Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ A Blond Ray of Sunshine ❯ Chapter 14

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

The heavy clouds rolling in overhead gradually became darker, setting an ominous stage. Antoshi narrowed his eyes, watching his adversary, cautiously.

“I'm just going to warn you beforehand,” Latoshi said, smirking confidently, “I won't be making this quick and painless. This is definitely gonna hurt.”

In an instant, Latoshi closed the gap between them. Antoshi gasped, his eyes going wide in shock. The red hue of his spirit energy ignited quickly within his irises, his senses increasing exponentially. Before Antoshi could make a move, Latoshi suddenly delivered a swift knee into his abdomen.

Antoshi croaked in pain, falling onto his knees, holding his stomach and gasping for air. Tears welled up in his eyes. It was a level of physical pain he was extremely unfamiliar with. This was the first real fight he'd ever been in.

"Antoshi!" Fireball cried out in shock.

Latoshi stood tall and proud, is black aura flaring. He appeared pleased with himself. “Well, you've already proven to be very durable. A hit like that probably would've killed a normal person.”

Fireball turned to Latoshi, snarling and baring his fangs. "Stop this, Latoshi!"

“I'd suggest you don't get involved here,” Latoshi said to Fireball, casually. “I'm not interested in harming Pokémon, but I may just make an exception if you don't back down.”

"If you think I'm going to stand by and watch you hurt my best friend, you're out of your—"

“Fireball, wait,” Antoshi interjected. He took a moment to steady his breathing before getting back to his feet. He wiped his eyes and a small trail of blood on his mouth with the back of his fist. He closed his eyes for a moment, letting out a sigh of defeat. As much as he wanted not to resort to violence, he knew he had no choice. “You're always fighting the physical side of our battles. Let me handle it this time.” He gave his friend a reassuring smile.

"This isn't … as simple as a Pokémon battle," Fireball remarked, with deep concern in his eyes.

“I know, but I think this is something that only I can deal with.”

Latoshi laughed. “Let's see if that ends up being the case,” he said before dashing at him again. He struck Antoshi on the bridge of the nose with a headbutt, drawing a shout from the blond-haired boy. He again gave Antoshi no time to react, using his superior quickness to strike him with a couple of hard punches to the face.

Antoshi stumbled back, reeling briefly before shaking it off. Latoshi grinned, having far too much fun engaging in an actual fight for once, coming at him again with the same volley.

The sight of Antoshi getting knocked around was torturous for Fireball. He was completely tensed up in rage, forced to watch from the sidelines.

“You're really not going to fight back, huh!?” Latoshi asked in amusement. “At the very least you're resilient as hell — like a really sturdy punching bag!”

With every strike, Antoshi's eyes began glowing brighter as rage built up inside him. He gave off a sudden scream. His own, red aura ignited almost like an explosion around his body — the force and pressure of which pushed Latoshi away slightly. Latoshi hopped backward a short distance. He was intrigued by the long-awaited emergence of Antoshi's power.

Now it's getting interesting,” Latoshi remarked.

The two boys stared each other down for several moments. Antoshi groaned and shook his head. His vision was blurred from the hits he took. Latoshi used to opportunity to quickly race toward him. He shouted, throwing a punch with more force behind it than before. Still dazed, Antoshi reacted instinctively by blocking the punch with his forearms. The impact dug Antoshi's heels into the ground and caused a small shock wave that shook the nearby trees. Both boys were stunned, as was Fireball.

Latoshi shouted continuously with each subsequent strike at him. With no formal experience fighting or using his powers, Antoshi was forced to quickly learn and adapt to the difference in power and skill. He at least managed to continue guarding various points of his body from Latoshi's superhuman punches out of sheer instinct. His rage continued to increase, manifesting in his red aura which burned more ferociously than before. He despised having to fight Latoshi, no matter what the circumstances were. His body continued to fight on, but his heart was aching to stop.

Latoshi reared his fist back, throwing one last, powerful strike. Antoshi clenched his teeth, his eyes glowing brighter, his adrenaline surging. He leapt back in a sudden instant to avoid the attack, leaving Latoshi bewildered and wide-eyed. He had moved just a few paces away, yet did so faster than Latoshi could process.

‘Was he actually trained as well?’ Latoshi thought. ‘Where is this speed suddenly coming from? …’

With Latoshi momentarily confused, a counter-attack opportunity appeared. Antoshi held his hands out in front of him. A ball of bright, red energy gathered in his palms. He was briefly taken aback by its presence, realizing it was the same sort of orb he had shown to Fireball. He quickly focused back on his target, gave a shout, and fired it like a projectile at his attacker.

Latoshi gasped in surprise. He narrowly dodged the blast, causing it to impact a large pine tree behind him. The resulting explosion was powerful enough to break and topple the tree, falling away from the group with loud cracking and a hard thud.

Latoshi backed away to regroup himself, narrowing narrowed his eyes at his rival. ‘What secrets is he hiding? How does someone as soft as him know how to fight like that? Is he playing me for a chump right now?’

Antoshi, meanwhile, gazed down at his palms in disbelief at what just happened.

"Whoa," Fireball uttered. "Antoshi, that was … amazing! I—I had no idea you could move so fast! And that … that bullet thing you shot from your hands! It was just like the light show ball!"

Fireball, too, had recognized it. Antoshi didn't have an answer for Fireball.

‘I … can use that light like … a weapon?’ Antoshi thought.

Latoshi's eyes shifted over to Fireball. ‘The Typhlosion is way too surprised with Antoshi's skills. He has to be doing all of this out of instinct. He's greener than my shirt. …’

'Foolish child,' Lazarus said. 'You are holding back too much. Do not go easy on him.'

Latoshi scoffed. “Whatever. I was just feeling him out.”

Upon realizing Latoshi was speaking to the wind, Antoshi and Fireball both stared at him with puzzled gazes. ‘Is that his 'conscience' he's talking to?’ Antoshi thought.

“So, Antoshi,” Latoshi said, “you seem to have some mastery over your abilities, huh?”

“I …” Antoshi trailed off, clenching his fists and standing confidently. “I do.”

“Interesting,” Latoshi said, “bu~t I think you're lying. You and Fireball were just as surprised as I was when you used that attack. The fact is, you've only just begun to start harnessing your power, and realizing what you can do with it. I've had plenty of continuous training, so I have much more control over my energy. I'm at a level way greater than what you're capable of.”

Antoshi scowled, feeling empowered by his earlier ability. He suddenly dashed toward Latoshi. “Let's find out!” he exclaimed.

Latoshi's shimmering black eyes widened in shock, taken aback at just how fast Antoshi was. It was a speed beyond what either of them had displayed thus far. Rather than going for an attack, Antoshi instead decided to dash all around Latoshi in a random pattern. His speed was great enough that he left fading after-images of himself, giving the appearance of a handful of clones surrounding his opponent.

'He is surprisingly quick,' Lazarus remarked.

Latoshi looked all around in every direction with a confused expression. He was overwhelmed by Antoshi's quickness. Fireball watched in awe at the superpowered young people, astonished by how fast they were able to move and react. Yet, for the two locked in battle, the normal flow of time seemed to be reduced to a snail's pace.

Antoshi leapt forward, striking Latoshi with a kick to the back of the head. Latoshi shouted and stumbled, immediately turning and swinging a fist to counter. Antoshi was already long gone — back in the vortex of after-images. Antoshi's hand glowed red as he summoned forth the energy needed to produce another blast.

'Defend yourself!' Lazarus shouted.

With a bitter scowl, Latoshi crossed his arms in front of him. Antoshi came to a sudden stop, firing the powerful blast of energy in Latoshi's face. It exploded violently enough to send his adversary careening a short distance away. Latoshi grunted in pain, managing to use his momentum to flip backward and land on his feet.

"Awesome, Antoshi!" Fireball cheered. "That was so cool!"

Latoshi looked down at his forearms, finding burn marks left from the energy's impact. He seethed, glaring viciously at his adversary. Antoshi kept on him, realizing he was dictating the pace of the fight. He dashed toward Latoshi swiftly enough to dodge a punch that Latoshi threw at him. He continued darting around him, leaving after-images once more. Using his quickness, he managed to land several shots to Latoshi's head.

Latoshi became bitterly frustrated. He roared, his aura intensifying.

'Focus, you dunce!' Lazarus shouted. 'Do not just stand there — feel his energy out!'

Latoshi put all of focus into watching his opponent's movements, though difficult they were to follow. The next time Antoshi threw a punch, Latoshi spotted it and blocked it with a hand. The blond-haired boy didn't think much of it, keeping up the pace of his assault. Latoshi's eyes began to further adapt to Antoshi's overwhelming speed. He took some further shots, but deflected and avoided most of them.

Their speed was evolving as the fight went on. It became too fast for Fireball to keep up with. However, Latoshi soon became the one dictating the pace. As he realized it more and more, he shot his rival an increasingly confident smirk. Despite his speed, Antoshi saw his rival's arrogant expression clearly.

After having his attacks blocked consistently, Antoshi leapt away to get some space. He hunched over, panting heavily. He wiped the sweat off of his forehead, a stern expression on his face. He did not let Latoshi out of his sights.

Latoshi threw his head back and laughed. “Look at you! You're more winded than I am, and I've been on the defensive! Guess you reached your limit, huh, bro?”

Antoshi heaved a sigh and stood up straight. “I am not your brother.”

“Well, that's just a silly remark. It's inexplicable, but I know you sense just as well as I do that we have to be related.”

Antoshi scowled. “Not a chance. Fireball is more of a brother to me than you'd ever be.”

“Oh, and why is that? Because he's nice to you? Because his ideals align with yours? Sorry, that's not how life works. I'm certain that we are brothers. No matter how much you dislike it, you're certain as well. I mean, just look at us, Antoshi — it's like looking in a mirror! We're not just brothers, we're twin brothers!”

Antoshi glanced away. “How can that be? I—I've never even met you before.”

Latoshi shrugged. “I don't know any more than you do. But, what I do know is that you should join me. I'll forgive your earlier remarks towards me. Come on, we can work together. We can make this world a much better place, you and I. You have so much potential that you don't even see! I'll help teach you how to gain control over your powers. We'll be totally unstoppable!”

“Over my dead body,” Antoshi spat.

Latoshi laughed. “That's a very interesting response,” Antoshi gasped as his adversary appeared beside him, driving a fist into his gut, “because it's one that I can definitely follow through with if you refuse my generous offer.” Antoshi struggled to breathe, hunching over, hugging his abdomen. The strike was unexpectedly more vicious than any of Latoshi's previous hits. “You know I've been taking it easy on you, right? There is absolutely no way you're going to win this fight. I think it's in your best interest to concede.”

“I'm never going to stop fighting…” Antoshi replied. He stood up straight with a groan, stumbling back a few paces. His stamina had been draining much faster than he realized. “Especially … if it means stopping you from harming us and putting an end to your insane idea of a 'perfect world'.”

Latoshi shook his head and chuckled. “Go on, then. You can keep on fighting, Antoshi. The problem is, you're far less trained to deal with your energy than I am. You can't control it and regulate it well, and you have no stamina built up. It won't be much longer before you run completely dry.”

The two boys stared each other down momentarily. Antoshi panted, sweating intensely, swallowing the dry lump in his throat. His hair and clothing were starting to mat to his body. Latoshi's words resounded with him. He began to seriously question whether or not he actually could deal with the sable-haired boy. He trembled in anticipation of Latoshi's next move.

“Would you like to see just how outclassed you are, Antoshi? Don't blink now.”

Without moving from his position, Latoshi threw a jab at him. Antoshi looked on in confusion, until the shock wave from it suddenly struck him in the face. Latoshi laughed, continuing to send long-ranged punches at him for a short time. Antoshi clenched his jaw, guarding his face with his forearms. The moment they finally stopped, Antoshi dropped his guard to find Latoshi standing in front of him.

“Boo,” Latoshi said with a cocky smirk. He suddenly disappeared. “Whoops, I'm behind you!” he said before landing a punch in the small of Antoshi's back. Antoshi fell to his knees, holding his back with both hands, wincing in pain. “This is a pretty wild case of sibling rivalry, huh?! I may be the only one thinking this, but we seem to have a bit of a dysfunctional family.”

“Yeah, … good one,” Antoshi strained out a sarcastic reply.

Latoshi kicked Antoshi's side hard enough to punt him forward through the air. Antoshi shouted, the sheer force of his momentum snapping several large trees in half as he crashed into them.

Latoshi laughed in amusement. “Well, this is so much more fun now.” He looked down at his hands, enveloped in his black aura, flexing and clenching them into fists rhythmically. “I feel so much stronger now for some reason,” he added with a cocky smirk.

Fireball snarled, fuming. His agitation of being forced to the sidelines was at its peak. With a clear opening between himself and the distracted Latoshi, he let out a sudden, powerful Flamethrower. Latoshi turned his attention to the oncoming attack in time to shield his face with one arm, just before he was consumed in a stream of flames. Latoshi shouted, part of his shirt burnt, along with the skin on the side of his torso. His aura flared to life around him. The spiritual energy around him effectively acted as a shield around his body, protecting him from the full wrath of Fireball's attack.

"I won't let you hurt Antoshi any longer!" Fireball roared. As was the case with the Rockets, Fireball was willing to attack humans if he felt they were rotten to the core.

Yet, despite being burned, Latoshi's expression slowly turned to amusement. He laughed hysterically, seeing Fireball's attack as nothing more than a joke. He grinned while inspecting the relatively minor burns that scorched some of his shirt and the skin beneath.

“You think some little Pokémon attack is going to stop me? You're even more delusional than my brother is! This burn doesn't hurt in the slightest. You have absolutely no grasp of the level of power you're facing. Antoshi's a complete amateur with his abilities, so you and he have never seen anything like what I—” Fireball abruptly summoned up another Flamethrower, firing it directly at Latoshi. The boy jumped out of the way to avoid it. “… Now, that was just plain rude,” Latoshi scolded him playfully. “What, did you think you'd get me again?”

"No, I'm just tired of hearing you speak," Fireball spat.

Latoshi clicked his tongue. “Well, that is a shame. I can make things easier on you, though. I'll make it so you can't hear me ever again.” Latoshi held an open hand toward Fireball. “After all, you tend to lose your sense of hearing when you don't have a head.”

Fireball stared into Latoshi's cold, black eyes as the boy sneered at him. As Latoshi summoned his energy into his palm, Fireball quickly braced himself.

'No,' Lazarus said. 'Do not harm him. Not yet.'

“What?” Latoshi wondered aloud, his arm faltering. “Why is that?”

'Because I have something else to deal with this nuisance.'

Fireball was left confused, but knew there had to be some kind of unpleasant retribution in store for him yet. Lazarus began chanting an incantation in a strange language that neither of them had heard before. Its voice emanated from Latoshi's mouth — though Latoshi's lips were not moving. Latoshi was shocked, curiously clasping a hand over his mouth. It did nothing to alter the volume of the voice speaking through him.

From the ground, a black mist began to seep. Latoshi and Fireball looked on in bewilderment as the mist slowly rose up and formed into the shape of a four-legged beast. Curled horns sprouted out from its distinctively canine head. Its long tail extended out with a pointed, triangular tip. Once its body had finally taken shape, and Lazarus' chanting ended, its form became apparent.

It was a Houndoom — yet far unlike a normal one. Its body appeared eaten away, hollow and rotted. Bones were visible through gaping holes in its chest and its legs. Its eyes were completely black with small, red, pinprick pupils. It slowly opened its mouth, revealing its forked tongue and razor-sharp, jagged teeth. Fireball was horrified by its appearance.

“What the hell is that thing?” Latoshi asked, bluntly.

'This is Lucent,' Lazarus said. 'He is my most obedient and faithful servant. He is also very much as undead as he looks. I have decided to let him have some fun.'

“You expect me to just play nice with the doggy over there and let him do all the work? I can easily deal with this Typhlosion, you know.”

Lucent's cold eyes slowly rolled over to glare at Latoshi. Latoshi scowled, expressing his disgust for the beast.

'I am well aware of that. Your battle with Antoshi is not over yet, though. This way, you will not have to waste your energy on the Typhlosion.'

Latoshi sighed in frustration. “Fine. Well, Fireball, it was nice knowing you and all but it seems like 'zombie pooch' here is about to tear you into very fine, very bloody ribbons.”

'Sink your jaws into the Typhlosion, Lucent!' Lazarus commanded. Lucent's head snapped upward in attention, Lazarus' voice ringing through his head as well. 'Make him suffer!'

Lucent gave a horrible, raspy bark of acknowledgment before darting at its target. Fireball stood in place, stricken with fear. His eyes went wide as Lucent lurched at him with its decaying jaw open.

Antoshi suddenly jumped in the way, causing the dog to bite his forearm instead. The boy cried out in pain, tensing all the muscles in his arm as he fought to pull away from the dog's grasp. Lucent locked its jaw in tight and began shaking its head around. Antoshi held up his other hand, firing a blast of his energy point-blank that exploded Lucent's face. The attack sent the Houndoom a short distance away.

Lucent's body had gone totally limp before it rolled to a stop. The demonic dog calmly rose to its feet, glaring at Antoshi. It took its time licking the blood off of its chops. Antoshi inspected his badly injured, trembling arm. He gasped, horrified by the amount of blood he was losing. He had never been injured so severely.

“What's the matter, Antoshi?” Latoshi asked with a laugh. “It's just a little blood!”

"Antoshi…" Fireball uttered, deeply concerned for his friend's safety.

Antoshi held a hand out to him, letting him know he was all right. His hand trembled as he grabbed his wound, clenching his teeth. The others looked on as Antoshi summoned his energy into his palm. He screamed in agony, his injured flesh sizzling to effectively cauterize his wound. Fireball was left in shock.

“Fireball,” Antoshi said, quietly, as his hand fell away. “Rolling Fireball.

The command took a moment for Fireball's mind to register. Once it did, he gave a confident smirk. "Looks like we're back in business," he remarked. He curled up quickly, and began revving in place. The fires on his back engulfed him, catching the opposing duo off-guard. Neither of them had seen anything like it.

Fireball took off like a bullet toward Lucent. The undead Houndoom snarled just before being impacted hard. It was sent a short distance away again, landing on its belly. Lucent got back to its feet, staring Fireball down, coldly. The Typhlosion turned around and prepared to strike again. Latoshi appeared in the way suddenly, kicking Fireball away like a ball.

“That's about enough from you!” Latoshi exclaimed. Fireball shouted in terror as he spiraled through the air, coming to a violent stop against a large tree. He fell to the ground, unconscious.

“Fireball!” Antoshi shouted, panicked.

“I really don't like having to work with this dog,” Latoshi remarked, “so I might as well get some enjoyment out of it.”

Antoshi scowled, turning his attention to Latoshi. He shouted in rage, racing toward his adversary, his red aura flickering wildly. Latoshi grinned in the face of the oncoming attack. As Antoshi threw a punch, Latoshi countered with a hard shot to Antoshi's cheek. The impact sent the blond-haired boy backward into the dirt, flailing and skidding to a stop near his motionless best friend.

Antoshi quickly shook himself out of his daze. He gazed over at Fireball with concern, dragging himself toward him.

“Fireball,” he uttered. “Come on, Fireball. … Please, wake up!”

“How perfect it is to have both of you together like this,” Latoshi remarked. He held his wrist, taking careful aim with his open hand. “It'll be like shooting fish in a barrel!” Latoshi laughed as he fired dozens of spherical energy blasts at the duo.

Antoshi's irises burned bright red as his eyes widened in horror. He quickly knelt with his back facing Fireball, crossing his arms over his chest. He used his aura to shield himself and Fireball, just like Latoshi did earlier, as the attacks impacted him and everything around them. He grunted from the sheer power of the blasts, gradually inching back from the immense barrage. Explosions rang out upon the ground and nearby trees, toppling them over.

Fireball awoke to the noise. His eyes came into focus, making out the image of his friend using himself as a shield to protect him.

"Antoshi …" he whispered. The overwhelming show of force came to an end. Fireball groaned and got to his feet.

Antoshi collapsed face-first, panting, his aura severely diminished. His chest had been burned, his shirt left in tatters. Fireball was horrified. He had never seen his best friend so seriously injured.

Latoshi sucked his teeth. “One of you falls, and the other gets up. It's like a really annoying carnival game.”

With a vicious snarl, the fires on Fireball's back came alight with intense fervor. He glared at Latoshi, who arrogantly smirked back at him. He roared, charging at him on all fours. However, he was abruptly struck by a headbutt to his side from Lucent — denying Fireball his chance to attack the boy.

Lucent pinned him down. Fireball roared as he blasted Lucent in the face with another Flamethrower. The Houndoom whined and jumped away. As Fireball got back up to his hind feet, Lucent charged back in, ramming Fireball hard with its horned head and tackling him to the ground once again. They clawed and bit at each other, both Pokémon fighting with all the strategy and savagery of wild animals.

Latoshi casually turned his attention back to Antoshi.
“Well, this is just getting sad. Why don't you concede now and join me already? That'll make all this pain stop.”

Antoshi strained, looking up at his rival with bitter loathing in his eyes. Latoshi chuckled before kicking Antoshi in the face, snapping his head back. The blond-haired boy shouted, holding his face as blood seeped from his nose.

"Leave him alone!" Fireball shouted. He managed to shoving Lucent off of him, giving him enough of a reprieve to attack Latoshi with another Flamethrower.

Latoshi grinned, calmly holding a hand out, using his aura to deflect the scorching stream of fire. Lucent put a swift end to Fireball's flames, lurching forth and biting the Typhlosion across the throat. Fireball's eyes went wide, choking. He struggled to release the undead dog's grip on his neck.

“Well, that was convenient,” Latoshi remarked, nonchalantly. “Now, where was I? … Oh, right!” He stomped hard on Antoshi's chest, drawing an agonizing scream out of the blond-haired boy. He stomped several more times before putting his full weight down on him. Antoshi strained, grabbing Latoshi's shoe. “You know, I think this is pretty symbolic of how you're nothing more than a stepping stone on my way to greatness — just like I told you earlier.”

As Antoshi struggled, he turned his gaze to Fireball. Lucent jaws were still clamped down on Fireball's neck, with the Houndoom shaking its head back and forth. Fireball's struggling slowly ceased, going limp. The sight terrified him to the core, unaware if he just witnessed Fireball's death.

Fireball, no!” he called out. He abruptly screamed again as Latoshi put more weight on his chest.

“Oh darn, Antoshi!” Latoshi said, feigning concern. “I think you might have a few broken ribs there!”

Antoshi reached a shaking hand into his pocket while Latoshi continued to stomp on him. His breathing became ragged and shallow, unable to draw a full breath. Straining and ignoring the pain, he pulled out Fireball's Poké Ball. Getting Fireball out of there and into the safety of his Poké Ball was all that mattered to him. He maximized it, weakly pointing it at his friend. Latoshi took his foot off of Antoshi's chest to stomp the ball instead, shattering it into pieces.

Antoshi looked on in helpless agony. His heart fell to pieces much like the shards of Fireball's Poké Ball. “N— … No …” he whispered. His eyes quickly welled up with tears.

Latoshi laughed in amusement. “You're pathetic,” he remarked, spitefully. “You're way too emotional. All you do is cry over every little thing, like a baby. Killing you almost seems like a waste of energy now.” Lucent let go of the unconscious Fireball. It backed away, licking the blood off of its chops. Latoshi glanced over at the Pokémon briefly, his eyes lighting up with an idea. “I know what I'll do. First, I'll kill your Typhlosion, and let you watch. The look on your face when he's nothing but ashes will be very satisfying.”

“No …” Antoshi whispered once more. “No, … no …” His gaze shifted between the shattered ball, over to his best friend. Fireball was in worse shape than he'd ever seen. It was impossible to tell if Fireball was still breathing or not. He reached out for him, whimpering, tears rolling down his face.

“Then,” Latoshi continued, “I think I'll track down the rest of your family in Saffron City and I'll kill them, too.” He looked down at Antoshi, smirking cruelly.

Antoshi momentarily froze in place. Images of his family, and the memories of his journey with Fireball, raced through his head. His family was the most important thing to him. Not his journey, the badges, the scenery, winning battles, or even the people they met. All of that paled in comparison to how crucial family was to him. Latoshi had crossed a line that Antoshi was not going to forgive.

Antoshi's heart pounded, yet his breathing became deeper and more relaxed. His emotions — from the anger he felt toward Latoshi, to the love for his family — all swirled together. His eyes began to glow a much brighter red. Latoshi looked on in surprise while Antoshi found the strength to slowly rise to his feet.

“Damn … you, … Latoshi…” he muttered. “You monster!” His aura exploded back to life, more intense than before. Latoshi shielded his eyes. The sheer pressure of Antoshi's Ki was strong enough to push him back slightly.

'I see now,' Lazarus remarked. 'The greater the lives of his loved ones are in danger, the harder he fights.'

“You're very interesting, Antoshi,” Latoshi said. “You'll make the perfect partner!”

Antoshi couldn't give a damn what Latoshi just said. He screamed, his bitter eyes glowing intensely. He immediately closed the gap between them, throwing dozens of punches at Latoshi in a matter of seconds, fueled by the emotions burning inside him. Resentful hatred upon his face, tears continued to stream down his face.

Yet, despite the blond-haired boy's sudden resurgence, Latoshi was grinning to himself. He put his arms up, able to shield himself from the strikes — even as they inched him back. There was no spirit energy behind Antoshi's attacks — the boy still did not understand how to use it to fight. With Latoshi's more powerful aura shielding him, Antoshi's punches were no more than angry slaps from a baby having a tantrum.

Antoshi's blitz did not last long. His stamina was still heavily drained from earlier. His body couldn't keep up, his speed faltered, his vision becoming blurry. He staggered against Latoshi's superior defense, panting and sweating heavily, his body hunching over. Latoshi found his opening amid what was left of Antoshi's petering onslaught. He landed a sudden upward blow to Antoshi's chin, sending the boy rolling and flailing to the ground.

“You were destined for greater things, Antoshi,” Latoshi said, “but you could never hope to compare to me!”

Antoshi laid face-up, gasping for air. His entire body throbbed with pain. His eyes had returned to normal, his aura vanished; his Ki was almost totally depleted. Latoshi used his phenomenal speed to appear atop him, slamming a knee into his stomach. Antoshi strained as he cried out, blood flying from his mouth.

With a cruel grin, Latoshi grabbed Antoshi by the hair. He viciously punched the boy's face again and again. Antoshi shouted in pain with each blow, unable to defend himself. Lucent sat and watched with disinterest, yawning as the boy was brutalized. By the time Latoshi was done, Antoshi's face was a bloodied mess. He calmly let go of his blond, bloodstained head. Antoshi lay almost lifeless as Latoshi stood tall and triumphant.

“This was just too easy,” he remarked, wiping the blood from his hands. “You just don't get it, Antoshi. You are not as skilled as me. Every single one of those punches and kicks you gave me this entire time, … they weren't fueled with spirit energy. You can't possibly hope to defeat someone like me, trained to use their Ki, with simple, physical blows like that.”

Antoshi groaned weakly. Every inch of him was in excruciating pain. He managed to open one of his eyes, the other swollen shut. He made out the blurry image of Latoshi standing over him. He clenched his teeth, struggling to get up. Latoshi quickly shoved a foot into his chest, pinning him back down.

“No, no, don't get up,” Latoshi said with a chuckle. “You look like you're pretty injured.” Antoshi groaned in pain again. Latoshi squatted down beside him. “Well, so much for this little 'fight' you decided to put up. It was okay, but, in the end, the person with real training won here. You couldn't have looked any more like a deer in headlights during that fight if you tried.”

Antoshi coughed up blood, struggling to breathe. “… Don't … have to do this, … Latoshi.”

“Sure I do. I explained everything to you already, no need to go through it all again. My offer still stands, though. Why don't you join me, huh? I can help you learn how to hone your abilities. Lazarus can help you just like he helped me. You and I … we can have anything we want, go anywhere we choose. Best of all, there'll be no one in our way that can stop us if we work together. So, what do you say, brother? Partners?”

“Not a chance. … I'll never buy in to your … insane ideals. I will … never join you, Latoshi.”

Latoshi clicked his tongue, rising to his feet. “Well, I guess I have no other choice.”

With terror in his eyes, Antoshi watched, helplessly, as Latoshi took aim at his head and summoned his energy into his palm. Latoshi's eyes widened, keeping his gaze affixed to Antoshi's face. Lucent looked on with an icy stare, completely motionless.

'Do it,' Lazarus commanded. 'Without him, nothing will stop your ascension.'

The corner of Latoshi's mouth curled into an enthused smirk, but it quickly faded. There was glint of concern in his eyes, and just a tiny spark of regret in his heart.

‘Wow, look at that,’ he had said earlier. ‘You really are named 'Antoshi'. I didn't think there was anyone out there with a … a weird-sounding name like mine.’

‘It's no problem, really!’
 he recalled Antoshi saying to him. ‘You don't even have to pay me back.’

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.

The fear in Antoshi's eyes was like his own reflection in that unbreakable glass of his prison cell.

‘I just want to … go home. I'll do anything to go home.’

Antoshi clenched his eyes shut, tears rolling down his face.

'Do it now!!' Lazarus shouted, angrily. Latoshi screamed in frustration before he fired a blast of energy.

A moment later, Antoshi's uninjured eye shot open. Latoshi was still standing over him.

“Let's just call that a … 'parting shot',” Latoshi said. Antoshi's slowly turned his head to see a crater of dirt mere inches away. “You have a lot to think about after this ordeal. But, I think you'll find it wise to reconsider my offer. Just be aware that I could've done that to your head.”

Latoshi calmly turned and walked away, slipping his hands into his pockets. As he strolled by Lucent, the undead dog closed its eyes. It returned to its ethereal form, sinking back into the earth.

Antoshi watched in disbelief as Latoshi simply left. However, his concern immediately turned to the health of his best friend. With a ragged gasp, he looked over at Fireball, who still hadn't moved at all.

“Fire … ball …” he whispered. He groaned in pain, reaching out for him once more. He needed to be with his friend, to help him, to get him to safety. If he could just do that, then everything would be fine.

Antoshi's eyes abruptly rolled closed and his body went limp, falling unconscious.

Once Latoshi was a short distance away from the duo, he smirked to himself proudly. “Guess I really am as strong as you said, huh?” he asked Lazarus.

Suddenly, a crippling ringing noise blared out in his ears. His eyes shot wide, grabbing the sides of his head, screaming in agony.

'You simpering little coward!' Lazarus shouted over the noise. 'The next time you ever disobey my orders, your punishment will be much, much worse!' Latoshi gasped when the sound came to an abrupt end. 'I will take my leave for a while. Continue your training and do not disappoint me again.'

Latoshi panted, visibly sweating, dumbfounded at what just occurred. “I'm sorry,” he whispered. “I— … I'm sorry. …”

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Antoshi groaned as he briefly regained consciousness. The sun shined brightly through a break in the clouds. A girl with long, brunette hair was knelt beside him. He was barely able to make out her face and violet eyes. It was the same girl he bumped into outside the train station.

The sunlight appeared like a halo around her head. She looked at him with a smile. Her hands glowed with a warm, pink aura, gently pressed against his chest.

“You're going to be just fine,” she softly said.

Just as before, her voice sang to him like an angel. Her words echoed in his head as he groaned and passed out again.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Antoshi awoke with a startled gasp, jumping up into a sitting position. The clouds had mostly cleared up. The evening sun had already set in. He panted fearfully, looking around, spotting Fireball unconscious nearby. He panicked, crawling over to check on him. Fireball was merely asleep, and with no visible injuries on him. A wave of relief swept through him. He sighed heavily, hunched over as he sat down in front of Fireball.

He mulled over everything that had transpired, hoping to somehow wrap his head around it all. He patted his chest, feeling no pain after the torturous battle he went through. Miraculously, like Fireball, he also didn't have any injures. His clothes, however, were still tattered and dirtied.

He suddenly recalled the blurry image of the girl. Her hands were glowing, as though she also had control over spirit energy.

‘Did she … heal me?’ he thought. ‘There are others, then? Others like Latoshi and myself who can use their … 'Ki' as he called it. But, who is she? Does she know Latoshi somehow?’

His eyes widened — she was the girl he bumped into outside the train station. He groaned in frustration, running a hand through his hair. The questions were piling up and becoming too much for him. For the moment, he turned his attention back to his best friend.

“Fireball,” he said, gently shaking him. “Wake up.”

"Huh?" Fireball remarked, opening his eyes. He gasped and sat up quickly the same way Antoshi did earlier. He looked around for Latoshi and Lucent. "Where— … what happened? Weren't we just in a big fight?"

“We were, but … it's over now,” he replied with a weak smile. “Come on, let's head back to the Pokémon Center.”

Fireball was momentarily taken aback. The two of them had just nearly been killed. Latoshi, Lucent, and Lazarus were still lurking about somewhere. Yet, Antoshi got to his feet and casually inspected at his tattered clothes. The boy seemed oddly distant — as if none of it fazed him. It reminded him of how the boy didn't give much thought to the fall that he survived in Viridian. Still, Antoshi's demeanor felt … different this time.

Fireball got to his hind feet. "What about Latoshi?" Fireball asked. "Shouldn't we … go after him or something?"

Antoshi shook his head, turning his distant gaze away. “There's no point,” he muttered. “I can't sense energy like he can. He's way stronger than I am. I'm just not as good as him.”

Fireball was shocked. Antoshi had never been so defeated before. "But, … you're not going to just give up, right? As long as you're going to fight, I'll fight, Antoshi. The two of us working together has always got us through."

“That's not going to help this time!” he snapped, turning a bitter gaze at Fireball. “This isn't some Pokémon battle where we can just shrug off a loss and move on! Our lives are on the line!” The boy was visibly shaken, breathing heavily. He was angry — angrier than Fireball had ever seen before. He turned away and sighed. “I'm sorry, I just— … come on, let's get going.”

"All right, … sure," Fireball replied, quietly.

Antoshi took one more look back at the remnants of Fireball's shattered Poké Ball. He said nothing of it, walking away, idly wiping his eyes. Fireball followed along in silence a short distance behind him.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Latoshi took a deep breath before slowly sighing in content. He opened his eyes, having finished his meditation. He unfurled his crossed legs to sprawl out a bit, resting his back against the large tree behind him. Crickets chirped all around in the quiet peace of night.

“Do I really have to hide in the woods like this?” Latoshi asked.

'Yes,' Lazarus replied. 'For now, we will keep a low profile. Until you grow much stronger, we will stay in the shadows. You may be able to wipe out a large tower with your Ki now, but we will constantly aim even higher. The next time you and Antoshi should face, I want you to utterly decimate him and his Typhlosion. Is that understood?'

Latoshi paused for a moment. “Lazarus, I'm sorry about earlier. I just didn't want—”

'Is — that — understood?' the voice demanded an answer.

Latoshi sighed. “Yes, Lazarus,” he replied, quietly, turning his gaze away.

'Excellent. Always remember who pulled you from nothing and made you extraordinary. Remember who will continue to make you even stronger still.'

“Right,” he replied, while pulling out some nearby grass and tossing it aside. He sighed amid the quiet of the forest. Lazarus' voice had left him. “And, … now I'm all alone again.” He scooted forward to lay down on the ground, staring up at the night sky, his mind swirling with thoughts.

‘I wonder what it would've been like, if I … had actually gotten to know Antoshi instead of fighting him. Maybe the two of us could be talking about Pokémon stuff right now. That would be pretty normal. Kind of like … a family.’

Latoshi suddenly caught a vision of a man and a woman smiling proudly, standing over him. He gasped in surprise, sitting up. His heart swelled with excitement and a sense of warmth. ‘What was that?! Could it be? Was that … a memory?’

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

On the floor in their room at the Pokémon Center, Fireball rolled over in his sleep and smacked his lips. He awoke for just a moment to check on Antoshi. The boy wasn't there.

“Antoshi?” Fireball called out, quietly. He sat up, looking around for him.

Just outside, Antoshi stood on the sidewalk, his mind blanking out nearby cars and passersby. He clenched his fists, trembling with anger, while staring up at the full moon with rage. His irises glowed an intensely bright red.

‘I'll stop him,’ Antoshi thought. ‘I will stop him — no matter what it takes…’

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

End of Part 2

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