Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ A Blond Ray of Sunshine ❯ Chapter 12

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

General Logan marched around the hallway corner, nearing closer to Latoshi's cell. He was in no mood to be ignored this time, ready for a confrontation with the boy. His superiors, despite their previous willingness to keep the boy locked up for life, were becoming impatient with him. He'd shown absolutely nothing for his efforts in the past three months. Because of that, they turned up the heat on him — results, or consequences.

However, Logan was surprised to find the boy sitting on the side of the bed. Latoshi was staring intensely at him, as though he'd been expecting him.

“Well, now,” he said, “I finally have your attention for once.” He held up a clipboard full of papers up against the bulletproof glass. “Do you see this? These are discharge papers. They're already filled out — all they require is my signature. Once I do that, you're completely free.”

A hovering robot came by, placing a chair for Logan to sit down. Perturbed, the General kicked the chair away. The robot hovered quietly in place.

“You just have to work with me,” Logan went on, “it's all I ask for. You've been in here for over three months now. You're without your family, who've probably given up hope looking for you. Why don't you just tell me anything? Give me something. I'm trying to help you, but first, you need to help me. Okay?”

Latoshi grinned, almost cackling at the General's remarks. “Help me?” Latoshi asked, edging forward a bit. “The moment I was put in this cage was the moment all help was impossible. You, and whoever else you're working with, you don't give a damn about me. You were willing to lock up a kid for the rest of his life as long as it means you get your results in the end. I already know that I will never get out of here — not as long as I don't have my memories back, and you continue to refuse to believe me. It doesn't matter anymore, though. The only help I need now is from Lazarus.”

“Lazarus?” the General asked, confused. “Who is Lazarus?”

Latoshi smiled, slowly getting to his feet. He pressed his hands against the glass while the black light of his energy formed around him.

“You can't even see this, can you? This aura around me?” The General appeared puzzled. “Exactly as I thought. You have no idea how strong I am now, how infinitely stronger I've become since you locked me in here to rot. The pain and torture you've inflicted upon me only served as a catalyst to drive me forward.”

“Pain?!” the General shot back, posturing intimidatingly in front of him. The boy grinned arrogantly in response. “How about all the pain you inflicted on those victims' families? What about the torture that they go through every day and night knowing they can't even bury the loved ones that you killed?!”

“I told you I can't remember anything!” Latoshi shouted. “But that was never good enough for you! You spent these last three months acting as my keeper — watching over me, studying me, never giving me a moment of privacy!”

The General chuckled. “You think you're entitled to anything. No, your rights were gone the moment you caused that explosion. Your rights are gone because you refuse to tell us what we want to know. This prison cell is your coffin. You will never get out of here.”

Latoshi's blood boiled. The situation was exactly as he assumed. It only took a bit of pressure to get Logan to finally come clean and validate all of the hatred the boy had welled up inside of him. He had no regrets for what he was about to do.

“And that's where you're wrong,” Latoshi said, bitterly. His black aura flickered wildly around him. His brown irises shifted to a shimmering black as he glared into the General's eyes with contempt. “You rotten bastard! I'm going to kill you! I'm going to kill all of you!”

He screamed in a rage, slamming his fist against the glass, instantly shattering the otherwise impenetrable barrier. Suddenly, there was nothing separating Latoshi and the General. As the glass broke, a blaring alarm and blinking red lights went off throughout the compound.

“No,” Logan said, backing away in fear. “That's … unreal! No kid's that strong! No one is that strong!”

Latoshi laughed, boisterously. “It's very real. And now, I'm very free.”

“Prisoner escape alert!” a male voice rang out through the facility. “High-value prisoner escape in section A-3! All units are ordered to subdue and capture prisoner! Use of lethal force is authorized!”

“'High-value', huh?” Latoshi remarked with an amused grin. “Wow. Guess I was something of a celebrity around here.”

The General quickly turned and ran, leaving Latoshi to his fate.

'Ignore him for now,' Lazarus said. 'It is time to exact your revenge and earn the freedom you worked so hard for.'

A sinister smirk spread across the boy's lips, rushing down the hallway opposite to where the General ran. As he looked around, he finally saw more of the facility. It was all as cold and white and sterile as he'd been accustomed to. The bright, white lights rolling past disgusted him. He wished never to see lights like that ever again.

He turned another corner. A military policeman in full tactical gear was standing in his way. He came to a halt, shocked, as the man pointed an assault rifle at him.

“Down on the ground!” the man yelled at him. “Now!!”

Lazarus said to the boy. 'Are you going to give up already and submit to them or … will you test the level of skill you achieved from the fruits of your labor?'

Latoshi narrowed his eyes. With a shout, he tapped into a level of speed he was unaware of and suddenly vanished. The shocked policeman looked around for a moment before realizing the boy was behind him. He quickly turned around, eyes filled with fear.

“How—how did you …” He suddenly raised his weapon.

Latoshi automatically responded by holding a hand out in front of him. The man was confused.

“What do you … think you're doing?” the man asked. “Put your hands behind your head — now!”

Latoshi sneered, summoning forth the black energy of his spirit that had been forged from the anguish inside of him. His eyes went wide and the muscles in his body tensed. He shouted again, firing a large stream of energy from his palm — enough to cover the entire hallway.

In an instant, the man was completely vaporized.

The energy continued on, striking the far wall and exploding on impact. Latoshi lowered his arm, staring blankly in disbelief at the destruction he'd wrought.

“Did I … did I just …”

'End him?' Lazarus chimed in. 'You most certainly did. Consider that the fate of any others who would dare stand in your way. Now, continue your—'

“It came from over here!” a nearby voice shouted.

A handful of officers rounded the corner. They immediately raised their weapons upon spotting the boy.

“Get on the ground!” one of them shouted.

“Time to go,” Latoshi said.

'Wait,' Lazarus stopped him. 'Stay where you are.'

“What?! They have guns. You know, those things with bullets inside them? Now seems like a pretty good time to run.”

'On the contrary. I want you to use this as an illustration of just how invulnerable you are.'

“On the ground! Hands behind your head!”

'Ignore their commands,'
Lazarus reassured him. 'Continue to defy them until they open fire.'

Latoshi swallowed nervously before scowling at the men.

“Get on the ground, hands on your head, or we will open fire! You have three seconds to comply! One! … Two! … Three!”

Latoshi gasped as the sound of gunshots rang out. His irises glowing, his perception of time suddenly slowed down. The bullets whizzed toward him before striking the flaring black aura of energy surrounding his body. They were stopped as though striking a solid steel wall.

The smoking brass bullet casings clattered on the ground around the officers. The bullets themselves fell at Latoshi's feet. Latoshi and the men looked on in disbelief, both sides realizing the boy hadn't been harmed.

'Finish them,' Lazarus said.

“Ha!” Latoshi chortled in amusement, raising an open palm to the men. A twisted grin spread across his lips. With a shout, he fired another large blast of energy to extinguish the men. The attack caused further explosions and destruction to the base.

'More of them will likely continue to file in like ants,' Lazarus said. 'They are a waste of your talents. Now is the time to display the true extent of your destructive power. Escape through the roof.'

Latoshi looked around. “I don't know where the exit is.”

'You may make your own exit, Latoshi. You need only use your imagination.'

He thought for a moment. He looked up, firing an energy blast to punch through the ceiling.

“Hope this works,” he muttered.

With some effort and straining, the black aura around him flickered intensely. He uttered a cry of surprise, kicking his legs as his energy slowly pulled him up off the ground. He carefully maneuvered through the gap he made. He gasped as a gust of wind swept over him — real, outside air.

“I—I'm flying?” he remarked, dumbfounded. “I'm … outside?”

He trembled in awe, hovering hundreds of feet in the air on his own accord, taking in the new sights around him.

'Do you now see what fantastic abilities your power affords you?' Lazarus said. 'This is only just the beginning. First, however, you must rid yourself of the past. Eliminate this facility.'

Latoshi gazed down at the multiple long buildings that made up the military black site.

'Recall the memories. Channel those emotions you felt. Remember how helpless you felt. Remember how tortured and agonized you were.'

Everything Lazarus had to say resounded powerfully within him. The words stirred his emotions, causing his aura to surge wildly. The boy's expression turned sour, his black irises shimmering.

He clenched his trembling fists tightly, summoning forth his energy once more. He held both hands out in front of him, taking aim at the site. With an echoing shout, he fired a couple of large spherical blasts of black energy that spiraled downward and punched holes through the building he'd just escaped from.

There was a brief moment of calm before violent, shattering explosions rang out. Those explosions set off chains of other explosions throughout the structure. Latoshi looked on with an amused grin, wild-eyed. The power he held inside of him was beyond what he'd ever imagined would come from the results of his training.

'More!' Lazarus said in a jovial tone. 'Raze the entire island down to nothing but ashes!'

Latoshi laughed wildly. He sent wave after wave of energy at everything down below, leaving almost none of the site untouched. Before long, the buildings were crumbled, consumed in fire and explosions. It was a beautiful sight for him to behold.

Just then, a military chopper ascended out of the smoke. He narrowed his eyes. From afar, he managed to clearly see the pilot along with both General Logan and Colonel Nolan inside. He scowled at the sight of his captors attempting to flee.

In an instant, Latoshi appeared in front of the helicopter with his arms folded across his chest, smirking and oozing confidence. The people inside were terrified.

“Impossible!” Nolan shouted.

“No…” Logan replied. “It was him all along. He did destroy Fern Town. Now, I finally understand how he did it.”

Latoshi held a hand out. The energy he summoned and subsequently fired at the rotor was invisible to the passengers. The people inside screamed in terror as the top of the vehicle exploded, sending them spiraling helplessly to the ground.

He laughed, watching the flaming remnants explode.

“You know, I kind of hope they survived that!” Latoshi remarked. “I want them to suffer a little longer before they burn to death.”

'You have now earned your freedom. There is no limit for you at this point. You possess ultimate power.'

He gazed at the energy in his palm, exhilaration surging through him. His captors were killed, his prison confinement totally obliterated. They held no power over him, and they could hurt him no longer.

“Yes,” he replied, grinning. “This power is incredible. I'll be able to make a real impact for good in the world — just like you said I could. Best of all, no one's going to lock me away ever again. There's nothing anyone can do to stop me.”

A vision suddenly flashed in his mind. A massive dome of his black energy rapidly expanding out of his body.

“What … was that?” he wondered aloud. “A memory?”

'Do not worry about it. I told you before, your memories will come back in time. For now, savor your victory.'

Latoshi nodded, gazing down at the destruction he'd reaped with a proud smirk.

'From here, we will work together to change the world for the better. People like these — these parasites who delight in the cruel, suffering misery of the weak — they will be purged. We will cleanse the world of its filth and build the foundation of a new world. You, Latoshi, will serve as its king.'

Latoshi paused for a moment, giving thought to the proposition.

“After all of the pain that they put me through. … That pain and despair and hopelessness is a suffering no one else deserves to go through. I'm more than happy to rid the world of those like them. I have the power to do so. I will do it, Lazarus. I'll gladly do it.”

'Excellent. Let us return to the mainland of Johto. That is where we will begin our efforts.'

Latoshi turned and flew off toward the city of Goldenrod. At the same time, dozens of military helicopters were on route toward the island from afar.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Back in Saffron City, Antoshi jolted awake in a cold sweat. He sat up in bed, having witnessed the military base's destruction through Latoshi's eyes.

‘Another one of those dreams,’ he thought, horrified. ‘But why? It's been months. Why did I … see that?’ He laid back down, staying awake for a short while. ‘That couldn't possibly have been … something else that really happened? … No. It's too horrible to be real.’

With a look of concern, he rolled onto his side. He closed his eyes until he could find solace in sleep once again.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

The next morning, Antoshi's Dodrio-shaped alarm clock crowed at six. He rolled over and pressed the 'snooze' button.

“Fireball?” he muttered, still half-asleep, “… Are you awake?”

"Sorta," his friend replied with a yawn. "Waking up early again is going to take some getting used to. We've been sleeping in a lot since coming home."

Antoshi sat up and stretched before rubbing his eyes. “We're about to start a whole new adventure,” he said with a smile. “Are you ready?”

"Absolutely," Fireball replied. The Typhlosion suddenly rolled over onto his side and yawned again. "Just give me five more minutes before we start our adventure."

Antoshi chuckled and shook his head. He slid out of bed to get ready.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Latoshi slowly awoke to a strange ringing noise once again. Laying on the roof of a tall building, he stared groggily at the morning sky for a short time. The pinkish hue of clouds drifting overhead were illuminated by the rising sun. He was left in awe of a sight as simple as the sky. To him, it was the most breathtaking scene he could ever imagine, with endlessly more color beyond the blinding white of his cell. The cries of congregating Spearow echoed in the distance.

His lips curled into a sleepy smile, taking a deep breath of the outdoor air before sitting up. His white clothes had been stained from the black gravel on the roof.

'Morning breaks on our quest for justice,' Lazarus said while the boy stretched. 'For now, we will lay low and plan carefully, just as before. We shall wait until nightfall when most of the insects crawl out from their shadows.'

“How exactly am I supposed to bathe?” he asked flatly, disregarding everything Lazarus just said.

'There are all manner of public restrooms with sinks for you to use, are there not?'

Latoshi’s eyes went wide with fear, recalling the memories of his prison cell. “Absolutely not. I'd rather reek than ever bathe out of a sink again.”

'Your personal hygiene has no bearing on me.'

“Yeah, I guess it wouldn't.”

He walked up on the rooftop's edge, gazing out at the sprawling city of Goldenrod. The morning sun behind him illuminated the city's countless structures. His expression was warm, full of wonder — reflecting the feeling in his heart.

“I can't believe how … happy I feel,” he remarked. “I thought I would never see anything outside of that white room for the rest of my life. There's so many things I want to see and experience. Something out there might just end up jogging my memory. I have to find my home again. I have to find my family.” His stomach suddenly rumbled. “I … also have to find food, too. I need new clothes, so I can get myself out of this stupid, white clothing, and I'll need shoes. What'll I do?”

'Use your power, of course. There is nothing you cannot accomplish. Such trivial tasks do not require explanation.'

Latoshi quietly laughed. “Yeah. It figures I would end up stealing things with my powers.”

He walked along the narrow edge of the rooftop with precise balance, especially for someone that had done very little moving around in three months.

'The world will owe everything to you, and then some. All the riches and spoils you want will be yours when the humans see you for the deity that you are compared to them.'

Latoshi shrugged. “I guess you're right.”

He casually leapt off the side of the building with no regard for his safety. He yawned briefly as his black hair and white clothes whipped in the wind, descending several dozen stories down a dark alleyway. He landed with almost no impact, but scared away the handful of Pikachu scavenging nearby. He stood tall before heading out to the street.

For a few moments, he was overwhelmed by the handfuls of people and Pokémon walking by him. He was surrounded by far more individuals than he was used to. Some curiously glanced at him as he stood in the middle of the sidewalk with a dumbfounded expression. Eventually, Latoshi began his stroll down the street, his eyes wide and full of naiveté. He soaked in all of the sights and sounds and smells around him.

‘This all feels … so new,’ he thought. ‘It's like I've never done this kind of thing before, or … maybe I've never been here before?’

He crossed the street behind a small group, happening upon an outdoor market. Various vendors were setting up their stock for the morning. Displays full of souvenirs, flowers, clothing, and food were all laid out before him. He humphed in amusement.

“Well, this is convenient,” he said, quietly. “Everything I need is right in front of me. How do I even go about this, Lazarus? I can't just start blowing up everything in sight.”

'As I told you before, you need only use your imagination.'

His eyes shifted back and forth, considering what course of action to take. His eyes lit up with an idea, before his irises began to glow black. He suddenly ran as fast as he could, weaving in and out between the pedestrians and the shops faster than any of them were able to see. The vendors all gasped and shouted as a mysterious wind blew past them.

It took only several seconds for him to obtain what he needed. He appeared at the far end of the market, calmly strolling away with an assortment of fresh fruit stacked atop a handful of new clothes.

'Good work,' Lazarus said. 'You are learning how to apply your abilities. The level of precision you showed there was impressive.'

“It's weird,” he remarked. “I moved quickly like that last night, but it's like … I somehow already knew how to do it.”

'That is because you have prodigious natural talent. With my guidance, you will unlock it as quickly as possible.'

Latoshi chuckled to himself, heading into another alleyway to change.

The next time he reappeared, he wore a green t-shirt and similar, lighter colored shorts. He took a bite of a peeled banana, his other arm cradling the rest of the fruit. The people at the market seemed to be none the wiser that he'd stolen from them. He gazed down to admire his brand new zebra-striped sneakers.

“These shoes are pretty nice,” he remarked.

'There will be many more nice things for you to reap. You may continue to enjoy your newfound freedom this morning. We will continue your training later on.'

“Sounds good to me,” Latoshi replied.

He was happy to break in his new shoes, playfully skipping and dancing down the sidewalk.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Fireball sat on the bed while Antoshi looked at himself in his closet mirror. He wore his new red t-shirt and a pair blue jeans — a fresh, casual change of pace from his usual style of attire.

“I really like this look,” he remarked.

"You do?" Fireball asked, curiously.

“Yeah. After all those collared shirts and shorts I went through in Kanto, it's nice to finally change it up.”

"Don't forget the occasional tank top with a million colors."

Antoshi smirked, setting his backpack on the bed next to Fireball. He unzipped it, and they both took a look at the strikingly similar sets of clothes inside.

"Wow," Fireball said. "How many different kinds of red shirts did your mom pack for you?"

“Well, she knows red is my favorite color,” he replied, zipping the bag back up.

"Hope you remembered your toothbrush."

Antoshi chuckled and slung the bag over his shoulders. “Come on, let's get going to Johto!”

"All right!" Fireball exclaimed. The duo eagerly headed to the front of the house together.

“I just hope the Pokémon Centers in Johto don't have us logged as troublemakers like the ones in Kanto.”

"Hey, I thought we agreed that was a 'youthful indiscretion!'"

Antoshi's mother and father waited for him by the front door. He hugged them both, his mother responding by giving him a smattering of kisses. His parents followed the duo as they headed outside.

“You have your ticket?” his mother asked.

“In my pocket,” Antoshi replied.

“Call us as soon as you get settled into Goldenrod City,” she said.

“I will. I love you guys!”

Antoshi and Fireball nodded to each other before heading off to their next destination.

“We love you, Antoshi!” they both said.

His father put an arm around her. They watched the duo head off with pride in their eyes.

“And keep your hair neat this time, Antoshi!” his mother called out. “I put a comb in your backpack for a reason!”

“I make no promises!” Antoshi replied, playfully. “Bye!”

“That boy,” she remarked with a cheeky grin.

“He must be going through 'teenage rebellion',” his father joked as they headed back inside.

“If not combing his hair is teenage rebellion, then we got very lucky, Ralph.”

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Within a couple of hours of walking, the duo reached Saffron City's Magnet Train station. The indoor station buzzed with people and slews of Pokémon walking in all directions. Everything was kept neat and tidy, even despite the large amount of foot traffic. Glass roof panels provided the building with natural light.

Antoshi glanced at his ticket, then at the large clock overhead.

“Looks like it won't be long now,” he said. He looked over at Fireball, who hopped up and down. “… What are you doing?”

"I can't wait!" Fireball replied. "There's gotta be thousands of things for us to do and see, especially in a place we've never been to before. I wonder what kind of Pokémon we'll see there. What kind of food do they have?!" He threw his head back and roared, "I'm so excited!"

His shouting caused a brief moment of silence throughout the entire station. Upon realizing everyone nearby was staring at him, he quickly recomposed himself.

A police officer standing beside the pair cleared his throat. Antoshi turned to him, catching a stern glare from him. The boy laughed nervously.

“All right, Fireball, settle down,” he said, patting his friend on the back. The officer humphed and marched away.

"Sorry. This is just really awesome. We're going on another adventure! Maybe you'll find a girlfriend in Johto!"

Antoshi cut his eyes at Fireball. “Guess I'm lucky I'm the only one who can understand you,” he grumbled.

Soon after, the train approached the station and slowed to a stop. The silvery train was much longer and sleeker than they imagined.

“Whoa,” the two awe-struck friends remarked in unison.

Once its doors opened, commuters began getting off while new passengers simultaneously boarded. Antoshi handed his ticket to the train conductor, allowing them inside. Both of them could barely contain their excitement as they entered the elegant, well-kept car. Fireball eagerly took up a dual seat by the window. Antoshi sat in the rear-facing seats just in front of him.

"This is great!" Fireball said, grinning as he looked out the window. "We're not even there yet and I feel like I'm going to explode!"

“Please wait until you're off the train before you explode,” Antoshi joked, smirking.

After the passengers were on and seated, the train made a slight yet startling jump, levitating off its magnetic track. The train headed back the way it came from, quickly picking up speed after departing the station. Antoshi and Fireball were in awe at how fast the train was. The ride was unerringly smooth, as though they weren't moving at all. They smiled, spotting some of the locations they'd visited on their exploration of Kanto.

"I wonder if we'll ever go visit Hoenn someday," Fireball remarked.

“One step at a time, Fireball. Don't forget, Slateport City still isn't fully rebuilt.”

"Hasn't it been over a year since that happened?"

“Yeah. It was so sad, too. It reminds me of—”

He stopped suddenly, recalling the images of Fern Town's destruction, as well as the military base being consumed by flames.

"It reminds you of … that town on the news. The Johto town?"

“… Yeah,” he replied, staring out the window.

"Antoshi, there's something I wanted to ask you." The boy looked over at him. "About part of the reason you wanted to go to Johto in the first place, it's … because of the dream you had, isn't it?"

“It is,” the boy admitted with a sigh. “Ever since that night, something's been telling me that I should go to Johto. It's like there's something there that I need to see.”

"Well, whatever it is, I hope it doesn't ruin our totally awesome experience in Johto."

Antoshi smiled to his friend. “I hope so, too.”

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

The ride into the neighboring region took several hours on the incredibly swift train. By the time they were passing by the enormous Mt. Silver in the distance, Fireball had curled up for a nap. Antoshi rested his legs across the seat next to him, passing the time by reading a book he brought with him. It was the story of two brothers who went to war with each other over a misunderstanding.

He sighed, closing the book and sitting up in his seat. His fingers curled around his lips, lost in thought as he stared out the window. An odd, tingling pressure in his muscles nagged at him every so often. It became more intense the closer they were to their destination.

Fireball awoke and took a look out the window. "Antoshi?" Fireball said to the inattentive boy.

“Huh?” Antoshi uttered, snapping out of his daze.

"Look, I think we're slowing down."

The train soon came to a stop once again. For a few moments, they sat and stared in awe that they had made it to Johto.

Once they headed off, they realized the station was nearly identical to that of Saffron's. They headed up a flight of stairs until they were greeted by the warmth of the afternoon sunlight. The two gawked at their new surroundings with bright eyes and brighter smiles.

They were in the mecca of Saffron's sister city — Goldenrod.

The city was just as busy as in Saffron. Under the shadows of tall skyscrapers were the sounds of countless people, Pokémon, and cars bustling every which way around them. It was just the daily norm for the hectic city. Residents were out enjoying the warm, summer air and pleasant weather. Planes and blimps carrying various advertisements hovered in the blue sky above. A handful of taxis were parked outside the train station for busy commuters to get around. Businesspeople were chatting away on their cell phones, and tourists like them walked about to take in the sights. The city was like a well-oiled machine moving in constant harmony — and they loved everything they were seeing.

They began their new journey down the bustling streets, taking in the new, yet somehow familiar, sights. Antoshi laughed as a handful of Pichu suddenly dashed by him. Across the street, a kid's show in the park was in full swing. A Delibird handed a small girl a present. She gleefully opened it, and the gift gave off a loud pop before showering her with confetti and streamers. The children and Pokémon all laughed.

“This city almost feels like one big party,” Antoshi remarked, grinning. “I'm really liking it here. It feels like home.”

"Hey, Antoshi!" Fireball exclaimed from a short distance away. "Come on, I'm getting swept away by a tidal wave of people!" The boy realized Fireball didn't hear a word he'd said.

“Coming!” he replied. As he turned away to rejoin his friend, he bumped shoulders with a passerby. “Oh, I'm really sorry! I—”

He went silent, standing before a lovely young woman with long, brunette hair. He had no words, staring into her violet eyes like a deer in headlights. Of all the pretty girls that he'd gone awkwardly silent in front of, she was the prettiest by far.

She responded with a warm smile. “Don't worry about it,” she said. Her voice was like that of an angel's to his ears. “Take care.”

He continued to stare at her, dumbfounded, as she strolled away.

"Antoshi!" Fireball shouted.

The boy quickly snapped back to reality. “Okay, okay, Fireball!” He gave one last glance back at her before shuffling back to his friend.

As they resumed their trek of the city together, Antoshi's gaze was focused more on the ground than their surroundings. The image of the young woman turning to him, her long hair swinging behind her, replayed over and over in his head.

"Seems like you have something on your mind," Fireball said.

“Oh,” he distantly replied. “Yeah, well, I …”

"Come on, you're not thinking of keeping another secret from your best friend, are you?"

“No, it's just, … well, when we got separated outside the train station, I … ran into a girl.”

"A gir~rl?" Fireball asked with a cheeky grin. "Was she pretty?"

Antoshi quietly chuckled. “Yeah.”

"Sounds like someone has a cru~ush."

Antoshi smirked and turned to his friend. “You're never going to get tired of doing that, are you?”

"Not a chance!"

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

At the same time, a few miles away, Latoshi was in the midst of a deep meditation. He sat comfortably with his legs crossed on a park bench, completely calm and focused. His dark aura gently flickered in the breeze, though none of the people nearby were able to see it.

He did, however, get quite a few strange stares from passersby. They were curious at how the boy was able to sit so perfectly still for so long. It got to the point where people assumed he was a street performer and began to drop money in front of him.

“I found my true calling in life, Lazarus,” Latoshi joked, opening his eyes with a grin. “I can make money by entertaining the masses with just my meditating.”

The voice did not answer him, causing him to roll his eyes. He groaned in frustration, reaching down to scoop up the money he'd earned.

“How long are you going to give me the silent treatment?”

'Until you stop fooling around and take your training seriously.'

“I can't help it,” Latoshi said. He casually jingled the coins in his hand before flinging the money into a nearby fountain. “I just got back out into the outside world. There's so much stuff for me to see. It's hard for me to concentrate for as long as I did in that cell where nothing ever happened.”

'Remember what your purpose is — or I will remind you.'

Latoshi furrowed his brow, displeased with the remark. Alas, he closed his eyes and sighed in defeat. He took a deep breath, relaxed and centered himself, returning to his meditation.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

At the same time, Antoshi and Fireball ate together a nearby diner. They were seated in a booth near the window, allowing them to continue gazing upon the sights of the brand new city. Antoshi frowned, casually rubbing his arm as the twinging pressure came back.

Once finished with their dinner, the duo got up. Antoshi cinched his backpack over his shoulders and led Fireball back outside.

“That was great!” Antoshi said. “I really like the food here.”

"Yeah! I never would've imagined Apricorn guacamole being a thing, but it was delicious! Bu~ut, I bet you would've enjoyed it more if that girl you saw earlier ate with us."

Antoshi shook his head. “Y'know, all the excitement of being in Johto means I'm not going to get upset by your teasing today.” Fireball snickered. “Let's head on over to the Pokémon Center. Hopefully they still have an extra room for the night.”

"That'd be nice. Sleeping on the couches they have in the main area is fun, too."

Just a few blocks further, the automatic glass doors of the Pokémon Center slid open for the duo.

"Wow," Fireball remarked. "This place is … literally exactly the same as the ones in Kanto."

Antoshi chortled. “Well, I guess it helps make them feel like a piece of home for us.”

Antoshi spoke to Nurse Joy behind the counter and registered to stay a night in one of the Center's rooms. The duo breathed a sigh of relief and grinned at each other when she did not remind them of the Cerulean incident.

Antoshi thanked her as he took the key card to the room from her. They found a free videophone to give Antoshi's parents a call, letting them know they had gotten there safely. Afterward, they headed into their room to get settled in for the night and get some rest.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

In the dead of night, when the park was completely desolate, Latoshi's eyes finally opened once again from his meditation. More change had been left out at the boy's feet.

'You know what you must do,' Lazarus said.

Latoshi nodded in agreement. “So, it begins,” he replied.

He got to his feet and stretched. He looked around for a moment, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his shorts before going on a trip wandering about the city.

With most people asleep, the streets were much quieter. He kept an apathetic expression while he passed by a bar. A handful of bikers stood around chatting and laughing. One of the larger men with a mullet looked down at the boy and scoffed.

“Better run on home, kid,” one of them said. “The streets are dangerous at night.”

“For you, maybe,” Latoshi replied with a smirk. The men laughed boisterously.

A couple of Sneasel chased a rat into an alleyway. Latoshi stopped suddenly, gazing down the same alley. There were voices emanating from it. Something about people talking in an alley so late at night felt resoundingly suspicious to him.

'Go,' Lazarus instructed him.

Latoshi shrugged and headed into the shadows. The air reeked of rotten food and stagnant water. There was a flickering firelight from a larger opening in the distance.

“… I didn't know what to do,” a man's voice said.

“Well, you know how women are,” a second man replied. “Let's go get a drink or something.”

Latoshi emerged into the light of the burn barrel the two men stood in front of, catching their attention. They were both pale, disheveled, homely, wearing extremely worn and dirty clothes. They looked at him with shocked expressions.

After a moment of silence, the first man whistled.

“Wow, I didn't expect a birthday present so soon.

The other man chuckled. “Hey kid,” he said. “Why don't you spend some time with me and my friend here? We could have some real fun together.”

The two advanced toward him. Latoshi's irises shimmered black. His lips curled into a devious smile.

“Fun?” Latoshi asked. “Yeah, I like fun.”

“That's good, we—”

“Although~,” he sang, keeping the men at bay momentarily, “I don't think my kind of fun is the kind that you would enjo~oy.”

The two men chuckled at each other.

“Well, why don't you show us how you have fun?” the first man asked. “Then, we can show you how we have fun.”

Latoshi snickered in amusement, keeping his eyes affixed to them as they neared closer. The two men had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

“If you say so,” he replied, softly.

Latoshi suddenly lifted the first man up by his neck with one hand before they realized he'd even moved. The other one looked on in shock as his partner thrashed wildly, gasping for air. Latoshi stared at him, his lips curling into a cruel grin.

There was a sudden, loud snap. The man's body fell limp.

The second man screamed. Latoshi tossed his friend's lifeless body aside into some bags of trash. A fitting burial, he felt, for someone who would prey on kids. He casually glanced at the grime on his hand before wiping it on his shirt. He looked at the terrified second man with the same, cold grin.

“So, do you want to have fun, too?”

The man's expression turned bitter. “You little freak,” he replied, pulling out a handgun tucked away in his pants. “I'll put you down!”

Latoshi laughed boisterously. “Oh, that's not going to save you.”

The man clenched his teeth as the boy sauntered toward him. He screamed in frustration, emptying the entirety of the gun's clip at him. Latoshi moved so swiftly, he appeared to the man to be flickering from side to side, moving quickly enough to casually avoid every bullet.

The man's eyes went wide with horror. “What in the hell?!” he exclaimed.

He suddenly let out a croak as Latoshi grabbed him by the neck as well, pinning him to the ground.

“No! Please!” he screamed, struggling. “Let go of me!”

“Why are you so frightened?” Latoshi asked curiously. “After all, we're just having fun — right?”

He laughed, holding his flailing body down, pointing an open palm at the man's face while gathering energy into it. The man screamed in horror — a bloodcurdling scream that echoed around the entire block.

Moments later, Latoshi departed the alleyway as calmly as he entered. With his hands in his shorts pockets, he left their bodies behind without a second thought. Various bystanders soon rushed over to where they heard the screams, only for them to scream in horror at what they found.

He grinned in satisfaction, continuing to travel down the streets of Goldenrod.

'That was an exhilarating display,' Lazarus said. 'This is only just the beginning. …'

Latoshi chuckled to himself, walking down a nearby side street, disappearing under the cover of darkness.