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Pokémon A Blond Ray of Sunshine

Started by Antoshi September 21st, 2017 7:48 AM
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Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
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, and family whom he never knew before, his life starts to change dramatically as he 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.'

July 26, 2019: Part 4 has finished. Part 5 will be coming soon.

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

Genre: Action/Adventure/Supernatural
Rating: T - Violence and Mild–Moderate Language
Current word count: ~160,000 (as of Chapter 26)


*****
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 3: Intervention »
Chapter 16 »
Chapter 17 »
Chapter 18 »
Chapter 19 »
Part 4: Family Reunion »
Chapter 21 »
Chapter 22 »
Chapter 23 »
Chapter 24 »
Chapter 25 »
Chapter 26 »

*****

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

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 otherwise quiet Sea Route 20 in Kanto gleamed under the bright, midday sun. Waves crested beneath a large yacht heading westward across the deep, electric blue. Its purpose was to ferry Trainers from Fuchsia City to Cinnabar Island.

Upon it, a young Trainer named Antoshi held the railing with a childlike grin upon his face. He was a charming boy of twelve years old, with chestnut eyes and hair as yellow as the vivid petals of a Sunflora. 'A blond ray of sunshine' as his mother would call him, much to his embarrassment. His red polo shirt and tan shorts whipped around in the sea winds which offset the heat of the sun.

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

Beside him, a much larger figure with half-closed eyelids and slumped shoulders groaned as it hung onto the railing for dear life. A Typhlosion, the Volcano Pokémon.

"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 speaking to him — an oddity that was unheard of for Pokémon who were not Psychic-types. An oddity that usually garnered strange looks and questions of sanity at the boy. Fortunately, the others Trainers were unable to hear them conversing over the ambient noise.

Fun and adventure were the name of the game for Antoshi. For Fireball, it was about not getting seasick. It was the Typhlosion's first time on a boat. The motor and the sound of crashing waves against the hull were much louder than expected, intensifying his queasiness.

“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."

“I could put you back in your Poké Ball until we reach shore.”

"No, that's—" 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, certain Fireball would be all right. He gazed back out at the water, soaking in more of their brief trip at sea. The open waters and all they had to offer felt comforting. He had frequently spent his time camping out in the woods or sleeping in Pokémon Centers. The spring air, mixed with the salt of the sea, exhilarated him. It was not something they'd gotten very much of in their journey.

They were on the cusp of new and exciting experiences in a locale they'd never been to before.

Other Trainers watched from other parts of the ship. A mix of boys and girls, some young and some adults, all of them wearing backpacks similar to Antoshi's red one. A Plusle sat upon one of the girl's shoulders, while a Minun did the same on the shoulder of the boy next to her. They exclaimed behind him, pointing out a handful of Mantine breaching the surface of the water. He turned around with a look of awe-struck wonder to gaze upon Pokémon he'd never seen in the wild before.

The Minun fired off a spontaneous electric attack at the Mantine, missing wildly. “Hey!” its Trainer scolded it.

In front of Antoshi, the shimmering red and blue tops from a bloom of Tentacool and Tentacruel peeked out from the water. Common flying fish jumped alongside them. A small group of Hoppip drifted on the winds high overhead. He grinned and laughed, his spirit soaring, his heart swelling with joy.

Fireball headed back outside to see his friend's excitement. 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. He was the only Pokémon accompanying Antoshi and the only one he felt he ever needed. Through their combined determination, grit, and some luck, the duo had found victory in most of their battles thus far — much to the chagrin of many of their opponents. After nearly a year and a half of journeying together, they were as close as brothers.

For a moment, he saw a strange, red light envelop Antoshi's body. It was like a transparent flame, flickering with the winds. Fireball took his place by his friend's side.

“Feeling better?” Antoshi asked.

"I think so," Fireball replied with a groan. "By the way, you're doing 'that thing' again."

Antoshi gasped in surprise, tempering his mood. The light seemed to recede back into his body. “I guess I got too excited. Did it look like … anyone saw it?” he added nervously.

Fireball shook his head, taking a look around at the other Trainers and their Pokémon. "No, everyone's too busy looking at the water just like you are." The duo smiled at each other. The appearances of the boy's odd light had become somewhat common for the duo as of late. "I'm just glad we didn't eat before this."

Antoshi laughed, prompting his friend to perk up and laugh along with him.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

A few hours later, the boat reached the marina of Cinnabar Island. After docking, the captain of the boat — a friendly and handsome young 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 filed off the boat. “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. He thanked each of them. A couple of the girls giggled and gossiped to each other while walking away from him. Antoshi also left some money, after he and Fireball were the last two off the boat.

“Thank you so much,” Antoshi said to Sean.

“It's no problem, sir,” 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 toward a brand-new location.

Fireball walked on his hind legs alongside his friend. Being upright was not an issue for him, having become acclimated to it over the majority of their journey. Doing so 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 chattering and walking every which way. Once they reached its exit, they gasped in astonishment. They were standing at the edge of a lush, sprawling tropical paradise bathed in the glow of the warm afternoon sun.

The sand crunched under their feet as they traveled along a beachside pathway. Everyone appeared totally carefree, as if every day was just another day at the beach. 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. The duo and a few others stopped in surprise as a small cast of Krabby sidled across the path in front of them.

Antoshi took the brief pause to look around with a wide, thoughtful gaze. The beautiful island was what 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. They continued onward once the Krabby passed by.

"Can we move here?" Fireball idly asked.

“This place is really amazing,” Antoshi remarked.

“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 further down the path. "What about a little snacking, too? I see a cart over there selling ice cream!"

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

Fireball grinned and fist pumped in victory. He started to shuffle ahead without Antoshi. The boy's heart sank with dread before he quickly stopped Fireball.

“Wait, Fireball!” he exclaimed, grabbing Fireball's arm tightly. Fireball turned to meet the panicked expression on his friend's face. Antoshi quickly relaxed, smiled nervously at him. “Sorry, I didn't mean to shout. I just … want to make sure you don't … err, run off.”

"Oh," Fireball replied, before the light of realization dawned upon him. "Ohh! I understand now. Don't worry, I'm not gonna run off on my own, Antoshi. I don't do that anymore!"

Antoshi sighed and smiled in relief. They made their way over to the vendor together.

Antoshi's journey through Kanto started out as an interest in seeing new places, as well as training Fireball, who was still a Quilava back then. Along the way, however, Antoshi had to curb his friend's unrestrained temperament. Fireball was prone to reckless fits of excitability and hostility, just like when he was a younger Cyndaquil.

With only one Pokémon, they were forced to train almost constantly early on in order to succeed — far more than they would've if they had filled out their roster. As a result, Fireball's power, speed, and defenses rapidly grew to an incredible level.

However, Fireball's newfound power made him even more disobedient. On more than one occasion, Fireball refused to listen to Antoshi's commands. The fear of Fireball being out of his control was something Antoshi never forgot. It stuck with him throughout their journey.

“What can I getcha?” the ice cream vendor greeted them. He was a cheerful older man wearing an apron and straw fedora.

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 from behind their glass cover. He gasped, 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 could barely keep still while 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. Fireball's 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 toward the city.

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.

With the sun shimmering in their faces, they stopped briefly at a crosswalk. They looked around at the thriving city of Cinnabar. The streets were similar to what they were used to seeing in Saffron City, though nowhere near as noisy as their hometown.

“This place really rebuilt and grew since the 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.

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

Antoshi nodded in response. After crossing the street safely, the duo were absorbed into the crowd of pedestrians and Pokémon.

“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, finding themselves in the shadows of those very high-rises that loomed 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 trusty travel-size Kanto compendium. He couldn't help but grin at how weathered it had gotten from heavy usage. It was his source of information for each city and the routes that they visited. Not only was it a map, but it 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 and Pokémon to reside in one of their available living quarters for up to twenty-four hours, free of charge. It also provided them with free food from their cafeteria, which was Fireball's favorite part of their visits.

“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 couches, tables, chairs, and a tall, curved glass wall at the front bearing its trademark 'P'. Handfuls of Trainers sat or walked around freely; talking, laughing, or 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 his wallet out and handed Nurse Joy his Trainer Card, 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. He looked up at his friend with a smirk. “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.”

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

Nurse Joy laughed quietly. “I was given 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 large hallway.

Antoshi tapped the key against the scanner of the door of their room, prompting the door to unlock before they headed 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 twin-sized bed before stretching his arms up high.

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

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

Antoshi laughed knowingly as they headed back out to the main area. He loved his parents, but they sometimes ended up being a little clingy.

The pair found an unoccupied videophone for Antoshi to sit in front of. Fireball stood behind him and watched as the boy placed his Trainer Card against the screen, instantly lighting up with a list of his registered contacts. His list only had one, however. 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.

A few nearby people curiously turned to him after his parents' loud shout. Making a spectacle out of himself was not something Antoshi was fond of. He nervously lowered the call volume via a button on the screen's frame as covertly as he could, hoping his parents wouldn't realize.

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

“It really is,” he replied with a nervous chuckle, before regaining his composure. “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 responded with a confident nod.

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

She cut her eyes at her husband before closing her eyes in defeat.

“Okay, so I am a little clingy,” she admitted. The others laughed 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 that time.

“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. In the meantime, they experienced some more sights of the city. The late afternoon sun cast a cozy orange glow on their bustling new surroundings. They witnessed talented street performers and artists. They stopped to watch a group of hula dancers. The dancers flowed in sync with each other, as well as with the various forms of Oricorio in their troupe.

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 gawk, slack-jawed by her. She smiled at him, and Antoshi offered a timid smile of his own in response. His heart was pounding, his palms sweating profusely.

She giggled and took her place back with the small dancing troupe. The duo walked away.

"Antoshi has a cru~sh!" Fireball playfully said, with a cheeky grin. "Ask her to travel with us."

Antoshi had been incredibly shy as a child, oftentimes too nervous to talk to new people. Making friends was troubling for him back then. Some of that shyness continued to carry over even as he grew — especially when it came to pretty girls. Fireball typically teased him about it whenever he could.

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,” he 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 burst out laughing while Antoshi stewed, growling to himself. Antoshi suddenly noticed one of his forearms glowing with his mysterious light. He gasped quietly, holding his arm behind his back to keep Fireball from becoming concerned.

‘Gotta relax,’ he thought, closing his eyes briefly. ‘Can't let my emotions get out of control. Just relax. Just relax …’

His hand rattled from the power that came with the light. He tried to restrain it, but it was surprisingly intense. The other people on the street seemed completely unaware of its presence.

‘Don't lose control …’

He clenched his eyes and strained, his forehead sweating, his heart palpitating. As he flexed his hand open, a bright fist-sized ball of red light suddenly erupted from his palm. It shot like a bullet across the street, striking a blue post box which caused it to explode violently.

The people nearby stopped and screamed in shock as metallic shrapnel rained down onto the street. Partially burnt envelopes and packages scattered in all directions.

"Whoa," Fireball remarked, looking at the aftermath just like the other passersby. "What the heck just happened?"

He turned to Antoshi, finding him shuffling away in a panic. Fireball was stunned. It was unlike the boy not to make sure people were okay after such an incident.

"Antoshi?" he said, catching up to his friend. "Don't you think we should check out what happened?"

“They're okay,” Antoshi replied, visibly flustered. He offered his friend a thin smile before turning away to hide a guilty expression. “I saw them from across the street. Everyone's fine.”

"Oh. All right. You picked up on that a lot faster than I did, then! What do you think caused it?"

“I … I don't know. Could've been a prank, or … maybe something went terribly wrong.”

Antoshi steadied his breathing and his nerves, continuing on with Fireball toward their destination.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

They were nearing closer to the Gym, prompting them to put on serious faces. Once the duo crossed another 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, remaining pressed up against the doors.

"Is it … closed?" 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 answers to whatever—”

“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 questions will only get tougher from here!”

"Thank you, lady on the screen!" Fireball cheerfully said, waving to the computer. The pair headed inside and the doors slid closed behind them.

They immediately 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 brand-new.

They marched up a small set of stairs, which brought them to the first open room. A rotund man wearing loose clothes adorned with flame patterns sat on a chair near the monitor. He was in a class of Trainers called 'Firebreathers', due to their penchant of performing fire breathing displays before battles, as well as their affinity for Fire-type Pokémon. It was hard to tell at first due to his dark red sunglasses, but the man was actually sound asleep. They crept by in an attempt to let him sleep, until the loud monitor came to life.

“Welcome, Trainer!” the digitized lady exclaimed, rousing the Firebreather awake. He yawned and stood up. From behind his back, he pulled out a Poké Ball, expanded it, and tossed it up and down while he stood by.

“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, tapping the fourth answer. “Correct!” the computer told them before the next set of automatic doors opened. “You may move on to the next room.”

As Antoshi and Fireball went ahead, the Firebreather 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 did become progressively harder, as they'd been told. '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?' The time limit kept him on his toes.

He remained calm and patient, studying each question and carefully choosing an 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 the monotony. Antoshi was only 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. The room was just as neat, tidy, and polished as the rest of the Gym. The slumbering Leader seemed to take very good care of it.

They took their marks on the opposite end of a giant Poké Ball etched into the ground, poised confidently and ready for battle, waiting 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.

Two minutes passed, then three, then four…

As they continued to wait, their shoulders became 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 sounds of battling usually wakes me up.”

A girl in her teens with lightly tanned skin slowly got to her feet. 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,” she said, stretching her sides. “You guys decided to do the boring, brainy route, didn't you? That's pretty dumb. Pretty smart, but pretty dumb. Most challengers to my awesome Gym like to actually 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! Well, good job, I guess, 'Brainy'.

Antoshi was flabbergasted. “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 may be right about that, 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 some 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 a little 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,” she said, “I'm required to inform you that if you lose this match, you can't request a rematch for another two weeks!”

“I know that one by now,” Antoshi replied, briefly recalling some of their many losses at Gyms along the way.

“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 remarked to himself, quietly. Fireball and Antoshi nodded to each other. “All right, Fireball — go get 'em!

*****
Chapter 2 »

PastelPhoenix

A Princely Birb

Age 24
Male
Seen 4 Days Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
389 posts
3.4 Years
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.

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

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.

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.

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
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 fully 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 may have claimed to be new to her role, but she was still a Gym Leader nonetheless. With two badges left and no time to spare before the start of the Indigo League Tournament, there was no room for error in this battle.

Charizard snorted, looking down at Fireball with an upturned snout as though it were above such a challenge. Fireball continued to stare down his opponent, his intense gaze unwavering.

Blaire opted to make the opening move with a dramatic point toward the enemy. “Charizard, use Slash!” Her Pokémon grunted in response, using its wings to soar toward its opponent at ground level.

“All right, Fireball,” Antoshi 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 expected? No, … he's using it now while his Typhlosion is still fresh, when it'll do more damage.’

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 scoring a 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,” she said, “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!” he said.

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. Antoshi was very thankful it missed him. 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. They were feeling fired up, ready for whatever she sent out next.

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 said. “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. Her Camerupt was 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!’

She shrieked and fumed in rage, stomping a foot in frustration before recalling her Pokémon. “Camerupt, return!” She 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. The Typhlosion 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 forearms 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 two weeks 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 briefly smacked his hand over his face in disbelief.

“Fireball, use Rolling Fireball!

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

Antoshi groaned, burying his face in his hands. ‘Please don't tell me our dreams are dashed because of Attract…’

Blaire laughed in amusement. “Love conquers all, kid! 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 hind 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 at him 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 replied, confidently, curling up and igniting himself one more time. Fireball blasted toward the speeding Talonflame, turning their battle into an impromptu 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 asked, playfully. “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 didn't mind, however. He 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. It was a very clear, and very strange, dream. He found himself standing in the middle of a large public park. The setting was completely new to him. It was late evening. 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, the rhythmic sound of grass crumpling under his shoes, leading him to the edge of the park and across the street where a 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 familiar, jovial 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 said, happily. "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 asked, suggestively.

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, so we can 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 asked, curiously, while 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 over their heads. A small flock of Butterfree fluttered by, around 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. There were less skyscrapers in the direction they were heading, giving them a better view of the island's natural beauty.

Antoshi deeply inhaled the invigorating breeze that carried the end of winter's cold. He sighed cheerfully. It was his favorite time of the year, even though his birthday was in the summertime. The harsh cold and snow had passed, leaving the air cool enough to keep the sky clear and sunny most of the time.

The way Antoshi walked, so poised and confident, rubbed off on Fireball. He had always viewed Antoshi as a natural-born leader, ready to lead them marching to their next adventure. He always took them down the right path, and never let Fireball down. Much of his own inner strength was derived from the young Trainer's adamant confidence, resolve, and boundless excitement.

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, as brain freeze didn't 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 swallowed nervously as they passed by the same street across from the mailbox he'd destroyed. There was yellow caution tape wrapped around the small hole in the pavement left by him. He sighed, gazing down at his clenched fist. His powers had never gotten away from him like that before. It was a sure sign to him that he needed to keep it in check, otherwise people could get hurt next time.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

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

"Maybe it's time for you to 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, grinning, 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.

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
Chapter 3


The duo reached the marina before long. By noon, activity on the island had picked up. A small group of people waited by the largest dock near the marina's entrance.

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

“It sure is!” the man replied, cheerfully.

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

“Glad to help! Say, that's a very nice-looking Typhlosion you have there!”

“This is my best friend, Fireball,” he replied with a proud smile.

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 said, before the gentleman walked away.

Fireball started bouncing up and down in anticipation. "So, um, what's in those sandwiches anyway?"

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

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

The shady young 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 man hastily bumped into Antoshi, causing him to stumble backward into the would-be thief.

“Sorry!” the careless man exclaimed before 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 thief bitterly grumbled at the convenient 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 idly reached back to pull his wallet out. “I guess I should get ready to pay the fare as fast as possible,” he mused, smiling as he watched Fireball continue to jump in excitement.

The thief behind them seethed. Something as simple as picking some kid's pocket shouldn't have been so challenging. ‘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 rare Pokémon like 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 while the deckhand was distracted by a woman asking a question.

Antoshi and Fireball took a seat next to each other on one of the bolted down wooden benches set in rows. 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 an entire bench. An older woman looking for a seat walked by and scoffed at his manners.

Antoshi unwrapped one of the sandwiches. Fireball went to take it from him. “Now remember,” Antoshi said, momentarily keeping the food just out of Fireball's reach, “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. The Typhlosion 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. I'm sure it'll 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. Both of them enjoyed their meal while the ferry set sail onto Route 21.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The slower ferry ride expectedly took a bit longer than their previous seafaring trek did. After eating, Antoshi happily took the opportunity to soak up as much of their surroundings as possible. He and Fireball made their way out onto the starboard deck where they leaned against the metal railing to enjoy the view. Several other people were doing the same further down the ship on either side of them.

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

They gazed at Kanto's terrain in the far distance. Memories of previous adventures came flooding back to them.

“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 brief chuckle, gazing to the distance in silence for a moment. "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've always been 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. We don't have much time left.”

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 literal fingertip away from his goal of taking the boy's wallet when the duo suddenly turned around.

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

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

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

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

“Oh, yeah! Wow, funny running into you again!” he replied, laughing nervously. “Well, see ya around!” His legs no longer trembled as he shuffled off in a hurry. Finding his antics peculiar, 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?’

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

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. From their vantage point, they saw many houses and stores lining the roads. The town was quaint and colorful with cars and pedestrians bustling about. 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 had to 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 the guide 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 nodded happily 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 at 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, two-story 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 neared 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 on the table. No one else was seated at the other tables, allowing them to freely talk without judging ears listening in.

"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 few moments 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.”

“Sure thing! Wow, you know, that's quite impressive that you can understand your Pokémon so well.”

“Almost like I can hear him speak,” Antoshi joked. Gemma shared a laugh with him.

“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, 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. Small groups of people wandered around, some of them taking pictures with their phones. 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 the statue 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 was moved by the poignant words, beaming with pride. They were words that had deep 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 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. There was an oddly pleasant flowery scent in the air, most likely from the Roselia sitting by its male Trainer at the far end of the main area. 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 slower 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, appearing just as surprised as she was before he headed over to the phone.

“Yeah, everything's great!” he replied, smiling. Fireball waved to them from behind Antoshi. “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. We have to, though. 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 said, warmly. “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.”

“Aww, but, that red shirt with the white stripe down the middle is really comfy!” 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. “Looks like we're off to Route 1,” 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 Antoshi to scan his Trainer Card with the authorities working inside. Like the Pokémon Centers, the scan updated his last known location.

“Thank you,” he said, 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, adding as the pair departed, “you two stay safe now!”

“We will!” Antoshi called back, grinning.

They entered Route 1 through the gate's automatic doors. Both of them had the same level of intrigue and curiosity on their faces as they did 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 either side of the pathway.

On one side beyond the trees, cars drove to and fro. The nearby roadway connected Viridian, Pallet, and other nearby small towns that had cropped up in the past decades. Being neighbored to popular towns and cities attracted homebuyers.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The duo continued walking until nightfall. Antoshi had scooped up various sticks and twigs along the way, storing them in his backpack's empty side pocket. 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 forepaws 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?” he 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, let's see,” Antoshi said. “After we got our first badge together, we were both really excited. It felt like you and I suddenly had this amazing bond together, like we were an unstoppable team. Then, out of nowhere, 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 after bonding with their Pokémon, so I didn't think much about talking to you in public until I started getting funny looks. Turns out it wasn't some normal thing. Still, journeying all by myself up to that point had been really 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 and felt comfortably warm. It was identical to the object that destroyed the post box.

"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 was so scared that I was going to lose you, and that I'd never see you again. That's when I noticed my hands and my arms were glowing red — just like that light that's been appearing around me since then. As it turns out, it isn't just some fancy light, there's definitely some kind of power behind it. It always feels like I have … supercharged energy whenever my emotions peak. Once my arms started glowing, pulling you back up was a breeze. After you were safe, it 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 looked away despondently, rubbing his arm.

"… 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. Right now, it doesn't seem like it has much purpose. It may also mean much more than just a neat light show in my hands. I'm not sure … if this is something dangerous. 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. “Well, 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! I don't want to do this anymore!”

He raced to his open bedroom window, defenestrating himself. He plummeted toward the ground while the mysterious voice continued its laughter. The moment his body impacted some bushes, 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 before 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, attempting to cleanse his restless mind of the dream by recalling memories of soon after Fireball evolved into a Typhlosion. After having finally bonded, battling together was like second nature to them both — and they realized they were quite good at it. Deciding to keep his best friend as his one and only Pokémon, Antoshi felt it was time for them to take their journey to the next level and challenge Gyms.

Celadon Gym was the first. It was their best option, due to the Gym's Grass-type specialty. However, as was the case with several Gyms they traveled to, they were unsuccessful on their first attempt. A Gym full of Trainers specializing in Grass-types expectedly formulated strategies for dealing with their weaknesses, like Fire-types. Though disheartening at first, they used the defeat to strengthen their resolve and train even harder for the next attempt, and the next, and so on. Eventually, they found success and earned their first badge. That's when they started to believe they could make it all the way to the Indigo Plateau.

The memories were enough to help him fall back asleep.

Just then, the relentless thief emerged from the trees. He smiled fiendishly. With the pair asleep, there was finally nothing to stop him from his goal. 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.

"I'm taking that last pudding …" Fireball muttered, before smacking his lips.

The thief sighed in relief before trying again. “Come on,” he whispered, trying to slowly and gently pry it away from Fireball's heavy paw. Fireball suddenly yanked 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. How in the world could he possibly be this unlucky? He resisted 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, before looking 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 fur 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. Before Antoshi even finished speaking, he was already 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. He crouched down to tie his usual white sneakers with red chevrons on top.

"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. I guess it is kind of bad that my mom still dresses me, but … they look good, right?”

"Yeah! Kind of makes 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 rode on high along the gentle breeze carrying them to their destination. Excitement and opportunity were in the air. They grinned at each other, just a short jog away from entering another new city.

A group of young kids soon 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, watching his friend soak up the attention, while also responding to the kids as they asked him a barrage of questions.

The thief's eyes lit up, seeing that the pair were distracted once again. He casually made his way over to Antoshi, when suddenly a Tauros came rushing down the pathway 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!” one of the youngsters in the group exclaimed, prompting the crowd of kids to head off after it. They accompanied the breeder in chasing the Tauros, laughing and shouting.

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

“Bye!” Antoshi replied, waving back, before turning to his friend. “You're so popular, Fireball,” he joked.

Fireball chuckled, and 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. The pair heard him coming and turned around just in time to see him snatch Antoshi's wallet before bolting 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!”

"And our badges!" Fireball shouted. He 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 into the frightened crowd. Memories of a more rambunctious Quilava came flooding back to him in an instant. His fear of an uncontrolled Fireball had been realized.

“Fireball, wait!” he called out.

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

“I'm sorry, I have to 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 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 had cause for suspicion with two people and a Typhlosion barreling through the gate, and causing a scene. 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 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. The sounds of pedestrian footsteps marching every which way became deafening. Cars sped by him 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. He was without his Trainer Card, and without his only friend. The sights and sounds overwhelmed him and made him dizzy. His heart sank at the thought of being separated from Fireball.

“Fireball!” he shouted as loudly as he could in panic. “Where are you?!”


*****
Chapter 4 »

Astinus

Age 32
Male
Seen September 20th, 2018
Posted September 10th, 2018
10,107 posts
13.3 Years
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:
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!
"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."

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
Chapter 4


Matt, the thief, raced down a long alleyway with Fireball closing in behind him. He panted heavily, nearly tripping over a pile of discarded wood due to frequently looking down at the display on his phone. He recklessly ran out into the street, blowing through a crowd of people to get to the pavement. Cars screeched to a halt to avoid hitting him, drivers shouting and honking their horns angrily.

Fireball charged through the gap Matt made, pursuing him relentlessly. The thief slid over the hood of a car parked on the side of the street before rushing down another alleyway. With Fireball once again closing in on him, Matt looked at his phone before abruptly 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. It was a young woman with dark skin and long, brown hair, standing in front of a parked convertible car with the top down. She wore a sleeveless black shirt that hung slightly over her calf-length jeans, along with black high-top sneakers. She expressed her bitterness at just having to be there.

“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!”

Its 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, 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! Make it count!”

Malamar did as commanded. Fireball's eyes rolled back in his head before he collapsed to the ground. The young woman carefully walked up to the Typhlosion, nudging him the tip of her sneakers. “Now he's out.”

Both of them sighed in 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 mauled by some kid's Typhlosion?”

“I got impatient,” he remarked, shrugging. Jalyn stared at him blankly. 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 spotted before we make this delivery.” 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.” 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,” she 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 remarked, idly, 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 guy who sells stuff on the black market 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 aviator jacket and jumped into the passenger side. “Hey! 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, making her way 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.

He held a constant, icy feeling of dread in his chest. He hadn't stopped to eat for lunch at their usual time. He wondered if Fireball had eaten yet, hoping the Typhlosion was simply lost like he was and trying to make his way back to him. He nervously wrung his hands, his eyes wide, constantly on the lookout for Fireball. With a heavy heart, he 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 is coming back. … Now, do I tell my parents? Should I call them? No, I can't call them since my Trainer Card was in my wallet. I can't remember our new home number since we last moved. 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 to find the police station. Just as he was about to 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. Officer Jenny exited the vehicle, wearing her standard blue-violet police uniform and skirt.

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. It was certainly not the kind of thing a guilty party would do. Not an intelligent guilty party, at least. 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, and then approached 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 replied, calmly. It was painfully clear to her that the boy was shaken up. “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 nodded, wiping the tears from his eyes. He took a few deep breaths to slow his panicked breathing. He 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, continuing 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 will?” he asked in disbelief.

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

Antoshi took a deep breath and sighed heavily. A lot of the panic from before finally subsided within him.

“Thank you, officer,” he replied, much more calmly than before. Antoshi followed Jenny back to her squad car where 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 two-way radio. She informed her station that she was returning with him in her custody. Once she got confirmation, she put the car in gear and began to drive back.

“So, what's your name?” she asked, looking at him through the rear-view mirror. The boy was seated behind thick glass plating separating the front and back seats.

“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 grinned weakly. “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 to 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. Fireball was an almost newborn Cyndaquil, given to him by his parents who had 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 recollection. His journey had been like a whirlwind of happiness, hard work, highs and lows. He visited so many new, incredible locations. They made countless wonderful memories that Antoshi wouldn't forget for the rest of his life. Yet, it all never would've happened without Fireball. Antoshi clenched his fists, knowing that Fireball would not give up on him if he was in a bind. Amid the fear and dread in his heart, Antoshi was determined to find his friend.

Just as importantly, he knew he needed to keep his emotions in check — especially during such a test of his inner strength.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

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

Antoshi had never been inside of a police station before, and the Viridian station was quite busy. Other officers and their partner Pokémon walked around every which way, phones rang in all directions, the air was rife with the smell of coffee. Jenny guided Antoshi to a small break room that housed 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 please don't disturb anyone who's working. Otherwise, make yourself at home, okay?”

Antoshi nodded. “Thank you again, Officer Jenny,” he said, quietly. She gave him a reassuring smile before taking her leave.

Antoshi looked around. He was all alone in the small room. He placed his backpack on the ground beneath one of the tables. He paced around briefly before taking a seat. Without Fireball around, everything seemed so eerily quiet. He sighed heavily, his hands clasped. All he could do now was wait and hope for the best.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Jalyn and Matt drove up to a poorly-kept house at the edge of a run-down neighborhood. The sky had become overcast, almost completely white with touches of gray. 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. The overgrown lawn was in dire need of maintenance, littered with garbage and belongings.

Matt opened the screen door, giving a few knocks on the wooden front door 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 … well, I knew that we would get his Typhlosion, too.”

“Oh, man, you are so full of crap.”

Matt sighed, pondering for a brief moment on what to say next. “I don't like to 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. He was a completely hopeless endeavor to her.

They waited a minute 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 continued to wait a moment before Jalyn sighed in frustration. “He's catatonic in there. 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, which exposed a handgun housed inside. “Put it in there for now, Stupid.”

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

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

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

‘Should I go off on my own? What if Officer Jenny can't find Fireball? What if he's hurt? What if he's … he's—’

Officer Jenny entered, followed by two uniformed policemen. “Antoshi?” she said, snapping him back to reality. Antoshi turned his attention to them. “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,” the boy distantly replied, offering a weak smile.

Jenny approached him, placing 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 doubt in his voice. He forced a smile to her before gazing back out the window. Jenny solemnly nodded. The three officers left the room and headed for the station's front doors.

“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.

After they got 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.

From inside the break room, Antoshi watched her climb into her squad car.

‘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?!’

He slammed his fists down on the counter in frustration, causing an audible bang. He immediately got a hold of himself, looking around to see if anyone noticed the noise. He slumped back down into his seat with a heavy sigh. He rested his elbows on the table, burying his face 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 into the lot 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're bossed around by Chad,” he said, as he shut the door. “That guy is such an uptight prick.”

Jalyn rolled her eyes, leading Matt to the market's 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. He nodded in response. “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 rolling up the nearby shutter. 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. They were in a large loading dock. The air was stale, musty, and painfully quiet.

Jalyn got out of the car just before a man in a pristine black three-piece suit emerged, strolling up to them with perfect posture. He wore an expensive watch, his dark brown hair neatly slicked back, a fresh-cut rose set in his breast pocket. He was flanked by a large, muscular man — the 'Doorman' that Jalyn spoke to. Matt rolled his eyes, leaning against the hood of the car with his arms crossed.

“I certainly hope that's a delivery for me,” the man in the expensive suit remarked. His voice carried a distinct upper-class accent.

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

“I am, indeed,” he replied, smiling, his teeth pearly white. He snapped his fingers and pointed to the trunk. “Open it, Doorman.”

Jalyn tossed the keys to the larger man. Doorman headed over to the trunk, unlocking it, but keeping it mostly closed.

“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, relaxing vacation in Cinnabar.” Matt pursed his lips and nervously glanced away. “I find it strange that you would … ignore a direct order like that. You wouldn't want me to think you were insubordinate, would you?”

“No!” Matt 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 replied. “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. Doorman promptly lifted up the lid of the trunk. Chad's 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.

There was no prized catch. Fireball had vanished.

An enormous feeling of dread surged through every vein in their bodies. Both of them shut their eyes in unison. They had both witnessed Chad perform horrible acts of violence towards those who had failed him. The next words they spoke were going to be the difference between life and death. Jalyn swallowed nervously.

“Chad,” Jalyn 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. Chad cut his cold, glaring eyes at him, causing Matt to immediately pipe down. Doorman stood beside Chad, crossing his beefy arms over his chest, staring down at Matt as if to also tell him not to get involved.

Jalyn turned away, scowling angrily, holding the side of her face with a trembling hand. She quickly stood up straight and stared at him with a calm expression.

“Don't you dare give me some meaningless excuse, you street rat,” Chad venomously said. Jalyn bit her tongue. “I took you in out of the kindness of my heart, and I expect you not to screw with me. 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 the hand he struck her with. He folded his arms behind his back, slowly pacing back and forth for a few moments, looking at them both. The pair were intensely serious, yet with just a small amount of worry and prostration in their eyes. It was just what Chad wanted to see from his lackeys. 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 replied, quickly.

He hummed again, staring at them intensely, tapping his fingers against his lips. The two of them were sweating bullets and starting to tremble in fear. Chad forced them to wait for a short while in motionless silence until he finally 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?”

“Yes, sir!” they firmly replied.

He looked at the two of them with a menacing glare, before smiling and clasped his hands together. “Very good! That's the team spirit that I admire!” he shook back the sleeve of his suit to glance at his watch. “You have twenty-four hours, staring now. Off you go now!”

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

“Oh, and Jalyn? Matthew?” he said. 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 trilled his fingers on the hood of the car playfully. “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 that 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!”

“Shut up, 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!”

“And that's where we start.” Jalyn turned at the next intersection, picking up speed. Her expression suddenly became bitterly 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 remarks. He found them particularly out of character for her. She had always been cross, short-tempered, and sometimes unbearable, but never brutal — that was Chad's disposition. He wondered just how deeply Chad's earlier remarks had affected her. Chad had never spoken down to her like that before.

He glanced at the glove compartment where that handgun rested. Thoughts of what she may end up doing with it swirled around in his head.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

By the time evening set in, Fireball had been wandering between buildings and along the quieter side streets of Viridian City for hours. He panted, drained from the constant moving — and from hunger. For once, eating took a backseat in his mind. Getting back to Antoshi was his top priority. He also needed to keep away from the duo that took him, though he wanted to stay away from humans in general. Antoshi was the only human that could understand him. He was sure that a Trainer would attempt to capture him, thinking he was a wild Typhlosion.

'Maybe I should look for the police,' he thought. '… I'll bet that's what Antoshi would do. He's probably already done that. But, what would they do with me? Would they just lock me up somewhere or would they try to find Antoshi for 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 one a big, fat, giant maze. Man, I really wish Antoshi was here. He always knows what to do. … Then again, if he was here, I wouldn't be in this mess in the first place. … He's probably running all over the city looking for me. I know he's worrying about me. I have to find him!' He rolled over onto his back, staring up at the sparse, vibrant orange clouds in the purplish evening sky. 'I'm so dizzy. I just hope these buildings stop spinning soon …'

He grit his teeth, sitting up. 'I'll make it back to you, buddy. I know I will. After that, we're going to find that thief and get our badges back!'

Fireball rose to his hind feet just before hearing 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, swallowing nervously. 'Who is that?' he thought. 'How do they know my name? Are they working for that thief?'

The spotlight faded away as the car drove off. He peered out from his nook, making sure no one was around. Once it was safe to move, he continued further on his solo campaign.


*****
Chapter 5 »

Astinus

Age 32
Male
Seen September 20th, 2018
Posted September 10th, 2018
10,107 posts
13.3 Years
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.
"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."

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
Chapter 5


Antoshi had gone outside multiple times to walk around and get some fresh air. He became more and more tempted to look for Fireball himself each time. Ultimately, however, he trusted Jenny and the other officers. He held on to waning faith that they truly would find Fireball. The waiting was wearing on him, but it was what he relegated himself to.

Back in the break room, Antoshi was losing what composure he had left by nightfall. 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. Was he simply lost or … had the worst come of him?

The boy passed the time by sitting at the same table, setting his backpack down, and reorganizing its contents. In doing so, he eventually pulled out Fireball's Poké Ball. It was so weathered after nearly a decade of wear. The fading red paint on the top half had cracked and chipped in places. There were small dents, dirt, and scrapes all over it. As he studied it, he recalled the times he had to use it when he and Fireball first started their adventure together. He smiled, remembering how uncontrollably rambunctious he was as a Quilava. He sighed, setting the ball on the table in its minimized form.

His leg shook up and down, unable to keep still. He sat in boredom, withdrawing his compendium and quietly skimming over the maps within. 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 to rest his head. He was tired and hungry, unable to sleep. 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 envisioned himself and Fireball in their places, wishing he could be as carefree as they were.

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 to walk in would be Fireball.

Jenny entered 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.

“Hi,” he replied, distantly. 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 now have 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 before shoving a display of coffee condiments off the counter. “I just want Fireball back!!”

Jenny was shocked at first. There was an obvious sorrow in his eyes that hid behind his bitter expression.

“What's going on?” Robert asked, as he came into the room.

“It's okay,” she held an arm out, keeping the officer back.

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 said, quietly, 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 steps outside. “It's been twelve hours,” Jenny said to Robert, with a heavy sigh. “Every minute without his friend, waiting and wondering where he is, … I know how agonizing that is.”

“You think it's the Rockets, don't you?”

“Mm,” she nodded. “It's got all 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 shoe prints and Typhlosion paw prints on the ground in a nearby alley. A Typhlosion can't be hard to spot. I wouldn't be surprised if this was some crafty scheme by the Rockets to lure his Typhlosion away so they could capture it. They don't care in the least 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 closed her eyes and turned 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 letting her hand fall away, she decided it best to give him some space for the time being. He was more restrained that she was, and she saw strength in him that he didn't see in himself. He would surely overcome this. She nodded to herself before heading 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. He breathed heavily, staring at the concrete below him, eyes welled with tears.

“This is my fault,” he quietly 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. “I'm sorry, Fireball,” he whispered, before huffing and sobbing into his hands. “Please come back …”

As sadness overwhelmed him, his entire body became enveloped in the soft, transparent glow of the mysterious red light. With his eyes closed, he remained unaware of it. None of the people walking by seemed to witness the spectacle unfolding either.

“I can't be strong, Fireball, not without you here with me …”

The deeper he sank into heartache, the brighter the light became. It began to fluctuate around him until seemingly igniting, giving off the impression of a flickering red flame that swelled much more intensely than any of its previous appearances. Its very presence invigorated him with energy. That extra energy only served to help intensify his sobbing.

Once Antoshi finally calmed down, so did the mysterious light until it dissipated. 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.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

A short time later, after Antoshi settled back into resting his head on the table in the break room, Jenny came in to check on him.

“Antoshi?” she spoke up, grabbing his attention. He looked up and 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. Still, … I want to talk to you on a personal level.”

Antoshi's attention perked up. He kept a curious gaze locked on her, sitting up straight.

“I'm not supposed to do this,” she continued, “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 beyond recognition, I thought it wasn't him at first. 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.

After taking a deep breath, she 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 promised 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 with her as Jenny stood up from the table.

“Never give up,” she added. “Never forget how much you love your best friend.”

She straightened her uniform before leaving the room. Antoshi gazed out the window. Jenny's poignant speech gave him 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!" came a small voice, as he passed by a dumpster. "Hey, wait!" Fireball turned around and saw a Rattata standing on its hind legs, gazing up at him with its jaw agape. "Wow, you're a tall one!" the Rattata remarked.

"Thanks," Fireball replied with a weak smile. "I—I gotta keep moving."

"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 nearby trash bags.

"Wow," Fireball said, following the first Rattata as it led him over to the others, "there sure are a lot of you."

"Of course!" the first Rattata said. "We Rattata always stick together. 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. Fireball was unpleasantly surprised.

"Dumpster food?" Fireball asked. "I—I don't know …"

"Trust me, it's good!" the first Rattata 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 remark earned a collective 'aww' from the others.

"You got lost?" the first one asked in concern. "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 first Rattata said. "They're nothing but poachers that kidnap Pokémon and force them into slavery, 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 face 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 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, leaving Fireball confused. He watched as ears, eyes, and snouts quickly 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?"

"I'm Fireball," he replied, with a gentle wave to the crowd.

"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 of ours, he's now 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, clearing his throat before raising his voice. "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. Um, … oh, and he also has a big, red backpack."

"You heard him, folks! You know what to do! Let's move out, spread the word, and help our new friend!"

The crowd of rat Pokémon dispersed at once, chattering and squeaking. The first Rattata sighed happily, sitting back on his pile of garbage.

"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—" he stopped as his eyes suddenly spotted 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 laughed in amusement.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

In the wee hours of the morning, the Viridian police station was 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 brought a blanket for him, gently draping it over his back. She noticed he was holding Fireball's Poké Ball.

‘No kid deserves to have to go through this,’ she thought.

She genuinely cared for his well-being, unwilling to go home until her job was done. But, Jenny's own lack of sleep starting to catch up with her. She covered a yawn with the back of her hand. For the time being, she had several other officers on the case in her stead, allowing her time to rest. She headed for the station's small sleeping quarters to do just that.

A few minutes later, a Rattata curiously scampered around the outside of the police station. It sniffed the air, squeaking and standing on its hind legs. It made its way 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 in surprise, 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 its kin below ground. The Rattata sprinted back over to the windowsill, where 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 searching aimlessly in their drive around the city. They'd been on the move constantly, making only brief stops for snacks, to gas up the car, and to use the restroom. The endless grind felt more and more hopeless with each passing hour of their time-limited search. The pressure was mounting. The creeping sense of impending failure was wearing on them.

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 remained 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 doze off.

When they turned at the next light, Jalyn spotted a single black and white 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 residential area 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 eyes locked on her rear-view mirror. “I'm sure that Typhlosion's Trainer probably reported it missing by now. I don't know what they're looking for. Hopefully, it's not the Typhlosion — or us.”

Matt sighed in frustration as they slowly drove around the neighborhood for a short while.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Fireball and his new friends sat together near the dumpster, chatting and laughing. They were interrupted by a Rattata sprinting toward them.

"We found him!" the little Rattata squeaked.

Fireball and the others gasped in elation.

"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 continued quietly drifting through the narrow roads of the dimly-lit neighborhood. Jalyn wasn't convinced they were out of sight of the cops just yet.

“Come on, Jalyn,” Matt said. “That cop has to be long gone by now.”

“Shut your stupid mouth!” she snapped. “I'm driving!”

Matt seethed, folding his arms across his chest. He idly gazed at the passing houses and side streets, eventually spotting a small group of Rattata going by under the light of street lamps. Accompanying them was 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. A dog nearby started barking, startled by his shout. “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 drove at the same pace Fireball was moving. Fireball and the others did not 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 outside. The boy was confused.

“What are you trying to tell me, little guy?” Antoshi asked.

The Rattata hunched over and huffed in exasperation. It stood on its hind legs, holding its forepaws 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 officers in the station 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, 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.

At the same time, one of the officers 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 away and got out of bed, still in her full uniform. She slipped her shoes on before the two officers headed for the front door.

“One minute, he was sleeping,” the officer went on, “the next minute, he was out the door like he was on a mission!”

“I have to go after him,” she said, sternly. “It's too dark and too dangerous for him to be running around the city. I know what he's feeling, and I know he wants to find his friend, but he's not thinking rationally right now. 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 his new friends reached the darker outskirts of the neighborhood, they were met with a tall, long wooden fence.

"Let's go around!" the first Rattata said.

They noticed a car's headlights suddenly turn on, pointed at them. The bright lights temporarily blinded them. The tires screeched as Jalyn slammed the accelerator down with a crazed look in her eyes.

All of the Rattata panicked and scattered. Fireball attempted to jump out of the way, but ended up being struck hard by the car. He screamed in pain, rolling over the hood. He launched off the windshield, cracking it, and landed hard on the asphalt before rolling to a stop.

Jalyn brought the car to a screeching halt and parked it. She and Matt couldn't get out of the car fast enough. The Rocket duo cautiously approached him, both of them bringing out a Poké Ball from their pockets to hold at their sides. They both gasped when he stirred to life.

“Damn,” Matt remarked. “He's still as resilient as ever.”

Fireball exhaled shakily, his entire body throbbing with pain. He set his dislocated jaw with a grunt, staggering to his hind feet. He glared at the pair, one eye bloodied and closed shut, snarling at them in rage. The fires on his upper back came alight, prepared for battle. Fireball wasn't content to attack people, but for the two callous ones before him, he made an exception.

“You're worth less than nothing to me,” Jalyn scornfully said. “You don't scare me. Now, be a good little pet and come along quietly. 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 shouted in surprise, diving to the side. When his attack petered out, they looked at each other, before looking at Fireball.

“Fine, 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 small group of Rattata all screeched and charged at the pair.

“What the hell is this?!” Matt shouted, he and Jalyn 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 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 fearfully.

“Ha! Stupid little pests!” Matt exclaimed, before turning his attention to Fireball. “Spiritomb, use Shadow Sneak on that Typhlosion!”

Spiritomb swiftly disappeared into the asphalt, reappearing in the form of a dark shadow behind Fireball. His uninjured eye went wide from the ominous feeling of dread he felt before Spiritomb struck him from behind.

“Malamar, use Psycho Cut!” Jalyn commanded.

Malamar's finlike hands glowed blue before running at Fireball, who was still reeling from the previous attack. Malamar swept both hands forward, creating a crescent-shaped blade of energy. Fireball shouted in pain as the strike staggered him backwards. He fell to all fours, glaring at them. Trembling in pain, he slowly rose back up on his hind feet again.

'Antoshi …' Fireball thought. 'I have to … get back to Antoshi. I'm not going to make him worry about me any longer. I have to beat these creeps, but I … can't do this without him.'

“Now, Malamar — Hypnosis!”

Malamar's eyes became a mesmerizing swirl of colors just like before. Fireball was far weaker at that point than the first time they used Hypnosis on him. It didn't take long before he fell forward, 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.

Just then, panting heavily, Antoshi and the single Rattata appeared at the scene just in time to see the Rockets struggling as they rolled Fireball into the trunk.

“Hey!” he shouted, his voice high-pitched from exhaustion. The pair were shocked as they looked over at him. Antoshi sprinted toward them. The Rattata ran with him, chattering angrily. “Let him go! Now!”

“Oh, you've got to be joking,” 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 hopped into the car. Antoshi's rage crested upon seeing them trying to flee. They had already taken Fireball from him once — he wasn't going to let it happen again. His adrenaline carried him as fast as he could while Jalyn turned the ignition.

“You're not getting away!” Antoshi shouted.

Jalyn spun the car around, slamming the gas, charging 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, keeping her stern glare forward. She drove up a small grassy incline before getting 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 down the road.

“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. He'd let them get away.

Fireball was gone — again. He wasn't sure if he'd ever see his best friend again. The police were nowhere nearby. He would have to run all the way back to the station to tell them what happened. By then, it could be too late to do anything.

Antoshi trembled and sobbed, tears welling in his wide eyes. The horrifying end of Jenny's story replayed in his mind. Fireball was likely to meet the same fate. The Rattatas stood by, looking at him with sorrowful gazes. The boy clenched his fists, his eyes, his jaw. He struggled not to cry.

“Fireball …” he whispered. “I … I blew it. I'm sorry. … Please come back. I can't be without you! Please come back! Please come back, Fireball!!”

The rage and sorrow that had been building up inside of him burned like fire in his veins. He shook with anger, weeping in despair. Antoshi suddenly slammed his fists into the concrete sidewalk, cracking it. He screamed at the top of his lungs, unable to hold in his emotions any longer. In a flash, the fiery red light erupted and flared wildly around his body. An incredible rush of adrenaline and vigor surged through him.

The Rattatas were shocked, backing away. They were bewildered at the sight of the glowing flame around him, unsure what to make of it.

Antoshi clenched his teeth, staring at the fleeing car with a vengeful gaze, his normally brown irises glowing bright 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. It was so much more intense than it had ever been before.

Taking a deep breath, he got to his feet and exhaled slowly. All of his previous exhaustion took a back seat while he tapped into an unknown source of power. He had become completely rejuvenated. The mysterious light's very presence reassured him, soothing him with its warmth. Fireball wasn't gone. There was still a chance. He wouldn't let the Rockets take away the most important thing in his life: his family.

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 so much faster than before, and they had trouble keeping up with him.

As the car quickly 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 with all he had to catch up that he suddenly stumbled over his own feet. His arms thrust outward to break his fall, only for him to realize he was not touching the ground yet 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, inexplicably, 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 moving much faster than he could run — fast enough to catch up to the car. He was at a loss for how he was doing it, but remained focused on his target.

The Rattata group gave up on their pursuit. They stayed behind, squeaking, jumping, and cheering for the flying boy.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

At that moment, Officer Jenny was racing in the opposite direction down the same empty street as the two Rockets. Her eyes were focused on the sidewalk, looking for Antoshi. She paid no mind to the two in the passing convertible with the horribly cracked windshield and busted front fender. 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 followed his movements, gazing 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 bizarre 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. “Come on, 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 the sight of the flying kid. Not only was it so, but Antoshi was quickly gaining on them. He sat forward again, his blank eyes 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 he did.

“That-that's impossible!” she screamed. She nearly veered off the road before correcting.

Antoshi was getting closer. Matt continued to stare at him in the side-view mirror, utterly aghast at the sight. He 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!” she replied. “We're dead if we don't finish this!”

“We have a flying kid chasing us, Jalyn. All of the mishaps and convenient obstacles along the way — being stopped from nabbing the kid's wallet, Jeff not coming to the door, the Typhlosion escaping, and now this. They're all signs telling me I made a huge mistake. I should've stayed in Cinnabar. 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.

“Even if you don't care what happens to you,” she said, “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. The others were not able to see those flames surrounding him or the glow of his eyes.

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 brighter and the fiery light around him flickered far more intensely. 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. 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.

Jalyn cried out in terror, flooring the gas pedal. The car had already come to a halt. Smoke poured off the screeching tires as it revved and bounced 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 immediately barreled forward.

Matt and Jalyn screamed as they lost control and crashed into a metal light pole, coming to a sudden stop. The light pole flickered and went out, bent around the car's hood. The two inside were knocked unconscious, faces planted in the deployed air bags.

Antoshi looked at the mangled bumper in his hands, awe-struck at how strong he was. He quickly brushed the thought aside, far more concerned with Fireball. He tossed the bumper aside while jogging up to the car. He grabbed the trunk lid, using far less effort than before to tear it off the frame. Fireball was still knocked out, with no further injuries other than the ones he suffered earlier.

“Fireball…,” he whispered. His eyes welled up with tears, a relieved grin spreading across his face, reaching in to pet Fireball's head gently. The torture of being separated and the wild chase to get him back were over now. He was finally able to relax. As he did, the red glow slowly faded from his eyes and around 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, quickly putting the car in park 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 was flying — a little bit.”

With her jaw hanging agape, she walked over and 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!”

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. It waddled over to the side of the convertible.

“Team … Rocket?” Antoshi asked in surprise, his eyes shifting back and forth as he recalled old newspaper articles. “The Rocket Gang still exists?”

“Indeed they do,” Jenny replied. “They have a tendency to disband or go underground every so often, eventually resurrecting in some form with new leaders. 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 heavily, quickly lightening up on him and gave a warm smile.

“Even still,” she went on, “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. 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, smiling graciously. “Fireball is 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 really needed it. For that, I thank you.”

The pair smiled and shared brief hug. Jenny walked over to check on the two fainted Rockets.

“Well, looks like they're not going anywhere,” she remarked, in a more authoritative tone. 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 felt so much more exhausted than usual. 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 a way to get herself out of there. 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!”

Jenny 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!” Jalyn commanded. The pair shouted in surprise as they were lifted off their feet by its telekinesis.

“Quagsire! Use—!” Before Jenny could finish, Malamar flung the two further down the sidewalk.

“Now!” Jalyn exclaimed, pointing at Antoshi. “The kid!”

Malamar turned to the startled Antoshi, lifting him into the air.

“No!” he shouted, reaching out in vain to Fireball. “Fireball!!”

He looked at Jalyn with a terrified expression. She stared back at him with a twisted grin and a vicious look in her eyes. Her 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. She was done with everything and everyone, shifting in self-preservation mode. She was getting out of there with that Typhlosion, and she was ready to crush anyone and anything in her way.

“You think you're special because you can fly?” she asked. “How about I teach you how to fall instead?! Malamar, give him a lift!”

Malamar used its psychic powers to send Antoshi high into the air. He screamed, flailing helplessly. He tried desperately to summon the same powers he displayed earlier, but couldn't due to his overwhelming fear and exhaustion. Held aloft by Malamar's powers, he hovered higher than the roof of a nearby ten-story building.

Matt groaned as he came to. He quickly noticed the scene playing out before him.

“Jalyn!” Matt shouted as he pushed the air bag down. “Stop this! You're taking it too far!”

She turned to him, wild-eyed. “Shut up!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. Matt slowly climbed out of the car, keeping his eyes affixed to her as she hyperventilated. “All you've ever done is complain and doubt me and give up! You're a worthless loser, Matt! I'm the one who always has to get the job done! I'm so tired! I'm tired of everything! No one's stopping me now! Malamar, end this damn child!!”

Matt reached for his own Poké Ball and tossed it into the air.

“Spiritomb, use Shadow Sneak on Malamar!” he exclaimed.

Spiritomb appeared behind its former cohort, striking it hard enough to cause it to stumble to the ground. The attack broke Malamar's hold on Antoshi — but there was no one to catch him. The boy fell toward the asphalt.

“No!!” he shouted, panting and screaming in horror as he rapidly plummeted.

His mind spiraled into a level of extreme panic, helplessly watching his end sprinting toward him. He thought of his parents, of his best friend, the day he left home, the happy and carefree moments he shared with Fireball. He never expected he'd be in this situation. He never expected his Pokémon journey to become the end of his young life.

With one last exhale, 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 »

Astinus

Age 32
Male
Seen September 20th, 2018
Posted September 10th, 2018
10,107 posts
13.3 Years
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.
"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."

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
Chapter 6


“You must heed my words,” an unknown, deep voice echoed in the darkness. “This is your destiny. Boundless power awaits you.”

“My destiny,” another voice that sounded like Antoshi's responded. “This power has been nothing but incredible to me. I want to know what my destiny holds. I have to know.”

“Then you must end them. It is the only way to start anew. They do not care about you. No one cares about you. They could never understand the level of power you wield. They are all jealous of you. They want to hold you back.”

“They're … holding me back?”

“Yes. 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 to find your true destiny.”

“The only way? … I'm not strong enough. I can't just …”

“You are strong beyond reason! You are capable of power the world has never seen before! Show the parasites no weakness!”

With a soft groan, Antoshi fluttered his eyes open. He lay completely still, letting his blurry vision focus, staring at a bright white light before him. He was at a total loss as to where he was. The memory of his plummet to the street immediately came flooding back to him.

‘Am I … dead?’ he thought. He wondered if the sense of tranquility he felt at that moment was transcendence to another plane of existence.

"Antoshi?" a familiar voice greeted him, quietly.

He turned his head to see Fireball rising from a chair. The boy blinked a few times in disbelief. A huge grin spread across the Typhlosion's maw.

“Fireball?” Antoshi replied, groggily, reaching out with his near hand to touch his friend's face. Antoshi's eyes immediately began to well up with tears. “This is … real, right?” Fireball nodded in response. Antoshi's hand fell away, uttering a trembling sigh as he rubbed his eyes with his forearm. He noticed an IV tube sticking out of his arm, leaving him confused. “What happened? Why am I here? … Where is 'here'?”

"We're in the Viridian City police station."

“I'm here again?” he mused.

There was no one else around in the small room. As Antoshi slowly sat up on what he realized was a hospital bed, 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.

“Of course,” Antoshi replied, with a cheeky smirk. “I've only ever had one Poké Ball.”

"So, you kept it on you. … I just knew you were thinking about me the whole time." Fireball turned his gaze away in guilt. "Antoshi, I'm so sorry for running away. It was a really dumb move and—"

“No,” Antoshi interrupted 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 so much better than that. You're the one person I really look up to."

“It's just that … you and I are almost 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. What was essentially a short time away from his best friend wore on him so severely, so quickly. He only feared the worst the whole time Fireball was gone. Fireball's words resounded with him — as did the memory of what Jenny said to him in private. He focused too heavily on his negative feelings, but left no room to remain strong. That's what Fireball would've wanted from him. He finally understood the folly in how he acted toward Jenny, the other officers, and himself.

He heaved a sigh before nodding in agreement. He looked up at him with a smile. “I'm really happy that you're back. Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

"Well, I was, but the police took me to the Pokémon Center nearby 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 this group 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 as they reflected on their adventure, both of them smiling.

“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 he groaned. “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, wait, 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 still hasn't caught up with everything being settled now. I just need a few minutes to take everything in — especially after the whole flying … thing.”

"So it was true!" Fireball said. "I heard some of the officers joking about how you grew wings or something? How exactly did—"

“You're awake!” Jenny remarked, incredulously surprised as she entered the room alongside her 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 had time to consider how bad that fall I took was. I only woke up a few minutes ago.”

“Well, you've got a lot to catch up on.” 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. Admittedly, 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. Luckily, nobody asked what happened to you at first, especially because you had no 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 came up with a story that you were overcome with emotion and exhaustion and you just … collapsed. Still, I wasn't going to let Jalyn go without an attempted murder charge. My report states that I was the one she tried to kill 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, though. Those Pokémon 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. “But 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, laughing. “It is 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 after you were knocked out so I'll try to piece it together as best I can. 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,” Jenny continued, “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 of them were accounted for. Despite being the catalyst for everything that occurred after, his wallet had taken a backseat in his mind as he worried for Fireball's safety. 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,” Jenny said. “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 ride just 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 teased, looking up at Fireball.

"Okay, I actually mean it this time."

Antoshi laughed and hugged his friend once more. Afterward, he found his backpack sitting on a nearby chair. He opened it up to store away Fireball's Poké Ball and take out a pair of clean clothes. Fireball opted to take a seat again to wait as Antoshi headed out of the room.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

After having showered and getting a fresh change of clothes, Antoshi picked up his backpack. “We gotta make up for three days of lost time,” he remarked, slinging it over his shoulders as Fireball stood and stretched. “You ready?”

"Heck yeah!"

“First, though, we need to make a quick stop at the nearest Pokémon Center to call Mom and Dad.”

Antoshi and Fireball headed out to give 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, gazing up at the sky for a moment to think about her Archie. With the missing Typhlosion case officially closed, she breathed a sigh of content before heading back to her office.

Outside, the noon sun hung high on a partly cloudy sky. Antoshi grinned from ear to ear, his bright hair shimmering in the light. Things were finally back to normal after what felt like an eternity of tumult.

"Shouldn't you take out your map to see where the Center is?" Fireball asked.

“Nah, I already memorized it,” Antoshi replied, casually. “It's just a few blocks straight ahead.”

Fireball stared at him strangely for a moment. "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 city's southernmost 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. While a bit uneasy about the limited time they had to get their eighth badge and move on, both of them were just happy to be able to spend that time together again. 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 wallet, back in its rightful place, 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. The phone rang no longer than usual before his mother answered.

“Antoshi!” she joyfully exclaimed. “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, appearing on screen 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 to hear,” his father replied. “We're glad you're checking in with us. So~, what's Viridian City like?”

Antoshi quickly mulled through the memories of their time in Viridian. “It's … a very exhausting city,” the boy said. 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 replied. “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.”

“'Homesick'?” his father mused. “That's a word I never imagined I'd hear you say, son. 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 breathed a sigh of relief, closing his eyes for a moment. It was comforting, after the harrowing experience he went through, to see the faces of his parents and to hear their voices again. Everything truly felt back to normal.

“Let's get us some new clothes, Fireball,” he said, as he sprung to his feet.

"Lucky I don't wear any," Fireball joked. "I don't think they'd fit me."

Antoshi sighed, playfully, and rolled his eyes. 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 in the walls whirred, an automatic door under the kiosk slid open. He reached down and took a small parcel from it, prompting the door to slide shut. The pair found a place to sit down and open their mail.

Antoshi unwrapped a half-dozen neatly folded polo shirts and shorts. The clothes still smelled freshly laundered.

“More of these, huh?” he asked, with a smile.

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 placed his old clothes in the package his mother sent, sealed it back up, and headed back to the kiosk to send them home. Once that was done, Antoshi motioned for Fireball to follow him before they headed for the front doors.

Back outside, both of them sighed happily. They felt refreshed, geared up for what was to be the last leg of their long journey. Their next destination: Viridian City Gym, which they began heading toward.

"Man," 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 even bad memories into good ones, huh?”

"Yeah, especially when they turn out all right in the end!" The pair crossed the street along with a handful of other people before Fireball continued. "Say, Antoshi, do you want to … talk about what happened to you? You know, you … almost died."

Antoshi sighed and nodded, offering his friend a reassuring smile.

“It was definitely terrifying. It was really 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. When Officer Jenny was catching me up on everything that happened, that's when it really hit me. It's weird, though. I should be … traumatized over 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 gotta look at the positive side. I just have to remember what's important to me, and to be thankful that I'm alive.”

"I'm really 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 strange glow around me that shows up every so often. It came back again, only this time it was way more powerful. It ended up giving me this huge burst of really intense energy when I was running after the car. Somehow, it made me able to fly.”

"That is really cool! Can I watch you flying sometime?"

“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, shrugging. “Still, I have to be thankful for it 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, but also nervous about that.”

"Well, at least now you can reach stuff in high places — just fly up and get it!"

Antoshi scoffed in amusement. It was a very 'Fireball' remark. “I'll keep that in mind.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The duo spent a few hours walking around in the growing light and heat of the day. After taking the time to explore some of the city and getting something to eat, they closed in on the Viridian City Gym. The one-story white building was situated in the heart of the city. A long, large pathway led from the sidewalk to the front doors.

The Gym itself was fairly plain, but the lavish landscaping along the pathway toward it was anything but. Antoshi and Fireball found themselves fascinated by the foliage. They walked underneath tall, sculpted hedges in the shape of arcs that went high over their 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,” Antoshi added, smiling. “Someone took the city's motto of 'Eternally Green Paradise' very seriously.”

The automatic front doors opened, allowing the duo inside. They were taken aback once again, this time 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. The scent of potpourri filled the air.

"This is very cool," Fireball said.

“I can't wait to meet the Gym Leader,” Antoshi replied, looking around. “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 replied, quizzically. “This is the most aesthetic Gym I've ever seen.”

“Thank you,” she replied with a warm smile, 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 astonished, not just by how well-made everything was, but that one person did all of it.

“Wow,” Antoshi said. “You're incredibly talented!”

Elise chuckled. “I'm also quite talented at Pokémon battles.”

“Where are all your Gym Trainers?” he asked, giving another look 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?”

“Of course. The stadium floor has already seen its fair share of battles. The decorations, however, are made quite sturdy. Some of them have protective padding or are adhered in place so they don't move. The paintings you see on the wall are set firmly as well. Those paintings are important to me, as they're portraits of 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.”

Antoshi continued to be impressed. Of all the Gym Leaders he'd encountered, none of them seemed as proud and dedicated as Elise was. It was a level of devotion that he imagined all Gym Leaders had before he became a Trainer.

“You seem like a really honest person, Elise. I admire 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 cannot attempt a rematch for another fourteen 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, young Trainer,” 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 very admirable. I believe Pokémon should be treated like friends — even like family. However, only having one Pokémon is 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. Antoshi paused for a brief moment to marvel at the Gliscor with a slight smile. It was the first one he'd ever seen in-person. Elise caught the ball when it returned to her.

“You ready?” Antoshi asked his friend. Fireball turned him and nodded. “Then let's make number eight happen! Fireball, Rollout!” Fireball hopped into his ball form and revved in place. His entire body once again came alight. “Rolling Fireball!”

The ignited Fireball shot like a bullet toward his opponent. Elise's eyebrows raised, caught off-guard by Fireball's incredible speed.

“Gliscor, use Toxic!” Elise commanded.

Just before Fireball's attack connected, Gliscor spat up a viscous, purplish liquid that covered Fireball's spinning body. Gliscor was subsequently 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 slightly 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, switching her Great Ball for an Ultra Ball. “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 would 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. ‘She's right,’ he thought. ‘We don't have much of a choice here. We have to strike as hard and as often as we can.’

Elise threw out her next ball. “Hippowdon, I choose you!”

From the open ball dropped 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 battlefield. Sand erupted out of its vents, swirling and whipping violently around the stadium, encircling the two Pokémon.

‘Now, 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 for the sake of your best friend?”

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 growled loudly as its body was enveloped in a large, magical blue dome.

Antoshi uttered a shout of disbelief. “Wait, Fireball, come back! Save your energy.”

Fireball screeched to a halt. He stood upright, walking backwards with a puzzled expression.

“Are you really going to stall this one out?!” Antoshi asked.

Elise chuckled. “I most certainly am, 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 and nimble. Your strategy is a full-tilt offense. But since you only have one Pokémon, that means I can simply wear it down with poison, weather conditions, and time. The only thing left from there is to remove your Typhlosion's ability to attack.”

‘She definitely has our number,’ he thought, clicking his tongue. ‘Still, she can't use Protect continuously since it'll fail the more she uses it in a row. She knows that for sure, too. She's probably going to attack in-between those phases. That's our only time to strike.’

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.

The flames on Fireball's back flared out intensely as he raced toward Hippowdon on all fours. He clenched his teeth, squinting his eyes to see through the veil of sand churning through the air via magical means.

He crashed headlong with the incredibly heavy beast, managing to send it airborne. Standing atop a 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 aloft. Hippowdon gave no indication that it was in any pain. When his attack petered out, Fireball quickly sprinted out of the way. He winced at the grains of sand continuing to pelt 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.

Fireball made it back to their side of the field. Antoshi heaved a sigh of frustration over Elise continuing to use stall tactics. They wouldn't have been in such a pickle if they had even one more Pokémon on their team. Both of them were fully aware of the risks in their single Pokémon strategy, but it wasn't any less frustrating to face an opponent who could exploit their weaknesses.

Antoshi watched Fireball cover his eyes from the whipping sands and subsequently cough up more poison. However, Hippowdon was soon going to tunnel back up for its attack.

“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 leapt out of the way, avoiding Hippowdon as it charged up through the floor with such momentum that it went airborne.

Antoshi narrowed his eyes. Watching Hippowdon launch out of its burrowed tunnel gave him an idea he quickly acted on.

“Fireball, Lava Plume!” Antoshi shouted.

Fireball's eyes lit up, picking up on the boy's idea, smirking confidently. 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, struggling to pick itself back up. It instead fell unconscious.

With two Pokémon down, victory was in sight. Fireball, however, was starting to look languid. Antoshi was concerned for his friend's health.

‘Fireball and I can do this,’ Antoshi thought, pursing his lips. ‘I know we can. We're already so close to the finish line. If we lose now, we'll have to wait another six months to compete in the next Indigo League tournament.’

While Elise recalled her fainted Hippowdon, Fireball again coughed up more 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 to slog through an uphill battle.


*****
Chapter 7 »

Astinus

Age 32
Male
Seen September 20th, 2018
Posted September 10th, 2018
10,107 posts
13.3 Years
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.
"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."

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
Chapter 7


“Not bad,” Elise remarked, as she reached for a new Poké Ball. “However, this battle is nowhere near done. Go, Krookodile!”

From the light of the open ball she threw 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. His eyes widened, a sense of dread sweeping through him. 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.

Antoshi heaved a sigh of frustration. At the same time, 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. She was surprised by the sheer variety of attacks the Typhlosion knew.

While the move's Fighting type would be very effective against Krookodile, it was also inaccurate due to Fireball's lack of experience in using the maneuver. Fireball held his forepaws to one side, spacing them just far enough apart to summon a rapidly growing ball of bright blue energy. Fireball steadied his ragged breathing, taking aim at his target.

Elise narrowed her eyes, reading Fireball's movements to predict when he was about to strike.

“Move!” she commanded just before Fireball thrust forth the ball of energy.

The attack covered the distance between them in a heartbeat, flailing erratically through the air while doing so. Krookodile dove to the side, narrowly avoiding a glancing blow. The energy ball vanished harmlessly upon striking the wall behind Elise.

“Crunch, Krookodile!” Elise shouted.

A sense of dread swept over Antoshi. He clenched his teeth, his eyes full of panic as Krookodile sprinted toward Fireball. Krookodile hissed as it opened its long maw, its teeth glowing white with a magical energy.

‘Please don't let this be the end …’ the boy thought, bracing at the same time Fireball did.

Its powerful jaw snapped shut on Fireball's shoulder, digging its rows of sharp glowing teeth in. Fireball shouted in pain, fighting to shove the flailing beast off of him.

The damage was already done by the time Fireball escaped its jaws. He 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 grueling struggle was obvious. Very rarely had he seen his best friend in such dire straits. It upset him and worried him. Antoshi clenched his trembling fists, pondering a tactical surrender. Yet, Fireball's eyes burned with a powerful sense of surefire confidence. The Typhlosion's gaze 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!’ Antoshi recalled himself proclaim proudly.

'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?' Fireball had asked him not all that long ago.

Antoshi slowly exhaled, closing his eyes for a moment to steady his resolve. He looked toward their opposition 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. However, 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.

‘So, he's going to try another Focus Blast,’ Elise thought, holding her chin. ‘There's nothing I can really do to stop it, except to keep Krookodile on the evasive. However, if it does hit, will it be enough? I can't help but wonder just how strong that type of attack from his Typhlosion would be.’

The moment Krookodile's shield faded, Antoshi was ready to give the order.

“Now! Focus Blast!”

Fireball panted, ignoring the excruciating pain in order to charge another Focus Blast. He took careful aim through the endlessly stirring sands before he threw 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, staring at her fainted Pokémon. ‘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 as if 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. He 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, deeply 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 resolve. For them to push forward and bring me to my last Pokémon after taking such a beating, … I may not win this one after all.’

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 shot back. He was bitter over Elise's continual badgering. “Fireball's stronger than anyone I've ever known. If he's ready to go, then so am I.”

“Remarkable. 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 segmented 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, scowling in frustration. ‘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 in the constant winds of the sandstorm.

“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. As much as her browbeating irritated him, she had a point.

"No way!" Fireball shouted in defiance, struggling to keep his balance. "We didn't come all this way just to fail. Not after all the training we did to make it this far."

Antoshi grinned proudly at him. Elise didn't have to understand Fireball's speech to know what he said, she only needed to see the look in his eyes. She smiled and hummed in intrigue.

“Fire Blast, Fireball!” Antoshi said in the moment that Steelix's Protect dissipated. Give it everything you have!”

"Now that's the kind of pep talk I like to hear," Fireball replied 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.

The boy's heart sank at the same time Fireball fell to all fours. Fireball groaned wearily, overcome by exhaustion. The poison, the sandstorm, the injures — they had all accumulated to a critical level.

‘We can't lose now,’ Antoshi thought, a panicked expression on his face.

'We're going to win,' Fireball thought.

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 remained on his knees, managing to straightened his back. 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 abruptly cracked underneath Fireball. With only a moment to spare, Fireball roared as loud as he could. He fired a five-pointed blast of fire from his mouth just before 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 exploded violently. Steelix roared in pain, its body toppling backwards from the force of the blast. Just as its Earthquake subsided, Steelix itself crashed into the ground to rumble it further. Its titanic weight created a large crater around its body.

Both Trainers steadied their footing in the aftermath. 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 had become quiet on the sand-covered, heavily damaged stadium floor. Elise recalled her Steelix.

“Fireball!!” Antoshi shouted, ignoring the dangerous, jagged earth jutting around his fallen friend. “Fireball?” he whispered, shaking his friend a bit. Elise walked over quickly to check on them, standing outside the crater. “Fireball, come on. I thought I lost you once before, I can't go through that again!”

Antoshi's breathing became shaky, running a hand through his hair. Fireball wasn't responding. Elise, too, became concerned. Memories of being cooped up in the police station came flooding back as Antoshi started to fear the worst.

"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, zipping it open. 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 open mouth. 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 climb to his hind feet as well.

Elise smiled at the two as they 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.”

“I understand,” she said, chuckling. “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. They breathed a sigh of relief. After long trials and tribulations, days and weeks and months spent training, and constantly staying on the grind, their Kanto badge quest was finally over. 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, 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 shook his head, pulling 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. It was an enjoyable rarity, but he knew his stomach was certainly going to regret it later on.

The mood between them had never been more jovial. They'd finally collected all eight badges. An idea that was once nothing more than a far-off dream had become a reality.

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 felt prepared.

Just as in past nights, however, Antoshi experienced another unsettling dream.

Looking through the eyes of another, he stood at the upper floor of a house that had been severely damaged by an explosion. The home's destroyed walls and roof gave way to the night sky. His legs trembled, falling to his knees. The cool, night air briefly swept past him.

“What … have I done?” a voice similar to his own asked in disbelief. “What did you make me do?!”

Antoshi felt overwhelmed by panic, sorrow, regret, and anger. He couldn't stop shaking, his heart pounded, adrenaline surging through his veins. He felt as though his body was about to explode.

“It was what needed to be done,” the same mysterious voice from before answered. “You have now taken the first glorious step toward—”

“This can't be real!” the boy shouted in agony. “I—I don't want this to be real!!”

In the forlorn darkness he let out a loud echoing scream, followed by a burst of black light. The roaring light rapidly expanded out in a massive dome that engulfed and instantly vaporized everything in its path. Once it reached its limit, it exploded violently, quaking the earth for a few moments.

There was nothing left for miles except an enormous crater of dirt. Having seemingly levitated during the explosion, the boy fell back down to the earth. Unconscious, he was left unscathed in the very epicenter of crater.

Just as he hit the ground, Antoshi jolted awake from his dream with a gasp. He sat up in bed, in the dark and quiet of the small room, covered in a cold sweat. He took a look at his hands — he was shaking like in the dream. He held his forehead, clenching his teeth.

‘Why do I keep having these dreams?!’ he demanded to know.

He breathed slowly for a short while, calming his racing heart. His head was filled with an endless array of questions. Was he the one in these settings? Were they some kind of premonition? Were they tied to his mysterious powers somehow? Each of those dreams were so jarringly real, as if they were actually happening and that he'd been there. That voice he kept hearing sounded just like his own.

Once he managed to finally relax, he laid his head back down on the pillow. He stared at the ceiling for a while, trying to cleanse his mind of the images in his dream. He thought about their upcoming trek to the Indigo Plateau instead, smiling at how excited he knew Fireball was going to be once they got there. Soon, 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 to go 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 to the western city limits 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 with great interest. Antoshi and Fireball stopped, curious 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. He felt the wind knocked right out from him. 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 lady reporter continued. “Joining me now is Johto's military commander General Logan.” The camera zoomed back to reveal a tall, stern man wearing a high-ranking military uniform standing next to her. “General, what can you tell us about this unthinkable devastation?”

“Right now we're in our preliminary investigation,” Logan 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've now 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?” Ruby asked. “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,” the male reported in the studio said. “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?" Fireball waved a paw in his friend's face.

“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 in my dream.”

"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 the glowing, then the light show ball, 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 somewhat pixelated still image of the rescued boy taken from afar. He could only make out the boy's jet black hair.


⁂ ⁂ ⁂

End of Part 1

⁂ ⁂

Part 2: Sibling Rivalry »



Antoshi & Fireball

Astinus

Age 32
Male
Seen September 20th, 2018
Posted September 10th, 2018
10,107 posts
13.3 Years
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:
He was unable discern if he was alive or dead.
Missing a "to" between "unable" and "discern."
"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."

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
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!

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Part 2: Sibling Rivalry

⁂ ⁂


Kanto's neighboring region of Johto thrives 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 lived in warm, intimate communities. The town's school and large playground were situated at the center of the town. It was a loving gesture of the town's founders that their young people were literally their future.

Yet, one morning, that future was erased in an instant. Everything and everyone was gone.

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. 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, but he remained in a brief coma.

As government and local officials sifted through the destruction to 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 left, the boy was no longer treated as a victim. He instead became the culprit of an unspeakably horrific act. One of the 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. They had 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.

Under round-the-clock maximum security, the compound was the breeding ground for the government's more controversial, highly-classified experiments and tests. It was there that 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.

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 hands searched the glass for some kind of handle on the cutout door, or an unlocking mechanism. His heart raced, brown eyes 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 way of telling time, and those two days in solitary confinement felt like weeks. He had no human contact whatsoever. While he was already past the realization of his imprisonment, a million questions raced through his head. Foremost on his mind was why he was locked up, closely followed by why he couldn't recall anything that happened before getting here.

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 torturous.

He kicked at the glass with his bare feet, shouting and screaming in a panicked huff. He knew someone was around. Multiple cameras outside his cell were silently watching his every move.

He rest his back against the glass, grabbing fistfuls of his dark hair. He slid down onto his seat, huffing and sobbing quietly.

“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.

He tried to keep himself as calm as possible, and to keep some glimmer of hope in the face of such a dim, depressing scenario. This was undoubtedly some kind of misunderstanding. Someone had to be coming for him.

A familiar humming noise approached his cell. He gasped in excitement, hopping up to his knees and crawled 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. It was the second time the robot had come by that day.

“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 me someone to talk to!”

The robot placed the tray on the floor. It slipped a new set of neatly folded white clothing through the slat, followed by the tray of food atop the clothes.

“Is there like a—a communicator on you or something?” he continued. “Is there anyone that can hear me right now?” The slat snapped shut. The robot turned and hovered away. “No, no, no! Wait! Please, please, come back! Please! Don't leave!” He clenched his eyes shut. “Don't leave …” he whispered.

He stared at his food, each item neatly placed in its own segment — a cold and detached way of feeding him. He sniffled and wept quietly, unwrapping a bar of oat and grains and chewed on it.

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 this 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 to know what time it was. He stayed in bed for long periods, sleeping anytime his panicked mind was able to 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 each time. The sounds left him terrified and trembling, his mind racing with terrible thoughts. 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 polished wooden executive desk. He wore a service uniform befitting a high-ranking military official. It was the man that had led the investigation: General Logan.

He was leaned back in his executive chair, his feet propped up on the desk. 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 before shutting the door behind him. He laid a folder full of papers on the desk before looking over at the the monitors.

“Is it time, General?” he asked.

“No,” Logan 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, Antoshi and Fireball ventured through the incredibly long and treacherous Victory Road. 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.

With the starting date of the event looming ever closer, throngs of Trainers were passing through Victory Road. It ended up being a pilgrimage amongst strangers, which was typical in the week leading up to the Indigo tournament. A number of those Trainers ended up backtracking, giving up on their endeavor in order to spare their Pokémon or themselves. Some used Pokémon that knew Dig or Teleport to escape, while others simply ran back the way they came.

Despite how terrifying the trek should have been, the duo made their way through Victory Road with eyes full of wonder and hearts ablaze. Antoshi and Fireball were able to get a few battles in with the other Trainers passing through. The battles helped in garnering them some more crucial experience before the tournament.

It took the duo four days to make it to the Indigo Plateau from Viridian City. Antoshi and Fireball experienced firsthand just how tough and dangerous it was to simply make it to the Plateau. Having done so was — and certainly felt like — an accomplishment in itself.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The final day of the Indigo League tournament sign-ups was coming to a close. Inside of the registration building, Antoshi and Fireball signed in with only a few hours to spare before the cutoff time. They were briefly stopped by a checkpoint inside the building, joining a queue of Trainers waiting to enter. Seeing and hearing the elation of fellow Trainers that successfully made it through Victory Road made them both grin.

The inside of the building was so plain, almost like an office waiting room. It had a large receptionist's desk, bare walls, and a small handful of bland chairs that contrasted with the colorful apparel and vibrant hairstyles of the Trainers and Pokémon waiting in a single file. Antoshi, meanwhile, was dressed in a more modest white polo shirt and black shorts.

For the most part, the room was incredibly quiet. Antoshi and Fireball weren't sure if the others were simply as nervous as they were. Each of Antoshi's eight badges were scanned with a special device by one of the several attendants. A microchip inside each of the badges verified they were legitimate via a chime from the device. Afterward, they were instructed to head through a corridor nearby.

The corridor was surprisingly long. Antoshi and Fireball walked with a handful of other Trainers towards a light at the end of it. They soon found themselves outside, under the clear sky and the glow of the midmorning sun. The pair gasped in awe, standing at one of the entryways of the Plateau's massive stadium. The large battlefield before them was walled off by spectator stands. Uptempo music played over the stadium's intercom system. They looked around with wide-eyed fascination before Antoshi turned to his friend with a huge grin.

“This is so awesome, isn't it?” Antoshi remarked. “Our very first tournament.”

"Heck yeah, it's awesome," Fireball replied, "and there's none bigger than the Indigo Plateau!"

The duo walked around to find a place to relax and wait until competition began. There were hundreds of Trainers and their Pokémon patiently waiting around all over the place. Many stood or reclined on the spacious field, while others took to waiting in the empty stands. More and more Trainers continued to file in behind the duo.

A chime came over the intercom system, followed by a woman's voice.

“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.”

Fireball's eyes darted every which way. He locked eyes with various Pokémon staring at him. There was an intense look in each of their 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 in surprise, extinguishing his flames.

"Sorry," Fireball replied, calming himself. "I keep feeling every Pokémon's urge to battle around here. There's so many strong Pokémon. It's really something else."

Antoshi took a closer look around at his peers, greeted by several cutting glares.

“Oh, I see what you mean now,” he said, surprised. “Why don't we find a place away from everyone else?”

"That's probably a good idea."

The duo headed up into the stands, finding a quiet area to sit down at. The much larger Fireball managed to fit himself into one of the person-sized seats. The view from their vantage point was incredible. They were able to take in the sheer magnitude Trainers and their Pokémon all bustling around, and how small they were in the comparison to the massive stadium. Both of them smiled, content yet restless.

“I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous,” Antoshi said, idly tapping his foot to the beat of the music being played.

"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!"

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

As the morning went on, the sun started bearing down hard. The clouds hid its glare in small reprieves. A handful of Trainers had packed umbrellas, or had Pokémon large enough to shade themselves in. A number of tournament volunteers walked around around with coolers hanging around their necks. They gave out bottles of cold water, sandwiches, and bags of Pokémon food.

“Thank you again for your continued patience, Trainers,” the woman on the intercom 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,” he said. “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 walking up to them said.

They both turned their attention to him. Antoshi's eyes widened in surprise, standing up with a grin.

“Cory? I never imagined I'd ever see you again!”

“Same here,” Cory replied. Both boys laughed as they shared a handshake. Fireball smiled and waved.

“Wow, it's been a while,” Antoshi said, smiling. “It's so good to see you! You know, I've always wanted to apologize to you for the longest time now, about that incident back in the Cerulean Pokémon Center.”

“Oh, I apologize as well. I don't think you really need to apologize. If anything, it made me realize I need to step up my training a lot. A Quilava beat my star Mudkip so easily. Since then, I get a talking-to about it from Nurse Joy every time I visit a Pokémon Center.”

“Hey, so do we!” Antoshi replied. The two laughed again. Cory glanced at 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. Cory was flabbergasted.

“What? You never got any new Pokémon since the last time we last spoke?”

“I was originally going to, but … well, it turned out I didn't need to. It's just been Fireball and I all the way.”

“Wow,” Cory 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 'weird name' thing, huh?” Antoshi laughed and nodded. “It's funny. 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 boys shook hands again before Cory 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 white formal attire, complete with a bow tie, emerged from a tunnel at the top level of the stadium. A self-propelled aerial camera pointed at him from a few meters away, lighting up his image on the large display screens at the far ends of the stadium. He wore a headset with a tiny microphone on it.

“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.

“For those of you who don't get a 'bye',” he continued, “you'll 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 said. “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. "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, awe-struck.

“I think he read everyone's mind,” Antoshi replied with a smirk.

“Now,” Cedric said, “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.”

Everyone on the field did as instructed. Trainers recalled their larger Pokémon into their Poké Balls while others kept their smaller ones with them. The arena floor quickly emptied out. Once clear, the hum and whir of motors and gears began to rumble through the stadium.

Antoshi, Fireball, and most in attendance looked on in astonishment. The massive floor slowly descended several dozen meters before coming to a halt. It rotated itself slowly before rising back up at the same pace and locking in its original position. Instead of one large battlefield, the floor was now scored 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,” Cedric said. “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, 147, 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,” Cedric said, pointing to one of them, “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. That's it for the rules! The matches will start commencing in just a few moments from now, so get ready! Good luck, Trainers!”

Cedric took his leave and the music resumed playing. The stadium volunteers continued to hand out numbers. Despite the upbeat music, the air around the stadium suddenly became much more quiet and tense. It was time for everyone to get serious. Trainers were staring at their assigned numbers, others trying to look around and see what numbers those nearby had.

“Oh, man,” Antoshi remarked with a sharp huff. “I'm super nervous now.” He rubbed his hands together, wiping his sweaty palms dry, his leg shaking up and down uncontrollably.

"I can tell," Fireball replied, watching his friend.

“It's taken us so long to get to this point. We put in so much work, and we've been anticipating this moment ever since getting our first badge. This is what we've worked for. 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. I can't let my emotions get to me now.”

"No sweat. I trust in you, buddy."

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The preliminaries kicked off with no delay. With four matches occurring simultaneously, there was a lot happening for the spectating Trainers to take in. They watched and cheered, some even taking note of potential competitors and their strategies.

Antoshi and Fireball watched anxiously. 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 not unlike a celebrity. Antoshi grinned and stood up, having never seen one in person before.

The competition was fierce, as expected. Everyone fought their hardest for the chance to become Champion, and to have their names etched into history. One by one, Trainers were eliminated from the competition. It was intimidating for them to see the numbers starting to thin out. By the time it was Antoshi and Fireball's turn, almost three dozen of their fellow hopefuls were already out.

“Numbers 146 and 147,” the woman over the loudspeakers said, “head to field number four.”

The two friends looked at each other and gave a confident nod, ready to test their mettle. Antoshi huffed sharply, his heart racing as they made their way down onto the battlefield. He rubbed the sweat from his palms again, his legs feeling surprisingly heavy while walking down the stairs.

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, blue, terrifying sea serpent — Gyarados. A sudden explosion erupted on the battlefield near them. Both Antoshi and Fireball looked over at it in surprise.

“Don't take your eyes off the prize, kid!” she said with a smirk. “Tiny — use Hydro Pump!”

The massive serpent fired a large, highly pressurized blast of water from its gaping maw at Fireball.

“Fireball, dodge!” 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 managed to land on his feet before spinning around to a halt.

"… That was pretty cool," Fireball remarked, pleasantly surprised.

“You okay?” Antoshi asked in concern.

Fireball nodded firmly to him. Antoshi nodded back, exhaling sharply, trying to block out the distractions all around him and focus on their battle.

“Fireball, use Thunder Punch!”

The girl was taken aback upon realizing the Typhlosion had an Electric-type move in his repertoire. Fireball's fist sparked and crackled with bright, yellowish bolts of electricity. He darted toward the Gyarados, giving a shout and leapt up high, nailing the water beast in the face with a hard right hook.

The serpent shouted in pain as it fell to the ground. 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 an indignant roar. The opposing Trainer smiled at her Pokémon.

“Attaboy, Tiny!” she said. “Another Hydro Pump! Let's make it count!”

“Same plan as before, Fireball!” Antoshi said. “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, flailing 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.

Antoshi chuckled softly, continuously impressed by Fireball's confidence.

“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 exclaimed, 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 in surprise — a Grass-type opponent like Venusaur was fortunate for them. Antoshi found it strange, however. Why would a Trainer competent enough to make it to the Indigo Plateau completely disregard something as basic as Type advantage?

“Oh, but wait!” the girl added. “There's more!”

And there was his answer. She pulled the back the long sleeve of her shirt to reveal a bracelet with a smaller gem, similar to the one Venusaur wore, set into it. She ran her fingers across it, causing both gems to glow brightly.

“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 other Trainers watching from the stands 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 they had seen a real Mega Evolution up close. The stones needed for Trainer and Pokémon were both exceedingly rare and very expensive.

Lost in their battle trance, Antoshi and Fireball's eyes were wide with intensity — their excitement rising from the unique challenge before them. They were focused solely 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 covered his nose from the horrible-smelling poison, staring at their opposition.

‘If what I remember about Mega Evolution is correct,’ he 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 himself to remove any more sludge he could. He took aim at his opponent, launching a raging stream of fire from his mouth. The heat of his flames were fueled by the disgust of Mega Venusaur's previous attack.

“Dodge it!” the girl commanded.

In a flash, Mega 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 his moving target. 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 before 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," Fireball replied in a raspy voice, "but I'm good."

Mega Venusaur groaned, getting back to its feet. It shook itself off, cinders falling from its body. Antoshi was flabbergasted that it got up again so quickly.

“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!”

“I guess we'll just have to hit twice as hard! Fireball, get up close and then use Flamethrower!”

Both Fireball and the girl were left confused as to what Antoshi was planning. Never one to doubt Antoshi's strategies, Fireball shrugged before he took off running on all fours.

“Flora, give it another Sludge Bomb!”

“Dodge it, Fireball!” Antoshi shouted.

Fireball kept himself as difficult to aim at as possible, weaving back and forth while closing the gap between them. 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. Fireball headed back to his friend. Mega Venusaur slowly shook itself off, appearing far more charred and worn down than before.

‘That was a risky plan, and it paid off,’ the girl thought as she glared bitterly at the opposing duo. ‘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.’ She glanced over at her Mega Venusaur, who was visibly worn down after the last attack. ‘Now Flora's seriously hurt, even with its Thick Fat. Another one of those and we're done for. …’

“Time to finish this!” she said. “Flora, use Frenzy Plant!”

Venusaur's body glowed with an intensifying shade of green. Antoshi was taken aback, unfamiliar with the move.

“Frenzy Plant?” Antoshi wondered aloud. Unsure of what to expect, his best bet was to play it safe until he and Fireball could make a counter-attack. “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 with incredible force.

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. Though injured from the powerful attack, he quickly realized what Antoshi did. Even while in pain and constantly rolling through the air, he kept track of Mega Venusaur's position and waited for just 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 charged forth with blazing speed. The weakened Mega Venusaur could not dodge as it did previously. Frenzy Plant had already rendered Mega Venusaur briefly exhausted and unable to move. Drenched in fire, it roared in agony, toppling over backwards. Its Trainer shielded her eyes from the powerful flames. Once the attack finished, she gasped at how badly burned her fainted Mega Venusaur was.

With Mega Venusaur unconscious, their spirit link was broken. In a flash of light, it returned to its standard form as a Venusaur.

Fireball landed on his hind feet near Antoshi. He suddenly 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 147 wins,” the woman 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. They remained mindful that they'd ended the dreams of a fellow Trainer and her Pokémon. It gave them perspective as to just how quickly and easily their dream could end, too.

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
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 number of other 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 concourse 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 furrowed his brow curiously when he saw the number of their next opponent: 145. His eyes lit up. The battle involving '145' was one that he'd witnessed from afar earlier. It was a young boy, younger than him, with dark skin and an almost completely shaved head. The Trainer had used a powerful Tyranitar to knock out both of his opponent's Pokémon. It was quite the intimidating sight. Now they had to face off against that themselves.

“Trainers 1 and 3, report to battlefield one.”

The bracket process started all over again, only this time with tougher Trainers.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

“Trainers 145 and 147, 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. Antoshi and Fireball stood in their respective positions on their side of the field.

“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. Antoshi wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead, already dreading the impending reveal of the opponent's Tyranitar.

‘That's not good,’ Antoshi thought, huffing sharply. ‘Thunder Punch is effectively useless now and Lanturn's Water-type drowns out all of our Fire-type attacks. … Rollout isn't as effective—’

“Lanturn!” the other Trainer exclaimed, interrupting Antoshi's train of thought. “Use Rain Dance!”

Lanturn did an adorable shimmy from side to side, singing as it did so. A dark cloud emerged high over their quadrant of the battlefield, a downpour of rain falling upon the two Pokémon. Fireball idly lifted his head and opened his maw to lap up a brief drink of water.

And he's setting up,’ Antoshi thought. ‘I wonder … if he watched our battle, too.’

“How do you like that?” their opponent asked, boasting confidently. “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 turned his gaze to Antoshi, who nodded confidently at him. Fireball dropped down to all fours, snarling loudly as his entire body became enveloped in an inferno. The flames were hot enough to evaporate the rain falling upon him. He swiftly charged at his opponent, slamming headlong into it. Lanturn cried out, bouncing and skidding backwards from the force and the intensity of the flames. Fireball headed back to his side of the field.

The flames on Fireball's back abruptly 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 first Pokémon.’

“Don't worry, Lanturn!” the opposing Trainer said. “We still got this! Aqua Ring!”

Lanturn closed its eyes and 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 suddenly 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 dark clouds above them. 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 body. 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."

Antoshi recognized the signs of paralysis and felt his heart drop. Frustrated by their stroke of bad luck, he sighed heavily and turned his attention to their opponents.

“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 …’

‘If Fireball is unable to attack at any point,’ Antoshi thought, ‘then we're in major trouble …’

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. Fireball remained in his curled form as he rolled back his side as well.

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. He shouted in pain, his curled-up body tensing as he was rattled with electricity. His fur was mostly frazzled, singed and charred.

Thunder was an immensely powerful technique, and the combination with Rain Dance meant it would always hit Fireball. Antoshi clenched his teeth until the lightning faded away.

“Fireball!” Antoshi exclaimed in concern. “Let me know you're okay!”

Fireball wasn't moving, causing a moment of tension between both sides. The Typhlosion suddenly heaved a deep sigh, having held his breath. Though his body relaxed some, 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 through the air, 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, pumping a fist at his side.

Fireball was still curled up like a ball, leaving Antoshi unable to gauge his friend's status.

“Fireball, how you feeling?” he asked.

"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. He switched the Poké Ball with an Ultra Ball in the same hand, which he immediately threw out. “Go, Tyranitar!”

Antoshi's eyes widened in shock. It was the Pokémon he was expecting — and fearing.

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!”

“It sure didn't look that big from far away,” Antoshi joked nervously.

"What?" Fireball asked, unable to see anything in his curled 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 added. "I don't want to look, do I?"

“No, probably not,” Antoshi replied, unable to take his eyes away from the imposing beast.

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!” the Trainer replied. “Stupid!”

Antoshi was taken aback by the indignant response.

“… Okay then,” he muttered. “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!” he said. “Use Focus Blast!”

Fireball groaned in pain as he hopped back to his hind feet. His tired eyes and burns down his belly 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 forepaws 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!’

The opposing Trainer smirked, capitalizing on Fireball's misfortune.

“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 nearby Antoshi. The pillars sunk back into the ground.

“Fireball!” Antoshi cried out in terror.

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, placing his hands on his head.

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 replied, weakly, staggering up on his hind feet. "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 also got to his feet at the same slow pace that Fireball did, quickly wiping away the tears from his eyes.

"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 clenched his teeth upon re-entering the tornado of whipping sands. With his trembling paws at one side, he slowly charged up the same ball of energy as before. He groaned, becoming more dizzy and weak as the attack 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 to fire off 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 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, laughing weakly at the incredible sight. He couldn't believe how lucky that was. He groaned wearily, falling 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 and 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 147 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 grinned slightly and 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 off through the stadium tunnels. Despite how abrasive the boy was towards them, Antoshi still felt badly for him being overwhelmed by the sting of defeat.

After Antoshi and Fireball got to their feet, one of the stadium volunteers holding a clipboard came out to greet them.

“Congratulations on your victory!” the man said. “Please, follow me.”

Antoshi and Fireball grinned at each other in elation. They had made it past the preliminaries. They won their way into the official Indigo League tournament.

The pair were led through a set of large open doors, into one of the areas in the concourse of the stadium. The pair gasped in awe, standing at the entrance of 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 cool, circulated air was rife with the scent of freshly baked confections.

There were a dozen or so Trainers hanging around in the room already, 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. “It's 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, “14! This will also be the number of your sleeping quarters.”

“Sleeping quarters?” Antoshi asked.

“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 is definitely the fanciest dining room 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 went out another set of large doors leading outside. They had now exited through the opposite side of the stadium from where they originally entered earlier that morning.

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 in all directions kept 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, waving back to them. "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 '14.' “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 chuckled as he opened the door and invited his friend to enter first. Fireball squealed in glee, merrily skipping inside.

The duo's faces lit up as they looked around.

“Wow,” they both remarked in awe.

It was as though they were walking into the distant past. The evening sun flooded the charming home that seemed to be constructed in a bygone age. Warm and cozy, almost everything was made of wood, looking so antique that the duo were wary about touching any of it. From the diamond-shape leaded windows, the patterned drapes, and even a grandfather clock. A wooden display cabinet held plates and candlestick holders. A dining table and chairs sat upon rustic, stone flooring. 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 grinned as he asked, sarcastically.

The boy headed into the spacious bedroom, placing his backpack down next to the bed. Fireball followed, peering 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. The beautiful scenery and the splendid peacefulness of the house were far and beyond what he could've ever expected in his many dreams of making it to the Indigo League. “Well, how about we go and do what you enjoy, which is eat?”

"I'm always ready! Lead the way!"

Antoshi laughed as they headed to the front door. “The volunteer that gave us a bunch of info never said I had to dress any differently when we go eat. Guess I'll just wear the same thing I have on.”

"Same here."

“You would say that, wouldn't you?” Fireball chuckled and nodded. The two of them headed back outside. “One of these days I'm going to get you some clothes.”

"Ugh, no way! I'm not some dress-up Furfrou."

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

By the time the two got back to the Indigo Room 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. Fireball asked Antoshi to order several courses just for himself. The duo sat down, ordered, and began to eat.

Aside from the victors, staff, waiters, and volunteers all buzzed around. Antoshi was elated to see so many other fellow 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, a young man in his teens wearing a purple hat, stopped in front of 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,” the young man said. “How'd you get him?”

“Fireball was given to me when I was little,” Antoshi replied.

“Lucky you! … Oh, 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.”

“Thank you.”

The young man looked around. “Well, I see more Pokémon I need entries on. See you around!”

“See ya.”

With that, the Trainer took his leave.

"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,” Antoshi replied with a smile. “I was expecting the same, honestly. It's a huge confidence boost for anyone to have earned eight badges and get to the Indigo Plateau. But, 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 time being, 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, attracting the amusement of others nearby.

“That's one happy Pokémon!” a male Trainer said to them.

"He's got that right," Fireball remarked.

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. Antoshi emerged from the bathroom, wearing his usual sleeping garments, toothbrush in hand.

"I know I'm going to sleep really well tonight," Fireball said.

“I hope so,” Antoshi said, packing his toothbrush away. “Tomorrow's going to be 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,” Antoshi spoke up. “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 in response. “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.

Antoshi tied his shoes, wearing the same red-and-white polo shirt and shorts he'd worn often. 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. He may end up needing it, 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 back through the stadium concourse, they entered a large, bright waiting room. It was mostly white, with a few potted trees along the walls and plants set on tables to break the drabness. There were dozens of rows of linked chairs — plenty of seating for the waiting competitors. Large television screens hung on the walls, though they were off for the time being.

They looked around curiously. Dozens of fellow Trainers had already gotten up well before them. The chatter between them was at a minimum. Some of them kept their Pokémon out of their Poké Balls. All of the Trainers seemed as anxious to get started as they were, and their Pokémon were just as focused.

Antoshi looked through the pamphlet again.

“Well, it looks like the gates open for the crowds at eight,” he said. “Opening ceremonies start at ten — that's when all the competitors are brought out to the stadium grounds for a short time. 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.

They both turned around and grinned.

“Cory! Hey!” Antoshi greeted him.

“Hey there. I didn't think so many other Trainers got up as early as I did. Guess that's to be expected with those 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 …’ Cory's voice echoed in Fireball's head. ‘Wa~ffles …’

Cory 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.”

Cory 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 in the waiting area. 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.

Some time later, the television screens turned on. Those waiting got to watch the morning newscast. One of the reports was about the ongoing events after the destruction of Fern Town. Antoshi idly closed his book, taking great interest in the report. While the chatter in 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's chest tightened 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, leaving the boy to mull over the relation between the two. He didn't have any dreams about the destruction of Slateport. He could only wonder if there really was a connection.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

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.

“Wow, that's crazy,” a girl nearby remarked.

“What is that, like, a hundred thousand people?” another person mused.

“Has to be. All those people are going to be watching us? Can I just drop out now?”

There was some boisterous laughing near the front of the room. A male, teenage Trainer hopped to his feet, turning to the others in the room.

“Cowards — out the door!” he shouted to the group, pointing toward the exit. His antics sparked laughs and playful jeers from others. “Go on! If you're scared of the crowd, head home! You'll make it a lot easier for the rest of us to win this tournament! Go on now!”

With the images of the crowds filing in, the Trainers were starting to get rowdy as they mentally prepared themselves. Antoshi couldn't help but laugh to himself at the ruckus, while nervously wringing his cold hands.

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.”

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
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 prepare himself.

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. Each line of Trainers was led 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.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this year's Spring Indigo League Championship Tournament!” he exclaimed. The crowd roared in excitement. “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 the Trainers on, some of them chose to wave while others kept to themselves. More volunteers walked past the group, directing each Trainer to stand in neatly 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 male volunteers standing by spoke to them as they neared him.

“Stand here, please,” he said, bringing the pair to a halt. He promptly did the same for the next few Trainers behind them.

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. The tournament they'd dreamed of for so long was starting with them as participants.

“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."

Antoshi took great pride in making it this far along with all the other Trainers and their companion Pokémon surrounding him. He felt as though he were part of the upper echelon of Trainers that the Kanto region had to offer. They'd spent countless hours training in all manner of weather, in all different locales, getting dirty and muddy, drenched in sweat and collapsing from exhaustion. Indeed, it made all their grit, determination, and struggle to make it there totally worth it — just as Fireball said.

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 up at the Champion on screen in astonishment, having never seen him before. He was spellbound by the Champion's gaze.

‘Whoa,’ Antoshi thought. ‘That look in his eyes. He's definitely a Trainer with some serious experience — I can feel it. He's been through way more than what Fireball and I have.’

“Now, ladies and gentlemen,” Cedric continued, “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, however, as all the Trainers were escorted back inside the concourse 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 they were led into was near identical to the first, only with half as many Trainers and their Pokémon.

“Greetings, Trainers,” a different, 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 monitor 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 to you all!”

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.

Antoshi exhaled slowly, closing his eyes to becalm his racing heart. Not long after, 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?"

Fireball 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.”

"You know," Fireball said, grabbing Antoshi's attention, "I noticed that, despite how nervous or excited you've been, that whole 'glowy red light' thing hasn't appeared around you."

“Yeah,” he replied, looking down at his open hands, “I noticed that, too. I'm not sure what that means. It could be that I've gotten a bit more a handle on it, or maybe … it's just gone.”

Fireball was surprised by the suggestion, though it seemed possible. While he was always concerned for his friend's well-being first, he was a little disappointed by the thought of Antoshi's miraculous powers simply vanishing just as mysteriously as they appeared.

Antoshi, Fireball, and the others 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, Antoshi took note of the expressions on their faces. They were confident, eager — not at all nervous like he was.

“The red side Trainer, Mitch, advances!” Cedric exclaimed.

The camera zoomed in on the large man from before as he looked out 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 powerful."

Antoshi observed the next match with intrigue on his face. His hands were clasped against his lips, his gaze almost unblinking. He felt the same sense of wonderment as 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 to face 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, so 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!” Cedric said. “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,” the boy said.

Fireball grinned and nodded back.

“Trainers 147 and 476 — 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 clenched his fists at his side, doing his best to stay focused.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

“Oh, crap!” Blaire exclaimed in surprise, sitting up 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 young man was 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 — Cory!”

Antoshi gasped, his eyes wide in disbelief.

"That's some coincidence," Fireball remarked, taking the words from Antoshi's mouth.

Cory 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.

“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 overhead lit up with information and an image of each Trainer. While Cory'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, is only using 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 back in Johto.

He calmly swirled around his wine. Antoshi's face was 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!” Cory 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. The displays lit up one of the slots on Cory's side with an image of Lucario.

‘That is one well-trained Lucario,’ Antoshi thought, watching the Lucario stand totally motionless.

“Lucario — Aura Sphere!”

Lucario shouted in acknowledgment, holding its hands at one side. In the space between them, it summoned a bright ball of energy — not unlike how Fireball summoned his Focus Blast technique.

“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 swiftly 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 in shock, thrown through the air and 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.

“Dodge it, Lucario!” Cory said.

Lucario narrowed its eyes and jumped high into the air. Similar to 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.

Cory chuckled. “Let's show them just how fast you really 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 panicked, realizing he needed to detect Lucario's whereabouts in order to counter it. It was moving incredibly fast, impossible for his eyes to follow. Antoshi's irises suddenly shifted glowing red on their own accord with the power of his mysterious energy. He gasped upon his senses becoming massively boosted out of nowhere.

Lucario's supersonic movements around the battlefield clearly became 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 almost instantaneously 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 and senses returned to normal.

‘What in the world just happened?’ he thought. ‘Why did that happen? …’

Antoshi quickly shifted his attention back to the battle before them. “Fireball — use Inferno!”

"Oh-ho," Fireball remarked, just after setting his jaw, "this is a cool attack."

The flames on Fireball's back flared wildly as he gave a loud roar. The ground under Lucario rumbled briefly before a towering pillar of ghostly blue flames spiraled upward. Lucario shouted in pain, consumed in fires that Cory 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!” Cory 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!” Cory exclaimed.

Yet, Fireball's attack continued onward. Lucario was struck by the powerful flames, 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! The tide of battle may be swinging in the favor of the young Trainer from Saffron!”

Cory 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 said to Cory. “Good thing you didn't go with another physical attack, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to do that!”

“That was a great gamble,” Cory replied, reaching for another ball on his belt. “Very clever, too. Don't forget I can use two more Pokémon left, with five to choose from!”

“People always like to remind us of how outnumbered we are,” Antoshi said, laughing. “That's not going to throw us off our game, though. We're always outnumbered.”

Cory 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!” Cory quickly commanded. His Pokémon's eyes shifted to a bright, glowing purple.

“Fireball, cover your eyes!” Antoshi said.

It was already too late for Fireball to look away from the mesmerizing glow of Crobat's eyes. His vision became incredibly blurry, unable to formulate a thought in his head. He began to stumble about randomly with a dazed expression.

“Ohh!” Cedric exclaimed. “It appears the red side's Typhlosion has become confused! What does this mean for Antoshi and his solo Pokémon?!”

“Great …” Antoshi muttered in dismay. “Fireball, use Smokescreen!”

"Smokescreen?" Fireball wondered aloud, trying to remember what move that was.

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!” Cory said.

Crobat crossed its wings over its face. It summoned forth two swaths of glowing, purple energy in the shape of an 'X' before launching itself into the smoke to deliver it. 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 and rolled to a stop next to Antoshi.

"… Did I just get hit?" Fireball asked, wearily. The smokescreen faded away.

“A direct hit!” Cedric said. “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,” he said, “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!" Fireball said, laughing.

“The confusion seems to have taken its toll!” Cedric remarked. “Antoshi's Typhlosion has struck itself in its confusion!”

Antoshi ran a shaking hand through his hair. Fireball still appeared fine after the self-inflicted damage, but the confusion took away a valuable attack opportunity from them.

“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,” Antoshi said, “give 'em a Thunder Punch!”

'Thunder Punch?' Fireball thought.

His eyes went wide, his forepaw suddenly crackling with electricity. Crobat momentarily vanished, reappearing as it dashed by Fireball to strike his face hard with its wing. At the same time, Fireball swung hard and caught Crobat in the nick of time with a Thunder Punch to its midsection.

The result of the traded blows sent Crobat spiraling upward. It smashed hard into the ground, twitching, unable to get back up.

“What an amazing turn of events!” Cedric said. “Typhlosion snaps out of its confusion just in time! Crobat is down! What an incredible display of skill and strength so far by the red side! What an upset this would be!!”

Crobat's image on the displays became shaded out. Cory was down to one Pokémon.

‘Wow,’ Cory 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 messily etched into its red top. He smiled warmly.

‘You haven't lost yet, my friend,’ Cory thought. ‘Not since, well, …’ he trailed off, glancing over at Fireball.

“Now, let's get our long-awaited rematch, buddy!” Cory said. “I choose you, Swampert!”

Antoshi gasped in surprise, staring down the large, cobalt blue biped. Fireball smirked, giving an acknowledging nod to his old rival. Swampert nodded back.

‘Well, shoot,’ Antoshi thought. ‘I certainly expected him to send out his Swampert at some point. It is a great choice on his part, tactically. He has to know by now that Fireball can use Burn Up. But, … should we use it?’ He glanced at Fireball, who appeared to be fully recovering from his confusion. ‘This certainly won't be like the last time we used the move. It's a gamble either way.’

A breeze passed by as the two Trainers grinned to each other, soaking up the moment of their long-awaited rematch. Their staredown brought back memories of that fateful day when they first met. For a moment in their minds, they were back in the Cerulean City Pokémon Center. Mudkip was facing off against Quilava all over again.

“All is quiet on the battlefield as both sides size each other up,” Cedric said, in a hushed tone. “The crowd has also fallen to a hush in this moment of tension. What could these two outstanding Trainers be planning?”

“Fireball,” Antoshi said, making the first move, “Flamethrower!”

Fireball roared as he fired a powerful stream of flames at his opponent.

“Guard!” Cory 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 naturally moist skin was mildly singed, it appeared no worse for wear.

Antoshi was shocked.

‘That is definitely not good,’ he thought.

“Swampert, Muddy Water!”

Cory's Pokémon smacked its hands on the ground, causing a rush of dirt and water to bubble up. The water came to life and quickly began spiraling around Swampert's body like a small maelstrom. It swirled around with increasing ferocity while expanding outward. Once it reached Fireball, it lashed hard at him. Fireball struggled to maintain his ground against the powerful waves of thick, dense water. The water thrashed violently and tore at his body. It felt similar to the sandstorms he recently weathered — with the added torture of being underwater as well.

“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?” Antoshi asked in concern.

The Typhlosion 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!” Antoshi said.

He brought his hands up to his neck, clasped down tightly, 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. Cory 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,’ Cory thought.

Antoshi, too, was surprised and impressed. He had never seen Fireball summon forth such intensity in that attack before. He knew just how much this battle meant to Fireball. Not just because of the tournament, but because of the pride at stake against the one Pokémon he considered to be his rival.

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.’

Fireball gnashed his teeth furiously, the fires on his back flaring up as a visual testament to the fire in his heart at that moment.

“Swampert,” Cory said, “use Waterfall!”

Swampert gave a shout before it rushed forth with incredible speed that a Pokémon of its size seemed incapable of. As it quickly closed the gap, its body suddenly 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 began to soar high into the air. Fireball groaned loudly, trying to free himself from the powerful momentum. He managed to roll away, but it was to no avail as his opponent darted back down. A large stream of water trailed behind Swampert, reminiscent of a waterfall.

Fireball was again struck headlong by Swampert, helpless against the momentum as they plummeted together. Fireball crashed to the ground hard on his back with Swampert's head firmly buried in his chest. Swampert swiftly hopped back to its feet and ducked out of the way. Fireball was consumed by the falling tower of water, crushed further into the ground from the 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. The Typhlosion's resilience was beyond his belief. If Fireball could just hold out for a bit longer, he'd most definitely outlast Swampert's stamina. Fireball 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 Cory is the victor!”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

At the Cinnabar Gym, Blaire dropped her bag of snack chips in dismay.

“Seriously?” she wondered aloud. “Well, … I guess it couldn't be helped. They got way further than a Trainer with a single Pokémon probably should, and they put up a heck of a fight.”

Blaire offered a round of applause for the two, while her awaiting challenger grumbled.

“Can we battle now?” he asked.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Antoshi fell to his knees, the world around him seemed to move in slow-motion. The words of their defeat spoken by the announcer echoed in his head. His jaw quavered, clenching his fists, his eyes filling with tears. Their dream had come to a sudden, abrupt ending. Those 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. He sniffled and closed his eyes, breathing a slow and shaky sigh of relief.

‘It's over,’ he thought. ‘Just like that, our long journey in Kanto is 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 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. We did our absolute best. The 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 and 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, so I can bring you to the Pokémon Center to get you all healed up.’

He held up the ball, pulling his unconscious friend into it in a crimson beam of light.

“Fireball, … return.”

With one hand, he casually wiped the tears from his eyes and stood up as the crowd began to cheer louder. With a long sigh, he faced them. He smiled as proudly as he could, taking his loss with grace. He held Fireball's Poké Ball tightly as he turned and walked away.

“Antoshi!” Cory 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 Cory!” Cedric said, prompting those in attendance to applaud and cheer.

As Cory waved to the crowd, Antoshi disappeared back into the stadium tunnel.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

As he promised his friend, it only took a few minutes for Antoshi to reach the stadium's Pokémon Center. He handed Fireball's Poké Ball to Nurse Joy before taking a seat in the nearby empty waiting room.

Nurse Joy soon called him back over once the Typhlosion 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 smiled and hugged his friend back. Tears rolled down both of their faces.

“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.

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
Chapter 11


The duo rested for a short time in the Pokémon Center, sitting together on a couple of chairs. Antoshi idly played with the identification lanyard he continued to wear. Fireball playfully swung his stubby legs, which couldn't reach the floor. 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, smiling, as he waved an unknown party over. “147?” he asked the duo. Antoshi nodded, confused. “You have some visitors.”

The pair's jaws simultaneously dropped as Antoshi's parents emerged. The boy rose to his feet.

“Mom? Dad?” he asked, grinning ecstatically.

“Oh, Antoshi!” his mother responded with a sorrowful expression.

Antoshi ran over and threw his arms around her. Both of his parents held and consoled him as he cried into his mother's shoulder. It felt like forever since he'd been in their embrace. There was an indescribable sense of relief inside him, brought on by the familiar scent and warmth that only his parents could provide. It was more than enough to mend the hole that their loss left in his heart.

“It's all right,” his mother reassured him, with tears in her eyes. “You and Fireball put up an incredible battle out there. I was so proud watching you both 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 warmly, stroking the back of his son's head.

“How, uh, … how long have you been here?” Antoshi asked, clearing his throat. “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! Of course, we still wanted to surprise you, just in case you won the whole shebang. 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 laughed. Antoshi smiled gently and nodded.

“Thanks, Mom,” he softly responded. “I needed that, … and I really needed to see you both right now.”

“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 so lucky to have the two of you always encouraging me and helping pick me back up. We never would've gotten this far without you both behind us all the way.”

His mother giggled and hugged him tightly.

“You're still going to come home after the tournament wraps up, 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, Fireball, are 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.

With that, the four of them headed off, chatting and laughing together.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

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. As expected, Fireball got to eat plenty all throughout each day.

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. He got her thoughts on several of the tournament match-ups, and talked over different strategies with her.

Antoshi and Fireball cheered loud and proud for Cory as he continued to advance through the brackets. By the end of the tournament, Cory had made it to the semifinals before finally being eliminated. He was disappointed about the loss, but very proud to have made 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 gets 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, then 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. They hadn't won this time, but it was only their first attempt. The fires still burned in his heart to keep on trying.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

"Gimme the window seat," Fireball said. "I want the window seat."

“You always want the window seat,” Antoshi replied, voice hushed. Fireball quietly snickered.

It was the following morning. The duo climbed aboard one of the cars of a train. Rather than walking back, the duo and Antoshi's parents opted to take transportation home together. It was the same mode of transport his parents had used to get to Viridian City. The high-speed train station in Viridian would take them back to Saffron, with some stops along the way.

Antoshi and Fireball chose a seat together, with Fireball expectedly sitting by the window. Antoshi's parents sat together nearby. Antoshi sighed in relief, dropping his backpack to the floor between his legs and leaned back. It was a relaxing end of their long journey across Kanto.

“This is so much fun!” his mother remarked nearby.

As they waited for all the other passengers to head on board, an elderly gentleman in the seat behind Antoshi eased forward to grab his attention.

“Hey there, youngster,” the gentleman said.

Antoshi curiously turned around to face him. “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 heard his name being spoken. He peered over the seat and waved. The man chuckled.

“Well,” the gentleman continued, “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 the suburbs of Saffron City. The pair smiled proudly as they got out of their family car with Antoshi's parents. Their house was a moderately spacious, two-story affair with several bedrooms, a pool in the backyard, and a sprawling front lawn. Antoshi's neighbors waved to him. He smiled happily and waved back.

“Welcome back!” one of them said.

“Thank you!” he replied.

The cul-de-sac hadn't changed a bit. Everything was still just the way he remembered. Amid a perfectly clear sky, the afternoon sun shone just right, casting its glow upon their quiet, suburban neighborhood. It felt good to be home again.

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. They'd sprouted up a lot since the last time he'd seen them. It made him feel as though he'd been gone for ages.

Antoshi's parents chuckled as the kids rushed up to him.

“We'll meet you inside, Antoshi,” his mother said, before she and her husband parted their company.

“Wo~ow!” Jack said. “Fireball really grew up!”

Jack and Jade looked up at Antoshi and Fireball with wide grins and enthused gazes. The two youngsters certainly appeared to idolize them as their neighborhood heroes. 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,” Antoshi replied, “… 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 unforgettable adventure like we did.” Antoshi and Fireball nodded to each other before parting ways with them. “It was good talking to you two! 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.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

“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.

Inside his office further inside 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.

The overwhelming silence surrounding the boy gave way to the sound of footsteps echoing down the hall — and they were getting closer. He groaned softly, breaking out of his trance. He sat up, still 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, smiling.

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. The boy's eyes shifted between the General and the robot, his jaw hanging agape in awe. He was oddly impressed over the General's control of the robots, which he himself couldn't get to do anything for him.

“Who are you?” the boy asked. “Are you here to get me out? Where are my parents? Can—can I go home now?”

“Easy, easy,” he reassured the boy. “First, let me introduce myself. 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? Improvised explosives? 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, panicked. “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,” the General replied, slipping the pen into his uniform's coat pocket. “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.

“No! No, don't go!!” he shouted, rapping his hands on the glass. His eyes quickly welled up with tears. “Please let me out! Please, please, let me out. …”

The boy shut his eyes, falling to his knees as he wept.

“I just 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 upon 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.

Everything was still the same — the horrible, stagnant, routine, sterile same. He had long since gone past all stages of grief, resigned to living out each day in nothingness. Despite how cold, empty, and powerless he felt, he never lost his will to go on. The endless monotony and solitude had affected his psyche so brutally, and yet he hadn't given up the tiny glimmer of hope that rested in his heart. He could only dream about what the world looked like outside the constricting four walls of his cell.

There was a deep, churning swell of emotions underneath his pale, listless gaze. So much anger, sorrow, and fear that had built up inside of him. He was especially vengeful toward the General — his only human contact since his imprisonment. The man had been so uncaring, only wanting to pry memories from the boy which he still could not recall. He never gave the boy an ounce of humanity, nothing to make any attempt to lift the boy's spirits. His mind swirled with terrible thoughts and imagery of revenge against the General. Yet, Logan was the only person who could give him his freedom. He remained amiable towards the man for that reason alone.

A short time later, General Logan came to his cell once more. He was flanked by a slightly taller creature.

“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, mindlessly, in a singsong voice.

“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 in a gentle voice. “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.

“Emptiness,” Slowking replied. “Emptiness, giving way to … anger. Such anger. Beyond that, there's … something before I can reach his memories. It's like wading through a dense, pitch-black void. So much … darkness. 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, concerned.

The boy slid down to his knees, groaning and shaking his head.

“There's was … something there,” Slowking said, trembling as it held its closed eyes. “Something inside of him that didn't want me probing around his mind. It was dark; inexplicable. It seemed to be slumbering at first when I was inside, but … I fear I may have awoken it — jarred something to life that was better left alone. It was no Pokémon. A monster, perhaps. A monster … sleeping inside of this young boy.”

“Come, let's get you healed up,” Logan said, helping escort his blinded Pokémon away.

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. He all alone — once again. “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. For the first time in a long time, a genuine smile crept across his dry, chapped lips.

“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 in the world 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. Though it was hard for him to sleep, being catatonic most of the time, he felt some comfort in having someone he could talk to — even if they were just a disembodied voice in his head.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

General Logan returned to his office alone. Colonel Nolan was watching the boy on the screens. The General closed the door behind him, taking his seat and sighed heavily. He popped open the crystal decanter on his desk to pour himself a drink.

“To be completely honest with you, Nolan,” Logan said, “that boy frightens me. There's something so unnatural about him. It shakes me to my core every time I have to talk with him. That Slowking sent to us was supposed to be the best extractor of the mind we have. Instead of finally getting results after two whole months, the kid just … I don't know, attacks 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 feels wrong to lock him away for so long.”

Logan exhaled after taking a sip of his drink. He kept his glass in hand, thinking 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. There's no doubt in my mind about that after what I witnessed today. Whether he's doing so on purpose or not, I have no idea. That child is the only witness to, and 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 may be using weapons, or he may be a weapon himself, but he's definitely hiding something. Some crucial piece of evidence is locked up in that boy's head. Doesn't matter how long it takes to find out. Higher-ups don't care. The other problem is that 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 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, composing himself quickly so as not to let it show.

“Understood, sir.”

Nolan turned to watch the sleeping boy on the monitor.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

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. That was something he needed to get used to. '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 day by day. 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 of doing great things?'

“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?”

'I know you will, because I will help you to earn your freedom.'

A grin spread across his face, pumping his fists. “You'll … help me? What do I have to do?!”

'Settle down, firstly,' the voice said, firmly. 'I told you to keep your movements discreet — remember?'

He quickly placed his hands on his lap. “Right, sorry.”

'I want you to listen closely to what I am about to tell you. … You are far stronger than you can comprehend. You have a unique destiny to reach where you will 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 the 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 his face. He found Lazarus' words inspiring and began to draw strength from the mysterious voice. 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.'

With a content sigh, the boy did as Lazarus instructed. “Now what?”

'You must learn how to mentally focus your energy through meditation. It is the only way you can train inside of this box. The process will be slow, but undoubtedly worth it. Now, close your eyes.' The boy complied yet again. '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. He was hoping for faster results.

“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, he felt an unknown energy began to swirl inside and invigorate him ever so slightly. 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, the sadness, the despair you felt from being locked up here. Think about how painful it was for you to be neglected and forgotten. Remember your frustration of having no memories, and how your words fell on deaf ears.'

His breathing gradually became more intense. The horrible memories of his confinement for something he didn't recall doing became a much needed spark. That spark ignited the welled-up fuel: the latent anger in his heart that had simmered under the surface for so long. 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 while keeping his negative emotions forefront 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 exhausted. It became clear that there was so much more to his meditation than simply sitting on a bed for hours. He felt as though he'd been outputting constant physical exertion.

'That is enough for today. You are starting to overexert yourself.'

“I can keep going,” the boy said, struggling to sit upright. “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 have reached your limit, and you will stop. Is that understood?'

“All right, 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. Slowly, something waded to the surface. It was the image of a piece of paper on a table. He recalled himself taking a closer at it, able to make 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. For now, get some rest. Tomorrow, I will teach you more of what you wish to know.'

The young boy, now known as Latoshi, settled into bed. He grinned from ear to ear, staring at the plain white ceiling. He was overjoyed, finally able to recall a modicum of his life before his horrible imprisonment. Remembering something as critical as his name was momentous for him. It was just the first piece of the puzzle toward regaining his memories. He wiped a tear from his eye, continuing to smile as he 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 for a few moments, Latoshi got into his meditative position. 'As promised, today I will further your teaching. Resume focusing your energy and concentrating your emotions. Remember your goal.'

With a long, slow exhale, he did as he was told. It wasn't long before 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. He kept himself from moving, worried that it might disappear at the slightest twitch.

'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 hands as if you are 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.'

The boy concentrated into doing so for a few moments. With some effort, he was able to complete his task as Lazarus had asked him. To his surprise, 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 is the energy of your spirit. It is your 'Ki'.'

Latoshi admired the energy he created for a short time. It gave off a warmth that he found comforting. In some way he couldn't understand, the energy felt like a weapon of phenomenal power.

'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 strength 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. He felt so much more relaxed and at ease, allowing his personality to finally shine through. He was no longer the cowering, terrified child when he first awoke in his cell. 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 and moral guide.

General Logan continued to occasionally visit the boy. His visits had previously been an event that Latoshi 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 within those weeks — a far cry from the rambling, singing, and blank staring he previously engaged in to pass the time.

Day after day, 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. His hand also served to conceal his mouth movements from the nearby camera.

“Stronger than I probably have been in 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 scoffed in amusement. “That prick Logan seriously 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.'

“Of course 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 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. One more day, and then I'll be out of this hellhole. I'll make every person in here pay for keeping me locked up. Starting with you, Logan.’

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Over the three months that passed 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. They watched plenty of TV together and Antoshi got to brush up on his video gaming skills. Fireball got to have all the snacks he wanted, anytime he wanted. Antoshi shared tons of stories with his parents about their journey at the dinner table — a place where 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. For him, schoolwork was fun, and he enjoyed doing it.

They kept their battling prowess from waning by doing some training in the woods, similar to how they'd train when they were younger. On most days, they could 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 that morning for Antoshi's birthday. His mother hung a colorful, 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,” the boy replied, walking around with a grin on his face. “These parties get more and more extravagant every year.”

His father laughed. “That's what I said!”

“Well,” his mother responded, “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 in astonishment.

“You did an amazing job, Mom,” Antoshi said, smiling, “like you always do.” He walked up to her to share a brief hug.

“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 gift. They grinned as both of them shared the responsibility of tearing away the neatly-wrapped red paper. 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. He was surprised his parents would get him something so casual. “… 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, too!”

“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?” his father asked. “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, with a nervous chuckle. 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, nervously wringing with her hands like Antoshi would, “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 all-new towns and new scenery, and trying new foods was so much fun for us.” Fireball nodded, enthused. “Johto is a whole new place with a brand new attitude. We want to experience that all over again, and we really don't want to wait around 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 than we are now. 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 can speak for both of us for a minute,” 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, wiping a tear from her eye. “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 some friends from the neighborhood — including Jack and Jade. The two young siblings eagerly showed Antoshi the Pokémon that they'd just started training: a pair of Eevee. They soaked up all the knowledge he had to share with them about being a Trainer.

Antoshi was very thankful upon opening 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 new backpack, which was also red, was stocked full of supplies as it sat by the bedroom door. The duo smiled as they stared at the ceiling.

“This bed is always so 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 just 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, back in Johto, 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.

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
Chapter 12


General Logan marched around the hallway corner, nearing closer to Latoshi's cell. He was in no mood to be ignored this time, ready for a confrontation with the boy. His superiors, despite their previous willingness to keep the boy locked up for life, were becoming impatient with him. He'd shown absolutely nothing for his efforts in the past three months. Because of that, they turned up the heat on him — results, or consequences.

However, Logan was surprised to find the boy sitting on the side of the bed. Latoshi was staring intensely at him, as though he'd been expecting him.

“Well, now,” he said, “I finally have your attention for once.” He held up a clipboard full of papers up against the bulletproof glass. “Do you see this? These are discharge papers. They're already filled out — all they require is my signature. Once I do that, you're completely free.”

A hovering robot came by, placing a chair for Logan to sit down. Perturbed, the General kicked the chair away. The robot hovered quietly in place.

“You just have to work with me,” Logan went on, “it's all I ask for. You've been in here for over three months now. You're without your family, who've probably given up hope looking for you. Why don't you just tell me anything? Give me something. I'm trying to help you, but first, you need to help me. Okay?”

Latoshi grinned, almost cackling at the General's remarks. “Help me?” Latoshi asked, edging forward a bit. “The moment I was put in this cage was the moment all help was impossible. You, and whoever else you're working with, you don't give a damn about me. You were willing to lock up a kid for the rest of his life as long as it means you get your results in the end. I already know that I will never get out of here — not as long as I don't have my memories back, and you continue to refuse to believe me. It doesn't matter anymore, though. The only help I need now is from Lazarus.”

“Lazarus?” the General asked, confused. “Who is Lazarus?”

Latoshi smiled, slowly getting to his feet. He pressed his hands against the glass while the black light of his energy formed around him.

“You can't even see this, can you? This aura around me?” The General appeared puzzled. “Exactly as I thought. You have no idea how strong I am now, how infinitely stronger I've become since you locked me in here to rot. The pain and torture you've inflicted upon me only served as a catalyst to drive me forward.”

“Pain?!” the General shot back, posturing intimidatingly in front of him. The boy grinned arrogantly in response. “How about all the pain you inflicted on those victims' families? What about the torture that they go through every day and night knowing they can't even bury the loved ones that you killed?!”

“I told you I can't remember anything!” Latoshi shouted. “But that was never good enough for you! You spent these last three months acting as my keeper — watching over me, studying me, never giving me a moment of privacy!”

The General chuckled. “You think you're entitled to anything. No, your rights were gone the moment you caused that explosion. Your rights are gone because you refuse to tell us what we want to know. This prison cell is your coffin. You will never get out of here.”

Latoshi's blood boiled. The situation was exactly as he assumed. It only took a bit of pressure to get Logan to finally come clean and validate all of the hatred the boy had welled up inside of him. He had no regrets for what he was about to do.

“And that's where you're wrong,” Latoshi said, bitterly. His black aura flickered wildly around him. His brown irises shifted to a shimmering black as he glared into the General's eyes with contempt. “You rotten bastard! I'm going to kill you! I'm going to kill all of you!”

He screamed in a rage, slamming his fist against the glass, instantly shattering the otherwise impenetrable barrier. Suddenly, there was nothing separating Latoshi and the General. As the glass broke, a blaring alarm and blinking red lights went off throughout the compound.

“No,” Logan said, backing away in fear. “That's … unreal! No kid's that strong! No one is that strong!”

Latoshi laughed, boisterously. “It's very real. And now, I'm very free.”

“Prisoner escape alert!” a male voice rang out through the facility. “High-value prisoner escape in section A-3! All units are ordered to subdue and capture prisoner! Use of lethal force is authorized!”

“'High-value', huh?” Latoshi remarked with an amused grin. “Wow. Guess I was something of a celebrity around here.”

The General quickly turned and ran, leaving Latoshi to his fate.

'Ignore him for now,' Lazarus said. 'It is time to exact your revenge and earn the freedom you worked so hard for.'

A sinister smirk spread across the boy's lips, rushing down the hallway opposite to where the General ran. As he looked around, he finally saw more of the facility. It was all as cold and white and sterile as he'd been accustomed to. The bright, white lights rolling past disgusted him. He wished never to see lights like that ever again.

He turned another corner. A military policeman in full tactical gear was standing in his way. He came to a halt, shocked, as the man pointed an assault rifle at him.

“Down on the ground!” the man yelled at him. “Now!!”

'Well?'
Lazarus said to the boy. 'Are you going to give up already and submit to them or … will you test the level of skill you achieved from the fruits of your labor?'

Latoshi narrowed his eyes. With a shout, he tapped into a level of speed he was unaware of and suddenly vanished. The shocked policeman looked around for a moment before realizing the boy was behind him. He quickly turned around, eyes filled with fear.

“How—how did you …” He suddenly raised his weapon.

Latoshi automatically responded by holding a hand out in front of him. The man was confused.

“What do you … think you're doing?” the man asked. “Put your hands behind your head — now!”

Latoshi sneered, summoning forth the black energy of his spirit that had been forged from the anguish inside of him. His eyes went wide and the muscles in his body tensed. He shouted again, firing a large stream of energy from his palm — enough to cover the entire hallway.

In an instant, the man was completely vaporized.

The energy continued on, striking the far wall and exploding on impact. Latoshi lowered his arm, staring blankly in disbelief at the destruction he'd wrought.

“Did I … did I just …”

'End him?' Lazarus chimed in. 'You most certainly did. Consider that the fate of any others who would dare stand in your way. Now, continue your—'

“It came from over here!” a nearby voice shouted.

A handful of officers rounded the corner. They immediately raised their weapons upon spotting the boy.

“Get on the ground!” one of them shouted.

“Time to go,” Latoshi said.

'Wait,' Lazarus stopped him. 'Stay where you are.'

“What?! They have guns. You know, those things with bullets inside them? Now seems like a pretty good time to run.”

'On the contrary. I want you to use this as an illustration of just how invulnerable you are.'

“On the ground! Hands behind your head!”

'Ignore their commands,'
Lazarus reassured him. 'Continue to defy them until they open fire.'

Latoshi swallowed nervously before scowling at the men.

“Get on the ground, hands on your head, or we will open fire! You have three seconds to comply! One! … Two! … Three!”

Latoshi gasped as the sound of gunshots rang out. His irises glowing, his perception of time suddenly slowed down. The bullets whizzed toward him before striking the flaring black aura of energy surrounding his body. They were stopped as though striking a solid steel wall.

The smoking brass bullet casings clattered on the ground around the officers. The bullets themselves fell at Latoshi's feet. Latoshi and the men looked on in disbelief, both sides realizing the boy hadn't been harmed.

'Finish them,' Lazarus said.

“Ha!” Latoshi chortled in amusement, raising an open palm to the men. A twisted grin spread across his lips. With a shout, he fired another large blast of energy to extinguish the men. The attack caused further explosions and destruction to the base.

'More of them will likely continue to file in like ants,' Lazarus said. 'They are a waste of your talents. Now is the time to display the true extent of your destructive power. Escape through the roof.'

Latoshi looked around. “I don't know where the exit is.”

'You may make your own exit, Latoshi. You need only use your imagination.'

He thought for a moment. He looked up, firing an energy blast to punch through the ceiling.

“Hope this works,” he muttered.

With some effort and straining, the black aura around him flickered intensely. He uttered a cry of surprise, kicking his legs as his energy slowly pulled him up off the ground. He carefully maneuvered through the gap he made. He gasped as a gust of wind swept over him — real, outside air.

“I—I'm flying?” he remarked, dumbfounded. “I'm … outside?”

He trembled in awe, hovering hundreds of feet in the air on his own accord, taking in the new sights around him.

'Do you now see what fantastic abilities your power affords you?' Lazarus said. 'This is only just the beginning. First, however, you must rid yourself of the past. Eliminate this facility.'

Latoshi gazed down at the multiple long buildings that made up the military black site.

'Recall the memories. Channel those emotions you felt. Remember how helpless you felt. Remember how tortured and agonized you were.'

Everything Lazarus had to say resounded powerfully within him. The words stirred his emotions, causing his aura to surge wildly. The boy's expression turned sour, his black irises shimmering.

He clenched his trembling fists tightly, summoning forth his energy once more. He held both hands out in front of him, taking aim at the site. With an echoing shout, he fired a couple of large spherical blasts of black energy that spiraled downward and punched holes through the building he'd just escaped from.

There was a brief moment of calm before violent, shattering explosions rang out. Those explosions set off chains of other explosions throughout the structure. Latoshi looked on with an amused grin, wild-eyed. The power he held inside of him was beyond what he'd ever imagined would come from the results of his training.

'More!' Lazarus said in a jovial tone. 'Raze the entire island down to nothing but ashes!'

Latoshi laughed wildly. He sent wave after wave of energy at everything down below, leaving almost none of the site untouched. Before long, the buildings were crumbled, consumed in fire and explosions. It was a beautiful sight for him to behold.

Just then, a military chopper ascended out of the smoke. He narrowed his eyes. From afar, he managed to clearly see the pilot along with both General Logan and Colonel Nolan inside. He scowled at the sight of his captors attempting to flee.

In an instant, Latoshi appeared in front of the helicopter with his arms folded across his chest, smirking and oozing confidence. The people inside were terrified.

“Impossible!” Nolan shouted.

“No…” Logan replied. “It was him all along. He did destroy Fern Town. Now, I finally understand how he did it.”

Latoshi held a hand out. The energy he summoned and subsequently fired at the rotor was invisible to the passengers. The people inside screamed in terror as the top of the vehicle exploded, sending them spiraling helplessly to the ground.

He laughed, watching the flaming remnants explode.

“You know, I kind of hope they survived that!” Latoshi remarked. “I want them to suffer a little longer before they burn to death.”

'You have now earned your freedom. There is no limit for you at this point. You possess ultimate power.'

He gazed at the energy in his palm, exhilaration surging through him. His captors were killed, his prison confinement totally obliterated. They held no power over him, and they could hurt him no longer.

“Yes,” he replied, grinning. “This power is incredible. I'll be able to make a real impact for good in the world — just like you said I could. Best of all, no one's going to lock me away ever again. There's nothing anyone can do to stop me.”

A vision suddenly flashed in his mind. A massive dome of his black energy rapidly expanding out of his body.

“What … was that?” he wondered aloud. “A memory?”

'Do not worry about it. I told you before, your memories will come back in time. For now, savor your victory.'

Latoshi nodded, gazing down at the destruction he'd reaped with a proud smirk.

'From here, we will work together to change the world for the better. People like these — these parasites who delight in the cruel, suffering misery of the weak — they will be purged. We will cleanse the world of its filth and build the foundation of a new world. You, Latoshi, will serve as its king.'

Latoshi paused for a moment, giving thought to the proposition.

“After all of the pain that they put me through. … That pain and despair and hopelessness is a suffering no one else deserves to go through. I'm more than happy to rid the world of those like them. I have the power to do so. I will do it, Lazarus. I'll gladly do it.”

'Excellent. Let us return to the mainland of Johto. That is where we will begin our efforts.'

Latoshi turned and flew off toward the city of Goldenrod. At the same time, dozens of military helicopters were on route toward the island from afar.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Back in Saffron City, Antoshi jolted awake in a cold sweat. He sat up in bed, having witnessed the military base's destruction through Latoshi's eyes.

‘Another one of those dreams,’ he thought, horrified. ‘But why? It's been months. Why did I … see that?’ He laid back down, staying awake for a short while. ‘That couldn't possibly have been … something else that really happened? … No. It's too horrible to be real.’

With a look of concern, he rolled onto his side. He closed his eyes until he could find solace in sleep once again.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The next morning, Antoshi's Dodrio-shaped alarm clock crowed at six. He rolled over and pressed the 'snooze' button.

“Fireball?” he muttered, still half-asleep, “… Are you awake?”

"Sorta," his friend replied with a yawn. "Waking up early again is going to take some getting used to. We've been sleeping in a lot since coming home."

Antoshi sat up and stretched before rubbing his eyes. “We're about to start a whole new adventure,” he said with a smile. “Are you ready?”

"Absolutely," Fireball replied. The Typhlosion suddenly rolled over onto his side and yawned again. "Just give me five more minutes before we start our adventure."

Antoshi chuckled and shook his head. He slid out of bed to get ready.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Latoshi slowly awoke to a strange ringing noise once again. Laying on the roof of a tall building, he stared groggily at the morning sky for a short time. The pinkish hue of clouds drifting overhead were illuminated by the rising sun. He was left in awe of a sight as simple as the sky. To him, it was the most breathtaking scene he could ever imagine, with endlessly more color beyond the blinding white of his cell. The cries of congregating Spearow echoed in the distance.

His lips curled into a sleepy smile, taking a deep breath of the outdoor air before sitting up. His white clothes had been stained from the black gravel on the roof.

'Morning breaks on our quest for justice,' Lazarus said while the boy stretched. 'For now, we will lay low and plan carefully, just as before. We shall wait until nightfall when most of the insects crawl out from their shadows.'

“How exactly am I supposed to bathe?” he asked flatly, disregarding everything Lazarus just said.

'There are all manner of public restrooms with sinks for you to use, are there not?'

Latoshi’s eyes went wide with fear, recalling the memories of his prison cell. “Absolutely not. I'd rather reek than ever bathe out of a sink again.”

'Your personal hygiene has no bearing on me.'

“Yeah, I guess it wouldn't.”

He walked up on the rooftop's edge, gazing out at the sprawling city of Goldenrod. The morning sun behind him illuminated the city's countless structures. His expression was warm, full of wonder — reflecting the feeling in his heart.

“I can't believe how … happy I feel,” he remarked. “I thought I would never see anything outside of that white room for the rest of my life. There's so many things I want to see and experience. Something out there might just end up jogging my memory. I have to find my home again. I have to find my family.” His stomach suddenly rumbled. “I … also have to find food, too. I need new clothes, so I can get myself out of this stupid, white clothing, and I'll need shoes. What'll I do?”

'Use your power, of course. There is nothing you cannot accomplish. Such trivial tasks do not require explanation.'

Latoshi quietly laughed. “Yeah. It figures I would end up stealing things with my powers.”

He walked along the narrow edge of the rooftop with precise balance, especially for someone that had done very little moving around in three months.

'The world will owe everything to you, and then some. All the riches and spoils you want will be yours when the humans see you for the deity that you are compared to them.'

Latoshi shrugged. “I guess you're right.”

He casually leapt off the side of the building with no regard for his safety. He yawned briefly as his black hair and white clothes whipped in the wind, descending several dozen stories down a dark alleyway. He landed with almost no impact, but scared away the handful of Pikachu scavenging nearby. He stood tall before heading out to the street.

For a few moments, he was overwhelmed by the handfuls of people and Pokémon walking by him. He was surrounded by far more individuals than he was used to. Some curiously glanced at him as he stood in the middle of the sidewalk with a dumbfounded expression. Eventually, Latoshi began his stroll down the street, his eyes wide and full of naiveté. He soaked in all of the sights and sounds and smells around him.

‘This all feels … so new,’ he thought. ‘It's like I've never done this kind of thing before, or … maybe I've never been here before?’

He crossed the street behind a small group, happening upon an outdoor market. Various vendors were setting up their stock for the morning. Displays full of souvenirs, flowers, clothing, and food were all laid out before him. He humphed in amusement.

“Well, this is convenient,” he said, quietly. “Everything I need is right in front of me. How do I even go about this, Lazarus? I can't just start blowing up everything in sight.”

'As I told you before, you need only use your imagination.'

His eyes shifted back and forth, considering what course of action to take. His eyes lit up with an idea, before his irises began to glow black. He suddenly ran as fast as he could, weaving in and out between the pedestrians and the shops faster than any of them were able to see. The vendors all gasped and shouted as a mysterious wind blew past them.

It took only several seconds for him to obtain what he needed. He appeared at the far end of the market, calmly strolling away with an assortment of fresh fruit stacked atop a handful of new clothes.

'Good work,' Lazarus said. 'You are learning how to apply your abilities. The level of precision you showed there was impressive.'

“It's weird,” he remarked. “I moved quickly like that last night, but it's like … I somehow already knew how to do it.”

'That is because you have prodigious natural talent. With my guidance, you will unlock it as quickly as possible.'

Latoshi chuckled to himself, heading into another alleyway to change.

The next time he reappeared, he wore a green t-shirt and similar, lighter colored shorts. He took a bite of a peeled banana, his other arm cradling the rest of the fruit. The people at the market seemed to be none the wiser that he'd stolen from them. He gazed down to admire his brand new zebra-striped sneakers.

“These shoes are pretty nice,” he remarked.

'There will be many more nice things for you to reap. You may continue to enjoy your newfound freedom this morning. We will continue your training later on.'

“Sounds good to me,” Latoshi replied.

He was happy to break in his new shoes, playfully skipping and dancing down the sidewalk.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Fireball sat on the bed while Antoshi looked at himself in his closet mirror. He wore his new red t-shirt and a pair blue jeans — a fresh, casual change of pace from his usual style of attire.

“I really like this look,” he remarked.

"You do?" Fireball asked, curiously.

“Yeah. After all those collared shirts and shorts I went through in Kanto, it's nice to finally change it up.”

"Don't forget the occasional tank top with a million colors."

Antoshi smirked, setting his backpack on the bed next to Fireball. He unzipped it, and they both took a look at the strikingly similar sets of clothes inside.

"Wow," Fireball said. "How many different kinds of red shirts did your mom pack for you?"

“Well, she knows red is my favorite color,” he replied, zipping the bag back up.

"Hope you remembered your toothbrush."

Antoshi chuckled and slung the bag over his shoulders. “Come on, let's get going to Johto!”

"All right!" Fireball exclaimed. The duo eagerly headed to the front of the house together.

“I just hope the Pokémon Centers in Johto don't have us logged as troublemakers like the ones in Kanto.”

"Hey, I thought we agreed that was a 'youthful indiscretion!'"

Antoshi's mother and father waited for him by the front door. He hugged them both, his mother responding by giving him a smattering of kisses. His parents followed the duo as they headed outside.

“You have your ticket?” his mother asked.

“In my pocket,” Antoshi replied.

“Call us as soon as you get settled into Goldenrod City,” she said.

“I will. I love you guys!”

Antoshi and Fireball nodded to each other before heading off to their next destination.

“We love you, Antoshi!” they both said.

His father put an arm around her. They watched the duo head off with pride in their eyes.

“And keep your hair neat this time, Antoshi!” his mother called out. “I put a comb in your backpack for a reason!”

“I make no promises!” Antoshi replied, playfully. “Bye!”

“That boy,” she remarked with a cheeky grin.

“He must be going through 'teenage rebellion',” his father joked as they headed back inside.

“If not combing his hair is teenage rebellion, then we got very lucky, Ralph.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Within a couple of hours of walking, the duo reached Saffron City's Magnet Train station. The indoor station buzzed with people and slews of Pokémon walking in all directions. Everything was kept neat and tidy, even despite the large amount of foot traffic. Glass roof panels provided the building with natural light.

Antoshi glanced at his ticket, then at the large clock overhead.

“Looks like it won't be long now,” he said. He looked over at Fireball, who hopped up and down. “… What are you doing?”

"I can't wait!" Fireball replied. "There's gotta be thousands of things for us to do and see, especially in a place we've never been to before. I wonder what kind of Pokémon we'll see there. What kind of food do they have?!" He threw his head back and roared, "I'm so excited!"

His shouting caused a brief moment of silence throughout the entire station. Upon realizing everyone nearby was staring at him, he quickly recomposed himself.

A police officer standing beside the pair cleared his throat. Antoshi turned to him, catching a stern glare from him. The boy laughed nervously.

“All right, Fireball, settle down,” he said, patting his friend on the back. The officer humphed and marched away.

"Sorry. This is just really awesome. We're going on another adventure! Maybe you'll find a girlfriend in Johto!"

Antoshi cut his eyes at Fireball. “Guess I'm lucky I'm the only one who can understand you,” he grumbled.

Soon after, the train approached the station and slowed to a stop. The silvery train was much longer and sleeker than they imagined.

“Whoa,” the two awe-struck friends remarked in unison.

Once its doors opened, commuters began getting off while new passengers simultaneously boarded. Antoshi handed his ticket to the train conductor, allowing them inside. Both of them could barely contain their excitement as they entered the elegant, well-kept car. Fireball eagerly took up a dual seat by the window. Antoshi sat in the rear-facing seats just in front of him.

"This is great!" Fireball said, grinning as he looked out the window. "We're not even there yet and I feel like I'm going to explode!"

“Please wait until you're off the train before you explode,” Antoshi joked, smirking.

After the passengers were on and seated, the train made a slight yet startling jump, levitating off its magnetic track. The train headed back the way it came from, quickly picking up speed after departing the station. Antoshi and Fireball were in awe at how fast the train was. The ride was unerringly smooth, as though they weren't moving at all. They smiled, spotting some of the locations they'd visited on their exploration of Kanto.

"I wonder if we'll ever go visit Hoenn someday," Fireball remarked.

“One step at a time, Fireball. Don't forget, Slateport City still isn't fully rebuilt.”

"Hasn't it been over a year since that happened?"

“Yeah. It was so sad, too. It reminds me of—”

He stopped suddenly, recalling the images of Fern Town's destruction, as well as the military base being consumed by flames.

"It reminds you of … that town on the news. The Johto town?"

“… Yeah,” he replied, staring out the window.

"Antoshi, there's something I wanted to ask you." The boy looked over at him. "About part of the reason you wanted to go to Johto in the first place, it's … because of the dream you had, isn't it?"

“It is,” the boy admitted with a sigh. “Ever since that night, something's been telling me that I should go to Johto. It's like there's something there that I need to see.”

"Well, whatever it is, I hope it doesn't ruin our totally awesome experience in Johto."

Antoshi smiled to his friend. “I hope so, too.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The ride into the neighboring region took several hours on the incredibly swift train. By the time they were passing by the enormous Mt. Silver in the distance, Fireball had curled up for a nap. Antoshi rested his legs across the seat next to him, passing the time by reading a book he brought with him. It was the story of two brothers who went to war with each other over a misunderstanding.

He sighed, closing the book and sitting up in his seat. His fingers curled around his lips, lost in thought as he stared out the window. An odd, tingling pressure in his muscles nagged at him every so often. It became more intense the closer they were to their destination.

Fireball awoke and took a look out the window. "Antoshi?" Fireball said to the inattentive boy.

“Huh?” Antoshi uttered, snapping out of his daze.

"Look, I think we're slowing down."

The train soon came to a stop once again. For a few moments, they sat and stared in awe that they had made it to Johto.

Once they headed off, they realized the station was nearly identical to that of Saffron's. They headed up a flight of stairs until they were greeted by the warmth of the afternoon sunlight. The two gawked at their new surroundings with bright eyes and brighter smiles.

They were in the mecca of Saffron's sister city — Goldenrod.

The city was just as busy as in Saffron. Under the shadows of tall skyscrapers were the sounds of countless people, Pokémon, and cars bustling every which way around them. It was just the daily norm for the hectic city. Residents were out enjoying the warm, summer air and pleasant weather. Planes and blimps carrying various advertisements hovered in the blue sky above. A handful of taxis were parked outside the train station for busy commuters to get around. Businesspeople were chatting away on their cell phones, and tourists like them walked about to take in the sights. The city was like a well-oiled machine moving in constant harmony — and they loved everything they were seeing.

They began their new journey down the bustling streets, taking in the new, yet somehow familiar, sights. Antoshi laughed as a handful of Pichu suddenly dashed by him. Across the street, a kid's show in the park was in full swing. A Delibird handed a small girl a present. She gleefully opened it, and the gift gave off a loud pop before showering her with confetti and streamers. The children and Pokémon all laughed.

“This city almost feels like one big party,” Antoshi remarked, grinning. “I'm really liking it here. It feels like home.”

"Hey, Antoshi!" Fireball exclaimed from a short distance away. "Come on, I'm getting swept away by a tidal wave of people!" The boy realized Fireball didn't hear a word he'd said.

“Coming!” he replied. As he turned away to rejoin his friend, he bumped shoulders with a passerby. “Oh, I'm really sorry! I—”

He went silent, standing before a lovely young woman with long, brunette hair. He had no words, staring into her violet eyes like a deer in headlights. Of all the pretty girls that he'd gone awkwardly silent in front of, she was the prettiest by far.

She responded with a warm smile. “Don't worry about it,” she said. Her voice was like that of an angel's to his ears. “Take care.”

He continued to stare at her, dumbfounded, as she strolled away.

"Antoshi!" Fireball shouted.

The boy quickly snapped back to reality. “Okay, okay, Fireball!” He gave one last glance back at her before shuffling back to his friend.

As they resumed their trek of the city together, Antoshi's gaze was focused more on the ground than their surroundings. The image of the young woman turning to him, her long hair swinging behind her, replayed over and over in his head.

"Seems like you have something on your mind," Fireball said.

“Oh,” he distantly replied. “Yeah, well, I …”

"Come on, you're not thinking of keeping another secret from your best friend, are you?"

“No, it's just, … well, when we got separated outside the train station, I … ran into a girl.”

"A gir~rl?" Fireball asked with a cheeky grin. "Was she pretty?"

Antoshi quietly chuckled. “Yeah.”

"Sounds like someone has a cru~ush."

Antoshi smirked and turned to his friend. “You're never going to get tired of doing that, are you?”

"Not a chance!"

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

At the same time, a few miles away, Latoshi was in the midst of a deep meditation. He sat comfortably with his legs crossed on a park bench, completely calm and focused. His dark aura gently flickered in the breeze, though none of the people nearby were able to see it.

He did, however, get quite a few strange stares from passersby. They were curious at how the boy was able to sit so perfectly still for so long. It got to the point where people assumed he was a street performer and began to drop money in front of him.

“I found my true calling in life, Lazarus,” Latoshi joked, opening his eyes with a grin. “I can make money by entertaining the masses with just my meditating.”

The voice did not answer him, causing him to roll his eyes. He groaned in frustration, reaching down to scoop up the money he'd earned.

“How long are you going to give me the silent treatment?”

'Until you stop fooling around and take your training seriously.'

“I can't help it,” Latoshi said. He casually jingled the coins in his hand before flinging the money into a nearby fountain. “I just got back out into the outside world. There's so much stuff for me to see. It's hard for me to concentrate for as long as I did in that cell where nothing ever happened.”

'Remember what your purpose is — or I will remind you.'

Latoshi furrowed his brow, displeased with the remark. Alas, he closed his eyes and sighed in defeat. He took a deep breath, relaxed and centered himself, returning to his meditation.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

At the same time, Antoshi and Fireball ate together a nearby diner. They were seated in a booth near the window, allowing them to continue gazing upon the sights of the brand new city. Antoshi frowned, casually rubbing his arm as the twinging pressure came back.

Once finished with their dinner, the duo got up. Antoshi cinched his backpack over his shoulders and led Fireball back outside.

“That was great!” Antoshi said. “I really like the food here.”

"Yeah! I never would've imagined Apricorn guacamole being a thing, but it was delicious! Bu~ut, I bet you would've enjoyed it more if that girl you saw earlier ate with us."

Antoshi shook his head. “Y'know, all the excitement of being in Johto means I'm not going to get upset by your teasing today.” Fireball snickered. “Let's head on over to the Pokémon Center. Hopefully they still have an extra room for the night.”

"That'd be nice. Sleeping on the couches they have in the main area is fun, too."

Just a few blocks further, the automatic glass doors of the Pokémon Center slid open for the duo.

"Wow," Fireball remarked. "This place is … literally exactly the same as the ones in Kanto."

Antoshi chortled. “Well, I guess it helps make them feel like a piece of home for us.”

Antoshi spoke to Nurse Joy behind the counter and registered to stay a night in one of the Center's rooms. The duo breathed a sigh of relief and grinned at each other when she did not remind them of the Cerulean incident.

Antoshi thanked her as he took the key card to the room from her. They found a free videophone to give Antoshi's parents a call, letting them know they had gotten there safely. Afterward, they headed into their room to get settled in for the night and get some rest.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

In the dead of night, when the park was completely desolate, Latoshi's eyes finally opened once again from his meditation. More change had been left out at the boy's feet.

'You know what you must do,' Lazarus said.

Latoshi nodded in agreement. “So, it begins,” he replied.

He got to his feet and stretched. He looked around for a moment, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his shorts before going on a trip wandering about the city.

With most people asleep, the streets were much quieter. He kept an apathetic expression while he passed by a bar. A handful of bikers stood around chatting and laughing. One of the larger men with a mullet looked down at the boy and scoffed.

“Better run on home, kid,” one of them said. “The streets are dangerous at night.”

“For you, maybe,” Latoshi replied with a smirk. The men laughed boisterously.

A couple of Sneasel chased a rat into an alleyway. Latoshi stopped suddenly, gazing down the same alley. There were voices emanating from it. Something about people talking in an alley so late at night felt resoundingly suspicious to him.

'Go,' Lazarus instructed him.

Latoshi shrugged and headed into the shadows. The air reeked of rotten food and stagnant water. There was a flickering firelight from a larger opening in the distance.

“… I didn't know what to do,” a man's voice said.

“Well, you know how women are,” a second man replied. “Let's go get a drink or something.”

Latoshi emerged into the light of the burn barrel the two men stood in front of, catching their attention. They were both pale, disheveled, homely, wearing extremely worn and dirty clothes. They looked at him with shocked expressions.

After a moment of silence, the first man whistled.

“Wow, I didn't expect a birthday present so soon.

The other man chuckled. “Hey kid,” he said. “Why don't you spend some time with me and my friend here? We could have some real fun together.”

The two advanced toward him. Latoshi's irises shimmered black. His lips curled into a devious smile.

“Fun?” Latoshi asked. “Yeah, I like fun.”

“That's good, we—”

“Although~,” he sang, keeping the men at bay momentarily, “I don't think my kind of fun is the kind that you would enjo~oy.”

The two men chuckled at each other.

“Well, why don't you show us how you have fun?” the first man asked. “Then, we can show you how we have fun.”

Latoshi snickered in amusement, keeping his eyes affixed to them as they neared closer. The two men had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

“If you say so,” he replied, softly.

Latoshi suddenly lifted the first man up by his neck with one hand before they realized he'd even moved. The other one looked on in shock as his partner thrashed wildly, gasping for air. Latoshi stared at him, his lips curling into a cruel grin.

There was a sudden, loud snap. The man's body fell limp.

The second man screamed. Latoshi tossed his friend's lifeless body aside into some bags of trash. A fitting burial, he felt, for someone who would prey on kids. He casually glanced at the grime on his hand before wiping it on his shirt. He looked at the terrified second man with the same, cold grin.

“So, do you want to have fun, too?”

The man's expression turned bitter. “You little freak,” he replied, pulling out a handgun tucked away in his pants. “I'll put you down!”

Latoshi laughed boisterously. “Oh, that's not going to save you.”

The man clenched his teeth as the boy sauntered toward him. He screamed in frustration, emptying the entirety of the gun's clip at him. Latoshi moved so swiftly, he appeared to the man to be flickering from side to side, moving quickly enough to casually avoid every bullet.

The man's eyes went wide with horror. “What in the hell?!” he exclaimed.

He suddenly let out a croak as Latoshi grabbed him by the neck as well, pinning him to the ground.

“No! Please!” he screamed, struggling. “Let go of me!”

“Why are you so frightened?” Latoshi asked curiously. “After all, we're just having fun — right?”

He laughed, holding his flailing body down, pointing an open palm at the man's face while gathering energy into it. The man screamed in horror — a bloodcurdling scream that echoed around the entire block.

Moments later, Latoshi departed the alleyway as calmly as he entered. With his hands in his shorts pockets, he left their bodies behind without a second thought. Various bystanders soon rushed over to where they heard the screams, only for them to scream in horror at what they found.

He grinned in satisfaction, continuing to travel down the streets of Goldenrod.

'That was an exhilarating display,' Lazarus said. 'This is only just the beginning. …'

Latoshi chuckled to himself, walking down a nearby side street, disappearing under the cover of darkness.

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
Chapter 13


The following morning, Antoshi and Fireball both awoke at their usual wake-up time. Antoshi yawned loudly, stretching at the same time his friend did.

"Our first morning in Johto!" Fireball said merrily. Antoshi turned to him, looking and feeling exhausted. "You … get enough sleep last night?"

“Not really,” the boy remarked with a groan, sliding out of bed. “I've been … getting these weird sensations since coming to Johto.” Fireball went to speak. “Do not make a 'puberty' joke.” Fireball smiled and buttoned his lip. “It's like a weird … ache in my muscles that just comes and goes. I don't understand why it's happening, but it kept me up for a little while last night.”

"What if it's—" He stopped suddenly as Antoshi glared at him. "I was going to ask if it's your powers acting up again?"

Antoshi paused for a moment. “I suppose that would make sense. I haven't used them in a while, and it is the reason behind every unexplainable event that's happened to us so far.” He took a deep breath and sighed heavily. “Well, it could also turn out to be nothing. Come on, let's have some more fun around the city.”

"Sounds good to me!" Fireball said.

Antoshi took a few moments to stretch, as did Fireball. In the bathroom, the boy splashed some water on his face to wake himself up after the lack of sleep he'd gotten. On their way out the door, Antoshi stopped and headed back to his backpack. He collected Fireball's Poké Ball from it.

“I'd better take this with me again,” he said. “Just in case.”

"You're leaving your backpack here? I guess that means we're staying another day?"

“Sure, why not? Hopefully, Nurse Joy lets us stay again. Otherwise, we'll have to find another place to stay the night.”

The two headed out to get some breakfast from the cafeteria. Afterward, they approached Nurse Joy at the front desk to talk to her. After a moment of consideration, she agreed to let them to stay another night, much to their enthusiasm. Antoshi put the key card and Fireball's Poké Ball in his pocket, and the two headed out to explore more of the city.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Some time later, they came upon a commotion just outside of an alleyway. They headed on over, curious to see what was going on.

The area was cordoned off with police tape. Several police and rescue vehicles were parked along the sidewalk. Traffic cones were set on the road, forcing passing cars to move away from the scene. Dozens of curious early morning onlookers crowded around the taped area.

"Wow," Fireball remarked, as they neared closer. "What do you think happened here?"

The pair found a small gap in the crowd for them to take a peek, although there wasn't much for them to see. Crime scene officers took pictures of small, numbered placards they'd placed on the ground. There was a small crater in the asphalt that other officials appeared particularly intrigued by.

Antoshi gasped quietly. The officers were standing in the middle of a faint, black mist, yet none of them seemed aware of its presence.

“Do you see that?” Antoshi asked.

Fireball blinked, looking all around the alley. "… See what?"

Antoshi's eyes widened, his irises instinctively glowing a bright red. The faint traces of darkness became much clearer to him. It was splayed all over the alleyway — on the ground, the wall, even hovering in the air. A trail of it led down another alley exit. He curiously shuffled off to follow it.

"Antoshi!" Fireball called out, chasing after him. "Where are you going?"

Down at the other side of the alley, there were no crowds or police. The area was only blocked off much further inside. The mist tapered off just before reaching the sidewalk. Antoshi knelt down, wafting his hand through the thin traces. Touching it gave off a cold, ominous feeling that sent chills down his spine.

Fireball caught up to him. "What are you doing? Swattin' a bug?"

“You don't see this sorta foggy stuff right in front of me?”

Fireball shook his head. "Not seeing anything, sorry. You must be more attuned to whatever it is than I am."

“I guess it's more faint than I realized.”

Antoshi frowned, biting his thumbnail as he stared at the strange mist.

"What are you thinking?"

“I think … someone else is here in Goldenrod. Someone … with powers like the ones I used back in Kanto.”

Fireball gasped. "Wow, that's—! … Er, what does that mean?"

“I really don't know,” he replied, standing up. “On one hand, I'm kind of excited to know someone else like me is out there, but … at the same time, this energy is … well, it's all wrong somehow. It's like … it went rotten, I guess? I get a sinking feeling every time I touch it.”

He gasped suddenly, his mind's eye recalling his dream of Fern Town being destroyed, the news broadcast they saw, and his recent dream of the military site. In some what he couldn't understand, he knew the energy in the alley was similar to those incidents.

"Maybe it's just someone's fart you're seeing," Fireball joked, chuckling to himself. The boy had a blank look in his eyes, his jaw hanging. "… What is it, Antoshi?"

“This might be bad. I don't understand my own powers well enough to comprehend what's going on here, but … whoever was here, I think it may be the same person that … destroyed Fern Town.”

Fireball was shocked. "Seriously?! What should we do? Tell the police?"

“I have no idea, Fireball. Like I said, I'm only just getting used to these powers. I don't know what to do or what to expect.”

Antoshi's attention suddenly snapped in a different direction, sensing a powerful pressure in his muscles again.

"What's up? Did you hear somethin'?"

“No, … it was that odd muscle ache again. It felt really intense this time. Something's telling me to check around over there. Let's see if we can find anything.”

"Cool, we're detectives now!"

Antoshi briefly smiled, leading his friend away.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Nearby, Latoshi smirked to himself before biting into a sweet roll.

“I'm sure that bakery store won't miss this one bun,” he said, with a mouthful of food. He swallowed before continuing. “Man, all of the food around here is a million times better than that crap they were feeding me in that prison.”

'Do not forget, your freedom comes at a cost,' Lazarus said. 'You did good work last night. However, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Tonight, I want you to slaughter a dozen of the parasites in this city.'

“Not a problem — especially if they're soulless freaks like the last two.”

'Excellent. …'

Latoshi strolled along casually, continuing to take in the sights of the city. He suddenly bumped hard into a passerby heading toward him, causing him to drop his food. Latoshi glanced down at the sweet roll, quickly cutting his eyes at the person that bumped into him.

His expression turned to disbelief.

“I really have to stop bumping into people,” Antoshi muttered while Fireball kept walking away. “I'm really sorry, I—”

Antoshi stared into the other boy's confounded look, just as taken aback as he was. Fireball looked around, realizing Antoshi wasn't with him. He turned and gasped at the scene.

Both boys stared at each other for several moments. Antoshi was speechless. The person staring back at him had the same facial features and brown eyes as he did. If not for the black hair, Antoshi could've sworn he was looking into a mirror.

'Who is this boy?' Lazarus asked, curiously.

“Do I … know you?” Latoshi asked.

The other boy sounded just like Antoshi as well.

“Uh, … that's a good question,” he replied with a chuckle. The two of them fell completely silent. Suddenly, they both burst out laughing in unison. “This is crazy! I've never met anyone that looks so much like me before!”

“Same here, … I think,” Latoshi replied, chuckling nervously. The boys turned their attention to the approaching Fireball. “Is this your Pokémon?”

“He sure is,” Antoshi proudly replied. Fireball waved to him with a bewildered look. “This is Fireball. He's my best friend, and my only Pokémon.”

Latoshi stuffed his hands in his pockets. “That's pretty cool. I don't know anything about Pokémon myself.”

Antoshi's eyes nearly popped out of his head. “You don't?!” he exclaimed.

“Yeah. I'm pretty sure I've never owned a Pokémon before, either.”

“'Pretty sure?'”

“Well, truth be told, I'm actually having some … err, memory problems. I've been walking around the city trying to see if I can remember anything, but, so far I got nothing.”

“Oh man, I'm so sorry to hear that. Would you like to hang around with us for a while? We were just exploring the city ourselves.”

Latoshi shrugged. “I don't have anything better to do, right?” The two shared another laugh.

“Come on, we'll check out the sights together,” Antoshi said. “What's your name, by the way?”

“Oh, … I'm Latoshi,” he replied, casually.

Both Antoshi and Fireball were stunned. “La— toshi? …” Antoshi uttered, staring at him in disbelief.

Latoshi sighed. “Yeah, I know. It's a weird name.”

“No, no, it's not that, it's—it's just that, well, my name is … Antoshi.”

“What?” Latoshi asked, scoffing. “You're messing with me.”

“No, I'm serious! My name really is Antoshi. Here, I'll show you.” He quickly pulled out his wallet to show the sable-haired boy his Trainer Card.

Latoshi was stunned. “Wow, look at that. You really are named 'Antoshi'. I didn't think there was anyone out there with a … a weird-sounding name like mine.”

Antoshi laughed, putting his wallet away. “Trust me, I've gone through the whole 'weird name' thing more times than I can count. So, Latoshi, what do you say we walk around and blow peoples' minds with our odd names?”

“Sounds good,” Latoshi replied, smiling happily.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Antoshi and Fireball resumed their tour around Goldenrod with their new companion in tow. Their investigation into the mysterious energy was temporarily put on hold. They traveled to the southeastern edge of the city, where the sprawling Ilex Forest was in sight.

"I could go for some chocolate chip ice cream," Fireball hinted.

Antoshi chuckled and nodded to his friend.

“I like chocolate chip, too,” Latoshi replied, casually. Antoshi and Fireball looked at each other in shock, both of them coming to a sudden halt. Latoshi hummed curiously, turning to them. “What's up?” he asked.

“Did you … just understand what Fireball … said?” Antoshi asked.

“Yeah, why? Is that, like, something weird?”

“Well, I wouldn't really call it 'weird' as much as it's … just something that Fireball and I have never known any person besides myself to be able to do. No one else we've met can talk to Pokémon, and people typically think I'm crazy when I do it.”

“… Oh,” Latoshi replied, moderately surprised. “Well, if Fireball likes chocolate chip ice cream, he's the kind of Pokémon I wouldn't mind talking to.”

"This is really cool!" Fireball said. "Finally, someone else that understands me besides Antoshi." He sniffled dramatically, covering his eyes with a paw. "I never thought this day would come."

“All right, you,” Antoshi said, patting Fireball's back playfully. “Settle down. I will admit, Latoshi, it is really amazing. Fireball can join in on conversations now. I know he gets antsy when he has to stay quiet for a while.”

Fireball hopped up and down in excitement, shaking Antoshi's shoulder when he noticed an ice cream shop nearby. Antoshi smirked and rolled his eyes before Fireball ran off to head inside.

“Want to join us, Latoshi?”

“Of course, it's ice cream!” The two boys laughed, following Fireball into the shop. “I'll probably just sit with you guys. I don't have any money.”

“That's okay, I'll buy for you.”

“You, … well, you don't have to do that. I don't want to put you out.”

“It's no problem, really! You don't even have to pay me back.”

Latoshi was stunned. “… Seriously?”

“Seriously,” Antoshi replied with a smile. Latoshi smiled back.

“Nice to know there's people out there that'll help me out.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

After the three of them got their ice cream, they found an empty table to sit at. Fireball eagerly began scarfing down his towering ice cream cup with a paper spoon. The two boys ate theirs with a little more restraint while they talked.

“So, Latoshi,” Antoshi said, “you're walking around a big city with no money, and memory loss. … Isn't that dangerous? What have you been doing around the city?”

Latoshi chuckled. “You don't want to know. Besides, I can handle myself. I'm way stronger than I look.”

“Same here,” Antoshi replied with a smirk.

“What do you guys do?”

“Well, we came from Saffron City to travel and train in Johto. Back in Kanto, Fireball and I collected every Gym badge and got to the Indigo Plateau. We were part of the top one hundred twenty-eight Trainers in the most recent Indigo League Tournament.”

“And, that's a … good thing, I'm guessing?”

Antoshi laughed. “Yes. We're really happy with how much we accomplished.”

“That's cool. Like I said, I don't know anything about Pokémon or training.”

“Well, if you hang around with us, I could help you learn about Pokémon. We can find Pokémon for you to catch and maybe you can become a Trainer yourself.”

Latoshi smiled warmly. “You know, I … kinda like that idea.”

“It's better than wandering around by yourself, right?”

Latoshi chuckled nervously. “Yeah, … by myself.” He stared down at his ice cream, casually stirring it with his spoon.

Both boys were pleasantly surprised at how they became such fast friends. It was nice for them both to have someone their own age to talk to. Fireball sighed happily after finishing his ice cream.

"I love ice cream!" Fireball said. "That chocolate chip was great — right, Latoshi?"

“Yeah, this is the best ice cream I can remember,” he joked. Antoshi and Fireball laughed, causing him to smile.

'We need to have a chat,' Lazarus said, firmly. Latoshi jumped in response.

“What's up?” Antoshi asked him.

'Leave these two and go find someplace private — now.'

“Uh, I just gotta use the restroom real quick,” Latoshi said. “Be back in a sec'.” He promptly got up from his chair and walked away.

"Antoshi, he—he understood what I said!" Fireball said, giddy. "That's so amazing! … I know this sounds a little out there, but I get the feeling that maybe you and Latoshi just may be related. You might even be … brothers!" Antoshi was surprised at his remark. "You look the same, you sound the same — you also walk the same, by the way — and you both can understand me. Those are a lot of coincidences, don't you think?"

“Well, yes. I … definitely got the sense of maybe being related when he told me his name was 'Latoshi' of all things. He seems really nice and all, but … him being my brother just seems too crazy. How could I possibly have a brother I've never known before?”

"Well, if he's going to hang out with us, you two'd have all the time in the world to figure it out. I can't wait to watch you show him the ropes about being a Trainer."

Antoshi smiled, albeit briefly. “I keep getting an odd vibe about him, though. Maybe it's just the shock of finding out his name.”

"Hey … what about finding the person that left that foggy stuff you mentioned?"

“I'm not sure. I guess we'll just have to look around along the way. Probably best not to tell Latoshi — I don't want him to worry about it.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Latoshi glared at himself in the bathroom mirror as Lazarus began to scold him.

'What do you think you are doing?! This is not part of your mission. I told you that your freedom came at a cost. You already took the first step when you escaped your captors. Your hands are stained with the blood of the guilty. There is no turning back now! So, say 'goodbye' to these two and get back to your training!'

Latoshi shook his head. “Antoshi's the only person I've been able to talk to. He and his friend want me to go traveling with them. I can do that and cleanse the filth along the way. We can cover more ground this way.”

'You cannot do both, you idiot! Do you think you can keep mysteriously vanishing from your friend and he will not get suspicious?! Or do you think he will just stand by and watch as you purge the parasites from this world?! He will leave you the moment he finds out what you have done!'

“Enough!” Latoshi shouted in anger, causing his black aura to momentarily flare out. “This is my life! You aren't going to tell me what to do forever! I'm the one with limitless, ultimate power — remember? I can choose when and where I enact my revenge!”

Lazarus chuckled. 'We shall see very soon. I will teach you about your future.'

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Antoshi gasped suddenly, feeling that odd pressure again — and it was strong. It pointed his attention to the bathroom that Latoshi just retreated to, and reminded him of the dark energy in the alleyway. It was then that he recalled the last image he saw from the first news broadcast after Fern Town was destroyed. The boy that was rescued from the crater — a boy with jet black hair. The same hair as Latoshi's. The energy in the alley was the same as in Fern Town's destruction. It didn't take long before Antoshi put it all together.

“It couldn't be,” Antoshi whispered. He slowly got up from his chair, a concerned expression on his face as he stared in Latoshi's direction.

"What is it?" Fireball asked.

Antoshi quickly shook it off, smiling at his friend. “There's … something I just thought to ask Latoshi. Why don't we wait outside for him?”

"Okay, … sure thing," Fireball replied, with some confusion.

The duo headed out onto the street for a few moments. Antoshi had a very intense look in his eyes once Latoshi emerged outside. The sable-haired boy sighed in relief, rejoining them with a smile.

“Well, that was fun,” Latoshi remarked. “Where should we go next?”

“Hey, … Latoshi,” Antoshi said, hesitating. “I, … err, have a weird question for you. Would you … happen to know anything about, well, strange energy?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, have you ever … felt a strange source of energy that just … well, appeared around your body in the form of light?”

Latoshi narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “That's oddly specific. Why do you ask?”

“Well, I— … this is really awkward. I have … let's call them these weird 'powers'. And, well, I'm able to sort of see and feel the same kind of energy that I can put out — kind of like a sixth sense.”

Latoshi's eyes widened. Lazarus gasped.

'This boy has powers, too,' he hissed. 'Uncanny. …'

“Earlier today,” Antoshi continued, “we were looking for someone that can also use those kinds of powers. I think it's the same someone that's been doing some pretty horrible things lately. Would you know what I'm talking about?”

Latoshi glanced over at Fireball, who seemed very confused by the line of questioning. Suddenly, the mood was not so jovial between the two boys.

“Why don't we head on over to the Pokémon Gym here?” Latoshi replied, idly. “You can show me what being a Pokémon Trainer is like.”

Antoshi was surprised that Latoshi decided to avoid the question. It did nothing to clear Latoshi's name. Antoshi continued to press him. “Someone hurt a lot of people, Latoshi. I'd really like to know if you know anything about it.”

“What about other Pokémon?” Latoshi asked, looking off in the distance. “I wonder what kind of Pokémon live around here?”

Antoshi clenched his teeth in frustration. “You also wouldn't happen to know anything about … the destruction of Fern Town, would you?”

Latoshi turned away, hiding a bitter scowl. The name 'Fern Town' immediately reminded him of the General and his repetitive line of questioning about said town. Hearing it again labeled Antoshi as an enemy in his mind.

“I think … that you and I should talk, Antoshi.”

“Talk?” Antoshi asked, cautiously. “… About what?”

“About this …” To the duo's surprise, Latoshi suddenly dashed away faster than they could follow.

Their eyes went wide in shock. Latoshi was on the other side of the street and across an open field, a distance of several hundred meters, in less than a second. He casually glanced over at them before walking into the Ilex Forest.

“What …” Antoshi uttered.

"Just … happened?" Fireball added.

“Come on, we have to go after him,” Antoshi said, heading across the street. Fireball followed close behind him.

"Not if he runs away like that again!"

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The duo headed in past the trees near the same place Latoshi disappeared. By the time they got there, heavy clouds were starting to drift over them. The forest, already incredibly dense with foliage, became even darker as a result.

They looked around cautiously while walking further in. Latoshi was nowhere in sight. Large, dark, pine trees loomed over them, creaking and rustling with the wind.

Fireball held onto his friend's shoulders, staying behind him. "This is really creepy, Antoshi," Fireball said, quietly. "Where could he be?"

“I'm not sure. I can't sense his—”

“What do you know about 'strange energy', Antoshi?” Latoshi said, interrupting him. The duo gasped, turning around. He emerged with a smirk, casually leaning his shoulder against a tree with his arms folded over his chest. “I wasn't sensing anything from you before, mostly because I wasn't keeping my guard up. But, now that I know what I'm looking for, I can see that you've also reached spirit awareness.”

“Spirit … awareness?” Antoshi asked, confused. “What is that?”

“Awareness of your Ki, of course — that's your spirit energy.”

“Ki? Spirit energy?” Antoshi looked at his own hands in confusion. “So, that's what that light is that appears around me?”

“It is,” Latoshi replied. “Judging from your reaction, though, I take it you know very little. You've never trained to strengthen it, control it, and harness it. I have.” Antoshi and Fireball were in awe at the revelation. “When was the first time you were able to use it?”

“Uh, … it was when Fireball was falling off of a steep cliff. I panicked and grabbed him and I suddenly found my arms totally enveloped in a red light.”

“That's incredible. Your powers awakened in a moment you needed to use them for good — as did I.”

Antoshi was bewildered by Latoshi's claim. Latoshi grinned, holding his head down. He began chuckling — a chuckle that morphed into a hysterical laugh. Antoshi and Fireball looked to each other in concern.

“What's … so funny?” Antoshi asked, cautiously.

“You don't know how liberating this is for me, Antoshi!” he exclaimed, grinning in elation. “You're the first person I can finally talk to about this! The first person to really understand! The first person I can look at as an equal! Antoshi, you've been so kind and friendly toward me already. We only just met, and yet, I feel such a powerful bond with you. I want to tell you all about my solution to the problems of the world.”

“'Solution?' … What do you mean?”

“There are so many awful people in this world, Antoshi. Unlike you, they care only for themselves. They don't give a damn about others. They inflict pain and suffering and torment. They're heartless, soulless monsters. They are a blight upon the world. It doesn't have to be that way, though! I can use my powers, and I can cleanse the world of evil! Cleanse it of the parasites, the immoral, the perverse! Don't you see? I'm doing them a favor by ending their pathetic existences! Without their evil hearts, everlasting peace will become a reality!”

Fireball and Antoshi were both shocked and horrified. Antoshi again recalled the images from his dream about the military base's destruction. He had felt Latoshi's relief and elation amid the chaos. He knew Latoshi wasn't joking with his proposal. Latoshi truly was cruel beyond anyone he'd ever met before.

“You wanted to teach me to become a Pokémon Trainer,” Latoshi continued. “I can teach you how to use your powers and do so much more good in the world! This is why we were given these powers! Join me, Antoshi. Together, we can do so much good for this world. We’ll make the world a better place … as brothers. What do you say?”

Latoshi's black aura began to flare around his body. It reeked of blood and killing intent. The deaths of his previous victims hung in the air. It seeped all around Antoshi like an icy embrace.

It terrified him.

What's more, that feeling of tingling pressure came back stronger than ever. Antoshi finally understood it was Latoshi's energy that had been causing it all along.

“No,” Antoshi said, quietly, shaking his head. “No, I won't do it.” Latoshi was genuinely surprised and dismayed. “You're talking about killing people, Latoshi. Nothing about that is 'good.'”

“What are you talking about? They're a festering plague on the earth! They're parasites! They need to be ended! That's what Lazarus made me understand!”

“Lazarus? Who is Lazarus?”

“My conscience, of course,” Latoshi replied, confidently. “It gave itself a name.”

Antoshi and Fireball became even more deeply concerned.

“Your … conscience speaks to you?” Antoshi asked.

“Well, he's a lot wiser than I normally am. Lazarus led me to discover my powers. He helped me strengthen and train and focus myself enough to get me out of the hellhole I was locked away in, and to lay waste to everyone and everything there.”

“So it was you,” Antoshi remarked, solemnly. “You killed those people in Fern Town, and those people on that … island base.”

“How do you know about—” Latoshi stopped himself. “I can't remember anything of Fern Town, but the military base … yes, that was me. They were horrible people, Antoshi!”

“They … they must have had families and people who cared about them and—”

“Are you kidding me?!” Latoshi snapped, bitterly, surprising the duo. “I can't believe you, Antoshi! You're being such an apologist! No, they got what they deserved. You have no idea what they did to me. You think because you have your perfect, happy little life traveling around with your best buddy that you can pass judgment on me? Like that makes you, … what, a moral authority? I was locked up in that facility … for months. I had no idea where I was and they never told me. They never helped me. They just kept me jailed like a wild animal.”

There was no justification for Latoshi's actions in Antoshi's mind. The blond-haired boy only kept his solemn gaze affixed to the ground. Latoshi scoffed in disgust, his black aura flaring around him.

“You think that everything is just so black and white, huh?” Latoshi continued. “Everything just … fits into your life's neat, little compartments. 'Latoshi is awful, he killed all those people, that makes him the bad guy.' I'm the bad guy? And you talk about how they had families? What about my family?! What about the people who cared about me?! Who the hell are you to try and guilt me?!”

“I couldn't ever take anyone's life like you have,” Antoshi retorted, glaring into Latoshi's eyes. “I just couldn't, no matter how awful I felt inside.”

“Gee, wow, what an upstanding person you are, Antoshi — bravo,” he shot back, sarcastically. “Never say 'never.' You don't know what it's like. You don't know how far you would go. No memories, not knowing where your family is, or if anyone is looking for you. Locked up against your will, nobody telling you why, where you are, or even who you are. You don't know how you would react or whether you would do the same thing in my position. I waited for so long. I gave them the benefit of the doubt more times than I can remember. I kept thinking, 'They'll bring someone in soon. Someone will come for me. They'll realize it's all a big misunderstanding and then I'll go home.' I just wanted … to go home, Antoshi. After a while, I didn't know if I was ever going to leave or if they would even keep me alive. … I had to do it. I had to get out of there. I had to survive.”

“You could've escaped without killing anyone!” Antoshi shouted. The bitterness upon his face masked the tears welling in his eyes. He felt deeply for Latoshi's situation, and had no reason not to believe him. It did nothing to take away the sting of knowing someone whom he'd seen the good in, someone whom he'd already bonded with, could be such a cold-blooded murderer. Fireball placed a forepaw on his friend's shoulder in an effort to console him.

Latoshi shook his head. “Maybe you're right. But, that's not what I did. I was terrified out of my mind. I kept thinking that, if I broke out, they were going to find me again. They'd bring me back to that awful place and then they'd make sure I never got out again. I have no regrets. I would gladly go back in time and do it again. I would look into their eyes and I would slaughter them all — and I would do it with a smile on my face.”

“This isn't the way, Latoshi. You don't have to be alone. What about your friends? Your family? Don't you still care about them?”

“My family?” Latoshi wondered aloud.

“You told me you were lost and couldn't remember anything. I can help you find your family.”

“You would … help me?” Latoshi asked, awe-struck. “Even after … everything I just told you?”

“Of course,” Antoshi replied, softly, “because it's what's right. This, all of this you're talking about, the killing, the 'cleansing', the destruction, … that isn't right.”

Latoshi appeared conflicted. He turned his gaze to the ground. Antoshi was a real, living person standing before him, with real emotions that he could feel. He was so much more than some voice in his head, telling him to kill. “I—”

'Do not listen to his lies!' Lazarus shouted. Latoshi gasped in shock. 'Remember who it was that you trusted, who gave you strength when you had none, who gave you freedom when you thought it was impossible. He is trying to lead you astray. Do not listen to him, Latoshi!'

Latoshi pondered it over for a moment. He chuckled and smirked at Antoshi. “That's true,” he replied, leaving Antoshi confused. “I understand now. Good try, Antoshi. I see right through your little charade. You're trying to get me to let my guard down and do what, just give up my ideals? Just like that? You don't even understand a fraction what I had to suffer through.”

“It isn't a charade, Latoshi! I'm—”

“Save it,” Latoshi snapped. “You know, I've changed my mind. You're not fit to help me with my efforts for peace. You're expendable, Antoshi, just like a~ll the rest of the people in this world. No one compares to my strength, and no one can stop me. You're just a stepping stone on my ascension to greatness.” He flared out his black aura again. “I'm going to turn this world into a peaceful paradise by any means necessary.”

“No,” Antoshi replied, calmly. “What you're talking about, … it's a fool's paradise.”

Latoshi scoffed. “Saying that just makes you a parasite, too,” he said, flatly. “You need to be cleansed from this world, like any others who would dare get in the way of my ascension.”

“I don't want to fight you, Latoshi. We can talk—”

“Good!” Latoshi said, in a jovial tone. “That'll make killing you so much easier.”

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
Chapter 14


The heavy clouds rolling in overhead gradually became darker, setting an ominous stage. Antoshi narrowed his eyes, watching his adversary, cautiously.

“I'm just going to warn you beforehand,” Latoshi said, smirking confidently, “I won't be making this quick and painless. This is definitely gonna hurt.”

In an instant, Latoshi closed the gap between them. Antoshi gasped, his eyes going wide in shock. The red hue of his spirit energy ignited quickly within his irises, his senses increasing exponentially. Before Antoshi could make a move, Latoshi suddenly delivered a swift knee into his abdomen.

Antoshi croaked in pain, falling onto his knees, holding his stomach and gasping for air. Tears welled up in his eyes. It was a level of physical pain he was extremely unfamiliar with. This was the first real fight he'd ever been in.

"Antoshi!" Fireball cried out in shock.

Latoshi stood tall and proud, is black aura flaring. He appeared pleased with himself. “Well, you've already proven to be very durable. A hit like that probably would've killed a normal person.”

Fireball turned to Latoshi, snarling and baring his fangs. "Stop this, Latoshi!"

“I'd suggest you don't get involved here,” Latoshi said to Fireball, casually. “I'm not interested in harming Pokémon, but I may just make an exception if you don't back down.”

"If you think I'm going to stand by and watch you hurt my best friend, you're out of your—"

“Fireball, wait,” Antoshi interjected. He took a moment to steady his breathing before getting back to his feet. He wiped his eyes and a small trail of blood on his mouth with the back of his fist. He closed his eyes for a moment, letting out a sigh of defeat. As much as he wanted not to resort to violence, he knew he had no choice. “You're always fighting the physical side of our battles. Let me handle it this time.” He gave his friend a reassuring smile.

"This isn't … as simple as a Pokémon battle," Fireball remarked, with deep concern in his eyes.

“I know, but I think this is something that only I can deal with.”

Latoshi laughed. “Let's see if that ends up being the case,” he said before dashing at him again. He struck Antoshi on the bridge of the nose with a headbutt, drawing a shout from the blond-haired boy. He again gave Antoshi no time to react, using his superior quickness to strike him with a couple of hard punches to the face.

Antoshi stumbled back, reeling briefly before shaking it off. Latoshi grinned, having far too much fun engaging in an actual fight for once, coming at him again with the same volley.

The sight of Antoshi getting knocked around was torturous for Fireball. He was completely tensed up in rage, forced to watch from the sidelines.

“You're really not going to fight back, huh!?” Latoshi asked in amusement. “At the very least you're resilient as hell — like a really sturdy punching bag!”

With every strike, Antoshi's eyes began glowing brighter as rage built up inside him. He gave off a sudden scream. His own, red aura ignited almost like an explosion around his body — the force and pressure of which pushed Latoshi away slightly. Latoshi hopped backward a short distance. He was intrigued by the long-awaited emergence of Antoshi's power.

Now it's getting interesting,” Latoshi remarked.

The two boys stared each other down for several moments. Antoshi groaned and shook his head. His vision was blurred from the hits he took. Latoshi used to opportunity to quickly race toward him. He shouted, throwing a punch with more force behind it than before. Still dazed, Antoshi reacted instinctively by blocking the punch with his forearms. The impact dug Antoshi's heels into the ground and caused a small shock wave that shook the nearby trees. Both boys were stunned, as was Fireball.

Latoshi shouted continuously with each subsequent strike at him. With no formal experience fighting or using his powers, Antoshi was forced to quickly learn and adapt to the difference in power and skill. He at least managed to continue guarding various points of his body from Latoshi's superhuman punches out of sheer instinct. His rage continued to increase, manifesting in his red aura which burned more ferociously than before. He despised having to fight Latoshi, no matter what the circumstances were. His body continued to fight on, but his heart was aching to stop.

Latoshi reared his fist back, throwing one last, powerful strike. Antoshi clenched his teeth, his eyes glowing brighter, his adrenaline surging. He leapt back in a sudden instant to avoid the attack, leaving Latoshi bewildered and wide-eyed. He had moved just a few paces away, yet did so faster than Latoshi could process.

‘Was he actually trained as well?’ Latoshi thought. ‘Where is this speed suddenly coming from? …’

With Latoshi momentarily confused, a counter-attack opportunity appeared. Antoshi held his hands out in front of him. A ball of bright, red energy gathered in his palms. He was briefly taken aback by its presence, realizing it was the same sort of orb he had shown to Fireball. He quickly focused back on his target, gave a shout, and fired it like a projectile at his attacker.

Latoshi gasped in surprise. He narrowly dodged the blast, causing it to impact a large pine tree behind him. The resulting explosion was powerful enough to break and topple the tree, falling away from the group with loud cracking and a hard thud.

Latoshi backed away to regroup himself, narrowing narrowed his eyes at his rival. ‘What secrets is he hiding? How does someone as soft as him know how to fight like that? Is he playing me for a chump right now?’

Antoshi, meanwhile, gazed down at his palms in disbelief at what just happened.

"Whoa," Fireball uttered. "Antoshi, that was … amazing! I—I had no idea you could move so fast! And that … that bullet thing you shot from your hands! It was just like the light show ball!"

Fireball, too, had recognized it. Antoshi didn't have an answer for Fireball.

‘I … can use that light like … a weapon?’ Antoshi thought.

Latoshi's eyes shifted over to Fireball. ‘The Typhlosion is way too surprised with Antoshi's skills. He has to be doing all of this out of instinct. He's greener than my shirt. …’

'Foolish child,' Lazarus said. 'You are holding back too much. Do not go easy on him.'

Latoshi scoffed. “Whatever. I was just feeling him out.”

Upon realizing Latoshi was speaking to the wind, Antoshi and Fireball both stared at him with puzzled gazes. ‘Is that his 'conscience' he's talking to?’ Antoshi thought.

“So, Antoshi,” Latoshi said, “you seem to have some mastery over your abilities, huh?”

“I …” Antoshi trailed off, clenching his fists and standing confidently. “I do.”

“Interesting,” Latoshi said, “bu~t I think you're lying. You and Fireball were just as surprised as I was when you used that attack. The fact is, you've only just begun to start harnessing your power, and realizing what you can do with it. I've had plenty of continuous training, so I have much more control over my energy. I'm at a level way greater than what you're capable of.”

Antoshi scowled, feeling empowered by his earlier ability. He suddenly dashed toward Latoshi. “Let's find out!” he exclaimed.

Latoshi's shimmering black eyes widened in shock, taken aback at just how fast Antoshi was. It was a speed beyond what either of them had displayed thus far. Rather than going for an attack, Antoshi instead decided to dash all around Latoshi in a random pattern. His speed was great enough that he left fading after-images of himself, giving the appearance of a handful of clones surrounding his opponent.

'He is surprisingly quick,' Lazarus remarked.

Latoshi looked all around in every direction with a confused expression. He was overwhelmed by Antoshi's quickness. Fireball watched in awe at the superpowered young people, astonished by how fast they were able to move and react. Yet, for the two locked in battle, the normal flow of time seemed to be reduced to a snail's pace.

Antoshi leapt forward, striking Latoshi with a kick to the back of the head. Latoshi shouted and stumbled, immediately turning and swinging a fist to counter. Antoshi was already long gone — back in the vortex of after-images. Antoshi's hand glowed red as he summoned forth the energy needed to produce another blast.

'Defend yourself!' Lazarus shouted.

With a bitter scowl, Latoshi crossed his arms in front of him. Antoshi came to a sudden stop, firing the powerful blast of energy in Latoshi's face. It exploded violently enough to send his adversary careening a short distance away. Latoshi grunted in pain, managing to use his momentum to flip backward and land on his feet.

"Awesome, Antoshi!" Fireball cheered. "That was so cool!"

Latoshi looked down at his forearms, finding burn marks left from the energy's impact. He seethed, glaring viciously at his adversary. Antoshi kept on him, realizing he was dictating the pace of the fight. He dashed toward Latoshi swiftly enough to dodge a punch that Latoshi threw at him. He continued darting around him, leaving after-images once more. Using his quickness, he managed to land several shots to Latoshi's head.

Latoshi became bitterly frustrated. He roared, his aura intensifying.

'Focus, you dunce!' Lazarus shouted. 'Do not just stand there — feel his energy out!'

Latoshi put all of focus into watching his opponent's movements, though difficult they were to follow. The next time Antoshi threw a punch, Latoshi spotted it and blocked it with a hand. The blond-haired boy didn't think much of it, keeping up the pace of his assault. Latoshi's eyes began to further adapt to Antoshi's overwhelming speed. He took some further shots, but deflected and avoided most of them.

Their speed was evolving as the fight went on. It became too fast for Fireball to keep up with. However, Latoshi soon became the one dictating the pace. As he realized it more and more, he shot his rival an increasingly confident smirk. Despite his speed, Antoshi saw his rival's arrogant expression clearly.

After having his attacks blocked consistently, Antoshi leapt away to get some space. He hunched over, panting heavily. He wiped the sweat off of his forehead, a stern expression on his face. He did not let Latoshi out of his sights.

Latoshi threw his head back and laughed. “Look at you! You're more winded than I am, and I've been on the defensive! Guess you reached your limit, huh, bro?”

Antoshi heaved a sigh and stood up straight. “I am not your brother.”

“Well, that's just a silly remark. It's inexplicable, but I know you sense just as well as I do that we have to be related.”

Antoshi scowled. “Not a chance. Fireball is more of a brother to me than you'd ever be.”

“Oh, and why is that? Because he's nice to you? Because his ideals align with yours? Sorry, that's not how life works. I'm certain that we are brothers. No matter how much you dislike it, you're certain as well. I mean, just look at us, Antoshi — it's like looking in a mirror! We're not just brothers, we're twin brothers!”

Antoshi glanced away. “How can that be? I—I've never even met you before.”

Latoshi shrugged. “I don't know any more than you do. But, what I do know is that you should join me. I'll forgive your earlier remarks towards me. Come on, we can work together. We can make this world a much better place, you and I. You have so much potential that you don't even see! I'll help teach you how to gain control over your powers. We'll be totally unstoppable!”

“Over my dead body,” Antoshi spat.

Latoshi laughed. “That's a very interesting response,” Antoshi gasped as his adversary appeared beside him, driving a fist into his gut, “because it's one that I can definitely follow through with if you refuse my generous offer.” Antoshi struggled to breathe, hunching over, hugging his abdomen. The strike was unexpectedly more vicious than any of Latoshi's previous hits. “You know I've been taking it easy on you, right? There is absolutely no way you're going to win this fight. I think it's in your best interest to concede.”

“I'm never going to stop fighting…” Antoshi replied. He stood up straight with a groan, stumbling back a few paces. His stamina had been draining much faster than he realized. “Especially … if it means stopping you from harming us and putting an end to your insane idea of a 'perfect world'.”

Latoshi shook his head and chuckled. “Go on, then. You can keep on fighting, Antoshi. The problem is, you're far less trained to deal with your energy than I am. You can't control it and regulate it well, and you have no stamina built up. It won't be much longer before you run completely dry.”

The two boys stared each other down momentarily. Antoshi panted, sweating intensely, swallowing the dry lump in his throat. His hair and clothing were starting to mat to his body. Latoshi's words resounded with him. He began to seriously question whether or not he actually could deal with the sable-haired boy. He trembled in anticipation of Latoshi's next move.

“Would you like to see just how outclassed you are, Antoshi? Don't blink now.”

Without moving from his position, Latoshi threw a jab at him. Antoshi looked on in confusion, until the shock wave from it suddenly struck him in the face. Latoshi laughed, continuing to send long-ranged punches at him for a short time. Antoshi clenched his jaw, guarding his face with his forearms. The moment they finally stopped, Antoshi dropped his guard to find Latoshi standing in front of him.

“Boo,” Latoshi said with a cocky smirk. He suddenly disappeared. “Whoops, I'm behind you!” he said before landing a punch in the small of Antoshi's back. Antoshi fell to his knees, holding his back with both hands, wincing in pain. “This is a pretty wild case of sibling rivalry, huh?! I may be the only one thinking this, but we seem to have a bit of a dysfunctional family.”

“Yeah, … good one,” Antoshi strained out a sarcastic reply.

Latoshi kicked Antoshi's side hard enough to punt him forward through the air. Antoshi shouted, the sheer force of his momentum snapping several large trees in half as he crashed into them.

Latoshi laughed in amusement. “Well, this is so much more fun now.” He looked down at his hands, enveloped in his black aura, flexing and clenching them into fists rhythmically. “I feel so much stronger now for some reason,” he added with a cocky smirk.

Fireball snarled, fuming. His agitation of being forced to the sidelines was at its peak. With a clear opening between himself and the distracted Latoshi, he let out a sudden, powerful Flamethrower. Latoshi turned his attention to the oncoming attack in time to shield his face with one arm, just before he was consumed in a stream of flames. Latoshi shouted, part of his shirt burnt, along with the skin on the side of his torso. His aura flared to life around him. The spiritual energy around him effectively acted as a shield around his body, protecting him from the full wrath of Fireball's attack.

"I won't let you hurt Antoshi any longer!" Fireball roared. As was the case with the Rockets, Fireball was willing to attack humans if he felt they were rotten to the core.

Yet, despite being burned, Latoshi's expression slowly turned to amusement. He laughed hysterically, seeing Fireball's attack as nothing more than a joke. He grinned while inspecting the relatively minor burns that scorched some of his shirt and the skin beneath.

“You think some little Pokémon attack is going to stop me? You're even more delusional than my brother is! This burn doesn't hurt in the slightest. You have absolutely no grasp of the level of power you're facing. Antoshi's a complete amateur with his abilities, so you and he have never seen anything like what I—” Fireball abruptly summoned up another Flamethrower, firing it directly at Latoshi. The boy jumped out of the way to avoid it. “… Now, that was just plain rude,” Latoshi scolded him playfully. “What, did you think you'd get me again?”

"No, I'm just tired of hearing you speak," Fireball spat.

Latoshi clicked his tongue. “Well, that is a shame. I can make things easier on you, though. I'll make it so you can't hear me ever again.” Latoshi held an open hand toward Fireball. “After all, you tend to lose your sense of hearing when you don't have a head.”

Fireball stared into Latoshi's cold, black eyes as the boy sneered at him. As Latoshi summoned his energy into his palm, Fireball quickly braced himself.

'No,' Lazarus said. 'Do not harm him. Not yet.'

“What?” Latoshi wondered aloud, his arm faltering. “Why is that?”

'Because I have something else to deal with this nuisance.'

Fireball was left confused, but knew there had to be some kind of unpleasant retribution in store for him yet. Lazarus began chanting an incantation in a strange language that neither of them had heard before. Its voice emanated from Latoshi's mouth — though Latoshi's lips were not moving. Latoshi was shocked, curiously clasping a hand over his mouth. It did nothing to alter the volume of the voice speaking through him.

From the ground, a black mist began to seep. Latoshi and Fireball looked on in bewilderment as the mist slowly rose up and formed into the shape of a four-legged beast. Curled horns sprouted out from its distinctively canine head. Its long tail extended out with a pointed, triangular tip. Once its body had finally taken shape, and Lazarus' chanting ended, its form became apparent.

It was a Houndoom — yet far unlike a normal one. Its body appeared eaten away, hollow and rotted. Bones were visible through gaping holes in its chest and its legs. Its eyes were completely black with small, red, pinprick pupils. It slowly opened its mouth, revealing its forked tongue and razor-sharp, jagged teeth. Fireball was horrified by its appearance.

“What the hell is that thing?” Latoshi asked, bluntly.

'This is Lucent,' Lazarus said. 'He is my most obedient and faithful servant. He is also very much as undead as he looks. I have decided to let him have some fun.'

“You expect me to just play nice with the doggy over there and let him do all the work? I can easily deal with this Typhlosion, you know.”

Lucent's cold eyes slowly rolled over to glare at Latoshi. Latoshi scowled, expressing his disgust for the beast.

'I am well aware of that. Your battle with Antoshi is not over yet, though. This way, you will not have to waste your energy on the Typhlosion.'

Latoshi sighed in frustration. “Fine. Well, Fireball, it was nice knowing you and all but it seems like 'zombie pooch' here is about to tear you into very fine, very bloody ribbons.”

'Sink your jaws into the Typhlosion, Lucent!' Lazarus commanded. Lucent's head snapped upward in attention, Lazarus' voice ringing through his head as well. 'Make him suffer!'

Lucent gave a horrible, raspy bark of acknowledgment before darting at its target. Fireball stood in place, stricken with fear. His eyes went wide as Lucent lurched at him with its decaying jaw open.

Antoshi suddenly jumped in the way, causing the dog to bite his forearm instead. The boy cried out in pain, tensing all the muscles in his arm as he fought to pull away from the dog's grasp. Lucent locked its jaw in tight and began shaking its head around. Antoshi held up his other hand, firing a blast of his energy point-blank that exploded Lucent's face. The attack sent the Houndoom a short distance away.

Lucent's body had gone totally limp before it rolled to a stop. The demonic dog calmly rose to its feet, glaring at Antoshi. It took its time licking the blood off of its chops. Antoshi inspected his badly injured, trembling arm. He gasped, horrified by the amount of blood he was losing. He had never been injured so severely.

“What's the matter, Antoshi?” Latoshi asked with a laugh. “It's just a little blood!”

"Antoshi…" Fireball uttered, deeply concerned for his friend's safety.

Antoshi held a hand out to him, letting him know he was all right. His hand trembled as he grabbed his wound, clenching his teeth. The others looked on as Antoshi summoned his energy into his palm. He screamed in agony, his injured flesh sizzling to effectively cauterize his wound. Fireball was left in shock.

“Fireball,” Antoshi said, quietly, as his hand fell away. “Rolling Fireball.

The command took a moment for Fireball's mind to register. Once it did, he gave a confident smirk. "Looks like we're back in business," he remarked. He curled up quickly, and began revving in place. The fires on his back engulfed him, catching the opposing duo off-guard. Neither of them had seen anything like it.

Fireball took off like a bullet toward Lucent. The undead Houndoom snarled just before being impacted hard. It was sent a short distance away again, landing on its belly. Lucent got back to its feet, staring Fireball down, coldly. The Typhlosion turned around and prepared to strike again. Latoshi appeared in the way suddenly, kicking Fireball away like a ball.

“That's about enough from you!” Latoshi exclaimed. Fireball shouted in terror as he spiraled through the air, coming to a violent stop against a large tree. He fell to the ground, unconscious.

“Fireball!” Antoshi shouted, panicked.

“I really don't like having to work with this dog,” Latoshi remarked, “so I might as well get some enjoyment out of it.”

Antoshi scowled, turning his attention to Latoshi. He shouted in rage, racing toward his adversary, his red aura flickering wildly. Latoshi grinned in the face of the oncoming attack. As Antoshi threw a punch, Latoshi countered with a hard shot to Antoshi's cheek. The impact sent the blond-haired boy backward into the dirt, flailing and skidding to a stop near his motionless best friend.

Antoshi quickly shook himself out of his daze. He gazed over at Fireball with concern, dragging himself toward him.

“Fireball,” he uttered. “Come on, Fireball. … Please, wake up!”

“How perfect it is to have both of you together like this,” Latoshi remarked. He held his wrist, taking careful aim with his open hand. “It'll be like shooting fish in a barrel!” Latoshi laughed as he fired dozens of spherical energy blasts at the duo.

Antoshi's irises burned bright red as his eyes widened in horror. He quickly knelt with his back facing Fireball, crossing his arms over his chest. He used his aura to shield himself and Fireball, just like Latoshi did earlier, as the attacks impacted him and everything around them. He grunted from the sheer power of the blasts, gradually inching back from the immense barrage. Explosions rang out upon the ground and nearby trees, toppling them over.

Fireball awoke to the noise. His eyes came into focus, making out the image of his friend using himself as a shield to protect him.

"Antoshi …" he whispered. The overwhelming show of force came to an end. Fireball groaned and got to his feet.

Antoshi collapsed face-first, panting, his aura severely diminished. His chest had been burned, his shirt left in tatters. Fireball was horrified. He had never seen his best friend so seriously injured.

Latoshi sucked his teeth. “One of you falls, and the other gets up. It's like a really annoying carnival game.”

With a vicious snarl, the fires on Fireball's back came alight with intense fervor. He glared at Latoshi, who arrogantly smirked back at him. He roared, charging at him on all fours. However, he was abruptly struck by a headbutt to his side from Lucent — denying Fireball his chance to attack the boy.

Lucent pinned him down. Fireball roared as he blasted Lucent in the face with another Flamethrower. The Houndoom whined and jumped away. As Fireball got back up to his hind feet, Lucent charged back in, ramming Fireball hard with its horned head and tackling him to the ground once again. They clawed and bit at each other, both Pokémon fighting with all the strategy and savagery of wild animals.

Latoshi casually turned his attention back to Antoshi. “Well, this is just getting sad. Why don't you concede now and join me already? That'll make all this pain stop.”

Antoshi strained, looking up at his rival with bitter loathing in his eyes. Latoshi chuckled before kicking Antoshi in the face, snapping his head back. The blond-haired boy shouted, holding his face as blood seeped from his nose.

"Leave him alone!" Fireball shouted. He managed to shoving Lucent off of him, giving him enough of a reprieve to attack Latoshi with another Flamethrower.

Latoshi grinned, calmly holding a hand out, using his aura to deflect the scorching stream of fire. Lucent put a swift end to Fireball's flames, lurching forth and biting the Typhlosion across the throat. Fireball's eyes went wide, choking. He struggled to release the undead dog's grip on his neck.

“Well, that was convenient,” Latoshi remarked, nonchalantly. “Now, where was I? … Oh, right!” He stomped hard on Antoshi's chest, drawing an agonizing scream out of the blond-haired boy. He stomped several more times before putting his full weight down on him. Antoshi strained, grabbing Latoshi's shoe. “You know, I think this is pretty symbolic of how you're nothing more than a stepping stone on my way to greatness — just like I told you earlier.”

As Antoshi struggled, he turned his gaze to Fireball. Lucent jaws were still clamped down on Fireball's neck, with the Houndoom shaking its head back and forth. Fireball's struggling slowly ceased, going limp. The sight terrified him to the core, unaware if he just witnessed Fireball's death.

Fireball, no!” he called out. He abruptly screamed again as Latoshi put more weight on his chest.

“Oh darn, Antoshi!” Latoshi said, feigning concern. “I think you might have a few broken ribs there!”

Antoshi reached a shaking hand into his pocket while Latoshi continued to stomp on him. His breathing became ragged and shallow, unable to draw a full breath. Straining and ignoring the pain, he pulled out Fireball's Poké Ball. Getting Fireball out of there and into the safety of his Poké Ball was all that mattered to him. He maximized it, weakly pointing it at his friend. Latoshi took his foot off of Antoshi's chest to stomp the ball instead, shattering it into pieces.

Antoshi looked on in helpless agony. His heart fell to pieces much like the shards of Fireball's Poké Ball. “N— … No …” he whispered. His eyes quickly welled up with tears.

Latoshi laughed in amusement. “You're pathetic,” he remarked, spitefully. “You're way too emotional. All you do is cry over every little thing, like a baby. Killing you almost seems like a waste of energy now.” Lucent let go of the unconscious Fireball. It backed away, licking the blood off of its chops. Latoshi glanced over at the Pokémon briefly, his eyes lighting up with an idea. “I know what I'll do. First, I'll kill your Typhlosion, and let you watch. The look on your face when he's nothing but ashes will be very satisfying.”

“No …” Antoshi whispered once more. “No, … no …” His gaze shifted between the shattered ball, over to his best friend. Fireball was in worse shape than he'd ever seen. It was impossible to tell if Fireball was still breathing or not. He reached out for him, whimpering, tears rolling down his face.

“Then,” Latoshi continued, “I think I'll track down the rest of your family in Saffron City and I'll kill them, too.” He looked down at Antoshi, smirking cruelly.

Antoshi momentarily froze in place. Images of his family, and the memories of his journey with Fireball, raced through his head. His family was the most important thing to him. Not his journey, the badges, the scenery, winning battles, or even the people they met. All of that paled in comparison to how crucial family was to him. Latoshi had crossed a line that Antoshi was not going to forgive.

Antoshi's heart pounded, yet his breathing became deeper and more relaxed. His emotions — from the anger he felt toward Latoshi, to the love for his family — all swirled together. His eyes began to glow a much brighter red. Latoshi looked on in surprise while Antoshi found the strength to slowly rise to his feet.

“Damn … you, … Latoshi…” he muttered. “You monster!” His aura exploded back to life, more intense than before. Latoshi shielded his eyes. The sheer pressure of Antoshi's Ki was strong enough to push him back slightly.

'I see now,' Lazarus remarked. 'The greater the lives of his loved ones are in danger, the harder he fights.'

“You're very interesting, Antoshi,” Latoshi said. “You'll make the perfect partner!”

Antoshi couldn't give a damn what Latoshi just said. He screamed, his bitter eyes glowing intensely. He immediately closed the gap between them, throwing dozens of punches at Latoshi in a matter of seconds, fueled by the emotions burning inside him. Resentful hatred upon his face, tears continued to stream down his face.

Yet, despite the blond-haired boy's sudden resurgence, Latoshi was grinning to himself. He put his arms up, able to shield himself from the strikes — even as they inched him back. There was no spirit energy behind Antoshi's attacks — the boy still did not understand how to use it to fight. With Latoshi's more powerful aura shielding him, Antoshi's punches were no more than angry slaps from a baby having a tantrum.

Antoshi's blitz did not last long. His stamina was still heavily drained from earlier. His body couldn't keep up, his speed faltered, his vision becoming blurry. He staggered against Latoshi's superior defense, panting and sweating heavily, his body hunching over. Latoshi found his opening amid what was left of Antoshi's petering onslaught. He landed a sudden upward blow to Antoshi's chin, sending the boy rolling and flailing to the ground.

“You were destined for greater things, Antoshi,” Latoshi said, “but you could never hope to compare to me!”

Antoshi laid face-up, gasping for air. His entire body throbbed with pain. His eyes had returned to normal, his aura vanished; his Ki was almost totally depleted. Latoshi used his phenomenal speed to appear atop him, slamming a knee into his stomach. Antoshi strained as he cried out, blood flying from his mouth.

With a cruel grin, Latoshi grabbed Antoshi by the hair. He viciously punched the boy's face again and again. Antoshi shouted in pain with each blow, unable to defend himself. Lucent sat and watched with disinterest, yawning as the boy was brutalized. By the time Latoshi was done, Antoshi's face was a bloodied mess. He calmly let go of his blond, bloodstained head. Antoshi lay almost lifeless as Latoshi stood tall and triumphant.

“This was just too easy,” he remarked, wiping the blood from his hands. “You just don't get it, Antoshi. You are not as skilled as me. Every single one of those punches and kicks you gave me this entire time, … they weren't fueled with spirit energy. You can't possibly hope to defeat someone like me, trained to use their Ki, with simple, physical blows like that.”

Antoshi groaned weakly. Every inch of him was in excruciating pain. He managed to open one of his eyes, the other swollen shut. He made out the blurry image of Latoshi standing over him. He clenched his teeth, struggling to get up. Latoshi quickly shoved a foot into his chest, pinning him back down.

“No, no, don't get up,” Latoshi said with a chuckle. “You look like you're pretty injured.” Antoshi groaned in pain again. Latoshi squatted down beside him. “Well, so much for this little 'fight' you decided to put up. It was okay, but, in the end, the person with real training won here. You couldn't have looked any more like a deer in headlights during that fight if you tried.”

Antoshi coughed up blood, struggling to breathe. “… Don't … have to do this, … Latoshi.”

“Sure I do. I explained everything to you already, no need to go through it all again. My offer still stands, though. Why don't you join me, huh? I can help you learn how to hone your abilities. Lazarus can help you just like he helped me. You and I … we can have anything we want, go anywhere we choose. Best of all, there'll be no one in our way that can stop us if we work together. So, what do you say, brother? Partners?”

“Not a chance. … I'll never buy in to your … insane ideals. I will … never join you, Latoshi.”

Latoshi clicked his tongue, rising to his feet. “Well, I guess I have no other choice.”

With terror in his eyes, Antoshi watched, helplessly, as Latoshi took aim at his head and summoned his energy into his palm. Latoshi's eyes widened, keeping his gaze affixed to Antoshi's face. Lucent looked on with an icy stare, completely motionless.

'Do it,' Lazarus commanded. 'Without him, nothing will stop your ascension.'

The corner of Latoshi's mouth curled into an enthused smirk, but it quickly faded. There was glint of concern in his eyes, and just a tiny spark of regret in his heart.

‘Wow, look at that,’ he had said earlier. ‘You really are named 'Antoshi'. I didn't think there was anyone out there with a … a weird-sounding name like mine.’

‘It's no problem, really!’
he recalled Antoshi saying to him. ‘You don't even have to pay me back.’

‘You're the
first person I can finally talk to about this! The first person to really understand! The first person I can look at as an equal! Antoshi, you've been so kind and friendly toward me already.

The fear in Antoshi's eyes was like his own reflection in that unbreakable glass of his prison cell.

‘I just want to … go home. I'll do anything to go home.’

Antoshi clenched his eyes shut, tears rolling down his face.

'Do it now!!' Lazarus shouted, angrily. Latoshi screamed in frustration before he fired a blast of energy.

A moment later, Antoshi's uninjured eye shot open. Latoshi was still standing over him.

“Let's just call that a … 'parting shot',” Latoshi said. Antoshi's slowly turned his head to see a crater of dirt mere inches away. “You have a lot to think about after this ordeal. But, I think you'll find it wise to reconsider my offer. Just be aware that I could've done that to your head.”

Latoshi calmly turned and walked away, slipping his hands into his pockets. As he strolled by Lucent, the undead dog closed its eyes. It returned to its ethereal form, sinking back into the earth.

Antoshi watched in disbelief as Latoshi simply left. However, his concern immediately turned to the health of his best friend. With a ragged gasp, he looked over at Fireball, who still hadn't moved at all.

“Fire … ball …” he whispered. He groaned in pain, reaching out for him once more. He needed to be with his friend, to help him, to get him to safety. If he could just do that, then everything would be fine.

Antoshi's eyes abruptly rolled closed and his body went limp, falling unconscious.

Once Latoshi was a short distance away from the duo, he smirked to himself proudly. “Guess I really am as strong as you said, huh?” he asked Lazarus.

Suddenly, a crippling ringing noise blared out in his ears. His eyes shot wide, grabbing the sides of his head, screaming in agony.

'You simpering little coward!' Lazarus shouted over the noise. 'The next time you ever disobey my orders, your punishment will be much, much worse!' Latoshi gasped when the sound came to an abrupt end. 'I will take my leave for a while. Continue your training and do not disappoint me again.'

Latoshi panted, visibly sweating, dumbfounded at what just occurred. “I'm sorry,” he whispered. “I— … I'm sorry. …”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Antoshi groaned as he briefly regained consciousness. The sun shined brightly through a break in the clouds. A girl with long, brunette hair was knelt beside him. He was barely able to make out her face and violet eyes. It was the same girl he bumped into outside the train station.

The sunlight appeared like a halo around her head. She looked at him with a smile. Her hands glowed with a warm, pink aura, gently pressed against his chest.

“You're going to be just fine,” she softly said.

Just as before, her voice sang to him like an angel. Her words echoed in his head as he groaned and passed out again.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Antoshi awoke with a startled gasp, jumping up into a sitting position. The clouds had mostly cleared up. The evening sun had already set in. He panted fearfully, looking around, spotting Fireball unconscious nearby. He panicked, crawling over to check on him. Fireball was merely asleep, and with no visible injuries on him. A wave of relief swept through him. He sighed heavily, hunched over as he sat down in front of Fireball.

He mulled over everything that had transpired, hoping to somehow wrap his head around it all. He patted his chest, feeling no pain after the torturous battle he went through. Miraculously, like Fireball, he also didn't have any injures. His clothes, however, were still tattered and dirtied.

He suddenly recalled the blurry image of the girl. Her hands were glowing, as though she also had control over spirit energy.

‘Did she … heal me?’ he thought. ‘There are others, then? Others like Latoshi and myself who can use their … 'Ki' as he called it. But, who is she? Does she know Latoshi somehow?’

His eyes widened — she was the girl he bumped into outside the train station. He groaned in frustration, running a hand through his hair. The questions were piling up and becoming too much for him. For the moment, he turned his attention back to his best friend.

“Fireball,” he said, gently shaking him. “Wake up.”

"Huh?" Fireball remarked, opening his eyes. He gasped and sat up quickly the same way Antoshi did earlier. He looked around for Latoshi and Lucent. "Where— … what happened? Weren't we just in a big fight?"

“We were, but … it's over now,” he replied with a weak smile. “Come on, let's head back to the Pokémon Center.”

Fireball was momentarily taken aback. The two of them had just nearly been killed. Latoshi, Lucent, and Lazarus were still lurking about somewhere. Yet, Antoshi got to his feet and casually inspected at his tattered clothes. The boy seemed oddly distant — as if none of it fazed him. It reminded him of how the boy didn't give much thought to the fall that he survived in Viridian. Still, Antoshi's demeanor felt … different this time.

Fireball got to his hind feet. "What about Latoshi?" Fireball asked. "Shouldn't we … go after him or something?"

Antoshi shook his head, turning his distant gaze away. “There's no point,” he muttered. “I can't sense energy like he can. He's way stronger than I am. I'm just not as good as him.”

Fireball was shocked. Antoshi had never been so defeated before. "But, … you're not going to just give up, right? As long as you're going to fight, I'll fight, Antoshi. The two of us working together has always got us through."

“That's not going to help this time!” he snapped, turning a bitter gaze at Fireball. “This isn't some Pokémon battle where we can just shrug off a loss and move on! Our lives are on the line!” The boy was visibly shaken, breathing heavily. He was angry — angrier than Fireball had ever seen before. He turned away and sighed. “I'm sorry, I just— … come on, let's get going.”

"All right, … sure," Fireball replied, quietly.

Antoshi took one more look back at the remnants of Fireball's shattered Poké Ball. He said nothing of it, walking away, idly wiping his eyes. Fireball followed along in silence a short distance behind him.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Latoshi took a deep breath before slowly sighing in content. He opened his eyes, having finished his meditation. He unfurled his crossed legs to sprawl out a bit, resting his back against the large tree behind him. Crickets chirped all around in the quiet peace of night.

“Do I really have to hide in the woods like this?” Latoshi asked.

'Yes,' Lazarus replied. 'For now, we will keep a low profile. Until you grow much stronger, we will stay in the shadows. You may be able to wipe out a large tower with your Ki now, but we will constantly aim even higher. The next time you and Antoshi should face, I want you to utterly decimate him and his Typhlosion. Is that understood?'

Latoshi paused for a moment. “Lazarus, I'm sorry about earlier. I just didn't want—”

'Is — that — understood?' the voice demanded an answer.

Latoshi sighed. “Yes, Lazarus,” he replied, quietly, turning his gaze away.

'Excellent. Always remember who pulled you from nothing and made you extraordinary. Remember who will continue to make you even stronger still.'

“Right,” he replied, while pulling out some nearby grass and tossing it aside. He sighed amid the quiet of the forest. Lazarus' voice had left him. “And, … now I'm all alone again.” He scooted forward to lay down on the ground, staring up at the night sky, his mind swirling with thoughts.

‘I wonder what it would've been like, if I … had actually gotten to know Antoshi instead of fighting him. Maybe the two of us could be talking about Pokémon stuff right now. That would be pretty normal. Kind of like … a family.’

Latoshi suddenly caught a vision of a man and a woman smiling proudly, standing over him. He gasped in surprise, sitting up. His heart swelled with excitement and a sense of warmth. ‘What was that?! Could it be? Was that … a memory?’

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

On the floor in their room at the Pokémon Center, Fireball rolled over in his sleep and smacked his lips. He awoke for just a moment to check on Antoshi. The boy wasn't there.

“Antoshi?” Fireball called out, quietly. He sat up, looking around for him.

Just outside, Antoshi stood on the sidewalk, his mind blanking out nearby cars and passersby. He clenched his fists, trembling with anger, while staring up at the full moon with rage. His irises glowed an intensely bright red.

‘I'll stop him,’ Antoshi thought. ‘I will stop him — no matter what it takes…’


⁂ ⁂ ⁂

End of Part 2

⁂ ⁂

Part 3: Intervention »



Antoshi & Latoshi

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Part 3: Intervention

⁂ ⁂


A scream, echoing in the forest. Sounds of explosions all around. Nostrils clogged with the scent of blood. Terrible, mind-numbing pain in every nerve. The horrifying image of Fireball near death.

Fireball, no!’ Antoshi cried out.

Latoshi's laugh echoed all around him. The sable-haired boy's sneering expression was so clear — cold, vicious, methodical.

“Join me, Antoshi,” he said. “Let's make this world so much better by cleansing it of evil.”

“I already know how to make this world better,” Antoshi spat, “by cleansing you out of it!” He and Latoshi shouted as they rushed toward each other.

Antoshi gasped, jolting back to reality, sitting on the edge of a messy bed. Even though he'd only dozed off for a few minutes, he had to recollect himself and remember where he was: the hotel room they were staying. They were safe — far away from the site of the horrific battle between himself and Latoshi.

Only a couple of days had passed since his fight with Latoshi. He'd gotten almost no sleep since then. His thoughts had been consuming him and drawing him into dreamlike dazes, pulling him back into that point in time, causing him to relive the horrors of their fight over and over again. The brutal extent of their confrontation rendered him unable to think about much else. The lack of sleep left him agitated.

He looked over at Fireball. The Typhlosion stood staring out of the room's large windows, high above eastern Goldenrod City. It was a bleak afternoon, the sky was cloudy and overcast. The duo had opted to lay low for a while, staying put in their room. Their exploration of the city, and their Johto journey as a whole, was on hold, indefinitely. The mood between them had been abnormally quiet and somber as of late.

‘What is this power inside of me?’ Antoshi thought. ‘Why? … Why was I given this?’

"So," Fireball said, turning to face his friend, "Latoshi … broke my Poké Ball?"

“Yeah,” Antoshi replied. He looked down at the new, unblemished Poké Ball in his hands, slowly rotating it. “I should've stopped him. I should've … done more to make sure that you weren't hurt, and that your Poké Ball was safe. Now, all that history and those memories with that ball, the one that brought you to me for the very first time, are gone.”

The Typhlosion turned his gaze to the floor. "That's why you went out earlier and bought a new Poké Ball," Fireball remarked with a weak chuckle. "After I saw you with it, I thought maybe … you were ready to get back on the road. I thought you were planning to catch a new Pokémon for the first time, or … maybe even a bunch of new Pokémon."

“We can't get back to traveling yet. I have to deal with Latoshi first.”

Fireball took a seat on a second bed across from Antoshi. His concerned gaze met with Antoshi's brown eyes. "Antoshi, you can't blame yourself over what happened in that fight. You don't have to feel like it's your responsibility to take him on."

“How can I not? I know I'm the only one who can stop him.”

"That's true, but … how? What can we do? You heard him before, he kept going on and on about his training and experience. He— … he beat you … badly."

Antoshi cut his eyes at him. “I know he beat me, Fireball,” he said, raising his voice, “you don't have to keep reminding me, okay?”

"Okay, okay. I—I'm sorry, Antoshi. I didn't mean to …" he trailed off.

The mood turned quiet again. Fireball sighed, looking at the Poké Ball in Antoshi's hands. He reached out and grabbed it with a paw, smiling to his friend, reassuringly. Fireball's body was quickly reduced to a reddish light, pulled into the open ball before it promptly snapped shut. Antoshi watched the ball gently wobble, while the front button glowed red and blinked for a moment. Once it stopped glowing, the new home of his best friend was officially set.

The blond-haired boy sighed, staring blankly. He pondered for a moment, hesitating to let Fireball out again. He placed the ball on the bed, and walked away.

‘I don't want to fight you,’ he recalled saying to Latoshi.

‘Good!’ Latoshi replied back. ‘That'll make killing you so much easier.’

Antoshi sighed, getting into a fighting stance, raising his fists. He grunted, throwing a few straight punches in the blink of an eye. He expressed bitterness. He found himself back in the forest, envisioning Latoshi standing over him with the same arrogant smile.

‘Well, so much for this little 'fight' you decided to put up,’ Latoshi said to him. ‘It was okay, but, in the end, the person with real training won here.’

Antoshi narrowed his eyes, letting those words sinking in. He stood up straight, eyes widening with the spark of an epiphany. He grabbed Fireball's Poké Ball and held it out to finally release him. Fireball materialized, sitting on the bed again.

"Um," Fireball began, "should I … ask why you waited to let me back out?"

Antoshi had a serious expression upon his face before he turned away. “Come on, Fireball,” he said, heading for the door. “Let's get going.”

"Oh. Okay, sure," Fireball replied with some confusion. He followed Antoshi as they exited their hotel room.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Outside, Antoshi marched eastward through the city streets toward an unknown destination. His eyes were fueled with determination, irises glowing brightly with the red hue of his spirit energy. Fireball remained behind his friend as opposed to his typical designation by the boy's side.

The mood continued to be unusually quiet and tense. Antoshi had become fairly distant toward Fireball ever since the fight with Latoshi. A gloomy air hung over the boy. It wasn't the Antoshi he knew and loved. Fireball wanted to say something about it to him, but he was too afraid that it would only anger Antoshi further.

Soon, the city's Gym came into view. Fireball's eyes lit up, gasping in elation.

"Oh, hey! Goldenrod City Gym!" Fireball said. He stopped in front of the white pathway leading to the doors of the large, yellowish building, grinning eagerly. "Man, I can't wait to—"

He looked over to see Antoshi was still walking away. Fireball gave chase after him. "Antoshi? The Gym's over here!"

“We're not going to the Gym,” he replied, keeping his bitter gaze forward. Fireball was stunned.

"Oh. … Where are we going?"

“Just follow me,” he said, flatly. “I'll explain later.”

"Oh, uh, all right then…" Fireball replied, nervously fidgeting with his claws.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Once they reached the wooded outskirts of the city, Antoshi led Fireball into the first open clearing he found. A small flock of Starly flew off upon his arrival. Fireball was surprised, curiously staring at him. Antoshi took a slow look around. The environment was similar to that of the battle with Latoshi. The memories again came flooding back to him.

‘Let's just call that a … 'parting shot',’ Latoshi said. ‘You have a lot to think about after this ordeal. But, I think you'll find it wise to reconsider my offer.’

"So," Fireball said, bringing Antoshi back to reality. "What … are we doing out here in the woods?"

“Training,” Antoshi replied calmly.

"Oh, sweet!" Fireball said, with a relieved sigh. "You know, you had me worried for a sec' there. I'll bet you want to make sure we're strong enough to beat all of the Johto Gyms, huh?"

“We're not training you, Fireball,” Antoshi replied. “I already told you, we can't start traveling again yet. I'm the one who's getting training.” The boy stretched out his neck and rubbed his hands together.

Fireball was left confused. "… Huh?" he uttered, bewildered. Antoshi walked a few paces away, turning around to face his friend.

“Come at me,” Antoshi said. “I want you to attack me just like you'd attack an opponent.”

Fireball's jaw hung in disbelief. "Antoshi … what? What are you asking me here? I can't … hit you. You're not my opponent, you're my best friend."

“We don't have time for this, Fireball!” Antoshi shouted, causing the larger than average Typhlosion to jump. “Every second we waste allows Latoshi to get stronger. He's scheming, plotting, waiting to attack us again. He could very well be watching us right now.”

"Antoshi, … is this really the right call? Are you really going to train to … fight him again?"

“This is the only thing I can think of, Fireball. I don't know exactly what Latoshi's training consists of, but the fact is, like you said earlier, he did beat me … badly. I thought that my powers were strong enough for me to do anything. I could fly, I could pick up cars, but Latoshi's power and skill … were on a whole different level I couldn't even comprehend.”

"I thought that you wanted to try to talk him out of this whole, err, whatever it was he's trying to accomplish."

Antoshi laughed weakly. “We're probably way past being able to talk things over with him at this point. The only language Latoshi understands is fighting.” He spread his stance a bit, loosening himself up. “Now, let's train. Come at me.”

Fireball looked at his friend with deep concern in his eyes. He sighed, looking away for a moment before nodding in acknowledgment. The fires on his back came alight. He made the first charge at Antoshi, growling, swiping a claw at his chest. His attack completely missed, however, as Antoshi had already maneuvered behind him. Fireball turned around, eyes wide with surprise.

“Come on, Fireball,” he said, with a perturbed expression. “I know you and your strength better than anyone. You're holding back already. Don't. I can take whatever you dish out at me. And, well, if I can't … I think you know what that means.”

"Yeah, … that's what I'm most afraid of."

“This isn't the time for us to be worrying about 'what if's. Now, stop messing around and strike!” Fireball hesitated for a moment. “Fireball, use Rolling Fireball!” Fireball was shocked by the command. Antoshi took another few paces back and gestured for him to come forth.

With a bitter growl, Fireball curled himself up. Revving in place like a spinning tire caused the fires on his back to ignite his entire frame. Antoshi's eyes glowed bright red, clenching his jaw, watching Fireball blast towards him in an instant. He leapt over Fireball's first attack. The Typhlosion quickly spun around, coming at him again with greater speed than before. Antoshi side-stepped the next pass, and the one after it. After which, Fireball's speed continued to increase to a phenomenal pace.

Not content to simply dodge, Antoshi decided to take a risk and test his own strength. He braced himself, holding both hands out. He grabbed the spinning Typhlosion, his feet digging into the ground from the impact as he slid backward. The intense flames seared at his hands. He strained with effort, the force of Fireball's attack pushing him back less and less. He quickly managed to slow Fireball's momentum to a complete halt.

Once the flames on Fireball's back went out, Antoshi let go of him and took a few steps back. Fireball leapt up into a vertical standing position.

"You okay, Antoshi?" he asked.

Antoshi inspected the ash collected on his trembling palms before patting them clean. His skin had ended up raw and red from the heat of the flames. He felt no pain from it, and was otherwise fine.

“Yeah,” the boy replied, with a slight chuckle. “Luckily.”

Fireball smiled in response. "That was definitely not something a normal person should be able to do."

“Almost nothing over the past few months has really been 'normal' for me, … no matter how much I wish it were.”

"We still don't have to do this whole 'training' thing if you don't want to."

Antoshi shook his head. “Latoshi … threatened your life, he threatened mine. … He even threatened Mom and Dad.” His expression turned bitter, staring at his clenched fists. “I can't let anything happen to my family. Not when I have the ability to protect them.”

"He could've just been bluffing."

“And what if he wasn't?” he shot back, surprising Fireball. “You saw him just as well as I did, Fireball — he's insane! He hears voices in his head that tell him to … to go out and—and murder people? No, I have to stop him. I'm the only one that can. That has to be why I kept having those dreams about him, and what he did to Fern Town. I know if I try hard enough, I can find the strength to beat him. I have to do this.” He closed his eyes and sighed in sorrow. “I have to.”

Fireball turned his gaze away, unable to offer a response. Antoshi looked over at his friend with a serious expression.

“Now, come at me with Return.”

Fireball's eyes widened. "You want me to use Return on … my Trainer?"

Antoshi scoffed, grinning slightly. He guarded his chest with his forearms. “I'm aware of the irony in that. Keep on hitting me and don't hold back.”

Fireball shook his head with a groan of defeat. He narrowed his eyes before taking aim, swinging at Antoshi with enough force to stagger the boy back. Antoshi clenched his teeth, grunting through the powerful, clubbing strikes. The pain he felt was echoed in his expression and his glowing irises.

‘I've been too coddled,’ Antoshi thought. ‘I've never had to fight for myself. I've always depended on Fireball or my parents, ever since I was a child. I can't be a child anymore. I can't sit by and let everyone else take care of my problems for me, not when Latoshi is out there after threatening their lives.’

He shut his eyes tight, his arms glowing bright with his red energy, continuing to defend.

‘Latoshi was right. I can use my power for good, to do great things in the world. Now, I'm going to use them … to put an end his madness…’

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Antoshi was not the only one focused on training, however. At the southern end of Goldenrod City, not far from where they fought, Latoshi was busy honing his skills within the seclusion of the woods. He stood still, his eyes closed, breathing calmly. His transparent, black aura gently fluctuated around him. There were no Pokémon anywhere near him. The ones that did show themselves quickly fled after gazing upon his ominous, dark energy.

'Now,' Lazarus instructed him.

His eyes shot open, irises shimmering black. He brought his clenched fists up at his sides and gave a long shout. His aura flared wildly, extending further out around his body.

'Concentrate,' Lazarus said.

The boy briefly closed his eyes, his expression turning bitterly serious. A large multitude of energy orbs, each about the size of his fist, suddenly burst from his aura and hovered around him. Latoshi broke his focus to look around at them in awe.

“Whoa,” he remarked. “That's unreal.”

He brought a hand up, which caused some of the orbs on that side to move up. He gasped, waving his hands around, prompting the orbs to do the same. Smirking confidently, he thrust both hands forward. The energy he summoned responded by shooting out in front of him. He kept his sense of amazement as the orbs violently exploded on contact with the trees and ground.

Once the dust had settled, a flat clearing of earth lay before him. Everything for several dozens of meters had been completely ravaged to nothing. Having the power to destroy at a moment's notice made him feel all-powerful, capable of guiding his own destiny. Yet, taking it out on a bunch of harmless trees left him with a feeling of emptiness.

'Outstanding. You successfully improvised a new technique. Your fight with Antoshi strengthened your abilities far quicker than meditation ever could. You truly have excellent potential, Latoshi.'

He curiously gazed down at his hands, summoning up some of his energy to them. “I don't feel much stronger,” he remarked.

'Of course not,' Lazarus snapped, as if to chide the boy. Latoshi furred his brow in concern. Lazarus quickly lightened his tone. 'This is your new baseline of power. Of course, it would not feel any different for you.'

“Well, if you say so.” Latoshi put his hands in his pockets, strolling casually through the destruction he wrought. “So, where do I go from here?”

'As I have told you, your power is limitless.'

“Yeah, … you have said that,” he replied with disinterest.

'… Is there a problem?'

“I just keep— … err, never mind.”

'Tell me. I will not have you keep secrets.'

“It's … about Antoshi. I keep thinking about when we met, and the things he's said, and … I don't— I mean, I just want to talk to him again.”

'You are not to speak to him. There is nothing that needs to be said to him, and nothing he could say will ever matter.'

“But, if I could just—” Latoshi was interrupted by a piercing noise ringing out in his head again — Lazarus' method of punishment. His eyes shot open wide, letting out a scream of agonizing pain. He fell to his knees, covering his ears.

'I told you not to disobey me anymore, did I not?' Lazarus spoke, calmly, over the terrible noise.

Latoshi gasped once the noise suddenly stopped. He panted quietly for a moment, scowling. “I don't think that's necessary to get your point across,” he remarked, bitterly. He was very quickly getting fed up with Lazarus asserting authority over him.

'Let me tell you what is 'necessary': putting your full faith in me. I will not lead you astray. Antoshi is weak. He is unskilled, he is a coward. You are none of those things. I have already proven my loyalty to you. Now, you must do the same.' Latoshi's gaze was fully focused on the ground like a scolded child. The mysterious voice had a point — he did owe Lazarus a great deal. He settled into a sitting position with his legs folded. 'No distractions. Nothing will stop us from our goal. Nothing. Is that understood?'

“Yes, Lazarus,” Latoshi replied, quietly.

'Very good. Now, return to your meditation. You are to continue honing your new abilities until they are as sharp as a sword.'

Latoshi closed his eyes, heaving a sigh before he returned to his training.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

A day later, there were a few small breaks in the heavily clouded, mid morning sky. Antoshi and Fireball's roles had reversed as they continued to train in the woods. Antoshi was on the offensive, while Fireball dodged away from each of the boy's punches and kicks. Antoshi was struggling to land a strike on his battle-hardened Pokémon, especially with his mind continually distracted by the same haunting memories. Nonetheless, he remained ever persistent.

As they pressed on throughout the day, and as Antoshi managed to focus more, Antoshi's speed gradually made significant progress. That improvement came with the intensifying red glow in his eyes, brought about by the fiery emotions stirred up by thoughts of Latoshi's viciousness and arrogance.

‘You're pathetic,’ Latoshi remarked in his memory. ‘You're way too emotional. All you do is cry over every little thing, like a baby. Killing you almost seems like a waste of energy now.’

Antoshi was still not able to tag his target. The constant failure, the lack of sleep, his inability to let go of his memories — it was all wearing on him. He gave a frustrated yell as his red aura exploded to life around his body. In an instant, he suddenly grabbed Fireball by the throat and pinned him to the ground with a violent slam.

"Antoshi!" Fireball strained.

“You think I'm a crybaby?!” Antoshi shouted, enraged. He reared a fist back that burned with the energy of his aura. “Let's see how funny it is when I make you cry!”

"Antoshi, please, stop!"
Fireball exclaimed. Antoshi's eyes widened as he snapped back to reality. He quickly let go of Fireball, his jaw hanging in disbelief.

“Fireball, I'm … so sorry. I …”

"It's all right, Antoshi," he reassured him.

He and Antoshi sat down in front of each other. The boy was crestfallen. Fireball knew Antoshi was hurting inside over Latoshi, and what Latoshi had done to him. He was disappointed that his friend chose to manifest that pain as anger. It was so unlike him. Antoshi had always been so kind, friendly, and caring. This rage wasn't like him at all. His best friend was unrecognizable. He was no longer a blond ray of sunshine.

"We've been training like this for hours," Fireball said. "Maybe we should take a break for now. It's a miracle that nobody's come by here yet to see you darting around like a bullet."

“Maybe,” he replied, his voice low. He was unable to look his friend in the eye. “I'm really sorry, Fireball. I went too far there.”

Family was, again, the most important thing to Antoshi. Lashing out at his family made him finally understand how badly misplaced his heart had been. He hadn't seen the situation from Fireball's perspective. He took a moment to steady his breathing, so he could think clearly.

"It's okay, Antoshi. This whole 'Latoshi' thing is getting to you. Why don't we just, you know, go and get something to eat?"

Antoshi grinned and scoffed in amusement. “You never miss a chance for food, huh?” he joked. Fireball grinned. “Still, food sounds good right about now.”

The two of them got up, idly brushing at the dirt and scuff marks littering their bodies.

"You have a little something right here," Fireball remarked, pointing at a glob of mud under Antoshi's eye.

“Oh, I do, huh?” Antoshi smirked, rubbing his cheek, smearing the mud around. “Did I get it?”

Fireball chortled. "Yep, you're fine," he replied, stifling a laugh.

Antoshi grinned and sighed. “I guess that means we should go get cleaned up before we eat. Better call Mom and Dad, too. They probably want to know what we're up to in Goldenrod.”

"Sounds like a good idea."

As they ended their training session for the day, they were unaware that they were being watched. In the shadows of the nearby trees, stood the mysterious girl with long, brunette hair that had healed Antoshi's injuries. She smiled warmly, watching the pair as they left. With a quiet, content chuckle, she turned and headed off in her own direction.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The duo were back in their hotel room, having cleaned up and gotten something to eat. The clouds had almost completely cleared up by noon. The room's wide-open curtains allowed the bright light to pour in. Antoshi was visibly nervous as he sat at the videophone in their room. Fireball stood behind him as usual. Both of them did their best to put up a convincing front while the phone automatically dialed Antoshi's parents.

“There's our amazing Pokémon Trainer!” his mother greeted him. Both she and his father waved to them.

“Hi, Mom and Dad,” Antoshi replied, offering his parents an embarrassed grin.

“Ooh, I'll bet the two of you are enjoying the sights as usual, huh?” she asked.

“Are the Trainers there tough?” his father chimed in.

“Yes, and … err, yes,” he replied with a nervous chuckle. “Fireball and I have been really distracted here in Goldenrod.” Fireball nodded.

“Well, Goldenrod is as big as Saffron City,” his mother said. “You two will have tons of things to do and see there!”

“How's the food?” his father asked.

“It's great. Fireball and I really enjoyed the—” Antoshi recalled his memory of being in the ice cream shoppe with Latoshi. “The, um, ice cream,” he added with a convincing smile. Fireball was surprised at the remark, realizing where the boy's mind was. “I just wanted to let you guys know that we'll probably be in Goldenrod for a little while longer. We're busy training, and I don't feel like we're anywhere near ready to challenge the Gym here yet.” Fireball nodded again.

“Oh, that's perfectly fine, Antoshi!” his mother said. “Have fun and take all the time you want there. Just remember to keep in touch with us. Your father and I just want you and Fireball to have a wonderful time and remember all the experiences you have in Johto.”

“I'm definitely going to remember all of this,” he responded, with a worried chuckle, as his eyes faltered away.

“Antoshi?” his mother spoke up, grabbing his attention. “Is everything all right? You seem more distracted than usual.”

“Oh, I … I don't know, I guess I just feel a little homesick again. I've been thinking about both of you a lot lately.”

“That's no problem, son,” his father said. “Anytime you want to come home just let us know and we'll set it up for you, okay?”

“Thanks, Dad,” he replied, with a grin. “I really appreciate you both being there for me.”

“Love you!” his mother said.

“See you soon!” his father added.

Antoshi and Fireball both waved to his parents before the call ended. As the screen went blank, Antoshi hung his head down with a heavy sigh.

"Are you okay, Antoshi?" Fireball asked, quietly.

Antoshi rhythmically drummed his fingers across the videophone's desk. He pondered a response for a moment, before scoffing in amusement.

“I'm lying to my parents, …” he muttered, “all to keep this a secret. All to keep them from worrying about me. All because I'm worried about them getting hurt. … It's kind of funny when you think about it.” Fireball did not take his concerned gaze off of his friend. “I hate this feeling, Fireball. I just want this nightmare to be over….”

"So do I," Fireball said, placing a reassuring paw on his friend's shoulder. "But … what do we do?"

“Stick to my initial plan. We have to train — I have to train. I have to get much better than I am now if I want to stand a chance against Latoshi.”

Fireball sighed in defeat, his claw falling away. "Are you sure?"

“Definitely,” Antoshi replied. He got to his feet and stretched.

"Do you want me to train with you again?"

Antoshi turned to his friend with a smile. “I know how uncomfortable you are with this. You don't have to come with me, Fireball. I'll figure something out sooner or later. … I always do.”

"Should I … stay here and wait for you to come back?"

“You can hang out wherever you like. Just … don't go too far, okay?”

"You don't think I might get kidnapped by Team Rocket again, do you?" Fireball joked.

“I want to believe it's unlikely. Still, you're a rare Pokémon, Fireball — the kind that Trainers would jump at the chance to catch.”

"Gotcha."

“By the way, I ma~y have heard there's a buffet happening in the hotel lobby today.”

Fireball's eyes lit up like fireworks. He quickly headed for the door, pushing Antoshi in front of him. "Man, just look at the time, Antoshi! You're losing sunlight here! Better get to that training right away!"

Antoshi laughed as they headed into the hallway. “Fireball! I don't even have my shoes on!”

Fireball quickly reached back in to grab the boy's shoes by the door, before shutting it behind him.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

That night, Latoshi was focused intensely upon his meditation. His dark aura flickered calmly around him. As per Lazarus' instructions, he performed mental exercises. He envisioned himself in the midst of a violent struggle with Antoshi. They fought in the same location as their initial battle, both of them ducking and weaving through the trees, steadily making their way toward each other.

Antoshi was fast — that much he was sure would continue to be the case. Latoshi snapped his head from side to side to keep his mind's eye on him. Antoshi threw the first punch, but Latoshi was swift and strong enough to block it. Latoshi clenched his teeth as Antoshi followed up with a kick to his chest, which was hard enough to stumble him back.

'Yes, that is good,' Lazarus said to him. 'You must prepare for Antoshi's inevitable return. You must be wary that he will likely be stronger than before. But, also know that he can never defeat you — not with my guidance.'

Latoshi smirked confidently. Lazarus' words once again empowered him. In his vision, he produced the same mass of hovering energy orbs around him as before. Antoshi appeared to be shocked.

'Perfect. The element of surprise will be key. Let him believe he has the upper hand, and then … strike!'

Latoshi launched his attack at Antoshi, who attempted to shield himself. Just as the blasts were about to connect, a voice called out suddenly, breaking his concentration.

“Declan?” a woman called out in the distance. Latoshi's eyes shot open in surprise. He turned toward the source, his eyes scanning the nearby woods.

No one was there. He looked around while getting to his feet.

“Declan!” he heard again, behind him. He turned around, finding nobody once again.

“Who's there?” he called back. He waited for a short time, but no one appeared or responded.

‘What the hell was that?’ he thought. ‘Am I hearing voices … again? Was it some kind of memor—’ His eyes went wide with shock. ‘Am I— … am I remembering something? Something from my past? …’

'Focus yourself, Latoshi,' Lazarus said. 'Do not break away from your training unless I tell you to.'

“Lazarus, I … I think I just had a memory come back to me,” he said, with an elated grin. “I think … I just might be remembering someone.”

'You must not dwell on trivial things,' Lazarus replied. 'Your training and the rise of your power are the most important—'

“Wait a minute,” Latoshi cut him off. “You told me before that my memories would come back in time. Now that they might be starting to, … why are you so eager to distract me from them? I thought you would at least pretend to be happy for me.”

'Because you do not have time to reflect on the past,' he said, becoming audibly cross with the boy. 'Do not interrupt me again when I speak. Return to your training, is that clear? Or shall I remind you of what happens when you disobey me?'

Lazarus' inquisition came with the creeping sound of low ringing in the boy's ears. Latoshi scowled, bitterly pursing his lips. He obliged Lazarus, returning to his meditative sitting position.

'Now, I will give you different scenarios for you to react to. You will continue your image training for the next four hours. Am I understood?'

“Yes, Lazarus,” he replied, disdainfully.

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
Chapter 16


Several days later, the duo were still checked in to the same hotel room. With the dim, early morning sun peering in through the curtains, Fireball awoke in his own bed to the smell of food. He looked over at Antoshi's bed.

It was empty. The boy was gone — again. A breakfast plate rested upon the nightstand for the hungry Typhlosion.

Fireball sighed in defeat. He sat up, scratching his side. Left to reflect upon their situation in solitude, he reached for the plate and eagerly partook of the food left for him. Antoshi had been on a gradual return to form over the past few days. His mood had improved immensely, though he continued to keep himself occupied with the singular goal of getting stronger. The boy was still a bit distant, lost in thought from time to time. Antoshi still had not gotten much sleep since the fight.

Fireball could only hope for the best, wishing for nothing more than to be done with this ordeal, and for his friend to be himself again. Once he finished with breakfast, he quickly hopped out of bed and made for the door.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Out in the same clearing in the woods as before, Antoshi was in the midst of training. With an intensely focused expression, his limbs blurred while punching and kicking in succession. Training his speed, he ran laps from one tree to the next and back continuously. He was clearing several hundred meters in heartbeats — not unlike what Latoshi had previously shocked them with when they first met.

"You're at it really early today," Fireball spoke, as he approached. Antoshi broke his focus, coming to a halt, smiling to his friend. "You didn't even wait for me to come with you."

“Sorry about that. Training is all can I do lately to keep myself from going stir-crazy. Sleep is pretty much an afterthought for me at this point. I woke up super-early this morning, brought you some food, and headed out here right after.”

Antoshi turned away and balled his fist tight, his body surging with the red energy of his aura. He gave a shout, throwing a punch as hard as he could. His aura flickered intensely, energy exuding off of his fist. The forest's foliage swayed before him, as though a sharp breeze had passed. He was gradually catching up with the abilities that Latoshi had displayed to him. However, he wouldn't be satisfied unless he could far surpass what he knew Latoshi was capable of already — let alone any improvements. After all, Latoshi was undoubtedly training, too. He needed something more, to give him the best chance at soundly defeating his rival.

"Whoa," Fireball remarked. "You sure have learned how to use your energy a lot better."

Antoshi reached down and grabbed the towel he'd brought from the hotel room. “I've been working hard at it,” he replied, wiping the sweat from his face, “considering how many times Latoshi kept pointing out my faults. I'm more comfortable with using my energy offensively now. There's still one little problem, though. I can flail my arms and legs all I want, but … I still don't know how to fight.”

"That … is an issue."

“The only fighting styles I've ever seen were from Pokémon, … as well as getting beat up by Latoshi. I don't think any of that is going to help me very much.”

"What are you going to do?"

Antoshi slung the towel over his shoulder. “The one thing I've ever been good at — learn.”

"Oh, no," Fireball remarked, horrified. "Don't tell me…"

“That's right. It's time to go visit … the library.”

Fireball covered his ears and shut his eyes. "No! Not books! Anything but books!"

Antoshi smiled, patting his friend's side, as they walked off together. “Come on, you. Books never hurt anybody.”

"That's not true. There was that one time when a book on the shelf in your bedroom hit me on the head."

“Oh yeah, you're right! I forgot about that.”

Fireball came to a sudden halt. "Antoshi, wait up a second." Antoshi stopped, turning to his friend, curiously. "I've been meaning to tell you that … well, I'm a bit worried."

Antoshi sighed and looked away. “Yeah, so am I.”

"Not about the fight, really, as much as I'm worried about … you." Antoshi expressed his confusion. "You've been really obsessing over this lately. When this is all over, … and, supposing we both make it out of this alive again, … will we be able to go back to normal?"

“I understand what you're saying, Fireball. I'm sorry, again, for losing myself recently. This … fight with Latoshi is the only thing I've been able to think about. It's only made worse by how I can just barely feel Latoshi's energy every so often. It's so … faint, but it's there. He's far away, but not far enough. It seems almost like he's taunting me.” They both turned their gazes to the ground. “To answer your question, though, I do hope we'll get back to our normal lives. I hope so just as much as you.”

Fireball gave his friend a slight smile. They continued on back to their hotel room.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

After Antoshi took a shower and changed clothes, the two headed out for the library, which was only a couple of blocks away. Once they were inside, Fireball curiously followed Antoshi around, while the boy curiously browsed the aisles. He picked up several books on martial arts, as well as on self-defense. He found an empty table nearby to place them on, before going back to find some more.

With a few, small stacks of books piled up on the table, Antoshi sat down to start reading through them. Fireball, meanwhile, continued to meander around the library. The Typhlosion was trying to find anything to entertain him in the painfully quiet, uneventful building. There was not much besides nonspeaking people scattered randomly through the aisles, some with their Pokémon, and librarians to help others find what they were looking for. That, and books — lots and lots of books.

Given that Fireball himself could not read, he was out of options. He headed back to Antoshi, sitting across from him. Antoshi looked up, briefly, greeting his friend with a smile.

"Why didn't you use a computer to look up the stuff you wanted?" Fireball asked, keeping his voice hushed.

Antoshi pointed a thumb behind him, casually. “That's why.”

Fireball looked over and saw every one of the dozen or so computer terminals occupied, as well as a line of people waiting for them to free up.

"… Oh," the Typhlosion remarked, feeling silly.

Antoshi laughed, softly. “I learn better with a book anyway. The Internet is too distracting.”

"That's true. Don't forget to follow the 'Safe Browsing Rules' that your parents taught you."

Antoshi smirked and rolled his eyes, while Fireball snickered. “Trust me, they're drilled into my brain at this point.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The minutes of studying rolled on into hours. Antoshi was fully engrossed in his reading, setting each book aside as he finished gathering information that was relevant to him. At various points, he would look at two different books simultaneously to compare information. He was enlightened to the basics, like fighting stances, and the proper way to throw a punch, before gradually stepping up the learning curve. He read how to keep from wasting movement, how to block and parry, pressure points to aim for, and how to read bodily movements to predict opponent's attacks.

Fireball gradually slumped over in his seat more and more until he was resting his head and forelimbs on the table. He curiously watched his friend mimic some of the fighting poses in the books.

"I'm so bored," Fireball eventually spoke up.

Antoshi heaved a sigh, and smiled reassuringly at his friend. “I know, Fireball.” He glanced up at the clock on the wall. “Let's take a break for now. We can go walk around the park nearby for a while.”

"Sounds good to me!"

Fireball eagerly got up and headed for the exit. Antoshi deposited all but one of the books into a nearby collection bin. He took the one he was reading with him, checked it out with the librarian, and joined his friend outside. The midday sun hung out with the puffy clouds littered high in the sky. The duo stretched their arms up, taking a deep breath of the outside air, before they set off for the nearest crosswalk.

“It is a really nice day out,” Antoshi remarked. “Good idea getting us outside, Fireball.”

"You said it. Hey, maybe there'll be an ice cream vendor at the park."

Antoshi chuckled. “I know you'll keep your eyes peeled.”

They crossed the street safely and headed down a nearby pathway that led into the aforementioned park. It was a much quieter park than the one they saw outside the Goldenrod train station. Nevertheless, there was plenty of activity around them. Joggers along the path, people sitting together on the grass, and a young man playing fetch with his Growlithe. As the duo walked side by side, Antoshi's nose was firmly buried in his book.

Fireball inhaled and let out a content sigh. "I remember you used to call nice days like this a 'good omen' back in Kanto."

“Yeah, now it's more like 'the calm before the storm',” Antoshi joked, with a laugh.

Fireball expressed his disappointment at the remark. Despite making light of the situation, his friend still didn't come off to him as being back to his old self. Antoshi was too busy reading his book to notice's Fireball's reaction.

“Did you know,” Antoshi went on, “in some old civilizations, women were the ones that developed and mastered different forms of martial arts? That's so cool. I've never even seen a girl fight before. … Though, I haven't seen much combat between people at all.”

"You seem pretty excited about this whole 'fighting' thing."

“Yeah, well, it's almost certain at this point that I'll have to fight Latoshi again soon. It scares the heck out of me, but … I don't really have a choice. I might as well get as excited about it as I can.”

"Antoshi?" Fireball said, grabbing his friend's attention. "I just wanted to say it's nice to see you … mostly back to normal. You seem a lot more confident now. You're not so, … well, angry as you were a few days ago."

“I'm as normal as I can be, given the circumstances,” he replied with a grin. “I'm just … doing my best to keep my feelings in check.”

“Hey, you!” the nearby voice of a youngster called out. “Book Kid and Typhlosion!” The duo turned toward the boy. “Want to battle?”

They both looked to each other with the same expression of elation. “You up for it?” Antoshi asked.

"When am I not?"

Antoshi slipped a Furret-shaped bookmark into his book and closed it. Fireball eagerly took his position a few meters in front of his friend, standing between him and the youngster.

“Cool beans, dude! I've lived in Johto my whole life and that's only the second Typhlosion I've ever seen!”

“Well, I think you'll find that Fireball here is the best Typhlosion you'll ever see, too.” Fireball's eyes lit up, turning to his friend with an enthused grin in response to his friend's confidence. They gave each other a thumbs up.

“Awesome! I love a challenge!” The boy pulled a Poké Ball from his belt. “The name's Gabriel. What's yours?”

“I'm Antoshi, from Saffron City.”

“Antoshi, huh? Weird name!”

Fireball and Antoshi grinned to each other. “Good to know some things never change,” Antoshi remarked.

Gabriel tossed out his first Pokémon from the confines of its ball: a Gurdurr. The stocky, muscular Pokémon gave a cry, raising a large steel girder over its head for a moment before holding it at its side.

“So, are you ready to battle or what?” Gabriel asked. Folding his arms across his chest, he flashed Antoshi a cocky smirk. Antoshi's eyes widened in shock, his heart rate raising substantially. The way Gabriel smirked caused him to recollect images of Latoshi's arrogant expression. “Hey there! Antoshi-dude!” Gabriel said, snapping Antoshi out of his daze. “I said, 'are you ready'?”

“Oh, … we're definitely ready!” Both he and Fireball nodded in unison.

“All right! Gurdurr, give 'em a Rock Slide!”

Gurdurr spiked its girder into the ground, raised its arms up, and gave a long shout. Amorphous orbs of energy appeared high over Fireball. The orbs solidified into rocky boulders.

“Fireball, keep moving!” Antoshi said.

Fireball quickly sprinted around on all fours. "Finally getting a good stretch in after all that sitting!" he remarked.

The heavy boulders slammed down to the ground in a seemingly random pattern. Antoshi studied said pattern, carefully. Each one missed Fireball by a short distance, but were gradually closing in.

“Fireball — stop!”

The Typhlosion immediately did so, coming to a halt mere inches from one final boulder that rattled the ground in front of him.

‘That wasn't bad!’ Gabriel thought, with a look of surprise. ‘They know what they're doing.’

“Fireball, use Flamethrower!”

Fireball hopped on top of that last, massive boulder. He inhaled deeply, before opening his maw to send a powerful stream of fire at the Gurdurr.

“Gurdurr — defend!”

Gurdurr held on to the back of its metal girder, which was still firmly planted in the ground, using it as a shield from the flames.

“Full breath, Fireball!” Antoshi said.

Fireball shut his eyes tight, pouring out as much fire as he could give. The girder glowed red-hot. Before Gabriel's eyes, the metal started to bend and melt. Gurdurr shouted in shock, dancing around in a panic, the intensely hot flames lapping at its feet and sides. Once Fireball's attack finished, he inhaled deeply before sighing in relief, exhaling a large puff of smoke. Gurdurr hopped away from the smoldering streaks of fire on the ground. It swiftly patted out the flames on its body.

Gabriel had a look of concern as he inspected the melted steel. ‘That was pretty scary,’ he thought. ‘Just how good are these two?’

Fireball hopped down from the rock and returned to his position in front of his Trainer.

“Gurdurr, return!” Gabriel said. He held up its Poké Ball, which retrieved it into its confines, along with its melted steel girder. “All right, Antoshi-dude! Your Typhlosion is really strong, so I'll just send out my best Pokémon! It'll be a clash of the titans!” Gabriel switched out for an Ultra Ball on his belt, which he enlarged and tossed out. “Go, Houndoom!”

Antoshi was shocked by the presence of the emerging black-furred demonic dog. His mind immediately recalled the horrors brought about by Lucent, the undead Houndoom aspect that aided Latoshi in their fight. Fireball, too, was not terribly happy to see another Houndoom so soon. He turned to Antoshi, greeted by a blank look in the boy's eyes.

“So, what do you think of my Houndoom?” Gabriel said proudly, his hands firmly on his hips.

Antoshi was on another plane of reality, unable to respond as he stared at the opposing Pokémon. Unlike earlier, Antoshi was not able to snap out of his daze this time.

“Aha,” Gabriel said, “you're giving that 'calm and stoic' reaction, huh? Well, we're not gonna be intimidated by you! All right, Houndoom, use Rocket Fuel!” His Houndoom whimpered and rolled its eyes. The boy laughed. “You hate it when I call it that, huh? Okay, okay. Flame Charge, Houndoom!”

Houndoom gave a snort of fire from its nostrils, its body quickly becoming enveloped in flame. It darted swiftly toward Fireball while Gabriel looked on with pride.

‘Flame Charge isn't Houndoom's best attack,’ Gabriel thought, ‘but, at least it'll give me a good idea of how strong that Typhlosion really is.’

Fireball stood in place, confused, waiting for Antoshi to make the next call. Antoshi, however, was frozen in place at the sight of the Houndoom rushing toward them. His heart raced, trembling fearfully. He recalled Lucent lurching toward Fireball, and how he intervened to shield his best friend with his own body. The smell and the sight of blood running down from his gaping wound were still fresh in his mind.

‘Fireball,’ he recalled his words, after his friend had been knocked unconscious by Latoshi. ‘Come on, Fireball. … Please, wake up!’

Fireball was about to be struck by Houndoom's Flame Charge. The Typhlosion turned around in concern, and gasped at the sight of his friend suddenly enveloped in his red aura.

‘How perfect it is to have both of you together like this,’ Latoshi had said, ready to strike the two with blasts of energy. ‘It'll be like shooting fish in a barrel!’

“No!”
Antoshi shouted, aiming his open palms at the Houndoom. In his stupor, he fired a potent blast of spirit energy at the ground between Fireball and Gabriel's Houndoom. The resulting explosion knocked the two Pokémon backwards several meters.

The blast was heard and felt by nearly everyone in the park. Passersby and their Pokémon screamed in terror, some of them running away.

"Antoshi!" Fireball exclaimed, over the sound of falling dirt and debris, finally pulling his friend back to reality. "Why did you do that?!"

“What was that?!” Gabriel shouted. His Houndoom got to its feet and returned to the boy's side.

Antoshi was terrified by what he'd just wrought. People all around him were gawking and staring at the sight. A large crater, the size of an automobile, sat between the two Trainers, and beneath a cloud of dust. Antoshi had no idea what to say to Gabriel, or to any of the bystanders.

“Fireball, let's go,” he said, shuffling away from the scene, quickly. Fireball got up and followed, lagging behind him. The duo were too nervous to look at anyone.

“What happened?” a voice in the crowd asked.

“Was it from a Pokémon battle?”

“I think it was some kind of old, unexploded land mine,” another person remarked.

"Antoshi!" Fireball said, as he caught up to his friend. "Are you okay?"

“I thought I was,” the boy replied, solemnly, “but I realize now that I'm definitely not.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Antoshi and Fireball headed straight back to their hotel room. They opted to stay put, uneasy about going out for the rest of the day. Antoshi kept his book from the library, continuing to read and study it in silence while he laid on his bed. Fireball passed the time by resting, looking out the window, and eventually turning on the television. Antoshi sighed, closing the book for the time being. He opted to watch TV with Fireball during the evening news broadcast.

“And, in other news tonight, an explosion rocks Sunset Park in eastern Goldenrod,” the news reporter said. The duo's eyes widened. “Witnesses say an unknown explosive ordnance detonated in an area where two young Trainers were having a Pokémon battle. The Trainers and their Pokémon were unharmed, but the blast made a sizable crater. Police have cordoned the area off. They could not give any further details on the situation and are still investigating.”

“Great,” Antoshi remarked, burying his face in the mattress. “That's all I need now — for the police to come and ask me questions about what happened. What do I even tell them?”

"What's wrong with telling them the truth?" Fireball replied.

Antoshi looked up, gawking at his friend in disbelief. “You want me to tell them that I did that?”

"Of course! Do you really think they're going to believe you when you tell them 'a giant ball of energy came out of my hands and destroyed the ground'?"

Antoshi pondered for a moment. “That … might be crazy enough to work,” Antoshi said, grinning. “The story is way too insane. They'll think I'm nuts and leave me alone. Even though, … right now, I definitely am going nuts.” The boy sighed as he rolled over onto his back, staring at the ceiling. “I have no idea when Latoshi's going to make a move. It was just dumb luck that I bumped into him after sensing his energy the first time we met. I can't pinpoint exactly where he is, not unless he outputs a lot of energy. Right now, he's keeping his energy restrained. I can't do anything until he's ready to seek me out again.” Antoshi scoffed. “I'm sure he'll make that point loud and clear whenever he does show….”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

That night, Latoshi was in the midst of his meditative training once again. His thoughts, however, were distracted.

‘Who is 'Declan'?’ he thought, furrowing his brow. ‘Is it someone I knew? Someone … I was close to? Was it … me?’ He growled softly in frustration. ‘If I could just remember. … If I could remember that woman's voice. She was calling out. 'Declan.' … 'Declan.' …’

“Declan!”

Latoshi gasped at the sound of the woman's voice again. He immediately sprang to his feet, looking around. There was no one around. He exhaled slowly, closing his eyes and clenching his fists.

‘Concentrate,’ Latoshi thought. ‘Try to remember. Remember … Declan …’

“Declan!” the woman exclaimed. This time, however, he didn't open his eyes. He kept them closed, putting all of his effort into trying to scratch and claw his way through to his subconscious. Latoshi recalled a gradually clearing image of a woman with long, wavy blonde hair. He gasped again, trembling in excitement. It was a breakthrough unlike anything he'd had before. His heart fluttered at the very idea of recollecting his memories, and finally being able to tie himself to his forgotten past.

The woman was angry. She was angry at him. He walked up to her, trying to get past her, as she stood at the front door of a house. She blocked the doorway, and he responded by angrily pushing her aside.

“Declan, that's enough!” she said.

“Stop it now!” a man next to her shouted, trying to grab his arm. He immediately yanked his arm away and stormed up a flight of stairs.

“Get lost!” Latoshi shouted back. “I won't listen to you! You're not even my real parents!”

“Declan!”
they both called to him.

His vision abruptly turned to darkness. Latoshi fell to his knees, panting and trembling. Tears welled in his eyes as he slowly opened them.

‘Why?’ he thought. ‘Why did … I do that? Why do I feel so much sorrow? Why can't I … remember everything?’ He hunched over, pounding his fists into the dirt as he wept. ‘Damn it.’ He inhaled, shakily, tears falling to the ground. ‘Why can't I remember?’

'Because I will not let you,' Lazarus replied, startling him. 'Oh, so sorry. Did I interrupt your thoughts?'

“Lazarus?” he wondered aloud, falling back into a sitting position. “You … can hear my thoughts?”

'Of course. I have been able to hear and see your thoughts since the very beginning.'

Dread suddenly swept over the boy. “What— … what did you mean you won't let me remember?”

Lazarus chuckled in amusement. 'Ah, I knew this would happen eventually. I knew the truth would have to come out someday.' Latoshi had a puzzled look on his face. 'You truly believed you had amnesia. All those months locked in that prison. You believed me, just like I knew you would, because of what a stupid little child you are. So easy to manipulate and do my bidding.' Latoshi slowly got to his feet, trembling in rage. 'The truth is, … you never had 'amnesia'. I have been blocking your memories and holding them hostage.'

The wind was knocked from his lungs. “My … memories,” he remarked in disbelief. “Give them back, Lazarus. You have to give them back! You're in my body, and relying on me to get stronger! I'm not going to do anything you say until you give me what I want!”

Lazarus cackled loudly, leaving Latoshi confused once more. 'How stupid are you?! You think that you are the one in control? How do you think I was able to see your vision training earlier? I have become just as much a part of you as you are, Latoshi. So, you will never get what you want — I get what I want all the time!'

Latoshi was frightened and bewildered.

'You have never had a moment to yourself this whole time! I know everything that you think and say, so you cannot hide anything from me! You thought you could scheme and plan against me, go against what I tell you, like some rebellious little delinquent? I know that you have been trying to muster up your memories, and bits and pieces of them have slipped through the cracks of the barrier I built around them. But that is not a problem — I can just reset your memories again!'

“No!” Latoshi shouted, grabbing his head.

'Yes, Latoshi! And while I am at it, I shall block out all those fond little memories you made with Antoshi and his stupid pet! You will do my bidding as long as I want you to, and there is nothing that you can do about it because I can continue to lock your memories away again and again! I am the only one you will listen to for the rest of your life! Every time you think you think you have the upper hand with your disobedience toward me, I always have that as my ace in the hole!'

“Please, no, Lazarus! Please, don't take away my memories!”

'Oh, it is too late for pleading now, Latoshi. I cannot let you know of my true plans for you! I did not want to have to resort to this because of how loyal you were, but you have left me no choice! Now, get stronger for me, my puppet! Dance for me as I pull on your strings!!'

Lazarus' cackling echoed through Latoshi's head as he stared at the sky, blankly. All of the positive memories he made, the positive emotions he felt, and the memories of his past life he rediscovered were ripped away from him once again — just as Lazarus had done to him before he awoke in the military base.

When all was said and done, Latoshi stumbled and fell onto his behind. In the quiet of the night, he continued to stare, vacantly, at the ground for a short time.

'Now then,' Lazarus spoke again, calm and collected. 'I think you have had enough time to train, Latoshi. Your power has grown exponentially since you began your tutelage under me. Those men slain by you in the alley some time ago were just an appetizer. I think the table is set for you to enjoy the main course.' A twisted smile of elation slowly crept across Latoshi's lips. He rose back to his feet with aplomb, gazing at the city in the distance. 'The time has come for you to begin purging the evil from this world. Cleanse it in your image, Latoshi. Lay the groundwork for what will become your utopia.'

Latoshi chuckled, stretching out his neck. “Sounds good to me. I feel like I've got a ton of pent-up frustration for some reason, and it needs to be taken out on someone.”

The boy ascended high into the air. He took off, soaring around the city, looking for any individuals whom he deemed unworthy to live.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Latoshi scoured dozens of miles of city streets from way up high. Frustration began setting in, as all turned out to be far quieter and peaceful that night than he'd like. There were no guilty souls for him to pass his judgment upon.

'If they refuse to come out,' Lazarus said, 'you must seek them out.'

“They're hiding like cockroaches,” Latoshi remarked with a bitter expression. “Where would I find these parasites? People who commit crimes, and have hearts of ice? …”

His eyes lit up when he spotted a large compound near the western edge of the city. He flew toward it, its bright spotlights pointing to the sky, drawing him in like a moth. The long facility was surrounded by multiple rows of steel gates topped with barbed wire. His chest swelled as he noticed the sign at the front: 'Goldenrod Penitentiary, Maximum Security'.

'Very resourceful, Latoshi. However, you must remain cautious. These facilities tend to employ advanced technology in their security, not unlike the one you were imprisoned in.'

“What should I do?”

'Move quickly and quietly, if you plan to enter. It is very likely they have heat, motion, or sound detection — even outside. Whatever plan you decide on, make sure it is something their normal, human eyes cannot detect.'

“Then, I should use my Ki,” he remarked. “Those disgusting creeps in the military base couldn't see it when I used it then.”

'Of course. Only those with spirit awareness are able to detect it. So, what do you plan to do?'

Latoshi thought for a moment before chuckling in amusement. His dark aura emanated and briefly flared around his body. He held both hands out toward the prison walls.

“Knock, knock,” Latoshi muttered, grinning, before firing a large blast of energy. The attack caused an explosion that ripped through the solid concrete, shaking the entire compound, demolishing a massive section of the wall. Distant screaming from inside the building followed immediately after. Alarms rang out through the prison.

“Security breach!” a voice said over the loudspeakers. “Southeast corridor security breach!”

“Now, then,” he muttered to himself, “how many of you scum want to party?”

The boy waited patiently as the cloud of dust started to settle. He hummed curiously when he saw a prisoner emerge soon after. Wearing a yellow jumpsuit, the man climbed over the rubble, and ran for the first barbed wire gate. The field he passed through was particularly long, and his yellow clothes made it easy for the guards in the towers to spot him. Amid the chaos, however, there were no guards aware of his escape.

Dozens more prisoners began to follow, forming a few large groups that raced down the field. Latoshi laughed, beginning his descent toward the ground.

“I knew it,” he remarked with a smirk. “Just like cockroaches, they scatter. Don't worry, I'll give you all an early release from your sentences…”

The first man panted heavily, scrambling closer to the first gate. Latoshi suddenly landed in front of him, causing him to come to a startled halt.

“Who—who the hell are you?!” he shouted.

Latoshi gave his response in the form of an amused grin. He disappeared in an instant, leaving the man bewildered until the boy made a dash past him. Latoshi just barely nicked the man's neck with his hand, which burned with a thin layer of his dark energy. Though minor, the strike was more than enough to slice his throat like the edge of a razor-sharp blade. The man's eyes shot open wide with horror, clasping the open wound with both hands. He fell to the ground, choking and gagging, while Latoshi quickly went after his next victim.

He rushed toward a very brawny man who was nearing the first wall. Latoshi appeared behind him, grabbed him by his jumpsuit, and threw him with such force into the metallic wall that he was killed by the impact immediately. His body made a large dent in the wall before he slumped to the ground. Latoshi turned around and fired wild blasts of energy at the groups of fleeing prisoners. The ones that were unfortunate to be struck had their bodies, or parts of them, instantly burned to ashes on contact.

The guards in the towers finally noticed the prison break. They were too perplexed by the sight of the prisoners quickly dying off before their eyes to react. Latoshi moved through the rest of the people in the field, slaying and felling every single one with conviction. Endless screams rang out from his victims. His lips were ever curled into a pleased smirk, blood spattering all over his body and clothes.

Yet, despite how effective and thorough he was, his eyes carried a deep emptiness. It was an emptiness that only became more pronounced as his rampage continued on.

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
Chapter 17


The following morning, Fireball awoke with a noisy yawn. He sat up in bed, sighing contently as he stretched. The early sun peered in through a gap in the drawn curtains.

"Looks like another nice morning ahead," he remarked. "Guess we didn't have to worry about the police questioning you after all, huh?" He turned to Antoshi, who stared back at him with a deeply serious expression. Fireball immediately became concerned. "You okay? What's wrong?"

“I sensed him,” the boy replied, staring at his bedsheets. “I finally sensed where he was. His energy was so clear to me last night, it was like he was right next to me. It was that same, rotten energy I felt before. I don't know what he did, but … it felt like he used a decent amount of power to do it.”

"What should we do?"

Antoshi chuckled, weakly. He got out from under the covers and sat up. “Nothing now. Honestly, though, his energy seemed really intimidating — and I don't even know if that was his maximum power that I sensed. Whatever training he's been doing, … it's certainly working out for him.” He let out a heavy sigh before perking up, giving Fireball a reassuring smile. “Still, now it means I have a better idea of where his level of strength is. I don't think I'm ready to take him on, yet. I'll just have to do my absolute best to train even harder if I want to show him up.”

"That sounds more like the Antoshi I know," Fireball replied, smiling back. "Just don't leave me out of your training. I'd like to watch, at least!"

“All right, fair enough,” Antoshi said, chuckling.

The boy proceeded to call the hotel's room service to have their breakfast sent up to them. He got up, and got dressed in his newly favored outfit of a red t-shirt and blue jeans. As they waited for their food, the two friends joked and laughed, helping to lighten some of the dour mood they'd been going through as of late. Despite the storm that was Hurricane Latoshi swirling in the distance, Antoshi finally felt like things were at least getting back to normal between himself and Fireball. Just by being there for the boy, Antoshi recognized how much Fireball was helping him to feel whole in his time of need.

Once their food arrived, Antoshi brought it over to the table and chairs set up in the room's small dining space. Fireball turned the television toward them and turned it on before eagerly shuffling to his seat. He licked his chops at the sight of several plates of food before him. Antoshi chuckled, idly turning his attention to the TV as a newscast resumed.

“We want to take you back now to the scene at Goldenrod Penitentiary,” the lady reporter said. “If you're just joining us, seven officers and one hundred twelve inmates were found dead, with dozens more injured. Part of the wall of the prison, as you can see, has been completely blown away.” Antoshi and Fireball were stunned by the sight. The grassy field outside the prison was littered with plastic yellow tarps and evidence markers. “At this time, officials do not have any suspects or any possible motives in mind. No explosives or any sort of explosive device was found at the scene, though there is some speculation that there may be multiple perpetrators at large, given the swiftness of how the scene unfolded. Officials tell us that these victims were all slain within a matter of less than a minute.”

Fireball turned to his friend. Antoshi's hand was trembling as he held his glass of orange juice.

“Latoshi, …” the boy muttered. “This is it. This is part of his horrible 'plan' to exterminate people he believes are evil. … What better place to strike than a prison?”

“None of the officials on scene could give us a cause of death for any of the victims,” the reporter continued, “however, a police spokesperson has said they're investigating whether there may be a connection with the explosion at Sunset Park yesterday.”

"You and Latoshi are making news reports for all the wrong reasons," Fireball remarked. Antoshi sighed, sharply, getting up from his seat. "You okay?"

“I'm fine,” Antoshi replied, retrieving his shoes by the door and heading back to the table to put them on. “It's just that, … well, I know the police have to investigate these things. I just wish they weren't involved. I'm worried more people are going to end up getting hurt or killed over this pointless war between Latoshi and myself.”

"Yeah, I understand," Fireball said, quietly. "This is all so terrible…"

“I better get started training as soon as I can,” Antoshi said, getting up from the table once more.

"But, you didn't finish your breakfast!"

“That's all right. I'm not really hungry after what I just saw, anyway.” He got up and headed for the TV. Fireball quickly scarfed down as much food from both of their plates as he could.

“City and regional officials are asking for the public's help,” the reporter said. “If you have any information—”

After Antoshi shut off the TV, he turned to his friend. Fireball quickly got up, wiping his maw with a napkin which he quickly tossed onto the table. Antoshi slung a towel over his shoulder before they headed out once again. He was eager to put into practice what he'd learned in his books.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

A few hours had passed after the start of Antoshi's rigorous training session. The two friends fell onto their backsides, facing each other, panting from exhaustion.

"Nice moves, Antoshi," Fireball remarked with a grin.

Antoshi smiled back. “Thanks.” He grabbed the towel and wiped the sweat from his face.

"You've gotten way faster and way stronger since that fight with Latoshi already. You learned a lot of really good stuff. I know I'm not going to doubt the power of books ever again." Antoshi chuckled. "By the way, thanks for taking it easy on me. I could tell based off our previous training sessions that you pulled your punches this time."

“I don't want you to get hurt anymore, Fireball. That's the whole reason I'm even doing this.” Fireball nodded in understanding. Antoshi gazed down at his open hands, scuffed with dirt. “I want to keep others from getting hurt, but I have to fight with Latoshi. I hate not being able to resolve this peacefully, but I have no choice.”

"I know how bad you feel having to do this. I'm sure you'll beat him this time, though, Antoshi. Then, you can put it behind you."

“Maybe. I mean, I certainly hope so. If there was a way I didn't have to fight him, I'd rather take that road instead. At the same time, I still have … so much anger. I still feel that rage every time I think about what he did to you, what he said to me, and about my family…” Antoshi's irises glowed bright with the shimmering, red hue of his Ki. He clenched his fists tightly, his aura suddenly erupting to life around his body in an almost explosive fashion. Fireball was taken aback by the sheer pressure being given off by the boy's fiery energy. “The police can't do anything about this — they don't even know what they're looking for, or where to start. They're just going to end up as more potential casualties. I can't let things go on this way.”

"Antoshi," Fireball said, grabbing his friend's attention. "I care about you, and what happens to you. You're my best friend. This anger, though, it isn't like you at all. … I don't want you to lose yourself."

Antoshi sighed and shook his head. His aura faded from his body. “If that's what it takes to defeat Latoshi, then … I may just have to.”

The boy got to his feet, walking away to resume his training. He threw a few rapid-fire combos of straight punches and jabs with such speed that it made them audible. Fireball sat and watched his friend with concern.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Across the city, Latoshi also continued his training in solitude. The blood from his victims the previous night had been cleaned away from his body. He wore a new set of clothes, strikingly similar to his previous green shirt and green cargo shorts. With no memories to distract him, he was solely focused on the task before him.

In his usual spot in the forest clearing he'd created, the boy ducked and weaved, throwing punches and kicks at an invisible target. His strikes, though not as swift as Antoshi's, were strong and significant; powerful enough to cause brief, small shock waves.

'Keep up that pace,' Lazarus told him. 'You will go for as long as I tell you in order to build your stamina. Put your image training to use, and keep your target visualized.'

Latoshi envisioned his blond-haired adversary's nimble movements, relentlessly following them, striking with each opportunity for an opening. He maneuvered in the same endless loop, grunting and growling with each subsequent attack.

'Good. Now use your Ki. Let him see how outclassed he is.'

He came to a sudden halt, while his irises glowed a shimmering black. Holding his hands out, he summoned forth a quick barrage of energy blasts at his imaginary target. He gave a loud shout before firing one final, much larger, shot.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

At that very moment, Antoshi's eyes went wide. He stopped what he was doing, his attention fixated somewhere in the city. Fireball got up on his hind feet.

"What's up, Antoshi?"

“I just sensed someone's energy,” he replied, much to Fireball's shock. “Latoshi is nearby.” The boy quickly marched back toward the city limits.

"Hold on — wait!" Fireball called out, while chasing after him. "Shouldn't we, … you know, think this over? You can't just charge at him the first chance you get. What if there are people around?"

“I'll have to figure something out quickly,” Antoshi replied, narrowing his eyes, bitterly. The duo moved with purpose through the city streets, weaving around passersby and their Pokémon. Antoshi was fixated on his target. He was terrified, but wouldn't let it show. His stern, serious stare contrasted with Fireball's nervous expression.

They rounded the corner of a city block. Antoshi slowed down, his eyes carefully scanning around the immediate area.

‘He's in that café,’ he thought.

Antoshi headed for a small coffee shop in the middle of a business strip. The welcoming bell rang sharply as he barged through the door. All the faces inside stared at him in confusion. He walked further in, toward a quieter corner of the establishment. He clenched his fists, irises glowing red in anticipation of a confrontation that was about to happen in front of onlookers. He gasped in shock, his eyes going wide. He nearly crumbled to pieces upon realizing that it was not Latoshi who he was chasing.

It was the mysterious brunette girl that had healed him.

She quietly sipped from a cup of tea, before setting it down on a plate near a tea kettle. The young woman looked over at him with a warm smile. She wore a shirt with horizontal orange and white stripes, beneath a long, white jacket with floral patterns. Her shirt just barely draped over her tight, white pants and matching, white shoes. Sunglasses casually sat atop her head. Her violet eyes brought back the blurry memory of her knelt beside him. Fireball finally caught up to his friend. He was left puzzled by the girl that Antoshi was blankly staring at.

“It's … you,” Antoshi remarked, quietly. “Okay, … so, you weren't a figment of my imagination.”

She laughed quietly. “Yes, I am real,” she replied. “Please, sit.” Antoshi remained in place, clenching his fists. He eyed the young woman suspiciously. She responded by laughing again. “If you'd like to stand, that's fine, too. Although, you'd be blocking the aisle. I promise you have nothing to fear from me. You don't have to have your guard up like that.”

“I do, if you're working with Latoshi,” he said. Even though he didn't get a sense of animosity from her, there were still too many unknown variables with trusting this complete stranger.

The girl smiled and shook her head. “I don't work with anyone.”

“You're not … going to fight me, too?”

“Of course not. That would be a bit silly for me to heal you just so I could fight you, don't you think?”

Antoshi sighed in defeat, slumping down into the seat across from her. “I don't know what to think anymore,” he replied, running a hand through his hair.

Fireball sat down on a third seat beside them, his eyes shifting between the two. The girl greeted Fireball with a smile. He smiled back, still very much confused as to what was happening.

She took an empty tea cup from a holder on the table, pouring the contents of the kettle into the cup. “You've gotten stronger since the last time I saw you,” she remarked, sliding the tea in front of Antoshi. “You look to be in good condition, physically. Your spirit, though, is very unsettled.”

Antoshi stared, strangely, at the tea cup before looking to her. “What is this?”

“It's chamomile tea. It's perfect for dealing with stress.”

“No, I mean what is all this? Who are you? Why do you have powers, too? Why was I able to sense you? Do you know me or Latoshi?”

She chuckled in response. “I understand this is all very confusing. You must have a million questions.”

“Yeah, try two million questions.”

“My name is Serenity. I'm not here to upset you or harm you. You were able to sense me because I output just enough of my spirit energy for you to do so. I wished to bring you here simply to talk. I'm more than willing to answer the questions that are clearly stressing you.”

Antoshi sighed, heavily. “… You think I'm having stress issues?”

“I know you are. Your aura is agitated. It's churning around your body constantly like a swelling sea. Your heart is filled with terrible anger.”

“You can tell all of that just by … looking at me?” he wondered aloud, before taking a look at himself. “How are you even able to see my aura? I can't even see it.”

“Your aura is always around you, faintly, protecting your body like a second skin. In fact, aura is always around most people — they just don't know it exists or how to use it, like you can. In time, once you get stronger, I'm sure you'll be able to see what I see.”

“Stronger,” he mused. “So, I can reach a level even higher than I'm at right now?”

“Absolutely.”

Fireball cleared his throat, tugging on Antoshi's sleeve to grab his attention. He pointed to the girl, covertly.

“Oh, right. Sorry for ignoring you, Fireball. This is the person that healed our injuries after the fight with Latoshi. She's … actually the same girl that I bumped into outside the Goldenrod train station.”

Fireball's eyes lit up in surprise, turning to her. She smiled, and extended a hand to him.

“It's very nice to meet you, Fireball,” she said.

Fireball smiled back, gently shaking her hand, before turning to his friend. "Quick reminder that you told me she was pretty," he whispered, "and she is!" Antoshi kept his gaze locked on her with a forced smile, ignoring Fireball's remark.

Serenity laughed. “You can communicate with Fireball, can't you?” she asked, much to the duo's shock. “Don't worry — I, myself, can't hear what Fireball is saying. However, being able to do so is just a natural part of your abilities using your Ki.”

“I keep hearing that word — 'Ki'. What does it mean?”

“It's the energy of your spirit. Some people call it ki or chi. The strength of your vital essence, and the ability to apply that strength in various ways. It's an amalgamation of your vigor, courage, mindset, and tenacity.”

“Oh,” Antoshi remarked, looking down at his open hands. “Well, how does spirit energy work?”

“Spirit energy is, as you may have guessed, fueled by the spirit. Strong emotions tend to heighten a person's spirit and can, therefore, make the strength of your spirit energy explode in a pinch — like gasoline on a fire. Love, sorrow, fear, anger; these are all powerful emotions that can ignite ones' aura or serve as a catalyst to unlock ones' latent abilities. Very few people can actually tap into these abilities, though. It also depends on how these emotions are channeled that determines the weight of ones' spirit.”

“You mean if someone turns out … 'good' or 'evil'.”

“Yes. If your abilities are used for pure intentions, then your aura will shine with radiant color. But, if you use your Ki for cruel and selfish purposes, your aura becomes corrupted and reflects the darkness in your heart. I believe you may know who I'm referring to.”

“I do,” Antoshi replied, shifting his gaze downward. “I remember my … powers unlocked when I panicked over the thought of losing Fireball forever. If Latoshi's aura is corrupted by darkness as you say, … does that mean he's beyond saving?”

“Only if you think so,” she replied.

He was taken aback by her statement. “Is it … wrong for me to think that way?” he asked, with guilt in his voice.

“Yes,” she said, before taking another sip of her tea. Antoshi's heart sank, as he and Fireball looked to each other in concern. “That's because there's something critically important about him that you must know before you encounter him again. It's the main focus of why I brought you here to talk.” She took another sip of tea, leaving the duo in suspense, before setting the cup back down. “What if I were to tell you that you're not actually fighting against Latoshi, but, rather, something inside of him?”

Antoshi furrowed his brow in thought. “… Lazarus?”

“That's correct.”

“But … that's a voice he said he hears in his head.”

Antoshi suddenly recalled the sound of Lazarus' voice in the dreams he had of Latoshi. There were two voices: Latoshi, and someone else he was talking to. However, Antoshi never saw who it was coming from.

“Lazarus is not just a voice. Lazarus is a parasite.” The duo were floored by the revelation. “Latoshi is being controlled by a dark spirit, one that uses people like a parasite would.”

“A spirit … parasite?”

“Yes. As you already know, its name is Lazarus. It is a being of pure, spiritual energy that seeks out hosts with awareness of the spirit. It latches on to the host's spirit, essentially becoming a part of them. In order to do that, though, it searches for people whose hearts are easily corruptible, or influenced by negativity. From there, Lazarus coaxes its host into trusting it. The most important reason for why it does this, is that it feeds off of the spirit energy of its host, taking said energy for itself. Latoshi may believe that Lazarus is helping him, but the reality is that Lazarus is stealing Latoshi's energy. The greater Lazarus' power becomes, the more it will be able to force control over its host.”

Antoshi was left in a daze, as was Fireball. All of his thoughts, judgment, and bitterness had been directed at the wrong person all along. He sat silent for a moment before replying. “H—how do you know all this?”

“I've dealt with Lazarus before. I came to Goldenrod because I sensed his energy lurking about. It was either fate, or sheer coincidence, that I also bumped into you outside the train station. Once I witnessed your struggle with Latoshi later on, it was critical for me to tell you that Latoshi is not the evil person you've been led to believe he is. He is being controlled.”

Antoshi's hands trembled as he rested them on the table. Serenity poured herself another cup of tea, giving the boy a few moments to assimilate what she just told him.

“Are you all right?” she asked, taking a sip of her tea.

Antoshi let out a long, shaky sigh and nodded. “Yeah, I … it's just really … I'm not sure what to think.”

“It's all right,” she reassured him with a smile. “This is a lot for you to take in at once. I can understand the position you're in. You've only recently learned about your powers, learning about Lazarus, dealing with it and Latoshi. It's a lot to bear.”

“Would you also happen to know if … Latoshi is my brother?”

“I don't have the answer for that, unfortunately. All I know is what I've seen so far of you both. It certainly seems that way to me. The two of you look almost identical. Maybe someday the two of you will stop punching each other long enough to figure out the answer for yourselves.”

Antoshi nodded gently. “I'll still have to fight him, … and I'll have to give it everything I have, won't I?”

“I imagine so. I think Latoshi is too far gone under Lazarus' influence to be willing to hear you out. If you do fight, you'll be fighting against Lazarus — not Latoshi.”

“You seem to know so much about everything that's going on. Can't you … fight alongside me, at least?”

Serenity grinned and laughed. “I knew you would eventually ask that, but it's not my place to intervene. This is your fight, Antoshi. The actions you take from here on, and the consequences of those actions, are what will determine your future. You and Latoshi both have incredible power. I know that letting fate run its course is the right thing to do. You've only just taken the first steps in unlocking your power, Antoshi. You and Latoshi have far more potential than you realize.” Antoshi's eyes widened with awe. She took another sip of tea. “You won't unlock your true potential until something happens that causes you to push yourself to your limits, similar to when you first unlocked your powers.”

“How … much potential do I have? Is it enough to beat him?”

“I'm not sure, I just know it's there. Everyone's Ki eventually reaches a limit or plateau, but you have a lot left to discover. You can become far stronger than you are now. It depends on your mindset, your emotions, and your vigor. As he is now, Latoshi does not have total control over his powers, or himself. He's only following what Lazarus tells him.”

Antoshi went silent again, taking a short time to process everything again. Fireball looked over at his friend with concern.

“I can feel the sorrow in your heart, Antoshi,” she said with a warm smile. Antoshi immediately perked up and looked at her in surprise. “I know it sounds strange, but with enough spirit awareness it is possible to feel the emotions of others. This entire situation is something you dread, and you don't want any part of it. However, you still feel a responsibility to keep others safe. Am I right so far?”

“Well, … yes.”

She smiled and nodded. “In exchange for all the information I told you, I want you to promise me something.”

“All right. … What is it?”

“Promise me that you'll help Latoshi. He desperately needs help, and I believe that you're the only person who can. Would you be willing to do that?”

Antoshi turned his gaze away for a moment. He recalled the bitterness that their fight created — the pain Latoshi caused him and Fireball, the threats he made, the arrogant smirk on his face. He sighed, also recalling the short, yet pleasant time they spent together as friends, taking a stroll through a new city. A brief smile crept into the corner of his lips, remembering sitting with Latoshi and Fireball in the ice cream shoppe.

He turned to Serenity and nodded. “I promise.”

“Good,” she replied. She reached for a small tote bag hanging on the back of her chair, searching through it.

“But … how? How can I help him?” he asked. Serenity placed some money down on the table.

“I know you'll find the best solution if you look into your heart,” she said. “Don't stress yourself over dealing with this. Just prepare yourself as best as you can. When the time comes — act.”

Antoshi scoffed in amusement. “You have more faith in me than I do in myself right now,” he remarked, glumly.

Serenity slipped the bag over her shoulder and got up from the table. “I've only just met you, Antoshi, but I already know that you are a good person with a kind and caring heart. I think you'll be an excellent leader. You just need to take a step back, quiet your mind, and decide the best course of action for you.” She smiled and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Take care, Antoshi.”

The duo watched as Serenity put on her sunglasses and exited the establishment, leaving them to mull over everything she told them. Antoshi and Fireball turned to each other.

"What do you think?" Fireball asked.

Antoshi chuckled, weakly. “Think about what? I had tons of questions, and she answered almost all of them. There's lots to think about. … If you mean about what she said, … I guess I don't have any reason to doubt her.”

"I agree. She sure was cool, huh? She was so relaxed, like nothing in the world gets to her — and she seemed super-smart, and nice."

Antoshi chuckled. “I suppose all of that's true. It's just, with all the insane stuff that's been happening lately, I can't help thinking she's bad news somehow.”

"Do you think she really is bad, and she's just putting on an act or something?"

“I don't know, … maybe.” He sighed, heavily. “I did make her a promise, though. I intend to keep it.”

"Hey, you didn't drink your tea."

“… So, I didn't,” he replied with a smile. He picked up his tea cup and took a sip from it. “Mm, hey, this actually is pretty good.” Fireball chuckled as Antoshi continued to enjoy the tea.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

As the next few days rolled on, Latoshi continued stepping up his attacks on the public. He created a trend of going after various correctional facilities, using a combination of his otherwise invisible Ki energy and his immense speed to remain undetected. He tore away walls and even whole sections of each compound, leading to the deaths of hundreds more prisoners. Goldenrod was starting to stir into a state of panic because of the unsolved attacks.

But, as Latoshi kept on killing, there was a growing expression of regret in his eyes. He couldn't understand it, but he felt a shallow emptiness inside him. His heart was calling out for something, but he did not know what. Latoshi ignored it as best he could, continuing to follow Lazarus' orders of training during the day, and slaying the parasites of Goldenrod City at night.

Antoshi, meanwhile, had still not been sleeping much. The constant air of dread looming over him every time he thought about Latoshi kept him on alert. He and Fireball continued to hear of Latoshi's actions on the news. It drove him to push harder, each subsequent story fanning the flames of his spirit; steeling his resolve. From time to time, Serenity dropped in to watch Antoshi from afar, curious to see how his training was progressing.

Each day became tougher to bear on both boys. Antoshi felt he was finally ready and prepared for a confrontation, but he could not discern Latoshi's location. As evening fell on the third day after meeting Serenity, Antoshi wasn't remain content to stay in his room — he wanted to end this waiting game. He and Fireball made a deliberate tour around as much of the city as they could. Even under the dark of night, they continued to trek further and further in all directions. Antoshi tried desperately to feel out his adversary's energy. The search endeavors ultimately ended up fruitless for the duo.

‘If he would just show himself already…’ Antoshi thought, bitterly. The growing anticipation of his inevitable encounter with Latoshi was wearing on him, and on Fireball as well. Watching his best friend in such a contemptuous mood was not something Fireball enjoyed.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The following evening, back in their hotel room, Antoshi had a video call with his parents to check in with them.

“Antoshi,” his mother said, with worry in her eyes, “are you doing all right? We've been hearing terrible stories about attacks in Goldenrod.”

He reassured her with a nod and a weak smile. “I'm fine, Mom. It is a little scary, but … Fireball and I shouldn't be in Goldenrod for much longer anyway.” Fireball, standing behind him, was surprised by his friend's remark. He couldn't figure out exactly what the boy meant by that.

“You look so stressed, son,” his father said. “Try not to let it get to you. I know you'll be safe, as long as you stay inside. Plus, you have Fireball to protect you.”

“I sure do,” he replied, smiling to his compadre.

“Get some rest,” his mother said. “Okay, honey? I agree with your father — you do look exhausted.”

“You're right, Mom. I will. Sorry for worrying you both.”

“Oh, don't be silly. We have faith in you, Antoshi. We know you'll always make the right decisions.”

He became lost in thought for a moment, thinking back to the promise he made Serenity. He smiled and nodded to them. “Thank you both,” he warmly replied, much to their delight.

“We love you!” they both said, before the call was ended.

Antoshi turned away, rubbing his tired, worn eyes. His lack of sleep had gotten to the point where others could see it in him. He thought he should've been overwhelmingly tired after going so long with so little sleep, but, for some reason, he felt oddly energized. He sat in silence for a few moments, to reflect on what his parents said. With an empowered huff, he quickly got up from the video phone, heading over to the door to grab his shoes.

“I can't stay here,” he said, sitting on the bed to slip them on.

"What do you mean?" Fireball replied. "Where are you going?"

Antoshi stood up and gazed out the window. “I have to go out again. I have to try and find him. I'm not going to get any sleep until I do, Fireball. I have to keep searching for him, so I can finally put an end to this insanity.”

"I want to come with you," Fireball said.

Antoshi smiled, turning to his friend. “I want you to come with me, too.”

With that, the duo headed downstairs, out onto the streets in the early night hours. The streets were still fairly busy with people and their Pokémon passing on by. They made their way directly west for a few blocks.

"Antoshi?" Fireball spoke up. "At … the risk of making you upset with me again, I think that maybe your parents are right. You shouldn't stress out this badly."

“I really am trying not to let it get to me, Fireball. Talking to Serenity, and understanding so much more now, has made me feel a little better. Still, … what else am I supposed to do? I can't take this situation easy. Latoshi's out there, and he's killing people. It feels like he's mocking me, … like he's trying to get me to react.”

"Do you really think this is a message to you?"

“I'm sure of it,” Antoshi replied, narrowing his eyes, as his irises briefly flashed red.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The duo continued on their westward trek for a couple of hours. They stopped to rest, get some snacks and drinks, and use the restroom along the way. They traveled further through the city than they had the entire time they'd been in Goldenrod.

At the same time, Latoshi stood up from his meditation. He sighed in content before stretching his neck out.

'Excellent work,' Lazarus told him. 'Now, we should continue forth in our righteous crusade.'

“I'm all for crusading,” Latoshi replied, “but … maybe I could go crusading somewhere a little more scenic? Like, … the beach, perhaps?”

'Hrm, … I suppose that will be fine for one night. The humans are likely increasing security around those filthy prisons, anyway. They will be expecting another attack on one of them tonight.'

“Exactly. Might as well take the time to take in the scenery.”

'Very well. I expect you to increase your training when you return here later. You are not to slack off.'

“Of course, Lazarus,” he replied, slyly. Latoshi laughed in amusement, as he took to the sky once again. Before long, sandy dunes and the gentle lapping of the ocean waves along the shore came into view. He headed in the direction of the beach, grinning from ear to ear.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

"I only wish there was some way I could help more," Fireball remarked.

“You already are,” Antoshi reassured him, smiling. “Sticking with me, being my shoulder to cry on, helping me deal with this and understanding this whole situation. … I appreciate all of it, Fireball, more than you know. You've been keeping me sane.” The duo smiled at each other. Afterward, Antoshi came to a halt, sighing, heavily. “I suppose we should head back now. It's gonna take forever for us to get back to the hotel at this point and—” the boy stopped suddenly, his eyes widening in shock and horror. “His energy,” he remarked, trembling. “I … I can sense it!”

Fireball was equally as shocked. "Are you sure it's not Serenity again?"

“No, I'm definitely sure. It was there for just a second, but the pressure being giving off, it's corrupted. It's … rotten, just like what I sensed from him before. Latoshi is nearby, …” he turned and pointed in the direction of the beach on the west edge of the city. “That way.”

Both of them stood in place for a moment, taking in the realization that their long-awaited confrontation with Latoshi was now imminent.

"So, you found him," Fireball remarked. "Are you sure you're ready to go through with this … again?”

Antoshi exhaled sharply, punching his open palm. “I've had an entire week to do nothing but get ready. It's all I've been able to think about. You definitely know that by now.”

"I know, I just … well, like I said before, I don't want to see you get hurt."

“I've already been hurt by him — physically, mentally, emotionally. It was more pain than I could've ever imagined, and it's been gnawing at me ever since. I've gotten used to it now.” Fireball lowered his head and nodded. “Fireball, … I've been waiting until he shows up to say this. There's one thing I need you to promise me.”

The Typhlosion perked up again. "Of course, Antoshi. Anything."

“I need you … to promise that you won't get involved in this fight at all.”

"… Okay, anything but that."

“Fireball, please. I know you're concerned about my safety, … but I'm just as concerned with yours.”

"Fighting is what I'm good at — you know that better than anyone."

“You're an amazing fighter, Fireball, … but, this isn't an ordinary fight. I'm the only one that can deal with him. I'm the only one that should.”

"Well, what about Serenity? She seems like she knows a lot. Maybe she knows how to beat him. You could … call out for help to her with your energy or something."

“No, I can't involve other people in my problem. She even told me I have to deal with this on my own. I have to face him myself, Fireball — that's what I've been training for. There isn't any other way. Latoshi is going to come for me again, eventually, whether by his own choice or with that voice in his head telling him to. I have to put all of this to rest. So, promise me you won't get involved, okay?”

"… All right. I promise."

Antoshi sighed in relief, turning his attention to where Latoshi's energy was. “Let's get going. Hop on my back, I'll get us there as fast as I can.”

Fireball looked at Antoshi, strangely, for a moment as the boy dropped to a knee. Fireball made sure no one was around to see them before wrapping his short forelimbs around Antoshi's neck. The boy hooked Fireball's hind legs under his arms and stood up, wearing the Typhlosion not unlike how he would wear his backpack. Fireball's otherwise heavy weight felt like nothing to the boy.

“Looks like the calm is over,” Antoshi said. “The storm's finally beginning. Time to find out if all that training paid off.”

In an instant, Antoshi took off, down the city streets. Fireball cried out in shock, while holding on for dear life. The boy weaved in and out of people, cars and obstacles with almost pinpoint precision. Those he passed by were shocked and bewildered by the sharp gust of wind that staggered them.

“I'll get us close enough that he won't see us!” Antoshi spoke over the rush of air around them, “but you have to stay there, okay?”

"I think I heard what you said!" Fireball replied. "I'll stay put!"

Antoshi closed in on their destination, covering a distance of a hundred miles in less than a minute.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Latoshi strolled along the beach, casually, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his shorts. Neither of them were aware that Antoshi was approaching them very rapidly.

“This is nice,” he remarked. “Very tranquil.”

'Soon, it will all be yours,' Lazarus replied.

Latoshi laughed. “My very own beach property, huh? That would be nice.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Antoshi slowed to a halt in the middle of an empty parking lot near the beach. Fireball groaned weakly, stumbling onto his hind feet.

"That was a little too fast for me to deal with," Fireball said, rubbing his eyes.

“This is where you have to stay. Please, … don't leave from here, okay?”

Fireball bit his lip, forcing a nod. "Please be careful, Antoshi." The boy smiled to his friend, walking up and sharing a hug with him for a moment.

“I'm not going to let him win,” Antoshi said, as they let go of each other. “Not this time. No matter what.”

Fireball looked on as Antoshi ran toward his destination at normal running speed. Being forced to the sidelines tore him up inside, as did not knowing what would happen. He sighed, heavily, tears welling up in his eyes.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Latoshi turned his attention to the sound of a girl shouting in the distance. Curious, he headed over to its source.

“No, stop!” the girl cried out. “Let go of me! Please, I just want to go home!”

As Latoshi approached, the girl, and a large man dressed in heavy black clothing, came into view. Within a thicket of tall beach grass, he held the girl by her wrists.

“I can't let you go now!” the man replied with a chuckle. “You were so rude to me! I think you need to repay me!”

“Well, now!” Latoshi exclaimed, making his presence known. Both of them gasped, turning to him. “Isn't this convenient? Another parasite, right here on the beach. There's an endless supply of you disgusting freaks at every turn.”

“Get the hell out of here, kid,” the man said, brandishing a gun at him, “or, you're next.”

“Ooh, but I do want to be next!” Latoshi said, playfully, jumping up and down, waving his hand in the air. “Please, pick me right now!” The man looked at him in disgust.

“What's wrong with you? Are you screwed up in the head or something? I'm telling you I'm gonna blow your damn head off!”

“Please,” the girl remarked, “don't get hurt because of me…”

A cruel grin spread across the boy's lips. “Don't worry about it,” Latoshi replied to her, his irises turning black. “The only one getting hurt here … is him.”

In an instant, Latoshi closed the gap between them, and grabbed the man by his neck. The man gagged and croaked, struggling in vain as Latoshi lifted him with one hand. He dropped his gun to claw at the boy's arm. The girl fell onto her seat, horrified by what she was witnessing.

“Let— … let go!” the man choked out.

“Sorry, I think you need to repay me,” Latoshi replied with a twisted grin.

“Latoshi!” a voice shouted to him.

Latoshi froze in place, his eyes widening in surprise. The voice was so very familiar. His heart raced as he slowly turned his gaze to find Antoshi standing nearby. The sable-haired boy smiled, his eyes crazed with excitement.

“Well, this is an even better surprise,” Latoshi said. “If it isn't my brother! I thought you'd be too busy cowering somewhere.”

“Latoshi, stop it! Let him go!”

Latoshi turned his attention to the struggling man, sighing in defeat. “Okay, fine,” he replied, before suddenly snapping his neck. Both Antoshi and the girl shouted in horror.

Latoshi smirked, tossing the man's lifeless body near the girl. She screamed, scrambling to her feet and running away.

“You can thank me later!” Latoshi called out to her. He shook his head, turning his attention to Antoshi. “Can you believe the nerve of some people? So ungrateful.”

Antoshi clenched his fists, trembling with anger. “Why do you have to do this? What good does killing people bring?”

“… Well, 'hello' to you, too,” he replied, in jest. “I believe I already explained all of this to you before: people with evil hearts, cleanse them to rid the world of bad, yadda yadda, you got the gist of it the first time. So, what brings you to this neck of the woods? If you say it's to—”

“I'm going to stop you, Latoshi,” Antoshi replied, bitterly.

“I had a funny feeling you were going to say that. Yeah, that's not happening, Antoshi. It wasn't happening before, and it's certainly not happening now. You're making a very serious mistake showing your face to me again. I'm so much stronger than I was the last time we fought. You're lucky I spared you last time, so, get lost now, or you won't be that lucky again.”

As the two boys stared each other down, a mysterious presence came to a stop at a nearby beach access pathway. It was a shorter figure, wearing a long, old-fashioned trench coat, wide-brim fedora, and sunglasses that gleamed in the light of a lamp post overhead. The unknown party watched the conflict between the boys, with great interest.

Antoshi

Three Siblings

Male
Seen 1 Week Ago
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
125 posts
14.8 Years
Chapter 18


While Fireball continued to look off in the direction that Antoshi had gone, Serenity unexpectedly appeared beside him.

“Hello again, Fireball,” she said, warmly.

Fireball jumped in surprise, looking at her in disbelief. 'Whoa,' he thought, 'where the heck did she come from?'

Serenity gazed off into the distance. “Looks like the two of them are getting ready to square off again. It's hard to see anything from here, though. Would you like to move somewhere else to watch?” Fireball nodded with enthusiasm. Serenity smiled and held out a hand to him. “In that case, grab on.”

Fireball hesitantly placed a claw in her hand. She took hold of him, and the two slowly ascended together. The larger Typhlosion flailed momentarily in a panic while she guided him through the air.

'She can fly too?!' he thought. Serenity brought him up to the roof of a nearby building. They were in a direct line of sight of where the two boys faced off.

“I think is much better, don't you?” she asked. Fireball nodded to her, his eyes wide with surprise. She gently laughed in response.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

“So,” Latoshi continued, “I can see you're not here to take me up on the offer I left you. You're not going to score any bonus points trying to look tough in front of me or your Typhlosion pet. Where is he, anyway? Trying to get the jump on me or something? … Come on out, Fireball!” Latoshi looked around with a smirk.

“He's not here,” Antoshi replied, bringing Latoshi's focus back to him. “I'm giving you the chance to make peace. Latoshi, I promise that I'll accept you as my brother, as long as you agree to stop this insanity.”

Latoshi was thoroughly surprised. “Wait, you'd … actually do that?”

‘I wonder what it would've been like,’ Latoshi suddenly recalled his thoughts from over a week ago, ‘if I … had actually gotten to know Antoshi instead of fighting him. Maybe the two of us could be talking about Pokémon stuff right now. That would be pretty normal. Kind of like … a family.’

Latoshi looked away. ‘What was that? Is Antoshi messing with my head with some new power? Or was that a m— a memory? …’ The sable-haired boy shook it off, turning to his rival with a bitter glare.

“Tell me, Latoshi, what are we fighting for? We've got to end this war!”

Latoshi scoffed. “Don't start thinking that sentimental crap will work. It might work on your pet, but, not on me.”

“I already know about Lazarus,” Antoshi said. Latoshi tilted his head curiously. “I know that Lazarus is controlling you. He's manipulating you. This isn't who you really are. Fight against it, Latoshi! Listen to me, and get Lazarus' influence out of your head!”

“Oh, man, whoa!” Latoshi replied, sarcastically, pretending to stumble around. “You—you got me, Antoshi! I—I can feel myself coming back to normal! You saved me! Oh, you saved me!” Latoshi made a bursting motion with his hands next to his head, and an exploding noise with his mouth. Antoshi scowled, unimpressed, while Latoshi laughed at him. “Gee, you sure have everything neatly figured out, huh?” he asked, amused. “But, there you go, again, trying to be the moral authority, thinking you know what's best for me. What kind of epiphany did you have to figure me out so perfectly?”

“I have a new ally now. She told me all about Lazarus and who—err, what it is.”

Latoshi scoffed. “Some girl? You're following the words of someone you don't even know? Someone you can't even trust?”

“You mean like you and Lazarus?” Antoshi shot back.

Latoshi was surprised at first that Antoshi would reply so impertinently. He narrowed his eyes, coldly. “You dare speak down about Lazarus? If not for him, I would still be locked up in that damn prison cell! He's done a hell of a lot more for me than you have, Mr. High and Mighty! Lazarus taught me everything I needed to know to earn my freedom — and, here I stand now, on the cusp of greatness.”

“You don't look all that great,” Antoshi replied, “especially not with some voice telling you what to do, rather than thinking for yourself.”

“Shut your mouth!” Latoshi shouted, vengefully, his irises flashing black. “I will kill you where you stand, Antoshi! Don't test me!”

“You couldn't go through with it last time, Latoshi. You had too much remorse, and you spared me. What I've been saying all along is getting through to you, so, I know you won't do it this time, either.”

Latoshi narrowed his eyes in confusion. “What the hell are you talking about? I didn't have remorse for you. I left you with one last chance to think things over and join me. Looks like you blew it.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

“Something is wrong,” Serenity said, shaking her head. “I witnessed their fight. Latoshi showed genuine concern in the moment just before he was about to kill Antoshi. He most certainly would've remembered that, and yet he doesn't. That means Lazarus is suppressing his memories.”

Fireball looked at her with shock. 'Suppressing his memories? It can do that? Man, Serenity really does know a lot about Lazarus. … But, how the heck can she even hear what they're saying from all the way up here?'

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

“I know you want to end this, Latoshi,” Antoshi said, “and I still want to help you. Helping you regain your memories and finding your family — I'm still willing to do that. I know it's what you want, too.”

Latoshi furrowed his brow and looked away. ‘What is he talking about? Help me find my family? Why don't I remember him saying that? …’

'Antoshi is just trying to distract you!' Lazarus shouted, startling the boy. 'Do not take your eyes off of him! He has your guard lowered and will go on the attack!'

Latoshi panicked, taking a battle stance as his aura flared to life. He fired a blast of energy at Antoshi, in response to Lazarus' presumption. The blond-haired boy swiftly avoided it with a tall leap. The subsequent explosion caused a crater in the sand.

Antoshi landed on his feet. He looked back at the aftermath before looking at Latoshi, taken aback. The sable-haired boy was still unnerved for a moment; staring, wild-eyed, at his adversary. He exhaled slowly, stood up straight, quickly regaining his cool.

“Nice try,” Latoshi said, uttering a soft chuckle. “I see what you're doing, and it's not going to work.”

“The only thing I'm trying to do is avoid another fight,” Antoshi replied. “I'm still willing to find a peaceful resolution, just like before. I don't want to fight you, Latoshi. I never wanted to fight you.”

“And, just as I made it clear last time, you're not going to change my mind — no matter what you say.”

Antoshi hung his head and sighed, before giving a nod of understanding.

“At least tell me … why? Why would you would be so cold as to kill all those people?”

“As if their pathetic lives even mattered. I'm ascending to godhood where I belong. They're just insects that have to be crushed along the way.”

“Insects?! You killed hundreds of people, Latoshi! Innocent people who had nothing to do with you or your 'ascension'.”

“'Innocent?' Well, that's just silly. They were all parasites and criminals. But, there you go again, trying to fill my head with lies that—”

“I'm not lying to you, I—”

With lies that only serve to impede my glory. I see past you, Antoshi. My eyes are open. My path is clear. The only voice I listen to is that of Lazarus.”

“It all comes back to Lazarus again, huh? You just believe what he says without question.”

“I do.”

“You think that Lazarus isn't taking advantage of you? You think that Lazarus isn't leading you astray?”

“Of course. Lazarus doesn't lie — certainly not to me.”

Antoshi scoffed in disbelief. “It's incredible how blind you are. The truth is right in front of you and you can't even see it. You refuse to see it.”

“I don't care what your version of the 'truth' is, Antoshi.”

“I don't know what's happened to you, Latoshi, … but I know this is where your campaign ends. You have no remorse for anything you've said or anything you've done. Consider this an intervention. I'm going to stop you from walking down this path.” Latoshi laughed, hysterically.

“That was a good one. Still, think about this for a minute, Antoshi. Just consider what it is you're trying to stop.” Antoshi tilted his head, eying him warily. “I'm offering a world free of violence and evil, where no one preys on the weak. Peace and harmony for everyone. You're the one standing in the way of this just cause. Yet, you refuse to back down and then call me the 'blind' one?”

“Like you said, we already had this conversation before,” Antoshi replied. “This isn't the way to go about your ideals. There are so many better options that don't involve senseless killing. You could use your powers to do so much good for people. That is something I would gladly work with you on.”

Latoshi scoffed again. “Do you really think all those horrible people are worth saving?”

“Yes. I do.”

“What a shame. Still as naive as you were before. People never change, Antoshi — you're proof of that. Your idea is a waste of time.”

“Then that's where we disagree,” Antoshi said. He limbered up his legs, taking a battle stance, keeping one fist in front, the other fist at his side. “This time around, I'm not afraid to stake my life on stopping you. I'm also not afraid to end you.”

End me?” Latoshi replied with a laugh. “You're trying to be threatening now? You really don't scare anyone, Antoshi — certainly not me. You're too much of a bleeding heart; a boy scout. You care too much, you cry too much. You don't have what it takes to get rid of me. You look like a harmless child in your little fighting pose there. Oh, and, need I remind you? The last time we fought, I left you in a pool of your own blood. You can't beat me, Antoshi. You never will.”

“Shut it,” Antoshi snapped. Latoshi grinned in amusement.

The two boys flared their auras out — an initial display of their power. Neither one was impressed or intimidated by what they saw from their opponent. The boys had naught but the pale light of the full moon to illuminate the dark beach. It was more than enough light, as both of them were fully capable of sensing each other's energy. The staredown between them lasted for a few moments, witnessed intently by Fireball and Serenity on the rooftop, as well as the mysterious, trench coat-clad person.

“You have no idea what you're getting yourself into, Antoshi. You have no idea how powerful I really am.”

“The same goes for you, Latoshi. You have gotten stronger, Latoshi — I can tell. But, so have I.”

Latoshi swiftly flew at his rival. Antoshi shielded himself with his arms crossed over his face, while Latoshi punched at him, laughing wildly. Their eyes shone brightly with their respective colors. Antoshi grunted as he was pushed back with each hit. The scenario was not unlike how Antoshi trained his defense with Fireball

‘His strikes are so intense,’ Antoshi thought, ‘even after all that training Fireball and I did. I have to do my best to keep away from him, if I want to gain the upper hand.’

Latoshi suddenly darted behind him, catching him off-guard. Latoshi kicked his counterpart's back with intense force, sending Antoshi diving into the sand, a short distance away.

“Well, that was disappointing,” Latoshi remarked, standing tall. “I thought you were supposed to be 'stronger' now.”

Antoshi climbed back to his feet, slowly. He took a moment to brush the sand off his clothes. He recomposed himself, looking at his foe with a confident smile. He wanted to make it clear to Latoshi that this fight was only just getting started.

“I sure hope you weren't holding back just now,” he said, “because that wasn't very impressive.”

Latoshi was befuddled. ‘That hit had enough force that would've instantly ended our last fight,’ he thought. ‘I guess he has gotten a bit tougher.’

'Do not dwell on it,' Lazarus said, 'and do not let up! Keep the pressure on him — now!'

Latoshi gave a shout, going on the offensive once again. Antoshi's eyes glowed brighter, opting not to defend, but to evade. He continuously hopped backward, weaving back and forth to keep just out of reach of Latoshi's swift, powerful punches. Latoshi clenched his teeth, snarling furiously, as he put more effort in his attempts to land a single blow.

Antoshi's eyes remained wide, carefully studying Latoshi's attack pattern. ‘Watch him,’ he thought. ‘Focus, stay calm, watch his movements. That's how you'll beat him.’

‘What the hell?!’ Latoshi thought. ‘Why can't I hit him?! There's no way he should be able to keep up with me after all that insane training I went through!’

Latoshi held his hands out in front of him, summoning his energy forth. He aimed for a moment, before firing a blast of energy. Antoshi gave a shout, launching his own energy blast to cancel it out. The colliding red and black energies exploded, creating a brief cloud of smoke. Using said smoke as a diversion, Latoshi managed to dart behind his rival.

“Remember this one?!” Latoshi shouted. He threw a punch into the small of Antoshi's back. His fist, unexpectedly, went through nothing more than a blurred image of Antoshi's body, making no contact. Latoshi was stunned.

'Behind you!' Lazarus shouted.

Before Latoshi could react, Antoshi countered with a strike of his own to Latoshi's spine. The sable-haired boy groaned in pain, hunched over while holding his back.

“Yeah, I do remember,” Antoshi replied, acrimoniously.

Latoshi seethed in rage. He grabbed handfuls of sand before slamming a fist into the ground. He was being made a fool of, even after the gains to his power and skill. “Damn it!” he shouted. Latoshi leapt back to his feet, turning to Antoshi with a bitter scowl.

“This isn't some game, Latoshi,” Antoshi said, “and I am not your pawn.”

Latoshi spat on the ground. “You're never going to convince me to back down and see things your way. This whole stupid, naive ideal you have of 'everyone deserves to live' makes me want to retch. You have no idea who I am, or what I'm capable of!”

Latoshi took aim at his foe with open palms once again. He shouted, angrily, firing off a multitude of energy blasts, forcing Antoshi to leap high to evade. The explosions kicked up sand dangerously close to the mysterious onlooker, who gasped and turned away, shielding their face with both arms.

When the sand settled, the onlooker, Latoshi, Serenity, and Fireball all gawked at Antoshi. Instead of landing, the boy remained stationary in the air. He glared down at Latoshi, his red aura flickering wildly.

'Antoshi is … flying?' Fireball thought, awe-struck and grinning. 'He hasn't done that since he saved me from Team Rocket. … Awesome! I finally get to see him flying!'

“So you can fly,” Latoshi remarked, ascending slowly into the air to match Antoshi's altitude. “But, are you as swift in the air as you are on your feet?”

“Why don't you find out?”

Latoshi sneered for a brief moment, before seemingly disappearing. Antoshi's eyes narrowed, glowing bright, following Latoshi's movements as he moved so fast, it was as if he blinked around through the air. Latoshi laughed, his voice coming from all directions.

Antoshi's gaze snapped upward, throwing a jab that connected with Latoshi's own punch. They were both surprised, finding their fists in a deadlock. The two boys threw rapid-fire punches at each other, connecting one after the other with near-perfect precision. Fists striking fists, they both gave a long cry as their auras flared out and their strikes became more intense. The shock waves from their attacks caused the sand below them to kick up.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

“Do you see that?” Serenity said to Fireball. “Their skills become more obvious the longer this goes on. Latoshi has been struggling to land a blow, but, when he does, the impact is much more intense than when Antoshi strikes. That means Antoshi is faster, but Latoshi is stronger. Speed versus power — it's an interesting dynamic. Both of them came prepared, and I think their unique skills put them on equal footing. This is going to be much harder to call than their previous fight.”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Antoshi's spirit burned with vengeance. His attacks became much faster, managing to slip a punch through every so often that struck his rival's face and chest. Unlike before, Antoshi was now aware of how to weave his Ki into his strikes — thanks, in part, to Latoshi's previous gloating over his own ability to do so. It caused Antoshi's strikes to have immense impact as compared to before. The burning Ki seared at Latoshi's flesh, tearing away at the very essence of his black Ki, gradually wearing the sable-haired boy down in a way that Antoshi could not do in their previous showdown.

Latoshi roared, incensed, suddenly grabbing Antoshi's fists. Antoshi was stunned, taken aback by the overwhelming grip strength keeping him in place. As they struggled for control, their shimmering eyes glared at each other. Their respective red and black auras clashed with each other; vying for dominance, while sending flares of colored energy outward.

Latoshi pulled him closer, suddenly ramming a knee into Antoshi's stomach. The blond-haired boy's eyes went wide, groaning as the wind was knocked out of him. Latoshi laughed, releasing him, kicking his adversary's chest hard enough to send him plummeting toward the ground with a large impact.

Antoshi coughed as he sat up. He held his abdomen, staring up at Latoshi, who hovered high above him with a proud smirk on his face.

‘Okay, so, testing his strength was definitely a bad idea,’ Antoshi thought. ‘I really do have to avoid his grabs and strikes as much as I can.’

In an instant, Antoshi was airborne once again. He weaved around in random patterns around Latoshi, using his superior speed to misdirect the sable-haired boy, and find openings to strike at his unguarded areas. Latoshi struggled to block or deflect. The scene was similar to their first fight, only in midair.

‘He's like an annoying gnat!’ Latoshi thought, before he also opted to fly around in a likewise pattern. The two boys clashed each time they got close, trading quick jabs and blocks. To the spectators, their auras appeared as red and black streaks darting around in the night sky.

'Enough fooling around!' Lazarus spoke. 'Use the upper limits of your strength and put this fight to an end!'

“He's not worth that much effort!” Latoshi replied. Antoshi narrowed his eyes, realizing his rival was conversing with Lazarus.

'Do not be a stupid child!' Lazarus snapped, surprising the boy. 'I am your master, and you will follow my orders! Is that clear?!'

Latoshi's concentration was broken upon suddenly remembering the first time Lazarus yelled at him. ‘This is my life!’ he recalled himself saying. ‘You aren't going to tell me what to do forever! I'm the one with limitless, ultimate power — remember?’ Latoshi stared blankly, bewildered by a memory he was unfamiliar with.

'Pay attention, you buffoon!' Lazarus shouted at him.

Latoshi gasped, shielding himself with one arm, just before an energy blast collided with him. The subsequent explosion pushed him back, slightly. He growled in frustration, glancing at the noticeable burn mark left on his arm. He turned a cutting glare to Antoshi, before flying into him. The two began another deadlock of punches and kicks, using their superhuman speed to avoid the other's strikes.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

“For someone who's been opposed to fighting,” Serenity remarked, “Antoshi certainly has a natural talent for it. They both do.”

Just then, she noticed a couple of young people strolling across the beach together with a Pokémon. They were unknowingly headed in the direction of the fight. Her gaze suddenly shifted to the other side of the beach, where another small group of kids were also making their way in the same direction.

“That's not good,” Serenity remarked. “Antoshi must have told you to stay behind, didn't he?” Fireball nodded in response. “Well, it seems there are some innocent bystanders down there.” Fireball looked along the beach in shock. “This stretch of the beach is supposed to be closed to the public after sunset. I guess they didn't get the memo, … or, they don't care. They're going to be hurt, or worse, if they get too close. But, I think there is a way you and I can help Antoshi during his fight. …”

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Antoshi and Latoshi struggled for dominance once again. Their hands were clasped together in another test of strength. They scowled at each other, trying to push each other back. Their auras burned against each other, sending off more flares of energy. However, Antoshi found himself once again on the losing end of the duel.

‘I should really stop getting lured into these situations,’ he thought. He gave a long shout, amplifying his aura severalfold, and increasing the output of his Ki to the point where they remained deadlocked. His eyes abruptly widened in surprise, sensing something peculiar. ‘Fireball?’ he thought. ‘Serenity, too? Why are they both getting closer? And why can I sense them getting closer? … No, it's not just them. There are … some other people around. People visiting the beach. I can't even see them, but I know they're there. That's crazy. I'm totally aware of everything around us, while still focusing on the fight.’ Antoshi strained with effort as Latoshi clamped down on his hands. ‘Serenity … and … Fireball are trying to get those people away from here. I have to help them. I need to bring Latoshi someplace where innocent bystanders aren't going to see us, or get hurt.’

Antoshi gave another shout, conjuring dual blasts of energy to his palms. Latoshi looked on helplessly as the boy's red Ki shined bright between their hands. He cried out in pain; the resulting explosion burned his palms. Antoshi used the brief distraction to quickly fly away, over the open waters.

'Stop getting outclassed!' Lazarus shouted. 'You are letting him make a fool of you! Now, go after him!'

Latoshi gave another frustrated shout, taking off after his counterpart.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Serenity, having landed out of sight, walked up to the pair of young people and their Pachirisu. “I'm sorry, folks,” she said, in an authoritative tone, “I'm afraid you're going to have to go back the way you came.”

“What?” the young man asked. “Why?”

“Yeah, this beach is public property,” the young woman added, flippantly. The Pachirisu on her shoulder complained, loudly.

“We're fully aware of that, but, unfortunately, a large toxic spill was just found on this beach. It's been shut down by order of the Goldenrod City police.” The young woman was shocked.

The young man, however, found her claims suspicious. “I don't see anyone else here,” he said.

“That's because we've cleared the beach of any civilians,” Serenity replied. “Cleanup crews are on the way.” Serenity shooed the two away, insistently. “This area is extremely dangerous right now. For your own safety, you must leave immediately. Failure to comply will result in your arrest.”

The two muttered to each other, while Serenity stood tall with her hands folded behind her back.

“All right, fine,” the young man said, before they turned around to leave. The Pachirisu turned to Serenity and stuck its tongue out. Serenity chuckled, quietly, before looking to the ocean where the two boys were.

‘Well, this area is extremely dangerous right now,’ she thought. ‘That much is true.’ She noticed, and turned her attention to, the mysterious onlooker in the trench coat. “Hey, you!” she called out, startling the person. “This beach has been shut down by order of the Goldenrod police! Please leave right away!” The person turned away in a panic, shuffling away.

Serenity turned to leave as well, but stopped, suddenly. She looked at the stranger with an inquisitive expression. She glanced down at her palms, rubbing them together to remove some moisture. She hummed, thoughtfully, before jogging down the beach.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

On the other side of the beach, Fireball ran out on all fours to greet the group of incoming young kids.

“Whoa, it's a Typhlosion!” one of them said. The others fawned over the rare sight.

Fireball, however, glared at them, menacingly. He slowly advanced toward them, growling loudly, baring his teeth, and igniting the fires on his back.

“It doesn't look too friendly,” another kid remarked, nervously. Fireball stood up on his hind legs, boasting his exceptional height. He took a deep breath, and exhaled a powerful stream of fire onto the sand in front of them.

“Run away!” one of the others said. The kids screamed and ran away as quickly as they could, leaving Fireball to roar at them from afar.

Once they were far enough away, he sighed in relief. 'I hate to do that to those kids, but I don't want them to get hurt. I know Antoshi doesn't want that, either.'

Serenity met up with Fireball. They nodded to each other before they headed further inland, away from the fight.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Latoshi let out a long yell as he closed the distance between himself and his foe. Antoshi turned around, just before his rival struck him. Latoshi ended up going through another after-image, his fist striking nothing but the light of the moon before him. He stopped, shocked that he'd been outmaneuvered once again. Antoshi suddenly flew at him from above, delivering a powerful heel kick to the back of Latoshi's head. The sable-haired boy shouted, briefly, sent deep into the water with an enormous splash.

Seeming to have a moment's respite, Antoshi sighed, looking out to the shore. ‘I can't sense those people anymore. That's good. Fireball and Serenity must've gotten them to safety.’

In the dark, under the water's rippling surface, Latoshi was fuming with rage. His facial muscles twitched, scowling, while a school of Remoraid calmly swam by him.

‘I won't be made a fool of like this,’ he thought. ‘I'm going to make him suffer before I kill him!’

He turned his attention upward, able to make out Antoshi's image hovering in the air. He took careful aim, holding both hands out, firing off another barrage of multiple energy blasts that swiftly tore through the water. Antoshi was taken by surprise, shielding himself with both arms, the blasts colliding with his aura and exploding.

Latoshi capitalized on the distraction, appearing before Antoshi with a cruel smirk. He spun around, striking at Antoshi with the back of his elbow. Antoshi barely managed to block the attack with his hands, but was still sent soaring a short distance away from the intense blow.

Latoshi quickly sped after him, breaking waves on the surface of the water with his momentum. Antoshi came to stop, facing his advancing foe. Latoshi threw a volley of rapid punches at him, each of which were swiftly evaded or deflected. Antoshi suddenly grabbed Latoshi's arm, turning around and throwing him over his shoulder with a loud shout, sending him back toward the shore.

Latoshi spiraled through the air for some time, finally regaining control by the time he was over land. He hunched over as he hit the sand, his hand raking through it, sliding to a halt. He stared down his counterpart with contempt. Antoshi flew back to the shore, landed, and stood before him.

The bitter scowl on Latoshi's face abruptly softened into amusement. He placed a hand on his forehead and started laughing, hysterically. Antoshi remained unfazed, keeping a stern, serious expression. He wasn't going to fall into some kind of distraction by Latoshi.

“You think you have the upper hand now, huh?” Latoshi asked, amused. “Don't bother answering — it was a rhetorical question. It was rhetorical because I'm about to show you exactly why you're wrong.”

Latoshi threw his arms out to the side, grinning smugly, summoning forth a larger volume of energy from his deep well of Ki. Antoshi took a defensive stance, while Latoshi's aura flared out intensely. Latoshi let out a loud shout, creating countless energy orbs that hovered around him — the same attack he'd practiced. Antoshi's eyes widened in disbelief. The onlookers were equally stunned as him.

“While you were off doing your own so-called 'training',” Latoshi said, “I was pushing myself beyond your comprehension. This is a little attack I created myself. I call it 'Shooting Stars'. Make a wish!”

Latoshi swiftly clapped his hands together. In response, the masses of energy were sent careening toward Antoshi at blistering speed. Antoshi gasped, his eyes going wide. The internal engine that was his spirit revved up with blazing energy, causing his irises to burn red-hot, pushing his abilities further. Rather than fleeing or defending, he instead charged directly into the swarm of Ki. He instantaneously stepped, hopped, and pivoted around the blasts as they darted past him. The boy's body blurred in and out of the oncoming field of black orbs, managing to evade every one of them.

Latoshi was left in shock by Antoshi's incredible speed and dexterity. His shock, however, quickly turned to anger.

‘This can't be!’ Latoshi thought. ‘There's no way he's gotten this good!’ As Antoshi continued to maneuver around the energy, Latoshi clenched his shaking fists. ‘I won't let you, Antoshi. … I won't let you win!!’

Latoshi shouted in rage, firing a much larger blast into Antoshi's path. Antoshi gasped, unable to react in time. The attack exploded in his face, violently, sending him flying backward into the sand. The previous attacks he'd dodged erupted along the beach, kicking up sand in all directions. Countless small craters were left in their wake.

Antoshi cried out in pain, his hands cupped over his eyes. He got back to his feet slowly, his hands falling away to reveal burns around his tightly shut eyes. He groaned weakly, straining to open them.

“Aw, what's the matter, Antoshi? Can't see anything?” Latoshi asked, in a patronizing tone. “Well then, this just got a whole lot more interesting.” Antoshi clenched his teeth, trembling in pain while taking a defensive stance.

Having gotten close enough to see the fight more clearly, Fireball cried out in horror at the turn of events. Serenity remained stoic, carefully watching every detail of the encounter. The trench coat-clad spectator had returned, in the same spot as before, to continue watching the fight unfold.

Latoshi, meanwhile, laughed at his foe's misfortune. Oozing arrogance as usual, he raced toward Antoshi. Though unable to see, Antoshi still sensed Latoshi's energy nearing. He attempted to block, but his body was suddenly racked by the blunt pain of Latoshi ramming a knee into his gut.

As Antoshi hunched over, straining to breathe, Latoshi clasped his hands together and raised them high. He slammed his fists down, across the back of Antoshi's head, viciously driving his opponent to the ground. The blond-haired boy shouted in pain. In an instant, Latoshi punted him like a ball across the beach. His body violently rolled around in the sand, ending face-up. Latoshi kept up the pace, hovering over Antoshi and delivering hundreds of punches to his rival in a matter of seconds. Latoshi laughed wildly, Antoshi's body being thrashed around from the ferocity of his assault.

Fireball swallowed a lump in his throat, his claws anxiously fidgeting. He wasn't sure if this was the end, but seeing his friend being brutalized still terrified him, regardless.

Antoshi groaned, weakly, once the barrage was finished. Latoshi, however, left one last statement in the form of a hard knee to his stomach once again. Antoshi croaked loudly, coughing up blood.

Latoshi hovered himself back up to a vertical base, proudly looking over his handiwork. “Now, everything is as it should be,” he remarked, smirking cruelly. Antoshi coughed weakly, holding his midsection with both arms. “Antoshi, I can't begin to tell you how happy I am to see you as pathetic as you are now! I knew you were no match for me — I just needed to find that one opening. Now, here you are, at my feet and at my mercy, yet again.”

'End him this time,' Lazarus instructed, sternly. 'Do not let him rise from the ashes once more!'

Latoshi smirked as he held a hand out, summoning forth a large amount of Ki into his palm. It was enough energy to make his arm tremble at the sheer power he was holding. “Don't worry, Antoshi,” Latoshi said coldly, “I'll put you out of your misery quickly. That's just how benevolent I am.”

Antoshi trembled and clenched his teeth. ‘Damn it, not again,’ he thought. ‘I have to fight back, but … in my condition, he can just put me down if I even try to move. I can't run; I can't defend myself. He has the advantage. I'm not sure what moves I have left here. It's over for me…’

Fireball suddenly raced toward them. "Antoshi!" he called out. Serenity continued to remain behind, watching from afar.

Latoshi turned to the Typhlosion, scowling. “So, your little pet did come with you.”

Antoshi panicked, uncertain of which way Fireball was coming from. “Fireball, no!” he exclaimed, in a raspy tone. “Get away from here, now!”

Latoshi shifted the aim of his palm from Antoshi to Fireball. “A little target practice, huh? Why not.”

The Typhlosion gasped in shock, just before Latoshi fired a blast of energy at him. The resulting, large explosion sent Fireball soaring backward — right into the arms of Serenity, who caught him just before he hit the ground. As with Antoshi, Fireball's weight was like nothing to her.

She laid him down, letting his head rest on her lap. Fireball's body was littered with injuries, groaning in pain, just as Antoshi was. Latoshi narrowed his eyes in confusion, left to wonder who the girl was. He correctly assumed that she was the girl that informed Antoshi about Lazarus, but, he had no idea how she could know, or anything else about her.

“Just stay put, Fireball,” Serenity spoke, gently. “I can heal you like before.” Her irises and hands glowed with the pink hue of her aura. She started to treat Fireball's wounds, simply by resting her hands on his chest.

"Antoshi is … going to die!" Fireball said, his eyes welling with tears. "Please — you have to save him! I know you can!"

Serenity offered him no response, only watching the scene unfold with the same, seemingly detached demeanor.

“It's okay, Antoshi,” Latoshi said, turning his attention back to him, “you're just a failure. You did a lot better this time, but, once again, you're nowhere near as good as I am. Don't worry, though. Once you're dead, I'll make good on my promise and kill everyone you know so that they don't have to grieve over you.”

Antoshi gasped in a mix of horror and rage. The engine, which had been stalled out from Latoshi's assault, began to sputter back to life, and shift into overdrive. His blood felt like like it was boiling, his body surging with power. A sudden, massive rush of Ki swelled to life within him. The resulting wave of pressure was enough to cause Latoshi to stumble backward. The sable-haired boy grunted, shielding his eyes with one arm, as he looked on in bewilderment.

Antoshi was actually rising to his feet.

“Latoshi, …” he said, his voice trembling, clenching his fists tight, “You're not … going to have your way again!” His vengeful cry was accompanied by another wave of spirit pressure that pushed Latoshi back even further. Latoshi snarled in frustration, struggling to keep his footing. “I'm not going to let this go on any longer! I won't let you hurt anyone else — especially not my family!!” His red aura exploded in a wild frenzy that was beyond anything the others had witnessed from either of the two. All of the muscles in his body tensed, visibly bulging around his lean frame.

"Whoa!" Fireball exclaimed, shielding his eyes. ‘Strong emotions tend to heighten a person's spirit,’ he recalled Serenity explain to them. ‘Strong emotions tend to heighten a person's spirit and can, therefore, make the strength of your spirit energy explode in a pinch — like gasoline on a fire.’

Antoshi's aura whirled and surged brightly far outside his body. His bitter, glaring eyes glowed intensely as he slowly opened them. Latoshi looked on in disbelief. Antoshi had regained his eyesight. It was as if every bit of damage he'd done to Antoshi had been undone.

“What's happening?!” Latoshi shouted. ‘This—this pressure! It's unreal! How … when did he gain all this power?!’

'I don't remember Antoshi ever being this strong!' Fireball exclaimed, in thought.

“Finally,” Serenity remarked with a smile, “he's discovering how to tap into the energy of his emotions.”

Latoshi turned his gaze to Fireball and Serenity. With a devious grin, he held out an open hand toward them. Antoshi's eyes went wide in shock.

“So much for all that power you have,” he exclaimed, firing a large blast of energy. “I can just exploit your weaknesses instead!”

As the attack neared, Serenity calmly closed her eyes, while Fireball panicked and shielded himself.
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