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Intervention

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Antoshi, Nov 28, 2018.

  1. Antoshi

    Antoshi Seeking Revenge

    Intervention

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

    Author Notes
    1) This is the third story in a series. 'A Blond Ray of Sunshine' is the first and 'Sibling Rivalry' is the second. You can choose whether or not to read those first — it's totally up to you.
    2) All general replies (“nice story”, “can't wait for the next chapter”) are cool, and welcomed, and appreciated. I love hearing all feedback so feel free to drop me a short comment! Constructive criticism is very much encouraged. I'm always looking to better my writing and make each story more entertaining and engaging. If you notice any errors — grammar, punctuation, plot — please do bring them up. You have the power to help shape this story into something even better!

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

    Genre: Action/Adventure/Supernatural
    Rating: T - Violence and Mild Language
    New chapter updates: Every Wednesday


    *****

    Chapter 1

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

    Fireball, no!’ he cried out.

    Latoshi's laugh echoed all around him. The sable-haired boy's sneering expression was so clear — cold, vicious, methodical.

    “Join me, Antoshi,” Latoshi said. “Let's make this world so much better by cleansing it of evil.”

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

    He and Latoshi shouted as they rushed toward each other.

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

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

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

    The duo opted to lay low for a while, keeping put in their room. Their exploration of the city — and their Johto journey as a whole — was on hold. The mood between them had been abnormally quiet and somber as of late.

    ‘What is this power inside of me?’ Antoshi thought. ‘Why? … Why was I given this?’

    "So," Fireball said, turning to face his friend, "Latoshi … broke my Poké Ball?"

    “Yeah,” Antoshi replied. He looked down at a new, unblemished Poké Ball in his hands, slowly rotating it. “I should've stopped him. I should've … done more to make sure that you weren't hurt, and that your Poké Ball was safe.”

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

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

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

    The Typhlosion turned his pained gaze to the floor.

    "That's why you went out earlier and bought a new Poké Ball," Fireball remarked with a weak chuckle. "After I saw you with it, I thought maybe … you were ready to get back on the road. I thought you were planning to catch a new Pokémon for the first time, or … maybe even a bunch of new Pokémon."

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

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

    Antoshi cut his eyes at Fireball.

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

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

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

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

    The blond-haired boy sighed, staring blankly. He pondered for a moment, hesitating to let Fireball out again.

    He placed the ball on the bed and walked away.

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

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

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

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

    Antoshi narrowed his eyes, Latoshi's words sinking in. He stood up straight, eyes widening at the spark of an epiphany.

    He grabbed Fireball's Poké Ball and held it out to finally release him. Fireball materialized, sitting on the bed again.

    "Um," Fireball began, "should I … ask why you waited to let me back out?"

    Antoshi had a stern expression upon his face before he turned away.

    “Come on, Fireball,” he said, heading for the door. “Let's get going.”

    "Oh. Okay, sure," Fireball replied with some confusion, following Antoshi as they exited the room.

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

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

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

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

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

    "Antoshi? The Gym's over here!"

    “We're not going to the Gym.”

    Fireball was stunned.

    "… Oh. Where are we going?"

    “Just follow me,” he said flatly. “I'll explain later.”

    "Oh, uh, all right then…" Fireball replied, nervously fidgeting with his claws.

    ***

    Once they reached the wooded outskirts of the city, Antoshi led Fireball into the first open clearing he found. A small flock of Starly flew off upon his arrival. He finally came to a halt.

    Fireball was surprised, curiously staring at him. Antoshi took a slow look around. The environment was similar to that of the battle with Latoshi. The memories again came flooding back to him.

    Let's just call that a … 'parting shot',’ Latoshi said. ‘You have a lot to think about after this ordeal. But, I believe you'll find it wise to reconsider my offer.

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

    “Training,” Antoshi replied calmly.

    "Oh, sweet!" Fireball remarked with a relieved sigh. "You know, you had me worried for a sec' there. I'll bet you want to make sure we're strong enough to beat all of the Johto Gyms, huh?"

    “We're not training you, Fireball,” Antoshi replied. Fireball was left confused once again. The boy stretched out his neck and rubbed his hands together. “I'm the one who's getting training.”

    "… Huh?" Fireball uttered, bewildered.

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

    “Come at me,” Antoshi said. “I want you to attack me just like you'd attack an opponent.”

    Fireball's jaw hung in disbelief.

    "Antoshi … what? What are you asking me here? I can't … hit you. You're not my opponent — you're my best friend."

    “We don't have time for this, Fireball!” Antoshi shouted, causing the larger than average Typhlosion to jump. “Every second we waste, Latoshi is out there getting stronger. He's scheming, plotting, waiting to attack us again. He could very well be watching us right now.

    "Antoshi …" Fireball said. "Is this … really the right call? Are you really going to try to fight him again?"

    “This is the only thing I can think of, Fireball. I don't know exactly what Latoshi's training consists of, but the fact is that he did beat me … badly. Just like you said earlier. I thought that my powers were strong enough for me to do anything. I could fly, I could pick up cars, but Latoshi's power … it was on a whole different level I couldn't even comprehend.”

    "I thought that you wanted to try to … well, talk him out of this whole, err, whatever it was he's trying to accomplish."

    Antoshi laughed weakly.

    “We're probably way past being able to talk things over with him at this point. The only language Latoshi understands is power.” He spread his stance a bit, loosening himself up. “Now, let's train. Come at me.”

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

    Fireball made the first charge at Antoshi. He growled and swiped a claw at his chest. His attack completely missed, however, as Antoshi had already maneuvered behind him. Fireball turned around, eyes wide with surprise.

    “Come on, Fireball,” he said with a perturbed expression. “I know you and your strength better than anyone. You're holding back already. Don't. I can take whatever you dish out at me. And, well, if I can't … I think you know what that means.”

    "Yeah, … that's what I'm most afraid of."

    “There's no time for us to be worrying about 'what if's. Now, stop messing around and strike!” Fireball hesitated for a moment. “Fireball, use Rolling Fireball!

    Fireball was shocked. Antoshi took a few paces back and gestured for him to come forth.

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

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

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

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

    "You okay, Antoshi?" he asked.

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

    “Yeah,” he replied with a slight chuckle. “Luckily.”

    Fireball smiled in response.

    "That was definitely not … something a normal person should be able to do."

    “Almost nothing over the past few months has really been 'normal' for me, … no matter how much I wish it were.”

    "We don't have to do this whole 'training' thing."

    Antoshi shook his head.

    “Latoshi … threatened your life, he threatened mine. … He even threatened Mom and Dad.” His expression turned bitter, staring at his clenched fists. “I can't let anything happen to my family — not when I have the ability to protect them.”

    "He could've just been bluffing."

    “And what if he wasn't?” he shot back, surprising Fireball. “You saw him just as well as I did, Fireball — he's insane! He hears voices in his head that tell him to … to go out and–and murder people? No, I have to stop him. I'm the only one that can. That has to be why I kept having those dreams about him and what he did to Fern Town. I know if I try hard enough, I can find the strength to beat him. I have to do this.” He closed his eyes and sighed in defeat. “I have to.”

    Fireball turned his gaze away, unable to offer a response. Antoshi looked over at his friend with a serious expression.

    “Now, come at me with Return.”

    Fireball's eyes widened.

    "You want me to use Return on … my Trainer?"

    Antoshi scoffed and grinned slightly.

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

    Fireball shook his head and groaned. He narrowed his eyes before taking aim, swinging at Antoshi with enough force to stagger the boy back. Antoshi clenched his teeth, grunting through the powerful strikes. The pain was echoed in his expression and his glowing irises.

    ‘I've been too coddled,’ Antoshi thought. ‘I've never had to fight for myself. I've always depended on Fireball or my parents, ever since I was a child. I can't be a child anymore. I can't sit by and let everyone else take care of my problems for me — not when Latoshi is out there threatening the lives of others.’ He shut his eyes tight, his arms glowing bright with his red energy. ‘Latoshi was right. I can use my power for good, to do great things in the world. Now, I'm going to use them … to put an end Latoshi's madness….’

    ***

    Antoshi was not the only one focused on training, however. At the southern end of Goldenrod City, not far from where they had fought, Latoshi was also honing his skills within the seclusion of the woods. He stood still, his eyes closed, breathing calmly. His blackish aura gently fluctuated around him. There were no Pokémon anywhere near him. The ones that did show themselves quickly fled after gazing upon his ominous, dark energy.

    'Now,' Lazarus instructed him.

    His eyes shot open — irises shimmering black. He brought his clenched fists up and gave a long shout. His aura flared wildly, extending further out around his body.

    'Concentrate,' Lazarus said.

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

    “Whoa,” he said. “That's unreal.”

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

    He smirked confidently, thrusting both hands forward. The energy he'd summoned responded by shooting out in front of him. He kept his sense of amazement as his attack violently exploded on contact with the trees and ground.

    Once the dust had settled, a flat clearing of earth lay before him. Everything for several dozens of meters had been completely ravaged to nothing.

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

    He curiously gazed down at his hands.

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

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

    “Well, if you say so.” Latoshi put his hands in his pockets and casually strolled through the destruction he'd wrought. “So, where do I go from here?”

    'As I have told you, your power is limitless.'

    “Yeah, … you have said that,” he replied with disinterest.

    'Is something wrong?'

    “I just keep— … err, never mind.”

    'Tell me. I will not have you keep secrets.'

    “It's … about Antoshi. I keep thinking about when we met, and the things he's said and … I don't— I mean, I just want to talk to him again.”

    'You are not to speak to him. There is nothing that needs to be said to him, and nothing he could say will ever matter.'

    “But, if I could just—”

    Latoshi was interrupted by a piercing noise ringing out in his head again — Lazarus' punishment system against him. He let out a scream of agonizing pain, covering his ears, falling to his knees.

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

    Latoshi gasped as the noise suddenly stopped. He panted quietly for a moment, scowling.

    “I don't think that's necessary to get your point across,” he remarked.

    'Let me tell you what is 'necessary': you putting your full faith in me. I will not lead you astray. Antoshi is weak — he is unskilled, and a coward. You are none of those things. I have already proven my loyalty to you. Now, you must do the same.'

    Latoshi's gaze was fully focused on the ground as he settled into a sitting position with his legs folded.

    'No distractions. Nothing will stop us from our goal. Nothing. Is that understood?'

    “Yes, Lazarus,” Latoshi replied quietly.

    'Very good. Now, return to your meditation. You are to continue honing your new abilities until they are as sharp as a sword.'

    Latoshi closed his eyes, heaving a sigh before he returned to his training.

    ***

    A day later, there were a few small breaks in the heavily clouded sky. The duo's roles had reversed as they continued to train in the woods. Antoshi was on the offensive, while Fireball dodged away from each of Antoshi's punches and kicks. He was struggling to land a strike on his battle-hardened Pokémon, yet remained ever persistent.

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

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

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

    "Antoshi!" Fireball strained.

    “You think I'm a crybaby?!” Antoshi shouted, enraged. He reared a fist back that burned with the energy of his aura. “Let's see how funny it is when I make you cry!

    "Antoshi, please, stop!" Fireball exclaimed.

    Antoshi's eyes widened as he snapped back to reality. He quickly let go of Fireball, his jaw hanging in disbelief.

    “Fireball, I'm … so sorry. I …”

    "It's all right, Antoshi," he reassured his friend.

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

    "We've been training like this for hours. Maybe … we should take a break for now. Besides, it's a miracle that nobody's come by here yet and saw you darting around like a bullet."

    “Maybe,” he replied, his voice low. He was unable to look his friend in the eye. “I'm really sorry, Fireball.”

    "I know, Antoshi. This whole 'Latoshi' thing is getting to you. Why don't we just, you know, go and get something to eat?"

    Antoshi grinned and scoffed in amusement.

    “You never miss a chance for food,” he joked. Fireball grinned in response. “Still, food sounds good right about now.”

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

    "You got a little something right here," Fireball remarked, pointing at some mud under Antoshi's eye.

    “Oh, I do, huh?” Antoshi smirked, rubbing his cheek, smearing the mud around. “Did I get it?”

    Fireball chortled.

    "Yep, you're fine," he replied, stifling a laugh.

    Antoshi grinned and sighed.

    “I guess that means we should go get cleaned up before we eat,” he said as he and Fireball began to walk away. “Better call Mom and Dad, too. They probably want to know what we're up to in Goldenrod.”

    In the shadows of the nearby trees stood the mysterious girl with long, brunette hair that had healed Antoshi's injuries. She smiled warmly, watching the two as they ended their training session for the day. She turned and headed off in her own direction.

    ***

    After having cleaned up and eaten, the duo headed back to their hotel room. Antoshi appeared visibly nervous as he sat in front of the videophone in their room. Fireball stood behind him as usual. Both of them did their best to put up a convincing front while the phone dialed Antoshi's parents.

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

    “Hi, Mom. Hi Dad,” Antoshi replied, offering his parents an embarrassed grin.

    “Ooh, I'll bet the two of you are enjoying the sights as usual, huh?” she asked.

    “Are the Trainers there tough?” his father chimed in.

    “Yes, and … ah, yes,” he replied with a nervous chuckle. “Fireball and I have been really distracted here in Goldenrod.” Fireball nodded.

    “Well, Goldenrod is as big as Saffron City, so you two will have tons of things to do and see there!” his mother said.

    “How's the food?” his father asked.

    “It's great. Fireball and I really enjoyed the—” Antoshi recalled his memory of being in the ice cream shoppe with Latoshi. “The, um, ice cream,” he added with a convincing smile. Fireball appeared surprised at the remark. “I just wanted to tell both of you that we'll probably be in Goldenrod for a little while longer. We're busy training, and I don't feel like we're anywhere near ready to challenge the Gym here yet.”

    Fireball nodded again.

    “Oh, that's perfectly fine, Antoshi! Have fun and take all the time you want there. Just remember to keep in touch with us. Your father and I just want you and Fireball to have a wonderful time and remember all the experiences you have in Johto.”

    “I'm definitely going to remember everything,” he responded with a worried chuckle as his eyes faltered away.

    “Antoshi?” his mother spoke up, grabbing his attention. “Is everything all right? You seem more distracted than usual.”

    “Oh, I … I don't know, I guess I just feel a little homesick. I've been thinking about both of you a lot lately.”

    “Being homesick is very unlike you, son,” his father said. “Even still, it's no problem. Anytime you want to come home just let us know and we'll set it up for you, okay?”

    “Thanks, Dad,” he replied with a grin. “I really appreciate you both being there for me.”

    “Love you!” his mother said.

    “See you soon!” his father added.

    Antoshi and Fireball both waved to his parents before the call ended. As the screen went blank, Antoshi hung his head down with a heavy sigh.

    "Are you okay, Antoshi?" Fireball asked quietly.

    Antoshi pondered a response for a moment as he rhythmically drummed his fingers across the videophone's desk. He scoffed in amusement.

    “I'm lying to my parents.…” he muttered. “All to keep this secret. All to keep them from worrying about me. All because I'm worried about them getting hurt. … It's kind of funny when you think about it.” Fireball did not take his concerned gaze off of his friend. Antoshi shook his head. “I hate this feeling, Fireball. I just want this nightmare to be over….”

    "So do I," Fireball said, placing a reassuring claw on his friend's shoulder. "But … what do we do?"

    “Stick to my initial plan. We have to train — I have to train. I have to get much better than I am now if I want to stand a chance against Latoshi.”

    Fireball sighed in defeat, his claw falling away.

    "Are you sure?"

    “Definitely,” Antoshi replied as he got to his feet and stretched.

    "Do you want me to train with you again?"

    Antoshi turned to his friend with a smile.

    “I know how uncomfortable you are with this. You don't have to come with me, Fireball. I'll figure something out sooner or later. … I always do.”

    "Should I … stay here and wait for you to come back?"

    “Feel free to hang out wherever you like,” Antoshi replied with a chuckle. “Just … don't go too far, okay?”

    "You don't think I might get kidnapped by Team Rocket again, do you?" Fireball joked.

    “I want to believe it's unlikely. Still, you're a rare Pokémon, Fireball — the kind that Trainers would jump at the chance to catch.”

    "I understand."

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

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

    "Just look at the time, Antoshi! You're losing sunlight here! Better get to that training right away!"

    Antoshi laughed as they headed into the hallway. “Fireball! I don't even have my shoes on!”

    Fireball quickly reached back in to grab the boy's shoes and shut the door behind him.

    ***

    That night, Latoshi was intensely focused on his meditation with his dark aura calmly flickering around him. As per Lazarus' instructions, he performed mental exercises. He envisioned himself in the midst of a violent struggle with Antoshi. They fought in the same location as their initial battle, both of them ducking and weaving through the trees, steadily making their way toward each other.

    Antoshi was fast. Latoshi snapped his head from side to side to keep his mind's eye on him. Antoshi threw the first punch, but Latoshi was swift enough to block it. Latoshi clenched his teeth as Antoshi followed up with a kick to his chest hard enough to stumble him back.

    'Yes, that is good,' Lazarus said to him. 'You must prepare for Antoshi's inevitable return. You must be wary that he will likely be stronger than before. But, also know that he can never defeat you — not with my guidance.'

    Latoshi smirked confidently. In his vision, he produced the same mass of hovering energy orbs around him as before. Antoshi appeared shocked.

    'Perfect. The element of surprise will be key. Let him believe he has the upper hand, and then … strike!'

    Latoshi launched his attack at Antoshi, who attempted to shield himself. Just as the blasts were about to connect, a voice suddenly broke his concentration.

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

    No one was there.

    He looked around while getting to his feet. “Cory!” he heard again, behind him.

    He turned around, finding nobody once again.

    “Who's there?” he called back.

    He waited for a short time, but no one appeared.

    ‘What the hell was that?’ he thought. ‘Am I hearing voices … again? Was it some kind of memor—’

    His eyes went wide with shock.

    ‘Am I— … am I remembering something? Something from my past? …’

    'Focus yourself, Latoshi,' Lazarus said. 'Do not break away from your training unless I tell you to.'

    “Lazarus, I … I think I just had a memory come back to me,” he said with an eager grin. “I think … I just might be remembering my past.”

    'You must not dwell on trivial things,' Lazarus replied. 'Your training and the rise of your power are the most important—'

    “Wait a minute,” Latoshi quickly cut him off. “You told me before that my memories would come back in time. Now that they may be starting to, … why are you so eager to distract me from them? I thought you would at least pretend to be happy for me.”

    'Because you do not have time to reflect on the past,' he said, becoming noticeably angrier. 'Do not interrupt me again when I speak. Return to your training — is that clear? Or shall I remind you of what happens when you disobey me?'

    Lazarus' question came with the creeping sound of low ringing in the boy's ears. He obliged Lazarus once more, returning to his meditative sitting position.

    'Now, I will give you different scenarios for you to react to. You will continue your image training for the next four hours. Am I understood?'

    Latoshi scowled, bitterly pursing his lips.

    “Yes, Lazarus,” he replied.

    *****
    Chapter 2 »
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2018 at 2:53 AM
  2. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    Hi there! Good to see you back again with another fic. And, as per usual, you take us back to Antoshi, whose story has – quite understandably, given how your last fic ended – taken a rather dark turn; he's certainly not the blond ray of sunshine that he started off as any more. Even his relationship with Fireball is a little frayed, after everything; it's not just that he hesitated a little before releasing him, but that he completely ignores his questions about it. As like a very early-teenage reaction to being beaten up by an esper, this reads really naturally; his whole 'I'm too WEAK I must get STRONGER and cast aside my feeble human EMPATHY' thing feels like exactly what a thirteen-year-old boy would do in this situation.

    Meanwhile, Latoshi is … still doing the creepy esper kid thing, huh. But not quite as enthusiastically as before; I like how he's becoming a bit more Antoshi, while Antoshi is becoming a bit more Latoshi. That kind of dynamic between a hero and a villain is always something I enjoy, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

    Anyway, here are a few typos I caught, along with some other nitpicky stuff:

    In general, putting the adverb between the subject and the verb reads kind of awkwardly – 'he said flatly' would be better, I think. You do the same thing most times that you use an adverb, too, so it might be something to keep in mind for in future.

    That doesn't quite make sense grammatically; I think the sense here is 'His irises glowed with the red hue of his spirit energy', but glowing 'from the' colour isn't a construction that makes sense.

    Are his hands ashen, or raw and red? They can't really be both at the same time. 'Raw and red' makes more sense to me, anyway.

    The 'they' here refers to the 'energy' from the previous sentence; therefore, it needs to agree. As it stands, it doesn't, because 'they' is plural and the energy is singular, so 'they' should be changed to 'it'.

    That should either be 'Latoshi closed his eyes, heaving a sigh before returning to his training' or 'Latoshi closed his eyes and heaved a sigh before he returned to his training'.

    Something can't improve both gradually and in leaps and bounds – one means that it happens slowly, the other that it happens very fast. It should be just one or the other.

    That seems … implausible? Even assuming that they haven't eaten or slept (which is a big assumption), I'm not sure I'd buy that Fireball wouldn't put his foot down earlier than this; he cares about Antoshi too much to let him keep doing this to himself for that long without intervening.

    That looks like a typo for 'trailed' – trilling is a kind of alternation between notes in music.
     
    Antoshi likes this.
  3. Antoshi

    Antoshi Seeking Revenge

    Chapter 2

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

    It was empty. The boy was gone — again. In his place, a breakfast plate rest upon the nightstand for the hungry Typhlosion.

    Fireball sighed in defeat. He sat up, scratching his side. Left to reflect upon their situation in solitude, he reached for the plate and eagerly partook of the food left for him.

    Once finished, he quickly hopped out of bed and made for the door.

    ***

    Out in the same clearing in the woods as before, Antoshi was in the midst of training. With an intensely focused expression, his limbs blurred while punching and kicking in succession. Training his speed, he ran laps from one tree to another and back. He was clearing several hundred meters in heartbeats — not unlike what Latoshi had previously done when they first met.

    "You're at it really early today," Fireball spoke as he approached. Antoshi broke his focus, coming to a halt and smiling to his friend. "You didn't even wait for me to come with you."

    “Sorry about that. Training is all can I do lately to keep myself from going stir-crazy. I still haven't been getting much sleep. I woke up super-early this morning, brought you some food, and headed out here right after.”

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

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

    “Thanks.”

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

    “I am more comfortable with using my energy offensively. There's still one little problem, though. I can flail my arms and legs all I want, but … I still don't know how to fight.”

    "That … is an issue."

    “The only fighting styles I've ever seen were from Pokémon, … as well as getting beat up by Latoshi. None of that's going to help me very much.”

    "What are you going to do?"

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

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

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

    Fireball covered his ears and shut his eyes.

    "No! Not books! Anything but books!"

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

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

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

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

    "Antoshi, wait up a second."

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

    "I just want to say that … well, I'm a bit worried."

    Antoshi sighed and looked away. “Yeah, so am I.”

    "Not about the fight, really, as much as I'm worried about … you." Antoshi appeared confused. "You're really obsessing over this lately. When this is all over, … and, supposing we both make it out of this alive again, … will we be able to go back to normal?"

    “I understand what you're saying, Fireball,” Antoshi replied with a nod. “I'm sorry again for losing myself recently. This … fight with Latoshi is the only thing I've been able to think about. I can barely feel Latoshi's energy all around me at all times. It's so … faint, but it's there — almost like he's taunting me.”

    They both turned their gazes to the ground.

    “To answer your question, though, I do hope we'll get back to our normal lives. I hope so just as much as you.”

    Fireball gave his friend a slight smile before they continued on back to their hotel room.

    ***

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

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

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

    Antoshi casually pointed a thumb behind him.

    “That's why.”

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

    "… Oh."

    Antoshi softly laughed.

    “I learn better with a book anyway. The Internet is too distracting.”

    "That's true. Don't forget to follow the 'Safe Browsing Rules' that your parents taught you."

    Antoshi smirked and rolled his eyes while Fireball snickered.

    “Trust me, they're drilled into my brain at this point.”

    The minutes of studying rolled on and turned into hours. Antoshi was fully engrossed in his reading, setting each book aside as he finished them. At various points, he looked at two different books simultaneously to compare information. Fireball gradually slumped over more and more in his seat until he was resting his head and forelimbs on the table.He curiously watched his friend mimic some of the fighting poses in the books.

    "I'm so bored," Fireball eventually spoke up.

    Antoshi heaved a sigh and smiled reassuringly at his friend.

    “I know, Fireball.” He glanced up at the clock on the wall. “Let's take a break for now. We can go walk around the park nearby for a while.”

    "Sounds good to me!"

    Fireball got up and eagerly headed for the exit. Antoshi deposited all but one of the books into a nearby collection bin. He took the one he was reading with him, checked it out with the librarian, and joined his friend outside.

    The midday sun hung in the sky littered with puffy clouds. The duo stretched their arms high, taking a deep breath of the outside air.

    “It's a nice day out,” Antoshi remarked as they set off for the nearest crosswalk. “Good idea getting us outside, Fireball.”

    "You said it. Hey, maybe there'll be an ice cream vendor at the park."

    Antoshi chuckled. “I know you'll keep your eyes peeled.”

    They crossed the street and down the pathway before them that led into the park. It was a much quieter park than the one they saw outside the Goldenrod train station. Nevertheless, there was plenty of activity around them; from joggers along the path, people sitting together on the grass, and a young man playing fetch with his Growlithe.

    The duo walked side by side. Antoshi's nose was firmly buried in his book. Fireball inhaled and let out a content sigh.

    "I remember you used to call nice days like this a 'good omen' back in Kanto."

    “Yeah, now it's more like 'the calm before the storm',” Antoshi joked with a laugh.

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

    “Did you know that, in some old civilizations, women were the ones that developed and mastered different forms of martial arts? That's so cool. I've never even seen a girl fight before. … Though, I haven't seen much combat between people to begin with.”

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

    “It's almost certain at this point that I'll have to fight Latoshi again soon. It scares the heck out of me, but … I don't really have a choice. I might as well get as excited about it as I can.”

    "Antoshi?" Fireball said, grabbing his friend's attention. "I just wanted to say that I'm happy to see you … mostly back to normal. You seem a lot more confident now. You're not so … well, angry as you were a few days ago."

    “I'm as normal as I can be, given the circumstances,” he replied with a grin. “I'm just … doing my best to keep my feelings in check.”

    “Hey, you!” the nearby voice of a youngster called out. “Book Kid and Typhlosion!” The duo turned toward him. “Want to battle?”

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

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

    "When am I not?"

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

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

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

    Fireball's eyes lit up, turning to his friend with an enthused grin at the sound of his friend's confidence. They gave each other a thumbs up.

    “Awesome! I love a challenge!” The boy pulled a Poké Ball from his belt. “The name's Gabriel. What's yours?”

    “I'm Antoshi, from Saffron City.”

    “Antoshi, huh? Weird name!”

    Fireball and Antoshi grinned to each other.

    “Good to know some thing's never change,” he remarked.

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

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

    Antoshi's eyes widened in shock. The way Gabriel smirked recalled images of Latoshi's arrogant expression.

    “Hey there! Antoshi-dude!” Gabriel said, snapping Antoshi out of his daze. “I said, 'are you ready?'”

    “Oh, we're definitely ready!”

    Both he and Fireball nodded in unison.

    “All right! Gurdurr, give 'em a Rock Slide!”

    Gurdurr spiked its girder into the ground before raising its arms up and giving a long shout. Mysterious orbs of energy appeared high over Fireball. The orbs solidified into rocky boulders that rained around on him.

    “Fireball, keep moving!” Antoshi said.

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

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

    “Fireball — stop!

    The Typhlosion immediately did so, coming to a halt mere inches from one final boulder that rattled the ground in front of him.

    ‘That wasn't bad,’ Gabriel thought with a look of surprise. ‘They know what they're doing.’

    “Fireball, use Flamethrower!”

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

    “Gurdurr — defend!”

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

    “Full breath, Fireball!” Antoshi said.

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

    Once Fireball's attack finished, the Typhlosion inhaled deeply. He sighed in relief, exhaling a large puff of smoke. Gurdurr hopped away from the smoldering streaks of fire on the ground. It swiftly patted out the flames on its sides.

    Gabriel had a look of concern as his gaze shifted between his Gurdurr and the melted steel.

    ‘That was pretty scary,’ he thought. ‘Just how good are these two?’

    Fireball hopped down from the rock and returned to his position in front of his Trainer.

    “Gurdurr, return!” he said, holding up its Poké Ball which retrieved it into its confines, along with its melted steel girder. “All right, Antoshi-dude! Your Typhlosion is really strong, so I'll just send out my best Pokémon! It'll be a clash of the titans!”

    Gabriel switched out for an Ultra Ball on his belt, which he enlarged and tossed out.

    “Go, Houndoom!”

    Antoshi was shocked by the presence of the black-furred demonic dog. His mind immediately recalled the horrors brought about by Lucent — the undead aspect Latoshi seemingly had control over.

    Fireball, too, was not terribly happy to see a Houndoom so soon after Lucent. He turned to Antoshi, greeted by a blank look in the boy's eyes.

    “So, what do you think of my Houndoom?!” Gabriel said proudly, his hands firmly on his hips.

    Antoshi was in another plane of reality, unable to respond as he stared at the opposing Pokémon.

    “Aha, you're giving that 'calm and stoic' reaction, huh? Well, we're not gonna be intimidated by you! All right, Houndoom — use Rocket Fuel!

    His Houndoom whimpered and rolled its eyes. The boy laughed.

    “You hate it when I call it that, huh? Okay, okay. Flame Charge, Houndoom!”

    Houndoom gave a snort of fire out of its nostrils before its body was enveloped in flame. It darted swiftly toward Fireball while Gabriel looked on with pride.

    ‘Flame Charge isn't Houndoom's best attack, but at least it'll give me a good idea of how strong that Typhlosion really is.’

    Fireball stood in place, confused, waiting for Antoshi to make the next call.

    Antoshi, however, was still mesmerized — frozen in place at the sight of the Houndoom rushing toward them. The memories of Lucent's attacks on Fireball haunted him once more. He recalled Lucent lurching toward Fireball, and how he intervened to shield the Typhlosion with his own body. The smell and the sight of blood running down his arm followed after.

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

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

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

    No!” Antoshi shouted, aiming his open palms at the Houndoom. In his stupor, he fired a potent blast of spirit energy at the ground between the two Pokémon. Both Pokémon spotted the attack just before the resulting explosion knocked them both backwards several meters.

    The blast was heard and felt by nearly everyone in the park. Passersby and their Pokémon screamed in terror, some of them running away.

    "Antoshi!" Fireball said, finally pulling his friend back to reality. "Why did you do that?!"

    “What was that?!” Gabriel shouted. His Houndoom got to its feet and returned to the boy's side.

    Antoshi was terrified by what he'd just wrought. People all around him were gawking and staring at the sight — a large crater the size of an automobile sat between the two Trainers, collecting falling dirt, debris and rubble. He had no idea what to say to Gabriel or to any of the bystanders.

    “Fireball, let's go,” he said, shuffling away from the scene as quickly as he could.

    Fireball got up and followed, lagging behind him. The duo were too nervous to look at anyone.

    “What happened?” a voice in the crowd asked.

    “Was it from a Pokémon battle?”

    “I think it was some kind of old, unexploded land mine,” another person remarked.

    "Antoshi!" Fireball said as he caught up to his friend. "Are you okay?"

    “I thought I was,” the boy replied solemnly, “but I realize now that I'm definitely not.”

    ***

    Antoshi and Fireball headed straight back to their hotel room. They opted to stay put, uneasy about going out for the rest of the day.

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

    Antoshi sighed, closing his book for the time being. He opted to watch TV with Fireball during the evening news broadcast.

    “And, in other news tonight, an explosion rocks Sunset Park in eastern Goldenrod,” the news reported said. The duo's eyes widened. “Witnesses say some sort of explosive ordnance detonated in an area where two, young Pokémon Trainers were having a Pokémon battle. The Trainers and their Pokémon were unharmed, but the blast made a sizable crater. Police have cordoned the area off. They could not give any further details on the situation and are still investigating.”

    “Great,” Antoshi remarked, burying his face in the mattress. “That's all I need now — for the police to come and ask me questions about what happened. What do I even tell them?”

    "What's wrong with telling them the truth?" Fireball replied.

    Antoshi gawked as he looked up at his friend in disbelief.

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

    "Of course," Fireball said, turning to his friend with a smirk. "Do you really think they're going to believe you when you tell them 'a giant ball of energy came out of my hands and destroyed the ground'?"

    Antoshi pondered his remark for a moment.

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

    The boy sighed as he rolled over onto his back and stared at the ceiling.

    “I have no idea when Latoshi's going to make a move. It was just dumb luck that I bumped into him after sensing his energy the first time we met. I'm unable to pinpoint exactly where he is, not unless he outputs a lot of energy. Right now, he's keeping his energy restrained. I can't do anything until he's ready to seek me out again.” Antoshi scoffed. “I'm sure he'll make that point loud and clear whenever he does….”

    ***

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

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

    Cory!

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

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

    Cory!” the woman exclaimed.

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

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

    Cory, that's enough!” she said.

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

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

    Cory!” they both called to him.

    His vision abruptly turned to darkness.

    Latoshi fell to his knees, panting and trembling. Tears welled in his eyes as he slowly opened them.

    ‘Why?’ he thought. ‘Why did … I do that? Why do I feel so much sorrow? Why can't … I remember everything?’

    He hunched over, punching his fists into the dirt as he wept.

    ‘Damn it,’ he thought. He inhaled shakily, tears falling to the ground. ‘Why can't I remember?’

    'Because I will not let you,' Lazarus replied, startling him. 'Oh, so sorry. Did I interrupt your thoughts?'

    “Lazarus?” he said, falling back into a sitting position. “You … can hear my thoughts?”

    'Of course. I've been able to hear and see your thoughts since the very beginning.'

    Dread suddenly swept over the boy.

    “What— … what did you mean you won't let me remember?”

    Lazarus couldn't help himself from chuckling.

    'Ah, I knew this would happen eventually. I knew the truth would have to come out.' Latoshi had a puzzled look on his face. 'You truly believed you had amnesia. All those months locked in that prison. You believed me, just like I knew you would — because of what a stupid little child you are. So easy to manipulate and do my bidding.'

    Latoshi slowly got to his feet, trembling with rage.

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

    Latoshi felt the wind knocked from his lungs.

    “My … memories,” he remarked in disbelief. “Give them back, Lazarus. You have to give them back! You're in my body, and relying on me to get stronger! I'm not going to do anything you say until you give me what I want!”

    Lazarus cackled in amusement, leaving Latoshi confused once more.

    'How stupid are you?! You think that you are the one in control? How do you think I was able to see your vision training? I have become just as much a part of you as you are, Latoshi. So, you will never get what you want — I get what I want all the time!'

    Latoshi was frightened and bewildered.

    'You never had a moment of privacy to yourself this whole time! I know everything that you think and say, so you cannot hide anything from me! You thought you could scheme and plan against me, go against what I tell you, like some mischievous little child. I know that you have been trying to muster up your memories, and bits and pieces of them have slipped through the cracks of the barrier I built around them. But that is not a problem — I can just reset your memories again!'

    “No!” Latoshi shouted, grabbing his head.

    'Yes, Latoshi! And while I am at it, I will block out all those fond little memories you made with Antoshi and his stupid pet! You will do my bidding as long as I want you to, and there is nothing that you can do about it because I can continue to lock your memories away again and again! I am the only one you will listen to for the rest of your life! Every time you think you think you have the upper hand with your disobedience toward me, I always have that as my ace in the hole!'

    “Please, no! Please, don't take away my memories!”

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

    Lazarus' cackling echoed through his head as he stared blankly at the sky. All of the positive memories he made, the positive emotions he felt, and the memories of his past life he rediscovered were ripped away from him once again — just as Lazarus had done to him before he awoke in the military base.

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

    'Now then,' Lazarus' voice spoke again, as calm as it usually was. 'I think you have had enough time to train, Latoshi. Your power has grown exponentially since you began your tutelage under me. Those men slain by you in the alley some time ago were just an appetizer. I think the table is set for you to enjoy the main course.'

    A sick smile slowly crept across Latoshi's lips. With aplomb, he rose back to his feet, gazing off into the distance of the city.

    'The time has come for you to begin purging the evil from this world. Cleanse it in your image, Latoshi. Lay the groundwork for what will become … your utopia.'

    Latoshi chuckled, stretching out his neck.

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

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

    ***

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

    'If they refuse to come out,' Lazarus said, 'you must seek them out.'

    “They're hiding like cockroaches,” Latoshi remarked with a bitter expression. “Where would I find heinous people? Those with cruel hearts?”

    His eyes lit up when he found a large compound near the western edge of the city. He flew toward it; its bright spotlights pointing to the sky, drawing him in like a moth. The long facility was surrounded by multiple rows of steel gates topped with barbed wire. His chest swelled with excitement as he noticed the sign at the front: 'Goldenrod Penitentiary, Maximum Security'.

    'Very resourceful, Latoshi. However, you must remain cautious. These facilities tend to employ advanced technology in their security — not unlike the one you were imprisoned in.'

    “What should I do?”

    'Move quickly and quietly if you plan to enter. It is very likely they have heat, motion, and sound detection — even outside. Whatever plan you decide to do, make sure it is something their normal human eyes cannot detect.'

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

    'Of course. Only those with spirit awareness are able to detect it. So, what do you plan to do?'

    Latoshi thought for a moment before chuckling in amusement. His dark aura emanated and flared around his body. He held his palms out toward the prison walls.

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

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

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

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

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

    He waited patiently as the cloud of dust started to settle. His eyes lit up with excitement when he saw a prisoner wearing a yellow jumpsuit climb over the rubble and head toward the first barbed wire gate. The field he ran through was particularly long and easy to spot by the guard towers. Amid the chaos, however, there were no guards aware of his escape.

    Dozens more prisoners began to follow, forming a few large groups that raced down the field.

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

    The first man panted heavily, scrambling closer to the first gate. Latoshi landed before him, causing him to come to a startled halt.

    “Who—who the hell are you?!” he shouted.

    Latoshi gave his response in the form of an amused grin. He disappeared in an instant, leaving the man bewildered, before Latoshi dashed past him. He just barely nicked the man's neck with a hand that raged with his dark energy, but it was more than enough to slice his throat like the edge of a razor-sharp blade.

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

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

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

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

    He moved through the rest of the escaping people, slaying and felling every single one with conviction. Endless screams rang out from his victims. His lips were ever curled into a pleased smirk, blood spattering all over his body and clothes. Yet, there was an emptiness in his eyes. An emptiness that only became worse as his rampage continued.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2018 at 2:53 AM
  4. Antoshi

    Antoshi Seeking Revenge

    Chapter 3

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

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

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

    "Antoshi? Are you okay?"

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

    "What should we do?"

    Antoshi weakly chuckled.

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

    "That sounds more like the Antoshi I know," Fireball replied, smiling back. "Just don't leave me out of your training. I at least want to watch!"

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

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

    Once their food arrived, they sat a table and chairs in a small dining space to eat. Fireball turned the television toward them and turned it on before eagerly shuffling to his seat. He licked his chops at the sight of several plates of food before him. Antoshi chuckled, idly turning his attention to the TV as a newscast resumed.

    “We want to take you back now to the scene at Goldenrod Penitentiary,” the reporter said. “If you're just joining us, seven officers and one hundred twelve inmates were found dead with dozens more injured. Part of the wall of the prison, as you can see, has been completely blown away.”

    Antoshi and Fireball were stunned by the sight. The grassy field outside the prison was littered with plastic yellow tarps and countless evidence markers.

    “At this time, officials do not have any suspects or any possible motives in mind. No explosives or any sort of explosive device was found at the scene. There is some speculation that there may be multiple perpetrators at large, given the swiftness of how the scene unfolded. Officials tell me that these victims were all slain within a matter of less than a minute.”

    “Latoshi …” Antoshi muttered. Fireball looked to his friend, Antoshi's hand was trembling as he held his glass of orange juice. “This is it. This is part of his horrible 'plan' to exterminate people he believes are evil. … What better place to strike than a prison?”

    “None of the officials on scene are able to give a cause of death for any of the victims,” the reporter continued, “however, a police spokesperson has said they're investigating whether there may be a possible connection with the explosion at Sunset Park yesterday.”

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

    “I'm fine,” Antoshi replied, retrieving his shoes and heading back to the table to put them on. “It's just that … well, I know the police have to investigate these things. I just wish they weren't involved. I'm worried more people are going to end up getting hurt or killed over this war Latoshi and I have.”

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

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

    “City and regional officials are asking for the public's help. If you have any information—”

    After Antoshi shut off the TV, he turned to his friend. Fireball quickly got up, wiping his maw with a napkin which he quickly tossed onto the table. Antoshi slung a towel over his shoulder before they headed out once again. He prepared to put into practice the moves and techniques that he'd had learned in his books.

    ***

    A few hours had passed. The two friends fell onto their backsides, facing each other, panting from exhaustion.

    "Nice moves, Antoshi," Fireball remarked with a grin.

    Antoshi smiled back.

    “Thanks.”

    He grabbed his towel and wiped the sweat off his face.

    "You've gotten way faster and way stronger already — and those moves you pulled off were really good. I know I'm not going to doubt the power of books ever again." Antoshi chuckled. "By the way, thanks for taking it easy on me. I could tell based off our previous training sessions that you definitely pulled your punches this time."

    “I don't want you to get hurt anymore, Fireball. That's the whole reason I'm even doing this.” Fireball nodded in understanding. Antoshi gazed down at his open hands, scuffed with dirt. “It's weird how, in order to keep others from getting hurt, I have to hurt Latoshi. It all seems so meaningless when I think about it like that.”

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

    “Maybe — I mean, I certainly hope so. Still, if there was a way I didn't have to fight him, I'd rather take that road instead. I'll gladly take a peaceful resolution over learning how to fight. At the same time, I still have … so much anger. I can feel that rage every time I think about what he did to you, what he said to me and about my family …”

    Antoshi's irises glowed progressively brighter with the shimmering red hue of his Ki. He clenched his fists tightly, his aura erupting around his body. Fireball was taken aback by the sheer pressure given off by Antoshi's fiery energy

    “The police can't do anything about this — they don't even know what they're looking for or where to start. I refuse to let any more people get hurt.”

    "Antoshi," Fireball said, grabbing his friend's attention. "I care about you, and what happens to you. You're my best friend. This anger, though, it isn't like you at all. … I don't want you to lose yourself."

    Antoshi sighed and shook his head. His aura slowly faded from his body.

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

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

    Fireball sat and watched his friend with concern.

    ***

    Across the city, Latoshi also continued his training in solitude. The blood from his victims the previous night had been cleaned away from his body. He wore a new set of clothes strikingly similar to his previous green shirt and green cargo shorts.

    In his usual spot in the forest clearing he'd created, the boy ducked and weaved, throwing punches and kicks at an invisible target. His strikes, though not as swift as Antoshi's, were strong and significant — powerful enough to cause quick, small shock waves.

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

    'Keep up that pace,' Lazarus told him. 'You will go for as long as I tell you in order to build your stamina. Put your image training to use and keep your target visualized.'

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

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

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

    ***

    At that moment, Antoshi's eyes went wide. He stopped what he was doing, letting his arms fall at his sides. He attention was fixated elsewhere. Fireball got up on his hind feet.

    "What's up, Antoshi?"

    “I just sensed someone's energy,” he replied, much to Fireball's shock. “Latoshi is nearby.”

    Antoshi quickly marched back toward the city limits.

    "Well, wait!" Fireball called out while chasing after him. "Shouldn't we … you know, think this over? You can't just charge at him the first chance you get. What if there's people around?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

    He gasped in shock, his eyes wide in disbelief. He nearly crumbled to pieces upon realizing that it was not Latoshi that he was chasing.

    It was the mysterious brunette girl that had healed him.

    She quietly sipped from a cup of tea before setting it down on a plate near a kettle. She looked over at him with a warm smile. Her violet eyes brought back the image of her as he was fading in and out of consciousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The girl smiled and shook her head.

    “I don't work with anyone.”

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

    “Of course not. That would be silly for me to heal you just so I could fight you, don't you think?”

    Antoshi sighed in defeat, slumping down into the seat across from her.

    “I don't know what to think anymore,” he replied, running a hand through his hair.

    Fireball sat down in a third seat between the two. The girl greeted him with a smile. He smiled back, still visibly confused as to what was happening.

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

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

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

    “What is this?”

    “It's chamomile tea — perfect for dealing with stress.”

    “No, I mean what is all this? Who are you? Why do you have powers, too? Why was I able to sense you? Do you know me or Latoshi?”

    She chuckled knowingly.

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

    “Yeah, try two million questions.”

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

    Antoshi sighed heavily.

    “… You think I'm having stress issues?”

    “I know you are. Your aura is agitated. It's churning around your body constantly like a swelling sea. Your heart is filled with anger.”

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

    “It is possible to see it, even now. Your aura is always around you, faintly, protecting your body like a second skin. In fact, aura is always around most people — they just don't know it exists or how to use it like you do. In time, once you get stronger, I think you'll be able to see what I see.”

    “Stronger,” he remarked in thought. “So, I can reach a level even higher than I'm at right now?”

    “Absolutely.”

    Fireball cleared his throat, tugging on Antoshi's sleeve to grab his attention. He pointed to the girl.

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

    Fireball's eyes lit up, turning to her in surprise. She smiled and extended a hand to him.

    “It's very nice to meet you, Fireball,” she said.

    Fireball smiled back, gently shaking her hand before turning to his friend.

    "Quick reminder that you told me she was pretty," Fireball muttered before whispering, "and she is!"

    Antoshi kept his gaze locked on her with a forced smile, ignoring Fireball's remark. Serenity laughed.

    “You can communicate with Fireball, can't you?” she asked, much to the duo's shock. “Don't worry — it's just a natural part of your abilities using your Ki.”

    “I keep hearing that word — 'Ki'. What does it mean?”

    “It's the energy of your spirit. Some people call it ki or chi or even youki: the strength of your vital essence, and the ability to apply that strength in various ways.”

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

    “Spirit energy is, obviously, fueled by the spirit. Strong emotions tend to heighten a person's spirit and therefore can make the strength of your spirit energy explode in a pinch, like gasoline on a fire. Love, sorrow, fear, anger — these are all powerful emotions that can ignite ones' aura or serve as a catalyst to unlock ones' latent abilities. However, it all depends on how these emotions are channeled that determines the weight of your spirit.”

    “You mean if someone turns out … 'good' or 'evil'.”

    “Yes. If your abilities are used for pure intentions, then your aura will shine with radiant color. But, if you use your Ki for cruel and selfish purposes, your aura becomes corrupted and reflects the darkness in your heart. I think you might know who I'm referring to.”

    “I do,” Antoshi replied, shifting his gaze downward. “I remember my … powers unlocked when I panicked over the thought of losing Fireball forever. If Latoshi's aura is corrupted by darkness as you say, … does that mean he's beyond saving?”

    “Only if you think so,” she replied, surprising him.

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

    “Yes,” she said, taking another sip of her tea. Antoshi and Fireball looked to each other in concern. “That's because there's something critically important about him that you must know before you encounter him again. It's the main reason why I brought you here to talk.” She took another sip of tea, leaving the duo in suspense, before setting the cup back down. “What if I were to tell you that you're not actually fighting against Latoshi, but something inside of him instead?”

    Antoshi furrowed his brow in thought.

    “… Lazarus?”

    “That's correct.”

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

    “Lazarus is more than just a voice. Lazarus is a parasite.” The duo were floored by the revelation. “Latoshi is being controlled by a dark spirit — one that uses people like a parasite would.”

    “A … parasite?”

    “Yes. As you already know, its name is Lazarus. It is a being of pure spiritual energy that seeks out hosts with spirit awareness. It latches on to the host's spirit, essentially becoming a part of them. In order to do that, though, it searches for people whose hearts are easily corruptible or influenced by negativity. From there, Lazarus coaxes its host into trusting it. The most important reason for why it does this is that it feeds off of the spirit energy of its host and takes it for itself. Latoshi may believe that Lazarus is helping him, but the reality is that Lazarus is stealing Latoshi's energy. The greater Lazarus' power becomes, the more it's able to control its host.”

    Antoshi was left in a daze, as was Fireball. He sat silent for a moment before replying.

    “H-how do you know all this?”

    “I've dealt with Lazarus before. I came to Goldenrod because I sensed his energy lurking about. It was either fate or sheer coincidence that I also bumped into you. Once I witnessed your struggle with Latoshi, it was critical for me to tell you that Latoshi is not the evil person you've been led to believe he is. He's being controlled.”

    Antoshi's hands trembled as he rested them on the table. Serenity poured herself another cup of tea, giving the boy a few moments to assimilate what she just told him.

    “Are you all right?” she asked after taking a sip of her tea.

    Antoshi let out a long, shaky sigh and nodded.

    “Yeah, I … it's just really … I'm not sure what to think.”

    “It's all right,” she reassured him with a smile. “This is a lot for you to take in at once. I can understand the position you're in; having only recently learned about your powers, learning about Lazarus, dealing it and with Latoshi. It's a lot to bear.”

    “Would you happen to also know if … Latoshi is my brother?”

    “I don't have the answer for that, unfortunately. All I know is what I've seen so far of you both. It certainly seems that way to me — after all, the two of you look almost identical. Maybe someday the two of you will stop punching each other long enough to figure out the answer for yourselves.”

    Antoshi nodded gently.

    “I'll still have to fight him, … and I'll have to give it everything I have, won't I?”

    “It seems that way. I think Latoshi is too far gone under Lazarus' influence to be willing to hear you out. If you do fight, you'll be fighting against Lazarus — not Latoshi.”

    “You seem to know so much about everything that's going on. Can't you … fight alongside me, at least?”

    Serenity grinned and laughed.

    “I knew you would ask that, but it's not my place to intervene. This is your fight, Antoshi. The actions you take from here on and the consequences of those actions are what determine your future. You and Latoshi both have a great power inside you. I know letting fate run its course is the right thing to do. You've only just taken the first steps in unlocking your power, Antoshi. You have far more potential than you realize.”

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

    “Still, you've yet to see your true potential. You won't know it until something happens that causes you to push yourself to your limits, similar to how you said you first unlocked your powers.”

    “How … much potential do I have? Is it enough to beat him?”

    “I'm not sure — I just know it's there.Everyone's Ki eventually reaches a limit or plateau, but you have a lot of potential left to discover. You can become far stronger than you are now. It just depends on your mindset, your emotions, and your vigor. And, as he is now, Latoshi does not have total control over his powers — or himself. He's only following what Lazarus tells him.”

    Antoshi went silent again, taking a short time to process everything again. Fireball looked over at his friend with concern. Serenity smiled to the boy.

    “I can feel the sorrow in your heart, Antoshi.” Antoshi immediately perked up and looked at her in surprise. “I know it sounds strange, but with enough spirit awareness it is possible to feel the emotions of others. This entire situation is something you dread, and you don't want any part of it. However, you still feel a responsibility to keep others safe. Am I right so far?”

    “Well, … yes.”

    She smiled and nodded, taking a final sip of her tea.

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

    “All right. … What is it?”

    “Promise me that you'll help Latoshi. He desperately needs help, and I believe that you're the only person who can. Would you be willing to promise that?”

    Antoshi turned his gaze away for a moment. He bitterly recalled their fight; the pain Latoshi caused him and Fireball, the threats he made, the arrogant smirk on his face. He sighed, also recalling the short, yet pleasant time they spent together as friends taking a stroll through a new city. A smile crept into the corner of his lips for just a brief moment at the memory of sitting with Latoshi and Fireball in the ice cream shoppe.

    He turned to Serenity and nodded.

    “… I promise.”

    “Good,” she replied.

    She reached for a small tote bag hanging from the back of her chair and searched through it.

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

    “I know you'll find the best solution if you look into your heart,” she said in a gentle tone, giving him a warm smile. “Don't stress yourself over dealing with this. Just prepare yourself as best as you can. When the time comes — act.”

    Antoshi scoffed in amusement.

    “You have more faith in me than I do in myself right now,” he glumly remarked.

    Serenity slipped the bag over her shoulder and got up from the table.

    “I've only just met you, Antoshi, but I already know that you are a good person with a kind and caring heart. I think you're an excellent leader. You just need to take a step back, calm your thoughts, and decide the best course of action for you.”

    She smiled and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

    “Take care, Antoshi.”

    The duo watched as Serenity exited the establishment, leaving them to mull over everything she told them. Antoshi and Fireball turned to each other.

    "What do you think?" Fireball asked.

    Antoshi chuckled weakly.

    “Think about what? I had tons of questions, and she answered almost all of them. There's lots to think about. … But if you mean about what she said, … I don't have any reason to doubt her.”

    "I agree. She sure was cool, huh? She was so relaxed, like nothing in the world gets to her — and she seemed super-smart and nice."

    “I suppose all of that's true. It's just with all the insane stuff that's been happening lately, I can't help but think she's bad news somehow.”

    "Do you think she really is bad, and she's just putting on an act or something?"

    “I don't know, maybe.” He sighed heavily. “I did make her a promise, though. I intend to keep it.”

    "Hey, you didn't drink your tea."

    “… So I didn't,” he replied with a smile. He picked up his tea cup and took a sip from it. “Mm, hey, this actually is pretty good.”

    Fireball chuckled as Antoshi continued to enjoy the tea.

    ***

    As the next few days rolled on, Latoshi continued to step up his attacks on the public. He pressed on with going after correctional facilities. He used a combination of his otherwise invisible Ki energy and his immense speed to remain undetected. He tore away walls and whole sections of compounds, leading to the deaths of a couple hundred more prisoners.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fireball was surprised at his friend's remark.

    “You look so stressed, son,” his father said. Antoshi turned away, rubbing his eyes. “Try not to let it get to you. I know you'll be safe as long as you stay inside. Plus, you have Fireball to protect you.”

    “I sure do,” he replied with a smile to his compadre.

    “Get some rest. Okay, honey? I agree with your father — you do look exhausted.”

    “You're right, Mom. I will. Sorry for worrying you both.”

    “Oh, don't be silly. We have faith in you, Antoshi. We know you'll always make the right decisions.”

    He became lost in thought for a moment before smiling and nodding to them.

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

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

    Antoshi sat in silence for a moment to reflect on what his parents said. He quickly got up from the video phone, heading over to the door to grab his shoes.

    “I can't stay here,” he said, sitting on the bed to slip them on.

    "What do you mean?" Fireball replied. "Where are you going?"

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

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

    "I want to come with you," Fireball said.

    Antoshi smiled, turning to his friend.

    “I want you to come with me, too.”

    With that, the duo headed downstairs and out onto the streets in the early night hours. The streets were still fairly busy with people and their Pokémon passing on by them. They made their way directly west for a few blocks.

    "Antoshi?" Fireball spoke up. "At … the risk of making you upset with me again, I think that maybe your parents are right. You shouldn't let this stress you out so badly."

    “I'm trying not to let it get to me, Fireball. Talking to Serenity and understanding so much more now has made me feel a little better. Still, … what else am I supposed to do? I can't take this situation easy. Latoshi's out there, and he's killing people. Almost like he's mocking me, … like he's … trying to get me to react.”

    "Do you really think this is a message to you?"

    “I'm sure of it,” Antoshi replied, narrowing his eyes as they momentarily flashed red.

    The duo continued on their westward trek for a couple of hours. They stopped to rest, get some snacks and drinks, and use the restroom along the way. They traversed farther than they'd ever ventured out before.

    ***

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

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

    “I'm all for crusading,” Latoshi replied with a cheeky grin, “but … maybe I could go crusading somewhere a little more scenic? Like, … the beach, perhaps?”

    'Hrm, … I suppose that will be fine for one night. The humans are likely increasing security around those filthy prisons and will be expecting another attack tonight.'

    “Exactly. Might as well take the time to take in the scenery.”

    'Very well. I expect you to increase your training when you return here later. You are not to slack off.'

    “Of course, Lazarus.”

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

    ***

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

    “You already are,” Antoshi reassured him with a smile. “Sticking with me, being my best friend, helping me deal with this and understanding this whole situation. … I appreciate all of it, Fireball — more than you know. You've been keeping me sane.”

    The duo shared a brief laugh. Antoshi soon came to a halt, sighing heavily.

    “I suppose we should head back now. It's gonna take forever for us to get back to the hotel and—”

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

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

    Fireball was taken aback.

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

    “No, I'm definitely sure. The pressure being giving off, it's corrupted. It's … rotten, just like what I sensed from him before. Latoshi is nearby …”

    He turned and pointed in the direction of the beach at the edge of the city.

    “That way.”

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

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

    Antoshi exhaled sharply, his hands trembling as he punched his open palm.

    “I've had an entire week to do nothing but get ready. It's all I've been able to think about. You know that by now.”

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

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

    Fireball lowered his head and nodded.

    “Fireball, there's one thing I need you to promise me.”

    The Typhlosion perked up again.

    "Of course, Antoshi. Anything."

    “I need you … to promise that you won't get involved in this fight at all.”

    "Okay, anything but that."

    “Fireball, please. I know you're concerned about my safety, … but I'm just as concerned with yours.”

    "Fighting is what I'm good at — you know that better than anyone."

    “You're an amazing fighter, Fireball, … but this isn't an ordinary fight. I'm the only one that can deal with him.”

    "Well, what about Serenity? She seems like she knows a lot. Maybe she knows how to beat him. You could … call out for help to her with your energy or something."

    “No, I can't involve other people in my problem. Besides, she specifically said this is my fight to deal with. I have to face him myself, Fireball — that's what I trained for. There isn't any other way. Latoshi is going to come for me again eventually, whether by his own choice or with that voice in his head telling him to. I have to put all of this to rest. Now, you have to promise me you won't get involved, okay?”

    "… All right. I promise."

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

    “Well, let's get going. Hop on my back, I'll get us there as fast as I can.”

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

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

    Antoshi took off an instant down the city streets. Fireball cried out in shock while holding on for dear life. The boy weaved in and out of people, cars and obstacles with pinpoint precision. Those he passed by were shocked and bewildered by the sharp gust of wind that staggered them.

    “I'll get us close enough that he won't see us!” Antoshi said over the rush of air around them, “but you have to stay there, okay?”

    "I think I heard what you said!" Fireball replied. "I'll stay put!"

    Antoshi closed in on their destination, covering a distance of a hundred miles in less than a minute.

    ***

    Latoshi had his hands stuffed in the pockets of his shorts as he strolled along the beach.

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

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

    Latoshi laughed.

    “Well, that's just true.”

    ***

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

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

    “This is where I have to let you off. Please, … don't leave from here, okay?”

    Fireball bit his lip, forcing a nod.

    "Please be careful, Antoshi."

    The boy smiled to his friend, walking up and sharing a hug with him for a moment.

    “I'm not going to let him win,” Antoshi said as they let go of each other. “Not this time. No matter what.”

    Fireball looked on as Antoshi ran toward his destination at normal running speed. He sighed heavily, his eyes welling up with tears.

    ***

    Latoshi turned his attention to the sound of a girl shouting in the distance. Curious, he headed over to its source.

    “No, stop!” the girl cried out. “Let go of me! Please, I just want to go home!”

    As Latoshi approached, the girl and a large man dressed in heavy black clothing came into view from within a thicket of tall beach grass. He held the girl by her wrists.

    “I can't let you go now!” he replied with a chuckle. “You were so rude to me! I think you need to repay me!”

    “Well, now!” Latoshi exclaimed, making his presence known. Both of them gasped, turning to him. “Isn't this convenient. Another evil individual right here on the beach.”

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

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

    The man looked at him in disgust.

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

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

    A cruel grin spread across the boy's lips.

    “Don't worry about it,” Latoshi replied, his irises turning black. “The only one getting hurt here … is him.”

    In an instant, Latoshi closed the gap between them and grabbed the man by his neck. The man gagged and croaked, struggling in vain as the boy lifted him up slowly. The girl fell onto her seat, horrified by what she was witnessing.

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

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

    “Latoshi!” a voice called out to him.

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

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

    “Well, this is a surprise,” Latoshi said. “If it isn't my brother! I thought you'd be too busy cowering somewhere.”

    “Latoshi, stop it! Let him go!”

    Latoshi turned his attention back to the struggling man, and sighed in defeat.

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

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

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

    Antoshi clenched his fists, trembling with anger.

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

    “Well, 'hello' to you, too,” he joked. “I believe I already explained all of this to you before. People with evil hearts, cleanse them to rid the world of bad, yadda yadda, you got the gist of it the first time. So, what brings you to this neck of the woods? If you say it's to—”

    “I'm going to stop you, Latoshi,” he said bitterly.

    “Yeah, I had a funny feeling you were going to say that. That's not happening, Antoshi. It wasn't happening before, and it's certainly not happening now. You're making a very serious mistake showing your face to me again. I'm so much stronger than I was the last time we fought. You're lucky I spared you last time, so get lost now or you won't be that lucky again.”

    As the two boys stared each other down, a mysterious figure came to a stop at a beach access pathway near them. It was a shorter figure wearing a long, old-fashioned trench coat, wide-brim fedora, and sunglasses that gleamed in the light of a nearby lamp post. The incognito figure watched the conflict between them from afar with great interest.

    *****
    Chapter 4 »
     

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