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Old September 21st, 2017 (7:48 AM). Edited February 3rd, 2019 by Antoshi.
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Antoshi Antoshi is offline
Peaceful Serenity
     
    Join Date: Oct 2004
    Gender: Male
    Nature: Jolly
    Posts: 110
    A Blond Ray of Sunshine


    A young, upbeat Pokémon Trainer named Antoshi travels around Kanto collecting Gym Badges with his best friend and only Pokémon, Fireball the Typhlosion. When Fireball is kidnapped by Team Rocket, Antoshi unwittingly unlocks superhuman powers within him. With the discovery of these powers, his life starts to change dramatically and finds out he is destined for much greater deeds.


    Author Notes
    1) All general replies (“nice story”, “can't wait for the next chapter”) are cool, welcomed, and appreciated. I love hearing all feedback so feel free to drop me a short comment! Constructive criticism is very much encouraged. I'm always looking to better my writing and make each story more entertaining and engaging. If you notice any errors — grammar, punctuation, plot — please do bring them up. You have the power to help shape this story into something even better!
    2) Replies to your reviews here will be done in forum DM's in an effort to reduce excess posts in this thread.
    3) About the title of the story (because I've gotten this question in the past), it is not misspelled. 'Blond' is the male equivalent of the female 'blonde.'

    February 3: Thanks to the helpful reviews of others (this is why I ask for them!), I've come to the decision that this story still is not up to the level of standard I'd like it to be. As a result of my crippling perfectionism, I'll be postponing any new content until I finish up improving on it further. The entire point of posting this story for all to read is so that people enjoy it. I want readers (you!) to be able to engage in a quality reading experience, so that I can have the satisfaction of knowing I provided a story that people feel good about reading. Until then, I'll be working at it further so I can do my best to tell this story from the heart.

    Thanks in advance for giving this story a read. I truly hope you enjoy it!

    Genre: Action/Adventure/Supernatural
    Rating: T - Violence and Mild Language

    *****
    Quick Nav:
    Chapter 2 »
    Chapter 3 »
    Chapter 4 »
    Chapter 5 »
    Chapter 6 »
    Chapter 7 »
    Part 2: Sibling Rivalry »
    Chapter 9 »
    Chapter 10 »
    Chapter 11 »
    Chapter 12 »
    Chapter 13 »
    Chapter 14 »
    *****

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

    Part 1: A Blond Ray of Sunshine

    ⁂ ⁂

    On the southern coast of Hoenn, a massive crater had been ripped into the earth. Twisted metal and rubble was strewn about, fires dotted the charred devastation. Water rolled in from the nearby ocean. Echoes of police sirens wailed in the distance.

    Slateport City had been entirely decimated. Nothing of the once-populous city was left. Millions of lives, humans and Pokémon, had been lost to the ashes.

    High above the remains of the city hovered two shadowy figures. The individuals surveyed the aftermath for a moment before disappearing in an instant.

    As word spread, as the police, military, and government personnel came to investigate, and as people grieved for those they lost, no evidence and no leads ever surfaced.

    The cause of the destruction remained unknown. It was as though the city had been torn away from existence for no reason at all.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

    The sun shined down upon the peaceful, ocean waters of Sea Route 20 in Kanto. The quiet lapping of the churning ocean was mixed with cries of seagulls and various water Pokémon. A herd of Horsea and Seadra bobbed around in the deep blue while Mantine breached into the air to soar short distances. A small group of Hoppip drifted on the winds high overhead.

    In the distance came the sound of a motor. A pack of Dewgong playing on the surface dove under as it approached. It was a large yacht speeding westward, carrying a handful of young Pokémon Trainers on its deck. Some were seated in the built-in lounge area. Others rested against the railing to look out at the sea.

    Among them was a grinning young boy wearing a red polo shirt, his blond hair whipping around in the winds. His name was Antoshi.

    Over a year had passed since Antoshi had left his home in the suburbs of Saffron City to start his journey as a Trainer. The 12-year-old boy had traveled across the majority of Kanto. His quest was to collect all eight badges and reach the Indigo Plateau for an opportunity to win the League's semiannual tournament.

    After having defeated the Gym Leader in Fuchsia City, he had six badges to his name. The boat carried him towards Cinnabar Island: the destination to earn his penultimate badge.

    The motor and the sound of crashing waves against the hull were much louder than expected. A huge smile spread across his face, fueled by his boundless excitement and anticipation. The early spring air, mixed with the salt of the sea, whipped wildly at him. He had frequently spent his time camping out in the woods or sleeping in Pokémon Centers. The sea breeze was refreshing and not something he'd gotten very much of in his journey.

    “This is so amazing,” Antoshi remarked seemingly to himself.

    Beside him, a much larger figure groaned wearily while hanging on to the railing for dear life.

    "Sure it's nice," the boy's partner replied. "But why do boats have to move so much? Are we hitting a bunch of rocks?"

    It was a Typhlosion, the Volcano Pokémon — and it was speaking to him. The others Trainers were unable to hear them conversing over the ambient noise.

    “You'll be fine,” Antoshi reassured him, chuckling. “The ride shouldn't take too long. This boat's pretty fast.”

    "Too fast and too bumpy for me."

    Fireball's eyes went wide with horror. The Typhlosion held a paw over his mouth and quickly made for the cabin.

    Antoshi smiled and heaved a sigh. It was the first time he and Fireball needed to take a boat ride on their journey. He gazed back out at the water, continuing to eagerly soak in their brief trip at sea.

    He grinned and laughed at the sight of shimmering red and blue tops from a bloom of Tentacool and Tentacruel peeking out from the water. His chest swelled with joy as he held the rail, strolling further down the ship to follow them as they drifted on by.

    Common flying fish jumped alongside the boat. The sea water splashing away from the boat glistened bright like diamonds under the sun's rays. His brown eyes were wide with excitement. The grand openness of the deep electric blue sea surrounding him was awe-inspiring. It kept him euphoric and eager for unknown new adventures awaiting him in the far distance.

    He sighed happily, resting on the rail once more to watch the world go by with a proud smile upon his face.

    Fireball headed back outside to see his friend's contentment. Seeing Antoshi so cheerful rubbed off on him.

    The two had forged an unbreakable bond of friendship since Antoshi's childhood. Fireball was Antoshi's best friend and partner — his only partner. The only Pokémon accompanying Antoshi and the only one he ever needed. Through their combined determination, grit, and some luck, the duo had found victory in most of their battles thus far.

    Fireball took his place by his friend's side.

    “Feeling better?” Antoshi asked.

    "I think so," Fireball replied with a groan. "I'm just glad we didn't eat before this."

    Antoshi laughed, prompting his friend to perk up and laugh along with him. At that point, some of the other Trainers on board heard Antoshi laughing. Some of them gave him looks of concern over the fact that he was talking and laughing with his Pokémon.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

    A few hours later, the boat reached the marina of Cinnabar Island. After docking, the captain of the boat — a friendly sailor named Sean — lowered the gangplank. He headed off first to tie down and anchor his vessel. Once secured, he guided the others to disembark as well.

    “Here we are, passengers!” he announced as they made their way onto land. “Welcome to Cinnabar Island! I hope you all enjoyed your ride here. If anyone would like to leave gratuity, feel free to do so. If you do, remember to keep enough money to buy food and supplies for yourself and your Pokémon! Good luck on your journey!”

    Most of the Trainers gave Sean a few thousand Pokédollars. Antoshi and Fireball were the last two off the boat.

    “Thank you so much,” Antoshi said, standing on the wooden docks. He, too, left some money to Sean.

    “It's no problem, young man,” Sean replied with a grateful nod. “Get out there and make your dreams come true.”

    Antoshi grinned confidently. He and Fireball departed, continuing their journey on a brand-new location.

    Fireball walked alongside his friend. Being upright was not an issue for him, having become acclimated to it after doing so for the majority of their journey. It also highlighted his abnormally tall height for a Typhlosion, standing at over six feet. While on his hind legs, he towered over Antoshi.

    The marina, situated on the east coast of Cinnabar, bustled with people and Pokémon. Once they reached its exit, they gasped in astonishment. They stood at the edge of a lush, sprawling tropical paradise bathing in the glow of the afternoon sun.

    Tall palm trees lined the paved streets flourishing with people, Pokémon, and vehicles. Amid the sound of the rolling tide, melodious squawks of parrots echoed in the distance. A small flock of Pidgey flew over their heads, directing their attention to the tall buildings. The skyline was similar to what they were used to seeing in Saffron City, though nowhere near as numerous as their hometown. Everyone appeared totally carefree, as if every day was just another day at the beach.

    Antoshi grinned thoughtfully at the sight. The visage of the beautiful island was everything he'd always hoped for when he became a Pokémon Trainer. Traveling to new places, seeing things he'd never seen before, absorbing other peoples' culture and way of life — it was all a huge part of the journey for him.

    "Can we move here?" Fireball idly asked.

    “This place is really amazing,” Antoshi remarked. He re-adjusted his large red backpack that held essentials for them both. “Looks like we can do a little sightseeing here with the spare time we have.”

    Fireball's eyes widened upon spotting various food and snack vendors along the beachside pathway.

    "What about a little snacking, too? I see a cart over there selling ice cream!"

    Antoshi chuckled.

    “I see your stomach has settled down already. All right, one ice cream cone.”

    Fireball fist pumped in victory. He followed Antoshi over to the ice cream vendor, a cheerful older man wearing an apron and straw fedora.

    “What can I getcha?” the man greeted them.

    Antoshi casually pointed to Fireball.

    “My friend here wants to choose.”

    “Buying a treat for your Pokémon? It's not often I see that! Most Pokémon don't … handle ice cream very well.”

    “Fireball can eat anything,” he replied with a smirk.

    Fireball hummed thoughtfully, looking over the different varieties carefully. He gasped and began frantically pointing at one.

    “Nice choice!” the vendor said, spinning an ice cream scoop in his hand. “One double chocolate-chocolate chip banana fudge swirl, coming up!”

    Fireball barely kept still as he watched the man scoop out a big roll of ice cream. He centered it atop a waffle cone before handing it to the Typhlosion. His clawed fingers wiggled eagerly before he reached out and took it, staring at it in amazement for a moment.

    "Waffle… cone …" Fireball whispered in awe. "A cone made of my favorite food."

    “Anything else?” the man asked.

    “Water, please,” Antoshi replied.

    The vendor handed Antoshi a cold water bottle, made entirely of recyclable paper, from a storage compartment in his cart. Antoshi took his wallet out of his back pocket to pay the man, and the two continued on their way.

    Fireball took a long lick of the ice cream and savored it for a moment. He casually placed the whole treat — cone and all — into his mouth, loudly crunching on it.

    So delicious …” Fireball remarked dreamily. “Thank you, Antoshi! I love this place already!”

    Antoshi grinned as he took a sip of water. He was happy to see Fireball happy.

    The sun shimmered in their faces as they strolled down the city's busy sidewalks. They stopped briefly at a crosswalk.

    “This place really rebuilt and grew since that eruption destroyed everything,” Antoshi said, putting the cap back on his water.

    Both of them observed the colossal volcano looming in the distance. Fireball hummed thoughtfully before they crossed the street safely.

    "You told me that was decades and decades ago, wasn't it?"

    Antoshi nodded in response. Reaching the opposite side, the duo were quickly absorbed into the crowd of pedestrians and Pokémon.

    “Yeah. It's amazing to see how far it's come from starting as a small beach resort. I remember one of my schoolbooks showed pictures of what Cinnabar looked like before and after the eruption. It wasn't pretty but, because of it, the island is actually bigger and much more beautiful than it used to be.”

    "Guess that's why there's so many tall buildings and stuff."

    Both of them gazed upward, strolling along in the shadows of those very high-rises looming overhead.

    “Well, let's go find the nearest Pokémon Center. After that, we can ask them how to get to the Cinnabar Gym.”

    "Oh, yeah!" Fireball exclaimed. "I'm ready!"

    Antoshi found a recycling bin to drop his empty water bottle into. A friendly robotic voice in the bin thanked him, followed by the sound of a powerful suction machine. He reached into the pocket of his backpack to retrieve his trusted travel-size Kanto compendium.

    The book had been weathered by heavy usage. It was his source of information for each city and the routes that they visited. Not only was it a map, but also had directories, people and places of interest, as well as various other information like weather patterns and local Pokémon. With it, Antoshi was able to ascertain which way they needed to go to find one of Cinnabar's Pokémon Centers.

    They used the locations almost like home bases. The Centers allowed Trainers to reside in one of their living quarters for up to twenty-four hours, free of charge. It also provided Trainers and Pokémon with free food from their cafeteria.

    “Looks like it's only a few blocks away,” Antoshi said, leading his friend toward their destination.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

    Once the duo stepped through the Pokémon Center's automatic glass doors, they were greeted by a rush of cool, circulated air.

    Gentle music played over the intercom system. The splendorous main area was somewhat busy, though the buildings were always designed to feel at home. It was akin to an oversized living room with a tall, curved glass wall at the front bearing its trademark 'P'.

    Various Trainers walked around freely; talking, laughing, playing with their Pokémon. Antoshi and Fireball headed toward the station counter to speak to Nurse Joy. The Center had a few available rooms left for them to stay in. Antoshi took out his wallet and handed his Trainer Card to Nurse Joy, which she scanned to verify his credentials.

    The procedure marked the time and date of his last known location. The system allowed his parents keep track of him on his journey. She handed the card back to him along with a plastic key.

    “Please enjoy your stay here,” Nurse Joy told them with a warm smile. “Remember, supper is served at six, lights-out is at ten, and there is absolutely no battling allowed inside. We have a stadium behind the building for that.”

    Antoshi chuckled as he put his wallet away.

    “Yeah, we … get that at every Pokémon Center we go to. Fireball and I had a little incident back in Cerulean City. He used to have a temper problem when he was still a Quilava.”

    He looked up at the Typhlosion with a smirk.

    "Hey, that loudmouth Mudkip was asking for trouble," Fireball muttered, folding his short arms across his chest.

    Nurse Joy quietly laughed.

    “I got an on-screen alert about it when I scanned your card. As long as you and your Pokémon don't cause anymore problems, you're in no trouble. All of us are simply required to inform you of that.”

    “Thank you very much, Nurse Joy,” Antoshi replied. “Come on, Fireball. Let's go get settled.”

    Fireball nodded and followed Antoshi down a nearby hallway.

    Antoshi tapped the key against the scanner of the door of their room, prompting the door to unlock and allow them inside. The two sighed in content as Antoshi closed the door behind them.

    The room was small and sparsely decorated, yet cozy. Antoshi took off his heavy pack and placed it on the bed before stretching his arms up high.

    “Now is as good a time as any to call Mom and Dad to let them know we're doing all right,” Antoshi said.

    "They sure do like to worry," Fireball replied.

    Antoshi laughed knowingly as they headed back out to the main area.

    They found an unoccupied videophone for Antoshi to sit in front of. He placed his Trainer Card against the screen, instantly lighting it up with a list of his registered contacts. His list only had one. He tapped the 'Home' contact, and the phone dialed. The ringback tone played only once before his mother quickly answered.

    “Hello, Antoshi!” she cheerfully exclaimed, waving to him.

    “Hey, son!” his father added, standing behind her.

    Antoshi and Fireball waved back to them.

    “We got the alert a few minutes ago,” his mother said, “that you signed in to the Cinnabar Island Pokémon Center.”

    “You guys wait by the phone every time that happens, huh?” the boy asked with a jovial smirk.

    Every time!” both parents exuberantly exclaimed.

    “How is it there?” his father asked. “I'll bet it's beautiful!”

    “It really is. Fireball and I would love to stay and visit here longer, but the date of the Indigo League Tournament is almost here and we're so close to finishing our run. This is definitely the year we're going, Mom — Fireball and I can feel it.”

    “Oh, goodness,” she said with pride in her voice. “I'm so excited and so nervous for you, Antoshi. I know you and Fireball are going to do your absolute best!”

    “We sure will,” Antoshi replied.

    He looked over at Fireball, who confidently nodded.

    “Well, we don't want to take up anymore of your time, Antoshi,” his dad chimed in. “You know how clingy your mother gets,” he added with a guffaw.

    She cut her eyes at her husband before she nodded in defeat.

    “Okay, so I am a little clingy,” she admitted, the others laughing in response. She gave her son a warm smile. “That's only because we love you so much, Antoshi. It's always so wonderful when I get to see my big boy's shining face.”

    Antoshi turned red and chuckled coyly, looking around to make sure no one nearby heard her remarks.

    “We're always behind you one-hundred percent, Antoshi!” his dad remarked.

    “Love you both,” Antoshi said, grinning. “Talk to you again soon!”

    The screen displayed 'Call Ended' before turning off.

    Antoshi sighed happily. He got up, looking to his friend with a confident grin.

    “You ready to go for that seventh badge, buddy?”

    "Do you even have to ask?" Fireball replied with a smirk, sharing a quick fist-bump with his friend.

    With Antoshi's map stored away in their room, they headed over to Nurse Joy to ask her for directions to the Gym. She informed them to look for a large red building closest to the base of the volcano. Antoshi thanked her again, and the two were promptly on their way.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

    On foot, it took the pair a couple of hours to reach the Gym. They took their time, experiencing some more sights of the city. The late afternoon sun cast an orange glow on their new surroundings. They witnessed street performers, artists and even hula dancers which they stopped briefly to watch. The dancers flowed in sync with each other, as well as with their group of various forms of Oricorio.

    Antoshi was taken by surprise when one of the dancers, a young lady, came up to him. He blinked incredulously as she placed a lei in the style of a Comfey around his neck — a common offering for tourists of the island. Fireball grinned, snickering as he watched his friend staring at her. She smiled at him, and Antoshi offered a demure smile of his own in response. She giggled and took her place back with the small dancing troupe.

    "Antoshi has a cru~sh!" Fireball teased him with a cheeky grin as they walked away. "Ask her to travel with us."

    Antoshi put his hands in his pockets and kept his gaze locked to the ground.

    “I am not going to ask her to travel with us,” Antoshi muttered.

    Fireball held back a chortle.

    "You should go back there and ask her on a date. I'll chaperone you."

    “Will you knock it off?” Antoshi snapped.

    Fireball to burst out laughing while Antoshi groaned in defeat.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

    They were nearing closer to the Gym, prompting the Typhlosion to put on a more serious expression.

    Once the duo crossed the street, they stood before a modest, red building that simply read 'GYM' over its glass front doors.

    “Lucky number seven,” Antoshi remarked as they studied the building. “Let's go!”

    They marched confidently up to the automatic doors. Before the doors could slide open, the pair ended up walking face-first into the glass.

    They froze in place, dumbfounded as they remained pressed up against the doors.

    "Is it … open?" Fireball asked, muffled by the glass.

    A computerized chirp resonated next to them.

    They peeled themselves away from the door to find a screen display lit up on the wall next to the door.

    “Welcome, Trainer!” the digitized female voice of a pixelated woman said. “This is the Cinnabar Island Gym! If you wish to challenge this Gym's Leader, you'll need to have sharp battling skills and a sharp mind! You will find monitors like this one throughout the Gym, situated in front of a set of locked doors. You are required to answer a question displayed on the screen by tapping one of the four multiple-choice answers, but you only have thirty seconds to make a choice! Get it right, and you may move on to the next room! Get it wrong or let time run out, and you will have to battle the Trainer stationed in each room to progress further. If you wish to keep your Pokémon in tip-top shape to battle the Leader, you'd best answer correctly!”

    After a brief pause, Fireball gazed over at his friend.

    "Is this what school is like?"

    Antoshi chuckled.

    “Yes, but with a bit less pressure. I just hope we come up with the correct answer to whatever they ask.”

    “Question number one!” the digitized woman suddenly spoke, surprising the pair. “Which Gym are you at right now?”

    The screen displayed each choice, which included 'Cinnamon', 'Cranberry', and 'Cyndaquil'.

    "Does that one say 'Cyndaquil'?" Fireball asked. "Pick that one."

    Antoshi smirked before tapping on 'Cinnabar'. They were greeted with a green check mark and the sound of ringing bells.

    “That's correct! You may now proceed inside!”

    The doors slid open, granting entry to them.

    “Don't get too excited, though!” the computer added. “The questions are only going to get tougher!”

    "Thank you, lady on the screen!" Fireball cheerfully said, waving to the computer.

    The pair headed inside and the doors slid closed behind them.

    The two felt tiny beneath the Gym's incredibly tall ceiling. The floor was patterned with red and white tiles. Everything was kept clean and shiny as if the Gym was brand-new. They marched up a small set of stairs, which brought them to the first open room. A fire breather was sound asleep, sitting on a chair near the monitor. They crept by in an attempt to let him sleep, before the loud monitor came to life.

    “Welcome, Trainer!” the digitized lady exclaimed, rousing the fire-breathing Trainer awake. The fire breather yawned and stood up. From behind his back, he pulled out a Poké Ball, expanded it, and tossed it up and down while eagerly waiting for the pair to answer the next question.

    “Which of the following is true?” the computer asked.

    Its display showed several choices. 'Fire is strong against Water', 'There are 9 certified Pokémon League Badges', 'Arbok evolves into Seviper', and 'Quizzes are fun!'

    Antoshi quirked an eyebrow.

    This is a trivia question?”

    Fireball hummed in thought.

    "Seems tough," he remarked, looking over the answers.

    Antoshi shook his head in amusement and tapped the fourth answer.

    “Correct again!” the computer told them before the next set of automatic doors opened. “Now, move on to the next room!”

    As Antoshi and Fireball went ahead, the fire breather shrugged and sat back down in his chair to resume napping.

    “Fireball, you can't read,” Antoshi said once they were out of earshot.

    "Exactly my point!" Fireball replied.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

    Antoshi put his studious knowledge of Pokémon to use in the Gym. The many books he read on training, Pokémon biology and their natures all suddenly paid off. In his endeavor to gain information and maps about the Kanto region, he had subscribed to various magazines targeting Trainers. His studies and over a year of experience as a Trainer made the quiz questions fun.

    The questions became progressively harder, as they'd been warned. The time limit kept him on his toes. 'Where are wild Jynx found?' and 'Can Umbreon learn Sucker Punch?' There were also tricky questions like 'Does Magneton weigh as much as three Magnemite?'

    He remained calm and patient, carefully choosing each answer. Each room's Fire-specialist Trainer was eager and ready to battle. As the boy continued picking correct answers, they were left with the dashed hopes of breaking their monotony. Antoshi remained focused on getting his one Pokémon through to the Gym Leader unscathed.

    After clearing a dozen quiz machines, the final set of automatic doors opened to reveal a large battling stadium.

    "Finally!" Fireball exclaimed. "I was ready to fall asleep like those Trainers back there."

    On the opposite end of stadium room, a person in a white lab coat laid napping on a sofa. The pair looked around as they approached the challenger's side of the field. They took their marks on the opposite end of a giant Poké Ball etched into the ground, poised confidently and ready for battle. They waited for a short time.

    That short time turned into a minute.

    “I'll bet this is some kind of strategy,” Antoshi whispered to his friend. “All those trivia questions, then forcing us to wait patiently until they're ready. It must be a plan to wear us down.”

    Fireball nodded in agreement.

    Then two minutes passed. As they continued to wait even longer, their shoulders were slumped over from boredom.

    "Are you sure this is strategy?" Fireball curiously asked.

    “Absolutely not,” Antoshi replied flatly before clearing his throat. “Excuse me! Hello?”

    “Huh?” a feminine voice responded from the couch. The Gym Leader in the lab coat sat up and stretched, yawning loudly. “I didn't know there was a challenger. The sound of battling usually wakes me up.”

    A girl in her teens stood up from the couch. She wore dark, black glasses and a conspicuous bald cap that did little to hide the long, orange hair that reached the small of her back. She sported a long, graying mustache on her upper lip.

    “I see now. You guys decided to do the boring, brainy route, didn't you?” she asked. “That's pretty dumb — pretty smart, but pretty dumb. Most challengers to my awesome Gym like to get their hands dirty and battle as many of my Trainers as they can! Then I get to pick them off easy because their Pokémon are weak by the time they get here. Nice job, 'Brainy.'”

    Antoshi was briefly taken aback.

    “Err, … you require people to use those trivia machines. It even said outside that you have to have a 'sharp mind' to get through the Gym.”

    “Well, duh, I know that! People like you are so boring, though. A lot of the Trainers go through at least one battle here. Sheesh!”

    Fireball blinked curiously.

    "Is … that a mustache?" he asked, keeping his voice low.

    “I didn't even know girls could grow mustaches,” Antoshi replied.

    “It's not a real mustache, you stupid … person!” she stumbled, angered. She noticed the lei that Antoshi was wearing and suddenly became quite arrogant. “You're lucky I'm even entertaining a challenge from some goofy tourist who wandered inside my Gym.”

    Antoshi and Fireball looked at each other in confusion.

    “I'm not some tourist,” Antoshi countered. “I'm a Trainer with six badges!”

    “Blah, blah, blah,” she replied, mocking him with her hand. “So what? You've got six badges, but I don't see any extra Poké Balls on you. You're not going to get any farther with just one Pokémon.”

    Antoshi smirked.

    “You might be right about that,” he replied. “But you're not the first person to tell us that, and you won't be the last we prove wrong! This is our life's work you're facing — our heart and soul!”

    Fireball interrupted Antoshi's dramatic speech, tapping Antoshi on the shoulder to get his attention. He pointed at the mustache on her face.

    “Oh, yeah. By the way, why are you wearing that … everything?”

    She folded her arms across her chest.

    “Ha! Of course you wouldn't recognize who I look like, you silly tourist!”

    “But you just look like an old man …” Antoshi trailed off, recalling famous Gym Leaders from one of his magazines. “Wait a minute, you're dressed like one of the people that used to run this Gym — Blaine!”

    She laughed haughtily.

    “That's right, Brainy! I happen to be his great-great-granddaughter! … In spirit,” she added with an awkward cough.

    Antoshi and Fireball both quirked an eyebrow.

    “Okay, I'm not actually his descendant, but Blaine has been a hero of mine ever since I learned about the history of our amazing island and our legendary Trainers! I promised myself that I would become the most amazing and powerful Fire-type Trainer that Cinnabar has to offer, and guess what? I did! After the previous Gym Leader retired a couple months ago, I took his place, and here I am! I'm kinda new as a Gym Leader, but you're still in for a scorching battle! My name is Blaire — but you can call me 'Blaire the Magnificent'!”

    The duo blankly stared at her like a couple of stunned Magikarp.

    "That's … kinda cool," Fireball remarked, "and kinda creepy, too."

    Blaire spun around on her heel in such a way that her long coat flapped dramatically.

    “So! Let's get the formalities out of the way! Who is this know-nothing tourist standing before me? A Trainer who foolishly wishes to face Blaire the Magnificent with one Pokémon?”

    “I'm Antoshi — a Trainer from Saffron City and, yes, I wish to challenge you for the Volcano Badge!”

    “Antoshi?” Blaire wondered aloud with a scoff. “That's an odd name like I've never heard before!”

    He smiled and shrugged.

    “I get that a lot.”

    “As per Indigo League regulations, I'm required to inform you that if you lose this match, you can't request a rematch for another seven days!”

    “I know that one by now,” Antoshi replied.

    “Fine then, Brainy!” Blaire replied, grinning confidently, her dark sunglasses shimmering. “As the official Gym Leader of the official Cinnabar Island Gym, I — Blaire the Magnificent — do officially accept your challenge!”

    Blaire threw her first Ultra Ball up high with theatric flair. The ball opened in mid-air, a bright light bursting forth from it which took the shape of a large dragonlike Pokémon. As the light faded, an imposing Charizard landed on the ground with a heavy thud. It gave a roar, streams of flames erupting from its mouth.

    Blaire caught the ball as it returned to her person almost like a sentient boomerang. She held it at her side, smirking confidently.

    Antoshi's eyes lit up as he grinned eagerly. His blood raced with excitement while staring down his competition.

    “Starting off strong…,” he quietly remarked to himself.

    Fireball and Antoshi nodded to each other.

    “All right, Fireball — go get 'em!

    *****
    Chapter 2 »
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    Old September 21st, 2017 (6:37 PM).
    PastelPhoenix's Avatar
    PastelPhoenix PastelPhoenix is offline
    A Princely Birb
       
      Join Date: Mar 2016
      Age: 24
      Gender: Male
      Nature: Brave
      Posts: 387
      Whoo boy, guess this will be my first commentary on PC. I'll start with a few nitpicks, and thankfully there only are a few since I both read too fast to really fine tooth everything unless it sticks out, and am sort of tired as it stands. I'll probably come back with a finer comb on later chapters.

      Quote:
      ... emerged from one the many two-story homes.
      Looks like you missed the "of" after "one".

      Quote:
      One foot stamped in front of the other into the hard pavement of the sidewalk.
      I think you want "onto" instead of "into". Unless he is running so hard he is leaving holes in the pavement.

      Quote:
      In the side pocket of his pack held a map of the Kanto region to guide him and to make sure he knew which paths he should follow. But mostly, he was moving as freely as the wind.
      These two sentences seem really awkward to me and actually broke my pace when I ran across them. I think the way the first one is set up lead me to believe the map was going to be used or relevant, but the next one is a complete 180. I think it needs a word to prepare for the shift, like "although", "however", or even a restructuring to make the "but" stronger.

      Now for some other stuff. Right off the bat I'll say that I did like it. One of the things I consider quality wise is if I could just sit and read the story without being taken out of it by something off about the writing or drifting off and just skimming the page. This passed that test just fine. Aside from the section in the nitpicks I wasn't taken out of the story from anything egregious nor did I start daydreaming. It managed to hold me there.

      One thing I noticed while shifting into the actual chapter one was that it began to feel like an episode of a show more than a traditional piece of writing. I should mention that apparently I am a weirdo who doesn't "see" the scenes in most books or such, but I saw this clearly and could think to myself "okay, that's where it would cut to the next scene. Probably a perspective change there." Etc.

      For the good of this, it was very easy to transition the words to a scene and could follow it extremely easily.

      For the bad of it, it felt a little disjointed between scenes. The shifting from location to location and scene to scene was very, shall we say, apparent. I'll compare it to a hard cut in visual media. Some transition between them, even just a word or two, would help ease between "were here and doing this, and now lets go there and do that". Having some more of that detail you described Saffron with elsewhere would also greatly cut down on this feeling of "television". With most of the sentences being devoted to dialog and action I get that quick "scene, cut, scene" feeling that adding a chance to slow it down and add more passiveness with detail and environment can provide.

      If I want to be real abstract, detail and environment frame the action. You spent time making a nice detailed silver frame for the intro and then settled for a very simple wooden one for the beach and pier.

      But for now I'll stop here to avoid getting too weird and abstract with it. Overall, I do want to remind you that I did enjoy it, and definitely will read the next chapter. My comments are just what bubbled to mind while reading.
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      Old September 28th, 2017 (7:58 AM). Edited January 27th, 2019 by Antoshi.
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      Antoshi Antoshi is offline
      Peaceful Serenity
         
        Join Date: Oct 2004
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        Chapter 2


        Fireball stepped up, locking eyes with Blaire's Charizard. With a roar of his own, the upper part of his back ignited. His body radiated a shimmer of heat — a threat display. He was focused and ready for a serious battle.

        ‘A fellow Fire-type, eh?’ Blaire thought with a smile.

        There were a few moments of tense quiet between the two sides as they stared each other down, analyzing their current situations. Blaire opted to make the opening move with a dramatic point toward the enemy.

        “Charizard, use Slash!”

        Her Pokémon grunted in response, charging toward its opponent.

        “All right, Fireball,” the boy said, “let's turn up the heat! Use Eruption!”

        Fireball dropped down on all fours and sprinted at Charizard.

        ‘A Fire-type attack?’ Blaire thought as she furrowed her brow. ‘Is he not as smart as I thought? No, … he's using it now while his Typhlosion is still fresh.’

        As Fireball neared close, Charizard's sharp claws glowed with a magical energy indicative of various Pokémon moves. Charizard swiped hard at him but missed when Fireball ducked and tackled into Charizard's lower body. He struck with such force that he launched the large, dragonesque Pokémon airborne. With Charizard directly above him, Fireball gave a mighty roar, the flames on his back erupting into a massive pillar of flames that completely engulfed his opponent.

        Charizard cried out in pain while Blaire looked on bitterly, unable to help.

        When the eruption of fire dissipated, Fireball darted out of the way.

        Charizard crashed back down to the ground. It groaned as it weakly lifted itself back up by its arms.

        “Charizard, you okay?” she asked.

        Her Pokémon grunted and gave her a nod.

        “Don't let up, Fireball!” Antoshi said to his friend with a confident smirk. “You know what time it is!”

        Fireball nodded in response. The Typhlosion curled himself up in a large ball and revved in place like a spinning tire.

        Blaire looked on with a curious gaze. The flames on his upper back spread all the way around him until he was enveloped in a fireball, just like his namesake.

        “This is our signature attack!” Antoshi exclaimed. “A special Rollout I like to call 'Rolling Fireball'!”

        Fireball's spinning body barreled toward Charizard like a homing missile.

        The Typhlosion's incredible speed left Blaire stunned and unable to react in time. Charizard was violently thrown to the side from a direct blow of Fireball's blazing Rollout attack. The reptilian beast tumbled to a stop, groaning and growling while picking itself up again.

        The attack was flashy and intimidating, but their distinctive Rollout did not change its Rock typing. It was usually not their best — or preferred — choice of attack. However, its typing did make it very useful against anything weak to Rock, particularly a Fire- and Flying-type like Charizard.

        Fireball spun around for the next phase of Rollout. His speed and power increased as he aimed for Charizard again.

        “He's coming back around!” Blaire said to her Pokémon. “Charizard, use Fly! Now!

        With a grunt of acknowledgment, Charizard flapped its large wings and took to the air just in time to narrowly avoid the speeding Typhlosion.

        The miss caused Fireball to hop out of his Rollout, sliding to a halt a short distance in front of Antoshi. They both focused their attention upon the airborne Charizard.

        “Now, Charizard, strike!”

        Charizard roared, diving headlong at Fireball with incredible speed.

        “Guard!” Antoshi instructed his friend.

        Fireball clenched his jaw and crossed his short arms over his chest to brace from the hard impact of Charizard smashing into him. He grunted as he slid backwards.

        Antoshi put his hands out to catch his friend and stop his momentum.

        “You all right?” Antoshi asked as they looked at each other.

        Fireball grinned and gave him a thumbs up.

        Charizard came in for a landing on its side of the stadium floor once again.

        “That's impressive!” Blaire said. “From what I've learned, Typhlosions are supposed to incinerate anything that gets near it when it's all worked up like yours is. Just like how trusted humans don't get burned by Rapidash flames, you must have have one heck of a bond with your Pokémon there.”

        “Fireball's not just a Pokémon,” Antoshi replied, looking up at his friend with a proud smile, “he's my best friend.”

        Fireball grinned, nodding in agreement.

        Despite the hit, the previous attacks had took their toll on Charizard. It panted heavily, visibly more worn down and battle-scarred than its opponent.

        ‘Not just a great bond,’ Blaire thought, glancing at her Charizard, ‘but that's a strong Typhlosion, too.’

        With her Pokémon on its last legs, Blaire sighed in frustration.

        ‘One last play,’ she thought. ‘They're not going to see this one coming.’

        “Charizard, Smokescreen!”

        Charizard grunted, using its wings to spin around while exhaling a large, rolling plume of black smoke all around to conceal its position.

        Antoshi narrowed his eyes.

        ‘Why Smokescreen?’ he thought. ‘She doesn't strike me as the type of Trainer to waste time stalling. She almost certainly has a plan in motion, that much I'm sure of. We need to act now and get rid of that smoke before she has time to set anything else up.’

        “Use Rolling Fireball!

        Fireball curled up again, revving up to ignite himself into another fireball before charging into the plume. The flames covering his body instantly ignited the dark smoke, creating a brief cloud of fire. Inside the fiery veil, Fireball's attack just missed Charizard. Fireball spun around and hopped out of his Rollout, a short distance from Antoshi once again.

        “Now, Charizard, Hyper Beam!” she declared.

        Antoshi's eyes widened. With no other Pokémon to fall back on, an attack like Hyper Beam was going to be very costly for them.

        Charizard took aim at Fireball, charging a bright white sphere of energy in its gaping maw. With a roar, it fired its attack in the form of a long, blinding beam.

        Time seemed to stop for the duo as the glaring beam of light soared past them both, coming with inches of hitting either of them. Antoshi gasped in shock once the blast impacted the ground a short distance behind him, creating a moderate explosion that shook the ground.

        Blaire was livid with their stroke of luck.

        It missed?!” she shouted.

        Antoshi closed his eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. Getting hit with Pokémon attacks was always an occupational hazard for a Trainer, and Charizard's Hyper Beam was a particularly powerful one. He quickly shook off his nerves to take advantage of their good fortune.

        “All right, Fireball — finish it!” Antoshi said.

        Fireball hopped back into his fiery Rollout attack, speeding toward Charizard one last time. There was nothing left for Blaire to do. Charizard was momentarily exhausted from the amount of energy used for Hyper Beam. She closed her eyes before the final impact of Fireball's attack connected with her Pokémon. The attack sent Charizard airborne a short distance before landing hard on its back.

        With a weak groan, Charizard finally passed out.

        “Yes!” Antoshi whispered with a fist pump. Fireball headed back to his side of the field, standing on his hind feet to face his partner. Both of them grinned in delight.

        Blaire grumbled angrily as she held out Charizard's Ultra Ball, recalling the fainted Pokémon into its confines via a crimson-colored beam of light. She stared at the ball for a moment from behind her dark sunglasses.

        ‘Darn it!’ she thought. ‘Charizard was my strongest Pokémon! I didn't think I'd need any more of my team to send this … 'Antush', or whatever his name is, packing. I'm not going to let this tourist beat me with just one Pokémon — let alone a Fire-type! That's my specialty!’

        “Don't get too carried away just because you knocked out just one of my Pokémon!” she stated. “I have four! There's no way you're going to get through them all, Brainy!”

        Antoshi smirked.

        “Are you gonna send out your next Pokémon or what?” he confidently replied.

        Blaire humphed in defiance. She switched out Charizard's Ultra Ball for a Great Ball.

        “I sure am — and this one's a doozy! Go, Camerupt!”

        From the thrown ball came a stubby, angry red camel with two small volcano tops on its back. It gave a deep shout, ready for battle.

        “Try knocking this big boy out with your fancy little move, Brainy!”

        “Fireball, Defense Curl!” Antoshi said.

        Fireball curled up into a ball once again, staying in place this time. A bubble-like shield temporarily appeared around his body.

        Blaire laughed haughtily. “Oh-ho-ho! That's not gonna save you! Camerupt, Earthquake!”

        “Earthquake?” Antoshi remarked in surprise. “Brace yourself, Fireball!”

        "I'm on it!" Fireball replied, muffled by his own fur.

        Camerupt roared, lifting its forelegs up before smashing into the ground with tremendous force. The ground around Fireball rattled and shook hard until violently shattering around him. Fireball shouted as his balled up body bounced around hard on the jagged, broken, trembling earth. Antoshi steadied himself from the smaller tremors beneath him as well.

        “Fireball, you all right?” Antoshi asked as the attack died down.

        "Well, … I'm feeling some pain in my back here," Fireball said, still muffled from being in his defensive stance, "but I'm still good to go."

        Antoshi smiled proudly.

        “Our turn, Fireball! Show that Camerupt how we roll! Defense Rollout!”

        Defense Rollout?” Blaire mused.

        ‘Wait a minute, … I remember this combination!’ she thought, gasping in surprise. ‘Defense Curl, then Rollout. Oh, great, this kid actually is some know-it-all nerd!’

        Blaire watched in horror as Fireball's flaming body sped toward her helpless Pokémon.

        “Camerupt, get out of the way!”

        Camerupt was far too slow to evade. The impact sent it soaring a short distance before crashing hard like Charizard before it. Camerupt groaned weakly, unable to get back up and collapsed — also like Charizard.

        Blaire's eyes nearly popped out from her sunglasses.

        What?!” Blaire roared in disbelief at seeing her Camerupt already downed. “No way!

        “All right!” Antoshi cheered as Fireball returned to their side of the field. “Awesome job, Fireball!”

        Fireball grinned once again, feeling very confident.

        Blaire gnashed her teeth together.

        ‘How can this kid's Typhlosion be this strong?! I know Defense Curl doubles the power of Rollout. Even still, he knocked out my Camerupt in just one hit!’

        Blaire shrieked and fumed in rage, stomping a foot in frustration before recalling her Pokémon.

        “Camerupt, return!

        Blaire shrunk the Great Ball down to its minimal size, swapping it out with a Friend Ball that was attached to her belt. She expanded the ball, throwing it to the field with less flair and more purpose.

        Go, Rapidash!” she exclaimed.

        The light formed and faded to reveal a large unicorn with a flaming mane, back, tail and fetlocks.

        “Rapidash, Agility!”

        The equine Pokémon rapidly trotted in place, its body briefly glowing white.

        Now you're in trouble!” she confidently proclaimed.

        “Rollout, again!” Antoshi said.

        Fireball curled into his attack, revving in place. His body burned brightly as he sped toward Rapidash.

        “Rapidash, move!” she commanded.

        With its Agility, Rapidash had become much faster and more agile than Fireball could manage. He missed his target by a wide margin.

        “Fire Spin, Rapidash! Lock it down!”

        Once Fireball had returned to his side of the field, Rapidash took a deep breath and, with a loud cry, exhaled a vortex of fire that encircled him. Antoshi covered his eyes and stepped back from the flames that burned dangerously close to him. He was unable to maintain visual contact with his friend.

        “Fireball! Are you all right?”

        "The fire feels kind of nice," Fireball replied, "but I can't move!"

        Antoshi clicked his tongue. Fireball was going to be trapped in the vortex until there was no more fuel to churn it. The attack momentarily constricted around Fireball. He shouted as the fire scorched him.

        "Okay, it feels a lot less nice now!" Fireball said.

        Blaire grinned confidently.

        “Now, Rapidash — use Bounce!”

        Rapidash cried out in acknowledgment. It began to hop up and down, gaining more and more height with each jump until it soared high into the air.

        “Fireball, guard!”

        Fireball clenched his teeth, crossing his small arms over his tucked head as best he could. He shouted loudly as the full weight of Rapidash's body landed on him and immediately launched off like a springboard. Fireball fell to the ground with a groan, weakly getting back up onto his feet. He shouted again as the fiery vortex briefly closed in on him.

        Blaire laughed haughtily as Rapidash gracefully landed in front of her.

        “Can't do anything when your Typhlosion can't zip around, huh?!”

        Antoshi clenched his fists.

        ‘We can't afford a loss here,’ he thought. ‘The Indigo League tournament starts in less than two weeks. Having to wait a week for our seventh badge means we won't make it there in time.’

        “Fireball, try using Rollout to break out of the Fire Spin!”

        Fireball immediately curled up and shot into the churning wall of flames. The flames had an unnatural elastic property about them, stretching out like a rubber band. It brought Fireball's momentum to a slow halt until it snapped him back inside the circular vortex.

        Blaire laughed again.

        “Don't worry — I'll put your Typhlosion out of its misery! Rapidash, use Horn Drill!”

        Antoshi's eyes went wide with horror. While inaccurate, the move was typically an instant knockout. Rapidash cried out, the horn on its head glowing white and appearing to spin.

        “Fireball, keep moving as much as you can!”

        "Got it!" Fireball replied. He heaved a sigh before bouncing back and forth on his hind legs like a boxer would. "Come on! Try and hit me!"

        The veil of fire masked Rapidash's approach. Fireball gasped as it, and its glowing horn, suddenly burst through the fire. Fireball jumped to the side, stretching his body out to just barely avoid the instant knockout technique. Having missed, Rapidash immediately retreated back to its side of the field.

        Blaire remained confident, despite the attack missing. She was able to keep trying, so long as the flames kept Fireball trapped.

        However, Fire Spin had a fickle mind of its own. It decided when it would peter out.

        Suddenly, the vortex of fire burst and dissipated. Both Trainers and Fireball were momentarily stunned.

        “No, no, no!” Blaire exclaimed in a panic.

        “Now, Fireball!” Antoshi said. “Rolling Fireball!

        Blaire grinned.

        “You forgot my Rapidash is too fast for your Typhlosion to hit, Brainy! Rapidash, get moving!”

        “Swerve to the left!” Antoshi instructed.

        As Fireball did so, he scored a direct hit on the speeding Rapidash. The high-speed collision sent it flying even further than Blaire's previous two Pokémon. It gave a pained shout upon landing violently, rendered unable to continue after it fell unconscious.

        Blaire was left shocked.

        “But— … but how?! How did you know Rapidash would move that way?”

        “I guessed,” Antoshi replied with a shrug. “Well, it was more of an educated guess. Your Rapidash ran to our left the first time it dodged the attack, so I figured it would do it again.”

        Blaire remained silent for a moment before the corner of her mouth curled into a slight smirk.

        “Not bad, kid,” she remarked as she recalled her Rapidash. “Not bad.”

        She gasped when she looked at the final ball she had — a Poké Ball.

        ‘Oh, crap,’ she thought. ‘I only recently got this Pokémon from a trade. It's not nearly as strong as the others! There's no way it's going to last more than a minute if it gets hit by Rollout.’ She looked at the opposing duo once more. ‘Welp, no other choice now but to go all-in. If I lose, I'm going down in a blaze of glory!’

        “Go!” she exclaimed, throwing the ball high into the air. “Talonflame!”

        From the open ball came a falcon with orange flame patterns on its feathers, accented with gray, black and yellow. It kept itself airborne, locking eyes with its opponent.

        Antoshi and Fireball both gasped in a mix of surprise and awe.

        ‘A Kalos Pokémon?’ Antoshi thought. ‘Pokémon from Kalos are so rare in Kanto. An exotic Pokémon like that as her final one has to be her most powerful.’

        Antoshi's excitement was at its peak, his eyes bright, unable to keep from grinning.

        “Talonflame!” Blaire said. “Use Attract!”

        “What?!” Antoshi exclaimed in disbelief.

        Talonflame kept itself airborne with one wing, using the other wing to mask its beak while blinking alluringly at Fireball.

        "Wow!" Fireball said, grinning and blushing, becoming infatuated with the avian Pokémon. "So … pretty!"

        Antoshi smacked his hand over his face in disbelief.

        Please don't tell me our dreams are dashed because of Attract,’ Antoshi thought.

        “Fireball, use Rolling Fireball!

        "Wow…" Fireball muttered, grinning and mindlessly swaying back and forth. "So pretty…"

        Antoshi groaned, burying his face in his hands. Blaire laughed in amusement.

        “Love conquers all, kid!” she said. “Talonflame, use Acrobatics!”

        Talonflame screeched in response, flying high into the air before coming down and striking Fireball with her talons several times as she dashed from one side of the field to the other.

        Fireball groaned, weakly falling to a knee.

        "So … pretty," he continued to mutter.

        “Come on, Fireball! Snap out of it! We can't lose like this!”

        "Can't lose…" Fireball said. "Can't lose to … bird. Very pretty, lovely bird. Can't … lose."

        Fireball clenched his teeth as he rose to his feet. His senses were still dazed from the effect of Attract.

        “Are you with me, Fireball?” Antoshi asked with concern in his eyes. “This means everything to both of us. You have to hold it together!”

        Fireball groaned again, shaking his head. He turned to Antoshi, giving him a groggy grin and a thumbs up.

        "I think … I'm good to go."

        Antoshi smiled proudly and nodded.

        “Now we end this!” Blaire loudly declared. “Talonflame, use Brave Bird!”

        Talonflame screeched, tucking its wings, falling to a low altitude. It shot headlong at Fireball with blinding speed — enough to cause a visible shock wave.

        ‘Whoa, that Pokémon's fast!’ Antoshi thought.

        “Fireball! One more Rollout, buddy! Let's bring it home!”

        "All right!" Fireball confidently replied, curling up and igniting himself one more time.

        Fireball blasted toward the speeding Talonflame, turning their battle into a virtual joust.

        Both Trainers held their breath in the brief moment just before impact.

        Talonflame crashed into him and was immediately flung away by the sheer force. Fireball's powerful Rollout attack ended up unwavering.

        With a pained screech, the bird Pokémon spiraled wildly through the air before crashing hard and sliding to a stop.

        With Talonflame unconscious, the battle was over.

        Noo~!!” Blaire yelled, infuriated.

        Antoshi's face lit up with glee.

        “Yes!” he shouted. “We did it!”

        Fireball rolled his way back to him, extinguishing the flames on his back. Fireball got back to his hind feet with a pained grunt. He shared a high-five with Antoshi.

        “No, no, no, no!!” she whined, repeatedly stamping a foot on the ground. “How could I have lost when you only have one Pokémon?!”

        Antoshi and Fireball were both elated as they walked over to Blaire.

        “I told you before we battled,” Antoshi replied. “Fireball and I have a ton of experience — and this is the most important thing to us.”

        Fireball nodded in agreement.

        Blaire sighed, closing her eyes for a moment to cool off. She held her Poké Ball up to recall Talonflame before looking back at the duo with a smirk.

        “I will admit, your decision to raise one Pokémon is admirable — and that's a really strong Typhlosion you have because of it. Very few Trainers are willing to stick with just one, but I definitely witnessed just how powerful the bond between a Trainer and a single Pokémon can be. After all, you are putting all of the training and experience of six Pokémon into one! Still, the level of care and dedication you've shown is what being a Pokémon Trainer is all about. You're an interesting one, … er, what was your name again?”

        “Antoshi,” he replied mirthfully.

        “Antoshi, right. Congrats,” she said as she casually tossed him a Volcano Badge, “you just got your seventh badge, kiddo.”

        The duo briefly stared at the shiny, red badge cupped in Antoshi's hands. A flood of emotion came over them both, welling up with tears. The badge was another symbol of their hard work and the year they spent committing to this journey. Antoshi looked over at his friend.

        “Lucky number seven,” he said, reiterating his remark from before.

        Fireball responded with an enthused nod. Blaire smirked at the happy pair, placing a hand on her hip.

        “You definitely earned it.”

        “Thanks,” Antoshi replied.

        He took out his wallet and flipped open a side flap to reveal six, shining, well-kept badges pinned to it. With a relieved sigh, he proudly added the Volcano Badge to their collection.

        “By the way,” Antoshi said as he put his wallet away, “is your name really Blaire?”

        The girl stifled a chuckle.

        “Depends. Is your name really Antoshi?” she joked. “All right, I'll be honest. Blaire's a nickname I came up with. My real name is Leslie.”

        “Why not stick with your real name?” he playfully asked. “That's what I do.”

        Blaire gasped, pretending to be offended.

        “And miss out on the opportunity to cosplay as the greatest Gym Leader of all time? No way!”

        She took Blaine's distinct stance with her arms folded across her chest.

        “Now, you two get out of here before I throw you out.”

        “Hope to see you again someday,” Antoshi said with a grin.

        He headed off, motioning for Fireball to join him.

        “So long, brainy kid with the weird name,” she replied.

        She smirked proudly as she watched the two depart.

        ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

        It was dusk by the time they exited the Gym. The sun was setting, bringing an end to another day. Both of them stretched their arms high before sighing in relief.

        "I sure am beat," Fireball said, rubbing his back, "and really hungry."

        “Same here,” Antoshi replied with a nod as they set off. “Let's get back to the Pokémon Center and get you healed up. Then we can see how much food is left from dinnertime.”

        "You know," Fireball said, "we should really have a new meal between lunch and dinner. We'll call it 'dunch'!"

        “You are not making that a new word,” Antoshi firmly objected.

        "How about 'linner,' then?"

        “Absolutely not.”

        "Hey, maybe we'll see that cute girl again," Fireball teased.

        “I'm ignoring you now, Fireball.”

        Fireball quietly chortled in response.

        ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

        Back at the Pokémon Center, the duo were ready for some much needed food and rest. They'd been on their feet all day and hadn't eaten since lunch.

        Antoshi and Fireball sat together in the Center's cafeteria amid a smattering of other Trainers and their Pokémon. They joked and laughed together, in high spirits after reaching another milestone in their journey. Fireball had put away a half-dozen trays of food.

        They spent a little more time conversing before deciding it was time to retire for the night. They headed back to their room to get settled in.

        The room had its own bathroom, allowing Antoshi to get washed up and brush his teeth. He also took the opportunity to fill a canteen he kept in his backpack with water from the sink.

        The beds in the Pokémon Centers were only big enough to comfortably fit one person. Fireball had settled in on his preferred sleeping place: the floor.

        Antoshi slipped under the covers of the twin size mattress. He wore his usual sleeping attire of a white undershirt and matching boxers. After turning off the nightstand lamp, Antoshi and Fireball lay awake for a bit, staring at the ceiling in thought.

        “We're in the home stretch now, buddy,” Antoshi quietly remarked.

        "We sure are! We're gonna win it all, and win it big!" Fireball replied, beaming with excitement. "I can't wait to see how big the tournament stage is at the Indigo Plateau. Are you excited, too?"

        “It's all I can think about lately. I'm trying to keep my excitement on the inside, otherwise I'll never get any sleep until then.” Antoshi pulled the covers up tighter and closed his eyes.

        "Antoshi?" Fireball spoke up. "Have you given any more thought about why you're the only one that can hear me speak?"

        Antoshi grinned in amusement.

        “Let's continue this conversation when we're not so tired. Get some sleep, Fireball. I hope you dream about standing on the Champion's platform with me.”

        Fireball chuckled.

        "I'm ready for it. 'Night, Antoshi."

        The two sighed in contentment before letting their tired minds doze off to sleep.

        ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

        That night, Antoshi had a dream. A very clear, and very strange, dream.

        He found himself standing in the middle of a large public park. He was surrounded by unfamiliar faces; children and their Pokémon playing and laughing while parents watched and chatted amongst themselves. It was a picturesque evening in a place that seemed so peaceful and carefree.

        His hands were stuffed in his pockets, his shoulders slumped over. His legs moved of their own accord, leading him to the edge of the park and across the street where an unfamiliar man and woman were waiting. They appeared to be angry with him.

        The image blurred and faded.

        Afterward, he lay awake in a strange bed, in a bedroom he'd never seen before. He carried feelings of anger and sadness in his heart for reasons unknown. From his mouth, a voice that sounded like his mumbled something unintelligible. He sighed heavily and rolled onto his side to get some sleep. Before he could, another voice emanated from behind him.

        “Wake up…,” the voice whispered to him, but he did not respond. “Wake up!” the whispering voice became louder, echoing in his head. He quickly rolled onto his other side, opening his eyes to see nothing but darkness clouding his vision. The darkness did not dissipate, but the voice got much louder.

        "Wake up!" a jovial, familiar voice rang out.

        With a startled gasp, Antoshi leapt awake. He was in his bed in the Pokémon Center.

        "Whoa," Fireball remarked, standing beside him. "Sorry about surprising you like that. You okay?"

        Antoshi sighed. The early dawn sun peered through the cracks in the room's horizontal blinds.

        “Yeah…” Antoshi responded, his voice groggy. “What time is it?”

        "Six o'clock!" Fireball happily said. "Our usual wake-up time. Hope you're ready for some breakfast, because I sure am."

        Antoshi yawned and stretched his arms high.

        “I will be soon. Thanks for waking me, though. I feel like I would've slept in super late. … I was having the weirdest dream.”

        "Was it one of those dreams?" Fireball suggestively asked.

        Antoshi rolled his eyes.

        “No, it wasn't that kind of dream,” the boy replied while pulling the bed covers away. “Well, let's get ready to go and keep this victory train rolling toward our last badge. How's that sound?”

        "Next stop: the Championship!" Fireball declared.

        Antoshi laughed as he hopped out of bed to do some rhythmic morning stretches. Even though Fireball's limbs weren't as long, he joined in on emulating the stretches, much to Antoshi's amusement.

        ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

        With his backpack on the bed, Antoshi finished putting away his clothes from the previous day. He wore a colorful tank top, white shorts and the same lei the hula girl had given him.

        "You're gonna keep wearing that flower necklace?" Fireball curiously asked, sitting on the bed. "Didn't Blaire make fun of you for it?"

        “I don't mind. If I'm gonna be a tourist, I might as well look like one for the short time we're here.”

        "Well, with that shirt on you look like the king of tourists!"

        Antoshi laughed as he slipped his shoes on.

        “I guess that means it's perfect,” the boy replied, grinning. “Come on, let's grab some breakfast and head out.”

        "Finally, food!" Fireball exclaimed, jumping up to his hind feet.

        Antoshi pocketed his wallet as well as the room's key card and slung his backpack over his shoulders. He and Fireball left for the cafeteria. They filled up on all the pastries and fruit that they could before heading back into the main area of the Center. They were fueled up and ready for the next leg of their quest.

        “Thank you, Nurse Joy,” Antoshi politely said, handing her the room key card, “as well as everyone that works so hard here.”

        “Thank you as well, Trainer,” she happily replied.

        “Could I ask you a question?”

        “Of course!”

        “What's the best way for me to get to Pallet Town from here?”

        “Well, you're in luck,” she replied. She reached under the counter, bringing out a small digital map of the island on a portable device. “Since Cinnabar Island is such a popular tourist destination, a ferry company regularly carries people between here and Pallet Town.” She pointed to the map's northwest corner of the island. “The ferry leaves from the Northwest Marina every day promptly at noon.”

        “Plenty of time to do that sightseeing we wanted,” Antoshi remarked to Fireball, who nodded in excitement. “Thank you again, Nurse Joy.”

        “No problem! We hope to see you again!” she said, waving to them.

        “C'mon, buddy,” Antoshi said before the duo eagerly left together.

        ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

        Having a few hours to kill, the two best friends ventured out on their own personal sightseeing tour. It was a crystal clear morning on the island, with just a slight breeze carrying the salty sea air. The rising morning sun sparkled through waving palm fronds. A small flock of Butterfree fluttered over their heads and over a congregation of Metapod on some nearby palm trees.

        The tropical resort was warm and relaxing. It had a whole new shimmer to it in the early hours of the day. It was also more peaceful with far less people around than in the daytime hours.

        Antoshi deeply inhaled the invigorating breeze that carried the end of winter's cold. He sighed cheerfully.

        “This is my favorite time of the year,” Antoshi remarked, “even though my birthday is in the summertime. There's no more harsh cold and snow from winter, but it's just cool enough to make the sky clear and sunny.”

        "That I can agree with," Fireball replied.

        A handful of passersby stared and chuckled at Antoshi's choice of attire, which in turn caused the duo to laugh amongst themselves, having fully expected such a reaction.

        The two stopped by a few shave ice carts along the way. They tried the unique, different flavors that varied between each cart's selection. Antoshi sipped his out of its paper cup while Fireball eagerly downed his in one gulp. He was very content about it, and brain freeze did not seem to affect him.

        Multitudes of shops, restaurants and malls lined the streets. There were large laboratories in the distance that were closed off to the public. Thoroughfares to them were for personnel only.

        Antoshi kept track of the time by asking people on the street and checking various town clocks along the way.

        "Maybe you should get a watch," Fireball joked.

        “We've done just fine this long without one,” Antoshi replied, smiling. “C'mon, we've got about an hour to get over to that marina before the ferry leaves without us.”

        "B-b-but what about lunch?!" Fireball asked in a panic.

        Antoshi hummed thoughtfully and looked around. He spotted a nearby cafe and pointed to it.

        “We can get some food to go from there, but let's be quick, okay?”

        "Roger that!" Fireball eagerly replied.

        The two shuffled safely across the street and entered the cafe. Just a handful of customers and their Pokémon sat inside as well as at tables just outside the establishment. The air smelled of coffee and freshly baked pastries. It was a scent powerful enough to make Fireball's bottomless belly rumble.

        Antoshi ordered a couple of sandwiches from behind a glass display. The proprietor bagged the food, Antoshi paid him, and the two exited with their lunch in hand.

        Outside, Fireball eagerly held his hands out.

        “Ah-ah,” Antoshi chided him, slipping his backpack off and placing it on an empty table. He stored their food away. “We're eating these after we get on the ferry.”

        "Well, what if … we went back in and got a couple extra sandwiches for the road?"

        “Come on, Fireball,” Antoshi replied with a grin, cinching his backpack over his shoulders. “The sooner we get to that ferry, the sooner we eat.”

        Fireball gasped.

        "Then let's hurry up!" he exclaimed, eagerly racing toward their destination.

        Antoshi laughed as he jogged behind his quick-moving friend.

        “Hey, wait up!”

        As they made haste toward the marina, a young adult man took interest in the pair. Leaning against the maw of a nearby alleyway, he calmly watched them shuffle on by. He spotted Antoshi's lei and outfit, indicative of a clueless tourist. He raised and eyebrow and smirked mischievously. He waited until they were a short distance away before casually stuffing his hands in the pockets of his leather aviator jacket and tailing them.
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        Old October 5th, 2017 (8:10 AM). Edited January 27th, 2019 by Antoshi.
        Antoshi's Avatar
        Antoshi Antoshi is offline
        Peaceful Serenity
           
          Join Date: Oct 2004
          Gender: Male
          Nature: Jolly
          Posts: 110
          Chapter 3


          The duo reached the marina not long after. By noon, activity on the island had picked up. A small gathering of people waited by the largest dock near the marina's entrance.

          “Excuse me,” Antoshi spoke up, grabbing the attention of an elderly gentleman. “Is this the waiting area for the ferry to Pallet Town?”

          “It sure is!” he happily replied.

          “Thank you. I just want to make sure we're in the right place. We've … gotten on the wrong transportation before.”

          “Glad to help!” The man gazed up at Fireball. “Say, that's a very nice-looking Typhlosion you have there!”

          Antoshi smiled proudly at his friend.

          “This is my best friend, Fireball.”

          The gentleman extended a hand.

          “It's wonderful to meet you, Fireball!”

          Fireball grinned while shaking the man's hand. The gentleman tipped his bowler hat at the two.

          “Well, I hope the two of you have a great time in Pallet Town.”

          “Thanks again,” Antoshi replied before the gentleman walked away.

          Fireball started bouncing up and down in anticipation.

          "So, um, what's in those sandwiches anyway?" Fireball asked.

          “I'm not su~re,” Antoshi playfully replied. “I think it's a surprise.

          Fireball was shocked.

          "Surprise sandwiches!?" He turned around to face the water. "Where is that ferry?!"

          The shady man following them appeared from the crowd. As he approached his eyes were locked solely on Antoshi. He noticed the indent of Antoshi's wallet in his back pocket. His eyes lit up, slowly and casually strolling up behind him. He reached down, his fingers just slipping within Antoshi's pocket.

          Suddenly, a large, careless man hastily bumped into Antoshi, causing him to stumble backward into the would-be thief.

          “Sorry!” the careless man exclaimed, before quickly shuffling off.

          Antoshi chuckled and turned to the thief.

          “Sorry about that.”

          “Hey, it's no problem!” the young man replied with a nervous, boisterous laugh.

          Antoshi turned his attention back to the marina. The man bitterly grumbled at such a mishap.

          "Oh, oh! There it is!" Fireball exclaimed, hopping into the air and waving the ferry over.

          The ferry blew its horn. At the same time, the thief tried to pick Antoshi's pocket again. He fumbled and pulled too hard on the seam, grabbing the boy's attention. The thief quickly pretended to look around mindlessly, whistling to himself.

          Antoshi reached back to pull his wallet out.

          “I guess I should get ready to pay the fare as fast as possible,” Antoshi mused, smiling as he watched Fireball continue to jump up in excitement.

          The thief behind them seethed.

          ‘Oh, come on!’ he thought.

          He bit his thumbnail, looking back at the city. He had a look on his face as though he'd remembered something important. Heaving a sigh, he remained where he stood.

          ‘A kid with a Typhlosion has to have a jackpot of a wallet.’

          He slid his hands into his pockets, keeping his cool while waiting for the ferry just like everyone else.

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          People soon began to board the ferry one by one. Each passenger paid the attending deckhand a small fare to board. Fireball merrily skipped across the gangplank, followed by Antoshi, who paid for them both.

          The thief calmly slipped past without paying, due to the deckhand being distracted by a woman asking a question.

          Antoshi and Fireball took a seat next to each other. The boy took his backpack off, setting it beside them.

          The thief sat out of their eyesight. He watched them for a moment before reclining across several seats. An older woman looking for a seat walked by and scoffed at his manners.

          Antoshi unwrapped one of the sandwiches and Fireball went to take it from him.

          “Now remember,” Antoshi said, keeping the food just out of Fireball's reach for a moment, “we each get one sandwich, okay? Try not to swallow it all in a single gulp.”

          Fireball nodded in excitement. Antoshi handed him his food with a smile. Fireball went to take a big bite, but suddenly stopped.

          "Wait, … what if I get seasick again?"

          “This ferry's way bigger than the boat from yesterday — and it's nowhere near as fast. It should be a nice, smooth ride the whole way.”

          "Well, in that case …" he trailed off before taking a bite of his sandwich.

          Fireball made an endless array of contented noises as he chewed his food. Antoshi calmly ate along with him while the ferry set sail onto Route 21.

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          The ferry ride took a bit longer than their previous seafaring trek did, despite the route being shorter. Antoshi did not seem to mind, taking the opportunity to soak up as much of their surroundings as possible. After eating, he and Fireball made their way out onto the starboard deck where they leaned against the metal railing to enjoy the view.

          "It's a really big world out there, huh?" Fireball asked.

          The two of them gazed at Kanto's terrain in the far distance.

          “Sure is,” Antoshi remarked with a thoughtful smile. “I hope every minute of it has been just as amazing for you as it's been for me.”

          "Of course! Every minute of every day is great with my best buddy around."

          They shared a chuckle.

          "Say, … have you thought about what we'll do after this is over? Y'know, if we … don't make it to the championship? Where do we go from there?"

          “One step at a time, remember? We haven't even gotten our eighth badge yet!”

          "That's true. … Guess I'm just getting excited now that we're so close to the end."

          “Oh, I definitely am, too. I keep worrying that something is going to delay us from making it to the tournament. We just have to keep our cool and go at our own pace like we always do.”

          "But you're way better at keeping cool than me! I'm ready to sprint as fast as I can to that eighth badge!"

          “We'll definitely be moving a lot faster now, don't worry.”

          While they talked, the thief made his way onto the deck with Antoshi and Fireball. He made sure no one was watching him before silently creeping up behind them. He was once again just a fingertip away from his goal of taking the boy's wallet when the duo suddenly turned around.

          “Come on, let's go back inside and sit down so you can relax,” Antoshi said.

          They immediately froze in place upon seeing the thief leaning over in front of them. He panicked and swiftly fell over with a grunt.

          “Oh, jeez!” he exclaimed, getting back up on his feet with an exaggerated wobble in his legs. “Sorry, I, uh, haven't gotten my sea legs yet.”

          The duo looked at him in confusion. The ship wasn't swaying at all.

          “Hey, you're the guy I bumped into at the marina,” Antoshi remarked.

          “Yeah! Wow, funny running into you again!” he replied, laughing nervously. “Well, see ya around!”

          He quickly shuffled off, his legs no longer trembling.

          The duo shrugged to each other and headed back inside.

          The thief banged his fist against a nearby wall in frustration.

          ‘What else can go wrong today?’ he thought.

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          By mid-afternoon, the ferry neared a small marina at the southern edge of Pallet Town. Antoshi and Fireball stood outside on the upper deck of the ship, taking in the sight of the new location with awe-struck gazes.

          The town was quaint and colorful with cars and pedestrians bustling about. From their vantage point, they saw many houses and stores lining the roads. The buildings had roofs of all different colors in the spirit of its 'palette' namesake.

          Once the ferry docked, its passengers began to file out one by one. The duo headed out of the marina with eager grins, ready to see as much as they could in the short time they could spare.

          The would-be thief followed at a distance behind them, still seething from the earlier mishaps.

          "So, where to first?" Fireball asked.

          Antoshi pulled out his compendium.

          “Hmm, … I think we should just make a beeline straight through the center of town. It's the quickest path and it has some sights along the way.”

          Fireball shuddered as Antoshi put his compendium away.

          "I hate bees."

          Antoshi chuckled, marching forth alongside his friend.

          “Well, maybe if you didn't bother every hive you saw, you wouldn't have such a problem with them.”

          "But their honey is so delicious."

          With that remark, Fireball's stomach began to rumble. The duo glanced at his belly, then at each other.

          “C'mon, let's find a place to grab some food along the way. We'll have an early dinner.”

          Fireball happily nodded in agreement.

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          The pair strolled down the old-fashioned brick-lined sidewalk, a thematic mix of colorful and white at various points. Everything about the area was warm and welcoming. Many passersby smiled, waved or greeted the duo. Some of them were fascinated with a rare Pokémon like Fireball, particularly how abnormally big he was. Antoshi chatted with them, introducing his friend to others as well as their Pokémon, too.

          The thief watched from afar, arms folded across his chest. He stewed at how friendly the pair were, shaking his head in frustration as they mingled with so many potential witnesses.

          Once they crossed the street, they curiously wandered over to a large, conspicuous house. It had a queue of people around the block waiting to get in.

          Antoshi's eyes lit up upon realizing what it was.

          “Oh, wow,” he said, awe-struck. “This is the old Oak Laboratory! It's been here since the founding of the town. I've heard the current professor is something of a celebrity.”

          He noticed a sign on a fence outside the lab.

          Five thousand dollars just to go inside? I guess we'll have to pass on this part of the tour, Fireball.”

          "Fine by me. That means we get to eat sooner!" Fireball remarked as they continued on their way.

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          A short time later, they happened upon a quaint sidewalk restaurant. Several tables and chairs were housed inside of a small wrought-iron fence.

          “'Please seat yourself',” Antoshi read aloud the sign next to the entrance.

          "Don't have to tell me twice!" Fireball said, eagerly taking a seat at one of the tables.

          “Good thing these chairs are metal,” Antoshi said. “We don't need you breaking yet another one.”

          He took his backpack off and sat across from his friend. They each picked up a menu that'd already been laid out before them. No one else was seated at the other tables, allowing them to freely talk.

          "I like places like this," Fireball said, "but I really prefer the all-you-can-eat buffets."

          Antoshi shook his head.

          “I'm never taking you to one of those again after we got kicked out the last time.”

          "I couldn't help it! They had waffles! Tons and tons of waffles! That's my favorite food!"

          “Yeah, and you ate them all. It's a good thing you were able to walk after that or they would've had to forklift you out.”

          The two continued looking over the menu when Fireball suddenly began to hyperventilate. Antoshi looked over at him with concern. Fireball stared back with wide eyes, slowly turning the menu around and pointing to a large picture of waffles with syrup.

          Antoshi sighed and smiled.

          A moment later, a perky young waitress came out to greet them.

          “Hello there!” she said, grabbing their attention. “Welcome to The Sweet Sunkern, my name is Gemma. What can I get for ya'?”

          “I will have the chicken salad,” Antoshi replied with a smile as he set his menu down.

          “Very nice! And how about the handsome Typhlosion?”

          She chuckled, watching Fireball restlessly bounce up and down in his chair.

          “He seems very excited to order!”

          Antoshi smiled, sitting back comfortably.

          “I know exactly why. He'll have the waffles,” Fireball eagerly nodded to the waitress, “with syrup,” Fireball nodded with further enthusiasm. “and lots of blueberries on top.”

          “Absolutely! You know, that's quite impressive that you can understand your Pokémon so well.”

          “Almost like I can hear him speak,” Antoshi joked.

          The two of them shared a laugh.

          “I'll be right back with your food,” she said before heading back inside.

          Fireball sighed in content, settling down before picking up his fork and knife.

          "It took so long for you to teach me how to eat with utensils," Fireball said, smiling. "Just being able to hold them right took weeks. I'm surprised you had so much patience with me."

          “It was worth it considering how many napkins you used to go through.”

          The two of them chuckled.

          "It's really nice here," Fireball remarked.

          Antoshi nodded.

          “Yeah, it's much calmer and more peaceful than we're used to — kind of like Lavender Town, except that was more of an … eerie peaceful. Guess that's just how towns are compared to the city.”

          "I like it," Fireball said before rapping his fork and knife on the table. "Now, where's my waffles?"

          Antoshi sighed.

          “Next thing I have to teach you is some restraint.”

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          Antoshi and Fireball took their time enjoying their meal. The would-be thief watched them from across the street, grumbling as he bit into a hamburger from the food stand he leaned an arm against.

          After the duo finished eating, they were back on their way through the welcoming streets of Pallet. They continued to be stalked by the thief.

          The pair came across a picturesque town square where several large oak trees grew. At the center was a large, stone statue atop a pedestal in the middle of a man-made pond.

          Antoshi gasped loudly in awe. A huge grin crept across his face, eagerly jogging over to see it up close.

          “I've been waiting for so long to see this statue,” he remarked, his gaze unblinking. “Wow, … it's really him.”

          "That's the guy you've mentioned a few times, isn't it?" Fireball curiously asked, standing next to his friend. "The guy that became Champion a long time ago?"

          “Yep. The legendary Trainer from Pallet Town.”

          "I'd love to have been able to battle that Pikachu of his," Fireball remarked with a confident smirk. "Some of the Pokémon I've met talk about that Pikachu, too — it's not all about the Trainers, you know."

          “I already know that with you as my best friend,” he replied.

          The two of them grinned at each other before looking back to the statue.

          “This statue was built over seventy years ago to commemorate them. … I'm really glad I got to see it.”

          Fireball noticed a plaque on a small pedestal near Antoshi's feet.

          "Hey, what's that say in front of you?"

          “Let's see. It says, 'Dedicated to all Trainers and their beloved Pokémon aspiring to be the very best. We—the people of Pallet Town—erect this statue in honor of the sacrifices he and his Pokémon have made, and the people whose lives they've touched. May it serve as a keystone to those who dream and those who endeavor.'”

          Antoshi appeared moved by the poignant words. They were words that had meaning to himself and Fireball. He looked up at the statue again with a smile.

          “It sure will.”

          The pair proudly gazed at the statue a little longer. With a content sigh, Antoshi nudged his friend.

          “Let's get a move on,” he said.

          He brought out his compendium again as they strolled away.

          “According to the map, the Pokémon Center's at the northern edge of town. We'll make a quick stop to give Mom and Dad a call.”

          "Sounds like a plan!" Fireball said.

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          Antoshi and Fireball entered the Pokémon Center, finding it not terribly busy. Nurse Joy tended to a couple of Trainers and their lethargic Raticate at the front desk. The duo headed over to the videophones to make their call to home.

          Antoshi's doting mother appeared on screen, answering the phone quicker than usual.

          “Antoshi!” his mother exclaimed with a surprised look on her face. “You've never called two days in a row! Is everything okay?” Antoshi's father casually walked by in the background, looking just as surprised as she was before he headed over to the phone.

          Fireball waved to them from behind Antoshi.

          “Yeah, everything's great!” he happily replied. “We're actually in the Pallet Town Pokémon Center now. We're not going to be staying here for much longer, though. We'll be on the road to Viridian City by tonight.”

          “You got there so quickly!” his father remarked. “And you're leaving already, too? I hope you're not moving around too fast now.”

          Antoshi nodded.

          “Unfortunately we are, Dad, but we have to. I hate to leave so soon but we don't have a lot of time before the tournament sign-ups close. That's less than two weeks. We also don't know how tough the Gym in Viridian is going to be, so we might not have any time to spare.”

          “I always trust your judgment, Antoshi,” his mother warmly said. “Sometimes I think you're wise beyond your years. … Well, I'll have another shipment of clothes and some more money ready for you by the time you get to Viridian City, okay?”

          “Thanks, Mom,” Antoshi replied, grinning.

          “And make sure you send back all your old clothes this time.”

          “That red shirt with the white stripe down the middle is really comfy, though,” Antoshi whined, playfully smirking.

          All your old clothes.”

          “I got it, Mom. … Oh, we were able to see a few of the sights in Pallet. It's really nice here.”

          “That's wonderful, Antoshi! I'm always happy when you're happy, honey. I know someday you'll look back fondly on all these memories you're making. Talk to us again when you get to Viridian City!”

          “I will. Love you guys.”

          “We love you, Antoshi!” they both said before the call disconnected.

          Antoshi smiled as he got up from the chair.

          “Off to Route 1 we go,” he said, looking at Fireball, who nodded in agreement. “This is the fastest we've ever moved through our entire journey. Think you'll be full enough for the rest of the night?”

          "We … still have those snacks just in case, right?"

          “Yes, we still have snacks,” Antoshi replied with a chuckle.

          Fireball sighed and wiped his brow in relief.

          As they departed the Pokémon Center for the town's northern limits, the luckless thief kept an eye on them from nearby. Leaning against a lamppost, he spoke quietly to an unknown party on his cell phone. He became progressively more cross with the person on the other end of the call. In a huff, he hung up and put his phone in his back pocket. He angrily straightened his jacket before stuffing his hands in its pockets, following the duo once again.

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          Antoshi and Fireball reached the gate house separating Pallet Town from Route 1. It was as busy as any crosswalk connecting people from one side of a street to the next. The gate housed a Trainer checkpoint, allowing him to scan his Trainer Card with the authorities working inside. Like the Pokémon Centers, the scan updated his last known location.

          “Thank you!” the boy exclaimed as he was given back his Trainer Card from the gate's guard. He slipped the card back in his wallet.

          “Hey, no problem, youngster,” the gatekeeper responded. “You two stay safe now!”

          Antoshi grinned happily.

          “We will!”

          They entered Route 1 through the gate's automatic doors. They had the same level of intrigue and curiosity upon their faces as every time they set foot in a new location.

          The large, spacious route was a long, winding dirt path with patches of large grass at the path's edges leading into the forest. Like any route, there were a mix of Trainers, Pokémon and pedestrians traveling through. The route was lined with the occasional park bench, litter bins and set of street lights.

          On one side beyond the trees, cars drove to and fro. The nearby roadway connected Viridian, Pallet, and other nearby small towns.

          Antoshi scooped up various sticks and twigs along the way, storing them in his backpack's empty side pocket.

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          The duo continued walking until nightfall. They found a clearing outside the beaten path to set up camp.

          Antoshi used the tinder he'd collected, along with a casual puff of flame from Fireball, to bring a small campfire to life. He rolled out his sleeping bag, while Fireball settled in on the ground next to him.

          Having undressed into his usual sleeping attire, Antoshi neatly folded his clothes and placed them in his backpack which was set down between himself and Fireball. He climbed into his sleeping bag.

          "Another comfy patch of grass to sleep on," Fireball remarked in content, resting his hands behind his head.

          Surrounded by acres of untouched forest, they happily stared up at the countless stars in the sky. The air was always so crisp and fresh in the forests, especially at night. The breeze caused leaves to rustle softly amid the quiet crackle of the fire and chirping crickets.

          "Antoshi," Fireball said, breaking the silence. "Why do you think you can talk to Pokémon?"

          Antoshi sighed heavily.

          “This again?” Antoshi asked, looking over at his friend. “How many times are we gonna have this conversation?”

          "I just know we'll figure this out! Everyone thinks you're totally crazy or something to be able to talk to me. What do we know about it so far?"

          “Well,” Antoshi started, “after we got our first badge together, we were both excited and emotional. It felt like you and I suddenly had this amazing bond together, like we were an unstoppable team. Then, you … started talking to me. Before that, I just heard you growl or make noises or the usual 'Quilava, Quilava!' I thought it was a normal thing that Trainers go through with their Pokémon, so I didn't think much about talking to you in public until I started getting funny looks. Turns out it was just me. Journeying all by myself had been lonely and now I could talk to you. How could I keep your in your Poké Ball after that?”

          Fireball grinned.

          "I love hearing the story about how we started adventuring together! Have you thought of anything new about the whole 'talking to me' thing?"

          “Well, there's—” Antoshi's eyes nervously shifted away. “Err, … never mind.”

          Fireball looked at his friend with suspicion.

          "Antoshi, I'm your best friend. I know you're not telling me something. Who else are you gonna tell your secrets to, anyway? Who else am I gonna tell?"

          “Okay, okay, fine.” Antoshi sighed heavily, thinking for a moment. “I've noticed lately that … well, that I may be different from normal people.”

          "I could've told you that."

          “Okay, aside from being able to talk to you, I just …” Antoshi trailed off, sitting up in his sleeping bag. “Here. Look at what I found out I can do.”

          Fireball also sat up, curiously watching as Antoshi cupped his hands with his palms facing upward. Antoshi stared at his open hands and concentrated intensely, quietly grunting with effort. His brown irises came alight with a reddish hue.

          Fireball watched in astonishment as bright particles of light began to form over his hands and pulled together into a large ball. The amorphous orb of light shimmered with a brilliant hue of red.

          "Whoa," Fireball remarked. "What is it?"

          “I'm … not sure, but … it takes a lot of concentration … for me to—” the ball of light abruptly burst back into particles and faded away. “… Hold it.”

          Antoshi sighed, letting his hands fall away.

          “When I don't concentrate, it just pops like a balloon. It kind of makes me a little tired afterward, too. I don't know why I'm able to do it.”

          "That's some crazy puberty you're going through," Fireball joked. Antoshi cut his eyes at him. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding!"

          Fireball rest a paw on his chin as he thought for a moment.

          "Well, I've never seen anything like that before. No person we've ever met did it, either. … Hang on a minute. Since when did you have time to find out you could do this, when we're together all the time?"

          “Remember the time when you nearly fell off that cliff on Route 14?”

          "Yeah, you caught me by the legs and pulled me up. I'm still amazed by how strong you were."

          “Well, … when I was holding on to you, I noticed my hands and my arms were glowing red. I thought they were on fire, but I wasn't in any pain. Once my arms glowed like that, pulling you back up was a breeze. After you were safe, that red glow just went away. I spent a whole bunch of nights awake after that trying to get it to happen again and, eventually, I was able to form that glowing ball I just showed you.”

          Antoshi despondently looked away.

          "… What's wrong?" Fireball asked in concern.

          “I didn't want to tell you about this because, … well, honestly I'm a little nervous about it.”

          "Why are you nervous? This is cool!"

          “I'm unsure about what it means. I'm not really scared or anything, it just doesn't seem like it has much purpose. It may also mean much more than just a neat light show in my hands. I can't tell if it's a good feeling or a bad feeling that I'm getting when I use it. It just makes me feel odd inside, like my whole body is shaking with this crazy energy I can barely contain.”

          Fireball blinked in confusion.

          "… And you're sure this isn't puberty?"

          “Fireball!”

          "Sorry! I just don't really know anything more than you do. Maybe we should ask someone else."

          “Like who?”

          Fireball stared blankly for a moment.

          "Good question."

          “Well, maybe I'll just … understand it better in time, I guess.”

          "Maybe. For now, we have something cool to look at whenever we're bored!"

          Antoshi couldn't help but smile.

          “I guess there's always that.”

          He laid back down in his sleeping bag and sighed.

          “Goodnight, Fireball.”

          "Goodnight, Antoshi."

          Fireball followed his friend's lead, curling up comfortably on the ground. The pair rested up for another busy day.

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          That night, Antoshi had another somber dream. He found himself sitting in the same bed he had dreamt about the previous night. He looked down at his hand, finding that he was trembling uncontrollably. He again had feelings of sorrow, but now those feelings were exacerbated and accompanied by fear and panic.

          He heard a muffled voice from an unknown source speaking to him. He couldn't discern the words. The voice began laughing — a deep, cruel laugh. He clasped his forehead and shouted in agony.

          “Can I really do this?” he mused. “This … this seems crazy.”

          “Give it time,” the voice replied.

          He panted fearfully, trembling from head to toe.

          “I feel sick,” he said. “… I can't! I just can't do this!”

          He raced to his open bedroom window, throwing himself out of it. He plummeted toward the ground while the mysterious voice continued its laughter.

          The moment his body impacted the ground, Antoshi jolted awake with a terrified shout.

          All was quiet in the middle of the night. Fireball was sound asleep. Their campfire had smoldered. Antoshi was in a cold sweat, his breathing ragged. His heart raced from the residual fear and panic of his dream.

          ‘What is going on?’ he thought, running a shaking hand through his hair. ‘What are these dreams I keep having? It's like I'm having someone else's dreams, … but why do they feel so real?’

          Antoshi reached into his backpack, pulling out his canteen of water to drink from. He sighed heavily, putting the cap back on and stored it away. He laid back down.

          His trembling slowly subsided as he gazed up at the starry night sky. He brought a hand in front of his face, focusing for a moment, summoning the same bright red energy as before into his palm. He clenched his fist to extinguish the light before letting his hand fall away.

          ‘This strange light … and the dreams have to be connected. But how?’

          He stayed awake for a short while before succumbing to his exhaustion and fell back asleep.

          Just then, the relentless thief emerged from the trees. He smiled fiendishly. With the pair asleep, there was nothing to stop him from robbing them. He tiptoed toward their campsite.

          Once he was close enough, he reached down and grabbed hold of Antoshi's backpack.

          Fireball turned over and angrily smacked the backpack out of his hand. The thief jumped, stifling a surprised shout. He thought he'd been made, but Fireball was still asleep. The Typhlosion smacked his lips.

          "I'm taking that last pudding …" Fireball muttered.

          The thief sighed in relief before trying again.

          “Come on,” he whispered, trying to slowly and gently pry it away from Fireball's paw.

          Fireball suddenly pulled the backpack toward him. The Typhlosion gently wrestled with it in his sleep, shuffling its contents around, before sighing happily and hugging it tight.

          The thief looked on in horrified disbelief, resisting the urge to scream at the top of his lungs in rage. Seething, he retreated back into the woods.

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          The following morning, the duo awoke almost in sync. They sat up and stretched their arms high. Antoshi's backpack rolled off of Fireball's chest.

          The two looked at it in confusion, then at each other. Antoshi smirked.

          “You hugged my backpack during the night again, huh?” Antoshi asked.

          Fireball handed the pack to him.

          "I can't help it. Sometimes I need something to hold while I sleep."

          “Well, I hope you didn't get hair all over it again,” Antoshi joked.

          He unzipped the backpack and pulled out a new pair of clothes. He also took out a wrapped trail bar for himself and tossed a small bag full of Pokémon food to Fireball.

          “Here you go, buddy. Let's make sure we're fueled up before we head out.”

          Fireball didn't bother responding, too busy munching through the food with a pleased expression on his face.

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          Wearing a black polo shirt and tan cargo shorts, Antoshi cinched his backpack over his shoulders.

          "Don't you ever get tired of wearing those shirts with collars?" Fireball curiously asked.

          Antoshi idly brushed some of Fireball's fur off the backpack's straps.

          “I suppose so. I don't feel like telling Mom that since she really likes how they look on me. … They look good, right?”

          "Yeah! They kind of make you look like a golf player."

          Antoshi rolled his eyes, scoffing and grinning.

          “Very funny,” he sarcastically replied, much to Fireball's amusement. “C'mon, you. Let's get that eighth badge!”

          "Challenge accepted!" Fireball replied as the two set off toward Viridian City.

          The thief watched them from behind a tree, looking frazzled and nearly foaming at the mouth with ire.

          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

          By noon, Antoshi and Fireball neared the northern end of Route 1. They started seeing large buildings towering over the trees, getting taller and closer with each passing minute. The gate separating Route 1 from Viridian City came into view in the distance, and the bustle of passersby started to increase. They grinned at each other, just a short jog away from entering another new city.

          A group of young kids suddenly crowded around the duo. They cooed at the sight of Fireball towering over them.

          “Wow, cool! A Typhlosion!” one of them exclaimed as they all began to pet him.

          Fireball grinned.

          'Please give me snacks, please give me snacks …' he thought.

          Antoshi smiled as he watched his friend soak up the attention, responding to the kids as they asked him a barrage of questions.

          The thief's eyes lit up, finding the pair were distracted again. He casually walked up behind Antoshi, when a Tauros suddenly came rushing toward him. He screamed and jumped out of the way of the barreling bull, followed by a Pokémon Breeder chasing after it.

          “Tauros, get back here!” the breeder shouted.

          “Wow, cool! A Tauros!” the same youngster exclaimed, prompting the crowd of kids to head off.

          They accompanied the breeder in chasing after Tauros, laughing and shouting.

          “Bye-bye!” one of the kids shouted, waving to Antoshi and Fireball.

          “Bye!” Antoshi replied, waving back. “You're so popular, Fireball,” he joked.

          The two were merrily on their way again.

          The thief stood at the edge of the beaten path, staring at the duo. He let out a frustrated scream, fed up with all the misfortune keeping him from the simple task of stealing a kid's wallet.

          “Screw this!” the thief angrily shouted.

          He broke out into a sprint toward them. They heard him coming and turned around just in time to see him snatch Antoshi's wallet out of his pocket and bolt off.

          “See ya, kid!” he shouted.

          The nearby people on the route watched the scene unfold in shock.

          “Hey!” Antoshi exclaimed as he and Fireball gave chase. “He stole my wallet!”

          "Our badges!" Fireball shouted.

          Fireball was about to use a Rollout attack on him, but the thief ran into the crowd of people. In doing so, he shoved a lady with long blue hair to the ground.

          “Ow!” she cried out.

          The duo stopped to check on her. Antoshi knelt down to the woman.

          “Are you okay?” he asked in concern.

          “Yeah, … I think so,” she replied with a hand on her head.

          While Antoshi helped her to her feet, Fireball angrily growled before charging into the crowd of people.

          Antoshi gasped at the sight of Fireball running off, out of control, and into a crowd of frightened people.

          Fireball, wait!” he called out.

          "I'm not letting him get away, Antoshi!" Fireball shouted back. "Don't worry!"

          “I'm sorry, I gotta go!” Antoshi told the woman, quickly rushing off to follow his friend. “Fireball!”

          The thief rushed through the crowd traveling through the gate house, garnering a lot of angry yells and complaints as he shoved them aside. He continued running after passing into the Viridian City limits.

          He found a nearby alleyway to duck into and pulled out his phone. With his ear to the receiver, he waited for the other party to pick up.

          “It's Matt,” he said. “Track my phone, I need to be picked up right now.”

          The receiver hummed with the sound of a loud, complaining voice.

          “Just get your ass over here! I'm being chased by some kid's Typhlosion!”

          He peered his head out of the alley just long enough for Fireball to spot him through the crowd.

          "Hey!" Fireball shouted, running toward him on all fours.

          “Oh, crap,” Matt muttered to himself before running further down the alley.

          Back in the gate house, Antoshi pushed through the crowd, apologizing to the people he bumped into.

          “Hey, kid, wait!” the gate guard called out to him from behind the desk. “Come scan your Trainer Card if you're a Trainer!”

          “Sorry, I'm in a hurry!” Antoshi exclaimed.

          The gate guard found two people and a Typhlosion barreling through the gate and causing a scene to be somewhat suspicious. He picked up the phone and informed the Viridian City Police of the incident.

          Antoshi's first steps within Viridian City were ones of trepidation. He still hadn't seen Fireball since he ran off and it was starting to scare him.

          He panted nervously, looking in all directions through the dense crowds of people as best he could. Cars sped by as he looked across streets. He called Fireball's name along the way, but got no response.

          He didn't know where to look, finding himself lost and alone in a loud, busy, unfamiliar city. The sights and sounds overwhelmed him and made him dizzy. His heart sank at the thought of being separated from his best friend.

          Fireball!” he shouted as loudly as he could, becoming visibly panicked. “Where are you?!


          *****
          Chapter 4 »
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            #5   Link to this post, but load the entire thread.  
          Old October 5th, 2017 (2:26 PM).
          Astinus's Avatar
          Astinus Astinus is offline
             
            Join Date: May 2006
            Age: 32
            Gender: Male
            Posts: 10,107
            As your signature says: Hello!

            Something drew me to your story, and I spent the past hour having a fun time reading through your three chapters. There's just something charming about this. I think it's just because of how simplistic this story is so far. It's just about a boy and his Pokemon, and there's no big plot other than the two of them getting to the Indigo League. Plus, with the way that you write, it feels like we're along for the journey, enjoying the sights with Antoshi and Fireball.

            Speaking of Fireball, he sets up a question that I have about the world you're writing about. I don't know how other Pokemon are in this world, or if Fireball is just a special case because of how Antoshi treats him. But Fireball comes off as more intelligent than the other Pokemon that we've seen so far, almost like Fireball is a human in a Typhlosion suit. It's also strange to me that other people would judge Antoshi negatively for talking to his Pokemon. But that all depends on how Pokemon are treated in your world, if they're equal to humans or not.

            It's also going to be interesting to see how far Antoshi and Fireball get when it's just the two of them. The two trainers that they've faced so far haven't been much of a challenge in their own way--Emily because she's young, and Blair because she's too enthusiastic about battling like Blaine--so it'll be interesting to see what happens when they face a stronger trainer.

            Did notice one typo:
            Quote:
            I definitely witnessed just how strong the bond between a Trainer a single Pokmon can be
            Should be: "the bond between a Trainer and a single Pokemon"

            The dream and then the random man watching Antoshi at the end of chapter three aren't much to comment on. But they're the seeds of something happening, and I look forward to seeing what happens!
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            "Now the trumpet summons us again--
            not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--
            not as a call to battle, though embattled we are--
            but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out."
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              #6   Link to this post, but load the entire thread.  
            Old October 12th, 2017 (8:00 AM). Edited January 27th, 2019 by Antoshi.
            Antoshi's Avatar
            Antoshi Antoshi is offline
            Peaceful Serenity
               
              Join Date: Oct 2004
              Gender: Male
              Nature: Jolly
              Posts: 110
              Chapter 4


              Matt, the thief, raced down a long alleyway with Fireball closing in behind him. He panted heavily, nearly tripping over a metal trash can due to frequently looking down at the display on his phone.

              He recklessly ran out into the street, blowing through a crowd of people. Cars screeched to a halt to avoid hitting him.

              Fireball charged through the gap Matt made, relentlessly pursuing him. The thief slid over the hood of a parked car before rushing down another alleyway.

              With Fireball once again closing in on him, Matt looked at his phone before suddenly turning the next corner.

              “Here he comes,” Matt said loudly enough for Fireball to hear.

              Fireball narrowed his eyes and followed him around the corner. He came to a sudden stop, face-to-face with Matt and another person. A young woman with dark skin and long brown hair stood in front of a parked convertible car with the top down.

              She appeared to be very bitter.

              “Go, Malamar!” she said, tossing out a Poké Ball.

              The ball opened to reveal a creature akin to an upside down squid. It had no rhythm, no life, no motion to its body — standing still as a statue. Its eyes were brutally cold and empty, as though it had been through terrible trauma. Fireball was unsettled by its glare, too disturbed to want to battle it.

              “Malamar, Hypnosis!”

              Malamar's eyes glowed in a mesmerizing swirl of colors.

              Fireball could not turn away from Malamar's gaze. His vision blurred and faded as he fell into a hypnotic state. His eyes rolled closed before falling unconscious while still on his hind legs.

              “All right,” she said. “He's out. Let's get him in the—”

              Fireball suddenly groaned, shaking his head and opening his eyes. Matt and his partner looked on in disbelief.

              “Oh, crap,” Matt remarked, watching Fireball get up. “This Typhlosion is tough!”

              The young woman sucked her teeth.

              “Malamar, Hypnosis again!” she said.

              Malamar did as commanded. Fireball's eyes rolled back in his head before he collapsed to the ground.

              She carefully walked up to the Typhlosion, nudging him the tip of her sneakers.

              Now he's out,” she said.

              Both of them let out a sigh of relief.

              “You couldn't park anywhere closer, Jalyn?” Matt asked, perturbed. “I had to run a mile!”

              You couldn't steal one little kid's wallet sooner?!” she snapped back. “Damn, you're so stupid! You're not even supposed to be here, so don't put any blame on me after you once again prove how useless you are. Sorry that there aren't a thousand nearby alleyways that can fit a car in a moment's notice. How did you even let things get bad enough that you were about to get beat down by some kid's Typhlosion?”

              “I got impatient,” he remarked, shrugging.

              Jalyn stared at him blankly for a moment. She shook her head in disappointment before opening the car's trunk.

              “Look, the point is, I got the kid's wallet and we have a Typhlosion — a strong one! And look at him, he's huge! This big guy can easily sell for millions.”

              “Yeah, well, you better hope so. Otherwise, we're dead — literally. With you here, my head is also on the line if you get caught now.”

              Jalyn walked over and knelt next to Fireball. She grunted with effort as she managed to roll him over onto his back.

              “Grab his legs,” she said.

              Matt followed her instruction while she hooked her arms under Fireball's forelimbs.

              “All right — one, two, lift.”

              The two strained loudly, lifting the heavy Typhlosion, carrying him over to the open trunk. The car's suspension creaked as they laid him inside.

              They both sighed in relief before Jalyn shut the trunk. With her hands on her hips, she watched Matt rifle through Antoshi's wallet.

              “You're a complete idiot,” Jalyn remarked. “You were supposed to stay in Cinnabar until the end of the month. Instead, you followed some random kid all the way back here just to steal his wallet. This is why nobody takes you seriously. You're just lucky we managed to bag his Typhlosion. Maybe the boss won't want to gut you for disobeying him once we show him this.”

              “He's got a few thousand in cash,” Matt idly remarked, ignoring her. He opened the side flap to find their seven Gym badges. “Oh-ho, yes. I knew this kid was a pay day. Badges have those little … computer chips inside them. I've seen them go for a hundred grand each. I can get Jeff to buy them off me.”

              “Jeff?” Jalyn asked with a disgusted look on her face. “You mean the creepy black market guy that looks like he hasn't showered for … ever?”

              “Hey, his money's as good as anyone else's. … It just, ya' know, smells funny.”

              “Yeah, well, there's nothing funny about sitting here waiting to get made. Get in the car, Stupid — we're leaving.”

              Matt scowled at her as she got into the driver's seat. He straightened his jacket and jumped into the passenger side.

              “Hey!” she shouted. “I told you to stop jumping into the car like that! You're going to scratch the upholstery!”

              “Whatever,” he muttered, folding his arms across his chest.

              She sucked her teeth, exasperated with him. She started the car, slowly drove out of the alley and onto the road. She remained careful to keep her speed restrained to avoid attracting attention while they carried Fireball to an unknown destination.

              ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

              A couple hours had passed since Antoshi last saw Fireball. He'd never been separated from his best friend, or even lost sight of him, for such a long stretch of time throughout their entire journey. He continued calling out for Fireball, asking people on the street if they'd seen a Typhlosion.

              With a heavy heart, he tirelessly trudged onward around the city. He refused to rest until he found Fireball.

              ‘Okay, what do I do?’ he thought, trying to calm his shaky panting. ‘Fireball's not gone. Fireball's coming back. … Now, do I tell my parents? Should I call them? Where's the Pokémon Center? Maybe I should look for the police instead. … Yeah, that's what I'll do, I'll go find the police.’

              He quickly pulled out his compendium, his hands trembling as he scanned over the map of Viridian City.

              Just as he put the map away, he heard the chirp of police sirens behind him.

              He and others on the street stopped and turned to see a police cruiser slowing to a halt. The driver door opened, and Officer Jenny exited the vehicle.

              Antoshi was shocked by her timing. He waved his arms to get her attention.

              “Officer, please help!” he called out as she put her hat on and straightened it.

              She stared at him for a moment, taken aback by the fact he was waving her over. She shut the car door before grabbing the radio on her shoulder. She informed her station that she was approaching one of the suspicious persons called in from the Route 1 gate. She walked up to the frightened boy.

              “What's going on here?” she asked.

              “Officer! Y—you have to help me! This guy h—he stole my w—wallet and—and my buddy, Fireball — he's a Typhlosion — he went after him a—and he's lost and I'm lost and I can't find him and you have to help! … I don't know what to do!”

              “Okay, okay, … slow down,” she calmly replied.

              Antoshi was very clearly shaken up. He nodded, wiping the tears from his eyes, trying to slow his panicked breathing.

              “I'm here because the gate guard on Route 1 called in suspicious activity involving a blond kid with a black shirt — that's you — along with another individual and a Pokémon. Let's … just take it from there and explain it slower this time, okay?”

              Antoshi took a few deep breaths and swallowed the lump in his throat before trying again.

              “Okay, um, … a man stole my wallet on Route 1. My traveling buddy — he's a Typhlosion named Fireball — chased after him and got away from me. I tried to follow them but, by the time I got out into Viridian City, I—I couldn't find him. I've been looking everywhere for Fireball. He's my only friend and I'm really scared and I don't know what to do.”

              “All right, I understand better now,” she said.

              Antoshi sighed and continued to wipe the tears from his eyes.

              “Let me bring you to the police station. We'll take care of you and start searching for your friend. You are not under arrest, okay? I am going to find Fireball for you — I promise.”

              “You—you are?” he asked.

              “Absolutely. I can tell how much you care about your Pokémon, and nothing would give me greater joy than seeing you reunited.”

              Antoshi took a deep breath and sighed heavily.

              “Thank you, officer,” he replied, much more calmly than before.

              Antoshi followed Jenny back to her squad car. She held the back door open for him. Antoshi climbed into the vehicle and Jenny shut the door behind him.

              She got into the driver's seat, reaching for her car's radio. She informed them that she was returning to the station with him in her custody. She put the car in gear and began to drive back to the station.

              “So, what's your name?” she asked, looking at him through the rear-view mirror.

              “Antoshi,” he softly replied before clearing his throat.

              “Antoshi? That's a unique name. I've never heard it before. I'm Jenny, in case you haven't met any of my sisters during your travels.”

              Antoshi weakly grinned.

              “Fireball and I haven't had any run-ins with the law.”

              Jenny chuckled.

              “That's good. Keep it that way.”

              As they drove toward their destination, Antoshi solemnly stared out the window. All he could think about was Fireball and hope that he was okay. Memories of when he first met Fireball crept into his mind's eye. Antoshi was just a small child back then, and Fireball was an almost newborn Cyndaquil given to him by his parents who hoped Antoshi would make a new friend.

              At one point, the little Cyndaquil burped up a ball of fire that completely singed off Antoshi's eyebrows and some of his hair.

              Boy, that was some fireball!’ he recalled father say with a hearty laugh.

              That's what we'll name him,’ his mother replied while consoling a crying Antoshi. ‘We'll name him 'Fireball'.

              Antoshi smiled at the memory.

              ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

              The drive to the station was short. Jenny parked the car outside, before getting out and opening the door for Antoshi. She led him inside the station while greeting her fellow officers.

              Antoshi had never been inside of a police station before. The Viridian station seemed quite busy. Other officers and their partner Pokémon walked around constantly, phones rang in all directions, the air was rife with the smell of coffee.

              Jenny guided Antoshi to a small break room that had several tables and chairs as well as coffee and snack machines.

              “I'm going to enlist the help of a few of my officers on this,” she said. “I'll start working right away to find Fireball for you. You can stay here as long as you like. Feel free to walk around if you need to, but don't disturb anyone who's working. Make yourself at home, okay?”

              Antoshi nodded.

              “Thank you again, Officer Jenny.”

              She gave him a reassuring smile before taking her leave.

              Antoshi looked around. He was all alone in the small room.

              He slowly paced around before taking a seat at one of the tables. Without Fireball around, everything seemed so quiet. He sighed heavily, his hands clasped. All he could do was wait and hope for the best.

              ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

              Jalyn and Matt drove up to a poorly-kept house in the middle of a seemingly abandoned neighborhood. After they got out of the car, Matt took the lead. He hastily walked up to the front door with Antoshi's wallet in hand. He gave a few knocks before standing back on the stoop beside Jalyn.

              “So, tell me something,” Jalyn said. “Why did you follow that kid all the way back here just for his wallet?”

              “Because, … I … I knew that we would get his Typhlosion, too.”

              “Oh, man, you are so full of crap.”

              Matt sighed.

              “I don't give up on anything — that's why. Yeah, okay, it was stupid and it made no sense — I get it. But I see things through to the end, no matter how crappy the job is.”

              Jalyn rolled her eyes.

              They waited a moment for Jeff to come to the door, but got no response.

              “It's the daytime,” she remarked. “That burnout is probably asleep by now.”

              “Come on, Jeff,” Matt muttered, knocking harder on the door. “Jeff! It's Matt! Hey, open the door!”

              They let another moment pass before Jalyn sighed in frustration.

              “He's probably catatonic. Come on, we have to get to the warehouse and get this Typhlosion off our hands. You'd best hope he sells for a pretty penny because this is the last chance we're getting.”

              Matt sighed, following Jalyn back to the car.

              “Well, what in the hell am I supposed to do with this kid's wallet? I can't sit on this thing forever.”

              Jalyn reached over, smacking the glove compartment open, exposing a handgun housed inside.

              “Put it in there for now, Stupid.”

              Matt scoffed, carelessly flinging the wallet inside and shutting it. He rest his head against his fist, glaring off in the distance as they drove away.

              ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

              Antoshi stood in front of the break room window, staring silently. Various police officers had come and went. Antoshi didn't notice any of them, too busy being lost in his own thoughts.

              Officer Jenny entered, followed by two policemen.

              “Antoshi?” Jenny said, grabbing his attention. “This is Officer Eric and Officer Robert. They're two of the officers that are handling your case. They have a lot of experience in finding missing Pokémon.”

              “Hello there, young man,” Eric said to him.

              “Hello,” Antoshi distantly replied, offering a weak smile.

              Jenny placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

              “I understand how upset you are. Just know that we've got all of our available officers on the lookout for a missing Typhlosion. They're all over the city at all times of the day and night. We're going to find him — it's just a matter of time.”

              “Yeah, … I know,” he quietly said with some doubt in his voice.

              He forced a smile to her before gazing back out the window. Jenny solemnly nodded. The three officers departed and headed for the front exit.

              “Poor kid,” Robert said. “Not knowing where his only Pokémon is must be eating away at him.”

              “I know what that's like,” Jenny replied with a pained look on her face.

              Once outside, Jenny heaved a sigh.

              “I'm gonna head out on patrol for a bit,” she said. “I'll see if I can find anything.”

              “Gotcha,” Robert said as Jenny departed from their company.

              ‘There's got to be something I can do,’ Antoshi thought, rhythmically clenching his fists. ‘I shouldn't be here doing nothing. I should be out there looking for him, but … what if I can't? What if I never find him? What can I do?!’

              Frustrated, he slammed his fists down on the counter, causing an audible bang. He quickly got a hold of himself, looking around to see if anyone noticed the noise. He sat back down at the table.

              He held his head in both hands, trying to simmer down. He had no one to talk to, no one to confide in, no one to console him. Holding it together was quickly becoming a painful endeavor.

              ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

              Jalyn drove behind a large food market, parking by the service entrance. A handful of rats in a nearby dumpster, including some Rattata and Raticate, scattered as she and Matt both got out of the car.

              “I'm still pissed we have to report to Chad,” he said as he shut the door. “That guy is such an uptight prick.”

              Jalyn rolled her eyes as she led Matt to the back door.

              “Well, it doesn't matter what you think — he's our boss. He reports to the Boss, so if you don't want to end up in a shallow ditch, you'll deal with him being your boss.”

              “Whatever,” he replied, disinterested.

              Jalyn rapped on the door in a specific rhythm. A metal slat slid open, revealing a pair of menacing eyes.

              “Yeah?” a gruff voice asked on the other side.

              “Delivery,” she said.

              “Password,” the man replied.

              “What's today, Tuesday?” she asked, looking over at Matt, who nodded. “Uhh, origami … paper crane.”

              “It's 'fold an origami paper crane,' Jalyn,” the man behind the door angrily replied. “Get it right next time or get lost.”

              The slat slid shut. Jalyn scoffed.

              “You already know who the hell we are, Doorman,” she muttered under the sound of a motor. The nearby shutter door rolled up for them.

              She got back into the car, driving it in while Matt casually followed inside on foot.

              The motor whirred again as the shutter door closed behind them.

              Jalyn got out of the car, while a man in a three-piece suit strolled up to them with perfect posture. He was flanked by a large, muscular man. He wore an expensive watch, his hair neatly slicked back, a fresh-cut rose set in his breast pocket.

              Matt rolled his eyes, leaning against the hood of the car.

              “Chad,” Jalyn greeted him with surprise in her voice. “You're … here today.”

              “I am, indeed,” he replied with a charming pearly white smile. He snapped his fingers and pointed to the trunk. “Open it, Doorman.”

              Jalyn tossed the keys to the larger man.

              “Matthew!” he exclaimed, gasping and holding out his hands. “It's such a surprise to see you here! If I recall correctly, you were ordered to take a nice, little vacation in Cinnabar.”

              Matt pursed his lips and nervously glanced away.

              “Strange that you would … ignore a direct order like that. You wouldn't want me to think you were insubordinate, would you?”

              “No,” he quickly replied. “It's just … I—I was helping Jalyn with this new delivery. That's why we're here.”

              Chad's eyes lit up.

              “Ah, interesting! So, my two underlings, what have you got for me today? I should hope it's something worth my time.”

              “A Typhlosion,” Jalyn calmly said. “A strong one, at that.”

              Chad raised his eyebrows in pleasant surprise.

              “Really? Very intriguing. Much better than the unimpressive delivery of three little Spoink you gave us a few days ago.”

              Chad sauntered over to the back of the car. His eyes widened in surprise.

              “Well, this is quite the turn of events,” he remarked.

              Matt and Jalyn followed to look at their prized catch. What they saw shocked them.

              Fireball had vanished.

              An enormous feeling of dread ran through every vein in their bodies.

              “Chad,” Jalyn quickly spoke up. “I'm telling you, there—”

              Chad turned and slapped her with the back of his hand hard enough to cause her to stumble back.

              Shut it,” he sternly commanded. He had a bitter expression on his face, sharply contrasting his previous cordial tone.

              “Hey, come on—” Matt began to speak.

              Doorman threateningly stood in front of him, causing Matt to immediately pipe down. Jalyn turned away, scowling angrily, holding the side of her face. She quickly stood up straight and stared at him with a calm expression.

              “Don't screw with me, you piece of trash,” Chad venomously said. Jalyn bit her tongue. “I am not going to be made a fool of — is that clear?”

              “Yes, sir,” the two replied in unison before nervously glancing at each other.

              Chad recomposed himself, straightening his suit, glancing at the back of his hand.

              He folded his arms behind his back, slowly pacing back and forth for a few moments, looking at them both. He hummed curiously, studying their faces before deciding to speak again.

              “Now, I'm going to ask you both a very simple question, and the two of you will simultaneously give me a very simple 'yes' or 'no' when I finish speaking. … Were you lying to me when you told me you had a Typhlosion?”

              “No,” they both quickly replied.

              He hummed again, staring intensely at them, tapping his lips with the tips of his fingers. The two of them were sweating bullets.

              Chad cleared his throat.

              “Well, despite the fact that you two have routinely been the most pathetic underlings I've ever had, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt this time. Honestly, I don't care if there really was a Typhlosion in this trunk. If there was, however, I would highly suggest that the two of you go back into the city — right now — and recover it within twenty-four hours. No more excuses — just results. If you don't procure a Typhlosion for me by then, well, … I'd suggest that the two of you never show your faces here again. Should that be the case, pray that no one else from this organization ever finds you for the rest of your miserable lives. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

              He looked at the two of them with a menacing glare.

              “Yes, sir!” they firmly replied.

              Chad smiled and clasped his hands together.

              “Very good! That's the team spirit that I admire! Off you go now!”

              The two of them immediately marched into the car before Jalyn turned the engine over. Chad stood at the front of the car.

              “Oh, and Jalyn? Matthew?” They both looked up at him with terrified gazes. “Remember: Nobody ever lies to Team Rocket and lives.”

              The duo nervously nodded in acknowledgment before Chad playfully trilled his fingers on the hood of the car.

              “Drive safely now!” he said with a pleasant smile and a wave.

              Jalyn waited for Doorman to open the motorized door for them. She quickly backed out into the parking lot and sped away.

              Chad's expression turned bitter again as the door rolled closed.

              ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

              “Damn it, damn it, damn it!” Jalyn screeched at Matt as they drove down the busy streets. “You idiot! How the hell could you not notice the Typhlosion escaped?!”

              “Me? What about you!? You were right with me the whole time!”

              Jalyn smacked her hands against the steering wheel. Matt held a hand over his forehead.

              “Ohh, crap. We're dead. We're so dead! We're never going to find him — this city is huge!”

              “Chill out, okay?!” she replied. “I'm already on edge as it is and I don't need you freaking out next to me. … Now, let's think about this. When could he have gotten away from us?”

              “I don't know, uh, … we would've noticed the shift in weight if he just ducked out while we were driving.”

              “So, when were we not driving?”

              Matt's eyes lit up.

              “At Jeff's house!”

              “Then that's where we start.”

              Jalyn turned at the next intersection, picking up speed. Her expression suddenly turned cold.

              “I swear, I'm gonna put this Typhlosion down if it comes to it. Chad can make a Typhlosion rug out of him or something but I am not going back there empty-handed.”

              Matt was surprised by her remark. He curiously glanced at the glove compartment where her gun lay.

              ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

              By the time evening had set in, Fireball had been wandering between buildings and along the side streets of Viridian City for hours. He panted, drained from the constant moving, and from hunger. For once, eating had taken a backseat in his mind. He had no idea where he was, but getting back to Antoshi and keeping away from the duo that captured him were his top priorities.

              'Gotta stay away from people,' he thought. 'If a Trainer finds me they might try to capture me. Antoshi's the only one who can understand me. Maybe I should look for the police. I'll bet that's what Antoshi would do. He's probably already done that. But, what will they do with me?'

              He groaned, totally exhausted, falling flat on his belly in an alleyway. He rested for a few minutes to catch his breath.

              'This city is like a giant maze. I wish Antoshi was here. He always knows what to do. I don't even know if I'm getting any closer to where he is. He's probably running all over the place looking for me. I have to find him.'

              He rolled over onto his back, staring at the sparse clouds in the evening sky.

              'I just hope the buildings stop spinning soon …'

              He grit his teeth, sitting up again.

              'I'll make it back to you, buddy. I know I will! After that, we need to find that thief and get our badges back.'

              Fireball rose to his hind feet before noticing the sound of a car engine. A bright spotlight from the street started to illuminate the alleyway. He panicked and pressed his back against a nearby wall, keeping out of its sight.

              “Fireball?!” an unknown man's voice called to him.

              Fireball's heart raced.

              'Who is that?' he thought. 'How do they know my name? Are they working for the thief?'

              The spotlight faded away as the car drove off. He peered out from his nook, making sure no one was around. He continued on his solo campaign.


              *****
              Chapter 5 »
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              Old October 12th, 2017 (3:44 PM).
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              Astinus Astinus is offline
                 
                Join Date: May 2006
                Age: 32
                Gender: Male
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                Hi again!

                I spent the majority of my time reading this chapter wondering about Matt the thief. It's just so strange that a regular pickpocket would go so far out of his way to steal some random kid's wallet. Matt doesn't know a whole lot about Antoshi, so it's not like there's much of a clear sign that following Antoshi to two different towns is worth the hassle. Especially when now Matt (and the person he called on the phone) now have to go through the trouble of getting back to the island.

                Maybe Matt and his cohort become a bigger part of the story? Right now, I'd say that he did his job for the plot, and got Antoshi and Fireball separated in a location that they've never been in before. It'll be interesting to see how Antoshi deals with this mess, since this is the first time that he's on his own.

                Also looks like he's got some psychic powers to deal with as well. If this wasn't taking place so far in canon Kanto's future, I'd say that he could go back to Sabrina for some guidance. As it is now, seems Antoshi is on his own with that as well.
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                Old October 19th, 2017 (7:59 AM). Edited January 27th, 2019 by Antoshi.
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                Antoshi Antoshi is offline
                Peaceful Serenity
                   
                  Join Date: Oct 2004
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                  Chapter 5


                  By nightfall, Antoshi was losing what composure he had left. It was a harsh test of his fortitude. and so far he was failing. Being separated for so long, he was worried constantly for Fireball's safety.

                  He'd gone outside to walk around and get some fresh air multiple times, each time tempted to look for Fireball himself. Ultimately, he trusted Jenny and the other officers. He held onto waning faith that they would help him find Fireball. The waiting was wearing on him, but it was what he continued to do.

                  In the break room, Antoshi passed the time by sitting at a table and reorganizing the contents his backpack. In doing so, he eventually pulled out Fireball's Poké Ball. He studied it, thinking back to all the times he had to use it when he and Fireball first started their adventure together.

                  ‘He was so rambunctious,’ Antoshi thought with a smile. ‘Fireball was a Quilava when I first started letting him stay out. Boy, did he make me regret it. He was like a whirlwind of energy, just like back home when he was still a Cyndaquil. For a while, I thought I'd never be able to train him properly. I guess he eventually realized like I did that we only had each other for company and to rely on. I'm glad he decided to trust me. He turned out to be so strong in battles. He finally put all that energy to good use, and both of us loved every second of it.’

                  Antoshi sighed, keeping the ball on the table in its minimized form.

                  He sat in boredom, quietly skimming over his compendium. His leg shook up and down, unable to keep still. He paid extra attention to the map of Viridian, ending up memorizing most of the city's layout by the time he stored it away again.

                  He folded his arms on the table and rest his head, unable to sleep. He was tired and hungry. His lips briefly curled into a tiny smile as he thought about all the times Fireball complained about hunger.

                  ‘Of course! Every minute of every day is great with my best buddy around,’ he recalled Fireball say back on the ferry.

                  His heart sank, sliding further into misery.

                  The waiting and not knowing was starting to deeply affect his psyche. He got up, gazing out the window with a forlorn look in his eyes. He watched people walking and driving around, some of them with their Pokémon.

                  He rhythmically clenched his fists again as they rest on the counter, his mind filling with anger and despair. Officers continued to wander in and out of the room. He noticed them at times, hoping the next individual entering the room would be Fireball.

                  Jenny walked back into the room, making her presence known by knocking on the door frame.

                  “Hey there,” she said with a gentle smile, trying to keep cordial with him.

                  “Hey,” he distantly replied.

                  He briefly glanced over to her, but it was as though he wasn't looking at her. His gaze was somewhere else entirely.

                  “I just wanted to update you and let you know that we've now got over a dozen officers searching for Fireball.”

                  Her attempt to keep his hopes up fell on deaf ears. She cleared her throat.

                  “Would you … like something to eat?”

                  “I'm not hungry,” he muttered.

                  “All right. Well, how about I get you a blanket so that you—”

                  “I don't want a blanket!” he snapped at her in frustration, shoving a display of coffee condiments off the counter. “I just want Fireball back!!”

                  Jenny was shocked at first. There was sorrow in his eyes that hid behind the bitter expression on his face.

                  “What's going on?” Robert asked as he came into the room.

                  “It's okay,” she held an arm out, keeping the officer at bay.

                  Antoshi looked down at the scattered objects, becoming unsettled with himself for reacting so irritably. He looked down at his trembling hands.

                  “I—I'm sorry,” he quietly said, his expression suddenly wracked by grief, “I— …”

                  He dashed past them, heading out the front door.

                  They both watched the boy sit down on the outside steps.

                  “It's been twelve hours,” she said to Robert with a heavy sigh. “Every minute without his friend, waiting and wondering where he is, … it has to be agonizing.”

                  “You think it's the Rockets, don't you?”

                  “Mm,” she nodded. “It's got the same earmarks. Some innocent Trainer's Pokémon goes missing, they don't know where it went, they never see it again. We've scoured every inch of where he lost his Typhlosion and haven't found anything except some fallen trash bins. A Typhlosion can't be hard to spot. I wouldn't be surprised if it was some crafty scheme by the Rockets to lure his Typhlosion away and capture it. They don't care about Pokémon, they only care about their profit. I'm just … sick to my stomach whenever I think of the horrible things they do to peoples' beloved friends.”

                  He placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

                  “I know Archie's always smiling down on you for all the work you do to help those Trainers.”

                  “He is. That was … a long time ago, and I want to believe I've come to grips with it. Yet, every time it happens to someone else, I just feel those scars all over again. I feel it through the look in their eyes whenever they realize … their best friend isn't coming back. …”

                  Jenny turned her gaze away.

                  “I'll go get us some more coffee,” he quietly said.

                  “All right.”

                  She sighed again as he left her company. She continued watching Antoshi for a few moments.

                  She reached a hand out to open the door, but quickly stopped herself. After a moment of pause, she quietly headed back to her office.

                  Outside, Antoshi couldn't stop shaking as his emotions boiled over. He had no idea what to do or where to go anymore. The reality that he may never see Fireball again was sinking in.

                  “This is my fault,” he muttered to himself. “There was so much more I could've done. … I should've paid more attention, I—I should've noticed there was someone following us. I should've been more forceful when I told you not to run off. I shouldn't have stopped to help that lady. I should've— … I should've been faster! I'm a terrible Trainer and a horrible friend!”

                  He clenched his eyes shut, tears rolling down his cheeks.

                  “Where are you, Fireball?” he whispered before huffing and sobbing into his hands. “Please come back …”

                  As sadness overwhelmed him, his entire body became enveloped in the transparent glow of a soft red light. His eyes closed, he remained unaware that it was happening. None of the people walking by seemed to witness the spectacle unfolding.

                  “I can't be strong, Fireball, not without you here with me …”

                  The deeper he sank into heartache, the stronger the light became. It began to fluctuate around him until seemingly igniting, giving off the impression of a flickering red flame.

                  Once Antoshi finally calmed down, so did the mysterious light. He took a few deep breaths and wiped the tears from his eyes. He huffed sharply, getting back to his feet and attempting to recompose himself.

                  He headed back inside the station, having no place else to go.

                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                  After Antoshi settled back into the monotony of waiting in the break room, Jenny came in to check on him.

                  “Antoshi?” she spoke up, grabbing his attention.

                  He acknowledged her with a casual glance before looking away. She sighed, taking a seat across the table from him.

                  “Antoshi — I know I've been keeping you at arm's length. I was staying professional and following protocol. Now, … I want to talk to you on a personal level.”

                  Antoshi's attention perked up, gazing curiously at her.

                  “I'm not supposed to do this, but I can't help but empathize with how much pain you're in. I've … been in the same position you're in now.”

                  “You have?” he asked softly. She nodded.

                  “I joined the force about five years ago. Back then, I was given a partner Pokémon — Archie, my Arcanine. He was my best friend, and I loved him so much. One night, he and I were sent to investigate a break-in at a Poké Ball factory. When we got there, Archie heard a noise and took off. I tried to call him back, but he wouldn't listen. I went in after him, but … he was gone. Some other officers showed up and we looked everywhere for him. I was overwhelmed with grief, but, like you, I was determined to find him. Months passed, and eventually … I gave up. About a year later, I got a call about a lost Pokémon in bad shape wandering through the city.”

                  She shut her eyes, becoming visibly uneasy. Her voice began to tremble.

                  “When I got there, I found out it … was Archie. He'd been … so horribly injured. I got him into the car and took him to the Pokémon Center, but … by then, there wasn't anything they could do. It was too late for him.”

                  She sniffled and let out a shaky sigh, swiftly wiping the tears from her closed eyes.

                  She took a deep breath and looked squarely at Antoshi with a strong, determined expression. Her tone became firm and serious.

                  “That is why I know what you're feeling. That's why I promise that I won't stop looking for your friend, because no one deserves to go through the pain that I endured. I know that, on some level, you felt like I haven't cared. I care more deeply than you know.”

                  Antoshi was left speechless, maintaining eye contact as Jenny stood up from the table.

                  “Never give up,” she said. “Never forget how much you love your best friend.”

                  She straightened her uniform before leaving the room.

                  Antoshi gazed out the window, having much to reflect on.

                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                  Fireball groaned, awaking to the sound of a nearby train slowly screeching to a halt. Under the cover of darkness, he had collapsed from exhaustion behind a train station. He sat up, dazed and incredibly hungry.

                  He got up onto his hind feet and began jogging away, determined to get back to Antoshi. Some of the people at the train station gasped and muttered to each other as the large Typhlosion emerged from the darkness and fled past them.

                  Fireball panted nervously, noticing every set of human and Pokémon eyes that glanced his way. He desperately avoided contact with everyone.

                  "Psst!" he heard a small voice as he passed by a dumpster. "Hey, wait!"

                  He turned around and saw a Rattata standing on its hind legs, gazing up at him.

                  "Wow, you're a big one!" the Rattata remarked.

                  "Thanks," Fireball replied. "Well, … I gotta get going."

                  "Wait, you look hungry! Would you like some food?"

                  "Food?" Fireball mused in wonder.

                  "Food!" a handful of Rattata exclaimed as they burst out from some trash bags.

                  "Wow," Fireball said, following the first Rattata over to the others, "there sure are a lot of you."

                  "Of course!" the first Rattata said. "We Rattata always stick together. But we also don't mind helping the occasional passing stranger — especially if they look like they're in need."

                  "Help yourself!" one of the little ones said, hopping out of a bag that spilled its contents on the ground.

                  "Dumpster food?" Fireball asked. "I—I don't know …"

                  "Trust me, it's good!" the first one replied, stuffing its jowls. "Besides, what else are homeless folks like us supposed to get?"

                  "Well, I'm not really homeless," Fireball said, sitting down by them. "I'm lost from my Trainer."

                  His remarks got a collective 'aww' from the others.

                  "You got lost?" the first one asked. "Wait, your Trainer's not one of those jerks that abandons Pokémon, right?"

                  "No! No, no, he's a really wonderful Trainer. He's my best friend, actually."

                  The others again collectively 'aww'ed in response. Fireball chuckled.

                  "See, I messed up and I ran off from him when I shouldn't have. I ended up getting kidnapped by these two creeps."

                  The others gasped.

                  "Kidnapped?" the first Rattata asked with a worried expression. "They weren't guys with shirts that had a big letter 'R' on them, were they?"

                  "No, they didn't have any letters on their clothes."

                  The others sighed in relief.

                  "But, when they had me in the trunk of their car, I remember them mentioning something about 'Team Rocket'."

                  "Team Rocket?!" the others all exclaimed before hissing and arching their backs.

                  "They're the lowest of the low," the Rattata said. "They're nothing but poachers that kidnap Pokémon and either force them into slavery or sell them off for cash, … or worse. Just thinking about what they've done to our brothers and sisters makes my blood boil."

                  "I'm really sorry to hear that," Fireball replied quietly.

                  "It's okay, friend. I'm just glad you got away from them. Anyway, you seem like a stand-up guy, Mr. Typhlosion. Why don't you let us help you find your Trainer?"

                  Fireball's eyes lit up.

                  "Really? You'd do that for me?"

                  "Sure thing! We may be small, but brother, we got a whole network of friends and family all over the city."

                  The first Rattata scampered up a nearby gutter to get on top of a building. He took a deep, mighty breath.

                  "Hey, everybody~!" he shouted as loudly as he could.

                  For a moment, there was no response. Suddenly, ears, eyes and snouts began to pop up in every nook, cranny, and shadow.

                  Fireball shouted in amazement as dozens, if not hundreds of Rattata and Raticate scampered over and surrounded them.

                  The first Rattata hopped down and stood next to Fireball.

                  "This here is our new friend! … What's your name?"

                  "It's Fireball."

                  "This is Fireball!"

                  The others cheered raucously. Fireball chuckled nervously.

                  "Fireball here has recently managed to escape the clutches of Team Rocket!"

                  The crowd hissed and jeered in response to the name.

                  "I know, I know. But, like many other friends and family we've known, he's become separated from his beloved Trainer. We have to help him reunite with his best friend!"

                  The crowd cheered once more.

                  "Now, Fireball, tell us what your Trainer looks like so we can spread the word."

                  "Okay," Fireball said, standing up on his hind legs. "He's a boy about … this tall," he held a paw out while the entire crowd nodded, "he has blond hair, and he's wearing a black shirt and shorts. He also has a big, red backpack."

                  "You heard him, folks! You know what to do! Let's move out and help our new friend!"

                  The crowd of rat Pokémon dispersed at once, chattering and squeaking.

                  The first Rattata sighed happily.

                  "You can rest easy now, my friend," he said. "Just relax here with us and we'll find your boy in no time at all."

                  Fireball's eyes welled up with tears, sniffling.

                  "Thank you so much, I—" his eyes caught something in the trash. "Are those … waffles?"

                  "Oh, yeah, help yourse—"

                  Fireball dove in and eagerly began to scarf down the food. The Rattata's all laughed.

                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                  In the wee hours of the morning, the Viridian police station was much quieter and less populated than in the daytime. Officer Jenny visited the break room to check on Antoshi. She found him asleep at one of the tables, having finally succumbed to his exhaustion.

                  She went to get a blanket for him, gently draping it over his back. In his hand, he was holding Fireball's Poké Ball.

                  ‘No kid deserves to have to go through this,’ she thought.

                  Jenny's own lack of sleep starting to catch up with her. She genuinely cared for his well-being. She wouldn't go home until her job was done.

                  For the time being, however, she had several other officers on the case in her stead. She headed for the station's small sleeping quarters to get some rest.

                  A few moments later, a Rattata curiously scampered around the outside of the police station. It sniffed the air, squeaking and standing on its hind legs. It headed along the side of the building. There, it hopped up into each of the windowsills. It stopped once it reached the one outside the break room.

                  The Rattata's eyes widened, staring at the sleeping boy within.

                  It swiftly hopped down, finding the nearest storm drain. It chattered and squeaked in excitement, its voice echoing to others below ground.

                  The Rattata sprinted back over to the windowsill. It tapped and scratched on the glass relentlessly.

                  Antoshi groaned softly, rousing from his sleep. He looked over and saw the frantic Rattata in the window.

                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                  Jalyn and Matt continued to drive around the city, searching aimlessly. The city streets were incredibly quiet at such an early hour. Matt yawned loudly, leaning against the inside of the door. Both of their eyes were heavy, but Jalyn was adamant in her mission.

                  “Come on, Jalyn. We've been looking all night. Can we just take a break for a while?”

                  “You can rest when you're dead,” she replied coldly.

                  Matt scoffed, closing his eyes and leaning back in his seat to get some rest.

                  They turned at the next light. Jalyn spotted a single car heading slowly in the opposite direction. The car had a manually moving spotlight that was pointed at the nearby buildings and sidewalks.

                  She gasped, recognizing it as a police vehicle.

                  She swerved suddenly, ducking into a nearby neighborhood to stay out of sight.

                  Matt shouted in surprise, jarred awake by the sudden turn.

                  “What the hell was that?!” he snapped.

                  “There was a cop nearby,” she replied, keeping her attention on her rear-view mirror. “I don't know what they're looking for, but hopefully it's not us.”

                  Matt sighed in frustration as they slowly drove around the neighborhood for a short while.

                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                  Fireball and his new friends sat together, chatting and laughing. They were interrupted by a Rattata sprinting toward them.

                  "We found him!" the Rattata squeaked.

                  Fireball and the others gasped in surprise.

                  "I told you it was just a matter of time, friend!" the first Rattata said. "Come on, we'll follow our guide here to lead us to him!"

                  The messenger started to scamper off. Fireball and the other Rattata followed behind on all fours.

                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                  Matt and Jalyn spent a short while nonchalantly drifting through the neighborhood.

                  “Come on, Jalyn,” Matt said. “That cop has to be long gone by now.”

                  “Shut your stupid mouth!” she snapped. “I'm driving!”

                  He seethed, folding his arms across his chest. He idly gazed down the streets they slowly passed by.

                  He suddenly spotted a small group of Rattata go by under the light of street lamps. They were accompanying a much larger Typhlosion.

                  His eyes nearly popped out of his head in disbelief.

                  Wait a minute!” he shouted with such panic that it caused her to slam the brakes. “Jalyn — there he is!

                  She looked at where his shaking hand was pointing. She internally screamed when she, too, saw Fireball.

                  “Okay, … okay, hang on,” she said, her voice trembling.

                  She turned off her headlights and slowly drove to the next road that Fireball was heading to.

                  “What are you waiting for?!” he exclaimed. “Let's get him!”

                  “Relax, you idiot!” she rebuked him, keeping her voice low. “You want people here to wake up and call the cops on us?! Shut up and don't scare him away! Just … be cool.”

                  The two kept their elation in check as Jalyn calmly drove at the same pace Fireball was moving.

                  Fireball and the others didn't notice the car following them in the distance.

                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                  Antoshi curiously stood in front of the window where the tiny Rattata was.

                  The Rattata hopped up and down, motioning for him to come with it.

                  Antoshi was confused.

                  “What are you trying to tell me, little guy?” Antoshi asked.

                  The Rattata huffed in exasperation. It stood on its hind legs, holding its paws out like claws. It made a stern expression, turning its head and breathing tiny puffs of fire with little roars.

                  Antoshi furrowed his brow for a moment before his eyes went wide in shock.

                  “Fireball?” he asked in disbelief. “You know where Fireball is?!”

                  The Rattata nodded, squeaking in excitement.

                  That was all Antoshi needed to know. He shoved Fireball's Poké Ball into his pocket and made a mad dash for the front door.

                  The other police officers were taken by surprise as he ran off as fast as he could.

                  “Hey kid!” one of them shouted. “Wait a second! Where are you going?”

                  He didn't answer, only shoving the door open and breaking out into a sprint once he got outside. He met up with the little Rattata at the side of the building.

                  “Hurry, let's find Fireball!” he said.

                  The Rattata nodded before taking off with Antoshi in tow.

                  The same officer headed to the station's sleeping quarters to inform Jenny.

                  “Jenny!” he said, shaking her gently. “Jenny, wake up!”

                  She groaned as she opened her eyes, looking at him.

                  “Huh? … What is it?”

                  “It's the kid! He went flying out of here like a bat outta hell!”

                  Her eyes went wide. She quickly pulled the blanket off herself and got out of bed.

                  The two officers headed for the front door.

                  “One minute he was sleeping, the next minute he was out the door like he was on a mission!”

                  “I have to go after him,” she sternly said. “It's too dark and too dangerous for him to be running around the city. He can't be thinking rationally. I owe it to him to keep him safe.”

                  “All right. Be careful.”

                  Jenny hurried out the door, climbing into her police cruiser. She backed out and peeled onto the streets, trying to find Antoshi as quickly as possible.

                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                  Once Fireball and the others reached the outskirts of the neighborhood, they were met with a tall, long wooden fence.

                  "Let's go around!" the first Rattata said.

                  Just then, they noticed a car's headlights turn on, pointed at them.

                  The tires screeched as Jalyn slammed the accelerator down. She had a crazed look in her eyes.

                  The Rattata all panicked and scattered.

                  Fireball attempted to jump out of the way, but ended up struck hard by the car. He screamed in pain as he rolled over the hood, launching off the windshield — cracking it — and landed hard on the asphalt before rolling to a stop.

                  Jalyn spun the car around. She came to a halt and parked it. She couldn't get out of the car fast enough, and neither could Matt.

                  They cautiously approached him while keeping one hand in their pockets. They both gasped when he started stirring to life.

                  Fireball groaned in pain. He set his jaw, struggling to get to his hind feet. He looked at them, one eye bloodied and closed shut, snarling at them in rage. The fires on his upper back came alight, prepared for battle.

                  “You're worth less than nothing to me,” Jalyn scornfully said. “Now, be a good little pet and come quietly with us. Otherwise, I will kill you.”

                  Fireball growled, baring his teeth. In an instant, he opened his maw and exhaled a scorching stream of fire at them. They panicked and dashed in opposite directions.

                  When his attack petered out, they looked at each other, then at Fireball.

                  “All right, you stupid beast,” Jalyn said.

                  She and Matt each brandished a Poké Ball from their pockets.

                  “You want to battle? We can battle.”

                  "Hey!" the first Rattata exclaimed. "Leave our friend alone!"

                  The group of Rattata all screeched and charged at the pair.

                  “What the hell is this?!” Matt shouted, both of them yelping as the Rattata bit and clawed at their ankles.

                  The duo threw their Poké Balls out which opened of their own accord. The streams of light that burst forth from them touched the ground and took shape. Matt's Spiritomb and Jalyn's Malamar stood silently.

                  Both Pokémon had cold, menacing glares.

                  Malamar looked down at the group of Rattata. There was a terrible killing intent in the Malamar's eyes that terrified them to their core.

                  The Rattata fled from the duo fearfully.

                  “Ha! Stupid little pests!” Matt exclaimed. “Spiritomb, use Shadow Sneak on that Typhlosion!”

                  In an instant, Spiritomb disappeared and reappeared in the form of a dark shadow behind Fireball. His uninjured eye went wide from an ominous feeling of dread before being hit from behind.

                  “Malamar, use Psycho Cut!” Jalyn commanded.

                  Malamar's finlike hands glowed blue before running at the stunned Fireball. It swept both hands forward, creating a crescent-shaped blade of energy that struck the Typhlosion.

                  He shouted in pain as the attack staggered him backwards.

                  Fireball fell to all fours, glaring at the duo. He trembled in pain, slowly starting to rise back up on his hind feet again.

                  “Now, Malamar — Hypnosis!”

                  Malamar's eyes became a mesmerizing swirl of colors just as before. Fireball was far weaker at that point than the first time Hypnosis was used on him. He didn't last long before falling unconscious.

                  The Rockets sighed in relief, recalling their Pokémon into the confines of their Poké Balls.

                  Jalyn got back into the car in order to back up closer to Fireball. She popped the trunk, both of them working quickly to lift the heavy Typhlosion up once again.

                  Panting heavily, Antoshi and the single Rattata appeared at the scene just in time to see the Rockets rolling Fireball's body into the trunk.

                  Hey!” he shouted, his voice high-pitched from exhaustion.

                  The two were shocked as they looked over at him. Antoshi sprinted toward them.

                  Let him go! Now!

                  “Oh, you've got to be kidding me,” Matt remarked in disbelief. “That's the kid I stole the wallet from! That's his Typhlosion!”

                  “Damn it,” Jalyn muttered as she slammed the trunk closed. “Get in the car, Stupid!”

                  Jalyn no longer cared about the upholstery as the duo jumped into the car.

                  Antoshi's rage crested upon seeing them trying to flee. His adrenaline carried him as fast as he could while Jalyn started the car.

                  The Rattata ran with him, chattering angrily.

                  You're not getting away!” Antoshi shouted.

                  Jalyn drove at full speed into the wooden fence that had previously boxed Fireball in.

                  Matt shouted in fear as the boards shattered all around them, damaging the car even further.

                  “Are you crazy?!” he yelled at her.

                  She didn't answer him, only keeping her perturbed gaze forward. She drove up a small grassy incline before getting back onto an empty side street.

                  Antoshi panted as he and the group of Rattatas stepped all over the splintered wood, up the incline, out onto the road just in time to see them speeding off.

                  No!!” he shouted in anguish and anger as he they escaped with Fireball.

                  He couldn't run fast enough. His energy was completely spent, falling to his knees in defeat.

                  The Rattatas stood by, looking at him with sorrowful gazes.

                  Antoshi screamed at the top of his lungs, letting out all the rage and sorrow that had been building up inside of him. In a flash, the fiery red light erupted and flared wildly around his body. An incredible rush of adrenaline and vigor surged through his veins.

                  The Rattatas were shocked, backing away. They were bewildered at the sight of the flame around him.

                  He clenched his teeth, staring at the fleeing car with a vengeful gaze, his irises glowing red.

                  He suddenly noticed the flickering light surrounding him. His expression turned to surprise and curiosity. He looked at his arms and body, patting his chest in disbelief.

                  He got to his feet. All of his exhaustion took a back seat while he tapped into an unknown source of power. He was completely rejuvenated.

                  ‘It's that same energy,’ he thought, ‘from when I pulled Fireball up that cliff. …’

                  With his entire body like an explosive mass of boundless energy, he raced toward the car with an immense second wind.

                  The group of Rattata were too intrigued by the turn of events not to follow him. The boy was much faster than before, and they had trouble keeping up with him.

                  As the car rounded a corner, Antoshi did his best to keep them in sight. By the time he turned the same corner, the car had gotten too far from him.

                  He shouted in agony, pushing himself as hard as he could, struggling so hard to catch up that he suddenly stumbled over his own feet. His arms flailed to catch himself only to realize he was not touching the ground, yet he continued moving forward.

                  He was flying.

                  Antoshi let out a shocked cry at his situation, trying to wrap his head around what was happening. The break in concentration caused him to fall face-first onto the street.

                  He got up with nary a scratch on him. He huffed with determination, watching the car round another corner in the distance. He took off running once again, fueled by the burning desire to save his best friend.

                  As he hit his stride, he let himself fall forward again and, just as before, he began to fly. He was at a loss for how he was doing it, but remained focused on his target.

                  The Rattatas gave up on their pursuit. They stayed behind, squeaking, jumping, and cheering for the flying boy.

                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                  At that moment, Officer Jenny was racing down the street in the opposite direction the two Rockets headed. Her eyes were on the sidewalk, paying no mind to the two in the passing convertible with the horribly cracked windshield. However, she gasped and hit the brakes upon finding the young man she was searching for — as he soared over her car.

                  With her jaw agape, she gazed incredulously out the back window.

                  “No way,” she whispered.

                  Jenny quickly backed up, spun around, and turned her flashing lights on as she gave chase to the bewildering scene.

                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                  Jalyn stuck to the side streets where there were no other cars around.

                  “Is that kid still following us?” she asked as she rounded another corner.

                  Matt saw nothing in the side-view mirror and nodded to her confidently.

                  “He's not fast enough to …” he trailed off after seeing a reflection of Antoshi flying behind them. “What the hell?!”

                  “What?” she asked with immediate concern. “What is it?!”

                  Matt turned around to confirm there actually was a flying kid. Not only was it so, but Antoshi was quickly gaining on them.

                  His eyes were wide, his face pale.

                  “He … is still following us,” Matt replied, dumbfounded.

                  She was confused until she glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw the same thing as him.

                  That-that's impossible!” she screamed.

                  She nearly veered off the road before correcting.

                  Antoshi was getting closer. Matt sat quietly for a moment, pondering what to say next.

                  “Jalyn,” Matt began with a calm, serious tone, “I've … never questioned my life's choices as much as I have in the past twenty-four hours. This — all of this — isn't worth it. The Typhlosion's not worth it, the money's not worth it, my life's not worth it. I can't do it anymore. It's not worth it, it's not worth it. …”

                  “Pull yourself together, you idiot! We're dead if we don't finish this!”

                  “We have a flying kid chasing us, Jalyn. I don't care what happens to me now. I'm … I—I'm ready to face my consequences.”

                  The look in his eyes reaffirmed to her that he'd lost the will to fight.

                  “Damn you, Matt,” she muttered

                  She reached over and hit the glove box to pop it open. Its contents shifted around and Antoshi's wallet fell to the floorboard.

                  She grabbed the gun inside and handed it to him.

                  “If you don't care what happens to you, I'm begging you to at least care what happens to me, okay? If you want out of this game after this is over, then I promise I'll help you get out. Just do one last thing for me: kill him.

                  He gave further thought to his situation, staring at the gun she held against his chest. He closed his eyes, taking the gun with a heavy sigh.

                  “All this for one kid's wallet,” he reflected aloud.

                  He turned around, balancing himself while taking aim. The boy was trailing mere meters behind them.

                  Antoshi gasped, his eyes going wide with terror as he stared down the gun's barrel. With his life in danger, his irises suddenly glowed bright and the fiery light around him flickered intensely.

                  The others were not able to see those flames surrounding him or the glow in his eyes.

                  In an instant, Antoshi's whole world began to move in slow-motion.

                  His eyesight became precise enough to see the bullet exiting the chamber. It ejected ahead of a burst of fire, followed by a cloud of smoke and tiny, burning cinders of gunpowder. Antoshi pivoted his body to the side with ease, avoiding the trajectory of the bullet by a wide margin.

                  All Matt witnessed was Antoshi disappearing and reappearing an instant later.

                  “Wh—what?!” Matt shouted.

                  “What happened? Did you get him?” Jalyn asked.

                  She glanced in the rear-view mirror. The boy was still giving chase.

                  “You missed?!”

                  “I— … h—he dodged it!”

                  Just keep shooting!

                  Matt seethed, firing shot after shot at Antoshi. The boy evaded with the same swiftness each time. He shouted in frustration, chucking the empty gun at him — only to have him dodge that as well.

                  Do something!” Jalyn shouted, panicked.

                  “It's too late,” he replied, slinking back into his seat and hunching over. “It was going to end this way — somehow. I should've known it when the universe was working against me to keep from stealing the kid's wallet. I brought this on myself. …”

                  Jalyn sucked her teeth. There wasn't anything left to say or do to console him.

                  Both of them shouted in surprise as the car rattled hard as though they were rear-ended. They looked back, watching Antoshi grab onto the car's back bumper. He strained with effort as he pulled the car and dug his heels into the asphalt, gradually slowing the car down with sheer power. Jalyn cried out in terror, flooring the gas pedal.

                  The car came to a halt.

                  Smoke poured off the screeching tires as it revved in place. Antoshi's grip was slipping, clamping down so hard on the bumper that it snapped off of the car's frame. The car barreled suddenly forward.

                  Matt and Jalyn screamed as they lost control and crashed into a metal light pole.

                  The light pole went out, bent around the car's hood. The two inside were knocked unconscious, faces planted in the deployed air bags.

                  Antoshi glanced at the mangled bumper in his hands before tossing it aside. He ran up and grabbed the trunk lid, straining again before tearing it off the frame.

                  Fireball was still knocked out and had the same injuries from earlier. He was otherwise fine.

                  “Fireball…,” he whispered.

                  His eyes welled up with tears, a relieved grin spreading across his face.

                  He finally relaxed. The reddish glow slowly faded from his eyes and the rest of his body.

                  Antoshi heard a car racing toward him from behind. He turned to see the approaching red and blue lights of Officer Jenny's cruiser. She screeched to a halt before getting out.

                  “Are you all right?!” she exclaimed, baffled by the scene. “What in the world happened here?! Were—were you flying?!

                  “I— … well, …” he trailed off, chuckling nervously before recomposing himself. “Yes, I am all right. I, uh, I guess I may have been flying. A little bit.”

                  She looked at the unconscious thieves.

                  “Wait a minute, I recognize these two. They're part of Team Rocket!”

                  She reached into a small pocket on her duty belt, tossing out a Poké Ball of her own.

                  “Quagsire, move out!” she said.

                  The ball opened and the ensuing light faded to reveal an energetic Quagsire that happily jumped up and down.

                  “Quagsire, keep an eye on these two. Don't let them move.”

                  Quagsire saluted and gave a nod before it waddled over to the side of the convertible.

                  “Team … Rocket?” Antoshi asked in surprise. “The Rocket Gang still exists?”

                  Jenny nodded.

                  “Indeed they do. They have a tendency to disband or go underground every so often, so it's been impossible to put a permanent end to them. After all these decades, they keep popping up like cockroaches.”

                  She placed her hands on her hips, turning to the boy with a stern expression.

                  “Antoshi, what you did was extremely reckless and, quite frankly, foolish. By chasing after Team Rocket like that, you or others could've even gotten hurt — or worse.”

                  He held his head down in guilt. She sighed and lightened up.

                  “Even still, … I can't help but be happy for you. You caught the criminals, your Fireball is back, and I know how happy you must be.”

                  Antoshi graciously smiled to her.

                  “You're no ordinary kid, Antoshi. I know that after what I just witnessed from you. I promised that I'd find Fireball for you, and I'm sorry that I couldn't personally deliver on that promise.”

                  “It's all right, Officer Jenny,” he said. “Fireball's back, and that's what's important. You still did so much for me. You gave me a place to stay safe, you took care of me, and hearing your story really meant so much to me. You lifted me back up when I needed it the most. For that, I thank you.”

                  The pair smiled at each other.

                  Jenny walked over to check on the two fainted Rockets.

                  “Looks like they're not going anywhere,” she remarked. She reached for her shoulder radio. “Central, 10-52, requesting a bus at 74th and … Persian. Also requesting backup; potentially dangerous suspects.”

                  Jenny gave her Quagsire a pat on the head for a job well done.

                  Antoshi sighed heavily, opting to stay close to Fireball until assistance arrived. He sat on the edge of the trunk, barely able to keep his eyes open. He yawned loudly, wishing for nothing more than to get Fireball safely to a Pokémon Center and get himself some much-needed rest.

                  Unbeknown to them, the pertinacious Jalyn had not only regained consciousness but was already scheming.

                  She slipped a hand into her pocket, expanded the Poké Ball within and threw it into the air. Just as the ball popped open, she quickly opened her door and rolled out.

                  “Hey!” Jenny shouted, reaching for her sidearm. “Stay in the car!”

                  She and Quagsire gasped as Malamar landed on the hood of the car with a thud, staring at them with its bitterly cold eyes.

                  “Malamar, Psychic!” she commanded.

                  Jenny and Quagsire shouted in surprise as they were lifted off their feet by its telekinesis.

                  “Quagsire! Use—!”

                  Before she could finish, Malamar flung the two further down the sidewalk.

                  “Now!” Jalyn exclaimed, pointing at Antoshi. “The kid!”

                  Malamar turned to the startled Antoshi and lifted him into the air.

                  “No!” he shouted, reaching out in vain to Fireball. “Fireball!!”

                  He looked at Jalyn, who stared back at him with a twisted grin and a savage look in her eyes.

                  The lack of sleep, the fear of death hanging over her head, and bewilderment over the events of the past day all came together with her typically misanthropic nature to make her finally snap.

                  “You think you're special because you can fly?” she asked. “How about I teach you how to fall instead?!”

                  Antoshi looked at her with a terrified expression.

                  “Malamar, give him a lift!”

                  Malamar used its psychic powers to send Antoshi high into the air.

                  He screamed, flailing helplessly, too frightened and too exhausted to summon the same powers he displayed earlier. He hovered above the roof of a nearby ten-story building, held aloft by Malamar's powers.

                  Matt groaned as he came to. He quickly noticed the scene playing out before him.

                  “Jalyn, stop this!” Matt shouted as he pushed the air bag down.

                  She turned to him, wild-eyed.

                  Shut up!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “All you've ever done is complain and doubt me and give up! You're a worthless loser, Matt! I'm the one who gets the job done!

                  Matt slowly climbed out of the car, keeping his eyes affixed to her as she hyperventilated.

                  “I'm so tired, damn it! I'm tired of everything! Malamar, end this damn child!!

                  Matt reached for his own Poké Ball and tossed it into the air.

                  “Spiritomb, use Shadow Sneak on Malamar!” Matt exclaimed.

                  Spiritomb appeared behind its former cohort, striking it hard enough to cause it to stumble to the ground. It broke Malamar's hold on Antoshi — but there was no one to catch him.

                  Antoshi fell toward the asphalt.

                  No!!” he shouted, panting and screaming in horror as he rapidly plummeted.

                  ‘Is this it?’ he thought. ‘Is this how our journey ends?’

                  Antoshi looked at the convertible in time to see Fireball climbing out of the trunk. A reddish flame surrounded him just before he hit the ground.

                  Everything went black.


                  *****
                  Chapter 6 »
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                  Old October 19th, 2017 (5:42 PM).
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                  Astinus Astinus is offline
                     
                    Join Date: May 2006
                    Age: 32
                    Gender: Male
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                    Now that I know why he followed Antoshi all that way, I'm really hoping that Matt sticks around for a while. Like that he and Jalyn become a part of the story for a few chapters because I like their side of the Team Rocket plot. They're not just nameless personality-less grunts. They're a strange duo.

                    The background of Antoshi and Fireball was nice to get, but it was a strange way to have it in the story. It felt more like being fed the information rather than the story allowing us to know about it easier. It was also strange to read that at one point, Fireball even disobeyed Antoshi. It's a quick detail, but one that I'm interested in because I want to know why Fireball didn't always listen to Antoshi then. So I'm also hoping that their background is more explored.

                    (Which I'm also wondering because you keep having characters saying that Antoshi is a strange name, so I'd assume that there's some explanation for his name to be so strange. Is it tied to his psychic powers?)

                    Now to wait and see how Fireball managed to escape, and if he can find Antoshi soon. It's been pretty fun to see the Pokemon side of the partnership be more confident than the trainer.
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                    Old October 26th, 2017 (8:11 AM). Edited January 27th, 2019 by Antoshi.
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                    Antoshi Antoshi is offline
                    Peaceful Serenity
                       
                      Join Date: Oct 2004
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                      Chapter 6


                      “This is your destiny …” a deep, mysterious voice echoed in the darkness. “Boundless power awaits you.”

                      “My destiny,” another voice that sounded like Antoshi's responded. “This power is incredible.”

                      “End them. You must start anew. They do not care about you. No one cares about you. They are all jealous of you. They want to hold you back.”

                      “They're holding me back?”

                      “Your power is limitless. I will teach you how to unleash your power. But first, you must do as I say. This is the only way.”

                      “The only way? … I'm not strong enough. I can't just …”

                      Show no weakness!” the deep voice yelled in a terrifying tone.

                      Antoshi's eyes shot open, awaking with a gasp.

                      He lay completely still, staring at a bright white light before him. He was at a total loss as to where he was.

                      The memories of his plummet from the building roof came flooding back.

                      ‘Am I … dead?’ he thought.

                      "Antoshi?" a familiar voice greeted him quietly.

                      He turned his head to see Fireball rising from a chair. A huge grin spread across the Typhlosion's surprised face.

                      “Fireball?” Antoshi groggily replied, reaching out with both hands to touch his friend's face.

                      His eyes immediately began to well up with tears.

                      “This isn't … a dream, right?”

                      Fireball shook his head.

                      Antoshi's hands fell away, uttering a trembling sigh as he rubbed his eyes with his forearm. He noticed an IV tube sticking out of his arm.

                      “What happened? Why am I here? … Where is 'here'?”

                      "We're in the Viridian City police station."

                      “Again?” he asked, slowly sitting up on a hospital bed.

                      There was no one else around in the small room. Something shifted around in his pocket. He dug a hand in to see what it was.

                      To their mutual surprise, it was Fireball's Poké Ball.

                      "Is that mine?" Fireball asked, awe-struck.

                      Antoshi nodded and grinned. Fireball sniffled.

                      "I just knew you wouldn't ever give up on me."

                      He turned his gaze away in guilt.

                      "Antoshi, I'm so sorry for running away. It was a really dumb move and—"

                      “No,” Antoshi stopped him.

                      Fireball appeared confused.

                      “I'm the one who should apologize, Fireball. I didn't … do enough. There were so many other ways for me to respond. It's my responsibility to keep you safe.”

                      "Don't do that to yourself, Antoshi," he replied. "The police told me everything that happened with you. I also heard all about how you were holding up as the day went on. … Please don't blame yourself for something I did. You're much better than that."

                      “It's just that … you and I are like one and the same. If something happens to you, I can't help feeling like it's my fault.”

                      Fireball placed a reassuring claw on Antoshi's shoulder.

                      "It's not your fault."

                      Antoshi held his head down for a moment. He heaved a sigh before nodding in agreement. He looked up at him with a smile.

                      “I'm just so happy that you're back. Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

                      "Well, I was, but the police took me to the Pokémon Center and got me all patched up. Then they took me right back here so I could be with my best buddy when he wakes up. It was like having my own chauffeur — and you wouldn't believe how much food they gave me!"

                      Antoshi smirked.

                      “I'll bet you were starving, huh?”

                      "I would've been, but I found a pack of Rattata that gave me some food and then helped me to find you."

                      Antoshi's eyes widened.

                      “So that's why there was a Rattata that brought me to you!”

                      "Yeah, they sure were helpful!"

                      The mood turned quiet for a moment.

                      “So, … how long have I been out?”

                      "Err, well, it's been … three days since you, ya' know, fell."

                      Three days?” he asked, slapping a hand over his forehead as his expression turned to worry. “Oh, man, Mom and Dad are probably worrying like crazy about us. We were supposed to call them the same day that we got to Viridian. Now we have even less time to get that eighth badge. We gotta get going, we don't have much—”

                      "Okay, slow down," Fireball reassured him. "Let's just take things one step at a time. Isn't that what you're always telling me?"

                      Antoshi nodded and took a deep breath.

                      “You're right. I guess my mind is still racing from everything that's happened to us. I just need a little time to relax — especially after the whole flying … thing.”

                      "So it was true!" Fireball exclaimed. "I heard some of the officers joking about how you grew wings or something? How exactly did—"

                      “You're awake!” Jenny said with incredulous surprise.

                      She entered the room alongside Quagsire.

                      “I—I can't even believe it. You've made a full recovery when, in all honesty, you shouldn't even be alive right now.”

                      “Alive?” Antoshi wondered aloud. “Oh, … man. I hadn't even stopped to consider how bad that fall I took was. I only woke up a few minutes ago.”

                      “Well, you've got a lot to take in.” Jenny smiled, helping to remove the IV from his arm. “Are you in any pain right now?”

                      Antoshi stretched his arms and legs out.

                      “No, I feel completely fine, like I got a full night's rest.”

                      “That's incredible! You've been out for three days. Even if someone had survived the fall you took, I doubt they'd ever wake up. Yet, somehow, when the paramedics came and got you, you had no injuries whatsoever.”

                      Antoshi pondered the severity of the fall again.

                      “I fell from the top of that building, … and I didn't even have a cut or a broken bone?”

                      “That's right. I was a wreck when the medics and other officers showed up. I was doing a lot of crying — I thought you were dead. I couldn't bear to look at … what had become of you after the fall. Initially, they had a yellow tarp over you because you weren't responding and they couldn't find a pulse. Then, another officer called me over to come and look at you. When I did, I was just flabbergasted. You were breathing again. It was a miracle beyond anything we'd ever seen.”

                      Quagsire idly meandered out of the room.

                      “… Wow,” Antoshi remarked, lost in thought. “I thought for sure that I was … going to die. … I—I'm really sorry for making you worry, Officer Jenny.”

                      “There's no need to apologize,” she replied with a reassuring smile. “Words can't even begin to describe how happy I am to see both of you alive and well — and together again. You're actually really lucky, too. Nobody asked at first what happened to you, especially because you didn't have any injuries. Only after they took the tarp off and found out you were okay was about the time I was finally asked why you were in the street. I made up a story that you were overcome with emotion and exhaustion and you just … collapsed. But, I wasn't going to let Jalyn go without an attempted murder charge. So, I said that she tried to kill me with her Malamar.”

                      “What's going to happen to their Pokémon?”

                      “They'll be rehabilitated, put in a comfortable facility where they can't harm themselves or others. You saw the looks in Malamar's eyes, they were … traumatized beyond words. It might take a long time for them to snap out of it. Maybe years, maybe … never.”

                      “I feel so terrible for them,” Antoshi remarked.

                      Jenny nodded.

                      “I think it's safe to say they'll be all right now.”

                      Antoshi curiously looked around again.

                      “How come I'm here and not, you know, at the hospital?”

                      “This is where we bring injured suspects in order to keep them separated from the hospital population.”

                      Fear crossed both Antoshi and Fireball's faces.

                      “Does … that mean I'm going to jail?”

                      “Of course not!” she replied with a laugh. “It's very much against protocol to bring a civilian here instead of the hospital but, given the extraordinary circumstances of what happened, I made an extraordinary exception for you. We even had a couple doctors come by to check on you a few times. They ran some tests and said you were perfectly fine; just suffering from severe exhaustion.”

                      “What happened to the two that kidnapped Fireball?”

                      “Ah, those two Rockets. It was a chaotic scene so I'll try to piece it together as best I can. After you were knocked out, Fireball actually had enough strength left to help Matt's Spiritomb take down Jalyn's Malamar. She had something of a … psychotic break after that. We were able to subdue her until more officers showed up. She was arrested, their Pokémon confiscated, and Matt gave himself up peacefully. Fireball didn't know what happened to you until the paramedics started to check on you. He was … quite upset — much more than I was.”

                      Fireball solemnly nodded.

                      “After I saw that you were okay, I let Fireball know. That's when they took him away to be healed, though he was quite insistent on staying with you. I promised that I'd take him back to see you once he was better, and here we all are.”

                      Quagsire came back into the room, holding a newspaper up to Jenny. She chuckled and took it from him.

                      “Oh, and you made the papers a couple days ago,” she said, holding it up for Antoshi to see.

                      Antoshi read the headline, 'Team Rocket Blasts Off Into Custody!' along with a picture of Matt and Jalyn being arrested.

                      “Did it … mention me by name?” Antoshi asked, worried. “I really don't want my parents to know about this.”

                      “No, no. You're still underage, so they didn't use your name. In fact, they only made a small mention of you. 'A young boy nearby was also taken to a medical facility for treatment.' That's it. As for me, I intend to keep your secret safe.”

                      Antoshi smiled and sighed in relief.

                      “Thank you so much, Officer Jenny — for everything.”
                      “Oh, and there's one more thing.”

                      She reached into her uniform's breast pocket, taking out a wallet. She tossed it onto his lap.

                      “I believe this belongs to you.”

                      Antoshi took it with trembling hands, his chest swelling with pride.

                      “Our badges…” he remarked, opening the wallet up.

                      All seven were accounted for. He and Fireball grinned at each other.

                      “Looks like we're back in business, buddy.”

                      Fireball nodded in excitement.

                      “Well, I should get back to work. The two of you are free to stay here as long as you like. There's also a shower at the far end of the room if you want to wash up.”

                      “Thank you, again.”

                      Jenny and Quagsire left the room, leaving the duo alone once more.

                      They gazed proudly at their badges inside the open wallet for a moment. With a happy sigh, Antoshi stood up and put the wallet away in his back pocket.

                      “That was some adventure to get a wallet back, huh?” Antoshi asked, stretching his arms high.

                      "Sure was," Fireball remarked. "I really hope we never go through anything like that ever again. From now on, I promise I'll listen to you and stay right by your side, no matter what. That's what best friends do."

                      Antoshi smiled and sighed, sharing a hug with Fireball.

                      “'Right by your side'? Where have I heard that before?” he asked, looking up at Fireball with a cheeky smirk.

                      "Okay, I actually mean it this time."

                      Antoshi laughed and hugged his friend once more.

                      He found his backpack sitting on a nearby chair. He stored away Fireball's Poké Ball before taking out a pair of clean clothes.

                      Fireball opted to take a seat again to wait as Antoshi headed for the showers.

                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                      After washing up and getting a fresh change of clothes, Antoshi picked up his backpack.

                      “We gotta make up for three days of lost time,” he remarked as Fireball stood and stretched. “You ready?”

                      "Absolutely!"

                      Antoshi slung his backpack over his shoulders.

                      “First, we have to make a quick trip to the Pokémon Center to call Mom and Dad.”

                      Antoshi and Fireball gave their farewells to the officers in the police station. Jenny waited by the entrance to give Antoshi a hug and a personal farewell. She smiled proudly as she watched them leave.

                      Outside, the noon sun hung high on a partly cloudy sky. Antoshi grinned from ear to ear, his bright hair shimmering in the light like a blond ray of sunshine.

                      "Shouldn't you take out your map to see where the Center is?" Fireball asked.

                      “Nah, I already memorized it,” Antoshi casually replied. “It's just a few blocks straight ahead.”

                      "Wow, you must've been really bored if you memorized the entire map of the city while I was gone."

                      Antoshi laughed.

                      “I guess that's one way of putting it.”

                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                      The Pokémon Center was busy, due to how big of a city Viridian was. The duo had to wait a few minutes for a videophone to free up.

                      In the meantime, Antoshi got them registered to stay a night in the Center. He couldn't help himself from grinning as he reached for his returned wallet in order to take out his Trainer Card. He thanked Nurse Joy as she handed him the room key.

                      Once a phone freed up, Antoshi sat down in front of it with Fireball behind him. He tapped his Trainer Card against the screen to call home.

                      “Oh, Antoshi!” his mother happily exclaimed on screen. “It took you a little while to get back to us after Pallet Town. I thought you were in a rush!”

                      “Started exploring the sights again?” his father asked as he sat next to her.

                      “Yeah, we got … a little caught up in Viridian City,” Antoshi replied with a slight smirk. “Fireball and I are here now, though, and we're safe and sound.”

                      “That's good,” his father replied. “We're glad you're checking in with us. So~, what's Viridian City like?”

                      Antoshi mulled through the memories of their time in Viridian.

                      “It's … a very exhausting city.”

                      Fireball nodded in agreement.

                      “I guess you could say that I already learned a lot about myself from my time being here.”

                      “Wonderful!” his mother said. “Ohh, Antoshi, you're growing up so quickly right before my eyes. Promise me that, no matter what happens by the time the tournament is finished, you'll come right back home afterward.”

                      “I promise, Mom,” he replied with a warm smile. “I'm really happy to talk to you both again. Honestly, I've been thinking about home a lot lately, so I'm feeling a little homesick.”

                      “Words I never imagined I'd hear you say, son,” his father stated. “You have been gone over a year now. Starting to get your fill of being out on your own?”

                      “Not even close!” he exclaimed, all of them sharing a brief laugh. “I do miss being with you both. I won't be gone away much longer, but Fireball and I promise we're going to give our absolute best at that tournament.”

                      “I wouldn't expect anything less,” his mother proudly replied. “We'll be rooting for you at home, sweetie! Oh, and don't forget to pick up your package of clothes at the Pokémon Center!”

                      “We love you!” his parents said together.

                      “Love you guys, too,” Antoshi replied, grinning.

                      The screen displayed 'Call Ended'.

                      Antoshi sighed happily and got to his feet.

                      “Let's get some new clothes, then.”

                      "Lucky for me, I don't wear any," Fireball joked.

                      They walked over to a small kiosk tucked away in a corner of the main area. Over it was a plastered sign reading 'Parcel Delivery System.'

                      Antoshi swiped his Trainer Card along the side of the machine. It lit up with a list of packages sent and awaiting delivery.

                      He tapped on the screen for a package sent three days prior. A vacuum tube whirred and an automatic door under the kiosk slid open. He reached down and took a small parcel from it, prompting the door to slide shut.

                      He and Fireball found a place to sit down and open their mail.

                      “More of these, huh?” Antoshi asked with a smile.

                      He unwrapped a half-dozen neatly folded polo shirts and shorts. Slipped between them was a small envelope with several thousand more Pokédollars, money which he put away in his wallet.

                      Fireball watched and waited patiently as Antoshi folded away the old clothes from his backpack, replacing them with the new clothes. He put his old clothes in the package his mother sent, sealed it up, and headed back to the kiosk to send them back home.

                      Back outside, both of them sighed happily. They were refreshed after getting geared up for what was to be the last leg of their long journey. They headed for their next destination: Viridian City Gym.

                      "Gosh," Fireball remarked, looking around at the open, bustling city. "This place seems so much nicer when I'm not fleeing for my life."

                      “And when I'm not constantly worrying about where you are,” Antoshi replied with a grin. “Guess we can turn bad memories into good ones, huh?”

                      "Especially when they turn out all right in the end! … Say, Antoshi, do you want to … talk about what happened to you? You know, you … almost died."

                      Antoshi sighed, offering his friend a reassuring smile.

                      “It was definitely terrifying. It was the scariest moment of my life. I thought about you, and Mom and Dad. It was like what people always say, my life flashed before my eyes. It really hit me when Officer Jenny was catching me up on everything that happened. It's weird, though. I should be traumatized about it. But, really, I'm just happy to be alive. I'm happy to still be here with my best buddy and my family, because I love you all so much. I don't want to think about how scary that was. I don't want it to weigh on me. I'm sure at times in the future it's going to hit me again, but I just have to remember what's important to me, and to be thankful that I'm alive.”

                      "I'm thankful for that, too," Fireball said, placing a claw on Antoshi's shoulder. "Also, I never got to ask you something back in the police station. How did you do all that crazy flying I heard about? Some of the policemen there were joking about those two crooks saying you flew after them. Apparently that's how you caught them, but none of the police believed the story. What happened?"

                      “Well, it … was because of that crazy energy that I showed you a few nights ago on Route 1. It came back again, only this time it was way more powerful. It ended up giving me this huge burst of energy when I was running after the car. Instead of it being in my hands like I showed you, it was just … around my whole body. Somehow, it made me able to fly.”

                      "That is really cool. Can you show me?"

                      “I don't know if I can do it again — or even if I should.”

                      "You're still nervous about what this all means?"

                      “A little,” Antoshi said with a shrug. “To be fair, I have to be thankful for it for coming through in a pinch. With that energy, I was able to save you, and save myself from dying. I just … I can't shake this feeling like there's something more to it. There just has to be. There's something important I don't fully understand yet. Honestly, I'm a little excited and a little nervous about that.”

                      "Well, at least now you can reach stuff in high places — just fly up and get it!"

                      Antoshi scoffed in amusement.

                      “I'll keep that in mind.”

                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                      After a few hours of walking, exploring the city, and getting something to eat, the duo closed in on the Viridian City Gym. It was situated in the heart of the city. A long, large pathway led from the sidewalk to the front doors.

                      Antoshi and Fireball were fascinated by the lavish landscaping along the outside path. They walked under tall, sculpted hedges in the shape of arcs that went high over the duo's heads. Innumerable colorful flowers lined the edges and far beyond. As they got closer, even more hedges in the shape of various Pokémon encircled the front of the Gym.

                      "This is cool," Fireball remarked, awe-struck.

                      “Yeah. Someone took the city's motto of 'Eternally Green Paradise' very seriously.”

                      The automatic front doors opened and the duo stepped inside.

                      They were taken aback once again by the grand decor of the Gym's spacious main room. It was warm and cozy, with earth tones on the walls and tile floor — scarred in places from past battles. Large paintings of strangers hung along the walls, with various accents and warm lighting.

                      "This is very cool," Fireball said.

                      “I can't wait to meet the Gym Leader,” he remarked. “Hello? My name is Antoshi! I'm here to challenge the Viridian City Leader for the Earth Badge!”

                      A few moments later, a wooden door on the far end of the intricately-patterned stadium floor opened. A tall woman with dark skin and short, green hair emerged.

                      “Hello there, young Trainer,” she said as she closed the door behind her. “My name is Elise. I am the Ground-Type Master of the Viridian Gym. Welcome to my humble stage.”

                      “Humble?” Antoshi remarked. “This is the most aesthetic Gym I've ever seen.”

                      “Thank you,” she replied, strolling to the opposite end of the battling floor. “I did all of the decor and the landscaping myself.”

                      “You did all those hedges out there?”

                      “I certainly did. Most Gym Leaders see their Gym as a job; a place to clock in and clock out. For me, my Gym is my home. I live here. So, in my free time, when Trainers aren't here for a badge, I pass the time gardening or making pottery like the vases you see all around.”

                      Antoshi and Fireball were amazed.

                      “Wow,” Antoshi said. “You're incredibly talented!”

                      Elise chuckled.

                      “I'm also quite skilled at Pokémon battles, too.”

                      “Where are all your Gym Trainers?” he asked, looking around.

                      “I pride myself on having a 'no frills' Gym experience. Some of the previous Leaders here were … let's say, less than forthcoming. The people of Viridian are happy to have an honest and straightforward Leader for the city Gym — someone who takes her title very seriously. Trainers are also happy because they get to battle for a badge sooner.”

                      “Aren't you worried battling might destroy the decor here?”

                      “My materials are made quite sturdy, some of them have protective padding or are adhered in place so they don't move. Those paintings you see are some of the former Gym Leaders here. Seeing their faces helps me to continue the lineage here and uphold the dignity of the Viridian City Gym.”

                      “You seem like a really honest person, Elise. I see how seriously you take every aspect of being a Gym Leader, and I know I would be proud if I was a resident of Viridian City.”

                      “Thank you, again. Now, as per Indigo League rules, I have to inform that, if you lose, you will not qualify for a rematch for another seven days.”

                      Antoshi nodded in acknowledgment.

                      “Very well. Shall we get on with the battle?”

                      “Sounds good to us,” Antoshi replied, grinning confidently.

                      Fireball stepped onto the battlefield, stretching his neck out and cracking his knuckles. He gave a shout, the fires on his back igniting.

                      “I don't see any other Poké Balls on you, Antoshi,” she said while reaching for a Great Ball on her hip. “Are you hiding them, or do you believe you can win with just a Typhlosion?”

                      “Fireball and I are best friends — and he's the only partner I've needed so far.”

                      Fireball stood proudly.

                      “That's admirable. Pokémon should be treated like friends, even like family. However, it's also quite foolish. Allow me to show you why.”

                      Elise threw the Great Ball into the air, which opened on its own accord.

                      “Go, Gliscor!”

                      The light that poured from the ball took shape and faded.

                      Elise's Gliscor hovered in mid-air and gave a battle cry. It stretched its pincerlike claws out, brimming with energy as it darted from side to side.

                      Elise caught the ball when it returned to her.

                      “You ready?” Antoshi asked his friend.

                      Fireball turned him and nodded with a confident grin of his own.

                      “Let's make it happen, then! Fireball, Rollout!”

                      Fireball hopped into his ball form and revved in place. His entire body once again came alight.

                      Rolling Fireball!” Antoshi exclaimed.

                      The ignited Fireball shot like a bullet toward his opponent.

                      Elise's eyebrows raised, caught off-guard by Fireball's speed.

                      “Gliscor, use Toxic!”

                      Just before Fireball's attack connected, Gliscor spat up a viscous, purplish liquid that covered Fireball's spinning body. Gliscor was struck hard, spiked like a volleyball into a small crater in the elegant flooring.

                      Fireball rebounded into the air. Gliscor groaned before falling unconscious.

                      Elise's jaw hung agape, surprised at Typhlosion's strength. She hummed with intrigue as she recalled her Gliscor back into its Great Ball.

                      Fireball rolled back to his side of the field and hopped up to his hind feet. He held his arms out as he and Antoshi stared at the purple poison that was soaked into his fur.

                      “Very good attack, Trainer,” Elise said. “Unfortunately, your Typhlosion is now badly poisoned and I still have three more Pokémon left. Do you believe your Typhlosion has enough stamina to hold out?”

                      Fireball turned to Antoshi and gave him a thumbs up. He suddenly coughed up some of the purple liquid onto his paw.

                      “Aw, man, that's just gross,” Fireball remarked, shaking his paw clean.

                      “I suggest you finish this battle quickly.” she said. “With only one Pokémon, the clock on that poison is ticking.”

                      Antoshi stared at her with an intensely serious expression.

                      ‘I don't have much of a choice here,’ he thought. ‘We have to strike hard as often as we can.’

                      Elise threw out her next ball, an Ultra Ball.

                      “Hippowdon, I choose you!”

                      From the ball came a monstrous hippopotamus with enough weight to cause the ground to rumble. Sand poured out continuously from the circular vents on its back. It slowly opened its massive maw and roared at Fireball.

                      It activated its Sand Stream ability to instantly create a sandstorm condition on the field. Sand erupted out of its vents, swirling and whipping violently around the stadium, encircling the two Pokémon.

                      ‘What kind of character does this boy possess?’ she wondered with a smirk. ‘Will he let me get inside his head?’

                      “Things are quickly getting much worse for both of you.” Elise said. “That sandstorm will continuously damage your Typhlosion, and leave my Ground-type Pokémon unharmed. Are you certain you don't want to concede?”

                      Antoshi ignored her, quick to make his first move.

                      “All right, Fireball! Eruption!”

                      Fireball took off, running on all fours toward his opponent.

                      “Hippowdon, Protect!” Elise said.

                      Hippowdon roared, its body enveloped in a large, magical blue dome.

                      “What?!” Antoshi exclaimed in disbelief.

                      “Wait, Fireball, come back! Save your energy.”

                      Fireball screeched to a halt. He stood upright with a confused look on his face, walking backwards.

                      “Come on, stop stalling!”

                      Elise chuckled.

                      “I'll do no such thing, young Trainer. My job is to win. That means I'll use any legal battle tactic to do so. I've faced many Trainers before you. I know your Typhlosion is strong. Obviously your strategy would be a full-tilt offense. But since you only have one Pokémon, that means I can simply wear it down with poison and weather conditions. The only thing left from there is to remove your Typhlosion's ability to attack.”

                      Antoshi balled his fists.

                      ‘She definitely has our number,’ he thought. ‘Still, she can't use Protect continuously since it'll fail the more she uses it. I have to attack her in-between those phases. … Although, she'll be able to attack Fireball at that point, too.’

                      Fireball coughed up a smattering of purple poison again, a visual indicator that the poison was wearing him down.

                      Once the protective blue dome around Hippowdon disappeared, Antoshi sprung into action.

                      “Fireball, now use Eruption!” he said.

                      Fireball flames on his back flared out intensely as he raced toward Hippowdon on all fours. He clenched his teeth, narrowing his eyes to see through the veil of sand churning through the air via magical means.

                      He crashed hard into the incredibly heavy beast, managing to send it airborne. Standing atop its bed of sand, the fires on Fireball's back erupted into a massive pillar of flame that engulfed the monstrous Hippowdon and briefly kept it airborne.

                      Fireball quickly sprinted out of the way, wincing at the grains of sand pelting and peppering him.

                      “Hippowdon, use Dig!” Elise commanded.

                      Just as Hippowdon was about to smash back into the ground, it instead burrowed its beefy frame into the sand-covered ground with some help from gravity.

                      Antoshi groaned in frustration while Fireball made it back to their side of the field.

                      ‘She keeps using all these attacks to stall,’ Antoshi thought. ‘This wouldn't be much of an issue if I had even one more Pokémon. We already knew battles like this would happen.’

                      He watched Fireball covering his eyes from the sand and subsequently coughing up more poison.

                      ‘Fireball and I can do this. I just know it.’

                      “Fireball!” he exclaimed. “Keep moving! Make it harder for Hippowdon to lock on to you!”

                      The idea was a gamble, especially since Fireball fleeing aimlessly caused the sand to whip harder at him and injured him further. Fireball grunted as he ran around, ignoring the pain as best he could.

                      “Now, strike!” Elise said.

                      The ground rumbled under Fireball's feet. He quickly leapt out of the way, avoiding Hippowdon as it came up through the floor with such force that it went airborne.

                      “Fireball, Lava Plume!” Antoshi shouted.

                      Fireball smirked. He dropped down on all fours again, staying in place while keeping his sights set on the mid-air Hippowdon. He gave a loud roar, the flames on his back raging. From his claws, a burst of magma traveled through the ground like a moving volcanic rupture.

                      The magma reached the pit that Hippowdon had created, causing a large blast of lava to erupt violently out of it.

                      Unable to evade, Hippowdon took a direct hit from the attack. It roared in pain before being sent crashing hard on its side of the field.

                      It fell unconscious.

                      With two Pokémon down, victory was in sight. Fireball, however, was starting to look languid.

                      While Elise recalled her fainted Hippowdon, Fireball again coughed up poison. After which, he shielded his face from the briefly intensifying sandstorm.

                      The combination of continuous passive damage and stall tactics meant that the duo still had an uphill battle.


                      *****
                      Chapter 7 »
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                      Old October 27th, 2017 (6:22 PM).
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                      Astinus Astinus is offline
                         
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                        Desperate times call for desperate measures for these two. Or, well, four with Jalyn and Matt included in the chapter as well.

                        I do like that about this chapter. Each set of characters--Antoshi, Fireball, and the two Team Rocket members--all had their own desperation and need to find another. And I like how their need came through in different ways. Jalyn became angry with Matt; Antoshi was patient up to a point, allowing his mind to be clear for seeing where Fireball was; Fireball seemed to be losing his more human-like intelligence, focusing solely on just getting back to Antoshi. It was really interesting to bounce around between the scenes and see just how far the characters would go.

                        The end was...unexpected but also expected. It's unexpected because a lot of Antoshi's powers came out during that chase scene. It was also expected because Antoshi was so desperate to find Fireball that his special abilities would be stronger, so of course he could not only heal himself but also fly and dodge bullets.

                        Have to say that I really like that of all the things that made Matt quit his criminal life, it's a flying kid. Amusing, and I'm still hoping that Matt sticks around.
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                        not as a call to battle, though embattled we are--
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                        Old November 2nd, 2017 (8:52 AM). Edited January 27th, 2019 by Antoshi.
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                        Antoshi Antoshi is offline
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                          Chapter 7


                          “Not bad,” Elise remarked as she reached for a new Poké Ball. “This battle is nowhere near done, though. Go, Krookodile!”

                          From the light of the open ball came a bipedal, red crocodile with black stripes and small, menacing eyes. It remained completely still, staring at Fireball with a savage glare.

                          The look of bloodlust in its eyes served to frighten Fireball. Its ability, Intimidate, lowered Fireball's overall physical strength.

                          “Krookodile, Protect!” she commanded.

                          Like Hippowdon before it, Krookodile's body was embraced by an impenetrable shield of blue light.

                          “Great,” Antoshi muttered.

                          Fireball's cough was getting worse. The pain of being in the sandstorm gradually bit harder. The duo weren't able to do anything other than wait until Krookodile's shield dissipated.

                          Once it did, Antoshi smirked.

                          “Let's give them a little surprise, Fireball!” he said. “Focus Blast!”

                          Elise's eyes widened. The sheer variety of attacks the Typhlosion knew surprised her.

                          He held his hands to one side, spacing them just far enough apart to summon a rapidly growing ball of bright blue energy. While it was very effective against Krookodile, it was also inaccurate due to Fireball's lack of experience in using the maneuver.

                          Fireball steadied his ragged breathing, taking aim at his target.

                          “Move!” Elise commanded.

                          Fireball thrust the ball of energy. The attack covered the distance between them in a heartbeat. Krookodile dove to the side, missing a glancing blow from the powerful attack. The energy ball vanished harmlessly upon striking the wall behind Elise.

                          A sense of dread swept over Antoshi. He had panic in his eyes as Krookodile sprinted toward Fireball.

                          “Crunch, Krookodile!” Elise shouted.

                          Krookodile's teeth began to glow white with a magical energy.

                          ‘Please don't let this be the end,’ the boy thought, bracing at the same time Fireball did.

                          Krookodile hissed as it opened its long maw. Its powerful jaw snapped shut on Fireball's shoulder, digging its rows of sharp glowing teeth in. Fireball shouted in pain, shoving the beast off of him.

                          Despite peeling the beast away, the damage was already done. Fireball fell to a knee, holding his bloodied shoulder as Krookodile headed back to its side of the field.

                          “Fireball!” Antoshi shouted in concern. “Are you okay?!”

                          With a pained look on his face, Fireball forced a grin and nodded.

                          Fireball's pain was obvious. Antoshi clenched his teeth, pondering a tactical surrender. Looking into Fireball's confident eyes stirred up memories of their dream to make it to the top.

                          This is our life's work you're facing — our heart and soul!

                          'We're gonna win it all, and win it big! I can't wait to see how big the tournament stage is at the Indigo Plateau. Are you excited, too?'

                          ‘If we don't finish this battle on our first try,’ Antoshi thought, ‘then our dream of making it to the Indigo League in time is going to remain just a dream.’

                          Antoshi slowly exhaled, closing his eyes for a moment. He focused his resolve with a firm, serious expression on his face.

                          “All right, Fireball, one more Focus Blast!”

                          Fireball's body trembled as he held his hands to one side as before.

                          Just as Fireball began to charge the attack again, Elise was quick to interrupt.

                          “Krookodile, Protect!” she instructed

                          The beast was once again surrounded by its protective shield.

                          Fireball hunched over, coughing loudly while the sand continued to whip hard at him.

                          “Hang in there, Fireball,” Antoshi muttered.

                          "I will, Antoshi," Fireball replied. "We didn't come all this way just to fail. Not after all the training we did to make it this far."

                          ‘So, he's going to try another Focus Blast,’ Elise thought, holding her chin. ‘I suppose there's nothing I can really do to stop it. However, if it does hit, will it be enough? I can't help but wonder just how strong that attack from this Typhlosion would be.’

                          The moment Krookodile's shield faded, Antoshi issued the command.

                          “Now! Focus Blast!”

                          Fireball panted, ignoring the excruciating pain in order to charge another Focus Blast. He thrust the ball of energy forward.

                          “Dodge it again!” Elise said.

                          When Krookodile leapt out of the way for the second time, the ball made an unexpected curve straight towards it.

                          Elise and her Pokémon's eyes widened in shock just before the attack connected and exploded violently. The force of the blast shot Krookodile through the air, flying past Elise, before crashing hard against the back wall. Krookodile was unresponsive.

                          Elise's was impressed by the sheer power of Fireball's attack.

                          ‘So, it does make sense,’ she thought. ‘Rather than having a full roster of six Pokémon whose gains are evened out with each other, he instead has one Pokémon that garners all of the strength and experience. With the amount of Type coverage his Typhlosion has, it's almost like fighting six Pokémon at once. He's a clever Trainer, but strength isn't tantamount to stamina. His Typhlosion is running on nothing but willpower by now.’

                          She recalled her Krookodile and grabbed the last Ultra Ball on her hip.

                          With only one Pokémon to go, exhaustion had taken its toll on Fireball.

                          Fireball groaned as he fell to a knee again. He let out a hacking cough, holding his injured shoulder, clenching his eyes in the fury of the whipping sands.

                          “Fireball?” Antoshi asked, worried.

                          Fireball had taken an incredible toll that pushed him to his very limits.

                          ‘It has to be hurting him,’ Elise thought, ‘seeing his Pokémon in so much pain like this. Yet, both of them continue on fighting. They have an incredible will to win.’

                          Fireball groaned as he rose to his hind feet once more. Antoshi was incredulous that Fireball was still standing, let alone ready to continue battling.

                          “For the sake of your Pokémon's well-being,” Elise said, “are you certain you don't want to forfeit?”

                          “Not a chance!” Antoshi replied. “Fireball's stronger than anyone I've ever known. If he's ready to go, then so am I.”

                          “Remarkable,” Elise said. “That you would get this far with just one Pokémon — a Fire-type — is remarkable. Your determination is truly admirable. However, I'm afraid this is where your battle ends.”

                          She maximized the final ball and threw it out.

                          “Go, Steelix!”

                          Antoshi and Fireball watched with astonishment as the light gave way to a massive serpent comprised of steel-plated boulders. It towered high over their heads, letting out a roar that rattled the foundation of the building.

                          "That's probably not good," Fireball joked.

                          “Let's make the first move!” Antoshi exclaimed. “Fire—”

                          “Protect, Steelix!” Elise shouted over him.

                          Antoshi bit his tongue, hanging his head in defeat.

                          ‘I can't believe this,’ he thought. ‘They all know Protect? She's definitely come prepared for battles like this.’

                          Fireball coughed even harder than last time. He appeared light-headed; unable to steady his feet, especially with the winds of the sandstorm constantly whipping at him.

                          “This battle's been going on for some time, young Trainer.” Elise said. “The severe poison has been gradually worsening with every beat of your Typhlosion's heart. How much longer do you think he can hold out?”

                          Antoshi's gaze shifted to his friend.

                          "No way!" Fireball shouted in defiance, struggling to keep his balance.

                          Elise didn't have to understand his speech to know what he said, or to see the look in his eyes. She smiled and hummed in intrigue.

                          Antoshi waited for the moment Steelix's Protect dissipated.

                          “Fire Blast, Fireball!” Antoshi said. “Give it everything you have!”

                          "Now that's the kind of pep talk I like to hear," Fireball remarked with a weak grin.

                          He brought his trembling claws up to his neck, clasped down, and began to inhale deeply. Small tufts of flame emanated from Fireball's mouth as he summoned up his strength for one final attack.

                          Suddenly, Fireball collapsed.

                          “Fireball, no!” Antoshi exclaimed.

                          Antoshi heart sank at the same time Fireball fell to his hands and knees. Fireball groaned wearily, overcome by exhaustion. The poison, the sandstorm, the injures — they had all accumulated to a critical level.

                          Elise took advantage of the situation.

                          “Steelix, Earthquake!”

                          Steelix gave a mighty roar, its heavy tail stamping the ground and causing it to rumble.

                          “Fireball, use Fire Blast!” Antoshi ordered once again.

                          Fireball straightened his back as he remained on his knees. He steadied himself amid the quaking earth.

                          He reached up again, holding his neck, straining to bring forth every ounce of energy he had left to give.

                          The ground suddenly cracked underneath Fireball.

                          With a moment to spare, Fireball roared as loud as he could. He fired a five-pointed blast of fire from his mouth at the same time the ground beneath him was smashed to pieces.

                          Fireball thrashed around violently from Steelix's attack. The flames on his back went out.

                          ‘Steelix is too large to evade that,’ Elise thought.

                          The massive fiery attack struck Steelix's face and burst violently. Steelix roared in pain, its body toppling backwards from the force of the blast. Just as Earthquake subsided, Steelix itself crashed into the ground. Its titanic weight creating a large crater around its body.

                          Elise was in shock. The heat from Fireball's attack was so intense that it caused the steel on Steelix's forehead to melt slightly. Her Pokémon was defeated.

                          The battle was over.

                          The sandstorm finally subsided. All was quiet on the sand-covered, heavily damaged stadium floor.

                          Elise recalled her Steelix.

                          Fireball!!” Antoshi shouted, ignoring the dangerously jagged earth jutting around his fallen friend. “Fireball?” he whispered, shaking his friend a bit.

                          Elise walked over to check on them.

                          “Fireball, come on. I thought I'd lost you once before, I can't go through that again!”

                          His breathing became shaky, running a hand through his hair.

                          "Poi… son …" Fireball whispered in a raspy voice.

                          Antoshi gasped in elation.

                          “Hang on, buddy, I have just the thing for you.”

                          He quickly pulled his backpack off his shoulders and opened it. He pulled out a large green spray bottle and immediately began spritzing its medicinal contents all over Fireball's wounded body.

                          It worked fast to miraculously heal Fireball's injuries, as well as dissipate the poison from his body.

                          “Good thing I bought a few Full Restores for an emergency,” he said, sniffling. “You wanted me to buy you pizza instead, remember?”

                          "Pizza sounds good right about now," Fireball quietly replied with a slight grin. "Starting to feel a little better here. Could you get some of that in my mouth, please? I still have a poison-y aftertaste."

                          Antoshi smirked and sprayed the Typhlosion's tongue after he stuck it out.

                          Fireball smacked his lips and shuddered in disgust.

                          "That tastes awful, but it's still better than the poison."

                          Antoshi sighed in relief, putting the empty bottle away. He slung his backpack over his shoulders and stood up, helping Fireball get to his feet as well.

                          Elise smiled at the two as they both stepped out of the jagged crater.

                          “That was quite the battle, young Antoshi,” she remarked. “You and your Typhlosion are one and the same. You were always on the same wavelength, both of you just as determined as each other. Truly, you're one of the closest and most caring Trainer and Pokémon pairs I've ever seen. You've done a phenomenal job of raising your Pokémon as a partner and a friend.”

                          “Thank you, Elise,” Antoshi replied, smiling. “I appreciate it. I'm just really glad Fireball is okay.”

                          “You could've stopped the battle if you were so fearful for your friend's safety.”

                          “Well, this is our progress of over a year of journeying through Kanto together. We wanted that eighth badge more than anything in the world. Neither of us were ready to just give up — not on this battle or anything else before it. I guess the two of us are just reckless like that.”

                          Elise chuckled.

                          “I understand. Still, your recklessness brought you victory today.”

                          She took something from her pocket and placed it into Antoshi's hands.

                          “Trainer Antoshi, I confer unto you the Earth Badge. You and Fireball have earned it — and my respect.”

                          The two friends looked at the shining new badge, the very last one they needed. The Indigo League was now open to them.

                          Antoshi's eyes welled up with tears.

                          “You're crying, aren't you?” Antoshi asked before glancing over at Fireball.

                          Tears ran down the sides of the Typhlosion's face as he nodded.

                          “It's okay, buddy, so am I.”

                          Antoshi threw his arms out, and Fireball bawled loudly into his shoulder. Antoshi grinned, hugging Fireball and patting him on the back.

                          “We made it, buddy,” Antoshi reassured his friend. “We made it.”

                          Fireball grabbed Antoshi's shirt and blew his nose into it.

                          “Ugh — okay, come on. Really? I have tissues, you know.”

                          "Sorry," Fireball remarked, sniffling and sighing.

                          Antoshi pulled out his wallet to store away their final badge. He took a deep breath and sighed proudly, wiping the tears from his own eyes.

                          “Time to cross that finish line,” Antoshi remarked with a grin.

                          Fireball happily nodded back.

                          “Do take care, you two,” Elise told them. “I, and some other Gym Leaders, will be taking a trip to the Indigo League to watch the tournament. Should you make it, I'll be cheering you on from the crowd.”

                          “We're going to do our absolute best,” Antoshi told her, smiling confidently.

                          Elise nodded to him.

                          With that, the two friends departed from Elise's company and exited the Gym.

                          She then sighed and looked around the heavily damaged stadium floor.

                          “Looks like I have some cleaning up to do.”

                          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                          That evening in the Viridian Pokémon Center, Antoshi and Fireball feasted on all the food they could grab in the cafeteria. Antoshi usually didn't gorge himself like Fireball, but he made an exception for the special occasion.

                          The mood between them was never more jovial. They'd collected all eight badges. An idea that was once nothing more than a far-off dream had finally become a reality.

                          Some time afterward, the duo headed back to their room and settled in for the night. Excitement and big hopes for their future swirled through their minds as they drifted off to sleep. Their biggest challenge was yet to come — and they were prepared.

                          Just as he did in nights past, however, Antoshi experienced another unsettling dream.

                          Looking through the eyes of another, he stood at the upper floor of a house severely damaged by an explosion. The home's destroyed floors and walls gave way to the night sky. His legs trembled, falling to his knees.

                          “What have I done?” a voice similar to his own asked in disbelief. “What … did you make me do?!”

                          Antoshi was overwhelmed by panic, sorrow, regret, anger. He couldn't stop shaking, his heart racing, adrenaline surging through his veins. His body felt as though it was about to explode.

                          “It was what needed to be done,” the same, mysterious voice calmly replied. “You have now taken the first glorious step toward—”

                          This can't be real!” the first voice shouted in agony. “I—I don't want this to be real!!

                          In the forlorn darkness came a loud, echoing scream, followed by a burst of black light. The light rapidly expanded out in a massive dome that engulfed and instantly vaporized everything. Once it reached its limit, it exploded violently, quaking the earth for a few moments.

                          There was nothing left for many miles except an enormous crater of dirt.

                          The boy fell to the earth, unconscious. He was left unscathed.

                          Just as he hit the ground, Antoshi jolted awake from his dream with a gasp.

                          He sat up in bed, covered in a cold sweat. He took a look at his hand; he was still trembling. He held a hand to his forehead, gritting his teeth.

                          ‘Why do I keep having these dreams?!’ he demanded to know.

                          He breathed slowly, calming his racing heart.

                          Once he'd relaxed, he hesitantly laid back down on his pillow. His head was filled with an endless array of questions. Eventually, he found the peace of mind to fall back asleep.

                          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                          The following morning, the duo readied themselves for the end of their Kanto journey. With only five days before the Indigo League tournament sign-ups closed, they were eager to get moving on to Victory Road. Their next destination's very name filled their hearts with anticipation and anxiousness.

                          On their way out of Viridian City, they happened across a small electronics store. In the store window, multiple television screens displayed a breaking news broadcast. A handful of people were grouped around, watching the report.

                          Antoshi and Fireball curiously stopped to see what was going on.

                          “… who's live in the outskirts of the small town right now with the latest updates. Ruby?”

                          “That's right, Michael. As shown from our sky camera, the small town of Fern was completely decimated today. The town was home to a thriving population of about seven thousand. This morning, it's nothing more than a massive crater.”

                          Antoshi's eyes widened in shock as he saw the images of the crater. His body trembled. Memories of the previous night's dream came flooding back to him.

                          "Oh, wow," Fireball remarked softly. "That's so terrible."

                          “… have no idea how an apparent explosion of this magnitude happened,” the reporter continued. “Joining me now is Johto's military commander General Logan.”

                          The camera zoomed back slightly to reveal a tall, stern man wearing a high-ranking military uniform.

                          “General, what can you tell us about this unthinkable devastation?”

                          “Right now we're in our preliminary investigation,” he replied. “At around 0400 hours, we were alerted by local officials who responded to a large seismic disruption and came across what was left of the town.”

                          “You told me there were no survivors?”

                          “We believed that at first but we found one young boy who appears to be in his preteens or early teens, buried under some of the earth. He was discovered in the epicenter of the explosion.”

                          Some of the passersby around Antoshi began to mutter.

                          “Is the boy conscious? Do you have any information on him?”

                          “The boy is still unconscious at last check. He was airlifted from here to the nearest military hospital. For privacy reasons, we cannot release the boy's identity before establishing contact with his family. I'm afraid that's all we have to share for now.”

                          “Thank you so much for your time, General. Michael?”

                          “Thanks, Ruby. We'll be continuing our coverage on the destruction of Fern Town …”

                          "That's awful, don't you think?" Fireball asked his friend as some of the crowd dispersed.

                          Antoshi, however, gawked blankly at the television as though in a trance.

                          "Antoshi? Are you okay?"

                          “Huh?” Antoshi uttered, snapping back to reality. “Did you say something?”

                          "I said, 'are you okay?'" Fireball said, appearing concerned. "You look like you saw a Ghost Pokémon or something."

                          “I …” Antoshi started.

                          He bit his lip and sorted through his thoughts.

                          “That—that scene on the news. I dreamt it … last night.”

                          "You had a dream about that town on the news?"

                          “Yes, and it looks exactly the same as what I dreamt.”

                          "That's— … well, I really don't know what to say."

                          “I've been having a few similar dreams lately. I've never experienced dreams like these before. They feel so— … so real.”

                          "First that light show ball, then the flying, surviving a fall from a building, and dreams where you see things that happen in other places? What do you think is going on?"

                          “I don't know, … but after what I just saw, it's now definitely making me nervous.”

                          As they headed off toward their destination, Antoshi took one more glance at the television screen. The last image he saw was a brief glimpse of the rescued boy in the background of a still picture, and the boy's jet black hair.



                          ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                          End of Part 1

                          ⁂ ⁂

                          Part 2: Sibling Rivalry »
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                            #13   Link to this post, but load the entire thread.  
                          Old November 3rd, 2017 (4:55 PM).
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                          Astinus Astinus is offline
                             
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                            I'm really surprised that the next chapter is going to be the final chapter. It feels like there's so much left to cover, but I look forward to seeing how this all ends. Especially with the next chapter leading in from this fight with Elise, who is a good enough Gym Leader that she's really giving Fireball a tough time. And making Antoshi wonder if his decision to only have one Pokemon was a good one. Too late now!

                            The one thing that did bother me with Elise was her dialogue. It came off too forced to be like an NPC. Her quip about things going from bad to worse for Antoshi was kind of eye-rolling. I would just think that someone who's so serious about her Gym that she takes care of it herself and doesn't have trainers underneath her wouldn't be so willing to spout one-liners like that.

                            Noticed one small thing:
                            Quote:
                            He was unable discern if he was alive or dead.
                            Missing a "to" between "unable" and "discern."
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                            "Now the trumpet summons us again--
                            not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--
                            not as a call to battle, though embattled we are--
                            but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out."
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                              #14   Link to this post, but load the entire thread.  
                            Old November 15th, 2017 (1:33 PM). Edited January 27th, 2019 by Antoshi.
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                            Antoshi Antoshi is offline
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                              Sorry for the bump/double post. I just wanted to let everyone know that the story has been updated with some fairly big changes. Overall, it's the same story though I've tons of small edits to every chapter, from beginning to end. I posted more info in the author notes.

                              I want to personally thank PastelPhoenix, Astinus, and all the readers of the PokéCommunity Forums and elsewhere for giving my story a read and helping make it even better. Hopefully I don't have to update it much more after this point. Thank you all again!
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                              Old January 27th, 2019 (8:16 AM). Edited January 30th, 2019 by Antoshi.
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                              Antoshi Antoshi is offline
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                                ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                Part 2: Sibling Rivalry

                                ⁂ ⁂

                                Kanto's neighboring region of Johto thrived by continuously founding new settlements like any prospering nation. New towns and cities allowed people from far and wide to settle down, to call Johto their home. Fern was one such town.

                                Existing for nearly four decades, Fern Town was quiet and quaint. A home of over seven thousand people, it was situated just north of Azalea Town. Its small neighborhoods surrounded by the lush, vibrant green forests made it an attractive prospect to those looking to live closer to nature. Wild Pokémon inhabiting the woods visited frequently, becoming acquainted and friendly with the townsfolk.

                                Most of the roads were simple dirt pathways. New stores and small buildings popped up constantly. The residents of Fern Town were happy and thrived in warm, intimate communities.

                                The town's school and large playground were situated at the center of the town. It was a gesture of the town's founders that their young people were literally their future.

                                Yet, that future was erased in an instant.

                                The beautiful town stood with its immaculate charm no longer. In its place lay a massive crater of dirt from the aftermath of a devastating explosion.

                                Everything and everyone was gone.

                                There was no forewarning. There were no survivors, except for a boy with jet black hair lying face-down and unconscious in the epicenter of the crater.

                                When rescue personnel and news reporters from the neighboring towns and cities came, it was heralded as an unexplainable freak occurrence. The military, led by General Logan, came to investigate. They took the boy to a nearby military hospital. Remarkably, he had not a single injury. He remained in a brief coma, however.

                                As government and local officials sifted through the destruction and try to piece together what happened, they soon realized that what occurred was no ordinary explosion. They truly had no idea what happened to bring about the town's complete erasure.

                                Some of the investigators had growing suspicions that the boy was not simply some miracle survivor. In some way they couldn't fully grasp, it was believed that he was the cause of the town's devastation.

                                Once the idea became the only plausible explanation, the boy was no longer treated as a victim. He instead became the culprit of an unspeakably horrific act.

                                One of those very same young people that Fern Town had bet their future on now appeared to be the reason for its demise.

                                In the middle of the night, government officials came to collect the boy who was still comatose. There was no place for him in an ordinary jail or a prison. Instead, they airlifted him to a military black site on a tiny island southeast of the Whirl Islands.

                                It was the breeding ground for the government's more controversial, highly-classified experiments and tests.

                                The compound was under round-the-clock maximum security. There, the boy was institutionalized in a high-tech confinement cell.

                                The story of the mysterious young survivor quickly faded from the public consciousness. His memory was forgotten, except to those in charge of the compound.

                                But his memory was also forgotten to him as well.

                                ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                The boy pounded his fists on the thick, acrylic glass of his cell. His frantic breaths and whimpers echoed around the small room. His brown eyes were wrought with terror.

                                “Please, let me out!” he exclaimed, pounding at the glass again.

                                It was his second day after waking up to find himself locked up in the cell. He had no human contact whatsoever. He was already past the realization of his imprisonment, but with no understanding of why.

                                Having awoken a few days after the explosion, he had no idea who he was or how he ended up jailed. That, coupled with being locked away in a quiet, sterile cell where nobody paid any attention to him, became torture.

                                He rest his back against the glass, grabbing fistfuls of his dark hair. He sliding down into a sitting position, huffing and sobbing quietly. Multiple cameras outside his cell silently watched his every move.

                                “Someone help me,” he pleaded. “Someone please help me …”

                                ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                Some time later, he laid on the cold floor and stared up at the white ceiling.

                                The walls were white. The floor was white. The bed, the toilet, the sink — all white. The bright, white lights cut into his vision. His surroundings became blinding and disorienting.

                                A familiar humming noise approached his cell. He gasped in excitement, hopping up to his knees and shuffled over to a small cutout at the very bottom of the acrylic glass door.

                                A small hovering robot, holding a tray of food, stopped in front of his cell door.

                                “Please, help!” he shouted as the cutout automatically folded open. “Please! Who is it that brought me here?! Why are they keeping me?! Please bring someone for me to talk to!”

                                The robot placed the tray on the floor. It slipped a new set of white clothing through the slat, followed by the tray of food to sit on top of the neatly folded clothes.

                                “Is there like a—a communicator on you or something? Is there anyone that can hear me right now?”

                                The slat snapped shut. The robot turned and hovered away.

                                “No, no! Wait!” he shouted in panic. “Please, please, come back! Please! Don't leave!”

                                He clenched his eyes shut.

                                “Don't leave …”

                                He stared at his food, each item neatly placed in its own segment — a cold and detached way of feeding him.

                                He was forced to use the sink whenever he wanted to bathe himself. The same robot came by at regularly scheduled times to give him clean towels and clothing.

                                He held on to the hope that someone — anyone — would come and take him away from such a nightmare.

                                In the end, however, hope was not enough to keep his sanity.

                                On many occasions, he went berserk. He screamed as loudly as he could, punching and kicking every wall. The fits of rage did little to release his pent-up stress and fear.

                                To pass the time, he laid on the floor and counted the number of tiny holes in each ceiling tile. He hummed and made up songs in his head. He thought up simple math problems and counted numbers. He spent many hours trying to remember his life on the outside.

                                Most of his time, however, was spent crying.

                                With no windows and no clock, it was impossible for him to know what time it was. He stayed in bed for long periods, sleeping anytime his panicked mind could wind down. The bed — stiff and uncomfortable at first — became his place of solitude.

                                On rare occasions, the muffled screams of people in agony echoed down the halls. He covered his ears. The sounds left him terrified and trembling. It only compounded his fear of the facility he was locked in, and what they had planned for him.

                                ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                Within a luxurious office further inside the base, a stern man quietly sat behind a table. He wore a service uniform befitting a high-ranking military official.

                                He swiveled a small amount of wine in a glass before putting it to his lips. The boy's cell was shown on a slew of monitors on the wall before him.

                                Another military official — thinner, and wearing glasses — walked into the room. He gave a salute, and shut the door behind him. He laid a folder full of papers on the table before looking over at the the monitors.

                                “Is it time, General?” he asked.

                                “No,” the General replied. “He's not quite ready yet. We'll give him a week in here and see how he fares.”

                                ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                At the same time, half a region away, the final day of the Indigo League tournament sign-ups was coming to a close.

                                It took them four days. After having trekked across Route 22, he and Fireball had ventured through the incredibly long and treacherous Victory Road. They were able to get a few battles in with other Trainers passing through. The battles helped in garnering them a bit more crucial experience before the tournament.

                                With the starting date of the event looming ever closer, throngs of Trainers passed through Victory Road — eager to sign up in the nick of time.

                                The cave road was dark, mazelike, and unforgiving. There was no food to forage, save for the occasional cave mushroom. It made Antoshi's pre-planning of stocking up on supplies even more significant. Wild Pokémon were out in force, frequently attacking the passing Trainers who disturbed their otherwise quiet home.

                                A number of Trainers on Victory Road ended up backtracking; giving up on their endeavor in order to save themselves or their Pokémon. Some used Pokémon that knew Dig or Teleport, while others simply ran back the way they came.

                                Antoshi and Fireball experienced firsthand just how tough and dangerous it was to simply make it to the Plateau. Having done so was an accomplishment in itself.

                                Inside a registration building, Antoshi and Fireball signed in with only a few hours to spare before the beginning of the ceremonies.

                                They were briefly stopped at a checkpoint inside the building, joining a queue of Trainers waiting to enter. Each of Antoshi's eight badges was scanned with a special device by a receptionist. A microchip inside each of the badges verified they were legitimate. Afterward, they were instructed to head through a long corridor nearby.

                                They walked to the back of the building, down a tunnel, out into the light of the midmorning sun.

                                They gasped in awe, standing at the entryway that led out into the League's massive stadium. They both looked around with wide-eyed fascination. The large battlefield was walled off by spectator stands. Uptempo music played over the stadium's intercom system.

                                “Wow,” Antoshi remarked. “Our first ever tournament.”

                                "None bigger than the Indigo Plateau," Fireball added.

                                There were hundreds of Trainers and their Pokémon patiently waiting around. More and more Trainers continued to file in behind the duo. Many waited on the spacious field, while others took to waiting in the empty stands.

                                A woman's voice came over the intercom system.

                                “The Indigo League Committee would like to remind all entrants that impromptu battling is strictly prohibited. Thank you for your continued patience. Registrations will soon be closing.”

                                As the two walked around to find a place to wait, Fireball's eyes darted every which way. He locked eyes with every Pokémon that stared at him. There was an intense look in each Pokémon's eyes. Fireball bared his teeth, the flames on his back suddenly igniting.

                                Antoshi looked over at him with surprise.

                                “You okay?” Antoshi asked, placing a hand on his friend's shoulder.

                                Fireball gasped, extinguishing his flames.

                                "Sorry," Fireball replied. "I keep feeling every Pokémon's urge to battle around here. There's so many strong Pokémon. It's really intense."

                                Antoshi took a closer look around at his peers, greeted by several cutting glares.

                                “I see what you mean now,” he said. “Why don't we find a place to relax away from everyone else?”

                                "That's probably a good idea."

                                The duo headed up into the stands, sitting down in their own quiet area. They watched the swarms of Trainers and their Pokémon all bustling around. Both of them smiled, content yet restless.

                                “I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous,” Antoshi said.

                                "Same here. But, just imagine how amazing it'll be when we win. They'll show us on the news and in papers all around the world! 'Trainer With One Pokémon Becomes Champion.' We'll be super-famous, and I'll get all the food I can eat."

                                “That's impossible — there's never enough food for you to eat.”

                                "… Fair point!"

                                ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                The sun started bearing down hard, with small reprieves when the clouds hid its glare. Only a handful of Trainers packed umbrellas, or had Pokémon large enough to shade themselves in.

                                A number of tournament volunteers walked passed out cold bottles of water, sandwiches, and bags of Pokémon food.

                                “Thank you again for your continued patience, Trainers,” the intercom voice said. “Registration closes in ninety minutes.”

                                Antoshi capped his paper water bottle after taking a long sip.

                                “I've been sweating my butt off here, but I don't care. We've waited for this for so long. It's kind of like relaxing after crossing the finish line, you know? Plus, the music's kind of nice.”

                                Fireball was busy enjoying the food he was given to reply.

                                “I see you're still keeping that Typhlosion outside its Poké Ball,” a young man next to them said.

                                They both turned their attention to him.

                                Antoshi's eyes widened in surprise, standing up with a grin.

                                “Declan? I never imagined I'd ever see you again.”

                                “Same here,” he replied as they shared a handshake.

                                Fireball smiled and waved.

                                “I've wanted to apologize to you for a long time now,” Antoshi said, “about that incident back in the Cerulean Pokémon Center.”

                                “It's not a problem. If anything, it made me realize I need to step up my training a lot. To think a Quilava would beat my star Mudkip so easily. Nowadays, I get a talking-to about it from Nurse Joy every time I visit a Pokémon Center.”

                                “Same here!” Antoshi replied, both of them laughing.

                                Declan looked over the belt on Antoshi's shorts. “So, where are the rest of your Pokémon?”

                                “You're looking at him,” Antoshi replied with a casual point of the thumb to Fireball.

                                Declan was flabbergasted.

                                “What? You never got any new Pokémon since the last time we last spoke?”

                                “I was going to, but … well, it turned out I didn't need to. It's just been Fireball and I all the way.”

                                “Wow,” Declan said, scratching his head. “I can definitely respect it — getting all the way here with one Pokémon is unbelievable. Honestly, my first thought was that you were completely nuts.”

                                “We get that a lot.”

                                “Aside from the name thing, huh?”

                                Antoshi laughed and nodded.

                                “It's funny,” Declan said. “I like that you refer to yourself as 'we.' Seems like Fireball never leaves your mind. The two of you really are best friends.”

                                The duo grinned to each other.

                                “Well, Antoshi, it was great to catch up with you. I'm looking forward to seeing you battle but, really, I'd like to face off against you myself.”

                                “Same here,” Antoshi replied with a nod.

                                The two shook hands before Declan took his leave.

                                ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                “Thank you for waiting, Trainers,” the woman on the intercom said. “Registrations have now closed. Stand by for a tournament official to give you further information. Please remember to hang on to your litter and dispose of it in the proper recycling bins.”

                                Not long after, a man in formal wear emerged from a tunnel at the top level of the stadium. With a camera pointed at him, his image lit up the large display screens at the far ends of the stadium. He wore a headset holding a tiny microphone.

                                “Greetings, everyone!” the man said as his voice came through the sound system. “My name is Cedric, and I'll be the master of ceremonies for this year's Spring Indigo League Tournament! Some of you are returning challengers so you already know the drill. As for the new faces here, let me tell you how we'll be starting. In just a moment, our hard-working tournament volunteers are going to give you a coded, numbered pass on a lanyard to wear. Please be aware that you need to wear these on you at all times for identification. The number represents what bracket you'll be in for the first elimination round of the tournament. Usually, we try to pull in at least five-hundred and twelve Trainers, but this year we have a little less than that. So, a small handful of you are going to get a 'bye' in order to keep the bracket consistent. Don't take that as a free pass, however. You're not officially in the tournament until you're in the top one hundred twenty-eight!”

                                The volunteers started walking around the stadium field and stands, handing out passes to each Trainer.

                                “Those of you who don't get a 'bye' will have to win two battles to move on to the main tournament! Because of the sheer size of the bracket, we're restricting all Trainers to only using a maximum of two Pokémon! This 'sudden death' style elimination round will test your ability to work with a limited team. So, make those eight badges you earned count! Pick out your team's best two and give it your all!”

                                “This is extremely lucky for us,” Antoshi remarked. “Now we just have to win a couple of two-on-one battles. You know all of the Trainers here probably have a full roster of six.”

                                Fireball nodded eagerly.

                                "I can't wait to get started," he said, shifting eagerly in his seat.

                                “Now, I'm sure some of you can't wait to get started — and you won't have to! The preliminary rounds will commence immediately once everyone has been assigned their numbers.”

                                "I think he read my mind," Fireball remarked, flabbergasted.

                                “I think he read everyone's mind,” Antoshi replied.

                                “Now, if everyone on the stadium floor would kindly make your way up into the stands in an orderly fashion, we can move on to the next phase.”

                                All people and Pokémon on the field did as instructed. Trainers recalled their larger Pokémon while others kept smaller ones with them.

                                The arena floor quickly emptied out. Once clear, the hum and whirring of motors and gears began to rumble through the stadium.

                                Most in attendance looked on in astonishment. The massive floor slowly descended several dozen meters before coming to a halt. It slowly rotated before rising back up and locking in its original position. Instead of one large battlefield, the floor was now divided into four smaller fields, each of them numbered from one to four.

                                “I'm sure all of you in attendance recognize these stadium markings as the same size you've seen in Gyms — and that's because they are! The Indigo Plateau's stadium is large enough to hold four simultaneous battles at once. This is how we're going to be zipping right along into tomorrow's main event!”

                                One of the stadium volunteers walked over to Antoshi and handed him a lanyard. He looked at his assigned number, 144, before putting it around his neck as instructed.

                                The stadium screens displayed four different tournament brackets comprised of one hundred twenty-eight participants each. Every Trainer was represented only as a number on screen, leaving all Trainers unaware of their opponent beforehand.

                                “If you direct your attention to the screens, you'll find your number and the bracket that it's assigned to. The bracket numbers — one, two, three, and four — are all clearly marked on the stadium floor. Once your number is called, you'll make your way to the corresponding battling area for your bracket. The matches will commence very shortly, so stand by! Good luck, Trainers!”

                                Cedric took his leave and the music resumed playing while volunteers continued to hand out numbers.

                                “Oh, man,” Antoshi remarked with a sharp huff. “I'm so nervous now.”

                                "I can tell," Fireball replied.

                                Antoshi rubbed his hands together, wiping his sweaty palms dry, his leg shaking up and down uncontrollably.

                                “It's taken so long to get to this point. Feels like everything's moving so fast now.”

                                Fireball placed a reassuring paw on his friend's shoulder.

                                "We've got this, remember?" Fireball boisterously said. "We're super strong — and super smart! Nothing's going to hold us back now."

                                Antoshi took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

                                “You're right. … Thanks for the assist. Sometimes I let my emotions get to me.”

                                "No sweat. You're talking to the master of emotional outbursts over here!"

                                ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                The preliminaries kicked off with almost no delay. With four matches occurring simultaneously, there was a lot happening for the spectators to take in. They watched and cheered — some even taking note of potential competitors and their strategies.

                                Antoshi and Fireball watched anxiously. The competition was fierce. Many fully evolved and incredibly rare Pokémon appeared on the battlefields. Most of the spectators were in collective awe when a Latios, a Legendary Pokémon, entered the field. Its appearance got a resounding reaction akin to a celebrity.

                                One by one, Trainers were eliminated from the competition. By the time it was Antoshi and Fireball's turn, almost three dozen of their fellow hopefuls were already out.

                                “Numbers 143 and 144,” a voice came over the loudspeakers, “head to field number four.”

                                The two friends looked at each other and gave a confident nod.

                                Antoshi huffed sharply, his heart racing as they made their way down onto the battlefield.

                                They took their place on the opposite end of the field from a young girl with short, purple hair.

                                Fireball prepared himself for battle, igniting the flames on his upper back.

                                The loud sounds and rumblings of the other battles happening nearby were distracting. It was an unfamiliar setting for the pair.

                                “Field number four — begin your match!”

                                “Nice Typhlosion!” the girl exclaimed as she threw out a Poké Ball. “Hope it's not afraid of the water!”

                                From the opening ball came a burst of light that solidified into a long, terrifying sea serpent — Gyarados.

                                A sudden explosion erupted on the battlefield near them. Both Antoshi and Fireball looked over in surprise.

                                Their opponent smirked.

                                “Don't take your eyes off the prize, kid!” she said. “Tiny — use Hydro Pump!”

                                The massive serpent fired a large, highly pressurized blast of water from its gaping maw at Fireball.

                                “Fireball, move!” Antoshi shouted.

                                Fireball panicked and leapt to the side. He took a glancing blow from the attack to his lower body. The force caused him to spiral through the air, but he managed to land on his feet and spun around to a halt.

                                "… That was pretty cool," Fireball remarked, pleasantly surprised.

                                “You okay?” Antoshi asked.

                                Fireball nodded firmly to him.

                                “Fireball, use Thunder Punch!”

                                The girl was taken aback. Fireball's fist sparked and crackled with bright, yellowish bolts of electricity. He darted toward the Gyarados, giving a shout as he leapt up high, and nailed the water beast in the face with a hard right hook.

                                The serpent shouted in pain as it fell to the ground hard. Fireball landed and headed back to Antoshi's side.

                                Gyarados strained to get up, visibly worn down from the potent attack. It shook its head, declaring its intent to stay in the fight with a roar.

                                The opposing Trainer smiled at her Pokémon.

                                “Another Hydro Pump, Tiny!” she said. “Let's make it count!”

                                “Same plan as before, Fireball! Keep moving!”

                                Fireball took off running while his opponent took aim at him.

                                With a shout, Gyarados spat up another powerful jet of water.

                                Fireball was suddenly swept away by it. He gargled in surprise, shoved to the ground and rolling to a stop near Antoshi.

                                “Oh, no!” Antoshi cried out.

                                “Yeah! Nice shot!” she exclaimed.

                                Fireball growled as he got back to his feet. The fires on his back had dwindled some. As he shook the water from his fur, those flames exploded back to life.

                                "Gonna take more than that to keep me down," Fireball said.

                                “Thunder Punch — again!”

                                Fireball bared his teeth, summoning forth the same electricity into his paw. Just as before, he rushed the Gyarados and leapt up high.

                                “Dodge it, Tiny!”

                                Gyarados managed to slither out of the way of Fireball's swing.

                                Fireball quickly spun around, swung again, and nailed the serpent on the back of its head.

                                Gyarados roared in pain, the electricity visibly surging through its entire frame. It fell over, unconscious.

                                The girl gasped in shock.

                                “No way!” she said, her jaw hanging agape.

                                Fireball went back to his side of the field. He and his friend confidently nodded to each other.

                                The girl humphed as she recalled her Gyarados into the confines of its ball.

                                “Fine, then. I guess I'll have to use my ace! Go, Flora!”

                                She threw out another ball. From it, emerged a large yet stumpy reptilian quadruped with a massive blooming flower on its back. Across its forehead, it wore a necklace with a strange gem like a cat's eye marble hanging from it.

                                Fireball and Antoshi looked to each other with elation — a Grass-type opponent like Venusaur was fortunate for them.

                                “Oh, but wait!” the girl added. “There's more!”

                                She pulled the back the long sleeve of her shirt to reveal a bracelet with a similar gem to the one Venusaur wore set into it. She ran her fingers across it, causing both gems to glow.

                                “Flora — Mega Evolve!” she exclaimed.

                                The duo watched in amazement as the gems fired out bolts of magical energy that sought each other out and connected. Once combined, Venusaur gave out a roar and began to glow as if evolving.

                                Many of the Trainers in the audience were fully engaged in the spectacle. Once the bright light faded, Venusaur had grown larger and heavier with a pink flower on its forehead and dark green markings between its eyes.

                                “Oh, … wow,” Antoshi remarked nervously.

                                It was the first time the two had seen a real Mega Evolution up close. The stones needed for Trainer and Pokémon were both exceedingly rare and very expensive.

                                Lost in a battle trance, Antoshi and Fireball's eyes were wide with intensity — their excitement rising from the unique challenge before them. They were focused on their battle and no longer distracted by the nearby competitors.

                                “Flora, Sludge Bomb!”

                                The lush beast reared back and opened its maw with a deep, groaning roar. It spat out a large, brown gob of toxic muck that shot in an arc toward Fireball, exploding on contact.

                                Fireball groaned, stumbling back from the impact and turning away to wipe the sludge off his face.

                                "This is so gross," Fireball remarked, shuddering. "Why do we keep getting opponents with poison attacks? I'll take getting smashed over the head with a boulder over this any day."

                                Antoshi ignored the horrible-smelling poison to turn his attention to their opposition.

                                ‘If what I remember about Mega Evolution is correct,’ Antoshi thought, ‘Venusaur's durability is increased as well. I could go with Fire Blast, but it's slower and harder to land. Flamethrower is way more reliable, but it'll take more hits to wear Mega Venusaur down. I'd better play this one on the safe side. We can't afford to make any mistakes now.’

                                “Fireball, use Flamethrower!”

                                Fireball shook off what sludge he could. He swiftly launched a raging stream of fire from his mouth, fueled by the disgust of Mega Venusaur's attack.

                                “Dodge it!” the girl commanded.

                                In a flash, Venusaur darted to the side to avoid Fireball's attack.

                                Antoshi was shocked at how deceptively fast the heavy, stubby monster was.

                                “Follow it!” Antoshi said. “Keep pouring it on!”

                                Fireball didn't let up on his attack, aiming the fire as best he could at Mega Venusaur. He could only keep a single Flamethrower going for as long as his lungs held a breath. The distance between them forced him to predict and try to lead his opponent's movements.

                                Mega Venusaur neared the stadium wall. Running out of room to dodge, it leapt back over the pillar of flame.

                                Fireball responded by pulling up, managing to score a hit just as he ran out of air.

                                Mega Venusaur roared in pain, crashing back down to the ground with some of its petals aflame.

                                Fireball coughed up puffs of smoke while trying to catch his breath.

                                “You okay, Fireball?” Antoshi asked.

                                "Feeling a little lightheaded after that one, but I'm good."

                                Mega Venusaur groaned, getting back to its feet. It shook itself off, cinders falling from its body.

                                “Okay, that Mega Venusaur looks in way better shape than I would've hoped,” he remarked.

                                The girl laughed.

                                “That's thanks to its ability: Thick Fat! Mega Venusaur takes half as much damage from Fire-type attacks!”

                                “So, we'll just have to hit twice as hard! Fireball, get up close and then use Flamethrower!”

                                Both Fireball and the girl appeared confused as to what Antoshi was planning.

                                Fireball shrugged before he took off running on all fours.

                                “Flora, give it another Sludge Bomb!”

                                Fireball weaved back and forth while closing the gap between them, keeping himself as difficult to aim at as possible.

                                Mega Venusaur roared again before discharging another gob of revolting poison. The arcing attack narrowly missed Fireball, going right over his head.

                                The girl gasped as Fireball appeared before her Pokémon.

                                Fireball opened his maw wide, drenching the Grass-type in a direct stream of flames. Mega Venusaur roared in agony, taking the full brunt of the attack.

                                ‘That was a risky plan, and it paid off,’ the girl thought as she sucked her teeth. ‘Sludge Bomb is a single, arcing shot. He was betting on me to use it again, and for Flora's aim to be less accurate if his Typhlosion got in close. Now Flora's seriously hurt, even with its Thick Fat. Another one of those and we're done for.’

                                Fireball headed back to his friend. Mega Venusaur slowly shook itself off, appearing far more charred and worn down than before.

                                “Time to finish this!” she said. “Flora, use Frenzy Plant!”

                                Venusaur's body glowed with an intensifying shade of green.

                                “Frenzy Plant?” Antoshi thought aloud, unfamiliar with the move. “Fireball, use Defense Curl!”

                                Fireball curled into a ball just before Venusaur stomped the ground hard.

                                Massive, spiked roots violently erupted out of the ground, creating a trail that led toward Fireball. Once they reached the Typhlosion, he was struck hard and flung high into the air.

                                Initially worried for his friend's well-being, Antoshi quickly realized that Fireball had been thrown at an angle — one that brought him closer to their opponents.

                                “Now, Fireball!” he shouted. “Flamethrower!”

                                Fireball clenched his teeth, realizing what Antoshi did. Even while constantly rolling through the air, he kept track of Mega Venusaur's position and waited for the right moment.

                                He opened his maw and gave an intense roar. The flames on his back flared wildly as he let out a Flamethrower so intense that it stopped his momentum and propelled him backwards.

                                The attack was fast. The weakened Mega Venusaur could not dodge as it did previously. Frenzy Plant had already rendered Mega Venusaur briefly exhausted and unable to move. It roared in agony, toppling over backwards as it was drenched in fire.

                                Its Trainer shielded her eyes from the powerful flames. Once the attack finished, she gasped at how badly burned her fainted Mega Venusaur was.

                                Unconscious, their spirit link was broken. In a flash of light, it returned to its standard form as a Venusaur.

                                Fireball landed on his feet near Antoshi. He immediately groaned in pain and fell to a knee. He held his ribs, looking at his paw afterward to find blood.

                                “Fireball?” Antoshi asked with concern as he headed to his friend's side.

                                "Looks like one of those big thorns got me," Fireball remarked, shooting Antoshi a reassuring grin.

                                Antoshi smiled and nodded. He quickly took off his backpack and rummaged through it.

                                “Trainer 144 wins,” the voice on the loudspeaker said.

                                The opposing Trainer sighed in dismay, recalling her Venusaur into its Poké Ball.

                                “Good luck,” she said before solemnly walking away.

                                As Antoshi tended to Fireball's wounds with a spray medicine, they briefly looked over at her. Neither of them could fathom just how disappointed she was, but it was clear she put as much effort as they did into getting to the tournament.

                                It gave them perspective as to just how easily their dream could end.
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                                Old January 28th, 2019 (7:21 PM). Edited January 30th, 2019 by Antoshi.
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                                Antoshi Antoshi is offline
                                Peaceful Serenity
                                   
                                  Join Date: Oct 2004
                                  Gender: Male
                                  Nature: Jolly
                                  Posts: 110
                                  Chapter 9


                                  In the early evening, the sky had become a layered mix of bluish-purple littered with long streaks of orange clouds. Antoshi and Fireball sat in the stands. They watched the end of the first round of preliminary matches while enjoying the meal provided for them by the staff.

                                  The crowd of Trainers had thinned out to half as many as there were hours prior.

                                  “Trainer 501 wins!” the voice on the loudspeaker said. “That concludes the first round. If you haven't already, Trainers, please heal your Pokémon by your own means or inside the stadium where you'll find our Pokémon Center. The second and final round of preliminary matches will begin in just a few minutes.”

                                  The giant screens lit up with an updated tournament bracket. Antoshi narrowed his eyes when he saw the number of their next opponent — 142.

                                  His eyes lit up. The battle involving '142' was one that he'd witnessed from afar. It was a young boy, younger than him, with dark skin and an almost completely shaved head. The Trainer had used a Tyranitar to knock out both of his opponent's Pokémon.

                                  “Trainers 1 and 3, report to battlefield one.”

                                  The bracket process started all over again, only this time with tougher Trainers.

                                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                  “Trainers 142 and 144, report to battlefield two.”

                                  Antoshi took a deep breath and sighed. The pair nodded to each other, putting their game faces on, heading down to the assigned field.

                                  The young boy that Antoshi remembered was already waiting for them. He smirked confidently, tossing a Poké Ball up and down.

                                  “Battlefield two — you may begin!”

                                  “Go,” their opponent exclaimed as he threw his Poké Ball out, “Lanturn!”

                                  From the ball emerged a cheerful, large blue footballfish with a Y-shaped antenna tipped with glowing orbs. It cried out, raring to battle.

                                  Fireball gave his own shout, flaring up the fires on his back.

                                  ‘Oh, that's not good,’ Antoshi thought, wiping a bead of sweat from his forehead. ‘Thunder Punch is effectively useless now and Lanturn's Water-type drowns out all of our Fire-type attacks. … Rollout isn't effective—’

                                  “Lanturn!” the other Trainer exclaimed, interrupting Antoshi's train of thought. “Use Rain Dance!”

                                  Lanturn did a shimmy from side to side, singing as it did so. A dark cloud emerged high over their battlefield, a downpour of rain falling upon the two Pokémon.

                                  And he's setting up,’ Antoshi thought. ‘I wonder … if he watched our battle, too.’

                                  “How do you like that?” their opponent asked. “Let's see your Typhlosion deal with this!”

                                  Antoshi hesitated for a moment before issuing their next move.

                                  “Fireball — use Burn Up!”

                                  Fireball appeared surprised by the decision.

                                  He dropped down to all fours, snarling loudly as his entire body became enveloped in an inferno. He swiftly charged at his opponent through the rain, slamming headlong into it.

                                  Lanturn cried out, stumbling backwards from the force and the intensity of the flames. Fireball headed back to his side of the field.

                                  The flames on his back extinguished.

                                  "Aw," Fireball muttered, turning to look at his upper back. "That's my least favorite part of using this move."

                                  ‘Burn Up makes Fireball typeless for the remainder of this battle,’ Antoshi thought, staring intensely at their opponents, ‘so now we don't have to worry about the Type advantage. This'll be a long-shot, but it might just be the best chance we have to deal with his Pokémon.’

                                  “Don't worry, Lanturn!” the opposing Trainer said. “We still got this! Aqua Ring!”

                                  Lanturn let out a soothing cry. Its body became enveloped by swirling rings of water that rotated around it.

                                  “Fireball, Defense Curl!”

                                  Fireball curled up into a ball, suddenly surrounded by a brief glimpse of a bluish shield.

                                  The rings of water around Lanturn healed some of its battle damage.

                                  “Nice try, fool!” their opponent said. “Your Defense Curl isn't going to matter when Lanturn has no physical attacks! Lanturn, Thunder!”

                                  Lanturn howled to the sky, sending up a large bolt of electricity from its glowing orbs into the storm clouds above.

                                  The clouds flickered with light and rumbled with the sound of thunder. An even more powerful bolt of lightning came down in a flash, striking its target directly.

                                  Antoshi shielded his eyes, clenching his teeth as a loud crack of thunder rang out mere meters in front of him.

                                  “Fireball!” Antoshi exclaimed. “Are you okay?”

                                  Fireball's fur was frazzled and slightly singed all around his frame. Some residual electricity continued to flow around him — a visual indication that Fireball had been paralyzed by the attack.

                                  "Ye—yeah!" Fireball shakily replied. "Just p—peachy."

                                  ‘If Fireball is unable to attack at any point,’ Antoshi thought, ‘then we're in major trouble…’

                                  “All right, Fireball! Rollout!”

                                  Fireball revved in place on the rain-slicked ground before dashing toward the enemy.

                                  ‘That combo!’ the opposing Trainer thought, eyes wide with surprise. ‘So, they know some tricks…’

                                  Lanturn's maneuverability on land was almost non-existent. The opposing duo were unable to do anything about the oncoming attack.

                                  Fireball slammed into Lanturn, causing it to rapidly flip over backwards until it rolled to a stop. It groaned, shaking off its dizziness before sliding back to its side of the field.

                                  The rain momentarily poured down harder while Lanturn's Aqua Ring healed some of its injuries.

                                  “Lanturn — Thunder, again!”

                                  Lanturn fired another powerful bolt of electricity into the clouds, which came down and struck Fireball.

                                  Fireball shouted in pain, his curled-up body tensing as he was rattled with electricity. His fur was mostly frazzled, singed and charred.

                                  Antoshi grit his teeth until the lightning faded away.

                                  “Fireball!” Antoshi exclaimed. “Let me know you're okay!”

                                  Fireball wasn't moving, causing a moment of tension between both sides. He suddenly heaved a deep sigh, having held his breath. The electricity of his paralysis continued to flow around him.

                                  “Come on!” the opposing Trainer screeched. “Faint already, you stupid Typhlosion!”

                                  "I'm … not going down easily," Fireball said, straining.

                                  Antoshi grinned proudly.

                                  “Fireball, another Rollout!”

                                  Fireball revved up once more and launched himself faster than before across the rain-slicked ground.

                                  Lanturn's eyes widened just before being struck. It was thrown all the way past its Trainer before crashing to a halt. It groaned, suddenly unable to pick itself back up.

                                  “No!” the opposing Trainer shouted.

                                  “Yes,” Antoshi quietly cheered.

                                  Fireball was still curled up like a ball, leaving Antoshi unable to gauge his friend's status.

                                  “Fireball, how you feeling?”

                                  "Very buzzed," he replied. "Other than that, I'm still good to go."

                                  Antoshi smiled and stood confidently.

                                  The opposing Trainer seethed, yanking the Poké Ball off his belt and recalling his Lanturn in a huff.

                                  “No more messing around!” he exclaimed, throwing out an Ultra Ball. “Go, Tyranitar!”

                                  Antoshi's eyes widened in shock. It was the Pokémon he was expecting — and dreading.

                                  From the ball came a monstrous dinosaurian beast. Covered in thick, green armored skin, the bipedal Pokémon was abnormally large for its species like Fireball was — and very angry.

                                  “I don't care if your Typhlosion has no Type right now, you're still going to lose!”

                                  “Uh, it didn't look that big from far away,” Antoshi nervously joked.

                                  "What?" Fireball asked, unable to see anything in his ball form. "What happened?"

                                  The imposing Tyranitar stomped its foot, causing the ground to rumble under its immense weight and power. Fireball bounced a few inches off the ground from the impact.

                                  "… Oh," Fireball said. "I don't want to look, do I?"

                                  “No, probably not,” Antoshi replied.

                                  The Tyranitar let out a powerful roar that grabbed the attention of almost every spectator and nearby competitors.

                                  Antoshi turned his attention to the opposing Trainer.

                                  “Hey, how did you get that Tyranitar anyway?”

                                  “By catching it — duh! Stupid!”

                                  “… Okay then,” he muttered, taken aback. “I see someone's not in the mood to chat.”

                                  From Tyranitar's body, a magical maelstrom of sand kicked up, swirling relentlessly around the two Pokémon. It was its Sand Stream ability. The sandstorm caused the dark clouds and rainy condition to disperse.

                                  "Ow!" Fireball said as he was pelted with grains of sand. "Not this again!"

                                  ‘We have to act quickly here,’ Antoshi thought. ‘Tyranitar's a bit faster than Lanturn, but definitely still slower than Fireball. If we use Rollout again, combined with Defense Curl, it'll have the strength of eight standard Rollouts at this point. But that's not a good enough Type advantage for us to—’

                                  His eyes suddenly lit up.

                                  ‘Tyranitar … is Dark- and Rock-Type.’

                                  “Fireball! Use Focus Blast!”

                                  Fireball groaned in pain as he hopped back to his feet. His eyes finally showed how worn down he had gotten after taking two direct Thunder attacks.

                                  The opposing Trainer watched carefully, ready to counteract.

                                  Fireball held his hands at one side, charging up a bright ball of energy. However, just as the attack was ready, the electricity around his body surged wildly.

                                  He shouted in pain and fell to a knee. The energy in his hands dissipated.

                                  ‘Oh, no! Not the paralysis!’ Antoshi thought with eyes aghast. ‘Not now!’

                                  “Tyranitar! Stone Edge! Finish it!”

                                  Tyranitar let out an immense roar before stomping its foot. Massive rock pillars jutted out of the ground, rushing toward Fireball like a wave.

                                  Fireball was struck hard. The violent impact sent him airborne a short distance before crashing near Antoshi.

                                  The pillars sunk back into the ground.

                                  Fireball!” Antoshi cried out.

                                  Fireball groaned weakly, lifting himself up onto his arms.

                                  The Typhlosion suddenly fell to the ground.

                                  The wind had been knocked from Antoshi's lungs.

                                  Yes!” the opposing Trainer cheered. “We won!”

                                  “Fireball, no,” Antoshi whispered, his eyes welling up with tears. “You can't lose …”

                                  He exhaled in disbelief, dropping to his knees beside his fallen friend.

                                  Just as the opposing Trainer was about to recall his Tyranitar, Fireball stirred back to life.

                                  "Good point …" Fireball weakly replied, standing up. "It would be … pretty crummy if we lost now …"

                                  “What the heck?!” the opposing Trainer shouted.

                                  Antoshi was equally astonished to see his friend still conscious. He got to his feet at the same slow pace that Fireball did.

                                  "I have … no idea how I'm still in this," Fireball said with a weak smirk. "It kinda feels like I'm dreaming."

                                  “Well, this is definitely our dream,” Antoshi replied, smiling. “Let's make it come true while you're still conscious. One more Focus Blast!”

                                  Fireball nodded and hobbled his way back onto the field. He grit his teeth upon re-entering the tornado of whipping sands. He held his trembling hands at his side, slowly charging up the same ball of energy as before. He groaned, becoming more dizzy and weak as the ball grew in size.

                                  'Gotta make … this one … count,' Fireball thought. 'I only have one more left in me.'

                                  With a diminished shout, he thrust his arms forward, firing the attack before falling onto his behind.

                                  “Tyranitar — dodge it!!” its Trainer exclaimed.

                                  Tyranitar leapt to the side with incredible speed that caused Antoshi to gasp in shock.

                                  However, Fireball's inexperience and inaccuracy with the move became their saving grace yet again.

                                  Tyranitar dodged directly into the path of the attack.

                                  Focus Blast struck one of the gaping triangular holes in its chest — a glaring chink in its otherwise impenetrable body armor. The spot was a pressure point, amplifying the damage it received for a critical hit.

                                  The impact caused a large, explosive burst of light. The tremendous Tyranitar was sent backward, roaring in anguish. It shook the stadium grounds upon landing and slid to a halt.

                                  Fireball grinned at the sight before he fell back onto the wet, sandy ground.

                                  “Fireball!” he exclaimed.

                                  Antoshi stopped himself from rushing through the sandstorm to his friend's side — doing so would cause a forfeit. He clenched his teeth in frustration, staring at his friend with deep concern.

                                  Tyranitar was not moving. Its sandstorm petered out.

                                  Its Trainer was left stunned, but quickly became outraged.

                                  No~!!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. He fell to his hands and knees and began sobbing.

                                  “Trainer 144 wins!” the voice on the loudspeaker announced.

                                  Antoshi immediately rushed over and knelt down beside Fireball. He scrambled to pull out another Full Restore from his backpack, spraying his friend with it from head to toe.

                                  “You all right?” Antoshi asked nervously.

                                  Fireball gave him a thumbs-up.

                                  "I'm just glad that was the last match of the day," Fireball replied quietly. "We definitely got put through the wringer here."

                                  “These victories of ours are getting more and more unbelievable — and a lot more slim. It already feels like we're barely scraping by.”

                                  "I'll bet it's all downhill from here," Fireball joked.

                                  They both laughed.

                                  The other Trainer sniffled and wept as he recalled his Tyranitar. He covered his eyes in shame as he ran away through the stadium tunnels.

                                  After Antoshi watched Fireball get to his feet, one of the stadium volunteers holding a clipboard came out to greet them.

                                  “Congratulations on your victory!” he said. “Please, follow me.”

                                  Antoshi and Fireball grinned in elation.

                                  They were led through a set of large open doors in the interior of the stadium. The pair gasped in awe, entering a massive, elegant ballroom.

                                  Everything was colored in various shades of purple and blue, accented by white. The walls were lined with couches. The shiny, waxed floor was covered in a plethora of perfectly lined dining tables and chairs. The air was rife with the scent of freshly baked confections.

                                  There were only a dozen or so Trainers hanging around, some accompanied by their small or human-sized Pokémon. With the amount of tables and seats, it seemed it would eventually get much more crowded.

                                  “This is the Indigo Room,” the man told them, “the main dining and lounging area for those who pass the preliminary matches. You may come here and dine any time of the day or night. Your assigned table number is …” he briefly jotted down on his clipboard, “18! This will also be the number of your sleeping quarters.”

                                  “Sleeping quarters?”

                                  “Indeed. The Indigo Tournament starts tomorrow and lasts for three days. Until then, all Trainers passing the preliminary matches must stay at the Indigo Plateau until the closing ceremonies.”

                                  He handed Antoshi a key card and a pamphlet.

                                  “This key is for your quarters. The pamphlet includes information of daily events and maps of the grounds. Be sure to wear your lanyard for identification purposes whenever you're outside of your quarters. I hope you and your Pokémon have a wonderful time here. Congratulations once again on your victories.”

                                  He gave them a respectful nod of the head before taking his leave.

                                  Antoshi took a brief look through the pamphlet.

                                  “Oh good, another map for me to memorize,” Antoshi joked.

                                  "This place is definitely the fanciest I've ever seen!" Fireball remarked.

                                  He looked in all directions while Antoshi quietly studied the information in his hands.

                                  "I smell food — lots of food. He never said whether we had a limit or if we had to pay, did he?"

                                  “He sure didn't,” Antoshi replied with a smirk, “but that doesn't mean you get to eat the entire kitchen.”

                                  "What other places are there to check out around here?"

                                  “Well, down the hall on the left there's a large Pokémon Center.”

                                  "Which way do we go to check out our room?"

                                  A grin spread across Antoshi's face. He closed the pamphlet and stored it away in his backpack pocket.

                                  “I was hoping you'd ask that. Come on.”

                                  Fireball curiously followed his friend through a hallway on their right. They exited out another set of large doors leading outside. They were now on the opposite side of the stadium from where they originally entered.

                                  Fireball gasped in surprise. Sprawled out before him was a bustling resort village situated around a large lake. The pair strolled and looked around.

                                  Volunteers and staff walked around, keeping the grounds and the log cabins that comprised the village tidy. Each of them smiled, waved or greeted the pair as they passed.

                                  "Wow!" Fireball remarked. "What is this place?"

                                  “I just read about it on the map. This place is rented out as a vacation resort most of the year. But, when it's time for a tournament, it's lodging for the participants.”

                                  Fireball's eyes widened in surprise.

                                  "Wait a minute!" he exclaimed. "Do you mean …"

                                  “Uh-huh!” Antoshi cheerfully replied.

                                  They came to a stop in front of a single-story cabin with a sign hammered into the front lawn that read '18.'

                                  “We're not staying in a room like the Pokémon Center — we get our own little house to live in.”

                                  Fireball started hyperventilating.

                                  "This … is so … freakingcool!" he said.

                                  Fireball was buzzing with excitement as they walked to the front door.

                                  Antoshi slid the key card through the reader, hearing a confirmation beep, and the door unlocked. He invited his friend to enter first.

                                  Fireball squealed in glee before opening the door.

                                  The duo's faces lit up as they looked inside.

                                  “Wow,” they both remarked in awe.

                                  The evening sun flooded the charming home. Warm and cozy, almost everything was made of wood. Any amenities they could need were provided; from a couch, television and videophone to a fully-stocked kitchen, dining room and appliances.

                                  "This place is amazing," Fireball said as the two looked around. "I like it a lot more than the Pokémon Center."

                                  “You don't say?” Antoshi sarcastically asked, grinning.

                                  He headed into the spacious bedroom, placing his backpack down next to the bed. Fireball peered around the bedroom from the doorway.

                                  "Someday, you and I should live in a house like this. Maybe someplace out in the woods like you enjoy."

                                  “That would be nice.”

                                  Antoshi smiled, glancing out the window for a brief moment. They had a perfect view of the sparkling lake behind the house.

                                  “Well, how about right now we go and do what you enjoy, which is eat?”

                                  "I'm always ready! Lead the way!"

                                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                  By the time the two got back to the dining hall, far more Trainers were lounging around with each other and their Pokémon. Food was already being served to the hungry victors of the first day of competition. The duo sat down, ordered and began to eat. Fireball asked Antoshi to order several courses just for himself.

                                  Trainers, Pokémon, staff, waiters and volunteers all buzzed around. Antoshi was elated to see so many other Trainers at such a high-class dining room also sitting with their Pokémon. It was an unusual sight, yet it was the norm for the tournament.

                                  A couple of Trainers walked around the dining room with Pokédexes in hand. One of them came up to Fireball, holding up the device that looked like two black handles around a holographic light display. The duo were able to see through it from the opposite side. It lit up with a full-body image of a Typhlosion.

                                  “You have a really awesome Typhlosion,” he said. “How'd you get him?”

                                  “Fireball was given to me when I was little,” Antoshi replied.

                                  “Lucky you! Hey, you're the duo that faced that scary-looking Tyranitar.”

                                  “That's us,” he said with a proud grin.

                                  Fireball nodded.

                                  “Wow. You beat a Tyranitar with a Typhlosion of all things. That's really amazing stuff. I didn't see the entire battle, but I definitely saw it after it fainted.”

                                  “Thanks!”

                                  “Well, I see more Pokémon I need entries on. See you around!”

                                  “See ya.”

                                  "You know," Fireball said, "I was kind of expecting the Trainers here to be really full of themselves. It's nice to see most of them are friendly."

                                  “Yeah. I was expecting the same, honestly,” Antoshi replied with a smile. “It's a huge confidence boost to have eight badges and get to the Indigo Plateau. With how tough it's been along the way, it's still a humbling experience.”

                                  They looked around at all the smiling faces, hearing a couple people in the distance laughing.

                                  “They're all probably really happy to make it this far. I know I am.”

                                  "Same here," Fireball replied with a mouthful of food. "This is the best dinner we've had in a while!"

                                  Antoshi shook his head and sighed in content. Their minds were off the jitters they'd inevitably face in the following day's competition. For the moment, they took all the time they could to relax and revel in their success.

                                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                  Having been on the move and battling most of the day, the duo were ready to call it an early night. Antoshi laughed as an overstuffed Fireball literally waddled his way out of the dining room.

                                  They headed back to their cottage to get settled in. Fireball took his usual place resting on the floor of the moonlit bedroom, groaning loudly and hiccuping as he lay on his back.

                                  "I'm going to sleep really well tonight," he said as Antoshi emerged from the bathroom.

                                  The boy wore his usual sleeping garments, toothbrush in hand.

                                  “I hope so,” Antoshi said, packing the toothbrush away. “Tomorrow's the biggest challenge we've ever faced.”

                                  He hopped into bed, slipping under the covers. He sighed heavily, followed by a period of silence between them.

                                  “… It's so incredible to think we finally made it to the Indigo League. We spent so many nights awake just like this, talking about it and dreaming of this moment.”

                                  "Do you think we'll really make it to the end?" Fireball asked.

                                  “Of course. We can't think otherwise. Doubting ourselves now doesn't make sense. We always said we were going for the championship — that's where we're gonna end up.”

                                  "You're right. This is why I listen to you."

                                  “Yeah, otherwise you end up in the trunk of Team Rocket's car.”

                                  "Err, … maybe we could chalk that up to a 'youthful indiscretion'?"

                                  “I'm only joking. I'm the one that taught you that phrase, by the way.”

                                  Fireball snickered.

                                  “Well, we'd better get lots of sleep.”

                                  "Sounds good to me. Goodnight, Antoshi."

                                  “Goodnight, buddy.”

                                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                  The following morning, the duo got up at their usual wake-up time of six o'clock. The sun had just started to break the horizon and peer into the bedroom window.

                                  They were fueled by a deep sense of determination. Both remained fairly quiet, getting themselves mentally prepared for what was to be the most important day of their lives.

                                  Wearing the same red-and-white polo shirt and shorts he'd worn often, Antoshi laced up his shoes. He made sure to put on his identification lanyard on and headed for the door where Fireball was anxiously waiting for him.

                                  He stopped suddenly, heading back into the room to rummage through his backpack for something. He pulled out Fireball's Poké Ball.

                                  ‘Better take this with me, just in case.’

                                  He stuffed it into his pocket before leaving the house with his best friend by his side.

                                  From his other pocket, he pulled out their information pamphlet. After navigating through the stadium building, they entered a large, bright waiting room.

                                  There were dozens of rows of linked chairs — plenty of seating for the waiting competitors. Large television screens hung on the walls.

                                  They looked around curiously. Dozens of fellow Trainers had already gotten up well before them. All of them seemed as anxious to get started as they were. The chatter between them was at a minimum. Few of them kept their Pokémon out of their Poké Balls.

                                  Antoshi looked through the information again.

                                  “Well, it looks like the gates open for the crowds at eight. Opening ceremonies start at ten — that's when all the competitors are brought out to the stadium floor until the ceremonies are over. Then, the first match starts afterward. I wonder how they're going to arrange the matches this time around?”

                                  “Funny running into you again, Antoshi,” a familiar voice said.

                                  He turned around and grinned.

                                  “Declan! Hey!”

                                  “Hey there. I didn't think so many other Trainers got up as early as I did. Guess that's to be expected with the Trainers and Pokémon serious enough to make it this far.”

                                  “So, what are you doing this morning?” Antoshi asked.

                                  “I just came back from breakfast in the dining area. All the food here is amazing, and they make some great waffles.”

                                  Fireball's whole world suddenly went blank, staring into the distance with eyes wide.

                                  ‘Waffles …’ Declan's voice echoed in Fireball's head. ‘Wa~ffles …’

                                  Declan smirked as he looked at the mesmerized Typhlosion.

                                  “What's wrong with Fireball? Didn't get enough sleep last night?”

                                  “No, I think it's because you said—”

                                  "Waffles!" Fireball shouted, rushing off to the dining room.

                                  “… Waffles.”

                                  Declan burst out laughing. Antoshi sighed and grinned.

                                  “Well, I guess we're off to breakfast now. Maybe we'll run into each other again later.”

                                  “Take care,” he replied before Antoshi jogged after his friend.

                                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                  After getting some breakfast in them, the duo hung around the waiting area up until the point when the opening ceremonies were to start.

                                  Antoshi passed the time by reading a book from the reading material provided by the staff, while Fireball relaxed out on several chairs next to him.

                                  A short time later, the television screens turned on. Those waiting got to watch the morning's news. One of the reports was about the ongoing events after the destruction of Fern Town.

                                  Antoshi took interest in the report. While the room was too loud for him to hear it, the text on screen indicated that the cleanup was expected to last months. A makeshift memorial had been set up for loved ones and the general public to leave their thoughts, prayers, and offerings. Hundreds of flower bouquets, cards, and toys were left in memory of the victims.

                                  Antoshi furred his eyebrow at the sight of people distraught and crying. It was difficult for him to watch, recalling the incident as it happened in his dreams.

                                  Recordings and photos of Slateport City's devastation also came up on screen. Comparisons were made between the two events.

                                  ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                  The televisions eventually changed over to the stadium's closed circuit network. Antoshi and others were awe-struck. Live cameras showed them the sheer mass of people waiting to get into the gate and filing into the stands.

                                  With the images of the crowds outside, the Trainers inside started to become rowdy as they prepared themselves.

                                  Fireball awoke with a yawn amid all the commotion.

                                  "Huh? What's happening?" he asked.

                                  Antoshi grinned at his friend.

                                  “It's about to be showtime.”
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                                  Old January 30th, 2019 (2:38 PM). Edited February 1st, 2019 by Antoshi.
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                                  Antoshi Antoshi is offline
                                  Peaceful Serenity
                                     
                                    Join Date: Oct 2004
                                    Gender: Male
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                                    Posts: 110
                                    Chapter 10


                                    As the opening ceremonies neared, the stadium was almost filled to capacity. The noise of the crowd became apparent even from inside the waiting area.

                                    Anticipation was growing on all sides. Antoshi had long put away the book, opting to sit and mentally prepare.

                                    Soon, a small group of stadium volunteers entered the waiting room. They informed the Trainers that they'd be escorting them out onto the stadium grounds in orderly lines.

                                    The process went quickly and smoothly. They led each line of Trainers down a hallway.

                                    They stopped just at the entrance of one of the tunnels leading out to the stadium. Fireball stood beside Antoshi.

                                    The stadium's giant screens showed Cedric as he walked out onto the field with microphone in hand. The crowd roared in excitement.

                                    “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this year's Spring Indigo League Championship Tournament!” he exclaimed. “One-hundred and twenty-eight new and returning Trainers from all over the world have proven their mettle in the Kanto League! But, only one will be the victor and move on to face the Elite Four and the Champion himself! Now, without further ado, let's say 'hello' to this year's participants!”

                                    The first group were led out into the sun-drenched stadium grounds. The floor had already been flipped back over to become a single large battlefield instead of four.

                                    As the crowd cheered them on, some of them chose to wave while others kept to themselves. The volunteers outside directed them to stand in perfectly spaced gaps between each other.

                                    As part of the second group, Antoshi and Fireball headed outside. The noise of almost a hundred thousand people cheering was beyond their comprehension. One of the volunteers spoke to them as they neared.

                                    “Stand here, please,” he said, bringing them to a halt.

                                    The awe-struck duo gazed around the stadium. Nothing could've prepared them for how overwhelming it was to be surrounded by so many onlookers. Pride swelled through them as they soaked in the moment.

                                    “We're really here,” Antoshi said. “We're finally here at the Indigo League Tournament. After getting our eight badges, seeing all those amazing cities, and all the people and Pokémon we got to meet along the way. Not to mention the insane amount of training we had to start our journey with to get anywhere. A lot of people doubted us, Fireball, but it finally led up to this.”

                                    "Well, when you sum it up like that, I feel like I'm getting misty-eyed over here."

                                    Antoshi smiled proudly at his friend.

                                    “It felt like this was just an impossible dream for the longest time. I remember the times we both wanted to give up and go home.”

                                    "I sure am glad we didn't. This is totally worth it."

                                    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                    Once all of the participants were out on the field, Cedric resumed speaking.

                                    “Now, let's say hello to our Elite Four!” he exclaimed to the elation of the crowd.

                                    The stadium's cameras shifted to five people seated behind the glass of the stadium's box seats.

                                    “First up, the mistress of Water-types, Sharon!”

                                    The camera zoomed in on a young, blonde woman in a long, elegant, blue dress. She smiled warmly for the camera as it zoomed in on her.

                                    “Second, the Flying-type genius, Nicholas!”

                                    A reserved young man wearing large glasses kept his gaze away from the camera, opting to observe each of the competitors on the field.

                                    “Third, the 'Steel Crusher', Dwayne!”

                                    A large, muscular man with dark, tanned skin, wearing a bodybuilding tank top sat with his arms folded across his chest. He had a stern look on his face. The crowd briefly chanted his name.

                                    “Fourth, the vibrant Grass-type prodigy, Rosie!”

                                    A young girl in a green dress laughed and waved for the cameras with a big grin.

                                    “And finally, our reigning Indigo League Champion — Kristoffer!”

                                    A young man with dark hair covering an eye looked over the field with disinterest.

                                    Antoshi looked at the Champion in astonishment, having never seen him before. He was awe-struck by the Champion's gaze.

                                    ‘Whoa,’ Antoshi thought. ‘That look in his eyes. He's a Trainer with some serious experience.’

                                    “Now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time to get this tournament underway!”

                                    The sounds of fireworks went off in the morning sky as flocks of Pidgey and Pidove were released into the air.

                                    The duo didn't have much time to enjoy the sight as all the Trainers were escorted back inside the stadium in the same orderly fashion. They were led into a different tunnel than the one they came out from, while adjacent groups headed in the opposite direction.

                                    The new waiting room was nearly identical to the first, only with half as many Trainers and their Pokémon.

                                    “Greetings, Trainers,” a new, male volunteer politely said as he entered the room. “The sixty-four of you here are going to be on the red side of the battlefield. The television screens provided here will display the tournament bracket, as well as the current battle in progress. We will be starting the first match very shortly. Good luck!”

                                    The Trainers looked at each of the screens to find their assigned numbers on the tournament bracket. The bracket was also color coded to indicate which matches would be taking place on the first, second and final days of the event.

                                    Antoshi's eyes went wide, gasping in surprise.

                                    "What is it, Antoshi?" Fireball asked.

                                    “We're … the third match up,” he remarked quietly.

                                    "That's really soon," Fireball replied, just as surprised as Antoshi was.

                                    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                    The screens shifted to the outside camera, showing a smiling Cedric.

                                    “All right, ladies and gentlemen!” he said. “We're now ready to start the first match!”

                                    The crowd erupted into raucous cheers once more.

                                    “Trainers 176 and 305 — to the field!”

                                    A large, burly man sitting in the front row with a pointed beard got to his feet with a sigh. He exited the room while stretching his neck.

                                    "Wow," Fireball said. "That guy seems pretty relaxed for being the first one up. Right, Antoshi?"

                                    He looked over to see Antoshi staring at the screen, lost in thought.

                                    "Antoshi?"

                                    He gently nudged his friend, snapping the boy back to reality.

                                    “Oh. Did you say something?”

                                    Fireball chuckled, trying to reassure his friend.

                                    "Come on, Antoshi, don't worry. We've got this!"

                                    “I'm sorry,” he replied, rubbing his forehead. “It's just that we've never battled in front of a massive crowd before. The competition here is really intense, too. I'll do my best to keep it together.”

                                    Antoshi and the other Trainers in the room watched the first match play out on the screen.

                                    Back and forth went the two Trainers' Pokémon while the crowd cheered them on relentlessly. At the same time, he watched the expressions on the Trainers' faces. They were confident, eager — not at all nervous.

                                    “The red side Trainer, Mitch, advances!” Cedric exclaimed.

                                    The camera zoomed in on the large man as he looked around at the cheering crowd with a pleased smirk.

                                    "Wow, he did it," Fireball said. "I never would've expected a big, tough guy like that to use a Chansey, but it sure was tough."

                                    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                    Antoshi observed the next match with intrigue on his face. His hands were clasped over his mouth, his gaze almost unblinking. It was not unlike when he was a child watching the Indigo League Tournament on TV at home.

                                    “Craig's Walrein takes down his opponent's in one hit!” Cedric said.

                                    ‘So many different Trainers,’ Antoshi thought as he stared intensely at the screen. ‘So many strategies. I've got to manage to deal with anything. If we were facing that Walrein … well, it's slow-moving, but hits hard and has a lot of durability. I'd have Fireball move constantly to avoid its attacks, which means his stamina would burn fast, which means we'd have to finish quickly. Fire-type moves would work because it's half Ice-type—’

                                    "Antoshi?" Fireball spoke up, interrupting Antoshi's train of thought. "Aren't we up next?"

                                    “Oh, shoot, you're right.”

                                    Antoshi closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths.

                                    “And Golem goes down! The blue side's Craig wins!”

                                    Antoshi heaved a sigh before looking up at his friend with a confident smirk.

                                    “Time to make our dream a reality,” he said.

                                    Fireball grinned and nodded back.

                                    “Trainers 144 and 477 — to the field!” Cedric said.

                                    Antoshi and Fireball made their way out of the room and down the long tunnel.

                                    The duo inhaled deeply as they were overtaken by the bright sun and the incredible roar of the crowd. Antoshi couldn't decide whether to wave or to just play it cool. He idly wiped the sweat from his palms on his shirt.

                                    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                    “Oh, crap!” Blaire exclaimed, sprawled out on her couch in the Cinnabar Gym. “Is that Antoshi?! Son of a gun, he really made it!”

                                    She grinned as she crunched on some snacks, watching Antoshi from a television attached to its own rolling stand.

                                    At the other end of the Gym's battle room, a male Trainer slumped over, groaning in boredom.

                                    “Are we gonna battle or what?” the Trainer asked.

                                    “Hey, pipe down!” she snapped at him. “I gotta watch this match and see how it goes!”

                                    The Trainer sighed in defeat.

                                    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                    The figure of Antoshi's opponent emerged from the far side of the field. He shielded his eyes from the sun to get a clearer view.

                                    “And, his opponent, a 15-year-old hailing from Saffron City — Declan!”

                                    Antoshi gasped, his eyes wide.

                                    "That's some coincidence," Fireball remarked.

                                    Declan stood at his side of the battlefield, smiling as he briefly soaked in the attention from the crowd. He was already holding his first Poké Ball in hand.

                                    “I hope you're as excited as I am, Antoshi,” he said from the across the field.

                                    Antoshi shook off his disbelief.

                                    “I sure am!” he replied, smiling back at him.

                                    “Good! Now I can see for myself just how strong Fireball's gotten!”

                                    The giant displays lit up with information and an image of each Trainer. While Declan's side of the screen displayed three shaded Poké Balls, Antoshi's only showed one with an image of a Typhlosion over it.

                                    “As per tournament rules,” Cedric said, “both Trainers may only use three Pokémon from a pool of six in all matches before the semifinals! However, the red side Trainer, Antoshi, has only one Pokémon!”

                                    The crowd burst into shocked murmurs, along with some smatterings of laughter.

                                    “Is the young Trainer simply overconfident or does he have prodigal skill!?”

                                    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                    “Interesting,” General Logan remarked from inside the military base.

                                    He calmly swirled around his wine. Antoshi's face displayed on one of the screens in his office. The other screens kept watch on the young boy with black hair, curled up in a corner of his cell.

                                    The General looked at the two boys in succession and hummed curiously.

                                    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                    “Competitors,” Cedric said, “you may begin!”

                                    “I choose you!” Declan said as he threw out his first Poké Ball. “Lucario!”

                                    From the ball came forth a blue and black bipedal canine. It gave a shout, taking a fighting stance.

                                    Lucario held its paw-like hands near its face, eyes locked intensely on Fireball.

                                    Fireball responded by lighting the fires on his back.

                                    ‘That is one well-trained Lucario,’ Antoshi thought.

                                    The displays lit up one of the slots on Declan's side with an image of Lucario.

                                    “Lucario — Aura Sphere!”

                                    It shouted again, holding its hands at one side. In the space between them, it summoned a bright ball of energy.

                                    “Oh, that's not good,” Antoshi remarked. “Fireball, that attack is going to home in on you so move as quickly as you can!”

                                    Fireball dropped to all fours and sprinted around the large field.

                                    Lucario kept its eyes on its target before thrusting its arms forward.

                                    The energy ball chased Fireball for a few moments before exploding at his heels. He shouted as he was thrown through the air, landing hard on his back.

                                    “Wow, what an attack!” Cedric exclaimed. “Is this already the end for Antoshi's single Pokémon?”

                                    "Not even close, announcer guy," Fireball muttered as he got to his hind feet.

                                    “You all right?” Antoshi asked.

                                    Fireball nodded to him.

                                    “Fireball — Flamethrower!”

                                    Fireball inhaled deeply, exhaling a powerful stream of fire directly at his opponent.

                                    “Move, Lucario!” Declan said.

                                    Lucario narrowed its eyes and jumped high into the air.

                                    Not unlike their match against Mega Venusaur, Fireball attempted to follow it, using up the breath left in his lungs. Just before the scorching flames hit, Lucario suddenly vanished.

                                    Antoshi and Fireball both gasped. Fireball immediately coughed up smoke from gasping in some of his own flames.

                                    “Your Lucario is fast!” Antoshi remarked, awe-struck as Lucario appeared back on the ground.

                                    Declan chuckled.

                                    “Let's show them just how fast you are, Lucario! Extreme Speed!”

                                    Lucario suddenly rushed at Fireball with blinding speed before vanishing once again. The crowd cheered in delight.

                                    Fireball and Antoshi had no idea where it went, though its rapid footsteps were audible.

                                    “How incredible!” Cedric remarked. “Lucario is moving so fast that the red side's Antoshi and his Typhlosion can't keep up!”

                                    Antoshi's irises seemed to automatically shift red with the power of his mysterious energy. He gasped, his senses becoming massively boosted.

                                    Lucario's hypersonic movements around the battlefield became clearly visible to him. His eyes widened as Lucario prepared to strike.

                                    “Fireball—”

                                    Before Antoshi could finish, Lucario appeared next to Fireball and punched his jaw hard. It blinked instantly to Fireball's other side, striking him in the face face again. Afterward, it hopped back to its side of the field.

                                    Antoshi groaned and shook his head as his eyes returned to normal.

                                    “Fireball — use Inferno!” he said

                                    Fireball set his jaw.

                                    "Oh-ho, this is a cool attack."

                                    The flames on Fireball's back flared wildly as he gave a loud roar. The ground under Lucario briefly rumbled before a towering pillar of ghostly blue flames spiraled upward.

                                    Lucario shouted in pain as it was consumed in fire that Declan shielded his eyes from.

                                    When the flames vanished, Lucario was left wincing and holding its arm. Its body was littered with burn marks.

                                    “An incredible counter by the red side!” Cedric said. “Lucario appears to have suffered a burn! How will this affect the tide of battle?”

                                    Antoshi nodded to himself.

                                    ‘With that burn, Lucario's physical strength is greatly diminished.’

                                    “Nice move!” Declan said. “That burn is not going to help make this battle any easier, though. We don't need physical attacks to win! Lucario, Aura Sphere!”

                                    Lucario clenched its teeth, holding its arm at its sides again.

                                    ‘I wonder…’ Antoshi thought as he narrowed his eyes.

                                    “Fireball, use Flamethrower!”

                                    Fireball exhaled another stream of fire in the same moment Lucario launched its Aura Sphere.

                                    The two attacks collided. Aura Sphere was absorbed by the fires and almost immediately dissipated.

                                    Both of their opponents were shocked.

                                    “Whoa!” Declan exclaimed.

                                    The flames continued forth. Lucario was struck by them, shouting in agony as it was thrown for several meters. It rolled a few times before landing on its front.

                                    Lucario groaned, trembling as it tried to lift itself up before it collapsed.

                                    “Another great counter!” Cedric exclaimed amid the cheering of the crowd. “Antoshi's wisely chosen Fire-type attack brings down the half-Steel-type Lucario!”

                                    Declan recalled Lucario into its Poké Ball. Lucario's image on the giant displays was shaded out.

                                    Antoshi sighed in relief.

                                    “That was one gamble that paid off,” Antoshi remarked. “Good thing you didn't go with another physical attack, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to do that!”

                                    “Very impressive,” Declan replied, reaching for another ball on his belt. “Very clever, too. Don't forget I have two more Pokémon left, with five to choose from!”

                                    “People always like to remind us of how outnumbered we are,” Antoshi said with a laugh. “That's not going to throw us off our game, though. We're always outnumbered.”

                                    Declan smirked.

                                    “You make a fair point.”

                                    He threw out his next ball — a Great Ball. “I choose you — Crobat!”

                                    From the ball emerged a large, bright purple bat with menacing red and yellow eyes. It screeched loudly, flapping its four wings to keep airborne.

                                    “Crobat, Confuse Ray!”

                                    His Pokémon's eyes shifted to a bright, glowing purple.

                                    “Fireball, cover your eyes!” Antoshi said.

                                    Fireball was unable to look away from the mesmerizing glow of Crobat's eyes. His vision became incredibly blurry. He began to stumble about randomly with a dazed look in his eyes.

                                    “Great …” Antoshi muttered. “Fireball, use Smokescreen!”

                                    "Smokescreen?" Fireball wondered aloud.

                                    He momentarily snapped out of his daze. He took a deep breath before exhaling a large plume of black smoke that enshrouded most of their side of the field. Afterward, he groaned and held his head while continuing to stumble.

                                    “Crobat, Cross Poison!”

                                    Crobat crossed its wings over its face. It summoned forth two swaths of glowing, purple energy in the shape of an 'X' in front of it before launching itself into the smoke.

                                    Fireball stumbled right into the path of Crobat's attack which burst into poisonous bubbles.

                                    Fireball yelled in agony. The broad, searing attack struck vital points in his torso and abdomen. He was thrown hard enough that he fell out of the smokescreen. He rolled to a stop next to Antoshi.

                                    "… Did I just get hit?" Fireball wearily asked.

                                    The smokescreen faded away.

                                    “A direct hit!” Cedric exclaimed. “Crobat manages to land a devastating Cross Poison despite the Smokescreen!”

                                    Fireball slowly got back to his feet, stumbling back onto the field. He groaned in pain, holding his chest with one hand.

                                    ‘That hit took a serious toll on Fireball,’ Antoshi thought. ‘We have to start playing safer.’

                                    “Fireball, use Defense Curl!”

                                    'Defense Curl…' Fireball thought. 'Defense Curl? I know this one…'

                                    Fireball muttered in confusion before suddenly striking his face with his own paw. The crowd gasped in surprise as Fireball gave a goofy laugh.

                                    "That wasn't it!" he said, laughing.

                                    “Ooh! The confusion seems to have taken its toll as Antoshi's Typhlosion struck itself!”

                                    Antoshi ran a shaky hand through his hair. Fireball appeared to be just fine, but the confusion took away a valuable attack opportunity.

                                    “Aerial Ace, Crobat!”

                                    Crobat screeched in response, soaring high into the air. It did a backflip before diving at Fireball with incredible speed.

                                    “Now, Fireball, Thunder Punch!”

                                    'Thunder Punch?' Fireball thought.

                                    His eyes went wide, his balled fist suddenly crackling with electricity.

                                    Crobat momentarily vanished, reappearing as it dashed by Fireball. It struck his face hard with its wing.

                                    At the same time, Fireball swung hard and caught Crobat with a Thunder Punch to its midsection.

                                    The result of the traded blows sent Crobat spiraling upward. It smashed into the ground, twitching.

                                    “What an amazing turn of events!” Cedric said. “Typhlosion snaps out of its confusion just in time! Crobat is down!”

                                    Crobat's image on the displays became shaded out. Declan was down to one Pokémon.

                                    ‘Wow,’ Declan thought, recalling his Crobat. ‘Looks like Fireball is still really strong!’

                                    He reached for another Poké Ball on his belt. He gazed down at it for a moment, running his thumb over a star engraved on the top. He smiled warmly.

                                    ‘You haven't lost yet, my friend. Not since, well, …’

                                    He trailed off, glancing over at Fireball.

                                    “Now, let's get our long-awaited rematch, buddy! I choose you, Swampert!”

                                    Antoshi gasped in surprise, staring down the large, cobalt blue biped.

                                    Fireball smirked, giving an acknowledging nod to his old friend.

                                    Swampert nodded back.

                                    ‘Well, shoot,’ Antoshi thought. ‘I expected him to eventually send out his Swampert. It's is a good choice on his part anyway. He has to know that Fireball can use Burn Up. But, … do we use it?’

                                    He glanced at Fireball, who appeared to be fully recovering from his confusion.

                                    ‘This certainly won't be like the last battle. … Looks like it's a gamble either way.’

                                    A breeze passed through as the two Trainers grinned to each other for a moment. Their staredown brought back memories of that fateful day in Cerulean City. For a moment in their minds, Mudkip was facing off against Quilava.

                                    “All is quiet on the battlefield as the two Trainers size each other up,” Cedric said. “The crowd has also fallen to a hush in this moment of tension. What could these outstanding Trainers be planning?”

                                    “Fireball, Flamethrower!”

                                    Fireball roared as he fired a powerful stream of flames at his opponent.

                                    “Guard!” Declan said.

                                    Swampert shielded its face with both arms just before the flames consumed it. Once the attack petered out, Swampert thrust its arms out at its sides. While its skin was mildly singed, it appeared no worse for wear.

                                    Antoshi was shocked.

                                    ‘That is definitely not good,’ he thought.

                                    “Swampert, Muddy Water!”

                                    His Pokémon smacked its hands to the ground, causing a rush of dirt and water to bubble up. The water spiraled around Swampert's body like a maelstrom, swirling around wildly while expanding outward.

                                    It lashed hard at Fireball, who struggled to maintain his ground against the powerful waves of dense water.

                                    “Hang on, Fireball!” Antoshi said, shielding his eyes just the same as his friend was.

                                    The water abruptly lost all of its energy, splashing harmlessly upon the ground. Fireball was left soaked and covered in dirt. The flames on his back had dwindled severely. He was hunched over, his breathing ragged.

                                    “Fireball, you okay?”

                                    He responded by shaking the muddy water out of his fur. With a grunt, the fires on his back came to life once more. He was intensely focused, keeping his eyes affixed to Swampert.

                                    Antoshi nodded in understanding.

                                    “Fire Blast!” he said.

                                    He brought his hands up to his neck, clasped it, and took as deep a breath as he could muster. With a tremendous shout, he exhaled an intensely bright, five-pointed blast of fire.

                                    The flames roared as they raced toward its target.

                                    Declan shielded his eyes once again just before the impact of the attack. It exploded violently, echoing around the entire stadium. A cloud of smoke and ash concealed Swampert's frame.

                                    ‘Whoa,’ Declan thought.

                                    Antoshi, too, was surprised and impressed. He had never seen Fireball summon forth such intensity in an attack before.

                                    As the smoke cleared, both Antoshi and Fireball gasped.

                                    Swampert was standing, its arms covering its face yet again. It slowly dropped its defensive stance, still looking to be in good shape.

                                    ‘That Swampert went through some incredible training,’ Antoshi thought. ‘Maybe … even more than Fireball.’

                                    “Swampert, use Waterfall!”

                                    Swampert gave a shout before it rushed forth with incredible speed that a Pokémon of its size seemed incapable of. As it closed the gap, its body became enveloped in a jet of water.

                                    “Fireball, dodge it!”

                                    Fireball's eyes went wide, unable to get out of the way in time.

                                    He was tackled hard, stuck to his opponent's body as Swampert soared high into the air.

                                    Fireball groaned loudly, trying to free himself from the momentum. He rolled away to gain a moment's respite before his opponent darted back down. A large stream of water trailed behind it, reminiscent of a waterfall.

                                    Fireball was again tackled by Swampert as they plummeted together. After they crashed hard, Swampert ducked out of the way.

                                    Fireball was completely consumed by the falling tower of water, crushed into the ground by its weight as it rained down upon him.

                                    Fireball!” Antoshi shouted.

                                    Swampert returned to its side of the field.

                                    Fireball grunted, struggling to lift himself up.

                                    Antoshi was awe-struck as Fireball's fires burned even brighter than before. He slowly turned to the boy, grinning and giving him a weak thumbs up.

                                    Suddenly, Fireball collapsed. The fires on his back completely went out.

                                    Antoshi's heart sank into his stomach. Everything went silent in his head for a moment.

                                    “Down!” Cedric exclaimed. “Antoshi's Typhlosion is down! The blue side's Declan is the victor!”

                                    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                    At the Cinnabar Gym, Blaire dropped her bag of snack chips in disbelief.

                                    “Seriously?” she wondered aloud, scoffing. “Well, I guess it couldn't be helped. They got way further than a Trainer with a single Pokémon should, and put up a heck of a fight.”

                                    “Can we battle now?” her awaiting challenger grumbled.

                                    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                    Antoshi fell to his knees, the world around him appearing to move in slow-motion. The words of the announcer echoed in his head. His jaw quavered, clenching his fists, his eyes filling with tears.

                                    Their dream came to a sudden, abrupt ending. Their eager hopes got a cold dose of reality.

                                    Yet, with tear-stained eyes, he looked to his fainted friend who had fought with everything he had for so long. He couldn't help but smile ever so slightly. He sniffled and closed his eyes, breathing a shaky sigh of relief.

                                    ‘It's over,’ he thought. ‘Just like that. Our long journey's over. It didn't end the way we'd hoped, Fireball, but you and I knew we were taking a huge risk going into this just the two of us. We did our best. We didn't win every battle we faced, but we always persevered. If there's anything I've learned from you, it's that there is nothing you and I can't eventually overcome. We'll overcome this, just like every other obstacle we've had in our way. Our journey may be over for now, but it's also the beginning of a brand-new one.’

                                    Antoshi took Fireball's Poké Ball from his pocket. He stared at it for a moment.

                                    ‘I wonder how long it's been since you were last inside here? Six months? Maybe seven? I hate to put you back in, but it looks like I have to. Just for a few minutes, at least. Until I can bring you to the Pokémon Center to get you all healed up.’

                                    “Fireball, … return.”

                                    He held up the ball, pulling his unconscious friend into it in a crimson beam of light. With one hand, he casually wiped the tears from his eyes and stood up as the crowd cheered louder. He faced them, smiling as proudly as he could, taking his loss. He held Fireball's Poké Ball tightly as he turned and walked away.

                                    “Antoshi!” Declan called out, recalling his Swampert.

                                    He jogged over to his opponent, stopping as Antoshi turned to him.

                                    “Thank you for battling me. You and Fireball were one of the best teams I've ever faced. I respect both of you a great deal.”

                                    Antoshi smiled gently and gave him a nod.

                                    “Let's hear it for Declan!” Cedric said, prompting the crowd to applaud and cheer.

                                    As Declan waved to them, Antoshi disappeared back into the stadium tunnel.

                                    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                    It only took a few minutes for Antoshi to reach the stadium's Pokémon Center. He handed his friend's Poké Ball to Nurse Joy before taking a seat in the nearby empty waiting room.

                                    Nurse Joy called him back over once Fireball was fully healed.

                                    He thanked her and took the ball back. With a smile, he held the ball out and summoned Fireball from its confines in a bright light.

                                    Fireball immediately looked to Antoshi with a guilty expression.

                                    "Antoshi," he quietly said. "I'm so sorry. I wasn't strong enough, I—"

                                    Antoshi silenced him when he hugged his friend as tightly as he could.

                                    Fireball was taken by surprise, but quickly smiled and hugged his friend back. Tears rolled down his face.

                                    “You don't have to apologize for anything,” he said, his voice trembling. “You're my best friend. I love you, Fireball.”

                                    "I love you, too," he replied.

                                    The two lamented for their loss, letting out their emotions as they wept together.

                                    It was the end of their long journey in Kanto.
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                                    Old February 1st, 2019 (3:41 PM).
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                                    Antoshi Antoshi is offline
                                    Peaceful Serenity
                                       
                                      Join Date: Oct 2004
                                      Gender: Male
                                      Nature: Jolly
                                      Posts: 110
                                      Chapter 11


                                      The duo rested for a short time in the Pokémon Center. They watched the next battle get underway on nearby television screens.

                                      Just then, someone rounded the corner.

                                      “Ah, here they are,” a staff member said, waving an unknown party over. “144?” he asked.

                                      Antoshi nodded, confused.

                                      “You have some visitors.”

                                      The pair's jaws simultaneously dropped as Antoshi's parents emerged. Antoshi rose to his feet.

                                      “Mom? Dad?” he said, grinning ecstatically.

                                      “Oh, Antoshi!” his mother responded with a sorrowful expression.

                                      The boy ran to her and threw his arms around her.

                                      Both of his parents held and consoled him as he cried into his mother's shoulder.

                                      “It's all right,” his mother reassured him. “You and Fireball put up an incredible battle out there. I was so proud watching you give it your all.”

                                      “I'm sorry,” he said, sniffling and wiping his eyes. “You're right, we did give it our all. I … shouldn't cry over that.”

                                      “No apologies necessary, son,” his father replied, stroking the back of his son's head.

                                      “How, uh, … how long have you been here?” Antoshi asked. “You said you were busy with work. I didn't think you were coming.”

                                      “Oh, honey,” his mother said, “we could never be busy enough not to be here for you on the most important day of your journey. We're so excited and so proud that you made it this far. To think, our son was on TV for the entire world to see. Ooh, you're like a celebrity now!”

                                      The others quietly laughed. Antoshi smiled gently and nodded.

                                      “Thanks, Mom,” he softly responded.

                                      “Antoshi, you're an incredible Trainer,” his father said. “I'm so proud of you and Fireball for your dedication. You could've given up and gone home at any time, but you stuck with it all the way. You made it to the Indigo Plateau and got to compete in this tournament seen all around the world. You're always going to be the best Trainer I've ever known, son.”

                                      Antoshi grinned, wiping residual tears from his eyes.

                                      “Thanks, Dad. I'm really lucky to have the two of you always cheering me on. We never would've gotten this far without you both behind us.”

                                      His mother giggled and hugged him tightly.

                                      “You're still going to come home after the tournament is over, right?” she asked.

                                      “Absolutely. I can't wait to come back home.”

                                      “Your mother's already got the house all decorated,” his father said. “There's balloons and a banner hanging out in the front yard for you when you get back. … I just hope the balloons are still inflated by then.”

                                      “Me, too!” his mother said with a laugh.

                                      Antoshi grinned and chuckled quietly.

                                      “I love you guys,” he said.

                                      “We love you, too, Antoshi,” his mother said.

                                      Antoshi took a moment to breathe a relieved sigh. He looked up at Fireball with a smile.

                                      “Well, you ready to watch the rest of the tournament with Mom and Dad?” he asked.

                                      Fireball grinned and nodded before pointing to his open mouth.

                                      Antoshi laughed as he pulled away from his mother.

                                      “I know, I know. I could go for some snacks, too.”

                                      “Let's all go for some snacks!” his mother said.

                                      The four of them headed off, chatting and laughing.

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      After their loss, the duo spent the rest of the three days taking it easy with Antoshi's parents. Their run was over, and so they watched the rest of the matches from the spectator seats. Fireball got to eat plenty all throughout.

                                      At one point, Antoshi both ran into and introduced his parents to Elise, who showed up to watch the tournament in-person as she'd promised.

                                      Antoshi and Fireball cheered loud and proud for Declan as he continued to advance through the brackets. By the end of the tournament, Declan had made it to the semifinals before finally being eliminated. He was disappointed about the loss, but took it with grace after making it to the final four.

                                      On the evening of the final day, all of the participants were called out onto the field once again. The crowd was treated to an extended fireworks display and showers of confetti in celebration of the tournament winner.

                                      "So, what happens to the guy who won?" Fireball asked over the noise of the crowd and fireworks.

                                      “He has up to six months to challenge the Elite Four,” Antoshi said. “It's one gauntlet, all the way to the end, with no breaks in-between. If he wins all four battles, he gets to face the Champion. If he wins again, well, he becomes the Champion.”

                                      "That's really cool!"

                                      Antoshi smiled as he looked at the winner standing on a pedestal in the very center of the field. He was as close as he'd ever gotten to making it there himself.

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      "Gimme the window seat," Fireball said. "I want the window seat."

                                      “You always want the window seat,” Antoshi replied, voice hushed.

                                      Fireball quietly snickered.

                                      The next morning, the duo climbed aboard one of the cars of a train. Rather than walking back, Antoshi and his parents opted to take transportation home. The high-speed train station in Viridian City would take them to Saffron, with some stops along the way.

                                      Antoshi and Fireball chose a seat together. Fireball sat by the window.

                                      Antoshi sighed, dropping his backpack to the floor between his legs and leaned back. It was a relaxing end of their long journey across Kanto.

                                      Antoshi's parents sat together nearby.

                                      “This is so much fun!” his mother remarked.

                                      They waited for all the other passengers to get settled in.

                                      “Hey there, youngster,” an elderly gentleman in the seat behind him said.

                                      Antoshi turned around.

                                      “Hello,” he replied.

                                      “I saw you on the television, during that tournament. You did an incredible job getting that far with just one Pokémon.”

                                      “Thank you,” he said with a proud smile.

                                      “I was a Trainer like you once when I was younger. I'd never seen anyone use just one Pokémon before. Trainers with one Pokémon achieving great success were always something of a myth to myself and my companions. You're the only one I've ever seen make it to the Championship tournament. There's never been a Champion with a single Pokémon before.”

                                      “Fireball and I were aiming to be the first.”

                                      Fireball peered over the seat and waved. The man chuckled.

                                      “Well, I certainly hope this isn't going to make you second-guess yourselves.”

                                      Antoshi shook his head.

                                      “It's not. Fireball and I aren't giving up. We're going to keep on trying, and get a lot stronger.”

                                      “That's the spirit! I really hope to see you on that grand stage again!”

                                      “I hope so, too,” he replied with a warm smile.

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      It took just a few hours for the duo to be back in Saffron City. The pair smiled proudly as they got out of their family car with Antoshi's parents.

                                      Amid a perfectly clear sky, the afternoon sun shone down on their suburban neighborhood. The cul-de-sac hadn't changed a bit. Antoshi's neighbors waved to him.

                                      “Welcome back!” one of them said.

                                      “Thank you!” he replied.

                                      A couple of youngsters — a boy and a girl — were throwing a ball back and forth in their front yard. They turned and gasped in excitement when they spotted Antoshi.

                                      “It's Antoshi!” the girl squealed.

                                      “Antoshi! You're back!” the boy said.

                                      “Hey there, Jack! Hey, Jade!” Antoshi greeted them.

                                      His parents chuckled as the kids rushed up to him.

                                      “We'll meet you inside, Antoshi,” his mother said.

                                      Jack and Jade looked up at Antoshi and Fireball with wide grins and enthused gazes.

                                      “Wo~ow!” Jack said. “Fireball really grew up!”

                                      Antoshi smiled and placed a hand on Fireball's back.

                                      “He sure did. We both did a lot of growing up on our journey.”

                                      “That's so cool!” Jack said. “Next year, when I'm old enough, I want to go off on a Pokémon journey like you did. I want to be an amazing Trainer just like you, Antoshi!”

                                      “Me, too!” Jade added.

                                      “Well, I'm not so amazing,” Antoshi said, grinning coyly.

                                      “Oh, come on!” Jack said. “You collected all eight badges — and you went to the Indigo League! We saw you on TV!”

                                      “That is our greatest accomplishment … so far. Fireball and I can't get it out of our blood, though. We're ready to do it all over again.”

                                      “Awesome!” the two children said in unison.

                                      “I'm so excited!” Jade said. “I can't wait to be a Pokémon Trainer and go off on adventures!”

                                      “It's definitely the experience of a lifetime, and I hope the two of you have an awesome adventure like we did.”

                                      Antoshi and Fireball nodded to each other before parting ways with them.

                                      “It was good talking to you two!” Antoshi said. “We'll see you again soon!”

                                      “See ya!” they exclaimed, waving to them. “Bye!”

                                      Antoshi and Fireball laughed when they saw the balloons and banner: 'Welcome Home Antoshi'. It was all laid out on the front porch, just like his parents said. They sighed happily, opening the front door and walking inside.

                                      The duo were finally home.

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      Inside his office at the military base, the General watched the sable-haired boy on the monitors before him.

                                      “It’s been a week now,” he said. “I think he’s had enough time to stew in there.”

                                      With a soft groan, he pushed his chair out and got to his feet.

                                      “Should I accompany you, General?” the other man asked.

                                      “No, that won't be necessary, Colonel Nolan. He's been without human contact for far longer than a young boy should. I'll talk to him alone first.”

                                      “Very well, sir.”

                                      The General walked to the door, grabbing his service cap from the hat rack and put it on before departing his office.

                                      “I just … want to … go home,” the boy with black hair muttered mindlessly.

                                      He laid in bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. After suffering through a week of solitary confinement, he was in a constant state of dull emptiness. He felt nothing, saw nothing, heard nothing. He was catatonic, as though sleeping with his listless eyes open.

                                      The sound of footsteps echoed down the hall, getting closer.

                                      He groaned softly, breaking out of his trance. He sat up, dazed and confused.

                                      “Hello there,” a voice spoke from beyond the cell window.

                                      His sunken eyes twitched. He had a weary, dumbfounded expression on his face.

                                      It was the first person he'd seen.

                                      “You … are—are you real?” the boy asked.

                                      He stood and pressed his hands against the glass.

                                      “I am real, I assure you,” the General replied.

                                      One of the hovering robots came by, placing a chair behind him to sit down. Once he sat, the robot handed him a clipboard and pen.

                                      “Who are you?” the boy asked, awe-struck. “Are you here to get me out? Where are my parents? Can I go home now?”

                                      “Easy, easy,” he reassured him. “My name is General Logan. I'm in charge of this facility. I'm gonna do what I can for you but, right now, leaving is a privilege.”

                                      He clicked the pen before jotting on the clipboard.

                                      “A privilege? … What do you mean?”

                                      “Well, let's start with the basics. We couldn't find any identification on you, so why don't you start by telling me your name?”

                                      “My name?” he asked.

                                      His eyes shifted from side to side, trying to recall his memories.

                                      “I—I'm not sure. I can't remember.”

                                      The General took a hard look at the boy.

                                      “I see. … Well then, can you recount the events of that night in Fern Town?”

                                      “Fern … Town? Is that where I live? I don't … remember.”

                                      “You don't remember the explosion or what led to it?”

                                      “Explosion?”

                                      Logan went quiet, studying the boy's worried expression. He wrote on the clipboard again.

                                      “Are you … proficient with any weapons? Bomb-making? That sort of thing?”

                                      The boy ran a hand through his hair, groaning in frustration.

                                      “I don't know. I can't remember anything.”

                                      Logan pondered to himself. He stared at his notes while clicking the pen a few times.

                                      “Well then, young man, I'm afraid there's nothing more for me to do.”

                                      “That's it? I—I can go home now?”

                                      Logan got to his feet. The same robot promptly took the chair and carted it away.

                                      “Sorry, I need you to cooperate with me first before we can accommodate you. Maybe the next time we speak—”

                                      “No!” the boy shouted. “Please don't leave me here! I'm telling you, I can't remember! Please, I'll do anything to get out of here!”

                                      “Whether you remember or not is irrelevant. Until you can give us a statement that helps us in our investigation, you're going to stay right here — no matter how long it takes.”

                                      The General took his leave, followed closely behind by the hovering robot.

                                      The boy rapped both hands against the glass. His eyes quickly welled up with tears.

                                      “No! No, don't go!” he shouted. “Please let me out! Please, please, let me out. …”

                                      The boy shut his eyes, falling to his knees as he wept.

                                      “I want to go home …”

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      Two months passed in the blink of an eye. The boy with dark hair was still locked in his cell.

                                      He lay on the cold, white floor; his legs propped up vertically on the wall. His eyes were empty, almost devoid of life. Stricken by mania, left to do nothing else but ramble to himself. Hallucinations came and went, oftentimes talking to invisible people. The solitary confinement was working to soften the boy up, but not to give General Logan the answers he was looking for.

                                      He still could not recall his memories.

                                      General Logan came to his cell once more, flanked by another.

                                      “General … Logan?” the boy muttered in a daze. He slowly got to his feet, his jaw hanging. He pressed his hands to the glass wall between them as he usually did.

                                      “I brought a friend this time,” Logan said. “This is Slowking. He's a Pokémon.”

                                      The boy chuckled wearily.

                                      “Hello, new friend,” he remarked.

                                      “He's going to help you. He's going to see what can be done about your memory problems.”

                                      “Keep your eyes on me,” the Pokémon spoke. “Just relax.”

                                      Slowking closed its eyes for a moment. They glowed a mesmerizing shade of blue as it opened them again.

                                      The boy groaned wearily, his eyes glowing the same color.

                                      “What do you see?” Logan asked.

                                      “So much … darkness,” Slowking replied. “It's like wading through a pitch-black void. I've never seen anything like this before. This is something much more than simple amnesia. Something is—aahh!”

                                      Slowking shouted as a bolt of blackish energy struck it between the eyes and staggered it backward.

                                      “What happened?” Logan asked in concern.

                                      The boy slid down to his knees, groaning and shaking his head.

                                      “There's something inside of him,” Slowking said, trembling as it held its closed eyes. “Something dark, something inexplicable.”

                                      “Come, let's get you healed up,” Logan said, helping escort his blinded Pokémon.

                                      The boy became aware of his surroundings again just as they left.

                                      “No, wait, please!” he exclaimed. “You said he was going to help me! Please let me go home now!”

                                      The pair were gone.

                                      “I just want to … go home. I'll do anything to go home.”

                                      'Would you?' a deep voice asked.

                                      The boy gasped and jolted in surprise.

                                      “… Who said that?” he asked cautiously, taking a seat on his bed.

                                      'I did. Do not worry, I am here to help you.'

                                      The boy sighed in relief, closing his eyes.

                                      “Oh good, it's just another one of the voices in my head.”

                                      'I assure you, I am much more than just a voice.'

                                      The boy opened his eyes in shock.

                                      “Wh—what? You mean, … you're real?”

                                      'As real as I can be. However, the first thing I need from you is to watch your jaw movements. Look closely at the cameras outside.'


                                      He lifted his gaze to the surveillance in question.

                                      'They have no way to pick up sound. They cannot hear anything you say because they do not care to hear you cry for help. They only want to observe you. Keep your jaw movements minimal and they will never know you are talking to me.'

                                      He turned his face away from the cameras as instructed.

                                      “I … understand,” he said with some confusion. “But, who are— … uh, I have a lot of questions right now…”

                                      The voice quietly chuckled.

                                      'As is to be expected. I will simply start by stating that I am here to help you unlock the mysteries of your past, and within yourself.'

                                      “You know … who I am?”

                                      'Indeed. I know a great many things about you. Things you didn't even know before you lost your memory. Heed my guidance, for I will guarantee that you are never locked in a cage ever again.'

                                      The boy was completely spellbound by the very idea of freedom.

                                      “Will I … be able to go home? To see my family?”

                                      'In due time. However, we will continue this conversation later. Be patient; we must plan things slowly and accordingly. First, you must rest. Recollect your thoughts, get your strength back. I will return you again soon.'

                                      “No, please don't leave!” he exclaimed louder than intended.

                                      The motions of his mouth and body, talking to someone, were captured on video.

                                      'It is all right,' the voice reassured him. 'I will never be far from you. I am always here with you. … Always.'

                                      With that, all was quiet once again.

                                      His eyes shifted back and forth, mulling over what just happened and trying to make sense of it. He sighed gently, opting to follow the voice's suggestion. He slipped under the white sheets of his bed to rest his eyes.

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      General Logan returned to his office alone. Colonel Nolan was watching the boy on the screens.

                                      “To be completely honest with you, Nolan,” Logan said, “the boy frightens me.”

                                      The General took his seat and sighed heavily. He popped open the crystal decanter on his desk to pour himself a drink.

                                      “There's something about him that's just so unnatural. It shakes me to my core every time I have to talk with him. The Slowking sent to us was supposed to be the best extractor of the mind we have. The kid just … I don't know, attacked him with his mind or something.”

                                      “Why are we still holding him, though?” Nolan quietly asked. “He's just a child that wants to go home. It just feels wrong to lock him away.”

                                      Logan exhaled after taking a sip of his drink. He kept the glass in his hand and thought for a moment.

                                      “There's definitely something going on under the surface with him. He's got some kind of power, some secret he's hiding. Whether he's doing so on purpose or not, I have no idea. That child is the only witness to — or possibly the culprit of — a mass murder. Thousands of people are dead, not to mention the millions more that died in the Slateport attack over a year ago. There's too much similarity. There's so much more at work here. So many questions and not enough answers. I want to know what kinds of weapons we're dealing with here.”

                                      “Weapons, sir?”

                                      The General nodded.

                                      “The fate of his home town and Slateport are nearly identical — Slateport's was just on a much grander scale of devastation. He's hiding something. Some crucial piece of evidence is locked up in that boy's head. Doesn't matter how long it takes. Higher-ups don't care. The other problem is we don't know anything about him. All of Fern Town's records were destroyed in the explosion. Our database doesn't have any birth records in Fern Town matching his description and approximate age. As far as anyone's concerned, he doesn't exist.”

                                      “But on what conditions do we release him?”

                                      The General chuckled, taking another sip of his drink.

                                      “That's the funny part, at least it is to me. It's not a matter of when to release him. The higher-ups don't want him released. They never want him to see the light of day ever again. They don't care how long it takes for him to regain his memories. They just want his secrets. They want to find out how he did what he did. After that, there's no more use for him. He's to be erased.”

                                      The Colonel appeared somewhat surprised by the remarks. He turned to watch the sleeping boy on the monitor.

                                      “I understand, sir.”

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      The next morning, the mysterious young boy stirred awake from his sleep. He sat up and yawned, stretching his arms over his head. His eyes and expression looked more alert and attentive than the previous day.

                                      'You are awake,' the voice said, startling him. 'You have gotten a full night of rest. Are you feeling better now?'

                                      He took a deep breath, looking at how steady his hands were.

                                      “Yes, I am,” he sighed. “I haven't gotten much sleep since being locked up — just little naps here and there.”

                                      'That is excellent. I can sense that your energy has improved.'

                                      “'Sense?' … What does that mean?”

                                      The voice chuckled.

                                      'It is something you will come to understand more in time. For now, though, you should start to feel yourself returning to normal. You need to get more sleep on a regular basis. Eat whenever they feed you to keep up your strength, and to keep your mind alert.'

                                      “Sounds easy enough so far. … Who are you, anyway?”

                                      'You may call me 'Lazarus.' As previously stated, I am here to help you.'

                                      “Help me how?”

                                      'I will answer your question with a question. Tell me, do you ever dream for something greater from your life?'

                                      “You mean, aside from the obvious wanting to get the hell out of here? … Sure, I guess.”

                                      'Once you are free from this prison, what would you do if you had the power to make the world a better place?'

                                      “Well, I— … wait, can we backtrack for just a sec'? You think I actually will get out of here?”

                                      'Absolutely. I will help you to earn your freedom.'

                                      A grin spread across his face, pumping his fists.

                                      “You'll … help me?” he asked. “What do I have to do?!”

                                      'Settle down,' the voice said firmly. 'I told you to keep your movements discreet — remember?'

                                      He placed his hands on his lap.

                                      “Right, sorry,” the boy replied.

                                      'I want you to listen closely to what I am about to tell you. … You are far stronger than you realize. You have a unique destiny to reach and perform incredible things. You have an astonishing power within you that far eclipses the limits of normal human ability. I want to help you access that power. In doing so, you will earn your freedom from this place.'

                                      “Freedom…” he whispered in awe.

                                      'You do not know it yet, but fighting is in your blood. So, you will fight. Fight to get yourself out from this empty prison. Fight to make yourself stronger, to sharpen your focus, your senses, and your resolve. Fight to become something far greater than any of these pathetic people that locked you in here. You are above them, and you will show them that. To do that, however, you must fight.'

                                      An impassioned look came across the boy's face. He clenched his fists, nodding.

                                      “I'm ready to start doing whatever it takes to get out of here.”

                                      'Excellent. We shall not delay in setting things into motion. First, sit up on your bed with your legs crossed and your hands folded. Make sure you are comfortable.'

                                      The boy did as Lazarus instructed.

                                      “Now what?” he asked.

                                      'You must learn how to mentally focus your energy through meditation. Close your eyes.'

                                      The boy again complied.

                                      'Focus yourself on your goal of freedom. Let not a single distraction creep into your mind. Eat, sleep, train — this is going to be your regimen every single day until you become strong enough to leave. All the while, remain focused on your goal. Continuing to do this will gradually strengthen your resolve and improve your senses.'

                                      “This seems kind of boring. Am I supposed to start feeling something soon or what?”

                                      'Remain focused. Clear your mind. Breathe slowly and naturally. Believe me, this will not be boring. You will understand more soon.'

                                      He remained calm and still for a few moments before sighing in exasperation.

                                      “I can't do it. I keep thinking about why I'm here and if I'm going to ever get out.”

                                      'You must learn to block distractions in your mind. Remember — the path to your freedom starts with this training.'

                                      He sighed again, shutting his eyes and breathing slowly as the voice had instructed.

                                      After a few minutes, an unknown energy began to swirl inside and invigorate him. His eyebrows twitched in response.

                                      “I feel … something. It's like a really warm energy inside me.”

                                      'Very good. Now, channel your emotions. Think back to the anger, sadness, despair you felt from being locked up here. Think about how painful it was for you to be neglected and forgotten. Remember the frustration of having no memories.'

                                      His breathing gradually became more intense. The horrible memories of his confinement for something he didn't recall doing fueled the anger in his heart. Soon, a transparent dark light began to envelop his body. As he concentrated deeper on those feelings, the light came alive. It flickered gently around his body, like a weak flame.

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      As the day progressed, the boy continued to focus and meditate, holding the negative emotions in his heart. As Lazarus had told him, he only stopped his training to eat, or to use the restroom.

                                      Each time he opened his eyes, his broken concentration dissipated the fiery energy around his body. As such, he remained unaware of its existence. By the end of the day, the boy was becoming visibly tired.

                                      'That is enough for today. You are starting to overexert yourself.'

                                      “I can keep going,” the boy said, visibly straining. “If it gets me out of here faster, I'll—”

                                      'Enough!' the voice shouted loudly enough to make him jump. 'I will tell you when you've reached your limit, and you will stop. Is that understood?'

                                      “All right. I got it.”

                                      'Very good. We will resume tomorrow.'

                                      “Wait. Before you go, I have one last question to ask. … What is my name?”

                                      'Your name? Why, you only need look into the recesses of your mind. You will find it if you try to remember.'

                                      The boy struggled to sift through the murky depths of his memory. He suddenly recalled a piece of paper on a table. His past self took a closer at it, and he made out a name in print.

                                      'LATOSHI'.

                                      He gasped, his eyes lighting up.

                                      “La— … toshi?”

                                      He was awe-struck and overjoyed to remember his name. However, his joy quickly turned to skepticism.

                                      “That … sounds like a made-up name. Maybe I'm misremembering.”

                                      'I assure you, the memories you recall are real.'

                                      The boy strained himself to dig up any other memories.

                                      “I can't … seem to remember anything else, though.”

                                      'Your memories will come back in time. Now, get some rest. Tomorrow I will teach you more of what you wish to know.'

                                      The young boy known as Latoshi settled into bed. With a smile on his face, he soon fell asleep.

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      The next morning, Latoshi awoke to a strange ringing tone. He shook his head, picking his ear.

                                      'Excellent, you are awake,' Lazarus said. 'Let us not delay in resuming your training efforts.'

                                      After yawning and stretching, Latoshi got into his meditative position.

                                      'As promised, today I will further your teaching. So, resume focusing your energy and concentrating your emotions. Remember your goal.'

                                      With a long, slow exhale, he did as he was told.

                                      Soon, the same black aura began to gently flicker around the boy's body.

                                      'Now, keep your mind focused while you open your eyes slowly.'

                                      Latoshi did so, and immediately gasped upon seeing the mysterious black light around him.

                                      “What … is this?” he asked, awe-struck.

                                      'I will answer your question after we try a small visual experiment to show you what it is you are trying to develop. Cup your palms as if you're trying to collect water.'

                                      The boy again complied.

                                      'Now, focus the energy you see around you into your palms. Will it so that you can shape it into a sphere.'

                                      He concentrated into doing so for a few moments.

                                      With some effort, he was able to complete his task as Lazarus had asked him. A shimmering orb of black light hovered above his hands.

                                      “Whoa,” he remarked.

                                      'This, Latoshi, is the energy that you possess — the energy you are building toward strengthening. It's the energy of your spirit. It is your 'Ki'.'

                                      Latoshi admired the energy he created for a short time.

                                      'Now do you understand? This is only a small fraction of what you are truly capable of.'

                                      An enthused grin spread across the boy's lips.

                                      “I'm ready to keep training. Now that I've seen it for myself … I can't wait to see the level of power I can reach.”

                                      'Good,' Lazarus replied. 'Very good…'

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      Over the following weeks, Lazarus continued to train the boy. As Latoshi's strength grew, so did his confidence and sense of self. Having someone to talk to and learn from was immensely helpful in coping with his solidarity — but it also meant the mysterious voice in his head was his only confidant.

                                      General Logan continued to occasionally visit the boy. His visits were an event that Latoshi previously looked forward to with great eagerness. Now, Logan's words fell on deaf ears.

                                      Latoshi's meditation was deep enough that he was oblivious to Logan speaking to him. The boy had become incredibly focused and centered in such a short time — a far cry from the rambling, singing, and blank staring he previously engaged in to pass the time.

                                      Logan and Nolan were baffled by the boy's steadfast meditation as they watched him via the monitors. Logan himself was becoming increasingly frustrated that the boy continued to ignore him.

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      'Another impressive day of training,' Lazarus said as Latoshi lay in bed. 'You have excelled greatly in such a short time span. Your focus has become completely unwavering. You are as sharp as a knife. Your muscle mass has become more lean and defined. How do you feel?'

                                      Latoshi held a hand up to his face, smirking as he summoned some of his energy.

                                      “Stronger than I probably have been my entire life. … That is, if I ever do remember my life before this dump.”

                                      'I know you will regain your memories in time. For now, just focus on your task at hand.'

                                      The boy then scoffed.

                                      “That prick Logan straight-up offered to let me go home if I talk to him.”

                                      Lazarus chuckled.

                                      'Do not listen to their lies. You know who the only one you need to listen to is.'

                                      “Indeed, I do,” Latoshi replied with a cocky smirk. “I never would've gotten this far without you. You pulled me out of a dark hole, Lazarus. I owe you my life for that.”

                                      'As I said when we first spoke, I am here to help you. Now, get some rest. Tomorrow is the day of fate; the day you gain your freedom.'

                                      Latoshi closed his eyes with a content smile on his face.

                                      ‘I know my own name,’ Latoshi thought. ‘I know my power, I know what I'm capable of. I know my destiny. Thanks to Lazarus, I'm finally getting out of here. Just one more day. Then I'll be out of this hellhole. I'll make every person in here pay for keeping me locked up.’

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      Over three months since Antoshi and Fireball came home, life had been calm and serene for both of them. The duo relaxed and enjoyed their time taking things easy at home.

                                      Fireball had all the snacks he wanted. They watched plenty of TV together and Antoshi got to brush up on his video gaming skills. He shared tons of stories with his parents about their journey at the dinner table — a place Fireball was welcome to sit at. Antoshi was also happy to catch up with over a year's worth of work from his home schooling.

                                      They kept their battling prowess from waning by doing some training in the woods, similar to when they were younger. On most days, they spent hours outside just finding as many different wild Pokémon as they could to battle with. Occasionally, they found a passing Trainer to spar with as well.

                                      Preparations were underway on the morning of Antoshi's birthday. His mother hung a decorative banner on the wall — one of many she'd placed around the house.

                                      “I'm so excited!” his mother said. “My boy's going to be a teenager!”

                                      “He sure is,” his father replied, tying off a balloon. “Do you think maybe you're going a little overboard with the fanfare this year, Nikki? It seems … extravagant.”

                                      “Of course not! This is a very important milestone in his life. You're only thirteen once.”

                                      “That's what you say every birthday,” he replied with a chuckle.

                                      Antoshi emerged from his bedroom wearing pajamas. He stopped suddenly, his groggy eyes slowly panning around the decorated living room.

                                      “There's our birthday boy!” his mother said. “Surprise! I hope you like the way we dressed the place up.”

                                      “I … am definitely surprised,” he replied, walking around. “These parties get more and more extravagant every year.”

                                      His father laughed.

                                      “That's what I said!”

                                      “Well,” his mother said, “we didn't get to see you for your twelfth birthday since you were out on your journey. So, I'm making up for it with double the decorations!”

                                      Fireball appeared as well, having the same reaction Antoshi did.

                                      “I'll bet Fireball's never seen so many colors in his life, huh?” his father asked with a grin.

                                      Fireball nodded to him, his eyes wide.

                                      “You did an amazing job, Mom,” Antoshi said, smiling, “like you always do.”

                                      “Ohh, thank you, sweetie. I'm so glad you like it.”

                                      She pointed to the nearby dining room table.

                                      “There's a present over there you can open now. Don't worry, there's more presents to come!”

                                      Antoshi and Fireball headed over to the neatly-wrapped gift. Antoshi opened it and looked inside.

                                      “Oh, wow, clothes! … Again!” he said, feigning surprise.

                                      He took out the garment on top: a bright, red t-shirt.

                                      “Hey, this isn't one of the usual collared shirts you get for me.”

                                      “I know!” his mother said. “I remember you telling me here and there that you liked t-shirts more, so, I got you some! In your favorite color!”

                                      “I like how it looks,” the boy remarked, inspecting it front and back. “This reminds me of my eleventh birthday when you got me a bunch of clothes to start off our Kanto journey.”

                                      “Can you believe it, son? Tomorrow marks two years since you left to become a Pokémon Trainer. Time sure flew, don't you think?”

                                      “Yeah, funny you should mention that,” Antoshi said.

                                      He put the shirt down and turned to his parents, grabbing their attention.

                                      “Fireball and I have really been enjoying the time we've spent at home. However, we decided that … we want to get back on the road again. Tomorrow.”

                                      Both of his parents were shocked.

                                      “This time, … we want to go on a journey through Johto instead.”

                                      There was a moment of silence. His mother dropped the streamers in her hand.

                                      “… Oh,” his mother said, “I see.”

                                      “I'm sorry for dropping this on you both so suddenly, but … well, it's something we wanted to be totally sure of before I said anything.”

                                      “You could stay at home for just a couple more months,” she said. “Then you could try the Indigo League tournament again in the fall.”

                                      “I know, but … Fireball and I have been missing that sense of adventure we had going through Kanto. Seeing new places and new things and trying new foods was so much fun for us.”

                                      Fireball nodded, enthused.

                                      “Johto is a whole new place with a brand-new set of things for us to experience. We really don't want to wait a couple months for the next tournament — especially not after how quickly we lost the first time. The next time we try, we want to be way better. We think that training through Johto will give us that boost of experience.”

                                      Both of his parents smiled proudly. Antoshi's mother had tears in her eyes.

                                      “I think I speak for both of us,” his father said. “We are very proud of you, son. We're always willing to support you in making your dreams come true.”

                                      “Absolutely,” his mother said, sniffling.

                                      “I'm sorry, again,” Antoshi said. “I hope this doesn't spoil the party.”

                                      “Oh, don't be silly,” his mother replied. “We were just a little surprised, that's all. You know we love you and, like your father said, we're always behind you in your decisions.”

                                      “Thanks, Mom,” he replied, grinning.

                                      “Now, who wants breakfast?!” she said. “I think it's a waffles day — what do you think?”

                                      Fireball's ears perked up. He shuffled over to his usual seat at the table and eagerly waited.

                                      The others laughed.

                                      “That's a 'yes,'” Antoshi replied.

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      Antoshi's birthday party went off later that day with the bang of party poppers. It was a small, casual affair with just some of his extended family and friends from the neighborhood — including Jack and Jade.

                                      The two young siblings eagerly showed Antoshi the Pokémon that they'd been training: a pair of Eevee. They soaked up all the knowledge he had to share with them about being a Trainer.

                                      Antoshi graciously opened all of the gifts he'd received. He was overjoyed to be surrounded by friends and family on the day before he and Fireball set off on a whole new journey.

                                      Fireball himself snuck bites of as many cupcakes and snack chips that he could whenever no one was watching or petting him.

                                      At the end of the day, after everyone went home and all the decorations were taken down, Antoshi and Fireball got ready for bed. Antoshi's brand-new backpack full of supplies sat by the bedroom door.

                                      The duo smiled as they stared at the ceiling.

                                      “This bed is too comfy,” Antoshi remarked. “I was just getting used to it, too.”

                                      "Yeah, I'm gonna miss this floor," Fireball replied. "All the other floors I've slept on don't feel as warm as this one does."

                                      Antoshi laughed.

                                      “Goodnight, Fireball. Sleep tight.”

                                      "Goodnight, buddy."

                                      They closed their eyes with smiles upon their faces, eager for the journey ahead of them.

                                      ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

                                      At the same time, Latoshi's eyes opened upon completing his meditation for the day.

                                      'It is time,' Lazarus said.

                                      A devious smirk spread across the boy's face.


                                      *****
                                      Chapter 12 »
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