What spread out before them was a vast complex of interconnected temples and shrines, all forged in gold. Actual, solid gold. Matt couldn’t imagine where the ancient Doradans who built it found so much of the precious metal, but there was no mistaking what the structures were made of. While it wasn’t literally a city where people could have lived, that didn’t really matter. Rosalita and Shaymin already knew about it, obviously, but for the others any remaining traces of doubt they harbored melted away. Here, buried in the deepest bowels of the earth below La Ciudad Dorada, truly was a city of gold. One as real and tangible as the stone under their feet.
The tunnel had led the group to a balcony with an altar overlooking the Golden City, as it turned out. It afforded them a perfect view of the legendary site as the flames continued to illuminate the area. Eleanor, Sheena, Noel and Leon couldn’t help but run to the railing at the platform’s edge, each of them thrilled for a different reason.
In Eleanor’s case, it was nothing more than excitement for how much her visit to La Ciudad Dorada had given her. She’d traveled there just to see the kingdom’s machines, yet when she got swept up in the search for the Golden City, she ended up finding a sense of friendship that largely eluded her in Kalos. That, in turn, had made her feel like she belonged there, bringing her peace and satisfaction she had long sought. Basking in the glow of the flames against the gold, she closed her eyes and whispered to herself, “It feels so warm…”
As for Sheena, the Golden City represented an opportunity to learn. The wanderer, the allegedly immortal Tenganist warrior priest from Ransei, was responsible for La Ciudad Dorada becoming an oasis. In that sense, Sheena thought, the Golden City and its Fountain of Life could be considered his greatest achievements. “It’s thanks to him teaching the Doradans how to use Gaia that all this is possible,”, she marvelled internally as the gleaming glow of the Golden City reflected in her blue eyes. “Being here is my greatest chance to walk his path and understand what he truly could do.”
As for Noel and Leon, what the Golden City meant to them was already well known. They hadn’t exactly tried to hide their motives from the others, after all. When they traveled to the realm at Fernando’s behest, they expected to be arriving at the Golden City after capturing Shaymin for him. They’d considered stealing the treasure for themselves, too, but seeing how vast it truly was left them pleased they hadn’t pursued that end. It didn’t matter. All they wanted was a chance to escape the desperate lives they led, and helping Rosalita was what would get them there.
“Hey, Sis?” Leon said to his sibling and partner. “I just remembered… if we’re stayin’ here, what about our crew back home in Pyrite? Weren’t we gonna help ’em too?”
“I already thought ’bout that,” Noel answered with a hearty slap to her brother’s back. “They’re pretty tough, ’specially that Renzo, but I’ll talk to Princess ’bout arrangin’ something for ’em.”
“Sounds good to me, Sis.”
As the furthest reaches of the Golden City were illuminated, one thing brought those on the observation platform together above all else. Gratitude, be it for friendship, knowledge or opportunity, filled their hearts. Though unspoken, all four also shared a sense that they couldn’t have achieved their goals without each other. Their silent gratitude was such that it even brightened Shaymin’s dour mood for the time being.
At that point, the very back of the cavern was finally brought into the light, and the source of the overwhelming presence in the Golden City was revealed at last. There, sitting on a gargantuan golden throne, was Regigigas. It was easily the most gigantic thing any of the group had ever seen; the temples surrounding the titan were like mere toys compared to its awe-inspiring size. Despite there being a wide path laid out before it, Regigigas could have easily destroyed the entire Golden City if it so desired. That much became immediately obvious to those present. All they could do was stare at the great Pokémon as it radiated power even while remaining perfectly still.
“Good thing it’s asleep…” Eleanor breathlessly said.
“Yes, you are correct…” Rosalita took a step forward and unconsciously clenched her hand around the pin on her cloak bearing her family’s coat of arms. Shaymin remained floating by her side, and noticed how her hand was trembling. “We must be cautious but prompt,” the princess continued, fighting back her anxiety. “I think we can all see quite clearly why Regigigas must not be awakened, most particularly by my brother. Sightseeing can wait until after we head to the Fountain of Life. Come, Matt, we must go…”
When she turned around, Rosalita saw Matt clutching his laptop and staring at its screen. He was slouching, his breathing had turned shallow, and his face was completely blank. Any effect the spectacle of the Golden City had on him had seemingly worn off.
“Matt?” she quietly inquired, taking a tentative step toward him. “What is wrong?”
“We’re standing exactly where Sutter stood so many decades ago,” he murmured in reply. A sigh found its way through his clenched teeth before he turned his gaze up from the screen. “When Cassy and I came to La Ciudad Dorada, I thought that walking the same path he did would help bring me closure over his death. Now, I’m here, and…” Matt sighed again, finding himself afraid to admit what he was thinking. “I’m here, and… I don’t feel anything. Please don’t get me wrong, Rosalita, this is a magnificent place… I just…” His composure was beginning to unravel. “I just… I thought that once this was over, I could finally put what happened behind me. I thought I would finally understand why he died, and I don’t…”
“Please, do not give up hope,” Rosalita told him. She spoke before she could think, and when her mind caught up with her, her sense of guilt flared anew. “This is my fault,” she thought, forcing herself to not frown and give away her feelings. “If I just told him everything, he could be at peace…”
Eleanor’s voice snapped the princess back to reality. The others had closed ranks around her while she was distracted to await her decision on what to do next.
“Yes, yes, Eleanor, I apologize,” she said, raising her hand and smiling nervously. She then turned to Matt and vowed, “You will find what you seek, that I can promise you. There is only a little… a little further to go.”
“You’re right,” he answered, straightening himself. “Thank you.”
“Rosalita, look over there.” Sheena pointed off to the left side of the balcony, drawing the others’ attention to a stone staircase leading further down. “That looks like the only way to proceed.”
“An apt observation,” Rosalita agreed. “Come. Once we are done here, I’ll…” One last pang of fear rose in Rosalita’s heart, but she fought it back. “I’ll be able to tell you everything, Matt.”
“Or maybe he can find out now.”
Before any of the group could process the sudden intrusion, a bolt of dark lightning cracked the air and struck in their midst. The resulting explosion threw them all back, scattering them across the floor of the viewing deck. Behind them, standing in the gateway to the Golden City, was Fernando.
“You!” Matt yelled at him. Overcome with fury, Matt seized his laptop and tried to stand up, but found himself unable to. It was as if an invisible force was holding him back. He looked around, noticing that the others appeared to be similarly afflicted. “What did you do?!” he demanded.
Fernando held the staff out so Matt could see the Griseous Orb atop it. The jewel was glowing and giving off sparks of dark electricity. “So it really does alter gravity,” the count noted as he closed the staff’s bulb around the orb.
“You know you are not supposed to be using that!” Shaymin shrieked at him. “Surrender it at once, you!”
“Silence!” Fernando countered, unconcerned by Shaymin’s order. He entered the cavern with slow, deliberate steps, and Heatran lumbered in behind him. “You, who refuses to defend this land, has no right to give me commands.”
“Oh, like you’re doing any better?” Eleanor spat.
Fernando’s eyes briefly flicked over to the engineer, but he otherwise paid her no mind. The sight of the Golden City and Regigigas fascinated him. There, laid out before him, was everything he’d hoped for and dreamed of his entire life, given physical form. “It truly is as spectacular as the writings of our ancestors say…” he uttered, awestruck. “This must be protected from the outsiders who would take it away…”
“You’re the one who’s threatening it!” Rosalita scolded her brother. The effect of the Griseous Orb had worn off enough that she could sit up and throw out an accusing finger at her sibling. “Why can you not understand Regigigas is not a toy or a weapon?! You’re the one being a child, Fernando! And while you go on about protecting this place, you’re the one who sent outsiders to do all your dirty work!”
That remark got Fernando to halt his advance. He stood right in front of his sister, looked down on her with an icy glare and said severely, “That is rich coming from you. I used them to find the Golden City, that is correct. But I only used them to do what I could not, and that includes getting our rightful property back. Or do I need to remind you that, you took the grandson of the outsider who started all this and relied on him when you didn’t even need to?”
“Am I supposed to be chastened by that?” Rosalita snapped. “You killed Mother and Father! Professor Chiaki too! You’re in no position to moralize to others when you’ve already gone too far!”
“That right there is why you are not worthy of the throne despite your power,” Fernando coldly replied. His voice was growing shaky, and the hand he held the staff in was trembling. “I… I did kill them. I am weak, and I did what I was capable of. What you fail to grasp is that... nobody is more precious than what we must protect. We are insignificant in the bigger picture of things, and that is why the kingdom must be protected no matter the cost. My life has made that very clear to me.”
“You’re absolutely mad,” Matt angrily interrupted, clutching his laptop and still documenting things, “but does somebody want to tell me what’s going on here? My grandfather started this?”
“You didn’t even tell him,” Fernando scorned Rosalita as he turned away from her. “You lecture me while you manipulate people yourself.”
“It’s not like you told him either…” she listlessly countered.
“Told me what?!” Matt’s anger was devolving into utter desperation, and both his tone and movements reflected it. His gaze darted from Shaymin to Rosalita to Fernando and back again before he begged, “What really happened here?!”
“What happened was your grandfather defiled the trial all kings must face,” Fernando revealed, “just as you are now. He, an outsider, made himself a part of our sacred custom. To that end, he stole one of our treasures, the golden puzzle box.”
“You’re not telling him the truth either!” Rosalita lashed out. When she saw Matt look to her in clear bewilderment, the last of her hesitation to tell him fell away. “I didn’t know how to tell you this, Matt, and for that I apologize. If you don’t wish to forgive me, I will not hold it against you. The truth is… our grandfather, King Fernando VI… he appointed Professor Chiaki as a guardian of the trials and the Golden City.”
Many decades earlier, Sutter had indeed seen the same sight Matt would see in the future. Time seemed to have no influence there. The balcony and altar, the gleaming golden temples, Regigigas and its throne, all of it was identical to how it was in the present.
That, of course, did not apply to Sutter himself. His appearance then was much more robust, with vivid blue hair that matched Amanda’s and a neatly trimmed beard. He stood at the edge of the balcony with his apprentice, a young man with a thick, black handlebar moustache, at his side.
“I can’t believe it,” the elder Chiaki marvelled at the sight before them. “The Golden City is actually real, and we found it… this is our greatest achievement, Jacob.”
“No doubt about it, Professor,” Jacob replied. “Not just the Golden City, either… if the city itself is real, then the fountain of eternal life must be real as well. Our names will go down in history for this!”
“It is all real, but you presume much to think you will gain fame from this place. If you value your life, you will tell no one outside what you have found.”
Sutter and Jacob turned away from the Golden City to see King Fernando VI approaching them, holding Shaymin in his arms. A man of great height, Fernando VI bore a striking facial resemblance to his future grandson.
“Your highness,” Sutter addressed the king, “forgive my insolence, but I fail to understand. You have helped us on our journey to this point. Why would you do that if you did not want us to document our findings?”
“We helped you because we have a much greater purpose in mind for you, yes,” Shaymin informed the pair.
“That is correct,” Fernando VI continued when the two adventurers looked questioningly at him. “Recently, I became aware of some…” The king turned his eyes down to Shaymin, who squirmed nervously in his arms. “...information. Because of it, in my capacity as king, I have decided that I wish to appoint someone outside our realm to watch over this process.”
Sutter straightened up, understanding immediately what Fernando VI was suggesting. “What would such a mission entail?” he asked.
“Guarding this,” Fernando VI said, producing the puzzle box from his robes after setting Shaymin down. He’d allowed Sutter and Jacob to use it to find the Three Pillars, and they had just returned it to him after solving the planetarium puzzle. “Everything you’ve heard about this land is true. I allowed you to find the Golden City to see if you were worthy of drinking from the Fountain of Life and using its gifts to watch over the cube until it is once again needed.”
“You want us to live forever?” Jacob questioned, completely stunned by what he was hearing.
“Not exactly,” Fernando and Rosalita’s grandfather replied. “I believe you two have proven that you will use the gift the Fountain of Life gives responsibly, and not abuse it to attain true immortality.”
“I see,” Sutter said, scratching his chin in thought. “It is true that I’ve gained deep gratitude for your kingdom’s way of life… if fulfilling your request is how I can give back to you, I will do it.”
“You’re always so brave, Professor…” Jacob remarked. “I don’t have the same courage… I’m sorry, your highness, but I don’t think I can do it. I just… don’t think I can give up my ordinary life for such immense responsibility. I’m not saying I’m not grateful for the honor, but…”
“You need not apologize, Jacob,” the king assured him. “I understand I am placing a great demand upon you both. It is not unreasonable to refuse. At the same time, I must insist that you not reveal what has taken place here to the outside world.”
“I swear I won’t!” Jacob exclaimed, placing his hand over his heart.
“Very well. Come, Professor Chiaki, we must carry out the ceremony at the Fountain of Life.”
“This way, yes!” Shaymin called from near the stairs. “Hurry!”
“That’s it…” Matt gasped. His mind was totally overwhelmed by the reality of the situation, and he had started to shut down. He dropped his laptop to the ground as he sat and held the sides of his head. “That must be what Sutter wanted Amanda and I to inherit, his role as overseer… is that why he had to die?”
“No outsider has the right to drink from the Fountain of Life,” Fernando declared, devoid of empathy for Matt’s situation. He wasn’t incapable of caring, but he truly could not understand why Matt was in such distress. “It was a mistake that needed to be corrected. And with no ability to do anything else, I… I corrected it. I hoped to recover the puzzle box at that time as well, but the academy’s guards interfered and I had to flee.”
“No, that can’t…” Matt’s face fell as his hope and drive abandoned him. “That’s it, that’s what took the only one who cared about us away? And if we had inherited his duty as he wanted… it would have been us instead… but why was he even given that responsibility? What called for it…?”
Seeing Matt falling into complete despair spurred Rosalita into action. She forced herself to her feet, pushing through the last of the Griseous Orb’s effect. The others were inspired to rise as well, but Rosalita didn’t notice them. She jabbed her finger squarely at her brother and thundered at him, “You are wrong, Fernando! All of this is wrong! You don’t have the right to deem someone worthy of receiving the Fountain of Life’s gifts or not! Only Shaymin and Grandfather did, and they chose Sutter of their own free will!”
“Grandfather was nothing but a traitor!” Fernando roared back, jerking himself around so violently his hair lashed about. “He poisoned Shaymin’s mind. That’s the only reason it ever would go along with his ideas, whatever the cause was for them! Father knew, too, and he wouldn’t do anything to protect us now! That’s why I had to do what I did!”
“And I know, too, as all the heirs to the throne do,” Rosalita countered. “Would you call me a traitor as well, Fernando? Would you take my life too?”
This truly took Fernando by surprise, and for the first time, he genuinely seemed to be at a loss for words. “I… I…” he sputtered. “Do you think this has been easy for me?!” he finally yelled, not providing an answer to his sister’s question. “Father and Mother’s faces, their voices as I struck them down… they haunt me endlessly! Do you remember what you said that day, when Shaymin named you heir? You told me I had to understand the sacrifice necessary to be a wise leader. Do you remember that? Do you?!”
“Of course, but that’s not-”
“And now I’ve learned the kind of price I must pay to save the kingdom!” he fumed. “That you would say such a thing, knowing everything we’ve been through… No!” Fernando shook his head back and forth. “Don’t make me lose any more than I already have, Rosalita. I’ve paid enough of a price. Because of that, I can’t stop… I must awaken Regigigas and protect the kingdom.” Extending his hand to Rosalita, he pleaded, “Please, you can end this right now. Give up your claim to the throne. Once you do, Shaymin will have no choice but to give me the power of the Fountain of Life.”
“You still demonstrate little understanding of the meaning of gratitude, you,” Shaymin gravely warned. “Without that, you will only face the wrath of Gaia.”
“Silence,” Fernando spat. “I don’t want to hear anything from you right now.”
“Well, I do not know what answer you think you’re going to receive.” Rosalita met Fernando’s gesture with one of her own, extending her hand to him. “It is not too late, Fernando. There’s still time. If you’re willing to put an end to your campaign, I can use my power to grant you clemency. I hate what you have done… but no matter what, I cannot hate you. Come home with me and you don’t have to lose everything.”
“Even now, you forgive him…” Sheena thought. “I must admire that.”
Even in the face of Rosalita’s forgiveness, Fernando was unmoved. “That is truly why you aren’t worthy,” he said, stepping back and shaking his head. “You will never understand the price that must be paid to protect the kingdom.”
“How can you say that, though?” Tears were welling up in Rosalita’s eyes, but they were not spurred on by sadness. She was simultaneously so angry and so distressed by the situation that her roiling emotions forced the tears out. “We promised each other we’d be the best leaders the kingdom ever had, that we’d never fight like the previous siblings did. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
Rosalita didn’t see Shaymin visibly cringe at her mention of the siblings. Fernando did, but he ignored it, unaware of its meaning.
“Nothing but the words of silly, foolish children,” the count dismissed, drawing a horrified gasp from his sister. “I realize the reality of life now… No matter what I did, how hard I worked, Father and Mother told me it wasn’t necessary. They, and the land I love, turned their backs on me. That led me to finally realize something. I was born to protect the kingdom… there is no other purpose for me to be on this earth. I am nothing but a tool for La Ciudad Dorada’s survival.”
“You’re not…” Rosalita knew she would regret saying what was on the tip of her tongue, but at that point, she could no longer hold it back. The sad, broken figure self-destructing before her was nothing like the Fernando she knew. What was perhaps her worst fear was coming true, and she could do nothing but lash out at it. “My brother is a good person, maybe a little vain, but a good person. He would never say that our family had no place for him or sacrifice his humanity for anything! I can’t understand how you could become this way… I can’t even recognize who you are anymore!”
“... If you loathe me to your dying breath, that is merely another sacrifice I will have to make,” Fernando bitterly admitted. Turning to his sister’s allies, he said, “I tire of this endless talking. Matt, give me the box so I can awaken Regigigas. Wipe away the stain your treasonous grandfather put on your family name by returning what he stole.”
Seeing Matt shrink even further at Fernando’s demand, and with Eleanor and Sheena doing nothing, Noel decided to intervene. “Yo, Count. Real low blow on that dude, y’know?” She put her fist against her hip and flashed her trademark scowl. “Ain’t it bad enough you killed his grandpa? You don’t gotta rub it in like that.”
Fernando smirked. He knew exactly what reaction he wanted to provoke, and chose his next words very deliberately. “By what right do you to speak to me, the protector of La Ciudad Dorada, in such a way? You and what army?”
As soon as Noel heard this, she threw back her head and laughed. “Really, dude? The army you gave us! Let’s go, Bro!”
Leon followed his sister’s direction, throwing all of his clockwork Poké Balls right after she threw hers. Neither of them realized they had walked right into Fernando’s trap. The count grinned even more widely as the squadron of collared Pokémon materialized before him and aggressively cried at him.
“That’s what you are going to do?” Fernando taunted the siblings. Spreading his arms, he beckoned them, “Then bring it on.”
“Hah!” Leon exclaimed. “You must have more than a few screws loose in that head of yours, man. Sis, waste this fool!”
An undeniable sense of dread crept up Sheena’s body while she watched Noel issue orders to the Pokémon. She absentmindedly brought her hand to her mouth and bit her finger, thinking to herself, “Something’s not right here. I know he has Heatran, but…”
“Go get ’im!” Noel shouted. “Lickilicky, Water Pulse! Roserade, Shadow Ball! Togekiss, Aura Sph-”
At that point, Fernando switched the hand he was holding the staff with, moving it to the right hand from his left. It wasn’t until then that Sheena spotted the gauntlet on his left arm. When he started to raise it into the air, the realization of what he was doing hit the priestess like a ton of bricks.
“Noel, stop your attack!” she warned. “It’s a trap!”
“What d’you mean, Eyebrows?”
Sheena couldn’t answer before Fernando had his arm fully extended above his head. He dramatically snapped his fist shut, causing a red wave to erupt from the gem on the back of the gauntlet. As soon as the light washed over them, their collars flashed in response, and the Pokémon froze where they stood, standing with every muscle stilled to the point where their very breaths were almost imperceptible.
“What’re you all doin’?” Noel demanded of her Pokémon. Flustered, she pointed at Fernando and again ordered, “Go and get him!”
“How very, very sad,” Fernando mocked her. “Did you really think I’d give the two of you weapons you could turn against me?”
“What?” Leon gasped. “Sis, if he’s not bluffin’, he’s saying those Pokémon…”
“We still got the controller!” Noel’s panic was clouding her judgment. She tried frantically to manipulate her bracelet’s projection, to no avail. The device suddenly sparked and died, promptly followed by their entire supply of clockwork Poké Balls doing the same. The siblings could only watch in horror as the tools they’d relied on were torn away from them, the spheres falling off their jackets as they ceased to function.
Smirking, Fernando pointed his fist at his sister and her allies, leading the army of Pokémon to follow his signal. As they slowly turned to face the count’s enemies, all emotion and vitality drained from their faces and their eyes filled with a red glow, the listing Pokémon taking on vaguely undead appearances.
“Impressive, no? Those Poké Balls, the collars and their controllers are the fruits of the wisdom of Arcane Scientists in bygone eras. Developed for our military for crises that outstripped the simple bond between Pokémon and trainer,” Fernando explained. “It was meant to help give us a defense unit with perfect cohesion as a team. I am using it for its intended purpose, defending the kingdom. Now, Matt Chiaki… give me what your grandfather stole.”
“Fine…” Matt sighed in what seemed like surrender. He reached into his bag and said, “It was La Ciudad Dorada’s, you’re not wrong about that.”
“Don’t give it to him!” Rosalita implored Matt. “Everything we worked for will be lost!”
Suddenly, Matt looked up and grinned. “Who said I was giving it to him?” When he pulled his hand from his bag, it was wrapped around a Poké Ball, not the cube. “Rosalita, you misled me, and we’re gonna have to have a talk about that, but I still know which side I’m taking here! Anton-”
In a flash, the collared Electivire and Magmortar were upon Matt, responding to an order Fernando gave them with the gauntlet. Elective grabbed his arm to prevent him from opening Anton’s Poké Ball, while Magmortar pointed one of his cannons at Matt’s face. A fireball smoldered within, making his threat crystal clear.
“Do not be a fool and test me,” Fernando warned him. The count then pointed his closed fist at the others, drawing the attention of the rest of his army to them. “That goes for the rest of you, too. I want our kingdom’s property back, and I want you to give up your claim to the throne, Rosalita. Only then will I be able to give our home the security it needs.”
With Matt immobilized, the others knew they had little chance of successfully fighting back against Fernando. Noel and Leon still had their Muk and Palossand, and Eleanor could contribute her Persian, but against all eleven Pokémon under Fernando’s control at once, even Rosalita’s full team wouldn’t be able to win, with or without help. Nevertheless, the princess’s instinct drove her to action, and she started to reach into her cloak for a Poké Ball.
Much to the relief of Rosalita and the others, a solution abruptly presented itself. Having had enough of Fernando’s insolence, Shaymin snapped from its stupor and flew straight into Electivire. The force of its headbutt sent Electivire reeling, and Matt fell to his knees after being freed from her grip. Eleanor ran to help Matt up, while Shaymin shrieked and lashed its head around, generating a blade of air that drove Magmortar back when it made contact.
“To think I gave you the benefit of the doubt,” Fernando said in disgust. “I thought your mind was merely poisoned by Grandfather’s treason, yet here you are, siding against protecting the kingdom. It’s time for you to wake up and fulfill the role you were brought here for.”
Fernando didn’t fully realize how he’d pushed Shaymin’s buttons and played on its insecurities, but what he also failed to realize was that Shaymin could do the same back to him.
The mythical Pokémon scoffed, then admonished the count, “You talk about making yourself worthy of the throne? Look around, you! Exploiting the resources of your realm to blackmail your way into power? Keep your promises, you!”
“Are you suggesting I’m doing what the previous siblings did?” When Fernando said this, Shaymin grinned. He’d taken its bait, and was clearly upset by its implications. “That I’m turning the kingdom against itself?”
“That is what I’m saying, you.” Shaymin was well aware that it was fudging the truth, but for the moment, doing so seemed like the best option. “You would rather repeat your ancestors’ mistakes than swallow your pride and change your course. May La Ciudad Dorada crumble to dust before I deem one like you worthy to reign!”
“So pompous for such a small creature.” Despite his derision of Shaymin, Fernando gestured with his left hand, calling off the army. They retreated to the perimeter of the platform while he activated the gauntlet’s projector. A number of images appeared before him, but the one he brought to the front was of a device with several rings circling around an orange stone. He flicked his fingers over the image, and in response, Heatran stomped to the forefront. “One final trial,” he proposed. “Neither Heatran nor the Magma Stone that controls it comes from this land, so you cannot say I am using the kingdom against itself. You and Rosalita against Heatran and I… that will prove my worth.”
“I accept your challenge, you.” Shaymin turned back to the princess and said, “Come to my side, Rosalita. Lead me.”
Rosalita hesitated. She had an idea in mind for how to defeat Heatran, but still, the reality of the situation worried her. For one, as much as she wanted to, she didn’t trust Fernando to simply give up his quest if he lost. She knew how he thought. He’d gone too far and done too much to simply surrender, so from the start, Rosalita suspected another trap. Furthermore, while she had faith in Shaymin’s decision and was well aware it could hold its own against Heatran, the fact that it faced a Fire-and-Steel-type was still daunting. Speaking strictly in terms of type, Heatran held a significant advantage.
“He says it’s one last trial,” Sheena said, approaching Rosalita from the right. “That means it’s a trial for you, too. You’ve passed every other one with flying colors, so I know you can do this.”
“I agree,” Matt concurred, standing on the princess’s left. “You can do this, Rosalita. Don’t worry…” He reached into his bag and finished, “I’ve got a plan that should work. Beat Heatran, and it should work.”
“That you two stand with me, even now…” Rosalita’s eyes watered as she smiled, but she didn’t cry. “Thank you.”
With the backing of her friends and allies, Rosalita felt no fear. She approached Shaymin and straightened herself, standing at her full height with the poise of a queen.
“I must give you credit for the strength you’ve gained,” Fernando admitted, “but that strength is being used in a misguided fashion. It doesn’t have to be this way… you could surrender the throne and be my knight, fighting for the kingdom just like we promised each other.”
“You’re correct, it doesn’t have to be this way.” Rosalita stared across the platform at her brother and Heatran, her features fixed in a look of absolute determination. “But I won’t surrender. Not now, not ever. I’m going home after this and you’re coming with me.”
“There won’t be a home to go back to if we don’t protect it!” Fernando spread his arms and sighed in resignation. “You will never see the truth until I demonstrate it to you. So be it. After I prove my worth here I will awaken Regigigas and you shall see that I’ve always been right.” The count closed his left hand and thrust his fist forward, calling out, “Heatran, Magma Storm!”
Both Rosalita and Shaymin had expected Magma Storm to be Fernando’s opening move, so they were ready for it. Before the command even fully left Fernando’s mouth, his sister countered, “Evade it and use Air Slash!”
“Way ahead of you!” the mythical Pokémon enthusiastically announced.
As the fiery cyclone erupted from Heatran’s mouth, Shaymin initially dove toward it before veering to the right. Heatran tried to follow after it, but she wasn’t fast enough to keep up. Shaymin danced through the air, skillfully weaving around Heatran’s onslaught with deft arcs and somersaults. The Magma Storm soon abated, having accomplished little besides filling the air above the platform with black smoke, and Shaymin responded by flinging blades of air into Heatran’s armored face. While her part-Steel typing gave her a formidable natural defense against Flying-type moves, the blows still sent enough of a shock through her body that she shuddered and growled.
Rosalita noted the presence of the fumes overhead, but elected not to use them. Instead, she couldn’t resist trying one more time to appeal to her brother. “I am serious, Fernando, you need to stop this! There’s still time! You won’t get what you want no matter what happens, so please, stop!”
“I won’t get what I want unless I win,” Fernando bitterly replied, making his sister’s heart sink. “Nevermind that this is all you, Mother and Father left for me. Heatran!” As soon as Fernando raised his left arm into the air, the Fire-and-Steel-type shook off her daze and returned to her battle-ready stance. “Get into a better vantage point and use Flash Cannon!”
“Keep it in place, Shaymin! Air Slash again!”
The mythical Pokémon was able to get ahead of its opponent and send another Air Slash cutting toward her as she charged, but this time, she fired a ray of gleaming silver light straight through it. The blades of air dissipated harmlessly, leaving Shaymin to take the full force of the Flash Cannon that broke them apart. It squeaked painfully as it pitched through the air, much to the dismay of Rosalita and the others.
“Shaymin!” the princess cried, taking her eyes off the still-advancing Heatran.
As if on cue, Shaymin righted itself and grinned. “It’ll take more than that to defeat me, you!” it affirmed to its companion.
Before Rosalita could say anything further, however, a glint in the corner of Shaymin’s eye caught its attention. While it and its allies were distracted, Heatran had marched straight to the back of the viewing platform, where she used her cross-shaped feet to climb up on the wall next to the entry passage. Having gotten the vantage point Fernando called for, she had opened her mouth and aimed another shot of light at her foe. Shaymin caught notice of the oncoming Flash Cannon in enough time to only get clipped by the blast. The Grass-and-Flying-type was thrown to the ground, but had little to show for the blow than some scrapes and wounded pride.
“Now, you!” it told Rosalita. “Let’s do it!”
“Indeed.” Sweeping her hand from under her cloak, Rosalita played her trump card, the one thing she and Shaymin knew that Fernando did not. “Shaymin, Earth Power!”
“What?!” Caught by surprise in exactly the way his sister hoped, Fernando frantically manipulated the data from his gauntlet’s projection. He was searching for any tactic he could use to get Heatran to escape the energy Shaymin sent pulsing through the ground, but from her place on the wall, there was no refuge for Heatran to turn to.
The golden, glowing veins worked their way to and then up the wall before erupting under Heatran’s feet, sending her crashing violently onto the balcony. A number of stones broke off and fell along with her, forcing Matt and the others to run out of their way. Heatran voiced an angry rumble from deep within her throat as she righted herself after landing on her back. When she did get to her feet, however, her legs were wobbly, a sign of just how badly Shaymin’s Earth Power had depleted her stamina.
“I will not let this happen,” Fernando muttered to himself. Thrusting his arm forward, he commanded, “Dark Pulse!”
Heatran again opened her giant mouth, this time allowing a chain of dark energy rings to burst out of it. The assault came too fast for Shaymin to escape it, and the small explosion that occurred upon impact threw the mythical Pokémon across the platform.
“Shaymin!” Rosalita cried out, alarmed by the sudden shift in the battle’s pace. She had been ready to have Shaymin again attack with Air Slash, but she could see from the way Shaymin flinched that calling for it would accomplish nothing.
Fernando, on the other hand, couldn’t restrain himself. “Now will you finally acknowledge my worth?” he demanded, though he didn’t wait for an answer before adding, “Soon, you will have no choice but to give me what I want! Heatran, use Magma Storm to end this!”
Once more, the tornado of fire that comprised Heatran’s signature move erupted from her gaping iron maw. It seemed as if Shaymin stood no chance of escape, let alone survival, from where it was lying on the dusty floor. Rosalita and her allies all felt their perception of time slow as they watched Magma Storm draw ever closer to the princess’s partner. The one thing they all feared - Fernando actually winning - appeared to be inevitable.
Yet, when all seemed lost, a rush of energy flowed through Shaymin’s body. The burning vortex glinted in its eyes, but instead of feeling fear, it was taken by a determination to not lose. While it had no way to fly out of Magma Storm’s path in time, it instead simply rolled to the side. Magma Storm sailed harmlessly past, exploding in a fiery blast against the wall. Matt’s coat, as well as Rosalita’s hair and cloak, blew in the gusty backlash. Shaymin, meanwhile, was left covered in dirt but otherwise unharmed.
“You…” Fernando grit his teeth. Mythical or not, how could such a foolish, tiny Pokémon be giving him such trouble, when he had Heatran and so many others at his disposal? He had to consciously stop himself from sending in the rest of his army at that that point. His hand was already up before he remembered that the fight was meant to be a trial.
Rosalita glanced around herself, her brother’s hesitation affording her a moment to think. When she saw the cloud of smoke Magma Storm kicked up, an idea popped into her head. “Shaymin, use that smoke to power a Seed Flare!”
“Excellent suggestion!” Shaymin replied. It lifted itself into the air and glided straight into the plume, where it began sucking the fumes into its body. The dirt already on Shaymin got pulled in as well.
“I won’t let you!” Fernando snapped. “Dark Pulse! Now!!”
Heatran obeyed, but even though her blast of shadowy energy scored a direct hit, Shaymin’s intense focus rendered its impact largely ineffective. The mythical Pokémon remained airborne as if nothing had happened.
As the last traces of the smoke disappeared into its body, Shaymin’s eyes shot open. “Now take this, you!” it shrieked.
A blinding light radiated from Shaymin’s body, followed mere seconds later by a tremendous explosion. Fernando had to hide behind Heatran to avoid the brunt of the blast, the Pokémon holding in place despite being dazed by Seed Flare. Matt, Sheena, Eleanor, Noel and Leon were all blown into whatever was behind each of them. As the force and glow of the light abated, none of them could understand how Rosalita avoided being swept up in it.
“This is our moment to claim victory, Shaymin. Earth Power!”
Shaymin screeched the last syllable of its name as a battle cry, reared back, and pounded its forelegs into the floor. Like before, golden veins of glowing energy ripped through the ground and erupted directly below Heatran’s feet. The Fire-and-Steel-type Pokémon howled in pain and was thrown into the air despite her tremendous weight.
Fernando’s mind went blank as he watched what was unfolding before him. He’d issued the challenge for another trial to Shaymin because he was supremely confident Heatran couldn’t fail against it. One Magma Storm would have put an end to Shaymin and Rosalita’s opposition, or so he thought. Yet, right there in front of him, Heatran was crashing to the ground in complete and utter defeat.
“That’s it, Rosalita! That should be enough for my plan to work!” Matt stepped forward, clutching a green-and-black sphere in his hand. It was a Dusk Ball, and it represented what personal payback Matt could get on Fernando. “This is for taking our grandfather away from Amanda and I, you!”
With that, Matt threw the Dusk Ball at Heatran, who was lying prone on her back. Instead of the bright glow most Poké Balls used, it sucked Heatran in using a strange black light. It closed up around its quarry, fell to the floor, and started rocking back and forth. Many anxious gazes locked on to the sphere, awaiting an outcome that ultimately came with a single ping.
“Impossible…” Fernando uttered, his eyes going wide as he backed away. He went to his gauntlet’s projections with the intent of using the Magma Stone to take Heatran back, only to be met by a second surprise. The Magma Stone cracked and crumbled, leaving the mechanism’s rings to collapse into a tangled pile of metal. If there was any doubt about what had happened, the words “off line” appearing in the projection erased it.
“Your own ambition was your undoing,” Matt told the count after collecting the Dusk Ball with Heatran inside. He didn’t say it out loud, but he got some satisfaction out of rubbing Fernando’s failure in his face. “You didn’t put Heatran in one of those Doradan Poké Balls, like all the other Pokémon you gave Noel and Leon. I bet you thought you could use Heatran secretly that way, since you had the Magma Stone. Well, you just made it possible for me to capture it instead. Congratulations.”
Fernando backed up further, but said nothing in reply. The angry stares of the people surrounding him had him sufficiently stunned him into silence for the time being.
“Matt’s right, Fernando. Your ambition backfired.” Rosalita extended a hand toward her brother. “It’s time to go home. You have done so much to wound our family and to wound this kingdom, but you’re still my brother. With my authority, I can offer you clemency under our laws.”
The offer of forgiveness from his sister ironically helped Fernando refocus his mind on his goals. “I cannot let it come to that, Rosalita…”
Before anyone could stop him, Fernando closed his fist and pointed the gauntlet at Matt. His Dusknoir’s collar flashed red, and the Ghost-type used Ally Switch to swap places with Kommo-o, the nearest Pokémon to Matt. Dusknoir grabbed Matt and teleported again, this time switching with Roserade to reach Fernando’s side. He then threw Matt down at his master’s feet.
“Stop this, you!” Fernando ignored Shaymin’s order and reached into Matt’s bag, so it started flying toward him. Honchkrow, Togekiss and Yanmega attacked Shaymin to protect him, battering it away with Steel Wing, Air Slash and Ancient Power.
“You lost your own trial, Fernando!” Rosalita scolded him. She was disappointed at what he was doing, but not surprised. “Stop this! Have you completely lost your mind?!”
“Think whatever you want of me,” he replied, his voice devoid of emotion. “I still care about you, Rosalita. That might be hard to believe, I know… it wasn’t easy for me to pin my actions on you. It wasn’t. But this is all I have left. If I don’t see this through, there was no reason for me to exist. I didn’t want to lose you, too, but I will walk my path alone if I have to.”
Hearing those words deeply crushed Rosalita. In an instant, she could hear his voice echoing in her head, haunting her with things she remembered.
“It’s going to be you and me, Rosalita. We’ll be the best leaders the kingdom ever had!”
“Don’t you be scared of that stuff anymore, I’ll stay here to keep you safe.”
“We have to make another promise right now. Now that we know about this, it’s not enough to be the best leaders the kingdom ever had. We have to be better than the last set of twins. Promise me that. Promise me that we will never end up that way.”
“What could you possibly know that I don’t?! Every day I’ve been training and gathering knowledge for how to best defend this land! How can you protect the kingdom as well as I could?”
“It may not be right away, but you will see in time that the outsiders do not respect La Ciudad Dorada or its culture. They come here and take things from us while never appreciating what it is that we have here. That’s what I’ve learned. When the day comes that you understand that indelible truth, that will be the time for our promises to be fulfilled.”
And now what he’d just said. “If I don’t see this through, there was no reason for me to exist. I didn’t want to lose you, too, but I will walk my path alone if I have to.” That line repeated in her mind like a cruel, endless broken record.
“H-how could you…” she finally managed to say, holding the sides of her head. “I wanted to save you…”
“That you would prioritize a mere tool like me over the kingdom you are sworn to protect says more than enough. It’s a pity, really...” Matt tried to push Fernando away while he was distracted speaking to his sister, but the count easily held him down until he collected the puzzle box. He then stood up and backed away, allowing Dusknoir room to teleport and throw Matt back to the others. “We are done arguing, Rosalita. The future of our home is at stake, and…” Fernando hoisted the box in triumph before finishing, “...in my hands, that future will gleam as brightly as this holy city around us.”
“You won’t get the future you long for if you do this!” While Sheena and Eleanor helped Matt up, Rosalita decided to try pleading with her brother one last time. On some level she knew it would prove fruitless, but she just couldn’t give up. “Your path will only end in ruin!”
“We’ll see.” Fernando turned his back on his sister and her allies, and his army of Pokémon closed ranks to protect him from them. With the puzzle box in his right hand and his left clutching the staff, he marched to the altar overlooking the Golden City and placed the cube upon it. “Regigigas!” he called to the immense Pokémon in the distance, while raising both of his arms in a gesture of supplication to it. “I am Fernando Renato the Eighth, descendant of your servant Fernando the Great. I come before you with an entreaty for the protection of our home. Invaders from the outside are coming to tear apart our kingdom! I beg of you, awaken and be our shield once again! Please, Regigigas!!”
At first, nothing happened. Rosalita, Matt and the others could see that fact by peering between the Pokémon. But, right as soon as they started entertaining the notion that Fernando’s plan didn’t work, three familiar voices echoed through the cave. They seemed to come from both nowhere and everywhere, and spoke in perfect unison.
“A body of rock. To summon the king, such a thing must be obtained.”
“A body of steel. To summon the king, such a thing must be obtained.”
“A body of ice. To summon the king, such a thing must be obtained.”
As soon as the voices of Regirock, Registeel and Regice faded, brilliant light again poured from the puzzle box. It was visible enough that the group instinctively knew the worst-case scenario was taking place.
“Fernando, put that thing down! You’re going to destroy La Ciudad Dorada!” Matt yelled at him, “not save it!”
“Your time is up, Chiaki.” The cube levitated off the altar, its light glittering in Fernando’s joy-filled eyes. “You will not poison my mind and lead me astray! I will not be my grandfather or my father! I will be better!”
The puzzle box dissolved into light at that moment, as if it were bonded to Fernando’s thoughts. Mere fractions of a second after it vanished, the entire cavern started to shake, and the air filled with a deafening rumble.
“An earthquake?!” Eleanor cried out in panic.
“He… he actually did it…” Rosalita closed her fist and pounded it against her side. “That miserable fool awoke Regigigas!”
“Tell us what we need to do now!” Sheena urged the princess. “You know more about what this means than any of us!”
Rosalita took a moment to think, then told her allies, “We must return to Lingote Palace and fortify the city. He will come for Shaymin, and at this point, I do not know what he'll do to get it. We need to make sure the kingdom is not destroyed by Regigigas's wrath.”
“That makes sense,” Matt said to himself, holding his chin and looking down.
Above the group, the ceiling of the cavern suddenly began cracking apart, and pieces crashed down around them. The first forced Matt and Eleanor to yelp and jump back, nearly colliding with each other in the process. Shaymin destroyed a few smaller rocks with its Air Slash, but doing so quickly became pointless.
When the group reached the exit, Matt and Rosalita turned around to give Fernando once last glare. They couldn't see him through his army, and he wouldn't have cared about the act anyway, but they did spot Noel and Leon still dazed on the platform.
“Move it, you two!” Matt yelled at them. “What are you doing?!”
“R-Right,” Noel stuttered. Her usual cockiness was completely gone. “Bro, let's-”
Not one of the group noticed the stone falling directly above Noel until it was far too late. When it struck her, her world instantly went black. Her eyes rolled back in her head, and she crumpled to the floor in an unconscious heap.
“Sis!!” Leon cried out.
“Bring her with you!” Rosalita said. “We will help her on the way!”
Leon followed the princess’s direction without a word. He lifted his sister onto his back and started to run for the tunnel, but just when it appeared he would escape, a huge chunk of the ceiling broke off and blocked his path.
“Shaymin, help him by breaking that stone with Air Slash!”
Rosalita truly did want to save the pair, but the giant rock proved impervious to both her intentions and Shaymin's assaults. The mythical Pokémon struck it over and over but managed to cut only small pieces out of it.
On the other side, Leon stared at the obstruction and felt a sense of despair consume him. He was strong enough to climb it without a problem, but it would be no easy task while carrying Noel, and he wouldn't leave her behind. No, absolutely not. There would never be any situation where he'd abandon her. She always knew what to do, and her guidance was the only reason he'd survived the mean streets of Pyrite. Since she was the brain of their team, though, he had no idea what to do in that moment with her aid cut off.
“Matt, I need help!” he could hear Rosalita say. “Use Rhyperior and Aggron to-”
“No, you get out of here!” Leon roared, interrupting her. “Don't worry ’bout us!”
“I made a promise to you!” Rosalita countered.
“You have something out there you gotta protect, Princess!” Resigning himself to his fate, Leon fell to his knees and laid Noel on the ground. “All I got is right here with me. If Sis is gonna buy the farm, I'm goin’ with her.”
“I-” The tremors wracking the cavern intensified, forcing Rosalita to accept Leon's choice between choking tears. “Your bravery will not be forgotten. I will tell your story.”
With that, the group entered the tunnel and fled the Golden City. Fernando didn't notice them leave, nor did he overhear any of their prior conversation. He was far too obsessed with the process unfolding before him.
The lights on Regigigas's body slowly flashed, making Fernando’s eye twitch. As he raised his arms to the titan once again, he started weeping openly.
“Mother, Father, Rosalita… I always worked for the betterment of La Ciudad Dorada, but no matter what I did, you scorned my ideas…” Unable to stand up straight any longer because of his overwhelming emotions, Fernando braced himself on the altar. “Look at me now. I did it! I saved the kingdom! You have to acknowledge me now… acknowledge that my existence has a purpose! That I wasn't a mistake of fate! I had to have been born for a reason, and this is it!!”
Seemingly in response to the count's plea, Regigigas’s lights flashed faster. Not long after, its own robotic beeping started sounding across the Golden City.
“Gi… gi… gi…”
END of CHAPTER 6