Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ A Blond Ray of Sunshine ❯ Chapter 11

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

The duo rested for a short time in the Pokémon Center, sitting together on a couple of chairs. Antoshi idly played with the identification lanyard he continued to wear. Fireball playfully swung his stubby legs, which couldn't reach the floor. They watched the next battle get underway on nearby television screens.

Just then, someone rounded the corner.

“Ah, here they are,” a staff member said, smiling, as he waved an unknown party over. “147?” he asked the duo. Antoshi nodded, confused. “You have some visitors.”

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

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

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

Antoshi ran over and threw his arms around her. Both of his parents held and consoled him as he cried into his mother's shoulder. It felt like forever since he'd been in their embrace. There was an indescribable sense of relief inside him, brought on by the familiar scent and warmth that only his parents could provide. It was more than enough to mend the hole that their loss left in his heart.

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

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

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

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

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

The others laughed. Antoshi smiled gently and nodded.

“Thanks, Mom,” he softly responded. “I needed that, … and I really needed to see you both right now.”

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

Antoshi grinned, wiping residual tears from his eyes.

“Thanks, Dad. I'm so lucky to have the two of you always encouraging me and helping pick me back up. We never would've gotten this far without you both behind us all the way.”

His mother giggled and hugged him tightly.

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

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

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

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

Antoshi grinned and chuckled quietly.

“I love you guys,” he said.

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

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

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

Fireball grinned and nodded before pointing to his open mouth. Antoshi laughed as he pulled away from his mother.

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

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

With that, the four of them headed off, chatting and laughing together.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

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

At one point, Antoshi both ran into and introduced his parents to Elise, who showed up to watch the tournament in-person as she'd promised. He got her thoughts on several of the tournament match-ups, and talked over different strategies with her.

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

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

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

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

"That's really cool!"

Antoshi smiled as he looked at the winner standing on a pedestal in the very center of the field. He was as close as he'd ever gotten to making it there himself. They hadn't won this time, but it was only their first attempt. The fires still burned in his heart to keep on trying.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

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

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

It was the following morning. The duo climbed aboard one of the cars of a train. Rather than walking back, the duo and Antoshi's parents opted to take transportation home together. It was the same mode of transport his parents had used to get to Viridian City. The high-speed train station in Viridian would take them back to Saffron, with some stops along the way.

Antoshi and Fireball chose a seat together, with Fireball expectedly sitting by the window. Antoshi's parents sat together nearby. Antoshi sighed in relief, dropping his backpack to the floor between his legs and leaned back. It was a relaxing end of their long journey across Kanto.

“This is so much fun!” his mother remarked nearby.

As they waited for all the other passengers to head on board, an elderly gentleman in the seat behind Antoshi eased forward to grab his attention.

“Hey there, youngster,” the gentleman said.

Antoshi curiously turned around to face him. “Hello,” he replied.

“I saw you on the television during that tournament. You did an incredible job getting that far with just one Pokémon.”

“Thank you,” he said with a proud smile.

“I was a Trainer like you once when I was younger. I'd never seen anyone use just one Pokémon before. Trainers with one Pokémon achieving great success were always something of a myth to myself and my companions. You're the only one I've ever seen make it to the Championship tournament. There's never been a Champion with a single Pokémon before.”

“Fireball and I were aiming to be the first.”

Fireball heard his name being spoken. He peered over the seat and waved. The man chuckled.

“Well,” the gentleman continued, “I certainly hope this isn't going to make you second-guess yourselves.”

Antoshi shook his head. “It's not. Fireball and I aren't giving up. We're going to keep on trying, and get a lot stronger.”

“That's the spirit! I really hope to see you on that grand stage again!”

“I hope so, too,” he replied with a warm smile.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

It took just a few hours for the duo to be back in the suburbs of Saffron City. The pair smiled proudly as they got out of their family car with Antoshi's parents. Their house was a moderately spacious, two-story affair with several bedrooms, a pool in the backyard, and a sprawling front lawn. Antoshi's neighbors waved to him. He smiled happily and waved back.

“Welcome back!” one of them said.

“Thank you!” he replied.

The cul-de-sac hadn't changed a bit. Everything was still just the way he remembered. Amid a perfectly clear sky, the afternoon sun shone just right, casting its glow upon their quiet, suburban neighborhood. It felt good to be home again.

A couple of youngsters — a boy and a girl — were throwing a ball back and forth in their front yard. They turned and gasped in excitement when they spotted Antoshi.

“It's Antoshi!” the girl squealed.

“Antoshi! You're back!” the boy said.

“Hey there, Jack! Hey, Jade!” Antoshi greeted them. They'd sprouted up a lot since the last time he'd seen them. It made him feel as though he'd been gone for ages.

Antoshi's parents chuckled as the kids rushed up to him.

“We'll meet you inside, Antoshi,” his mother said, before she and her husband parted their company.

“Wo~ow!” Jack said. “Fireball really grew up!”

Jack and Jade looked up at Antoshi and Fireball with wide grins and enthused gazes. The two youngsters certainly appeared to idolize them as their neighborhood heroes. Antoshi smiled and placed a hand on Fireball's back.

“He sure did. We both did a lot of growing up on our journey.”

“That's so cool!” Jack said. “Next year, when I'm old enough, I want to go off on a Pokémon journey like you did. I want to be an amazing Trainer just like you, Antoshi!”

“Me, too!” Jade added.

“Well, I'm not so amazing,” Antoshi said, grinning coyly.

“Oh, come on!” Jack said. “You collected all eight badges — and you went to the Indigo League! We saw you on TV!”

“That is our greatest accomplishment,” Antoshi replied, “… so far. Fireball and I can't get it out of our blood, though. We're ready to do it all over again.”

“Awesome!” the two children said in unison.

“I'm so excited!” Jade said. “I can't wait to be a Pokémon Trainer and go off on adventures!”

“It's definitely the experience of a lifetime, and I hope the two of you have an unforgettable adventure like we did.” Antoshi and Fireball nodded to each other before parting ways with them. “It was good talking to you two! We'll see you again soon!”

“See ya!” they exclaimed, waving to them. “Bye!”

Antoshi and Fireball laughed when they saw the balloons and banner: 'Welcome Home Antoshi'. It was all laid out on the front porch, just like his parents said. They sighed happily, opening the front door and walking inside.

The duo were finally home.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

“I just … want to … go home,” the boy with black hair muttered, mindlessly.

He laid in bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. After suffering through a week of solitary confinement, he was in a constant state of dull emptiness. He felt nothing, saw nothing, heard nothing. He was catatonic, as though sleeping with his listless eyes open.

Inside his office further inside the military base, the General watched the sable-haired boy on the monitors before him.

“It’s been a week now,” he said. “I think he’s had enough time to stew in there.”

With a soft groan, he pushed his chair out and got to his feet.

“Should I accompany you, General?” the other man asked.

“No, that won't be necessary, Colonel Nolan. He's been without human contact for far longer than a young boy should. I'll talk to him alone first.”

“Very well, sir.”

The General walked to the door, grabbing his service cap from the hat rack and put it on before departing his office.

The overwhelming silence surrounding the boy gave way to the sound of footsteps echoing down the hall — and they were getting closer. He groaned softly, breaking out of his trance. He sat up, still dazed and confused.

“Hello there,” a voice spoke from beyond the cell window.

His sunken eyes twitched. He had a weary, dumbfounded expression on his face. It was the first person he'd seen.

“You … are—are you real?” the boy asked. He stood and pressed his hands against the glass.

“I am real, I assure you,” the General replied, smiling.

One of the hovering robots came by, placing a chair behind him to sit down. Once he sat, the robot handed him a clipboard and pen. The boy's eyes shifted between the General and the robot, his jaw hanging agape in awe. He was oddly impressed over the General's control of the robots, which he himself couldn't get to do anything for him.

“Who are you?” the boy asked. “Are you here to get me out? Where are my parents? Can—can I go home now?”

“Easy, easy,” he reassured the boy. “First, let me introduce myself. My name is General Logan. I'm in charge of this facility. I'm gonna do what I can for you but, right now, leaving is a privilege.” He clicked the pen before jotting on the clipboard.

“A privilege? … What do you mean?”

“Well, let's start with the basics. We couldn't find any identification on you, so why don't you start by telling me your name?”

“My name?” he asked. His eyes shifted from side to side, trying to recall his memories. “I—I'm not sure. I can't remember.”

The General took a hard look at the boy.

“I see. … Well then, can you recount the events of that night in Fern Town?”

“Fern … Town? Is that where I live? I don't … remember.”

“You don't remember the … explosion or what led to it?”


Logan went quiet, studying the boy's worried expression. He wrote on the clipboard again.

“Are you proficient with any weapons? Improvised explosives? That sort of thing.”

The boy ran a hand through his hair, groaning in frustration.

“I don't know. I can't remember anything.”

Logan pondered to himself. He stared at his notes while clicking the pen a few times.

“Well then, young man, I'm afraid there's nothing more for me to do.”

“That's it? I—I can go home now?”

Logan got to his feet. The same robot promptly took the chair and carted it away.

“Sorry, I need you to cooperate with me first before we can accommodate you. Maybe the next time we speak—”

“No!” the boy shouted, panicked. “Please don't leave me here! I'm telling you, I can't remember! Please, I'll do anything to get out of here!”

“Whether you remember or not is irrelevant,” the General replied, slipping the pen into his uniform's coat pocket. “Until you can give us a statement that helps us in our investigation, you're going to stay right here — no matter how long it takes.”

The General took his leave, followed closely behind by the hovering robot.

“No! No, don't go!!” he shouted, rapping his hands on the glass. His eyes quickly welled up with tears. “Please let me out! Please, please, let me out. …”

The boy shut his eyes, falling to his knees as he wept.

“I just want to go home …”

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Two months passed in the blink of an eye. The boy with dark hair was still locked in his cell. He lay upon the cold, white floor; his legs propped up vertically on the wall. His eyes were empty, almost devoid of life. Stricken by mania, left to do nothing else but ramble to himself. Hallucinations came and went, oftentimes talking to invisible people. The solitary confinement was working to soften the boy up, but not to give General Logan the answers he was looking for.

Everything was still the same — the horrible, stagnant, routine, sterile same. He had long since gone past all stages of grief, resigned to living out each day in nothingness. Despite how cold, empty, and powerless he felt, he never lost his will to go on. The endless monotony and solitude had affected his psyche so brutally, and yet he hadn't given up the tiny glimmer of hope that rested in his heart. He could only dream about what the world looked like outside the constricting four walls of his cell.

There was a deep, churning swell of emotions underneath his pale, listless gaze. So much anger, sorrow, and fear that had built up inside of him. He was especially vengeful toward the General — his only human contact since his imprisonment. The man had been so uncaring, only wanting to pry memories from the boy which he still could not recall. He never gave the boy an ounce of humanity, nothing to make any attempt to lift the boy's spirits. His mind swirled with terrible thoughts and imagery of revenge against the General. Yet, Logan was the only person who could give him his freedom. He remained amiable towards the man for that reason alone.

A short time later, General Logan came to his cell once more. He was flanked by a slightly taller creature.

“General … Logan?” the boy muttered, in a daze. He slowly got to his feet, his jaw hanging. He pressed his hands to the glass wall between them, as he usually did.

“I brought a friend this time,” Logan said. “This is Slowking. He's a Pokémon.”

The boy chuckled, wearily. “Hello, new friend…” he remarked, mindlessly, in a singsong voice.

“He's going to help you. He's going to see what can be done about your memory problems.”

“Keep your eyes on me,” the Pokémon spoke in a gentle voice. “Just relax.”

Slowking closed its eyes for a moment. They glowed a mesmerizing shade of blue as it opened them again. The boy groaned wearily, his eyes glowing the same color.

“What do you see?” Logan asked.

“Emptiness,” Slowking replied. “Emptiness, giving way to … anger. Such anger. Beyond that, there's … something before I can reach his memories. It's like wading through a dense, pitch-black void. So much … darkness. I've never seen anything like this before. This is something much more than simple amnesia. Something is—aahh!”

Slowking shouted as a bolt of blackish energy struck it between the eyes and staggered it backward.

“What happened?” Logan asked, concerned.

The boy slid down to his knees, groaning and shaking his head.

“There's was … something there,” Slowking said, trembling as it held its closed eyes. “Something inside of him that didn't want me probing around his mind. It was dark; inexplicable. It seemed to be slumbering at first when I was inside, but … I fear I may have awoken it — jarred something to life that was better left alone. It was no Pokémon. A monster, perhaps. A monster … sleeping inside of this young boy.”

“Come, let's get you healed up,” Logan said, helping escort his blinded Pokémon away.

The boy became aware of his surroundings again just as they left.

“No, wait, please!” he exclaimed. “You said he was going to help me! Please let me go home now!” The pair were gone. He all alone — once again. “I just want to … go home. I'll do anything to go home.”

'Would you?' a deep voice asked. The boy gasped and jolted in surprise.

“… Who said that?” he asked cautiously, taking a seat on his bed.

'I did. Do not worry, I am here to help you.'

The boy sighed in relief, closing his eyes. “Oh good, it's just another one of the voices in my head.”

'I assure you, I am much more than just a voice.'

The boy opened his eyes in shock. “Wh—what? You mean, … you're real?”

'As real as I can be. However, the first thing I need from you is to watch your jaw movements. Look closely at the cameras outside.'
He lifted his gaze to the surveillance in question. 'They have no way to pick up sound. They cannot hear anything you say because they do not care to hear you cry for help. They only want to observe you. Keep your jaw movements minimal and they will never know you are talking to me.'

He turned his face away from the cameras as instructed.

“I … understand,” he said with some confusion. “But, who are— … uh, I have a lot of questions right now…”

The voice quietly chuckled.

'As is to be expected. I will simply start by stating that I am here to help you unlock the mysteries of your past, and within yourself.'

“You know … who I am?”

'Indeed. I know a great many things about you. Things you didn't even know before you lost your memory. Heed my guidance, for I will guarantee that you are never locked in a cage ever again.'

The boy was completely spellbound by the very idea of freedom. For the first time in a long time, a genuine smile crept across his dry, chapped lips.

“Will I … be able to go home? To see my family?”

'In due time. However, we will continue this conversation later. Be patient; we must plan things slowly and accordingly. First, you must rest. Recollect your thoughts, get your strength back. I will return you again soon.'

“No, please don't leave!” he exclaimed louder than intended. The motions of his mouth and body, talking to someone, were captured on video.

'It is all right,' the voice reassured him. 'I will never be far from you. I am always here with you. … Always.'

With that, all was quiet once again.

His eyes shifted back and forth, mulling over what in the world just happened and trying to make sense of it. He sighed gently, opting to follow the voice's suggestion. He slipped under the white sheets of his bed to rest his eyes. Though it was hard for him to sleep, being catatonic most of the time, he felt some comfort in having someone he could talk to — even if they were just a disembodied voice in his head.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

General Logan returned to his office alone. Colonel Nolan was watching the boy on the screens. The General closed the door behind him, taking his seat and sighed heavily. He popped open the crystal decanter on his desk to pour himself a drink.

“To be completely honest with you, Nolan,” Logan said, “that boy frightens me. There's something so unnatural about him. It shakes me to my core every time I have to talk with him. That Slowking sent to us was supposed to be the best extractor of the mind we have. Instead of finally getting results after two whole months, the kid just … I don't know, attacks him with his mind or something.”

“Why are we still holding him, though?” Nolan quietly asked. “He's just a child that wants to go home. It feels wrong to lock him away for so long.”

Logan exhaled after taking a sip of his drink. He kept his glass in hand, thinking for a moment.

“There's definitely something going on under the surface with him. He's got some kind of power, some secret he's hiding. There's no doubt in my mind about that after what I witnessed today. Whether he's doing so on purpose or not, I have no idea. That child is the only witness to, and possibly the culprit of, a mass murder. Thousands of people are dead, not to mention the millions more that died in the Slateport attack over a year ago. There's too much similarity. There's so much more at work here. … So many questions and not enough answers. I want to know what kinds of weapons we're dealing with here.”

“Weapons, sir?”

The General nodded. “The fate of his home town and Slateport are nearly identical — Slateport's was just on a much grander scale of devastation. He may be using weapons, or he may be a weapon himself, but he's definitely hiding something. Some crucial piece of evidence is locked up in that boy's head. Doesn't matter how long it takes to find out. Higher-ups don't care. The other problem is that we don't know anything about him. All of Fern Town's records were destroyed in the explosion. Our database doesn't have any birth records in Fern Town matching his description and approximate age. As far as anyone's concerned, he doesn't exist.”

“But on what conditions do we release him?”

The General chuckled, taking another sip of his drink. “That's the funny part, at least to me. It's not a matter of when to release him. The higher-ups don't want him released. They never want him to see the light of day ever again. They don't care how long it takes for him to regain his memories. They just want his secrets. They want to find out how he did what he did. After that, there's no more use for him. He's to be erased.”

The Colonel appeared somewhat surprised by the remarks, composing himself quickly so as not to let it show.

“Understood, sir.”

Nolan turned to watch the sleeping boy on the monitor.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

The next morning, the mysterious young boy stirred awake from his sleep. He sat up and yawned, stretching his arms over his head. His eyes and expression looked more alert and attentive than the previous day.

'You are awake,' the voice said, startling him. That was something he needed to get used to. 'You have gotten a full night of rest. Are you feeling better now?'

He took a deep breath, looking at how steady his hands were.

“Yes, I am,” he sighed. “I haven't gotten much sleep since being locked up — just little naps here and there.”

'That is excellent. I can sense that your energy has improved.'

“'Sense?' … What does that mean?”

The voice chuckled. 'It is something you will come to understand more in time. For now, though, you should start to feel yourself returning to normal day by day. You need to get more sleep on a regular basis. Eat whenever they feed you to keep up your strength, and to keep your mind alert.'

“Sounds easy enough so far. … Who are you, anyway?”

'You may call me 'Lazarus.' As previously stated, I am here to help you.'

“Help me how?”

'I will answer your question with a question. Tell me, do you ever dream of doing great things?'

“You mean, aside from the obvious 'wanting to get the hell out of here'? … Sure, I guess.”

'Once you are free from this prison, what would you do if you had the power to make the world a better place?'

“Well, I— … wait, can we backtrack for just a sec'? You think I actually will get out of here?”

'I know you will, because I will help you to earn your freedom.'

A grin spread across his face, pumping his fists. “You'll … help me? What do I have to do?!”

'Settle down, firstly,' the voice said, firmly. 'I told you to keep your movements discreet — remember?'

He quickly placed his hands on his lap. “Right, sorry.”

'I want you to listen closely to what I am about to tell you. … You are far stronger than you can comprehend. You have a unique destiny to reach where you will perform incredible things. You have an astonishing power within you that far eclipses the limits of normal human ability. I want to help you access that power. In doing so, you will earn your freedom from this place.'

“Freedom…” he whispered in awe.

'You do not know it yet, but fighting is in your blood. So, you will fight. Fight to get yourself out from this empty prison. Fight to make yourself stronger, to sharpen your focus, your senses, and your resolve. Fight to become something far greater than any of the pathetic people that locked you in here. You are above them, and you will show them that. To do that, however, you must fight.'

An impassioned look came across his face. He found Lazarus' words inspiring and began to draw strength from the mysterious voice. He clenched his fists, nodding.

“I'm ready to start doing whatever it takes to get out of here.”

'Excellent. We shall not delay in setting things into motion. First, sit up on your bed with your legs crossed and your hands folded. Make sure you are comfortable.'

With a content sigh, the boy did as Lazarus instructed. “Now what?”

'You must learn how to mentally focus your energy through meditation. It is the only way you can train inside of this box. The process will be slow, but undoubtedly worth it. Now, close your eyes.' The boy complied yet again. 'Focus yourself on your goal of freedom. Let not a single distraction creep into your mind. Eat, sleep, train — this is going to be your regimen every single day until you become strong enough to leave. All the while, remain focused on your goal. Continuing to do this will gradually strengthen your resolve and improve your senses.'

“This seems kind of boring. Am I supposed to start feeling something soon or what?”

'Remain focused. Clear your mind. Breathe slowly and naturally. Believe me, this will not be boring. You will understand more soon.'

He remained calm and still for a few moments before sighing in exasperation. He was hoping for faster results.

“I can't do it. I keep thinking about why I'm here and if I'm going to ever get out.”

'You must learn to block distractions in your mind. Remember — the path to your freedom starts with this training.'

He sighed again, shutting his eyes and breathing slowly as the voice had instructed. After a few minutes, he felt an unknown energy began to swirl inside and invigorate him ever so slightly. His eyebrows twitched in response.

“I feel … something. It's like a really warm energy inside me.”

'Very good. Now, channel your emotions. Think back to the anger, the sadness, the despair you felt from being locked up here. Think about how painful it was for you to be neglected and forgotten. Remember your frustration of having no memories, and how your words fell on deaf ears.'

His breathing gradually became more intense. The horrible memories of his confinement for something he didn't recall doing became a much needed spark. That spark ignited the welled-up fuel: the latent anger in his heart that had simmered under the surface for so long. Soon, a transparent dark light began to envelop his body. As he concentrated deeper on those feelings, the light came alive. It flickered gently around his body, like a weak flame.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

As the day progressed, the boy continued to focus and meditate while keeping his negative emotions forefront in his heart. As Lazarus had told him, he only stopped his training to eat, or to use the restroom. Each time he opened his eyes, his broken concentration dissipated the fiery energy around his body. As such, he remained unaware of its existence.

By the end of the day, the boy was becoming exhausted. It became clear that there was so much more to his meditation than simply sitting on a bed for hours. He felt as though he'd been outputting constant physical exertion.

'That is enough for today. You are starting to overexert yourself.'

“I can keep going,” the boy said, struggling to sit upright. “If it gets me out of here faster, I'll—”

'Enough!' the voice shouted loudly enough to make him jump. 'I will tell you when you have reached your limit, and you will stop. Is that understood?'

“All right, all right. … I got it.”

'Very good. We will resume tomorrow.'

“Wait. Before you go, I have one last question to ask. … What is my name?”

'Your name? Why, you only need look into the recesses of your mind. You will find it if you try to remember.'

The boy struggled to sift through the murky depths of his memory. Slowly, something waded to the surface. It was the image of a piece of paper on a table. He recalled himself taking a closer at it, able to make out a name in print.


He gasped, his eyes lighting up. “La— … toshi?” He was awe-struck and overjoyed to remember his name. However, his joy quickly turned to skepticism. “That … sounds like a made-up name. Maybe I'm misremembering.”

'I assure you, the memories you recall are real.'

The boy strained himself to dig up any other memories.

“I can't … seem to remember anything else, though.”

'Your memories will come back in time. For now, get some rest. Tomorrow, I will teach you more of what you wish to know.'

The young boy, now known as Latoshi, settled into bed. He grinned from ear to ear, staring at the plain white ceiling. He was overjoyed, finally able to recall a modicum of his life before his horrible imprisonment. Remembering something as critical as his name was momentous for him. It was just the first piece of the puzzle toward regaining his memories. He wiped a tear from his eye, continuing to smile as he fell asleep.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

The next morning, Latoshi awoke to a strange ringing tone. He shook his head, picking his ear.

'Excellent, you are awake,' Lazarus said. 'Let us not delay in resuming your training efforts.' After yawning and stretching for a few moments, Latoshi got into his meditative position. 'As promised, today I will further your teaching. Resume focusing your energy and concentrating your emotions. Remember your goal.'

With a long, slow exhale, he did as he was told. It wasn't long before the same black aura began to gently flicker around the boy's body.

'Now, keep your mind focused while you open your eyes slowly.'

Latoshi did so, and immediately gasped upon seeing the mysterious black light around him.

“What … is this?” he asked, awe-struck. He kept himself from moving, worried that it might disappear at the slightest twitch.

'I will answer your question after we try a small visual experiment to show you what it is you are trying to develop. Cup your hands as if you are trying to collect water.' The boy again complied. 'Now, focus the energy you see around you into your palms. Will it so that you can shape it into a sphere.'

The boy concentrated into doing so for a few moments. With some effort, he was able to complete his task as Lazarus had asked him. To his surprise, a shimmering orb of black light hovered above his hands.

“Whoa,” he remarked.

'This, Latoshi, is the energy that you possess — the energy you are building toward strengthening. It is the energy of your spirit. It is your 'Ki'.'

Latoshi admired the energy he created for a short time. It gave off a warmth that he found comforting. In some way he couldn't understand, the energy felt like a weapon of phenomenal power.

'Now do you understand? This is only a small fraction of what you are truly capable of.'

An enthused grin spread across the boy's lips.

“I'm ready to keep training. Now that I've seen it for myself … I can't wait to see the level of strength I can reach.”

'Good,' Lazarus replied. 'Very good…'

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Over the following weeks, Lazarus continued to train the boy. As Latoshi's strength grew, so did his confidence and sense of self. He felt so much more relaxed and at ease, allowing his personality to finally shine through. He was no longer the cowering, terrified child when he first awoke in his cell. Having someone to talk to and learn from was immensely helpful in coping with his solidarity — but it also meant the mysterious voice in his head was his only confidant and moral guide.

General Logan continued to occasionally visit the boy. His visits had previously been an event that Latoshi looked forward to with great eagerness. Now, Logan's words fell on deaf ears. Latoshi's meditation was deep enough that he was oblivious to Logan speaking to him. The boy had become incredibly focused and centered within those weeks — a far cry from the rambling, singing, and blank staring he previously engaged in to pass the time.

Day after day, Logan and Nolan were baffled by the boy's steadfast meditation as they watched him via the monitors. Logan himself was becoming increasingly frustrated that the boy continued to ignore him.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

'Another impressive day of training,' Lazarus said as Latoshi lay in bed. 'You have excelled greatly in such a short time span. Your focus has become completely unwavering. You are as sharp as a knife. Your muscle mass has become more lean and defined. How do you feel?'

Latoshi held a hand up to his face, smirking as he summoned some of his energy. His hand also served to conceal his mouth movements from the nearby camera.

“Stronger than I probably have been in my entire life. … That is, if I ever do remember my life before this dump.”

'I know you will regain your memories in time. For now, just focus on your task at hand.'

The boy scoffed in amusement. “That prick Logan seriously offered to let me go home if I talk to him.”

Lazarus chuckled. 'Do not listen to their lies. You know who the only one you need to listen to is.'

“Of course I do,” Latoshi replied with a cocky smirk. “I never would've gotten this far without you. You pulled me out of a dark hole, Lazarus. I owe you my life for that.”

'As I said when we first spoke, I am here to help you. Now, get some rest. Tomorrow is the day of fate; the day you gain your freedom.'

Latoshi closed his eyes with a content smile on his face.

‘I know my name,’ Latoshi thought. ‘I know my power, I know what I'm capable of. I know my destiny. Thanks to Lazarus, I'm finally getting out of here. Just one more day. One more day, and then I'll be out of this hellhole. I'll make every person in here pay for keeping me locked up. Starting with you, Logan.’

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Over the three months that passed since Antoshi and Fireball came home, life had been calm and serene for both of them. The duo relaxed and enjoyed their time taking things easy at home. They watched plenty of TV together and Antoshi got to brush up on his video gaming skills. Fireball got to have all the snacks he wanted, anytime he wanted. Antoshi shared tons of stories with his parents about their journey at the dinner table — a place where Fireball was welcome to sit at. Antoshi was also  happy to catch up with over a year's worth of work from his home schooling. For him, schoolwork was fun, and he enjoyed doing it.

They kept their battling prowess from waning by doing some training in the woods, similar to how they'd train when they were younger. On most days, they could spent hours outside just finding as many different wild Pokémon as they could to battle with. Occasionally, they found a passing Trainer to spar with as well.

Preparations were underway that morning for Antoshi's birthday. His mother hung a colorful, decorative banner on the wall — one of many she'd placed around the house.

“I'm so excited!” his mother said. “My boy's going to be a teenager!”

“He sure is,” his father replied, tying off a balloon. “Do you think maybe you're going a little overboard with the fanfare this year, Nikki? It seems … extravagant.”

“Of course not! This is a very important milestone in his life. You're only thirteen once.”

“That's what you say every birthday,” he replied with a chuckle.

Antoshi emerged from his bedroom wearing pajamas. He stopped suddenly, his groggy eyes slowly panning around the decorated living room.

“There's our birthday boy!” his mother said. “Surprise! I hope you like the way we dressed the place up.”

“I … am definitely surprised,” the boy replied, walking around with a grin on his face. “These parties get more and more extravagant every year.”

His father laughed. “That's what I said!”

“Well,” his mother responded, “we didn't get to see you for your twelfth birthday since you were out on your journey. So, I'm making up for it with double the decorations!”

Fireball appeared as well, having the same reaction Antoshi did.

“I'll bet Fireball's never seen so many colors in his life, huh?” his father asked with a grin.

Fireball nodded to him, his eyes wide in astonishment.

“You did an amazing job, Mom,” Antoshi said, smiling, “like you always do.” He walked up to her to share a brief hug.

“Ohh, thank you, sweetie. I'm so glad you like it.” She pointed to the nearby dining room table. “There's a present over there you can open now. Don't worry, there's more presents to come!”

Antoshi and Fireball headed over to the gift. They grinned as both of them shared the responsibility of tearing away the neatly-wrapped red paper. Antoshi opened it and looked inside.

“Oh, wow, clothes! … Again!” he said, feigning surprise. He took out the garment on top: a bright, red t-shirt. He was surprised his parents would get him something so casual. “… Hey, this isn't one of the usual collared shirts you get for me.”

“I know!” his mother said. “I remember you telling me here and there that you liked t-shirts more, so, I got you some! In your favorite color, too!”

“I like how it looks,” the boy remarked, inspecting it front and back. “This reminds me of my eleventh birthday when you got me a bunch of clothes to start off our Kanto journey.”

“Can you believe it, son?” his father asked. “Tomorrow marks two years since you left to become a Pokémon Trainer. Time sure flew, don't you think?”

“Yeah, funny you should mention that,” Antoshi said, with a nervous chuckle. He put the shirt down and turned to his parents, grabbing their attention. “Fireball and I have really been enjoying the time we've spent at home. However, we decided that … we want to get back on the road again. … Tomorrow.” Both of his parents were shocked. “This time, … we want to go on a journey through Johto instead.”

There was a moment of silence. His mother dropped the streamers in her hand.

“… Oh,” his mother said, nervously wringing with her hands like Antoshi would, “I see.”

“I'm sorry for dropping this on you both so suddenly, but … well, it's something we wanted to be totally sure of before I said anything.”

“You could stay at home for just a couple more months,” she said. “Then you could try the Indigo League tournament again in the fall.”

“I know, but … Fireball and I have been missing that sense of adventure we had going through Kanto. Seeing all-new towns and new scenery, and trying new foods was so much fun for us.” Fireball nodded, enthused. “Johto is a whole new place with a brand new attitude. We want to experience that all over again, and we really don't want to wait around for the next tournament — especially not after how quickly we lost the first time. The next time we try, we want to be way better than we are now. We think that training through Johto will give us that boost of experience.”

Both of his parents smiled proudly. Antoshi's mother had tears in her eyes.

“I think I can speak for both of us for a minute,” his father said. “We are very proud of you, son. We're always willing to support you in making your dreams come true.”

“Absolutely,” his mother said, sniffling.

“I'm sorry, again,” Antoshi said. “I hope this doesn't spoil the party.”

“Oh, don't be silly!” his mother replied, wiping a tear from her eye. “We were just a little surprised, that's all. You know we love you and, like your father said, we're always behind you in your decisions.”

“Thanks, Mom,” he replied, grinning.

“Now, who wants breakfast?!” she said. “I think it's a waffles day — what do you think?”

Fireball's ears perked up. He shuffled over to his usual seat at the table and eagerly waited. The others laughed.

“That's a 'yes,'” Antoshi replied.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Antoshi's birthday party went off later that day with the bang of party poppers. It was a small, casual affair with just some of his extended family and some friends from the neighborhood — including Jack and Jade. The two young siblings eagerly showed Antoshi the Pokémon that they'd just started training: a pair of Eevee. They soaked up all the knowledge he had to share with them about being a Trainer.

Antoshi was very thankful upon opening all of the gifts he'd received. He was overjoyed to be surrounded by friends and family on the day before he and Fireball set off on a whole new journey. Fireball himself snuck bites of as many cupcakes and snack chips that he could whenever no one was watching or petting him.

At the end of the day, after everyone went home and all the decorations were taken down, Antoshi and Fireball got ready for bed. Antoshi's new backpack, which was also red, was stocked full of supplies as it sat by the bedroom door. The duo smiled as they stared at the ceiling.

“This bed is always so comfy,” Antoshi remarked. “I was just getting used to it, too.”

"Yeah, I'm gonna miss this floor," Fireball replied. "All the other floors I've slept on just don't feel as warm as this one does."

Antoshi laughed. “Goodnight, Fireball. Sleep tight.”

"Goodnight, buddy."

They closed their eyes with smiles upon their faces, eager for the journey ahead of them.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

At the same time, back in Johto, Latoshi's eyes opened upon completing his meditation for the day.

'It is time,' Lazarus said.

A devious smirk spread across the boy's face.