Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ A Blond Ray of Sunshine ❯ Chapter 17
The following morning, Fireball awoke with a noisy yawn. He sat up in bed, sighing contently as he stretched. The early sun peered in through a gap in the drawn curtains.
"Looks like another nice morning ahead," he remarked. "Guess we didn't have to worry about the police questioning you after all, huh?" He turned to Antoshi, who stared back at him with a deeply serious expression. Fireball immediately became concerned. "You okay? What's wrong?"
“I sensed him,” the boy replied, staring at his bedsheets. “I finally sensed where he was. His energy was so clear to me last night, it was like he was right next to me. It was that same, rotten energy I felt before. I don't know what he did, but … it felt like he used a decent amount of power to do it.”
"What should we do?"
Antoshi chuckled, weakly. He got out from under the covers and sat up. “Nothing now. Honestly, though, his energy seemed really intimidating — and I don't even know if that was his maximum power that I sensed. Whatever training he's been doing, … it's certainly working out for him.” He let out a heavy sigh before perking up, giving Fireball a reassuring smile. “Still, now it means I have a better idea of where his level of strength is. I don't think I'm ready to take him on, yet. I'll just have to do my absolute best to train even harder if I want to show him up.”
"That sounds more like the Antoshi I know," Fireball replied, smiling back. "Just don't leave me out of your training. I'd like to watch, at least!"
“All right, fair enough,” Antoshi said, chuckling.
The boy proceeded to call the hotel's room service to have their breakfast sent up to them. He got up, and got dressed in his newly favored outfit of a red t-shirt and blue jeans. As they waited for their food, the two friends joked and laughed, helping to lighten some of the dour mood they'd been going through as of late. Despite the storm that was Hurricane Latoshi swirling in the distance, Antoshi finally felt like things were at least getting back to normal between himself and Fireball. Just by being there for the boy, Antoshi recognized how much Fireball was helping him to feel whole in his time of need.
Once their food arrived, Antoshi brought it over to the table and chairs set up in the room's small dining space. Fireball turned the television toward them and turned it on before eagerly shuffling to his seat. He licked his chops at the sight of several plates of food before him. Antoshi chuckled, idly turning his attention to the TV as a newscast resumed.
“We want to take you back now to the scene at Goldenrod Penitentiary,” the lady reporter said. “If you're just joining us, seven officers and one hundred twelve inmates were found dead, with dozens more injured. Part of the wall of the prison, as you can see, has been completely blown away.” Antoshi and Fireball were stunned by the sight. The grassy field outside the prison was littered with plastic yellow tarps and evidence markers. “At this time, officials do not have any suspects or any possible motives in mind. No explosives or any sort of explosive device was found at the scene, though there is some speculation that there may be multiple perpetrators at large, given the swiftness of how the scene unfolded. Officials tell us that these victims were all slain within a matter of less than a minute.”
Fireball turned to his friend. Antoshi's hand was trembling as he held his glass of orange juice.
“Latoshi, …” the boy muttered. “This is it. This is part of his horrible 'plan' to exterminate people he believes are evil. … What better place to strike than a prison?”
“None of the officials on scene could give us a cause of death for any of the victims,” the reporter continued, “however, a police spokesperson has said they're investigating whether there may be a connection with the explosion at Sunset Park yesterday.”
"You and Latoshi are making news reports for all the wrong reasons," Fireball remarked. Antoshi sighed, sharply, getting up from his seat. "You okay?"
“I'm fine,” Antoshi replied, retrieving his shoes by the door and heading back to the table to put them on. “It's just that, … well, I know the police have to investigate these things. I just wish they weren't involved. I'm worried more people are going to end up getting hurt or killed over this pointless war between Latoshi and myself.”
"Yeah, I understand," Fireball said, quietly. "This is all so terrible…"
“I better get started training as soon as I can,” Antoshi said, getting up from the table once more.
"But, you didn't finish your breakfast!"
“That's all right. I'm not really hungry after what I just saw, anyway.” He got up and headed for the TV. Fireball quickly scarfed down as much food from both of their plates as he could.
“City and regional officials are asking for the public's help,” the reporter said. “If you have any information—”
After Antoshi shut off the TV, he turned to his friend. Fireball quickly got up, wiping his maw with a napkin which he quickly tossed onto the table. Antoshi slung a towel over his shoulder before they headed out once again. He was eager to put into practice what he'd learned in his books.
A few hours had passed after the start of Antoshi's rigorous training session. The two friends fell onto their backsides, facing each other, panting from exhaustion.
"Nice moves, Antoshi," Fireball remarked with a grin.
Antoshi smiled back. “Thanks.” He grabbed the towel and wiped the sweat from his face.
"You've gotten way faster and way stronger since that fight with Latoshi already. You learned a lot of really good stuff. I know I'm not going to doubt the power of books ever again." Antoshi chuckled. "By the way, thanks for taking it easy on me. I could tell based off our previous training sessions that you pulled your punches this time."
“I don't want you to get hurt anymore, Fireball. That's the whole reason I'm even doing this.” Fireball nodded in understanding. Antoshi gazed down at his open hands, scuffed with dirt. “I want to keep others from getting hurt, but I have to fight with Latoshi. I hate not being able to resolve this peacefully, but I have no choice.”
"I know how bad you feel having to do this. I'm sure you'll beat him this time, though, Antoshi. Then, you can put it behind you."
“Maybe. I mean, I certainly hope so. If there was a way I didn't have to fight him, I'd rather take that road instead. At the same time, I still have … so much anger. I still feel that rage every time I think about what he did to you, what he said to me, and about my family…” Antoshi's irises glowed bright with the shimmering, red hue of his Ki. He clenched his fists tightly, his aura suddenly erupting to life around his body in an almost explosive fashion. Fireball was taken aback by the sheer pressure being given off by the boy's fiery energy. “The police can't do anything about this — they don't even know what they're looking for, or where to start. They're just going to end up as more potential casualties. I can't let things go on this way.”
"Antoshi," Fireball said, grabbing his friend's attention. "I care about you, and what happens to you. You're my best friend. This anger, though, it isn't like you at all. … I don't want you to lose yourself."
Antoshi sighed and shook his head. His aura faded from his body. “If that's what it takes to defeat Latoshi, then … I may just have to.”
The boy got to his feet, walking away to resume his training. He threw a few rapid-fire combos of straight punches and jabs with such speed that it made them audible. Fireball sat and watched his friend with concern.
Across the city, Latoshi also continued his training in solitude. The blood from his victims the previous night had been cleaned away from his body. He wore a new set of clothes, strikingly similar to his previous green shirt and green cargo shorts. With no memories to distract him, he was solely focused on the task before him.
In his usual spot in the forest clearing he'd created, the boy ducked and weaved, throwing punches and kicks at an invisible target. His strikes, though not as swift as Antoshi's, were strong and significant; powerful enough to cause brief, small shock waves.
'Keep up that pace,' Lazarus told him. 'You will go for as long as I tell you in order to build your stamina. Put your image training to use, and keep your target visualized.'
Latoshi envisioned his blond-haired adversary's nimble movements, relentlessly following them, striking with each opportunity for an opening. He maneuvered in the same endless loop, grunting and growling with each subsequent attack.
'Good. Now use your Ki. Let him see how outclassed he is.'
He came to a sudden halt, while his irises glowed a shimmering black. Holding his hands out, he summoned forth a quick barrage of energy blasts at his imaginary target. He gave a loud shout before firing one final, much larger, shot.
At that very moment, Antoshi's eyes went wide. He stopped what he was doing, his attention fixated somewhere in the city. Fireball got up on his hind feet.
"What's up, Antoshi?"
“I just sensed someone's energy,” he replied, much to Fireball's shock. “Latoshi is nearby.” The boy quickly marched back toward the city limits.
"Hold on — wait!" Fireball called out, while chasing after him. "Shouldn't we, … you know, think this over? You can't just charge at him the first chance you get. What if there are people around?"
“I'll have to figure something out quickly,” Antoshi replied, narrowing his eyes, bitterly. The duo moved with purpose through the city streets, weaving around passersby and their Pokémon. Antoshi was fixated on his target. He was terrified, but wouldn't let it show. His stern, serious stare contrasted with Fireball's nervous expression.
They rounded the corner of a city block. Antoshi slowed down, his eyes carefully scanning around the immediate area.
‘He's in that café,’ he thought.
Antoshi headed for a small coffee shop in the middle of a business strip. The welcoming bell rang sharply as he barged through the door. All the faces inside stared at him in confusion. He walked further in, toward a quieter corner of the establishment. He clenched his fists, irises glowing red in anticipation of a confrontation that was about to happen in front of onlookers. He gasped in shock, his eyes going wide. He nearly crumbled to pieces upon realizing that it was not Latoshi who he was chasing.
It was the mysterious brunette girl that had healed him.
She quietly sipped from a cup of tea, before setting it down on a plate near a tea kettle. The young woman looked over at him with a warm smile. She wore a shirt with horizontal orange and white stripes, beneath a long, white jacket with floral patterns. Her shirt just barely draped over her tight, white pants and matching, white shoes. Sunglasses casually sat atop her head. Her violet eyes brought back the blurry memory of her knelt beside him. Fireball finally caught up to his friend. He was left puzzled by the girl that Antoshi was blankly staring at.
“It's … you,” Antoshi remarked, quietly. “Okay, … so, you weren't a figment of my imagination.”
She laughed quietly. “Yes, I am real,” she replied. “Please, sit.” Antoshi remained in place, clenching his fists. He eyed the young woman suspiciously. She responded by laughing again. “If you'd like to stand, that's fine, too. Although, you'd be blocking the aisle. I promise you have nothing to fear from me. You don't have to have your guard up like that.”
“I do, if you're working with Latoshi,” he said. Even though he didn't get a sense of animosity from her, there were still too many unknown variables with trusting this complete stranger.
The girl smiled and shook her head. “I don't work with anyone.”
“You're not … going to fight me, too?”
“Of course not. That would be a bit silly for me to heal you just so I could fight you, don't you think?”
Antoshi sighed in defeat, slumping down into the seat across from her. “I don't know what to think anymore,” he replied, running a hand through his hair.
Fireball sat down on a third seat beside them, his eyes shifting between the two. The girl greeted Fireball with a smile. He smiled back, still very much confused as to what was happening.
She took an empty tea cup from a holder on the table, pouring the contents of the kettle into the cup. “You've gotten stronger since the last time I saw you,” she remarked, sliding the tea in front of Antoshi. “You look to be in good condition, physically. Your spirit, though, is very unsettled.”
Antoshi stared, strangely, at the tea cup before looking to her. “What is this?”
“It's chamomile tea. It's perfect for dealing with stress.”
“No, I mean what is all this? Who are you? Why do you have powers, too? Why was I able to sense you? Do you know me or Latoshi?”
She chuckled in response. “I understand this is all very confusing. You must have a million questions.”
“Yeah, try two million questions.”
“My name is Serenity. I'm not here to upset you or harm you. You were able to sense me because I output just enough of my spirit energy for you to do so. I wished to bring you here simply to talk. I'm more than willing to answer the questions that are clearly stressing you.”
Antoshi sighed, heavily. “… You think I'm having stress issues?”
“I know you are. Your aura is agitated. It's churning around your body constantly like a swelling sea. Your heart is filled with terrible anger.”
“You can tell all of that just by … looking at me?” he wondered aloud, before taking a look at himself. “How are you even able to see my aura? I can't even see it.”
“Your aura is always around you, faintly, protecting your body like a second skin. In fact, aura is always around most people — they just don't know it exists or how to use it, like you can. In time, once you get stronger, I'm sure you'll be able to see what I see.”
“Stronger,” he mused. “So, I can reach a level even higher than I'm at right now?”
Fireball cleared his throat, tugging on Antoshi's sleeve to grab his attention. He pointed to the girl, covertly.
“Oh, right. Sorry for ignoring you, Fireball. This is the person that healed our injuries after the fight with Latoshi. She's … actually the same girl that I bumped into outside the Goldenrod train station.”
Fireball's eyes lit up in surprise, turning to her. She smiled, and extended a hand to him.
“It's very nice to meet you, Fireball,” she said.
Fireball smiled back, gently shaking her hand, before turning to his friend. "Quick reminder that you told me she was pretty," he whispered, "and she is!" Antoshi kept his gaze locked on her with a forced smile, ignoring Fireball's remark.
Serenity laughed. “You can communicate with Fireball, can't you?” she asked, much to the duo's shock. “Don't worry — I, myself, can't hear what Fireball is saying. However, being able to do so is just a natural part of your abilities using your Ki.”
“I keep hearing that word — 'Ki'. What does it mean?”
“It's the energy of your spirit. Some people call it ki or chi. The strength of your vital essence, and the ability to apply that strength in various ways. It's an amalgamation of your vigor, courage, mindset, and tenacity.”
“Oh,” Antoshi remarked, looking down at his open hands. “Well, how does spirit energy work?”
“Spirit energy is, as you may have guessed, fueled by the spirit. Strong emotions tend to heighten a person's spirit and can, therefore, make the strength of your spirit energy explode in a pinch — like gasoline on a fire. Love, sorrow, fear, anger; these are all powerful emotions that can ignite ones' aura or serve as a catalyst to unlock ones' latent abilities. Very few people can actually tap into these abilities, though. It also depends on how these emotions are channeled that determines the weight of ones' spirit.”
“You mean if someone turns out … 'good' or 'evil'.”
“Yes. If your abilities are used for pure intentions, then your aura will shine with radiant color. But, if you use your Ki for cruel and selfish purposes, your aura becomes corrupted and reflects the darkness in your heart. I believe you may know who I'm referring to.”
“I do,” Antoshi replied, shifting his gaze downward. “I remember my … powers unlocked when I panicked over the thought of losing Fireball forever. If Latoshi's aura is corrupted by darkness as you say, … does that mean he's beyond saving?”
“Only if you think so,” she replied.
He was taken aback by her statement. “Is it … wrong for me to think that way?” he asked, with guilt in his voice.
“Yes,” she said, before taking another sip of her tea. Antoshi's heart sank, as he and Fireball looked to each other in concern. “That's because there's something critically important about him that you must know before you encounter him again. It's the main focus of why I brought you here to talk.” She took another sip of tea, leaving the duo in suspense, before setting the cup back down. “What if I were to tell you that you're not actually fighting against Latoshi, but, rather, something inside of him?”
Antoshi furrowed his brow in thought. “… Lazarus?”
“But … that's a voice he said he hears in his head.”
Antoshi suddenly recalled the sound of Lazarus' voice in the dreams he had of Latoshi. There were two voices: Latoshi, and someone else he was talking to. However, Antoshi never saw who it was coming from.
“Lazarus is not just a voice. Lazarus is a parasite.” The duo were floored by the revelation. “Latoshi is being controlled by a dark spirit, one that uses people like a parasite would.”
“A spirit … parasite?”
“Yes. As you already know, its name is Lazarus. It is a being of pure, spiritual energy that seeks out hosts with awareness of the spirit. It latches on to the host's spirit, essentially becoming a part of them. In order to do that, though, it searches for people whose hearts are easily corruptible, or influenced by negativity. From there, Lazarus coaxes its host into trusting it. The most important reason for why it does this, is that it feeds off of the spirit energy of its host, taking said energy for itself. Latoshi may believe that Lazarus is helping him, but the reality is that Lazarus is stealing Latoshi's energy. The greater Lazarus' power becomes, the more it will be able to force control over its host.”
Antoshi was left in a daze, as was Fireball. All of his thoughts, judgment, and bitterness had been directed at the wrong person all along. He sat silent for a moment before replying. “H—how do you know all this?”
“I've dealt with Lazarus before. I came to Goldenrod because I sensed his energy lurking about. It was either fate, or sheer coincidence, that I also bumped into you outside the train station. Once I witnessed your struggle with Latoshi later on, it was critical for me to tell you that Latoshi is not the evil person you've been led to believe he is. He is being controlled.”
Antoshi's hands trembled as he rested them on the table. Serenity poured herself another cup of tea, giving the boy a few moments to assimilate what she just told him.
“Are you all right?” she asked, taking a sip of her tea.
Antoshi let out a long, shaky sigh and nodded. “Yeah, I … it's just really … I'm not sure what to think.”
“It's all right,” she reassured him with a smile. “This is a lot for you to take in at once. I can understand the position you're in. You've only recently learned about your powers, learning about Lazarus, dealing with it and Latoshi. It's a lot to bear.”
“Would you also happen to know if … Latoshi is my brother?”
“I don't have the answer for that, unfortunately. All I know is what I've seen so far of you both. It certainly seems that way to me. The two of you look almost identical. Maybe someday the two of you will stop punching each other long enough to figure out the answer for yourselves.”
Antoshi nodded gently. “I'll still have to fight him, … and I'll have to give it everything I have, won't I?”
“I imagine so. I think Latoshi is too far gone under Lazarus' influence to be willing to hear you out. If you do fight, you'll be fighting against Lazarus — not Latoshi.”
“You seem to know so much about everything that's going on. Can't you … fight alongside me, at least?”
Serenity grinned and laughed. “I knew you would eventually ask that, but it's not my place to intervene. This is your fight, Antoshi. The actions you take from here on, and the consequences of those actions, are what will determine your future. You and Latoshi both have incredible power. I know that letting fate run its course is the right thing to do. You've only just taken the first steps in unlocking your power, Antoshi. You and Latoshi have far more potential than you realize.” Antoshi's eyes widened with awe. She took another sip of tea. “You won't unlock your true potential until something happens that causes you to push yourself to your limits, similar to when you first unlocked your powers.”
“How … much potential do I have? Is it enough to beat him?”
“I'm not sure, I just know it's there. Everyone's Ki eventually reaches a limit or plateau, but you have a lot left to discover. You can become far stronger than you are now. It depends on your mindset, your emotions, and your vigor. As he is now, Latoshi does not have total control over his powers, or himself. He's only following what Lazarus tells him.”
Antoshi went silent again, taking a short time to process everything again. Fireball looked over at his friend with concern.
“I can feel the sorrow in your heart, Antoshi,” she said with a warm smile. Antoshi immediately perked up and looked at her in surprise. “I know it sounds strange, but with enough spirit awareness it is possible to feel the emotions of others. This entire situation is something you dread, and you don't want any part of it. However, you still feel a responsibility to keep others safe. Am I right so far?”
“Well, … yes.”
She smiled and nodded. “In exchange for all the information I told you, I want you to promise me something.”
“All right. … What is it?”
“Promise me that you'll help Latoshi. He desperately needs help, and I believe that you're the only person who can. Would you be willing to do that?”
Antoshi turned his gaze away for a moment. He recalled the bitterness that their fight created — the pain Latoshi caused him and Fireball, the threats he made, the arrogant smirk on his face. He sighed, also recalling the short, yet pleasant time they spent together as friends, taking a stroll through a new city. A brief smile crept into the corner of his lips, remembering sitting with Latoshi and Fireball in the ice cream shoppe.
He turned to Serenity and nodded. “I promise.”
“Good,” she replied. She reached for a small tote bag hanging on the back of her chair, searching through it.
“But … how? How can I help him?” he asked. Serenity placed some money down on the table.
“I know you'll find the best solution if you look into your heart,” she said. “Don't stress yourself over dealing with this. Just prepare yourself as best as you can. When the time comes — act.”
Antoshi scoffed in amusement. “You have more faith in me than I do in myself right now,” he remarked, glumly.
Serenity slipped the bag over her shoulder and got up from the table. “I've only just met you, Antoshi, but I already know that you are a good person with a kind and caring heart. I think you'll be an excellent leader. You just need to take a step back, quiet your mind, and decide the best course of action for you.” She smiled and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Take care, Antoshi.”
The duo watched as Serenity put on her sunglasses and exited the establishment, leaving them to mull over everything she told them. Antoshi and Fireball turned to each other.
"What do you think?" Fireball asked.
Antoshi chuckled, weakly. “Think about what? I had tons of questions, and she answered almost all of them. There's lots to think about. … If you mean about what she said, … I guess I don't have any reason to doubt her.”
"I agree. She sure was cool, huh? She was so relaxed, like nothing in the world gets to her — and she seemed super-smart, and nice."
Antoshi chuckled. “I suppose all of that's true. It's just, with all the insane stuff that's been happening lately, I can't help thinking she's bad news somehow.”
"Do you think she really is bad, and she's just putting on an act or something?"
“I don't know, … maybe.” He sighed, heavily. “I did make her a promise, though. I intend to keep it.”
"Hey, you didn't drink your tea."
“… So, I didn't,” he replied with a smile. He picked up his tea cup and took a sip from it. “Mm, hey, this actually is pretty good.” Fireball chuckled as Antoshi continued to enjoy the tea.
As the next few days rolled on, Latoshi continued stepping up his attacks on the public. He created a trend of going after various correctional facilities, using a combination of his otherwise invisible Ki energy and his immense speed to remain undetected. He tore away walls and even whole sections of each compound, leading to the deaths of hundreds more prisoners. Goldenrod was starting to stir into a state of panic because of the unsolved attacks.
But, as Latoshi kept on killing, there was a growing expression of regret in his eyes. He couldn't understand it, but he felt a shallow emptiness inside him. His heart was calling out for something, but he did not know what. Latoshi ignored it as best he could, continuing to follow Lazarus' orders of training during the day, and slaying the parasites of Goldenrod City at night.
Antoshi, meanwhile, had still not been sleeping much. The constant air of dread looming over him every time he thought about Latoshi kept him on alert. He and Fireball continued to hear of Latoshi's actions on the news. It drove him to push harder, each subsequent story fanning the flames of his spirit; steeling his resolve. From time to time, Serenity dropped in to watch Antoshi from afar, curious to see how his training was progressing.
Each day became tougher to bear on both boys. Antoshi felt he was finally ready and prepared for a confrontation, but he could not discern Latoshi's location. As evening fell on the third day after meeting Serenity, Antoshi wasn't remain content to stay in his room — he wanted to end this waiting game. He and Fireball made a deliberate tour around as much of the city as they could. Even under the dark of night, they continued to trek further and further in all directions. Antoshi tried desperately to feel out his adversary's energy. The search endeavors ultimately ended up fruitless for the duo.
‘If he would just show himself already…’ Antoshi thought, bitterly. The growing anticipation of his inevitable encounter with Latoshi was wearing on him, and on Fireball as well. Watching his best friend in such a contemptuous mood was not something Fireball enjoyed.
The following evening, back in their hotel room, Antoshi had a video call with his parents to check in with them.
“Antoshi,” his mother said, with worry in her eyes, “are you doing all right? We've been hearing terrible stories about attacks in Goldenrod.”
He reassured her with a nod and a weak smile. “I'm fine, Mom. It is a little scary, but … Fireball and I shouldn't be in Goldenrod for much longer anyway.” Fireball, standing behind him, was surprised by his friend's remark. He couldn't figure out exactly what the boy meant by that.
“You look so stressed, son,” his father said. “Try not to let it get to you. I know you'll be safe, as long as you stay inside. Plus, you have Fireball to protect you.”
“I sure do,” he replied, smiling to his compadre.
“Get some rest,” his mother said. “Okay, honey? I agree with your father — you do look exhausted.”
“You're right, Mom. I will. Sorry for worrying you both.”
“Oh, don't be silly. We have faith in you, Antoshi. We know you'll always make the right decisions.”
He became lost in thought for a moment, thinking back to the promise he made Serenity. He smiled and nodded to them. “Thank you both,” he warmly replied, much to their delight.
“We love you!” they both said, before the call was ended.
Antoshi turned away, rubbing his tired, worn eyes. His lack of sleep had gotten to the point where others could see it in him. He thought he should've been overwhelmingly tired after going so long with so little sleep, but, for some reason, he felt oddly energized. He sat in silence for a few moments, to reflect on what his parents said. With an empowered huff, he quickly got up from the video phone, heading over to the door to grab his shoes.
“I can't stay here,” he said, sitting on the bed to slip them on.
"What do you mean?" Fireball replied. "Where are you going?"
Antoshi stood up and gazed out the window. “I have to go out again. I have to try and find him. I'm not going to get any sleep until I do, Fireball. I have to keep searching for him, so I can finally put an end to this insanity.”
"I want to come with you," Fireball said.
Antoshi smiled, turning to his friend. “I want you to come with me, too.”
With that, the duo headed downstairs, out onto the streets in the early night hours. The streets were still fairly busy with people and their Pokémon passing on by. They made their way directly west for a few blocks.
"Antoshi?" Fireball spoke up. "At … the risk of making you upset with me again, I think that maybe your parents are right. You shouldn't stress out this badly."
“I really am trying not to let it get to me, Fireball. Talking to Serenity, and understanding so much more now, has made me feel a little better. Still, … what else am I supposed to do? I can't take this situation easy. Latoshi's out there, and he's killing people. It feels like he's mocking me, … like he's trying to get me to react.”
"Do you really think this is a message to you?"
“I'm sure of it,” Antoshi replied, narrowing his eyes, as his irises briefly flashed red.
The duo continued on their westward trek for a couple of hours. They stopped to rest, get some snacks and drinks, and use the restroom along the way. They traveled further through the city than they had the entire time they'd been in Goldenrod.
At the same time, Latoshi stood up from his meditation. He sighed in content before stretching his neck out.
'Excellent work,' Lazarus told him. 'Now, we should continue forth in our righteous crusade.'
“I'm all for crusading,” Latoshi replied, “but … maybe I could go crusading somewhere a little more scenic? Like, … the beach, perhaps?”
'Hrm, … I suppose that will be fine for one night. The humans are likely increasing security around those filthy prisons, anyway. They will be expecting another attack on one of them tonight.'
“Exactly. Might as well take the time to take in the scenery.”
'Very well. I expect you to increase your training when you return here later. You are not to slack off.'
“Of course, Lazarus,” he replied, slyly. Latoshi laughed in amusement, as he took to the sky once again. Before long, sandy dunes and the gentle lapping of the ocean waves along the shore came into view. He headed in the direction of the beach, grinning from ear to ear.
"I only wish there was some way I could help more," Fireball remarked.
“You already are,” Antoshi reassured him, smiling. “Sticking with me, being my shoulder to cry on, helping me deal with this and understanding this whole situation. … I appreciate all of it, Fireball, more than you know. You've been keeping me sane.” The duo smiled at each other. Afterward, Antoshi came to a halt, sighing, heavily. “I suppose we should head back now. It's gonna take forever for us to get back to the hotel at this point and—” the boy stopped suddenly, his eyes widening in shock and horror. “His energy,” he remarked, trembling. “I … I can sense it!”
Fireball was equally as shocked. "Are you sure it's not Serenity again?"
“No, I'm definitely sure. It was there for just a second, but the pressure being giving off, it's corrupted. It's … rotten, just like what I sensed from him before. Latoshi is nearby, …” he turned and pointed in the direction of the beach on the west edge of the city. “That way.”
Both of them stood in place for a moment, taking in the realization that their long-awaited confrontation with Latoshi was now imminent.
"So, you found him," Fireball remarked. "Are you sure you're ready to go through with this … again?”
Antoshi exhaled sharply, punching his open palm. “I've had an entire week to do nothing but get ready. It's all I've been able to think about. You definitely know that by now.”
"I know, I just … well, like I said before, I don't want to see you get hurt."
“I've already been hurt by him — physically, mentally, emotionally. It was more pain than I could've ever imagined, and it's been gnawing at me ever since. I've gotten used to it now.” Fireball lowered his head and nodded. “Fireball, … I've been waiting until he shows up to say this. There's one thing I need you to promise me.”
The Typhlosion perked up again. "Of course, Antoshi. Anything."
“I need you … to promise that you won't get involved in this fight at all.”
"… Okay, anything but that."
“Fireball, please. I know you're concerned about my safety, … but I'm just as concerned with yours.”
"Fighting is what I'm good at — you know that better than anyone."
“You're an amazing fighter, Fireball, … but, this isn't an ordinary fight. I'm the only one that can deal with him. I'm the only one that should.”
"Well, what about Serenity? She seems like she knows a lot. Maybe she knows how to beat him. You could … call out for help to her with your energy or something."
“No, I can't involve other people in my problem. She even told me I have to deal with this on my own. I have to face him myself, Fireball — that's what I've been training for. There isn't any other way. Latoshi is going to come for me again, eventually, whether by his own choice or with that voice in his head telling him to. I have to put all of this to rest. So, promise me you won't get involved, okay?”
"… All right. I promise."
Antoshi sighed in relief, turning his attention to where Latoshi's energy was. “Let's get going. Hop on my back, I'll get us there as fast as I can.”
Fireball looked at Antoshi, strangely, for a moment as the boy dropped to a knee. Fireball made sure no one was around to see them before wrapping his short forelimbs around Antoshi's neck. The boy hooked Fireball's hind legs under his arms and stood up, wearing the Typhlosion not unlike how he would wear his backpack. Fireball's otherwise heavy weight felt like nothing to the boy.
“Looks like the calm is over,” Antoshi said. “The storm's finally beginning. Time to find out if all that training paid off.”
In an instant, Antoshi took off, down the city streets. Fireball cried out in shock, while holding on for dear life. The boy weaved in and out of people, cars and obstacles with almost pinpoint precision. Those he passed by were shocked and bewildered by the sharp gust of wind that staggered them.
“I'll get us close enough that he won't see us!” Antoshi spoke over the rush of air around them, “but you have to stay there, okay?”
"I think I heard what you said!" Fireball replied. "I'll stay put!"
Antoshi closed in on their destination, covering a distance of a hundred miles in less than a minute.
Latoshi strolled along the beach, casually, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his shorts. Neither of them were aware that Antoshi was approaching them very rapidly.
“This is nice,” he remarked. “Very tranquil.”
'Soon, it will all be yours,' Lazarus replied.
Latoshi laughed. “My very own beach property, huh? That would be nice.”
Antoshi slowed to a halt in the middle of an empty parking lot near the beach. Fireball groaned weakly, stumbling onto his hind feet.
"That was a little too fast for me to deal with," Fireball said, rubbing his eyes.
“This is where you have to stay. Please, … don't leave from here, okay?”
Fireball bit his lip, forcing a nod. "Please be careful, Antoshi." The boy smiled to his friend, walking up and sharing a hug with him for a moment.
“I'm not going to let him win,” Antoshi said, as they let go of each other. “Not this time. No matter what.”
Fireball looked on as Antoshi ran toward his destination at normal running speed. Being forced to the sidelines tore him up inside, as did not knowing what would happen. He sighed, heavily, tears welling up in his eyes.
Latoshi turned his attention to the sound of a girl shouting in the distance. Curious, he headed over to its source.
“No, stop!” the girl cried out. “Let go of me! Please, I just want to go home!”
As Latoshi approached, the girl, and a large man dressed in heavy black clothing, came into view. Within a thicket of tall beach grass, he held the girl by her wrists.
“I can't let you go now!” the man replied with a chuckle. “You were so rude to me! I think you need to repay me!”
“Well, now!” Latoshi exclaimed, making his presence known. Both of them gasped, turning to him. “Isn't this convenient? Another parasite, right here on the beach. There's an endless supply of you disgusting freaks at every turn.”
“Get the hell out of here, kid,” the man said, brandishing a gun at him, “or, you're next.”
“Ooh, but I do want to be next!” Latoshi said, playfully, jumping up and down, waving his hand in the air. “Please, pick me right now!” The man looked at him in disgust.
“What's wrong with you? Are you screwed up in the head or something? I'm telling you I'm gonna blow your damn head off!”
“Please,” the girl remarked, “don't get hurt because of me…”
A cruel grin spread across the boy's lips. “Don't worry about it,” Latoshi replied to her, his irises turning black. “The only one getting hurt here … is him.”
In an instant, Latoshi closed the gap between them, and grabbed the man by his neck. The man gagged and croaked, struggling in vain as Latoshi lifted him with one hand. He dropped his gun to claw at the boy's arm. The girl fell onto her seat, horrified by what she was witnessing.
“Let— … let go!” the man choked out.
“Sorry, I think you need to repay me,” Latoshi replied with a twisted grin.
“Latoshi!” a voice shouted to him.
Latoshi froze in place, his eyes widening in surprise. The voice was so very familiar. His heart raced as he slowly turned his gaze to find Antoshi standing nearby. The sable-haired boy smiled, his eyes crazed with excitement.
“Well, this is an even better surprise,” Latoshi said. “If it isn't my brother! I thought you'd be too busy cowering somewhere.”
“Latoshi, stop it! Let him go!”
Latoshi turned his attention to the struggling man, sighing in defeat. “Okay, fine,” he replied, before suddenly snapping his neck. Both Antoshi and the girl shouted in horror.
Latoshi smirked, tossing the man's lifeless body near the girl. She screamed, scrambling to her feet and running away.
“You can thank me later!” Latoshi called out to her. He shook his head, turning his attention to Antoshi. “Can you believe the nerve of some people? So ungrateful.”
Antoshi clenched his fists, trembling with anger. “Why do you have to do this? What good does killing people bring?”
“… Well, 'hello' to you, too,” he replied, in jest. “I believe I already explained all of this to you before: people with evil hearts, cleanse them to rid the world of bad, yadda yadda, you got the gist of it the first time. So, what brings you to this neck of the woods? If you say it's to—”
“I'm going to stop you, Latoshi,” Antoshi replied, bitterly.
“I had a funny feeling you were going to say that. Yeah, that's not happening, Antoshi. It wasn't happening before, and it's certainly not happening now. You're making a very serious mistake showing your face to me again. I'm so much stronger than I was the last time we fought. You're lucky I spared you last time, so, get lost now, or you won't be that lucky again.”
As the two boys stared each other down, a mysterious presence came to a stop at a nearby beach access pathway. It was a shorter figure, wearing a long, old-fashioned trench coat, wide-brim fedora, and sunglasses that gleamed in the light of a lamp post overhead. The unknown party watched the conflict between the boys, with great interest.