Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ A Blond Ray of Sunshine ❯ Chapter 6

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

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

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

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

“They're … holding me back?”

“Yes. Your power is limitless. I will teach you how to unleash your power. But first, you must do as I say. This is the only way to find your true destiny.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I'm here again?” he mused.

There was no one else around in the small room. As Antoshi slowly sat up on what he realized was a hospital bed, something shifted around in his pocket. He dug a hand in to see what it was. To their mutual surprise, it was Fireball's Poké Ball.

"Is that mine?" Fireball asked, awe-struck.

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

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

“No,” Antoshi interrupted him. Fireball appeared confused. “I'm the one who should apologize, Fireball. I didn't … do enough. There were so many other ways for me to respond. It's my responsibility to keep you safe.”

"Don't do that to yourself, Antoshi," he replied. "The police told me everything that happened with you. I also heard all about how you were holding up as the day went on. … Please, don't blame yourself for something I did. You're so much better than that. You're the one person I really look up to."

“It's just that … you and I are almost one and the same. If something happens to you, I can't help feeling like it's my fault.”

Fireball placed a reassuring claw on Antoshi's shoulder. "It's not your fault."

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

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

"Well, I was, but the police took me to the Pokémon Center nearby and got me all patched up. Then, they took me right back here so I could be with my best buddy when he wakes up. It was like having my own chauffeur — and you wouldn't believe how much food they gave me!"

Antoshi smirked. “I'll bet you were starving, huh?”

"I would've been, but I found this group of Rattata that gave me some food and then helped me to find you."

Antoshi's eyes widened. “So that's why there was a Rattata that brought me to you.”

"Yeah, they sure were helpful!"

The mood turned quiet for a moment as they reflected on their adventure, both of them smiling.

“So, … how long have I been out?”

"Err, well, it's been … three days since you, ya' know, fell."

“Three days?” he asked, slapping a hand over his forehead as he groaned. “Oh, man, Mom and Dad are probably worrying like crazy about us. We were supposed to call them the same day that we got to Viridian. Now, we have even less time to get that eighth badge. We gotta get going, we don't have much—”

"Okay, wait, slow down," Fireball reassured him. "Let's just take things one step at a time. Isn't that what you're always telling me?"

Antoshi nodded and took a deep breath. “You're right. I guess my mind still hasn't caught up with everything being settled now. I just need a few minutes to take everything in — especially after the whole flying … thing.”

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

“You're awake!” Jenny remarked, incredulously surprised as she entered the room alongside her Quagsire. “I—I can't even believe it. You've made a full recovery when, in all honesty, you shouldn't even be alive right now.”

“Alive?” Antoshi wondered aloud. “Oh, … man. I hadn't had time to consider how bad that fall I took was. I only woke up a few minutes ago.”

“Well, you've got a lot to catch up on.” Jenny smiled, helping to remove the IV from his arm. “Are you in any pain right now?”

Antoshi stretched his arms and legs out. “No, I feel completely fine, like I got a full night's rest.”

“That's incredible! You've been out for three days. Even if someone had survived the fall you took, I doubt they'd ever wake up. Yet, somehow, when the paramedics came and got you, you had no injuries whatsoever.”

Antoshi pondered the severity of the fall again. “I fell from the top of that building, … and I didn't even have a cut or a broken bone?”

“That's right. Admittedly, I was a wreck when the medics and other officers showed up. I was doing a lot of crying — I thought you were dead. I couldn't bear to look at … what had become of you after the fall. Initially, they had a yellow tarp over you because you weren't responding and they couldn't find a pulse. Then, another officer called me over to come and look at you. When I did, I was just flabbergasted. You were breathing again. It was a miracle beyond anything we'd ever seen.” Quagsire idly meandered out of the room.

“… Wow,” Antoshi remarked, lost in thought. “I thought for sure that I was … going to die. … I—I'm really sorry for making you worry, Officer Jenny.”

“There's no need to apologize,” she replied with a reassuring smile. “Words can't even begin to describe how happy I am to see both of you alive and well — and together again. Luckily, nobody asked what happened to you at first, especially because you had no injuries. Only after they took the tarp off and found out you were okay was about the time I was finally asked why you were in the street. I came up with a story that you were overcome with emotion and exhaustion and you just … collapsed. Still, I wasn't going to let Jalyn go without an attempted murder charge. My report states that I was the one she tried to kill with her Malamar.”

“What's going to happen to their Pokémon?”

“They'll be rehabilitated, put in a comfortable facility where they can't harm themselves or others. You saw the looks in Malamar's eyes, though. Those Pokémon were … traumatized beyond words. It might take a long time for them to snap out of it. Maybe years. Maybe … never.”

“I feel so terrible for them,” Antoshi remarked.

Jenny nodded. “I think it's safe to say they'll be all right now.”

Antoshi curiously looked around again. “But how come I'm here and not, you know, at the hospital?”

“This is where we bring injured suspects in order to keep them separated from the hospital population.”

Fear crossed both Antoshi and Fireball's faces.

“Does … that mean I'm going to jail?”

“Of course not!” she replied, laughing. “It is very much against protocol to bring a civilian here instead of the hospital but, given the extraordinary circumstances of what happened, I made an extraordinary exception for you. We even had a couple doctors come by to check on you a few times. They ran some tests and said you were perfectly fine, just suffering from severe exhaustion.”

“What happened to the two that kidnapped Fireball?”

“Ah, those two Rockets. It was a chaotic scene after you were knocked out so I'll try to piece it together as best I can. Fireball actually had enough strength left to help Matt's Spiritomb take down Jalyn's Malamar. She had something of a … psychotic break after that. We were able to subdue her until more officers showed up. She was arrested, their Pokémon confiscated, and Matt gave himself up peacefully. Fireball didn't know what happened to you until the paramedics started to check on you. He was … quite upset — much more than I was.”

Fireball solemnly nodded.

“After I saw that you were okay,” Jenny continued, “I let Fireball know. That's when they took him away to be healed, though he was quite insistent on staying with you. I promised that I'd take him back to see you once he was better, … and here we all are.”

Quagsire came back into the room, holding a newspaper up to Jenny. She chuckled and took it from him.

“Oh, and you made the papers a couple days ago,” she said, holding it up for Antoshi to see.

Antoshi read the headline, 'Team Rocket Blasts Off Into Custody!' along with a picture of Matt and Jalyn being arrested.

“Did it … mention me by name?” Antoshi asked, worried. “I really don't want my parents to know about this.”

“No, no. You're still underage, so they didn't use your name. In fact, they only made a small mention of you. 'A young boy nearby was also taken to a medical facility for treatment.' That's it. As for me, I intend to keep your secret safe.”

Antoshi smiled and sighed in relief. “Thank you so much, Officer Jenny — for everything.”
“Oh, and there's one more thing. …” She reached into her uniform's breast pocket, taking out a wallet. She tossed it onto his lap. “I believe this belongs to you.”

Antoshi took it with trembling hands, his chest swelling with pride.

“Our badges…” he remarked, opening the wallet up. All seven of them were accounted for. Despite being the catalyst for everything that occurred after, his wallet had taken a backseat in his mind as he worried for Fireball's safety. He and Fireball grinned at each other.

“Looks like we're back in business, buddy.” Fireball nodded in excitement.

“Well, I should get back to work,” Jenny said. “The two of you are free to stay here as long as you like. There's also a shower at the far end of the room if you want to wash up.”

“Thank you — again.”

Jenny and Quagsire left the room, leaving the duo alone once more. They gazed proudly at their badges inside the open wallet for a moment. With a happy sigh, Antoshi stood up and put the wallet away in his back pocket.

“That was some ride just to get a wallet back, huh?” Antoshi asked, stretching his arms high.

"Sure was," Fireball remarked. "I really hope we never go through anything like that ever again. From now on, I promise I'll listen to you and stay right by your side — no matter what. That's what best friends do."

Antoshi smiled and sighed, sharing a hug with Fireball.

“'Right by your side'? Where have I heard that before?” he teased, looking up at Fireball.

"Okay, I actually mean it this time."

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

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

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

"Heck yeah!"

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

Antoshi and Fireball headed out to give their farewells to the officers in the police station. Jenny waited by the entrance to give Antoshi a hug and a personal farewell. She smiled proudly as she watched them leave, gazing up at the sky for a moment to think about her Archie. With the missing Typhlosion case officially closed, she breathed a sigh of content before heading back to her office.

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

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

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

Fireball stared at him strangely for a moment. "Wow, you must've been really bored if you memorized the entire map of the city while I was gone."

Antoshi laughed. “I guess that's one way of putting it.”

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

The city's southernmost Pokémon Center was busy, due to how big of a city Viridian was. The duo had to wait a few minutes for a videophone to free up. While a bit uneasy about the limited time they had to get their eighth badge and move on, both of them were just happy to be able to spend that time together again. In the meantime, Antoshi got them registered to stay a night in the Center. He couldn't help himself from grinning as he reached for his wallet, back in its rightful place, in order to take out his Trainer Card. He thanked Nurse Joy as she handed him the room key.

Once a phone freed up, Antoshi sat down in front of it with Fireball behind him. He tapped his Trainer Card against the screen to call home. The phone rang no longer than usual before his mother answered.

“Antoshi!” she joyfully exclaimed. “It took you a little while to get back to us after Pallet Town. I thought you were in a rush!”

“Started exploring the sights again?” his father asked, appearing on screen as he sat next to her.

“Yeah, we got … a little caught up in Viridian City,” Antoshi replied, with a slight smirk. “Fireball and I are here now, though, and we're safe and sound.”

“That's good to hear,” his father replied. “We're glad you're checking in with us. So~, what's Viridian City like?”

Antoshi quickly mulled through the memories of their time in Viridian. “It's … a very exhausting city,” the boy said. Fireball nodded in agreement. “I guess you could say that I already learned a lot about myself from my time being here.”

“Wonderful!” his mother replied. “Ohh, Antoshi, you're growing up so quickly right before my eyes. Promise me that, no matter what happens by the time the tournament is finished, you'll come right back home afterward.”

“I promise, Mom,” he replied with a warm smile. “I'm really happy to talk to you both again. Honestly, I've been thinking about home a lot lately, so I'm feeling a little homesick.”

“'Homesick'?” his father mused. “That's a word I never imagined I'd hear you say, son. You have been gone over a year now. Starting to get your fill of being out on your own?”

“Not even close!” he exclaimed, all of them sharing a brief laugh. “I do miss being with you both. I won't be gone away much longer, but Fireball and I promise we're going to give our absolute best at that tournament.”

“I wouldn't expect anything less,” his mother proudly replied. “We'll be rooting for you at home, sweetie! Oh, and don't forget to pick up your package of clothes at the Pokémon Center!”

“We love you!” his parents said together.

“Love you guys, too,” Antoshi replied, grinning.

The screen displayed 'Call Ended'. Antoshi breathed a sigh of relief, closing his eyes for a moment. It was comforting, after the harrowing experience he went through, to see the faces of his parents and to hear their voices again. Everything truly felt back to normal.

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

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

Antoshi sighed, playfully, and rolled his eyes. They walked over to a small kiosk tucked away in a corner of the main area. Over it was a plastered sign reading 'Parcel Delivery System'. Antoshi swiped his Trainer Card along the side of the machine. It lit up with a list of packages sent and awaiting delivery.

He tapped on the screen for a package sent three days prior. A vacuum tube in the walls whirred, an automatic door under the kiosk slid open. He reached down and took a small parcel from it, prompting the door to slide shut. The pair found a place to sit down and open their mail.

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

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

Slipped between them was a small envelope with several thousand more Pokédollars, money which he put away in his wallet. Fireball watched and waited patiently as Antoshi folded away the old clothes from his backpack, replacing them with the new clothes. He placed his old clothes in the package his mother sent, sealed it back up, and headed back to the kiosk to send them home. Once that was done, Antoshi motioned for Fireball to follow him before they headed for the front doors.

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

"Man," Fireball remarked, looking around at the open, bustling city. "This place seems so much nicer when I'm not fleeing for my life."

“And when I'm not constantly worrying about where you are,” Antoshi replied with a grin. “Guess we can turn even bad memories into good ones, huh?”

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

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

“It was definitely terrifying. It was really the scariest moment of my life. I thought about you, and Mom, and Dad. It was like what people always say, my life flashed before my eyes. When Officer Jenny was catching me up on everything that happened, that's when it really hit me. It's weird, though. I should be … traumatized over it. But, really, I'm just happy to be alive. I'm happy to still be here with my best buddy and my family, because I love you all so much. I don't want to think about how scary that was. I don't want it to weigh on me. I'm sure at times in the future it's going to hit me again, but I gotta look at the positive side. I just have to remember what's important to me, and to be thankful that I'm alive.”

"I'm really thankful for that, too," Fireball said, placing a claw on Antoshi's shoulder. "Also, I never got to ask you something back in the police station. How did you do all that crazy flying I heard about? Some of the policemen there were joking about those two crooks saying you flew after them. Apparently that's how you caught them, but none of the police believed the story. What happened?"

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

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

“I don't know if I can do it again — or even if I should.

"You're still nervous about what this all means?"

“A little,” Antoshi said, shrugging. “Still, I have to be thankful for it coming through in a pinch. With that energy, I was able to save you, … and save myself from dying. I just … I can't shake this feeling like there's something more to it. There just has to be. There's something important I don't fully understand yet. Honestly, I'm a little excited, but also nervous about that.”

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

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

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

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

The Gym itself was fairly plain, but the lavish landscaping along the pathway toward it was anything but. Antoshi and Fireball found themselves fascinated by the foliage. They walked underneath tall, sculpted hedges in the shape of arcs that went high over their heads. Innumerable colorful flowers lined the edges and far beyond. As they got closer, even more hedges in the shape of various Pokémon encircled the front of the Gym.

"This is cool," Fireball remarked, awe-struck.

“Yeah,” Antoshi added, smiling. “Someone took the city's motto of 'Eternally Green Paradise' very seriously.”

The automatic front doors opened, allowing the duo inside. They were taken aback once again, this time by the grand decor of the Gym's spacious main room. It was warm and cozy, with earth tones on the walls and tile floor — scarred in places from past battles. Large paintings of strangers hung along the walls, with various accents and warm lighting. The scent of potpourri filled the air.

"This is very cool," Fireball said.

“I can't wait to meet the Gym Leader,” Antoshi replied, looking around. “Hello? My name is Antoshi! I'm here to challenge the Viridian City Leader for the Earth Badge!”

A few moments later, a wooden door on the far end of the intricately-patterned stadium floor opened. A tall woman with dark skin and short, green hair emerged.

“Hello there, young Trainer,” she said, as she closed the door behind her. “My name is Elise. I am the Ground-Type Master of the Viridian Gym. Welcome to my humble stage.”

“Humble?” Antoshi replied, quizzically. “This is the most aesthetic Gym I've ever seen.”

“Thank you,” she replied with a warm smile, strolling to the opposite end of the battling floor. “I did all of the decor and the landscaping myself.”

“You did all those hedges out there?”

“I certainly did. Most Gym Leaders see their Gym as a job; a place to clock in and clock out. For me, my Gym is my home. I live here. So, in my free time, when Trainers aren't here for a badge, I pass the time gardening or making pottery like the vases you see all around.”

Antoshi and Fireball were astonished, not just by how well-made everything was, but that one person did all of it.

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

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

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

“I pride myself on having a 'no frills' Gym experience. Some of the previous Leaders here were … let's say, less than forthcoming. The people of Viridian are happy to have an honest and straightforward Leader for the city Gym — someone who takes her title very seriously. Trainers are also happy because they get to battle for a badge sooner.”

“Aren't you worried battling might destroy the decor here?”

“Of course. The stadium floor has already seen its fair share of battles. The decorations, however, are made quite sturdy. Some of them have protective padding or are adhered in place so they don't move. The paintings you see on the wall are set firmly as well. Those paintings are important to me, as they're portraits of some of the former Gym Leaders here. Seeing their faces helps me to continue the lineage here and uphold the dignity of the Viridian City Gym.”

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

“You seem like a really honest person, Elise. I admire how seriously you take every aspect of being a Gym Leader, and I know I would be proud if I was a resident of Viridian City.”

“Thank you, again. Now, as per Indigo League rules, I have to inform that, if you lose, you cannot attempt a rematch for another fourteen days.” Antoshi nodded in acknowledgment. “Very well. Shall we get on with the battle?”

“Sounds good to us,” Antoshi replied, grinning confidently.

Fireball stepped onto the battlefield, stretching his neck out and cracking his knuckles. He gave a shout, the fires on his back igniting.

“I don't see any other Poké Balls on you, young Trainer,” she said, while reaching for a Great Ball on her hip. “Are you hiding them, or do you believe you can win with just a Typhlosion?”

“Fireball and I are best friends — and he's the only partner I've needed so far.”

Fireball stood proudly.

“That's very admirable. I believe Pokémon should be treated like friends — even like family. However, only having one Pokémon is quite foolish. Allow me to show you why.” Elise threw the Great Ball into the air, which opened on its own accord. “Go, Gliscor!”

The light that poured from the ball took shape and faded. Elise's Gliscor hovered in mid-air and gave a battle cry. It stretched its pincerlike claws out, brimming with energy as it darted from side to side. Antoshi paused for a brief moment to marvel at the Gliscor with a slight smile. It was the first one he'd ever seen in-person. Elise caught the ball when it returned to her.

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

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

“Gliscor, use Toxic!” Elise commanded.

Just before Fireball's attack connected, Gliscor spat up a viscous, purplish liquid that covered Fireball's spinning body. Gliscor was subsequently struck hard, spiked like a volleyball into a small crater in the elegant flooring.

Fireball rebounded into the air. Gliscor groaned before falling unconscious.

Elise's jaw hung slightly agape, surprised at Typhlosion's strength. She hummed with intrigue as she recalled her Gliscor back into its Great Ball.

Fireball rolled back to his side of the field and hopped up to his hind feet. He held his arms out as he and Antoshi stared at the purple poison that was soaked into his fur.

“Very good attack, Trainer,” Elise said, switching her Great Ball for an Ultra Ball. “Unfortunately, your Typhlosion is now badly poisoned and I still have three more Pokémon left. Do you believe your Typhlosion has enough stamina to hold out?”

Fireball turned to Antoshi and gave him a thumbs up. He suddenly coughed up some of the purple liquid onto his paw.

"Aw, man, that's just gross," Fireball remarked, shaking his paw clean.

“I would suggest you finish this battle quickly,” she said. “With only one Pokémon, the clock on that poison is ticking.”

Antoshi stared at her with an intensely serious expression. ‘She's right,’ he thought. ‘We don't have much of a choice here. We have to strike as hard and as often as we can.’

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

From the open ball dropped a monstrous hippopotamus with enough weight to cause the ground to rumble. Sand poured out continuously from the circular vents on its back. It slowly opened its massive maw and roared at Fireball. It activated its Sand Stream ability to instantly create a sandstorm condition on the battlefield. Sand erupted out of its vents, swirling and whipping violently around the stadium, encircling the two Pokémon.

‘Now, what kind of character does this boy possess?’ she wondered with a smirk. ‘Will he let me get inside his head?’

“Things are quickly getting much worse for both of you,” Elise said. “That sandstorm will continuously damage your Typhlosion, and leave my Ground-type Pokémon unharmed. Are you certain you don't want to concede for the sake of your best friend?”

Antoshi ignored her, quick to make his first move. “All right, Fireball! Eruption!”

Fireball took off, running on all fours toward his opponent.

“Hippowdon, Protect!” Elise said.

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

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

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

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

Elise chuckled. “I most certainly am, young Trainer. My job is to win. That means I'll use any legal battle tactic to do so. I've faced many Trainers before you. I know your Typhlosion is strong and nimble. Your strategy is a full-tilt offense. But since you only have one Pokémon, that means I can simply wear it down with poison, weather conditions, and time. The only thing left from there is to remove your Typhlosion's ability to attack.”

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

Fireball coughed up a smattering of purple poison again, a visual indicator that the poison was wearing him down. Once the protective blue dome around Hippowdon disappeared, Antoshi sprung into action.

“Fireball, now use Eruption!” he said.

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

He crashed headlong with the incredibly heavy beast, managing to send it airborne. Standing atop a bed of sand, the fires on Fireball's back erupted into a massive pillar of flame that engulfed the monstrous Hippowdon and briefly kept it aloft. Hippowdon gave no indication that it was in any pain. When his attack petered out, Fireball quickly sprinted out of the way. He winced at the grains of sand continuing to pelt him.

“Hippowdon, use Dig!” Elise commanded.

Just as Hippowdon was about to smash back into the ground, it instead burrowed its beefy frame into the sand-covered ground with some help from gravity.

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

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

“Fireball!” he exclaimed. “Keep moving! Make it harder for Hippowdon to lock on to you!”

The idea was a gamble, especially since Fireball fleeing aimlessly caused the sand to whip harder at him and injured him further. Fireball grunted as he ran around, ignoring the pain as best he could.

“Now, strike!” Elise said.

The ground rumbled under Fireball's feet. He leapt out of the way, avoiding Hippowdon as it charged up through the floor with such momentum that it went airborne.

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

“Fireball, Lava Plume!” Antoshi shouted.

Fireball's eyes lit up, picking up on the boy's idea, smirking confidently. He dropped down on all fours again, staying in place while keeping his sights set on the mid-air Hippowdon. He gave a loud roar, the flames on his back raging. From his claws, a burst of magma traveled through the ground like a moving volcanic rupture.

The magma reached the pit that Hippowdon had created, causing a large blast of lava to erupt violently out of it. Unable to evade, Hippowdon took a direct hit from the attack. It roared in pain before being sent crashing hard on its side of the field, struggling to pick itself back up. It instead fell unconscious.

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

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

While Elise recalled her fainted Hippowdon, Fireball again coughed up more poison. After which, he shielded his face from the briefly intensifying sandstorm. The combination of continuous passive damage and stall tactics meant that the duo still had to slog through an uphill battle.