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A Blond Ray of Sunshine (2/1/2019: Chapter 11)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Antoshi, Sep 21, 2017.

  1. Antoshi

    Antoshi Peaceful Serenity

    Chapter 7


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

    From the light of the open ball came a bipedal, red crocodile with black stripes and small, menacing eyes. It remained completely still, staring at Fireball with a savage glare.

    The look of bloodlust in its eyes served to frighten Fireball. Its ability, Intimidate, lowered Fireball's overall physical strength.

    “Krookodile, Protect!” she commanded.

    Like Hippowdon before it, Krookodile's body was embraced by an impenetrable shield of blue light.

    “Great,” Antoshi muttered.

    Fireball's cough was getting worse. The pain of being in the sandstorm gradually bit harder. The duo weren't able to do anything other than wait until Krookodile's shield dissipated.

    Once it did, Antoshi smirked.

    “Let's give them a little surprise, Fireball!” he said. “Focus Blast!”

    Elise's eyes widened. The sheer variety of attacks the Typhlosion knew surprised her.

    He held his hands to one side, spacing them just far enough apart to summon a rapidly growing ball of bright blue energy. While it was very effective against Krookodile, it was also inaccurate due to Fireball's lack of experience in using the maneuver.

    Fireball steadied his ragged breathing, taking aim at his target.

    “Move!” Elise commanded.

    Fireball thrust the ball of energy. The attack covered the distance between them in a heartbeat. Krookodile dove to the side, missing a glancing blow from the powerful attack. The energy ball vanished harmlessly upon striking the wall behind Elise.

    A sense of dread swept over Antoshi. He had panic in his eyes as Krookodile sprinted toward Fireball.

    “Crunch, Krookodile!” Elise shouted.

    Krookodile's teeth began to glow white with a magical energy.

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

    Krookodile hissed as it opened its long maw. Its powerful jaw snapped shut on Fireball's shoulder, digging its rows of sharp glowing teeth in. Fireball shouted in pain, shoving the beast off of him.

    Despite peeling the beast away, the damage was already done. Fireball fell to a knee, holding his bloodied shoulder as Krookodile headed back to its side of the field.

    “Fireball!” Antoshi shouted in concern. “Are you okay?!”

    With a pained look on his face, Fireball forced a grin and nodded.

    Fireball's pain was obvious. Antoshi clenched his teeth, pondering a tactical surrender. Looking into Fireball's confident eyes stirred up memories of their dream to make it to the top.

    This is our life's work you're facing — our heart and soul!

    'We're gonna win it all, and win it big! I can't wait to see how big the tournament stage is at the Indigo Plateau. Are you excited, too?'

    ‘If we don't finish this battle on our first try,’ Antoshi thought, ‘then our dream of making it to the Indigo League in time is going to remain just a dream.’

    Antoshi slowly exhaled, closing his eyes for a moment. He focused his resolve with a firm, serious expression on his face.

    “All right, Fireball, one more Focus Blast!”

    Fireball's body trembled as he held his hands to one side as before.

    Just as Fireball began to charge the attack again, Elise was quick to interrupt.

    “Krookodile, Protect!” she instructed

    The beast was once again surrounded by its protective shield.

    Fireball hunched over, coughing loudly while the sand continued to whip hard at him.

    “Hang in there, Fireball,” Antoshi muttered.

    "I will, Antoshi," Fireball replied. "We didn't come all this way just to fail. Not after all the training we did to make it this far."

    ‘So, he's going to try another Focus Blast,’ Elise thought, holding her chin. ‘I suppose there's nothing I can really do to stop it. However, if it does hit, will it be enough? I can't help but wonder just how strong that attack from this Typhlosion would be.’

    The moment Krookodile's shield faded, Antoshi issued the command.

    “Now! Focus Blast!”

    Fireball panted, ignoring the excruciating pain in order to charge another Focus Blast. He thrust the ball of energy forward.

    “Dodge it again!” Elise said.

    When Krookodile leapt out of the way for the second time, the ball made an unexpected curve straight towards it.

    Elise and her Pokémon's eyes widened in shock just before the attack connected and exploded violently. The force of the blast shot Krookodile through the air, flying past Elise, before crashing hard against the back wall. Krookodile was unresponsive.

    Elise's was impressed by the sheer power of Fireball's attack.

    ‘So, it does make sense,’ she thought. ‘Rather than having a full roster of six Pokémon whose gains are evened out with each other, he instead has one Pokémon that garners all of the strength and experience. With the amount of Type coverage his Typhlosion has, it's almost like fighting six Pokémon at once. He's a clever Trainer, but strength isn't tantamount to stamina. His Typhlosion is running on nothing but willpower by now.’

    She recalled her Krookodile and grabbed the last Ultra Ball on her hip.

    With only one Pokémon to go, exhaustion had taken its toll on Fireball.

    Fireball groaned as he fell to a knee again. He let out a hacking cough, holding his injured shoulder, clenching his eyes in the fury of the whipping sands.

    “Fireball?” Antoshi asked, worried.

    Fireball had taken an incredible toll that pushed him to his very limits.

    ‘It has to be hurting him,’ Elise thought, ‘seeing his Pokémon in so much pain like this. Yet, both of them continue on fighting. They have an incredible will to win.’

    Fireball groaned as he rose to his hind feet once more. Antoshi was incredulous that Fireball was still standing, let alone ready to continue battling.

    “For the sake of your Pokémon's well-being,” Elise said, “are you certain you don't want to forfeit?”

    “Not a chance!” Antoshi replied. “Fireball's stronger than anyone I've ever known. If he's ready to go, then so am I.”

    “Remarkable,” Elise said. “That you would get this far with just one Pokémon — a Fire-type — is remarkable. Your determination is truly admirable. However, I'm afraid this is where your battle ends.”

    She maximized the final ball and threw it out.

    “Go, Steelix!”

    Antoshi and Fireball watched with astonishment as the light gave way to a massive serpent comprised of steel-plated boulders. It towered high over their heads, letting out a roar that rattled the foundation of the building.

    "That's probably not good," Fireball joked.

    “Let's make the first move!” Antoshi exclaimed. “Fire—”

    “Protect, Steelix!” Elise shouted over him.

    Antoshi bit his tongue, hanging his head in defeat.

    ‘I can't believe this,’ he thought. ‘They all know Protect? She's definitely come prepared for battles like this.’

    Fireball coughed even harder than last time. He appeared light-headed; unable to steady his feet, especially with the winds of the sandstorm constantly whipping at him.

    “This battle's been going on for some time, young Trainer.” Elise said. “The severe poison has been gradually worsening with every beat of your Typhlosion's heart. How much longer do you think he can hold out?”

    Antoshi's gaze shifted to his friend.

    "No way!" Fireball shouted in defiance, struggling to keep his balance.

    Elise didn't have to understand his speech to know what he said, or to see the look in his eyes. She smiled and hummed in intrigue.

    Antoshi waited for the moment Steelix's Protect dissipated.

    “Fire Blast, Fireball!” Antoshi said. “Give it everything you have!”

    "Now that's the kind of pep talk I like to hear," Fireball remarked with a weak grin.

    He brought his trembling claws up to his neck, clasped down, and began to inhale deeply. Small tufts of flame emanated from Fireball's mouth as he summoned up his strength for one final attack.

    Suddenly, Fireball collapsed.

    “Fireball, no!” Antoshi exclaimed.

    Antoshi heart sank at the same time Fireball fell to his hands and knees. Fireball groaned wearily, overcome by exhaustion. The poison, the sandstorm, the injures — they had all accumulated to a critical level.

    Elise took advantage of the situation.

    “Steelix, Earthquake!”

    Steelix gave a mighty roar, its heavy tail stamping the ground and causing it to rumble.

    “Fireball, use Fire Blast!” Antoshi ordered once again.

    Fireball straightened his back as he remained on his knees. He steadied himself amid the quaking earth.

    He reached up again, holding his neck, straining to bring forth every ounce of energy he had left to give.

    The ground suddenly cracked underneath Fireball.

    With a moment to spare, Fireball roared as loud as he could. He fired a five-pointed blast of fire from his mouth at the same time the ground beneath him was smashed to pieces.

    Fireball thrashed around violently from Steelix's attack. The flames on his back went out.

    ‘Steelix is too large to evade that,’ Elise thought.

    The massive fiery attack struck Steelix's face and burst violently. Steelix roared in pain, its body toppling backwards from the force of the blast. Just as Earthquake subsided, Steelix itself crashed into the ground. Its titanic weight creating a large crater around its body.

    Elise was in shock. The heat from Fireball's attack was so intense that it caused the steel on Steelix's forehead to melt slightly. Her Pokémon was defeated.

    The battle was over.

    The sandstorm finally subsided. All was quiet on the sand-covered, heavily damaged stadium floor.

    Elise recalled her Steelix.

    Fireball!!” Antoshi shouted, ignoring the dangerously jagged earth jutting around his fallen friend. “Fireball?” he whispered, shaking his friend a bit.

    Elise walked over to check on them.

    “Fireball, come on. I thought I'd lost you once before, I can't go through that again!”

    His breathing became shaky, running a hand through his hair.

    "Poi… son …" Fireball whispered in a raspy voice.

    Antoshi gasped in elation.

    “Hang on, buddy, I have just the thing for you.”

    He quickly pulled his backpack off his shoulders and opened it. He pulled out a large green spray bottle and immediately began spritzing its medicinal contents all over Fireball's wounded body.

    It worked fast to miraculously heal Fireball's injuries, as well as dissipate the poison from his body.

    “Good thing I bought a few Full Restores for an emergency,” he said, sniffling. “You wanted me to buy you pizza instead, remember?”

    "Pizza sounds good right about now," Fireball quietly replied with a slight grin. "Starting to feel a little better here. Could you get some of that in my mouth, please? I still have a poison-y aftertaste."

    Antoshi smirked and sprayed the Typhlosion's tongue after he stuck it out.

    Fireball smacked his lips and shuddered in disgust.

    "That tastes awful, but it's still better than the poison."

    Antoshi sighed in relief, putting the empty bottle away. He slung his backpack over his shoulders and stood up, helping Fireball get to his feet as well.

    Elise smiled at the two as they both stepped out of the jagged crater.

    “That was quite the battle, young Antoshi,” she remarked. “You and your Typhlosion are one and the same. You were always on the same wavelength, both of you just as determined as each other. Truly, you're one of the closest and most caring Trainer and Pokémon pairs I've ever seen. You've done a phenomenal job of raising your Pokémon as a partner and a friend.”

    “Thank you, Elise,” Antoshi replied, smiling. “I appreciate it. I'm just really glad Fireball is okay.”

    “You could've stopped the battle if you were so fearful for your friend's safety.”

    “Well, this is our progress of over a year of journeying through Kanto together. We wanted that eighth badge more than anything in the world. Neither of us were ready to just give up — not on this battle or anything else before it. I guess the two of us are just reckless like that.”

    Elise chuckled.

    “I understand. Still, your recklessness brought you victory today.”

    She took something from her pocket and placed it into Antoshi's hands.

    “Trainer Antoshi, I confer unto you the Earth Badge. You and Fireball have earned it — and my respect.”

    The two friends looked at the shining new badge, the very last one they needed. The Indigo League was now open to them.

    Antoshi's eyes welled up with tears.

    “You're crying, aren't you?” Antoshi asked before glancing over at Fireball.

    Tears ran down the sides of the Typhlosion's face as he nodded.

    “It's okay, buddy, so am I.”

    Antoshi threw his arms out, and Fireball bawled loudly into his shoulder. Antoshi grinned, hugging Fireball and patting him on the back.

    “We made it, buddy,” Antoshi reassured his friend. “We made it.”

    Fireball grabbed Antoshi's shirt and blew his nose into it.

    “Ugh — okay, come on. Really? I have tissues, you know.”

    "Sorry," Fireball remarked, sniffling and sighing.

    Antoshi pulled out his wallet to store away their final badge. He took a deep breath and sighed proudly, wiping the tears from his own eyes.

    “Time to cross that finish line,” Antoshi remarked with a grin.

    Fireball happily nodded back.

    “Do take care, you two,” Elise told them. “I, and some other Gym Leaders, will be taking a trip to the Indigo League to watch the tournament. Should you make it, I'll be cheering you on from the crowd.”

    “We're going to do our absolute best,” Antoshi told her, smiling confidently.

    Elise nodded to him.

    With that, the two friends departed from Elise's company and exited the Gym.

    She then sighed and looked around the heavily damaged stadium floor.

    “Looks like I have some cleaning up to do.”

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    That evening in the Viridian Pokémon Center, Antoshi and Fireball feasted on all the food they could grab in the cafeteria. Antoshi usually didn't gorge himself like Fireball, but he made an exception for the special occasion.

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

    Some time afterward, the duo headed back to their room and settled in for the night. Excitement and big hopes for their future swirled through their minds as they drifted off to sleep. Their biggest challenge was yet to come — and they were prepared.

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

    Looking through the eyes of another, he stood at the upper floor of a house severely damaged by an explosion. The home's destroyed floors and walls gave way to the night sky. His legs trembled, falling to his knees.

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

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

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

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

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

    There was nothing left for many miles except an enormous crater of dirt.

    The boy fell to the earth, unconscious. He was left unscathed.

    Just as he hit the ground, Antoshi jolted awake from his dream with a gasp.

    He sat up in bed, covered in a cold sweat. He took a look at his hand; he was still trembling. He held a hand to his forehead, gritting his teeth.

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

    He breathed slowly, calming his racing heart.

    Once he'd relaxed, he hesitantly laid back down on his pillow. His head was filled with an endless array of questions. Eventually, he found the peace of mind to fall back asleep.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    The following morning, the duo readied themselves for the end of their Kanto journey. With only five days before the Indigo League tournament sign-ups closed, they were eager to get moving on to Victory Road. Their next destination's very name filled their hearts with anticipation and anxiousness.

    On their way out of Viridian City, they happened across a small electronics store. In the store window, multiple television screens displayed a breaking news broadcast. A handful of people were grouped around, watching the report.

    Antoshi and Fireball curiously stopped to see what was going on.

    “… who's live in the outskirts of the small town right now with the latest updates. Ruby?”

    “That's right, Michael. As shown from our sky camera, the small town of Fern was completely decimated today. The town was home to a thriving population of about seven thousand. This morning, it's nothing more than a massive crater.”

    Antoshi's eyes widened in shock as he saw the images of the crater. His body trembled. Memories of the previous night's dream came flooding back to him.

    "Oh, wow," Fireball remarked softly. "That's so terrible."

    “… have no idea how an apparent explosion of this magnitude happened,” the reporter continued. “Joining me now is Johto's military commander General Logan.”

    The camera zoomed back slightly to reveal a tall, stern man wearing a high-ranking military uniform.

    “General, what can you tell us about this unthinkable devastation?”

    “Right now we're in our preliminary investigation,” he replied. “At around 0400 hours, we were alerted by local officials who responded to a large seismic disruption and came across what was left of the town.”

    “You told me there were no survivors?”

    “We believed that at first but we found one young boy who appears to be in his preteens or early teens, buried under some of the earth. He was discovered in the epicenter of the explosion.”

    Some of the passersby around Antoshi began to mutter.

    “Is the boy conscious? Do you have any information on him?”

    “The boy is still unconscious at last check. He was airlifted from here to the nearest military hospital. For privacy reasons, we cannot release the boy's identity before establishing contact with his family. I'm afraid that's all we have to share for now.”

    “Thank you so much for your time, General. Michael?”

    “Thanks, Ruby. We'll be continuing our coverage on the destruction of Fern Town …”

    "That's awful, don't you think?" Fireball asked his friend as some of the crowd dispersed.

    Antoshi, however, gawked blankly at the television as though in a trance.

    "Antoshi? Are you okay?"

    “Huh?” Antoshi uttered, snapping back to reality. “Did you say something?”

    "I said, 'are you okay?'" Fireball said, appearing concerned. "You look like you saw a Ghost Pokémon or something."

    “I …” Antoshi started.

    He bit his lip and sorted through his thoughts.

    “That—that scene on the news. I dreamt it … last night.”

    "You had a dream about that town on the news?"

    “Yes, and it looks exactly the same as what I dreamt.”

    "That's— … well, I really don't know what to say."

    “I've been having a few similar dreams lately. I've never experienced dreams like these before. They feel so— … so real.”

    "First that light show ball, then the flying, surviving a fall from a building, and dreams where you see things that happen in other places? What do you think is going on?"

    “I don't know, … but after what I just saw, it's now definitely making me nervous.”

    As they headed off toward their destination, Antoshi took one more glance at the television screen. The last image he saw was a brief glimpse of the rescued boy in the background of a still picture, and the boy's jet black hair.



    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

    End of Part 1

    ⁂ ⁂

    Part 2: Sibling Rivalry »
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
  2. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin I'm just here

    Okay. To start off with, those dream voices make me think of two things: the original dub anime intro ("It's you and me, I know it's my destinyyy!") and something out of one of the X-Men movies with the hating and unleashing power bit (I read those ones in Magneto's voice for some reason). Following that, we get a happy, tearful reunion. Any questions it brings up (like why they're in the police station, or what happened to Jalyn) are swiftly answered by Jenny, which I'm glad for. I'm a bit surprised that Antoshi ended up with an Ash-like near-death experience, but it just makes me curious to figure out what the heck's happening. It sounds much crazier than your run-of-the-mill human psychics.

    Also, I might be alone in saying this, but I like that Antoshi's first response to being out three days is, "Oh no, how will I get the 8th badge?" I would imagine someone in their late teens or an adult would be distraught at being knocked out for three days, but it seems so very child-appropriate to immediately focus on a tangible goal instead... if that makes sense. Similarly, his ability to (emotionally) bounce back super quickly matches his age well. I feel like if he were an adult he'd have been totally freaking out over the traumatic experience and/or the weird powers.

    And, hey, we're even getting right into the Viridian gym battle too. That was quick. Elise maintains Giovanni's ground-type specialty, I see. You paint a pretty clear contrast in her personality too. She's very forthright and patient, unlike both Giovanni and Blue. And, in stark contrast to Blaire, even though her Gliscor and Hippowdon go down pretty quickly, she's able to employ the tried and true "Toxic/Protect stall strategy" that everyone who Wi-Fi battles hates with a passion. And employing Sand Stream and Dig to add damage and stalling on top of that is both smart and a good use of her gym's typing. I will say, though, that Elise doesn't need to be shouting every single sentence. Some of her dialogue is full of sentences that all end in exclamation points. It kind of lessens their impact when they're used so frequently like that.

    Oh, the finale's coming up already? Wasn't expecting it so soon, but I think you again gave me a pretty nice cliffhanger to get excited about. So, an interesting chapter that took me by surprise by keeping the action up, even if the Rockets were out of the picture.

    One slight formatting thing I spotted:
    Missing a line break here.
     
  3. Antoshi

    Antoshi Peaceful Serenity

    Sorry for the bump/double post. I just wanted to let everyone know that the story has been updated with some fairly big changes. Overall, it's the same story though I've tons of small edits to every chapter, from beginning to end. I posted more info in the author notes.

    I want to personally thank Ambyssin, Cutlerine, ChloboShoka, AmethystLeslie, Negrek, Sike Saner, and all the readers of the Serebii Forums and elsewhere for giving my story a read and helping make it even better. Hopefully I don't have to update it much more after this point. Thank you all again!
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2017
  4. AmethystLeslie

    AmethystLeslie Well-Known Member

    It was a pleasure to be one of your beta readers (assuming i wasn't the only beta reader).
     
  5. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin I'm just here

    Just going to drop in and give a few thoughts specifically on chapter 7's new, extended ending. Mostly because it's very mysterious and quite the little cliffhanger, kinda like you'd see with some TV shows. The two scenes lead me to suspect that Antoshi is psychically/spiritually linked to the boy from Fern Town. It immediately brings the Eon Duo's sight-sharing to mind, but I strongly doubt there are any Lati-related shenanigans going on here. It'd certainly catch me by surprise if there was. What has me more curious is, of course, the massive explosion. It's totally out of left field (not in a bad way), so it leaves me to speculate what the issue is. Is it Team Rocket? Is some Legendary going berserk (Mewtwo, Yveltal, Groudon, and Necrozma all come to mind here)? Is it something else entirely? Seems like you've set this up to continue in a sequel, so I guess I'll get an answer then.
     
  6. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    You've clearly put a lot of effort into these edits, and I have to say, they've made a huge impact on the story. It's much tighter, for one; the plot picks up quicker and builds nicely towards a climax that feels as big and dramatic as it should do, given the stakes involved and the sudden awakening of Antoshi's extraordinary powers.

    And it's so much richer, as well. That battle against Blaire was a little boring in the first draft, but as it stands it's superb: creative move use (defensive rollout! what a great idea!), intelligent planning by Blaire to work around Fireball's raw power (by blocking with smokescreen) and his speed (by using fire spin), and a good deal of tension. This time around, the victory feels genuinely earned. You can see how Blaire earned her position as Gym Leader, even if she is new and relatively inexperienced; she's a worthy opponent, and Antoshi and Fireball have to work to get their victory. More than anything, it's exciting, and that's what a battle should be.

    The same can be said for the other big plot battles, I think: the huge climactic battle against Matt and Jalyn is much stronger than it was, cutting really effectively into that warm summer holiday feeling that the first part of the fic cultivates and letting that harsher note that you hint at previously in the dreams come to the fore. And chapter seven's battle is a great way to round things off, with Fireball and Antoshi up against an opponent who has both superior tactics and the type advantage – and yet pulling through anyway on the strength of their friendship.

    I think your characters are improved, too: Jenny feels more human, and it's difficult to put my finger on what I'd improve about her – honestly, I think that at this point, it's probably the case that the main way your characters will improve is if you write more and learn as you go. You've definitely made some big improvements there, and if you carry on that way in future then I'm sure your next fic will feature stronger characters still.

    Some of my original points of criticism still stand: the precise nature of the relationship between Fireball and Antoshi, and between pokémon and trainers in general, that kind of thing. But these are things that are just brought up by the premise in itself, and I don't think it's reasonable for me to harp on about them any more than I or any other reviewers have done already. I would add to them, however, that the sting in the tail with the ending doesn't quite work for me; it feels a bit off after the victory rush from the Viridian Gym battle and the realisation that they've made the sign-up window for the Indigo League tournament. I guess to me it feels unfinished, but maybe that's the point – it might be a set-up for a sequel, I suppose. Certainly the way you frame that little bit at the end feels very cinematic, like the ending of a TV series that hopes to get renewed for a second season. If that's the case, I'm probably judging it a little harshly.

    Overall, though – I'm really impressed with the edits you've made. This revision tells the same story as the previous version, but it does it much, much better. If this is the kind of writing you're capable of, I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us next!
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2017
  7. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    I rather like the idea of a move you're unused to having relatively poor accuracy and maybe getting more accurate with practice. Makes sense, that.

    Oh man, homing focus blast. I wish that'd happen whenever something of mine uses it in-game, heh.

    Full restores are a better call than pizza, yeah. :p Although heck, we're talking about a world where soda heals injuries and cookies cure poison. Maybe pokéworld pizza is just a flatter, greasier full restore. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Oh god Fireball, ew. What flows from the nose does NOT go on the clothes. XD;

    And it all concludes on one heck of a hook. In hindsight, I'm not surprised to find that the mysteries raised in this story deserve more than just one book. Congrats on completing this installment (and its sequel, according to your sig!), and thanks for sharing it with us. :D
     
  8. Antoshi

    Antoshi Peaceful Serenity

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

    Part 2: Sibling Rivalry

    ⁂ ⁂​

    Kanto's neighboring region of Johto thrived by continuously founding new settlements like any prospering nation. New towns and cities allowed people from far and wide to settle down, to call Johto their home. Fern was one such town.

    Existing for nearly four decades, Fern Town was quiet and quaint. A home of over seven thousand people, it was situated just north of Azalea Town. Its small neighborhoods surrounded by the lush, vibrant green forests made it an attractive prospect to those looking to live closer to nature. Wild Pokémon inhabiting the woods visited frequently, becoming acquainted and friendly with the townsfolk.

    Most of the roads were simple dirt pathways. New stores and small buildings popped up constantly. The residents of Fern Town were happy and thrived in warm, intimate communities.

    The town's school and large playground were situated at the center of the town. It was a gesture of the town's founders that their young people were literally their future.

    Yet, that future was erased in an instant.

    The beautiful town stood with its immaculate charm no longer. In its place lay a massive crater of dirt from the aftermath of a devastating explosion.

    Everything and everyone was gone.

    There was no forewarning. There were no survivors, except for a boy with jet black hair lying face-down and unconscious in the epicenter of the crater.

    When rescue personnel and news reporters from the neighboring towns and cities came, it was heralded as an unexplainable freak occurrence. The military, led by General Logan, came to investigate. They took the boy to a nearby military hospital. Remarkably, he had not a single injury. He remained in a brief coma, however.

    As government and local officials sifted through the destruction and try to piece together what happened, they soon realized that what occurred was no ordinary explosion. They truly had no idea what happened to bring about the town's complete erasure.

    Some of the investigators had growing suspicions that the boy was not simply some miracle survivor. In some way they couldn't fully grasp, it was believed that he was the cause of the town's devastation.

    Once the idea became the only plausible explanation, the boy was no longer treated as a victim. He instead became the culprit of an unspeakably horrific act.

    One of those very same young people that Fern Town had bet their future on now appeared to be the reason for its demise.

    In the middle of the night, government officials came to collect the boy who was still comatose. There was no place for him in an ordinary jail or a prison. Instead, they airlifted him to a military black site on a tiny island southeast of the Whirl Islands.

    It was the breeding ground for the government's more controversial, highly-classified experiments and tests.

    The compound was under round-the-clock maximum security. There, the boy was institutionalized in a high-tech confinement cell.

    The story of the mysterious young survivor quickly faded from the public consciousness. His memory was forgotten, except to those in charge of the compound.

    But his memory was also forgotten to him as well.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    The boy pounded his fists on the thick, acrylic glass of his cell. His frantic breaths and whimpers echoed around the small room. His brown eyes were wrought with terror.

    “Please, let me out!” he exclaimed, pounding at the glass again.

    It was his second day after waking up to find himself locked up in the cell. He had no human contact whatsoever. He was already past the realization of his imprisonment, but with no understanding of why.

    Having awoken a few days after the explosion, he had no idea who he was or how he ended up jailed. That, coupled with being locked away in a quiet, sterile cell where nobody paid any attention to him, became torture.

    He rest his back against the glass, grabbing fistfuls of his dark hair. He sliding down into a sitting position, huffing and sobbing quietly. Multiple cameras outside his cell silently watched his every move.

    “Someone help me,” he pleaded. “Someone please help me …”

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    Some time later, he laid on the cold floor and stared up at the white ceiling.

    The walls were white. The floor was white. The bed, the toilet, the sink — all white. The bright, white lights cut into his vision. His surroundings became blinding and disorienting.

    A familiar humming noise approached his cell. He gasped in excitement, hopping up to his knees and shuffled over to a small cutout at the very bottom of the acrylic glass door.

    A small hovering robot, holding a tray of food, stopped in front of his cell door.

    “Please, help!” he shouted as the cutout automatically folded open. “Please! Who is it that brought me here?! Why are they keeping me?! Please bring someone for me to talk to!”

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

    “Is there like a—a communicator on you or something? Is there anyone that can hear me right now?”

    The slat snapped shut. The robot turned and hovered away.

    “No, no! Wait!” he shouted in panic. “Please, please, come back! Please! Don't leave!”

    He clenched his eyes shut.

    “Don't leave …”

    He stared at his food, each item neatly placed in its own segment — a cold and detached way of feeding him.

    He was forced to use the sink whenever he wanted to bathe himself. The same robot came by at regularly scheduled times to give him clean towels and clothing.

    He held on to the hope that someone — anyone — would come and take him away from such a nightmare.

    In the end, however, hope was not enough to keep his sanity.

    On many occasions, he went berserk. He screamed as loudly as he could, punching and kicking every wall. The fits of rage did little to release his pent-up stress and fear.

    To pass the time, he laid on the floor and counted the number of tiny holes in each ceiling tile. He hummed and made up songs in his head. He thought up simple math problems and counted numbers. He spent many hours trying to remember his life on the outside.

    Most of his time, however, was spent crying.

    With no windows and no clock, it was impossible for him to know what time it was. He stayed in bed for long periods, sleeping anytime his panicked mind could wind down. The bed — stiff and uncomfortable at first — became his place of solitude.

    On rare occasions, the muffled screams of people in agony echoed down the halls. He covered his ears. The sounds left him terrified and trembling. It only compounded his fear of the facility he was locked in, and what they had planned for him.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    Within a luxurious office further inside the base, a stern man quietly sat behind a table. He wore a service uniform befitting a high-ranking military official.

    He swiveled a small amount of wine in a glass before putting it to his lips. The boy's cell was shown on a slew of monitors on the wall before him.

    Another military official — thinner, and wearing glasses — walked into the room. He gave a salute, and shut the door behind him. He laid a folder full of papers on the table before looking over at the the monitors.

    “Is it time, General?” he asked.

    “No,” the General replied. “He's not quite ready yet. We'll give him a week in here and see how he fares.”

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    At the same time, half a region away, the final day of the Indigo League tournament sign-ups was coming to a close.

    It took them four days. After having trekked across Route 22, he and Fireball had ventured through the incredibly long and treacherous Victory Road. They were able to get a few battles in with other Trainers passing through. The battles helped in garnering them a bit more crucial experience before the tournament.

    With the starting date of the event looming ever closer, throngs of Trainers passed through Victory Road — eager to sign up in the nick of time.

    The cave road was dark, mazelike, and unforgiving. There was no food to forage, save for the occasional cave mushroom. It made Antoshi's pre-planning of stocking up on supplies even more significant. Wild Pokémon were out in force, frequently attacking the passing Trainers who disturbed their otherwise quiet home.

    A number of Trainers on Victory Road ended up backtracking; giving up on their endeavor in order to save themselves or their Pokémon. Some used Pokémon that knew Dig or Teleport, while others simply ran back the way they came.

    Antoshi and Fireball experienced firsthand just how tough and dangerous it was to simply make it to the Plateau. Having done so was an accomplishment in itself.

    Inside a registration building, Antoshi and Fireball signed in with only a few hours to spare before the beginning of the ceremonies.

    They were briefly stopped at a checkpoint inside the building, joining a queue of Trainers waiting to enter. Each of Antoshi's eight badges was scanned with a special device by a receptionist. A microchip inside each of the badges verified they were legitimate. Afterward, they were instructed to head through a long corridor nearby.

    They walked to the back of the building, down a tunnel, out into the light of the midmorning sun.

    They gasped in awe, standing at the entryway that led out into the League's massive stadium. They both looked around with wide-eyed fascination. The large battlefield was walled off by spectator stands. Uptempo music played over the stadium's intercom system.

    “Wow,” Antoshi remarked. “Our first ever tournament.”

    "None bigger than the Indigo Plateau," Fireball added.

    There were hundreds of Trainers and their Pokémon patiently waiting around. More and more Trainers continued to file in behind the duo. Many waited on the spacious field, while others took to waiting in the empty stands.

    A woman's voice came over the intercom system.

    “The Indigo League Committee would like to remind all entrants that impromptu battling is strictly prohibited. Thank you for your continued patience. Registrations will soon be closing.”

    As the two walked around to find a place to wait, Fireball's eyes darted every which way. He locked eyes with every Pokémon that stared at him. There was an intense look in each Pokémon's eyes. Fireball bared his teeth, the flames on his back suddenly igniting.

    Antoshi looked over at him with surprise.

    “You okay?” Antoshi asked, placing a hand on his friend's shoulder.

    Fireball gasped, extinguishing his flames.

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

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

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

    "That's probably a good idea."

    The duo headed up into the stands, sitting down in their own quiet area. They watched the swarms of Trainers and their Pokémon all bustling around. Both of them smiled, content yet restless.

    “I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous,” Antoshi said.

    "Same here. But, just imagine how amazing it'll be when we win. They'll show us on the news and in papers all around the world! 'Trainer With One Pokémon Becomes Champion.' We'll be super-famous, and I'll get all the food I can eat."

    “That's impossible — there's never enough food for you to eat.”

    "… Fair point!"

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    The sun started bearing down hard, with small reprieves when the clouds hid its glare. Only a handful of Trainers packed umbrellas, or had Pokémon large enough to shade themselves in.

    A number of tournament volunteers walked passed out cold bottles of water, sandwiches, and bags of Pokémon food.

    “Thank you again for your continued patience, Trainers,” the intercom voice said. “Registration closes in ninety minutes.”

    Antoshi capped his paper water bottle after taking a long sip.

    “I've been sweating my butt off here, but I don't care. We've waited for this for so long. It's kind of like relaxing after crossing the finish line, you know? Plus, the music's kind of nice.”

    Fireball was busy enjoying the food he was given to reply.

    “I see you're still keeping that Typhlosion outside its Poké Ball,” a young man next to them said.

    They both turned their attention to him.

    Antoshi's eyes widened in surprise, standing up with a grin.

    “Declan? I never imagined I'd ever see you again.”

    “Same here,” he replied as they shared a handshake.

    Fireball smiled and waved.

    “I've wanted to apologize to you for a long time now,” Antoshi said, “about that incident back in the Cerulean Pokémon Center.”

    “It's not a problem. If anything, it made me realize I need to step up my training a lot. To think a Quilava would beat my star Mudkip so easily. Nowadays, I get a talking-to about it from Nurse Joy every time I visit a Pokémon Center.”

    “Same here!” Antoshi replied, both of them laughing.

    Declan looked over the belt on Antoshi's shorts. “So, where are the rest of your Pokémon?”

    “You're looking at him,” Antoshi replied with a casual point of the thumb to Fireball.

    Declan was flabbergasted.

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

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

    “Wow,” Declan said, scratching his head. “I can definitely respect it — getting all the way here with one Pokémon is unbelievable. Honestly, my first thought was that you were completely nuts.”

    “We get that a lot.”

    “Aside from the name thing, huh?”

    Antoshi laughed and nodded.

    “It's funny,” Declan said. “I like that you refer to yourself as 'we.' Seems like Fireball never leaves your mind. The two of you really are best friends.”

    The duo grinned to each other.

    “Well, Antoshi, it was great to catch up with you. I'm looking forward to seeing you battle but, really, I'd like to face off against you myself.”

    “Same here,” Antoshi replied with a nod.

    The two shook hands before Declan took his leave.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    “Thank you for waiting, Trainers,” the woman on the intercom said. “Registrations have now closed. Stand by for a tournament official to give you further information. Please remember to hang on to your litter and dispose of it in the proper recycling bins.”

    Not long after, a man in formal wear emerged from a tunnel at the top level of the stadium. With a camera pointed at him, his image lit up the large display screens at the far ends of the stadium. He wore a headset holding a tiny microphone.

    “Greetings, everyone!” the man said as his voice came through the sound system. “My name is Cedric, and I'll be the master of ceremonies for this year's Spring Indigo League Tournament! Some of you are returning challengers so you already know the drill. As for the new faces here, let me tell you how we'll be starting. In just a moment, our hard-working tournament volunteers are going to give you a coded, numbered pass on a lanyard to wear. Please be aware that you need to wear these on you at all times for identification. The number represents what bracket you'll be in for the first elimination round of the tournament. Usually, we try to pull in at least five-hundred and twelve Trainers, but this year we have a little less than that. So, a small handful of you are going to get a 'bye' in order to keep the bracket consistent. Don't take that as a free pass, however. You're not officially in the tournament until you're in the top one hundred twenty-eight!”

    The volunteers started walking around the stadium field and stands, handing out passes to each Trainer.

    “Those of you who don't get a 'bye' will have to win two battles to move on to the main tournament! Because of the sheer size of the bracket, we're restricting all Trainers to only using a maximum of two Pokémon! This 'sudden death' style elimination round will test your ability to work with a limited team. So, make those eight badges you earned count! Pick out your team's best two and give it your all!”

    “This is extremely lucky for us,” Antoshi remarked. “Now we just have to win a couple of two-on-one battles. You know all of the Trainers here probably have a full roster of six.”

    Fireball nodded eagerly.

    "I can't wait to get started," he said, shifting eagerly in his seat.

    “Now, I'm sure some of you can't wait to get started — and you won't have to! The preliminary rounds will commence immediately once everyone has been assigned their numbers.”

    "I think he read my mind," Fireball remarked, flabbergasted.

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

    “Now, if everyone on the stadium floor would kindly make your way up into the stands in an orderly fashion, we can move on to the next phase.”

    All people and Pokémon on the field did as instructed. Trainers recalled their larger Pokémon while others kept smaller ones with them.

    The arena floor quickly emptied out. Once clear, the hum and whirring of motors and gears began to rumble through the stadium.

    Most in attendance looked on in astonishment. The massive floor slowly descended several dozen meters before coming to a halt. It slowly rotated before rising back up and locking in its original position. Instead of one large battlefield, the floor was now divided into four smaller fields, each of them numbered from one to four.

    “I'm sure all of you in attendance recognize these stadium markings as the same size you've seen in Gyms — and that's because they are! The Indigo Plateau's stadium is large enough to hold four simultaneous battles at once. This is how we're going to be zipping right along into tomorrow's main event!”

    One of the stadium volunteers walked over to Antoshi and handed him a lanyard. He looked at his assigned number, 144, before putting it around his neck as instructed.

    The stadium screens displayed four different tournament brackets comprised of one hundred twenty-eight participants each. Every Trainer was represented only as a number on screen, leaving all Trainers unaware of their opponent beforehand.

    “If you direct your attention to the screens, you'll find your number and the bracket that it's assigned to. The bracket numbers — one, two, three, and four — are all clearly marked on the stadium floor. Once your number is called, you'll make your way to the corresponding battling area for your bracket. The matches will commence very shortly, so stand by! Good luck, Trainers!”

    Cedric took his leave and the music resumed playing while volunteers continued to hand out numbers.

    “Oh, man,” Antoshi remarked with a sharp huff. “I'm so nervous now.”

    "I can tell," Fireball replied.

    Antoshi rubbed his hands together, wiping his sweaty palms dry, his leg shaking up and down uncontrollably.

    “It's taken so long to get to this point. Feels like everything's moving so fast now.”

    Fireball placed a reassuring paw on his friend's shoulder.

    "We've got this, remember?" Fireball boisterously said. "We're super strong — and super smart! Nothing's going to hold us back now."

    Antoshi took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

    “You're right. … Thanks for the assist. Sometimes I let my emotions get to me.”

    "No sweat. You're talking to the master of emotional outbursts over here!"

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

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

    Antoshi and Fireball watched anxiously. The competition was fierce. Many fully evolved and incredibly rare Pokémon appeared on the battlefields. Most of the spectators were in collective awe when a Latios, a Legendary Pokémon, entered the field. Its appearance got a resounding reaction akin to a celebrity.

    One by one, Trainers were eliminated from the competition. By the time it was Antoshi and Fireball's turn, almost three dozen of their fellow hopefuls were already out.

    “Numbers 143 and 144,” a voice came over the loudspeakers, “head to field number four.”

    The two friends looked at each other and gave a confident nod.

    Antoshi huffed sharply, his heart racing as they made their way down onto the battlefield.

    They took their place on the opposite end of the field from a young girl with short, purple hair.

    Fireball prepared himself for battle, igniting the flames on his upper back.

    The loud sounds and rumblings of the other battles happening nearby were distracting. It was an unfamiliar setting for the pair.

    “Field number four — begin your match!”

    “Nice Typhlosion!” the girl exclaimed as she threw out a Poké Ball. “Hope it's not afraid of the water!”

    From the opening ball came a burst of light that solidified into a long, terrifying sea serpent — Gyarados.

    A sudden explosion erupted on the battlefield near them. Both Antoshi and Fireball looked over in surprise.

    Their opponent smirked.

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

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

    “Fireball, move!” Antoshi shouted.

    Fireball panicked and leapt to the side. He took a glancing blow from the attack to his lower body. The force caused him to spiral through the air, but he managed to land on his feet and spun around to a halt.

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

    “You okay?” Antoshi asked.

    Fireball nodded firmly to him.

    “Fireball, use Thunder Punch!”

    The girl was taken aback. Fireball's fist sparked and crackled with bright, yellowish bolts of electricity. He darted toward the Gyarados, giving a shout as he leapt up high, and nailed the water beast in the face with a hard right hook.

    The serpent shouted in pain as it fell to the ground hard. Fireball landed and headed back to Antoshi's side.

    Gyarados strained to get up, visibly worn down from the potent attack. It shook its head, declaring its intent to stay in the fight with a roar.

    The opposing Trainer smiled at her Pokémon.

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

    “Same plan as before, Fireball! Keep moving!”

    Fireball took off running while his opponent took aim at him.

    With a shout, Gyarados spat up another powerful jet of water.

    Fireball was suddenly swept away by it. He gargled in surprise, shoved to the ground and rolling to a stop near Antoshi.

    “Oh, no!” Antoshi cried out.

    “Yeah! Nice shot!” she exclaimed.

    Fireball growled as he got back to his feet. The fires on his back had dwindled some. As he shook the water from his fur, those flames exploded back to life.

    "Gonna take more than that to keep me down," Fireball said.

    “Thunder Punch — again!”

    Fireball bared his teeth, summoning forth the same electricity into his paw. Just as before, he rushed the Gyarados and leapt up high.

    “Dodge it, Tiny!”

    Gyarados managed to slither out of the way of Fireball's swing.

    Fireball quickly spun around, swung again, and nailed the serpent on the back of its head.

    Gyarados roared in pain, the electricity visibly surging through its entire frame. It fell over, unconscious.

    The girl gasped in shock.

    “No way!” she said, her jaw hanging agape.

    Fireball went back to his side of the field. He and his friend confidently nodded to each other.

    The girl humphed as she recalled her Gyarados into the confines of its ball.

    “Fine, then. I guess I'll have to use my ace! Go, Flora!”

    She threw out another ball. From it, emerged a large yet stumpy reptilian quadruped with a massive blooming flower on its back. Across its forehead, it wore a necklace with a strange gem like a cat's eye marble hanging from it.

    Fireball and Antoshi looked to each other with elation — a Grass-type opponent like Venusaur was fortunate for them.

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

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

    “Flora — Mega Evolve!” she exclaimed.

    The duo watched in amazement as the gems fired out bolts of magical energy that sought each other out and connected. Once combined, Venusaur gave out a roar and began to glow as if evolving.

    Many of the Trainers in the audience were fully engaged in the spectacle. Once the bright light faded, Venusaur had grown larger and heavier with a pink flower on its forehead and dark green markings between its eyes.

    “Oh, … wow,” Antoshi remarked nervously.

    It was the first time the two had seen a real Mega Evolution up close. The stones needed for Trainer and Pokémon were both exceedingly rare and very expensive.

    Lost in a battle trance, Antoshi and Fireball's eyes were wide with intensity — their excitement rising from the unique challenge before them. They were focused on their battle and no longer distracted by the nearby competitors.

    “Flora, Sludge Bomb!”

    The lush beast reared back and opened its maw with a deep, groaning roar. It spat out a large, brown gob of toxic muck that shot in an arc toward Fireball, exploding on contact.

    Fireball groaned, stumbling back from the impact and turning away to wipe the sludge off his face.

    "This is so gross," Fireball remarked, shuddering. "Why do we keep getting opponents with poison attacks? I'll take getting smashed over the head with a boulder over this any day."

    Antoshi ignored the horrible-smelling poison to turn his attention to their opposition.

    ‘If what I remember about Mega Evolution is correct,’ Antoshi thought, ‘Venusaur's durability is increased as well. I could go with Fire Blast, but it's slower and harder to land. Flamethrower is way more reliable, but it'll take more hits to wear Mega Venusaur down. I'd better play this one on the safe side. We can't afford to make any mistakes now.’

    “Fireball, use Flamethrower!”

    Fireball shook off what sludge he could. He swiftly launched a raging stream of fire from his mouth, fueled by the disgust of Mega Venusaur's attack.

    “Dodge it!” the girl commanded.

    In a flash, Venusaur darted to the side to avoid Fireball's attack.

    Antoshi was shocked at how deceptively fast the heavy, stubby monster was.

    “Follow it!” Antoshi said. “Keep pouring it on!”

    Fireball didn't let up on his attack, aiming the fire as best he could at Mega Venusaur. He could only keep a single Flamethrower going for as long as his lungs held a breath. The distance between them forced him to predict and try to lead his opponent's movements.

    Mega Venusaur neared the stadium wall. Running out of room to dodge, it leapt back over the pillar of flame.

    Fireball responded by pulling up, managing to score a hit just as he ran out of air.

    Mega Venusaur roared in pain, crashing back down to the ground with some of its petals aflame.

    Fireball coughed up puffs of smoke while trying to catch his breath.

    “You okay, Fireball?” Antoshi asked.

    "Feeling a little lightheaded after that one, but I'm good."

    Mega Venusaur groaned, getting back to its feet. It shook itself off, cinders falling from its body.

    “Okay, that Mega Venusaur looks in way better shape than I would've hoped,” he remarked.

    The girl laughed.

    “That's thanks to its ability: Thick Fat! Mega Venusaur takes half as much damage from Fire-type attacks!”

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

    Both Fireball and the girl appeared confused as to what Antoshi was planning.

    Fireball shrugged before he took off running on all fours.

    “Flora, give it another Sludge Bomb!”

    Fireball weaved back and forth while closing the gap between them, keeping himself as difficult to aim at as possible.

    Mega Venusaur roared again before discharging another gob of revolting poison. The arcing attack narrowly missed Fireball, going right over his head.

    The girl gasped as Fireball appeared before her Pokémon.

    Fireball opened his maw wide, drenching the Grass-type in a direct stream of flames. Mega Venusaur roared in agony, taking the full brunt of the attack.

    ‘That was a risky plan, and it paid off,’ the girl thought as she sucked her teeth. ‘Sludge Bomb is a single, arcing shot. He was betting on me to use it again, and for Flora's aim to be less accurate if his Typhlosion got in close. Now Flora's seriously hurt, even with its Thick Fat. Another one of those and we're done for.’

    Fireball headed back to his friend. Mega Venusaur slowly shook itself off, appearing far more charred and worn down than before.

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

    Venusaur's body glowed with an intensifying shade of green.

    “Frenzy Plant?” Antoshi thought aloud, unfamiliar with the move. “Fireball, use Defense Curl!”

    Fireball curled into a ball just before Venusaur stomped the ground hard.

    Massive, spiked roots violently erupted out of the ground, creating a trail that led toward Fireball. Once they reached the Typhlosion, he was struck hard and flung high into the air.

    Initially worried for his friend's well-being, Antoshi quickly realized that Fireball had been thrown at an angle — one that brought him closer to their opponents.

    “Now, Fireball!” he shouted. “Flamethrower!”

    Fireball clenched his teeth, realizing what Antoshi did. Even while constantly rolling through the air, he kept track of Mega Venusaur's position and waited for the right moment.

    He opened his maw and gave an intense roar. The flames on his back flared wildly as he let out a Flamethrower so intense that it stopped his momentum and propelled him backwards.

    The attack was fast. The weakened Mega Venusaur could not dodge as it did previously. Frenzy Plant had already rendered Mega Venusaur briefly exhausted and unable to move. It roared in agony, toppling over backwards as it was drenched in fire.

    Its Trainer shielded her eyes from the powerful flames. Once the attack finished, she gasped at how badly burned her fainted Mega Venusaur was.

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

    Fireball landed on his feet near Antoshi. He immediately groaned in pain and fell to a knee. He held his ribs, looking at his paw afterward to find blood.

    “Fireball?” Antoshi asked with concern as he headed to his friend's side.

    "Looks like one of those big thorns got me," Fireball remarked, shooting Antoshi a reassuring grin.

    Antoshi smiled and nodded. He quickly took off his backpack and rummaged through it.

    “Trainer 144 wins,” the voice on the loudspeaker said.

    The opposing Trainer sighed in dismay, recalling her Venusaur into its Poké Ball.

    “Good luck,” she said before solemnly walking away.

    As Antoshi tended to Fireball's wounds with a spray medicine, they briefly looked over at her. Neither of them could fathom just how disappointed she was, but it was clear she put as much effort as they did into getting to the tournament.

    It gave them perspective as to just how easily their dream could end.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2019
  9. Antoshi

    Antoshi Peaceful Serenity

    Chapter 9


    In the early evening, the sky had become a layered mix of bluish-purple littered with long streaks of orange clouds. Antoshi and Fireball sat in the stands. They watched the end of the first round of preliminary matches while enjoying the meal provided for them by the staff.

    The crowd of Trainers had thinned out to half as many as there were hours prior.

    “Trainer 501 wins!” the voice on the loudspeaker said. “That concludes the first round. If you haven't already, Trainers, please heal your Pokémon by your own means or inside the stadium where you'll find our Pokémon Center. The second and final round of preliminary matches will begin in just a few minutes.”

    The giant screens lit up with an updated tournament bracket. Antoshi narrowed his eyes when he saw the number of their next opponent — 142.

    His eyes lit up. The battle involving '142' was one that he'd witnessed from afar. It was a young boy, younger than him, with dark skin and an almost completely shaved head. The Trainer had used a Tyranitar to knock out both of his opponent's Pokémon.

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

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

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    “Trainers 142 and 144, report to battlefield two.”

    Antoshi took a deep breath and sighed. The pair nodded to each other, putting their game faces on, heading down to the assigned field.

    The young boy that Antoshi remembered was already waiting for them. He smirked confidently, tossing a Poké Ball up and down.

    “Battlefield two — you may begin!”

    “Go,” their opponent exclaimed as he threw his Poké Ball out, “Lanturn!”

    From the ball emerged a cheerful, large blue footballfish with a Y-shaped antenna tipped with glowing orbs. It cried out, raring to battle.

    Fireball gave his own shout, flaring up the fires on his back.

    ‘Oh, that's not good,’ Antoshi thought, wiping a bead of sweat from his forehead. ‘Thunder Punch is effectively useless now and Lanturn's Water-type drowns out all of our Fire-type attacks. … Rollout isn't effective—’

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

    Lanturn did a shimmy from side to side, singing as it did so. A dark cloud emerged high over their battlefield, a downpour of rain falling upon the two Pokémon.

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

    “How do you like that?” their opponent asked. “Let's see your Typhlosion deal with this!”

    Antoshi hesitated for a moment before issuing their next move.

    “Fireball — use Burn Up!”

    Fireball appeared surprised by the decision.

    He dropped down to all fours, snarling loudly as his entire body became enveloped in an inferno. He swiftly charged at his opponent through the rain, slamming headlong into it.

    Lanturn cried out, stumbling backwards from the force and the intensity of the flames. Fireball headed back to his side of the field.

    The flames on his back extinguished.

    "Aw," Fireball muttered, turning to look at his upper back. "That's my least favorite part of using this move."

    ‘Burn Up makes Fireball typeless for the remainder of this battle,’ Antoshi thought, staring intensely at their opponents, ‘so now we don't have to worry about the Type advantage. This'll be a long-shot, but it might just be the best chance we have to deal with his Pokémon.’

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

    Lanturn let out a soothing cry. Its body became enveloped by swirling rings of water that rotated around it.

    “Fireball, Defense Curl!”

    Fireball curled up into a ball, suddenly surrounded by a brief glimpse of a bluish shield.

    The rings of water around Lanturn healed some of its battle damage.

    “Nice try, fool!” their opponent said. “Your Defense Curl isn't going to matter when Lanturn has no physical attacks! Lanturn, Thunder!”

    Lanturn howled to the sky, sending up a large bolt of electricity from its glowing orbs into the storm clouds above.

    The clouds flickered with light and rumbled with the sound of thunder. An even more powerful bolt of lightning came down in a flash, striking its target directly.

    Antoshi shielded his eyes, clenching his teeth as a loud crack of thunder rang out mere meters in front of him.

    “Fireball!” Antoshi exclaimed. “Are you okay?”

    Fireball's fur was frazzled and slightly singed all around his frame. Some residual electricity continued to flow around him — a visual indication that Fireball had been paralyzed by the attack.

    "Ye—yeah!" Fireball shakily replied. "Just p—peachy."

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

    “All right, Fireball! Rollout!”

    Fireball revved in place on the rain-slicked ground before dashing toward the enemy.

    ‘That combo!’ the opposing Trainer thought, eyes wide with surprise. ‘So, they know some tricks…’

    Lanturn's maneuverability on land was almost non-existent. The opposing duo were unable to do anything about the oncoming attack.

    Fireball slammed into Lanturn, causing it to rapidly flip over backwards until it rolled to a stop. It groaned, shaking off its dizziness before sliding back to its side of the field.

    The rain momentarily poured down harder while Lanturn's Aqua Ring healed some of its injuries.

    “Lanturn — Thunder, again!”

    Lanturn fired another powerful bolt of electricity into the clouds, which came down and struck Fireball.

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

    Antoshi grit his teeth until the lightning faded away.

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

    Fireball wasn't moving, causing a moment of tension between both sides. He suddenly heaved a deep sigh, having held his breath. The electricity of his paralysis continued to flow around him.

    “Come on!” the opposing Trainer screeched. “Faint already, you stupid Typhlosion!”

    "I'm … not going down easily," Fireball said, straining.

    Antoshi grinned proudly.

    “Fireball, another Rollout!”

    Fireball revved up once more and launched himself faster than before across the rain-slicked ground.

    Lanturn's eyes widened just before being struck. It was thrown all the way past its Trainer before crashing to a halt. It groaned, suddenly unable to pick itself back up.

    “No!” the opposing Trainer shouted.

    “Yes,” Antoshi quietly cheered.

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

    “Fireball, how you feeling?”

    "Very buzzed," he replied. "Other than that, I'm still good to go."

    Antoshi smiled and stood confidently.

    The opposing Trainer seethed, yanking the Poké Ball off his belt and recalling his Lanturn in a huff.

    “No more messing around!” he exclaimed, throwing out an Ultra Ball. “Go, Tyranitar!”

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

    From the ball came a monstrous dinosaurian beast. Covered in thick, green armored skin, the bipedal Pokémon was abnormally large for its species like Fireball was — and very angry.

    “I don't care if your Typhlosion has no Type right now, you're still going to lose!”

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

    "What?" Fireball asked, unable to see anything in his ball form. "What happened?"

    The imposing Tyranitar stomped its foot, causing the ground to rumble under its immense weight and power. Fireball bounced a few inches off the ground from the impact.

    "… Oh," Fireball said. "I don't want to look, do I?"

    “No, probably not,” Antoshi replied.

    The Tyranitar let out a powerful roar that grabbed the attention of almost every spectator and nearby competitors.

    Antoshi turned his attention to the opposing Trainer.

    “Hey, how did you get that Tyranitar anyway?”

    “By catching it — duh! Stupid!”

    “… Okay then,” he muttered, taken aback. “I see someone's not in the mood to chat.”

    From Tyranitar's body, a magical maelstrom of sand kicked up, swirling relentlessly around the two Pokémon. It was its Sand Stream ability. The sandstorm caused the dark clouds and rainy condition to disperse.

    "Ow!" Fireball said as he was pelted with grains of sand. "Not this again!"

    ‘We have to act quickly here,’ Antoshi thought. ‘Tyranitar's a bit faster than Lanturn, but definitely still slower than Fireball. If we use Rollout again, combined with Defense Curl, it'll have the strength of eight standard Rollouts at this point. But that's not a good enough Type advantage for us to—’

    His eyes suddenly lit up.

    ‘Tyranitar … is Dark- and Rock-Type.’

    “Fireball! Use Focus Blast!”

    Fireball groaned in pain as he hopped back to his feet. His eyes finally showed how worn down he had gotten after taking two direct Thunder attacks.

    The opposing Trainer watched carefully, ready to counteract.

    Fireball held his hands at one side, charging up a bright ball of energy. However, just as the attack was ready, the electricity around his body surged wildly.

    He shouted in pain and fell to a knee. The energy in his hands dissipated.

    ‘Oh, no! Not the paralysis!’ Antoshi thought with eyes aghast. ‘Not now!’

    “Tyranitar! Stone Edge! Finish it!”

    Tyranitar let out an immense roar before stomping its foot. Massive rock pillars jutted out of the ground, rushing toward Fireball like a wave.

    Fireball was struck hard. The violent impact sent him airborne a short distance before crashing near Antoshi.

    The pillars sunk back into the ground.

    Fireball!” Antoshi cried out.

    Fireball groaned weakly, lifting himself up onto his arms.

    The Typhlosion suddenly fell to the ground.

    The wind had been knocked from Antoshi's lungs.

    Yes!” the opposing Trainer cheered. “We won!”

    “Fireball, no,” Antoshi whispered, his eyes welling up with tears. “You can't lose …”

    He exhaled in disbelief, dropping to his knees beside his fallen friend.

    Just as the opposing Trainer was about to recall his Tyranitar, Fireball stirred back to life.

    "Good point …" Fireball weakly replied, standing up. "It would be … pretty crummy if we lost now …"

    “What the heck?!” the opposing Trainer shouted.

    Antoshi was equally astonished to see his friend still conscious. He got to his feet at the same slow pace that Fireball did.

    "I have … no idea how I'm still in this," Fireball said with a weak smirk. "It kinda feels like I'm dreaming."

    “Well, this is definitely our dream,” Antoshi replied, smiling. “Let's make it come true while you're still conscious. One more Focus Blast!”

    Fireball nodded and hobbled his way back onto the field. He grit his teeth upon re-entering the tornado of whipping sands. He held his trembling hands at his side, slowly charging up the same ball of energy as before. He groaned, becoming more dizzy and weak as the ball grew in size.

    'Gotta make … this one … count,' Fireball thought. 'I only have one more left in me.'

    With a diminished shout, he thrust his arms forward, firing the attack before falling onto his behind.

    “Tyranitar — dodge it!!” its Trainer exclaimed.

    Tyranitar leapt to the side with incredible speed that caused Antoshi to gasp in shock.

    However, Fireball's inexperience and inaccuracy with the move became their saving grace yet again.

    Tyranitar dodged directly into the path of the attack.

    Focus Blast struck one of the gaping triangular holes in its chest — a glaring chink in its otherwise impenetrable body armor. The spot was a pressure point, amplifying the damage it received for a critical hit.

    The impact caused a large, explosive burst of light. The tremendous Tyranitar was sent backward, roaring in anguish. It shook the stadium grounds upon landing and slid to a halt.

    Fireball grinned at the sight before he fell back onto the wet, sandy ground.

    “Fireball!” he exclaimed.

    Antoshi stopped himself from rushing through the sandstorm to his friend's side — doing so would cause a forfeit. He clenched his teeth in frustration, staring at his friend with deep concern.

    Tyranitar was not moving. Its sandstorm petered out.

    Its Trainer was left stunned, but quickly became outraged.

    No~!!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. He fell to his hands and knees and began sobbing.

    “Trainer 144 wins!” the voice on the loudspeaker announced.

    Antoshi immediately rushed over and knelt down beside Fireball. He scrambled to pull out another Full Restore from his backpack, spraying his friend with it from head to toe.

    “You all right?” Antoshi asked nervously.

    Fireball gave him a thumbs-up.

    "I'm just glad that was the last match of the day," Fireball replied quietly. "We definitely got put through the wringer here."

    “These victories of ours are getting more and more unbelievable — and a lot more slim. It already feels like we're barely scraping by.”

    "I'll bet it's all downhill from here," Fireball joked.

    They both laughed.

    The other Trainer sniffled and wept as he recalled his Tyranitar. He covered his eyes in shame as he ran away through the stadium tunnels.

    After Antoshi watched Fireball get to his feet, one of the stadium volunteers holding a clipboard came out to greet them.

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

    Antoshi and Fireball grinned in elation.

    They were led through a set of large open doors in the interior of the stadium. The pair gasped in awe, entering a massive, elegant ballroom.

    Everything was colored in various shades of purple and blue, accented by white. The walls were lined with couches. The shiny, waxed floor was covered in a plethora of perfectly lined dining tables and chairs. The air was rife with the scent of freshly baked confections.

    There were only a dozen or so Trainers hanging around, some accompanied by their small or human-sized Pokémon. With the amount of tables and seats, it seemed it would eventually get much more crowded.

    “This is the Indigo Room,” the man told them, “the main dining and lounging area for those who pass the preliminary matches. You may come here and dine any time of the day or night. Your assigned table number is …” he briefly jotted down on his clipboard, “18! This will also be the number of your sleeping quarters.”

    “Sleeping quarters?”

    “Indeed. The Indigo Tournament starts tomorrow and lasts for three days. Until then, all Trainers passing the preliminary matches must stay at the Indigo Plateau until the closing ceremonies.”

    He handed Antoshi a key card and a pamphlet.

    “This key is for your quarters. The pamphlet includes information of daily events and maps of the grounds. Be sure to wear your lanyard for identification purposes whenever you're outside of your quarters. I hope you and your Pokémon have a wonderful time here. Congratulations once again on your victories.”

    He gave them a respectful nod of the head before taking his leave.

    Antoshi took a brief look through the pamphlet.

    “Oh good, another map for me to memorize,” Antoshi joked.

    "This place is definitely the fanciest I've ever seen!" Fireball remarked.

    He looked in all directions while Antoshi quietly studied the information in his hands.

    "I smell food — lots of food. He never said whether we had a limit or if we had to pay, did he?"

    “He sure didn't,” Antoshi replied with a smirk, “but that doesn't mean you get to eat the entire kitchen.”

    "What other places are there to check out around here?"

    “Well, down the hall on the left there's a large Pokémon Center.”

    "Which way do we go to check out our room?"

    A grin spread across Antoshi's face. He closed the pamphlet and stored it away in his backpack pocket.

    “I was hoping you'd ask that. Come on.”

    Fireball curiously followed his friend through a hallway on their right. They exited out another set of large doors leading outside. They were now on the opposite side of the stadium from where they originally entered.

    Fireball gasped in surprise. Sprawled out before him was a bustling resort village situated around a large lake. The pair strolled and looked around.

    Volunteers and staff walked around, keeping the grounds and the log cabins that comprised the village tidy. Each of them smiled, waved or greeted the pair as they passed.

    "Wow!" Fireball remarked. "What is this place?"

    “I just read about it on the map. This place is rented out as a vacation resort most of the year. But, when it's time for a tournament, it's lodging for the participants.”

    Fireball's eyes widened in surprise.

    "Wait a minute!" he exclaimed. "Do you mean …"

    “Uh-huh!” Antoshi cheerfully replied.

    They came to a stop in front of a single-story cabin with a sign hammered into the front lawn that read '18.'

    “We're not staying in a room like the Pokémon Center — we get our own little house to live in.”

    Fireball started hyperventilating.

    "This … is so … freakingcool!" he said.

    Fireball was buzzing with excitement as they walked to the front door.

    Antoshi slid the key card through the reader, hearing a confirmation beep, and the door unlocked. He invited his friend to enter first.

    Fireball squealed in glee before opening the door.

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

    “Wow,” they both remarked in awe.

    The evening sun flooded the charming home. Warm and cozy, almost everything was made of wood. Any amenities they could need were provided; from a couch, television and videophone to a fully-stocked kitchen, dining room and appliances.

    "This place is amazing," Fireball said as the two looked around. "I like it a lot more than the Pokémon Center."

    “You don't say?” Antoshi sarcastically asked, grinning.

    He headed into the spacious bedroom, placing his backpack down next to the bed. Fireball peered around the bedroom from the doorway.

    "Someday, you and I should live in a house like this. Maybe someplace out in the woods like you enjoy."

    “That would be nice.”

    Antoshi smiled, glancing out the window for a brief moment. They had a perfect view of the sparkling lake behind the house.

    “Well, how about right now we go and do what you enjoy, which is eat?”

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

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    By the time the two got back to the dining hall, far more Trainers were lounging around with each other and their Pokémon. Food was already being served to the hungry victors of the first day of competition. The duo sat down, ordered and began to eat. Fireball asked Antoshi to order several courses just for himself.

    Trainers, Pokémon, staff, waiters and volunteers all buzzed around. Antoshi was elated to see so many other Trainers at such a high-class dining room also sitting with their Pokémon. It was an unusual sight, yet it was the norm for the tournament.

    A couple of Trainers walked around the dining room with Pokédexes in hand. One of them came up to Fireball, holding up the device that looked like two black handles around a holographic light display. The duo were able to see through it from the opposite side. It lit up with a full-body image of a Typhlosion.

    “You have a really awesome Typhlosion,” he said. “How'd you get him?”

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

    “Lucky you! Hey, you're the duo that faced that scary-looking Tyranitar.”

    “That's us,” he said with a proud grin.

    Fireball nodded.

    “Wow. You beat a Tyranitar with a Typhlosion of all things. That's really amazing stuff. I didn't see the entire battle, but I definitely saw it after it fainted.”

    “Thanks!”

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

    “See ya.”

    "You know," Fireball said, "I was kind of expecting the Trainers here to be really full of themselves. It's nice to see most of them are friendly."

    “Yeah. I was expecting the same, honestly,” Antoshi replied with a smile. “It's a huge confidence boost to have eight badges and get to the Indigo Plateau. With how tough it's been along the way, it's still a humbling experience.”

    They looked around at all the smiling faces, hearing a couple people in the distance laughing.

    “They're all probably really happy to make it this far. I know I am.”

    "Same here," Fireball replied with a mouthful of food. "This is the best dinner we've had in a while!"

    Antoshi shook his head and sighed in content. Their minds were off the jitters they'd inevitably face in the following day's competition. For the moment, they took all the time they could to relax and revel in their success.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    Having been on the move and battling most of the day, the duo were ready to call it an early night. Antoshi laughed as an overstuffed Fireball literally waddled his way out of the dining room.

    They headed back to their cottage to get settled in. Fireball took his usual place resting on the floor of the moonlit bedroom, groaning loudly and hiccuping as he lay on his back.

    "I'm going to sleep really well tonight," he said as Antoshi emerged from the bathroom.

    The boy wore his usual sleeping garments, toothbrush in hand.

    “I hope so,” Antoshi said, packing the toothbrush away. “Tomorrow's the biggest challenge we've ever faced.”

    He hopped into bed, slipping under the covers. He sighed heavily, followed by a period of silence between them.

    “… It's so incredible to think we finally made it to the Indigo League. We spent so many nights awake just like this, talking about it and dreaming of this moment.”

    "Do you think we'll really make it to the end?" Fireball asked.

    “Of course. We can't think otherwise. Doubting ourselves now doesn't make sense. We always said we were going for the championship — that's where we're gonna end up.”

    "You're right. This is why I listen to you."

    “Yeah, otherwise you end up in the trunk of Team Rocket's car.”

    "Err, … maybe we could chalk that up to a 'youthful indiscretion'?"

    “I'm only joking. I'm the one that taught you that phrase, by the way.”

    Fireball snickered.

    “Well, we'd better get lots of sleep.”

    "Sounds good to me. Goodnight, Antoshi."

    “Goodnight, buddy.”

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    The following morning, the duo got up at their usual wake-up time of six o'clock. The sun had just started to break the horizon and peer into the bedroom window.

    They were fueled by a deep sense of determination. Both remained fairly quiet, getting themselves mentally prepared for what was to be the most important day of their lives.

    Wearing the same red-and-white polo shirt and shorts he'd worn often, Antoshi laced up his shoes. He made sure to put on his identification lanyard on and headed for the door where Fireball was anxiously waiting for him.

    He stopped suddenly, heading back into the room to rummage through his backpack for something. He pulled out Fireball's Poké Ball.

    ‘Better take this with me, just in case.’

    He stuffed it into his pocket before leaving the house with his best friend by his side.

    From his other pocket, he pulled out their information pamphlet. After navigating through the stadium building, they entered a large, bright waiting room.

    There were dozens of rows of linked chairs — plenty of seating for the waiting competitors. Large television screens hung on the walls.

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

    Antoshi looked through the information again.

    “Well, it looks like the gates open for the crowds at eight. Opening ceremonies start at ten — that's when all the competitors are brought out to the stadium floor until the ceremonies are over. Then, the first match starts afterward. I wonder how they're going to arrange the matches this time around?”

    “Funny running into you again, Antoshi,” a familiar voice said.

    He turned around and grinned.

    “Declan! Hey!”

    “Hey there. I didn't think so many other Trainers got up as early as I did. Guess that's to be expected with the Trainers and Pokémon serious enough to make it this far.”

    “So, what are you doing this morning?” Antoshi asked.

    “I just came back from breakfast in the dining area. All the food here is amazing, and they make some great waffles.”

    Fireball's whole world suddenly went blank, staring into the distance with eyes wide.

    ‘Waffles …’ Declan's voice echoed in Fireball's head. ‘Wa~ffles …’

    Declan smirked as he looked at the mesmerized Typhlosion.

    “What's wrong with Fireball? Didn't get enough sleep last night?”

    “No, I think it's because you said—”

    "Waffles!" Fireball shouted, rushing off to the dining room.

    “… Waffles.”

    Declan burst out laughing. Antoshi sighed and grinned.

    “Well, I guess we're off to breakfast now. Maybe we'll run into each other again later.”

    “Take care,” he replied before Antoshi jogged after his friend.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    After getting some breakfast in them, the duo hung around the waiting area up until the point when the opening ceremonies were to start.

    Antoshi passed the time by reading a book from the reading material provided by the staff, while Fireball relaxed out on several chairs next to him.

    A short time later, the television screens turned on. Those waiting got to watch the morning's news. One of the reports was about the ongoing events after the destruction of Fern Town.

    Antoshi took interest in the report. While the room was too loud for him to hear it, the text on screen indicated that the cleanup was expected to last months. A makeshift memorial had been set up for loved ones and the general public to leave their thoughts, prayers, and offerings. Hundreds of flower bouquets, cards, and toys were left in memory of the victims.

    Antoshi furred his eyebrow at the sight of people distraught and crying. It was difficult for him to watch, recalling the incident as it happened in his dreams.

    Recordings and photos of Slateport City's devastation also came up on screen. Comparisons were made between the two events.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    The televisions eventually changed over to the stadium's closed circuit network. Antoshi and others were awe-struck. Live cameras showed them the sheer mass of people waiting to get into the gate and filing into the stands.

    With the images of the crowds outside, the Trainers inside started to become rowdy as they prepared themselves.

    Fireball awoke with a yawn amid all the commotion.

    "Huh? What's happening?" he asked.

    Antoshi grinned at his friend.

    “It's about to be showtime.”
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
  10. Antoshi

    Antoshi Peaceful Serenity

    Chapter 10


    As the opening ceremonies neared, the stadium was almost filled to capacity. The noise of the crowd became apparent even from inside the waiting area.

    Anticipation was growing on all sides. Antoshi had long put away the book, opting to sit and mentally prepare.

    Soon, a small group of stadium volunteers entered the waiting room. They informed the Trainers that they'd be escorting them out onto the stadium grounds in orderly lines.

    The process went quickly and smoothly. They led each line of Trainers down a hallway.

    They stopped just at the entrance of one of the tunnels leading out to the stadium. Fireball stood beside Antoshi.

    The stadium's giant screens showed Cedric as he walked out onto the field with microphone in hand. The crowd roared in excitement.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this year's Spring Indigo League Championship Tournament!” he exclaimed. “One-hundred and twenty-eight new and returning Trainers from all over the world have proven their mettle in the Kanto League! But, only one will be the victor and move on to face the Elite Four and the Champion himself! Now, without further ado, let's say 'hello' to this year's participants!”

    The first group were led out into the sun-drenched stadium grounds. The floor had already been flipped back over to become a single large battlefield instead of four.

    As the crowd cheered them on, some of them chose to wave while others kept to themselves. The volunteers outside directed them to stand in perfectly spaced gaps between each other.

    As part of the second group, Antoshi and Fireball headed outside. The noise of almost a hundred thousand people cheering was beyond their comprehension. One of the volunteers spoke to them as they neared.

    “Stand here, please,” he said, bringing them to a halt.

    The awe-struck duo gazed around the stadium. Nothing could've prepared them for how overwhelming it was to be surrounded by so many onlookers. Pride swelled through them as they soaked in the moment.

    “We're really here,” Antoshi said. “We're finally here at the Indigo League Tournament. After getting our eight badges, seeing all those amazing cities, and all the people and Pokémon we got to meet along the way. Not to mention the insane amount of training we had to start our journey with to get anywhere. A lot of people doubted us, Fireball, but it finally led up to this.”

    "Well, when you sum it up like that, I feel like I'm getting misty-eyed over here."

    Antoshi smiled proudly at his friend.

    “It felt like this was just an impossible dream for the longest time. I remember the times we both wanted to give up and go home.”

    "I sure am glad we didn't. This is totally worth it."

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    Once all of the participants were out on the field, Cedric resumed speaking.

    “Now, let's say hello to our Elite Four!” he exclaimed to the elation of the crowd.

    The stadium's cameras shifted to five people seated behind the glass of the stadium's box seats.

    “First up, the mistress of Water-types, Sharon!”

    The camera zoomed in on a young, blonde woman in a long, elegant, blue dress. She smiled warmly for the camera as it zoomed in on her.

    “Second, the Flying-type genius, Nicholas!”

    A reserved young man wearing large glasses kept his gaze away from the camera, opting to observe each of the competitors on the field.

    “Third, the 'Steel Crusher', Dwayne!”

    A large, muscular man with dark, tanned skin, wearing a bodybuilding tank top sat with his arms folded across his chest. He had a stern look on his face. The crowd briefly chanted his name.

    “Fourth, the vibrant Grass-type prodigy, Rosie!”

    A young girl in a green dress laughed and waved for the cameras with a big grin.

    “And finally, our reigning Indigo League Champion — Kristoffer!”

    A young man with dark hair covering an eye looked over the field with disinterest.

    Antoshi looked at the Champion in astonishment, having never seen him before. He was awe-struck by the Champion's gaze.

    ‘Whoa,’ Antoshi thought. ‘That look in his eyes. He's a Trainer with some serious experience.’

    “Now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time to get this tournament underway!”

    The sounds of fireworks went off in the morning sky as flocks of Pidgey and Pidove were released into the air.

    The duo didn't have much time to enjoy the sight as all the Trainers were escorted back inside the stadium in the same orderly fashion. They were led into a different tunnel than the one they came out from, while adjacent groups headed in the opposite direction.

    The new waiting room was nearly identical to the first, only with half as many Trainers and their Pokémon.

    “Greetings, Trainers,” a new, male volunteer politely said as he entered the room. “The sixty-four of you here are going to be on the red side of the battlefield. The television screens provided here will display the tournament bracket, as well as the current battle in progress. We will be starting the first match very shortly. Good luck!”

    The Trainers looked at each of the screens to find their assigned numbers on the tournament bracket. The bracket was also color coded to indicate which matches would be taking place on the first, second and final days of the event.

    Antoshi's eyes went wide, gasping in surprise.

    "What is it, Antoshi?" Fireball asked.

    “We're … the third match up,” he remarked quietly.

    "That's really soon," Fireball replied, just as surprised as Antoshi was.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    The screens shifted to the outside camera, showing a smiling Cedric.

    “All right, ladies and gentlemen!” he said. “We're now ready to start the first match!”

    The crowd erupted into raucous cheers once more.

    “Trainers 176 and 305 — to the field!”

    A large, burly man sitting in the front row with a pointed beard got to his feet with a sigh. He exited the room while stretching his neck.

    "Wow," Fireball said. "That guy seems pretty relaxed for being the first one up. Right, Antoshi?"

    He looked over to see Antoshi staring at the screen, lost in thought.

    "Antoshi?"

    He gently nudged his friend, snapping the boy back to reality.

    “Oh. Did you say something?”

    Fireball chuckled, trying to reassure his friend.

    "Come on, Antoshi, don't worry. We've got this!"

    “I'm sorry,” he replied, rubbing his forehead. “It's just that we've never battled in front of a massive crowd before. The competition here is really intense, too. I'll do my best to keep it together.”

    Antoshi and the other Trainers in the room watched the first match play out on the screen.

    Back and forth went the two Trainers' Pokémon while the crowd cheered them on relentlessly. At the same time, he watched the expressions on the Trainers' faces. They were confident, eager — not at all nervous.

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

    The camera zoomed in on the large man as he looked around at the cheering crowd with a pleased smirk.

    "Wow, he did it," Fireball said. "I never would've expected a big, tough guy like that to use a Chansey, but it sure was tough."

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    Antoshi observed the next match with intrigue on his face. His hands were clasped over his mouth, his gaze almost unblinking. It was not unlike when he was a child watching the Indigo League Tournament on TV at home.

    “Craig's Walrein takes down his opponent's in one hit!” Cedric said.

    ‘So many different Trainers,’ Antoshi thought as he stared intensely at the screen. ‘So many strategies. I've got to manage to deal with anything. If we were facing that Walrein … well, it's slow-moving, but hits hard and has a lot of durability. I'd have Fireball move constantly to avoid its attacks, which means his stamina would burn fast, which means we'd have to finish quickly. Fire-type moves would work because it's half Ice-type—’

    "Antoshi?" Fireball spoke up, interrupting Antoshi's train of thought. "Aren't we up next?"

    “Oh, shoot, you're right.”

    Antoshi closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths.

    “And Golem goes down! The blue side's Craig wins!”

    Antoshi heaved a sigh before looking up at his friend with a confident smirk.

    “Time to make our dream a reality,” he said.

    Fireball grinned and nodded back.

    “Trainers 144 and 477 — to the field!” Cedric said.

    Antoshi and Fireball made their way out of the room and down the long tunnel.

    The duo inhaled deeply as they were overtaken by the bright sun and the incredible roar of the crowd. Antoshi couldn't decide whether to wave or to just play it cool. He idly wiped the sweat from his palms on his shirt.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    “Oh, crap!” Blaire exclaimed, sprawled out on her couch in the Cinnabar Gym. “Is that Antoshi?! Son of a gun, he really made it!”

    She grinned as she crunched on some snacks, watching Antoshi from a television attached to its own rolling stand.

    At the other end of the Gym's battle room, a male Trainer slumped over, groaning in boredom.

    “Are we gonna battle or what?” the Trainer asked.

    “Hey, pipe down!” she snapped at him. “I gotta watch this match and see how it goes!”

    The Trainer sighed in defeat.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    The figure of Antoshi's opponent emerged from the far side of the field. He shielded his eyes from the sun to get a clearer view.

    “And, his opponent, a 15-year-old hailing from Saffron City — Declan!”

    Antoshi gasped, his eyes wide.

    "That's some coincidence," Fireball remarked.

    Declan stood at his side of the battlefield, smiling as he briefly soaked in the attention from the crowd. He was already holding his first Poké Ball in hand.

    “I hope you're as excited as I am, Antoshi,” he said from the across the field.

    Antoshi shook off his disbelief.

    “I sure am!” he replied, smiling back at him.

    “Good! Now I can see for myself just how strong Fireball's gotten!”

    The giant displays lit up with information and an image of each Trainer. While Declan's side of the screen displayed three shaded Poké Balls, Antoshi's only showed one with an image of a Typhlosion over it.

    “As per tournament rules,” Cedric said, “both Trainers may only use three Pokémon from a pool of six in all matches before the semifinals! However, the red side Trainer, Antoshi, has only one Pokémon!”

    The crowd burst into shocked murmurs, along with some smatterings of laughter.

    “Is the young Trainer simply overconfident or does he have prodigal skill!?”

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    “Interesting,” General Logan remarked from inside the military base.

    He calmly swirled around his wine. Antoshi's face displayed on one of the screens in his office. The other screens kept watch on the young boy with black hair, curled up in a corner of his cell.

    The General looked at the two boys in succession and hummed curiously.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    “Competitors,” Cedric said, “you may begin!”

    “I choose you!” Declan said as he threw out his first Poké Ball. “Lucario!”

    From the ball came forth a blue and black bipedal canine. It gave a shout, taking a fighting stance.

    Lucario held its paw-like hands near its face, eyes locked intensely on Fireball.

    Fireball responded by lighting the fires on his back.

    ‘That is one well-trained Lucario,’ Antoshi thought.

    The displays lit up one of the slots on Declan's side with an image of Lucario.

    “Lucario — Aura Sphere!”

    It shouted again, holding its hands at one side. In the space between them, it summoned a bright ball of energy.

    “Oh, that's not good,” Antoshi remarked. “Fireball, that attack is going to home in on you so move as quickly as you can!”

    Fireball dropped to all fours and sprinted around the large field.

    Lucario kept its eyes on its target before thrusting its arms forward.

    The energy ball chased Fireball for a few moments before exploding at his heels. He shouted as he was thrown through the air, landing hard on his back.

    “Wow, what an attack!” Cedric exclaimed. “Is this already the end for Antoshi's single Pokémon?”

    "Not even close, announcer guy," Fireball muttered as he got to his hind feet.

    “You all right?” Antoshi asked.

    Fireball nodded to him.

    “Fireball — Flamethrower!”

    Fireball inhaled deeply, exhaling a powerful stream of fire directly at his opponent.

    “Move, Lucario!” Declan said.

    Lucario narrowed its eyes and jumped high into the air.

    Not unlike their match against Mega Venusaur, Fireball attempted to follow it, using up the breath left in his lungs. Just before the scorching flames hit, Lucario suddenly vanished.

    Antoshi and Fireball both gasped. Fireball immediately coughed up smoke from gasping in some of his own flames.

    “Your Lucario is fast!” Antoshi remarked, awe-struck as Lucario appeared back on the ground.

    Declan chuckled.

    “Let's show them just how fast you are, Lucario! Extreme Speed!”

    Lucario suddenly rushed at Fireball with blinding speed before vanishing once again. The crowd cheered in delight.

    Fireball and Antoshi had no idea where it went, though its rapid footsteps were audible.

    “How incredible!” Cedric remarked. “Lucario is moving so fast that the red side's Antoshi and his Typhlosion can't keep up!”

    Antoshi's irises seemed to automatically shift red with the power of his mysterious energy. He gasped, his senses becoming massively boosted.

    Lucario's hypersonic movements around the battlefield became clearly visible to him. His eyes widened as Lucario prepared to strike.

    “Fireball—”

    Before Antoshi could finish, Lucario appeared next to Fireball and punched his jaw hard. It blinked instantly to Fireball's other side, striking him in the face face again. Afterward, it hopped back to its side of the field.

    Antoshi groaned and shook his head as his eyes returned to normal.

    “Fireball — use Inferno!” he said

    Fireball set his jaw.

    "Oh-ho, this is a cool attack."

    The flames on Fireball's back flared wildly as he gave a loud roar. The ground under Lucario briefly rumbled before a towering pillar of ghostly blue flames spiraled upward.

    Lucario shouted in pain as it was consumed in fire that Declan shielded his eyes from.

    When the flames vanished, Lucario was left wincing and holding its arm. Its body was littered with burn marks.

    “An incredible counter by the red side!” Cedric said. “Lucario appears to have suffered a burn! How will this affect the tide of battle?”

    Antoshi nodded to himself.

    ‘With that burn, Lucario's physical strength is greatly diminished.’

    “Nice move!” Declan said. “That burn is not going to help make this battle any easier, though. We don't need physical attacks to win! Lucario, Aura Sphere!”

    Lucario clenched its teeth, holding its arm at its sides again.

    ‘I wonder…’ Antoshi thought as he narrowed his eyes.

    “Fireball, use Flamethrower!”

    Fireball exhaled another stream of fire in the same moment Lucario launched its Aura Sphere.

    The two attacks collided. Aura Sphere was absorbed by the fires and almost immediately dissipated.

    Both of their opponents were shocked.

    “Whoa!” Declan exclaimed.

    The flames continued forth. Lucario was struck by them, shouting in agony as it was thrown for several meters. It rolled a few times before landing on its front.

    Lucario groaned, trembling as it tried to lift itself up before it collapsed.

    “Another great counter!” Cedric exclaimed amid the cheering of the crowd. “Antoshi's wisely chosen Fire-type attack brings down the half-Steel-type Lucario!”

    Declan recalled Lucario into its Poké Ball. Lucario's image on the giant displays was shaded out.

    Antoshi sighed in relief.

    “That was one gamble that paid off,” Antoshi remarked. “Good thing you didn't go with another physical attack, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to do that!”

    “Very impressive,” Declan replied, reaching for another ball on his belt. “Very clever, too. Don't forget I have two more Pokémon left, with five to choose from!”

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

    Declan smirked.

    “You make a fair point.”

    He threw out his next ball — a Great Ball. “I choose you — Crobat!”

    From the ball emerged a large, bright purple bat with menacing red and yellow eyes. It screeched loudly, flapping its four wings to keep airborne.

    “Crobat, Confuse Ray!”

    His Pokémon's eyes shifted to a bright, glowing purple.

    “Fireball, cover your eyes!” Antoshi said.

    Fireball was unable to look away from the mesmerizing glow of Crobat's eyes. His vision became incredibly blurry. He began to stumble about randomly with a dazed look in his eyes.

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

    "Smokescreen?" Fireball wondered aloud.

    He momentarily snapped out of his daze. He took a deep breath before exhaling a large plume of black smoke that enshrouded most of their side of the field. Afterward, he groaned and held his head while continuing to stumble.

    “Crobat, Cross Poison!”

    Crobat crossed its wings over its face. It summoned forth two swaths of glowing, purple energy in the shape of an 'X' in front of it before launching itself into the smoke.

    Fireball stumbled right into the path of Crobat's attack which burst into poisonous bubbles.

    Fireball yelled in agony. The broad, searing attack struck vital points in his torso and abdomen. He was thrown hard enough that he fell out of the smokescreen. He rolled to a stop next to Antoshi.

    "… Did I just get hit?" Fireball wearily asked.

    The smokescreen faded away.

    “A direct hit!” Cedric exclaimed. “Crobat manages to land a devastating Cross Poison despite the Smokescreen!”

    Fireball slowly got back to his feet, stumbling back onto the field. He groaned in pain, holding his chest with one hand.

    ‘That hit took a serious toll on Fireball,’ Antoshi thought. ‘We have to start playing safer.’

    “Fireball, use Defense Curl!”

    'Defense Curl…' Fireball thought. 'Defense Curl? I know this one…'

    Fireball muttered in confusion before suddenly striking his face with his own paw. The crowd gasped in surprise as Fireball gave a goofy laugh.

    "That wasn't it!" he said, laughing.

    “Ooh! The confusion seems to have taken its toll as Antoshi's Typhlosion struck itself!”

    Antoshi ran a shaky hand through his hair. Fireball appeared to be just fine, but the confusion took away a valuable attack opportunity.

    “Aerial Ace, Crobat!”

    Crobat screeched in response, soaring high into the air. It did a backflip before diving at Fireball with incredible speed.

    “Now, Fireball, Thunder Punch!”

    'Thunder Punch?' Fireball thought.

    His eyes went wide, his balled fist suddenly crackling with electricity.

    Crobat momentarily vanished, reappearing as it dashed by Fireball. It struck his face hard with its wing.

    At the same time, Fireball swung hard and caught Crobat with a Thunder Punch to its midsection.

    The result of the traded blows sent Crobat spiraling upward. It smashed into the ground, twitching.

    “What an amazing turn of events!” Cedric said. “Typhlosion snaps out of its confusion just in time! Crobat is down!”

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

    ‘Wow,’ Declan thought, recalling his Crobat. ‘Looks like Fireball is still really strong!’

    He reached for another Poké Ball on his belt. He gazed down at it for a moment, running his thumb over a star engraved on the top. He smiled warmly.

    ‘You haven't lost yet, my friend. Not since, well, …’

    He trailed off, glancing over at Fireball.

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

    Antoshi gasped in surprise, staring down the large, cobalt blue biped.

    Fireball smirked, giving an acknowledging nod to his old friend.

    Swampert nodded back.

    ‘Well, shoot,’ Antoshi thought. ‘I expected him to eventually send out his Swampert. It's is a good choice on his part anyway. He has to know that Fireball can use Burn Up. But, … do we use it?’

    He glanced at Fireball, who appeared to be fully recovering from his confusion.

    ‘This certainly won't be like the last battle. … Looks like it's a gamble either way.’

    A breeze passed through as the two Trainers grinned to each other for a moment. Their staredown brought back memories of that fateful day in Cerulean City. For a moment in their minds, Mudkip was facing off against Quilava.

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

    “Fireball, Flamethrower!”

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

    “Guard!” Declan said.

    Swampert shielded its face with both arms just before the flames consumed it. Once the attack petered out, Swampert thrust its arms out at its sides. While its skin was mildly singed, it appeared no worse for wear.

    Antoshi was shocked.

    ‘That is definitely not good,’ he thought.

    “Swampert, Muddy Water!”

    His Pokémon smacked its hands to the ground, causing a rush of dirt and water to bubble up. The water spiraled around Swampert's body like a maelstrom, swirling around wildly while expanding outward.

    It lashed hard at Fireball, who struggled to maintain his ground against the powerful waves of dense water.

    “Hang on, Fireball!” Antoshi said, shielding his eyes just the same as his friend was.

    The water abruptly lost all of its energy, splashing harmlessly upon the ground. Fireball was left soaked and covered in dirt. The flames on his back had dwindled severely. He was hunched over, his breathing ragged.

    “Fireball, you okay?”

    He responded by shaking the muddy water out of his fur. With a grunt, the fires on his back came to life once more. He was intensely focused, keeping his eyes affixed to Swampert.

    Antoshi nodded in understanding.

    “Fire Blast!” he said.

    He brought his hands up to his neck, clasped it, and took as deep a breath as he could muster. With a tremendous shout, he exhaled an intensely bright, five-pointed blast of fire.

    The flames roared as they raced toward its target.

    Declan shielded his eyes once again just before the impact of the attack. It exploded violently, echoing around the entire stadium. A cloud of smoke and ash concealed Swampert's frame.

    ‘Whoa,’ Declan thought.

    Antoshi, too, was surprised and impressed. He had never seen Fireball summon forth such intensity in an attack before.

    As the smoke cleared, both Antoshi and Fireball gasped.

    Swampert was standing, its arms covering its face yet again. It slowly dropped its defensive stance, still looking to be in good shape.

    ‘That Swampert went through some incredible training,’ Antoshi thought. ‘Maybe … even more than Fireball.’

    “Swampert, use Waterfall!”

    Swampert gave a shout before it rushed forth with incredible speed that a Pokémon of its size seemed incapable of. As it closed the gap, its body became enveloped in a jet of water.

    “Fireball, dodge it!”

    Fireball's eyes went wide, unable to get out of the way in time.

    He was tackled hard, stuck to his opponent's body as Swampert soared high into the air.

    Fireball groaned loudly, trying to free himself from the momentum. He rolled away to gain a moment's respite before his opponent darted back down. A large stream of water trailed behind it, reminiscent of a waterfall.

    Fireball was again tackled by Swampert as they plummeted together. After they crashed hard, Swampert ducked out of the way.

    Fireball was completely consumed by the falling tower of water, crushed into the ground by its weight as it rained down upon him.

    Fireball!” Antoshi shouted.

    Swampert returned to its side of the field.

    Fireball grunted, struggling to lift himself up.

    Antoshi was awe-struck as Fireball's fires burned even brighter than before. He slowly turned to the boy, grinning and giving him a weak thumbs up.

    Suddenly, Fireball collapsed. The fires on his back completely went out.

    Antoshi's heart sank into his stomach. Everything went silent in his head for a moment.

    “Down!” Cedric exclaimed. “Antoshi's Typhlosion is down! The blue side's Declan is the victor!”

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

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

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

    “Can we battle now?” her awaiting challenger grumbled.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    Antoshi fell to his knees, the world around him appearing to move in slow-motion. The words of the announcer echoed in his head. His jaw quavered, clenching his fists, his eyes filling with tears.

    Their dream came to a sudden, abrupt ending. Their eager hopes got a cold dose of reality.

    Yet, with tear-stained eyes, he looked to his fainted friend who had fought with everything he had for so long. He couldn't help but smile ever so slightly. He sniffled and closed his eyes, breathing a shaky sigh of relief.

    ‘It's over,’ he thought. ‘Just like that. Our long journey's over. It didn't end the way we'd hoped, Fireball, but you and I knew we were taking a huge risk going into this just the two of us. We did our best. We didn't win every battle we faced, but we always persevered. If there's anything I've learned from you, it's that there is nothing you and I can't eventually overcome. We'll overcome this, just like every other obstacle we've had in our way. Our journey may be over for now, but it's also the beginning of a brand-new one.’

    Antoshi took Fireball's Poké Ball from his pocket. He stared at it for a moment.

    ‘I wonder how long it's been since you were last inside here? Six months? Maybe seven? I hate to put you back in, but it looks like I have to. Just for a few minutes, at least. Until I can bring you to the Pokémon Center to get you all healed up.’

    “Fireball, … return.”

    He held up the ball, pulling his unconscious friend into it in a crimson beam of light. With one hand, he casually wiped the tears from his eyes and stood up as the crowd cheered louder. He faced them, smiling as proudly as he could, taking his loss. He held Fireball's Poké Ball tightly as he turned and walked away.

    “Antoshi!” Declan called out, recalling his Swampert.

    He jogged over to his opponent, stopping as Antoshi turned to him.

    “Thank you for battling me. You and Fireball were one of the best teams I've ever faced. I respect both of you a great deal.”

    Antoshi smiled gently and gave him a nod.

    “Let's hear it for Declan!” Cedric said, prompting the crowd to applaud and cheer.

    As Declan waved to them, Antoshi disappeared back into the stadium tunnel.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

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

    Nurse Joy called him back over once Fireball was fully healed.

    He thanked her and took the ball back. With a smile, he held the ball out and summoned Fireball from its confines in a bright light.

    Fireball immediately looked to Antoshi with a guilty expression.

    "Antoshi," he quietly said. "I'm so sorry. I wasn't strong enough, I—"

    Antoshi silenced him when he hugged his friend as tightly as he could.

    Fireball was taken by surprise, but quickly smiled and hugged his friend back. Tears rolled down his face.

    “You don't have to apologize for anything,” he said, his voice trembling. “You're my best friend. I love you, Fireball.”

    "I love you, too," he replied.

    The two lamented for their loss, letting out their emotions as they wept together.

    It was the end of their long journey in Kanto.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
  11. Antoshi

    Antoshi Peaceful Serenity

    Chapter 11


    The duo rested for a short time in the Pokémon Center. They watched the next battle get underway on nearby television screens.

    Just then, someone rounded the corner.

    “Ah, here they are,” a staff member said, waving an unknown party over. “144?” he asked.

    Antoshi nodded, confused.

    “You have some visitors.”

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

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

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

    The boy ran to her and threw his arms around her.

    Both of his parents held and consoled him as he cried into his mother's shoulder.

    “It's all right,” his mother reassured him. “You and Fireball put up an incredible battle out there. I was so proud watching you give it your all.”

    “I'm sorry,” he said, sniffling and wiping his eyes. “You're right, we did give it our all. I … shouldn't cry over that.”

    “No apologies necessary, son,” his father replied, stroking the back of his son's head.

    “How, uh, … how long have you been here?” Antoshi asked. “You said you were busy with work. I didn't think you were coming.”

    “Oh, honey,” his mother said, “we could never be busy enough not to be here for you on the most important day of your journey. We're so excited and so proud that you made it this far. To think, our son was on TV for the entire world to see. Ooh, you're like a celebrity now!”

    The others quietly laughed. Antoshi smiled gently and nodded.

    “Thanks, Mom,” he softly responded.

    “Antoshi, you're an incredible Trainer,” his father said. “I'm so proud of you and Fireball for your dedication. You could've given up and gone home at any time, but you stuck with it all the way. You made it to the Indigo Plateau and got to compete in this tournament seen all around the world. You're always going to be the best Trainer I've ever known, son.”

    Antoshi grinned, wiping residual tears from his eyes.

    “Thanks, Dad. I'm really lucky to have the two of you always cheering me on. We never would've gotten this far without you both behind us.”

    His mother giggled and hugged him tightly.

    “You're still going to come home after the tournament is over, right?” she asked.

    “Absolutely. I can't wait to come back home.”

    “Your mother's already got the house all decorated,” his father said. “There's balloons and a banner hanging out in the front yard for you when you get back. … I just hope the balloons are still inflated by then.”

    “Me, too!” his mother said with a laugh.

    Antoshi grinned and chuckled quietly.

    “I love you guys,” he said.

    “We love you, too, Antoshi,” his mother said.

    Antoshi took a moment to breathe a relieved sigh. He looked up at Fireball with a smile.

    “Well, you ready to watch the rest of the tournament with Mom and Dad?” he asked.

    Fireball grinned and nodded before pointing to his open mouth.

    Antoshi laughed as he pulled away from his mother.

    “I know, I know. I could go for some snacks, too.”

    “Let's all go for some snacks!” his mother said.

    The four of them headed off, chatting and laughing.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    After their loss, the duo spent the rest of the three days taking it easy with Antoshi's parents. Their run was over, and so they watched the rest of the matches from the spectator seats. Fireball got to eat plenty all throughout.

    At one point, Antoshi both ran into and introduced his parents to Elise, who showed up to watch the tournament in-person as she'd promised.

    Antoshi and Fireball cheered loud and proud for Declan as he continued to advance through the brackets. By the end of the tournament, Declan had made it to the semifinals before finally being eliminated. He was disappointed about the loss, but took it with grace after making it to the final four.

    On the evening of the final day, all of the participants were called out onto the field once again. The crowd was treated to an extended fireworks display and showers of confetti in celebration of the tournament winner.

    "So, what happens to the guy who won?" Fireball asked over the noise of the crowd and fireworks.

    “He has up to six months to challenge the Elite Four,” Antoshi said. “It's one gauntlet, all the way to the end, with no breaks in-between. If he wins all four battles, he gets to face the Champion. If he wins again, well, he becomes the Champion.”

    "That's really cool!"

    Antoshi smiled as he looked at the winner standing on a pedestal in the very center of the field. He was as close as he'd ever gotten to making it there himself.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

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

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

    Fireball quietly snickered.

    The next morning, the duo climbed aboard one of the cars of a train. Rather than walking back, Antoshi and his parents opted to take transportation home. The high-speed train station in Viridian City would take them to Saffron, with some stops along the way.

    Antoshi and Fireball chose a seat together. Fireball sat by the window.

    Antoshi sighed, dropping his backpack to the floor between his legs and leaned back. It was a relaxing end of their long journey across Kanto.

    Antoshi's parents sat together nearby.

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

    They waited for all the other passengers to get settled in.

    “Hey there, youngster,” an elderly gentleman in the seat behind him said.

    Antoshi turned around.

    “Hello,” he replied.

    “I saw you on the television, during that tournament. You did an incredible job getting that far with just one Pokémon.”

    “Thank you,” he said with a proud smile.

    “I was a Trainer like you once when I was younger. I'd never seen anyone use just one Pokémon before. Trainers with one Pokémon achieving great success were always something of a myth to myself and my companions. You're the only one I've ever seen make it to the Championship tournament. There's never been a Champion with a single Pokémon before.”

    “Fireball and I were aiming to be the first.”

    Fireball peered over the seat and waved. The man chuckled.

    “Well, I certainly hope this isn't going to make you second-guess yourselves.”

    Antoshi shook his head.

    “It's not. Fireball and I aren't giving up. We're going to keep on trying, and get a lot stronger.”

    “That's the spirit! I really hope to see you on that grand stage again!”

    “I hope so, too,” he replied with a warm smile.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    It took just a few hours for the duo to be back in Saffron City. The pair smiled proudly as they got out of their family car with Antoshi's parents.

    Amid a perfectly clear sky, the afternoon sun shone down on their suburban neighborhood. The cul-de-sac hadn't changed a bit. Antoshi's neighbors waved to him.

    “Welcome back!” one of them said.

    “Thank you!” he replied.

    A couple of youngsters — a boy and a girl — were throwing a ball back and forth in their front yard. They turned and gasped in excitement when they spotted Antoshi.

    “It's Antoshi!” the girl squealed.

    “Antoshi! You're back!” the boy said.

    “Hey there, Jack! Hey, Jade!” Antoshi greeted them.

    His parents chuckled as the kids rushed up to him.

    “We'll meet you inside, Antoshi,” his mother said.

    Jack and Jade looked up at Antoshi and Fireball with wide grins and enthused gazes.

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

    Antoshi smiled and placed a hand on Fireball's back.

    “He sure did. We both did a lot of growing up on our journey.”

    “That's so cool!” Jack said. “Next year, when I'm old enough, I want to go off on a Pokémon journey like you did. I want to be an amazing Trainer just like you, Antoshi!”

    “Me, too!” Jade added.

    “Well, I'm not so amazing,” Antoshi said, grinning coyly.

    “Oh, come on!” Jack said. “You collected all eight badges — and you went to the Indigo League! We saw you on TV!”

    “That is our greatest accomplishment … so far. Fireball and I can't get it out of our blood, though. We're ready to do it all over again.”

    “Awesome!” the two children said in unison.

    “I'm so excited!” Jade said. “I can't wait to be a Pokémon Trainer and go off on adventures!”

    “It's definitely the experience of a lifetime, and I hope the two of you have an awesome adventure like we did.”

    Antoshi and Fireball nodded to each other before parting ways with them.

    “It was good talking to you two!” Antoshi said. “We'll see you again soon!”

    “See ya!” they exclaimed, waving to them. “Bye!”

    Antoshi and Fireball laughed when they saw the balloons and banner: 'Welcome Home Antoshi'. It was all laid out on the front porch, just like his parents said. They sighed happily, opening the front door and walking inside.

    The duo were finally home.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    Inside his office at the military base, the General watched the sable-haired boy on the monitors before him.

    “It’s been a week now,” he said. “I think he’s had enough time to stew in there.”

    With a soft groan, he pushed his chair out and got to his feet.

    “Should I accompany you, General?” the other man asked.

    “No, that won't be necessary, Colonel Nolan. He's been without human contact for far longer than a young boy should. I'll talk to him alone first.”

    “Very well, sir.”

    The General walked to the door, grabbing his service cap from the hat rack and put it on before departing his office.

    “I just … want to … go home,” the boy with black hair muttered mindlessly.

    He laid in bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. After suffering through a week of solitary confinement, he was in a constant state of dull emptiness. He felt nothing, saw nothing, heard nothing. He was catatonic, as though sleeping with his listless eyes open.

    The sound of footsteps echoed down the hall, getting closer.

    He groaned softly, breaking out of his trance. He sat up, dazed and confused.

    “Hello there,” a voice spoke from beyond the cell window.

    His sunken eyes twitched. He had a weary, dumbfounded expression on his face.

    It was the first person he'd seen.

    “You … are—are you real?” the boy asked.

    He stood and pressed his hands against the glass.

    “I am real, I assure you,” the General replied.

    One of the hovering robots came by, placing a chair behind him to sit down. Once he sat, the robot handed him a clipboard and pen.

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

    “Easy, easy,” he reassured him. “My name is General Logan. I'm in charge of this facility. I'm gonna do what I can for you but, right now, leaving is a privilege.”

    He clicked the pen before jotting on the clipboard.

    “A privilege? … What do you mean?”

    “Well, let's start with the basics. We couldn't find any identification on you, so why don't you start by telling me your name?”

    “My name?” he asked.

    His eyes shifted from side to side, trying to recall his memories.

    “I—I'm not sure. I can't remember.”

    The General took a hard look at the boy.

    “I see. … Well then, can you recount the events of that night in Fern Town?”

    “Fern … Town? Is that where I live? I don't … remember.”

    “You don't remember the explosion or what led to it?”

    “Explosion?”

    Logan went quiet, studying the boy's worried expression. He wrote on the clipboard again.

    “Are you … proficient with any weapons? Bomb-making? That sort of thing?”

    The boy ran a hand through his hair, groaning in frustration.

    “I don't know. I can't remember anything.”

    Logan pondered to himself. He stared at his notes while clicking the pen a few times.

    “Well then, young man, I'm afraid there's nothing more for me to do.”

    “That's it? I—I can go home now?”

    Logan got to his feet. The same robot promptly took the chair and carted it away.

    “Sorry, I need you to cooperate with me first before we can accommodate you. Maybe the next time we speak—”

    “No!” the boy shouted. “Please don't leave me here! I'm telling you, I can't remember! Please, I'll do anything to get out of here!”

    “Whether you remember or not is irrelevant. Until you can give us a statement that helps us in our investigation, you're going to stay right here — no matter how long it takes.”

    The General took his leave, followed closely behind by the hovering robot.

    The boy rapped both hands against the glass. His eyes quickly welled up with tears.

    “No! No, don't go!” he shouted. “Please let me out! Please, please, let me out. …”

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

    “I want to go home …”

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    Two months passed in the blink of an eye. The boy with dark hair was still locked in his cell.

    He lay on the cold, white floor; his legs propped up vertically on the wall. His eyes were empty, almost devoid of life. Stricken by mania, left to do nothing else but ramble to himself. Hallucinations came and went, oftentimes talking to invisible people. The solitary confinement was working to soften the boy up, but not to give General Logan the answers he was looking for.

    He still could not recall his memories.

    General Logan came to his cell once more, flanked by another.

    “General … Logan?” the boy muttered in a daze. He slowly got to his feet, his jaw hanging. He pressed his hands to the glass wall between them as he usually did.

    “I brought a friend this time,” Logan said. “This is Slowking. He's a Pokémon.”

    The boy chuckled wearily.

    “Hello, new friend,” he remarked.

    “He's going to help you. He's going to see what can be done about your memory problems.”

    “Keep your eyes on me,” the Pokémon spoke. “Just relax.”

    Slowking closed its eyes for a moment. They glowed a mesmerizing shade of blue as it opened them again.

    The boy groaned wearily, his eyes glowing the same color.

    “What do you see?” Logan asked.

    “So much … darkness,” Slowking replied. “It's like wading through a pitch-black void. I've never seen anything like this before. This is something much more than simple amnesia. Something is—aahh!”

    Slowking shouted as a bolt of blackish energy struck it between the eyes and staggered it backward.

    “What happened?” Logan asked in concern.

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

    “There's something inside of him,” Slowking said, trembling as it held its closed eyes. “Something dark, something inexplicable.”

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

    The boy became aware of his surroundings again just as they left.

    “No, wait, please!” he exclaimed. “You said he was going to help me! Please let me go home now!”

    The pair were gone.

    “I just want to … go home. I'll do anything to go home.”

    'Would you?' a deep voice asked.

    The boy gasped and jolted in surprise.

    “… Who said that?” he asked cautiously, taking a seat on his bed.

    'I did. Do not worry, I am here to help you.'

    The boy sighed in relief, closing his eyes.

    “Oh good, it's just another one of the voices in my head.”

    'I assure you, I am much more than just a voice.'

    The boy opened his eyes in shock.

    “Wh—what? You mean, … you're real?”

    'As real as I can be. However, the first thing I need from you is to watch your jaw movements. Look closely at the cameras outside.'


    He lifted his gaze to the surveillance in question.

    'They have no way to pick up sound. They cannot hear anything you say because they do not care to hear you cry for help. They only want to observe you. Keep your jaw movements minimal and they will never know you are talking to me.'

    He turned his face away from the cameras as instructed.

    “I … understand,” he said with some confusion. “But, who are— … uh, I have a lot of questions right now…”

    The voice quietly chuckled.

    'As is to be expected. I will simply start by stating that I am here to help you unlock the mysteries of your past, and within yourself.'

    “You know … who I am?”

    'Indeed. I know a great many things about you. Things you didn't even know before you lost your memory. Heed my guidance, for I will guarantee that you are never locked in a cage ever again.'

    The boy was completely spellbound by the very idea of freedom.

    “Will I … be able to go home? To see my family?”

    'In due time. However, we will continue this conversation later. Be patient; we must plan things slowly and accordingly. First, you must rest. Recollect your thoughts, get your strength back. I will return you again soon.'

    “No, please don't leave!” he exclaimed louder than intended.

    The motions of his mouth and body, talking to someone, were captured on video.

    'It is all right,' the voice reassured him. 'I will never be far from you. I am always here with you. … Always.'

    With that, all was quiet once again.

    His eyes shifted back and forth, mulling over what just happened and trying to make sense of it. He sighed gently, opting to follow the voice's suggestion. He slipped under the white sheets of his bed to rest his eyes.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    General Logan returned to his office alone. Colonel Nolan was watching the boy on the screens.

    “To be completely honest with you, Nolan,” Logan said, “the boy frightens me.”

    The General took his seat and sighed heavily. He popped open the crystal decanter on his desk to pour himself a drink.

    “There's something about him that's just so unnatural. It shakes me to my core every time I have to talk with him. The Slowking sent to us was supposed to be the best extractor of the mind we have. The kid just … I don't know, attacked him with his mind or something.”

    “Why are we still holding him, though?” Nolan quietly asked. “He's just a child that wants to go home. It just feels wrong to lock him away.”

    Logan exhaled after taking a sip of his drink. He kept the glass in his hand and thought for a moment.

    “There's definitely something going on under the surface with him. He's got some kind of power, some secret he's hiding. Whether he's doing so on purpose or not, I have no idea. That child is the only witness to — or possibly the culprit of — a mass murder. Thousands of people are dead, not to mention the millions more that died in the Slateport attack over a year ago. There's too much similarity. There's so much more at work here. So many questions and not enough answers. I want to know what kinds of weapons we're dealing with here.”

    “Weapons, sir?”

    The General nodded.

    “The fate of his home town and Slateport are nearly identical — Slateport's was just on a much grander scale of devastation. He's hiding something. Some crucial piece of evidence is locked up in that boy's head. Doesn't matter how long it takes. Higher-ups don't care. The other problem is we don't know anything about him. All of Fern Town's records were destroyed in the explosion. Our database doesn't have any birth records in Fern Town matching his description and approximate age. As far as anyone's concerned, he doesn't exist.”

    “But on what conditions do we release him?”

    The General chuckled, taking another sip of his drink.

    “That's the funny part, at least it is to me. It's not a matter of when to release him. The higher-ups don't want him released. They never want him to see the light of day ever again. They don't care how long it takes for him to regain his memories. They just want his secrets. They want to find out how he did what he did. After that, there's no more use for him. He's to be erased.”

    The Colonel appeared somewhat surprised by the remarks. He turned to watch the sleeping boy on the monitor.

    “I understand, sir.”

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    The next morning, the mysterious young boy stirred awake from his sleep. He sat up and yawned, stretching his arms over his head. His eyes and expression looked more alert and attentive than the previous day.

    'You are awake,' the voice said, startling him. 'You have gotten a full night of rest. Are you feeling better now?'

    He took a deep breath, looking at how steady his hands were.

    “Yes, I am,” he sighed. “I haven't gotten much sleep since being locked up — just little naps here and there.”

    'That is excellent. I can sense that your energy has improved.'

    “'Sense?' … What does that mean?”

    The voice chuckled.

    'It is something you will come to understand more in time. For now, though, you should start to feel yourself returning to normal. You need to get more sleep on a regular basis. Eat whenever they feed you to keep up your strength, and to keep your mind alert.'

    “Sounds easy enough so far. … Who are you, anyway?”

    'You may call me 'Lazarus.' As previously stated, I am here to help you.'

    “Help me how?”

    'I will answer your question with a question. Tell me, do you ever dream for something greater from your life?'

    “You mean, aside from the obvious wanting to get the hell out of here? … Sure, I guess.”

    'Once you are free from this prison, what would you do if you had the power to make the world a better place?'

    “Well, I— … wait, can we backtrack for just a sec'? You think I actually will get out of here?”

    'Absolutely. I will help you to earn your freedom.'

    A grin spread across his face, pumping his fists.

    “You'll … help me?” he asked. “What do I have to do?!”

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

    He placed his hands on his lap.

    “Right, sorry,” the boy replied.

    'I want you to listen closely to what I am about to tell you. … You are far stronger than you realize. You have a unique destiny to reach and perform incredible things. You have an astonishing power within you that far eclipses the limits of normal human ability. I want to help you access that power. In doing so, you will earn your freedom from this place.'

    “Freedom…” he whispered in awe.

    'You do not know it yet, but fighting is in your blood. So, you will fight. Fight to get yourself out from this empty prison. Fight to make yourself stronger, to sharpen your focus, your senses, and your resolve. Fight to become something far greater than any of these pathetic people that locked you in here. You are above them, and you will show them that. To do that, however, you must fight.'

    An impassioned look came across the boy's face. He clenched his fists, nodding.

    “I'm ready to start doing whatever it takes to get out of here.”

    'Excellent. We shall not delay in setting things into motion. First, sit up on your bed with your legs crossed and your hands folded. Make sure you are comfortable.'

    The boy did as Lazarus instructed.

    “Now what?” he asked.

    'You must learn how to mentally focus your energy through meditation. Close your eyes.'

    The boy again complied.

    'Focus yourself on your goal of freedom. Let not a single distraction creep into your mind. Eat, sleep, train — this is going to be your regimen every single day until you become strong enough to leave. All the while, remain focused on your goal. Continuing to do this will gradually strengthen your resolve and improve your senses.'

    “This seems kind of boring. Am I supposed to start feeling something soon or what?”

    'Remain focused. Clear your mind. Breathe slowly and naturally. Believe me, this will not be boring. You will understand more soon.'

    He remained calm and still for a few moments before sighing in exasperation.

    “I can't do it. I keep thinking about why I'm here and if I'm going to ever get out.”

    'You must learn to block distractions in your mind. Remember — the path to your freedom starts with this training.'

    He sighed again, shutting his eyes and breathing slowly as the voice had instructed.

    After a few minutes, an unknown energy began to swirl inside and invigorate him. His eyebrows twitched in response.

    “I feel … something. It's like a really warm energy inside me.”

    'Very good. Now, channel your emotions. Think back to the anger, sadness, despair you felt from being locked up here. Think about how painful it was for you to be neglected and forgotten. Remember the frustration of having no memories.'

    His breathing gradually became more intense. The horrible memories of his confinement for something he didn't recall doing fueled the anger in his heart. Soon, a transparent dark light began to envelop his body. As he concentrated deeper on those feelings, the light came alive. It flickered gently around his body, like a weak flame.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    As the day progressed, the boy continued to focus and meditate, holding the negative emotions in his heart. As Lazarus had told him, he only stopped his training to eat, or to use the restroom.

    Each time he opened his eyes, his broken concentration dissipated the fiery energy around his body. As such, he remained unaware of its existence. By the end of the day, the boy was becoming visibly tired.

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

    “I can keep going,” the boy said, visibly straining. “If it gets me out of here faster, I'll—”

    'Enough!' the voice shouted loudly enough to make him jump. 'I will tell you when you've reached your limit, and you will stop. Is that understood?'

    “All right. I got it.”

    'Very good. We will resume tomorrow.'

    “Wait. Before you go, I have one last question to ask. … What is my name?”

    'Your name? Why, you only need look into the recesses of your mind. You will find it if you try to remember.'

    The boy struggled to sift through the murky depths of his memory. He suddenly recalled a piece of paper on a table. His past self took a closer at it, and he made out a name in print.

    'LATOSHI'.

    He gasped, his eyes lighting up.

    “La— … toshi?”

    He was awe-struck and overjoyed to remember his name. However, his joy quickly turned to skepticism.

    “That … sounds like a made-up name. Maybe I'm misremembering.”

    'I assure you, the memories you recall are real.'

    The boy strained himself to dig up any other memories.

    “I can't … seem to remember anything else, though.”

    'Your memories will come back in time. Now, get some rest. Tomorrow I will teach you more of what you wish to know.'

    The young boy known as Latoshi settled into bed. With a smile on his face, he soon fell asleep.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    The next morning, Latoshi awoke to a strange ringing tone. He shook his head, picking his ear.

    'Excellent, you are awake,' Lazarus said. 'Let us not delay in resuming your training efforts.'

    After yawning and stretching, Latoshi got into his meditative position.

    'As promised, today I will further your teaching. So, resume focusing your energy and concentrating your emotions. Remember your goal.'

    With a long, slow exhale, he did as he was told.

    Soon, the same black aura began to gently flicker around the boy's body.

    'Now, keep your mind focused while you open your eyes slowly.'

    Latoshi did so, and immediately gasped upon seeing the mysterious black light around him.

    “What … is this?” he asked, awe-struck.

    'I will answer your question after we try a small visual experiment to show you what it is you are trying to develop. Cup your palms as if you're trying to collect water.'

    The boy again complied.

    'Now, focus the energy you see around you into your palms. Will it so that you can shape it into a sphere.'

    He concentrated into doing so for a few moments.

    With some effort, he was able to complete his task as Lazarus had asked him. A shimmering orb of black light hovered above his hands.

    “Whoa,” he remarked.

    'This, Latoshi, is the energy that you possess — the energy you are building toward strengthening. It's the energy of your spirit. It is your 'Ki'.'

    Latoshi admired the energy he created for a short time.

    'Now do you understand? This is only a small fraction of what you are truly capable of.'

    An enthused grin spread across the boy's lips.

    “I'm ready to keep training. Now that I've seen it for myself … I can't wait to see the level of power I can reach.”

    'Good,' Lazarus replied. 'Very good…'

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    Over the following weeks, Lazarus continued to train the boy. As Latoshi's strength grew, so did his confidence and sense of self. Having someone to talk to and learn from was immensely helpful in coping with his solidarity — but it also meant the mysterious voice in his head was his only confidant.

    General Logan continued to occasionally visit the boy. His visits were an event that Latoshi previously looked forward to with great eagerness. Now, Logan's words fell on deaf ears.

    Latoshi's meditation was deep enough that he was oblivious to Logan speaking to him. The boy had become incredibly focused and centered in such a short time — a far cry from the rambling, singing, and blank staring he previously engaged in to pass the time.

    Logan and Nolan were baffled by the boy's steadfast meditation as they watched him via the monitors. Logan himself was becoming increasingly frustrated that the boy continued to ignore him.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    'Another impressive day of training,' Lazarus said as Latoshi lay in bed. 'You have excelled greatly in such a short time span. Your focus has become completely unwavering. You are as sharp as a knife. Your muscle mass has become more lean and defined. How do you feel?'

    Latoshi held a hand up to his face, smirking as he summoned some of his energy.

    “Stronger than I probably have been my entire life. … That is, if I ever do remember my life before this dump.”

    'I know you will regain your memories in time. For now, just focus on your task at hand.'

    The boy then scoffed.

    “That prick Logan straight-up offered to let me go home if I talk to him.”

    Lazarus chuckled.

    'Do not listen to their lies. You know who the only one you need to listen to is.'

    “Indeed, I do,” Latoshi replied with a cocky smirk. “I never would've gotten this far without you. You pulled me out of a dark hole, Lazarus. I owe you my life for that.”

    'As I said when we first spoke, I am here to help you. Now, get some rest. Tomorrow is the day of fate; the day you gain your freedom.'

    Latoshi closed his eyes with a content smile on his face.

    ‘I know my own name,’ Latoshi thought. ‘I know my power, I know what I'm capable of. I know my destiny. Thanks to Lazarus, I'm finally getting out of here. Just one more day. Then I'll be out of this hellhole. I'll make every person in here pay for keeping me locked up.’

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    Over three months since Antoshi and Fireball came home, life had been calm and serene for both of them. The duo relaxed and enjoyed their time taking things easy at home.

    Fireball had all the snacks he wanted. They watched plenty of TV together and Antoshi got to brush up on his video gaming skills. He shared tons of stories with his parents about their journey at the dinner table — a place Fireball was welcome to sit at. Antoshi was also happy to catch up with over a year's worth of work from his home schooling.

    They kept their battling prowess from waning by doing some training in the woods, similar to when they were younger. On most days, they spent hours outside just finding as many different wild Pokémon as they could to battle with. Occasionally, they found a passing Trainer to spar with as well.

    Preparations were underway on the morning of Antoshi's birthday. His mother hung a decorative banner on the wall — one of many she'd placed around the house.

    “I'm so excited!” his mother said. “My boy's going to be a teenager!”

    “He sure is,” his father replied, tying off a balloon. “Do you think maybe you're going a little overboard with the fanfare this year, Nikki? It seems … extravagant.”

    “Of course not! This is a very important milestone in his life. You're only thirteen once.”

    “That's what you say every birthday,” he replied with a chuckle.

    Antoshi emerged from his bedroom wearing pajamas. He stopped suddenly, his groggy eyes slowly panning around the decorated living room.

    “There's our birthday boy!” his mother said. “Surprise! I hope you like the way we dressed the place up.”

    “I … am definitely surprised,” he replied, walking around. “These parties get more and more extravagant every year.”

    His father laughed.

    “That's what I said!”

    “Well,” his mother said, “we didn't get to see you for your twelfth birthday since you were out on your journey. So, I'm making up for it with double the decorations!”

    Fireball appeared as well, having the same reaction Antoshi did.

    “I'll bet Fireball's never seen so many colors in his life, huh?” his father asked with a grin.

    Fireball nodded to him, his eyes wide.

    “You did an amazing job, Mom,” Antoshi said, smiling, “like you always do.”

    “Ohh, thank you, sweetie. I'm so glad you like it.”

    She pointed to the nearby dining room table.

    “There's a present over there you can open now. Don't worry, there's more presents to come!”

    Antoshi and Fireball headed over to the neatly-wrapped gift. Antoshi opened it and looked inside.

    “Oh, wow, clothes! … Again!” he said, feigning surprise.

    He took out the garment on top: a bright, red t-shirt.

    “Hey, this isn't one of the usual collared shirts you get for me.”

    “I know!” his mother said. “I remember you telling me here and there that you liked t-shirts more, so, I got you some! In your favorite color!”

    “I like how it looks,” the boy remarked, inspecting it front and back. “This reminds me of my eleventh birthday when you got me a bunch of clothes to start off our Kanto journey.”

    “Can you believe it, son? Tomorrow marks two years since you left to become a Pokémon Trainer. Time sure flew, don't you think?”

    “Yeah, funny you should mention that,” Antoshi said.

    He put the shirt down and turned to his parents, grabbing their attention.

    “Fireball and I have really been enjoying the time we've spent at home. However, we decided that … we want to get back on the road again. Tomorrow.”

    Both of his parents were shocked.

    “This time, … we want to go on a journey through Johto instead.”

    There was a moment of silence. His mother dropped the streamers in her hand.

    “… Oh,” his mother said, “I see.”

    “I'm sorry for dropping this on you both so suddenly, but … well, it's something we wanted to be totally sure of before I said anything.”

    “You could stay at home for just a couple more months,” she said. “Then you could try the Indigo League tournament again in the fall.”

    “I know, but … Fireball and I have been missing that sense of adventure we had going through Kanto. Seeing new places and new things and trying new foods was so much fun for us.”

    Fireball nodded, enthused.

    “Johto is a whole new place with a brand-new set of things for us to experience. We really don't want to wait a couple months for the next tournament — especially not after how quickly we lost the first time. The next time we try, we want to be way better. We think that training through Johto will give us that boost of experience.”

    Both of his parents smiled proudly. Antoshi's mother had tears in her eyes.

    “I think I speak for both of us,” his father said. “We are very proud of you, son. We're always willing to support you in making your dreams come true.”

    “Absolutely,” his mother said, sniffling.

    “I'm sorry, again,” Antoshi said. “I hope this doesn't spoil the party.”

    “Oh, don't be silly,” his mother replied. “We were just a little surprised, that's all. You know we love you and, like your father said, we're always behind you in your decisions.”

    “Thanks, Mom,” he replied, grinning.

    “Now, who wants breakfast?!” she said. “I think it's a waffles day — what do you think?”

    Fireball's ears perked up. He shuffled over to his usual seat at the table and eagerly waited.

    The others laughed.

    “That's a 'yes,'” Antoshi replied.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    Antoshi's birthday party went off later that day with the bang of party poppers. It was a small, casual affair with just some of his extended family and friends from the neighborhood — including Jack and Jade.

    The two young siblings eagerly showed Antoshi the Pokémon that they'd been training: a pair of Eevee. They soaked up all the knowledge he had to share with them about being a Trainer.

    Antoshi graciously opened all of the gifts he'd received. He was overjoyed to be surrounded by friends and family on the day before he and Fireball set off on a whole new journey.

    Fireball himself snuck bites of as many cupcakes and snack chips that he could whenever no one was watching or petting him.

    At the end of the day, after everyone went home and all the decorations were taken down, Antoshi and Fireball got ready for bed. Antoshi's brand-new backpack full of supplies sat by the bedroom door.

    The duo smiled as they stared at the ceiling.

    “This bed is too comfy,” Antoshi remarked. “I was just getting used to it, too.”

    "Yeah, I'm gonna miss this floor," Fireball replied. "All the other floors I've slept on don't feel as warm as this one does."

    Antoshi laughed.

    “Goodnight, Fireball. Sleep tight.”

    "Goodnight, buddy."

    They closed their eyes with smiles upon their faces, eager for the journey ahead of them.

    ⁂ ⁂ ⁂​

    At the same time, Latoshi's eyes opened upon completing his meditation for the day.

    'It is time,' Lazarus said.

    A devious smirk spread across the boy's face.


    *****
    Chapter 12 »
     

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