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Old November 28th, 2018 (2:56 PM). Edited 3 Weeks Ago by Antoshi.
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Antoshi Antoshi is offline
Peaceful Serenity
     
    Join Date: Oct 2004
    Gender: Male
    Nature: Jolly
    Posts: 112
    Intervention

    After being viciously beaten and nearly killed, a bitter Antoshi is driven by revenge. However, he soon meets a young woman that reveals a surprising revelation about the memory-deprived Latoshi.

    Author Notes
    1) This is the third story in a series. 'A Blond Ray of Sunshine' is the first and 'Sibling Rivalry' is the second. You can choose whether or not to read those first — it's totally up to you.
    2) All general replies (“nice story”, “can't wait for the next chapter”) are cool, and 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!

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

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

    *****

    Chapter 1

    A scream, echoing in the forest. The sounds of explosions around him. The smell of blood. Wracking pain. The image of his Typhlosion, Fireball, near death.

    Fireball, no!’ he 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,” Latoshi said. “Let's make this world so much better by cleansing it of evil.”

    “I already know how to make the world better,” Antoshi spat, “by cleansing it of you!”

    He and Latoshi shouted as they rushed toward each other.

    Antoshi gasped, jolting back to reality. He remembered where he was: the hotel room they were staying, far away from the site of the battle between him and Latoshi.

    Only a couple of days had passed since 13-year-old Antoshi's fight with Latoshi. He'd not gotten much sleep since then; relegated to passing daydreams. His thoughts had been consuming him and drawing him into dreamlike dazes. Each daydream caused him to relive the horrors of their fight time and time again. The brutal extent of their confrontation rendered him unable to think about much else.

    Sitting the edge of a messy bed, he looked over at Fireball. The Typhlosion stood staring out through the room's large windows, high above eastern Goldenrod City. It was a bleak afternoon; the sky cloudy and overcast.

    The duo opted to lay low for a while, keeping put in their room. Their exploration of the city — and their Johto journey as a whole — was on hold. 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 a 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.”

    Fireball took a seat on a second bed just across from Antoshi. His gaze met with Antoshi's brown eyes.

    "Antoshi, you can't blame yourself over this…."

    “I can't help it. I know I'm the only one who can stop him.”

    The Typhlosion turned his pained 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."

    “I can't get back to traveling yet. I have to deal with Latoshi first.”

    "I know, but … what? What can we do? You heard him before, he kept saying he had all this training and experience. He … he beat you … badly."

    Antoshi cut his eyes at Fireball.

    “I know he beat me, Fireball,” he said, raising his voice, “you don't have to keep reminding me, okay?”

    "I—I'm sorry, Antoshi. I didn't mean to …" he trailed off, unable to find the words.

    The mood turned quiet again for a short time. Fireball sighed, looking at the Poké Ball in Antoshi's hands. He reached out and grabbed it, smiling to his friend. Fireball's body was quickly reduced to a reddish light, pulled into the open ball before it promptly snapped shut.

    Antoshi gazed at it, the ball gently wobbling. The front button glowed red and blinked for a moment. Once it stopped glowing, the new home of his best friend and only Pokémon was officially sealed.

    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'm not going to fight you,’ he recalled saying to Latoshi.

    Good!’ Latoshi had replied back. ‘That'll make killing you so much easier.

    Antoshi got into a fighting stance, raising his fists. He grunted, throwing a few straight punches in the blink of an eye. He expressed bitterness, gazing forward. He found himself back in the forest, envisioning Latoshi standing before him with the same arrogant smile.

    Well, so much for this little fight you decided to put up,’ Latoshi had said to him. ‘It was okay, but in the end the person with any real training won here.

    Antoshi narrowed his eyes, Latoshi's words sinking in. He stood up straight, eyes widening at 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 stern 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, following Antoshi as they exited the room.

    The mood continued to be unusually quiet and tense. Antoshi had become somewhat distant toward Fireball ever since the fight with Latoshi. A gloomy air hung over the boy.

    Outside of their hotel, Antoshi marched eastward through the city streets toward an unknown destination. His irises glowed brightly with the red hue of his spirit energy, eyes fueled with determination. Fireball remained behind his friend as opposed to his typical designation by the boy's side.

    Soon, the city's Gym came into view. Fireball's eyes lit up, gasping in elation.

    "Here it is! Goldenrod City Gym!" Fireball stopped in front of the white pathway leading to the doors of the large, yellowish building with an eager grin upon his face. "Man, I can't wait to—"

    He looked over to his friend, but Antoshi was still walking away. Fireball quickly chased after him.

    "Antoshi? The Gym's over here!"

    “We're not going to the Gym.”

    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. He finally came to a halt.

    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 believe you'll find it wise to reconsider my offer.

    "So, … what are we doing out here in the woods?" Fireball asked, bringing Antoshi back to reality.

    “Training,” Antoshi replied calmly.

    "Oh, sweet!" Fireball remarked 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. Fireball was left confused once again. The boy stretched out his neck and rubbed his hands together. “I'm the one who's getting training.”

    "… Huh?" Fireball uttered, bewildered.

    Antoshi turned around to face his friend, stepping a few paces back.

    “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, Latoshi is out there getting stronger. He's scheming, plotting, waiting to attack us again. He could very well be watching us right now.

    "Antoshi …" Fireball said. "Is this … really the right call? Are you really going to try 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 that he did beat me … badly. Just like you said earlier. 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 … it was on a whole different level I couldn't even comprehend.”

    "I thought that you wanted to try to … well, 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 power.” He spread his stance a bit, loosening himself up. “Now, let's train. Come at me.”

    Fireball looked at his friend with a deep concern in his eyes. He sighed, looking away for a moment before nodding in acknowledgment.

    Fireball made the first charge at Antoshi. He growled and swiped 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."

    “There's no 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. Antoshi took a few paces back and gestured for him to come forth.

    With a bitter growl, Fireball rolled himself into a ball. He revved in place like a spinning tire. The fires on his back came to life and ignited his entire frame. He took off in an instant.

    Antoshi's eyes glowed bright red, clenching his teeth. He leapt over Fireball's first attack. The Typhlosion quickly spun around to come at him again with greater speed than before. He side-stepped the next pass, and the one after it. After which, Fireball's speed continued to increase to a phenomenal pace.

    Antoshi braced himself, holding both hands out. He grabbing the spinning Typhlosion, his feet digging into the ground from the impact. The intense flames seared at his hands. He strained with effort, being pushed back by the force of Fireball's attack. However, he managed to slow Fireball's momentum to a complete halt.

    The flames on Fireball's back went out. Antoshi took a few steps back. Fireball leapt up into a standing position.

    "You okay, Antoshi?" he asked.

    Antoshi calmly inspected the ash collected on the flesh of his trembling palms before patting them clean. His skin had ended up raw and red from the heat of the flames.

    “Yeah,” he 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 don't have to do this whole 'training' thing."

    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 defeat. “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 and grinned slightly.

    “I'm aware of the irony in that.” Antoshi guarded his face with his forearms. “Keep on hitting me and don't hold back.”

    Fireball shook his head and groaned. 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 strikes. The pain 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 threatening the lives of others.’ He shut his eyes tight, his arms glowing bright with his red energy. ‘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 Latoshi's madness….’

    ***

    Antoshi was not the only one focused on training, however. At the southern end of Goldenrod City, not far from where they had fought, Latoshi was also honing his skills within the seclusion of the woods. He stood still, his eyes closed, breathing calmly. His blackish 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 and gave a long shout. His aura flared wildly, extending further out around his body.

    'Concentrate,' Lazarus said.

    The boy's expression turned bitterly serious. A large multitude of energy orbs, each about the size of his fists, suddenly burst from Latoshi's aura and hovered around him. Latoshi broke his focus to look all around at them in awe.

    “Whoa,” he said. “That's unreal.”

    He brought a hand up, which caused some of the orbs on that side to move up in time. He gasped, waving his hands around, prompting the orbs to do the same.

    He smirked confidently, thrusting both hands forward. The energy he'd summoned responded by shooting out in front of him. He kept his sense of amazement as his attack 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.

    'Impressive. You successfully improvised a new technique. Your fight with Antoshi strengthened your abilities far quicker than your meditation ever could. You truly have excellent potential, Latoshi.'

    He curiously gazed down at his hands.

    “I don't feel much stronger,” he remarked, summoning some of his energy to his clenched fists.

    'Of course not,' Lazarus snapped. Latoshi furred his brow in concern. Lazarus quickly lightened his tone. 'This is your new baseline of power. It would not feel any different for you.'

    “Well, if you say so.” Latoshi put his hands in his pockets and casually strolled through the destruction he'd 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 something wrong?'

    “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' punishment system against him. He let out a scream of agonizing pain, covering his ears, falling to his knees.

    'I told you not to disobey me anymore, did I not?' Lazarus calmly spoke over the horrible noise.

    Latoshi gasped as 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.

    'Let me tell you what is 'necessary': you putting your full faith in me. I will not lead you astray. Antoshi is weak — he is unskilled, and 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 as 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 sky. The duo's roles had reversed as they continued to train in the woods. Antoshi was on the offensive, while Fireball dodged away from each of Antoshi's punches and kicks. He was struggling to land a strike on his battle-hardened Pokémon, yet remained ever persistent.

    As they pressed on, Antoshi's speed gradually began to make significant progress. That improvement came with an intensifying red glow in his eyes, which was brought about by the memories of Latoshi that haunted him constantly.

    You're way too emotional — you cry all the time like a little baby,’ Latoshi remarked in his memory. ‘Killing you seems like a waste of energy now.

    Antoshi was still not able to tag his target. The constant failure was wearing on him. He gave a frustrated yell as his red aura exploded to life around his body. In an instant, he grabbed Fireball by his 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 his friend.

    He and Antoshi sat down in front of each other. The boy was crestfallen.

    "We've been training like this for hours. Maybe … we should take a break for now. Besides, it's a miracle that nobody's come by here yet and saw 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 know, 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,” he joked. Fireball grinned in response. “Still, food sounds good right about now.”

    The two of them stood up, idly brushing at the dirt and scuff marks littering their bodies.

    "You got a little something right here," Fireball remarked, pointing at some 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,” he said as he and Fireball began to walk away. “Better call Mom and Dad, too. They probably want to know what we're up to in Goldenrod.”

    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 two as they ended their training session for the day. She turned and headed off in her own direction.

    ***

    After having cleaned up and eaten, the duo headed back to their hotel room. Antoshi appeared visibly nervous as he sat in front of 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 dialed Antoshi's parents.

    “There's our amazing Pokémon Trainer!” his mother greeted him just as the call connected. Both she and his father waved to them.

    “Hi, Mom. Hi 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 … ah, 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, so you two will have tons of things to do and see there!” his mother said.

    “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 appeared surprised at the remark. “I just wanted to tell both of you 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! 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 everything,” 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. I've been thinking about both of you a lot lately.”

    “Being homesick is very unlike you, son,” his father said. “Even still, it's no problem. 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 pondered a response for a moment as he rhythmically drummed his fingers across the videophone's desk. He scoffed in amusement.

    “I'm lying to my parents.…” he muttered. “All to keep this 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. Antoshi shook his head. “I hate this feeling, Fireball. I just want this nightmare to be over….”

    "So do I," Fireball said, placing a reassuring claw 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 as 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?"

    “Feel free to hang out wherever you like,” Antoshi replied with a chuckle. “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.”

    "I understand."

    “By the way, I may have heard there's a buffet happening in the lobby of the hotel today.”

    Fireball's eyes lit up like fireworks at the very thought of buffet eating. He quickly headed for the door, pushing Antoshi in front of him.

    "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 and shut the door behind him.

    ***

    That night, Latoshi was intensely focused on his meditation with his dark aura calmly flickering 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. 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 enough to block it. Latoshi clenched his teeth as Antoshi followed up with a kick to his chest 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. In his vision, he produced the same mass of hovering energy orbs around him as before. Antoshi appeared 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 suddenly broke his concentration.

    “Cory!” a woman called out in the distance. Latoshi's eyes shot open in surprise. He turned toward the source, his eyes slowly scanning the nearby woods.

    No one was there.

    He looked around while getting to his feet. “Cory!” 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.

    ‘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 eager grin. “I think … I just might be remembering my past.”

    '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 quickly cut him off. “You told me before that my memories would come back in time. Now that they may 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 noticeably angrier. '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' question came with the creeping sound of low ringing in the boy's ears. He obliged Lazarus once more, 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?'

    Latoshi scowled, bitterly pursing his lips.

    “Yes, Lazarus,” he replied.
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    Old December 13th, 2018 (7:35 PM). Edited 4 Weeks Ago by Antoshi.
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    Antoshi Antoshi is offline
    Peaceful Serenity
       
      Join Date: Oct 2004
      Gender: Male
      Nature: Jolly
      Posts: 112
      Chapter 2

      Several days later, the duo were still checked in to the same room. Fireball awoke in his bed to the smell of food. With the dim, early morning sun peering in through the curtains, he looked over at Antoshi's bed.

      It was empty. The boy was gone — again. In his place, a breakfast plate rest 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.

      Once finished, 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 another and back. He was clearing several hundred meters in heartbeats — not unlike what Latoshi had previously done when they first met.

      "You're at it really early today," Fireball spoke as he approached. Antoshi broke his focus, coming to a halt and 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. I still haven't been getting much sleep. I woke up super-early this morning, brought you some food, and headed out here right after.”

      He turned away and balled his fist tight, his body surging with the red energy of his aura. He gave a shout and threw a punch as hard as he could. The forest's foliage swayed before him, as though a sharp breeze had passed. His aura flickered intensely, energy exuding off of his fist.

      "Whoa," Fireball remarked. "You sure have learned how to use your energy a lot better."

      “Thanks.”

      Antoshi reached down and grabbed a towel he'd brought from the hotel room to wipe the sweat from his face.

      “I am more comfortable with using my energy offensively. 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. None of that's going to help me very much.”

      "What are you going to do?"

      “The one thing I've ever been good at — learn.”

      "Oh, no," Fireball remarked, horrified. "Don't tell me …"

      “That's right. I'm gonna head back to the room to wash up and then it's off to … the library.

      Fireball covered his ears and shut his eyes.

      "No! Not books! Anything but books!"

      Antoshi smiled, patting his friend's side as he walked off.

      “Come on, you. Books never hurt anybody.”

      "That's not true," Fireball said as he followed alongside his friend. "There was that one time when a book on your shelf hit me on the head."

      “Oh yeah, you're right! I forgot about that.”

      "Antoshi, wait up a second."

      The two came to a sudden halt. Antoshi curiously turned to his friend.

      "I just want to say 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 appeared confused. "You're 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,” Antoshi replied with a nod. “I'm sorry again for losing myself recently. This … fight with Latoshi is the only thing I've been able to think about. I can barely feel Latoshi's energy all around me at all times. It's so … faint, but it's there — 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 before they continued on back to their hotel room.

      ***

      After Antoshi had a shower and a change of clothes, the two headed out for the library only a couple of blocks away. Fireball followed Antoshi around as the boy curiously browsed the aisles. He picked up several books on martial arts, as well as self-defense. He placed them on an empty table before going back to find some more.

      With a few small stacks of books in front of him, Antoshi started to read through them. Fireball, meanwhile, meandered around the library, trying to find anything to entertain him in the incredibly quiet building. Once he was out of options, he headed back to Antoshi and sat next to him.

      "Why didn't you use a computer to look up the stuff you wanted?" Fireball asked, his voice hushed.

      Antoshi casually pointed a thumb behind him.

      “That's why.”

      Fireball looked over and saw not only every computer terminal occupied, but also a line of people waiting for them to free up.

      "… Oh."

      Antoshi softly laughed.

      “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 and turned into hours. Antoshi was fully engrossed in his reading, setting each book aside as he finished them. At various points, he looked at two different books simultaneously to compare information. Fireball gradually slumped over more and more in his seat 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 got up and eagerly 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 in the sky littered with puffy clouds. The duo stretched their arms high, taking a deep breath of the outside air.

      “It's a nice day out,” Antoshi remarked as they set off for the nearest crosswalk. “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 and down the pathway before them that led into the 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; from joggers along the path, people sitting together on the grass, and a young man playing fetch with his Growlithe.

      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 surprise to hear his friend say such a thing. Antoshi was too busy reading his book to notice.

      “Did you know that, 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 to begin with.”

      "You seem pretty excited about this whole 'fighting' thing."

      “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 that I'm happy 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 him. “Want to battle?”

      They both looked to each other with the same expression of elation they always had before battling.

      “You up for it?” Antoshi asked. Fireball smirked confidently and nodded.

      "When am I not?"

      Antoshi slipped a Furret-shaped bookmark into his book and closed it. Fireball eagerly took position a few meters in front of Antoshi, standing between him and the youngster.

      “Cool beans, dude! That's only the third Typhlosion I've ever seen — and I've lived in Johto my whole life!”

      “Well, I think you'll find that Fireball here is the best Typhlosion you've ever seen, too.”

      Fireball's eyes lit up, turning to his friend with an enthused grin at the sound of 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 thing's never change,” he remarked.

      Gabriel tossed out his first Pokémon from the confines of its ball: a Gurdurr. The stocky, muscular Pokémon gave a cry, pressing a large steel girder over its head for a moment before holding it at its side.

      “So, are you ready to battle or what?” he asked. Folding his arms across his chest, he flashed Antoshi a cocky smirk.

      Antoshi's eyes widened in shock. The way Gabriel smirked recalled 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 before raising its arms up and giving a long shout. Mysterious orbs of energy appeared high over Fireball. The orbs solidified into rocky boulders that rained around on him.

      “Fireball, keep moving!” Antoshi said.

      "Finally getting a good stretch in after all that sitting!" Fireball remarked as he sprinted on all fours.

      The heavy boulders slammed down to the ground, each one missing Fireball by a short distance but began closing in fast. Antoshi studied the boulders carefully.

      “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 the massive rock before him. He inhaled deeply before opening his maw to blast a powerful stream of fire at the Gurdurr.

      “Gurdurr — defend!”

      Gurdurr quickly held on to the back of its girder as the metal beam shielded and deflected the flames.

      “Full breath, Fireball!” Antoshi said.

      Fireball shut his eyes tight, pouring out as much fire as he could give with a single breath. The girder quickly glowed red-hot. Before Gabriel's eyes, the metal bent and melted. Gurdurr shouted in shock, dancing around in a panic as the intensely hot flames lapped around its feet and sides.

      Once Fireball's attack finished, the Typhlosion inhaled deeply. He sighed 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 sides.

      Gabriel had a look of concern as his gaze shifted between his Gurdurr and 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!” he said, holding 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 black-furred demonic dog. His mind immediately recalled the horrors brought about by Lucent — the undead aspect Latoshi seemingly had control over.

      Fireball, too, was not terribly happy to see a Houndoom so soon after Lucent. 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 in another plane of reality, unable to respond as he stared at the opposing Pokémon.

      “Aha, 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 out of its nostrils before its body was enveloped in flame. It darted swiftly toward Fireball while Gabriel looked on with pride.

      ‘Flame Charge isn't Houndoom's best attack, 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 still mesmerized — frozen in place at the sight of the Houndoom rushing toward them. The memories of Lucent's attacks on Fireball haunted him once more. He recalled Lucent lurching toward Fireball, and how he intervened to shield the Typhlosion with his own body. The smell and the sight of blood running down his arm followed after.

      Fireball,’ he recalled his words after his friend had been knocked unconscious by Latoshi. ‘Come on, Fireball. … Please wake up!’‘How perfect having both of you together like this,’ Latoshi had said, ready to strike the two with blasts of energy.

      Fireball was about to be struck by the Houndoom's Flame Charge. He turned around in concern, and gasped at the sight of his friend suddenly enveloped in his red aura.

      It'll be like shooting fish in a barrel!’ Latoshi said.

      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 the two Pokémon. Both Pokémon spotted the attack just before the resulting explosion knocked them both 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 said, 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, collecting falling dirt, debris and rubble. He 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 as quickly as he could.

      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 the book from the library, continuing to read and study it in silence as he lay on his bed. Fireball passed the time by resting, looking out the window, and eventually turning on the television.

      Antoshi sighed, closing his 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 reported said. The duo's eyes widened. “Witnesses say some sort of explosive ordnance detonated in an area where two, young Pokémon 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 gawked as he looked up at his friend in disbelief.

      “You want me to tell them that I did that?”

      "Of course," Fireball said, turning to his friend with a smirk. "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 his remark for a moment.

      “That's … surprisingly clever,” Antoshi said, grinning. “The story is way too insane. They'll think I'm crazy and leave me alone. Although, … right now, I definitely am going crazy.”

      The boy sighed as he rolled over onto his back and stared 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'm unable to 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….”

      ***

      That night, Latoshi was in the midst of his meditative training once again. However, his thoughts were distracted.

      ‘Who is 'Cory'?’ he thought, furring his brow. ‘Is it someone I knew? Someone … I was close to? Was it … me?’ He growled softly. ‘If I could just remember. … If I could remember that woman's voice. She was calling out. 'Cory.' … 'Cory.'’

      Cory!

      Latoshi gasped at the sound of the woman's voice again. He immediately sprang to his feet, looking around. There was no one nearby. He closed his eyes and clenched his fists.

      ‘Concentrate,’ Latoshi thought. ‘Try to remember. Remember … Cory. …’

      Cory!” the woman exclaimed.

      Latoshi suddenly recalled the mental image of a woman with long, wavy blonde hair. Latoshi gasped again, trembling. It was a breakthrough unlike anything he'd had before.

      The woman was angry. She was angry at him. He walked up to her as she stood at the front door of a house, trying to get past her. She blocked the doorway, and he responded by angrily pushing her aside.

      Cory, that's enough!” she said.

      Stop it now!” a man next to him shouted, trying to grab his arm. He immediately yanked his arm away and stormed up the nearest flight of stairs.

      Get lost!” it was his voice. “I don't listen to you! You're not even my real parents!

      Cory!” 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, punching his fists into the dirt as he wept.

      ‘Damn it,’ he thought. 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 said, falling back into a sitting position. “You … can hear my thoughts?”

      'Of course. I've 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 couldn't help himself from chuckling.

      'Ah, I knew this would happen eventually. I knew the truth would have to come out.' 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 with rage.

      'The truth is … you never had 'amnesia.' I've been blocking your memories and holding them hostage.'

      Latoshi felt the wind 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 in amusement, 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? 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 never had a moment of privacy 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 mischievous little child. 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 will 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! Please, don't take away my memories!”

      'Oh, too late for that, Latoshi — I cannot let you know of my plans for you! I did not want to have to resort to this because I like your personality, but you left me no choice! Now, get stronger for me, my puppet! Dance for me as I pull on your strings!!'

      Lazarus' cackling echoed through his head as he stared blankly at the sky. 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.

      Latoshi mindlessly stumbled and fell onto his behind, continuing to stare listlessly for a short time.

      'Now then,' Lazarus' voice spoke again, as calm as it usually was. '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 sick smile slowly crept across Latoshi's lips. With aplomb, he rose back to his feet, gazing off into the distance of the city.

      '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,” he remarked. “I feel like I've got a ton of pent-up frustration that needs to be taken out on someone.”

      Latoshi levitated high into the air. He began to soar around the city, looking for any individuals whom he deemed unworthy to live.

      ***

      Latoshi scoured dozens of miles of city streets from high above. Frustration began setting in, as all turned out to be far quieter and peaceful that night than he wanted.

      '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 heinous people? Those with cruel hearts?”

      His eyes lit up when he found 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 with excitement 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, and sound detection — even outside. Whatever plan you decide to do, make sure it is something their normal human eyes cannot detect.'

      “I should use my Ki,” he remarked, holding his palm upward as he summoned a floating ball of black energy. “Those disgusting creeps in the military base couldn't see my Ki.”

      '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 flared around his body. He held his palms out toward the prison walls.

      “Knock, knock,” Latoshi muttered before firing a large blast of energy.

      The attack caused an explosion that ripped through the solid concrete, shaking the entire compound, crumbling a massive section of the wall.

      Distant screaming from inside the building followed. Alarms rang out through the prison almost immediately.

      “Security breach!” a voice said over the intercom channel. “Southeast corridor security breach!”

      “Now, then,” Latoshi remarked, carefully watching the compromised section of the building, “how many of you scum want to party?”

      He waited patiently as the cloud of dust started to settle. His eyes lit up with excitement when he saw a prisoner wearing a yellow jumpsuit climb over the rubble and head toward the first barbed wire gate. The field he ran through was particularly long and easy to spot by the guard towers. 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.

      “Just like cockroaches,” Latoshi remarked as he descended toward the ground. “Don't worry, I'll give you an early release from your sentences.”

      The first man panted heavily, scrambling closer to the first gate. Latoshi landed before 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, before Latoshi dashed past him. He just barely nicked the man's neck with a hand that raged with his dark energy, but it was more than enough to slice his throat like the edge of a razor-sharp blade.

      The man's eyes went wide with horror, clasping the open wound with both hands. He fell to the ground, choking and gagging, while Latoshi went after his next victim.

      He rushed toward a very brawny man near the first wall. Latoshi grabbed him by his jumpsuit and threw him with such force into the metallic wall that he was immediately finished off by the impact. His body dented the wall before slumping to the ground.

      Latoshi turned around and wildly fired blasts of energy at the groups of fleeing prisoners. The ones that were unfortunate to be struck had their bodies, or part of them, instantly burned to ashes on contact.

      The guards in the towers had finally noticed the prison break, but were too perplexed by the sight of the prisoners quickly dying off to react.

      He moved through the rest of the escaping people, 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, there was an emptiness in his eyes. An emptiness that only became worse as his rampage continued.
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      Old 4 Weeks Ago (12:29 PM). Edited 3 Weeks Ago by Antoshi.
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      Antoshi Antoshi is offline
      Peaceful Serenity
         
        Join Date: Oct 2004
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        Chapter 3

        The following morning, Fireball awoke in his bed with a noisy yawn as he stretched. He sat up, sighing in content. The early morning sun peered in through the drawn curtains.

        "What a really nice morning," he remarked. "Guess there wasn't any worry about the police questioning you, huh?"

        He turned to Antoshi, who stared back at him with a worried expression. Fireball quickly became concerned.

        "Antoshi? Are you okay?"

        “I sensed him,” the boy replied. “I finally sensed him. His energy was so clear to me last night. That same, rotten energy I felt before. I don't know what he did, but … it felt like he used a decent amount of his strength.”

        "What should we do?"

        Antoshi weakly chuckled.

        “Nothing now,” he replied as he got out from under the covers and sat up. “I have to be honest here, his energy seemed really intimidating. Whatever training he's been doing, … it's working out for him.” He let out a heavy sigh, quickly perking up and giving Fireball a reassuring smile. “But, now that means I have a better idea of where his strength is. I'll just have 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 at least want to watch!"

        “All right, fair enough,” Antoshi said, chuckling.

        The boy proceeded to call for room service to have their breakfast delivered to them. Antoshi got up and got dressed in his usual attire of a red shirt and blue jeans. As they waited for their food, the two friends joked and laughed, helping to lighten the dour mood they'd been having as of late.

        Once their food arrived, they sat a table and chairs in a small dining space to eat. 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 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 countless 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. There is some speculation that there may be multiple perpetrators at large, given the swiftness of how the scene unfolded. Officials tell me that these victims were all slain within a matter of less than a minute.”

        “Latoshi …” Antoshi muttered. Fireball looked to his friend, Antoshi's hand was trembling as he held his glass of orange juice. “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 are able to give 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 possible connection with the explosion at Sunset Park yesterday.”

        "You and Latoshi are making news reports for all the wrong reasons," Fireball remarked. Antoshi sighed and got up from his seat. "You okay?"

        “I'm fine,” Antoshi replied, retrieving his shoes 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 war Latoshi and I have.”

        "Yeah, I understand," Fireball said quietly. "This is all so terrible."

        “I better get started training as soon as I can,” Antoshi said. He got up and headed for the TV. Fireball quickly scarfed down as much food as he could.

        “City and regional officials are asking for the public's help. 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 prepared to put into practice the moves and techniques that he'd had learned in his books.

        ***

        A few hours had passed. 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 his towel and wiped the sweat off his face.

        "You've gotten way faster and way stronger already — and those moves you pulled off were really good. 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 definitely 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. “It's weird how, in order to keep others from getting hurt, I have to hurt Latoshi. It all seems so meaningless when I think about it like that.”

        "I know you'll beat him this time, Antoshi."

        “Maybe — I mean, I certainly hope so. Still, if there was a way I didn't have to fight him, I'd rather take that road instead. I'll gladly take a peaceful resolution over learning how to fight. At the same time, I still have … so much anger. I can 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 progressively brighter with the shimmering red hue of his Ki. He clenched his fists tightly, his aura erupting around his body. Fireball was taken aback by the sheer pressure given off by Antoshi'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. I refuse to let any more people get hurt.”

        "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 slowly faded from his body.

        “If that's what it takes to defeat Latoshi, then … I may just have to.”

        Antoshi got to his feet, walking away to resume his training. He threw a few rapid-fire combos of straight punches and jabs with intense speed that 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.

        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 quick, small shock waves.

        With no memories to distract him, he was solely focused on his task and nothing else.

        '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 Antoshi's nimble movements, following them relentlessly, striking at him with each opportunity for an opening. He grunted and growled with each subsequent attack, maneuvering in the same endless loop.

        'Good. Now use your Ki. Let him see how outclassed he is.'

        His irises glowed a shimmering black, summoning forth a quick barrage of energy blasts. He gave a loud shout before firing a final, much larger shot directly at his imaginary target.

        ***

        At that moment, Antoshi's eyes went wide. He stopped what he was doing, letting his arms fall at his sides. He attention was fixated elsewhere. 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.”

        Antoshi quickly marched back toward the city limits.

        "Well, 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's people around?"

        “I'll have to figure something out quickly,” Antoshi replied.

        The duo moved with purpose through the city streets, weaving around passersby and their Pokémon. Antoshi's stern serious stare as he fixated on his target contrasted with Fireball's nervous expression.

        They rounded a city block corner. Antoshi started to slow down, his eyes carefully scanning around the immediate area.

        ‘He's in that café,’ he thought, heading toward a small coffee shop in the middle of a strip of businesses.

        Antoshi barged through the door, the welcoming bell ringing sharply.

        All the faces inside stared at him in confusion. He walked further in, toward a quieter corner of the establishment. He clenched his fists, his eyes glowing red in anticipation of a confrontation that would surely happen in front of onlookers.

        He gasped in shock, his eyes wide in disbelief. He nearly crumbled to pieces upon realizing that it was not Latoshi that 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 kettle. She looked over at him with a warm smile. Her violet eyes brought back the image of her as he was fading in and out of consciousness.

        Fireball finally caught up his friend, left puzzled at the identity of the girl he was staring blankly at.

        “It's … you,” Antoshi remarked quietly. “Okay. … So you weren't a figment of my imagination.”

        “I assure you I am real,” she replied with a laugh. “Please, sit.”

        Antoshi remained in place, clenching his fists. He eyed the young woman suspiciously. She laughed again.

        “I promise you have nothing to fear from me. You don't have to stand on-guard like that.”

        “I do if you're working with Latoshi,” he said.

        The girl smiled and shook her head.

        “I don't work with anyone.”

        “You're not … going to fight me, too? Like Latoshi?”

        “Of course not. That would be 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 in a third seat between the two. The girl greeted him with a smile. He smiled back, still visibly confused as to what was happening.

        The girl took an empty tea cup from a holder on the table. She poured the contents of the kettle into the cup before sliding it over to Antoshi.

        “You look to be in good condition — physically,” she remarked. “You've definitely gotten stronger since the last time I saw you. Your spirit, though, is very unsettled.”

        Antoshi gazed down at the cup filled with tea in confusion before looking to her.

        “What is this?”

        “It's chamomile tea — 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 knowingly.

        “I understand this is all very confusing. You have a million questions.”

        “Yeah, try two million questions.”

        “My name is Serenity. I promise I'm not here to upset you or harm you. You were able to sense me because I output enough of my spirit energy for you to come here. I wished to bring you here to talk. I'm more than willing to answer the questions that are clearly stressing you out.”

        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 anger.”

        “You can … tell all of that just by looking at me?” he wondered aloud, looking at his body. “How are you even able to see my aura? I can't even see it.”

        “It is possible to see it, even now. 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 do. In time, once you get stronger, I think you'll be able to see what I see.”

        “Stronger,” he remarked in thought. “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.

        “Oh, right, I never told you. Sorry about that. Fireball, this is the person that healed our injuries after the fight with Latoshi — the same girl that I bumped into outside the Goldenrod train station.”

        Fireball's eyes lit up, turning to her in surprise. 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," Fireball muttered before whispering, "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 — it's 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 or even youki: the strength of your vital essence, and the ability to apply that strength in various ways.”

        “Oh,” Antoshi remarked, looking down at his open hands. “Well, how does spirit energy work?”

        “Spirit energy is, obviously, fueled by the spirit. Strong emotions tend to heighten a person's spirit and therefore can 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. However, it all depends on how these emotions are channeled that determines the weight of your 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 think you might 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, surprising him.

        “Is it … wrong for me to think that way?” he asked with guilt in his voice.

        “Yes,” she said, taking another sip of her tea. Antoshi 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 reason 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 something inside of him instead?”

        Antoshi furrowed his brow in thought.

        “… Lazarus?”

        “That's correct.”

        “But … that's a voice he said he hears in his head.”

        “Lazarus is more than 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 … parasite?”

        “Yes. As you already know, its name is Lazarus. It is a being of pure spiritual energy that seeks out hosts with spirit awareness. 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 and takes it 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's able to control its host.”

        Antoshi was left in a daze, as was Fireball. 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. Once I witnessed your struggle with Latoshi, it was critical for me to tell you that Latoshi is not the evil person you've been led to believe he is. He's 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 after 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; having only recently learned about your powers, learning about Lazarus, dealing it and with Latoshi. It's a lot to bear.”

        “Would you happen to also 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 — after all, 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?”

        “It seems that way. 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 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 determine your future. You and Latoshi both have a great power inside you. I know 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 have far more potential than you realize.”

        Antoshi's eyes widened with awe. She took another sip of tea.

        “Still, you've yet to see your true potential. You won't know it until something happens that causes you to push yourself to your limits, similar to how you said 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 of potential left to discover. You can become far stronger than you are now. It just depends on your mindset, your emotions, and your vigor. And, 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. Serenity smiled to the boy.

        “I can feel the sorrow in your heart, Antoshi.” 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, taking a final sip of her tea.

        “In exchange for all the information I told you, I want you to promise me something, okay?”

        “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 promise that?”

        Antoshi turned his gaze away for a moment. He bitterly recalled their fight; 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 smile crept into the corner of his lips for just a brief moment at the memory of 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 from the back of her chair and searched through it.

        “But … how? How can I help him?” he asked before she placed some money down on the table.

        “I know you'll find the best solution if you look into your heart,” she said in a gentle tone, giving him a warm smile. “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 glumly remarked.

        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're an excellent leader. You just need to take a step back, calm your thoughts, 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 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. … But if you mean about what she said, … 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."

        “I suppose all of that's true. It's just with all the insane stuff that's been happening lately, I can't help but think 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 to step up his attacks on the public. He pressed on with going after correctional facilities. He used a combination of his otherwise invisible Ki energy and his immense speed to remain undetected. He tore away walls and whole sections of compounds, leading to the deaths of a couple hundred more prisoners.

        As he kept on killing, there was a growing expression of regret in his eyes.

        Goldenrod was slowly starting to stir into a state of panic because of the attacks. Antoshi and Fireball learned of Latoshi's actions on the news. It drove Antoshi to push harder, each subsequent story fanning the flames of his spirit. From time to time, Serenity dropped in to watch from afar, curious to see how his training was progressing.

        Each day became tougher to bear on both boys. Antoshi was finally ready and prepared for confrontation, but he still lacked the means to detect Latoshi's presence.

        As evening fell, Antoshi could not remain content to stay in his room. He and Fireball made a deliberate tour around as much of the city as they could. Each night, they trekked further and further in all directions. Antoshi tried desperately to feel out Latoshi's energy anywhere nearby.

        ‘If he would just show himself already,’ Antoshi thought bitterly.

        The waiting was wearing on him, and on Fireball as well. Watching his friend in such a contemptuous mood was not something he enjoyed.

        Their search endeavors ended up the same for the duo every night: fruitless.

        The waiting was becoming unbearable for all the players in this game.

        Back in their room, Antoshi had decided to video call his parents to check in with them.

        “Antoshi,” his mother spoke with worry in her eyes, “are you doing all right? We've been hearing all these terrible stories about attacks in Goldenrod.”

        “I'm fine, Mom,” he reassured her with a nod and a weak smile. “It is a little scary, but … Fireball and I shouldn't be in Goldenrod for much longer anyway.”

        Fireball was surprised at his friend's remark.

        “You look so stressed, son,” his father said. Antoshi turned away, rubbing his eyes. “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 with a smile to his compadre.

        “Get some rest. 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 before smiling and nodding to them.

        “Thank you both,” he warmly replied, much to their delight.

        “Goodnight!” they both said before the call was ended.

        Antoshi sat in silence for a moment to reflect on what his parents said. 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?"

        “I have to go out again. I have to try and find him one more time. I'm not going to get much sleep tonight anyway so I might as well do something useful with my free time.”

        With a heavy sigh, he stood up and gazed out the window.

        "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 and out onto the streets in the early night hours. The streets were still fairly busy with people and their Pokémon passing on by them. 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 let this stress you out so badly."

        “I'm 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. Almost 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 they momentarily 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 traversed farther than they'd ever ventured out before.

        ***

        At the same time, Latoshi stood up from his meditation. He sighed in content as he stretched his neck out.

        'Excellent work,' Lazarus told him. 'Now, we should continue forth in our righteous crusade.'

        “I'm all for crusading,” Latoshi replied with a cheeky grin, “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 and will be expecting another attack 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.”

        Latoshi laughed in amusement as he took to the sky once again. He headed quickly in the direction of the beach, grinning from ear to ear. Sandy dunes and the gentle lapping of the ocean waves along the shore came into view.

        ***

        "I only wish there was some way I could help more," Fireball remarked.

        “You already are,” Antoshi reassured him with a smile. “Sticking with me, being my best friend, 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 shared a brief laugh. Antoshi soon 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 and—”

        Antoshi stopped suddenly, his eyes lighting up in shock and horror.

        “His energy,” he remarked. “I … I can sense it!”

        Fireball was taken aback.

        "Are you sure it's not Serenity again?"

        “No, I'm definitely sure. 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 at the edge of the city.

        “That way.”

        Both of them stood in place for a moment, taking in the realization that confrontation with Latoshi was imminent.

        "So, you found him," Fireball remarked. "Are you sure you're ready to go through with this … again?”

        Antoshi exhaled sharply, his hands trembling as he punched 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 know that by now.”

        "I know, I just … well, like I said before, I don't want to see you get hurt, Antoshi."

        “I've already been hurt by him — physically, mentally, emotionally. It was more pain than I could've ever imagined. I'm used to it now.”

        Fireball lowered his head and nodded.

        “Fireball, 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.”

        "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. Besides, she specifically said this is my fight to deal with. I have to face him myself, Fireball — that's what I trained 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. Now, you have to promise me you won't get involved, okay?”

        "… All right. I promise."

        Antoshi sighed, turning his attention to where Latoshi's energy was.

        “Well, 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 squatted down to let Fireball on. Fireball made sure no one was around to see them before wrapping his short forearms around Antoshi's neck. The boy hooked Fireball's legs under his arms and stood up, wearing the Typhlosion not unlike he would wear a backpack.

        “Looks like the calm is over — the storm's finally beginning. Time to find out if all that training paid off.”

        Antoshi took off an instant 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 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 said 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 had his hands stuffed in the pockets of his shorts as he strolled along the beach.

        “This is nice,” he remarked. “Very tranquil.”

        'Soon, it will all be yours,' Lazarus replied.

        Latoshi laughed.

        “Well, that's just true.”

        ***

        Antoshi slowed to a halt in the middle of an empty parking lot near the beach. Fireball groaned weakly as he stumbled onto his hind feet.

        "That was a little too fast for me to deal with," Fireball said, rubbing his eyes.

        “This is where I have to let you off. 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. He sighed heavily, his eyes welling up with tears.

        ***

        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 from within a thicket of tall beach grass. He held the girl by her wrists.

        “I can't let you go now!” he 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 evil individual right here on the beach.”

        “Get the hell out of here, kid,” the man said, brandishing a gun at him, “or you're next.”

        “Ooh, I don't want to be next!” Latoshi said playfully, jumping up and down as he waved his hand in the air. “Please, pick me right now!”

        The man looked at him in disgust.

        “What's wrong with you? You screwed up in the head or something? I'm saying I'm gonna blow your damn head off!”

        “Please,” the girl remarked, “d-don't get hurt because of me …”

        A cruel grin spread across the boy's lips.

        “Don't worry about it,” Latoshi replied, 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 the boy lifted him up slowly. The girl fell onto her seat, horrified by what she was witnessing.

        “Let … let go!” the man choked out, dropping his gun in order to claw at Latoshi's arm.

        “Sorry, not until you repay me,” Latoshi replied with a twisted grin.

        “Latoshi!” a voice called out to him.

        Latoshi froze in place, his eyes widening in surprise. He slowly turned to see Antoshi standing nearby.

        The sable-haired boy smiled, his eyes crazed with excitement.

        “Well, this is a 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 back to the struggling man, and sighed in defeat.

        “Okay, fine,” he replied before suddenly snapping his neck.

        Both Antoshi and the girl shouted in horror. Latoshi smirked, tossing the lifeless body near the girl. She screamed, scrambling to her feet and running away.

        “You can thank me later!” Latoshi said to her. He shook his head, turning his attention to Antoshi. “Can you believe the nerve of some people?”

        Antoshi clenched his fists, trembling with anger.

        “Why do you have to do this?” he asked. “What good does killing people bring?”

        “Well, 'hello' to you, too,” he joked. “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,” he said bitterly.

        “Yeah, I had a funny feeling you were going to say that. 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 figure came to a stop at a beach access pathway near them. It was a shorter figure wearing a long, old-fashioned trench coat, wide-brim fedora, and sunglasses that gleamed in the light of a nearby lamp post. The incognito figure watched the conflict between them from afar with great interest.
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        Old 3 Weeks Ago (10:41 AM). Edited 3 Weeks Ago by Antoshi.
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        Antoshi Antoshi is offline
        Peaceful Serenity
           
          Join Date: Oct 2004
          Gender: Male
          Nature: Jolly
          Posts: 112
          Chapter 4

          “Hello again, Fireball,” Serenity said warmly, standing next to him.

          Fireball jumped in surprise, looking at her in disbelief.

          'Whoa,' he thought, 'where the heck did she come from?'

          “Looks like the two of them are getting ready to square off again,” she remarked, gazing off in the distance. “You can't really see anything from here. Would you like to get closer 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. Fireball flailed momentarily in a panic while she guided him through the air.

          'She can fly too?!' Fireball thought.

          Serenity brought him over to the roof of a nearby building. They were in direct sight of where the two boys faced off.

          “This is much better,” Serenity remarked.

          Fireball nodded to her, his eyes wide with surprise. Serenity gave a gentle laugh.

          ***

          “What are you thinking?” Latoshi asked. “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?”

          Latoshi looked around with a smirk.

          “Come on out, pet!”

          “I already know about Lazarus,” Antoshi said. Latoshi turned to him and 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 got me, Antoshi! I—I feel myself coming back to normal! You saved me! Oh, you saved me!”

          Latoshi made an exploding noise with his mouth along with a bursting motion with his hands next to his head.

          Antoshi scowled while Latoshi laughed at him.

          “Gee, you sure have everything figured out, huh?” Latoshi asked in amusement. “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 narrowed his eyes.

          “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! I told you before, Lazarus taught me everything I needed to know to become free — and here I stand now, on the cusp of greatness.

          “You don't look all that great,” Antoshi said, “especially not with some voice telling you what to do instead of doing anything for yourself.”

          “I told you to shut your mouth!” Latoshi shouted in anger, his irises flashing black. “I'll 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 spared me. 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 spare you, you … escaped from me somehow at the end of the battle. I can't remember how.”

          ***

          “Something is wrong,” Serenity said, shaking her head. “I witnessed the battle between those two last time. Latoshi showed genuine concern in the moment just before he was about to kill Antoshi. He certainly would've remembered that, and yet he doesn't. … 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. Not to mention, how the heck can she even hear what they're saying from all the way up here?'

          ***

          “What do you mean you don't remember?” Antoshi asked. “You spared me and told me you left me with a 'parting shot.'”

          Latoshi furrowed his brow and looked away.

          ‘What is he talking about? I should be able to remember that.’

          'Antoshi is trying to distract you!' Lazarus snapped, surprising 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, which was swiftly avoided with a leap into the air. The blast exploded, causing a crater in the sand.

          Antoshi landed on his feet, looking back at the aftermath, then to Latoshi. The sable-haired boy still appeared panicked for a moment before he relaxed.

          “Nice try,” Latoshi said, giving 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. “It's still the same as it was the first time we faced off like this. I don't want to fight you, Latoshi. I never wanted to fight you.”

          “And, just as I made 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 … after I personally saw the good inside of you, that you would be so cold as to kill all those people?”

          “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 'crusade.'”

          “'Innocent?' Well, that's just silly. They were all degenerates 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 rightful ascension. 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.”

          “I can't believe 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.

          “Humor me 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 here — ones that don't involve senseless killing. You could use your powers and do so much good for people. That is something I would gladly work with you on.”

          Latoshi scoffed again.

          “You really think all those horrible people are worth saving?”

          “Yes.”

          “Still as naive as you were before. People never change, Antoshi. Your idea is a waste of time.”

          “Then that's where we disagree,” Antoshi said as he took his own battle stance. “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. 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 power before confrontation. The staredown between them lasted for a few moments, witnessed intently by Fireball and Serenity on the rooftop, and 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 flew at Antoshi in an instant. 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.

          ‘His strikes are 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 get the upper hand.’

          Latoshi suddenly darted behind Antoshi, taking him off-guard. Latoshi kicked his counterpart's back with intense force, sending him into the sand a short distance away.

          “Well, that was disappointing,” Latoshi remarked as Antoshi slowly climbed back to his feet. “I thought you were supposed to be stronger now.”

          Antoshi took a moment to brush the sand off his pants. Latoshi stood stall, smirking proudly.

          “I sure hope you weren't holding back just now,” Antoshi said, turning to his foe with a confident smile, “because that wasn't very impressive.”

          Latoshi appeared 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, launching himself toward Antoshi once again. Antoshi's eyes glowed brighter, opting not to defend, but evade. He continuously hopped backward, weaving back and forth — keeping just out of reach of Latoshi's swift, powerful punches. Latoshi clenched his teeth, shouting angrily as he put more effort into landing even a single blow. Antoshi's eyes remained open wide, carefully studying Latoshi's attack pattern.

          ‘Watch him,’ Antoshi thought, remaining calm and focused. ‘Watch his movements. That's how you'll beat him.’

          ‘What in 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 forth energy to his palm. Antoshi immediately reacted by leaping off to the side. Latoshi tracked his movements, firing a blast of energy at him. Antoshi responded by giving a shout, firing off his own energy blast to cancel it out. Their colliding energy exploded, creating a brief cloud of smoke.

          Using the smoke as a diversion, Latoshi once again darted behind his rival.

          “Remember this one?!” Latoshi shouted before throwing a punch at the small of Antoshi's back. His fist went directly through an image of Antoshi's body, making no contact.

          Latoshi was stunned.

          'Behind you!' Lazarus shouted.

          Before Latoshi could react, Antoshi landed a strike of his own to Latoshi's back. The sable-haired boy groaned in pain, hunched over while holding his back.

          “Yeah — I do remember.”

          Latoshi growled in a rage. He grabbed a handful of sand before slamming his fist into the ground.

          “Damn it!” Latoshi shouted, leaping back to his feet. He turned to Antoshi, scowling bitterly.

          “This isn't some game, Latoshi — 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, and what I'm capable of!”

          Latoshi took aim at his foe with open palms once more. 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 shielded 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 aura flickering wildly.

          'Antoshi is … flying?' Fireball thought. '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 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 blinked through the air all around him. Latoshi laughed, his voice coming from all directions.

          Antoshi's gaze snapped upward, throwing a jab that connected with Latoshi's own punch. They both appeared surprised, their fists in a deadlock. The two boys threw punches at each other that connected one after the other. Fists striking fists, they both gave shouts 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 obvious every time they strike one another. Latoshi is struggling to land a blow, but, when he does, the impact is much more intense than when Antoshi strikes. Antoshi is faster, but Latoshi is stronger. Speed versus power — it's an interesting dynamic. 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 attacks became much faster, managing to slip a punch through every so often that struck Latoshi's face and chest. Latoshi growled, incensed, suddenly grabbing Antoshi's fists. Antoshi was stunned, taken aback by enough grip strength to keep him in place.

          As they struggled in their test of strength, their shimmering eyes glared at each other. Their respective red and black auras clashed with each other; vying for dominance while sending flares of energy outward.

          Latoshi pulled him closer, ramming a knee into Antoshi's stomach.

          His eyes went wide, groaning as the wind was knocked out of him. Latoshi laughed, releasing him and kicking his chest hard enough to send him shooting toward the ground with a large impact.

          Antoshi coughed as he sat up. He held his abdomen, staring up at Latoshi who hovered there with a proud smirk on his face.

          ‘Testing his strength like that was definitely a bad idea,’ Antoshi thought. ‘I really do have to avoid his strikes as much as I can.’

          In an instant, Antoshi was airborne once again. He started to weave through the air, hovering around Latoshi in circles, using his superior speed to strike at him. Latoshi struggled to block or deflect.

          ‘He's like an annoying gnat!’ Latoshi thought.

          Latoshi 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 like 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.

          'Don't 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 as he looked at himself in the mirror. ‘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 not familiar with.

          'Pay attention!' Lazarus shouted at him.

          Latoshi gasped, holding up an arm to shield himself just as an energy blast collided with him. The subsequent explosion pushed him back slightly. He growled in frustration, glancing at the burn mark the attack left on his arm.

          He turned a cutting glare to Antoshi before flying at him. The two began a deadlock of punches and kicks. Both of them used their superhuman speed to avoid the other's strikes.

          ***

          Just then, Serenity noticed a couple of young people strolling across the beach together with a Pokémon. They were unknowingly heading in the direction of the fight. Her gaze immediately shifted to the other side of the beach, where another small group of people were also headed in the same direction.

          “That's not good,” Serenity remarked. Fireball curiously looked at her. “Antoshi must have told you to stay behind, didn't he?” Fireball nodded in response. “Unfortunately, there are innocent bystanders down there.”

          Fireball looked toward 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 almost certainly going to be killed if they get too close. … Fireball, I think there is a way you and I can help Antoshi during his fight. Here's what we'll do.”

          ***

          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 flares of colored energy. Antoshi was quickly on the losing end of the duel once again. He gave a loud shout, amplifying his aura and increasing his output to the point where they remained deadlocked.

          ‘Fireball?’ Antoshi suddenly thought as his eyes widened. ‘Serenity, too? Why are they both here? And why can I sense them? … It's not just them, either. There are … some other people around. People visiting the beach. I can't see them, but I know they're there. I'm totally aware of my surroundings and yet I'm still focused on this 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 have to lure Latoshi someplace where innocent bystanders aren't going to see us or get hurt.’

          Antoshi gave another shout, summoning forth blasts of energy to his palms. Latoshi looked on helplessly as the boy's red Ki shone bright. He gave a cry of pain as the explosion burned his hands.

          Antoshi used the momentary distraction to fly out 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 just far enough out of the bystanders' 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, prompting complaints from the Pachirisu on her shoulder.

          “We're fully aware of that, but unfortunately, a large toxic spill was just found on this beach and has been shut down by order of the Goldenrod City police.”

          The young woman appeared shocked. The young man, however, found her claims suspicious.

          “I don't see anyone else here,” the young man said.

          “That's because we've cleared the beach of any civilians. Cleanup crews are on the way.” Serenity insistently shooed the two away. “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 back around to leave. The Pachirisu turned to Serenity and stuck its tongue out.

          Serenity gently smiled, looking to the ocean where the two boys headed out.

          “Well, this area is extremely dangerous right now. That much is true.”

          She 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, quickly shuffling away. Serenity turned to leave as well, but stopped suddenly. She looked to the stranger with an inquisitive expression. She looked down at her palms, rubbing them together to remove some moisture. She gave the stranger one last glance before she took to the air to go meet up with Fireball.

          On the other side of the beach, Fireball ran out on all fours to greet the group of young kids.

          “Whoa, it's a Typhlosion!” one of them said, the others fawning over the rare sight.

          Fireball, however, glared menacingly at them. He slowly advanced toward them, growling loudly and baring his teeth, igniting the fires on his back. The kids stopped in place, watching Fireball stand on his hind legs. He took a deep breath and exhaled a powerful stream of fire onto the sand in front of them.

          “Watch out, that Typhlosion is wild!” 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 yelled at he closed the distance between himself and his foe. Antoshi turned around to face him just before Latoshi flew into him with a punch — and went through another after-image. Latoshi stopped, shocked.

          Antoshi flew down at him and delivered a powerful kick to the back of his head. Latoshi was sent into the water with an enormous splash.

          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.’

          Under the water's surface, Latoshi was fuming. A small school of Remoraid 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, barely making out Antoshi's image hovering in the air. He held his palms out, firing off another barrage of energy blasts that tore through the water.

          Antoshi was taken by surprise, shielding himself with both arms as the blasts collided with his aura and exploded. Latoshi took advantage of the distraction, appearing before Antoshi with a cruel smirk. He spun around, striking at Antoshi with an elbow. Antoshi barely managed to turn and block the attack, but was still sent soaring a short distance away from the impact.

          Latoshi quickly sped after him, breaking waves on the surface of the water. Antoshi came to stop, facing his foe who careened toward him. Latoshi threw 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 back toward the shore with a loud shout. Latoshi spiraled through the air for some time before regaining control. He hunched over as he hit the sand, his hand raking through it, sliding to a halt.

          Antoshi made his way back to the shore and stood before him. Latoshi stared down his counterpart with contempt.

          The bitter scowl on his face suddenly softened into that of amusement.

          He placed a hand on his forehead and started laughing hysterically. Antoshi stood unfazed, keeping a stern, serious expression.

          “You think you have the upper hand now, don't you?” Latoshi asked. “It's okay, that was a rhetorical question. Allow me to show you exactly why you're wrong.

          Latoshi threw his arms out to the side and began to summon his Ki forth. Antoshi took a defensive stance, while Latoshi's aura flared out intensely. Latoshi let out a loud shout, creating countless energy orbs hovering around him — the same attack he'd practiced.

          The others were equally stunned.

          “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.' Don't blink now!”

          Latoshi threw his arms forward, bringing his hands together. The mass of energy was sent careening toward Antoshi at blistering speed.

          Antoshi gasped, his eyes going wide and burning brightly with his energy. Rather than fleeing or defending, he instead charged into the swarm of Ki.

          He swiftly stepped, hopped, and pivoted around the blasts as they darted past him. Latoshi was immediately in shock from Antoshi's incredible speed and dexterity. The boy's body blurred in and out of the shifting field of black orbs, managing to evade every one of them.

          Latoshi's shock quickly turned to anger.

          ‘This can't be!’ Latoshi thought. ‘There's no way he's gotten this good!’

          Antoshi continued to weave in and out of the blasts. Latoshi clenched his shaking fists.

          ‘I won't let you, Antoshi. … I won't let you make a fool of me!!

          Latoshi shouted in rage, firing a much larger blast of energy in Antoshi's path. Antoshi gasped, unable to react in time. The attack exploded violently in his face, sending him flying backward into the sand.

          The blasts 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 slowly got back to his feet, his hands falling away to reveal burns around his tightly shut eyes. He groaned weakly, straining to open them.

          Fireball cried out in horror.

          “Aw, what's the matter, Antoshi? Can't see anything?” Latoshi said in a mocking tone, laughing. “Well then, this just got a whole lot more interesting.”

          Antoshi clenched his teeth, trembling in pain while taking a defensive stance. Latoshi laughed again at his foe's misfortune. With a cruel smirk, he shot toward Antoshi.

          Unable to see, Antoshi still sensed Latoshi's energy nearing. He was unable to react in time, his body 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 over the back of Antoshi's head, the boy shouting in pain as Latoshi viciously drove his opponent into the sand.

          In an instant, Latoshi kicked him across the beach. His body rolled across the sand, ending face-up. Latoshi kept up the pace of his assault, hovering over Antoshi and delivering hundreds of punches to his blond-haired rival in a matter of seconds.

          Latoshi laughed wildly as Antoshi's body was wildly thrashed and beaten. Antoshi groaned weakly once the barrage was finished. Latoshi, however, left one last statement in the form of a hard knee into his stomach once again. Antoshi croaked loudly, coughing up blood.

          Latoshi hovered himself back to a vertical base, proudly looking over his handiwork. Antoshi coughed weakly, holding his midsection with both arms.

          “Now, that's more like it,” Latoshi remarked. “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 and now, here you are, at my feet once again.”

          'End him this time,' Lazarus instructed. 'Do not let him rise from the ashes again!'

          Latoshi smirked as he held a hand out, summoning forth a large amount of Ki into his palm.

          “Don't worry, Antoshi,” Latoshi coldly said, “I'll put you out of your misery quickly. That's just how benevolent I am.”

          ‘Damn it, not again!’ Antoshi thought. ‘I have to fight back, but … in my condition, he can just put me down if I fight back! I can't run, I can't defend myself. He has the advantage. It's over. …’

          "Antoshi!" Fireball shouted as he raced toward the two boys.

          Latoshi immediately turned to the Typhlosion with a bitter scowl.

          “So, your little pet did come with you,” Latoshi said.

          “Fireball, no!” Antoshi exclaimed in a raspy tone. “Get away from here, now!!”

          Latoshi shifted his aim 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 explosion sent Fireball flying backward — right into the arms of Serenity, who caught him just before he hit the ground. She laid him down, letting his head rest on her lap.

          Fireball's body was littered with injuries, groaning in pain just the same as his friend had.

          Latoshi narrowed his eyes in confusion, left to wonder who the girl was.

          “Just stay put, Fireball,” she spoke gently. “I can heal you just like before.”

          "Antoshi is … going to die!" Fireball said, his eyes welling with tears. "Please — you have to save him!"

          Serenity offered him no response, only watching the scene unfold with a calm demeanor. Her hands glowed with the pink hue of her aura as she started to heal Fireball's wounds.

          “It's okay, Antoshi,” Latoshi said, “you're just a failure. You did a lot better this time, but once again you're nowhere near as good as I am. It's all right, though. Once you're dead, I'll kill everyone you know so that they don't have to grieve over you.”

          Antoshi's eyes went wide in a mix of horror and rage. Suddenly, a massive surge of energy within Antoshi's body swelled to life. The resulting wave of pressure was enough to cause Latoshi to stumble back a few steps.

          He looked on in bewilderment. Antoshi was rising to his feet.

          “Latoshi, …” he said, clenching his fists tight, “you … bastard!

          His vengeful cry was accompanied by another wave of spirit pressure that pushed Latoshi back further. Latoshi growled in frustration, struggling to keep himself rooted.

          “I'm not going to let this happen again! I won't let you hurt anyone else — especially not my family!!

          The aura around him exploded in a wild frenzy that was beyond anything the others had witnessed from either of the two boys.

          "Whoa!" Fireball exclaimed, briefly shielding his eyes.

          ‘Spirit energy is, obviously, fueled by the spirit,’ Fireball recalled Serenity explain to them. ‘Strong emotions tend to heighten a person's spirit and therefore can 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. However, it all depends on how these emotions are channeled that determines the weight of your spirit.’

          Antoshi's aura surged brightly far outside the frame of his body. His bitter, glaring eyes glowed intensely as he slowly opened them.

          Latoshi looked on in disbelief — Antoshi had regained his eyesight.

          “What's happening?!” Latoshi shouted.‘This—this pressure! It's unreal! How … when did he get this good?!’

          'I don't remember Antoshi ever being this strong!' Fireball exclaimed in thought. His wounds had already been fully healed, but he and Serenity remained in place for the time being.

          “Finally,” Serenity remarked with a smile, “he's learned how to tap into the energy of his emotions.”

          Latoshi briefly turned his gaze to Fireball and Serenity. With a devious grin, he held an open palm toward them. Antoshi's eyes went wide.

          “I think I just found your weakness, Antoshi!” he exclaimed before firing a large blast of energy at them.

          Serenity calmly closed her eyes as the blast neared. Fireball panicked and shielded himself.
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          Old 3 Weeks Ago (10:43 AM).
          Antoshi's Avatar
          Antoshi Antoshi is offline
          Peaceful Serenity
             
            Join Date: Oct 2004
            Gender: Male
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            Posts: 112
            Chapter 5

            Just as the blast neared, Antoshi appeared and intercepted it. He swatted the dark energy, sending it flying away and exploding harmlessly in the air.

            Serenity appeared pleasantly surprised at his speed.

            Fireball slowly peered over, curious of what happened. He gasped in shock upon seeing his friend standing tall before them.

            No!” Latoshi screamed, fuming with rage. ‘He seriously closed the gap between him and his friends before my shot hit them!?’

            “My friends are not a weakness, Latoshi!” Antoshi said. “They're my strength!”

            “Oh, you sound like such a walking cliche, you little boy scout!

            Antoshi calmly marched toward Latoshi.

            “You threatened my life,” Antoshi said, “the lives of my friends and those of my family. You tried to kill Fireball. You tried to kill me. Now, you're going to have to face the consequences.”

            “Consequences?” Latoshi replied with a scoff. “I'd love to see what kind of c—!”

            Before Latoshi could finish, Antoshi shot toward him and punched his cheek.

            At the point of impact, a tiny ember of Latoshi's black energy manifested inside Antoshi's aura.

            "Wow," Fireball remarked in awe. "Antoshi's fast."

            Antoshi yelled in rage as he gave Latoshi the same barrage of punches as he'd received earlier — multiplied tenfold. Thousands of punches rattled Latoshi around like a rag doll.

            ‘What the hell is happening?’ Latoshi thought, fading in and out of consciousness. ‘He shouldn't … be this strong!’

            Antoshi struck him hard enough to spike Latoshi into the ground. An eruption of sand billowed up around Latoshi, leaving him in a crater. That crater was further exacerbated when Antoshi fired off a hail of energy blasts that gradually propelled himself airborne.

            ‘This pain,’ Latoshi thought, the energy burning at his flesh, tearing at his clothes, ‘how could I be in so much pain? …’

            Antoshi's offensive came to a sudden halt. He landed on his feet, catching his breath for a moment. He, Fireball and Serenity quietly surveyed the aftermath.

            'Is … he dead?' Fireball wondered in concern.

            Antoshi walked up to the shallow pit he left Latoshi in. The sable-haired boy coughed, weakly propping himself up with his forearms.

            Antoshi coolly reached down and grabbed Latoshi by the throat. Latoshi struggled and choked, kicking and swinging at him in vain.

            Antoshi gave him a deathly serious glare.

            “You were right, Latoshi,” he said. “It really is nice to see your enemy in such a pathetic state. Now, I'm going to end your corrupt ways for good.”

            Latoshi spat in his face. Antoshi responded by punching him in the face hard enough to send him a short distance away. Antoshi walked toward him to continue his offense.

            Fireball and Serenity looked on in disbelief.

            'I can't believe it. Antoshi — my best friend. All this time you've had this inside of you. This power, this skill, … this rage. I've never seen you like this before….'

            ‘This is Lazarus' doing,’ Serenity thought, biting her lip. ‘Its evil influence is starting to corrupt Antoshi as well. I can only pray Antoshi realizes that before it's too late.’

            Latoshi grunted in frustration, shakily trying to will himself up once more. As he looked to Antoshi again, he suddenly recalled the memories of when the two of them and Fireball took a stroll around Goldenrod City together.

            ‘What the hell are these memories that keep popping up?’ He thought. ‘Are they from … before I was in that prison? No, … they're too recent. But how could I know that?’

            'You stupid child!' Lazarus shouted at him. 'Focus! Harness your anger! Unleash the rage that burns inside of you!'

            “I … I can't,” Latoshi whispered in response to Lazarus.

            'Worthless little weakling! I have to do everything for you!'

            Antoshi neared him, charging up a blast of energy into his palm. Before he could do anything with it, he was suddenly overcome by a wave of spirit pressure that stumbled him back — not unlike what he had done to Latoshi earlier.

            He and the others watched curiously as Latoshi got to his feet, hanging his head down. He stretched his arms out, rotating and cracking his joints as though he'd awaken from a long slumber. He inhaled deeply as he tilted his head back to the sky, letting out a long, hissing sigh.

            The boy seemed unnaturally relaxed and spry for someone who'd just taken a violent beating.

            “Now I am the one in control,” Latoshi said, his voice audibly fusing with that of Lazarus.

            He chuckled, staring Antoshi down. His eyes were fully consumed by the dark energy of the parasitic spirit within him.

            “Just what is that supposed to mean?” Antoshi responded with an apathetic expression.

            “It was interesting that you would say you're going to finish me,” he calmly said in a voice unfamiliar to Antoshi, “when you have not seen the extent of my power yet.”

            Antoshi trilled his lips.

            “I've seen the extent of your power, and how you never shut up about how great your supposed power is. You won't beat me, Latoshi. I can still outwit you, no matter what you try.”

            Latoshi was suddenly in front of Antoshi, throwing a punch barely blocked by Antoshi's hands. The impact caused a brief shock wave. Antoshi grunted, expressing surprise.

            Latoshi grinned at him, his eyelids hanging low.

            “It seems as though you were not expecting that,” Latoshi remarked. “Your body defended out of sheer instinct. So much for being able to outwit me.”

            Antoshi's hands glowed red as he summoned forth a blast of energy again. Latoshi cooed in surprise, smirking at him as he did the same. Their dueling energy quickly exploded, leaving a cloud of smoke as Antoshi was staggered back.

            Latoshi burst through the smoke, grinning just the same as before, rearing a fist back. Antoshi went to counterattack, but stopped suddenly. He instead jumped high, avoiding a straight kick by Latoshi from behind. The initial image of Latoshi's body faded away. Instead of being safe, Antoshi was abruptly caught by a punch on the cheek from above.

            ‘How?!’ Antoshi thought. ‘He's suddenly become faster than I can follow!’

            Antoshi impacted and rolled violently over the sand, his body covered in it. Latoshi flew at him while Antoshi regained control of his momentum. Antoshi sprung up on his hands, high into the air, just as Latoshi punched the ground hard. The impact knocked up a burst of sand around him.

            Latoshi followed him into the air. Antoshi looked on in bewilderment as Latoshi slowly ascended toward him while seemingly disappearing and reappearing. That same grin remained omnipresent on the sable-haired boy's face.

            ‘He's not going to attack from the front,’ Antoshi thought, keeping his attention away from Latoshi's position. ‘He's using after-images again to—’

            Much to Antoshi's shock, Latoshi did in fact strike his front.

            With Antoshi dazed and reeling, Latoshi grabbed the collar of his shirt. He spun Antoshi around violently through the air before sending him crashing hard into the sand again.

            As Antoshi lay there, Latoshi kept on him. He appeared before the blond-haired boy, landing slow yet powerful punches to Antoshi's face. He cackled wildly as Antoshi shouted in pain. Each thunderous strike causing sand to billow in all directions.

            “It does not look like you are outwitting me at the moment,” Latoshi remarked. “You seem to be too busy thinking over your strategy. I am certain you will come up with something good soon, right?”

            ‘How is this happening?!’ Antoshi thought, his face becoming bloodied. ‘It's like his fighting style completely changed. I can't read his movements the same as I did before!’

            ‘Lazarus has shown itself,’ Serenity thought, clenching a fist. ‘It's managed to absorb enough energy to manifest itself into taking control of Latoshi's body, and it's also gained the upper hand against Antoshi. Latoshi wasn't strong enough before to allow Lazarus to possess him. Lazarus must have pushed Latoshi to his limits to store up such an incredible amount of Ki in that time.’

            Latoshi pulled Antoshi's diminished body up once again by his shirt collar. Antoshi grunted weakly, scowling at his grinning adversary.

            “How sad,” he remarked. “You almost had me. You had all the tools and all the power to do it, but, in the end, you still came up short. I will admit, your sudden bursts of power had me worried. But, in the end, it looks like I made the right choice when I picked Latoshi as my vessel.”

            He shut his eyes, remaining silent for a moment before breaking out into an amused laugh. With a shout, he suddenly flung Antoshi into the air.

            “Now then,” he said. “I think I will use Latoshi's new trick to its full effectiveness. What was it called again? Ah, yes. Shooting Stars!

            He shouted once more, summoning forth the same mass of Ki orbs from his aura. He laughed, taking aim at Antoshi while bringing his hands forward.

            Weakened and unable to dodge, Antoshi screamed as the orbs exploded on contact with his body. The ones that didn't make direct contact burst around him, adding on to the damage with the powerful shock waves they created. His protective aura flickered weakly, leaving him vulnerable to the attacks which burned him and tore at his clothes which quickly became tattered like Latoshi's were.

            Latoshi laughed as Antoshi fell helplessly along the shoreline.

            "Antoshi, no!!" Fireball exclaimed.

            His fears of his best friend ending up injured once again were realized.

            Latoshi turned his head, grinning proudly at Fireball. The Typhlosion clenched his claws, trembling, forcing himself not to get involved.

            Latoshi's attention shifted to Serenity. A bitter expression suddenly came across his face before he quickly looked away.

            ‘I'm well aware that you remember me,’ Serenity thought.

            Antoshi strained, weakly lifting himself onto his hands and knees. His body was markedly bloodied. He coughed up some of the wet sand that was stuck to his face.

            “Ah, so there is still some life in you,” Latoshi said. “Well, not for much longer. I think I shall stomp out the last flickering embers of your life now.”

            He lurched forth, aiming at Antoshi's head with the heel of his shoe.

            Quite literally!

            Without looking, Antoshi suddenly caught his adversary's foot. Everyone else was left stunned. He growled in rage, glaring menacingly at Latoshi.

            “I may be down,” Antoshi said, his hand glowing bright red, “but I sure as hell am not out!”

            Latoshi jerked his foot away in a panic in the instant before Antoshi fired off his Ki. The blast zipped past within inches of him and spiraled harmlessly into the air.

            ‘What the hell?’ Lazarus thought. ‘That attack had some serious potency behind it. How? … Why can he not just give up and die?!’

            The two ascended into the air, both of them sweating profusely, greeting each other with a barrage of kicks and punches that was highly reminiscent of earlier in the fight.

            'This is crazy!' Fireball thought. 'The two of them are … going at it just like before! It's like they hit the 'reset' button on their fight!'

            ***

            At that moment, Latoshi awoke with a gasp as though he'd been starved for air. He found himself floating in an endless void of darkness, helplessly drifting.

            ‘Where am I?’ he thought. ‘My head feels like … there's a huge cloud around it. I can't think clearly. I can't … keep myself awake. Am I dreaming? Am I … dead?’

            Before him, he saw the images of the ongoing fight with Antoshi through his own eyes — the same eyes that were currently under Lazarus' control.

            ‘I feel as though I'm fighting. My arms and my legs are burning — my Ki is surging! But, … I'm just here in the middle of nowhere. What is going on? Who is … controlling my body?’

            He thought it over for a moment, blankly staring at the fight.

            ‘Lazarus? Is … Lazarus controlling me? How can that be?’ Latoshi's consciousness began to stir. ‘I don't want … to be controlled. Lazarus can't control me. Give me back my body, Lazarus. Give back my body!’

            ***

            Latoshi's body suddenly seized up. He grunted with effort, struggling to move.

            ‘No!’ Lazarus thought. ‘I have burned through too much of this stupid child's energy already! I cannot hope to fight and keep Latoshi's spirit restrained at the same time! Damn it!!

            Antoshi curiously studied him for a brief moment before taking advantage. He struck a hard blow to Latoshi's face, sending him backwards.

            Latoshi continued to struggle, slowly descending.

            I am not done with you!” Latoshi screamed.

            “Oh, you're done, all right!” Antoshi replied.

            Latoshi found enough strength to land on his feet. He gasped, suddenly meeting his opponent face-to-face.

            Antoshi immediately laid into him with another blistering barrage of punches. Latoshi was thrashed around helplessly from the relentless assault, blood gushing from his mouth.

            Despite the beating, Latoshi grinned weakly.

            ‘Very well, then,’ Lazarus thought. ‘If that is the case, then my protégé can endure this pain in my stead. After all, I have a new apprentice who is about to join me….’

            Latoshi gasped again, his eyes returning to normal, regaining consciousness in the midst of Antoshi's attack.

            ‘What—what the hell is happening?!’ Latoshi thought, panicked.

            Fireball and Serenity looked on with concern.

            'That's enough, Antoshi,' Fireball thought. 'He's finished! Please stop!'

            Antoshi knocked him upward before spinning around and kicking his sternum hard. Latoshi groaned, sliding to a long halt on his shoulder blades before coming to a rest sprawled out on the ground.

            The conflict was finally over.

            Fireball and Serenity followed at a distance as Antoshi stalked his fallen foe. He had an intense look in his glowing eyes.

            He grabbed Latoshi by the neck, lifting his limp body in order to face him.

            “All that bragging,” Antoshi remarked as Latoshi's eyes slowly opened. “All that confidence, all that cockiness — looks like you left it scattered out along the beach. What a shame, huh? What do you have to say now?”

            Latoshi offered no words, only pained groans and shallow breaths. Antoshi scowled in rage.

            'Yes~,' the hiss of Lazarus' voice became clear to Antoshi. 'You have defeated your nemesis. Bathe in the glory of victory. Revel in your newfound power and might. He will never be able to best you, Antoshi.'

            “I am better than you,” Antoshi said, seemingly in response to Lazarus' remarks. His eyes began to darken, shifting from their trademark red into a lusterless black. “There's no doubt now. You are insignificant to me.”

            'What has he ever done for you? Caused you pain?'

            “You put me through so much pain since we met, Latoshi.”

            'Misery?'

            “I'll never forget the misery you caused Fireball and I.”

            'Torture?'

            “I've been living in torture, fearing the moment I had to see your face again.”

            'Threats against your family, your loved ones.'

            “Threatening everyone I hold dear to me is inexcusable.”

            'You have the power to make it all stop.'

            “The time has come for you to pay for everything you've done, Latoshi,” he said, aiming an open palm at Latoshi's head. “I've been waiting for this moment: the moment I can finally put an end to this horror.”

            Antoshi's flickering aura slowly started becoming corrupted with the blackness of Lazarus' spirit.

            “I'll make you pay, Latoshi. I'll make you eat all your arrogant words. You're the pathetic one now … and you will never hurt me ever again!”

            He charged a blast of Ki into his hand much larger than any of his previous attacks.

            “I'm going to make sure of it.”

            Serenity looked on with concern, clasping her hands together.

            ‘Antoshi,’ she thought. ‘this moment is going to define the kind of person you are for the rest of your life….’

            'Very good,' Lazarus continued. 'Hold on to that anger. Let it ignite your spirit. You hate Latoshi — you want him to stop. All you have to do is burn him away to ashes. Free me from this weakling, Antoshi. You are so much stronger than he is. And you can still be so much more….'

            "Antoshi, no!" Fireball shouted. "Don't do it!"

            Antoshi gasped, turning his attention to his best friend.

            “Fire … ball?” he remarked in a daze. His gaze caught Serenity standing by Fireball. He suddenly recalled her earlier plea.

            ‘Promise me you'll help Latoshi. He desperately needs help, and I believe that you're the only person who can. … I know you'll find the best solution if you look into your heart. … When the time comes — act.’

            He turned to Latoshi once again, whose eyes were welled up with tears. The sorrow and fear in his eyes were utterly apparent.

            “I'm … sor— … sorry …” he spoke in a raspy voice.

            Antoshi was horrified with himself.

            He immediately let go of Latoshi, rescinding the energy from his palm back into his aura. Latoshi stumbled back onto trembling legs.

            Tears fell from Antoshi's eyes as the two boys stared at each other in shock.

            Antoshi panted fearfully, looking down at his bloodied hands.

            ‘What … have I done?’ he thought. ‘I almost … I almost killed him! I'm not like this, I … I shouldn't be this way. This isn't what I promised Serenity. I was supposed to help him, not …’

            As Antoshi regained conscious thought, his eyes returned to normal and the fragments of Lazarus' spirit that had infested his aura slowly burned away. He fell to his knees, trembling and sniffling.

            Despite his own injuries, Latoshi gazed upon him with concern.

            “An—Antoshi,” he spoke, grabbing the boy's attention. “I … I really am—”

            Latoshi's remarks were interrupted suddenly when he grabbed his head and shouted in agony. The torturous ringing noise racked him with pain. The others looked on in confusion as Latoshi stumbled back.

            'Leave now!' Lazarus commanded him. 'There is nothing more for you here! Leave!!'

            Latoshi immediately did as he was told, taking off into the night sky while continuing to hold his head.

            Latoshi!!” Antoshi shouted.

            “Wait!” Serenity exclaimed. She appearing beside Antoshi to grab his shoulder as the boy attempted to follow. “There's nothing you can do now.”

            Fireball was stunned, looking to his side after realizing Serenity dashed over there faster than he could think. He quickly jogged over to the two.

            Antoshi's shoulders slumped, gazing to the ground in defeat.

            “… I heard him,” Antoshi remarked.

            “Lazarus?” Serenity asked.

            “His voice was so clear to me, like he was in my head, … just like Latoshi told me. It was such a … hypnotic and soothing voice. He was telling me everything I wanted to hear, feeding all of my negative feelings.”

            Antoshi looked to the sky where Latoshi had fled.

            “I finally understand now. I realize what Latoshi is going through. I know … how he truly feels. I saw it in his eyes for just that one moment. It reminded me of his eyes when we first met. That short morning when we were happy together …”

            Serenity gently smiled, letting her hand fall away. Antoshi sighed, shaking his head.

            “… I almost killed him. Lazarus' influence was so powerful, I didn't feel any different at all. I just felt all of my anger boiling over. I … I almost did something that I would regret for the rest of my life.”

            “That's what Lazarus does,” Serenity said. “It amplifies your emotions and makes it impossible for you to think clearly. It's exactly what Latoshi's had to deal with all this time. For you, hearing Fireball's voice broke through that barrier and you came to your senses. Latoshi doesn't have anyone to help him.”

            “We have to save him,” Antoshi said, his aura flickering back to life. “I have to go find him. I-I have to make this right. I have to help him.”

            “There's nothing more you can do,” she told him. His aura receded, looking at her in confusion. “This is something that Latoshi has to deal with on his own. Only he can remove Lazarus' influence. It has to be his decision. The problem is Lazarus has the ability to block the memories of its host, allowing it to keep its host loyal.”

            Antoshi was left stunned for a moment, his eyes going wide.

            “So, … that's why he seemed so different when I first spoke to him tonight. Lazarus is keeping his memories from him. … That's why Latoshi doesn't remember anything about his past!”

            “Now you understand the extent of what Latoshi has endured,” she replied.

            “All this time, … I've been so angry and so bitter towards him. I never knew what he was going through. Every word of anguish he's spoken about other people — how evil human hearts can be, how cruel people are, … he meant every bit of it because he's been hurt. I can't believe I … I couldn't have figured that out myself until now.”

            He turned to Serenity with eyes full of sorrow.

            “You were right, Serenity. He does need my help, more than I ever realized.”

            Antoshi stood in reflection for a moment. He sighed heavily, closed his eyes and began sulking away.

            Fireball and Serenity looked on in bewilderment.

            "You still won, Antoshi," Fireball said. "You saved who knows how many peoples' lives from that evil creep controlling Latoshi."

            “That was no victory, Fireball,” Antoshi remarked in dismay. “Not this time. … Not when my heart feels this empty.”

            “Antoshi, wait,” Serenity spoke up. “Let me use my powers. I can heal you again in no time at all.”

            “No, Serenity,” he replied. “I think, this time, I should have to suffer through the pain.”

            Fireball and Serenity looked at each other in concern. Serenity's expression quickly shifted to a thankful smile.

            “Thank you for your help, Fireball,” she said, gently squeezing his paw. “Take care of him, okay?”

            Fireball nodded to her with enthusiasm before quickly following after his friend.

            Serenity looked toward in the sky in thought for a few moments before taking her leave further down the beach.

            ***

            Latoshi landed in his usual clearing outside the forest, immediately collapsing to the ground face-first. He panted, groaning and straining weakly.

            “Why?” he whispered between ragged breaths. “Why did you … force me to leave?”

            'You do not question my decisions,' Lazarus said, 'you follow them.'

            “You—you took over my body. You took … took control of me.”

            'That is because I am the master and you are my marionette! You dance when I pull your strings!'

            “You called me 'stupid' … and 'worthless',” he added, his eyes welling with tears. “After I've done everything you asked without question, … no matter how much I hated it. I don't want to do this anymore. I don't … want you in my life …”

            Lazarus laughed in amusement.

            'You do not have the strength to eject me from your spirit, Latoshi! I own you!' Latoshi gasped, panting fearfully. 'Do you think that I am going to sit back and let you defy me, child? Do you think that I am going to let you keep these memories of your rebellion against me?!'

            “My … memories?” he wondered, becoming terrified. “No, you can't … you wouldn't take away my memories! You can't! You …”

            He lay completely still and silent for a few moments, staring blankly.

            'Now, tell me who it is that you seek to destroy.'

            “… Antoshi,” he replied in an almost robotic tone.

            'And who is it that you owe your life and all of your energy to?'

            “… Lazarus. I owe it all to … to Lazarus.”

            'Very good. Tomorrow you will find new clothing, and then you will resume your training while you heal your injuries. This is only a minor setback for us. Together, we will emerge triumphant — no matter how long it takes to get it right.'

            Latoshi's lips curled into a slight smirk. He closed his eyes, his voice weary.

            “Yes, Lazarus. … Whatever you … say.”

            ***

            The exhausted duo spent hours walking back to their hotel room in the dead of night. They were incredibly quiet, Fireball showing constant concern for his best friend. Neither of them complained about the length of their trek, how tired or hungry they were, or how long it took. They simply put one foot in front of the other and kept on moving.

            It was almost morning by the time they finally reached their hotel. As they went to retire, the mysterious figure in a trench coat had followed them, silently watching from across the street.


            The End

            (To Be Continued)
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