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Frozen Summer

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Latoshi's body whistled through the air, green aura blazing around his body. Within mere seconds, he backtracked the entirety of the way he'd walked. He dropped to the ground, hustling up the porch stairs and bursting into the house. The other were startled, particularly Mitoshi as he marched up to her.

“What?” she asked, confused. He suddenly yanked away the heated blanket from her body, angering the girl. “Hey! What's your problem?! I was using tha—” She and the others gasped in shock as he carefully laid the tiny Pichus on the couch before resting them atop the blanket. All of them got to their feet.

“What happened?” Antoshi asked, mirroring everyone else's concern. “Where did these two Pichu come from?”

“I just found them a minute ago,” Latoshi replied, quietly. He knelt down, wrapping their bodies with the sides of the blanket. “They were in the woods, covered in snow. They're … they're barely alive. I—I didn't know what else to do.” He turned to Antoshi. “You're the experienced Pokémon Trainer here. Can you do anything to help them?”

Latoshi moved aside, allowing Antoshi to kneel down in front of them. He touched their heads and faces, tapping and scratching the electric pads on their cheeks. Very faint sparks, not unlike static electricity, popped from their cheek pouches. Bubbles slid her way over to the living area to finally see what was going on. She, too, gasped at the sight of the unconscious Pichus.

“It looks bad,” Antoshi said, softly. “They're definitely suffering from hypothermia. Bringing them here as quickly as you could helped, though. The only thing we can do for them now is keep them warm and … just hope for the best.”

“Oh, gosh…” Mitoshi uttered, stunned, on the verge of tears — as was Bubbles. Fireball bit his claws nervously.

Latoshi stared at the Pichus with a look of firm resolve on his face. He took a seat beside them, where Mitoshi had been sitting earlier. “I'll stay with them and watch over them. I'm just gonna stay right here and make sure they're okay.” Antoshi smiled at him.

"Me, too," Fireball added. "I'll do anything I can to help. Just name it."

“Should I get some water?” Mitoshi asked. “I'll get some water for them in case they wake up.”

“I know everyone is eager to help,” Antoshi said, “but, there's nothing else we can do right now. It's all up to them to make it through.”

Fireball sighed as he and Antoshi took a seat again. Mitoshi sat on the couch facing Latoshi. All of them watched and waited while the two little weakened Pichu as they slept.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

As the day rolled on, the others settled back into their usual daily routine. Latoshi, however, did not. True to his word, the sable-haired boy did not move an inch from his seat. He watched over them continuously like a worried parent, paying attention for the slightest change in their condition. He leaned over every so often to check on the state of their breathing. He also made sure they were comfortable atop the heated blanket, and that it wasn't too hot for them. While the others headed to the kitchen to have dinner, Latoshi waited on the couch until his brother brought over a plate of food for him.

Later in the evening, everyone, sans Latoshi, played a game together on the floor in the living area. Latoshi gasped loudly when one of them slowly stirred.

“Guys!” he said, keeping his voice low. “Guys! One of them is moving!” The others quickly got up, scrambling over to see. To their amazement, one of the Pichu slowly rolled over onto its side with a soft groan. It remained asleep without opening its eyes. “Th-that's a good thing, right?” he asked Antoshi, nervously.

“Absolutely,” Antoshi replied. He checked their temperature again, as well as their cheek pouches. “I think they're past the worst of it now. They just need to rest.”

Latoshi sighed in relief, closing his eyes with a smile. “That's great to hear, because I really need to use the bathroom.” The others laughed.

“Don't worry,” Antoshi replied, “we'll look after them until you get back.”

“Thanks,” Latoshi said, getting up and shuffling off to the restroom in a hurry.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

After nightfall, when everyone else had gone back to their rooms to sleep, Latoshi remained awake. The living area lights overhead had been set to a low dim, keeping him from having to sit in the dark. He continued to watch over the two, ignoring the even colder temperature at night. His eyes were starting to get heavy, having stared at the Pichus nearly all day. He sighed, resting his head against the back of the couch, promising to close his eyes for just a few minutes. Quickly enough, however, he dozed off to sleep.

Not long after, the Pichu that had turned over earlier started to stir awake. It slowly opened its large, dark brown eyes with a quiet groan. The Pichu froze in place for a moment, slowly taking in its new, unfamiliar surroundings — particularly the big, slumbering human next to them. It noticed, however, that its counterpart was right there beside them as well. It slowly and quietly reached over, tapping and pushing the other Pichu.

"Wake up," it whispered. "Poka! Wake up!"

The Pichu continued to shake its twin for a few moments, until the other Pichu finally awoke with a groan of its own.

"What's … going on?" the second Pichu wondered aloud. Taking note of Latoshi, it gasped in shock.

"I don't know," the first one whispered. "But, we really need to get out of here before—" Its remarks were suddenly interrupted when Latoshi woke up with a startled gasp.

The two Pichus panicked, closing their eyes, pretending to still be asleep. Latoshi looked over at them, curiously. He could've sworn he heard something.

“Are … you two awake?” he asked. There was no response from either of them. He sighed, scooting a bit closer to the pair. He pulled the sides of the blanket back over them, noticing it had fallen off their bodies. Latoshi began to stare at them in concern. He went to reach out to touch them, stopping and hesitating briefly. He placed a hand atop their heads and their pink cheeks, smiling as he took note of how much warmer they were than when he first found them. Their bright yellow fur was incredibly soft.

“I really hope the two of you wake up,” he said, quietly. “I sure would … like to get to know you better.” He continued to pet the two of them for a few moments. “I'm so sorry that this happened to you. I only wish that … I had found you both sooner. … If the two of you make it through this, I promise I'm going to make sure nothing else happens to you both — no matter what. … The two of you have been through enough already.”

He took his hand away, sighing despondently. Just then, Mitoshi's bedroom door opened. He turned, looking at her from over the couch. She smiled, walking over in her blue nightgown and white socks.

“How are they?” she asked quietly, kneeling down in front of them. He looked over at the Pichus as Mitoshi gently pet their heads.

“Still the same,” he replied.

She smiled weakly and nodded. “I can tell … how much you care about them, Latoshi. I think it's really wonderful how dedicated you are to making sure they're okay.” He smiled at her. “… Latoshi, I'm really sorry for arguing with you lately. I didn't mean all that stuff I said, I just got … upset over those silly little things, and that was wrong. It seems so pointless for me to get mad at you after I've wanted nothing more than to meet my brothers for the longest time.”

Latoshi was pleasantly surprised to hear her apologize. He chuckled softly. “I was actually thinking the same thing earlier.” She chuckled as well. “Still, I share just as much blame here. I've just been trying to get used to the whole 'having a brother and sister' thing. That, and I've been dealing with living with the aftermath of what happened during my time with … Lazarus. I've been sorta … keeping all that anger inside, and it's been rough for me. I should've talked to you instead of just being a jerk and lashing out. You don't deserve that. I gotta get out of that bad habit.”

“Talking things out sounds like a great idea,” she replied with an elated grin. “You can always talk to me whenever you want about anything in the whole world. … Well, Antoshi's probably better at giving advice than I am, but, I love you, too — so much. Don't you forget that.”

“I know. I love you, too, Mitoshi.”

She giggled, quietly, standing up before throwing her arms around his neck briefly and giving him a kiss on the cheek.

“Well, goodnight,” she said. She turned to the Pichus. “And, goodnight to you two as well.”

Latoshi chuckled. “Goodnight, Mitoshi.”

Mitoshi headed back into her room and quietly closed the door behind her. Both siblings felt much better, sighing in content to finally resolve their issues. Latoshi got up to head into the kitchen for a glass of water. He headed back to the couch, taking a few sips along the way. He set his water down on the glass table in front of the couch, and settled in for the night.

Once the Pichus were certain he was asleep again, the first Pichu pushed the other.

"Come on, Poka," it said, keeping its voice low while shedding the blanket away. "We're getting out of here." The other Pichu, however, turned with tears welled in its eyes. "Poka, … are you crying?" The other Pichu nodded.

"Yes. … I'm not leaving."

The first Pichu was shocked. "Poka, please, we have to get out of here now! You know how terrible humans are!"

Poka shook its head. "I'm not going, Chika. This human, … he saved us! I think he really … cares about us. You heard what they were saying. Plus, they're brother and sister — just like you and me."

"Poka, you are my brother, and I'm not leaving you here. If you stay, they're just going to put you in those prison balls and make you their slave. We both promised we'd never live like that!"

Poka shook his head once again. "I'm not going out in that cold anymore. At least here we have … someone who will take care of us! I trust him, Chika!"

She huffed in exasperation. "Okay," his sister replied, impertinently, "fine, you can trust him all you want. I'm leaving." Chika got up on all fours, stretching briefly. She gasped, collapsing suddenly onto her belly after being racked with intense pain from every exhausted muscle in her body — the very same muscles that had previously been frozen stiff.

"Chika?" he mused, sitting up. He gasped as well at the very same pain, causing him to realize why she collapsed. Although the cold had thawed from them, it was still going to take some time for the soreness of their frostbite to subside. He slowly laid down on his back, wincing in pain. "Well, … we probably shouldn't go anywhere anyway."

"And why not?" she asked, looking at him while the rest of her body remain totally still.

"Because … what if the four scary people are out there?" Chika's eyes went wide with shock. "What if they're looking for us?"

"Good point," she replied, quietly. With a pained groan, she, too, rolled onto her back, laying beside her brother. "… I'm scared, Poka."

"Me, too," he replied, quietly. They reached out for each other, grabbing each others' paw. The two siblings smiled to each other. Their eyes fluttered closed, succumbing to their mutual exhaustion.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

The next morning, after breakfast, Latoshi returned once again to his spot on the couch next to the sleeping Pichus. His eyes went wide, letting out a surprised gasp when they began to stir awake.

“Guys!” Latoshi exclaimed, quietly. “I think they're finally waking up!”

The other four, all gathered around the seating area in the kitchen, clamored as they headed over to look. The two Pichus yawned and stretched. They were feeling much better and far less sore than the previous night. However, one look at the crowd encircled and towering over them caused the pair to immediately cower away.

“Let's back up a little,” Antoshi said, waving for the others to take a couple steps back. The Pichus relaxed some, staring at all the strange, new faces with wide, curious eyes. “Hello, there,” the blond-haired boy introduced himself with a smile. “It's nice to finally meet both of you. My name is Antoshi, and this is my best friend, Fireball.” Fireball grinned and waved to them. The Pichus lowered their heads, intimidated by the much bigger Typhlosion. “I know, he might seem pretty big and scary, but, I promise he's a gentle giant. This is my sister, Mitoshi, …” Mitoshi wiggled her fingers to wave at them, “and her best friend, Bubbles.”

"It's nice to meet you both," Bubbles said, gently, from behind the couch. Despite her quiet nature, the Pichus were also intimidated by the large Lapras' head hovering over them.

“And, lastly,” Antoshi went on, “this is my brother, Latoshi. He's the one that found the two of you in the snow.”

The two looked up at the sable-haired boy in awe. Latoshi, meanwhile, swallowed nervously. “Well, you know,” he said, “I … I couldn't just leave the two of you there, and … well, I—I was worried. About you. The two of you.” He chuckled, awkwardly. “I'm … really glad the two of you are awake now. A-are you hurt? Do you need anything?”

They looked at each other before looking back to him. "Water!" they both said, pointing to their open mouths.

Due to the three siblings hearing nothing more than a simple 'Pichu!' from the two tiny Pokémon, all eyes turned to Fireball.

"Water," Fireball and Bubbles both said in unison.

“I'm on it!” Latoshi said, heading into the kitchen without delay. The Pichus were momentarily bewildered — it seemed as though the humans could understand what their Pokémon just said. Latoshi poured a full glass of water, came back and sat down. The glass was too big for them to hold, so, he held it in front of Poka first, tilting it back very slowly while the Pichu held on to it with his tiny paws. “There you go,” he said while the parched Pokémon lapped up sip after sip of water.

Antoshi and Mitoshi smiled to each other. The two of them and Fireball headed back to the kitchen area, watching from a distance so as not to hover over them. Bubbles joined them at her own, slower leisure.

After Chika got her own drink of water, the entire glass was empty. Both Pichus pointed to their open mouths again.

“More water?” Latoshi asked, surprised. The Pichu's shook their heads. “… Oh, food?” They both nodded, ecstatically. “Okay, coming right up.” The others watched him as he returned to the kitchen. He opened up each of the cabinets below, digging through pots and pans that clattered loudly. “Antoshi, where do you keep that Pokémon food?”

“It's … right above your head,” the blond-haired boy replied, calmly. Latoshi paused, gazing up at the large, conspicuous bag of Pokémon food on the counter before him.

“I—I knew that,” he stammered, closing the cabinets. “I was … I was testing you, you know.” Antoshi raised his eyebrows, nodding playfully in response. The others snickered to themselves. Latoshi grabbed a bowl, filled it up with food, and returned to the Pichus with it. They stared at the spherical, dry kibble before them for a moment, having never seen such a thing before. It carried a very tempting aroma, however, that drew the pain to lean in and smell closer. The two gasped in surprise, grabbing the food in their tiny paws and chowed down.

Latoshi took a deep breath, sighing happily. Having found the two of them frozen in the snow, seeing them in much better shape, and in good spirits, was cathartic for him. Once they finished, they both fell back onto the blanket, sighing in content.

“You two must still be tired, huh?” he asked, smiling. The duo nodded to him. As before, he draped the heated blanket over their bodies. “Is the blanket warm enough for you?” They nodded again before closing their tired eyes.

With a warm grin, Latoshi got to his feet to join the others.

“They must still be very young,” Antoshi remarked. “I can't help but wonder if … they were separated from their mother somehow.”

“That's so sad,” Mitoshi responded, softly. “At the same time, it makes me even prouder of you for rescuing them, Latoshi.” She smiled at him, and he responded in kind.

“All I want,” Latoshi said, “… is to make up for the misdeeds Lazarus used me for. I just want to be better than how Lazarus 'taught' me I should be.” Antoshi reached over and patted Latoshi's shoulder in response.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

After lunch, the Pichus had woken up again. Feeling much better, they decided to take their own personal tour around the cabin to get acclimated to their new surroundings. They crawled under the couches, moving slowly and cautiously across the open floors. Smelling everything in sight, they wandered through the open bedrooms and the bathroom. When they finally emerged back into the living area, they sprinted out playfully, laughing as they tumbled around and chased one another. Even though it was cold inside, being in shelter was infinitely better than out in the frigid, falling snow. The others couldn't help but smile at the new pair who appeared to be quite happy to join them.

A short time later, there was a knock at the door. The Pichus panicked, scrambling for Latoshi. They hid behind his legs, peering out from behind him. He looked down and grinned at them.

“I got it,” Antoshi said. He headed for the door, opening it, smiling at the arriving Serenity. “Hey, you're right on time.”

“Brrr!” she responded playfully, shuffling inside while wearing a large pink turtleneck sweater and black sweatpants. Antoshi shut the door behind her. “This blizzard's getting more intense by the day. It's started to spread to parts of Ecruteak now.” She noticed the large, yellow heads poking out behind Latoshi's shins. “Oh, you have some new guests?” she asked, smiling warmly at them.

“Yeah,” Latoshi replied. “I found these two out in the snow. They were in pretty rough shape.”

“Well, that truly is a wonderful and caring thing for you to do, Latoshi,” she replied. “You've already grown so much since we spoke in Goldenrod City — and it shows.” The two smiled at each other. “Well, then,” she went on, turning her attention to Antoshi, “shall we get started?”

“I'm ready,” Antoshi replied, rubbing his cold hands together. “I've been looking forward to this.”

“All right,” Serenity replied, rolling up her sleeves. “As promised, I'm going to teach you how to use your Ki to heal.” Antoshi nodded to her. The others headed over to the couches, with Bubbles taking her usual seat behind Mitoshi. All of them were intensely curious to watch. The Pichus scampered up, sitting between Fireball and Latoshi on the large couch in the middle.

Serenity swiftly swiped a hand across her forearm, causing it to bleed. The others gasped in shock.

“Now, now,” she reassured them, smiling, “nobody panic. There's no real injury here, it's just for show.” She opened the same hand, now glowing with her pink aura, around her open wound. The others looked on as the wound was closed up and healed to perfection within seconds.

Poka and Chika, in particular, were completely shocked.

"How did she … do that?" Chika asked Fireball in a hushed voice.

"She's using her Ki," Fireball replied quietly, as the tiny twins looked up at him with awe-struck expressions. "Ki is sort of like … the energy inside her spirit. It's a special power that comes from within her. All of the humans here can use it." The two Pichus looked at each other. They'd never heard of, or even imagined, anything so fantastic before.

“You're up, Antoshi,” Serenity said. She proceeded to make the same wound on her arm before offering said arm to the young man.

He took a deep breath and nodded. “All right. What do I need to know?”

“Your thoughts and your intentions have to be pure,” she replied. “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 huffed sharply. He held his hands out, hovering them inches over her open wound. ‘Focus on helping,’ he thought while closing his eyes. ‘Care about them and their well-being. No other thoughts, no distractions …’

He kept himself calm and relaxed as his red aura began to glow within his hands. The others on the couch looked on in suspense. Serenity's wound began to close itself at a much slower rate than when the young woman healed it, but, it was indeed progressing. Mitoshi and Latoshi grinned at each other, cheering their brother on in silence. Antoshi began to struggle and grunt, his hands trembling, holding his breath. The energy needed to perform the feat was far greater than he anticipated. By the time his energy petered out, he stumbled backward, catching himself with a gasp of surprise. He panted heavily, taking a look at what he'd managed to accomplish — Serenity's wound was almost completely healed.

“That was an excellent first attempt, Antoshi,” she said. She used her own healing power to finish closing the wound on her arm.

Antoshi fell back onto the third, empty couch, grinning and panting. “That certainly felt different from the usual, everyday Ki blasts we usually make. I never would've expected … your power would take so much inner strength.”

Serenity chuckled, taking a seat next to him. “As with everything that involves your spirit energy, it ultimately comes down to your resolve that determines the efficacy of your ability, and your emotions are what amplify that. So long as what fuels your ability to heal is love and kindness, then you'll be able to master it in no time. Considering how well you did your first time, I'd say you must care about me a lot.” Her response caused the blond-haired boy's eyes to shoot wide open, his face flushed red, going totally silent. Fireball, as usual, snickered in amusement. Serenity laughed. “I'm only joking!” The others all laughed in response.

“Oh,” Antoshi replied, glancing away from her. “Erm, so, … uh, …” he stammered, trying to think of anything else to talk about, “so, … how long will it take me to … master this?”

Serenity shrugged. “Not too long, I'd imagine. Just keep practicing at it, like how you and your siblings train your fighting prowess. Now you have something else to strengthen and get better at. Just remember — this ability does have some limitations. It's only useful for physical injuries. You won't be able to heal away diseases, allergies, and so on. You can't heal emotional pains, and it cannot resurrect people from the dead.” Antoshi nodded in understanding. “So,” she went on, turning to the others, “now that I'm here anyway, are there any other questions you might have for me?”

“Yeah,” Latoshi said, sitting forward. “I was thinking about something you told me back in Goldenrod City. You said something like, 'sleep is not a necessity', and that Antoshi managed to tap into that somehow. What did you mean?” Antoshi turned to her, also curious of the response.

“In some ways,” Serenity replied, “your Ki allows you to be self-sufficient for much longer periods of time than the average person. The need to eat, sleep, and even breathe can be supplied by the energy of your spirit. As you mentioned, Antoshi did this unintentionally when he was preparing to fight with you the second time around. Instead of sleeping, his Ki kept him feeling alert and awake. Without sleep, however, your Ki reserves burn at a much faster rate and, eventually, you will need to sleep in order to regain that energy back.”

Latoshi glanced away, briefly. “So, wait a minute. … You're saying that, when Antoshi defeated me, he was actually … weaker than he would've been if he'd been rested up?” Serenity smiled, closed her eyes, and nodded. The two brothers looked at each other. “Wow,” he remarked, both of them laughing in response.

“Can I do this, too?” Mitoshi chimed in, curiously. “I can just decide not to sleep one night and my Ki will just keep me feeling energized?”

“That is correct,” Serenity replied.

“Oh, cool!” Mitoshi said, grinning at both of her brothers. “Who's up for a never-ending slumber party?!” She shot her hand up, drawing a laugh from the others.

“Speaking of 'cool',” Serenity said, “it certainly is quite cold in here. You don't have a fireplace or a heater?”

“No, unfortunately,” Mitoshi replied. “But, hey, I can make us all some hot cocoa. That'll help, right?”

“I'm up for some hot cocoa,” Latoshi said, just before Mitoshi hopped to her feet.

"What's hot cocoa?" Poka asked Fireball, tugging on his fur.

"The best sweet treat for cold days," Fireball replied, grinning at the two Pichus. "Trust me, you'll enjoy it." The two smaller Pokémon responded by gasping in excitement at each other.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

That evening, after Serenity had gone home, the previously bedridden Poka and Chika were like little balls of energy. They laughed and tumbled around the floor between the three couches as the others sat and watched them. The pair raced around the living area, hiding from each other behind and underneath furniture. They ran up and down Bubbles' shell as the Lapras lounged behind Mitoshi, as usual. At times, they tugged and swatted at Fireball's hind feet, prompting the Typhlosion to get up.

"All right, all right," Fireball relented. The duo continued to squeal and laugh as Fireball chased them around for a while. Fireball tumbled over onto his back, and the Pichus hopped up on top of him to bounce around on his belly, much to the amusement of all.

After the little ones were finally all tuckered out, they crawled up the legs of Latoshi's pants, curling up into his lap, much to his surprise. The display prompted an 'aww' in response from Mitoshi, who was seated next to him. Fireball took a seat next to Antoshi once again.

“You should let them sleep in your bed tonight,” Antoshi said to his brother. “I'm sure you still want to keep an eye on them, after all.”

“You … really think I could?” Latoshi replied, grinning. There was a warmth and a softness about him that Antoshi had never seen from him before.

“Of course,” Antoshi said, smiling back at him. “Fireball used to sleep in my bed when he wasn't fully evolved.” Fireball nodded in agreement. “I'm sure the two of them wouldn't mind it one bit.”

Latoshi took a moment to look at the Pichus, who were very comfortable resting against him. “Well, … all right.” Cradling the tiny twins in his arms, he got to his feet. “I suppose I'll turn in early tonight. Goodnight, guys.”

“Goodnight,” the others responded before Latoshi headed into his room and slowly closed the door with his foot.

Latoshi laid them down, carefully, on the far edge of the bed, which was seated in the corner of the bedroom. The two continued to remain fast asleep, while he undressed into his white t-shirt and boxer shorts — the same nightwear his brother typically wore. He turned off the lamp on the stand next to his bed, and slipped under the covers.

For a while, he laid in bed, staring at the two of them as they quietly slept — a sight that made his heart melt. Having Pokémon was a new experience for him, and, for them, so was having a human. He felt so incredibly attached them already. They were so cute and so much fun to watch. Latoshi gently pet them both, smiling warmly, hoping for nothing more than for them to stay with him always.

⁂    ⁂    ⁂

The Pichus eagerly scampered out of Latoshi's room as he opened the door the following morning. The sounds of Bubbles quiet humming echoed from Mitoshi's room, next to his.

“Okay,” he said to the pair, “go and get your food.”

“Hey there, you two,” Antoshi said, greeting the twins from inside the kitchen. He laid out a couple of bowls filled with Pokémon food on the floor, which they promptly dug into. Fireball stood in front of the kitchen island, eating from his own bowl of food.

“Hey,” Mitoshi greeted her sable-haired brother casually, seated on the same couch she sat in the previous night. The TV was on in front of her. “Man, things are getting really serious for the people affected by the blizzard.” The two brothers came over and stood near her, watching the news broadcast. It showed video from inside the snowstorm impacting Goldenrod City.

“… as the storm grows ever larger,” the male news reporter said. “With no end to the blizzard in sight, residents are being urged to stay indoors — which is causing major headaches for the flow of business in the city; along with serious, life-threatening situations. At least a dozen people have died so far from the combination of severe cold and paramedics being unable to reach those in need. Hundreds more are reporting a wide range of sicknesses. City officials are working around the clock to formulate a plan of action to evacuate some of the city's residents — particularly the very young and the elderly — to alleviate some of the concerns of peril. Attempts by many in the city to call upon Pokémon to combat the weather directly have, so far, failed as well.”

Latoshi sucked his teeth, punching his open palm in frustration. “I hate this. I hate that we have these powers, but we're powerless to stop something like this.” Mitoshi held her head down with a sorrowful gaze.

“I know,” Antoshi replied, quietly, taking a seat next to his sister. “Maybe it really will blow over. We just have to hope that all those people are going to be all right.”

Both Pichus tugged at Fireball's leg. "We know what happened!" Chika exclaimed.

The trio of siblings looked over at the two, tiny Pokémon with shocked expressions.

"You mean, with the snowstorm?" Fireball replied. The Pichus nodded in response. "Well, let me tell them—"

“Wait,” Latoshi cut him off. He slowly rose to his feet, walked over to the Pichus and knelt down in front of them. “I—I heard what they said,” he added, flabbergasted.

“So did I,” Mitoshi replied.

“Same here,” Antoshi said.

“What was it … you said just now?” Latoshi asked.

The Pichus, too, were dumbfounded for a moment. "We … know what happened?" Chika uttered, meekly.

The wind was momentarily knocked from Latoshi's lungs, overcome by a surge of joyous emotion. He composed himself, nodding to the two. “All right, … um, tell us what you know.”

Poka and Chika scampered over and stood in-between the three siblings. Latoshi rose to his feet again.

"There were … these four strange people!" Chika said.

"Scary people!" Poka added.

"Yeah! Scary people!"

“What kind of people?” Antoshi asked. “Why did they scare you?”

"They were people, … but, also Pokémon!" Chika said.

“People, but Pokémon?” Mitoshi mused, reflecting the confusion on everyone else's faces. The Pichu twins nodded.

"Two of them had black fur," Poka said, "one of them looked like us, and another had blue wings. He was … cold!"

"They scared us away when they saw us!" Chika added, her eyes welling with tears. "They told us never to come back or they would get us!"

“Cold, …” Antoshi muttered, “and with blue wings? …”

“What's up, Antoshi?” his brother asked. Antoshi furrowed his brow in thought for a brief moment before getting up and heading into his room. In the meanwhile, Bubbles emerged into the living area, curious of what was going on. When Antoshi came back and sat down again, he was holding a magazine retrieved from his backpack. He rustled through it while the others watched.

“Blue wings …” Antoshi muttered again, flipping through pages. He turned the magazine around, pointing a finger at an image of a Pokémon. “Did they look like this?”

The Pichus eyes widened in shock. "Yes!" they both exclaimed in surprise. "That's exactly it!"

“And you said he was … 'cold',” Antoshi said. “Do you mean he had a cold personality or the air around him was cold?”

"The air was cold!" Chika clarified.

"Very cold!" Poka added, shivering. "It makes me cold just thinking about it!"

A light suddenly went off in Antoshi's eyes. What the Pichus just told him suddenly connected with the cause of the blizzard in surprising fashion. He looked down at his magazine again, shaking his head in disbelief.

“What is it, Antoshi?” Latoshi asked. “Are … you gonna share with the rest of the class, or what?”

“There's only one Pokémon with blue wings that's 'cold',” Antoshi explained. “It's a breed of Legendary Pokémon: Articuno, the legendary bird of ice. But, you two said … it was a person. That's— … that's impossible.”

"We saw it with our eyes!" Chika insisted.

"Yeah!" Poka added. "We're telling the truth — we promise!"

“A person with wings like an Articuno?” Latoshi asked the Pichus, who nodded in response.

“Articuno's mastery over cold is part of its legend,” Antoshi explained. “It can freeze air moisture just from flying. A snowstorm like the one over Goldenrod would probably be … a simple task for a Pokémon with incredible power like that. But, how could a person be an Articuno?”

“What do you think we should do?” Mitoshi asked her blond brother.

Antoshi closed his magazine and sighed, pondering for a moment. “There's only one thing we can, and should, do. We have to go investigate.”

“Investigate out in that cold?” Latoshi replied in dismay. “We could wander out there for hours and turn up nothing.”

“Latoshi,” Mitoshi said, “you did just say you wanted to help, right?” Latoshi sighed heavily, relenting with a nod of agreement.

"We know where to find them!" Poka said, much to everyone else's surprise. "They're in a part of the woods where there's no snow falling!"

"Yeah!" Chika said. "We were walking away from them before we fell asleep in the snow! We moved in a straight line!"

“A straight line, huh?” Latoshi mused. “That's … northeast from where I found you. Whoever it is that's behind this is practically close enough to be our neighbor and we never even knew it.”

“If it's like the Pichu's say,” Antoshi said, “then, we're looking for an area of the forest without snow. If we can find that, we might be able to figure out what's going on. Once we do, we'll do our best to stop it. Whether it's a person or a Pokémon behind this, we still have a chance to talk and reason with them.”

“When should we get going?” Mitoshi asked, getting to her feet. Antoshi did the same, tossing the magazine onto the couch.

“Right away,” he replied. “The sooner we put a stop to this, the sooner people will stop suffering.”

“Got it,” Latoshi said, nodding firmly.

"What should I do?" Fireball asked.

"I also have the same question," Bubbles softly chimed in.

“Stay here,” Antoshi replied to them both. “Keep an eye on the Pichus. Err, … do the two of you have names?”

"I'm Chika!" the girl said, cheerfully.

"I'm Poka!" her brother added. The others chuckled.

“All right,” Antoshi replied, smiling. “Fireball, Bubbles — keep an eye on Poka and Chika for us, okay?”

Fireball nodded. "Please, be careful, Antoshi."

“Hey, he's got us to back him up,” Latoshi replied, smirking confidently.

“Yeah,” Mitoshi added, resting an arm on her blond brother's shoulder. “Have you seen how strong we've gotten lately?”

"I know that," Fireball said, smiling at them. "I just … always worry about my best friend's safety, that's all."

Antoshi smiled as well, walking up to Fireball to share a hug with him. Mitoshi took the incentive to do the same with Bubbles, giving her a kiss on the cheek. Latoshi knelt down, holding his arms out to the Pichus, sharing a hug with them as well.

"Teach those big bullies a lesson!" Chika said to him.

"Yeah! Make them promise never to be mean to Pokémon anymore!"

Latoshi grinned at them. “I'll be sure to deliver that message for you.” They both gasped in elation, while Latoshi stood up tall again.

“All right,” Antoshi said, opening the front door. “Let's get to it, then.” His siblings nodded, following him out the front door.

Latoshi took the lead, the trio's colored auras flaring around them to protect them from the snow. They all sighed heavily, braving the frigid, whipping cold, trudging through the dense blanket of snow which had gotten high enough to reach their waists. The danger of the endlessly falling snow amid this frozen summer was growing more perilous with each passing day. The three of them were not willing to sit idly by and let things get any worse, however. With equally determined expressions upon their faces, they headed into the forest.