Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ A Blond Ray of Sunshine ❯ Chapter 29

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

Latoshi led his siblings to the spot in the woods where he had found Poka and Chika. From there, the trio followed the Pichus directions and trekked north, toward Route 36. The snow patches between the trees fluctuated wildly, reaching anywhere between several inches and all the way up to their chests. With the radiant heat emanating from their auras, the snow evaporated on contact with their bodies.

After a half an hour of walking, however, the hills of white abruptly leveled off until there was nothing left. For the first time in what felt like forever, the siblings stood upon bare dirt and grass within the forest. All three of them were equally astonished at the sight. As the Pichus had told them, they found themselves in a green oasis, completely devoid of snow. The cloud cover over their head was still just as dense as anywhere else. Antoshi narrowed his eyes in suspicion. Whoever was behind this didn't just control the weather — they were also smart enough to cover their hiding place so it wouldn't show up on weather radars.

“Be careful,” he said to his siblings. “We don't know who's here, or what exactly it is we're walking into. Don't let your guards down.” Latoshi and Mitoshi nodded, their irises glowing intensely with the respective colors of their Ki. All three of them dissipated their aura in a simultaneous effort to conserve their energy.

They moved slowly and quietly, staying close together. Their eyes scanned around every inch of the area around them — every blade of grass, every leaf upon each tree, every sound in the breeze. They even paid attention to any deviation in the crisp, clean, cool scent in the air. Nothing escaped their heightened senses.

Suddenly, all three of them turned their attention to a fixed point in front of them: the sound of footsteps gently brushing across the grass. Mitoshi swallowed nervously; all three of them incredibly tense as to who was about to join them.

From behind the trees emerged a young man of average, mid-teen build, and hair of pure white. The siblings, however, were shocked beyond reason at his appearance. He was covered in the black fur and accurate golden markings of an Umbreon. Tall, black, gold-ringed ears pointed out from the top of his head, and a similar tail stuck out from his tailbone. The sclera of his eyes were red, his irises pure black. His clothes — a white t-shirt, the sleeves of which torn off long ago, and blue jeans that seemed to be a bit small for him — were dirty, scuffed, and very worn in.

He was exactly as the Pichu twins had described: a person, but also a Pokémon.

The siblings were too stunned to speak. None of them knew what to say to the smiling young man, who seemed to be only mildly surprised to encounter them.

“Howdy there, folks!” he said, in a friendly, yet faux, country accent. “What brings ya' 'round these parts?”

“Uh, …” Antoshi spoke up, trying to find the words. “Hello … there. We were, uh, wondering if you could help us. We're looking for anyone who might know about the cause of this sudden blizzard.”

“The blizzard, you say?” the young man replied, in his normal voice. He shrugged casually. “Sorry, I wouldn't know anyone or anything to do with that. What makes you think I would?”

“We … just happened to be exploring nearby and found this place,” Antoshi replied. “It seems a little strange that … this happens to be the only area where the snow isn't falling.”

“Hey, that's true, isn't it?” he mused, gazing up at the cloudy sky. “Strange storms can cause strange things, don't you think?”

“Yeah, …” Antoshi replied, eying him suspiciously. “Very strange things.”

“Well, it's nice to see visitors around here for once,” he said, “but, unfortunately, you three are going to have to head back the way you came.” The three siblings looked at each other. Things were becoming curiouser and curiouser.

“… Why is it we have to go back?” Antoshi asked. “Are you trying to protect something?” The young man smiled and shrugged in response. “Erm, … why don't we introduce ourselves first? I'm Antoshi, this is my brother Latoshi, and my sister, Mitoshi.” Latoshi remained apathetic to the situation while Mitoshi smiled and waved to him.

“Oh-ho, cool names!” the young man replied. “Mine's Kage — and that's 'cage' with a 'k'. I know, it's awesome.” He stood proud while the others stared at him in bewilderment. Latoshi silently mouthed his name in disbelief. Having once believed his own name was made-up, 'Kage' was most certainly not a birth name.

“… Yeah,” Antoshi said, after a moment of awkward silence. “Anyway, we're here because we wanted to investigate.”

The young man quirked an eyebrow. “Investigating? Oh, sweet, are the three of you detectives?” he asked, awe-struck. “I didn't think such young kids could get hired as private eyes.”

The siblings became more concerned at how unexpectedly foolish Kage came off as.

“Um, … well, no,” Antoshi replied, “we're not detectives. We're more like … concerned citizens. We were told that whatever or whoever might be causing this snowstorm is around here somewhere. We just want to understand what's going on and see if we can help.” The other two nodded in agreement.

The young male Umbreon narrowed his eyes. His expression turned stern, becoming very suspicious and wary of the trio. However, his mood abruptly lightened up again.

“Nope!” he replied, chuckling. “There's nothing like that here. Whoever told you that is wrong. Sorry I couldn't be of any more help to you three. Have a safe trip back!”

Now it was the siblings' turn to be suspicious of him. The Pichus wouldn't have any reason to lie — not after what they endured. The fact that Kage, an Umbreon-like human, was standing before them was proof enough that the little ones were telling the truth.

“Listen,” Latoshi spoke up in an impertinent tone, “we're not stupid. Whoever you're covering for doesn't give a damn about others, and they sure don't give a damn about the innocent Pokémon that are being affected by this blizzard. Don't you even care that there are Pokémon out there, right now, that aren't prepared for this cold? They're freezing and dying out there!”

Antoshi held a hand out to his brother to get him to stop, giving him a concerned gaze. He was fully aware that his brother had a personal stake in this bizarre weather, but, he didn't want to upset and alienate what could be their only lead. Latoshi folded his arms across his chest, huffing in frustration, allowing his brother to take charge again.

Kage bit his lip, turning away to hide a worried expression. He gazed out at the snowy woods in the distance, contemplating the truth behind the sable-haired boy's words. He closed his eyes and shook his head.

“I—I'd like to help you, I really would. I just can't. I'm sorry.” Latoshi scowled, clenching his fists. The very thought of those two Pichu snowed over and helpless fueled the fires of his anger. “But, hey, if you guys want to stay for a little while, I've got some great jokes to tell you!”

“Jokes?” Latoshi mused, enraged. He let his hands fall at his sides. “We don't have time for your stupid jokes! There's nothing funny about any of this!”

“Oh, come on!” Kage whined. “I've got some really good ones, too! 'Why did the Farfetch'd cross the road', 'three Mr. Mime walk into a bar'. … Oh! I've got some killer 'knock, knock' puns that'll knock you off your toes!”

Latoshi was at his breaking point. “Look, idiot!” he shouted, catching them all off guard. “Move your ass out of the way and let us through or I'm going to knock, knock your head off! We've wasted enough time here listening to you!”

“Latoshi, please,” Antoshi said in concern, turning to him, “calm down.”

“Sheesh,” Kage replied, rubbing the back of his head. “You sure remind me of someone I know.” Latoshi snarled, stepping forward, holding up a fist in a threatening manner. Both of his siblings followed him, holding back each of his shoulders. “Okay, okay!” he exclaimed, cowering. “I'll let you through.” Latoshi sighed, calming down some. “But, before I do, you have to listen to just one joke, okay?”

Latoshi sighed in frustration, rubbing his forehead. “Fine. One stupid joke.”

“Sweet!” Kage replied, pumped up. “Now, each of you, look straight at me. You really gotta observe and appreciate the timing of a true comedic master.” Latoshi rolled his eyes, following suit with his siblings as they all did as he said. “Okay. 'Knock, knock.'”

“Who's there?” all three of them replied.


“You, who?”

Kage grinned from ear to ear. Suddenly, his red eyes and the golden rings on his body began to glow brightly with a mysterious energy. “You thought you were getting past me, but you were wrong…”

The siblings all gasped in shock as the world around them began to spiral and blur before fading to black.

“What the hell's going on here?!” Latoshi exclaimed. He turned his attention to Kage, who grinned at him. “You bastard!” Latoshi lunged at him, only for the young man to inexplicably drift away out of his reach.

“It was nice knowing the three of you,” Kage said, quietly, his voice echoing in their heads. The male Umbreon faded from sight. “You're stuck in a deep, dark hellscape now — doomed to wander around forever. I don't know if you'll ever be able to come back…”

“What—what are you talking about?” Antoshi asked. “Why are you doing this?!”

“Because I told you to leave, but it's too late for that now,” Kage replied, his voice getting further and quieter. “Hey, … why don't you take a look around? …”

Antoshi did so, startled to realize that his siblings were gone as well. He was all alone. “Latoshi?” he called out, waiting a moment for a response. “Mitoshi? Are you there?” There was no response from either of them.

He started to walk around, aimlessly, through a void of complete darkness. He turned his head and eyes in all directions, seeing absolutely nothing beyond the dark. All he could hear was his own breathing, and nothing else.

‘Where am I?’ he thought. ‘Did he really send me to some strange location? Or, did I … lose my eyesight somehow?’

First and foremost on his mind was finding his siblings. Antoshi wandered for a while in the quiet, pitch black space. Fear and doubt began creeping in his mind. There was nothing he could think of to get him out of his solitary confinement. He attempted to fly, but that was to no avail — he couldn't focus his mind, let alone gather his Ki. Kage's unknown power was far beyond anything he, Latoshi, and Mitoshi could've prepared for.

After what felt like hours of torturous walking, Antoshi suddenly picked up a faraway shout from his brother behind him. He turned around, finding Latoshi laid on the ground. His elation to have found one of the others quickly turned to worry. He ran over to him immediately.

“Latoshi!” he said, getting no response. He knelt down beside him, shaking him. The sable-haired boy was on his side. “Latoshi. Are you okay? What happened—” Upon rolling him onto his back, he saw the wide, terrified stare in Latoshi's glazed eyes. The boy was totally lifeless. He paused for a moment, stricken by shock and grief. “No,” he whispered, slapping and shaking him some more. “No, please. Latoshi! Please wake up! Latoshi!!”

His eyes quickly filled with tears, horror and heartache sweeping through him. “No, no, no …” he whispered, weeping, placing his forehead on Latoshi's chest. “No, this can't be happening. This can't be. … Please get up, Latoshi …”

As the blond boy cried in agony, he was startled by another nearby scream. He gasped, jumping up to find his sister laid out on the ground just a few feet away. “Mitoshi, no!!” he shouted, crawling over to her. She was just as devoid of life as Latoshi. “Why?!” he exclaimed, clasping his hands over her limp hand. He trembled, sobbing uncontrollably, his face covered with tears. “Why … how did this happen? Mitoshi, … please say something …”

He sniffled, clenching his eyes shut, holding her hand against his forehead for a moment. As he turned his gaze upward, his expression turned pale.

“No,” he whispered, letting go of her, as he climbed to his feet. Laid before him was a trail of bodies — everyone he loved. Fireball, Bubbles, his adoptive parents, and his birth parents. They were all dead.

He staggered forward, before dropping to his knees from the horrible weight he felt. His entire world had shattered. “Why?” he whispered, feeling terror and sorrow unlike anything he'd ever experienced before. He grasped handfuls of his hair, shutting his eyes, straining and sobbing. “Why?!” he shouted as loudly as he could.

At the same time, Latoshi gasped in surprise, hearing Antoshi's voice cry out from afar. The sable-haired boy found himself trapped in a prison cell — the very same cell upon the military island base. The sterile, white room with the same blinding, white lights overhead were all too painfully familiar to him. He had been calling out for some time, hoping that anyone would hear him, but, he was alone … all over again.

“Antoshi?!” he shouted, looking all around. The cameras watched his every move from the hallway outside the acrylic glass barrier. He was garbed in the same plain, white clothing, and his feet were bare. Everything was just as he remembered it. “Damn it!!” he screamed, pounding his fists on the glass in rage. “How did this … happen?! How did I get back here?! I- … I can't remember!”

Like his brother, he attempted to dredge up his Ki to no avail. He was as helpless in his cell as he was the first time he was there.

“Mitoshi!” he called out. “Someone, please help! Someone has to be able to hear me!!” Just then, the rhythmic tapping of approaching footsteps against the cold, tile floor grew close. His eyes widened and his heart sank, recognizing the walking pattern. The sound echoed in his mind, growing louder and closer.

“No, …” he whispered, just before General Logan walked up to and stopped in front of his cell. The man smiled, cordially, holding a clipboard behind his back. “It c-can't be. … You're dead! I killed you!”

“Hallucinating now, are we?” Logan responded, calmly. “I never died. I'm right here, and you're right there — where you should be. You're still a threat to the security of Johto, and the world, quite frankly. So, let's not beat around the bush anymore, shall we? You already know why you're here, and you know that you're never getting out of here alive. Not unless, of course, I sign off on it. Now, why don't we start by giving me some information, huh? Your name, your address, name of your parents?”

Latoshi was totally mesmerized and bewildered. The man he watched go down in a ball of flames was standing before him, alive and well, while he himself was locked up in the very same prison cell he broke out of and destroyed. He started to pant, fearfully, holding his head. Did he really leave in the first place? Was everything about his powers, his family, his future … all just a dream? His surroundings were exactly the same. The prison was just as cold and white and quiet as ever. The same dreadful, sterile scent wafted through the air. The lights in the ceiling gave off their usual quiet hum. It was as if he never left.

“Well?” the General spoke. “Are you going to say anything, son?”

“What— … what happened to me?” the boy asked, as his eyes welled with tears. “Why am I back here? Where's my … brother, and my sister?”

“You have names for those siblings of yours?” Logan asked, clicking his pen.

“Their names are— … their … names … are …” he panted heavily, feeling light-headed. “I can't … I can't remember! Why can't I remember?!”

“Take it slowly, son. You're only going to spiral into a panic. Why don't you just … describe them for me?”

“Uh, … my brother, he— … he has blue hair— no, wait. That's not right. My-my sister she has long, … blonde hair. Or, … was it short hair? She liked blue! I remember she liked … the color blue, and my brother is … my brother … did I … have a brother?” He looked at the General with a fearful expression. “What's happening to me?!” he exclaimed, sobbing. “Why can't I remember anything?! They were right here! My brother was right … here!”

“Okay, okay. Just relax now,” Logan said, in a futile attempt to reassure the boy. “Let me bring in someone to help. I think he'll be able to 'reconnect the dots', so to speak, with your memory.” Latoshi held his head down, trying to calm his breathing and his pounding heart. “Come on over here, sir,” Logan said to an unknown party.

“Hello there, … Latoshi,” a very familiar, very unwelcome voice spoke to him. He froze in terror for a moment, lifting his head slowly to find the amorphous mass of black Ki known as Lazarus hovering beside the General.

Latoshi's eyes bulged out, scrambling backward, pressed against the far wall of the cell. “No!!” he shouted. “No, you can't be back! Get out of here! Get away from me!!”

“Oh, but I am,” Lazarus replied, chuckling in amusement. “ I am very much back. Now, I am here now to take care of everything. I can help you recall your memories. All you have to do is put your trust in me…”

“No!!” the boy screamed at the top of his lungs. “No!!”

Mitoshi gasped, picking up the faraway voice of her sable-haired brother. “Latoshi?” she mused, quietly. She'd wandered back out of the forest by herself, trudging through the snow, heading to the cabin. Unable to muster her Ki, the girl had been forced her to walk all the way back. She'd been calling out for her brothers the whole time, but, they were nowhere to be found. She found it incredibly strange that they would suddenly abandon her like that. Her heart had sunk in a mix of sadness and anger.

Mitoshi sighed to herself, rubbing her arms to warm herself amid the wildly falling snow. She stamped back up the porch and headed inside.

“Hey, Bubbles!” she called out, closing the door behind her. “Have you seen my brothers?” There was no response. “Bubbles! Fireball!” She looked around their small house, opening every room, finding no trace of the two Pokémon anywhere. “Poka? Chika?” The girl paused for a moment, concerned and confused. She headed over to Bubbles' Poké Ball, taking it off its usual pedestal, holding it out in front of her. “Bubbles, come on out! I really need to talk to you!” The ball remained inert.

She looked at it in confusion, her jaw hanging. “Bubbles?” she spoke, softly. “Are you in there?” Again, there was no response. She placed the ball back where it belonged, running a shaky hand through her long hair. “Okay, … there's no need to panic. They're all probably just teasing me.” She chuckled, nervously. “Yes, that's it. They're playing a mean trick on me. They want to see me get scared and then they'll jump out and yell 'surprise!' or something.”

Her breathing became markedly heavier and fearful. She again rubbed her arms in the cold and eerie silence of the empty cabin. “Come on out!” she said. “I know you guys are around, okay? You got me! That—that was a good one! … Guys? Please, come on out now!”

Mitoshi swallowed again, waiting a few moments in the painful quiet. “Guys?!” she called out. There was no response. “Okay. Okay, … maybe they … maybe they went to our parents house or something. Maybe they were waiting for me to follow them.”

She sat down in front of the videophone, dialing her home number as quickly as she could. It rang several times, but there was no answer. She stared in disbelief for a moment before trying to call again. As before, no one answered.

She sniffled, her eyes starting to well up with tears. “Guys!” she shouted, getting back to her feet. “Come on, stop this! It isn't funny, okay?! You're really hurting my feelings doing this!”

Mitoshi huffed and sobbed, quietly, wandering back over to the front door. She stood out on the porch, watching the powerful blizzard sending down blinding snow before her. Unable to use her powers, and totally lost from her loved ones, she felt so helpless and empty. She fell to her knees, crying uncontrollably.

“Someone!” she shouted. “Antoshi! Latoshi! … Where are you?!”

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

Back in the real world, however, Kage snickered to himself. His eyes and rings continued to glow bright. The three siblings were still standing before him, having never left. Each of them had dull, faraway looks in their glazed eyes, tears trickling down their faces. The young man sighed.

I do hate to do this to them,he thought,but, they left me no choice. These kids are going to wander through the most painful fears their minds can fathom until they go insane. That's when I gotta drag them out of here. They'll never come back after that. Whether they live or die from their experience doesn't matter to me. I can't let anyone through, no matter what.His attention turned to Latoshi, recalling what the boy said earlier.I just hope Ken really knows what he's doing…

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

“This can't be real,” Antoshi whispered, gasping and sobbing. He had already started digging graves in the black void using his bare hands.

“I don't want this to be real,” Latoshi remarked, cowering in the corner of his cell. Lazarus was seeping through the glass, attempting to reach the boy.

“Please, please just let this all be a horrible dream,” Mitoshi whispered. She knelt out in the middle of the field outside their home, mindlessly raking her hands through the piled snow as more continued to fall upon her.
‘Antoshi …’ she thought, closing her eyes, as more tears fell from them. ‘Antoshi, … please come back.’

Antoshi looked down at his lifeless sister, cradled in his arms. He sniffled, shaking his head in disbelief, before laying her down in one of the graves he'd made.

‘… back,’ Antoshi heard the girl's voice in his head. He gasped in a mix of shock and relief. ‘Antoshi, … please come back.’

“Mi—Mitoshi?” he mused, his voice trembling. Antoshi looked down at the girl, who was still lifeless and most certainly incapable of speaking. He sighed, closing his eyes, chalking it up to some passing memory.

‘Antoshi!!’ the girl's voice spoke in his mind once again, louder, and with much more conviction. He unexpectedly dropped her into the grave.

‘Mitoshi?!’ he thought.

At the same time, the real Mitoshi's face lit up, gasping loudly.

‘Mitoshi, is—is that you?’ Antoshi spoke to her in her mind.

‘Yes, it's me, Antoshi!’ she thought. Her very thoughts pierced through the inky darkness that surrounded Antoshi, allowing him to both hear and communicate with her. ‘Where are you?!’

Antoshi looked down at the girl's corpse. He was at a complete loss for words, confused as to what was happening. He knew, however, that he was not looking at the real Mitoshi laying in that shallow grave.

‘Antoshi?’ the girl spoke again. ‘Are you there?’

‘Yes, yes, Mitoshi!’
he replied, smiling in relief, closing his tear stained eyes. ‘I'm here! What—what's going on? How come I can hear you in my mind? I thought you were …’

‘I'm not sure what's going on, either. But, I'm here, back at the cabin! I can't find you or Latoshi or anyone! Where did you all go?’

‘I—I—I never left! I'm still here in the woods, I think. I'm in some kind of … dark … void or something!’

‘Do you know where Latoshi is?’

‘Mitoshi, I … I see all of you, but, … to me, you were all …
dead. You're all dead in front of me right now.’

Mitoshi was startled before grinning reassuringly. ‘I'm not dead, I promise! We need to find Latoshi, though! I'm not sure how to … tune this 'frequency', or whatever we're doing, to call him!’

Antoshi thought for a moment. ‘Could it be that … we're hearing each others' thoughts? Like, … telepathy?’

‘I—I guess that's possible?’
she replied, confused. ‘I didn't know we could do this!’

‘Neither did I. Why don't we … try to search him out with our minds? You were calling out to me when I heard you, let's try the same for him!’
Mitoshi nodded in response.

‘Latoshi!’ they both called out in their minds. ‘… Latoshi!’

Latoshi wept and trembled as Lazarus inched ever closer to him.

‘Latoshi!!’ he heard the voices of his siblings in his head. He gasped loudly.

‘An … toshi?’ he thought, finally recalling his brother's name. ‘… Mitoshi?’ His inner voice got through the two, who were equally ecstatic to hear him.

‘Latoshi!’ Antoshi spoke to him. ‘Are you all right? Where are you right now?’

Latoshi held his head, trembling in disbelief. ‘Antoshi? Is that really you?’

‘Hey, I'm here, too!’
Mitoshi said, grinning. ‘You wouldn't forget about your dear sister, would you?’

the sable-haired boy replied in awe. ‘You're both really … still here. It wasn't all just a dream.’

Able to converse with each other and pierce the veil that had fooled them, all three siblings had their sanity slowly return to them.

‘Where are you right now?’ Antoshi asked.

‘I—I'm in the military base,’ his brother replied. ‘I'm trapped here. I don't know how to get out!’

‘Military base?’
Antoshi mused. ‘No, … that's long gone, Latoshi. It doesn't exist. This is all just an illusion!’

both of his siblings replied in unison.

‘Yes, I think I understand now,’ Antoshi said. ‘Kage … used some kind of power on us. What we're seeing isn't real. He's projecting some kind of hallucinations on us. All three of us are safe and sound. We're all still here in the woods, … together.’

Latoshi and Mitoshi smiled, both of them getting back to their feet. The visions all three siblings thought they saw before them started to fade away, much to their shock. They were left in the same kind of empty, black void that Antoshi had been lost in.

‘What should we do?’ Mitoshi asked.

‘Concentrate,’ Antoshi replied. ‘There has to be some kind of way to break out of this spell. Both of you, try to tap into your Ki, even if you can't feel it right now. This is all just a dream — a dream we have to wake up from!’

both of them replied.

The sibling trio shut their eyes, focusing on the well of emotions that had built up from the torturous visions Kage had put them through. They each grunted and strained with all their might, summoning up their Ki the same way they always knew how to. Slowly and surely, the trio found a light breaking through the darkness.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

In the real world, Kage's expression turned to shock. “No way,” he whispered. The three siblings were stirring back to life.

The color returned to their eyes — the colors of their respective Ki, which shone and glowed brightly; brighter than even Kage's eyes. With a sudden, explosive push that staggered Kage backward, all three of their auras flared to life. The three of them looked around in awe, finding themselves back to reality.

“Oh, my gosh!” Mitoshi exclaimed, laughing and sobbing in joy, as she stared at her brothers. “We made it!”

“Heck yeah, we did,” Latoshi replied, both he and his brother grinning. Mitoshi hugged them both, kissing them on the cheek.

“That's crazy!” Kage exclaimed, stepping back a few paces. “No one's ever been able to break out of my hypnosis like that!” The three siblings turned their attention to Kage.

“There's a lot more I'm about to break, funny guy!” Latoshi shouted, scowling at the young man.

“Latoshi, wait,” Antoshi said. Latoshi sighed, folding his arms over his chest.

“Fine. You wanted to take the reigns on this one. I'll leave it to you, then.”

Antoshi smiled to him, before turning to the terrified Kage.

“We are not angry at you,” Antoshi reassured him. “We only wanted to talk to you from the very beginning — that's all. We just want to find a peaceful resolution to this blizzard. Let's just talk, okay?”

Kage swallowed, nervously. These three kids were most certainly not normal. They'd just created an inexplicable set of light shows around their bodies. He was unsure if he could trust them — or anyone.

“I— there's n-nothing to talk about,” Kage stammered, shaking his head. “I can't let you three past me, that's all there is to it. Please, just g-go away.”

“What is it you're hiding?” Antoshi asked. “Help us understand! What are you trying to accomplish here? What good comes from all of this?”

Kage sighed and shook his head again. “You … you can't understand. You would never understand what it's like for us.”

“'Us'?” Mitoshi mused.

“The three of you are just … normal-looking kids. You don't know how it is to be like … this.” Kage held his arms out, looking down at himself.

The three siblings were confused as to what exactly he meant.

“You mean, you … really look like that?” Antoshi asked. “It's not some kind of costume?”

“Costume,” Kage remarked with an amused scoff. “I wish it was. I wish I could just … take my skin off and start all over.” Latoshi and Mitoshi looked to each other in concern.

“Tell us, what made you look like tha—”

“Enough!” Kage shouted. His eyes and golden rings began to glow again. The three siblings immediately took a fighting stance, preparing for him to use his powers again. “You're not going to trick me like the other humans did! You're not going to fool us, any of us, anymore! This is our time now! We're the ones that are in control — not you!”

“Your power isn't going to work on us again,” Antoshi said. “We already know how to deal with it!”

Kage chuckled and grinned. “Who said I only had one ability, huh?” Similar to before, the world around them quickly grew dark. The trio gasped, watching the darkness sweep over them. “Just as any Dark-type Pokémon, I can use the darkness as my ally …”

With a mischievous laugh, he skulked backward, stunning the trio as he disappeared into the shadows.

“Where'd he go?” Mitoshi wondered aloud. “Is this … the same spell he used before?”

“No,” Latoshi replied, looking around, “it's different this time. We can at least see each other now.”

“It's either another projection,” Antoshi said, “or, he's literally removed the light from around us somehow.”

“Why not both, huh?!” Kage said from beyond the darkness. The three siblings narrowed their eyes, keeping their guard up. “The three of you are trapped here for as long as I want you to be! Unlike my hypnosis, you won't be able to break out of this one, since you're all still conscious! But, that's just something I'll have to beat out of you the old-fashioned way!”

“Bring it on, you unfunny idiot!” Latoshi shouted, standing shoulder to shoulder with his sister as they looked around.

“How about I start with you, you wannabe edgy tough guy!?” Kage exclaimed.

“No!” Antoshi shouted. “Leave them out of this! If you want someone to beat up on, then, I'm right here!”

Kage laughed. “Fine, whatever! I have to take all of you down, anyway!”

Antoshi shouted as a sudden punch rattled his jaw from the darkness. A trail of blood trickled from his mouth. His siblings gasped in surprise.

“Antoshi!” Mitoshi cried out in concern.

“It's all right,” Antoshi replied to her. He exhaled slowly, dropping his guard completely, letting his arms fall at his sides. The red aura faded from his body, and his eyes returned to their regular chestnut color. His siblings watched as Antoshi let his overall power drop significantly. The blond boy closed his eyes, displaying no further resistance.

‘What's he doing?’ Mitoshi thought, communicating her thoughts to Latoshi with their newfound ability.

‘I'm not sure,’ Latoshi replied to her. ‘However, this is Antoshi we're talking about here. He's always got some kind of plan.’

‘Ohh, I just hope you're right…’
Mitoshi said, biting her lip.

The humanoid Umbreon laughed in amusement, firing off punches from different angles at the blond boy. Antoshi clenched his jaw as his head was jerked from side to side

“I've never had a living punching bag before!” Kage said. Antoshi ignored the pain from the strikes. He instead focused on what he was hearing and studied the directions each punch was coming from. “Man, you take a long time to knock out! Fall unconscious already!”

“Not happening,” Antoshi replied. He swiftly reached up in the instant before Kage's next punch was about to land, grabbing the young man by his furred forearm. Kage gasped in shock. “Especially because this fight is over now.”

His siblings' faces lit up with glee.

“All right, Antoshi!” Mitoshi cheered. “That was cool!”

To their collective surprise, the darkness seeped away from the land, returning everything to normal in a matter of moments. No longer hidden by the shadows, Kage stared at them, his eyes wide in disbelief. He grunted, attempting to pull away from Antoshi's overwhelmingly strong grip to no avail. He grinned and chuckled at the blond boy, nervously.

“Hey, um, … so, this is awkward, huh?” Kage asked. “How about we … break the awkward moment with a great joke?”

“Sure, I got one,” Antoshi replied, with a playful smirk. The Umbreon-like young man stared back at him, fearfully. “'Knock, knock.'”

“Wh—who's there?” Kage replied, timidly.


“Chop … who?”

With his free hand, Antoshi gave Kage a swift chop to the side of his neck. It was a maneuver he'd learned about in his martial arts books at the library. Kage groaned weakly, promptly dropping to his knees and falling face-first to the ground. The humanoid Umbreon was left unconscious.

“Chop you,” Antoshi replied, chuckling to himself. Latoshi sighed in defeat, shaking his head at the terrible joke while Mitoshi hopped and cheered for Antoshi.

“Wow,” Latoshi remarked, walking up to his brother. “So, it turns out this guy was a big weakling after all. All he had was his little powers. Once we saw through that, he was as much of a threat as a wet sponge. If there's any others around here like him, this is going to be a cakewalk. You know what? Let me take the next one.”

Antoshi sighed. “Fine, you can deal with the next one. Latoshi,” he began, looking his brother squarely in the eye, “remember: we're here to try to resolve things peacefully. Let's not turn this into a melee if we can help it. Okay?”

“I got it, I got it,” Latoshi reassured him, grinning. He turned away, stuffing his hands in his pockets, leading the other two further into the grassy portion of the forest. His expression turned to bitterness, recalling the sight of the Pichu twins nearly dead in the snow. Unfortunately for Antoshi, his brother was not past his penchant for violence. Latoshi was far less interested in diplomacy — not with the personal stake he carried into their endeavor.