Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ A Blond Ray of Sunshine ❯ Chapter 23
Latoshi stood silently in the forest. Splintered, fallen trees laid around him — the aftermath of a fit of rage. The immediate area was devoid of life, having all fled from his wrath. He glared into the distance with a cold, vicious bitterness. He was unable to let go of the pain, shame, and embarrassment he had to endure atop Mt. Mortar. His mind replayed the images of everyone staring at him, their caring pleas permeating the coldness in his heart. Collin and Serenity's explanations of Lazarus' motives resounded powerfully with him. He never realized Lazarus had been using him all along, … or, had he?
'Latoshi, I need you to listen to me,' Lazarus said, audibly concerned. 'Do you understand? Please, listen to me!'
After a moment of silence, Latoshi's expression suddenly lightened up. He plopped himself down into a sitting position.
“Okay,” the boy replied, in a light-hearted tone. “I'm listening.”
'Latoshi, … you must understand the reason why I withheld those memories from you. It was for your own benefit.' The boy nodded, with an intrigued look on his face. 'You have no time to deal with such ineffectual things like family and memories of the past. I told you that before. You must look to the future; your future, which is bright and full of possibility. I understand that my methods seemed cruel, and I am truly apologetic for that, Latoshi. You must believe that I only did this for your benefit. I was only looking out for you, and your tremendous potential.'
Latoshi hummed in thought. “Very interesting. I understand why you did what you did, and … really, there's no need for you to apologize.”
'So, you have forgiven me, then?'
“Well, I wouldn't be that hasty,” he replied, looking to the sky. “You know, I had a lot of very interesting experiences today and heard a lot of interesting things. I used to think that Antoshi and I were … the only two people in the entire world capable of harnessing our Ki. I thought we were the ones setting the bar of power, but, wow, after seeing Serenity and Collin today and how impressive they are it got me wondering how many others like us there are in the world. More importantly, though, I was totally crushed in two different fights against two people that had absolutely no training from you whatsoever, Lazarus. The kind of training that I got from you, … well, it turns out it's not as effective as I thought. Serenity really hit the nail on the head there.”
'Latoshi, you must understand, you are still young. You are not as experienced as they are. You have much room to grow under my tutelage.'
“Yeah. … I was also thinking about how Antoshi told me he would give up all of his power if it meant I'd be free of you. It's weird, at the time I thought he was just talking out of his ass. But, then, he sparked a memory — a memory I didn't even know I had. You were withholding that memory from me and just calling him a 'liar' the whole time. Now it turns out that I actually don't have any reason not to believe him anymore. Isn't that weird?” The boy laughed in amusement.
“And, as I looked at Antoshi, I saw all of the friends he'd made. Friends that surround him and care about him. Friends that are warm, and keep him company, and never make him feel alone. Yet, here I sit, with no company other than a voice in my head. So weird.” Latoshi grinned from ear to ear, sighing in content. He admired the white and blue streaks of clouds drifting in the early evening sky.
'Latoshi, I promise you that you will still—'
“It's such a big world out there,” Latoshi interjected. “There's so many incredible, wonderful things to see. So many places to visit and people to meet. Maybe, someday, I'll even meet someone special to me. The thing is, I can't do or see or experience any of that if I just sit and train forever in my big, old patch of dirt in the woods. So, there's something one last task I have to take care of.”
'Please, Latoshi! I beg you!'
Latoshi chuckled, warmly. “Don't make this out to be such a bad thing, Lazarus. I've learned so much from you … by learning what not to do. However, I have one request. At least tell me the truth. Why did you possess me? What was the real point of all of this?”
'I … hate … you,' the spirit replied. Latoshi smirked, raising his eyebrows in mild surprise. 'Do not take that personally, however. I hate all humans. The point, Latoshi, was for me to take your bottomless well of energy for myself, take your body, and then take the lives of every last human being in the world. Humans are a disease; a horrible, disgusting race of petty, filthy animals. You are, all of you, beyond redemption, beyond hope, beyond the worth of your miserable lives. You are parasites. I wanted you to kill the worst of your kind until you became numb to it. After that, I was going to have you lay waste to every town, city, village, home — everything. Leave nothing in your wake but ashes. Once your kind was extinct, then I was going to dispose of you as well.'
“So, that's where I got all of that from,” Latoshi remarked. “All that hatred toward 'parasites' and the like. That was all your influence, just like Antoshi said.”
Lazarus scoffed. 'And, yet, you still speak of Antoshi — your 'savior.' … You stupid children. You have no idea how hard this was for me. How difficult it was to hold your hand constantly, to console your fragile little ego, to boost your confidence and then have to deal with your snot-nosed counterparts. You miserable little shit. The lot of you make me retch. I was nothing but a babysitter to you. I had to deal with your temper tantrums and scold you.'
Latoshi had a tranquil expression, continuing to smile. “You're still as self-centered as ever,” he remarked, softly. “You think this was hard on you? You ruined my life, stole my memories, destroyed my livelihood and my relationships with my friends and family. You lied to me constantly. You kept telling me that I was unstoppable; I had ultimate power. Nobody besides Antoshi could possibly stand up to me. You said that, even though you knew that people like Collin were out there. Although, despite all of that, I'm not mad at you. I just wish for you to experience the same agony that I did. I wish death on you. I wish for you to die slowly and painfully.”
Lazarus seethed with rage. Latoshi sat up straight, folding his legs, cupping his hands together. He closed his eyes, sitting in the very same meditative pose that Lazarus had taught him.
“Well, I think it's about that time. Here's where we say 'goodbye', Lazarus.”
'Damn you, Latoshi!' Lazarus shouted. 'I will not relinquish my control of you! You are my puppet for as long as I deem you useful! You will never be rid of me! Never!!'
Latoshi's dark aura suddenly flared out with an audible boom, gathering up all of the energy that wasn't being kept from him. Lazarus responded with the same, torturous, high-pitched whistle he'd used so many times on the boy to keep him obedient.
“That won't work on me anymore, Lazarus!” Latoshi shouted, furrowing his brow. “I want you gone! I want you out of me for good! I'm going to use every last bit of strength I have to do it! You're finished!”
The boy's expression turned bitterly serious, belting out a long, loud cry. His aura grew and whipped around wildly. The pressure of his Ki blew away the fallen trees from his earlier huff, while also shaking nearby trees, threatening to snap them as well. The size of his aura exploded, growing twofold in an instant.
'No!' Lazarus shouted, its voice becoming warped. 'Stop this! You are nothing without me! I made you who you are!'
“I hate who I am!!” the boy shot back. The fires of his spirit were ignited. His drive intensified, shouting even louder. His body quaked, his muscles tensed and bulged. He focused his mind, body, and heart, unwavering in his singular goal of expunging the parasite inside him.
From out of his aura, an amorphous blob of pure black Ki pierced out and began discharging. As the black mass grew in size, Lazarus' voice became quieter and more distant in Latoshi's head. With one last, explosive push, the blob of energy was violently thrown several meters away from Latoshi's aura.
Latoshi collapsed onto his side, panting weakly. His aura was severely diminished. The earlier sheer force of his Ki had become almost nonexistent. At the same time, the mass of dark Ki floated around, harmlessly, for a few moments.
"N-No!" Lazarus' voice emanated from it. "No! No! No!! This cannot be happening! You impudent little brat! You stupid, pathetic child!"
Latoshi's voice trembled as he chuckled in amusement. A weak grin was plastered on his face. “So, that's what you look like,” he remarked, quietly. “I guess my idea worked after all. I wasn't sure if … I just had to burn out my Ki or what, but, I definitely felt your presence when I was looking for it. It was like … a splinter wedged under my skin. I just had to … squeeze it out with all my might.”
Lazarus roared, crashing its spiritual body into Latoshi, only to be shoved back each time. ‘Damn it! His spirit is rejecting me!!’ the parasite thought.
“Looks like you're locked out,” Latoshi joked. “Maybe you should try knocking first.”
"How dare you do this to me! After all I've done for you! I saved you from that prison! I guided you and showed you everything you know!"
Latoshi laughed, weakly. “Oh-ho, Lazarus, you have no idea. I'm going to take everything you ever taught me … and I'll use it for good. All those abilities and pointers, I'll share them with my siblings. I'll help them to learn everything I know and we'll become stronger because of it — all thanks to you. Thanks, friend.”
"Do not get cocky, boy."
“Hey, hey, … didn't Collin say he was going to kill you if he sensed you?” he asked, playfully. “That guy seemed pretty scary.”
"Shut your mouth! Your so-called 'friends' and 'family' will never accept you, Latoshi! They all hate you after what you've done to them and to others. They wish you were dead. You're a murderer. Your contemptuous soul will burn in Hell for all eternity."
“Maybe that's all true. Maybe … I don't stand a chance out there in the world like I had hoped. Maybe I'm beyond saving. The only thing that matters … is that you're gone for good.”
Lazarus laughed. It was a humorous laugh that quickly morphed into a wild cackle. "That is where you are wrong, Latoshi. I will never be gone for good. I am immortal. I have lived for many lifetimes, far beyond what your mortal body is capable of. I will always be a part of you until your dying day. I will always be watching you from the shadows. I will have my revenge on you, Latoshi — mark my words. You will never be done with me…"
Latoshi's upbeat composure finally faltered, taking what the parasite said to heart. He feared there was at least some truth to it. The boy showed his concern as Lazarus' spirit sank into the earth, laughing malevolently.
The boy was unable to keep himself conscious any longer. His grueling ordeal was finally over. His eyes fluttered closed, groaning in exhaustion before falling fast asleep.
After nightfall, Latoshi awoke to a brown muzzle and pair of large incisors in his face. A wild Bidoof uttered a curious sound, tilting its head, staring inquisitively at him.
“Hey there, little guy,” the boy said, groggily. “Did you come to check on me?” The Bidoof continued to stare for a moment. It finally responded by turning and trotting away into the woods. Latoshi chuckled. “Didn't think so.”
He sat up, slowly, groaning and rubbing his eyes. ‘I'm so dizzy,’ he thought, shaking his head. He rested for a few moments to get his bearings, before rising to his feet with another groan. After straightening his back, he looked up at the starry night sky. He closed his eyes, breathing slowly, taking in the sounds of crickets chirping among the gentle breeze.
‘Everything is so much quieter without his voice in my head. Feels so strange now that he's gone. It's peaceful, … for once.’
Latoshi took a look around one last time at the chaos and disorder left in his wake. With a heavy sigh, he made his way out of the woods and onto the wide, beaten path of Route 35. He headed down south, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his shorts. The gate house to Goldenrod and its bright lights were within eyeshot. Being so dark out, the path was illuminated by lamp posts on the edges of the route. A small flock of Murkrow hopped around nearby, pecking at bugs in the grass. He offered a slight smirk to the warm light.
‘This place sure feels comfortable. Lazarus barely ever gave me the chance to take in the sights.’
“Hey there, kid!” a young female Trainer called out, as she stood nearby. “Want to battle?”
“Sorry, I don't have any Pokémon,” he replied, continuing to walk on by.
“Wow,” she replied, dumbfounded. “It's dangerous to wander around at night without any Pokémon with you. Be safe!”
He grinned and gave her a thumbs up. “I will. Thanks.”
The road was incredibly sparse after the sun had gone down. Only a small handful of people passed him by, mostly Trainers. When he entered the gate house, he found the nearest bench to sit down on. He held his forehead, shaking his head.
‘Man, how much of my energy did Lazarus sap away?’ he thought. ‘I feel like I'm going to collapse.’
“Young man?” the gate guard spoke to him. “Are you feeling all right?”
He took deep breath and stretched his neck out. “Yeah. Just a bit tired,” he replied, rising to his feet.
“All right. Take care and get yourself some rest.”
“Thanks,” he replied, sighing, as he headed out into the city limits.
Latoshi wandered around the city, his tired eyes curiously gazing around in all directions.
‘I wonder what I should do now,’ he thought. ‘Where should I go? Should I really … try to talk to my siblings? … I probably should, but … I'm too nervous of how awkward that conversation's going to go. 'Hey guys, sorry for trying to kill you and all that. We're cool though, right?'’ He couldn't help but scoff in amusement, continuing to randomly explore the city. ‘That girl, … Mitoshi. She's my sister? Antoshi didn't know who I was before we met, so, I wonder if the same is true for her. Maybe she's the one that can put the puzzle of my memory back together. … I don't know if I should talk to them, yet.’ He sighed, looking to the night sky. ‘What do I even do with myself?’
Latoshi headed down a lonely sidewalk lined with trees planted in their own little fenced off squares. He stared down at his hand, straining as he summoned a volume of Ki that was paltry compared to when he was with Lazarus.
‘My strength has really dwindled,’ he thought. ‘Can I even still do the basic stuff, like dodge bullets?’ He suddenly blinked back and forth across the sidewalk. ‘Yep, I sure can. Can I fly, too?’ His body slowly pulled off the ground while he strained with effort, his aura flickering weakly. A few meters up, his energy vanished, causing him to fall back down to the street, flat on his face.
Latoshi groaned in pain as he climbed back to his feet, brushing off his face and clothes. ‘How the hell can I dodge bullets but not fly? How does that even make any sense?’ He sighed in frustration, slipping his hands back into his pockets, and continuing onward.
Before long, the first drops of an oncoming rain fell upon him. He was forced to seek shelter under the ledge of a nearby store that had closed for the night. Those drops of rain quickly turned into a downpour.
‘Well, here I am. Hiding out from the rain. All by myself. Yes, sir.’
Once the rain stopped, he headed down the quiet streets again. Eventually, he walked on by an alleyway where he heard a couple of voices. From his experience, alleyways at night typically had less virtuous individuals residing within. He curiously gazed into the darkness, able to make out three men. Two of them stood together, one with a gun pointed at the third man, who stood against the wall.
Latoshi rolled his eyes. ‘Why am I always running into the criminals around this city?’ He sighed in frustration, figuring he'd probably need to step in and help somehow. With his hands in his pockets, he headed into the dark alley.
“… Boss knows you've been skimming off the top,” the man with the gun said.
“P-please, it was just a little bit,” the man staring down the gun replied. “He won't even miss it!”
“Oh, but he does miss it. Now, give back the money you took, and we'll only give you a few bruises.”
“I-I-I don't have it!”
“… What?” the second man uttered.
“I … I spent it already.”
“Very stupid mistake,” the man with the gun said. He sighed heavily. “You know how this has to end. Turn around, on your knees.”
“No, … come on. I can make this up. I'll work twice as many jobs—”
“Shut it. I got my orders. You can either take three in the gut and bleed out, or we can do it quick with two to the head. Your choice.”
“Hello there,” Latoshi said, hands in his pockets. His remark grabbed their attention — they didn't hear the boy approach at all.
“What the hell are you doing out here at this hour, kid?” the other man, without the gun, asked. “Get lost now. This ain't nothin' for you to see.”
Latoshi shrugged. “I think we can agree to disagree on that one. Now, why don't you put the gun away and let this poor schmuck go?”
“Hey!” the man against the wall exclaimed. “Who you callin' a schmuck?!”
“Shut it!” the man with the gun shouted at him, before pointing said gun at Latoshi. “And, you! Beat it, kid! I'm not gonna ask you twice!”
Latoshi had an unimpressed look on his face. “You can ask as many times as you want, but I'm not leaving, and I'm not letting you shoot this schmuck.”
The man with the gun laughed along with his cohort. “You believe this kid? 'I'm not letting you.'” The two of them laughed again, before the man suddenly whipped the butt of the gun at Latoshi's head. The boy responded by casually tilting his head back to avoid it.
“The hell?” the man with the gun mused. The two henchmen immediately began to advance toward Latoshi. “Get the hell out of here, you stupid little bastard!”
Latoshi's expression turned serious. He threw a swift jab to the gunman's abdomen, faster than any of them could see, knocking the wind out of him with a loud groan. He immediately followed up by jumping and thrusting the point of his shoe into the other man's jaw. In that brief moment, both men simultaneously fell over to the ground, grunting in pain. The man against the wall was frozen in disbelief.
Latoshi reached down and took the firearm from the gunman's hand. “Man, I'm really getting tired of seeing these things,” he remarked, looking it over. He hummed, curiously, fiddling with it for a moment until the gun abruptly fired a bullet into the nearby brick wall.
“Hey!” the third man exclaimed, jumping in fright. “Be careful, you dope! You're gonna hurt yourself!”
“Whoops,” Latoshi said, as the man approached him, “that was not what I wanted to do. How do you get the bullets out of this stupid thing?”
“Here, let me show you,” the man replied, carefully taking the gun from him. He pressed down on the gun's side to release the magazine. “There you go.”
“Oh, nice,” Latoshi said, taking the magazine from him. He casually placed it in his pocket, just before the the other two men got back to their feet with pained groans. The boy stared them down. “Now, then, why don't you two get lost?”
“Stupid kid,” the former gunman replied. “You're as good as dead now.” The pair limped their way out of the alley, disappearing from sight.
“Man,” Latoshi remarked. “To think crime these days has gotten so strapped for cash that they can't afford to give two guns to two of their lackeys.”
The man standing with Latoshi breathed a sigh of relief. “Those were some pretty slick moves, kid. Name's Emilio. What's yours?”
“Latoshi,” he replied, shaking the man's hand after he offered it to him.
The man scoffed. “Heck of a name. Never heard anything like it.”
Latoshi shrugged, casually. “So, what did those creeps want from you?”
“Well, … we're all part of the same crew. At least I was, but, … I started taking some of the cash from our scores. I have all these debts I gotta deal with and … I got a kid, too. Little girl, she lives with her mom.”
“What made you decide to get involved with them if you have a kid?”
“It's a long story,” Emilio said, with a disappointed sigh. “I just ain't never been good with holding down a real job. Slingin' and stealin' is what I'm used to. Honestly, kid, you would've been doing me a favor by letting those guys do me in.”
Latoshi responded with another unimpressed expression. “Don't ever say that again, or I'll lay you out like I did to those guys. Your daughter needs her dad. Believe me, … family is important.”
Emilio was surprised at the youngster's keen wisdom. His first impression of Latoshi was that he was just a street punk looking to pick fights for thrills. The man sighed again, nodding in agreement.
“You're right, kid. I-I'm sorry, it's just been a rough few months for me. I've been trying to save up to get out of here, and I've been living in a crappy dump where I'm even behind on rent. That's more money I'm in debt for. I was all set to hop on a train tonight and finally go be with my kid. I was heading back to my place to start packing when those guys you fought caught up to me and jumped me. I don't know if they were tailing me, or if it was just crappy timing.”
“Well, then, I'll help you to get out,” Latoshi said, nonchalantly. “I'll hang out with you and make sure they don't, … you know, come after you again.”
The man stared at him, incredulous. “Look, kid, what you did was impressive and all, but, you should really get out of here. Those guys are gonna come back, and they're gonna bring even more guys.” Latoshi had a disinterested expression on his face. “More guys with more guns? You know, the killing kind?” Latoshi's expression did not change. Emilio sighed in defeat. “You're going to stay with me, aren't you?” Latoshi slowly nodded. “… All right, fine. We need to move quick, and we need to move now. My place is a few blocks away.”
“Let's get going,” the boy replied.
Both of them jogged out of the alley before slowing down a bit, walking at a brisk pace across the street. Running, as Emilio knew, would only attract unwanted attention to them. Their shoes rhythmically shuffled along the sidewalk — the sound made more apparent by how incredibly quiet the area was. The gentle sounds of Hoothoot and Noctowl emanated from nearby trees and along buildings.
Latoshi's eyes narrowed, catching the glimpses of people nearby watching them. “So, this crew you're part of. Just how many people are in it?”
“They have people everywhere, kid,” Emilio replied, keeping his voice low, “especially in this part of town. Don't look anyone in the eye or they'll get suspicious.”
Latoshi sighed and rolled his eyes. Even though his powers were severely diminished, he knew he had more than enough left in the tank to take down anyone in their way — guns or no guns. He held and shook his head again, overcome by passing dizziness.
Soon after, they came to a small apartment building. Emilio led him up the small steps to the main front door, buzzing himself in with a nearby keypad. They headed inside and took the stairs immediately to their left, up to the third floor. The building smelled stale, old, musty, and of cigarette smoke. Walls and floors were in disrepair. Graffiti littered the walls. The metal stairs they climbed became sticky or wet on random steps. People shouting, Pokémon cries, and loud music rang out from each of the floors.
They headed down the third floor hallway. The carpeting had been long forgotten about; matted and torn everywhere. One of the doors they passed by didn't even have a doorknob, but instead, had a knife handle sticking out as a replacement. A couple of tall men in street clothes stood outside one of the apartments, staring the pair down intensely. Latoshi rolled his eyes again. He was itching to step up to everyone glaring at him.
‘I can still mop the floor with all these punks giving us the stink eye,’ Latoshi thought. ‘But, I guess I shouldn't make trouble for Emilio's sake. He's almost home free.’
Emilio pulled out the key to his apartment, situated at the very end of the hall, unlocking the door to head inside. “I'll be as fast as I can,” he said, leaving the door partially open behind him.
Latoshi sighed, opting to lean against the wall outside Emilio's place — not unlike the men who were still staring at him. The boy smirked to himself, avoiding eye contact as Emilio had told him to.
‘I really want to find out what they'll do if I actually step up to them.’ Just then, he caught the sound of loud voices outside. He looked out the cloudy, cracked window at the hallway's apex. There was a large, black vehicle poorly parked against the curb, and four or five men shouting — each holding a gun. Among them were the two men from the alley. The boy groaned in frustration. A handful of people that had been standing on the street started walking away.
The group of thugs waited for another man emerging from the back seat of the car. He stood up tall, wearing a black, pinstriped, three-piece suit, with a freshly-cut rose set in the breast pocket. The man looked around, adjusting his cuffs and necktie for a moment.
Latoshi momentarily had the wind knocked out of him. ‘Oh, crap. I thought that guy that was Collin for a sec'. Then again, Collin can move way faster than anyone I've ever seen, so I doubt he'd roll around in a car with a group of goons. This guy's blond, kind of like Antoshi.’
“He'd better be in there!” the man in the suit said. “Otherwise, each of you are about to get a permanent imprint of my ring on your heads!”
“Yes, sir, Chad,” one of his lackeys said. “We know he lives here!”
“Chad?” Latoshi whispered to himself with a disgusted expression. “What kind of name is 'Chad'?”
“That's not what I said,” Chad replied to his underling, “but, let's go! Come on! Chop-chop!” He clapped his hands, prompting the group to all head for the main front door.
Latoshi sighed, quickly barging into Emilio's apartment. Emilio was already heading toward him, carrying two full canvas bags in both hands.
“We have a problem,” Latoshi said.
“Ay, maldito,” Emilio remarked. “They caught up to us, didn't they?”
“Sure did,” Latoshi calmly replied, looking around his apartment. “You have a fire escape?” Emilio nodded. “All right, go down it and make sure they don't see you. I'll keep these losers more than busy.”
“No, please, Latoshi. Please don't play 'hero' just for me. You don't even know me, and you got your whole life ahead of you!”
Latoshi chuckled, waving him off. “I already promised I'd help you get out, didn't I? Trust me, these guys are chumps. I can handle them.”
Emilio sighed heavily. “All right. I already know you well enough to know you don't take 'no' for an answer.” The boy smirked. “Thank you so much, Latoshi. If we both get out of this, I'll make it up to you somehow. I promise.” Latoshi nodded. Emilio turned and headed for the back window leading out to the fire escape.
Meanwhile, the boy went back into the hallway, pressing his hands against both walls to act as a blockade. He grinned at the two men who stared at him.
‘Watch out, Antoshi. Now, it's my turn to get to be the good guy for once.’
One of the men peeled himself off the wall, posturing in front of him. “What you lookin' at, kid?” Latoshi merely humphed in amusement, having gotten the answer to his earlier question.
“Behind you,” Latoshi replied, turning his attention behind the man. The man turned around, just before the group of thugs with guns came storming up from the stairway. He and his cohort promptly retreated back into their apartment and shut the door. The group of thugs were brought to a confused halt by the kid in the hallway.
“That's him!” the gunman from the alley said. Latoshi briefly waved to him. “The kid is here! Emilio is here, too!”
“Move, kid,” one of the other men commanded. He and a couple others pointed their guns at the boy's arrogant, grinning face. “Now!”
“What is the holdup now?” Chad remarked, walking by them. He came face-to-face with the boy blockading his troops. “Aha, 'the boy with black hair.' Yes, I was informed about you. You did a number on my underlings. I should have you executed for that on principle, but I do have standards. I don't like to harm children. You should consider that a blessing from above. Run along home, now — it's far past your bedtime.”
“Sorry, fancy-pants,” Latoshi replied, “not happening.”
“Why is that?” Chad asked, calmly. “What kind of allegiance do you hold to this washout? Is he … a friend or yours? Family member?”
“No, actually, I just met him in that alleyway.”
“So, why concern yourself?”
“Because I have standards, too, 'Rosy,'” Latoshi shot back, prompting Chad to take hold of the rose in his breast pocket and smell it. “Granted, they're standards that I only adopted since, like, an hour ago, but, I'm learning from someone very important to me. I need to be a better person now, after all the terrible things I've done to him and to others.”
“Wonderful speech,” Chad said, offering a slow clap. “Now, I'm a very busy man and I've wasted enough time here. So, 'be a better person' and move out of my way.”
“Like I told you, 'not happening.'”
Chad sighed in defeat, shaking his head as he looked the boy over for a moment. He snapped his fingers, prompting the other men to advance forward. “Teach him a little lesson about respecting his elders,” he commanded.
Latoshi grinned, remaining confident as they all approached. The boy charged forward, swinging at the first man's sternum with barely enough strength to stagger him back a step. His eyes widened in surprise.
‘A~nd that's not good,’ he thought, immediately before the men shoved him to the ground and started kicking him. Latoshi clenched his teeth and curled into a fetal position, guarding his face and his vitals as the men continued to pummel him for a short time. ‘Now, here I am getting beat down by a handful of chumps. Definitely not how I expected my day to go, but at least I'm keeping them busy. The longer I can distract these pricks, the more time Emilio has to get away from them.’
Chad sighed again, glancing down at his expensive gold wristwatch. “Okay, okay, that's enough. You brutes need to learn self-restraint. He's just a child.” The men immediately backed off. “Now, go search the apartment. I want that greedy little turncoat found.”
Two of them did as he instructed while the others waited outside the apartment door. Chad shook his head in disgust while walking past Latoshi, who groaned in pain.
“How truly shameful,” Chad said. “Remember this day always as you grow. And, do get yourself cleaned up.” He pulled out a handkerchief from the side pocket of his pants, tossing it on top of Latoshi. The boy glanced at the pristine white cloth embroidered with the letter 'C'. He couldn't help but roll his eyes at how full of himself this guy was.
“He's not here!” one of the men exclaimed as he returned. “The fire escape window is open!”
Chad seethed, turning and heading back to the stairs. “Let's go! Get to the car — now! I want him found!”
The group of men quickly followed behind, walking around Latoshi, leaving him in a crumpled heap. Once they left the hallway, all was quiet. Latoshi groaned again and sat up. His pride was more injured than his body, still miffed that he lost a fight to a bunch of weaklings. He hissed, holding his head, feeling that dizziness return.
‘Maybe if I wasn't so damned tired…’ he thought. Just then, a nearby apartment door unlocked and swung open. An elderly woman cried out in horror upon seeing the scuffed, bruised boy on the ground. She shuffled over, holding her hands out to him, frantic. She was on the verge of tears, wailing endlessly in a language he could not understand.
“I'm all right, I'm all right,” Latoshi reassured her, as he slowly got to his feet. “It's okay, I promise. … I'm completely fine. You don't need to worry about me. Everything is fine, please, just go back into your home.” The woman continued talking as he stretched his back.
‘My strength is really dwindling,’ he thought, amid the woman's chatter. ‘I'm so exhausted, but, I've got to see this through to the end. I want to prove to myself that I can be as upstanding as Antoshi is. If I give up now, I'll be just the same heartless bastard as I was before. Still, at this point, I may need a damn miracle to find Emilio before they do.’ The sound of tires screeching outside led Latoshi over to the hallway window again. The car containing the men peeled out down the street. ‘Time to go.’
The woman was crying by the time Latoshi turned to leave. “Okay, okay, I'm fine,” he reassured her again, reaching out and taking her hand. The woman neared closer, hugging the boy as she wept. “Okay. … Okay.” Latoshi grinned nervously as he patted her back. Once the moment was over, he headed into Emilio's open apartment, peering out from the door frame. “Thank you. Thank you very much.” The two waved farewell to each other, and the woman headed back to her apartment. Latoshi shut the door with a sigh. His expression turned serious, racing out the open window to the fire escape. He headed on up, making his way to the roof of the small apartment complex.
‘There's no way those guys knew where Emilio was going,’ he thought, while looking around, ‘otherwise they would've mentioned someplace to look. They're running as blind as I am now. Damn, I wish I could fly right about now.’ Latoshi stepped back a few meters and huffed sharply. ‘If I can't fly, I sure as hell better be able to jump!’ He took a running start, traveling a bit faster than a peak athlete would, and vaulted over to the roof of the next building with incredible jump distance. He looked back and smirked. ‘Not bad. I just hope my strength holds out.’
The boy continued running swiftly, leaping from building to building. Water had puddled on the rooftops in spots from the earlier, passing shower. Latoshi used his heightened eyesight to keep a lookout for his new companion amid the sparse cars and even sparser people on the streets. After covering several blocks, he gasped in shock. Emilio was in sight, heading across an empty parking lot.
‘No freakin' way!’ he thought. He quickly made his way down to the street, jumping onto several balconies to slow his descent before landing on the sidewalk.
“Emilio!” he called out, jogging over to him. Emilio turned around, bags slung over his shoulders, just as shocked as Latoshi was.
“Oh, dang it, kid, what are you doing?” Emilio replied. The two of them moved hastily together.
“What do you mean? I told you I was going to stay with you and keep those guys off you.”
“I was better off by myself! The two of us together, we're gonna be seen! This is too dangerous for you, Latoshi, please just leave!”
“Hey, I'm in this just as deep as you are now. I met your boss, Chad, so he knows my face.”
“Chad knows who you are now?! Kid, you're seriously going to turn your life into a living hell because of this. You know that, right?”
Latoshi scoffed. “Trust me — my life was already hell, and way more dangerous, before I met you.”
Emilio briefly looked over at him, taking note of the seriousness in the boy's eyes. For him, he couldn't imagine what could possibly be more dangerous than becoming an enemy of a crime syndicate like Team Rocket.
“Well, then, let's hurry,” Emilio replied, picking up the pace. “We don't have much time. My train leaves in about one hour, and we've got fourteen blocks to go.”
“Hope your legs are in shape!” Latoshi said, grinning as he picked up speed as well.
“I've been running my whole life, kid!” he replied. Latoshi laughed in response.
The pair stuck close as they headed down several city blocks. They used as many alleyways and roads with no outlets as they could, trying to keep away from the hit squad sent to find them. However, the two of them eventually had the misfortune of being spotted. The very same black luxury SUV from earlier barreled down the rain-slicked one-way street, straight at them, before squealing to a stop.
“Oh, damn it!” Emilio exclaimed. The men inside quickly emerged, guns drawn and pointed at the two. Emilio dropped his bags as they both put their hands up.
“Hmm, I think this might delay us,” Latoshi quipped.
“This is no time for jokes, Latoshi,” Emilio replied. He was already sweating bullets. No way out for either of them. At the very least, he was ready to surrender himself so the kid could get away.
“That's mighty impressive, young man!” Chad remarked, as he got out of the car. “You not only found Emilio before we did, but you also got a fair distance away! You have a bright future as a marathon runner.” He walked up and stood between his men. “To think we found you at a dead end. How very … apropos. With that said, I'm going to be unbelievably generous and give you one final chance, kid. Leave here now. Live your life and never look back. Go and be that better person you promised you wanted to be.”
Latoshi pursed his lips, seeing through Chad's faux compassion. He looked over at Emilio, who insistently motioned for him to leave. He recalled a similar scenario after his fight on the beach with Antoshi.
'Leave now!' Lazarus had commanded him. 'There is nothing more for you here! Leave!!'
“Latoshi!!” Antoshi shouted after him as he fled.
Latoshi closed his eyes. The memory of the heartache he suffered stirred the vigor inside of his heart, stoking the fires of his Ki; invigorating him. He was done leaving the people he cared about behind. The boy turned his attention back to Chad and shook his head.
“If I left now,” Latoshi replied, “I wouldn't be making good on that promise. That person I told you about earlier, … they told me not too long ago that I should use my talents for good. I was too stupid to realize I should've listened then, but, I plan to make up for it now.” In his open palm, Latoshi began charging up a black orb of what little Ki he had left in him. The others around him were incapable of seeing it.
Chad sighed in dismay, shaking his head. “I don't know what's wrong with you, young man. It's like you just don't understand the danger involved here. Even still, I have a job to do. I informed you of the risks many times already.”
Emilio glanced to Latoshi, taking note of the contented smile on the boy's face. ‘What is that kid thinking? Is he really this reckless beyond saving?’
“All right, men!” Chad said. “You know what to do! Take them out!”
Before the men had a chance to fire, Latoshi fired off his spirit energy. It soared past the men in the blink of an eye, collided violently with the SUV, and caused it to suddenly explode. The men in front of the car all fell to the ground. Latoshi immediately grabbed Emilio's bags in one hand, and Emilio himself by the wrist, continuing running off toward their destination.
“What in the hell just happened?!” Emilio exclaimed, struggling to keep pace with the revitalized youngster.
“No idea!” Latoshi replied, hiding a grin. “Must be our lucky day!”
“After them, you idiots!” Chad exclaimed. The men got to their feet, firing their guns in the direction the duo escaped. All of them missed, allowing the pair to disappear down a nearby alley. The men shouted to each other, quickly giving chase. Chad remained behind, left scratching his head as he surveyed the fiery wreck.
Some time later, Latoshi and Emilio made it safely to the parking lot of the train station. The train had just arrived. Both of them took a look back, the last of many since escaping Chad's clutches, to make sure they weren't still being followed. The pair headed up a ramp that led onto the train platform, where they were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief.
“Looks like we made it,” Latoshi remarked.
“Sure did,” Emilio replied, catching his breath. “I don't know how the hell we're still alive.”
“Like I said, it's our lucky day,” the boy said, with a cheeky smirk.
Emilio chuckled and shook his head. “Well, Latoshi, this was one hell of an experience. You are one weird kid, and I've never met anyone like you. Even still, you saved my life. I don't know if you're just crazy or if you're some kind of guardian angel, but you've got a good heart. Sure takes real guts, and some stupidity, to take on Team Rocket like you did.”
Latoshi shrugged, his hands in his pockets. “Hey, I just wanted to help.”
“You did help me, kid — more than you know. I realize now that I can't just give up on my little girl. She needs her dad, just like you said.”
“Get out of here and go see her, then.”
“I sure will, Latoshi. Seeing her face again, … it'll make everything worth it.” The two shared a firm handshake and smiled to each other. “Thank you again, kid. I'll never forget what you did for me today.”
Emilio parted ways with his new friend. He handed his ticket to the conductor, who let him on board. Latoshi decided to stick around for a short time, until the train started to roll away. He and Emilio spotted each other, giving each other a quick wave. He smiled, watching the train carry Emilio toward a new start.
Latoshi heaved a long sigh, turning to the night sky for a moment. With their talk about Emilio's family, the boy's own family was on his mind as well. He turned away, hands still in his pockets, resuming his aimless stroll toward the city.
“That was quite nice of you, Latoshi,” a gentle voice suddenly greeted him from a nearby bench. He stopped in place, shocked, turning to see Serenity sitting and smiling at him.
“What in the world?” he mused, briefly looking around. “You again? Don't you ever sleep?”
Serenity laughed, getting to her feet. “I only sleep when it's necessary. When you learn to control your Ki better, you'll see that sleep is actually something that you can avoid for much longer than normal people. It's something your brother did inadvertently, leading up to the last time you fought on the beach.”
The two began to walk and talk together. “That guy Collin was right about you,” Latoshi said. “You really are watching us all the time without us knowing it.”
“Well, not all the time. I just have some free time right now, and I wanted to check on you. I care about how you're doing, just like how Antoshi and Mitoshi care about you, too.”
Latoshi chuckled. “That's not what Lazarus told me. He said you all wished I was dead.”
She smiled at him. “Have you really been so misguided as to believe Lazarus, even after removing its spirit from yours?”
“You can tell he's gone, huh?” he asked. Serenity nodded in response. “Of course I don't believe him, but, still, … it put into perspective the kind of relationship I have with the only people I haven't killed.”
“You are not to blame for what Lazarus did,” she replied, softly. “Those were its ideas, and its alone. You were being used and manipulated for Lazarus' own ideals. You can't blame yourself for what's transpired — and you shouldn't. You can only look to the better future you created when you rejected Lazarus' spirit.”
“I don't know,” he quietly spoke. “I've got a lot of stuff I need to work out. Most importantly, I have to talk to … my siblings.”
“And, I know they want to talk to you, too. They're patiently waiting for you.”
“Talking to them is going to be one hell of an awkward conversation.” He stopped and looked away with a guilty expression. She placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
“Give it time,” she said, earnestly, as he turned to her. “Don't rush off to them because you feel guilty. Let your mind become more settled and really think about what to do next. Decide what's right for you — just like you did earlier tonight when you helped that man. Always remember, your heart is where your strength lies. Only when you commit to your emotions will you find your powers returning.”
“I can only hope my memories return as well.”
“Your memories will come back to you in time.”
“I've heard that line from Lazarus plenty of times.”
“Well, when I say it, you can believe I am telling the truth.”
Latoshi sighed as her hand fell away. “I guess it is better to trust the word of a real person, and not a parasite stealing my Ki.” Serenity laughed, gently. “Besides, you're all right with Antoshi, so, you can't be all that bad.” The pair smiled at each other.
“Well, I'll take my leave now and let you be. I have faith in you to be safe and make the right decisions — just like I did with Antoshi.”
“Thanks, err, … I forgot what your name was.”
“My name is Serenity,” she said, extending a hand to him. “I forgot that we hadn't been formally introduced. Latoshi, it's nice to finally see you for the person you really are.”
He briefly shook her hand and smiled. “It's nice for me, too.”
“See you around.”
Serenity casually headed down the sidewalk, in the opposite direction from him, leaving as mysteriously as she appeared.
Latoshi slid his hands into his pockets, sighing heavily, walking off as well. ‘I really need to get some sleep…’