud neighbours. Sometimes, the only place I can get sleep is out here… like last night, for instance.”

“And it’s easier to sleep in this?”

“Sure.” She shrugged. “Our ancestors didn’t live in nice soft beds, y’know. We haven’t changed that much.”

“Why don’t you at least make a noise complaint?” Sid asked. “We have, before. Things cleared up pretty quickly.”

The lycanroc narrowed her eyes. “I have reasons,” she said evasively. “You didn’t answer my proposal, anyway.”

Raskin turned to Sid. “What do you think?” the quilava asked him.

Raskin did that for a moment. “We’ll make less money, but from what I’ve seen of Oldden, it’ll be hard to find a better location than here. At least, one that’s still relatively close to the city.”

Sid nodded. “We’ve already travelled far enough for my liking.” He gave a slight shiver at the words.

Raskin agreed. He was willing to take some risks tonight, probably more than would normally be reasonable. But he did not want to take his chances of getting attacked, mugged or beaten. You never knew what would happen out here – the nidoran had already proven that.

“We’ll do it,” he said to the lycanroc.

She nodded, satisfied. “I’ll leave it to you to get the place prepared, then,” she said, turning to leave. “I’ll be back tonight.”

Her words made Raskin pause. She was a couple of pawsteps out of the door when he called, “Wait! Uh… miss lycanroc?”

The lycanroc stopped. “Gods above,” she muttered, looking to the sky. “Just call me Lyco next time.”

Lyco? Raskin thought, puzzled. Surely her parents wouldn’t have called her something so… impersonal. That was the least of his concern though. “Lyco, then,” he said. “What do you mean about getting it prepared? I mean, this place is almost empty already. Surely that’s all we need.”

Lyco turned to face them. “Nonsense. You’ll need to mark a perimeter.”

“Perimeter…?”

“You think you can just give this raticate and ivysaur the entire room to fight in?” Lyco said cuttingly. “Where will the crowd stand? Anyone could get hit by a missed attack.”

I hadn’t thought of that, Raskin noted. Are we really as naïve as she seems to think we are?

“Could we use those rocks of yours?” Sid asked, gesturing to the pile.

Lyco frowned. “We could, but it’s hardly ideal. They could get kicked, tripped over and such. There’s a big chalk deposit close to the Dividing River that would make a much better tool.”

Raskin saw Sid took an involuntary step back at the mention of the river, and Lyco rolled her eyes, reading the quilava’s face immediately. “I’ll go with you,” she said wearily. “Now, don’t tell me you two haven’t thought of lighting, either?”

“Hm? Why would we…” Raskin trailed off, his ears drooping in shame. “Oh, right... it’s gonna be dark later.”

Lyco raised her eyelids at him, as if sarcastically saying ‘well done’. “We’ll need torches. Proper torches, not those shitty electric ones.”

Raskin wished he could pretend he knew what she was implying. “Just tell us what we need to do, then,” he said.

That brought a smirk from the lycanroc. “Gather some cloths that you don’t mind getting burned, and some cooking oil. Maybe some lengths of string, too. Everything else should be available here.”

Raskin nodded, about to confer with Sid, but his friend spoke first. “I can get those things,” he said. “If you don’t mind going to the river, Rasky?”

It was more of a plea than a question, Raskin could tell. Sid had come off significantly worse from the nidoran fight, with red scratch marks littering his stomach and arms. Raskin felt relieved, and a little ashamed, that he hadn’t been so involved in the fight. Sid would have a task explaining where those marks came from when he returned to work.

“That’s fine,” Raskin agreed, then gestured Lyco towards the door. “Shall we?”

***​

The Dividing River stood at the bottom of Oldden’s valley. This was the final frontier standing between Deepden society - even though Oldden was only an approximation of that - and the Wilderness. The river was vast in length and width, its distant shore at the other end only a fingerprint on the horizon. In autumn and winter, when rainfall was heaviest, the river could get even wider.

Raskin had never been this close before. He had seen the river once, while at school: as part of a special history class, a team of flyers had hovered his class over it. He mainly remembered them just emphasising its danger: how the river was littered with bloodthirsty fish pokémon who would rip into any meat they could sink their teeth into. And in the unlikely event that anyone made it all the way to shore, the pokémon of the Wilderness would be no less compromising.

He had suspected then, and still did now, that those stories had been exaggerated; designed to scare off any foolhardy kids from venturing into the freezing water for a dare. But even if one did see through the stories, the sight alone of the river’s murky expanse, followed by the huge, unending mass of Wilderness forestry on its other side, was enough to dissuade almost anyone. For stories of missing ‘mon in Deepden were very rare nowadays and, perhaps most tellingly, no pokémon had been to the Wilderness and come back alive – at least, no documented ‘mon.

Raskin stuck as close to Lyco as he dared, not wanting her to get even more irritated with him. He noticed that her movement over the rocks and mud of the valley was somewhat jilted, as if she carried an injury somewhere. He couldn’t see any marks on her though; the nidoran certainly hadn’t done anything.

“Are you alright?” he asked, making her glance at him. “You’re… moving kinda stiff.”

“I’m fine,” she said gruffly. “Attacking that ‘mon took a bit out of me. Haven’t had to do that in a while.”

That only raised more questions to Raskin. “How did you do that?” he said. “Move those rocks, I mean.”

“Not all rock-types have to be covered in armour and weigh a hundred kilos, you know.”

“I know what type you are,” Raskin said, trying not to get irritated. “I’ve never seen another pokémon do that with rocks, though.”

“Well, if you’ve never seen a proper fight, it’s no wonder.”

Raskin frowned. “It’s not just to do with fights. What about for construction, or street-works, say? If ‘mon could move rocks around that easily, it would–”

“Are you listening?” Lyco snapped, kicking a rabble of pebbles away. “I can’t move rocks ‘easily’. Why bother with fireplaces if you could just get a typhlosion blowing a constant stream of it into the room? Pokémon abilities don’t work like that. Especially if they’re not practiced.”

Alright, Raskin thought, her tone giving him an involuntary shiver, I’ll pretend I never asked. I was just curious…

The chalk deposit was close to the edge of a bank that dropped straight down into the river. He found a firm-enough chunk, and it held well when he tested it on the hard ground. Then he grabbed another piece just in case.

“Good,” Lyco said brusquely. “Let’s head back then.”

Raskin’s gaze lingered on the river for a moment. He could see ripples here and there, and had the vague hope that something would leap up from the water – perhaps a gyarados, that mighty, serpent-like creature that featured greatly in antique artworks, flying into the air to catch vulnerable flyers. Of course, nothing did appear, because no flyers would be stupid enough to cross within a mile of the river’s territory nowadays. So he reluctantly turned back to the gloom of Oldden.

Lyco instructed him on how the room’s perimeter should be drawn, without doing the actual work herself. Raskin was getting the impression that she just enjoyed pushing him around. Drawing out a massive circle of chalk in the rough, dirt floor with his unpractised paws was also more tiring than he realised. The circle covered the majority of the room, but left roughly equal space at all four corners, the reasoning being that this way, as many ‘mon as possible could get a good view. Important not just for enjoyment, but to jump out of the way of a stray attack.

Sid returned shortly afterwards, with oil, string and a bundle of old tea towels. The quilava had very bad habits around tea towels, frequently burning them on the stove or inexplicably mistaking them for a washing scourer and getting them stained. They needed replacing often, despite Raskin’s best efforts with Sid, and the nickit was strangely pleased at the thought of this tattered set getting incinerated.

The three of them then collected some pieces of wood to light. Lyco suggested that eight torches would be ideal for the room’s squarish shape: one at each corner, and one at each midpoint of a wall. One problem not even Lyco had foreseen was how the wooden logs would stick in place. Fortunately, pouring water onto patches of dirt softened it enough to drive the logs firmly into the ground. As per Lyco’s instruction, they tied a tea towel around the top of each log.

Raskin could see where things were going now. But as he moved to pour oil on one of the towels, Lyco yelled at him to stop.

“You can’t light them yet!” she scolded. “It’s hours until this fight is meant to start. They’ll have burnt to the floor by then.”

“But… how can we be sure that this’ll work?” Sid frowned.

Lyco made an annoyed grunt. She sliced off a dangling piece of cloth from one of the logs, then picked up a nearby stick and roughly tied the cloth around. Taking the oil from Raskin, she carefully added a few drops to it.

“Try lighting it,” she said to Sid.

“What – with my fire?” he spluttered.

She stared at him. “Can you not even do that?”

“N-no, I can!” Sid took the log in his paw, stared at it for a second, then exhaled forcefully. A small flame appeared, catching quickly on the oil-soaked cloth. Almost instantly, a fire had sprung up.

Sid laughed nervously, his relief obvious. “That is cool.”

“Glad to have reassured you,” Lyco said, taking it back and stamping out the flame.

“If that’s everything for now, we should be getting back,” Raskin said. “There’s still work that needs doing.” Getting an actual audience, namely…

Lyco shrugged. “Make sure you’re not late.”

Raskin doubted she was going to just sit in the house for the whole afternoon, but the lycanroc made no move to leave. She seemed to be waiting for them to go first, as if she wanted to keep her own whereabouts a secret.

Strange ‘mon, Raskin thought as they left. Let’s hope she stays on our side.

(Crossposted from FFN)

Chapter 2 Review:

Howdy! Some more quick thoughts.

— Didn’t mind the slightly expository worldbuilding much. It was interesting stuff. I’m already wondering what kind of symbolic or logistical role the Founding Oak will serve.
— Outlaw Lycanroc seems shady. I say she’s an outlaw because of the fake name, and what other reason could she possibly have for not making that noise complaint. That, or those ‘loud neighbors’ were a street fighting ring of her own?
— It’s pretty interesting how Sid is with his fire. He’s got it, he just isn’t very good at wielding it. And Lyco, who seems pretty strong, even had to catch her breath after using a rock-type attack. I love the depth you’ve added to the anti-combat culture of Deepden; over time, it seems to have affected the Pokémon’s abilities in a deeply-ingrained way.
— Loved the worldbuilding at the end. You established very clearly how Pokémon moves work through dialogue alone, and it was super smooth as a result.

Raskin and Sid didn’t even have a location prepared before asking people if they wanted to come? And this misstep didn’t create any direct consequences because they happened to find a spot anyway? Ehh. Could just be a lucky break, but back to Raskin being not as smart as he thinks he is: I really hope little stuff like this comes back to bite him in various ways.

Not a lot else to comment here. The action is coming in the next chapter (I’m assuming), so I’ll have a breakdown prepared for that in my next review.
 
Chapter 4: Fallout

cynsh

full-time quilava
Location
Deepden
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. quilava
Chapter 4: Fallout

Raskin had assumed, perhaps naïvely, that his life would resume its usual mundanity following that night in Oldden. However, as soon as he walked into the bank the next morning, being greeted with a chorus of 'good mornings' that were more enthusiastic and jovial than was usually reserved for anyone, he knew that things had changed.

"How'd you sleep, Rasky?" Luis asked him, grinning. "Like an abra, I'd expect."

Raskin smiled bashfully as he sat down. "Something like that, yeah."

"When were you thinking of holding the next meeting?" a bright-eyed herdier opposite him asked. "I've got a couple of guys in mind who I think would be interesting…"

"I can talk about it later," Raskin said quickly, and when no one was looking he gave the herdier a piercing look. Don't be so reckless! he mouthed.

Locki hadn't arrived yet, but it would be dangerous to assume that the skitty was the only 'mon they needed to watch their mouths around. Though he had seen most of the office at Oldden, it had not been unanimous.

Thankfully, the herdier and the rest of the room seemed to wise up after that, and there was no more discussion inside the office. Unfortunately, that meant his lunch break and walk back to the ride stop after work was spent being bombarded with questions. The answers seemed to tumble from his mouth of their own accord.

When's the next fight? "Soon. I'll let you know when."

Can I be in it? "I'll consider it."

Where's it gonna be? "We're scouting out locations right now."

Where did this idea come from? How much money have you made? What happened between you and that crazy lycanroc?

By the time Raskin was finally left alone, and the band of ride pokémon arrived, he barely had the strength to haul himself onto an arcanine's back.

What have I started? he thought, shaking his head as the air rushed past him. It's not that I'm completely averse to holding another fight, but… do none of these pokémon realise how much of a risk we took in just holding one?

At least he had been vague in his answers with them. That would give him and Sid time to figure out what they would do with all this unexpected interest. The fact it was a Friday felt like a blessing; hopefully the weekend would give things a chance to die down.

He was surprised to find their apartment door locked upon returning. When he opened it, Sid was lying blissfully on the sofa, the radio blaring out some pleasant-sounding music.

"You found your key?" Raskin said as he came in.

"Huh? Oh, no, I just got a new one cut." Sid jingled a shiny keychain in front of his face.

Raskin smiled. The quilava was already putting his share of the fight money to good use.

"Oh, you got a letter," Sid added, passing him something from the sofa.

The first thing Raskin saw on the paper was a shield-shaped insignia, a flowing white scarf adorning it. His paw trembled so violently that the letter fell to the floor.

"Oh my god," he gasped, having to lean against the wall to stop his legs collapsing. His heart was beating so frantically that it felt like every one of his veins would burst open. "O-oh god…"

"W-what is it?" Sid yelped. He rushed over to the nickit, picking up the letter. His eyes narrowed. "I… don't understand, Rasky. What's so bad about–"

"The fight, Sid, the fight!" Raskin shouted the words, then realised their neighbours may well have heard. The only other tone of voice he seemed able to manage in this state was a whisper. "The police, they, they must have found out somehow. I was trying to get everyone to be careful about discussing it, but clearly… oh, Mew…"

Sid scratched his head for a moment. "I mean, maybe it's about that. But if the police had heard, why would their first response be to send a letter? And why would it come in the exact same format as those letters about your dad?" He chuckled. "Rasky, have you ever heard of the police arresting someone by sending them a letter?

"W-well…" Raskin saw his logic, but it didn't do much to calm his trembling paws.

"Look, you want me to open it?" Sid asked, pinching the letter out of his grip.

Raskin opened his mouth to protest, though could think of no good excuse. "Oh, alright," he sighed.

Sid tore a messy opening in the top of the envelope and unfolded the paper, looking over the words intently. He was never the fastest reader.

"Well? What does it say?" Raskin demanded, his tail swishing with impatience.

"Nothing to do with you-know-what," Sid said immediately, flashing him a smile. "It's… actually some pretty good news." He carefully passed the letter over. "Your dad's sentence is getting cut."

Raskin's eyes darted over the page, the breath he had been holding slowly escaping. Due to convict Mightyena's high standard of behaviour since his sentence began, it read, we have decided to reduce his remaining jail time. Whereas he previously had one year left to serve, he will now serve six months.

There was a knot of legal mumbo-jumbo written below that he didn't have the energy to untangle yet. He read the same paragraph over and over. Though he felt extreme relief at its contents, the elation that he supposed should accompany it did not follow.

There were several reasons why, he supposed. The cold-blooded manner of the police always rubbed him the wrong way. How they referred to his father only as Mightyena rather than his first name. That impersonality would be fine if Haikos was superior to the entire Deepden police force, but as the opposite was true, it was difficult not to interpret the name as an insult.

Then there was Haikos himself. Though prisoners in his position could be visited once a month, it had been several since Raskin's last trip. About a year ago, when the nickit still came as often as possible, Haikos had told him not to worry about it. "I appreciate you coming, but I can see it's a burden for you," the mightyena had said. He was right, of course, and Raskin had felt a little more at ease once he started keeping thoughts of his father at arms' length.

But reading the letter brought it home how much he had neglected Haikos. He knew that if he didn't choose to visit now—never mind the fact that news of his father's reduced sentence made a perfect reason for it—he didn't know when he would again before the 'mon was released.

----

The following morning, Raskin got a ride towards the south end of the city. It was a long journey, taking him through countless high streets, housing estates and industrial parks, but finally the arcanine stopped on the street he wanted.

It was essentially a dead end out here: the road only looped back around towards the centre of Deepden again. Squat, yellowing grass flanked it on both sides. The only thing of any note in sight was a vast, redbrick square, kept behind an even larger chain-link fence, securing it from every side. Deepden Prison.

The door into the compound was made of the same material. It was closed, and on the other side two officers, a jolteon and fraxure, were sitting on stools, playing cards. They were laughing about something as Raskin approached, and when neither appeared to notice him, he loudly cleared his throat. He would have knocked on the fence, were it not for the myriad of warning signs around it with diagrams of figures being electrocuted.

The guards turned their heads. "Yeah, what?" the jolteon said. Despite it still being early, his white scarf was only hanging loosely around his neck.

"I'm here to visit family," Raskin said.

"Uh-huh," the jolteon replied dully. He ambled to his feet, opening the gate with his forepaws rather than pressing the button that did it automatically—a feeble attempt for the electric-type to show off his immunity, Raskin guessed. "Follow Fraxure here."

Raskin did so without a word. He had never encountered a police officer here that treated him as if he wasn't a complete waste of their time.

The fraxure led him to the reception, where he gave his usual details, waited in a cold, metal chair for a few minutes, then was called forward. A liepard officer led him down a dimly-lit corridor which was made of the same dull bricks as everything else, stopping at a door that was now familiar to him. She ushered him inside.

The room was empty but for a table and single chair, both of the same uncompromising metal, set up against a section of wall that had replaced the bricks with laminated glass. On the other side of the glass, in a seemingly identical room, sat his father.

To call it sitting would have been misleading: the mightyena was slumped back against his chair, his front legs barely resting at the edge of the table, mostly just hanging in the air. While the anatomy of most quadrupeds didn't work naturally for sitting at a table, they were trained to make it work from an early age. Three years in prison seemed to have made Haikos forget his training.

When he saw Raskin, Haikos at least made an effort to straighten his upper body, though his legs still sat on the table, almost between his head.

"Hello, Dad," Raskin began. Not even a greeting in and I'm already anxious, he thought, cursing. Something about this place makes it impossible to talk. He took his own seat on the other side of the glass.

"'ello, Rass," Haikos replied, his voice as rough as sandpaper.

"Well, how are you?" Raskin asked. "It's been a while since my last visit. Sorry about that. Life has been busy, and…"

Haikos grunted, waving off his excuse with a paw. "Don't apologise." An uncomfortable silence hovered over them before his father coughed, then croaked on. "Not much to tell ya. Inmates come and gone, same as usual. Few fights breakin' out amongst the young'r folk who don't know better. I just keep my head down. Ain't much else you can do."

Raskin inspected his father a little closer. The black fur on his back and legs was turning more and more like the grey that otherwise covered him – but that discolouration was typical for species like his. More alarming was how thin and patchy all his fur had become. Without the coverings on Haikos's legs, Raskin half-expected to find twigs underneath.

"Are they feeding you enough?" he asked. "You look thin."

Haikos puffed out his cheeks. "If you had to eat the slop they served up here, you'd be thin too."

"That's not an excuse, Dad!" Raskin exclaimed, leaning forward on the table. "You have to keep yourself healthy. Especially given…" He paused. "I got a letter saying your sentence is being cut to six months. Were you aware of that?"

"Oh, yeah," Haikos grunted. "It happens 'round here a lot. Nothin' special. In fact, I'd bet that's what they'd planned for me from the start. Funny what they class as good behaviour, ay?" He coughed out what was presumably a laugh.

Raskin glanced behind him. The liepard officer was nowhere to be seen "Why would they plan it deliberately?" he asked.

Haikos shrugged. "If people think they'll be in here years, they'll get behaved quicker, I reckon. No point in suffering the consequences for an eternity."

Mew, can you hear yourself, Dad? Raskin thought despairingly. He had to change topic.

"But still, six months. That's something to look forward to, right?"

The mightyena frowned back at him. "Is it? They'll assign me somewhere to live, and I'll have to go back to work. Gods know how, with these joints of mine…"

"What? No! I thought you could live with us… Sid and I."

"Oh." For the first time, Haikos's eyes opened a little wider. "Are you sure you could afford that?"

Raskin froze. Of course; why had he just assumed that would work? Haikos was twice the size of he or Sid, so should—if he was to stop looking like an underfed tyrogue—be eating twice as much too. Running some quick mental sums, Raskin could see it being possible… but it would take a new level of frugality for him and Sid. Unless Haikos got a job, of course, but Raskin desperately did not want him to be cleaning toilets or sweeping streets. His father probably only had a few more years to live; he deserved better than that.

"I… I'm not sure," Raskin admitted, lowering his gaze. "I guess we'll wait and see. Half a year is still a long time." Even though my life has been static for the past two of those.

Haikos nodded vaguely, returning to his slumped posture. Raskin scrambled for something else to say, something positive. He would feel awful if he left Haikos like this.

Then his mind landed on it, like a wayward arrow suddenly finding its target. He checked behind him: the liepard officer was chatting to someone at the door, not even looking his way. Perfect.

He leaned forwards until his muzzle was almost smudging the glass. Haikos raised his eyelids, his ears pricking upwards.

"Something exciting happened the other day. Sid and I managed to organise a kind of… underground street fight. We held it away from the—"

"You did WHAT?" Haikos barked, suddenly lurching upright.

The liepard poked her head in, alerted by the explosion of noise. Raskin was stunned, though regained enough composure to turn and give the officer what he hoped was a reassuring look. Once her attention eased, he turned back to Haikos, but his father spoke first, managing to keep his voice hushed.

"That's illegal, Raskin!"

"I know it is!" Raskin yelped. "But we planned it all carefully, dad. No one suspected a thing. We even made some money from it!"

"You…" A low growl buzzed from his father's throat, and he shook his head sharply. "You will never do anything like this again, do you understand?"

"We weren't planning to!" Raskin felt his face heat up. "It was just a bit of fun. What's your problem?"

"That is what my problem is! A bit of fun… I didn't raise you to be this stupid! Have you forgotten all the sacrifices I made for you, Raskin? How I always believed in you? You could have thrown that all away over a pointless fight!"

Raskin didn't know how to respond. He hadn't seen Haikos this animated since they had still lived under the same roof. In that sense, it was reassuring to know that the mightyena had not been completely consumed by the void of sadness which seemed to grow deeper every time Raskin saw him.

But what hit him harder were the force of Haikos's words. Because his father was right; he had made the ultimate sacrifice, even if the prison part of it was undesired. Haikos had been caught lying about his income on their tax forms, attempting to pay less than he was obligated to. Although he had never blamed Raskin for his actions, the nickit couldn't interpret them any other way. After all, it was his stubbornness in attempting to find a job better than the menial, lowest-paid that were normally given out to 'mon lacking formal qualifications, and his months of failure in doing so, that had led to his father's desperate act. The irony of it was that his interview at the bank had been the morning of the day they had received a knock on the door from that white-scarfed officer.

"I'll never forgive myself for doing this to you," Raskin said quietly, unable to meet Haikos's eye.

The mightyena sighed, slumping back into his previous position on the uncompromising chair. "I did not intend to make you feel guilty, boy. I just think… you need to stay focused. Stay in your job. Do not get impatient. Life… has a way of working things out."

Well, it didn't work out for you, Raskin thought.

A sharp knock came from the door. "That's time," the liepard said, walking into the room, though it was only possible to take a couple of steps with its size. She gestured the exit to Raskin.

He looked at Haikos once more, longing to send him off with something worthwhile. But in the end, all he could manage was, "I'll see you soon."

With a grunt and jerk of his head, Haikos was led away by another officer back towards the cells. Raskin wondered how 'soon' his heart could really manage.

----

The following evening, Raskin joined Sid in heading to the White Entei, the quilava's favourite haunt on Harmony Square. Being a Sunday, it was pleasantly quiet in the pub – the type of quietness that made conversation easy to follow, rather than uncomfortable.

Raskin was not particularly good friends with the pokémon that Sid drank with, but they were entertaining and jovial, and of course a touch of alcohol made everything come easier. By the time they left, later than was sensible for Sid especially, Raskin felt a little happier about the world.

It was just a shame that weekends ended so soon.

His hope that the weekend would have given everyone at the bank time to calm down was only partially met. True, none of the 'mon made suspicion-arousing comments to him while in the office. But he kept getting knowing looks from around the room, and at lunch, once again, a few people asked him what he was thinking for the next fight. Aware that repeating the same answers would probably not go down well, he said that he needed to discuss their options with Sid—his 'partner in crime', as one 'mon put it—before they went any further. That seemed just about enough to sate everyone's curiosity for another day.

What will I do tomorrow, though? Raskin wondered, as the time crawled towards five that afternoon. Make up a discussion with Sid that will sound agreeable to people?

He glanced at the clock again. Ten minutes to five. Just one more balance sheet and he would be done. He turned to the next page of his papers and began a new table on the computer. Withdrawals… 50, 20, 50… 100…

"Raskin?"

Raskin's ears stood on end. It was Pangoro's gravelly voice. He turned to find his boss standing there, with his grey scarf, a reminder of his authority, fastened tightly around his close-cropped fur. "A quick word, if you would," Pangoro said.

Raskin froze. There was no way he could refuse. His mind began whirring at once. Could Pangoro have heard about the fight? Surely he would have found out before now, if he did?

Slowly, he turned, sliding off his chair, and followed Pangoro through the open door to the manager's office. It was immaculately tidy, Pangoro's papers and pens lined up with precision; the only detail somewhat out of place was a stress ball, whose pink colour had faded from so much use. Pangoro seemed to squeeze it most hours of the day.

"What's up?" Raskin said, as casually as he could, sitting in the open seat opposite Pangoro.

The manager brought his paws together on the desk. "As you know, Raskin, the bank has been in a transitionary period of late. The collective focus from your department on what is, admittedly, a rather menial task has been very much appreciated."

Raskin nodded. "Is… that why I'm here?"

"No," Pangoro said grimly. "The bottom line is, once all our data is online, and your department can input consumer figures as they come in, like before, its workload will be significantly reduced. It wouldn't be economically viable to continue employing so many of you. Now, you've been at the bank for some time, and that loyalty is very much appreciated. However, I've run some numbers on everyone's performances over the last couple of weeks and, to be frank, yours are the worst."

Raskin blinked at him. Run some numbers…? These computers tell him how much work everyone's been doing?

"I can work harder," he said quickly. "I'll work harder than anyone."

Pangoro tilted his head slightly, then continued as if Raskin had never spoken. "I spoke to a few of your colleagues about this, and they agreed that you've cut a rather surly figure in recent weeks."

What? Sure, that was how he felt, but Raskin always made an effort to appear respectable. Besides, everyone loved him now! They wouldn't say that about him, would they?

"I–" he began, but Pangoro interrupted.

"In addition, I have grounds to believe that the day off with illness you took last week was a complete fabrication. It seems to me, Raskin, that you have no real desire to continue working here, and one of the keys to high productivity is for everyone to be in the same headspace. It only takes one rower to start slacking for the whole balance of the boat to collapse."

Raskin could barely stop his mouth falling open in disbelief. One of the reasons he had travelled to the bakeries at the crack of dawn was so that no one from the bank would see him. Pangoro himself didn't show up until half-an-hour after his department.

He wanted to scream at Pangoro. He wanted to break apart those stupid pencils of his, sweep his paws into all those trivial papers.

What came out of his mouth wasn't far off.

"You can't fire me for this," he said. "I'll take you to court over it. Firing someone based on a few office rumours is grounds for wrongful dismissal."

"I never said we were firing you," Pangoro said, a flicker of amusement passing over his lips. He passed a document across the desk. "You should take a look at this. It's a redundancy settlement we drew up. You'll receive just under 2000 poké altogether; we hope that gives quite sufficient time for you to find a new job. Your planned redundancy begins at the end of this working week, four days from now. You have until then to decide whether to sign."

Raskin looked carefully at the paper. What Pangoro was actually offering was 1700 poké. That would keep him afloat for what, two months? Would that be enough to find another job?

"What happens if I refuse to sign?" he asked Pangoro.

Pangoro narrowed his eyes. "I don't think you'll get very far in appealing a redundancy."

Obviously. Raskin felt foolish for even asking. The bank had it all worked out, those slippery bastards. He snatched the paper off the desk. "There's no way that you might reverse this within the next week?"

"I cannot see that happening." After a moment of silence, Pangoro added, "Unless you have anything else to say, that will be all. Again, you have four days to make a decision."

"Decision," Raskin repeated, laced with sarcasm. When Pangoro's glare intensified, he deduced that his fury was best left bottled up. "I'll just go then."

Pangoro nodded, and Raskin left the office without another word.

----

Raskin's journey home was like wading through honey. Walking though the vast, bustling streets, the city felt greyer and bleaker to him than ever.

He had held down his job at the bank for over two years. It was the only job he had had since leaving school. Back then, every day had been the same: in the morning he would scan the vacancies section of the newspaper and write hasty applications for any vacancy that looked achievable enough, which usually amounted to about half a dozen. In the afternoon he would walk down Deepden's high streets, looking for any notices of vacancies in the shop windows. Almost every inquiry was turned down without even an interview. Job centres told him that, with his lack of qualifications, he was aiming too high: there were plenty of jobs available for factory workers, or cleaners, or harvesters like Sid. But he had been stubborn, believing he could do better. So had his father.

Dad was right, Raskin thought miserably. He recalled the mightyena's words in their last meeting: 'Stay focused. Stay in your job.'

But I have!
he told himself. For two years I've done nothing else!

He doubted that anyone in his department truly had their mind on numbers for every hour of work. And at least he was competent at his job; Locki was still forgetting coding functions! How could he have been singled out by Pangoro?

Locki. His mind landed on the skitty. She was the only member of the office who he reckoned would seriously disapprove of their fight night. What if she had suspected something was up? For all Raskin had tried to keep everyone quiet about it, she could still have picked up enough clues to be suspicious.

She should have no concrete proof to incriminate him with—nothing that the police would be onto him for—but she could have told Pangoro of her suspicions. Perhaps suspicions were enough for Pangoro to feel he should be let go. Pangoro could make up a couple of excuses involving productivity, and fire him under the guise of redundancy so Raskin was powerless to prevent it.

Oh, but what does it matter how it happened? Raskin thought, as he left the transport station on Harmony Square. It's over. I'll have to start all over again…

He wondered how Sid would react. For as long as Raskin had known the quilava, which was almost all his life, he had always seen himself as the responsible, reliable one of them. Sid could be erratic and unpredictable, but Raskin would always make sure their bills were paid. Perhaps those days were over.

He was so deep in thought that when he opened the door and found Sid on the sofa, looking at him, he froze.

The quilava's eyes were puffy and bloodshot. His paws were shaking, despite the cushion that he was clutching to his body like a life raft.

"Sid!" Raskin exclaimed, all his troubles forgotten. "W-what's wrong?"

"Well… this." The quilava picked up an official-looking document and handed it to him. "The greenhouse is laying me off."
 

TheGOAT

🗿
Location
Houston, Texas
Pronouns
Him/his
Partners
  1. serperior
Response to @TheGOAT's review below:
Hm, I see your point. A word or two could certainly be cut there.



It was referring to both Sid and Raskin. I suppose it is an error, huh. Good spot!


Hahaha, I'm not a big Breaking Bad fan but I know the scene you're talking about. Don't think it was ever in my mind, unless it was a subconscious thing :quag:

To make life easier for myself I thought I'd make poké values closer to what dollars/pounds are worth, rather than constantly multiplying by 100 or whatever as is the case for the canon :quag:



Heh. Well, yeah, I wanted to jump right into things. Perhaps that came at the expense of exploring some scenes in more depth, but I'm happy enough with how I managed it. And you said you feel hooked, so I must have done something right!

Thanks for all the comments! And to answer your first question, writing has been the usual--very exciting in parts, very much a slog in others. Progress is progress, I guess ^^;


Chapter 3: The Fight


Raskin rinsed the paint from his paw and looked at his work. He had found himself with a little spare time back at their flat, and his mind was too preoccupied about the impending fight to do anything unrelated to it. So instead, he’d dug out a wooden board that used to be part of Sid’s wardrobe door—a drunken accident had put an end to that—and the remainder of a tin of paint they had painted the walls with long ago.

BATTLE OF THE BAKERS INSIDE, the board read. Part of Raskin loathed himself for using a cheesy title that Sid had come up with, but it didn’t matter a great deal. The sign wasn’t designed to attract attention—in fact, he hoped that their location would do the very opposite of that. It would simply convince the pokémon coming, particularly those he didn’t know, that they were walking into something a little more professional than a loner’s wooden shed in the middle of a wastetown. Even though that was the truth.

He reached Lyco’s house at 8:30, half an hour before the fight, and the lycanroc was already waiting outside. She had a bottle of cheap-looking whisky in one hand. She didn’t offer Raskin any.

“What the hell is that?” she said disdainfully, jabbing a paw at his sign.

“I knew you’d like it,” Raskin said. “I figured a little decoration wouldn’t do any harm.”

“As long as it’s destroyed once tonight is finished,” Lyco grunted. “Where’s Sid?”

“He went to find his friends at a pub,” Raskin said, sitting down close to, but not next to her. “They might’ve roped him in for a few drinks.”

“Well, he’d better return soon: we need him for the torches. You didn’t bring any matches, did you?”

Raskin had not. He was alarmed at the speed that the sky was darkening; it was already difficult to see more than a few feet ahead of him. They really did need Sid.

When his watch reached quarter to 9, he could not wait any longer. “Wait here,” he told Lyco. “I’ll go to the Founding Oak and see what’s happening.” Lyco just nodded.

He fumbled his way back through Oldden’s slopes, mainly guided by the distant electric lights of civilisation in the distance. He reached the Founding Oak, and after waiting a few minutes there came a lively babble of conversation, accompanied by a thudding of several sets of paws. Raskin cursed. People were already arriving!

“Rasky!” a voice called, and Raskin relaxed, but only a little. These were Sid’s friends, and the quilava had travelled with them.

“Hey, buddy!” Sid said, too loudly to be sober, as he emerged from the darkness. “Everything set? You excited?”

Raskin took one look at his woozy expression, then yanked him to the side. “This wasn’t an opportunity to get smashed, Sid,” he hissed, quiet enough so only Sid would hear. “You need to light the torches, remember?”

“Oh… right,” Sid said, evidently just remembering. “What should we do, then?”

Raskin thought for a second. He searched around for a piece of wood, soon finding one about the length of his foreleg. “Take this crowd to the house,” he said, “but before you do, light this for me. Then I can show everyone else the way when they show up.”

“Sounds good.” Sid inhaled for a moment, then blew out a solid ember onto the wood, igniting it.

Perhaps the beer loosened his… fire chords, or whatever they are, Raskin thought. “Oh, and make sure they all pay!” he called, as Sid led the band of pokémon away.

There were… a lot of pokémon, he realised. More than Sid usually drank with. He counted the number of faces: 10, 12, 15...

“Sid!” he called, running back for the quilava.

Sid’s surprised face was lit up in the torchlight. “Rasky?”

“Who are all these people?” Raskin muttered, glancing behind him at the group.

“Oh, just some guys we got chatting to at the pub. They heard what we were planning and wanted to know more. That’s okay, isn’t it?”

“I…” Raskin’s face contorted, unsure whether to feel happy, or infuriated, or both. “You took a big risk with them, Sid. We were meant to keep this strictly to ‘mon we could trust!”

“Oh chill out, Rasky,” Sid said, grinning. “Have you ever met a ‘mon at the White Entei who’s not totally sound?”

Raskin gave the pokemon another look. The reason he hadn’t noticed the newcomers at first was due to how seamlessly they were mingling with Sid’s friends. Though alcohol does do that to people...

“They seem okay,” he admitted. “Just keep an eye out for trouble.”

“Of course I will, ya dolt!”

As Sid strolled past him again, a particular member of the group caught Raskin’s eye. It was a snubbull called Bushu, who carried a hardwood drum that was practically as big as his stocky body.

“Bushu!” Raskin exclaimed. “I didn’t know you still played.”

The snubbull paused to turn to him, a glint in his eye. “Once I heard about this gig, I figured it was worth dusting off the lil’ boy,” he smiled. “Here’s hoping those skills never left me.”

A few moments after the group had gone, another thought occurred to Raskin. Crap! What if Bushu’s thumping alerts the police? Then he told himself to be calm. It’s only one drum. And we’re a good mile from any civilisation here. This was exactly the kind of thing that led us to choose Oldden...

More pokémon soon began arriving in rapid succession. Chaka came with a group of similarly grizzled-looking ‘mon to himself; Aster hopped off moments later, accompanied only by a shy-looking deerling. Luis was the latest to arrive on the stroke of 9, but he improbably brought an even larger group than Sid.

“We just managed to get a ride in time,” he told Raskin with a grin. “I think those arcanine were preeeetty confused by the crowd of us.”

Doing a quick head-count, adding it to the numbers he had already noted, Raskin was stunned. He had targeted thirty pokémon, and that had been optimistic at best. If his counting was correct, this was closer to fifty.

“Is everyone here for the fight?” he asked, getting a surprisingly loud roar of approval back. Evidently Sid’s friends weren’t the only ones a little imbibed. “Follow me, then.”

He took a couple of steps, then paused. “Actually, can a two-legs carry the torch?” On the uneven ground, he didn’t fancy balancing on his back legs with a flaming stick in paw. Thankfully, Luis was happy to help.

As the two of them led the way, Raskin noticed Aster and his deerling friend walking ahead of the main rabble, only exchanging a few quiet words.

Raskin caught the ivysaur’s uneasy gaze. “Hey. How’re you feeling?”

“Honestly?” Aster came closer to him. “I’m wondering what the hell I’m doing here. Or maybe that’s just my girlfriend’s influence on me.”

Raskin laughed nervously underneath a thought process of shit, shit, shit. Aster absolutely could not back out now. “She still wanted to watch you, though?”

“Yeah.” Aster smiled thinly, giving the deerling a glance. “I feel like we both know it’s a bad idea, but we both wanna see it happen. I don’t understand it, to be honest.”

Raskin glanced behind him. Chaka had a beer bottle raised high to his mouth. He certainly looked well up for the fight, wearing a tawny-coloured bandana around his neck, and his fur being purposefully ruffled up, adding a couple of artificial inches to his stature. “If you keep your head around Chaka, I reckon you’ve got him under lock,” Raskin said.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Aster replied. “Have you seen him kneading dough all day, though? Those limbs are more flexible than you’d think.”

Soon, an orange beacon guided their path to the house. Sid managed to light those torches then, thank the gods. Lyco was leaning beside the entrance, holding out a cheap paper bag, telling ‘mon to pay in the most exact change they had. Raskin felt glad she was on top of the money side of things, because he doubted Sid would be.

When he entered the room, he had to pause for a moment to take stock. The lighting was far better than what he could have imagined: bright at the edges of the room, but dim, flickering, somehow primal around the centre, where the ‘mon would fight. The room was packed out even before this latest group entered, and there was a loud buzz of discussion. Either there was some serious excitement for this fight, or everyone had just gotten really drunk… or most likely, both.

Raskin gave it a few more minutes, mainly to give everyone a chance to find a place in the room to stand. When it seemed settled, he caught up with Sid and got him to fetch Aster. Raskin escorted Chaka to one side of the chalk centre, the raticate beating his fists together at the sight of Aster moving to the opposite end.

Raskin walked between the two pokémon to the centre of the circle and stood up on his hind legs. “Everyone!” he announced, then repeated himself, having to shout to get their attention. The gathered faces turned their heads to him. He did his best not to flinch. They didn’t look dangerous, he reassured himself, just very… lively.

“Thank you all for coming to our little event,” he said, which brought a significant cheer in itself. “I know what you’re all here for, so we’ll get the fight right underway shortly. Just a couple of things. Please try not to damage anything in here, since Lyco might kill me if you do.” That got a good laugh, though the look Lyco gave him from the back of the room made his fur stand on end. Crap. Please don’t actually kill me.

“In addition, when we finish, try not to all get the same rides back into the city centre. I don’t want the police to get suspicious… especially because there’s a few more of you than we expected. So walk, or wait a few minutes extra if you can. With that said…” He glanced at Sid. Raskin didn’t feel right doing this last bit. “Can you say it?”

Sid grinned like a child. “Everyone,” he roared, the flames on his back spitting, “it’s time for the BATTLE OF THE BAKERS!”

The sound made by the crowded pokémon was unlike anything Raskin had heard before. He’d been to the athletics finals once growing up, one of the biggest events in Deepden’s calendar. It took place in a stadium filled with many thousands of pokémon, who whooped or booed depending on how their favourites or, more often, their type representative was performing.

Yet this rickety room, filled with scattered groups of ‘mon who had only come together on a whim, whom most didn’t have a favourite nor type, produced a roar so much more passionate and visceral than any event at the athletics could. It made Raskin’s neck-fur stand on end again, this time in a good way.

Sid tugged the nickit’s ear. “We should get out of the arena,” he suggested, rather urgently.

Before Raskin could move, a ball of cream fur shot past him, missing so narrowly that he could smell dough for a second.

Chaka barrelled into Aster’s chest, producing a thump like a geodude hitting its head on the ceiling. It looked for a moment like Aster would fly straight into the pokémon behind him and through the wall of the building, but his vines dug into the rough earth and flung him back towards the chalk arena like a slingshot.

Raskin scrambled backwards faster than he could think, and Sid was just as alert. The quilava retreated clumsily to where most pokémon stood, at the very edge of the fighting ring. Raskin couldn’t understand that. He backed away, pushing through bodies, until he was up against a wall, getting onto his hind legs so he could still see the arena. Even then, seeing how easily Aster had been tossed through the air, he didn’t feel very safe. At least I’ve got a good second to react from here...

Chaka started running at Aster again, but the ivysaur jumped out of reach of Chaka’s little arms, using his vines like a pair of crutches to balance himself. Aster backed away towards the centre of the arena, his vines hovering either side of him, and he and Chaka slowly began to circle each other. Raskin relaxed a little; perhaps they would calm down now.

Bushu’s drum started playing.

The rhythm was simple; a whole beat, then two half-beats. But it changed the atmosphere at once. Some of the crowd had been exchanging words over the current lapse in action; this hushed them. There was suddenly an air of anticipation.

Dum… dum-dum dum… dum-dum dum…

Both Chaka and Aster started snarling at each other as they circled. Each impatient, waiting for the other to show their hand. The drum beat a little faster.

Dum, dum-dum dum, dum-dum dum…

“Take him, Ast!” someone shouted. The crowd roared into life at the words.

“Tackle him, Chaka!”

“Take his legs!”

“You’re faster than him!

“You’ve got this grass-muncher!”

“Hey, what did you call him?”

Raskin flinched. The deerling who had been with Aster was right in front of him, glaring at a krokorok who had instinctively backed away a little, leaving a hole in the crowd between them.

“You wanna see what us grass-munchers can do?” the deerling challenged, kicking one of her hind legs against the ground.

For a moment the krokorok looked apprehensive, but then his snout bent into a smile. “Bring it on,” he growled, widening his stance.

The deerling didn’t hesitate. She hurtled forwards and swung a hoof at the dark-type, who threw himself to the ground, almost falling on her in doing so. He reached out and yanked her nearest hoof, making the deerling squeal and her legs collapse from under her.

“Hey, HEY!” Sid blundered through the crowd until he could get in between the two pokemon. “You’re not in the arena, so you don’t fight! Break it up!”

Neither the deerling nor krokorok seemed to mind getting pushed apart much. Sid glanced Raskin’s way, and the nickit gave him a smile and wave of thanks. He was impressed that Sid had been so aware to the situation.

A howl from Chaka caught his attention. He had almost forgotten about the two bakers in the midst of that scuffle, but from the ‘mon’s intense expressions, they hadn’t even noticed the distraction. Neither had Bushu the drummer.

Dum, dum-dum-dum, dum-dum-dum, dum-dum-dum…

Chaka lunged at Aster with a clawed hand. Aster swerved away again and slapped the raticate in the face with one of his vines. Parts of the crowd laughed. Chaka howled with anger, then suddenly whipped his tail into Aster’s body, catching him by surprise. As Aster stumbled, Chaka finally hit his body with scratch, scratched again with his other arm, then clenched his first paw, getting a glancing punch on the side of Aster’s head. This brought the first cry of pain from the ivysaur. His vines came together and pushed outwards, moving Chaka backwards a little.

Both pokémon paused for breath. Chaka was on all-fours now, and Aster was already about as low to the ground as he could be. Both ‘mon were bruised and cut, bodies shaking with fatigue.

Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum—

Chaka leapt directly at the ivysaur and opened his mouth. His teeth seemed to grow, somehow—either that, or they just caught the torchlight unnaturally—and he brought them straight down onto Aster’s arm.

The crowd gasped. The drum stopped. Raskin felt his breath leave him. The only sound was Aster’s scream, both in shock and agony.

Aster tried to shake Chaka off him, but the raticate held on. Aster was still for a moment, mouth pulled in a grimace, then he flung his body to the floor, taking Chaka with him. The raticate finally released his teeth, leaving a nasty-looking gash in Aster’s scales. But the ivysaur seemed not to feel it, for he jumped back up, facing Chaka. His rose-coloured bud began glowing, its folds expanding and straining. Then he tipped his body forward, letting a volley of seeds fly out of the bud, each one the size of a fist.

The first three all connected with Chaka, hitting him with such force that he toppled backwards and out of the arena’s circle altogether. But whatever had possessed Aster did not stop there. The seeds kept firing at where Chaka had been, and as the pokémon behind flung themselves to safety, the only barrier left was the house’s wooden wall.

It took two hits for the wood to give way. Three more seeds then only punched the hole wider.

“Stop! STOP IT!”

The sudden roar broke Aster out of his stupor. It was Lyco, storming into the circle to confront the ivysaur. “What the hell are you playing at?” she snarled. “This is my house, not a fucking scrapyard!”

“I-I’m sorry!” Aster yelped, backing away. All of a sudden, his bud had deflated again, his vines shooting back inside it. “I just got… carried away…”

“Damn right you did,” Lyco seethed. She looked around the room, which was motionless. “Yeah, party’s over, folks. Go home.” After a moment’s hesitation, a few pokémon from the crowd started trudging towards the door.

A couple of Chaka’s friends moved over to him, helping him to his feet. Chaka brushed off their concerned questions, though he did require an arm on each shoulder for a few steps.

“Hey,” he said, eyes fixed on Aster, who was practically huddling next to his deerling partner. She, however, was muttering something to the krokorok who had challenged her.

Aster looked up, wide-eyed. “Chaka,” he breathed, “gods, I am so sorry. I don’t understand what happened, I never meant to—”

“Eh?” Chaka interrupted. He laughed, a great throaty boom. “Don’t apologise, lad. I deserved it! You outsmarted me in there. Had to resort to nasty tactics.” He grimaced, holding out a paw to the ivysaur. “Good fight, eh? Haven’t fought like that since I was a kit.”

Aster, after looking stunned for a moment, managed to relax and return Chaka’s smile. “Good fight,” he agreed, slapping the paw with one of his own.

Raskin observed them with faint wonder as they started leaving together, chatting like old friends. I thought they would end up hating each other. Didn’t they already hate each other? It’s like they let the fight happen in a different mindset to normal life. And they both seem better off for it.

“Hey, uh…” the krokorok from the crowd was approaching Lyco, though also keeping a safe distance from her. “Could we have the room for just a minute, to finish what we started…?”

Lyco’s face would have stopped even the most fluent speaker in their tracks. “You are not finishing anything in here,” she said, then grabbed hold of the ‘mon and shoved him towards the door. The krokorok made some annoyed mutterings, but he got the picture.

“Uh, thanks for coming, everyone!” Sid called from the back of the room, wearing a brave smile. “Hope you enjoyed yourselves. Remember to make your way home sensibly!”

Luis’s voice came from somewhere in the crowd. “Hey, why don’t we give it up for Raskin and Sid for organising this!”

It prompted another huge roar their way. Raskin, feeling a little sheepish at the praise, just raised a paw in thanks as the pokémon, finally, began streaming out of the door. He exchanged a glance with Sid, and could tell they were thinking the same thing: This fight went down really well. Incredibly well.

Unfortunately, the only ‘mon in the room who would disagree had stayed with them.

“Well,” Lyco growled, her red eyes reflecting the torchlight like burning coals. “We had our deal. I’ll be taking two-thirds of that money. Gonna need it to repair the hole that plant left.”

“I doubt it costs 300 poké to buy some wood and nails—”

“Shut your scrawny mouth,” she snapped, cutting Raskin off. She slung the sack of money off her shoulders, tipping it at her feet. A vast pool of coins tumbled out. Even the lycanroc looked a bit surprised by it.

“There were more than thirty pokémon here,” she remarked. “More than 300 poké.”

“Yes,” Raskin replied. “I wasn’t expecting so many.”

Lyco nodded, dragging the coins into piles. “Can’t say I’m too surprised.”

Raskin expected some kind of explanation to follow that up, but none followed, and Lyco didn’t seem in the mood for much conversation with him. Eventually she had made two piles, one significantly larger than the other, and she pushed the smaller pile towards Raskin. He counted the coins, with some difficulty given the mud from the floor that had already become stuck to some of them. 200 poké.

“How much have you got there?” he asked. Lyco had already stuffed her pile into the paper bag she had collected the payments in.

“Twice what you have,” she replied.

Raskin gritted his teeth. “If you’ve deliberately counted wrong, I’ll-”

“Why would I have done that?” Lyco snapped. “Gods, I gave you my house for the evening and you still don’t trust me?”

Sid had a paw on Raskin’s shoulder before he could do anything more. “Let it go, Rasky,” the quilava said. “We still made more than we expected to.”

But... she’s getting the bulk of it. Raskin sighed. There was little use in trying to argue. He didn’t know what to argue, in truth, and even if he did, Lyco was twice his size. He and Sid scooped up their money and dumped it into his rucksack.

“Goodbye then,” he said, glancing back at Lyco.

She didn’t respond until he was almost out of the door. “Don’t forget to get rid of that stupid sign!”

It was a sensible idea, in fairness: the sign was evidence they didn’t want to leave behind. The wood broke easily when he put his weight on it. “Did you like the sign?” he asked Sid.

Sid smiled amusedly. “It did a job. How long did you work on it?”

“Like, five minutes,” Raskin lied. It had taken at least ten to remember where their paint was.

The ride stop was empty when they arrived there. Even the electric lights were out. Raskin looked around, confused. “The service hasn’t stopped yet, has it?” He checked the watch on his foreleg. “It’s only quarter to 11.”

“Dunno,” Sid said. “Lights off is usually a sign they’ve finished. Do you wanna wait until the hour?”

A gust of wind blew past them, making Raskin shiver. “Forget it,” he muttered. “Let’s just walk.”

Soon they were back into inner Deepden. As they walked, Raskin realised he had been ever-so-slightly tense while they had been moving through Oldden. He felt much safer here among the well-lit streets and the orderly, secure concrete buildings. Bars were virtually the only commerce open at this hour, but the ones they passed were still lively, bringing a muffled ambience of laughing pokémon and acoustic music.

“What’s up, Rasky?” Sid asked after a while.

“Huh?” Raskin looked up from his semi-daze.

“You’re annoyed about something, I can tell.”

Raskin scowled. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m annoyed that Lyco scammed us out of half our money. We couldn’t have done anything about what happened!”

“I… get that,” Sid said slowly. “But Rasky, aren’t you proud of what we did tonight? We hosted a proper fight. And it was amazing! I mean, have you ever seen anything like the final move Aster did? Sure, we didn’t make as much as we could have, but who cares? I would have done it all again for free.”

Raskin couldn’t help smiling at his enthusiasm. He was pleased to see Sid in much higher spirits than he had been last night. But he also felt a little embarrassed at the ‘mon’s words. Throughout the fight, the main emotion he had felt was… fear. And it had been Sid who intervened with those ‘mon in the crowd, not him.

Was it a fear of getting caught in the crossfire? Or… that Chaka or Aster would severely hurt the other? Or just that an officer could bust open the door at any moment?

Suddenly, he was back in his first home. Watching a lucario with glowing palms march through the front door, with half a dozen more hulking officers behind him. His father had kicked and spat trying to fend the officers off, until the lucario slapped him across the face, knocking him to the ground. Raskin heard himself scream—

“Rasky!”

Raskin started, then shook himself vigorously. He had forced those memories out of his mind. They would not be returning now, not tonight.

“Sorry,” he said to Sid. “Tired and stuff.”

Sid nodded. They both knew, Raskin could tell, that there was more to it than that, but Sid did not question him. Little pieces of understanding like that were why Raskin valued his friend so dearly, whatever his flaws might be.

“Well anyway, I’m glad you had a good time,” Raskin said.

Sid smiled. “Pity we broke whatever we had going with Lyco, though. Her house… thing was a perfect venue. If we ever wanted to do this again, I mean.”

Before Raskin could reply, he heard a familiar voice from across the street. Following the direction of it, he froze. It was Aster and his girlfriend. A white-scarved rhyperior was bent down talking to them. If he had stood at full height, Aster would have barely reached his waist.

“I had an accident with some broken glass,” Aster was saying, gesturing to his bloody leg. “Lost balance, dropped the glass and fell right on top of it.”

“I see,” the rhyperior said gruffly. “And those bruises?”

“I was… on a table when I fell,” Aster said, blushing. “It was a long way down to the floor. We’d had a bit to drink...”

The rhyperior didn’t smile. “You should get that bandaged up,” he said.

“I had run out of bandages,” the deerling said quickly. “That’s why we were heading to Aster’s place to sort it out.” Aster nodded with her.

“Well, just be careful,” the rhyperior said, finally looking to move away.

“We will, sir!” Aster said, his voice quivering just a little. He and the deerling looked around quickly when he had passed—Raskin and Sid had ducked behind an alleyway, just as keen as they were to avoid the police officer—and when they found nobody, the grass pair hurried away into the night.

Maybe, Raskin thought as he watched them, it’s a blessing we won’t be doing this again.

Chapter 3 review:

— “Battle of the Bakers” lol. I like how lame it is; it makes the organized fight feel much more archaic, which is appropriate for their first one.
— Sid is a cool dude. I know I already said he was based, but I think I can safely conclude this now. He’s kind of a moron, but in a super endearing way. I want him to succeed.
— I like how the crowd reacted. Good job showing (without telling) how starved they are for a fight. I’ve witnessed crowds like this before and it’s truly exhilarating.
— Oh, a fight in the crowd. Good on Sid for stopping it, but sheesh, if a riot broke out…
— A good fight? That was a disaster if you ask me, lol. But maybe that’s just a testament to how little often the townsfolk get to witness combat. To them, the disaster was probably pretty darn cool to watch.
— But still, it would’ve been nicer to have a longer fight. When the summary and previous chapter had been spent building up to it, I was expecting more than just a couple of attacks exchanged. The fight getting called off before any knockout blows were thrown was a bit anticlimactic.
— I wonder how Lyco is gonna pop up again. It doesn’t seem like either party has interest in the other right now; her venue was damaged so she’s not happy, and Raskin’s not happy because he lost a ton of money. Judging from the somewhat impoverished, mundane state of their lives, I bet that one stung.

So far, I’m enjoying what you’re doing with Raskin. Back to the Breaking Bad parallels: Walter White, besides his library of chemistry knowledge, was a massive novice at the drug dealing game and it took him a little while to get his wits in order and start using his smarts to become a kingpin. And Raskin… well, there’s clearly a reason he ran to the back of the crowd to watch. And a reason he didn’t fend off the Nidoran very well when it had attacked him last chapter. The battlefield doesn’t seem to be his natural habitat, regardless of police presence or overarching legislation. Which means Raskin has a ton of room to either develop into his new self-appointed role, or to spiral further down as the stress and unfamiliar territory consumes him. Either one would strike my fancy, so I’m looking forward to it!
 

TheGOAT

🗿
Location
Houston, Texas
Pronouns
Him/his
Partners
  1. serperior
Chapter 4: Fallout

Raskin had assumed, perhaps naïvely, that his life would resume its usual mundanity following that night in Oldden. However, as soon as he walked into the bank the next morning, being greeted with a chorus of 'good mornings' that were more enthusiastic and jovial than was usually reserved for anyone, he knew that things had changed.

"How'd you sleep, Rasky?" Luis asked him, grinning. "Like an abra, I'd expect."

Raskin smiled bashfully as he sat down. "Something like that, yeah."

"When were you thinking of holding the next meeting?" a bright-eyed herdier opposite him asked. "I've got a couple of guys in mind who I think would be interesting…"

"I can talk about it later," Raskin said quickly, and when no one was looking he gave the herdier a piercing look. Don't be so reckless! he mouthed.

Locki hadn't arrived yet, but it would be dangerous to assume that the skitty was the only 'mon they needed to watch their mouths around. Though he had seen most of the office at Oldden, it had not been unanimous.

Thankfully, the herdier and the rest of the room seemed to wise up after that, and there was no more discussion inside the office. Unfortunately, that meant his lunch break and walk back to the ride stop after work was spent being bombarded with questions. The answers seemed to tumble from his mouth of their own accord.

When's the next fight? "Soon. I'll let you know when."

Can I be in it? "I'll consider it."

Where's it gonna be? "We're scouting out locations right now."

Where did this idea come from? How much money have you made? What happened between you and that crazy lycanroc?

By the time Raskin was finally left alone, and the band of ride pokémon arrived, he barely had the strength to haul himself onto an arcanine's back.

What have I started? he thought, shaking his head as the air rushed past him. It's not that I'm completely averse to holding another fight, but… do none of these pokémon realise how much of a risk we took in just holding one?

At least he had been vague in his answers with them. That would give him and Sid time to figure out what they would do with all this unexpected interest. The fact it was a Friday felt like a blessing; hopefully the weekend would give things a chance to die down.

He was surprised to find their apartment door locked upon returning. When he opened it, Sid was lying blissfully on the sofa, the radio blaring out some pleasant-sounding music.

"You found your key?" Raskin said as he came in.

"Huh? Oh, no, I just got a new one cut." Sid jingled a shiny keychain in front of his face.

Raskin smiled. The quilava was already putting his share of the fight money to good use.

"Oh, you got a letter," Sid added, passing him something from the sofa.

The first thing Raskin saw on the paper was a shield-shaped insignia, a flowing white scarf adorning it. His paw trembled so violently that the letter fell to the floor.

"Oh my god," he gasped, having to lean against the wall to stop his legs collapsing. His heart was beating so frantically that it felt like every one of his veins would burst open. "O-oh god…"

"W-what is it?" Sid yelped. He rushed over to the nickit, picking up the letter. His eyes narrowed. "I… don't understand, Rasky. What's so bad about–"

"The fight, Sid, the fight!" Raskin shouted the words, then realised their neighbours may well have heard. The only other tone of voice he seemed able to manage in this state was a whisper. "The police, they, they must have found out somehow. I was trying to get everyone to be careful about discussing it, but clearly… oh, Mew…"

Sid scratched his head for a moment. "I mean, maybe it's about that. But if the police had heard, why would their first response be to send a letter? And why would it come in the exact same format as those letters about your dad?" He chuckled. "Rasky, have you ever heard of the police arresting someone by sending them a letter?

"W-well…" Raskin saw his logic, but it didn't do much to calm his trembling paws.

"Look, you want me to open it?" Sid asked, pinching the letter out of his grip.

Raskin opened his mouth to protest, though could think of no good excuse. "Oh, alright," he sighed.

Sid tore a messy opening in the top of the envelope and unfolded the paper, looking over the words intently. He was never the fastest reader.

"Well? What does it say?" Raskin demanded, his tail swishing with impatience.

"Nothing to do with you-know-what," Sid said immediately, flashing him a smile. "It's… actually some pretty good news." He carefully passed the letter over. "Your dad's sentence is getting cut."

Raskin's eyes darted over the page, the breath he had been holding slowly escaping. Due to convict Mightyena's high standard of behaviour since his sentence began, it read, we have decided to reduce his remaining jail time. Whereas he previously had one year left to serve, he will now serve six months.

There was a knot of legal mumbo-jumbo written below that he didn't have the energy to untangle yet. He read the same paragraph over and over. Though he felt extreme relief at its contents, the elation that he supposed should accompany it did not follow.

There were several reasons why, he supposed. The cold-blooded manner of the police always rubbed him the wrong way. How they referred to his father only as Mightyena rather than his first name. That impersonality would be fine if Haikos was superior to the entire Deepden police force, but as the opposite was true, it was difficult not to interpret the name as an insult.

Then there was Haikos himself. Though prisoners in his position could be visited once a month, it had been several since Raskin's last trip. About a year ago, when the nickit still came as often as possible, Haikos had told him not to worry about it. "I appreciate you coming, but I can see it's a burden for you," the mightyena had said. He was right, of course, and Raskin had felt a little more at ease once he started keeping thoughts of his father at arms' length.

But reading the letter brought it home how much he had neglected Haikos. He knew that if he didn't choose to visit now—never mind the fact that news of his father's reduced sentence made a perfect reason for it—he didn't know when he would again before the 'mon was released.

----

The following morning, Raskin got a ride towards the south end of the city. It was a long journey, taking him through countless high streets, housing estates and industrial parks, but finally the arcanine stopped on the street he wanted.

It was essentially a dead end out here: the road only looped back around towards the centre of Deepden again. Squat, yellowing grass flanked it on both sides. The only thing of any note in sight was a vast, redbrick square, kept behind an even larger chain-link fence, securing it from every side. Deepden Prison.

The door into the compound was made of the same material. It was closed, and on the other side two officers, a jolteon and fraxure, were sitting on stools, playing cards. They were laughing about something as Raskin approached, and when neither appeared to notice him, he loudly cleared his throat. He would have knocked on the fence, were it not for the myriad of warning signs around it with diagrams of figures being electrocuted.

The guards turned their heads. "Yeah, what?" the jolteon said. Despite it still being early, his white scarf was only hanging loosely around his neck.

"I'm here to visit family," Raskin said.

"Uh-huh," the jolteon replied dully. He ambled to his feet, opening the gate with his forepaws rather than pressing the button that did it automatically—a feeble attempt for the electric-type to show off his immunity, Raskin guessed. "Follow Fraxure here."

Raskin did so without a word. He had never encountered a police officer here that treated him as if he wasn't a complete waste of their time.

The fraxure led him to the reception, where he gave his usual details, waited in a cold, metal chair for a few minutes, then was called forward. A liepard officer led him down a dimly-lit corridor which was made of the same dull bricks as everything else, stopping at a door that was now familiar to him. She ushered him inside.

The room was empty but for a table and single chair, both of the same uncompromising metal, set up against a section of wall that had replaced the bricks with laminated glass. On the other side of the glass, in a seemingly identical room, sat his father.

To call it sitting would have been misleading: the mightyena was slumped back against his chair, his front legs barely resting at the edge of the table, mostly just hanging in the air. While the anatomy of most quadrupeds didn't work naturally for sitting at a table, they were trained to make it work from an early age. Three years in prison seemed to have made Haikos forget his training.

When he saw Raskin, Haikos at least made an effort to straighten his upper body, though his legs still sat on the table, almost between his head.

"Hello, Dad," Raskin began. Not even a greeting in and I'm already anxious, he thought, cursing. Something about this place makes it impossible to talk. He took his own seat on the other side of the glass.

"'ello, Rass," Haikos replied, his voice as rough as sandpaper.

"Well, how are you?" Raskin asked. "It's been a while since my last visit. Sorry about that. Life has been busy, and…"

Haikos grunted, waving off his excuse with a paw. "Don't apologise." An uncomfortable silence hovered over them before his father coughed, then croaked on. "Not much to tell ya. Inmates come and gone, same as usual. Few fights breakin' out amongst the young'r folk who don't know better. I just keep my head down. Ain't much else you can do."

Raskin inspected his father a little closer. The black fur on his back and legs was turning more and more like the grey that otherwise covered him – but that discolouration was typical for species like his. More alarming was how thin and patchy all his fur had become. Without the coverings on Haikos's legs, Raskin half-expected to find twigs underneath.

"Are they feeding you enough?" he asked. "You look thin."

Haikos puffed out his cheeks. "If you had to eat the slop they served up here, you'd be thin too."

"That's not an excuse, Dad!" Raskin exclaimed, leaning forward on the table. "You have to keep yourself healthy. Especially given…" He paused. "I got a letter saying your sentence is being cut to six months. Were you aware of that?"

"Oh, yeah," Haikos grunted. "It happens 'round here a lot. Nothin' special. In fact, I'd bet that's what they'd planned for me from the start. Funny what they class as good behaviour, ay?" He coughed out what was presumably a laugh.

Raskin glanced behind him. The liepard officer was nowhere to be seen "Why would they plan it deliberately?" he asked.

Haikos shrugged. "If people think they'll be in here years, they'll get behaved quicker, I reckon. No point in suffering the consequences for an eternity."

Mew, can you hear yourself, Dad? Raskin thought despairingly. He had to change topic.

"But still, six months. That's something to look forward to, right?"

The mightyena frowned back at him. "Is it? They'll assign me somewhere to live, and I'll have to go back to work. Gods know how, with these joints of mine…"

"What? No! I thought you could live with us… Sid and I."

"Oh." For the first time, Haikos's eyes opened a little wider. "Are you sure you could afford that?"

Raskin froze. Of course; why had he just assumed that would work? Haikos was twice the size of he or Sid, so should—if he was to stop looking like an underfed tyrogue—be eating twice as much too. Running some quick mental sums, Raskin could see it being possible… but it would take a new level of frugality for him and Sid. Unless Haikos got a job, of course, but Raskin desperately did not want him to be cleaning toilets or sweeping streets. His father probably only had a few more years to live; he deserved better than that.

"I… I'm not sure," Raskin admitted, lowering his gaze. "I guess we'll wait and see. Half a year is still a long time." Even though my life has been static for the past two of those.

Haikos nodded vaguely, returning to his slumped posture. Raskin scrambled for something else to say, something positive. He would feel awful if he left Haikos like this.

Then his mind landed on it, like a wayward arrow suddenly finding its target. He checked behind him: the liepard officer was chatting to someone at the door, not even looking his way. Perfect.

He leaned forwards until his muzzle was almost smudging the glass. Haikos raised his eyelids, his ears pricking upwards.

"Something exciting happened the other day. Sid and I managed to organise a kind of… underground street fight. We held it away from the—"

"You did WHAT?" Haikos barked, suddenly lurching upright.

The liepard poked her head in, alerted by the explosion of noise. Raskin was stunned, though regained enough composure to turn and give the officer what he hoped was a reassuring look. Once her attention eased, he turned back to Haikos, but his father spoke first, managing to keep his voice hushed.

"That's illegal, Raskin!"

"I know it is!" Raskin yelped. "But we planned it all carefully, dad. No one suspected a thing. We even made some money from it!"

"You…" A low growl buzzed from his father's throat, and he shook his head sharply. "You will never do anything like this again, do you understand?"

"We weren't planning to!" Raskin felt his face heat up. "It was just a bit of fun. What's your problem?"

"That is what my problem is! A bit of fun… I didn't raise you to be this stupid! Have you forgotten all the sacrifices I made for you, Raskin? How I always believed in you? You could have thrown that all away over a pointless fight!"

Raskin didn't know how to respond. He hadn't seen Haikos this animated since they had still lived under the same roof. In that sense, it was reassuring to know that the mightyena had not been completely consumed by the void of sadness which seemed to grow deeper every time Raskin saw him.

But what hit him harder were the force of Haikos's words. Because his father was right; he had made the ultimate sacrifice, even if the prison part of it was undesired. Haikos had been caught lying about his income on their tax forms, attempting to pay less than he was obligated to. Although he had never blamed Raskin for his actions, the nickit couldn't interpret them any other way. After all, it was his stubbornness in attempting to find a job better than the menial, lowest-paid that were normally given out to 'mon lacking formal qualifications, and his months of failure in doing so, that had led to his father's desperate act. The irony of it was that his interview at the bank had been the morning of the day they had received a knock on the door from that white-scarfed officer.

"I'll never forgive myself for doing this to you," Raskin said quietly, unable to meet Haikos's eye.

The mightyena sighed, slumping back into his previous position on the uncompromising chair. "I did not intend to make you feel guilty, boy. I just think… you need to stay focused. Stay in your job. Do not get impatient. Life… has a way of working things out."

Well, it didn't work out for you, Raskin thought.

A sharp knock came from the door. "That's time," the liepard said, walking into the room, though it was only possible to take a couple of steps with its size. She gestured the exit to Raskin.

He looked at Haikos once more, longing to send him off with something worthwhile. But in the end, all he could manage was, "I'll see you soon."

With a grunt and jerk of his head, Haikos was led away by another officer back towards the cells. Raskin wondered how 'soon' his heart could really manage.

----

The following evening, Raskin joined Sid in heading to the White Entei, the quilava's favourite haunt on Harmony Square. Being a Sunday, it was pleasantly quiet in the pub – the type of quietness that made conversation easy to follow, rather than uncomfortable.

Raskin was not particularly good friends with the pokémon that Sid drank with, but they were entertaining and jovial, and of course a touch of alcohol made everything come easier. By the time they left, later than was sensible for Sid especially, Raskin felt a little happier about the world.

It was just a shame that weekends ended so soon.

His hope that the weekend would have given everyone at the bank time to calm down was only partially met. True, none of the 'mon made suspicion-arousing comments to him while in the office. But he kept getting knowing looks from around the room, and at lunch, once again, a few people asked him what he was thinking for the next fight. Aware that repeating the same answers would probably not go down well, he said that he needed to discuss their options with Sid—his 'partner in crime', as one 'mon put it—before they went any further. That seemed just about enough to sate everyone's curiosity for another day.

What will I do tomorrow, though? Raskin wondered, as the time crawled towards five that afternoon. Make up a discussion with Sid that will sound agreeable to people?

He glanced at the clock again. Ten minutes to five. Just one more balance sheet and he would be done. He turned to the next page of his papers and began a new table on the computer. Withdrawals… 50, 20, 50… 100…

"Raskin?"

Raskin's ears stood on end. It was Pangoro's gravelly voice. He turned to find his boss standing there, with his grey scarf, a reminder of his authority, fastened tightly around his close-cropped fur. "A quick word, if you would," Pangoro said.

Raskin froze. There was no way he could refuse. His mind began whirring at once. Could Pangoro have heard about the fight? Surely he would have found out before now, if he did?

Slowly, he turned, sliding off his chair, and followed Pangoro through the open door to the manager's office. It was immaculately tidy, Pangoro's papers and pens lined up with precision; the only detail somewhat out of place was a stress ball, whose pink colour had faded from so much use. Pangoro seemed to squeeze it most hours of the day.

"What's up?" Raskin said, as casually as he could, sitting in the open seat opposite Pangoro.

The manager brought his paws together on the desk. "As you know, Raskin, the bank has been in a transitionary period of late. The collective focus from your department on what is, admittedly, a rather menial task has been very much appreciated."

Raskin nodded. "Is… that why I'm here?"

"No," Pangoro said grimly. "The bottom line is, once all our data is online, and your department can input consumer figures as they come in, like before, its workload will be significantly reduced. It wouldn't be economically viable to continue employing so many of you. Now, you've been at the bank for some time, and that loyalty is very much appreciated. However, I've run some numbers on everyone's performances over the last couple of weeks and, to be frank, yours are the worst."

Raskin blinked at him. Run some numbers…? These computers tell him how much work everyone's been doing?

"I can work harder," he said quickly. "I'll work harder than anyone."

Pangoro tilted his head slightly, then continued as if Raskin had never spoken. "I spoke to a few of your colleagues about this, and they agreed that you've cut a rather surly figure in recent weeks."

What? Sure, that was how he felt, but Raskin always made an effort to appear respectable. Besides, everyone loved him now! They wouldn't say that about him, would they?

"I–" he began, but Pangoro interrupted.

"In addition, I have grounds to believe that the day off with illness you took last week was a complete fabrication. It seems to me, Raskin, that you have no real desire to continue working here, and one of the keys to high productivity is for everyone to be in the same headspace. It only takes one rower to start slacking for the whole balance of the boat to collapse."

Raskin could barely stop his mouth falling open in disbelief. One of the reasons he had travelled to the bakeries at the crack of dawn was so that no one from the bank would see him. Pangoro himself didn't show up until half-an-hour after his department.

He wanted to scream at Pangoro. He wanted to break apart those stupid pencils of his, sweep his paws into all those trivial papers.

What came out of his mouth wasn't far off.

"You can't fire me for this," he said. "I'll take you to court over it. Firing someone based on a few office rumours is grounds for wrongful dismissal."

"I never said we were firing you," Pangoro said, a flicker of amusement passing over his lips. He passed a document across the desk. "You should take a look at this. It's a redundancy settlement we drew up. You'll receive just under 2000 poké altogether; we hope that gives quite sufficient time for you to find a new job. Your planned redundancy begins at the end of this working week, four days from now. You have until then to decide whether to sign."

Raskin looked carefully at the paper. What Pangoro was actually offering was 1700 poké. That would keep him afloat for what, two months? Would that be enough to find another job?

"What happens if I refuse to sign?" he asked Pangoro.

Pangoro narrowed his eyes. "I don't think you'll get very far in appealing a redundancy."

Obviously. Raskin felt foolish for even asking. The bank had it all worked out, those slippery bastards. He snatched the paper off the desk. "There's no way that you might reverse this within the next week?"

"I cannot see that happening." After a moment of silence, Pangoro added, "Unless you have anything else to say, that will be all. Again, you have four days to make a decision."

"Decision," Raskin repeated, laced with sarcasm. When Pangoro's glare intensified, he deduced that his fury was best left bottled up. "I'll just go then."

Pangoro nodded, and Raskin left the office without another word.

----

Raskin's journey home was like wading through honey. Walking though the vast, bustling streets, the city felt greyer and bleaker to him than ever.

He had held down his job at the bank for over two years. It was the only job he had had since leaving school. Back then, every day had been the same: in the morning he would scan the vacancies section of the newspaper and write hasty applications for any vacancy that looked achievable enough, which usually amounted to about half a dozen. In the afternoon he would walk down Deepden's high streets, looking for any notices of vacancies in the shop windows. Almost every inquiry was turned down without even an interview. Job centres told him that, with his lack of qualifications, he was aiming too high: there were plenty of jobs available for factory workers, or cleaners, or harvesters like Sid. But he had been stubborn, believing he could do better. So had his father.

Dad was right, Raskin thought miserably. He recalled the mightyena's words in their last meeting: 'Stay focused. Stay in your job.'

But I have!
he told himself. For two years I've done nothing else!

He doubted that anyone in his department truly had their mind on numbers for every hour of work. And at least he was competent at his job; Locki was still forgetting coding functions! How could he have been singled out by Pangoro?

Locki. His mind landed on the skitty. She was the only member of the office who he reckoned would seriously disapprove of their fight night. What if she had suspected something was up? For all Raskin had tried to keep everyone quiet about it, she could still have picked up enough clues to be suspicious.

She should have no concrete proof to incriminate him with—nothing that the police would be onto him for—but she could have told Pangoro of her suspicions. Perhaps suspicions were enough for Pangoro to feel he should be let go. Pangoro could make up a couple of excuses involving productivity, and fire him under the guise of redundancy so Raskin was powerless to prevent it.

Oh, but what does it matter how it happened? Raskin thought, as he left the transport station on Harmony Square. It's over. I'll have to start all over again…

He wondered how Sid would react. For as long as Raskin had known the quilava, which was almost all his life, he had always seen himself as the responsible, reliable one of them. Sid could be erratic and unpredictable, but Raskin would always make sure their bills were paid. Perhaps those days were over.

He was so deep in thought that when he opened the door and found Sid on the sofa, looking at him, he froze.

The quilava's eyes were puffy and bloodshot. His paws were shaking, despite the cushion that he was clutching to his body like a life raft.

"Sid!" Raskin exclaimed, all his troubles forgotten. "W-what's wrong?"

"Well… this." The quilava picked up an official-looking document and handed it to him. "The greenhouse is laying me off."

Chapter 4 review:

— Maybe Raskin isn’t all that foolhardy. It’s good that he’s being vague about his answers because that would mean he could blow it off later… but, ah, we both know he probably won’t be so lucky. Haha
— Nice fake-out with the letter. I thought they were goners for a brief moment.
— I was expecting a more awkward, tension-filled interaction between Raskin and his dad. But honestly, this works. If nothing else, it gives Raskin more motivation to chase a bag
— I like the descriptions you have going on. The little movements and subtle actions that characters take to indicate how they feel. I think it’s one of the big reasons I’ve had no trouble at all reading this story and remaining engaged all the while. The prose is typically spot on.
— Ah, there goes Raskin mouthing off again. I was kind of puzzled this time; why on earth would he tell his dad about organizing a street fight? In all honesty, the stigma against fighting comes off as having less weight when it becomes such a discussion point with the main character. If it’s going to continue to be an overarching threat, you’d think he wouldn’t have been so vocal about it, even (and perhaps especially) when advertising.
— [It was just a shame that weekends ended so soon.] Liking how relatable this story tends to be, referring to the mundane state of life that can sometimes affect people irl. Is that your intended angle?
— Raskin getting fired the way he did is super suspicious. What he was told about having the worst numbers isn’t consistent with the introduction to his job in chapter 1. Good thing Raskin seems to have caught onto this, too… not that it’ll help him much right now.
— Poor Sid. Sid is based.
— I can’t even complain about the fact that they both got laid off on the same day, because if this is meant to be a relatable story, I think it perfectly nails how mind-numbingly unlucky you can get even in real life. Those situations where it seems like it can’t get any worse, and then it does… yeah. It sometimes be like that.
— Anyone paging attention so far knows what comes next, which is why I love the ending to this chapter. The obvious solution to their new set of problems is sitting there waiting.
 

Equitial

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. espurr
  2. inkay
  3. woobat
Chapter 1

Alright, first of all, the definite strength of this chapter was the characters. From the start, Raskin demonstrated a very clear, very strong character. The details he focused on throughout his narration --

He wasn’t usually the first up on a weekday – Sid’s job at the greenhouse started at 8 o’clock, and it was half-past seven now.

Raskin frowned. Alarm clocks cost more than they should.

-- made clear the themes right away. His and Sid's struggles with their jobs and life were very realistic and relatable. Despite being Pokemon, they felt very human. I also appreciated showing how the two are friends --

“It’s nothing,” Raskin said, feeling sudden emotion well up in his chest. “I could say the same for you.” Unsure what else to do – and feeling too awkward to hug him – Raskin made a tentative smile.

-- in a relatively short time. This hint of Raskin's backstory made me curious:

He recalled seeing his father in the visitors room, watching the hope slowly being crushed from him with each successive visit he made. “No matter what happens,” Raskin had said, “I’ll be here for you when you’re released. I’ll make something of my life. I promise.”

What's the story here? I guess it depends on how Raskin's and Sid's little side gig develops, but this particular father/son relationship seems very compelling, whatever is done with it.

It seems you're going for 'basically the real world, except instead of humans there are anthropomorphic Pokemon'. That would be fine, but some of the details suggest you were trying to be more realistic as to how a modern-day Pokemon society would function? I don't know, this may just be how my brain thinks, but for example Raskin thinking about how his ancestors didn't trim their tails made me think how a Pokemon society would develop without humans. There's also this bit:

Raskin was adept enough at moving on two feet, as were most quadruped ‘mon in Deepden, which owed to the bipedal training they received almost straight from hatching. Still, all-fours remained more comfortable.

I would have accepted it better if the Pokemon were just depicted walking upright, no justifications given. This, however, made my brain go, Wait, training, why?? Is being bipedal seen as more socially acceptable due to some kind of species preference? How would that preference come to be? Some mon should be totally incapable of walking upright, right? Aaasdafadf--

So, from chapter one, this seems like it's going to be a story about Pokemon characters having relatively realistic, human struggles. To be honest, I'm not especially drawn to this sort of thing, but I can appreciate your execution. As I said, there are a lot of realistic themes, but using Pokemon to act them out can make serious issues seems lighter and more approachable. I can definitely see the appeal for this type of story.

Other bits:

Sid’s bedroom door was pulled to

Pulled open?

When most pokémon reached the end of compulsory education, they chose a field to specialise in, and got further training from there. But training cost money, the one thing Raskin and Sid had always struggled for.

This is just school and college, yes? Since you've already established that this a basically the human world except Pokemon, you don't need to spell this out.

Raskin nodded. His mind was racing. “Say, what if we staged this fight between raticate and ivysaur? We… find somewhere out of the way of police, so they won’t intervene. Get a load of people along who wanted to watch, like us. They pay us for it. And as well as money, we get to watch a proper street fight with everyone else.”

*squints* Does Fight Club or a Pokemon version of it exist in this world?

Then Raskin shook his head, clearing the cloud of thoughts. I can’t think about him now. That’s out of my control. In the past.

The italicized thoughts could probably be left out entirely. Spelling it out rids this moment of subtlety.


Chapter 2

O.o Is that some worldbuilding I see? There's a lot of interesting stuff I hadn't anticipated from the last chapter, though that comes with some mixed feelings on the setting.

On one hand, seeing Raskin and Sid go into Oldden and interact with Lyco is really interesting. Apparently, Raskin and Sid were being set up as the city kids, and their worlds are about to collide with the more down-on-their-luck, street-smart Pokemon who live away from the main city. Considering Raskin and Sid are doing their fight club to deal with the monotony of their modern jobs and life, I wonder how they'll continue to compare and contrast with Lyco and any other Oldden Pokemon.

On the other hand though, I would have liked a setting element such as this to have been established in the first chapter. This worldbuilding also makes me confused about the setting. Is this the human world except Pokemon, or its own thing? If it's the latter, I have to admit that I don't quite buy it. This doesn't feel like a world built by and for Pokemon. The worldbuilding is interesting, but the details don't quite follow.

I continue to like the characters, though. Raskin and Sid have utterly no idea what they're doing, do they? They continue to feel very realistic; now that they think they've found a break for the grind of their life, it's good to see some other facets of their personality. Characterization is definitely a strong suit here.

More minor thoughts and quibbles:

Raskin suggested they meet him at nine at the Founding Oak: an enormous tree that had apparently been one of the first seeds planted in the development of the ‘new’ Deepden, over two hundred years ago. The tree had made a natural hub for all kinds of commerce and gatherings in the city’s early days, but as Deepden continued to grow in population and modernise, businesses obtained their own trading spots further inland, and pubs or bars became the place to socialise. The slowly-dying Oak had long stopped being cared for, making it little more than a relic of the past.

Not only is this an interesting piece of worldbuilding on its own, the concept of a tree like this serves as a visual for how this Pokemon society has changed as it progressed into the modern age. Nice touch.

A thick, purplish substance was gathering at the spike on the rogue’s head. Raskin didn’t want to find out what would happen if that got under one of their furs. I have to do something!

Two ideas came to mind. Neither filled him with much hope, but he did them both.

“HEEEEELP!” he cried, before struggling to his feet and running to the scene of the fight.

I have two quibbles with this section. First, I believe that the italicized sentence could have been left out like the one in the chapter before. Also, saying Raskin "ran to the scene" suggests he had a way to run. But he was right next to the fighting, wasn't he?

This moment made me laugh, though.

The nidoran hissed an awful, shrill cry, then its haunches twitched, which Sid read as a sign of its intentions. He leapt to the side of the attempted tackle, then while the nidoran was unbalanced, took a deep breath. He arched his back forward and opened his mouth, but rather than fire, all that came out was a spattering of smoke. Sid started coughing violently, giving the nidoran more than enough time to tackle him to the floor successfully.

You shift to Sid's POV during parts of the fight scene, which is weird and jarring considering it was all Raskin before.

Raskin could see every bone under its thin, patchy hide tensed.

I just liked this description here.

He was hesitant to say so, since this lycanroc seemed too… well-off to be living in Oldden. Unlike the nidoran, she looked like she ate enough, and though her fur was a little scruffy, it did not compare to the ungodly scents their attacker had worn.

I'm seeing a lot of Raskin stereotyping the Oldden Pokemon. Again, I'm interested to see this explored more. A lot of superiority going on.

“We’re holding a kind of street fight tonight,” Raskin said. He saw a flicker of surprise cross the lycanroc’s face. “We figured Oldden would be a good place to host it, since police don’t really patrol here. We were just looking around, and–”

“You thought you’d found the jackpot?” the lycanroc said flatly.

Speaking of thinking less of non-city Pokemon, these guys just see a house and think they can take it over? Geez.

“Right, well, you know that fighting is illegal, and that any fights that threaten to break out are instantly quashed. But, pokémon still want to see it happen. They want to watch.

Are things like martial arts not a thing here? I initially thought that Raskin and Sid wanted to watch a good old street fight. If there are other sports, I would assume that the Pokemon equivalent to things like wrestling would be here too?"

“Wait! Uh… miss lycanroc?”

At least that 'miss' should be capitalized. Lycanroc as well probably.

He mainly remembered them just emphasising its danger: how the river was littered with bloodthirsty fish pokémon who would rip into any meat they could sink their teeth into.

Hmm, are 'feral' Pokemon a thing in this setting? That certainly changes the worldbuilding.

“Try lighting it,” she said to Sid.

“What – with my fire?” he spluttered.

This makes me wonder how easy it is for Pokemon (at least 'civilized' Pokemon) to use their abilities in this setting. I know the police officer Empoleon managed a Hydro Pump and Ivysaur used their vines -- are Sid and Raskin both just incredibly out of shape?

I have no specific quotes for this, but I felt like the set-up of the fighting arena went on a bit too long.


Chapter 3

Hah, after Ras and Sid being clueless last chapter, I expected the fight to go a lot worse than it did lol. I got nervous when everyone started showing up drunk, though I supposed that turned out okay. You might want to include alcohol use in your content warnings, though.

The crowd gasped. The drum stopped. Raskin felt his breath leave him. The only sound was Aster’s scream, both in shock and agony.

Things got way more brutal than I expected. I knew this was going to be the equivalent to a street fight, but dang. The shocking turn only made it stick out more that this fight actually helped Aster's and Chaka's relationship. That moment and then Aster getting "carried away" also makes me wonder how battling effects Pokemon in this story. It's generally accepted among fic-writers that Pokemon like fighting, and sometimes they just really, really enjoy it. I don't know exactly why fighting is banned in this city. Is it because Pokemon are extremely susceptible to getting carried away? Is there a good reason why it's banned? I dunno, it got me thinking.

Though this chapter had enough content, I feel it needs at least more internal reaction on Raskin's end, especially after spending a chapter building it up. This wraps up the plot set-up in Chapter 1, and I'm not sure where the story is going after this. The next chapter is The Fallout, so something I suppose, but I would prefer more direction at this point.

Chaka came with a group of similarly grizzled-looking ‘mon to himself;

I'm not quite sure what you're doing with the 'to himself' there. Seems like it could be deleted.

Sid grinned like a child. “Everyone,” he roared, the flames on his back spitting, “it’s time for the BATTLE OF THE BAKERS!”

I just like this image and character moment.

Suddenly, he was back in his first home. Watching a lucario with glowing palms march through the front door, with half a dozen more hulking officers behind him. His father had kicked and spat trying to fend the officers off, until the lucario slapped him across the face, knocking him to the ground. Raskin heard himself scream—

Raskin's dad again. Ouch, that's rough. What did his dad do? Enough to warrant this treatment, or are we just seeing plain police brutality here? A kid seeing this, though...

If violence triggered this PTSD-like flashback, I think more direct hints of this should have been present at the fight itself. It would help the fight seem more impactful on Raskin's character as well.


Chapter 4

Well, I'm glad to finally see Raskin interact with his father, but large portions of this chapter were far too tell-y, more than anything in the fic so far. It made it difficult for the emotions to come across. For example, this passage right after Raskin receives the letter:

There were several reasons why, he supposed. The cold-blooded manner of the police always rubbed him the wrong way. How they referred to his father only as Mightyena rather than his first name. That impersonality would be fine if Haikos was superior to the entire Deepden police force, but as the opposite was true, it was difficult not to interpret the name as an insult.

Then there was Haikos himself. Though prisoners in his position could be visited once a month, it had been several since Raskin's last trip. About a year ago, when the nickit still came as often as possible, Haikos had told him not to worry about it. "I appreciate you coming, but I can see it's a burden for you," the mightyena had said. He was right, of course, and Raskin had felt a little more at ease once he started keeping thoughts of his father at arms' length.

But reading the letter brought it home how much he had neglected Haikos. He knew that if he didn't choose to visit now—never mind the fact that news of his father's reduced sentence made a perfect reason for it—he didn't know when he would again before the 'mon was released.

The first paragraph could have been left entirely -- the reader can see Raskin's father being called Mightyena in the letter, and since most Pokemon have names it's easy to pick out. It's also been implied that Raskin hasn't visited his father from a line in Chapter 1. From there, Raskin's thought process is told to the reader rather than played out in the story. I didn't feel Raskin's guilt here, and his decision to visit his father feels lackluster when it should be an emotional choice.

"Hello, Dad," Raskin began. Not even a greeting in and I'm already anxious, he thought, cursing. Something about this place makes it impossible to talk. He took his own seat on the other side of the glass.

Portions like the above continue during Raskin's visit as well. Instead of Raskin directly thinking that he's anxious, his anxiety could have been portrayed through actions or internal sensation in a more vivid manner.

I do, however, like all the details sprinkled throughout the chapter. In particular, the description of the prison was well-done. From the first description of the building --

It was essentially a dead end out here: the road only looped back around towards the centre of Deepden again. Squat, yellowing grass flanked it on both sides. The only thing of any note in sight was a vast, redbrick square, kept behind an even larger chain-link fence, securing it from every side. Deepden Prison.

-- to the attitude of the guards to the description of Raskin's father, I really felt the oppressive atmosphere and how Haikos's incarceration wore him down. I also noticed how Haikos's manner of speech switched after Raskin told him after his and Sid's little fight club. Before it was rough and "low-brow", then it turned to angry dad real quick. And, oof, I can understand Haikos being upset about his son's actions. Unfortunately, it looks like his son's illegal proceedings will probably continue.

I appreciate how horrible everything turned out in this chapter. Raskin's dad being released in six months should be a happy occurrence, but then Raskin and Sid losing their jobs -- ouch. Well, I can definitely see how the story is continuing from here.

"I've got a couple of guys in mind who I think would be interesting…"

'Interested' instead of 'interesting'.

It's not that I'm completely averse to holding another fight, but…

Hmmm? The last line of the last chapter was Raskin thinking he was glad he wouldn't have to do this again.

While the anatomy of most quadrupeds didn't work naturally for sitting at a table, they were trained to make it work from an early age.

See, this is an odd element of worldbuilding. In a world filled with all kinds of body types, why specifically would chairs come to be the be-all-end-all?

But what hit him harder were the force of Haikos's words. Because his father was right; he had made the ultimate sacrifice, even if the prison part of it was undesired. Haikos had been caught lying about his income on their tax forms, attempting to pay less than he was obligated to. Although he had never blamed Raskin for his actions, the nickit couldn't interpret them any other way. After all, it was his stubbornness in attempting to find a job better than the menial, lowest-paid that were normally given out to 'mon lacking formal qualifications, and his months of failure in doing so, that had led to his father's desperate act. The irony of it was that his interview at the bank had been the morning of the day they had received a knock on the door from that white-scarfed officer.

Like with my critiques of passages at the start of this chapter, I don't think Haikos's backstory should have been spelled out like this. This could have been an emotional story to portray in pieces or at another time, but info-dumping it greatly diminishes the impact. Also: holy shit the police broke into Haikos's house and traumatized his kid to arrest a non-violent offender?!? I guess I shouldn't be surprised...
 

cynsh

full-time quilava
Location
Deepden
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. quilava
So, again: thank you so much for reading all of what's currently published! I really value reviews that give a more holistic critique of the story rather than just of single chapters. Though of course there's some good line-by-line stuff as well. When I come to do minor fix-ups of these chapters, your comments will be very helpful.

Now I'll address some of your comments:

Pulled open?
'Pulled to' is an idiom - though as I just looked it up I learned that it actually means 'closed', when I had thought it meant 'slightly ajar'. Ughhh
This worldbuilding also makes me confused about the setting. Is this the human world except Pokemon, or its own thing? If it's the latter, I have to admit that I don't quite buy it. This doesn't feel like a world built by and for Pokemon. The worldbuilding is interesting, but the details don't quite follow.
I've left a lot of details like this purposefully vague. I want the reader to question the setting, if what they're seeing is really all there is to it. :wink:
Also, saying Raskin "ran to the scene" suggests he had a way to run. But he was right next to the fighting, wasn't he?
Sid had tackled the nidoran away from him, but I see your point, it's a little over-the-top hehe.
You shift to Sid's POV during parts of the fight scene, which is weird and jarring considering it was all Raskin before.
Hm, that wasn't meant to be in Sid's POV. My betas didn't pick it up either. I can see how it might come across that way though.
Speaking of thinking less of non-city Pokemon, these guys just see a house and think they can take it over? Geez.
They were expecting the house to be empty! Come on, they're not that disrespectful :LOL:
You might want to include alcohol use in your content warnings, though.
Good point!
'Interested' instead of 'interesting'.
I think you're the second person to point this out. What I meant was 'it would be interesting to watch them fight'. But given the confusion, a change might be for the best...
Like with my critiques of passages at the start of this chapter, I don't think Haikos's backstory should have been spelled out like this. This could have been an emotional story to portray in pieces or at another time, but info-dumping it greatly diminishes the impact.
Aghhh, one of my betas made a similar comment. I kept it like this because... I was getting concerned at the number of things that had already not been explained, and felt that adding this to it as well would give me a headache. Doing it this way would make things a little easier for me. That probably doesn't read as a great justification, huh >_<
 
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