Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ A Blond Ray of Sunshine ❯ Chapter 32

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

The trio of siblings stood in front of the icy vortex with serious expressions. Its violent, whipping winds tossed their hair and clothing about.

‘What do we do?’ Latoshi asked his siblings telepathically, avoiding the need to talk over the harsh wind. He continued to cling gingerly to his broken arm.

Standing between his siblings, Antoshi thought for a moment, turning his gaze up to where the vortex met the clouds. He held an open hand out toward the phenomenon before him. ‘Let's tear it apart,’ he replied. The other two nodded, also pointing an open hand in front of them. ‘Now!’ On cue, all three of them fired blasts of their respective energy into the spiraling winds. Their attacks, however, were flung around for a brief moment and then thrown back out. They all ducked, gasping in surprise as their energy shattered and toppled a few nearby trees amid violent explosions.

‘Whoa,’ Mitoshi remarked, as she and her brothers stood and turned their attention back to the whirlwind. ‘What now?’

‘Ken's stronger than I realized,’
Antoshi replied, narrowing his eyes. ‘Let's try it again. Give it everything you've got this time!’ Each of them gave a long shout as their respective auras flared to life, drumming up energy from deep within themselves. Latoshi and Mitoshi grunted, still drained from their respective battles. The trio held their hands out once more. ‘Now!’ Again, they fired on cue — swift blasts that were much larger and potent. Their energies merged together inside the vortex where they circled around for some time, reaching higher and higher. The trio watched until their attacks finally exploded a few hundred meters up. The end result was the abrupt severing of cyclone and sky. The spiraling winds began to quickly peter out and dissipate, until there was calm.

The three siblings gasped in unison as they saw him: a person with wings like an Articuno, exactly as the Pichus had described to them. Ken, their leader, sat cross-legged on the ground in silence with his eyes closed. He wore a gray t-shirt, black pants, and blue sneakers. The front of his short, dark blue hair was crowned by Articuno's signature crest of three, blue rhombus-shaped feathers. Long, blue wings sprouted from his shoulder blades, and a long, blue, feathery tail extended from his lower back. Unlike his peers, however, he was much more human-like, with fair toned human skin. With the cyclone having stopped, the air around them suddenly became much colder in his very presence. The siblings' breaths turned to frost, their muscles tensing in the sudden shift in temperature.

They were at a loss for words, opting to wait until he finally opened his blue eyes a moment later. He looked around for a moment before furrowing his brow at the three.

“Who are you?” he asked in a quiet, stern tone. “What happened to—” his eyes went wide with horror upon seeing Myst face-down on the ground. He got to his feet and rushed to her side with enough quickness to leave the trio stunned. He knelt down, cradling her in his arms gently. “Kristi, what happened to you? Wake up, please…”

“Kristi?” Latoshi uttered, quietly. He and his siblings looked to each other in confusion.

“What in the world did you do to her?” Ken asked, bitterly, cutting his eyes at the trio.

“She's unconscious,” Antoshi replied. “She'll be fine, though. She fought intensely to keep us from getting to you.”

“She did?” he mused, looking down at her with a proud smirk. “Noble as usual, Kristi.”

“My name is Antoshi. This is my brother, Latoshi, and my sister, Mitoshi. We can tend to her wounds, but first, we only want to talk things over. We don't want any conflict.”

“Your actions thus far seem to contradict your words,” Ken replied, expressing his contempt for the boy. “The four of us have found that humans aren't particularly trustworthy to begin with.”

“Please, I can't possibly … know what it is you and your friends must have gone through. Help us to understand. That's why we're here. What is it that you're trying to accom—” Antoshi was interrupted when the Raichu-like young woman stirred to life.

“Kristi?” Ken said in concern. “Are you all right?”

She groaned weakly, looking over at the three siblings. Her jaw hung in surprise, turning her attention back to Ken. “Be careful, Ken,” she said, softly. “They—they look like normal kids, but they're … much stronger. They defeated Kage and Celeste before they got here.”

Ken hung his head down in silence for a moment, pursing his lips scornfully. “Are you able to stand?” he asked Myst.

“Yeah, I'll try,” she replied. Myst gave a groan as Ken helped her up to her feet. Once upright, he smiled warmly at her, brushing some of the blue hair from her face. She looked up and grinned back, both of them gazing at each other with a twinkle in their eyes that surprised the sibling trio. There was clearly something much more between the two of them than just friendship.

Ken gave her a kiss on the forehead. “I'm gonna make this right,” he whispered to her. She nodded in response, turning her gaze away with a guilty expression just as Ken looked over at the three. “So, you wanted to understand the motivations of our actions?” he asked, pulling away from Myst. “Fine. You've earned that much for making it this far anyway.”

“What is it you hope to accomplish by doing this?” Antoshi asked.

“Newfound respect,” Ken replied. “Humans are instinctively fueled by hate. Anyone that's different from them is only worth their stares, their scorn, their contempt. … That's us. We can't show ourselves to others, as our presence only causes fear and anxiety in people. We tried so many times to talk with the people important to us. They didn't want to hear it. All we wanted was … a normal life.” He looked over at Myst, who idly wiped a tear from her eye. “However, all we have now is each other. We are family. So, now, after you … attacked my family, you expect me to just 'talk it over' with you?”

“I told you,” Antoshi replied, “we didn't want to fight.”

“Then, why did you?!” Ken shouted.

“We had no choice,” Antoshi said, raising his voice as well. “Your friends weren't going to let us by peacefully! We weren't going to just leave like they asked — not when innocent lives are in danger!”

“And what do you know of 'innocent'? We're innocent! We're the ones forced to live as outcasts from society! You have no idea what that's like!” He paused to close his eyes, calming his breathing for a moment. “… You don't understand what it's like, Antoshi. You and your siblings look like normal kids. You're not … shunned and looked down upon like we are. We have nobody else but each other to confide in.”

I know what it's like,” Latoshi chimed in. “I lived that life for a while myself. I thought that humans were evil and corrupt. I believed they were parasites upon the world and they needed to be exterminated.”

“Well, you would've done all of us a favor if you'd succeeded,” Ken replied. “It's what they deserve.” Latoshi slowly shook his head in disagreement at him.

“You never explained how this blizzard was going to earn you 'respect',” Antoshi said.

“Humans just want to fear us, so we'll give them fear. Once their summer is ruined, their cities are crippled, and they're cut off from their friends and families like we are, then we'll make our announcement to the world. They brought this upon themselves, and they have no one else to blame for all their loss. They'll be forced to let us back in, knowing all the while exactly who we are: better than them.”

“That isn't the way to get what you want,” Antoshi replied. Latoshi nodded, recalling his own personal experiences. “Fear isn't going to make humans respect you, accept you, welcome you back. They're not going to see you as 'better', they're going to see you as murderers.”

“Well, there's only one way to find out,” Ken responded with a smirk. “We're done trying to be nice, and patient, and understanding. All we can do now is fight — and that's exactly what we'll do, to our very last breath.”

“Please, we can help you!”

“Enough!” Ken shouted. “Enough talking already! You can 'help' us by getting the hell out of our way, or I will kill all three of you.”

The sibling trio all looked to each other. It became clear to them that the opposing group's hearts had frozen over, becoming as frigid as the land Ken had created around them. Antoshi gazed down for a moment.

“I guess there's nothing left to say, then,” he said, with a heavy heart. He sighed, turning to Ken with a confident look in his eyes. “If that's how it's going to be, I'll stop you by force. I have to. I'm not going to let you do this, Ken — not to you or to your friends. It's only going to weigh on your conscience. There are better alternatives than this. You don't have to kill people in order to move forward.”

Ken chuckled in amusement. “It's going to feel good to prove you wrong, Antoshi,” he said. “Then again, you won't be alive long enough to realize it.”

“Please, be careful, Ken,” Myst said. “The three of them have some kind of strange powers and abilities I've never seen before.”

“Well, the reverse is also true,” he replied, cracking his knuckles. “They've not seen my powers and abilities, either.”

Antoshi had an intensely serious expression, keeping his gaze affixed to his opponent while Ken calmly moved to the side, away from Myst. At the same time, Latoshi and Mitoshi stepped back a short distance to give them space.

‘Finally,’ Latoshi thought with a sly smirk, ‘Antoshi's in a fight against someone other than me. Time to see all that planning and strategy he always does put to use.’

Ken's large wings flapped slowly, cooling the air in a self-contained pocket around him and Antoshi, displaying extreme precision with his ice abilities. Antoshi winced, doing what he could to ignore the increasingly frigid temperatures. The heat generated from the invisible aura radiating around him was enough to at least keep his blood pumping steadily.

“Well, then,” Ken said, raising his wings up high, “let's see these powers you have.” With a shout, he flapped his wings down hard, causing the air to rush wildly upward in a large vacuum. Antoshi realized his ability to breathe had suddenly been ripped away from him. Ken kept his eyes on the younger boy as he leapt into the air, flying backward, out of the cold and whipping wind. Antoshi took a moment to catch his breath, staying calm while Ken flapped his wings to meet him eye-to-eye in the air. The Articuno-like young man was not quite impressed yet, unlike his friends when they first discovered the siblings possessed superhuman powers.

“So,” Ken remarked, “you can fly, but you also need to breathe like anyone else. You're quite an anomaly. Very well.” Ken held his hands out at his sides. Within his palms, he created a few jagged spikes made of ice. “Let's see if you bleed like anyone else, too.” He threw the spikes, using an extra gust of wind from his wings to fire them at a phenomenal pace.

The speed, however, was nothing that the young teen couldn't handle. Antoshi kept the same stern expression on his face, continuing to keep his gaze focus at Ken. The ice spikes came to a sudden halt mere inches away from his face, just as Antoshi was about to evade them. Neither of the young men had caused it, and so both of them were caught off-guard. All eyes quickly turned to Mitoshi. As those who knew expected, she was indeed using her power over water to keep her brother from harm. With her hands held up, glowing with the blue hue of her Ki, she held the ice in place. Myst gasped, immediately preparing to engage her and the injured Latoshi. Despite all three of them being worn ragged, they took aggressive postures.

“Wait,” Ken said, firmly. His remark caused her to stand down.

“It's all right, Mitoshi,” Antoshi said, smiling to her. “I know you want to help, and that your abilities are probably better suited for this fight than mine. You don't need to worry about me, though. Okay?”

With a concerned expression, Mitoshi considered what her brother told her for a moment. She looked away in guilt, releasing her grip on the icicles, causing them to fall harmlessly to the ground. The girl gave him a nod of acceptance.

As the two combatants turned their attention back to each other, Ken mulled over what just happened. They appeared to be quite the tight-knit group, just like he and his friends. He cast the thought aside, going for the same attack with his ice spikes once more. Antoshi narrowed his eyes, disappearing in the instant before they were about to strike him, surprising Ken with his speed. He turned around, finding the boy hovering a few meters behind him. Ken humphed, still unimpressed. He clenched his fists tight, causing jagged ice spikes to form on each of his knuckles. He flew forward, throwing a punch at the boy. Antoshi maneuvered overhead and behind, watching Ken's movements and flying abilities closely as the Articuno-like young man threw continuous punches at him.

Just then, the trio who were still earthbound turned to the sound of approaching steps behind them. Kage and Celeste had regained consciousness and finally caught up. Celeste held her ribs with one arm, her other arm draped over the back of Kage's neck as he helped her stand upright. Myst was happy to see them.

“You're both okay,” she said, smiling.

“Barely,” Celeste replied in a monotone voice. She and Kage turned their attention upward. “So, the kids made it to Ken.”

“Sure did,” Kage replied, awe-struck. “The one in red up there is the one that knocked me out cold.”

Celeste had a particularly thoughtful look on her face. She was astonished at how the trio of siblings indeed possessed power beyond her comprehension. She never could've imagined there was anyone else in the world as strong as her and her friends.

Antoshi escaped higher into the air, while Ken kept hot on the boy's heels. Ken's frustration grew as he struggled to land even a single punch against the extremely swift boy. Antoshi took advantage of his opponent's irritation, looking to frustrate him further. He parried Ken's next punch with the back of his hand before striking the first blow with an elbow to Ken's cheek. Ken fluttered backward, looking at him in disbelief.

“How the hell did—” Ken began to speak, only to be interrupted when the boy suddenly came at him. His eyes widened, throwing a punch out of instinct, hitting nothing but an illusory image of Antoshi instead. The blond-haired boy again got behind him, grabbing him by the back collar of his shirt and flinging him high into the air. As Ken struggled to correct himself, Antoshi quickly threw his hands out in front of him, aiming at his adversary. He rattled off a wild barrage of red energy blasts — most of which exploded on contact with Ken, while the rest flew by harmlessly. There was little wasted motion in Antoshi's movements thus far, allowing him to conserve as much energy as possible.

All of Ken's friends were shocked by the spectacle.

“Ken!!” Myst cried out in concern.

“Nice,” Latoshi cheered quietly. “This is your opening.”

Mitoshi continued to watch the battle with an astonished expression. Her blond brother was making every movement look so effortless. She felt oblivious that she did not see the same opening that Latoshi just did. It stung her in the way her brothers stared at her in disbelief when she missed an opening of her own during her fight with Myst, and the way they stared again when she made the mistake of trying to help Antoshi defend himself when he didn't need it. She realized she was still the most inexperienced of the trio and that she still had much room to grow and learn as a fighter. Just being able to watch her brothers in the heat of a real battle was a huge learning experience for her.

Ken came to his senses after the attack ended, panting softly. Trails of smoke rolled off his body and wings, scowling in frustration. He gasped suddenly when Antoshi, with irises glowing red, flew at him with phenomenal speed. He tensed up in the instant he was going to throw a punch, but remembered the boy's penchant for slipping behind him. Just as he went to turn around to deal with a possible back attack, he was suddenly struck in the face with a powerful left hook from Antoshi. The blow spun him around, bringing him face to face with the boy who, with a loud shout that brought his red aura to life, laid into him with a barrage of punches to his face, chest, and abdomen. Ken grunted and croaked in pain, knocked around helplessly by the immensely swift and powerful strikes while being inched back from their impacts. Antoshi finished with an uppercut to Ken's chin, knocking him higher into the air. The boy instantly appeared above him, delivering a kick to the small of Ken's back that sent him hurtling into the ground with a mighty impact. Antoshi held his hands out again, aiming toward his opponent, charging up a large amount of energy. With a shout, he fired at Ken with a large wave of red energy. The resulting explosion devastated the earth in a wide cone around the Articuno-like young man, who laid motionless in its epicenter.

“Yeah!” Latoshi exclaimed, both he and his sister cheering. “This fight's over and done!”

“No freaking way,” Celeste whispered in astonishment, reflecting her friends' expressions of horrified disbelief. “Who in the world are these kids? Where did they even come from? …”

“Ken?” Myst uttered in concern, mindlessly taking a few steps toward him. “Ken?!”

“Hey!” Latoshi shouted, causing her to halt. “Stay right where you are. We already agreed there'd be no interference.”

“Don't tell her what to do!” Celeste snapped. “You don't get to speak to her like that!”

“I'll speak to her however the hell I want to!” he shouted back.

“Keep yapping, broken-arm boy, and I'll break your other arm!”

“Come over here and try it! I'll break both your leg—”

Their bickering came to an abrupt halt as they both noticed Ken, covered in dirt, climbing back to his feet. He held his head down, turned away from the others, taking a few deep breaths. At the same time, Antoshi calmly descended to the ground. Both Latoshi and Mitoshi were stunned that he got back up with ease after such a tremendous blast of energy.

Ken lifted his head after a moment, a calm and relaxed expression upon his face. Gone were his earlier traces of frustration. “You're fast,” he said. “You might even be faster than Celeste.” Celeste herself responded with a skeptical humph. Antoshi continued to stare him down in silence, keeping his eyes affixed to his opponent, never dropping his guard. “I see. Now you're going with the 'quiet and serious' route now, huh? That's fine. I'll just show you why you won't beat me!”

Ken pointed his left index finger at the boy. Antoshi narrowed his eyes cautiously, taking a defensive stance, unsure of what was happening. He was ready to guard or flee in an instant. Ken smirked, firing an icy blue beam of energy from the tip of his finger. Antoshi pivoted quickly to avoid it, watching in awe as the beam struck a tree, causing a large portion of it to become encased in ice. At the same time, Ken fired again from his right hand, connecting with the distracted boy's left arm.

“No!” Antoshi shouted. He watched in horror as his entire left arm, too, was trapped in ice that crawled up to his shoulder. He gasped and hissed, suffering through the agonizing, biting pain of the deep freeze. There was very limited mobility in his arm.

“Convinced yet?” Ken asked, standing tall and confident. Antoshi scowled at him, thrusting his uninjured hand out suddenly, launching a blast of energy at him. Ken countered in an instant with another finger beam of ice that pierced through the orb of red Ki, causing it to freeze in place. The energy frosted over and shattered into nothing, leaving all three siblings in disbelief. The beam continued onward, binding Antoshi's other arm in its icy grasp, freezing it over as well. The blond-haired boy shouted in agony, his arms draped at his sides, covered in ice. He scowled and shivered, the blood in his body struggling to pump through his frozen limbs.

Ken shook his head. “I've frozen both of your arms. They'll be fine once they thaw out, but, if I continue to strike them with my ice, they'll freeze even deeper and you will most definitely lose them.” Antoshi continued to scowl bitterly at him, grunting in pain as he attempted to free his arms. “I will admit, you caught me by surprise at first with your speed and power. However, this fight is over now.”

Mitoshi looked to Antoshi with deep concern. “Antoshi, please, let me take over from here.”

Antoshi shook his head, giving her a serious glance. “My … arms may be frozen,” he said, turning his gaze to Ken, “but, I can still fight.”

“Don't be stupid!” Ken snapped, quickly losing patience with the boy. “Don't you understand? The four of us are ready to die fighting for what we believe in. You don't think we're ready to end anyone that stands in our way? You'll never overcome our resolve.”

“Ken, please,” Myst remarked. “This has gone too far…”

“No, Kristi. It's only over once we gain the respect we deserve. Once people like them finally learn to treat us as equals!” He turned his attention back to the cold glare of his adversary. “Stand down, or I promise this is only going to get worse for you.”

“I knew it from the beginning,” Antoshi said, panting softly as he tried to ignore the pain as best he could. “Kage, Celeste, Myst, … none of them came off as 'bad' people to me. They fought with everything they had, but … I could tell it was for something that they believed in. Well, that's why we're fighting as well. I'd sooner die than let you continue to harm innocent bystanders so that you can make some kind of statement. It's not going to happen — not as long as I have blood left to spill.”

Both of his siblings were taken aback by the severity of his remarks. Latoshi in particular hadn't seen that kind of vengeful fire in his brother's eyes since they last fought — a fight that did not end well for the sable-haired boy.

Ken shook his head in disbelief. “A decisive strike now would shatter your arms to bits. Is that what you want? For your siblings to watch as you're maimed?”

“That's assuming you can even touch me,” Antoshi shot back, flashing a confident smirk. His body was suddenly enveloped in the light of his red aura. Ken scowled at him.

“If that's the way you want it, then fine. You can be the first human I make an example out of!!”

Ken shouted, rushed at the boy and swung for his frozen arms. Antoshi flew into the air to avoid him, while Ken flapped his wings hard to keep pace right behind him. Ken continued to strike at the boy, missing again and again, while Antoshi ducked and dodged swiftly.

The onlookers watched the fight play out high over their heads.

“Come on,” Celeste muttered, “stick him. Make his arms shatter like glass.”

Everyone's attention was focused above — everyone except for Myst. She found herself less and less interested in watching as it continued to drag on. There was a faraway, remorseful look in her eyes, her gaze slowly faltering.

‘What's he doing?’ Latoshi thought, narrowing his eyes as he watched Antoshi do nothing but evade. ‘What are you up to, Antoshi? I know you're planning something in that clever head of yours…’

Ken was frustrated all over again, as landing a blow on the boy had become an all but impossible affair. It was as if Antoshi was only getting faster by the second.

‘Damn him!’ Ken thought. ‘His arms should be weighed down by all that ice! Yet, he's still zipping around like nothing has changed!’

Antoshi, meanwhile, glanced over at his frozen arms. He was constantly trying to move and pour his spirit energy into them. He noted a wet sheen coating the ice — ice which had become less jagged after a short time.

‘Just a little bit longer…’ the boy thought, turning his attention back to his foe.

Ken furrowed his brow, wondering what Antoshi was just looking at. His eyes went wide as a light bulb went off in his mind.

“Oh, no, you don't!” Ken exclaimed. He changed his attack strategy suddenly, pointing at the boy with both hands and firing beams of ice at him. Antoshi clenched his jaw, increasing the pace further, creating afterimages while avoiding the attacks that Ken continued to fire off wildly. “You think you're so clever!? I see you were paying attention when I said your arms would thaw out! Well, that offer was only valid before you refused to leave us alone!”

The boy knew he'd slipped up by shifting his glance away from Ken for even a moment. There was not much that escaped the Articuno-like young man's attention.

Ken roared in frustration, firing his attacks as the boy moved in a circular pattern around him. His eyes widened upon realizing Antoshi was gradually getting closer to him. Antoshi struck Ken with a swift knee to the small of his back, launching him higher into the air. However, Antoshi noticed that his knee immediately frosted over with ice on contact. He looked at it in shock before looking to his opponent. Ken smirked confidently as he turned to face the boy once more. A pocket of chilly wind circulated around him, carrying snowflakes and shards of ice as it froze the moisture in the air, almost like an aura of his own made of pure frost.

“Let's see you escape from this!” Ken shouted.

He threw his arms out at his sides, causing his wintry aura to expand rapidly. It consumed Antoshi within its grasp before he could even react. The boy's breathing became labored, looking down at himself as he was covered from head to toe in ice — his body completely freezing over just as he gave one last gasp for air.

“Antoshi!!” Latoshi shouted in terror.

“No!” Mitoshi exclaimed, looking on in despair.

Celeste humphed, impressed by Ken's overwhelming ability. Kage showed a bit of concern, while Myst had gotten to the point where she wasn't even watching the fight anymore.

Ken looked into Antoshi's frozen expression of horror in the moment before the boy began to plummet down. His siblings screamed in response. Mitoshi thrust her glowing hands out toward him quickly, grunting with effort as she eased the frozen statue that had become of her brother to the ground gently.

Celeste snarled at the young girl's repeated interference, preparing to engage her in a fight.

“Enough,” Ken said while descending back down to the ground. Celeste eased up. “This fight is over anyway. Allow them time to grieve for their fallen brother.”

“Turn him back!” Mitoshi demanded with tears in her eyes. “Let him out of there!”

“It's already too late,” Ken replied. “Your brother's locked in a deep freeze, and I cannot undo that. His heart has stopped. He is dead.”

Both siblings stared at their frozen brother in horrified disbelief. Neither could feel or sense Antoshi's energy from beyond the thick, jagged encasement of ice.

“Ken, … why?” Myst uttered, looking to him with a somber expression.

“He left me no choice,” Ken replied, firmly. “This was always the plan. No one was to interfere with our goal.”

Myst pursed her lips, shaking her head. “It's not … supposed to be like this. It wasn't supposed to go this far. I thought we would just be sending a message; I thought that … we wouldn't actually kill anyone. I admit, I went after that girl with all I had, and it could've been me in this situation instead. That doesn't make it any less wrong. These kids, they could've easily killed all of us, and, … initially, I thought they were going to. Even after everything we did and said to them, they were still willing to show us mercy and understanding!”

Ken stared at her with an expression of pure surprise. “What— … what are you saying, Kristi?”

Before the Raichu-like young woman could respond, all eyes turned to a commotion brewing within Antoshi's frozen imprisonment. Water cascaded rapidly down the ice, while the boy inside twitched and trembled. The ice suddenly shattered into pieces as the boy let out a powerful scream, his red aura whipping violently around him. The others looked on in disbelief. Antoshi's skin was a cold hue of blue, particularly around his arms, his clothing and hair soaking wet. He panted heavily, racked with tremendous pain from head to toe. His stiff, aching muscles trembled and shivered.

“Antoshi?” Mitoshi uttered in relieved surprise. Her brother groaned and strained, clenching his fists rhythmically to get the blood flow back into his arms.

“Damn, that was pretty scary,” Latoshi added, laughing nervously. “Don't do that to us anymore, okay?”

Antoshi let out an airy laugh. “Sorry about that. He caught me off-guard with that last charge.” He stood up straight and sighed sharply, turning a cutting glare toward Ken. “It's not going to happen again.”

Myst stared at the boy, jaw agape, bewildered and relieved as well that he was still alive after all. Celeste and Kage were left seriously doubting their group's ability to keep the three youngsters down.

Ken scowled at him, biting his lip angrily. “Why the hell won't you just back down?!”

“I already explained why,” Antoshi muttered, bitterly. The boy closed his eyes and took a slow, deep breath. He gave a long, invigorated roar as his aura exploded with tremendous force around him. The others all shouted in shock, thrown to the ground a short distance away, save for Ken. The Articuno-like young man defended himself using his icy aura, yet still struggled to stand his ground. The trees whipped and swayed violently. Clouds overhead parted suddenly, casting the long-lost light of the sun over the site of their battle. Energy surged through him, his eyes glowing an intensely bright red. Ken covered his eyes from the sudden brightness of the sun, as well as the boy's overwhelming Ki.

Antoshi's display of energy came to an end. His aura receded to a reasonable size just around the frame of his body. His skin tone had returned to normal, an intensely serious expression upon his face as he slowly ascended into the air. Ken clenched his teeth, flapping his wings, rising to meet the boy at the same altitude.

“Oh, damn,” Latoshi muttered, both he and his sister remaining seated on the ground. “I guess all three of us really had a hell of lot more power stored away deep down. … It reminds me of something that Lazarus told me a while back.” Mitoshi turned him with a curious expression. “He said that my power grew so much faster during my first battle with Antoshi than it ever would have if I had just relied on training. All of us have been taken to our limits today, knowing our lives and the lives of others are on the line. It's pushed all three of us to a new level of skill and power. … I mean, just look at him.” Both of them turned their attention to their brother, his dried out clothes flapping gently within the energy of his aura. “Just feel his energy. Have you ever felt that kind of power from him before?”

Mitoshi's jaw hung in awe, shaking her head slowly. “I sure haven't…”

Antoshi didn't so much as blink as he stared at Ken intensely. A powerful sense of justice burned passionately within his young heart, sparked by the fury of everything he'd endured, witnessed, and heard from Ken and the others. He truly was ready to give everything he had, if only to bring this fight to a close.

“I'll bury you so deep in the ice, you won't ever break out again,” Ken remarked, coldly.

“No more barbs,” Antoshi replied. “It's about time to end this fight.”

“Fine, then,” Ken said, taking an offensive stance as his frigid aura whipped harder. “Bring it on!!”

Antoshi's eyes narrowed, flying at his adversary with tremendous speed that created a sonic boom. Ken's eyes widened, intensifying the cold around himself. He smirked as Antoshi's head ended up covered in ice during his approach. Ken threw a punch at him, only to connect with yet another afterimage of the boy.

“What the hell?!” Ken exclaimed in confusion. The ice around Antoshi's upper body shattered quickly as the boy flew around him in orbiting circles that began shifting course slightly. Ken looked all around him in awe-struck disbelief. He saw nothing, only hearing the air whipping around him. Antoshi's level of speed had exploded so much that no part of the boy's body was visible to him — save for streaks of red Ki left behind the boy. The Articuno-like young man's jaw hung, unsure of what to do. “What is it you're trying to accomplish?!”

Antoshi did not respond, continuing to leave streaks of Ki encircling around his foe.

The onlookers below had long gotten back to their feet. All of them, including Myst, also watched the spectacle in fascination. Antoshi had begun essentially wrapping Ken in what became a giant orb of red spirit energy.

“I … can't believe he's this fast!” Celeste remarked. “I can't even see him!”

‘Damn, Antoshi,’ Latoshi thought, as he and his sister looked on in shock, ‘this is your true speed when you go all-out? …’

Antoshi's display came to an end when he appeared suddenly beneath the orb of red energy he encased Ken inside. He threw a hand up at it and immediately pulled back down with a grunt, causing the energy bubble to solidify and tighten around Ken in an instant. Ken gasped in shock, ramming his shoulder against it, only to find himself trapped. He pointed his fingers at it, finding that his ice-cold energy had no effect anymore.

Antoshi threw his other hand up, pointing his palm toward the energy, keeping a slight distance between it and himself. It began to brighten and swirl violently with Ki as he poured more and more of his spirit, his emotion, his power, into the curious imprisonment. Antoshi gave a loud shout, his eyes glowing bright red. Ken found himself trembling at the energy that burned intensely all around him.

“Red Giant!!” Antoshi shouted at the top of his lungs. Ken's eyes went wide, screaming in agony as the bright, fiery orb of spirit energy suddenly scorched him from head to toe with no respite.

The others looked on in horrified amazement, none of them entirely sure of what was happening; only aware that Antoshi had suddenly and decisively grasped the upper hand in this fight. Ken's eyes bulged, screaming continuously, trapped in the excruciating inferno of swirling heat that scalded him down to his very soul. Antoshi grunted, focusing solely on the attack in order to keep it going. He gave one last shout before suddenly detonating the attack, becoming a gigantic blast of Ki that exploded violently. The explosion sent Ken careening to the ground below in swift, devastating fashion.

“Ken!!” Myst exclaimed, fearfully. The young man was left face-down and completely motionless.

Antoshi panted, catching his breath, landing next to his siblings. The sun shone down upon a quiet battlefield.

“Are you okay?” Mitoshi asked, holding her brother's arm with a relieved expression upon her face. Antoshi smiled weakly and nodded to her. He suddenly groaned, stumbling backward. Latoshi gasped and caught him with his good arm. The blond-haired boy was exhausted, having channeled energy from the very depths of his spirit for the insane force of that attack.

“Okay, easy there,” Latoshi said.

“No, I'm good,” Antoshi replied, standing up on his recognizance. “I'm fine. I just … need a minute to rest.” Both of his siblings grinned in elation at him.

“So, what's this 'Red Giant' name, huh?” Latoshi joked. “I think you're just copying me now.”

Copying you?!” Antoshi shouted playfully, grinning from ear to ear. “How did I copy you?”

First of all,” Latoshi replied, also grinning, “I was the one to shout a nickname when I perform some cool, huge attack. Second, that name is based on a star — like mine! You remember, 'Shooting Stars'?”

“Well, maybe I like the 'celestial' name idea, okay?”

The trio of siblings all chuckled together, relieved that the fight of their respective lives was over. Meanwhile, however, all of Ken's friends stared at him from afar. They were all too scared to check on him, believing him to be dead. Tears welled up in Myst's eyes, her jaw trembling as she bit her lip. She began to stagger toward him, wanting to confirm if he was alive or not.

Unbeknown to everyone, however, a large mass of ice had been forming slowly within Ken's hand.

Just before Myst reached him, Ken suddenly turned around and threw a large icicle at the siblings. Antoshi quickly noticed it coming toward him.

“Watch out!” he exclaimed, shoving his siblings out of the way. The spear of ice caught him in his left bicep, going straight through and lodging there. He screamed in pain, falling to a knee, staring at the frigid object in his arm. His siblings looked on in horror.

“Ken!” Myst exclaimed, in a mix of terror and relief. “You're … a-alive!” She looked on in dismay as he got to his feet slowly, groaning in pain, a contemptuous look in his blue eyes as he turned his attention to the blond boy once again. “Ken, stop! Please! That's enough!”

“It's never enough!” Ken shouted back, his icy aura coming to life around him, causing the young woman to stagger backward toward her other friends. “It's not enough until he's dead! I'm never giving up on our cause!”

With a long shout, he began to form a giant multitude of hovering icicle spears around him. They continued to grow larger and larger, to the size of cannons. Ken's group looked on in concern and worry. Antoshi clenched his teeth and shut his eyes, also shouting at the top of his lungs as his aura came to life. The spear in his arm shattered, leaving a gaping, bloodied wound.

“Now, die, you stupid kid,” Ken muttered, just before the barrage of pointed ice attacks fired at the boy.

“Mitoshi!” Latoshi shouted quickly. She turned to him, eyes wide, nodding in understanding. She used her powers to grab a few of the massive icicles, grunting with effort as she brought them to a halt and let them fall to the ground. Latoshi, meanwhile, pointed his good arm at the attacks, blowing away as many of them as he could with blasts of Ki. There were too many of them for both siblings, still drained from their own battles, to deal with in the few seconds that they had to react.

Antoshi huffed sharply, pouring what Ki he had left into his aura, causing it to flare wildly. The icicles that made it past his siblings were brought to a sudden halt. Ken looked on in disbelief. The boy shouted loudly, deflecting them in all directions. Ken's friends shouted, crouching and covering up to avoid them. The counter barrage ended as suddenly as it began.

Ken and the trio of siblings were the only ones left standing — until Ken fell to his knees and onto his side. His breathing was jagged, looking down slowly to see one of his gigantic icicle spears sticking out of his chest.

Myst screamed in horror, racing over to his side, turning him onto his back. The others rushed over as well, all of them horrified.

“Ken, no, please!!” Myst shouted, grabbing his hand and sobbing. “You can fix this — right? You always fix everything!”

Ken shook his head slowly. He reached up, grinning, wiping a tear from her eyes. “Don't … cry. When we … planned this, I already … accepted this as my … fate.” He gazed up at the bright sunlight. “It's good … that I got to see the sun … one more …” he trailed off, his eyes fluttering closed.

“No!!” Myst shouted, grabbing his hand tighter. Celeste and Kage wept just as she did as they stared at their fallen comrade.

“Antoshi!” Mitoshi exclaimed, turning to him. “Your healing power! You have to use it — now!”

All eyes turned to the blond-haired boy. Mitoshi's words gave them the slightest inkling of hope. Antoshi stared at his foe, uncertain.

“I—I'm not sure I can,” Antoshi uttered. “I've never … healed anything that severe!”

“You have to try!” Latoshi interjected. “That's what we're here for, right?! You told me we're going to make things better! You have to — and fast! He's dying!”

“Please, Antoshi,” Myst remarked, quietly, tears rolling down her face.

Antoshi huffed sharply, putting on a confident face. “All right. Mitoshi, get that ice out of him.”

“Right!” she responded. She held her arms out at Ken, carefully pulling the icicle out of him with the movement of her hands. The others gasped at the sight of the horrific wound it had left behind.

Antoshi knelt down on Ken's other side, opposite from Myst, hovering his hands over the injury. He closed his eyes and steadied his breathing, recalling what Serenity had told him.

‘Your thoughts and your intentions have to be pure,’ Serenity explained. ‘You can only focus on helping the person before you. You must care for their well-being, and that feeling has to go all the way to your heart. If you were to ever have even a shred of malice inside you, your Ki would instead injure them — the same way any of your usual attacks do.’

Antoshi's aura flickered gently, his spirit becoming placid, breathing calmly. He and Ken had just fought with everything they had. They may not have seen eye to eye, and he may have despised Ken's methods and hatred, but he kept his thoughts on the images of the concern and care Ken's friends held for him. He recalled his desire for peace, and how much he expressed that to his siblings. He recalled Latoshi's desire to fight on behalf of Poka and Chika — those two, little Pichu who were at home, waiting for Latoshi to return. He owed it to his siblings, to set the example for them, and to Ken's friends, to prove beyond any doubt that they truly didn't want to harm them.

A strange, soothing pulse of energy emanated from his aura — felt by the onlookers, who were awe-struck and oddly placated by it. Antoshi's hands glowed an unusually soft hue of red. The others gasped as the terrible injury started to heal itself, slowly but steadily. Mitoshi clenched her fists, silently cheering her intensely focused brother on. There were further smatterings of awe-struck gasps and murmurs as Ken's wound continued to heal itself with increasing swiftness. Antoshi strained and panted, sweating profusely, a pained expression on his face. He tried with all of his might to focus, to use his new power correctly and not falter. He was incredibly exhausted, tapping into the barest reserves of energy his young body could muster. The others watched in amazement as the glowing wound closed more and more. With a loud shout, Antoshi collapsed onto his back.

“Antoshi!” both of his siblings exclaimed in concern as they rushed to his side. The blond-haired boy was completely winded, drained of energy, trembling weakly.

As Antoshi caught his breath, the others looked over at Ken. His injury had miraculously healed fully. All that was left was a torn hole in his shirt. The Articuno-like young man's eyes shot open suddenly, awaking with a sharp, deep gasp. His friends were relieved and joyful beyond words as he sat up with a bewildered look in his eyes. He gazed down, patting his chest in confusion.

“Wh-what just happened?” he uttered. “Wasn't I— … wasn't I seriously maimed just now?”

“You were,” Celeste replied, with tears in her eyes. She casually pointed to Antoshi. “That blond kid saved your life.”

As Antoshi's siblings helped him to sit up, Ken stared at the boy with a continuous puzzled look.

“Good to see you're still with us,” Antoshi remarked with a weak grin.

“But, I—I don't understand,” Ken remarked. “You and I were— … we were enemies just now. I was trying to kill you. You could've just left with your siblings and had your victory. You ended up saving me and put a great strain on yourself to do so. … Why?”

“Because that's no victory,” Antoshi replied, hunched over a bit as he managed to sit up on his own. “I meant it when I said … that we really are here to resolve things peacefully, and that we didn't want a fight. Leaving you there, dying, while your friends watched and grieved over you — that's not a victory; … it's heartless. That's not what we're about.” His siblings nodded in agreement.

The opposing group of four went silent for a moment, crestfallen. Myst sniffled, idly wiping the tears from her eyes.

“We're all terribly sorry,” Myst spoke up. “You truly … did mean what you said to us — to all of us. We didn't believe you because … we didn't want to. We didn't want to be wrong. We didn't want to know … that our plan had far more severe consequences than we expected. … None of us could ever make up for the wrongs we caused you — for trying to end your lives.”

“But, we're willing to learn,” Ken added. “It took a lot of punches to the face for us to finally get it. There really are people out there who are … reasonable, and kind.”

“I have to ask, though,” Antoshi said. “Did you ever stop to ask your friends how they felt about this?”

“Well, of course I did,” Ken replied in confusion. “We've planned this for months, went over all the details again and again until we were finally ready to put everything in motion. It was a unanimous decision.”

“Are you sure about that?” Antoshi pointed to Myst, turning the young man's attention to her. The young woman had an deeply disappointed look on her face.

“Kristi, what's wrong?” Ken asked.

Myst smiled nervously at him. “The three of you were … so intent on this idea. You were so motivated for revenge. I couldn't just say 'no'. I was worried that everyone else would get angry. I was worried that you would … tell me to leave.” Ken's jaw hung agape, his eyes wide with shock. “I'm sorry for not telling you sooner, Ken. I was just afraid, that's all.”

“Kristi, I love you,” he replied, cupping her cheek. She smiled warmly, holding his hand. “I would never, ever get angry for you speaking your mind. I've always cared about how you feel.”

“We've already lost so much, I was afraid of losing all of you as well…”

Ken's hand fell away. He sighed heavily as he turned his gaze to the ground. The realization of how badly he'd miscalculated finally hit him. “I can't believe how … blind I've been. I was blind to your feelings, blind to how much we were going to ruin peoples' lives and those of their families, blinded by my own rage and personal vendetta. I was just so … angry at how we'd been treated! I was so angry at everything that happened to us — I just … wanted to do something to help all of us feel like we were in control for once. I'm so stupid…”

“So are we,” Celeste replied. “We were all pissed off. We were all just … looking for some way to help us feel justified. Some way of helping us feel … like we weren't helpless anymore.” Her friends all nodded in agreement.

“By the way,” Latoshi spoke up. “I know that … it might not be my place to ask, but, what did happen to you?”

“Yeah,” Mitoshi added. “I'm sure that, if we knew your story, we could understand how you feel better.”

Ken smiled at them. “I thank you for asking. … That's for another time, however, when we're more comfortable with sharing more personal details. As for now, since my vortex had expired, the clouds will start to disperse. It'll probably take a couple days for the weather to totally clear up, but, the blizzard is finally over.” The siblings grinned to each other. “Truly, I … must thank you three. I know it's cliche to say, but, you really did show us the error of our ways — myself especially. I would be honored to call the three of you … our friends.” The others in his group nodded in agreement.

“So would we—” Antoshi began. The entire group suddenly turned their attention to the sound of footsteps approaching. Antoshi's heart leapt, grinning as Serenity emerged from behind the trees. She was quite confused by the scene laid out before her.

“Se—” Antoshi went to speak.

“Serenity?” Ken spoke up before he could, rising to his feet slowly. The trio of siblings looked at him in surprise.

Serenity advanced toward them slowly. Her jaw was agape, a bewildered expression upon her face. “… Ken?” she responded after a moment of silence. “Then, that must mean, the others are … Kristi, Celeste, and Matthew.” The others stared back at her with a similar sense of astonishment. Latoshi mouthed the name 'Matthew' in confusion, while looking over at Kage.

“Serenity,” Antoshi spoke, “you … know them?” Latoshi and Mitoshi helped their brother get to his feet.

“We all went to the same school,” Serenity replied, keeping her eyes focused on the group of four.

“Yeah,” Ken replied, with an amused scoff, “the Richmond School for 'Spoiled Rich Kids'.” His friends chuckled quietly. “That was back when we were … normal.”

“I—I can't believe it,” she replied with a laugh of awe-struck relief. “It's been so long since I've seen the four of you. I met with some old friends from school a while back, and I had heard that you all just sort of … disappeared together. Nobody I talked to knew what happened to all of you. I remember how you were always together, and how the kids at school used to call you 'The Clique'.”

Celeste chuckled and grinned, the name bringing back memories for her.

“You're … not going to ask what happened to us?” Kage asked, curiously.

Serenity smiled and shook her head. “Unless you wish to share that with me, it isn't my place to pry. Really, I'm just happy to see you again, and to know that you're all still around.”

Ken smiled. “You were always kind, Serenity. Beautiful and kind.”

Serenity grinned in response. “Well, judging by the state you're all in, it seems I missed quite a spectacle.”

Latoshi humphed in amusement. “I'm surprised you weren't here already.”

“I was stuck at work up until a few minutes ago,” she replied. “Technically, I'm supposed to be on my lunch break right now, but, I had been sensing something spectacular happening over here for a while. Then, I felt a powerful display of healing energy.” She smiled and turned her attention to Antoshi. “That was an amazing feat you pulled off, Antoshi. You output tremendous ability for someone who's only begun to practice with healing energy. I want you to know that I'm extremely proud of what you accomplished.”

“Yeah,” Celeste chimed in. “We're all really thankful to you for saving Ken's life — honestly.”

“It's no problem,” Antoshi replied with a smile. “Just, … next time, could everyone listen to me when I say we should avoid fighting?” The others burst into laughter.

“You got it,” Myst replied, clinging tightly to Ken's arm. The two looked at each other and grinned.

“Hey, Serenity,” Latoshi said, “while you're here, you think you could patch up my arm?”

“Absolutely,” she replied happily. “I'll take care of everyone's injuries in a jiffy.”

“… I just came up with a great joke for this moment!” Kage exclaimed. Celeste suddenly elbowed him in the ribs. “Ow!”

“Shut it, Matthew,” Celeste chided, glaring at him. He groaned in defeat, rubbing his side.

Antoshi breathed a long sigh of relief. He turned his attention to the break in the clouds he had made earlier, grinning at the heat of the sun beaming down upon them. They had finally put an end to the blizzard successfully — as well as all of the brutal fighting they'd endured. He and his siblings were ready and eager to welcome the dog days of summer once again.