Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ A Blond Ray of Sunshine ❯ Chapter 13

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

The following morning, Antoshi and Fireball both awoke at their usual wake-up time. Antoshi yawned loudly, stretching at the same time his friend did.

"Our first morning in Johto!" Fireball said merrily. Antoshi turned to him, looking and feeling exhausted. "You … get enough sleep last night?"

“Not really,” the boy remarked with a groan, sliding out of bed. “I've been … getting these weird sensations since coming to Johto.” Fireball went to speak. “Do not make a 'puberty' joke.” Fireball smiled and buttoned his lip. “It's like a weird … ache in my muscles that just comes and goes. I don't understand why it's happening, but it kept me up for a little while last night.”

"What if it's—" He stopped suddenly as Antoshi glared at him. "I was going to ask if it's your powers acting up again?"

Antoshi paused for a moment. “I suppose that would make sense. I haven't used them in a while, and it is the reason behind every unexplainable event that's happened to us so far.” He took a deep breath and sighed heavily. “Well, it could also turn out to be nothing. Come on, let's have some more fun around the city.”

"Sounds good to me!" Fireball said.

Antoshi took a few moments to stretch, as did Fireball. In the bathroom, the boy splashed some water on his face to wake himself up after the lack of sleep he'd gotten. On their way out the door, Antoshi stopped and headed back to his backpack. He collected Fireball's Poké Ball from it.

“I'd better take this with me again,” he said. “Just in case.”

"You're leaving your backpack here? I guess that means we're staying another day?"

“Sure, why not? Hopefully, Nurse Joy lets us stay again. Otherwise, we'll have to find another place to stay the night.”

The two headed out to get some breakfast from the cafeteria. Afterward, they approached Nurse Joy at the front desk to talk to her. After a moment of consideration, she agreed to let them to stay another night, much to their enthusiasm. Antoshi put the key card and Fireball's Poké Ball in his pocket, and the two headed out to explore more of the city.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Some time later, they came upon a commotion just outside of an alleyway. They headed on over, curious to see what was going on.

The area was cordoned off with police tape. Several police and rescue vehicles were parked along the sidewalk. Traffic cones were set on the road, forcing passing cars to move away from the scene. Dozens of curious early morning onlookers crowded around the taped area.

"Wow," Fireball remarked, as they neared closer. "What do you think happened here?"

The pair found a small gap in the crowd for them to take a peek, although there wasn't much for them to see. Crime scene officers took pictures of small, numbered placards they'd placed on the ground. There was a small crater in the asphalt that other officials appeared particularly intrigued by.

Antoshi gasped quietly. The officers were standing in the middle of a faint, black mist, yet none of them seemed aware of its presence.

“Do you see that?” Antoshi asked.

Fireball blinked, looking all around the alley. "… See what?"

Antoshi's eyes widened, his irises instinctively glowing a bright red. The faint traces of darkness became much clearer to him. It was splayed all over the alleyway — on the ground, the wall, even hovering in the air. A trail of it led down another alley exit. He curiously shuffled off to follow it.

"Antoshi!" Fireball called out, chasing after him. "Where are you going?"

Down at the other side of the alley, there were no crowds or police. The area was only blocked off much further inside. The mist tapered off just before reaching the sidewalk. Antoshi knelt down, wafting his hand through the thin traces. Touching it gave off a cold, ominous feeling that sent chills down his spine.

Fireball caught up to him. "What are you doing? Swattin' a bug?"

“You don't see this sorta foggy stuff right in front of me?”

Fireball shook his head. "Not seeing anything, sorry. You must be more attuned to whatever it is than I am."

“I guess it's more faint than I realized.”

Antoshi frowned, biting his thumbnail as he stared at the strange mist.

"What are you thinking?"

“I think … someone else is here in Goldenrod. Someone … with powers like the ones I used back in Kanto.”

Fireball gasped. "Wow, that's—! … Er, what does that mean?"

“I really don't know,” he replied, standing up. “On one hand, I'm kind of excited to know someone else like me is out there, but … at the same time, this energy is … well, it's all wrong somehow. It's like … it went rotten, I guess? I get a sinking feeling every time I touch it.”

He gasped suddenly, his mind's eye recalling his dream of Fern Town being destroyed, the news broadcast they saw, and his recent dream of the military site. In some what he couldn't understand, he knew the energy in the alley was similar to those incidents.

"Maybe it's just someone's fart you're seeing," Fireball joked, chuckling to himself. The boy had a blank look in his eyes, his jaw hanging. "… What is it, Antoshi?"

“This might be bad. I don't understand my own powers well enough to comprehend what's going on here, but … whoever was here, I think it may be the same person that … destroyed Fern Town.”

Fireball was shocked. "Seriously?! What should we do? Tell the police?"

“I have no idea, Fireball. Like I said, I'm only just getting used to these powers. I don't know what to do or what to expect.”

Antoshi's attention suddenly snapped in a different direction, sensing a powerful pressure in his muscles again.

"What's up? Did you hear somethin'?"

“No, … it was that odd muscle ache again. It felt really intense this time. Something's telling me to check around over there. Let's see if we can find anything.”

"Cool, we're detectives now!"

Antoshi briefly smiled, leading his friend away.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Nearby, Latoshi smirked to himself before biting into a sweet roll.

“I'm sure that bakery store won't miss this one bun,” he said, with a mouthful of food. He swallowed before continuing. “Man, all of the food around here is a million times better than that crap they were feeding me in that prison.”

'Do not forget, your freedom comes at a cost,' Lazarus said. 'You did good work last night. However, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Tonight, I want you to slaughter a dozen of the parasites in this city.'

“Not a problem — especially if they're soulless freaks like the last two.”

'Excellent. …'

Latoshi strolled along, casually, while continuing to take in the sights of the city. He suddenly bumped hard into a passerby heading toward him, causing him to drop his food. Latoshi glanced down at the sweet roll, before cutting his eyes at the person that bumped into him.

His expression turned to disbelief.

“I really have to stop bumping into people,” Antoshi muttered, while Fireball kept walking away. “I'm really sorry, I—”

Antoshi stared into the other boy's confounded look, just as taken aback as he was. Fireball looked around, realizing Antoshi wasn't with him. The Typhlosion turned and gasped at the scene.

Antoshi was speechless. The person staring back at him had the same facial features and brown eyes as he did. If not for the black hair, Antoshi could've sworn he was looking into a mirror. Both boys stared at each other for several moments.

'Who is this boy?' Lazarus asked, curiously.

“Do I … know you?” Latoshi asked. The other boy sounded just like Antoshi as well.

“Uh, … that's a good question,” the blond boy replied with a chuckle. The two of them fell completely silent again. They suddenly burst out laughing in unison. “This is crazy! I've never met anyone that looks so much like me before!”

“Same here, … I think,” Latoshi replied, chuckling nervously. The boys turned their attention to the approaching Fireball. “Is this your Pokémon?”

“He sure is,” Antoshi proudly replied. Fireball waved to the new boy with a bewildered expression. “This is Fireball. He's my best friend, and my only Pokémon.”

Latoshi stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Hey, that's pretty cool. I don't know anything about Pokémon myself.”

Antoshi's eyes nearly popped out of his head. “You don't?!

“Yeah. I'm pretty sure I've never owned a Pokémon before, either.”

“'Pretty' sure?”

“Well, truth be told, I'm actually having some, … err, memory problems. I've been walking around the city trying to see if I can remember anything, but, so far I got nothing.”

“Oh, man, I'm so sorry to hear that. Would you like to hang around with us for a while? We were just exploring the city ourselves.”

Latoshi shrugged. “I don't have anything better to do, right?” The two shared another laugh.

“Come on, we'll check out the sights together,” Antoshi said. “What's your name, by the way?”

“Oh, … I'm Latoshi,” he replied, casually. Both Antoshi and Fireball were stunned.

La— toshi? …” Antoshi uttered, staring at him in disbelief.

Latoshi sighed. “Yeah, I know. It's a weird name.”

“No, no, it's not that, it's—it's just that, well, my name is … Antoshi.”

“What?” Latoshi asked, scoffing. “You're messing with me.”

“No, I'm serious! My name really is Antoshi. Here, I'll show you.” He quickly pulled out his wallet to show the sable-haired boy his Trainer Card. Latoshi was surprised.

“Wow, look at that. You really are named 'Antoshi'. I didn't think there was anyone out there with a … a weird-sounding name like mine.”

Antoshi laughed, putting his wallet away. “Trust me, I've gone through the whole 'weird name' thing more times than I can count. So, Latoshi, what do you say we walk around and blow peoples' minds with our odd names?”

“Sounds good,” Latoshi replied, smiling warmly.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Antoshi and Fireball resumed their tour around Goldenrod with their new companion in tow. Their investigation into the mysterious energy was temporarily put on hold. They traveled to the southeastern edge of the city, where the sprawling Ilex Forest was in sight.

"I could go for some chocolate chip ice cream," Fireball hinted.

Antoshi chuckled and nodded to his friend.

“I like chocolate chip, too,” Latoshi replied, casually. Antoshi and Fireball looked at each other in shock, both of them coming to a sudden halt. Latoshi hummed curiously, turning to them. “What's up?” he asked.

“Did you … just understand what Fireball … said?” Antoshi asked.

“Yeah, why? Is that, like, something weird?”

“Well, I wouldn't really call it 'weird' as much as it's … just something that Fireball and I have never known any person besides myself to be able to do. No one else we've met can talk to Pokémon, and people typically think I'm crazy when I do it.”

“… Oh,” Latoshi replied, moderately surprised. “Well, if Fireball likes chocolate chip ice cream, he's the kind of Pokémon I wouldn't mind talking to.”

"This is really cool!" Fireball said. "Finally, someone else that understands me besides Antoshi." He sniffled dramatically, covering his eyes with a paw. "I never thought this day would come."

“All right, you,” Antoshi said, patting Fireball's back playfully. “Settle down. I will admit, Latoshi, it is really amazing. Fireball can join in on conversations now. I know he gets antsy when he has to stay quiet for a while.”

Fireball hopped up and down in excitement, shaking Antoshi's shoulder when he noticed an ice cream shop nearby. Antoshi smirked and rolled his eyes before Fireball ran off to head inside.

“Want to join us, Latoshi?”

“Of course, it's ice cream!” The two boys laughed, following Fireball into the shop. “I'll probably just sit with you guys. I don't have any money.”

“That's okay, I'll buy for you.”

“You, … well, you don't have to do that. I don't want to put you out.”

“It's no problem, really! You don't even have to pay me back.”

Latoshi was stunned. “… Seriously?”

“Seriously,” Antoshi replied with a smile. Latoshi smiled back.

“Nice to know there's people out there that'll help me out.”

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

After the three of them got their ice cream, they found an empty table to sit at. Fireball eagerly began scarfing down his towering ice cream cup with a paper spoon. The two boys ate theirs with a little more restraint while they talked.

“So, Latoshi,” Antoshi said, “you're walking around a big city with no money, and memory loss. … Isn't that dangerous? What have you been doing around the city?”

Latoshi chuckled. “You don't want to know. Besides, I can handle myself. I'm way stronger than I look.”

“Same here,” Antoshi replied with a smirk.

“What do you guys do?”

“Well, we came from Saffron City to travel and train in Johto. Back in Kanto, Fireball and I collected every Gym badge and got to the Indigo Plateau. We were part of the top one hundred twenty-eight Trainers in the most recent Indigo League Tournament.”

“And, that's a … good thing, I'm guessing?”

Antoshi laughed. “Yes. We're really happy with how much we accomplished.”

“That's cool. Like I said, I don't know anything about Pokémon or training.”

“Well, if you hang around with us, I could help you learn about Pokémon. We can find Pokémon for you to catch and maybe you can become a Trainer yourself.”

Latoshi smiled warmly. “You know, I … kinda like that idea.”

“It's better than wandering around by yourself, right?”

Latoshi chuckled nervously. “Yeah, … by myself.” He stared down at his ice cream, casually stirring it with his spoon.

Both boys were pleasantly surprised at how they became such fast friends. It was nice for them both to have someone their own age to talk to. Fireball sighed happily after finishing his ice cream.

"I love ice cream!" Fireball said. "That chocolate chip was great — right, Latoshi?"

“Yeah, this is the best ice cream I can remember,” he joked. Antoshi and Fireball laughed, causing him to smile.

'We need to have a chat,' Lazarus said, firmly. Latoshi jumped in response.

“What's up?” Antoshi asked him.

'Leave these two and go find someplace private — now.'

“Uh, I just gotta use the restroom real quick,” Latoshi said. “Be back in a sec'.” He promptly got up from his chair and walked away.

he—he understood what I said!" Fireball said, giddy. "That's so amazing! I know this sounds a little out there, but I get the feeling that maybe you and Latoshi just may be related. You might even be … brothers!" Antoshi was surprised at his remark. "You look the same, you sound the same — you also walk the same, by the way — and you both can understand me. Those are a lot of coincidences, don't you think?"

“Well, yes. I … definitely got the sense of maybe being related when he told me his name was 'Latoshi' of all things. He seems really nice and all, but … him being my brother just seems too crazy. How could I possibly have a brother I've never known before?”

"Well, if he's going to hang out with us, you two'd have all the time in the world to figure it out. I can't wait to watch you show him the ropes about being a Trainer."

Antoshi smiled, albeit briefly. “I keep getting an odd vibe about him, though. Maybe it's just the shock of finding out his name.”

"Hey … what about finding the person that left that foggy stuff you mentioned?"

“I'm not sure. I guess we'll just have to look around along the way. Probably best not to tell Latoshi — I don't want him to worry about it.”

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Latoshi glared at himself in the bathroom mirror as Lazarus began to scold him.

'What do you think you are doing?! This is not part of your mission. I told you that your freedom came at a cost. You already took the first step when you escaped your captors. Your hands are stained with the blood of the guilty. There is no turning back now! So, say 'goodbye' to these two and get back to your training!'

Latoshi shook his head. “Antoshi's the only person I've been able to talk to. He and his friend want me to go traveling with them. I can do that and cleanse the filth along the way. We can cover more ground this way.”

'You cannot do both, you idiot! Do you think you can keep mysteriously vanishing from your friend and he will not get suspicious?! Or do you think he will just stand by and watch as you purge the parasites from this world?! He will leave you the moment he finds out what you have done!'

“Enough!” Latoshi shouted in anger, causing his black aura to momentarily flare out. “This is my life! You aren't going to tell me what to do forever! I'm the one with limitless, ultimate power — remember? I can choose when and where I enact my revenge!”

Lazarus chuckled. 'We shall see very soon. I will teach you about your future.'

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Antoshi gasped suddenly, feeling that odd pressure again — and it was strong. It pointed his attention to the bathroom that Latoshi just retreated to, and reminded him of the dark energy in the alleyway. It was then that he recalled the last image he saw from the first news broadcast after Fern Town was destroyed. The boy that was rescued from the crater — a boy with jet black hair. The same hair as Latoshi's. The energy in the alley was the same as in Fern Town's destruction. It didn't take long before Antoshi put it all together.

“It couldn't be,” Antoshi whispered. He slowly got up from his chair, a concerned expression on his face as he stared in Latoshi's direction.

"What is it?" Fireball asked.

Antoshi quickly shook it off, smiling at his friend. “There's … something I just thought to ask Latoshi. Why don't we wait outside for him?”

"Okay, … sure thing," Fireball replied, with some confusion.

The duo headed out onto the street for a few moments. Antoshi had a very intense look in his eyes once Latoshi emerged outside. The sable-haired boy sighed in relief, rejoining them with a smile.

“Well, that was fun,” Latoshi remarked. “Where should we go next?”

“Hey, … Latoshi,” Antoshi said, hesitating. “I, … err, have a weird question for you. Would you … happen to know anything about, well, strange energy?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, have you ever … felt a strange source of energy that just … well, appeared around your body in the form of light?”

Latoshi narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “That's oddly specific. Why do you ask?”

“Well, I— … this is really awkward. I have … let's call them these weird 'powers'. And, well, I'm able to sort of see and feel the same kind of energy that I can put out — kind of like a sixth sense.”

Latoshi's eyes widened. Lazarus gasped.

'This boy has powers, too,' he hissed. 'Uncanny. …'

“Earlier today,” Antoshi continued, “we were looking for someone that can also use those kinds of powers. I think it's the same someone that's been doing some pretty horrible things lately. Would you know what I'm talking about?”

Latoshi glanced over at Fireball, who seemed very confused by the line of questioning. Suddenly, the mood was not so jovial between the two boys.

“Why don't we head on over to the Pokémon Gym here?” Latoshi replied, idly. “You can show me what being a Pokémon Trainer is like.”

Antoshi was surprised that Latoshi decided to avoid the question. It did nothing to clear Latoshi's name. Antoshi continued to press him. “Someone hurt a lot of people, Latoshi. I'd really like to know if you know anything about it.”

“What about other Pokémon?” Latoshi asked, looking off in the distance. “I wonder what kind of Pokémon live around here?”

Antoshi clenched his teeth in frustration. “You also wouldn't happen to know anything about … the destruction of Fern Town, would you?”

Latoshi turned away, hiding a bitter scowl. The name 'Fern Town' immediately reminded him of the General and his repetitive line of questioning about said town. Hearing it again labeled Antoshi as an enemy in his mind.

“I think … that you and I should talk, Antoshi.”

“Talk?” Antoshi asked, cautiously. “… About what?”

“About this …” To the duo's surprise, Latoshi suddenly dashed away faster than they could follow.

Their eyes went wide in shock. Latoshi was on the other side of the street and across an open field, a distance of several hundred meters, in less than a second. He casually glanced over at them before walking into the Ilex Forest.

“What …” Antoshi uttered.

"Just … happened?" Fireball added.

“Come on, we have to go after him,” Antoshi said, heading across the street. Fireball followed close behind him.

"Not if he runs away like that again!"

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

The duo headed in past the trees near the same place Latoshi disappeared. By the time they got there, heavy clouds were starting to drift over them. The forest, already incredibly dense with foliage, became even darker as a result.

They looked around cautiously while walking further in. Latoshi was nowhere in sight. Large, dark, pine trees loomed over them, creaking and rustling with the wind.

Fireball held onto his friend's shoulders, staying behind him. "This is really creepy, Antoshi," Fireball said, quietly. "Where could he be?"

“I'm not sure. I can't feel his—”

“What do you know about 'strange energy', Antoshi?” Latoshi said, interrupting him. The duo gasped, turning around. He emerged with a smirk, casually leaning his shoulder against a tree with his arms folded over his chest. “I wasn't sensing anything from you before, mostly because I wasn't keeping my guard up. But, now that I know what I'm looking for, I can see that you've also reached spirit awareness.”

“Spirit … awareness?” Antoshi asked, confused. “What do you mean?”

“Awareness of your Ki, of course — that's your spirit energy.”

“Ki? Spirit energy?” Antoshi looked at his own hands in confusion. “So, that's what that light is that appears around me?”

“It is,” Latoshi replied. “Judging from your reaction, though, I take it you know very little. You've never trained to strengthen it, control it, and harness it. I have.” Antoshi and Fireball were in awe at the revelation. “When was the first time you were able to use it?”

“Uh, … it was when Fireball was falling off of a steep cliff. I panicked and grabbed him and I suddenly found my arms totally enveloped in a red light.”

“That's incredible. Your powers awakened in a moment you needed to use them for good — as did I.”

Antoshi was bewildered by Latoshi's claim. Latoshi grinned, holding his head down. He began chuckling — a chuckle that morphed into a hysterical laugh. Antoshi and Fireball looked to each other in concern.

“What's … so funny?” Antoshi asked, cautiously.

“You don't know how liberating this is for me, Antoshi!” he exclaimed, grinning in elation. “You're the first person I can finally talk to about this! The first person to really understand! The first person I can look at as an equal! Antoshi, you've been so kind and friendly toward me already. We only just met, and yet, I feel such a powerful bond with you. I want to tell you all about my solution to the problems of the world.”

“'Solution?' … What do you mean?”

“There are so many awful people in this world, Antoshi. Unlike you, they care only for themselves. They don't give a damn about others. They inflict pain and suffering and torment. They're heartless, soulless monsters. They are a blight upon the world. It doesn't have to be that way, though! I can use my powers, and I can cleanse the world of evil! Cleanse it of the parasites, the immoral, the perverse! Don't you see? I'm doing them a favor by ending their pathetic existences! Without their evil hearts, everlasting peace will become a reality!”

Fireball and Antoshi were both shocked and horrified. Antoshi again recalled the images from his dream about the destruction of the military base. He had felt Latoshi's relief and elation amid the chaos. He knew Latoshi wasn't joking with his proposal. Latoshi truly was cruel beyond anyone he'd ever met before.

“You wanted to teach me to become a Pokémon Trainer,” Latoshi continued. “I can teach you how to use your powers and do so much more good in the world! This is why we were given these powers! Join me, Antoshi. Together, we can do so much good for this world. We’ll make the world a better place … as brothers. What do you say?”

Latoshi's black aura began to flare around his body. It reeked of blood and killing intent. The deaths of his previous victims hung in the air. It seeped all around Antoshi like an icy embrace.

It terrified him.

What's more, that feeling of tingling pressure came back stronger than ever. Antoshi finally understood it was Latoshi's energy that had been causing it all along.

“No,” Antoshi said, quietly, shaking his head. “No, I won't do it.” Latoshi was genuinely surprised and dismayed. “You're talking about killing people, Latoshi. Nothing about that is 'good.'”

“What are you talking about? They're a festering plague on the earth! They're parasites! They need to be ended! That's what Lazarus made me understand!”

“Lazarus? Who is Lazarus?”

“My conscience, of course,” Latoshi replied, confidently. “It gave itself a name.”

Antoshi and Fireball became even more deeply concerned.

“Your … conscience speaks to you?” Antoshi asked.

“Well, he's a lot wiser than I normally am. Lazarus led me to discover my powers. He helped me strengthen and train and focus myself enough to get me out of the hellhole I was locked away in, and to lay waste to everyone and everything there.”

“So it was you,” Antoshi remarked, solemnly. “You killed those people in Fern Town, and those people on that … island base.”

“How do you know about—” Latoshi stopped himself. “I can't remember anything of Fern Town, but the military base … yes, that was me. They were horrible people, Antoshi!”

“They … they must have had families and people who cared about them and—”

“Are you kidding me?!” Latoshi snapped, bitterly, surprising the duo. “I can't believe you, Antoshi! You're being such an apologist! No, they got what they deserved. You have no idea what they did to me. You think because you have your perfect, happy little life traveling around with your best buddy that you can pass judgment on me? Like that makes you, … what, a moral authority? I was locked up in that facility … for months. I had no idea where I was and they never told me. They never helped me. They just kept me jailed like a wild animal.”

There was no justification for Latoshi's actions in Antoshi's mind. The blond-haired boy only kept his solemn gaze affixed to the ground. Latoshi scoffed in disgust, his black aura flaring around him.

“You think that everything is just so black and white, huh?” Latoshi continued. “Everything just … fits into your life's neat, little compartments. 'Latoshi is awful, he killed all those people, that makes him the bad guy.' I'm the bad guy? And you talk about how they had families? What about my family?! What about the people who cared about me?! Who the hell are you to try and guilt me?!”

“I couldn't ever take anyone's life like you have,” Antoshi retorted, glaring into Latoshi's eyes. “I just couldn't, no matter how awful I felt inside.”

“Gee, wow, what an upstanding person you are, Antoshi — bravo,” he shot back, sarcastically. “Never say 'never.' You don't know what it's like. You don't know how far you would go. No memories, not knowing where your family is, or if anyone is looking for you. Locked up against your will, nobody telling you why, where you are, or even who you are. You don't know how you would react or whether you would do the same thing in my position. I waited for so long. I gave them the benefit of the doubt more times than I can remember. I kept thinking, 'They'll bring someone in soon. Someone will come for me. They'll realize it's all a big misunderstanding and then I'll go home.' I just wanted … to go home, Antoshi. After a while, I didn't know if I was ever going to leave or if they would even keep me alive. … I had to do it. I had to get out of there. I had to survive.”

“You could've escaped without killing anyone!” Antoshi shouted. The bitterness upon his face masked the tears welling in his eyes. He felt deeply for Latoshi's situation, and had no reason not to believe him. It did nothing to take away the sting of knowing someone whom he'd seen the good in, someone whom he'd already bonded with, could be such a cold-blooded murderer. Fireball placed a forepaw on his friend's shoulder in an effort to console him.

Latoshi shook his head. “Maybe you're right. But, that's not what I did. I was terrified out of my mind. I kept thinking that, if I broke out, they were going to find me again. They'd bring me back to that awful place and then they'd make sure I never got out again. I have no regrets. I would gladly go back in time and do it again. I would look into their eyes and I would slaughter them all — and I would do it with a smile on my face.”

“This isn't the way, Latoshi. You don't have to be alone. What about your friends? Your family? Don't you still care about them?”

“My family?” Latoshi wondered aloud.

“You told me you were lost and couldn't remember anything. I can help you find your family.”

“You would … help me?” Latoshi asked, awe-struck. “Even after … everything I just told you?”

“Of course,” Antoshi replied, softly, “because it's what's right. This, all of this you're talking about, the killing, the 'cleansing', the destruction, … that isn't right.”

Latoshi appeared conflicted. He turned his gaze to the ground. Antoshi was a real, living person standing before him, with real emotions that he could feel. He was so much more than some voice in his head, telling him to kill. “I—”

'Do not listen to his lies!' Lazarus shouted. Latoshi gasped in shock. 'Remember who it was that you trusted, who gave you strength when you had none, who gave you freedom when you thought it was impossible. He is trying to lead you astray. Do not listen to him, Latoshi!'

Latoshi pondered it over for a moment. He chuckled and smirked at Antoshi. “That's true,” he replied, leaving Antoshi confused. “I understand now. Good try, Antoshi. I see right through your little charade. You're trying to get me to let my guard down and do what, just give up my ideals? Just like that? You don't even understand a fraction what I had to suffer through.”

“It isn't a charade, Latoshi! I'm—”

“Save it,” Latoshi snapped. “You know, I've changed my mind. You're not fit to help me with my efforts for peace. You're expendable, Antoshi, just like a~ll the rest of the people in this world. No one compares to my strength, and no one can stop me. You're just a stepping stone on my ascension to greatness.” He flared out his black aura again. “I'm going to turn this world into a peaceful paradise by any means necessary.”

“No,” Antoshi replied, calmly. “What you're talking about, … it's a fool's paradise.”

Latoshi scoffed. “Saying that just makes you a parasite, too,” he said, flatly. “You need to be cleansed from this world, like any others who would dare get in the way of my ascension.”

“I don't want to fight you, Latoshi. We can talk—”

“Good!” Latoshi said, in a jovial tone. “That'll make killing you so much easier.”