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Pokémon Nori Carino: Training a Demon [COMPLETE!]

Chapter 1: Beginnings
  1. suikaibuki
Nori Carino is a headstrong but good-hearted 12-year-old boy with no interest in becoming a trainer. However, a chance encounter with a certain person and an infamous Pokemon called the Demon changes this. For standing up for it, he winds up embroiled in a bet with his city's Gym Leader, with his future and the Pokemon's life on the line...

This is the first (technically second in two ways) in a metaseries of fics, most of them short jaunts, although there's some long ones here. You don't necessarily need to read others in it to enjoy any of them, especially considering this is the first one. You can find this and nonpresent-here fics also on Bulbagarden, FFNet, and AO3

Things you can expect to here that might displease you in this fic are: mild swearing, mild violence, harsh themes, and just a bit of roasting. It's about a CERO B rating!

In threadmarks because I am lazy and it's all in a row anyway


The forests outside Ecruteak City. A holy path forbidden for most men to tread foot. Yet on this dark night, a duo was stalking through these sacred woods. They were on the run from the law, and were hoping to receive sanctuary from the priests dwelling in the tower.


"Yeah, Hideki?"

"Why do you trust me?"

"I know we never saw eye-to-eye, but I know you. And you never seemed the type."

"I'm accused of the Goldenrod Mall Bombings. Those ain't light charges. They'll do anything to bring me to justice."

"Are you admitting to it?"

"No. I just wanted to say, thank you."

"Anytime. Just doing what's right."

Our heroes remained silent as they continued their trek. Soon, Hideki spoke up to his acquaintance, still in awe of his unending belief.

"How's Cass doin'?"

"Pregnant with our first kid."

"You rash jerk. Don't go dying 'till we get out of this mess. You gotta do good by getting back to her."

"I know. Got a future to look forward to. But I'll be helping you get yours."

They were interrupted by seeing the glint of a flashlight. They heard a man's voice.

"I see a couple figures, that may be them. Get out your Pokemon."

They had been spotted. The two glanced at each other. Hiding was impossible against a police Pokemon's nose. The tower was fifty yards away, too much to make a clean break for. There was nothing to do but fight their way there. They reached for their own Pokemon.

"You ready?"



Chapter 1: Beginnings

The boy looked back, slightly irritated. That drama was just getting good. Listening to the radio was one of the few things he could do for enjoyment in the trailer he lived in with his mother, Ayume Carino. It was a compact but fully functional space: a master bed at the back end, a bunk above the vehicle's seats where he was sitting, and a third near the middle right if you folded down a table and pulled a center segment out. Directly across was the sink, with the bathroom in a door beside it. There was little room for anything except what was built into here, and whatever you could fit in the closets and drawers.

His mom stood as a towering presence behind him. She had her ravenous hair done up in a ponytail, and was in a simple black dress. He always hated being interrupted in the middle of something by someone who wanted to talk to him. There were no chores to be done, and he hadn't done anything wrong recently. What was this about?

"When are you going to get out of here and make something of yourself?"

He cocked his head. "Um, I'm only twelve?"

"That doesn't mean you can't get out there and go on a journey like a lot of your classmates did."

Nori sighed. "I don't want to," he repeated. He'd cemented this choice a long time ago, when he declined joining a friend on her own travels. And when he started fights with his peers who ridiculed him over his adamance. Going back on that now would just be wrong. More importantly for himself, "Besides, I want to make something more of myself than that, and going through the process to get set up would be a pain."

"I've taken care of that."

He recoiled as his mom tossed something into his lap. Nori had seen trainer cards a few times at school, and this appeared to be the skeleton of one. It had his name and address, though the ID number was listed as provisional and there was a blank space where a photo was to go.

He slowly looked up from it, shaking his head. "But I don't want to be a Pokemon trainer." This had been an eternal request for the past year and a half. He'd been using subjective arguments, and excuses of being lazy or busy to get out of it. Now he wasn't sure what he could say to it, besides not wanting to. And he knew he could not depend upon that as an answer.

"Now Nori, you know we don't have a lot of free money," she started, putting her hands on her hips. Her usual pose when being assertive. "I had to spend a quarter of this month's cheque on this. I don't want you making it go to waste."

The boy was momentarily stunned. "But...no. I don't get it." He wasn't just saying that to try to evade this. Whenever his mother got money, after getting what they needed, always spent what was left on herself. Like, she'd head out some nights with money and do things. This was the first time she'd bought something for him. It was so pricey, it didn't seem right that she should. "Can't you, you know, take it back?"

She shook her head. "I want you to head down to the local trainers' office today to finish getting that filled out. Please, Nori. Are we clear?"

"Um, I..."

Abruptly, somebody pounded on the side door of the trailer. Nori very blatantly sighed in relief at this conversation being interrupted. "I'll get it," he quickly offered, conveniently letting the trainer card fall off his leg to the floor as he shoved past his mom to open it.

"Hiya, Nori!" greeted a young girl with pink hair tied into pigtails. She was wearing a simple blue v-shirt and jean shorts.

"Oh, hey Maylene." One of his friends, not some random stranger. That was good to see. She may have been three grades behind him, but neither of them let that get in the way of their friendship.

"Guess what?" Before he could even open his mouth to try to guess, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a single bill of money. "I just got my allowance!"

"Whoa." A 1000 note. That was more than he'd ever had. If he were to be a trainer, that'd be five Poke Balls.

The girl beamed with pride as she stuffed the banknote back into her pocket. "Wanna go out and get food?"

"That'd be great!" he agreed in a heartbeat. Even if he hadn't had a situation he needed to get away from right there, he'd have done so. He rarely got to do stuff like this. Nori swiftly grabbed his coat off the back of the passenger seat, just in case it started raining. It wasn't the best protection given the sleeves only reached to his elbows, but he always liked its green color. Especially the leafy texture. "Ma, I'm heading out with Maylene! I'll be back later!"

"Good," she said with a nod. "Dinner's at 6:30, don't be back until then!" She failed to notice he'd left the card behind. Nori raced out the door before she could.


It was not a pleasant day outside. August would soon be giving way to September, and the weather was caught between two seasons. A sheet of clouds was painting the sky a silvery-gray. They gave little respite from the heat, which was made worse by the only moisture being in the air. It was days like these where staying indoors was preferable, even for someone like Nori who got out often. Still, he was not about to let it get in the way of spending time with a friend.

Moments after the boy stepped out, he found his nostrils being assaulted. With one glance he instantly found the source of the horrid stench. His neighbor Rashid's family had been letting their garbage pile up again, and it seemed a wild Pokemon got into it last night. He hated seeing messes like these, but it wasn't his to clean up, nor the time for it.

"Well hello there, Nori." He had taken only a couple steps when an old lady in a blue dress sweeping outside her trailer gave him a wave. The trailer park was a tight-knit community, always friendly to one another. Everybody knew everybody in here, and were willing to say hello to or help their neighbors if need be. "Heading out with your friend?"

"Yup, Mrs. Ito." Speaking of which, said friend was cheerfully bounding forth ahead, oblivious to his momentary pause. Nori hustled to keep up with her. He only made it a short distance before another person spoke to him.

"Howdy, Nori." He turned and saw a boy his age dressed in overalls and a sun hat, sitting on the roof of his family's trailer. "Lookit this here satellite dish we got. Gets us more channels 'en some of 'em rich folk." The boy ran his finger along the antenna.

Nori nodded. "Not bad, Waylon." He'd have to check that out some time, but not now.

"Namaste, Norcar!" called a voice from behind. Nori kept on walking, but looked over his shoulder to see Rashid jogging towards him. An older boy with tan skin, dressed in simple jeans and white tank top. "There is a new thing I have obtained. Do you want to come see?"

"No." He was sure what it was, no need to ask or check. Rashid was an occasional friend, but he was really weird when it came to girls in magazines. Handy he was out here though, with this he could say, "And tell your parents to clean that trash up."

Rashid turned and saw it. He cursed in his native language and ran back inside his home. Nori sighed in relief. Hopefully that mess would be out of here by the time he got back.

"Hey, hey! What's taking you?" Maylene called out. She was peeking around the corner of the fence encircling the trailer park.

"Oh, just saying hi to some people." He let himself be distracted too much. He ran to catch up.

Maylene first led them straight across the road. After heading a couple blocks away, a flashy red and white sign he hadn't seen before captured his attention. It read ‘EXCA-GIFT SHOP!’ with a stylized drill in place of the letter I. So that was what that new building near the archaeological research center was for! He knew Veilstone City like the back of his hand at this point, and seeing how it developed was one of the ways he entertained himself. It was one of the more isolated cities in Sinnoh, yet because of compensating for that, it had ironically become a popular destination for intra-regional tourists.

One of the biggest attractions was the large shopping center in the middle of town. Nori had never been in there except to look, but he knew that it had just about anything anyone could want, including imported goods you'd have trouble finding anywhere else in the region. The other big attraction was the Game Corner on the southern end of town. It had a family-friendly image, so much that even kids Maylene's age were welcome in there. Though for the most part, he saw lots of adults going in. Finally, the radio station he had been listening to earlier actually used to be based out of Veilstone. But because it was so popular, they moved broadcasting to Hearthome to reach a wider audience a couple months back, leaving the building on the hills in the northwest vacant.

"Hey, what's up?" Maylene turned around and started walking backwards, looking at him as she spoke. "Did you and your mom fight again?"

"Oh, uh." No surprise his friend noticed he was absorbed in thought. He did that when there was something he'd rather not think about, but since she asked. Well, he wouldn't exactly call what happened a fight, so he assured her, "She just gave me the journey talk again." At least he could vent to Maylene about this. "It goes the same way every time. Even when I say different things every time about why I don't want to go."

"Even when you say you wanna do something that means something?"

"Even then!"

"Oh, wow."

"I just don't get it. What's the appeal of going on one?"

"Yeah! I don't get it either!"

"And why's pretty much everyone want to go on one? Is it like, that peer pressure thing or whatever?" Only one person he's ever known had a good reason to go on a journey!

Maylene's face clouded over. "Oh yeah..." she groaned. "I got made fun of again today."

"Ugh. Again?"

She solemnly nodded. "I ran into some classmates yesterday. They've been using summer break to get ready for when they can go on journeys. They called me weird and other mean stuff for not wanting to. One of them tried to push me into a tree." The girl shuddered as she recalled this.

Nori wished he had words to say to that. The two of them were certainly outliers in this world. Just about everyone he knew wanted to go on a journey at some point in their life. A few as soon as they were allowed to, others sometime eventually. What was so fun about traveling around fighting or doing whatever else with Pokemon? He could think of many negatives that a lot of them just didn't seem to realize or care for. It made no sense.

Their walk continued in silence for half a minute, until Maylene suddenly asked, "Hey, how'd you handle it Nori? When everyone your age wanted to go on journeys and you didn't, what'd you do?"

"Well, some of them understood." A couple kids mocked him, but most said nothing or ignored it. One person actually agreed with him. "But besides them, it was the same way we became friends."

The girl beamed wildly. "You mean you punched those bullies in the face too?!"

"Er, no." Well, not that time. "But they knew I probably would if they talked smack to me." Nori had a reputation he was sometimes uncomfortable with. He was known for fighting, and his scope of doing so was exaggerated at times.

It wasn't unearned. In particular in fourth grade, he socked resident rich boy Tarou Daikoka for being classist towards him. He got suspended for that one. A month later, a sixth-year tried to push him around, the rumor around the playground being he was paid to do so. But Nori knew how to fight, thanks to an ex-neighbor who used to serve in the military. He tripped the bigger kid and wailed on him. People who didn't know him generally left him alone after that incident, for better or worse.

"Can you do that to them for me too?" Maylene asked, flashing him baby Houndour eyes. "Again?"

"I'll yell at them." Just the threat would be enough, he hoped. He was willing to stick up for others - that was how he met Maylene, in fact - but you couldn't always get physical with your problems. Like almost any kid in school, Nori had seen his share of bullying himself. Unlike some others, if he was hit, he'd hit back. If he was insulted, he'd respond in various ways. He'd lost his temper sometimes, sure, but tried to be cognizant of his actions.

It was enough for Maylene at least, who gave him a quick hug. "Yay! Thanks, Nori! You're the best!"

At this point, he couldn't help but snort. "So what if those losers want to waste like a year of their life or more on traveling? We'll be here learning and putting that year to good use!"

"Yeah! You're right!" Maylene agreed with a spinning leap. She put her arms up in the air. "I don't know what I wanna do when I grow up, but I'll make sure it's something really really great!"

"Same here. I want to make a real difference, whatever it is I'm doing!"

The girl stopped. "Hey, we're here!" she said, pointing up at the sign on the brown brick structure in before them.

"Ten Berries Ice Cream?" Nori read aloud. There were a pair of tables with umbrellas in front of the store. A lone teenaged boy was seated at the right of these. He could already smell the peculiar scent of those fruit out here. Nori suspected they had left a door or window open out back on purpose. "A dessert place?" Well this was nice, but he was expecting to have actual food!

"Yup, yup, yup!" the girl confirmed. "Let's go eat ice cream together!" Before he could protest, she grabbed him by the hand and practically hauled him inside.


On entering, Nori quickly noted the minimalistic design of the small store. There were a good ten or so people here, so it must have been doing all right for itself. The only decor was a stock painting of a Ralts on the wall, and a big box television atop a drawer behind the counter. There were simple tables and chairs scattered across the dining area, and a line of elevated swivel seats with no backsides in front of the counter.

Maylene let go and skipped over to a set of free chairs near the counter. She put her hands on the disc-shaped seat, flailing as she tried to get atop it. It was to no avail. As Nori got closer, he lifted her by the torso. He easily got his friend up there before sitting down himself.

"Thanks! Wish I was big like you, Nori."

"You should be soon. Everyone grows a bit differently. You're probably close to hitting your first big growth spurt, really."

The clerk approached them. He was a tall, slim man with graying orange hair and hazel eyes. He had on a simple white shirt and black dress pants, alongside a paneled cap and clear gloves. "Now what can I get you kids here today?"

Maylene pulled out her allowance and placed it on the table. "What kinda ice cream can we get for this much?"

The man smiled warmly. "Just about whatever you want, little lady."

"Then I'll have a Nanab-Razz split with Nutpeas in it!" The way she quickly answered, Nori thought, she must have had that in mind since before she came and got him.

As the clerk's eyes fell on him, he answered on instinct. "I'll have a cherry...no, Pecha sundae." Good thing he remembered this place worked with berries, or he would've ended up with a Cheri sundae. Those were mildly spicy, so probably wouldn't be very good in ice cream.

The two desserts rang up. "Comes to 1040p with tax. But I'll cover the extra." He gave them a small wink as he slid the bill into his hands and stuffed it in the register.

That was nice of him. For a second there he thought they weren't going to be able to have what they wanted because of the extra cost. "Thanks," he said, nudging Maylene after a moment to say so too.

"Thank you, mister, um?" She tilted her head.

The man saluted. "Douglas Eis, at your service. Owner of this establishment. I'll go get your treats ready."

That explained why he could get away with doing that. Maylene started fidgeting restlessly the moment the man stepped into the backroom. His friend always disliked any sort of waiting. He didn't mind it, feeling you just need to find ways to keep yourself busy in the meantime.

Nori turned his attention to the television, which presently had on the noon news. Some kids his age might find it dull, but he enjoyed it. Knowing what was going on in the world around him made him feel more at ease.

The bald newsman in a black suit spoke, "In local news, the wild Pokemon people know only as the Demon has struck again. At around 10:30 last night, a trainer was practicing near the docks in preparation for his upcoming Gym battle. The Demon attacked and injured the trainer's Luxray before making its escape."

Black and white footage appeared, showing a quadrupedal beast covered in garbage leaping in from out of frame onto its target. Slashing and biting, it shrugged off electrical attacks and downed its target by inflicting a grisly wound. The whole thing was over in ten seconds, the creature retreating as suddenly as it came. "The Pokemon, seen here in surveillance footage, goes into battle coated in material like a Burmy would. It has been challenging and assaulting trainers and wild Pokemon without provocation in and around Veilstone City for the past year. It remains at large and its species unknown. We take you now to reporter Asuka Schrader, who conducted an interview with the victim–"

"Bo-ring!" came the flippant shout of his friend. If he were the less attentive type, he would've jumped at the sudden shout. She nudged him with her elbow. "I wanna watch cartoons. Can you change the channel, Nori?"

"I um, think people would get mad if I did that." Both the people who were watching the TV and the staff here. Already some of them were giving her odd looks. He thought to quickly take their conversation elsewhere, before Maylene did it on her own.

"Hey, hey, Nori." She prodded his shoulder until he looked over at her. "I just remembered something I wanted to ask you! Can I ask you?"

"Sure, what is it?"

"Are you supposed to capitalize Pokemon names?"

"Yeah, you do. Pokemon names are proper nouns, just like the term. They're written like that in books and official documents and stuff." He was always willing to help his friend when she asked him about schoolwork. Yet school was out, so what brought this on?

"But that's not what my cousin said. I showed her the story I got in English class I got an A on last term and she said I shouldn't do that!"

That explained it. Nori almost instinctively leaned back before remembering there wasn't a backside to these seats. "Well, your cousin's an idiot," he spoke his mind up-front. "If you didn't capitalize them, you wouldn't have gotten an A."

Maylene blinked in realization. "Oh yeah, school's starting again soon." She groaned, placing her hands on the counter. "Ugh, I wish summer vacation would last forever."

He had to admit, "It'd be nice." Whenever he was on break, that meant not having to deal with hostile classmates. But besides the implications of summer lasting forever, there was another issue. "If that happened though, we wouldn't be able to learn for our futures."

"I know, but I like to do whatever I want every day!"

"Yeah, true. I do too."

The backroom door swung open and the owner emerged, carrying a tray with their ice cream. They were each within tin cups just big enough to contain them. "All right, here you kids go. Eat up and enjoy."

"Yay!" Maylene wasted little time shoveling a couple spoonfuls of the dessert into her mouth until it was full.

Nori had barely gotten his spoon in and scooped some of his own before she had gulped that down. "Don't eat too fast," he advised. "You'll get an ice cream headache."

"But this is so yummy!"

He shrugged and took a bite. Not bad. Pecha berries were nice and sweet, though not his first choice for a fruit. He preferred to eat slowly. He didn't get a lot of chances to have things like this, so may as well savor them.

Suddenly, Maylene started hacking. She was eating so fast, it was no surprise to Nori. Good thing it was just ice cream and ground up berries. He smacked her on the back a few times, helping to dislodge the fluid from her windpipe. Eventually her fit stopped. The boy smiled at her.

"That can also happen if you eat too fast." He put another spoonful in his mouth.

She lowered her head apologetically, even though he didn't take any sort of scolding tone at all. "I'll eat slower now."

That settled that. Nori took another bite and glanced back over to the television, periodically having a few more. The report about that Demon Pokemon had ended. Not that it interested him too much whenever stuff about it was on. "Turning to professional training news now," the newsman spoke over an aerial shot of a huge ovular building. Instantly recognizable as one of the region's landmarks, the Contest Hall in Hearthome City. "The Grandmaster Rank Contest showdown yesterday involving regional Gym Leaders Fantina and Gasha ended in an unprecedented draw."

Clips of the Contest followed. "Gasha won the first set, her Dustox edging out Fantina's Jellicent. Fantina answered back in the second, with Mismagius cleanly outperforming Tentacruel. In the third set after three rounds had passed, their signature Drifblim ‘Loony’ and Skuntank ‘D'Alembert’ both scored an equal amount of points. Judges have been deliberating how to handle this situation–"

"Hey!" Nori sharply turned to see the teenager from outside the store, holding the door open and gesticulating wildly. He could tolerate his friend interrupting his watching, but what was with this random person doing it? "There's something going on out here!"

He just turned back and had a bit more of his sundae. Why should he care about whatever it was when the guy didn't care to be specific on? He hated when people were vague. Yet, it became clear anyway when the chanting of a group of people became audible.

"This is all a fail! Send Eis back to jail!"

"Do they mean Mr. Eis?" Maylene asked with curiosity. They looked to the man himself, whose expression had darkly clouded over. "What do they want? I wanna go see!" The little girl shoveled what was left of her dessert into her mouth. Without waiting for Nori, she hopped off her seat and ran out the door.

There was still about half of his dessert remaining. "Could I get that to go after this?" he asked. Eis nodded, taking it and placing it in a freezer as Nori left to join his friend outside.


"This is all a fail! Send Eis back to jail! This is all a fail! Send Eis back to jail!"

Maylene waved to Nori as he emerged. He waved back, standing beside her. A number of other guests and bystanders had also come to see what the commotion was. The cause was a group of five people, continuing to chant away as people gathered. He was surprised to see they were only a few years older than him. Even more, that he actually knew some of them.

"We are Youths Against Mistaken Society!" He recognized Mariko Urusai right away, with her distinct short red hair, slender frame, and tomboyish clothing - presently jean shorts and a white shirt over a brown leather jacket. He knew her because they attended the same elementary school, though they were three grades apart. Sixth-years ran the PA during lunch hour, and Mariko was among her peers that did so. She often got in trouble for her more personal complaints and announcements. She never was barred from the mic, oddly.

Stepping out in front of the group came Louis Trussell, in the same grade as Mariko. Well dressed in a yellow polo shirt with black slacks. His blue hair had been slicked back. He was the president of his class, and represented his year's graduates. Louis was a very upstanding person who would even look out for those below him. Which is why Nori found it so strange two people so opposite each other would be associating.

He didn't recognize the others, but two of them seemed like siblings due to having the same brown hair and eyes. The last was a tall, slightly portly girl with messy black hair. She was hiding way in the back, with a loose fitting orange shirt and plaided khakis.

Louis spoke calmly and clearly, as if he were on stage making a speech. "Douglas Eis is a former member of Team Rocket. He used to be one of their top street operatives. Two years ago when the organization went down, he was arrested and charged. He was paroled three months ago, and is now working here in our city."

Team Rocket? They were that gang that operated in and around Kanto, if Nori remembered right. A number of the adults seemed taken aback by this news, looking at the man worriedly. He for his part stoically stood there, head lowered.

"We don't want him here!" said the male teenage with brown hair.

"Yeah!" agreed the female. "Like, he's a criminal!"

Eis cut in. "That's all in my past. I admit it's not the cleanest." He shook his head at himself in regret before looking up, "But I served my time, and I'm trying to make good honest work, now."

The adults chattered, a mixture of uncertainty and mild acceptance. Nori saw no problem here. So what if he was in some gang before? He was good now! But it did not satisfy this youth group.

"That isn't what this is about!" shouted the brown-haired female.

"You were hiding it from everyone, weren't you?!" Mariko demanded.

Eis again shook his head. "I'm under no obligation to tell it to everyone I meet," he affirmed.

"Regardless," Louis spoke, "You were convicted on four counts of battery and issuing threats against humans and Pokemon, with multiple others unproven in court. There are those of us who find it hard to believe you have truly atoned." Eis remained silent, and the blue-haired boy continued, "Studies have shown that people who have committed those kinds of offenses once are likely to fall back into the criminal life at some point."

"What's more, there's been reports of Rocket sightings in the southern regions like Sevii and Johto!" Mariko added with a sneer and accusatory point. "How do we know you're not going to bring them here too?!"

"Hey! Stop this!" Maylene suddenly stepped in front, getting in their faces. Her hands were balled into fists, and she looked ready to swing them at a moment's notice. "Mr. Eis is very nice! He makes lots of yummy ice cream! Why are you being so mean to him?"

They went quiet. Nori had to stifle a laugh at this. Here was this group of teenagers looking to make a big fuss, even making ridiculous unsubstantiated claims, and they were being talked down by a third-grade girl. Mariko and Louis exchanged glances. Both looked unsure what they should say.

"You'll...understand when you get older." It was the tall girl in the back who meekly broke their silence. These words were enough for Mariko to start up again, this time attacking Maylene.

"And for that matter, eight-year-olds like you shouldn't be hanging out with twelve-year-olds like him!"

"I'm NOT eight!" she yelled, stamping a foot. "I'm nine!"

The eyes of the quintet sans the girl in the back fell upon Nori. Looking for his reasoning? He just shrugged. "She's like a little sister to me." At least, he assumed it's what having a little sister was like. What was wrong with an age difference, anyway? Most of his friends were different ages than him.

"That's no excuse for what you're doing!" the redhead yelled at both of them. "You need to–"

Her rant was cut off by Eis. "Enough, you brats. Get on out of here before I call the police."

"We should be calling the police on you, you scumbag! You're giving this little girl the wrong kinds of impressions!"

She was held back from physically marching up by Louis, who turned her around and looked her in the eye. "Mariko, calm down," he said, placing his hands on her shoulders and giving her a pat. "We got it out in the open, that's all that counts. We made a difference here today."

"Damn it." Mariko looked away with resigned irritation.

"Let's head back to our meeting place."

The brown-haired boy and girl looked at each other, the latter speaking up for both of them. "Sorry Louis, mom wants us home." So they were siblings.

"And I...have to go do a thing for school." The tall girl looked away as she said this, fidgeting with her hands. "I put it off...and break's almost over."

Louis nodded at them. "In that case, I'll see you all tomorrow, then."

They started heading away in different directions. The onlookers dispersed or went back into the store as they did so. That was an unpleasant distraction, though Nori. Made even more unpleasant by how he somehow ended up getting involved. At least they were like nothing compared to some of the stuff he'd put up with before.

"Well, there is one other thing. Nori Carino."

"Wha...?" Louis was talking to him? That was something he hadn't expected. He knew Louis, but didn't think Louis knew him, or at least enough to want to talk to him cordially.

"If you truly want to make a difference like you always say you do, you should think about joining our activist group."

That explained things. He was very vocal about his goals in life, especially to those he felt were wasting part of theirs. But joining these people? Nori could only stare. "I don't like what I saw from your group just now."

The blue-haired boy sighed. "I apologize for that, Mariko can be a bit headstrong." He looked over in the direction she had gone. "This was her discovery and idea, not that I blame her. However, YAMS doesn't simply tackle issues as these. We aim to raise awareness of all sorts of troubles with society." He shrugged. "You seem to be a good person willing to fight for things, so I thought I'd extend the offer, anyway."

"Well..." Louis was an all right guy. Certainly not anybody he'd ever have reason to punch in the face. He also raised a good point, they were trying to make a difference, and that's what he always wanted to do with his life. Despite what they did, he strangely couldn't think of a reason to say no.

He felt a prodding at his backside. "You really thinking of this, Nori?" Maylene was looking up at him with curious eyes.

"I don't know," he answered with an honest shrug. "Maybe, maybe not."

"Well if you do, I wanna join'em too!" Nori laughed a little. Typical Maylene. She'd change her tune in a second, and would follow him around doing just about anything he did.

Louis swiftly shot this notion down. "You're too young to be getting involved with this stuff. Give it a few years." Ignoring her pouting, he turned back to Nori. "Anyway. You know the old Magcargo Express building?"

"You mean that abandoned warehouse on the southeast side?" There, of all places?

"We'll be meeting there at two tomorrow. If you're interested, come by. I have to get going now. I hope to see you then." With these words, Louis turned on his heels and walked away.

Eis reemerged from the building shortly thereafter, carrying what was left of Nori's sundae, now in a plastic cup with accompanying spoon. "Couldn't help but overhear your conversation," the owner said, passing him the dessert. "You should stay away from those types. They only stir up trouble, because they don't have anything better to do."

"I can make my own decisions, thanks." What was with adults who weren't his mom or teachers trying to tell him what to do? They weren't the boss of him. "Let's go, Maylene."

"Okay!" she chirruped, giving the owner a huge enthusiastic wave. "Thanks again for the ice cream, Mr. Eis!"

"Come back anytime."

He would, if he had any money to. Still, Nori was seriously considering going to this meeting. Looking to the positives, they did say they wanted to help others. It may have turned out ugly here, but perhaps this was just an isolated incident? He wanted to believe they were good people at heart. He knew Louis was good, and Mariko just spoke her mind freely. He hadn't met the other three, but tomorrow would be a chance to do just that. The only way to find out was to try.
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Chapter 2: Justice
  1. suikaibuki
Chapter 2: Justice

The past decade and a half of Ayume Carino's life had been an ordeal.

She had been living discreetly in the basement of a friend's home for four years. Shortly after her son was born, the landlord discovered the illegal suite. Without sympathy, he ordered them out within the week.

While Ayume was not unfamiliar with homeless life, it was out of the question now due to having an infant son. With no one else to turn to, she reluctantly moved in with her parents. Those were a dreadful two years. Clashes over how Nori should be raised led them to force her out on her own, a place to go to or not.

Salvation arrived from her great-uncle, one of the few members of her family she could tolerate. He gave her the trailer as a gift to cleverly elude any tax laws. They had been living in the vehicle for the past ten years. These were not ideal circumstances, but they all she could manage.

Their financial situation was not good, especially since losing her job six years ago. Monetary aid from the government kept them alive, but only went so far. They could only afford to have the trailer powered sporadically, which meant no refrigerated goods. Their lunches and dinners consisted mostly of rice, ramen, and canned foods. Their breakfasts were either oatmeal or cereal without milk, the former of which her son was currently making. Snacks were chips or cookies, and occasionally fresh fruit. Once or twice a month, she would treat herself to some fast food. It reminded her of earlier, simpler times.

Nori walked over, a bowl in each hand. "I tried something new. I hope it works out." He placed the oatmeal on her side of the table before sitting opposite. It smelled quite fragrant for plain oatmeal. Could he have mixed in a bit of cinnamon? A few bites verified this. She had to admit, her son's skills were improving. As much of a headache as he could sometimes be, Ayume knew many parents could only dream of having a child as dedicated to things like cooking and cleaning as he was. Still, a future as a housekeeper wasn’t something either of them wanted.

Nori's future had always weighed on her mind. He got that it was important. He was a hard worker, getting As or Bs in all his subjects. Yet he had no thoughts on what he wanted to do with his life, besides that it be be meaningful. Time was running short in more ways than one, and she knew she had to do something about it.

As he had nearly finished eating, Ayume stood up. She grabbed the trainer’s card, exactly where it had been left the day before, and slapped it down in front of Nori. She placed her hands on her hips.

"You forgot this yesterday."

Her son stared at it for several moments. Eventually he said, "Sorry, Ma. I kinda forgot when Maylene showed up. Even if I hadn't, I didn't want to drag her around."

She knew he had forgotten intentionally, but chose not to outwardly accuse him of this. It wouldn't do any good. "You need to stop forgetting these things. This is a very important matter, Nori Carino. What were you wasting your time doing yesterday over securing your future?"

"Well, about that," he quickly answered, ruffling his hair. "I ended up making some, um, friends of sorts, yesterday."

Of sorts? That sounded like the signs of a ridiculous lie. She crossed her arms, looking down at him. "Really? Who are these friends?"

"Youths Against...something that starts with M, Society. YAMS for short. They're like a club, of sorts. They invited me to their meeting today. And I said I'd be there today, and I don't want to have lied about it. So..." He had been inching his way towards the door, so carefully that she only noticed when it was too late. "Gotta go!"

Before she could even open her mouth, her son had left the trailer. Ayume knew all his quirks, and it seemed he wasn't making up an excuse this time. Just conveniently finding one.

YAMS? She'd have to look into that later today. Perhaps a friend or neighbor would know. Whoever they were, at least he was out there making proper connections. Who knows. Maybe one of the people there would be interested in travel, and could coax him into it. Nori wasn't completely oblivious. She noted even he was aware that he missed the boat when his rich friend, that Claris girl, wanted him to journey with her and he refused. Her son hated messing up, and certainly wouldn't want to mess up again.

The woman poured herself a cup of hot water from the kettle, grabbed a bag of tea from the cupboard, and dunked it in. She sat down, sighing and thinking to herself.

Ayume was fully aware her financial situation was dire. So far she'd managed to make it all work, despite the stress of it. But the looming problem was, the price of goods and the things she couldn't help but enjoy were going up. Her cheque on the other hand remained for the same amount. It was becoming harder and harder to survive. She lamented not dedicating herself enough in school.

She had only met the father of her child once, a tourist who had happened to be attending the same party as her. It was an accident, but not an unpleasant one. One of her vices - and thankfully one that cost nothing - was enjoying casual encounters with men, the latest of which was yesterday after Nori had left with his friend. At times she would not even know the name of her partners. She had resigned herself to the fact that claiming child maintenance would be impossible, all factors considered. Every day she would glance at her savings drawer, uncertain if the money would continue to last, no matter how perfectly she balanced her budget. And though she had tried a few times, she never met a man willing to take on her and her son.

That was why it was so important to her that Nori become successful. She wasn't sure how to explain that he might not have time to stay in school. And she wasn't going to send him to live with some unknown, or worse, her family. Hence, trying to urge him into becoming a Pokemon trainer. Her financial contributions could be minimal, given how many free services are provided. She knew Nori could succeed at it if he applied himself like he did when learning. A journey was also a rite of passage in youth, and something that could give clear directions in life to those who go on them, facts that he refused to acknowledge or even hear about. Though, she knew full well where he got that stubborn streak from...

“I’ll just have to keep at it,” she supposed aloud to herself. She could be just as much of a bull-head. She had to, for his sake.


Nori had arrived at the old reddish-brown building to find everyone already there. He was tentative about actually coming here, but figured what was the harm in trying? It was the only way to find out for sure, after all.

The protest group had commandeered the space outside for their use, turning the benches inward to face an old tree stump that Louis presently stood on. It used to be livelier before the Magcargo Express relocated to the central part of town. This was the first time since that he'd seen anyone but passersby looking to take a break use it. Strangely, there were signs here about picking up after your Pokemon and prohibiting camping. You'd normally see those at grassy parks, but the only grass here was a lengthy strip that was partially dead. The wooden barricades that divided it from the hill behind were similarly ill-maintained. Said hill quickly descended into full-on cliffs. Nori momentarily shuddered when he caught sight of the ocean awaiting below, quickly looking away and taking his seat.

One bench was stuffed full, but the siblings scooted aside to make room on theirs. He nodded and smiled at the gesture. Peering at the other bench, he became aware he was easily the youngest person here. Mariko was in the middle, with the quiet girl on the far side. Nearest was someone unfamiliar, a girl who looked two or three years older than him. She had aqua blue eyes, forest green hair, and was dressed in some sort of deep purple toned robe-like outfit. Traditional attire, perhaps?

Louis cleared his throat shortly after Nori sat. "Excellent, you made it. With that, I now call the latest meeting of Youths Against Mistaken Society to order. We have two new people joining us today. I'm sure you are familiar with both of them already, so there is no need for formal introductions. Let us simply get down to business."

Nori took another glance at the green-haired girl. He wasn't familiar with her.

"Now, a point that has been coming up is how disorganized we have been. We have been making all these little one-off protests with no consistency. It's hardly good for our image. I want to change that, starting next month. We need to find a clear goal to work towards, and follow it."

The female sibling put up her hand. "But how are we going to do that?"

"Well, Yumi, I came up with a solution." A name, that made things easier. "We focus on one thing in general for a period of time, perhaps one to three months. For example, dangerous Pokemon owners. Simply look at those, nothing else. We're bound to find something big if we do."

There was chatter of general agreement. It sounded just fine to Nori, too. He admitted he had a tendency to play things by ear, but that didn't mean he liked to be strung along by someone else doing that, or do that to someone himself.

"Best case, we find a subset of issues which we can establish ourselves as tackling in particular." A hand went up beside Nori. Louis turned and asked, "Yes, Touya?"

Both siblings stood up. "Sis and I have got an idea that could work."

Louis nodded his approval and sat down. "By all means, the floor's yours."

Yumi momentarily glanced at Nori. "When I saw Nori here with that little girl yesterday, and saw how she was defending that former Rocket guy, I was really..." She looked away. "Disturbed, for lack of a better word."

Her brother nodded. "We talked when we got back home. Both of us thought it might just be a bad example being set, like how Mariko said. That guy making her think that sort of thing's right. That's why I think we should go after people doing just that!" He pounded down his fist into his palm.

They sat back down. Louis put a hand on his chin, scratching at the beginnings of a beard that was starting to form as he stood back up. "To pursue those who would set a bad example for other people..." he mused aloud. "That could work. All in favor?"


Nori noted two things. First, everyone but that girl he hadn't seen before verbally agreed to that. Second, both he and Mariko had done so with fervor. They exchanged glances. She was leering at him in a strange way. He did what he always did in those situations, returning the look.

"So it is settled," Louis announced. "The theme for protest for next month will be those who set a bad example." The brash redhead rose up. Unabated, Louis asked, "Yes, Mariko?"

"I have our first idea!" she yelled.

Louis seemed to sigh, but his tone was neutral as he said, "Well, let's hear it."

Mariko to contrast the siblings, marched out in front of everyone and started pacing restlessly. "There's this old creep who lives on the east side." She looked directly at Nori for a moment. "I know you've probably seen him a few times." He had. "He got in trouble for exposing himself to children a couple decades ago, but for some stupid reason, they let him go! Now he's living out there and still exposing himself!"

"Now wait just a minute!" Nori shouted this, but didn't stand despite his urge to. "What's picking on some old pedo gonna do?"

A fire in her eyes that matched her hair, she stormed over to him. He didn't flinch, even as Touya scooted away from the angry girl. "He's doing it even now! The stupid geezer sits out there on his porch in a...a..." She stepped back in her disbelief. "A thong, even when it's winter! It's indecency that's setting a bad example for anyone who sees him and thinks that's okay!"

This was just ridiculous. He rested his arm on the side of the bench. "You're exaggerating. And I still think it's not the best idea."

"Oh, and I don't suppose you have any better ideas?" she fired back.

Exactly the answer he was hoping for. He snickered in a way that made Touya scoot further away, practically squishing himself against his sister. "You bet I do."

He stood up and took a position, looking to everyone. He calmly said the words, "The Champion of Sinnoh herself." Everyone's eyes went wide. Just as he'd hoped. "She dresses just as bad as that guy at times, and she's supposed to be like this big respected public figure who represents our region. But then she goes out there, wearing like nothing–"

Nori was interrupted by a light shove. "You're being sexist!"

He wanted to shove her right back onto the ground, but restrained himself. For now, at least. "How?"

"She should be allowed to show off her body however she wants!"

"Hold up." He briefly held a hand out which he placed on his hip. "You just said you wanted to protest indecency that sets a bad example, didn't you?"

"That's right!"

"Well first, what could be more indecent than someone in a high position who dresses skimpy all the friggin time?! And second, if that's okay, what's wrong with a guy being able to show off his body?"

For once, Mariko looked stunned. "That's...it's because...this is totally different!"

"There is no difference! She's actually even worse because–"

"Calm down, you two!" Louis finally cut in, standing up and getting between them. Mariko growled at the interruption. Nori did too, only because it took him long enough to do so. The protest group's leader looked at him. "Now, Nori. You've brought up an excellent concept. But I think our little group publicly protesting her isn't going to go over very well."

"Aww." He never liked that person. It was complicated, a story in itself to explain why. He was hoping these people would have the guts to stand up, but it seemed they were going to play it safe.

"Ha, told you so!" Mariko sharply mocked. Nori almost did shove her over at this point.

"And Mariko," Louis turned to her. "Nori has raised a point. Your idea is simply thinking too small. It was all right the last time, but you need to be more cognizant of that."

Nori smirked. He taunted, "Ha ha ha," as he went to sit back down. The redhead seethed, but went and took her seat as well, crossing her arms and looking away. Well, maybe they wouldn't be protesting the Champion, but seeing Mariko get shut down made bringing it up worth it.

"Do the rest of you have any thoughts on people in our community setting a bad example?" asked Louis.

Quiet. Nori heard someone say something, but couldn't tell who it was. Louis did not.

"Well, if no one else has any ideas, we'll think about that later. For now, let's move on to our recap of yesterday's protest."

"I said, I think I have something," the big, quiet girl spoke up, the faintest hint of hesitation in her voice. It was like she was forcing herself to speak.

The other four main members of the group were stunned. "You, Nariya?" asked an astonished Louis.

Nariya was like a Stantler in headlights for a few moments. She steadily rose and shuffled over to Louis, fumbling in her black jacket's pockets along the way. "H-here..." She handed him two rectangular sheets.

Louis looked them over. His expression darkened with concern. "Nariya, where did you get these?"

"Accidentally, yesterday...when doing a school report..."

The blue-haired teen swept his gaze over the rest of the group. "All of you. Come look at this." They all gathered around him to see what it was.

The first was a photograph of a lavish medium-sized building. Nori noted it appeared inspired by Galarian architecture in in the 1800s, if he was remembering that right from social studies class. However, there was somebody in black in one of the windows. The second was a closer angle. Again that same person was visible, and far more clearly. It was a man dressed in a black leather body suit of some kind. Next to him was a brown-haired woman, holding a whip in her hands. Nori didn't fully understand what was going on, but had a general idea from how little the woman was wearing.

For the first time, the girl with green hair spoke. "That is the mayor of Veilstone, is it not?"

"Y-Yes," confirmed Nariya. "His wife too..."

Something about this didn't sit right with Nori. "How and where did you get these?" he asked.

"Ah!" she yelped. Nariya took a deep breath to compose herself, but didn't make eye contact. "Um...this was last night. I was just photographing the mayor's house when I saw...this. Well, I mean, I saw this after my dad developed them overnight. I didn't...get it on purpose. But I took them with me, just in case. I just felt I should bring it up, because it could help, and..." She trailed off.

Come to think of it, didn't she say she was going to do a school thing yesterday? Yeah, that made sense. "It's okay." He gave Nariya an assuring expression of acceptance, before giving the photos another look. That was the mayor all right. It had to be a freak accident that she caught this. "But this is..."

"This is a scandal in the making, is what it is!" Mariko shouted, making Nariya cover her ears briefly. "Good job with this, Nariya. We have to expose this disgusting bastard for who he really is!"

"Right!" agreed Touya.

"Let's get him!" Yumi rallied.

"It's settled, then." Louis patted the quiet girl on the back, who evidently had mixed feelings about this. "We'll hold off on the report of yesterday's protest. We have important work to do. Let's head inside to discuss this further."

Louis took out a key and unlocked the side door of the building. The four marched in behind, though Nariya did so with some reluctance. She even looked back at Nori and the other girl before going in. The two newcomers were left by themselves.

There was a brief silence between them. Nori's hands balled into fists. Maybe he had a problem with shameless filthy people who promote being shameless and filthy, but the mayor was doing it in his own home. And as far as he knew, he was a good guy. This wasn't exposing some jerk who deserved to have his dark secrets exposed to the world. This was invading someone's privacy. How could any of these people find this even remotely acceptable?

At least he had someone to vent to. "Are they serious?" he said to her. "What's complaining about that going to do to help anyone? It's like they just want to trash someone for the sake of trashing them."

The robed girl sighed in disappointment. "It would appear that is the case." She spoke with a borderline monotonous calm.

Nori grumbled in irritation. This was just ridiculous. "I knew it, I shouldn't have bothered at all." He wanted to think these people were doing this to help people by telling of others' misdeeds. But it seemed just the opposite to him, like they wanted to hurt people. He gave them a chance, and was regretting ever doing so. The other newcomer appeared just as lost in thought as he had been, staring at the ground with a sorrowful expression. "So why'd you come here, anyway?" he asked.

She snapped up and blinked, as if not expecting that question. "My motivations? I had chosen to accompany this group for this meeting, as I believed they might have an interest in helping others and doing good." Well, looks like he wasn't the only person who thought that. The girl again lowered her head. "However, it appears that my impressions about them were off."

No kidding. Nori felt a bit better knowing that he wasn't the only one suckered into this.

"And what of you?" the girl asked.

"Well, I thought I could make a difference by joining these guys, but, well." He let out a growl. "What those stupid morons are doing isn't going to make any difference at all!"

The girl lightly giggled at his sudden outburst.

"What's so funny?"

She seemed to catch herself, as if realizing what she just did. "Oh, just..." Her words came slightly more naturally initially, before retaking her earlier tone. "I found the term you used to describe them amusing. I apologize."

"All right." The boy let out a silent sigh of relief. If she was laughing at what he said and not him, that was fine. He was worried for a moment, because people usually do the latter in his experience.

Suddenly, they were again quiet. This was an awkward silence, as if the two were suddenly unsure what to say to the other. Nori realized, this girl was actually okay! She touched a finger to her lips. He thought about asking who she was, but to his surprise, she asked first.

"You seem like a genuine person. May I ask for your name?"

It was a quirky way of asking, but he replied all the same. "I'm Nori," he declared with a point to himself. "Nori Carino! How about you?"

"My name is Prema Kannagi." She punctuated her introduction with a small bow.

"Nice to meet you, Prema!"

At that moment, the door to the old warehouse swung open. Louis stood looking out at them. "Hey, what are you two still doing out here?" he asked, urging them in. "We have a lot of work to do, so–"

"NO! We don't want any part of this mud throwing!" He peered at the green-haired girl, plastering a grin on his face. "Come on, Prema, let's make like a banana and split!"

The girl tilted her head. "Separate?"

"I mean, let's leave this place!"

"Oh!" she realized. "I had not heard that expression before. Yes, let's."

"You two want to walk out now of all times?!" Nori tuned out Louis as he left this whole situation behind with Prema, not once looking back. "Fine. I guess this shows what kind of people you really are."


Today had not been going well.

That meeting had been a disappointment. Her involvement had began two days prior when shopping for groceries. When she was in public, hellos from people were common, and conversations not a rarity either. She would respectfully listen, and they would respectfully keep it brief.

But the person that day caught her attention. Named Louis Trussell. Self-aware of his improper boldness, he had a longer discussion with her. He told her that he ran a group that worked to do good. His heart seemed in the right place, at least. People like that are in short supply. He took her interest as an opportunity to extend an invitation to her. She thought about it. This person did not seem dangerous, so she accepted. Her thought was that they did, or would be willing to do charitable work. It would have been fantastic if things worked out they way she was praying them to.

Yet they did not. It was truly unfortunate.

Prema glanced at the person walking beside her. Her father once told her that you can tell a lot about a person from their appearance. She personally believed it improper to judge based on those criteria alone, but took in the information anyway. Nori had soft red eyes and dark brown hair that reached to his neck, which appeared brushed by his fingers. He had on somewhat tattered pants with a small hole in the left knee and, beneath his open green and black jacket, a plain white shirt which had been worn thin.

"Glad we got out of there when we did," the boy said, accompanied by an irritated sigh that told her he was frustrated with himself. "That ice cream shop owner was right about them."

While Prema didn't have the context on whoever that was, she could speculate that person tried to warn Nori of this group. Yet the boy decided to take a chance on them, just like she had. She spoke up, "Their stated goals of improving matters in society are admirable, although how they achieve it is..."


Prema paused in her tracks as he chimed in. "That is an impolite, yet not incorrect way of putting it," she replied. Her own first thought was actually ‘foolish,’ but she wanted to use a more proper and accurate word. "I would use the term misguided."

He stopped and shrugged. "I guess so."

A silence drew over them as they stood. Prema considered their situation. She at least had met one good person from attending that meeting. That meant it was not a loss to have done so. Perhaps this boy was headstrong, but not in a bad way.

Nori suddenly spoke up again. "Well, why should this stop us? We don't need them to do good, help others, or make a difference! We can do that all by ourselves, just us and any friends of ours who want to help!" He clapped his hands.

"Our friends?"

"Sure! All the people we know and like and aren't family! Like, I think of you as one already!"

He thinks of her as what? Her mouth opened slightly, but she had no words.

The boy hesitated. "I mean, if you want to be my friend..."

He was concerned at her pause. She was not dismissing it. It was just that up until now, she never had anyone consider her a friend. She was surrounded by people every day who treated her with esteem. She supposed it was only natural they do so. But this Nori person, whom she just met, no one had ever treated her like he was. It was as though he saw her as an equal, despite her position. Is that what real friends do?

It felt good, truth be told. A friend. It was relaxing, in a way she couldn't fully comprehend. So she nodded. "I suppose we can be each others' friends."

"Great! Maybe going there wasn't a waste after all." Nori grinned at her. His attitude had now done a complete reversal from when they were with that youth protest group. He glanced away for just a moment before asking, "Want to come hang out at my place for a bit?"

"I...suppose." Do friends go to each others' homes? This was so new and so sudden for her. Nearly overwhelming. She went to that club's meeting with a purpose in mind, but had not expected this outcome. It did not feel bad, yet in the back of her mind she worried how to explain this to her father.

He started walking again, motioning for her. "Okay, it's close by. Follow me."

She followed. Her father always said to her that things have a way of working themselves out. Could this be even better than what she had in mind? It remained to be seen how this would go. Though unsure where the feeling came from, she had an initial sense that this would be positive.


With a pep in his step, Nori led his new friend to the Veilstone City trailer park. He hadn't been expecting to make a friend at that meeting! He expected it'd take a while for those people to fully accept him. Not that he wanted or cared for their acceptance at this point. Someone like-minded like Prema seemed to be meant way more to him. The walk there was ten minutes, but he was feeling so jubilant over this that it felt like a fraction of the time.

Trailers were scattered about within the six quadrants, often in groups of two to four due to the electrical plug-ins. These were in the four corners, the back center, and central sections. There was more than enough space between to drive in and out if need be, with emergency exits on the back corners. The frontmost part near the entrance was often used as a commons area.

Nori's place was near the front of the center area, which meant less of a walk. "Yeah, I know," he preempted with a sigh as they reached it. "Sorry it's not like a big mansion or anything."

Prema just smiled. "It is a comfortable little trailer," she genuinely replied.

Nori was struck silent. "You're the first person who's said that and meant it. Most can't even imagine living like this."

"I live rather modestly myself. This is not unlike what I am used to."

That was a surprise to hear. "Well, let's head inside, where it's not as smelly." Even with that, he imagined being out in the stale air was a bit much. It bothered even him at times. Why did people refuse to look after themselves or their home?

Nori tried to turn the side door's handle, but found it wasn't turning."Locked? Ma must've gone out. And she doesn't give me a key." He grumbled. "Says I'm not mature enough."

The green-haired girl hummed with disappointment. "So we will be unable to visit your home." She looked to the horizon as if to consider something before continuing, "Mine is further away than is reasonable."

"I mean we can walk or take a bus there! But if you say so." She didn't seem to want to go there, so no need to press the issue. They could still hang out regardless. "Why don't we go to a park instead? There's one nearby that's real good, Gabbron Park."

"That sounds, hm?" She tilted her head.

"Sounds what?"

Prema gestured with a palm. "Look."

He looked, just in time to see a teal four-legged creature rush beneath the vehicle. "Hey!" he shouted. It must have been some sort of Pokemon. "What do you think you're doing, running under the trailer like that?!"

The two exchanged glances and squatted down at the same time. Sharp claws, sharp teeth. Spikes all over its body even on its big ears. A nub of a horn, also sharp. Harsh red eyes. Traits of numerous different animals. Nori didn't recognize it at all. "What is that thing?"

"It appears..." Prema leaned in closer, looking at it intently. She let out a soft gasp. Slowly, she withdrew while shaking her head. "It is terrified," she somberly stated.

Now that she mentioned it, yes. Nori could see that. It wasn't cowering, but it had a peculiar desperation in its eyes. The Pokemon's legs were shaking as it tried to get as close to the ground as possible. "Is it hiding from something? If so, what?" He could rule out a predator. Nothing big enough to hunt something its size - a miracle it even fit under there - would be in the city.

That was when he heard them. "Sirens?" It wasn't a rarity to see the cops at the trailer park, but he'd never seen so many at once. There were three police bikes, two cars, and a number of police Pokemon. A pair of Houndours, an Arcanine, and even a Noctowl in the sky.

A tall man with frizzy red hair, beard, and mustache - evidently the chief - emerged from one of the vehicles. "Get a perimeter around the trailer!" he barked. His men were already on it, surrounding his home with lightning precision, weapons drawn and Pokemon primed to attack.

Nori did his best not to panic. What was going on? Did his mom do something? Did he do something? Both he and Prema remained still. This was happening too fast for him to process, and Prema was calm yet stunned. The chief shifted his gaze, spotting them.

He boldly rushed over. "You two, back! It's unsafe!" he warned, gesticulating wildly. "We've got that Demon cornered under there, and it could take erratic action." The chief contemplated. "Sending one of our Pokemon in could be dangerous...we'll need to move the trailer to get at it. Get to safety for now!" The chief grabbed them both by the wrists right after finishing speaking.

"No way!" he reacted, yanking his arm away and stepping back towards the trailer. It was enough to make him release Prema.

"What are you doing, kid?" he marched over, but Nori put a hand out. His mother said something about something like this!

"National law number," he boomed, before awkwardly trailing off. "...that I don't remember." Stupid! He was hoping to look awesome there and blew it. No matter, he knew what it meant and that was the important thing. He went right back to shouting with passion. "You can't disrupt our property like this without one of those warring things! My ma's not even home and she has the keys!"

The chief sighed in exasperation. "A warrant." Right, that's what it was. "Listen. You're technically right, but you're wasting valuable police time here." He spoke with a no-nonsense firmness. Nori glowered. He wasn't going to let himself be intimidated. "This Demon has repeatedly engaged in acts of violence against trainers and Pokemon. It's eluded capture and shown no signs of slowing down. It won't change, it won't reform. We have to deal with it now while we have this chance."

Eliminating it? Calling it a demon? Saying it won't change? He might've not cared much for Pokemon, but all that was ridiculous to Nori. With a brief glance to a confused but watchful Prema, the boy took a bold step towards the police officer. "Well, I bet that it can be reformed!" he declared.

"You...bet, you say?"

Everyone went silent. Nori sort of blurted that claim out. But someone had responded to it, and he knew who.

The cops' heads turned as a woman in her 30s began walking towards them. Nori heard her all the time on radio commercials for the Game Corner, and seen her on TV and in books. Her layered silver hair with purple highlights was unmistakable. She presently wore a sparkly smoky gray jacket with violet trim, and shiny slick black trousers that screamed how expensive they were. He wasn't into Pokemon or gambling, so he never imagined he would ever meet her.

The city's resident Gym leader tilted her head at the chief. "This seems to be quite the high stakes situation you have on your hands. Let me take this one up alone." The red-haired man nervously saluted and stepped back. Gasha Qian turned and smiled, an unnerving whimsical glint in her light-green eyes.

Nori felt an overwhelming anxiousness rising within. What did he just bring on himself?
Chapter 3: Trust
  1. suikaibuki
Chapter 3: Trust

An eerie silence had descended upon the Veilstone City trailer park. This mood felt out-of-place to Nori. The cops coming to the park wasn't uncommon. Even a big platoon showed up once or twice before, but that didn't feel anywhere near as unnerving as this. Was it because of this being about a Pokemon? Maybe because he instigated it? Or was it because of the Gym Leader's presence?

Gasha Qian casually sauntered over to peek under the trailer. She straightened up with a smirk. "So the true identity of the Demon is a Nidorina. Those are as common as a straight flush up here. And I see it's quite the exceptional one, at that!"

Wait, the Demon? Nori thought that was just the chief being rude, but they were talking about THE Demon. Just what was he getting himself into? He glanced over to Prema again, having to take pause. Her calm was gone, replaced by an expression of worry.

Gasha playfully peered at him. She retrieved a coin from her jacket and started rolling it between her fingers. "Now. You wish to place a wager on the fate of this Pokemon, do you?"

"I didn't mean it like, uh, literally."

"You said bet," she reminded, flipping the coin and snatching it out of the air with her other hand. "That means to risk or take a chance."

"She's right," the chief said.

Prema nodded. "Yes, and you based it on possibility."

"Hey," he stammered at his friend. "Don't take her side."

"I am with you on this, Nori. I was just attempting to inspirit you. I apologize if you took offense." She bowed. The boy sighed with a bit of relief.

Gasha pocketed the coin. "In any event. You seem to be the only one willing to roll the dice on this Pokemon." She chuckled and tilted her head back. "That is of course, if you're not having second thoughts."

Was he? Nori stole another glance at the Demon. There was that same look in its eyes. He was sure what it meant, and Prema seemed to sense it herself, somehow. Whatever it was accused of doing or had done, that was fear it was feeling. The Pokemon didn't want to die. Was it right to leave it to do so? He could do something about this. Could he live with himself having done nothing?

He felt the answer was no. That was his decision. The boy took a step towards Gasha, leering up at her toughly. "I meant what I said."

The Gym Leader blinked, but regained her demeanor instantly. "Quite the bold play. Is this from confidence, or ignorance? Or maybe it's all just an act and bluff." Nori winced. It wasn't entirely an act! "In any case, it's on you to do this."

Exactly what he saw coming. "Sure. I mean, I am almost a trainer, after all. Just need to make it official."

"I suppose then, what you'd be wagering would be obvious. If you can prove this Pokemon may be tamed, it will go into your care. I'll see to it that everything works out and you get your due payout! If you cannot, however...well." She chuckled again, this time more ominously. She let those words hang in the air.

"Well, what?" He hated when people were vague.

It was his friend who spoke up to clarify. "The blacklist..."

"The blacklist?"

Gasha confirmed. "Indeed, a list of individuals not allowed to legally own Pokemon. Training or supporting a violent Pokemon certainly qualifies you to be on it. It's only natural for people to take responsibility for their Pokemon. And of course, said Pokemon is to be dealt with accordingly." The Gym Leader put her hands in her coat's pockets. "So, care to test your luck? Would you bet it all on this? Of course, if you wish to fold right now, that'd be perfectly understandable too."

Nori was struck aware. This was a huge chance he was taking. Gasha was giving him one final chance to back out. This wasn't something to go by heart on, he had to seriously consider this. If he succeeded, he'd be giving this Pokemon another shot at life. That would mean something, even if it's just to one Pokemon. If he lost, it would be gone. And so would his chances at training. But that might mean his mom wouldn't bug him about it anymore. He'd win either way!

His mind settled, he took a confident step forward. "I would."

Nori heard many gasps amongst the cops and bystanders. Prema smiled and nodded her approval. For Gasha's part, she smiled as well, but it wasn't a wholly positive one. "Well, well!" the woman said. "I certainly like your style, at least."

She took her left hand out of her pocket and held out her palm. In it was a sphere, a blue top half with red segments and a white bottom half. "Make your capture, then."

Capture? Right. He was going to be this Pokemon's trainer, so it only made sense. First though, he'd have to get it to come out.

"Uh, you heard that just now, right?" he asked.

No response. A stupid question. Maybe he should ask a better one.

"Are you okay with this?"

Again, no response. Prema came and stood beside him. He looked underneath his home. The Nidorina was still laying there. He showed it what Gasha had given him.

"I need you to get in this Poke Ball, please."

That got a response, but not a good one. The Demon narrowed its eyes. But it had to listen.

"Come on. It's for your sake too. Just come out here and let me capture you."

It let out a low growl. Was that supposed to be intimidating? Enough of this.

"I am your trainer now and I say get in the ball!"

Laughter broke out. Many of the police officers, a number of onlookers, and even Gasha were all laughing at him. Prema frowned at them. At least someone was on his side.

"Stop that!" he yelled. He did look like an idiot there, but they weren't helping. "I'm trying my best!"

"Nidorina." His friend abruptly spoke up. "If you do not go through with this, there will be no chance for you. I know it may be difficult for you to accept a trainer, after your life of seeking battle in the wild. But accepting it for now is the only way you can continue with that life."

"She's right," Nori added, hoping it would listen. "So please, Nidorina! I promise I'll help you fight whatever you want while you're with me! I know it's not ideal, but it's the only way!"

Once again, no response. But its expression had changed a bit. He hoped that was meaningful. This was probably their last chance. Did their pleas work or did they fall flat?

The Demon began to advance, slowly. Nori cautiously observed, hoping this wasn't a feint. As it neared, he and Prema backed up a few steps to give it some room. This was it. As a foot became visible, the officers readied their weapons and nodded to their Pokemon who stood prepared just in case. But there was no need. The Nidorina half-emerged from beneath the trailer. It remained there, glaring menacingly at Nori.

The boy shuddered. He wasn't afraid. But he was nervous. "Just..."

Nori's wrist was shaking so hard, he thought it might pop right out of the socket. Do all trainers go through this when making a capture, he wondered? The boy had to steady it with his other hand to throw the ball accurately. Underhanded. It softly landed on the creature's head, causing its form to turn white and be sucked within.

The Great Ball wobbled. He knew from school this meant a Pokemon was resisting capture. Nori shut his eyes. Was this really going to work? Was the Demon having second thoughts? Of course it would be. He was just some no name nobody with only an elementary level Pokemon education. Why would it let itself be captured by him? It probably wouldn't. Why listen to someone who doesn't know what they're doing?

There was a sudden ping.

Nori opened his eyes. The ball had stopped.

He could scarcely believe it. He waited for around ten seconds longer to see if it would start shaking again. It did not. He picked up the capsule and stared at it in disbelief. His first Pokemon. He never imagined he would ever own one, let alone like this. He could already anticipate having to deal with those who'd call him out for going back on his stance of not wanting to have them.

Well, those would just have to be dealt with when the time came. But for now, focusing on those who supported him. A person he couldn't have done this without. He turned to her. "Thank you, Prema."

The green-haired girl lightly bowed. "I have done what I could. I can only wish you two the best from here."

Gasha clapped, although Nori couldn't tell if this was a genuine gesture. "Well now! You were dealt a poor hand, but with a little help, you made it through." She flipped her hair. "The real game starts here, however. A week from now, you will battle me at my Gym. If you can show that you have tamed the Demon sufficiently, you win. If you cannot, or it escapes during your training, you lose."

Nori nodded as he stood beside Prema. "Got it. By this time next week, you'll see a brand new Demon!"

Gasha chuckled. "Then may Lady Luck be with you! You'll certainly need a little love from her. See you soon!"

With these words, the Gym Leader spun around and left the trailer park. The chief, slightly shaken, signaled to his men. Not long after, the authorities left too. Eventually, only Nori and Prema remained, along with some still-stunned residents. No surprise there with what just happened. Nori ignored them and turned to his friend.

Helping a Pokemon become better behaved. That's what he said he was going to do. He'd have to learn everything he could about Pokemon training in the coming week, starting immediately. No, that was getting ahead of himself. First things first. "Guess I am going to have to use that card Ma got me after all. I left it on the table."

As he moved to get inside, Prema spoke up to remind him. "The door is locked."

Nori nearly pulled to open it, forgetting that fact with all that just happened. "Oh, that's right." He shook his head at himself. "But I want to do this now if I can, before she gets back."

"Why's that?"

"She really wants me to be a trainer, but probably not because I decided to help an infamous Pokemon. She'll find out eventually, but if I get registered before that, it'd make things easier." He could already see her stopping him, and didn't look forward to that argument.

"Does no one else have a key?"

"No." But a realization dawned on him. "Wait, the sunroof!" They usually opened it to let in a bit of air, and only locked it at night! He'd always thought about it, but never needed to get in that way.

"Hang on." He just had to get atop the trailer. Nori walked to the front of the vehicle, stepping onto it. He enjoyed climbing and sitting on things like crates and those outdoor power boxes to get a different view of the world, but he'd never done so here before. He reached out to grasp the roof. With a jump, he got half his body up, carefully scaling the windshield from there to get the rest of the way.

Standing, the boy briefly glanced down at Prema, who was watching patiently, hands folded. He gave her a wave before sticking his fingernails under the hatch. He was able to lift it with some effort. He climbed down and in, quickly spotting the provisional trainer card where he had left it. He stuffed it into his pocket, pulled down the sunroof, unlocked and opened the door, and clicked the lock shut before closing it again.

"Got it!" He took out the ID and showed it off to Prema. A funny realization hit him at that moment. "Guess we could've gone inside after all? Too late for that now with what just happened, I guess."

Prema softly laughed. "I suppose so."

Nori glanced at the people who were still looking. Gawking, at this point. "Let's get out of here." This was starting to get uncomfortable, and Prema seemed to agree. The two swiftly left the trailer park.

While the boy didn't have a watch, he was sure it had to be getting late in the afternoon. "Well, should get down to the trainer registration office." He knew where it was. He'd been almost all over Veilstone at some point or another, after all. Exploring the city was one of his pastimes since he was a kid.

"I will not hold you down, then." Prema said. Nori swore he heard a sorrowed sigh escape her lips as well.

"You really wouldn't," he assured her. Holding him down? Where did she get that idea? "You'd just be sitting there waiting with me. In fact, it'd probably make the wait less boring."

She paused. "I had not considered that avenue of thinking. However, my father is also likely wondering where I am."

Nori slowly nodded. He felt the sudden urge to ask a question. "We will get to see each other again, right?"

She smiled weakly. "Of course," she said with sincerity. "I do now know where you live. So I will attempt to stop by when I am able to."

"Thanks!" For a moment Nori was worried, but it seemed she really wanted to be friends after all. Too bad she seemed a bit older, otherwise they'd be able to see each other at school too. Maybe next year in junior high, at least. He gave her a huge arm wave. "All right. Later, Prema!"

She modestly returned it. "And the same to you, Nori."

This was not at all how he had expected today to go. He thought he was going to join a protest group, but he'd ended up making a friend and taking on a Pokemon. Nori couldn't wait to get registered as a trainer. He never imagined he would feel excited about that. Maybe it'd only be for a while, but he intended to see this through.


Ayume Carino and her son were eating in silent contemplation. She stirred the noodles in her bowl. Ramen had been a staple of her diet since she was a young adult. She was glad Nori liked it too, as it was one of the few things they could afford. A single package could feed both of them, and they cost under 100p apiece.

It had been three days since she had come home from visiting a man. One of the neighbors accosted her as she entered the trailer park and told her everything. Nori was not home. When he got back, it was with a proper trainer card. She might have been happy for him going through with getting registered, but could not be under these circumstances.


She could hardly remember what happened when her son walked through the door that evening. She yelled at him. He yelled back. Their conversation was now a distant blur, save for the tail end of it which she remembered well.

"What is the matter with you?" Nori defiantly refused to make eye contact. "I want you to go down to the Gym and give up that Pokemon, right now!"

He turned with a stomp. "No!"

"This is not an argument, Nori Carino."

"I'm not going to let this Nidorina die, ma! I'm going to raise it and train it and–!"

"No, you're not."

"Yes I am! It's my first Pokemon–"

"I'll arrange you another one." She wasn't sure how, just saying this to placate him. She opened the door and pointed. "Leave. I don't want to see you back here until you surrender that Pokemon."

Nori left.


Daylight faded away, and her son had still not returned. She went to the neighbors to make sure he wasn't hiding out there. He had sleepovers with them from time to time. But he was nowhere in the trailer park at all. She borrowed a phone to call a few of his friends' places to see if he was with one of them, but he wasn't.

Conundrum. She would rather not deal with the police. But she had to find him, even if it was on her own. Luckily it did not take her long to do so. He was at the nearby Gabbron Park, lying down on the grass beneath a tree.

"What are you doing out here?" She stood over him with her hands on her hips.

Her son sat up against the tree. "You said not to come back until I released that Pokemon." He shook his head. "Well, I'm not going to release it until I've finished with it!"


"No!" He cut her off. "I don't want to hear it, ma! I'm doing this and that's final! The Gym Leader said it's okay, so why won't you?"

Ayume could not believe what she was hearing. Nori had never acted out like this before. When she asked him to do something and he didn't want to, he'd often be evasive. If she needed him to, some harsh prodding from her end was all it took to get him to relent. This time, he was standing his ground. She recalled that YAMS group he mentioned. Had they done something to warp his mind?

She did not answer, unsure how to approach this. Nori just laid back down. "So if I can't come back home," he said after she had been quiet for several seconds, "I guess I'll just stay and sleep out here. There's some other people here too, so I'm not worried." He gestured in the direction of a duo of homeless men.

Her son had no subtlety when it came to making up a fake excuse. This was not one of those times. He really intended to stay outside in the middle of the city with who knows what kind of shady people lurking around. No matter how good Nori thought he knew the city, he didn't know everything there was to know about it.

She grabbed him by the arm, yanking him up. "Come on."

He pulled away. "You're not taking me to get rid of it, ma!"

"No," she clarified with an empty look. "I'm taking you back home."

The boy was stunned for a moment. Yet as she started walking back, he followed.

She said no further words to him about the Demon. When he tried to bring it up, she dismissed talking about it, and just told him to go to sleep. He appeared dead set on this, and dealing with it was too much of a headache.


By now her resignation had turned to acceptance. To her son's credit, he had been taking this very seriously. Every afternoon he would head down to the library to read books about Pokemon, and wouldn't come back until the evening. Nori was studious, sure, but she had never seen him apply himself this much before.

Evidently, something had happened at that group meeting when he went out that day. Why else would he suddenly change his tune on Pokemon? He only subtly mentioned a new friend when she asked him about it. On one hand, if it was enough to make him accept something integral to society, that was a good thing. Yet he was in over his head with this, and that he didn't seem to get. She had to make it clear to him.

"So have you been battling?"

"A bit."


He closed his eyes. "I've won every fight."

"I mean, how is Nidorina's behavior coming along?" Nori could study as much as he wanted or win all the fights he could, but this was about how that Pokemon was acting.

He briefly glanced up. "She still needs work. I've had to recall her after battles several times."

Just as she thought. She had done some research into this Demon herself. The notorious Pokemon was considered so dangerous that not even professionals wanted to touch it. There were treatment facilities for Pokemon with mental issues, and at least one went on record saying it would not admit the Demon. It was scheduled to be put down if it were ever apprehended. A Pokemon like this would be a handful for even an experienced trainer, and Nori had no experience at all.

Her son suddenly stood, placing his empty bowl in the sink. It hadn't even been three minutes since they started eating. He usually ate slowly to savor the little food they had, so this came as a surprise. "Thanks for lunch, ma," he said. "But I should get going now."

Of course, that would explain it. "Are you going back to the library?"

He paused. He rubbed the nape of his neck. "Actually, I think I'm going to train today. None of the books about Nidorina behavior seem to apply here. And I need to try out some of the battle stuff I've read about. That's also the only way I see making progress with her."

So he had realized it. Her son wasn't just acting on naive ideals. He really did understand the responsibility he took on. That was one big thing off her mind.


He was nearly out the door, but hearing his name brought him back.

"Try and stay out of trouble, all right?"

He smiled. "I will! Don't worry, ma!" And with this, he did leave.

Ayume was still worried. Maybe that was a mother's job. While she was generally hands-off in her parenting, there were times like now when she stepped in. The last thing she wanted was for Nori to end up like her. Barely surviving because of poor decisions earlier in life.

A small comfort was that her son understood the expectations upon him. Yet there was one other thing he didn't understand. He at times was acting like it wouldn't be that big a deal if he didn't succeed at helping this Pokemon. But Ayume knew otherwise. There was far more at stake for Nori than his ability to train Pokemon.


As Nori stepped out of the trailer, a smile crept to his face. It was a bright, sunny day. There was only a gentle breeze, and no signs of clouds on the horizon. The weather the past two days had been miserable, so this was a welcome change. Perfect for being outside, like he expected to be most of today.

A heavenly scent accosted Nori, a stark contrast from the usually stale air. Flaky crust, with baked raspberries and Razz Berries! He knew what that had to be, and a quick turn of his head confirmed his suspicions. The door of a particular person's trailer was open, with the occupant standing just outside it.

"Hey, Mrs. Ito!" he chirruped as he trotted over. "Baking a pie?"

When she saw him, her expression faded. The elderly woman went back inside and shut the door, leaving Nori scratching his head.

"What was that all about?" Maybe he spoke to her at a bad time. Or the pie was a personal thing. Yeah, that had to be it. Either or both of them.

With a shrug, he continued on. There was time for diversions, he wasn't not going to say 'hello' if he saw someone he knew. Speaking of, there was one of them right now. Sitting atop his family trailer like a couple days ago. Didn't he say they had a cool new satellite dish as well, and implied he could come see?

Nori waved to draw attention to himself. "Hi, Waylon!" he greeted. "When I get done today, can I–"

"Don't ya go talkin' ta me," the other boy cut in. "Ain't want nothin' ta do with ya no more."

Nori was dumbfounded. "Really?" There was no further reply, so all he could do was walk away.

This was starting to get uncomfortable. Two cold reactions just now. Neither had ever been anything but nice to him before. So why were they suddenly acting this way? Was it something he said? Or if not, what was it?

As he was almost out of the trailer park, he caught sight of a pair of men lounging on chairs. They both were holding a drink and smelled kind of funny like adults with drinks sometimes did. He tried not to look at them. He wasn't familiar with these two chunky men, but as they spoke up, it became clear they were with him.

"Hey, look." The man on the left pointed as if trying to shame him. Even strangers? "It's that Carino kid."

"Where's he going?"

"Probably to let that monster loose on some poor saps."

"Actually, seen him down at the library a bunch."

"He really think reading a book's gonna help him with this crap?"

There was a beat in their conversation. The men's gazes locked onto him as he passed by, despite his avoiding so much as glancing in their direction. When he was several steps away, they started talking again.

"Heard from my kid he always said in school he hated Pokemon."

"That so? The hell's he doing this for then?"

"Got me beat there."

Another pause, before the right man concluded, "Kids starting out are better suited to things like Piplup or Chimchar, or maybe a Starly."

So that's what this was all about. His first Pokemon. It wasn't a common Pokemon or something government-approved for new trainers, but an established Demon. He had been so focused he hadn't been paying much attention to people's opinions of him. Did they really feel so strongly about this? That only made sense. This Nidorina had assaulted numerous other Pokemon before without provocation. On paper, few would have a good opinion of that. So they probably didn't have a good opinion of him for helping it, either.

Well, there was nothing to worry about. He had people supporting him. In his heart he felt he had a good Pokemon here, just a troubled one. All he had to do was help guide her, and show that to everyone. If he did that, everything would turn out fine. Right?
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Chapter 4: Impossible
  1. suikaibuki
Chapter 4: Impossible

The northwest portion of Veilstone City was something of an industrial district. The city's power plant, numerous warehouses owned by citizens and corporations, and the docks were located there. It was one of Sinnoh's major ports for shipping goods outside the region, also frequently dealing with Snowpoint City and Batalson Island. The few factories about were on the far side, away from the north end of town where the city's upper class lived.

This was one of Nori's favorite places to explore as a kid. It was also where many wild Pokemon could be found within city limits, which is why he chose to train there. Prior to today, battling had been sporadic. Mostly, it was people wanting to test their mettle against (or settle a score with) the Demon. He issued the challenge once, and they fought a couple wild Pokemon before.

Nori had been out for about two hours, having fought six wild Pokemon and a construction worker's Machop so far. He'd been trying out some basic strategy during it. The Demon was listening, at least. If only a bit. She had just stopped for a snack, pouncing on a rat before it was even aware of her and engulfing it in her mouth. She was continuing to gnaw on the rodent as they walked to nowhere in particular.

"So uh, is it good?" he asked, trying to make some small talk.

She stopped chewing, glaring up at him.

"Relax, relax!" He put his hands up. "It's all yours. Don't want any of it, believe me!" Especially after chewing it!

The Nidorina rolled her eyes and continued to eat the rat, almost absorbed in the meal. Nori sighed. While she was listening to him in battle sometimes, that was just one part of her caustic personality. He still had a long way to go with her, and so little time to do it in.

As they continued on through an alley to a more open area, Nori instantly saw something. "Wait," he said, holding a hand out in front of the Pokemon. "Something's there."

You couldn't go anywhere in Sinnoh without being familiarized with Starly, but seeing a Staravia was not uncommon either. Characterized by their monochrome color scheme and the twirly tuft of head plumage. It had been pecking away at a discarded bag of generic potato chips, but looked up as soon as they rounded the corner. It raised its wings, squawking out a challenge.

"Well? You up for it?"

The Demon swallowed her snack and stepped forward. The two Pokemon sized each other up. She'd made small progress. Before she'd immediately attack on seeing a foe. Now she was waiting for the word, being attacked, or just getting impatient before doing so.

Nori huffed. Fighting something with an aerial advantage might be tricky. "You handle this one," he told the Nidorina, who nodded. He trusted her to do so. She certainly knew strategy from fighting alone for over a year. That's how all their battles before went, with the Demon winning on her own. Some of their opponents gave him flak, but so what? He didn't see a problem with a Pokemon fighting on its own. He only chimed in if he saw an opening she didn't, or to stop her from going overboard. Unfortunately, he ended up doing the latter far more than the former.

The Staravia struck first. With a flap of its wings, it sent a fierce blast of air at them. Nori was taken-off guard, especially as it continued this. He heard bird Pokemon could do this, but this was stronger than he thought it'd be. At least it was coming in gusts instead of being a constant wind.

Nidorina, however, dug her claws into the pavement and easily withstood the gales. As soon as the bird stopped, she lunged. The distance was cleared in less than a second, her body-check sending the Staravia tumbling away.

It managed to stand before she could follow up, responding by charging at her even faster than she had moved. "Quick Attack?" Nori wondered as the teal Pokemon lightly winced at the body blow. The bird flew around the boy, circled back, and came swooping down at the Demon. It spread its wings as it did so, aiming to strike with them.

But the Demon chomped, catching the Staravia's left wing in her mouth and slamming it into the ground. As she was pulling back a claw, the monochrome bird used its free wing to brush some dust along the ground into its foe's face. The Demon opened her jaws for a split second, barely enough for the bird to escape.

While the teal beast was gnashing and pawing the dirt from her eyes, many more of the bird appeared. They encircled the Nidorina.

"What the h-wait!" His shook off his alarm on realizing they just came from nowhere. "It's that one move!" He read about it, whatever's it called! Looks like this thing had some smarts, blinding its foe and using the chance to try to disorient her further. "Where's the real one?"

The Demon briefly glanced at him, snorted, and pounced on one. It promptly vanished...and the rest charged at her!

"Look ou-wha? Whoa!"

She was not done. With a brief glance behind her, she swiftly caught the real one with a mule kick. The Demon turned and struck again with a slash. The Staravia was hurt! But before she could finish it, the bird took to the skies. Nidorina only barely caught its tail feathers when she jumped trying to swat it down.

Exactly what Nori was worried about. The Staravia hovered, flapping harder for a second. This time, a visible blade of air formed. The Demon easily evaded when it came down, leaving it to fizzle out on the pavement. But how were they going to make headway with it hiding up there?

After two more of these, Nidorina abruptly dashed away. She avoided another blade aimed to intercept and jumped onto a trash can. She was on it for only a moment, the metal cylinder toppling over as she went from there to atop a stone fence. She continued running, another blade of air going wide, as she left the ground again. This time, she grabbed hold of a drain pipe.

Was this really happening? Nori could only watch as the Demon flipped up onto the roof. The Staravia was too stunned to move. In fact it nearly fell from utter shock, and really did once its adversary made one final huge leap. The two Pokemon came crashing to the ground. That had to have settled it.

The fall did not phase the Demon one iota as she continued to claw and bite at the splayed-out Staravia.

"Stop!" Nori ordered. When the Pokemon did not stop, he took out her ball and recalled her. She barely noticed, still in the middle of an attack when dissolving into light.

The boy pocketed the ball and rushed to check on his opponent. Its wing was bent at an odd angle, and it had a few good scrapes. This looked bad. But what could he do here? He had nothing to heal it with. If he had a Poke Ball, he might consider catching it and taking it to a Pokemon Center just to make sure it was all right. But no, he couldn't afford to buy even one of those.

Maybe this was risky, but it was all he could do. He picked it up and placed it back on its feet. It put up no resistance, thankfully. "Sorry she got carried away," he apologized. This had to look a little ridiculous, but he was sure no one was around to see it. "Just be okay, please?"

The Staravia eyed him strangely as it managed to steady itself. It tried to spread its wings, but cringed. The bird settled for hobbling off, doing so under its own power. A small relief. Nori could only cross his fingers and hope things worked out for it.

Guilty as he felt, he knew the Demon held more culpability. She'd gone too far this time. Nori was sure if he didn't intervene, she would've killed the thing. He reached into his pocket. The boy glared at the capsule for several long moments before opening it up.

"What's your problem?!" he demanded as her form materialized.

She bolted.

"Hey, get back here!" Nori hadn't forgotten that if she got away, he'd be punished. That'd be a stupid way for this to end, and he wasn't about to let it happen. He rushed after her without a second thought. He was always good in PE class. Not a top of the class athlete, but he could hold his own in a footrace at least.

The Demon looked back, irritated. Nori tried to recall her, but she picked up the pace, evading the beam. He was fast, but she was faster. He was steadily losing ground, almost as if she was just tauntingly stringing her captor along. Of course she'd do that. But as the teal Pokemon darted into an alley, an idea came to Nori. That only led out one way. Unless the Demon was planning on double backing or jumping in the water, that meant he could cut her off.

Nori pocketed the ball and switched direction, heading towards a fence. He scrambled up and jumped from the top of it. He almost twisted his ankle as he landed, but knew he couldn't afford to slow down. He had one chance at this.

So he just kept going. As the boy neared the other end of the alley, he took the Demon's ball back out. No sign of the teal beast yet. But he was ready to intercept.

He barreled around the bend and entered the narrow path between the buildings, just in time to meet the Demon. Her eyes stretched wide, stumbling as she tried to jump back. Nori didn't give the fierce Pokemon a chance to do anything more than this. He fired the beam out and brought her back.

Nori left the alley, exhaling. He suddenly felt very tired, and not from the impromptu sprint. There was a mound of dirt nearby which the boy promptly laid down in. He sighed, tilting his head back. This was not going well.


Hotel Stefilia stood tall at seven storeys on the east side of the central segment of Veilstone City. One of three major lodgings for visitors to the city, and one of two locally run along with the Staraptor's Eye Inn. The Stefilia was the smaller of the two, but had built a better reputation over the years for superior service and affordability.

It was here where Prema Kannagi was staying with her father. They had rented a suite on the top floor. Lavish, but not luxury. It had two bedrooms each with their own bathroom, plus the living space.

The story was the same as usual. She was here accompanying her father on one of his business trips. This had been happening for a decade at least; she remembered one such trip when she was four years old. Her father always brought her along, even when she was left uncertain of their purposes besides being related to what they do. Said parent was presently out in a meeting. She was only sporadically allowed to attend them, though up until about a year ago, she could only sit on the outside. When not with her father - be it in meetings, out shopping, or when they ate - she would remain in their hotel room, content to think and relax on her lonesome.

Yet today was different. It was not going well. She found herself laying on her bed, restlessly turning atop it. Queen-sized, the mattress was covered by plaid bedsheets woven from satin. She slept on a futon at home, but had traveled like this enough to be used to normal beds. Prema wasn't sure why she was unable to relax. Nothing felt off, and this trip was routine.

No, perhaps there was one thing different about it. A few days ago was the first time she was allowed to head out unaccompanied. Business of her own, as it were, in attempt to do her father proud. She doubted it was merely that, however. So could it be boredom? There were times where effectively doing nothing did not suffice.

The girl got up and moved to the window, pulling aside the cobalt-tinted drapes. The view from high above was always enjoyable, and a good distraction at worst. She had gotten to point where she could pick out individual places she had seen at ground level. A Pokemon Center close below, obvious from the orange roof. The city's craters in the southwest, marked by the mining tower within one. The GKH Burger she and her father visited two days prior; its red and blue color scheme and rainbow insignia was just visible. The old warehouse she was at...that day. That faded deep red color made it obvious. A caged-off brown patch of land marking a trailer park...where Nori lived.

Prema hadn't been intending to look that way, but her eyes were drawn to both locations. She couldn't help but feel guilty. She had impulsively promised Nori she'd visit, but hadn't done so. She hadn't even made the attempt. Thinking back, it was strange how they had met. Was there a reason for their meeting? If there was a purpose, she needed to see him again.

Yet it wasn't just a potential need. She also felt a want to visit, uncertain of why. Was this part of friendship? In any case, the opportunity hadn't arisen yet, for obvious reasons. When not accompanying her father, she was confined to the hotel room. As usual.

Prema blinked. What was she thinking just now? This was something she shouldn't mind. It was how things had to be.

She collapsed onto the bed. That was no help. She needed to find something to occupy her mind with. She looked about the cream-colored room. There was a potted plant in the far corner. Two small dressers on either side of the bed, a lamp on each. A clock radio on one of the dressers. That would suffice. Familiar even, as she often had to rely upon radio for entertainment. She rolled over to turn it on.

"–ended in a draw. The Coordinators Association has decided that they will face off one more time in a single round, sudden death match. The tiebreaker is set to take place on August 31st after the conclusion of that day's contest."

It was already set to the news. She did not mind. Her father always said to be aware of the events happening around her. It also gave a view of what was going around outside their bubble, so she enjoyed it.

"Before that, Gasha Qian will have her hands full on August 28th, when she will face the infamous Demon of Veilstone City and its trainer." Prema snapped up as she heard this. "12-year-old Nori Carino of Veilstone City captured this Nidorina on the Gym Leader's blessing, after a confrontation with police. Carino has made the lofty claim that he can fix the attitude of this Pokemon, despite having no history as a trainer. We were unable to reach either party for comment on this, but citizens have been voicing their displeasure on what many are calling a farce."

The green-haired girl could scarcely believe what she was hearing. This report was biased. It was not even attempting to hide its negative slant towards Nori. And it only got worse from there.

"This just shouldn't be happening. Gasha shouldn't have humored that kid's delusions."

"That Pokemon is with him? Whoever thought that was a good idea must not care for the safety of others. Especially him."

"This is outrageous! Are we really supposed to trust some greenhorn from nowhere to keep that monstrosity in check?! It will kill him and then start looking for revenge on us for letting it be caught!"

Comments from the public. Negative ones. Prema quickly shut the radio off, not wanting to hear any more. Worry enveloped her. Was this the report filtering, or the public's general opinion? She prayed it was just the former. Ubiquitous, harsh negativity could affect even the strongest of minds. Curiously, her presence at the scene went unmentioned. If people knew, would they have a better opinion?

That must have been why she was feeling awful about being unable to see Nori. This must have been why they met. He surely had to deal with that firsthand, with few if any to stand beside him. But she knew the whole situation. And she was Prema Kannagi. If she could just get that out there, or at least let him know he was not alone...

The sound of the lock turning brought Prema out of her reverie. She stood, brushed down her robe, and started walking as the front door opened. She stepped into the living area, a spacious place that had in particular a television, a large couch tinted a jungle green, several potted plants, a stove and sink, and a large window with drapes. A man in a deep violet business suit entered. Short and lightly built with receding black hair, with the same eyes as hers. She initially thought that it might have been hotel staff coming to inspect the room, but it was instead someone she knew: Haruto Kannagi.

"Welcome back, father." She folded her hands and lightly bowed at him. "Did your meeting go well?"

"Yes," he confirmed, as he placed his suit's top piece on one of the coat hangers. "Everything is officially in order as of now."

"Already? That was quicker than you anticipated it would be."

"Indeed, we must count it as a blessing from above that this process was so simple. It happened that our wants and the city's needs aligned perfectly."

Prema quietly nodded. Wants and needs aligning. That would make things easy to act on. Come to think of it, that rationale applied to her own dilemma as well.

Her father continued, "It was because of this we were able to come to a swift accord." He smiled a bit. "Everything's been signed. It'll be about half a year to a year for the renovations on the place to be done, but it'll be worth it."

Prema had lived in Celestic Town since the day she was born. The possibility that she may one day live somewhere else never once occurred to her until this venture. They would certainly still have a permanent home there, and it would always be home to her. Yet now they would have to devote attention here, meaning being present on a regular basis. There were things to like about Veilstone, at least. And people.

Her father glanced out the living room window. As their suite was in a corner of the building, this gave a different view of the city, including being able to see the building in question which they now owned. The former radio station atop a hill in the northeast section. "Well, we are not expected back home until the end of the week," he said. "I suppose until that time comes, we are free to enjoy Veilstone as we see fit."

Prema could not help but lightly smile. "A rare opportunity." This was it. This was her chance to set things right.

"Well put," agreed her father.

She had already gone out once before, her father would surely have no trouble with her doing so again. "I have already have something I wish to do in mind, in fact."

"I am aware."


"Come now. Did you expect I would not hear of what happened?"

Prema looked up. She had kept talk of what happened to a minimum, being uncertain how her father would react to Nori as a person. Yet, "I suppose given its notoriety, I should have." Her father may have been busy, but he surely found time to hear of it in some capacity. She bowed again, this time more deeply. "I apologize for not being forthcoming about the events of that day with you, father. I had intended to do so now, but it is apparent that is unnecessary."

She started off towards her room. Gathering what she needed before leaving would be needed. "I will be heading out to do what I wish shortly."

"Absolutely not," he snapped. Prema gracelessly leaped up, startled. "You will remain here."

Her father spoke in a terrifying tone. She shuddered as bad memories came flooding back. He had only used this tone twice before. The first time when she broke a family heirloom, an antique vase, when she was five. He was screaming at her for her carelessness so much that she thought a devil had come and possessed him. The other was when she was eleven and nearly burned their house down. She had been trying to cook ramen and accidentally left the packaging on the stove. It caught fire, and he was barely able to contain the blaze before it got out of control. She messed up both those times and deserved to be yelled at. Had she again?

"Prema," her father sternly spoke. "We have a reputation to uphold. Associating with people and Pokemon like that will only serve to damage it. I in fact had to make sure you were not mentioned in any of the news reports about this incident. You understand, do you not?"

She did. So it was her father who concealed her presence there, and it was small wonder why he did so. Things could go very wrong, very easily here. She felt bad, and yet, she was there. He likely didn't know her full role in these events. She had to tell him. "I apologize, father. I am to blame for this incident. I only happened to be present at the time. I was able to get a good read upon that Pokemon, and I did not sense any malice within. My assessment is what Nori–" She paused, her familiarity slipping out. "That boy, is basing his own upon."

If only she had not done so, Nori would not be in this situation. "I felt at the time that my intervention was right to do. But now..." She trailed off. On the other hand, if she hadn't, that Pokemon would have been condemned. What was she to do? What should she have done?

Her father remained silent for several long moments. His expression gave no hints to his thoughts. She was certain that a harsher scolding was coming. She braced herself mentally for that. Yet when he eventually spoke, he was collected. "Are you certain of its demeanor?"

"I am, father." She realized at that moment, this might be her only chance. "This is why I do not believe association with that boy will be negative."


She just felt it. She had to go see Nori again. This had to have been her duty here. To make him know that he wasn't alone in this. To give him the support he needed to get through. And then, maybe...

"Regardless," her father spoke up once more. Calmly, but stoically. "The public has a negative predisposition towards that Pokemon. There are some people out there who will not be convinced of it no matter what may happen. We can ill afford any sort of negative stigma at this juncture."

Prema felt a sudden tightness in her chest.

"My stance is unchanged. If you are correct, things will work out. But you have played your part in this. Do not interact with that person any further."


After gathering his bearings, Nori went to the nearby Asweil Park. He rarely came here, so it was a novelty born of convenience. Like many of the public parks in Veilstone, it had a playground with a swing set, as well as plenty of open space where kids and Pokemon could run around in. A few small trees were dotted about. Unlike his local park, this one had a small field with two goalposts for playing soccer or other sports.

He had to talk to the Demon, and a public place was the best place to do that. There was less chance of escape, and more people to help if it did. As he entered the park, the people in it started whispering to each other. A few adults even started tailing him. The boy didn't mind. He also came here to let people see what he was doing, so their presence was welcome. A group of loitering high schoolers were hanging about the otherwise empty sports field, so he figured there was where he'd do what needed to be done.

He brought out the Demon, who instantly let out a growl of frustration before leering at him. Nori put his hands on his hips, like his mother did when she was about to scold him.

"Don't look so surprised," he borderline taunted. "I knew what you were going to do. You just let me catch you because you knew there was no getting away from there, and were looking for the first opportunity to escape, weren't you?" The teal Pokemon grinned, which made Nori's next words come out even harsher than he thought they would. "Well it's not going to work with me!" He took a step closer. "I'm not letting everything I did and risked go to waste over nothing! Like it or not, you're with me for now!"

The Demon remained still as a statue. Nori fearlessly squatted down and looked her in the eyes with reassurance. "But I'm with you, too. I don't want to see things end for you like they would've, and I know they will eventually if you keep going as you are. I'll do everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen, but you have to do your part too! So come on!" He jumped to his feet and gestured to her. "Let's go find ourselves something else to fight. And next time, take it easy!"

She still did not move, save for a frown. Eventually, she sighed. She looked down and away, posture slumped. The creature's body language spelled out her shame. Mild, but it was not lost on the chestnut-haired boy. Nor the onlookers, some of whose jaws dropped. Nori turned to them with a grin.

"See? I got this!" he boasted, pretending he expected it all along. Truth be told, he was just speaking whatever came to mind. It shocked him just as much that he got through to her.

Nori's gaze shifted to the Nidorina, who gave him a begrudging nod. Eying the people watching again. Maybe they could give them a personal demonstration? That would be a good plan.

"This is above the limen! Put an end to the Demon!"

Or at least, in theory. He recognized their voices immediately. People he wanted nothing to do with. If only he could ignore this. Just walking away really wasn't an option here, unfortunately. They were marching in fast.

"Come back for now," he told the Nidorina as he brought her back to her capsule. He'd rather she not be out for this confrontation. As the protest group came and stood before him, he pocketed the ball and asked a question, "What's a limen?"

That got them to stop chanting. After a second, the rest turned to Nariya all at once. She tensed up as everyone's eyes - even the onlookers - fell upon her. Her words, "Threshold of perception..." were barely audible.

Mariko nodded with fervor. "Yeah, so in other words, it means this is something that can't go unnoticed!"

"Okay." That answered that. Nori didn't have a dictionary to look that one up, like he assumed she did. Who'd even understand a big fancy word like that off-hand, anyway? Next question, "What do you guys want?"

Their leader stepped forward. "We are Youths Against Mistaken Society," he introduced to everyone around. "And you should know what we're here for, Nori Carino. We're here to protest your harboring of the Demon Nidorina."

"Well," Nori said with a shrug, "I haven't done anything wrong or illegal, so–"

"Yes, you have," interrupted Touya.

Yumi followed in, "You're turning a blind eye to things!"

"You don't live under a rock, just in a dump!" Nori scowled at Mariko for that remark, but she continued her rant unabated. "You know what that monster's done! Are you just conveniently ignoring it?"

Nori took a deep breath to compose himself. He wanted to fire right back, but decided to try being the better person for once. "It's not like Nidorina ever killed anything," he spoke. This was a fact that he looked into. She came close a few times, and worried him earlier. But there had been no confirmed fatalities as a result of her actions. "She just needs to learn to tone it down."

"It's crippled, maimed, and tortured many innocent Pokemon! It will eventually! It's done so much wrong, there's no coming back!"

"I'm trying to teach her that she can't go that far in a battle! What part of that don't you get?"

"What it needs is to be punished for all it's ever done! What part don't you get?!" Mariko paused for a moment before making a clasping motion. "Maybe you need to be punished for this, too!"

Was she suggesting he go to jail for this? First of all, the Gym leader just said he'd get the blacklist. Second of all, he didn't intend on letting the Demon do anything for him to get put there. Mariko Urusai had a reputation as a hothead, and she was getting way out of control as she tended to at times.

He turned away and looked at the blue-haired teen instead. "Louis," he asked. "Calm her down." He'd done it before when they were arguing at the warehouse.

This time, Louis closed his eyes and crossed his arms. "I agree with her."


"An accessory." He let these two words hang in the air for a few seconds, before opening his eyes and continuing. "That is the term for someone who assists a criminal. They are just as criminal themselves under the law. As far as we are concerned, this as no different, despite the fact that the criminal is a Pokemon."

The siblings nodded in agreement. Louis lowered his gaze. "You need to open your eyes to the facts, Nori Carino."

"And stop being a dumbass!" Mariko added.

Okay, now he was just mad. Who were they to show up, tell him what to do and what not to do, while throwing unrelated insults at him? This is exactly why he decided he didn't want anything to do with them. Well, he had to get rid of them. There was one thing he thought could work to do so, the way that often did.

"You know?" Nori said, tilting his head. He wore a blank defeated expression as a feint. Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved the Demon's capsule. "You know what, I've heard enough."

He cast it onto the ground with force. The Demon emerged with a mighty roar. The protest group all scampered back. The high schoolers watched tensely. A couple of them and some of the adults reached for their own Pokemon, but didn't send them out.

Nori did a two-finger point at the members of YAMS. "I'm challenging any and all of you to battles, right now!" Maybe this wasn't how he'd normally do it, but same difference with benefits. "I'll show you! Who's first?! Step right up!"

He didn't realize it, but his expression was just was fierce as the Demon's at that moment. But she did, a delighted snort escaping her nostrils. She stood before Nori on her hind legs, beckoning them to come. Nori smirked. They were on the same page, and they were about to teach these jerks a lesson.

The teenagers exchanged worried glances. To Nori's lack of surprise, Mariko spoke up first. "No way am I letting my Buizel fight your crazy monster!"

"I don't want my Bonsly getting hurt!" said Touya.

Okay, fine. He challenged them and they backed down. Typical. Would anyone else bite? He eyed Yumi, who instantly shook her head. He turned to Nariya, who waved her hands and turned away, repeatedly mouthing "I'm sorry," to him. That left one person.

"What about you?" If Louis did take him up, he could demonstrate their progress. If he didn't, he could call them cowards and leave.

The leader of the protest group harrumphed, tucking some stray strands of hair back. "To battle you would entail me raising Pokemon."

"You mean you don't?"

"Wasn't that your mentality?" he queried, crossing his arms. "You said doing so was pointless, throwing part your life away. In fact, you once used the phrase ‘Pokemon are a waste of time.’ That generalization earned you quite a bit of ostracism, did it not?"

"This...that's not what I meant by that!" He made it clear after he said it, too!

"And after all that, now here you are throwing your entire life away over a monster."

Nori stepped back. "I..." He thought he could handle people saying he went back on it, but couldn't think of a counterargument here.

"You're a naive hypocrite."

That was enough. Nori stormed up, getting right in Louis' face. "And you're a jerk! This is completely different!"

The blue-haired teen did not even flinch. "How's it different?" he asked. "From what I hear, it's not uncommon for your average traveling trainer to have to deal with a disobedient Pokemon at some poi–"

"Just shut up! What are you trying to do by doing this?"

"Gods, are you slow?" Mariko chimed in. "We're here to let everyone know what a horrible person you really are, Nori Carino!"

"And make you realize what you're doing is wrong!" added Touya.

Yumi, more composed than the others, nodded. "It's not too late, Nori. Please," she urged with concern. "You can still back out of this. Just let the Demon get justice for all it's done."

The five nodded. Nori looked to the adults, who did so as well. He took several steps back and peered towards the high school teens. Half shrugged, half nodded.

Louis began to pace, as he made his speech. "The Demon Nidorina is a dangerous Pokemon. Trainer law states that any Pokemon - trained or wild - that is a threat to society has to be put down. Only your foolish faith and the Gym Leader's intervention has spared it for now. I don't understand why she is allowing you to humiliate yourself and destroy your own reputation, but it's what you're doing. We're telling you this for your sake, before you ruin your life." He came to a stop a few steps before Nori. "Do you understand now?"

Understand. Almost everyone here was in agreement. That must explain others' reactions as well. They did not necessarily hate him, they were just mad that he was doing this. Louis' words resonated. To understand. He thought about it. Maybe he really should consider this.

"You know what?" Nori said, taking a preliminary step forward. He stared at Louis for several long moments. Then waved his hand and turned away. "Fine, forget it. Just forget it! There's no getting through to you." He should've known better. Arguing's a waste of time, especially with people like this. He turned to Nidorina. "Come on, let's go fight something worth our time!"

Nori stormed away. He stopped when he noticed that the Nidorina was not following him.

"Hey, I said come on!"

She splayed out in the grass instead. This caused the high schoolers, the protest group, and even a couple of the adults to erupt into laughter.

"Stop laughing!" The wrong thing to say, most only laughed harder. Nori forcibly recalled the Demon and screamed at them, "Screw all of you!"

He flipped off everyone and left, hyperventilating.


They just didn't understand.

Nori knew what he saw that day. Prema knew as well, and she seemed attuned to Pokemon or something. That was genuine fear in this Nidorina's eyes. Not from cowardice in her potential final moments, more like frustrated despair. Should he have told them about it? Or would have just been a waste? A couple of kids trying to convince people that an infamous Pokemon was good. Yeah, that sounded ridiculous. It was why he was training her, to show them. And oh yes, he would show them all.

That's what this was about, training. Nidorina was listening to him, at least when it came to not brutalizing things. Sometimes, anyway. It was a start. He'd already settled on heading out into the wilderness. The wild Pokemon out there tended to be tougher, after all.

As Nori was heading down Fūrin Avenue, he caught sight of a familiar face. A pink-haired girl sitting on a bench outside a Kon's Konbini store. "Hey, Maylene!" he called out.

The boy hustled over, always happy to see a friend. And he felt the need after what just happened. "It's been a few days," he greeted. He momentarily thought to tell her what he'd been doing, before considering it. "You've...probably heard what's happened with me. How's it been for you?"

Maylene's initial surprise turned to a frown. She turned slightly away, not making eye contact.

"What's up?" he asked. "Something happen?"

"Um, Nori–"

"Hey!" came a shout, as a man dressed in clothes more tattered than Nori's own came bursting out of the store, two bags tucked under either arm. He had Maylene's pink hair, though his was unkempt and receding. "What're you doin' Maylene? Ya not listen to what I said?"

"Sorry, daddy," she apologized as she stood up, taking one of the bags without being prompted. "Nori was just walking by. I was about to tell him."

"Tell me what?"

Maylene sighed heavily, her expression forlorn. She visibly forced herself to look at Nori. "Daddy says we can't hang out anymore. Sorry."

"That's right. No bad influence's gonna be 'round my daughter. Now let's get goin' back home, Maylene."

"Okay, daddy..."

Nori was paralyzed, as if hit by a Stun Spore cloud. As he regained his senses, his legs started to buckle. Reality struck, and he just wanted to collapse. He couldn't see his friend anymore. One of the few friends he still had. He expected pushback for what he was doing. But not like this.

Was this Demon more trouble than it was worth? Was he in fact, actually ruining his life by helping it? Those thoughts would not get out of his mind.

He needed to get away. So he ran.
Chapter 5: Sancutary
  1. suikaibuki
Chapter 5: Sanctuary​

Nori swiftly walked through Route 214, just wanting to get things over with. This had been a nightmare come true.

"You're doing a good thing here. You're doing a good thing..."

He recited this to himself. This situation made no sense. He was helping a Pokemon in need. He expected to get at least some praise for it. To be called good, to be told he's doing great things. But no. It was all indifference to hatred. It was like they saw him as much a monster as they thought the Demon.

"Don't give up on this, Nori. Quitters can't win!"

Part of him wanted to quit. But he knew he needed to keep going, no matter how painful it was. He'd always been one to stand against adversity. Though that didn't mean it couldn't still hurt, and what happened had cut deep indeed. He'd lost a friend over this. Maybe forever, and definitely forever if he failed. Which was a real possibility.

"No, no, don't think about that."

He had to win. Giving up would be like failure, and make him a laughingstock. More importantly, he promised the Demon. He said he'd help her. Going back on that now would be like stabbing himself in the heart. Not to mention going against his morals.

"So don't let it bug you! There's nothing to do but do it!"

He reached his destination, the rocky cliffs on the west side of the route. He once had a field trip here in first grade. In better times when he still had friends his own age in school, they'd sometimes come exploring out this way. Now though, he felt on his way to having no friends at all.

Nori stopped. He opened his mouth, but could not find any further words of self-encouragement. All he could do was sigh.

He brought out the Demon, who immediately huffed in irritation. No doubt over being abruptly recalled again. Nori paid her attitude no heed.

"The wild Pokemon should be tougher here," he briefed in a subdued tone. "We're going to fight them until they can't continue. But not cripple or kill them. Okay?"

The Demon flashed a toothy grin, giving no indication as to whether or not his words resonated. This was frustrating to Nori. He knew Pokemon to be sentient enough to understand human language, but how were you supposed to understand them? Well, the important thing was fighting, so time to get to that.

The boy heard a snarl behind him. He turned to see a small black canine with an orange muzzle and bones on its body. A Houndour, known for being a common choice of police Pokemon in Sinnoh. Perfect. It took a low pose, as if ready to pounce.

Nori took a few steps aside. The Nidorina didn't even have to be told to, "Go get it!" She started charging in right as soon as the boy had moved, his words just being a formality. The canine appeared to panic momentarily, spewing a shower of Embers. Yet she easily avoided this. The Demon proceeded to run right through a second point-blank blast without even flinching to deck it in the face with a glowing purple claw.

The Houndour let out a yip of pain, and more when its opponent span around and starting kicking it in the head. Nori for a moment thought he should say something, but decided to leave this one be. She eventually whirled around for one final slash to the face.

Suddenly, the Houndour snapped forth. It managed to grab Nidorina's paw between its teeth. The chestnut-haired boy leaned in with concern. The dog growled, but its defiant expression faded. The Demon was staring back, unimpressed. Nori smiled in relief. She yanked her front leg back to reel the Houndour in, and proceeded to clamp her own jaws on its face. The wild Pokemon whined horribly in desperation, releasing its own bite. Still latched on, the Demon twisted. The Houndour started to go slack.

"Okay, you did it! Let go, now." When she did not listen, he started to walk closer. "Nidorina, that's enough!"

She released it. Yet as the wild Pokemon started to weakly rise, she jumped back a few steps. Her intent became clear. Nori broke into a sprint.

"ENOUGH!" he shouted. He directly interposed between the two Pokemon right as the Demon was going for a body blow. He was struck with enough force to be knocked over, fortunately getting his arms out in time to break his fall. The Houndour saw its chance and scurried away as if it had been doused by water.

Nori scrambled back up. He glared at the Demon, who stared back blankly. "What is wrong with you?!"

She smiled and puffed. Nori was appalled at how insane this Pokemon was. That Houndour was clearly beaten, and certainly didn't do anything to deserve being piled on further as far as he was aware.

"You can't keep doing this!" he urged. "Your future is on the line, here! Not to mention mine! So next time, just listen. Follow every move I tell you to. Okay?"

If she rolled her eyes any more, they'd have rolled off like a Voltorb.

They marched on, looking for another opponent. They found one within two minutes. A Geodude, a common enough sight in any mountainous area for even Nori to recognize.

The Nidorina looked up at him with an arrogant smirk, as if to say she was awaiting orders in the most disrespectful way. Well, what should they do here? He thought back to the type chart. It was part of basic third-grade education in Pokemon class. "Rock..." Geodude was Rock type. "Water, Grass..." Its two most common weaknesses. Nothing Nidorina could use as far as he knew, though. So what else was there? "Fighting...yes, that's it!" Nidorina had a Fighting move! He knew its name, too! "Use Double Kick!"

She languidly sauntered in, seemingly in no rush to obey. She only accelerated once the Geodude noticed her. As with the last fight, their opponent attempted to intercept her with a ranged move, in this instance reeling back to throw something at her. This time she struck before it could get the attack off.

"Okay, it's working!" he said as she started laying into it. Now what? Well, no reason not to continue. It was the best option right now anyway. "Just keep at it with Double Kick!"

Indeed, Nidorina did not let up, continuously kicking her opponent. Attempts to swing or grab at her were met with the arm being kicked. She was knocking it back a bit with each blow, following right along. Soon the rocky creature just curled up. A soft light started forming near its center.

Nori gasped. Anyone could recognize that pulsating glow. That was a Self-Destruct attack!

"Look out, it's about to blow up!"

The Demon took an abrupt active approach to this threat. She yanked one of the Geodude's arms out, grabbed it, effortlessly swung it around, and threw it into the wooded area up the cliff. Seconds later, shards of dirt and granite went flying everywhere. The Demon stood on her hind legs to survey her handiwork, and Nori had to do a double-take as she actually seemed to laugh.

"What? And, why?"

The Pokemon faced him and smirked, indeed, like a demon might. She briefly glanced over at the blast radius with irreverence. Did she just shrug?

He had to admit. "I mean it worked, but..." Nori trailed off. That was still a really pointlessly aggressive approach.

Before he could decide what to do next, he heard something that sounded like a faint whine. Nori turned to the source. A small gray quadrupedal creature with jagged skin and a tiny horn was peeking down from the cliff. There was a scorch mark across the right side of its body. The cause was obvious.

The Demon beckoned it to come down. It instead let out a distressed cry. Suddenly, Nori felt a pit rise within him.

A much larger bipedal creature came stomping out from the trees. Sharp claws, a massive tail, and a horn like a drill. Nori had only ever seen a Rhydon in books before, but here was one in the flesh. The thing's parent? "Now we're talking tough Pokemon," the boy mused. This was a real opponent! This was going to test them, exactly what they needed.

Nori braced himself as it leaped from the cliff, shaking the earth on landing. Both trainer and Pokemon kept their balance. He squared up, but had to hesitate. There was death in their foe's eyes. He needed to ask, "Are you sure you're up for this?"

As if that were an insult, the teal beast charged straight for the enemy. She raised a claw ready to slice, only for the opposing Pokemon to spin as she got near, batting her away with its tail.

The Demon flew several meters back through the air. It did not phase her one iota as she used the momentum to flip over in midair and land on her feet, jumping right back in. The Rhydon was not expecting this, being caught by the subsequent Double Kick attack. It staggered back a few steps, but Nori knew better. "Don't be so reckless!" he tried to warn, to deaf ears.

He concerns held true as the gray Pokemon suddenly lunged forward. Nidorina was quick enough to dodge with a quick hop to the side, but her foe had surprising dexterity of its own, pivoting and landing a punch on her.

"Get out of there for now!" Nori shouted, but the Nidorina - rolling to avoid a follow-up Stomp, was refusing to back away. Their foe stamped a foot again. Nori again had to brace himself as the earth around shook for a second; that had to be some sort of ground move it was using.

Yet somehow, the Demon was avoiding it! After the first of these, she would jump every time the Rhydon went to slam a foot down. The boy was in shock, but not as much as their foe. Yet she was still only defending. Good as this was, it wasn't helping them defeat this thing. And it was leaving her open.

Sure enough, the Rhydon eventually decided to recklessly body-check her instead. She was caught unaware.

Nori cringed. The Nidorina went tumbling across the ground, bouncing a couple times before coming to a stop in front of him. Though it looked like the Rhydon got hurt from that too, she came out far worse for wear. Enough was enough.

"Nidorina, listen to me!" The Pokemon managed to stand, but other than staying put, didn't show any sign of listening. He continued anyway. "This thing is far bigger than you and really mad! It's not some city dwelling or soft tamed Pokemon! You're not going to beat it head-on!" She roared defiantly. The Rhydon screamed back and took a few steps back, lowering its head.

Nori wanted to recall Nidorina and run. If the thing would even let them go. No, he needed to fight. Legs shaking, he just stepped off to the side. "Don't back down now..." he told himself under his breath. "If you do, she'll lose all respect for you!" This was bad on paper. But at the same time he felt he...they could win. This was strength against strength right now. They were stronger, but their foe was so much bigger and heavier. A body blow from something 20 kilos against something that's like 200. One's going to hurt way more than the other. But one thing came to mind. One way you could deal with that size difference.

He thought back to fourth grade. That much bigger sixth grader shoving him around. He shoved back. It didn't do much but provoke him. The crowd that gathered after they exchanged words. Soon the fight was on. And he won that fight. So Nidorina could win this one.

"Nidorina! Go for the legs!" He'd kicked the other boy's legs and pummeled him from there. The teal beast's eyes shifted to him. "Trust me, it works against bigger foes! I know firsthand! I don't care how you do it, just get its legs!" Though that wasn't even a move name, would she understand? Would she listen? The Demon didn't acknowledge one way or another. A moment after, the Rhydon's horn started to spin and it charged towards her. "Be careful!" he warned.

She instead barreled directly towards it. "Whatareyou–!!" In an instant they'd closed the distance on each other. Nori shut his eyes.

He heard a huge thud after a second. That was it, that had to be it. He knew this Nidorina had done a lot to hurt other Pokemon with the random fights she'd picked. Some might think getting badly hurt herself was what she deserved, but he only felt sympathy. Not even she deserved this.

He opened his eyes, fearing the worst.

The Rhydon was down on its stomach, stunned in more ways than one. The Demon was behind it grasping one of its legs, looking over at her trainer in triumph. She grinned.

"D-don't just sit there," he squeaked out, trying to act as if his composure hadn't been broken. "Kick your legs at its legs!"

The Demon was all too happy to oblige, viciously Double Kicking the leg she had caught. The dinosaur-looking Pokemon roared in pain, attempting to kick back at its attacker. Eventually it succeeded, but only in pushing the Nidorina back for a moment. As it started to stand, Nori shouted, "Now get the other!" She listened. She couldn't quite keep it down, but nonetheless assaulted the other leg moments after their foe had made it back to its feet. It was working. The Drill Pokemon was finding it hard to keep its balance!

Nidorina stopped as a spat stone abruptly impacted her, sending her staggering back a step. Nori deflated all at once. The wild Pokemon launched a desperation strike and it landed. It barely hurt, but had the desired effect. They'd lost their momentum and now their opponent was back in it. Its hands started to glow yellow. He looked over at Nidorina. Now what were they going to do?! He had no idea!

But this time, the Demon took action. She loosed numerous quills from her body, firing them off as needles directly into the Rhydon's eyes! It clutched its face in pain, desperately trying to wipe the Poison Sting attack away. Nori exhaled in relief as the Demon used the chance to retreat back some paces.

Their opponent was stunned. Nori was struck with inspiration, and from how the teal creature lowered her head and started scraping her front paw along the ground, she seemed to have the same idea.

"You want to smash it down?"

The Nidorina nodded and smirked.

He did the same, pointing with fervor. "Well, so do I! Nidorina, SKULL BASH!"

On his word, his Pokemon bolted at their foe. The Rhydon recovered enough to see what was coming, but could only brace for its fate. The teal Pokemon made a huge leaping headfirst tackle directly at the thing's belly. Weight difference or not, this took the Drill Pokemon to the ground with sheer force. She was left stunned from the vicious headfirst tackle into solid stone. But the Rhydon groaned in agony, clutching at the site of impact with one of its stubby arms while still trying to rub at its eyes with the other.

That had to be it. Nori couldn't believe it. They'd won! He wanted to jump for joy, yet restrained himself. That got him thinking, though. Was this the rush that real Pokemon trainers got when they defeated a tough opponent? He had to admit, it felt great! He could sort of see now why they did this sort of thing. He walked over to his huffing Pokemon. They'd worked together to beat something they couldn't have alone. And she listened to him! That was a huge step!

Abruptly, the Demon jumped onto the Rhydon! She stomped across its body and started laying into it. Not again! Nori could only watch as she relentlessly slashed and sliced the rhino's face. It took only three seconds of this before the Rhydon was crying out in pain. The boy winced at the sound, which was like gurgled choking.

"Stop, stop! Nidorina, that's enough!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, restraining himself from physically removing her. "It's too hurt to continue, you've done enough! Unless it starts attacking again, stop attacking it!"

The Nidorina only vocalized momentarily as she continued to hack away. Finally, she raised her paw one last time, a purple fluid now oozing from the tips of her claws. She was actually going to kill it! Nori reached for her Poke Ball to recall her.

But before he even could aim it, the Demon stepped off! Nori almost dropped the capsule in his surprise. She still looked ready to pounce back on at a moment's notice, but she stopped! The beast looked the Rhydon square in the eye and barked sternly at it. She pointed with a paw. The Rhydon and Nori looked to see the quadrupedal Pokemon from before. It was quivering, tears were flowing from its closed eyes, its mouth open as it sobbed silently.

Nori suddenly felt a little guilty. No, a lot. This fight was an accident caused by this Rhydon's baby getting hurt by that thrown Geodude. It must have been trying to protect its young. Instead, the baby saw its parent get defeated, likely thinking it a second away from death.

"We're sorry for injuring your kid," he said to the Rhydon, lowering his head and placing his hands together. "We really, really, are! We were being too careless. I know you're mad at us, and we probably deserve it. But please, enough is enough! Someone could get badly hurt, or worse! At least, let's stop this for your kid's sake."

Silence. The Rhydon looked to him, and to his Nidorina. The Demon growled lowly and took a step back, not averting her gaze. The Rhydon looked over at its child. For a tense few seconds, it simply sat there. Nori clenched his fists. The gray Pokemon rose to its feet, legs trembling as it once again faced them. The boy huffed and clenched them harder. His Pokemon seemed to reluctantly get ready to fight again. Did it really have to be like this?

No, it didn't. Mercifully, it did not. The Pokemon limped away, weakly scaling the cliff to rejoin its child. He and Nidorina watched closely until they disappeared into the bushes further up the mountain.

The boy just wanted to collapse in relief on the spot. He thought for sure somebody was going to die there, be it that Rhydon, his Nidorina, or himself. Yet somehow, some way, it had worked out. All told, he did not want to go through anything like that ever again.

He noticed the Demon approaching. It hit him at that moment that she stopped short at the end. She didn't want to kill the Rhydon, just make sure it couldn't continue. Exactly like he asked at the beginning. The Pokemon came to a stop right in front of him, looking up at him with her usual harsh gaze.

Then, she gave the faintest of nods. Nori smiled and returned it. Things looked bad at many points in this, but they really had worked out in the end.

"Congratulations, you two."

He put his guard up on instinct as the Demon jumped out in front, growling at the girl approaching from the hill below. She was not bothered by this, simply continuing to walk towards them with a soft smile.

"Ah!! Prema!" He relaxed on sight of her. Not who he was expecting to see, but someone he was very happy to. He glanced at the Nidorina, who didn't seem to share the sentiment. The Pokemon was still glaring at the green-haired girl, though now it was more of an unamused look. Nori stammered. "Er, um, how long have you been watching?"

"A short time before your battle started." He supposed she meant the big one? Great. She bowed. "I apologize for not making my presence known earlier, Nori. I did not want to interrupt you."

To say nothing of how dangerous that would've been. The boy could hardly believe himself for going through with it. "Wish you hadn't had to see some of that," he said with a sigh.

She tilted her head and smiled with reassurance. "It is all right. Shall we return to Veilstone?"


Prema had been left stunned. Her father's words were clear: do not associate any further with Nori Carino. It wasn't as if he was just saying this. Haruto Kannagi had raised several good points. Though she refuted some of them, he dug in his heels. When her father was like this, there was no room for argument. It was evident she would simply have to let this go.

At least, that was what she thought. Before she knew what she was doing, she had grabbed at him, making a desperate plea. "Father, I beg you. Reconsider this."

He pulled away. "Out of the question."

"I have a reason why I feel I must do this!"

She shouted that with more emotion than intended, her hands flying to her mouth as the realization hit. This was not what she should be doing. Speaking out against her father was improper, particularly when she could not offer a rebuttal to his arguments. Yet the fact was she felt a different way. One's obligations. One's feelings. What does one do when they are in conflict? Prema was at a loss for an answer, but knew she had likely made a mistake.

The green-haired girl meekly eyed her father. He remained stone-faced. No emotion expressed over her outburst. No words given. She was uncertain what she should say next. How she should proceed from this act of defiance.

Her father eventually gestured, as if to say to continue.

Continue. Prema was left just as unsure. Never had she been given a chance like this before. Was this a sign her father was treating her as more mature? She took a deep breath. The girl folded her hands, speaking from her heart. "Part of our duty is to act for the benefit of all Pokemon. What difference is it then, to come to the aid of someone who is acting for the benefit of a Pokemon? By helping this person, I would be helping this Pokemon as well."

She closed her eyes, briefly thinking about what to say next. She settled on her honest feelings. "Moreover, when I was there with him, I was the only person who stood in his support. From what I have been hearing, I may be one of the only ones as well. I feel this situation will not work out unless I continue to lend my support. Our family has before aided many persons who have had no one else to turn to. I cannot stand idly by knowing that there is someone I know who may be in such a situation." Her last words she again spoke with more passion than intended, "So please, father!"

There it was. Silence again drew over them. It was unnerving to Prema. She had done public speaking before, yet never anything like this. Let alone to her own father. Did her points come across clear enough? Did she make good arguments? All she could do was pray that she did.

Her father soon sighed. "If that is how you feel."

It took a moment for the implications of his words to set in, whereupon Prema gasped. That was not a yes, yet it was not a no either. Her father didn't approve, and she saw no reason why he should. But he was relenting. She had convinced him.

This was new ground which she was unsure how to tread. Manners, at least, for starters. "Thank you, father." If not for the fact that she had a goal in mind, she might have found herself lost altogether.

As she started towards her room, her father obstructed her. He held out a hand and shook his head. Her heart sank for a moment. He went over to his orange travel bag, laid beside the couch. Prema did not attempt to see what he was doing, instead waiting until he returned.

As he did, he placed a white derby hat on her head and sunglasses with violet lenses over her eyes. He gave a simple command, "Keep a low profile. And away from trouble."

Prema touched the hat in disbelief. That and the glasses had to have looked more than a little unusual. But she didn't feel like testing her luck with debate further. If wearing these was what it took, so be it. "I shall."

She would need to change out of her robe, too. The violet outfit with gold trim would be a dead giveaway, even if she obfuscated her face. She entered her room to make preparations.


While the girl had considered a yukata, she settled for a casual outfit. She had a set of these for very informal settings, though though rarely ever wore them. A frilly designer shirt colored a light violet, with a matching knee-length skirt. Prema barely recognized herself in the mirror. Yet no one else did either, so she supposed it fit the intent.

On finding Nori, she held back the temptation to reveal herself as soon as possible. It was surely a stressful situation, and he was better off without another concern. To ensure Nori recognized her, she had placed the sunglasses in her purse. A simple black one made of imitation leather. One of the few mementos she had of her mother.

"So where've you been? How's things been going?" Nori asked with idle curiosity, as the three of them walked back.

Prema thought a moment on how to word this before answering. "I apologize for my absence and lack of communication. I have had no free time the past few days."

It was not untrue. She did not want to concern Nori with her story about how she was nearly forced to break contact with him. It was good she hadn't. To dissociate without a further word would've torn at her morals. Likely her heart, as well.

Nori was quiet for a few moments, before smiling. "Well, thanks for taking the time to see me. Effort too since you had to find me. Means a lot."

"You are welcome." She lightly bowed on instinct. It was actually fortune that she managed to find him. His mother just said he was out training. But on asking around, his immediate neighbor happened to have seen him running south out of the city ten minutes before. That made locating him relatively simple.

They continued to walk on. Prema could still hardly believe she was here. Though she was enjoying this, she was uncertain how she should be acting. While a trained speaker, making casual conversation had never been a strong suit of hers. It was simply something she had never done before. She should talk of something, but what?

"Hey..." To her relief, Nori started talking instead. "Do you think I'm doing the right thing here?"

She unhesitatingly nodded in the affirmative. "My beliefs state that every Pokemon deserves a chance. No matter what kind of Pokemon it may be or what it is like." She folded her hands and gave a warm smile. "The fact that you have decided to give this Nidorina one, regardless of risk, is commendable. So, yes. I believe that you made the right decision standing up for her."

Prema smiled to herself, satisfied with how that came out. She could do that much for others. Nori's reply was a sigh, deflated with just a bit of happiness in it. "Well, others have been saying otherwise. I've been getting insults, the news is mocking me. People who used to greet me turn away. Even one of my longtime friends, her father says he doesn't want her hanging out with me anymore. I was afraid that even you..." He looked away.

"That's...that is awful. It is truly disheartening to hear that, Nori."

Her fears confirmed. Nori was being ostracized by everyone around him. He was not even a teenager. He had his whole life ahead of him, yet if this persisted, there were few paths he would be able to take moving forward. People did not seem to care, however. Prema was at a loss of what to think. Only that she would have to thank her father for allowing her to be here.

Well. There was one thing she could do. She opened her mouth to speak, but began to feel guilt over her intent. While uncertain why she felt it, she said her piece anyway. "At least, there are those out there who would judge you justly for your actions."

"I appreciate the thought, but it doesn't mean much."


Nori stopped walking and looked to the heavens. "If there's a god or gods out there who appreciate the good I'm doing, all right." He shook his head. "But that doesn't help me or make any real difference here."

He understood she was talking about religion? No, no, of course he would, it'd be obvious. She was Prema of the Kannagi clan, after all. Even if their family had been losing prominence over the years like so many others, they remained known and respected as far as Hoenn because of their history. They used to be, and still were by default, one of the foremost shrines in the country.

If he had no interest in faith, that wasn't an option to help. And she felt forcing it upon someone was wrong. So now what? "I...actually meant people such as myself." The words suddenly came to mind, and instantly she could not believe she actually said them.

"Oh." Nori ruffled his hair. "Well, yeah. Knowing I have you and Ma standing by me does make me feel better. But still."

She felt bad. While that she would support and stand by him was not a lie, it was not entirely honest to what she first meant either.

"Sorry. For a moment I thought you were like one of those missionaries trying to convert me." He laughed it off and started walking again, but Prema completely froze up.

She actually could be considered one. That was why she had gone out that day. She hoped that youth group with an interest in doing good would have one in charity work for their shrine as well. She started moving her legs, and a thought occurred to her. Did Nori really not know who she was? Evidently. It would explain much. So then, what would Nori think if he found out? Or more accurately, when he did so. And why was this so worrying to her?

"Hey, um..." Nori spoke up again, this time with more hesitation in his voice. "I have a silly request."

"Yes?" She was afraid to hear what this could be.

Nori opened his mouth. Nothing came out for a few seconds. "In a few days, I'm..." He paused and turned to his Pokemon. "We're going to have to battle Gasha Qian. Do you think you could...well, come watch?" His cheeks went flush red, and he turned away. "I know, I know, it's really silly! It's just that...I'd feel better if there was at least one person there who I knew was cheering me on. If that's okay."

That's all? Prema sighed. She couldn't help but giggle slightly, too. Him being so flustered was kind of cute. "It is not silly at all," she told him, in a tone to make it clear she was not making fun of him. "I understand. I do not know if I will be able to fulfill that request, but I will try my best to attend."

From his not speaking up right away, Prema thought her promise did not register with him. He looked over his shoulder after a moment, slowly nodding as if in stunned belief. "Thanks."

She was going to try, but made sure to say it wasn't a guarantee. She'd have to ask her father again, and despite it working once, a second appeal would surely be stretching things. Aiding Nori in secret was one thing, but cheering him on in public was another altogether.

Nori soon spoke up again, troubled once more. "We've made huge progress, but I don't know if it's going to be enough. I've been studying, and Nidorina's really strong. But Gym Leaders are some of the toughest trainers out there. I'm not sure if we can really beat her."

"You needn't worry, Nori. Simply do your best, and you cannot go wrong."

"That's a really simple way of putting it," he groaned. However, he picked up with his next words. "But you're right. Nothing to do but do it. Just win, right?" He asked this to the Nidorina, who roared her approval.

A little assurance, or a tiny confidence booster could do wonders for a person. Prema smiled to herself. She had only heard tales of that Pokemon before this. Never did she imagine she would get an opportunity to meet her personally. Her impressions were that this Nidorina they called the Demon was not evil, just different. Her reading reinforced that, and now seeing the progress she and Nori had made confirmed it. She was a good Pokemon, and had come to respect him. At this point, there was nothing more necessary to be said or done.

Because in her heart, she knew that Nori had already succeeded.
Chapter 6: Fight
  1. suikaibuki
Chapter 6: Fight​

It was finally time.

Nori found himself standing in a dark hallway. The only illumination came from the lights over the bleachers in the arena. It was just enough to tell where he was going, but not enough to see properly. At least it would just be a straight walk out. The Demon Nidorina was beside him, displeased at the ridiculous spectacle this was turning out to be. Nori had a general idea. He knew from hearing about it what he may have been in for. Even regular trainers were subjected to the fantastical presentation of battles at the Veilstone City Gym. But this was more excessive than he ever could have imagined.

"Ladies and gentlemen," boomed a deep, overly-dramatic male voice over the PA system, "You are about to bear witness to a very special Gym battle. Today the stakes are not about a Badge. They aren't about pride. They aren't even about Pokemon beating each other up for the fun of it!" The crowd roared, and Nori figured from the sounds of it, a full house had gathered. "Today is about survival. Today is about proving a point. The challenger has promised to defeat the Gym Leader today in a one-on-one match, in a battle of Poison Pokemon. He has vowed to prove the Demon Nidorina can be reformed. There will be dire consequences for the two of them if he fails to show this."

The light blue Pokemon chuckled on hearing what they had been calling her. "You ready for this?" Nori asked. She gave a determined snort in response. It was do or die, and given what they'd been through before, she surely did not intend to die here.

"Coming in first, the young man here to challenge, and the one who made this preposterously bold claim. A resident of our fair city, Nori Carino!"

On that cue, the pair walked out into the now lit arena. A chorus of boos serenaded them in. Nori's march turned into a walk, which slowed to a crawl as the crowd unleashed their hatred on him. He had heard the Gym Leader had her fans who would attend every match and boo all her challengers on the basis of being her opponent. But this was beyond that. There were all sorts of people here. A class of young children, the news media, several official looking types, big-shot trainer looking types, the aforementioned fans of the Gym Leader, and various random spectators. Most of all were the members of Youths Against Mistaken Society. They were right there in the front row, leering at him with eyes of betrayal.

Nori was well aware of people's opinions of him. He knew there were far more negative than positive thoughts, and the former went as far as thinking him a horrible human being. With that in mind, he thought he was ready for the hostility. But he was not prepared for hostility of this magnitude. All he was able to do was gaze blankly at the people shouting and hissing at him.

"You suck, Carino!"

"Prepare to lose the fight and your freedom, kid!"

"I can't believe you would support a defect like that!"

So bothered was he that the abhorred Pokemon actually stood in front of him to see if he was all right. He wasn't. He thought he could push it all to the back of his mind. But with this much staring him in the face, he found it difficult to do so. Not with all the direct insults, disappointed chatter, and rude remarks being thrown around.

"He should've given up while he could."

"I never thought someone could be this stupid...."

"My mommy says you're a bad kid!"

"That Pokemon is a menace."

"He's a menace, too!"

Nori drooped. He'd heard of gang leaders and criminal masterminds getting a warmer reception than this. He thought it'd be mixed at best. But as he scoured the crowd he saw countless people glaring at him with unrelenting enmity.

That's when he saw her. Prema was there, just like she promised. Tucked away in the back corner, but still here. A serene picture of stillness in a raging ocean. Looking his way and giving him a warm smile. She was in a simple violet dress, which leaned on formal. He locked eyes with her, and for a moment, he felt like the room was still dark and a spotlight was shining down upon her. He'd only known Prema for a very short time, but she had given nothing less than her full support throughout this ordeal. Even as just about everyone else was against him or watching neutrally, she was unafraid to express that she was silently cheering him on.

He knew he had some support in the back of his mind, like from Maylene, even if she couldn't be here. But actually seeing someone show up here proved invigorating. He felt a surge of confidence rising within him. With a flash of a smile to Prema, he turned to the crowd..

He looked directly at Louis and the rest of the protest group as he mustered his mischievous side. "We're going to win this, whether you idiots like it or not!" He punctuated this shout with some boisterous gestures that only made the crowd madder. It looked for a moment as though Mariko wanted to leap out of her chair and throttle him, but Louis held her back.

The Demon Nidorina grinned twistedly at this. Nori looked back over at Prema, who appeared bemused by his defiant, perhaps rebellious response. He nodded to her and then to the Nidorina. Even if people were going to hate him for this, he came here to fight for something. And fight he would. Nori stomped to his place on the battlefield with a renewed determination.

"Well, it seems our challenger is fired up and ready to put on a spectacle!" the announcer called out. "And now introducing our fair Gym Leader, and the owner and proprietor of the Veilstone Game Corner! A master of Poison Pokemon. We call her the Toxic Gambling Lady. The one, the only...GAAAASHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA QIAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!"

Instantly, the arena went pitch black. The roaring of the crowd was unhindered by this, and only got louder when the other entryway became illuminated. Silhouetted against the intense light was a woman. Nori could only make out that she wore an elaborate outfit and a hat.

With a wave of her hands, there was a burst of fireworks. Gasha stepped out into a spotlight, revealing her gaudy outfit in all its glory. She was wearing a long vibrant coat that reached to her knees, mostly magenta with a bit of gray, and technicolor decorations that seemed to want to leap off the outfit. Trim lined the bottom of the outfit. Her hat's brim was huge, looking like something a wealthy socialite or femme fatale in the movies might have on. The front of it was lined with Poke Balls of all kinds. Strangest was what was wrapped around her neck. It might be considered a scarf, yet it was big and long enough to be considered a cloak as well.

The Gym Leader walked forward, her neckwear billowing behind her. She stopped partway and looked over at Nori and the Demon Nidorina. She reached into a coat pocket, retrieving a coin. With a smirk, she flipped it into the air. The crowd went silent. It sailed up, and up. If Nori hadn't been so intently focused, he might've thought he'd gone deaf. The coin sailed up, and up. As it was coming down, she snatched it out of the air with one hand and slammed it down on the back of her other.

The Gym Leader lifted her hand to peer at it. She chuckled. "Well, well. The coin came up tails. Looks like you'll lose."

At this, all the lights came back on. The crowd came back alive, a bit of laughter also interspersed. Nori just sighed. If it was heads, she'd probably say she was going to win. Gasha removed her neckwear and stuffed it in her coat along with the coin. She continued her approach, playing to her fans along the way. The boy for his part looked over at Prema. The girl just shrugged, unsure of what to make of this.

He heard a barking like sound from next to him. He turned to see the Nidorina pointing. Nori blinked, but on seeing the Pokemon was pointing at the Gym Leader, got the message and nodded.

"That's right. Stay focused, Nori. Don't let this get to you..." he whispered to himself.

The boy took a quick moment to survey the field. The floor was pavement. It was mostly open especially in the middle, trees near the corners, and sort of a moat of filthy water surrounding the whole thing. It could easily be a street outside, if not for the large brown and gray rocks scattered about. They were most prominent on the sides, with a few around the center area. He read that the terrain could affect battle, and didn't feel there should be much trouble from this.

Gasha took her position. The announcer once again spoke up. "Each trainer will use one Pokemon apiece. The challenger, Nori Carino, will be using the Demon Nidorina. We are presently awaiting the Gym Leader's choice of Pokemon!"

Nori and the Demon stood silently. Gasha was a statue for many long seconds. She put a finger on her chin. She looked up, humming. She tilted her hat, before reaching for a black and gold ball. She studied it carefully, before reaching for another one. A Great Ball, just like theirs. She held one in each hand considering both.

"Well?" Nori crossed his arms. "Hurry up!"

The leader chuckled. She opened her coat enough to place the Great Ball in a pocket inside. "Don't go on-tilt, now. You can't rush to a decision straight away. That's a ready made formula for walking away with a loss."

Nori grumbled as she retrieved and studied two more of her Poke Balls. He was aware enough to know this was a mind game, but that didn't make it less annoying. He had done as much research into Gasha Qian as he could before this fight. She was an immigrant from a region far to the west, in mainland China. She specialized in Poison types. Her signature Pokemon was a Skuntank called D'Alembert, but she was known to use all kinds native to Sinnoh. Rarely, she'd use a foreign or different typed Pokemon. Even the battlefield got changed occasionally. Challengers would never know what to expect from her on any given day.

"Mmmm. I choose...this one."

She threw her hat like a disc. There was only a sky blue ball remaining on it, which expanded and cracked open. Out came a sinister-looking blue Pokemon with countless tendrils and two ruby-like spheres on its face. Tentacruel! Okay! He could work with that. One of the three things he was expecting actually, alongside Golbat and Skuntank.

The jellyfish posed, smoothly batting the hat back to Gasha as it did so. She caught it, and after a moment's consideration, said, "It's an occasion, so." With this declaration she threw it like a disc into the crowd. People gasped in surprise, then tripped over each other trying to be the one to get it.

But back to their fight. The Demon was warily sizing up their opponent, much to Nori's surprise. She had no lack of confidence, but some of her bravado had faded. There was just a tiny bit of uncertainty. "Have you fought anything like this before?"

She nodded, but grunted. What did it mean? Well, Nori knew one thing.

""I'm guessing she chose it because it's unlikely you've fought aquatic Pokemon often." This Demon had evidently tangled with a lot of land and air based Pokemon, but it was unlikely that she fought many water-dwelling ones. This so-called sea ruby was a common sight on the water's surface, but it rarely came onto land of its own volition. "May not be where it normally lives, but she wouldn't use it here if it wasn't trained for this."

"Somebody's left nothing to chance," the Gym Leader said. Well, of course. He was inexperienced with Pokemon battling, but not stupid. It was just common sense to assume someone good at fights would do something for a reason. "But how will you do when my Paroli and your Demon start exchanging hits?"

"That's what we're gonna find out, whenever you're ready!"

To this, Gasha just chuckled. "I'm not sure if we are. What do you think, Paroli?" The Tentacruel followed with its trainer's lackadaisical attitude, leaning back and holding itself up with only half of its tentacles.

This was getting annoying. "Ready or not, here we come! Nidorina, Take Down!"

Gasha snapped her fingers as the fight was officially on. "Wrap and throw, Paroli."

The Tentacruel lashed out with its tentacles, ensnaring the teal Pokemon. It squeezed her for a moment and hurled her back the way she came. Nidorina however landed clean on her feet and went right back in.

"Doubling down isn't the right move. Again, but with a slam."

She got closer this time. But again she was caught. Paroli whipped the Demon into the ground a couple times before giving her another toss. This time, she went into a roll across the paved floor.

"Come on!" Nori yelled, as his Pokemon smoothly rolled to her feet. This was cheap! He couldn't think of anything to defend against it, but knew assessing for now was the right call. His Pokemon was more frustrated, and seemed ready to pounce again. "Wait!"

She did not wait and went right back in, albeit more slowly and carefully. Gasha scoffed at it.

"Quite the nut, going in against your orders. It seems you don't have much control now, do you?"

"That's just how we fight," the boy said, mostly fine with this. "You can't keep doing that!"

"I can, but won't." The Gym Leader shrugged in concession. "Let's up the ante. A spinning Bubble Beam, Paroli." Using some of its tentacles as a swivel, the jellyfish span. As it did so, it fired off a stream of bubbles. It ended up with many around it as a sort of defensive barrier. "A little display for my contest fans in the audience," she said with a wave, to voracious cheers.

The Demon almost stopped, but Nori urged her on. "They're just bubbles. Slice through!" With a nod, she did so, jumping forward and swiping vigorously. Gasha's smug expression faded as the teal Pokemon easily carved herself a path.

Nidorina landed and jumped again, this time right at the other Pokemon. She clung onto it with her claws and rammed her head into the jellyfish's body, sending it staggering back into its own bubbles. The sea ruby shook violently to get her off...successfully. Its body was too slippery.

"Smack it away," Gasha said with a flick of her wrist. Right as the Demon was falling. She landed, but had no chance to avoid this. She went tumbling back, this time taking a moment to get up. "A very impressive play. I suppose I can't just treat you like white meat." Whatever that term meant. Gasha flipped her hair. "Just so you know, keeping that up will yield negative expectation."

Suddenly, it all made sense. Why they were up against a Tentacruel and not one of her other Pokemon. Gasha had to have known how the Demon fights. So something like Tentacruel was perfect to face it, with its long tentacles to intercept if she tried to get in close. Which was most of their offense. Meanwhile, they'd have no trouble attacking at range.

The Demon looked back at Nori for ideas. Okay, if she was hesitating, they really had a problem here. She had one move he knew of that could work at range. So why not try it? "Fire off a Poison Sting!"

She did so with a roll of her eyes, loosing needles and launching them at Paroli. It simply stood there and took the attack without flinching. "Weak," said Gasha. "Return fire with Brine."

Out came a blast of water. Easily telegraphed, the Demon had no issue avoiding this. They were at a stalemate. Gasha gave no further orders, awaiting theirs instead. But Nori didn't know what they could do here. If he had Nidorina charge in, she'd just get caught again. Yet Poison Sting wasn't helping at all.

"Well? What are you waiting for, now?" Gasha asked, to laughs from the audience. Nori grumbled. It wasn't lost on him that she'd reversed the situation from before the match.

"I'm thinking!" he yelled.

"Could you try to think a little faster? We don't have all day here."

Screw it. "Fine. Charge in!"

Nidorina charged. "The definition of insanity," mused Gasha.

"And slice the tentacles!"

Her eyes went wide for a second, before narrowing. "Hmph, I call your bluff."

It was no bluff, he was serious. If you can't hit the body, go after the limbs. That's what he knew about fighting. Gasha seemed confident as the same scene looked to play out.

Nidorina's shadow suddenly extended. She raised a claw and swiped, cutting a piece of the approaching tentacle off. Gruesome on paper, but Nori had enough Tentacruel knowledge to know this was nothing for the species. They'd grow back and were disposable. As the cut one swiftly retracted, several more came in to take its place. These too, however, got sliced. Each that was struck caused the Tentacruel to wince and retract the partially severed tendril. When it stopped, Nidorina broke into a full sprint. "Technique, that's how we'll win this!"

"Tut tut. There's more in the bank where that came from." Out came even more tentacles. Nidorina reacted fast and got several more, but there were just so many of them. Eventually, one managed to wrap itself around her body.

"Bite down!" Nori abruptly shouted, not even sure where he got that idea from.

If one thing was apparent , the tentacles still felt pain. Paroli dropped her as its tendril was fiercely bit into, and Nidorina used the opportunity to land another vicious Shadow Claw right between the eyes. It blindly shoved her away a few paces, very hurting from this.

Gasha was unconcerned. "Well, let's demonstrate some technique of our own, Paroli. Use Muddy Sludge Wave."


Gasha motioned to the sides with a haughty laugh. "You may want to step away."

From beneath the Tentacruel, two separate surges of fluid formed. One made of brownish water, the other made of nasty looking ooze. Nori screamed in terror. Covering himself with his arms, he scrambled to the side of the battlefield as fast as his legs would carry him. He heard the sound of them fusing together and washing over the battlefield. An attack right along the ground! The Demon was going to be swept up by this no matter how fast she ran!

He turned back with dread, huffing as the wave passed by. He was just in time to see his Pokemon in midair, having just jumped from one of the rocks to avoid the attack. The crowd gasped in amazement, thought it took Nori several moments to regain his bearings from that. He wasn't sure what to think, but he Pokemon had handled–

"Unleash your Hidden Power, Paroli."

Numerous translucent spheres emerged from the jellyfish. They impacted Nidorina as she was about to land, and they seemed to hurt bad. She was sent flying back, crashing down near the direct center.

"Wh-what was that?" he asked, still shaking a little.

"An advanced move. A trump card to play against Electric types, but it works just as well against Poison."

He couldn't believe this. The Demon Nidorina was powerful, maybe even stronger than their opponents. But Gasha and her Tentacruel were just so much better than they were. What could they do here? Did they even stand a chance?

"Now use Brine, Paroli."

He gave no commands. The Demon was alert enough to avoid one blast, but was caught by another. She went staggering back.

"Now show them your grace and spin as a roulette wheel!"

More like a top, the Tentacruel advanced with tendrils extended out. How many of those did it have?! The Demon tried to take cover behind another one of the rocks on the battlefield, but ended up taking the full force of the attack. She was slapped numerous times and ultimately sent flying, crashing down right before Nori.

Gasha posed to cheers. "And with that, it looks like it's about time to cash-in."

The Demon was struggling to get up. Worse than that, she was clearly shaken by this turn of events. All the fight in her seemed gone. "No..." Nori couldn't believe it. It couldn't end like this.

"There's no shame in taking a loss. You've certainly tried your best, but–"

"No!" Nori snapped, stepping forward. "We can't lose. We can't lose this fight! We can't, or we'll both be...no!"

Gasha was taken aback by this outburst. "What?"

"We're not losing! She's not being put to death, and I'm not being banned from owning Pokemon! No way!" The Demon's ears twitched. Nori had to admit, he actually liked having Pokemon. The teal creature stood. Now that he'd come this far, he wasn't going to let that be taken from him. The Nidorina let out a ferocious roar. Nori gestured to his Pokemon, and started saying whatever came to mind. "See that? We're not quitting, we're seeing this through!"

"You seem to be–"

"Shut up! Are you ready, partner?"

The Nidorina grinned wildly.

"Then do what you did to that Geodude!" If they couldn't win with conventional tactics or with finesse, there was still one thing left. Sheer strength. This was crazy. It was also the only thing that could work.

The Gym Leader wore a mixture of emotions at his spiel, but got her game face back on as the Nidorina ran in with renewed vigor. "All in, are we?" she slyly asked. Gasha wagged a finger at him. "You have guts, but a poor memory. Paroli, Wrap. Overwhelm this Demon."

"You know how to avoid that! Just like with that Rhydon!"

Spend less time fighting them off and more time getting there. That was the plan, but could she execute it? She knew how the moved now, so maybe. He could only watch as the tentacles once more lashed out to capture her. She slid under one, passed under another, and slashed away a third! If she could just get close and grab an idle tentacle, the fight would be in their hands! She leaped over a fourth and rolled below a fifth. A sixth and seventh were cut away in tandem, and she evaded an eighth. They were right there!

No, no! It grabbed her! Two tentacles swung backward and caught her front legs. Wait, they were around her limbs! "Pull!"

Two more tentacles were coming to seize her back legs, but never got there. Right as he started to speak, the Demon jumped back, yanking with all her might. The sudden motion caught the jellyfish off-guard, causing it to fall over upside-down.

"Now, throw and charge!"

As if it were nothing, the Demon used the still-wrapped tentacles as leverage to hurl their foe towards one of the many large rocks decorating the arena. Nori grinned at the catharsis. A taste of its own medicine! His Pokemon came rushing in the second the Tentacruel had left her grasp, still in midair.

"Paroli! You know what to do when against the wall!" Gasha finished her sentence just as her Pokemon landed, still overturned.

The intent of the vague order was quickly obvious. It started firing off Brines, trying to intercept. But they were aimed very simply. The Demon easily evaded, closing the distance after just two of these.

What happened next happened all at once, and so fast that it barely registered. The Demon Nidorina was aiming to land her Take Down attack, ramming the Tentacruel against the rock. The sea ruby moved aside at the very last moment! Nori thought in that split second his Pokemon was going to crash into hard stone, but she reacted and ran up it. The Tentacruel did not see this, and Gasha had no time to warn it before the Demon backflipped off and slammed her entire body down onto the jellyfish.

"Impossible! Paroli!"

"Once more!" Nori clasped his hands and pointed. "SKULL BASH!"

"Avoid it!"

The teal Pokemon ran in a circle to turn and build up some momentum. She came barreling at Tentacruel, and this time, it was in no condition to dodge. With a jumping leap, the Demon collided with her foe. The two went flying back, crashing into the boulder. There was so much force behind this strike, a chunk of the rock shattered. The two Pokemon went down in a plume of dust and stone shards. The aftermath of the impact momentarily obfuscated the result of the vicious attack.

All was silent. Nori squinted. Both to shield his retinas from any fine particles and to get a better look. "Is that it?" he pondered aloud.

It took a few more seconds for his question to be answered. As the dust settled, the Demon walked backwards off what remained of the stone, slightly wobbly. Paroli, however, was lying there in a heap, its tentacles limp as cooked noodles.

"It is! We've won!" Nori almost left his feet in his joy. He raised his fists to the air in triumph, before lowering them into a fist pumping position. The Demon roared as she regained her composure. He shadowboxed for a few seconds while asking, "How do you like that?"

His victory did not immediately register to some people, until the announcer spoke. He stumbled over his words, "Da...the uh, of this battle, the challenger, Nori Carino!"

Nori was about to take a bow, when the boos started.

"Oh, come on!" he grumbled. "You won't even let me have this moment? I beat the Gym Leader!"

"Well, yes." Gasha spoke up, quieting the crowd. "You have indeed defeated me. Commendable. Give him a round of applause for defeating a Gym Leader on his very first official battle."

As if she flicked a switch, the air in the stadium changed. While not universal - Louis and Mariko in particular looked downright furious - some in the crowd started cheering. Others gave him polite applause. Nori looked around. The Demon grinned at him, snickering in delight. He met Prema's gaze. She gave a warm smile and nod of approval. He'd done it. And though Gasha had to tell them to, he was getting recognition for doing so. It felt great. He couldn't help but soak this moment in.

The Gym Leader abruptly spoke up once more, "Even if it was with a very powerful Pokemon you didn't raise yourself."

As if she flicked another switch, it changed again. Laughter. Ugh. Nori deflated all at once. At least it was only a short burst of laughter and not an entire arena mocking him.

"Anyway, more importantly." Gasha spoke up. Nori shuddered involuntarily. Her bravado was gone. She had an all-business look in her eyes and tone. "Don't celebrate your victory in battle just yet. As I was trying to tell you, your task was to show that you had managed to suppress the more violent side of the Demon Nidorina's personality. I was sufficiently convinced at some point, but..."

She gestured to the wreckage of the stone where her Tentacruel was still splayed out. "Now we have this mess. Ordered by you, in fact." With an irreverent sigh, she finally recalled Paroli to its ball.

Wait, what? He didn't actually have to win the battle against her? He internally wanted to; the announcer said it outright. And he did win. Kind of brutally, and the real point was to stop the Demon from being so brutal in her battles. That point had completely slipped his mind in the heat of the moment. "So..." his voice cracked. There was a sudden dryness in his throat. "What happens now?"

The leader flipped her hair and shrugged. "Not even the cards know your fate right now. But, we've the Officials here to deliberate this situation right now. So until they do..."

Out of nowhere came a jolt of electricity, aimed right for the Demon. She caught it out of the corner of her eye and avoided it, but two more came out. All three were aimed by a different Luxio, whom uniformed men stood before. She avoided those too, but was caught by a second burst from the first.

"What the hell?! Nidorina–" He stopped speaking when two men in similar uniforms came out in front of him, arms crossed.

While they were obstructing his view, he was able to catch an orange mushroom Pokemon blasting his Pokemon from behind with a cloud of spores. She turned and viciously slashed it in the face. It staggered back, but even with a nasty oozing gash, was able to block her sloppily-aimed second strike with its own claws and shoot another cloud at her. The Demon remained standing, leering hatefully. A third blast finally made her slump over. What was happening?!

"The Demon is to be subdued," said Gasha. The two men stood in front of and behind him. The one pointed to start moving. "And you'll have to remain in custody here."
Chapter 7
  1. suikaibuki
Nori was freaking out.

He had been brought to a room in the middle of the Gym and forced to wait there. There was no way out. Guards were posted outside of each door. He thought about the vents, but they were too small to climb into. And the ceiling wasn't made of those tiles that could be pushed up.

He guessed he was in a meeting room. There was a long table, a water cooler, and a whiteboard with various numerical values scribbled on it. Probably related to the Game Corner. The fluorescent lights were beating down, giving the room an inert feel. One of them was blinking irritatingly. That along with a ticking clock were chewing at his nervs and making him feel uneasy. Nori eventually slumped down onto the table, burying his head in his arms. He just wanted to curl up until this was over.

One of the doors opened at some point. He briefly glanced up at Gym Leader, but paid her little heed. She did the same, quietly talking on her phone about something. Nori didn't care to focus enough to eavesdrop. It was probably stuff he didn't want to hear, anyway. At least, it helped drown out that clock.

Time dragged by. An eventual tapping on the desk next to him made him look up. Gasha was standing over him. She gestured to a small, stylish pin beside him. Had she placed it there? A duo of gray cylinders, one big and one small. Each had an ovular pink section emerging from the tip. The four segments were separated and surrounded by a silver outline.

Nori delicately picked it up. "What's this?"

"A Vent Badge," she said with a hint of humor. "You did defeat a Gym Leader in an official battle, after all."

Nori slumped back down. "If it even means anything."

Gasha patted him on the shoulder. He'd ordinarily protest at physical contact from someone he didn't know, but he didn't have the energy to care at the moment. "You went all out in your misconception to defeat me. And you beat the odds! Ruined a lot of bets, too." She chuckled. "I already had a feeling when I saw you stand up for it, but indeed. You were willing to gamble, to do anything to save that Pokemon. Few'd do that."

She wasn't mad? She was praising him for what he did? He sat up looking at the Badge again. To many trainers, this represented a milestone their journey, a mark of accomplishment. Yet he was unsure what this meant to him. Moreover, she hadn't responded to his remark. "But what about your Tentacruel? It's not hurt too badly...is it?" If it was, this pin would be a reminder of just how badly he'd messed this up, when he was so close to succeeding.

She shrugged. "Quite hurt, but not unreasonably for a Pokemon battle. As far as I'm concerned, you passed with flying colors. And as far as the Officials are concerned, well."

As if on cue, the door near them opened.

"Speaking of whom."

A slender man in a simple beige suit stepped into the room. He wore a red tie and had on a black undershirt. Behind him were two others that he wasn't expecting to see. First was his mom, who he supposed he should have expected given she attended the battle and they would want to speak with her. But he definitely was not expecting to see the Demon there, following with some irritation.

"Nidorina! Ma!" He snapped up in delight. They didn't put her down! That was good news, right? He turned to the man. "And you are...?"

"Jimmy Mackenburg, Chief of the International Police and head of the Officials' Special Trainers division," he introduced. He flashed his badge, an identification card with embroidered with an impeccably polished shield made of solid gold. He forcibly grabbed Nori's hand and gave it a firm shake. The boy barely had time to return it before the man retracted. "I'll cut straight to the chase, kid. How'd you like to become an official?"

"Hold on, what?" he blurted. "Me, an official? But I'm just twelve! And I haven't even studied to be one! And why me?!"

The Chief did not miss a beat, as if expecting this salvo. "Age doesn't matter in our ranks, only talent. Sure, there's those types who go through school for it. But we're always keeping our eyes out for promising young folks like you. The kinds of people who think different from everyone else. If you accept, we'll make sure you get the learning you need to be a proper official."

Mackenburg stopped at that, beaming with pride. He looked at Nori expectantly. This was happening so fast, not to mention out of nowhere. For now Nori could only ask, "What kind of learning?"

"Well, you're gonna have your legal studies and your physical ones. Since you'll be working with Pokemon, you'll need to know how to train'em like the pros. So from the start of next year, you'll be training with one of the top official trainers in the region. He'll teach you everything you need to know."

He. They must have had somebody in mind already. That meant it wouldn't be Gasha Qian. It also meant that it wasn't going to be the Champion either, much to his relief. The start of next year, too. That would mean sometime in January, probably so it wasn't in the middle of a school term. He'd have to do his last semester of sixth grade somewhere else, but he didn't have much attachment to his school to care much about that. Maybe it would even be a chance at a fresh start with a new set of peers.

Never mind those thoughts, though. He had a more pressing one. "But, why me? I've only had Pokemon for a week. I have no experience with them besides this!"

This got Mackenburg to let out a, "Heh." He tried to ruffle the boy's hair, but Nori jerked away before he could. "You're either real modest or real slow on the pickup. You did a bang up job taming that Demon Nidorina in that week. None of the facilities for Pokemon with mental issues wanted to touch that thing."

Nori's face went blank. He glared. "Oh, really?" That was just disgusting if true.

Mackenburg sighed. "Afraid so. There's a few Pokemon out there who've had to be put down because no one wants to deal with 'em. Bad apples, stubborn beasts, those who've been warped by Teams and other gangs, or worse individuals!"

The man paused for a few moments, as if reflecting on something. He continued with poignancy. "It's been a tricky subject. These Pokemon are a danger to society, yet they are who they are. Some of us have been wondering if it's really ethical to do away with them because it. But someone like you just might be the answer we've been looking for." The Chief smirked, his swagger returning. "A kid with a knack for training, the nerve to do this, and a never-say-die attitude. You already showed you can rope one of 'em in, and I'm sure you can do it again. So what do you say, kid?"

He wasn't sure what to say. Nori was not expecting anything like this to come out of the endeavor he'd taken on. "Aren't there better people than me to do this? Sure, I somehow did it this time, but wouldn't a more experienced trainer be better than me?"

At this point, his mom spoke up. "They're offering this to you because they believe you are good enough. I think you should do it, Nori."

He tilted his head. "Ma?"

Ayume Carino gave the briefest of pauses before speaking again. "Officials get paid very well."

"That they do!" chimed in Mackenburg.

His mom continued, "You'll still be able to complete any schooling you want along the way. And, you could have a much better life if you went through with this than if you didn't."

"But..." The school part was nice clarification, but he never minded having such little money. Having a lot would be overstimulating. Besides, "I never really wanted to train Pokemon. Just do something meaningful."

"Nori, please," she said in a much more urgent tone. "There might come a time soon where I might not be able to support you anymore. I'm hoping it doesn't happen, but you won't have to worry about it if you do this."

Now he was just confused. "What are you saying, Ma? How could you not support me anymore?"

Ayume paused, sighing at herself. "Never mind. I know you never were interested in training Pokemon, but please. Give this serious consideration, Nori. It might not be what you had in mind, but you will be able to make a difference by doing this. Please."

Nori frowned, unsure what to make of his mom's pleading. Usually when she wanted him to do something, she'd be stern and assertive. Not like this. He turned to Gasha for her thoughts, who flashed a thumbs up.

"Roll the dice. It's the only way to get ahead."

Taking a chance? He would be taking a chance by doing this. He looked over at Mr. Mackenburg, who grinned wildly.

"You'll be able to help all sorts of Pokemon no one else will."

Reiterating that point. The chief was saying he was different than those other trainers, so it was something very few could do. Finally, he turned to his Nidorina. If he was going to go through with this, he'd need her opinion as well. As she'd be coming along for the ride.

The Demon simply nodded at him.

Everyone was approving. Everyone here wanted him to do this. To help Pokemon no one else will. Nori wanted to do something with his life that meant something. He thought maybe he could make a famous scientific discovery. Or perhaps he could work to build future landmarks. Maybe he could train hard and be a sports star. At one point he even thought he could be like Claris and act. But helping Pokemon? What would that mean?

"So if I do this...what happens?"

"Once you're certified as a Special Trainer, you'll have all the rank and privileges that come with it. You can work with police, access restricted areas of regions, and so on. Your job will be to train and raise the problem Pokemon we send you, to reel in the more feisty sides of their personalities. You can keep'em after if you'd like." Mackenburg paused briefly. "That's it."

That was it, just what he was doing the past week. Except he would be getting recognized for it. Never did he consider doing anything with Pokemon with his life. He didn't want to be involved with the rat races like battling or contests that many were involved in, but something like this? This was different.

Nori closed his eyes. This was a life-changing decision. He took a deep breath and gave his answer.

"All right, I guess I can give it a shot."

"Fantastic!" Mackenburg clapped his hands. "I'll get the papers to you by tonight. Just sign'em, and you'll be on your way to changing the world. You're going to be the world's first Pokemon Rehabilitator." He and Gasha left the room at this point, leaving him alone with his Pokemon and his mom.

The latter came and rubbed him on the shoulders. "You're making the right choice, sweetie."

"I hope I am." He sighed. "I think..." he started, before sighing again. Exhaustion had set in. "That I want to go home and take a long rest."

His mom nodded. "I have a few things I need to take care of while I'm still out." She reached into her pocket and held out her hand. "Here. I know you'll only be using it for a few months, but I got you your own key."

His own key to the trailer? She had never even humored this in the past, and here one was. As she said, he would only be able to get so much use out of it. But the sentiment meant the world to him. She was acknowledging his maturity.

"Thanks, Ma." He gave her a hug, which she returned.

A Pokemon Rehabilitator. Someone who helps Pokemon that no one else is willing to. Nori had done just that. He knew he could do it, as he'd just done so. And he enjoyed it. Time would only tell if he would enjoy doing it long-term. But it was something with meaning. If he did not enjoy it, he could always find something else. Or do stuff alongside. That would be the best case. He just hoped his whole life didn't end up dedicated to Pokemon. As entwined in society as they were, that wasn't something he wanted.

For now though, he turned to his Nidorina. He still had her ball in his pocket. "Well, let's go home. I think even you want to relax sometimes." She gave him a funny look, but didn't protest or disapprove as he brought her back to the comfort of her capsule. They'd both had a long week.


As Nori was departing the arena, something drew his attention. There were people waiting for him, and not ones he was hoping to see. The entirety of Youths Against Mistaken Society were on and around a bench outside the Gym. Touya and Yumi, who were standing behind the bench, pointed at him. Louis and Mariko rose, Nariya as well a second after. The quintet approached.

The boy steeled himself for another argument. Instead they just stood before him, staring. Their expressions were blank, unreadable. What was their deal this time?

Nori broke the silence. "Speechless?"

The siblings shuffled their feet awkwardly, glancing to Louis and Mariko and then away. Nariya actually spoke up, squeaking out an audible, "Sorry..."

"I'm not!" snapped Mariko, slapping the tall girl on the back of the head. "What's wrong with you, Nariya?"

Louis shook his head sadly. "I thought you were a good person, Nori Carino. Guess I was wrong." Really, Nori thought? He was still going to be like that even though he did what he said he was going to? The Gym Leader and Officials said it was fine, so what was his problem? The teenager grumbled. "But, congratulations."

He genuinely said that, though continued to glower. Nori nodded, saying, "Thank you."

He understood the blue-haired teen's attitude. To Louis, the Demon Nidorina had effectively gotten away with everything. People like him would refuse to forget it, but as far as the Officials were concerned, that was in the past. She'd proven herself capable of growth.

"You happy with what you've done?" Mariko sarcastically asked, hands behind her back.

Nori smiled. "Very!" he replied with calm glee.

The fiery redhead slowly clapped with derision. "Good for you! Let's go, guys."

She and Louis turned and left at once. Nariya reluctantly followed after a moment. The siblings gave small nods to Nori before they went.

He gave them a small wave as the left. It wasn't lost on him that Touya and Yumi felt bad about what they did. Nariya was unafraid to say so directly. Louis had been given a bitter pill to swallow, but was doing so with grace. He could respect that. All but one of them really were good, if some in their own ways. He just hoped being wrong about the Demon and him would inspire them to change their perspective on things. He doubted Mariko would, but wanted to believe in the others.


A few hours later, Prema Kannagi found herself with her friend once more. It was late afternoon. Ordinarily at around this hour, she would be preparing for dinner. Today, she felt it could wait. Food would be waiting for her, yet this chance could not.

Mercifully, attending the battle was no issue. That had been a relief. Far from just acquiescing, her father said they would attend together. He stated that given their status and how newsworthy this was, it would be more suspect if they did not attend. She was concerned at the very end when Nori was being taken into custody in the Gym, yet her father assured her.

"Prema. Your judgment about that Pokemon was correct. The Officials may be conceited, but they are not foolish. They shall see that as well."

Her father's words proved correct. What's more, he had permitted her to visit Nori one last time. As far as she saw it, this was nothing short of a blessing. She was not the only one, for another girl was here who had come by at around the same time. Younger than Nori, named Maylene. They were presently en route to Gabbron Park.

A stark contrast to her refined behavior, the pink-haired girl's giddiness could not be contained. She was doing dances and twirls all over the place as she walked, ignorant or uncaring of some of the odd looks people were giving her. "I'm happy daddy said we can hang out again, Nori!" she said, latching onto him for just a moment. The girl waved at her. "And hi to you, Lady Prema! It's pretty cool you're friends with another famous person, Nori!"

Nori abruptly halted and looked at her. "You're famous?"

Pause. She changed the subject. "You know other famous people?"

The boy huffed. "Claris Willins."

"The child actress?"

He nodded. "We were in the same class through fourth grade. We were actually good friends. But we haven't spoken since she went on that journey."

"I see." She noticed Nori's head was lowered, sorrow nearly leaking out of him.

"Story for another time, though..."

She folded her hands and bowed. "I apologize for bringing it up."

Nori looked up and lightly handwaved. "No, it's okay." They started walking again, him not asking further of why she was famous.

"What happened to her, anyway?" Maylene started walking backwards, hands behind her head.

Nori shrugged. "She just hasn't talked to me since she got back." He certainly knew, Prema thought. It was subject matter not suitable to discuss with a girl Maylene's age, however.

"Wasn't it weird to be a friend with someone so rich?" his other friend asked

"Not really. Claris is..." He paused, sighing again. "Well, was herself." He looked at her. "Just like Prema is Prema. It doesn't matter who or what a person is, as long as you can be friends, right? You can still do stuff together."

"Ohhhh, I think I get it!"

Friends. That again. Prema had initially thought to dismiss it. She thought that she met Nori so that she could help guide him. She had done so, yet he still wanted to associate beyond that. He not only didn't care who she was, he didn't care to press the subject either.

And she found herself fine with it. Happy, even.

"It is a relief to hear that, Nori." Still, she remain concerned. What would Nori think if he knew that she was the priestess of her shrine, and set to lead after her father? Would it cloud his perception? She was uncertain, and that was troubling. She was further uncertain as to why it was so troubling. After a moment of thought, she felt there was at least one thing she should tell him. Something she should have made clear earlier, really. "Although, I must confess to you," she said. "I am not actually from Veilstone."

Nori again stopped. They were just outside Gabbron Park. "You're not?"

"Yes. I am from Celestic Town." He needed to know that much, even if it meant being able to connect things from there. "I will be heading back home tomorrow. So I am unsure how often we will be able to see each other."

After she finished, Prema suddenly felt something gripping her from within. It made no sense to her. All she was doing was stating a fact. She knew that saying goodbye to Nori was necessary. So then, why was she feeling this way about it?

Nori was quiet for a few moments. "Well, reminds me. That doesn't matter anyway." He signaled for them to follow just inside to sit down on the grass. Once they had done so, he started speaking again. "I got an offer from the Officials to help Pokemon just like the Demon Nidorina. I decided I'd take them up on it. Starting in January, I'm going to be training under a top official trainer."

Maylene leaped to her feet. "Wait, wait, what?! You mean I'm not gonna be able to see you anymore?"

"Sorry, sorry." The pink-haired girl seemed on the verge of bursting into tears. Was Maylene that distraught at being without her friend? Was that what she was feeling, too? Nori tried to assure her, "We still got a few months we can enjoy. After that, it's hopefully just until I complete my training! I'm going to be a Pokemon Rehabilitator!"

Prema was not unfamiliar with the Officials. They had several branches of what are known as Special Trainers, ranging from Rangers to the International Police. Yet this? "That is something I have not heard of."

"It's new, that's why."

Maylene sat back down, wiping at her face. "So you're gonna be the first?"

"Seems like it!" Nori said with a grin.

A Pokemon Rehabilitator. Someone who takes troubled Pokemon and gives them a place to belong. She could not be more happy for her friend. "I think it is wonderful that you are doing this, Nori. The Nidorina they called a Demon is not the only of its kind. There are many Pokemon out there seeking acceptance. If you can provide that when no one else can, that is commendable."

"Thanks. And I will! When you see me next, I'll be a fully fledged official trainer!"

Maylene clapped twice. "How about the Demon?" the young girl asked. "Think the Demon will be okay from here?"

"She will."

She turned and looked at Nori, who had spoken up to say the same thing at the same time, with the same fervor. He laughed. "Guess we're in agreement."

Maylene giggled. "Funny coincidence you were, huh? Just once thinking the same thing?"

"Good minds think the same?" Prema asked. "Is that what the saying is?"

"Great minds think alike," he corrected, "But hey, close enough."

She smiled. Prema at that moment just wanted to tell him that she was glad he was her friend, and wished to see him again. Then she saw Maylene, and everyone else around. The words died in her throat, but she understood why they did so. If she were to blurt that out here, what would people think? Prema knew she was under constant scrutiny. Her father was always holding her to high expectations, sometimes even scolding her out in public. She did not doubt that people would judge her if she slipped up or did something she should not have in their eyes. There were moments where she was afraid to do anything but act robotically, even among people such as Nori or Priestess Satomi - her elderly mentor figure.

Moreover, there was still no guarantee she and Nori would ever see each other again. She might be able to come to Veilstone given their shrine's expansion, but Nori might end up assigned elsewhere. A painful irony. All she could do for now was pray to the gods that they could reunite someday.


Nori returned to the trailer park just after 6pm, having hung out with Prema and Maylene for an hour and a half. He had his fingers crossed he could see his friend again at some point, especially since he couldn't have done this without her. Maybe he could go visit Celestic when he became an official. Mostly, it was he and Maylene talking, with a bit of showing off his Nidorina to the public.

The papers that the Chief had promised actually arrived shortly after he got home. He didn't mind leaving reading them until later, because they were page after page of complicated language and big words he'd never seen before. He'd have to ask his mom about a few of them when she got back. But he was too worn out now to try reading them. He needed a nap, even if he hadn't had one of those since he was a baby.

"Hello there, Nori." He turned to see Mrs. Ito, sitting at one of the picnic tables with another elderly woman. "I'm going to be baking tomorrow. Would you like me to bring you some cupcakes when I'm done?"

The boy paused. He wasn't sure what he wanted to say at first. It took five seconds to reply, "I guess, Mrs. Ito? Anything's fine." With that, he continued on his way.

"Evenin' Nori," came another voice. He turned to see Waylon standing in front of his family's trailer. "Wanna see all them channels we got?"

Right, that was a thing. However, Nori now didn't feel any excitement over it, and he wasn't sure why. He had to politely decline, "Maybe later Waylon."

As he had almost made it home, he saw someone running towards him. "Hey Nori." It was a tall slender girl who looked about sixteen, in jean shorts and a tube top with her brown hair in a ponytail. "You did super good today. Wanna come over? My parents are out."

Now he just had to stare. "But I don't know you?" He'd seen her at most, but why would he go over to a stranger's? He didn't even know this girl's name. "Sorry, I'm heading home to rest."

He awkwardly walked away from the older girl, tuning out her further words. This was too weird. In multiple ways. He had hoped people would think better of him after he succeeded. But he wasn't sure what to make of it now that it actually happened. They went from liking him to hating him to loving him, without even saying they were sorry? Yeah, that was why. No apologies, just flip-flopping. How should he feel about that?

Well, no matter. He had time to think on that. Right now, there was one thing he couldn't get out of his mind. He had direction in life now, something to work towards, and most of all,

Chapter 7: A Future to Look Forward to


It was the dead of night. The air had cooled to a low more typical of Sinnoh, giving those outside or without proper air conditioning a respite from the summer heat. Most people had long since gone to sleep, including Ayume Carino. Her son remained awake, quietly sitting in the dark at the trailer's table. That nap earlier had contributed to how lucid he was now. Good for looking over those papers.

The other reason why he stalled was wanting to tell his important friends before deciding to commit. Just in case they took issue with it. He'd told Rashid earlier, as infrequent as they hung out, who thought it cool he was 'joining the working force.' It was a relief to know Prema was fully supportive, though learning she wasn't from Veilstone was a disappointing surprise and weight off his mind all at once. He was worried about Maylene, but they still had three months together until he left.

Changes were already coming to his life even before then, however. He looked at the capsule of his Nidorina, presently in a mug holder on the table. He'd have her out in the trailer, if not for space limitations. She didn't seem to mind her capsule, at least. But as he formally owned her, he'd have to take care of her. That meant food. Nidorina was an omnivorous species, eating fruits, berries, and small rodents in the wild. His mom said she'd buy a big bag of the cheap stuff tomorrow, but he worried how they'd afford it given their already limited budget. Maybe they could forage for extra? He knew where some berry trees were, and she knew how to hunt.

Of course, fact was Nidorina loved battling, so he'd have to do that with her sometimes, too. Nori figured school would be an excellent chance to do so, either during or after. If not then, he could go out and find challenges, or maybe fight wild Pokemon. Stuff he'd already been doing the past week. Except he'd have to worry about balancing this with homework, rather than worrying about her behavior.

Beyond the immediate future, his life would change even more. He would be leaving the home he was raised in for as long as he remembered, heading to a place he'd never been, and studying under someone he didn't know. It was bittersweet. He liked Veilstone. Even if he had few connections here, he still knew people. In three months he would be headed into the unknown. It was not unheard of for people as young as him to become involved in working society. Never did Nori imagine he would become one of them.

He pressed the button above him to turn on the light. May as well keep going over the papers. From what he got and what his mom said, this was mostly agreements on responsibilities he'd have as an official and what he wouldn't tell random people about. He was nearly at the end though, and resolved to push through it.

The boy still had reservations. Yet on the other hand, he felt he'd already committed to this, with all he'd told everyone. Besides, Prema seemed really happy about him doing this. She called it commendable, and a very good thing. He wasn't sure what it was about her, but he felt he could truly trust her opinion. And he certainly didn't want to let anyone down by saying he backed out at the last moment.

Before long, he had come to the end. There were a few pages he needed to sign on. He did so, stuffed them into the envelope, and sealed it up.

As he did so, the boy felt a huge pressure lift. It was done. There was no turning back now. Once his mom mailed them tomorrow, he'd be on his way to doing something no one else could do. He grabbed his Pokemon's capsule, climbed up into the bunk over the car seats, put the ball in the holder up there, and fell asleep at once, contented. For the first time in a week, he was worry-free. He had something to strive for now. He hoped that by this time next year, he'd be an official trainer. A Pokemon Rehabilitator.

Little did Nori know that it would be a difficult road to reach that point. If he knew at the time, he may never have put his signature on those documents. The ordeal he had just gone through would pale in comparison to what awaited him over the next year...

Nori Carino: Official In-Training
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