Hey, thanks for checking out my story! I really dislike how restrictive this website is with the length of summary you're allowed, so I'll briefly give a bit more background here into what Fighting Nature is about.

This story is about pokémon, and pokémon only. Most stories of that kind are tagged under 'PMD', and while I've put this under the 'Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series' search term so it's easier for people to find, I want to clarify that fairly little of the story – the setting and the plot, to name two – is typical to those that are PMD-based. Nevertheless, if you like reading about pokémon doing stuff rather than, say, human trainers, maybe this story is for you!

One of the main characters is a nickit, but unfortunately FFN's non-existent admins are yet to update the pokémon character tags with those from the Galar 'dex. If/when they do, I will update the tags accordingly.

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

Finally, as always, I cherish any feedback readers give on my work! Even if it's just 'good story, pls update', or (hopefully not) 'bad story, pls abandon', I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Chapter 1: The Spark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You mean you still haven't found your key-?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh," Locki said. "Is… there any reason why you don't run?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rich show-off, Raskin thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No worries," he muttered, eager to return to his work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sure," replied Luis, a zangoose. "It's the grounded ten thousand metres, right?"

"That's the one. I think it'll be close."

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

"Nah, I reckon Horus Manectric's got it on lockdown," a kirlia close to Raskin piped up.

"Pfft, you wish." Luis caught Raskin's eye. "Are you gonna go, Rasky?"

Raskin shrugged. "I dunno yet. Maybe."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"If you attack me," the ivysaur said, "I won't roll over for you."

"Why don't I put that to the test?" the raticate hissed.

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

"I reckon Mister Vines there's got more about him than he lets on," Luis said, grinning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What is wrong with you all?" she demanded. "Fighting is a terrible thing! Don't encourage it!"

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

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

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

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

…Damn, I sound depressing today.

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

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

"Yes?" the ivysaur asked him moments later.

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

The ivysaur paused, narrowing his eyes. "Don't tell me Chaka sent you here?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I don't mind waiting a little bit."

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

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

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

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

"Oh? Uh… nah, I don't think so," Sid replied.

Raskin frowned. "Why not?"

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

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

Sid shrugged. "Just haven't been feeling it, I dunno."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How so? With work, or…?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yeah, a little."

"Well, you can always do it here, you know. I wouldn't mind."

"Actually, I can't. 'Cause when I properly let off steam, my flame sacs sometimes get ignited. And in this house…"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sid chuckled. "I'd pay to watch that happen."

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


"Pay to watch a street fight."

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

"You've told me a few times."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raskin smiled. "That sounds perfect." But Sid didn't look so convinced. "What is it?"

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

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

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

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

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

"Uh… maybe ten poké? Twenty?"

"Twenty might be pushing it. Fifteen sounds reasonable though."

Sid nodded in agreement.

"Then if we got… thirty 'mon to join for this, each paying fifteen each…"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Uh… tomorrow, actually. But after that I'm s'posed to be in all week."

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

"You sure?"

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

"Then we need a location," Sid added.

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

Sid thought for a moment. "Having a drink, most likely. Since there's no athletics on."

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

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

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

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

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

It just so happened that this something was very illegal.