Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ A Blond Ray of Sunshine ❯ Chapter 9

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

In the early evening, the sky had become a layered mix of bluish-purple littered with long streaks of orange clouds. Antoshi and Fireball sat in the stands. They watched the end of the first round of preliminary matches while enjoying the meal provided for them by the staff. The number of other Trainers had thinned out to half as many as there were hours prior.

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

The giant screens lit up with an updated tournament bracket. Antoshi furrowed his brow curiously when he saw the number of their next opponent: 145. His eyes lit up. The battle involving '145' was one that he'd witnessed from afar earlier. It was a young boy, younger than him, with dark skin and an almost completely shaved head. The Trainer had used a powerful Tyranitar to knock out both of his opponent's Pokémon. It was quite the intimidating sight. Now they had to face off against that themselves.

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

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

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

“Trainers 145 and 147, report to battlefield two.”

Antoshi took a deep breath and sighed. The pair nodded to each other, putting their game faces on, heading down to the assigned field. The young boy that Antoshi remembered was already waiting for them. He smirked confidently, tossing a Poké Ball up and down. Antoshi and Fireball stood in their respective positions on their side of the field.

“Battlefield two — you may begin!”

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

From the ball emerged a cheerful, large blue footballfish with a Y-shaped antenna tipped with glowing orbs. It cried out, raring to battle. Fireball gave his own shout, flaring up the fires on his back. Antoshi wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead, already dreading the impending reveal of the opponent's Tyranitar.

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

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

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

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

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

Antoshi hesitated for a moment before issuing their next move.

“Fireball — use Burn Up!”

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

The flames on Fireball's back abruptly extinguished.

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

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

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

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

“Fireball, Defense Curl!”

Fireball curled up into a ball, suddenly surrounded by a brief glimpse of a bluish shield. The rings of water around Lanturn suddenly healed some of its battle damage.

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

Lanturn howled to the sky, sending up a large bolt of electricity from its glowing orbs into the dark clouds above them. The clouds flickered with light and rumbled with the sound of thunder. An even more powerful bolt of lightning came down in a flash, striking its target directly.

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

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

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

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

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

“All right, Fireball! Rollout!”

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

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

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

Lanturn's maneuverability on land was almost non-existent. The opposing duo were unable to do anything about the oncoming attack. Fireball slammed into Lanturn, causing it to rapidly flip over backwards until it rolled to a stop. It groaned, shaking off its dizziness before sliding back to its side of the field. Fireball remained in his curled form as he rolled back his side as well.

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

“Lanturn — Thunder, again!”

Lanturn fired another powerful bolt of electricity into the clouds, which came down and struck Fireball. He shouted in pain, his curled-up body tensing as he was rattled with electricity. His fur was mostly frazzled, singed and charred.

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

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

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

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

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

Antoshi grinned proudly.

“Fireball, another Rollout!”

Fireball revved up once more and launched himself faster than before across the rain-slicked ground. Lanturn's eyes widened just before being struck. It was thrown through the air, past its Trainer before crashing to a halt. It groaned, suddenly unable to pick itself back up.

“No!” the opposing Trainer shouted.

“Yes,” Antoshi quietly cheered, pumping a fist at his side.

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

“Fireball, how you feeling?” he asked.

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

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

“No more messing around!” he exclaimed. He switched the Poké Ball with an Ultra Ball in the same hand, which he immediately threw out. “Go, Tyranitar!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tyranitar let out a powerful roar that grabbed the attention of almost every spectator and nearby competitors. Antoshi turned his attention to the opposing Trainer.

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

“By catching it — duh!” the Trainer replied. “Stupid!”

Antoshi was taken aback by the indignant response.

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

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

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

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

“Fireball!” he said. “Use Focus Blast!”

Fireball groaned in pain as he hopped back to his hind feet. His tired eyes and burns down his belly finally showed how worn down he had gotten after taking two direct Thunder attacks. The opposing Trainer watched carefully, ready to counteract.

Fireball held his forepaws at one side, charging up a bright ball of energy. However, just as the attack was ready, the electricity around his body surged wildly. He shouted in pain and fell to a knee. The energy in his hands dissipated.

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

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

“Tyranitar! Stone Edge! Finish it!”

Tyranitar let out an immense roar before stomping its foot. Massive rock pillars jutted out of the ground, rushing toward Fireball like a wave. Fireball was struck hard. The violent impact sent him airborne a short distance before crashing nearby Antoshi. The pillars sunk back into the ground.

“Fireball!” Antoshi cried out in terror.

Fireball groaned weakly, lifting himself up onto his arms. The Typhlosion suddenly fell to the ground. The wind had been knocked from Antoshi's lungs, placing his hands on his head.

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

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

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

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

"Good point …" Fireball replied, weakly, staggering up on his hind feet. "It would be … pretty crummy if we lost now …"

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

Antoshi was equally astonished to see his friend still conscious. He also got to his feet at the same slow pace that Fireball did, quickly wiping away the tears from his eyes.

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

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

Fireball nodded and hobbled his way back onto the field. He clenched his teeth upon re-entering the tornado of whipping sands. With his trembling paws at one side, he slowly charged up the same ball of energy as before. He groaned, becoming more dizzy and weak as the attack grew in size.

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

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

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

Tyranitar leapt to the side with incredible speed that caused Antoshi to gasp in shock. However, Fireball's inexperience and inaccuracy with the move became their saving grace yet again. Tyranitar dodged into the path of the attack.

Focus Blast struck one of the gaping triangular holes in its chest — a glaring chink in its otherwise impenetrable body armor. The spot was a pressure point, amplifying the damage it received for a critical hit. The impact caused a large, explosive burst of light. The tremendous Tyranitar was sent backward, roaring in anguish. It shook the stadium grounds upon landing and slid to a halt.

Fireball grinned, laughing weakly at the incredible sight. He couldn't believe how lucky that was. He groaned wearily, falling back onto the wet, sandy ground.

“Fireball!” he exclaimed.

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

Tyranitar was not moving. Its sandstorm petered out and its Trainer was left stunned, but quickly became outraged.

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

“Trainer 147 wins!” the voice on the loudspeaker announced.

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

“You all right?” Antoshi asked, nervously.

Fireball grinned slightly and gave him a thumbs-up.

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

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

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

The other Trainer sniffled and wept as he recalled his Tyranitar. He covered his eyes in shame as he ran off through the stadium tunnels. Despite how abrasive the boy was towards them, Antoshi still felt badly for him being overwhelmed by the sting of defeat.

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

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

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

The pair were led through a set of large open doors, into one of the areas in the concourse of the stadium. The pair gasped in awe, standing at the entrance of a massive, elegant ballroom. Everything was colored in various shades of purple and blue, accented by white. The walls were lined with couches. The shiny, waxed floor was covered in a plethora of perfectly lined dining tables and chairs. The cool, circulated air was rife with the scent of freshly baked confections.

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

“This is the Indigo Room,” the man told them. “It's the main dining and lounging area for those who pass the preliminary matches. You may come here and dine any time of the day or night. Your assigned table number is …” he briefly jotted down on his clipboard, “14! This will also be the number of your sleeping quarters.”

“Sleeping quarters?” Antoshi asked.

“Indeed. The Indigo Tournament starts tomorrow and lasts for three days. Until then, all Trainers passing the preliminary matches must stay at the Indigo Plateau until the closing ceremonies.” He handed Antoshi a key card and a pamphlet. “This key is for your quarters. The pamphlet includes information of daily events and maps of the grounds. Be sure to wear your lanyard for identification purposes whenever you're outside of your quarters. I hope you and your Pokémon have a wonderful time here. Congratulations once again on your victories.”

He gave them a respectful nod of the head before taking his leave. Antoshi took a brief look through the pamphlet.

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

"This is definitely the fanciest dining room I've ever seen!" Fireball remarked. He looked in all directions while Antoshi quietly studied the information in his hands. "I smell food — lots of food. He never said whether we had a limit or if we had to pay, did he?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fireball gasped in surprise. Sprawled out before him was a bustling resort village situated around a large lake. The pair strolled and looked around. Volunteers and staff in all directions kept the grounds and the log cabins that comprised the village tidy. Each of them smiled, waved or greeted the pair as they passed.

"Wow!" Fireball remarked, waving back to them. "What is this place?"

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

Fireball's eyes widened in surprise.

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

“Uh-huh!” Antoshi cheerfully replied. They came to a stop in front of a single-story cabin with a sign hammered into the front lawn that read '14.' “We're not staying in a room like the Pokémon Center — we get our own little house to live in.”

Fireball started hyperventilating.

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

Fireball was buzzing with excitement as they walked to the front door. Antoshi slid the key card through the reader, hearing a confirmation beep, and the door unlocked. He chuckled as he opened the door and invited his friend to enter first. Fireball squealed in glee, merrily skipping inside.

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

“Wow,” they both remarked in awe.

It was as though they were walking into the distant past. The evening sun flooded the charming home that seemed to be constructed in a bygone age. Warm and cozy, almost everything was made of wood, looking so antique that the duo were wary about touching any of it. From the diamond-shape leaded windows, the patterned drapes, and even a grandfather clock. A wooden display cabinet held plates and candlestick holders. A dining table and chairs sat upon rustic, stone flooring. Any amenities they could need were provided; from a couch, television and videophone to a fully-stocked kitchen, dining room and appliances.

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

“You don't say?” Antoshi grinned as he asked, sarcastically.

The boy headed into the spacious bedroom, placing his backpack down next to the bed. Fireball followed, peering around the bedroom from the doorway.

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

“That would be nice.” Antoshi smiled, glancing out the window for a brief moment. They had a perfect view of the sparkling lake behind the house. The beautiful scenery and the splendid peacefulness of the house were far and beyond what he could've ever expected in his many dreams of making it to the Indigo League. “Well, how about we go and do what you enjoy, which is eat?”

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

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

"Same here."

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

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

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you.”

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

“See ya.”

With that, the Trainer took his leave.

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

“Yeah,”  Antoshi replied with a smile. “I was expecting the same, honestly. It's a huge confidence boost for anyone to have earned eight badges and get to the Indigo Plateau. But, with how tough it's been along the way, it's still a humbling experience.” They looked around at all the smiling faces, hearing a couple people in the distance laughing. “They're all probably really happy to make it this far. I know I am.”

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

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

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

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

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

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

They headed back to their cottage to get settled in. Fireball took his usual place resting on the floor of the moonlit bedroom, groaning loudly and hiccuping as he lay on his back. Antoshi emerged from the bathroom, wearing his usual sleeping garments, toothbrush in hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I'm only joking. I'm the one that taught you that phrase, by the way.” Fireball snickered in response. “Well, we'd better get lots of sleep.”

"Sounds good to me. Goodnight, Antoshi."

“Goodnight, buddy.”

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

The following morning, the duo got up at their usual wake-up time of six o'clock. The sun had just started to break the horizon and peer into the bedroom window. They were fueled by a deep sense of determination. Both remained fairly quiet, getting themselves mentally prepared for what was to be the most important day of their lives.

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

He stopped suddenly, heading back into the room to rummage through his backpack for something. He pulled out Fireball's Poké Ball. He may end up needing it, just in case.
He stuffed it into his pocket before leaving the house with his best friend by his side.

From his other pocket, he pulled out their information pamphlet. After navigating back through the stadium concourse, they entered a large, bright waiting room. It was mostly white, with a few potted trees along the walls and plants set on tables to break the drabness. There were dozens of rows of linked chairs — plenty of seating for the waiting competitors. Large television screens hung on the walls, though they were off for the time being.

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

Antoshi looked through the pamphlet again.

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

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

They both turned around and grinned.

“Cory! Hey!” Antoshi greeted him.

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

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

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

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

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

Cory smirked as he looked at the mesmerized Typhlosion.

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

“No, I think it's because you said—”

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

“… Waffles.”

Cory burst out laughing. Antoshi sighed and grinned.

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

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

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

After getting some breakfast in them, the duo hung around in the waiting area. Antoshi passed the time by reading a book from the reading material provided by the staff, while Fireball relaxed out on several chairs next to him.

Some time later, the television screens turned on. Those waiting got to watch the morning newscast. One of the reports was about the ongoing events after the destruction of Fern Town. Antoshi idly closed his book, taking great interest in the report. While the chatter in the room was too loud for him to hear it, the text on screen indicated that the cleanup was expected to last months. A makeshift memorial had been set up for loved ones and the general public to leave their thoughts, prayers, and offerings. Hundreds of flower bouquets, cards, and toys were left in memory of the victims.

Antoshi's chest tightened at the sight of people distraught and crying. It was difficult for him to watch, recalling the incident as it happened in his dreams. Recordings and photos of Slateport City's devastation also came up on screen. Comparisons were made between the two events, leaving the boy to mull over the relation between the two. He didn't have any dreams about the destruction of Slateport. He could only wonder if there really was a connection.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fireball awoke with a yawn amid all the commotion. "Huh? What's happening?" he asked.

Antoshi grinned at his friend. “It's about to be showtime.”