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Operation GEAR: The Gardener of Gratitude

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by The Great Butler, Jul 25, 2018.

  1. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    “So that’s what we did, you. Fernando IV and I changed history, and for all the time since then, I’ve done my best to keep up the facade.”


    With its tale at an end, Shaymin turned back to its audience, unsure of what sort of reactions to expect. Sheena was staring at it intently, clearly enraptured by its recollection of history. Matt had his eyes closed, seemingly lost in thought. Rosalita, meanwhile, was still shaking with her arms wrapped around herself.


    “Everything I believed was a lie,” the princess repeated, her distress laid bare by her voice.


    Having everything out in the open at long last gave Shaymin the strength to tackle the matter head-on. It floated over to Rosalita so it could address her directly.


    “You are different, Rosalita,” it told her. Before continuing, it pawed at an itch in its right ear. “All your ancestors were very private, you. Even much of your own parents’ lives were out of the public eye. But you, you have always lived as one with the people. You know them and their lives on a personal level, you.” Shaymin jumped onto Rosalita’s lap. “My lies were meant to preserve peace, but they failed. I see that now. Together, we can fix it, you.”


    Rosalita initially remained silent, overwhelmed by the reality of the situation. When she finally did speak, it was in a hushed, weary tone.


    “You are demanding too much from me, Shaymin… how can anyone shoulder all this? You want me to undo what half a millenium’s worth of lies you and my ancestor did to our people. You expect me to reveal all this and still be able to lead them. And that comes after stopping my brother, who thinks Regigigas is nothing more than a simple protector because of those lies! I ask you again, how can you expect anyone to shoulder this responsibility?”


    “I don’t expect anyone to do it,” Shaymin replied. “I expect you. Because when I looked into your heart, I saw a person with both the strength and grace needed. I resolved to never repeat my mistake with Fernando III, you. And you are the one who is capable of saving this land.”


    “But still-”


    Rosalita’s protestation got cut off when Sheena put a hand on the princess’s shoulder.


    “You don’t have to do it alone,” the priestess reassured her, smiling. “Rely on us.”


    “That’s right, Rosa!” Eleanor called from the front of the vehicle. Evidently, she had been listening the whole time. “You can count on us!”


    “Well, it looks like I’ve inherited Sutter’s work after all,” Matt added. “I can’t turn my back on you now, Rosalita. Not after all that’s happened.”


    “Everyone…” Rosalita’s despair was turning into an emotional sense of hope that things could turn out well. “There is no way for me to express the gratitude I have for your support.”


    “That’s just fine by itself,” Matt said. “I do have one last thing I want cleared up, though. Shaymin, why did Fernando VI seek out my grandfather? Why was he looking for an overseer?”


    Compared to what it had just confessed, Matt’s question was easy for Shaymin to answer. “Truth be told, this is not the first time an heir has discovered what happened, you. Fernando VI found inconsistencies in the genealogy of the House of Fernando. They were oversights we missed while planning the coverup. He did not go to his father with his concerns, though, he went to me. I panicked and told him the truth, you. I managed to convince him to help me keep it all quiet… it was not time for the truth to come out.”


    “So that’s it…” Matt uttered, sinking back in his seat. “Fernando’s mad plans, the deaths of Sutter and the king and queen… it all comes back to the lie you and Fernando IV concocted.”


    “You have done the people of La Ciudad Dorada a grave disservice with your lies, Shaymin,” Rosalita scolded it. “To say nothing of the harm you’ve done to outsiders like Professor Chiaki and his family.”


    “I know, and I’m sorry.” Shaymin’s great remorse genuinely surprised Matt, leaving him to stare at the mythical Pokémon. It wasn’t that he thought Shaymin expressing such emotions was impossible, he just hadn’t expected it. “It is time for the truth to be revealed to the people. I understand now, you. I want to fix what we did.”


    Rosalita felt her heart torn in much the same way her ancestor Fernando IV’s had been. Naturally, she was upset. How could she not be, having found out just how much of what she believed was built on lies? She hadn’t just been misled herself, but the kingdom she so loved had been laboring under the same misinformation for centuries. But that she loved La Ciudad Dorada was exactly the point. She couldn’t allow her people to be fooled any longer, not when she’d experienced the consequences of all the lying firsthand with her brother.


    “There is going to be a lot of hard work to be done, but…” Rosalita drew a deep breath. “I’m ready. I won’t be afraid anymore. No more lies. We will fight for peace and I will seize it with my own hands.”


    -:-


    Sighing in irritation, Cassy looked at her phone to check the time.


    “Maybe I did it too soon,” she wordlessly mused. Matt’s warning had prompted her to alert the palace guards as soon as she hung up with him, but she’d been waiting in the garage with a half-dozen of the staff-wielding soldiers for so long that she was growing nervous. “If they don’t show up soon, I might end up in trouble…”


    Cassy heard the clanking of the guards’ weapons behind her, further fueling her agitation. She grew tense as she reached toward Swellow’s Poké Ball, anticipating at any time to need to fight them.


    Just then, however, a loud, metallic creaking echoed through the garage. It was the shutter at the chamber’s far end rising open. The guards braced themselves, readying both their staves and the clockwork Poké Balls attached to their armor for their mission.


    Before the shutter was even all the way up, Eleanor drove the group into the garage. Their vehicle coasted to a stop and Rosalita jumped off, only to be promptly encircled by the guards. She was surprised to only see six. All the way back, after concocting her plan, she’d expected to face far more.


    “Princess Rosalita, you are under arrest,” the captain of the guards declared, stepping forward. Behind him, the others crossed their staves, closing the space between them. “You are charged with the murder of King Fernando VII and Queen Sophia.”


    “I am pleased to see your lack of hesitation, Captain Edrei, but I am innocent,” she countered. “The killer is my brother, not me.”


    “If you think we will accept that with no evidence, you’re mistaken.” Edrei looked over his shoulder. “Detain h-”


    “I have evidence,” Rosalita interrupted, giving the guards pause. She turned back to her own allies and said, “After all, Matt, you’ve been recording everything, haven’t you?”


    Matt hadn’t even thought about it until Rosalita said so, but she was right. He had his laptop recording everything that had taken place - including Fernando’s confession. While he fetched the computer and searched for the relevant footage, though, Cassy saw the heavily bandaged left side of his head.


    “What did he do to you?!” she shrieked, grabbing the sides of her face in horror. “He hurt you, didn’t he?!”


    “Cassy, I appreciate the concern, but please, not now!” Matt’s protest didn’t soothe Cassy’s anger at all, but there was no time to address it. He’d found the portion of video he was looking for. After maxing out the laptop’s volume, he turned it toward the guards and said, “Watch and listen.”


    With the tap of a key, the footage from the Golden City of Rosalita and Fernando’s confrontation began replaying.


    "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. 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."



    Murmuring arose among the guards. The video shown to them certainly did depict what Rosalita claimed it did. Yet, with everything that was taking place, it was hard for them to accept it.


    “H-How do we know that is not faked?” one of the female guards stammered. “You could have-”


    “It’s real because I witnessed it, you!” Shaymin boomed, perching on the edge of the vehicle. While the guards all gasped at its presence, Eleanor and Sheena shared a glance between themselves, both mentally noting the unneeded flair in Shaymin’s entrance.


    “Shaymin?!” The mythical Pokémon’s appearance was the last thing Edrei expected. “But then, if you are here, that means…”


    “Captain,” one of the men in his service addressed him, “if what Rosalita claims is true, that means Minister Raul and his men…”


    “So that’s how Fernando got the skyship running,” Rosalita interrupted in disgust. “Captain, summon Minister Raul to the palace’s defense center. The rest of you, come with me.”


    “But we still do not know what’s really going on,” another guard protested.


    “Follow me,” Rosalita replied, “and you will.”


    -:-


    Lingote Palace’s defense center was a dark, barely furnished room deep within the castle. All it had within it was a long table, a few chairs, and a pedestal surrounded by levers. What light existed in the spacious chamber filtered from lamps lining the walls.


    When Rosalita arrived with Matt, Eleanor, Sheena, Cassy, Shaymin and the guards, Edrei and Raul were already there. She didn’t know how the pair had beaten them to their destination, but given everything else going on, she didn’t have much time to think about it.


    “Princess,” Raul addressed her. He had his hands crossed behind his back, hiding his nervous state as best he could. When the captain ran into him and ordered him along to the defense chamber, he knew something significant was taking place.


    “Defense Minister,” Rosalita coldly replied.


    As Rosalita walked past him, Raul felt a chill run down his spine. He knew better than to ask why the guards were following her commands. “Clearly, if they aren’t detaining her, she made some sort of case to show her innocence,” he surmised.


    Matt’s group and the guards stood back and watched as Rosalita approached the pedestal and began manipulating the levers and switches. Raul squinted at her in confusion as she worked. He knew the purpose of the systems she was activating, but that knowledge was exactly why her actions so perplexed him. Had things actually gotten so bad that what she was doing was necessary?


    “Princess, if I may…” He could not stop himself from questioning her. There was a fear growing in his heart that he needed to try and defuse. “Why are you activating the defense system?”


    “Witness the truth for yourself,” she answered, remaining focused like a laser on her efforts.


    After Rosalita flipped a few more switches, that truth was finally revealed to those who didn’t already know. A giant projection screen overlooking the chamber flickered to life, and although its image was fouled by occasional bursts of static, what it showed was unmistakable.


    It showed the royal family’s skyship sailing over the desert toward La Ciudad Dorada. The fleet of Pokémon under Fernando’s control were ahead of it, but they largely escaped notice thanks to the fact that Regigigas, enslaved by the armor, was marching alongside the ship.


    When this sight met his eyes, Raul felt his body go so stiff that he almost thought he had died. It was worse than he’d feared. Rosalita’s actions had led him to think Regigigas was awake, but nothing else. The skyship flying alongside Regigigas and not being attacked could only mean one thing, and he knew it instantly.


    “Yes, Minister Raul…” Rosalita glared at him from the corner of her eye. “My brother flew the skyship to the Golden City and subjugated Regigigas to his will using special armor. Who could have helped him do that, I wonder?”


    “I did not know what he was planning, I swear!” Raul wasn’t lying, but the venom in Rosalita’s words rattled him.


    “If you wish to keep your position, you best tell me everything you aided him with,” she warned the elderly man.


    “There really is not that much to say.” When Rosalita put her hands on her hips and leered at him, Raul defensively put his hands up. “I swear it! Ask any of my subordinates! Fernando asked us to prepare the skyship so he could launch it, load some cargo onto it and install the control system for the military’s Pokémon!”


    “That cargo must have been the armor he used to control Regigigas,” the princess deduced, turning away in thought. “How do you justify installing the military command system? You must have known he would use it.”


    “He said those Pokémon with our control collars were stolen by poachers, and he was going to regain custody of them.”


    “He lied to you,” Rosalita flatly said before sighing. “Fernando gave those Pokémon to the poachers himself. It was all so he could turn them into his slaves at the critical moment.”


    “To think that the Count would do all of this…” Edrei mused, having listened to the entire conversation. “But why? What is his endgame? He said he wants to protect the kingdom, but how does this even come close to accomplishing that?”


    “My brother wishes to force me to relinquish my claim to the throne,” Rosalita revealed to Raul and the guards, “and if that fails, he intends to depose me by force.” She pointed back toward the immense projection hanging over them and added, “He has completely lost his mind. You can see that for yourselves.”


    “I’d call that an understatement,” Raul said, staring at the image of the oncoming Regigigas. “We were all manipulated so easily…”


    “So that is your answer for why I am doing this.” Rosalita pivoted back to the pedestal, which was projecting a control panel similar to the ones used by the vehicles the group had traveled in. When she held her hands over it, a number of pillar-like objects illuminated over the panel.


    This caught Eleanor’s attention, and she leaned in to get a closer look. “Rosa, what’s that thing you’re using?” she asked.


    “La Ciudad Dorada’s defense mechanism,” the princess replied. She spread the palms of her hands over the projection, making it glow brighter in response. “Allow me to explain. As I told you all earlier, after the civil war we largely withdrew our population to La Ciudad Dorada’s current borders. We knew we had to protect ourselves, but the leaders of the time…” Rosalita paused, trying to mentally reconcile the lies she had been taught with the reality she now knew. “The leaders of the time, as a gesture of peace, did not want to take a typical approach to defense. They commissioned the greatest Arcane Scientists of the time to develop a new concept, and this device was the result. The city’s outer rim was mechanized, allowing us to rearrange the towers dotting it into a defensive wall we can easily put up or take down depending upon our needs.”


    “Just when I think I’ve seen everything, you surprise me again, Rosa.” Eleanor’s demeanor soon darkened, and she asked, “Will it be enough to stop Regigigas?”


    Rosalita frowned and lowered her head, allowing her hair to hide her eyes. “It will at least buy us some time…” she admitted.


    -:-


    After Cassy parted with her, Laura had initially stayed in Dorada Market. Her worry over the situation eventually won out over her desire to stay out of it, so she decided to go up the Sacred Hill and try to find out what was going on. Cassy was nowhere to be found when she arrived, but at the peak of the hill, she still found her answer when she saw Regigigas in the distance. As she observed the titan’s relentless march, one of her hands instinctively went to Swampert’s Poké Ball while she clasped her Key Stone with the other.


    “This isn’t looking good, buddy,” she said to her Pokémon. “We might get forced out of retirement for this one…”


    “Um… excuse me?”


    Much like how she had practically snuck up on Cassy earlier, it was Laura’s turn to be surprised by someone approaching her. The short young man with messy green hair had been on the Sacred Hill before she arrived, but she never noticed him.


    “Yikes, you really snuck up on me,” she said to him, laughing to play off her shock. “What’s up?”


    “F-forgive me, but you’re Laura, right? The winner of the Hoenn League from five years ago?”


    Laura sighed. She’d been found out for the second time that day.


    “Oh, I apologize!” the boy rushed to say. “I know you turned away from the spotlight. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”


    “It’s alright, kid,” she assured him. “Nice to meet you.”


    The boy took Laura’s hand and gave her a surprisingly vigorous handshake. “I’m Wally, from Petalburg City. It’s an honor to meet you.”


    “I’m sure it is,” Laura replied, half-sarcastically. Her eyes wandered to the hand-carved wooden pendant he was wearing, which had a Key Stone like hers embedded in it. “It’s impressive you’ve got a Key Stone.”


    “Yeah, it’s for my Gallade.” Evidently, talking about Pokémon helped Wally’s confidence, which Laura made a mental note of. “He’s my first and most trusted partner.”


    “I hope you’ll let me meet him someday. So, what can I do for you, Wally? Are you looking for Alliance Battle partners too?”


    “I traveled here to try one, but…” Wally shrunk back and pointed off to the horizon, at Regigigas. “I’m worried about what Regigigas is doing. When I saw you, I hoped you could do someth-”


    Wally and Laura’s conversation was abruptly interrupted by the sound of a siren piercing the air. Both of them jumped and their hands shot to their respective Poké Balls.


    “You’re sharp,” Laura complimented her new friend.


    “I can say the same to you,” he replied.


    As the sirens continued blaring, the mechanisms built beneath the edges of La Ciudad Dorada stirred to life. A great shaking radiated through the ground, and the towers beyond the city limits slowly began to move. The Doradan citizens were already emptying out of their homes; they had been told by their leaders to evacuate to the Sacred Hill if the sirens ever sounded, but the complete and utter surprise that such a day actually came left them in an initial state of confusion.


    Meanwhile, up on the Sacred Hill, Laura and Wally stood side-by-side as the scene of escalating chaos played out before them.


    “I was hoping you would be able to do something, Miss Champion,” Wally finally finished.


    “Just call me Laura. And don’t worry, I’ve got your back, Wally. I’ll watch out for you.”


    -:-


    After placing Regigigas under his control, Fernando retreated to the skyship’s bridge for the trip back home. He had little to do, as the ship’s autopilot did all the work for him. That left him with time to ponder what he was doing and what would come next.


    “Rosalita, I do not know why you can’t see that my actions are right.” It pained Fernando to go against his beloved sister, but to him, she was the one making the mistake. “You are the stronger of us, but you use that strength to stand against protecting our home… how could you?”


    The count clenched his teeth behind an angry scowl. At that point, his eyes wandered to a projection of La Ciudad Dorada as he flew toward it. He shot up straight in the pilot’s chair when he saw the walls closing around the city. It was a sight that made a terrible realization sink into his mind.


    Without hesitation, he grabbed the transmitter for the skyship’s radio.


    -:-


    Rosalita carefully worked the controls for the towers with Shaymin floating at her side and Matt, Eleanor, Sheena, Cassy, Raul and the guards watching. Her concentration and determination helped her effortlessly glide her hands over the shimmering hologram, every motion moving the city’s shields closer to completion.


    The relative silence in the room was broken by an unexpected signal. A new window popped up over the giant projection, bearing the words ‘incoming transmission.’


    “Incoming transmission?” Rosalita said in surprise. “From where?”


    “It’s the skyship…” Raul stepped forth and ominously informed her. “Your brother.”


    The fact that her brother was reaching out to her melted some of the hardened exterior Rosalita had put on since her arrival at Lingote Palace. “How do I answer it?” she asked Raul.


    “Just pick up the radio on the side of the control panel and press the button. That will establish the link, and you press it again when you wish to speak.”


    “Much obliged.” Rosalita promptly followed the elderly man’s instruction, plucking the transmitter from its holder and pressing the button on its side. Fernando appeared in the projection, and when she saw his face, she gasped.


    She had been expecting intense fury from him, but she was greeted instead by the image of her brother seemingly fighting back tears.


    “How could you, Rosalita?” he asked her, his voice weak. “I see you putting up the walls around the city… I was prepared for you to despise me. But you see me as a threat to our home? How could you ever do that when you know all I’ve ever desired is to protect it?”


    Rosalita found herself rattled by her brother’s state. “I hate what you are doing, but I could never hate you... you know that.” The princess averted her eyes, unable to keep looking at him. “Fernando, you have to stop this. There is no other option. You are making yourself the exact threat you want to protect our home from!”


    “And you should know that my actions and I are one. If I were to stop, I may as well cease to exist.” Rosalita sharply inhaled in horror when Fernando said this, but he ignored her reaction. “If you despise my purpose, you despise me.”


    “Please, Fernando, listen to me,” Rosalita pleaded. She knew she was running out of ways to try reasoning with him. “There’s something you do not know. I just learned it myself.”


    “What is it?” Fernando asked her.


    “Everything we were taught about the civil war was a lie.” Next to Rosalita, Shaymin lowered its head in shame. Revealing the truth to the princess had been hard enough, but it had never thought about just how difficult telling Fernando would be. Unable to bring itself to speak, it allowed Rosalita to continue. “You have to listen to me! Regigigas is not what you think it is. You are going down a path leading to nothing but ruin, Fernando. Please…”


    “So you are telling me Father and Mother lied to us…” the count said bitterly.


    “No, that’s not it!” Rosalita cried out. “Father and Mother did not know either!”


    “But Shaymin surely did.” When Fernando voiced his realization, his words cut through both his sister and the mythical Pokémon like a knife. “Shaymin lives forever. It’s been here since the birth of La Ciudad Dorada… and lying to generations of our family all the while.”


    “Fernando, listen to me! Please!” With no other options left, Rosalita hoped against hope that she would somehow be able to get through to him. “You won’t come back from this!”


    “It doesn’t matter,” Fernando coldly replied. “Shaymin and our ancestors have not acted in the best interests of our home. I am… I am the only one who can right this wrong. If you will stand against me even knowing that, then there is nothing more to be said. Farewell.”


    Rosalita opened her mouth to plead further, but Fernando disconnected the transmission and vanished from the projection before any words could come out. She hung her head, and for several tense, uncomfortable moments, nearly everyone else in the room was sure she was about to start weeping. That mistaken impression left them all stunned when she pivoted on her heel and approached Edrei with a raging inferno burning in her eyes.


    “This will have to do for now,” she told the captain as she took his staff. She then turned to Matt, Eleanor, Sheena and Cassy, ordering them, “Kneel before me.”


    Eleanor and Sheena, understanding what was taking place, immediately dropped to one knee. It didn’t register in Matt’s mind right away, so when Cassy realized what Rosalita was doing, she jabbed him in the side with her elbow.


    “You’re supposed to kneel when the queen tells you to,” she whispered.


    “Oh… oh,” he said, the reality of the situation dawning on him.


    Matt and Cassy acceded to Rosalita’s command, and Rosalita raised the staff over the four tourists. Before she could go any further, though, Raul stopped her by gently gripping her arm.


    “Princess,” he said, “You’ve not been formally coronated yet. I understand why you’re doing this, but you don’t have the authority.”


    “Who does have the authority right now?” Rosalita answered back. “Father and Mother are not here. Fernando has gone mad. I am the only one with any rightful claim at all to do this.”


    Raul hesitated, but before long, he realized the truth in Rosalita’s words and released her from his grip. “I suppose that is true,” he admitted, before bowing in deference to her and adding, “Please forgive my insolence.”


    “You are forgiven. Now…” Turning her attention back to her allies, Rosalita touched each of their shoulders with the staff, and as she did so she recited, “Matt Chiaki. Cassy Natsuka. Eleanor Laplace. Sheena Carnet. In the service of La Ciudad Dorada, and of the royal blood that flows through me, I hereby name you my knights. Take this oath and serve in the name of peace. Gratia cantantes aeternum.”


    Sheena and Eleanor were the first to repeat the oath, much like they had been the first to kneel. Likewise, Cassy had to push Matt, who was too stunned by what was taking place, to do so before taking it herself. Despite the disorganization, Rosalita was satisfied with the makeshift ceremony and returned the captain’s staff to its owner.


    “Raul,” she addressed her advisor, “summon the other members of the court and inform them of what is facing our realm.”


    “Right away, my lady,” Raul replied before scurrying out of the room.


    “Now, Captain…” Edrei stood firmly at attention when Rosalita spoke to him. “Accompany me to the armory. For now, the rest of you, go outside and fortify the palace with your Pokémon.” Turning to Matt, Eleanor, Sheena and Cassy, she added, “My knights, I wish for you to go with them and wait for me.”


    -:-


    If Laura and Wally had stayed on the Sacred Hill just a while longer, they would have gotten to see an impressive array of Pokémon. Once the guards made it to the scorched garden in front of Lingote Palace, they deployed all of the clockwork Poké Balls in their possession. Matt, Cassy, Eleanor and Sheena stood and watched as the castle’s defenders were summoned forth.


    The numerous Bronzong that appeared didn’t surprise them. After all, they’d already seen one, not to mention the way the guards’ armor was based off the bronze bell Pokémon. The Bronzong were dwarfed, however, by the four towering Golurk called out behind them. Several colorful, single-eyed Sigilyph appeared and hovered over the shoulders of the Golurk, while numerous Escavalier and Bisharp positioned themselves between the earthy automatons and readied their weapons for battle.


    “I’ve never seen some of these Pokémon in person before,” Matt marveled to his friends. “Golurk? Sigilyph? I’ve read about them, but this is the first time I’m seeing them in the flesh. I only wish it was under better circumstances…”


    “It’s unfortunate, but I must agree…” Sheena said, casting her gaze over the scene of chaos unfolding before them. The towers were in place to form the wall, but Regigigas and the skyship could still be seen steadily, relentlessly advancing. The citizens and tourists were evacuating the town down below, gathering in Dorada Market around the Sacred Hill.


    “What a disgrace,” Eleanor bitterly added, clenching her fist in front of her face. “I just wanted a nice vacation, and it’s ruined. Everything’s ruined.”


    “I don’t think you should be concerned about your vacation right now,” Cassy said to the engineer. “Be more worried about getting out of this in one piece.”


    “That is not going to happen. I won’t let it.”


    Matt and the others turned around to see Rosalita passing between her guards and their Pokémon. Shaymin was floating at her side, and Edrei followed closely behind her. Much to their surprise, she’d traded her salvaged clothes for a full suit of armor.


    “Wow, Rosa,” Eleanor complimented, looking her over. “Nice.”


    “Thank you, Eleanor,” the princess replied before addressing the entire group. “As I said, I will let no harm come to you. Fernando IV fought against his own father in order to protect the kingdom and his subjects. I understand now that I must follow in his footsteps, to protect everyone and everything I hold dear. But I cannot do it alone, and that is why I have inducted you four into my service.”


    “I think I speak for us all when I say we are ready.”


    Sheena didn’t notice Matt close his fist and turn away when she made her declaration. Rosalita did, however, and immediately turned her attention to him.


    “Matt, are you alright?” she asked, some of her gentle demeanor returning.


    “I-I’m scared, I won’t lie.” He gestured to his bandage-covered face and torso. “Look what already happened to me. But… at the same time…” Matt reached into his bag and retrieved a small object he kept hidden in his closed hand, then repeated, “At the same time, this would have been my responsibility even if Fernando never set out on this crusade. It’s fitting, really… in the end I’ve inherited Sutter’s work after all.”


    Matt finally opened his hand, revealing the object to be a golden pin. It depicted a space shuttle, framed by a majestic pair of wings on its sides and a delta symbol beneath it. He affixed the insignia to his coat and then continued speaking.


    “This is what my grandfather would have wanted,” he said, trying to steel his nerves. “Helping you defeat Fernando and save your home… that’s the closure I came here to find.”


    “I am happy to have you on board,” Rosalita affirmed with a smile. “Now, listen, all of you. This is my plan. I am going to go face Fernando directly, and Matt, I want you and Eleanor to come with me.”


    “Wait, you want me?” Caught thoroughly by surprise, Eleanor pointed questioningly at herself. “What can I do?”


    “It is something only you can do, Eleanor,” Rosalita assured her, placing a hand on Eleanor’s shoulder. “Minister Raul mentioned earlier that the control system for the collars on Fernando’s Pokémon was installed in the skyship. We must assume that the armor he’s manipulating Regigigas with is operated through the same mechanism. That is where you come in. We will board the ship with the aid of Reyes and Sally, and then while Matt and I distract Fernando, you enter the bridge, break into the control system and shut it down. With your skills, I know I can place my faith in you.”


    Stunned, and very well aware of the magnitude of the situation, Eleanor simply replied with, “I’ve got it.”


    “What about Cassy and I?” Sheena asked the princess. Cassy simply stood next to her and watched in silence.


    “You two have a very important role as well.” Before continuing, Rosalita took four of her Doradan Poké Balls off her armor and opened them, calling forth her Leavanny, Bibarel, Luxray and Shiftry. “Sheena, I am entrusting you and Cassy with helping to protect my people. Everyone within these walls, be they a resident or a visitor, is my responsibility. I am loaning you my Pokémon with this request: go down the Sacred Hill and assist in protecting the evacuees from Fernando’s invasion.”


    “That is doable,” Cassy said. She released Swellow from his ball, then put her hand on her chin and mused, “I think I may know someone who can help us here.”


    “If you do, please seek their aid,” Rosalita urged Matt’s classmate. “The more people we have fighting against Fernando’s army, the better.”


    “Then you may as well accept my assistance, too,” Eleanor volunteered. She plucked all three of her own Poké Balls from her skirt and opened them, releasing Persian, Litwick and Rotom in flashes of light. “Persian can fight, but please keep Litwick and Rotom safe,” she asked Rosalita.


    “That is a request I can fulfill,” the princess answered. Turning back to her guards, she directed them, “Take Litwick and Rotom into the palace and shield them from harm.”


    Eleanor hugged her Pokémon, but they hesitated to part from her. “It’s fine, you guys. It really is. Please keep yourselves safe.”


    While Litwick and Rotom reluctantly separated from their trainer and passed through the line of guards, Rosalita was approached by the guards’ leader.


    “My lady, I must ask you one more time if you are certain about doing this.”


    “There is nothing I have ever been more certain of in my life, Captain,” she replied.


    “Then I pledge to assist you by serving at your side as well. Pidgeot, come forward!”


    Edrei opened a pouch attached to his waist, fetching a clockwork Poké Ball of his own. Inside the sphere was a Pidgeot, who spread her wings and shrilled when she materialized. Her trainer wasn’t done after calling on her, though. He pointed his left hand toward the dark sky and turned his palm toward himself, revealing that he had a Key Stone set in the back of his gauntlet.


    “Pidgeot, Mega Evolve!”


    Light shot out of the Key Stone when Edrei touched it, arcing through the air and joining with the light given off by the Mega Stone attached to a band on her leg. As she was wrapped in the glow, her crest lengthened, turning yellow and red in the process. Her wings, meanwhile, grew even more majestic, with their tips taking on a blue shade. She grew by nearly three full feet overall by the time she broke out of her gleaming cocoon.


    “A Mega Pidgeot…” Sheena said in awe.


    “We will be better off having the aid of you and Pidgeot, Captain. I thank you.” Rosalita made her way to the forefront of the gathering and turned to address all of her allies. “I thank all of you for your support. This is going to be a difficult day, one of the most difficult this kingdom has faced in centuries. But I do not feel fear, not anymore. We will fight against the darkness encroaching on our realm and we will drive it back! We will destroy it!” The princess balled her hand up into a fist to contain the adrenaline flowing through her body. “And I will reach into that darkness and pull my brother out of it! I promise you, the sun will shine on La Ciudad Dorada again, and together, we will reach that glorious peace!”


    The army of guards broke into a cheer thanks to their soon-to-be queen’s impromptu speech. Rosalita looked them over one last time before turning and throwing the clockwork ball containing Reyes. As soon as her Staraptor appeared, she dashed towards him and leaped onto his back, then nodded to Matt. Matt understood what the signal meant, and wasted no time in releasing Sally from her Poké Ball. He climbed onto her back and extended his hand to Eleanor, helping her up.


    “To reach a peace we can all feel gratitude for…” Rosalita cried, “...to battle!”


    With that, Reyes and Sally lifted off the Sacred Hill, Shaymin and Pidgeot alongside them. Sheena, Cassy and the guards watched as they flew away from Lingote Palace and toward Fernando. To his army. To the skyship. And of course, to the enslaved titan, Regigigas.


    Every beat of Sally and Reyes’s wings brought them and their human allies closer to their shared destiny. And, for the second time in La Ciudad Dorada’s history, the wind beneath their wings brought civil war to the isolated city.








    END of CHAPTER 7
     
  2. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    Well, this is it, the climax. Time to throw everything out there.


    As mentioned before, the character Door and her Audino, Knives, are from Electric Sheep by Minty and used with permission. I also want to thank Ren once more for her help with Laura, including a passage involving Laura and Swampert near the end of this chapter.


    -:-




    CHAPTER 8: Civil War




    -:-


    Having gone down the Sacred Hill, Laura and Wally found themselves in a scene that bordered on chaos. Dorada Market was packed full of both residents and tourists, all hurriedly making their way towards the hill due to the evacuation. Laura was sure she’d lose Wally in the confusion, so she latched tightly onto his hand before spiriting him through the crowd.


    “Miss Champion!” the diminutive young man called out to her. “What are we going to do?”


    “I’m still working on it, kid!” she hurriedly replied.


    Just as the pair of trainers from Hoenn broke through the front of the horde, Laura could hear them begin murmuring about something in the sky. When she and Wally saw many of the evacuees pointing upward, they turned their eyes to the sky as well.


    “Wow…” Wally said in awe, clutching his pendant as he watched Sally, Reyes, Shaymin and Mega Pidgeot fly overhead. “Miss Champion, aren’t those…”


    “A Mega Pidgeot would be cool enough, but a real life Shaymin in the flesh?” Laura couldn’t take her eyes off them. “That’s a sight for sore eyes, alright. And they’re heading straight for Regigigas?”


    Right then, Laura heard a voice calling to her from behind. It was faint, largely drowned out by the din of the crowd, but she still recognized it.


    “Laura! Laura, this time I’m talking to you!”


    Laura turned just in time to see Cassy emerge and approach her. While Matt’s classmate doubled over to catch her breath, Sheena arrived, joining her alongside Swellow, Elena, Leonel, Deivi, Isabel, and Eleanor’s Persian.


    “Yo,” Laura greeted her new acquaintance. “I didn’t know you had such a gang with you. Swellow alone was pretty impressive.”


    “They aren’t…”


    Cassy was struggling to catch her breath, so Sheena tried to help her finish.


    “I think my friend is trying to say that these aren’t all her Pokémon. We’re borrowing them.”


    Cassy recovered enough to straighten up. “That’s right, but they won’t be enough for this. We need help.”


    “That goes without saying.” Laura put her hand on her hip. She was still irritated over the disruption in her vacation plans, but she could see that her concerns were not of great importance at the time. “Nobody’s gonna beat Regigigas alone, that’s for sure.”


    “No, Regigigas is what Matt is dealing with,” Cassy corrected her. “There are more Pokémon coming… we have to protect the civilians from them.”


    “Alright,” Laura said, turning to face the city. “Alright, I got it. That buddy of yours really did get us in trouble after all, huh?”


    “You could say that again,” Cassy sighed.


    “No problem, though. We’ve got this.” Lowering her gaze to settle on Wally, Laura asked him, “You ready to go, kid?”


    Much to her surprise, Wally already had his Poké Ball at the ready. He responded to her question with a determined look and a firm mod, making her laugh.


    “I think I had the wrong impression of you, Wally,” she teased him, before getting her own Poké Ball out. “Alright, buddy, it’s time to go!” she cried as she threw it.


    “Come on, Gallade!” Wally added, tossing his sphere.


    Swampert and Gallade materialized next to each other, each sporting their respective Mega Stones on accessories matching those worn by their trainers. They shared a look of mutual respect between themselves, eager to see how they would fare compared to each other.


    “Time to go beyond the limits, buddy!” Laura called out, grabbing her necklace to activate the Key Stone. “Nobody tells us what we can and can’t do! When they try to keep us down, we pierce into the heavens above, ’cause that’s just how we roll! Mega Evolve!”


    “I don’t have a speech prepared, but please don’t underestimate me!” Wally followed up, mimicking Laura’s motion. “Gallade, my friend, Mega Evolve!”


    Twin streams of light burst from Laura and Wally’s respective Key Stones, arcing through the air and connecting to the Mega Stones worn by Swampert and Gallade. They were wrapped in the bright glow, each undergoing a powerful metamorphosis. Swampert’s transformation was the more dramatic of the two; as his upper body and arms swelled with newfound muscle mass, so much so that his tiny legs could no longer fully support him and he had to hunch forward. His fins darkened and grew sharper, while his gills turned orange and became dramatically more pointed.


    While Gallade’s physical changes were less prominent than Swampert’s, they were still quite noticeable. His limbs and torso turned white, while the blades on his arms sharpened and took on a red hue. The crest on his head curved, and two cape-like growths sprouted from his back, giving him the appearance of a noble hero from a fairy tale.


    Once their respective transformations were complete, Swampert and Gallade burst out of their gleaming cocoons. Swampert reared back as far as he could and roared, while Gallade struck a pose with his hands on his waist, allowing his ‘cape’ to flutter behind him. Swellow, Persian and Leonel lined up to Swampert’s right flank, and Elena, Deivi and Isabel assembled on Gallade’s left.


    As the one person who wasn’t contributing any Pokémon to the effort, Sheena decided to take what action she could. She turned to face the crowd of citizens and tourists behind her, many of whom had started to take notice of the Pokémon lining up to protect them.


    “Focus,” she said to herself, taking a deep breath. She then brought her hands together, closed her eyes, and softly chanted, “Transcend the confines of time and space.”


    As she visualized the minds of the people around her, Sheena quickly came to realize that the task was bigger than she imagined. Nevertheless, she knew she had to persevere. She clasped her hands together even more tightly, pushing her power to its limit.


    “All of you are in grave danger,” she wordlessly communicated to the horde. “Those of you who are able and willing, please step forward and join us in defending La Ciudad Dorada and its people!”


    -:-


    The air was thick with tension as Sally, Reyes, Pidgeot and Shaymin pressed onward, the former two carrying Matt, Eleanor and Rosalita toward Regigigas and the skyship. Even though both were easily visible to the princess and her knights, they hadn’t yet encountered any resistance. Of course, all three allies knew that it was only a matter of time before Fernando put up an offense against them.


    “You will not get away with this, Fernando,” Rosalita thought, clutching onto her mount while her hair billowed in the wind. “You are coming home with me even if I have to drag you with my own two hands.”


    All of a sudden, both Sally and Reyes noticed something below them out of the corners of their eyes. The two flying Pokémon reared out of the way just as Fernando’s giant Kommo-o came flying past them into the sky, his head glowing with a metallic sheen. After his Iron Head missed, Shaymin flung an Air Slash into him, knocking him back down.


    “Whoa!” Eleanor cried out, tightening her hold around Matt’s body. “Where’d that come from?”


    Rosalita and Matt peered downward. They had been approaching the city’s wall, but before they reached it, Probopass perched herself atop the barrier. Her eyes were glowing with green light as she manipulated the other brainwashed Pokémon with Telekinesis.


    “It is coming from right there,” Rosalita bitterly answered while pointing at Probopass, who sent Roserade up toward them before any of the three could speak further. The Grass-and-Poison-type started to gather energy for a Hyper Beam, but before she could fire it, Rosalita boomed, “Reyes, Brave Bird!”


    The armor-clad princess held on to her Staraptor for dear life as he dove at Roserade, his body surrounded by a blue aura. He drove himself straight into the flower Pokémon at tremendous speed, dispelling her Hyper Beam and knocking her away with ease. Probopass caught Roserade with Telekinesis, though, affording her the chance to recover.


    Quickly composing herself, Roserade pointed her bouquet arms at her foes and launched bursts of purple sludge at them. Pidgeot flew in and folded her wings around herself. A shield of light formed around her, and Roserade’s Sludge Bombs were drawn into it and destroyed without touching their targets. Once her Protect faded, the Mega Evolved Pokémon rapidly beat her wings to whip up a vortex of wind. Probopass telekinetically threw Roserade away from her attacker, but Pidgeot’s Hurricane curved to follow and strike her anyway.


    “Did you see that?” Matt shouted. “The way Hurricane just honed in on Roserade?”


    “It is Pidgeot’s ability, No Guard!” Rosalita informed him, flying Reyes up next to Sally. “All the attacks that Pidgeot uses or is targeted by will hit!”


    “That could be good…” Eleanor briefly paused when Roserade vanished and Dusknoir teleported into her place. The Ghost-type spread his arms, materializing numerous boulders around himself. “...or really bad!” Eleanor finished.


    Pidgeot veiled herself in another Protect, guarding herself from the stones that homed in on her when Dusknoir flung them. Sally, Reyes and Shaymin all lacked the ability to do the same, so they had no choice other than to try navigating the Rock Slide on their own. As the smallest of the three, Shaymin had little trouble flying around the stones, but the much bigger Salamence and Staraptor weren’t as lucky. Both suffered several strikes, but weathered them through sheer force of will.


    “We cannot be held down here, you!” Shaymin warned its companions, both human and Pokémon. “The others can handle them. We must go to Regigigas and Fernando!”


    “Yes, I agree,” Rosalita concurred. “I have faith in Sheena and Cassy. We must go forward.”


    “Alright.” Matt tapped his Salamence’s neck, prompting her to turn her head back to him. “Sally, time to go.”


    Sally grunted in affirmation before spitting a jet of water down onto Probopass. Pidgeot simultaneously swept Dusknoir away with Hurricane, opening the path for the four Pokémon to press onward.


    As they advanced, Rosalita cast a forlorn gaze back at Lingote Palace. Memories of her childhood with Fernando flashed through her mind, and when she returned her attention to Regigigas and the skyship, her lip quivered.


    -:-


    As Probopass, Kommo-o, Roserade and Dusknoir hung back, the rest of Fernando’s army pushed through the streets of La Ciudad Dorada. With the city’s wall freshly breached, they no longer needed to stay with the Rock-and-Steel-type to continue their advance.


    Things in La Ciudad Dorada were unnaturally quiet. Even in their brainwashed state, the Pokémon could sense things were amiss. They’d been sent with the directive to eliminate any enemies they encountered, so how empty the city seemed unnerved them through their stupor. All shared the same reflexive anticipation: an ambush was definitely coming, though from where, they didn’t know.


    Or at least they didn’t know until Gallade sprang into the air, propelling himself off of a streetlamp just ahead of the army. His sudden appearance caught Honchkrow by surprise, giving Gallade an opening to slash at him with X-Scissor.


    Togekiss and Yanmega, seeing their fellow flier in trouble, rushed to his aid. The former acted first, flicking a blade of air at Wally’s Pokémon with her wings. He groaned in pain as he was thrown back, only to be caught in mid-air by Tangrowth’s extended vines. With Gallade restrained, Yanmega dove at him. The dragonfly bared his fangs, aiming to bite down with a Leech Life attack, but Swellow suddenly appeared and cut him off with Aerial Ace. Seeing this, Tangrowth tightened his grip on Gallade, only for Deivi to jump from a nearby roof and slash away the vines with his own X-Scissor. Rosalita’s shiny Shiftry barely had a chance to land before Magmortar turned his cannons on the Grass-and-Dark-type Pokémon to send a Heat Wave flooding over both him and Isabel, the Luxray having darted to his teammate’s side mere moments earlier.


    Both Isabel and Deivi shuddered under the painful intensity of the flames that engulfed them. Magmortar was so focused on attacking them, however, that he paid no attention to Leonel bubbling up to the surface of the nearby canal. The Bibarel burst from the water, landed on the footbridge crossing it, then rolled up into a ball and lunged at Magmortar. He collided squarely with the Fire-type Pokémon’s chest, freeing Isabel and Deivi from Magmortar’s assault.


    “Bi,” Leonel said to the Luxray and Shiftry, all three sharing a look of appreciation for their mutual assistance.


    While the trio were distracted, however, Lickilicky took advantage of Magmortar’s stunned state. She catapulted herself over him with her tongue and drew in a deep breath before unleashing a Blizzard while still airborne. Leonel, Isabel and Deivi were caught in the wintry blast, but while the latter two shivered and recoiled from the cold, their part-Water-type ally stood indifferent to it.


    It was Rosalita’s Leavanny, Elena, that came to their rescue. She perched on an Arcane Science streetlamp with her spindly legs and spit silk at Lickilicky, ensnaring the rotund creature and cutting off her attack. Once Lickilicky was fully trapped by String Shot, Elena pulled her crashing down into the ground. Gallade then darted in and struck Lickilicky with a flurry of punches and kicks, each blow from his Close Combat forcing a pained wheeze from her.


    A few feet away from Gallade and Lickilicky’s tussle, the collared Electivire leapt against the side of a building and used a magnetic pulse to propel herself toward Elena. Flames stirred to life in her mouth, but before she could put them to use, Eleanor’s Persian sprang from between two other structures. The Dark-type tackled Electivire and forced her to the ground, turning her momentum from Magnet Rise against her with Foul Play. They struggled in the dirt for a short time, rolling back and forth and snarling at each other as they fought for dominance. It was Electivire that ultimately emerged victorious, driving Persian away by spewing a Flamethrower square into her face.


    With Persian left reeling off to the side, Electivire looked upward. Swellow was engaging Togekiss just above the buildings and holding his own against her. None of Togekiss’s Air Slashes were landing, as Swellow’s superior speed allowed him to weave through them with Aerial Ace. Cassy’s Pokémon wasn’t paying any attention to the situation on the ground, though, leaving him an easy mark for Electivire to cast an Electroweb up at him.


    Swellow struggled within the electrified net, but the prolonged shocks it gave him sapped his strength and swiftly cut off his means of escape. Salvation came in the form of Laura’s Swampert, who lumbered out of the same canal Leonel swam through and sucker punched Electivire. The orange light radiating from his fingers flowed back into his arm, swelling his muscles a little further.


    Up in the air, Togekiss, Yanmega and Honchkrow had surrounded Swellow while he was restrained by Electroweb. They were closing in on him when the net broke thanks to Swampert’s punch to Electivire. Swellow immediately regained his strength and shrieked at the top of his lungs, generating a powerful soundwave that drove Togekiss, Yanmega and Honchkrow away. He then dove into Yanmega, slashing the dragonfly’s right flank with his beak.


    Meanwhile, on the street, Electivire crackled with angry sparks. Her body was only slightly bruised by the blow she’d taken, but her wounded pride had left her livid with rage. She spun her arms around to build up strength, generating errant electricity that sparked around her body. She then used Magnet Rise to leap many feet into the air before turning downward and aiming her fist at Swampert’s head. Electivire wanted to set off an Earthquake that would injure all the Pokémon in the vicinity, but had every intention of catching Swampert in the epicenter.


    Swampert, however, had other plans. Had Electivire not been so blinded by her fury, she would have realized something was wrong when Swampert simply waited for her to draw near. By the time she noticed anything at all, it was already far too late. Once Electivire was within reach, Swampert pulled back and punched her again. The Water-type’s strike was more powerful than the first, owing to the enhanced strength Power-Up Punch granted him. His muscles swelled even further once the second punch landed, while Electivire was flung into an iron aqueduct nearby, bursting it and spewing water all over the street.


    -:-


    The sweltering desert winds wrapped around Fernando as he stepped up to the skyship’s bow. They licked at him like tongues of fire, making his hair and cape flutter as he watched his sister near from above.


    “Rosalita, why?” he sadly mused, watching his sister approach with Matt, Shaymin and Pidgeot accompanying her. It was Matt’s presence that turned his despair into anger, and he grit his teeth. “To stand against me with an outsider’s aid… from a Chiaki, no less. You truly have lost your way.” Fernando pointed forward with his staff. “None shall stop what I must do… even you, Rosalita. Regigigas, it is time!”


    Regigigas slowed its advance, while Fernando used his control gauntlet to make the skyship retreat behind the line established by the titan. The count’s enemies immediately recognized the shrewdness of his strategy.


    “He’s making us come to him,” Matt observed, “and we’re gonna have to go through Regigigas to get there.”


    “It is unavoidable,” Rosalita agreed, shaking her head at the situation.


    Outside of the humans’ notice, Shaymin narrowed its eyes. Looking at Regigigas called to its mind images from the first civil war, of fighting a losing battle against Fernando III’s monstrous Mega Steelix until the gratitude of the people helped turn the tide, all while Regigigas tore the kingdom apart. That had happened because of Shaymin’s carelessness, and now, its attempts to hide that truth only led right back to the same fate.


    “There is only one thing left to do, you,” Shaymin said to itself, just loud enough for Matt and Rosalita to hear. “One last chance for redemption.”


    Its mind made up, Shaymin extended its legs and darted straight toward Regigigas. Even though the two humans fighting alongside it had heard what it said, it was not until it flew off and left them behind that they realized what it intended to do.


    “Shaymin, stop!” Rosalita screamed after her friend. She reached out toward it, but for what reason she didn’t know. “Pidgeot, go help Shaymin!” she ordered her guard’s Pokémon.


    Pidgeot chirped in affirmation of the command, then shot through the air to catch up to Shaymin. The mythical Pokémon wasn’t happy to see her, and made no secret of its feelings.


    “Why are you here, you?!” it demanded, scowling. “Go and help Rosalita! This is my responsibility, you!”


    As the pair flew side-by-side, Pidgeot shook her head. She replied to Shaymin’s demand with a flurry of trills, and by the time she was done, Shaymin’s eyes had widened to their full round size.


    “She sent you to assist me…” Shaymin’s shock soon wore off, and it smiled. “I must learn to stop underestimating her, you. But you shouldn’t be in dang-”


    One of La Ciudad Dorada’s protectors cut off the other when Regigigas roared robotically. Its top four dots blinked on and off in pairs, followed promptly by a gust of chilled air blowing from the center of the diamond they formed. Fearful of the Icy Wind, Shaymin hid behind Pidgeot and let the Mega Evolved Pokémon counter with her Heat Wave. The two gusts collided in a burst of steam that nullified both, leaving their users unharmed.


    The plume obscured the two sides’ view of each other as it spread out. Realizing this presented a fleeting opportunity, Shaymin popped back out from behind Pidgeot and threw an Air Slash into the steam. The blades dispelled much of the cloud on its way through, carrying on until they buffeted Regigigas’s body. There was little initial reaction from the titan aside from an angry, mechanical growl, but that wasn’t the case for long.


    Regigigas retaliated by raising one of its immense arms and pointing it at Shaymin and Pidgeot. A cluster of pink light formed between its fingers, soon solidifying into countless diamonds. Two beams composed of pink light laced with diamonds shot out from the cluster, each aimed at a different target. Shaymin flew around and away from the one pursuing it, but No Guard ensured Pidgeot’s found its mark. Pidgeot hung back and cloaked herself in Protect to escape harm.


    Even while the part of Diamond Storm aimed at Pidgeot exploded harmlessly against her Protect shell, Regigigas shifted its fingers so the other half would keep chasing Shaymin.


    “You’ll never catch me, you!” the mythical Pokémon boldly declared. Even so, it knew that the situation as it stood was merely a stalemate. Something had to change, and when Shaymin cast its eyes downward, it got an idea. “Follow me!” it cried to the enslaved titan.


    Had Regigigas been thinking for itself, it wouldn’t have fallen for Shaymin’s obvious trap. But with Fernando’s machines warping its mind, all it knew was to attack. Shaymin dropped to a much lower altitude, flying just above the desert floor. When Diamond Storm changed angles to follow, it struck the ground and detonated in a huge blast of smoke and sand. Now free from immediate danger, Shaymin dove head-first into the plume and absorbed the grit into its body.


    Up above, Pidgeot saw what Shaymin was doing and whipped up a Heat Wave to distract Regigigas. The great titan crossed its arms to shield itself from the tide of fire, leaving them riddled with small burns.


    That cover allowed Shaymin to get behind Regigigas while its attention was diverted. “Take this, you!” it screeched, light already beginning to pour from its body.


    Regigigas had no chance to react before Shaymin darted toward its back and exploded. Its Seed Flare packed such a punch that it knocked Regigigas forward, sending the giant down to its hands and knees. The impact of its fall was such that the desert sand beneath it was thrown easily at least a dozen feet into the air.


    While Regigigas’s thought process was impeded by the armor’s influence, its emotions were still present, albeit warped. The same all-consuming rage it felt at Fernando for his actions was redirected at Shaymin, and its entire body shuddered as it growled in fury. A swarm of iron chunks materialized around it, and when it roared, they were sent flying in all directions. Shaymin again took advantage of its speed and size to dance deftly around the onslaught, but Pidgeot was not so lucky. She couldn’t put up Protect fast enough and got caught in the Metal Burst, feathers flying as the iron sheared them from her body. Even Sally and Reyes were endangered by it, but they were flying at enough of a distance to avoid it fairly easily.


    “Are the two of them going to be okay?” Eleanor asked from her place on Sally’s back.


    “I’m not sure,” Matt replied. “I don’t know how long they’ll last against Regigigas.”


    “That is why we must make haste in fulfilling our mission,” Rosalita informed her allies. Even as she addressed them, she kept her gaze locked on someone else.


    They were near the skyship, and could see Fernando at its bow. He was watching them intently, remaining fixated on his sister. Yet for all the anger and frustration driving him, he made no effort to stop them as they flew overhead, circled around and descended to land on the skyship’s deck. No, he knew there was no reason to stop them. This was how it had to be.


    “So at last, we stand at the precipice of fate,” he greeted Rosalita as he stepped down from the bow to confront her. Matt and Eleanor got off of Sally as she dismounted from Reyes, and Fernando knew his words for them would have been far less polite. “The game of life and death for the kingdom has reached its final round.”


    “I would once have begged you to stop,” Rosalita said to him, hitting him with the same cold fury that he showed her at the train station the day he returned from murdering Sutter. “Not now. You have been consumed by darkness, Fernando, and I am going to tear you from it.”


    “If that is what you think, Rosalita, then you are already lost.” Fernando tightened his hold on the staff to the point where his knuckles turned white. “La Ciudad Dorada will be protected. I will save it. There is nothing more to be said.”


    “Yet you are so blind that you fail to see you are the only one threatening it!” Rosalita countered. “All the damage done to the kingdom has been because of you!”


    “I am not the one standing alongside the descendant of the man who first befouled our home. The man who started all of this so many years ago!” The count reached into his cape and retrieved the one clockwork ball he kept for himself. “I am, however, the one who is going to fix it!”


    With that, Fernando threw the sphere into the air and it burst open, releasing his Dragonite. She turned her head toward the dark clouds and howled as soon as she materialized.


    Every muscle in Matt’s body tensed involuntarily when he saw Dragonite. His mind immediately went back to the day he saw the horrible sight of Sutter’s body. Every one of the witnesses to Fernando’s escape described the same thing - a Dragonite wearing a strange, glowing collar. The same collar on the neck of the Dragonite now standing before him.


    “That’s the Dragonite you used to kill my grandfather, isn’t it?” Matt already knew the answer to his question, but some tiny part of him wanted to hope that somehow, it wouldn’t be the case.


    “It’s the same one I used to correct a problem all those years ago,” Fernando icily replied.


    That was it, the confirmation Matt never wanted to hear. The moment the last syllable of the count’s answer left his lips, Matt felt a rush of adrenaline surge through himself. He knew that if Cassy was present, she would have tried to stop him from flying off the handle. But as it was, her influence wasn’t there, and he reflexively snatched a Poké Ball from his bag and flung it with a snap of his wrist. Anton was summoned to the deck of the skyship, and without a word, Rosalita dispatched Adiela to join him.


    “You would stand against me, your own brother and La Ciudad Dorada’s protector?” Fernando snapped. “And with this heir to a defiler at your side?!”


    “I do it to save the kingdom,” Rosalita said back. “You will come to realize that.”


    “So you would rob me of even that one last reason for my existence…” Fernando took a step back. “You truly are horrible, Rosalita. If you wish to be my enemy, so be it… Dragonite, Bubble Beam!”


    “Sally, Hydro Pump!” Matt reflexively countered, thrusting his arm forward.


    The two dragons’ attacks collided halfway, creating a wave of water that swept across the skyship’s deck. Adiela and Anton both retreated from the threatening liquid, while Dragonite and Sally simply ignored it as it washed over their legs.


    “Now it’s our turn,” Rosalita declared, her armor clanging when she jabbed her fist into her hip. Looking to her Pokémon, she said to them, “Adiela, Wild Charge! Reyes, Brave Bird!”


    Both the Rapidash and the Staraptor cried out, building their spirits before rushing Dragonite. Each of them surrounded themselves with intense energy, whether it was Adiela’s yellow, sparking electricity or Reyes’s blue aura. However, even as the pair barreled toward her, Dragonite remained unmoved. Behind her, Fernando was busily manipulating his gauntlet’s projection.


    “Do you think I am a mere child?” he taunted his sister with a smirk. As a result of his prompting, Dragonite raised her arms and caught both of Rosalita’s Pokémon before they could make contact, drawing a horrified gasp from the princess. “No. You will learn that the challenges of leadership have no such easy answers.” Turning to Dragonite, he quietly but firmly ordered, “Thunder.”


    Electricity surged through Dragonite and into the bodies of the two stunned Pokémon in her grasp, making them wail in pain. She firmly held them for several seconds, subjecting them to the shock until she finally let go. Adiela and Reyes reeled back, and excess bolts of electricity scattered all around them.


    “No…” Rosalita whispered, her nerves rattled by the brutality of Fernando’s tactic.


    Both Matt and Eleanor sensed just how shaken their ally was. Eleanor went to her side, promising her, “Rosa, it’s not over! I know you can win this!”


    “I agree,” Matt added before returning his attention to the battle. He heard Rosalita thank them both, but his only response was to take some of the burden off Adiela and Reyes. “Anton, go and use Avalanche!”


    The Rhyperior swung both his arms forward, smashing his cylindrical fingers together. A swarm of icy boulders solidified in the air around him and crashed down onto Dragonite, burying her under their weight as their cold made her howl.


    With her brother’s Pokémon immobilized, Rosalita carefully stepped back and whispered to Matt, “Have you any more Revival Herbs? I have an idea, but it is dependent on them.”


    “Plenty,” Matt confirmed, rummaging in his bag so the vials would clink together.


    “Most excellent. Just follow my lead.” Tilting her head toward Eleanor, Rosalita added, “We will get you the opening you’re waiting for.”


    Eleanor stiffened up. “I… I’m ready,” she said.


    Across the deck from where Rosalita and her allies were hatching their plan, one of the ice chunks burying Dragonite shifted and fell from the pile. Mere seconds later, she burst through the rest by whipping up a Hurricane around herself, powerfully roaring all the while. The remnants of Anton’s Avalanche shot in all directions, most of them flying over the sides of the ship. Some others instead went in Matt, Eleanor and Rosalita’s direction, forcing Sally to melt them with her Flamethrower while the humans shielded their faces.


    “Give it one more attack to soften Dragonite up, if you please,” the princess quietly asked Matt.


    “I can do that.” Matt raised his hand into the air, then pointed forward at Dragonite and called out, “Anton, use Rock Wrecker!”


    Anton brought his hands together, and tiny stones emerged from the holes in his palms. They merged into a single entity that swelled until it became a boulder of gigantic size, which Anton grasped and lifted over his head before flinging it at Dragonite.


    “Stop it with Bubble Beam!” Fernando rushed to order his Pokémon.


    Even though Dragonite put all of her strength into her counterattack, it was not nearly enough. The boulder crashed through all of the bubbles she blew and struck her, exploding into dust when it made contact. Dragonite fell onto her back from the immense force, covered in injuries but still not defeated.


    “That was… a bit more than just softening it up,” Eleanor teased.


    Dragonite was already getting back on her feet, so Rosalita immediately followed up by saying, “Reyes, this is on you now. Final Gambit!”


    As soon as Rosalita issued her command, Matt understood why she asked him for Revival Herbs. He went in his bag to get one even as he watched Reyes dive-bomb Dragonite. Rosalita’s Staraptor had less strength left in his body than he had against Regice, so the aura generated by Final Gambit was less intense than it had been then. Still, when Reyes drove his beak into Dragonite’s chest, the orange light exploded with enough force to send Dragonite right back down. Reyes faced a similar fate, getting thrown and landing near his trainer.


    Rosalita didn’t have to tell Matt what she wanted from him. He simply passed the Revival Herb to her as she walked over to Reyes, and she didn’t even stop to collect it. She lowered herself down next to her Staraptor, opened the vial and removed its contents.


    “Thank you, Reyes,” she said to him as she placed the Revival Herb in his mouth. “You have displayed admirable bravery today.”


    “Starr,” Reyes softly trilled. He slowly chewed on the herb while Rosalita stroked his wing, comforting him.


    That moment of peace did not last long. Dragonite’s collar, sensing that its wearer had fallen in battle, released an energy pulse as its blue light blinked. Fernando’s Pokémon was back on her feet in a heartbeat, fully revitalized. She roared with such might that Matt, Rosalita and Eleanor thought they felt the air itself shake.


    Luckily for them, Reyes was able to rise to the challenge. Invigorated by the Revival Herb, he sprang back up and spread his wings in an attempt to menace his foe.


    “Reyes!” Rosalita exclaimed, clapping her hands together. “Are you ready to go?”


    The Normal-and-Flying-type Pokémon nodded to his trainer and chirped, so she climbed onto his back. She then shot a quick glance over to Matt.


    “That must be the lead she meant,” he realized. “Sally, come on.”


    “Good, he got it,” the princess thought as he got on his Salamence. Turning to Fernando, she knew she had to provoke him. “Will you do what you must to grasp victory with your own two hands?”


    “How dare you!” Fernando yelled up at his sister as she and Matt went airborne on their Pokémon. He leaped onto Dragonite’s back and prompted her to take flight by tapping her with his heel. “You would doubt even that? If I must prove myself to you, so be it!”


    “That’s right, Fernando, follow us,” Rosalita thought, watching her brother and Dragonite lift off the skyship’s deck. She gave Eleanor a curt nod, then said to Reyes, “Let us go.”


    Reyes trilled, then pushed off away from the skyship with a mighty flap of his wings. Sally promptly followed.


    “The fact you retreat from me is proof you still lack the mettle to lead!” Fernando thundered after them. “Dragonite, Bubble Beam!”


    The count’s Pokémon aimed at Sally and Reyes, and expelled a torrent of blue bubbles from her mouth. Matt and Rosalita, having heard Fernando issue the command, peered over their shoulders and saw the oncoming assault.


    “Sally, behind you!” he alerted his Salamence.


    “Reyes, take a hard left!” the princess ordered.


    Once they were fully aware of the threat’s proximity, Sally and Reyes split off in different directions. Bubble Beam sailed harmlessly between them, further stoking Fernando’s frustration. Since he could not pursue both of his nemeses, he pulled Dragonite to the left so they could give chase to Rosalita.


    “Come back here, Rosalita! Watch me save our home!!”


    Meanwhile, down on the deck, Eleanor watched Matt, Rosalita and Fernando ride away into the dark, cloudy sky.


    “That’s it, then,” she said, subconsciously pinning her arms against her sides. She spun on her heel and headed toward the ship’s bridge, mumbling to herself, “Time to get to work.”


    -:-


    Swampert, Gallade, Elena, Deivi, Isabel, Leonel, Persian and Swellow were holding their own for the most part against Fernando’s forces, but the army’s relentless push had forced the allies back. Their conflict had spilled out into one of La Ciudad Dorada’s main roadways, affording them more space to exchange blows.


    While the other Pokémon fought around them, Isabel glared at Elena and roared with all her might, radiating the bright light of Helping Hand. Rosalita’s Leavanny absorbed the light into her body, leaped at Lickilicky, and slashed the Normal-type with her glowing arm. Helping Hand’s influence strengthened Elena’s Leaf Blade to such a degree that Lickilicky was thrown into the side of a building despite her weight, breaking a deep crack into its stone and shattering its windows.


    Elena had barely landed back on her feet when a flurry of Air Slashes struck around her, forcing her to jump back and nearly collide with Isabel. Rosalita's Luxray pushed in front of the Leavanny and vengefully roared at their assailant, Togekiss. A Thunderbolt sparked from her mane and shot in Togekiss's direction, but the Normal-and-Flying-type gracefully twisted around and avoided it. From her vantage point in the sweltering air, she smiled condescendingly down at Isabel and Elena. Even while under Fernando's control, she had enough freedom of thought to shoot a mocking sneer at her foes. After all, how could they reach her when she was so agile?


    If Togekiss had more control over her faculties, she would have perhaps known not to let such arrogance consume her. With the warping effects of her brainwashing, her self-confidence kept her still until Swellow smashed into her with his metallically-glittering wings. The impact snapped her back into reality, and she retaliated with an angry, ear-splitting shriek that manifested as soundwaves. Swellow responded in kind, but his Boomburst drowned out Togekiss’s Hyper Voice.


    Cringing in pain from the deafening noise, Togekiss seethed before pushing her wings together to form an Aura Sphere between them and flinging it into Swellow. The blow stunned Cassy’s Pokémon for a moment, giving Togekiss a chance to try and fly away, but it wasn’t long before Swellow was back on her tail. She pursued Togekiss across the city, the pair of them racing in blue and white blurs over La Ciudad Dorada. Eventually, the chase circled around toward the street where the other Pokémon were fighting. As they turned back, they darted past an iron weather vane cast in the image of Shaymin’s Sky Forme and made it spin.


    As they neared the melee, Togekiss flipped over backward to throw another Aura Sphere at Swellow. She’d assumed that the attack would stop Swellow from chasing her, even if briefly as it had done earlier. Her action proved to be grossly miscalculated, as as soon as the orb sailed at him, Swellow pulled his wings in tight and dove straight into the orb. With one swift motion, the bird sliced through it and then slammed into Togekiss, throwing her back onto a nearby roof with a pained cry.


    Swellow’s moment to indulge in his victory proved short-lived. Mere seconds after his Aerial Ace knocked Togekiss down, a ray of pink light laced with tiny stones struck him and sent him crashing to the street below.


    It was a Power Gem attack deployed by Probopass, who was floating toward the battle with Roserade, Kommo-o and Dusknoir at her side. The Rock-and-Steel-type deposited Roserade and Kommo-o in the midst of the brawl, while Dusknoir loomed overhead and clenched his body up. The jagged yellow line on his stomach flashed a sinister glow and he reared back, opening the mouth underneath it. He had conjured numerous wisps of blue fire within, which rained down on the resistance against his master’s army. Most struck the ground between their targets, but Persian, Elena, Leonel and Swellow took direct hits, sending the four flying back with burns across their bodies.


    Two of the fiery orbs went further astray than any of the others. One hit a fountain built against a house on the street. A Shaymin sculpture atop the fountain was broken off along with a portion of the pipe underneath, causing it to spray water into the air. The other collided with a streetlamp on the opposite side of the path, cracking the Arcane Science bulb powering it. After a moment of sparking and flickering, the entire device violently exploded. Its detonation far exceeded anything the lamp’s unassuming appearance would have suggested, consuming the entire street and blowing away both sides of the battle within.


    Even though a battle had been fought there, it was not until the blanket of blinding light from the blast started to lift that the street truly looked like a war zone. The buildings and paving stones around the area had been dashed into mounds of rubble, a situation that as bad as it was, had but by a stroke of fate not been much worse. Arcane Science energy could did inherently create heat or fire, but if exposed to fire like that of Dusknoir's Will-O-Wisp, the energy would have reacted explosively. With the nearby streetlamps dented and scuffed from debris, the fact that the detonated streetlamp did not create more fire was likely the sole reason why a cataclysmic chain reaction with the other lamps hadn’t leveled the entire street, if not beyond.


    Not that it mattered much to the Pokémon, at least at that point. Both those loyal to Fernando and those opposing him were strewn haphazardly around the street. They hadn't quite fainted, so Swampert and Gallade didn't revert to their original forms, but the blast injured them badly enough that they wheezed and struggled with their footing.


    Unfortunately for those defending La Ciudad Dorada, Fernando's forces still held a trump card. Their collars, sensing the state his Pokémon were in, flashed red as their failsafe programming took over. Each collar released a pulse of crimson energy through its wearer, and in seconds, their wounds were healed. It wasn't long before they rose, standing over their opponents as if they had vanquished the guardians themselves and crying out in victory.


    Yet, the battle was far from over. Probopass, who had floated over the explosion and escaped harm, once more lifted all of her teammates with her Telekinesis. The army set their collective sights on the Sacred Hill and Lingote Palace and set off, intending to finally fulfill the directive programmed into them.


    -:-


    Shaymin and Pidgeot fought against Regigigas with all their might, but even as powerful as they were, they could not stop its relentless march. Every one of the great titan’s tremendous, earth-shaking footsteps brought it closer to the city, and to potential unspeakable horrors that neither Shaymin nor Pidgeot cared to think much about.


    Shaymin flew straight in front of Regigigas and shrieked, “Listen to me, you! You are the kingdom’s protector! You must free yourself from this!”


    Regigigas was unmoved. Its four uppermost dots blinked, and a gust of chilled air blew from the space at their middle. Shaymin screeched in fear and abruptly pulled away, but Regigigas shifted to the left in an attempt to catch it.


    Just then, Pidgeot swung around Regigigas's right side. Like how her trainer had been raised from childhood to protect the royal family, she was determined to keep Shaymin safe. She dive-bombed the titan’s flank while emanating a purple and gold aura, forcing a pained, static-filled buzz from Regigigas but only enraging it even further. It stopped pursuing Shaymin and raised its right arm in Pidgeot’s direction, pinching and then separating its fingers to bring a Diamond Storm to life between them. Pidgeot, exhausted from using Giga Impact, could do nothing but hover in place until the blast of diamonds struck her, sending her spiraling to the sands below.


    “Pidgeot!” Shaymin exclaimed in dismay. The mythical Pokémon grit its teeth and rose to a vantage point above Regigigas before it could catch up. “Take this, you!”


    A short distance away, Rosalita watched Shaymin rain Air Slashes down on Regigigas. She'd been observing them since just before Pidgeot got shot down, and when the titan swung one of its arms at her lifelong friend, her lip quivered.


    "Shaymin, please…" she whispered.


    "You must see that your resistance is futile, Rosalita," Fernando shouted at her from Dragonite's back. "Look around you. All you are doing is prolonging the inevitable! If my army is stopped, when Regigigas reaches Lingote Palace, you will have no choice but to surrender. If you do the right thing now, this can end immediately!"


    "When Regigigas reaches Lingote Palace?" Rosalita repeated, her eyes widening in horror. Images of Regigigas ripping through La Ciudad Dorada flashed through her mind, and her fear only deepened from how similar the scenes of destruction were to the first civil war. "Fernando, even you must see the madness in this! You are going to destroy what little of our kingdom survived the last time! There won't be anything left for you to protect!"


    "Then if you still care about me, surrender now. This is my purpose. It must be. I cannot live another day thinking I have no reason to exis-" Something in the corner of his eye caught Fernando's attention, and he pulled Dragonite to face it. "Bubble Beam!" he commanded.


    Dragonite managed to cut off the incoming Flamethrower right in the nick of time, turning it into harmless steam with her Bubble Beam. While the cloud of vapor separated the two sides, Sally flew up next to Rosalita and Reyes.


    "He's completely gone," the princess uttered, staring at her armored hands as they trembled. "There is not one iota of my brother still alive in this person… he is-"


    "Rosalita!" Matt yelled, snapping her back to reality. He tightened his grip on his Salamence before quietly hissing, "Rosalita, focus! We’re the only ones buying Eleanor time to stop all this!"


    "That's right…" Rosalita drew a deep breath and slowly exhaled to calm herself. "You are right."


    There wasn't time for the pair to converse further, as Dragonite tore through the remaining steam with Thunder. Reyes and Sally split from each other to evade it, but their escape only further angered Dragonite and her master.


    The ever-escalating sense of frustration Fernando felt at the situation finally threw a switch in his mind. To that point, he'd been holding back. He had still been hoping Rosalita would see he was right and surrender. But at that moment, as he sat on Dragonite's back with the sounds of war all around him, he came to what he considered a terrible realization.


    "Rosalita will never come around to what I am saying," he thought. Deep down, he'd known this to be true from the time he saw Rosalita erecting the city's walls. He just refused to fully believe it at first. Now, with no doubt left as to where she stood, he felt true despair creeping up on him. He soon found a useful target for his spiking emotions when his eyes settled on Matt and Sally. "Dragonite, use Horn Drill on that Salamence!"


    While Dragonite gave chase to Sally in an attempt to finish her with one decisive blow, Eleanor was busy on the skyship's bridge. Finding the right switches to flip to get into its systems was the easy part. She could do that kind of work in her sleep. What demanded significantly more time and attention was what came next. She was surrounded by easily at least a dozen different holographic projections as she stood at the control panel, manipulating them to dig into the ship's programming line by line.


    "All I gotta do is wipe that collar control system outta here," she said to herself. "Shouldn't be too hard."


    -:-


    The damaged streetlamp's detonation echoed all the way across the city, forcing an uneasy quiet over the throng of people amassed in Dorada Market. They didn't know what exactly the blast meant, and that lack of information put them on pins and needles.


    Much of the city's population were corralled to the end of the market against the Sacred Hill. Some trainers and their motley crew of accompanying Pokémon, recruited by Cassy and Sheena with the aid of Laura and Wally, shielded the crowd. The priestess stood firm at the forefront of the gathering, her hands locked together and eyes pressed shut as she used her empathic ability to reach out to where the explosion came from.


    Suddenly, one of Sheena's thick eyebrows twitched. She'd connected to an overwhelming presence, one that radiated the same kind of impenetrable fury she tried and failed to pierce in the garden a few days prior. It forced her out of her trance, leaving her to stumble and gasp for air.


    "What happened?" Cassy demanded.


    "They're coming," Sheena replied, her warning quickly growing more urgent. She turned to Laura, Wally and the other trainers and repeated, "They're coming! Prepare yourselves!"


    Laura ate the rest of the Shaymin cookie she’d been snacking on before pivoting to the trainers. "You heard her!" she boomed, crossing her arms. "Time to show 'em just what you guys are made of!"


    The cry of the tallest Pokémon from the group, an exotic, long-necked Exeggutor, let the crowd know that the battle had already come to them. She’d spotted both Probopass and Dusknoir emerge over the city once again.


    “Exeggutor, do what you have to! Dragon Pulse!” her trainer, a young woman wearing a light white dress and an orange sun hat, commanded. The sightseer then turned to her second Pokémon, a Greninja standing calmly at her side, and said, “Greninja, you go as well! Help Exeggutor with Water Shuriken!”


    Without hesitation, Greninja scaled his towering companion’s neck. Once he reached a height sufficient enough to give a clear shot, he clapped his free hand against the bubble on his knee to form two throwing stars made of water. He flung them in Probopass’s direction at the same time Exeggutor’s three heads each fired an intense energy beam. The three rays combined together and took on a draconic shape as they approached Dusknoir, who shielded himself with his arms to lessen the impact. Probopass didn’t fare as well against Greninja’s attack. She rocked in midair when the Water Shurikens hit her and had to land on the roof of a building at the edge of the market.


    Greninja wasn’t finished, however. Seeing how little Dragon Pulse accomplished, he bound up to Exeggutor’s head before leaping off and diving at Dusknoir. He pushed his right fist against the palm of his right hand to form a blade of glowing black energy, which Greninja used to slash the Ghost-type right as he lowered his arms. The blow forced them apart, and Greninja deftly landed back in the square. He barely had time to rest before Electivire emerged from the nearby road and cast an Electroweb over him, the shock making him scream as he tried to cut the charged threads away.


    The members of Fernando’s army started invading Dorada Market en masse, charging in from multiple roads leading into the market from the city proper. Their method of attack opened numerous fronts for the resistance against them to fight. Worse still, some of them didn’t even keep with the already loose formation. Togekiss, Yanmega and Honchkrow flew into the square instead, while Kommo-o climbed atop one of the buildings and roared at the sky. That bone-chilling cry combined with the way Fernando’s army encircled their enemies struck fear into the people of La Ciudad Dorada, and an agitated, panicked chattering grew from the crowd.


    “Stay focused!” Laura encouraged the trainers, her arms still tightly crossed. “We have to keep them away from the people and Lingote Palace!”


    “I’ll take charge of these few…” said a young woman with long, messy dark hair and a flowing black dress that made her appear to be a witch. Training her strange, spiraling eyes on Electivire, Lickilicky and Dusknoir, she brought her purple handkerchief to her mouth and hissed to her Pokémon, “Decidueye, Frenzy Plant.”


    The young woman’s Decidueye, a tall owl Pokémon, wrapped his cream-colored body in his long green wings. His orange eyes flashed from underneath his leafy hood, and he let out a scratchy, barking cry. Giant, thorny roots erupted around him and ripped through the ground, engulfing and whipping at their three targets. Each lash produced visible injuries on Electivire and Lickilicky, but while Dusknoir was groaning in pain just like them, his wounds were less overt.


    Seeing his partners wither beneath Decidueye's merciless assault, Magmortar trained his cannons upon the owl. Fireballs flared to life inside them, only to get prematurely destroyed when an Emboar belonging to an older woman sprayed him with boiling hot water.


    "Well done, my dear Emboar," his trainer praised him, a gust of wind making her black trench coat and white scarf flutter. “Now, use Head Smash.”


    Emboar slammed his clublike arms together, snorted, and charged headfirst into Magmortar with speed belying his size. Both he and Magmortar were knocked down, but even with how sore and weak the raw power of the violent blow left him, Emboar was able to push himself right back up. Magmortar remained still on his back until his collar flashed, its pulse once again reviving him.


    A few feet away. Emboar's trainer was growing agitated. "Don't let that awful thing overwhelm you, Emboar!" she called out as Magmortar stood over him. "Scald!"


    The porcine Pokémon pursed his lips, but before he could spit the hot water at his foe again, Magmortar clubbed him over the head. With any sort of immediate counterattack cut off, Magmortar kept hitting Emboar, switching back and forth between his arms as he used Dual Chop over and over.


    Just when it seemed as if Magmortar had Emboar beaten, a pulse of blue electricity surged into him and pushed him away. Emboar's trainer turned to see a younger man in a red trench coat next to her, standing alongside a brown-and-yellow mongoose Pokémon.


    "I noticed your Emboar was in trouble, Madame," he said, adjusting his red fedora before nonchalantly flipping a coin. "Gumshoos and I knew we could assist you."


    "Much obliged," she replied, bowing politely.


    Meanwhile, on the other side of the market, Fernando's Yanmega, Togekiss and Honchkrow were being challenged by a Gliscor and Vikavolt accompanied by an Audino riding on the former's back. The airborne groups were rapidly closing the distance between themselves, making a clash imminent.


    "Knives!" the Audino's trainer shouted to her Pokémon. "Give that Yanmega a Charge Beam!"


    The Audino gave a pitched chirp in response to her trainer, then cupped her hands around her mouth. A ball of electricity churned between them for a moment before shooting out, striking Yanmega with the sound of a thunderclap.


    As Yanmega reeled back, the Vikavolt's trainer stared in awe. "I've never seen an Audino so strong," he marveled.


    "Knives really is great, isn't she?" The young woman shoved her hands into the pockets of her grey hoodie and looked up at the man in the golf shirt, then added, "But you have a Vikavolt. Show me what you've got."


    "R-right…" The intensity on the part of Audino's trainer gave the golfer a chill. "Vikavolt, use Thunderbolt on Honchkrow!"


    Sparks flew between Vikavolt's long, jagged mandibles as he gathered energy. Once he had enough, he loosed it all in one tremendous blast. Togekiss tried to protect her teammate by flicking an Air Slash straight into the electric onslaught, but her act did nothing to slow it down. Honchkrow was easily overwhelmed by the Thunderbolt, while Gliscor swooped toward Togekiss with Knives still along for the ride.


    "Your turn, my partner," the Ground-and-Flying-type's flashy trainer said while adjusting his bow tie. "Sky Attack!"


    "Knives, jump off now!"


    The Audino gracefully leapt from Gliscor's back and landed on the stone ground of the market, leaning to brace herself with her arm. Behind her, Togekiss attempted to stop the glowing Gliscor's dive with an Icy Wind, but even though it did send a chill right to the scorpion's bones, he remained undeterred. When the two airborne Pokémon collided, Gliscor's aura exploded, casting a dramatic light over the square.


    Knives, meanwhile, was soon joined by a Leafeon and Glaceon belonging to a young woman. Unlike many of the other tourists, she was appropriately dressed for the hot weather, wearing light, white summer clothing that complemented her flowing blue hair and gave her an obvious air of wealth.


    "We have to work together here, there's no other choice!" Knives's trainer demanded as she ran up to the woman. She found the way the lady flaunted her wealth distasteful, but swallowed her annoyance for the time being.


    "Oh? And you are?" The lady seemed like she was in a bubble, almost as if she was unaware of the chaos around her.


    "You can call me Door…" Right as she said her name, Door saw Probopass and Dusknoir closing in on Knives, Leafeon and Glaceon. "...and you better wake up and help me out here!"


    “Door? A nice name… I’m Sarah, pleased to meet you.” Sarah’s continued nonchalance in the face of the oncoming threat only left Door even more annoyed. Just before Door could yell at her, though, a glint flashed in her eye. “It seems we are in a spot of trouble,” Sarah said, staring with surprising intensity at Dusknoir and Probopass. “Leafeon, Glaceon, I do believe Shadow Ball would be best.”


    “I… what?” Door stammered before shrugging her shoulders. “Whatever. Knives, you use Shadow Ball too!”
     
  3. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    Knives, Leafeon and Glaceon lined up next to each other, and the latter two opened their mouths to form dark, purple-and-black orbs while Knives formed one between her hands. Probopass and Dusknoir reacted to the threat by conjuring magnetic spheres and wisps of blue fire, and both sides assailed each other simultaneously. Fernando’s two Pokémon made no effort to escape the Shadow Balls, simply floating in place and enduring the blows. Knives, Leafeon and Glaceon, on the other hand, did their best to avoid the onslaught of Magnet Bomb and Will-O-Wisp. They danced safely around Dusknoir’s supernatural flames, but try as they might, they could not evade the magnetic silver spheres. Knives and Leafeon shrugged off the impacts from Magnet Bomb, but the same could not be said for the Ice-type Glaceon, who was struck square in his torso by the Steel-type move and collapsed to the ground.


    “Oh, Glaceon!” Sarah cried in dismay. “Are you-”


    “Porygon-Z, use Electroweb!”


    Just as it seemed that Dusknoir and Probopass would pick Door and Sarah’s alliance apart, a Porygon-Z flew in and cast a charged net over them, binding them down as they were electrocuted by it. The two young women turned to face their savior, who was soon joined by its trainer, a bespectacled man in a burgundy coat.


    “You girls alright?” he asked them while Porygon-Z twitched next to him. “Glaceon took quite the hit.”


    “Don’t worry about Glaceon, I can help him,” Door replied. She then narrowed her eyes and hissed, “I’ll tell you now, don’t call me ‘girl’ again. Ever.


    “Fair enough,” the man laughed, adjusting his glasses.


    Nearby, a third woman was watching the conflict in the square through a high-tech visor. Her two Weavile stood at her feet, warily observing their surroundings in case they needed to protect her.


    “Are you seeing this, Banks?” she said into the microphone attached to her visor, watching as Knives healed Glaceon with a pulse of pink energy. Roserade suddenly bound over Probopass and Dusknoir and readied a Hyper Beam above her head, only for Porygon-Z to explosively disarm her with a Hyper Beam of its own. “The Pokémon wearing collars attack relentlessly, and when defeated, the collars appear to be healing them. They’re not staying down long.”


    “That’s the potential of Arcane Science energy!” the voice of an old man answered through her visor. “The practices of Arcane Science allow humans to harness the life energy of the land using machinery, giving it virtually any application you can imagine. That is why I sent you to investigate La Ciudad Dorada, after all!”


    “You don’t have to tell me twice,” the woman teasingly told her boss. She shifted her gaze toward the center of the market, where a martial artist and a young man wearing a black bandana had their Poliwrath and Zoroark wrestling with Fernando’s Tangrowth. “I don’t think either of us ever imagined something like this would happen.”


    “Stay safe out there, Kidd. I don’t want to lose my best employee!”


    Kidd lowered her eyelids and deadpanned, “I’m sure you don’t.”


    Meanwhile, just as Kidd hadn’t yet participated in the battle, there was one of Fernando’s Pokémon that hadn’t either. Kommo-o was still watching over the conflict from his perch atop one of the houses. Even in his brainwashed, controlled state, he knew he couldn’t stay out of the battle any longer. All across the market his teammates were facing stiff resistance from the gathered trainers, and their progress toward Lingote Palace was completely stymied. They were failing to accomplish the goal programmed into them via their collars.


    He would not fail like them.


    Kommo-o wound his powerful legs up and leapt from the roof, his weight shaking the ground when he crashed down into the square. Every Pokémon not already occupied with an opponent turned to stare at him. They’d all seen him arrive with the other members of Fernando’s army, but many had forgotten all about him once their attention was diverted and he held back. His presence sent a wave of fear washing over them, and matters weren’t helped when he stretched his neck and roared mightily toward the dark sky.


    “Poliwrath!” the martial artist shouted to his Pokémon. The Water-and-Fighting-type had still been grappling with Tangrowth, but when her trainer called for her, she flipped over backward and flung Tangrowth back for Zoroark to take care of. “Hit that Kommo-o with Dual Chop!” her trainer ordered, mimicking the motion of a karate chop himself.


    Poliwrath croaked in affirmation and sprang toward Kommo-o, her hands glowing with green light. Kommo-o turned toward her and lazily glared at her. The Dragon’s eyes lacked a single ounce of fear in them, but were instead filled to with condescension bordering on pity for her. How could such a weak creature dare to challenge him?


    The Dragon-and-Fighting-type Pokémon casually batted Poliwrath away, sending her crashing into a nearby sales booth. He then set his sights on the Sacred Hill, but before he could press onward, two Ice Beams caught him squarely in the chest. Kommo-o snarled and whipped his head around, identifying the source of the resistance as Kidd’s two Weavile.


    “Not enough,” Kidd realized when she saw Kommo-o’s fury. “Both of you use Laser Focus!”


    Both Weavile locked their eyes on Kommo-o, only for him to take notice of their act and begin rushing towards them.


    “It’s game over if Kommo-o hits them with Sky Uppercut, like it did to Poliwrath…” Just then, Kidd noticed both Weavile’s eyes flash. Her fluffy brown pigtails shook as she hurried to tell them, “Use Ice Beam now!”


    Kidd's twin Weavile brought their claws together, chilling the air between their tips. The moisture in the air soon solidified and shot into Kommo-o's chest, both rays twice as intense as the prior ones.


    Kommo-o angrily growled and glared down at the Weavile. Such small, insignificant Pokémon, and yet, they had stopped him dead in his tracks. Maybe, if he was in his right mind, he would have relished the challenge as an opportunity to assert his dominance. The influence of his collar robbed him of that. His simplified thoughts told him only one thing - destroy all who stood in his way and take Lingote Palace.


    Tongues of fire wrapped around Kommo-o's fists, and he swung them against the two Ice Beams, cutting off the freezing onslaught. Kidd's Weavile slowly backed up and nervously glanced at each other, well aware of the danger they were in.


    "Allow me to take care of this," the witch trainer told Kidd, stepping between her and Kommo-o. Decidueye soon joined her, and she pulled up her left sleeve, revealing a black bracelet with a green crystal set into it.


    "A Z-Ring!" Kidd exclaimed in surprise.


    The witch crossed her arms, causing a shadow in the shape of Decidueye's head to appear from the crystal. "The living world and spirit world connect as one," she recited. She leaned forward and hid her face behind her hands, causing a plume of energy to flare up around her body. "Where the line between life and death blurs, the truth of existence shall be found."


    Decidueye stood before his trainer as she straightened up. When she separated her hands and pushed her head forward, the energy around her flowed into Decidueye. An arrow of light made of multiple interlocking triangles flashed in front of him.


    "And now, that which belongs in the spirit world shall be brought back there!" the strange young woman cried. "Decidueye, use Sinister Arrow Raid!"


    Decidueye shrieked viciously and rocketed skyward with a powerful beat of his wings. At the apex of his ascent, he threw his wings open, scattering numerous arrow-shaped quills from his plumage. With the quills surrounding him, he dove in Kommo-o’s direction like a missile. He pulled back at the last moment and flew over Kommo-o’s head, but the quills all struck their target before exploding in a huge plume of spiritual energy. Decidueye landed in front of his trainer to observe his work with satisfaction.


    As the purple light faded from around Kommo-o, the humans and Pokémon opposing him discovered that he was down on one knee. Slowly he rose, and although his armored scales were covered in gashes, he was more infuriated than injured.


    “It survived?!” the witch hissed in disgust and surprise.


    At first, Kommo-o growled at Decidueye and his other enemies, but such a display soon ceased to satisfy his erupting rage. He howled at the sky and crossed his arms, subconsciously mimicking the motion he had been opposed with moments earlier, and started rubbing them together. This action scraped his scales against each other, creating a horrible, steadily intensifying noise.


    All seemed lost as Kommo-o prepared to overwhelm the palace’s protectors with a supercharged Clanging Scales. Just as he lifted his arms above his head, however, he was suddenly struck in the face by a simultaneous Shadow Ball and Gunk Shot. He staggered back and turned his angry gaze at whoever it was that had the nerve to ambush him in such a way.


    Somehow, a Palossand and a rainbow-colored Muk had gotten between him and his foes without his notice.


    “It’s ’bout time for you to pay for turnin’ on us like that!”


    Kommo-o shook off the sludge from Gunk Shot to clear his vision in time to see Noel descend into the market with Leon at her side. Even under Fernando’s brainwashing, he recognized his former masters, lowered himself, and growled threateningly at them. Sheena was the only human of the resistance group to have a reaction to their presence, as she was the only one to have already met them.


    “You actually did survive!” the priestess exclaimed.


    “Of course Sis and I did,” Leon replied, smugly pointing at himself with his thumb and grinning broadly. “Ain’t you learned not to underestimate us yet?”


    Noel flashed a proud smirk at her brother, then jabbed her finger at Kommo-o and sharply said, "You turn your back on us like everyone else, and for who? The little prince? We'll take you out and then go beat him!"


    Kommo-o's attention shifted to Noel and Leon alone, focusing exclusively on them while the others vanished from his mind. He lowered his head and charged at them, the scales on his head glittering like metal. Palossand moved in front of Muk and protectively stretched to cover him. The sand in her body hardened into steel as well, and the impact of Kommo-o's Iron Head against her resulted in little besides a horrible scraping noise.


    "Thanks for that one, Bro," Noel said in gratitude for the Iron Defense shield. "Now, Muk, how's about another Gunk Shot?"


    Muk slithered on top of Palossand and choked another glob of sludge right into Kommo-o's face and eyes. He flailed and clawed at his face, trying desperately to pull the thick, sticky substance away, only for the mass to split apart the more he attacked it. Once he managed to partially clear his eyes, he roared and swung his fist at Muk and Palossand only for something to hold him back mid-punch.


    The hunter siblings both started laughing, and Noel slapped Leon on the back.


    "Look at that, Bro! Kommo-o's all confused… it thought we came alone!"


    "You were right when you said gettin' them with us was a good idea, Sis."


    "I am the brains after all."


    Initially unable to see what was holding his fist back, Kommo-o howled in rage and started flailing again. It was when he raised his arm above his head that he finally saw his assailant - hanging on to his fist was none other than Mega Gallade.


    "Gallade, you're safe!" Wally cried in relief. "I was so worried!"


    "He ain't the only one we picked up on our way here," Noel smugly revealed.


    Practically on cue, Mega Swampert, Persian, Swellow, Elena, Deivi, Isabel and Leonel all came running into the square. Gallade joined them by kicking off Kommo-o's fist and backflipping to land perfectly on his feet.


    "Thanks for finding my buddy Swampert!" Laura told the siblings once she embraced her Pokémon.


    "You ain't got anythin' to worry 'bout," Noel told her. "The whole lot of 'em had their lights knocked out, but we helped 'em get back together again. Figured you all would need the support."


    "Y'know, Sis…" Leon cut in, his eyes flicking over to Kommo-o as the dragon rubbed away the sludge, "...I ain't usually the one who does the thinkin', but it looks to me like it's time to serve up that revenge we were talkin' 'bout."


    "You're right on the money, Bro." Noel turned to Wally, Laura, Sheena and Cassy and asked them, "You guys want in on this?"


    "You don't have to ask us twice."


    Cassy hadn't bothered to check with the others, but she happened to be right, as they all shared her sentiment. The humans clustered together while their group of Pokémon did the same, bracing to all attack Kommo-o.


    "All right, go!" all six of them cried in unison.


    That prompting was all the Pokémon needed to bring their full power down on Kommo-o. Gallade swung his arm to flick a blade of purple energy at the dragon, Swellow unleashed a deafening blast of sound, Swampert bound toward Kommo-o with his fists wrapped in icy air, and Persian fired a Dark Pulse from the gem on her forehead. Rosalita's Pokémon joined in, with Elena leaping forth to slash Kommo-o with Leaf Blade, Leonel rolling to tackle him, Deivi spitting a Seed Bomb, and Isabel using Thunderbolt. Palossand and Muk also contributed with Shadow Ball and Gunk Shot, respectively.


    All the different attacks in the onslaught hit Kommo-o at roughly the same time, and all he could do was cover himself with his arms in a feeble act of defense. The sheer amount and variety of energy he was hit with triggered a huge, bright explosion that the humans in the market had to shield their eyes from.


    The light from the blast faded a short time later, revealing Kommo-o lying prone across the broken stone ground. It had taken everything they had, but the defenders of the Sacred Hill had won the war. The enemy army's leader had fallen, and the other Pokémon knew they stood no chance, even with the collars influencing their minds. They started to slowly retreat, too dumbfounded to escape any faster.


    "That's right, you losers! Run!" Noel mocked them. "Run and tell that Fernando we're comin' for him!"


    With that, Noel threw back her head and started laughing maniacally. Leon, Wally, Laura and the other tourists and townspeople, meanwhile, started celebrating their victory. Things had been frightening for a lot of them, with worry about the oncoming danger consuming them once Rosalita set off the evacuation alarm. Now, their relief and jubilation flowed freely.


    Sheena and Cassy, on the other hand, couldn't stop staring at Kommo-o.


    "You sense it too, don't you?" Cassy asked, a bead of sweat rolling down her brow.


    "I do," the priestess ominously replied, clenching her fist in front of herself. "I don't even need to use my Transcendence to tell. Something is wrong."


    Sheena's warning turned out to be a prophetic one. The light on Kommo-o's collar shifted from red to black, a change that made both her and Cassy feel as if their hearts had stopped. Kommo-o's eyes completely filled with a dull red glow as the collar's influence scrubbed away what free will he still possessed. All that remained by the time he stood back up were simple directives: destroy the enemy and take the palace by any means necessary.


    Kommo-o clenched up and let out a horrific screech that shattered the windows near him. It wasn't until then that the vast majority of the people in the plaza realized what was happening, and their celebration instantly turned to murmurs of panic.


    "Sis, what's happenin'?" Leon asked, his voice shaky.


    One thing Noel usually prided herself on was her ability to project an image of strength even when she had none. That talent had helped her and Leon get through countless nights on the bleak streets of Pyrite. Yet, in that moment, even her base instincts failed her. She couldn't find a single word to reassure Leon with.


    Meanwhile, Kommo-o's collar released another energy pulse. When it washed over the other Pokémon in the army, their collars turned pure white. Not only did this wipe away their limited autonomy, it made them into subservient soldiers under Kommo-o's control. They all disengaged from what they were doing and dragged themselves to their master's side.


    "M-Miss Champion, what do we do now?" Wally stuttered. The way the army closed ranks around Kommo-o had made him realize what was coming, but like Leon, he needed reassurance.


    Luckily for him, Laura sensed how he felt. "Don't worry, kid. I've got your back." She crossed her arms again, and without turning her head called out to all her allies, "This is it! If this is how they want to go, well, it's time to show them just how we roll!"


    With that, the two armies issued their battle cries, charged at each other and began to clash. The war wasn't just not over, it was just beginning.


    -:-


    Shaymin was many things. The creator of a kingdom that lasted over half a millennium. An unaging, nigh-immortal guardian. The guide of the humans who came and went serving La Ciudad Dorada during their time on Earth.


    But that day there was one thing Shaymin wasn't, and the weight of all its work burdened its mind thanks to that one shortcoming. For all its power and all its effort, it wasn't strong enough to stop Regigigas's relentless march. It had ceaselessly buffeted the titan with everything it could muster, but Regigigas shrugged off every assault. Its periodic counterattacks didn't hit Shaymin, but that didn't matter. What mattered was the mission Fernando forced upon it.


    Regigigas had to reach Lingote Palace no matter who or what stood in its way. Aside from Shaymin and Pidgeot harassing it, there had been little impeding its journey. That changed when it finally reached the walls protecting La Ciudad Dorada. Regigigas walked right up to the barrier, but stopped moving when some its memories resurfaced.


    The wall. It wasn’t there the last time Regigigas went to La Ciudad Dorada. But why was it there now? At first, Regigigas couldn’t remember, but the more it pondered the situation, the more of its memory punched through the armor’s influence. Images of chaos and war came to the titan’s mind, of burning buildings and vast, violent conflict. Finally, it remembered - the last time Regigigas went to the city was during the first civil war, and it had wrought that devastation searching for Fernando III. Now, though… what was it doing now? The last thing it could clearly remember was being woken up by someone familiar to it. Fernando III’s descendant, that was it. The kingdom was again in crisis, and it was once more a Fernando who had wandered from the path of gratitude, so how could it be serving the will of such a person?


    Up above Regigigas, the skyship started to cross over the wall. Matt and Rosalita were still locked in combat with Fernando, with the count’s Dragonite managing to hold both Sally and Reyes in check. He glanced down at Regigigas and clenched his teeth when he saw that it had stopped moving.


    “Regigigas, what are you doing?” he growled to himself. He couldn’t focus on the titan for long, as he heard Matt command Sally to use Flamethrower. “Dragonite, block that with Thunder!” he ordered.


    Dragonite’s lightning bolts and Sally’s flame met in the space between the combatants, and the combined energies exploded into a smoky cloud. Fernando seized on the opening to guide Dragonite downward and head for Regigigas’s side.


    Suddenly, Shaymin emerged seemingly out of nowhere and charged into Dragonite’s chest. As it held Fernando’s mount back, it yelled, “You must stop, you!”


    “Do not get in my way, Shaymin! I’ve no time to deal with this sort of nonsense!”


    Fernando tapped Dragonite on the shoulder, and in response to his prompting, she grabbed Shaymin in her hands and spun around. She then beat her wings to whip up a whirling Hurricane, blowing the mythical Pokémon away from her.


    With Shaymin’s obstruction dealt with, Fernando turned his attention back to Regigigas. “I’m not sure what’s gotten into you,” he said to it, “but I need you to keep going.”


    After activating his gauntlet by closing his fist, Fernando pointed it toward the wall. The gem on its back emitted a flashing red pulse, which the armor soon replicated. In an instant, Regigigas’s memories and free will were suppressed once again. At first, the titan shook back and forth and desperately tried to resist the armor’s power, but its resistance was soon choked out, and its behavior returned its prior robotic state.


    “Reyes, Brave Bird!”


    Rosalita and her Staraptor came tearing through the fading smoke, but Fernando and Dragonite pulled back to evade them.


    “If we stay near Regigigas, Rosalita may try to stop it,” he realized. Acting on that fact, he taunted his sister by saying, “Last chance to stop what you're doing and watch me save our home.”


    “Never!” she immediately answered, unwittingly taking Fernando’s bait. “Reyes, use Brave Bird again!”


    "That's right, come this way," Fernando thought as he turned Dragonite around. To ensure Regigigas followed his orders, he closed his left fist and pointed it at the wall before leading Rosalita away.


    The armor emitted yet another crimson pulse, and before it fully faded, Regigigas pulled its right arm back. Once again, it was only able to focus on accomplishing the mission, and the wall was in the way of that. It had to be eliminated.


    In one motion, Regigigas punched the wall with all its might. Its tremendous fist pierced completely through the barrier, sending stone shards raining onto the buildings below. Regigigas could have just broken straight through at that point, but a tiny spark at the very back of its mind kept it from doing so. The armor's control was starting to fail again. Even so, Regigigas couldn't stop itself from acting out its programming. It was as if Regigigas had become an unwilling passenger in its own body.


    Instead of simply breaking through the wall, Regigigas reached into the giant hole left by its punch and pried the two sections of the barrier apart. It took all of Regigigas's strength to separate them, and both the stones and the underlying mechanisms made horrible grinding noises as they were forced to move. Regigigas's act gave it an unimpeded view of the city, but even as it towered over the structures in front of it, it was greeted by an unexpected sight.


    Waiting for it on the other side of the wall was a detachment of the palace guards' Pokémon. Two Golurk, eight Bronzong, and four each of the Bisharp, Sigilyph and Escavalier stationed themselves there while the rest stayed behind at Lingote Palace. Unbeknownst to Fernando and thus to Regigigas, Edrei had commanded them to take up positions at the edge of the city in case this very scenario came to pass. Their standing order was as simple as Regigigas's: should the great titan arrive, they were to hold it back with everything they could muster.


    One of the Bisharp, clad with faded armor riddled with dents and scratches reflecting his many years of combat training, had assumed leadership of the squadron. He turned back to the Pokémon under his guidance, cried out in a high pitch, and waved his arm at their designated target. The others reacted without hesitation, all firing beams of silver light directly into Regigigas's face. Each Pokémon made the best of their respective training, using their strength and endurance to ensure there was not a single break in their Flash Cannon bombardment.


    The sustained attack checked Regigigas's advance, but dealt little actual damage. The salvo left the titan more annoyed than hurt from the constant blows to its face, and every time another shot made contact, its mechanical growling grew louder. This anger ironically led the spark of free thought in Regigigas's mind to grow stronger, but it was nowhere near enough to stop the giant from lashing out. While still holding on to the two sections of the wall it had pried apart, Regigigas leaned forward and bent down at the knees. Countless jagged chunks of iron materialized around it, and by springing back to its full height, it unleashed the Metal Burst on its foes. The iron pieces rained on the guards' Pokémon like a downpour of heavy spears, not only slicing at them but smashing the structures beneath them apart.


    Having recovered from Dragonite's Hurricane, Shaymin observed the complete overwhelming of its allies with a sense of dismay. Time was up, and the mythical Pokémon knew it. Regigigas wasn't just awake, it was here. An immediate, present threat no longer taking up some nebulous point in the future. Nothing could stand in the way of it annihilating La Ciudad Dorada, if that was what Fernando desired.


    "There's one thing, actually," Shaymin realized with a nervous gulp. "Me…"


    Shaymin couldn't lie to itself. For all the bravado it displayed in its Sky Forme, and all the genuine strength backing that bravado up, it was scared. Not just the kind of fear that so many children of La Ciudad Dorada felt from the thunder of the kingdom's storms, but the sort of all-consuming terror one experienced when facing a threat to their life itself.


    As it floated in place and trembled, Shaymin's eyes flicked across the land it was responsible for protecting, and it spotted the numerous fronts the war was being fought on. Matt and Rosalita. The tourists in the market. Edrei, his subordinates, and their Pokémon. All of them were fighting with everything they had to save La Ciudad Dorada.


    "What am I thinking?" Shaymin said to itself. "Their lives are brief when it comes to how long they are on this Earth. I have lived for centuries, and yet, I hesitate." The mythical Pokémon took a deep breath and felt its nerves calm as it exhaled. "I have nothing to fear. It has been a good life." Recalling the time it had spent with all the kings and their families over the years, Shaymin smiled, resigning itself to what it had to do. "If this is the end, I will fight until my life is no more!"


    Having firmly established its resolve, Shaymin shrieked at the top of its lungs and darted straight for Regigigas. The titan didn't react at all to its approach at first, and had Shaymin not been so reckless, it would have realized it was being led into a trap. Regigigas certainly didn't want to take such action either; its stirring consciousness was screaming at it to stop, but the armor had too tight a hold on its mind.


    As things were, Shaymin drew far too close to Regigigas before the top four dots on the titan's face flashed and an Icy Wind whipped up at their center. The mythical Pokémon squealed and tried to pull away, but ended up getting swamped by the freezing gust. Shaymin reeled through the air, immobilized by the cold chilling it to the bone. It was left completely vulnerable, and Regigigas took the chance to reach out with its right hand and tightly ensnare Shaymin between its gigantic fingers.


    Up above, Rosalita nearly lost her grip on Reyes when she saw Shaymin's fate. "Shaymin!!" she gasped in horror, watching as Regigigas squeezed the tiny creature. When Shaymin disappeared into Regigigas's grasp, Rosalita could see not only her future but the future of her land and people go along with it. Should Shaymin meet its end, it would be the end of everything she knew.


    "Shaymin lives forever, but it's really no more immune to death than my grandfather or your parents, right?" Matt ventured after guiding Sally to hover next to Reyes. When Rosalita nodded to him, he turned away and scowled helplessly. "We have to buy Eleanor time, but what can we do? Nothing we tried has been able to stop Regigigas! The two of us can't do anything al-"


    "The Golden Sky Bouquet," Rosalita interrupted, her realization earning an inquisitive look from Matt. "When Shaymin heard the voices of the people expressing their gratitude, it erupted with a breathtaking power," she explained, recalling the stories of her youth. Even though she now knew them to be rooted in lies, she still believed in their message. "The shining golden light washed over Regigigas and all the land, revealing to it the people's remorse. Now calmed, Regigigas returned to its slumber, and peace reigned once again."


    Understanding what the princess was suggesting, Matt asked her, "How do we do it?"


    Before she could answer, Rosalita spotted Fernando coming around on Dragonite to attack them again. "I shall take care of that," she hurriedly told Matt. "You keep him from interfering!"


    “Wait, how am I-” Matt’s inquiry went without notice. Rosalita was already gone, racing toward Lingote Palace on her Staraptor’s back. He laughed gently to himself when he turned his head and saw Fernando coming his way. “I guess that’s why she’s the princess and I’m the knight.”


    Even though he still firmly believed Rosalita and Reyes would be more suited to holding her brother back, Matt trusted her judgment. He guided Sally to take a position between Rosalita and Fernando, forcing the count to pull Dragonite to a stop. The air between the two sweltered with not only the heat of the desert but the burning hatred each held for the other.


    “Get out of my way!” Fernando growled at him. “I have no time to waste on the likes of you!”


    “Say I did, then what?” Matt pressed down on Sally’s back. A flame flicked from her mouth, and Fernando realized they weren’t going to give in to his demand. “If I let you go after her, what will you do then?”


    Fernando sighed in irritation. “How many times do I have to say the same thing? She will watch as I defend our kingdom from those coming to destroy it! That is my rightful place!”


    You are the only one destroying this city!” Matt angrily countered. Gesturing toward the city below, he continued, “Look around at your kingdom, Fernando! Look at it! La Ciudad Dorada is being destroyed by your actions, and who are the ones fighting to protect it? The outsiders you hate so much! You said you wanted to prove your existence wasn’t a mistake and that you had a place to belong in your family. You are destroying that place!! There won’t be anything left for you to have a place in!”


    The searing winds blew through Fernando’s hair and under his cape as he gazed down at the city. His city. Ordinarily he wouldn’t have paid the words of someone like Matt any mind, but those words had forced his attention onto what was taking place below their duel.


    He saw Regigigas towering over the guards’ defeated Pokémon, with the structures around them smashed to bits by Metal Burst. The road that had been incinerated by the explosion of the streetlamp. The war unfolding in Dorada Market. Shaymin trapped in Regigigas’s grip.


    Fernando’s eyes went wide and his breathing grew shallow as a horrifying realization invaded every inch of his consciousness. It was true, La Ciudad Dorada was being destroyed. It was also true that there were numerous people, both city natives and those foreign to it, fighting to defend it. But if they were protecting the kingdom, there had to be an enemy for them to fight. Those in the market were locked in combat with Kommo-o and its ally Pokémon, while on the opposite end of the city, the guards’ partners and Shaymin had fallen to Regigigas. Kommo-o, Regigigas, and the other Pokémon… they were the enemy destroying the kingdom. But were they really? None of them were acting out of their own free will. Whether due to the collars or the mechanical armor, all of them were attacking on behalf of the mastermind who shackled them with the devices, and there was only one person guilty of that.


    Fernando was the enemy, the threat to his beloved home. There was no way he could deny it to himself. Matt was right. He was right, and that was the absolute truth. In that instant, when he finally realized what he had done, Fernando’s mind broke. He could feel everything - his dreams, his education, his childhood promises with Rosalita - crashing down on him, crumbling just like the mountain Regigigas and the Golden City had been buried beneath. He would never have a place in the kingdom, and that realization caused him to completely lose his grasp on reality.


    “Silence yourself, you scoundrel!” he roared at Matt, unable to accept what he could see with his own eyes. “I will never let an outsider, let alone one of the same blood as the man who corrupted my kingdom, speak to me in such a fashion!”


    With that, Fernando brandished his staff. The container on its top opened, and sparks flew from the Griseous Orb as the jewel’s energy charged. Matt, realizing what Fernando was going to do, prompted Sally to fly away. His effort was in vain, however, as the bolt that cracked from the Griseous Orb directly struck his Salamence. Sally growled in pain, and when gravity’s pull on her intensified, she started spiraling downward. Both she and Matt knew that they would be badly injured if they hit the ground, so without Matt even giving her a direction, Sally changed the angle of her pitch so she would fall onto the deck of the skyship instead.


    Matt tumbled off Sally’s back when she crashed. He groaned and pushed himself up just in time to see Fernando land and jump off of Dragonite.


    “Once I eliminate you, the corruption will be undone!” the count yelled, pointing at his nemesis. There was such a fire in his eyes that Matt almost felt surprised they hadn’t turned red. “Now go burn with your grandfather! Dragonite, Horn Drill!”


    Just like she had done with Sutter years earlier, Dragonite lunged at Matt, intending to strike the same sort of killing blow with her spinning horn. Before she could reach him, however, Anton appeared and blocked her path by grabbing her arms.


    “Oh, right, Anton stayed behind…” Matt said in relief.


    The two powerful Pokémon pushed against each other, but with the power her collar granted her, Dragonite gradually overwhelmed Anton. Even though she had been ordered to attack Matt, she turned her wrath on Anton first, forcing her Horn Drill closer and closer to his face. A sudden neigh interrupted their clash, and moments later, Adiela smashed into Dragonite’s side wreathed in crackling bolts of electricity.


    Meanwhile, Rosalita and Reyes arrived above Dorada Market. By that point, all of Fernando’s Pokémon besides Kommo-o had slumped over, exhausted by Kommo-o controlling them. The Sacred Hill’s defenders were mostly still standing thanks to Door and Knives healing them with assistance from a local nurse’s Clefable using Soft-Boiled. Even then, Kommo-o was more than able to fight on alone, battling to a stalemate despite being overwhelmed in terms of numbers.


    While Greninja, Zoroark, Swellow and Decidueye launched an assault on Kommo-o, Rosalita flew over to the other trainers and the people they were protecting.


    “Listen to me!” she called out to them. “In order for this to end, I need you to express all the gratitude you can! Think of anything in your lives you feel gratitude for and send those thoughts to Shaymin! Otherwise, Shaymin will die and the city will go with it!”


    “Shaymin will die…?” Wally said to himself, a chill running down his spine as he watched Rosalita head up to talk to the guards. “Miss Champion, I don’t understand what is happening…”


    “Just do what she said,” Laura replied. “It’s the only choice we’ve got. What do you feel gratitude for, kid?”


    “Well…” Wally began, though he hesitated at first. Gallade bumped his arm, and when he saw his loyal partner, he felt better. “I’m thankful for Gallade and my other Pokémon, who have always stuck by my side. Being a trainer is tough, but I’ve come so far with them… also, I am thankful for my health, after I was sick for so long… what about you, Miss Champion?”


    Laura turned to the Swampert at her side, and he met her gaze curiously.


    “If there’s one thing I’m grateful for, it’s you, buddy,” she said. “You’ve seen me at my worst and still stuck with me. Not just you, but everyone back home. I wouldn’t be where I am without you.”


    Swampert smiled bashfully, as if to say that he felt the same.


    All around them, the panic of the battle with Fernando’s army was replaced by a strange sense of serenity. What had been screams of terror and orders for combat turned into words of gratitude, even as the Pokémon continued working to hold Kommo-o back. The citizens and tourists found themselves no longer afraid of what would happen, their optimism swelling as they thought of all the good they had in their lives.


    -:-


    Inside Regigigas’s hand, Shaymin was suffering. The titan was squeezing it with just enough force to subject it to agonizing pain without immediately killing it, but even then, Shaymin knew it couldn’t hold out for much longer.


    “Ah… ahh…” the mythical Pokémon cried, its voice strained. With each tightening of the titan’s squeeze, Shaymin felt its life ebb and waver, its lungs barely able to fight the crushing grip surrounding it for breath.


    Suddenly, just when Shaymin felt like it was about to succumb, countless voices sounded in its head. It perked up as soon as it heard them. They were expressing thanks for all sorts of things, from family bonds to good health to companionship and everything in between. As Shaymin listened to them, it realized it no longer felt like giving up. In fact, even though Regigigas hadn’t loosed its Crush Grip at all, Shaymin no longer felt any pain.


    “These voices…” Shaymin said out loud, as golden light started radiating from its body. It had to think for a moment, but it soon remembered where such a thing had happened before. “The gratitude of all the people… just like in the first civil war, you’ve decided to end it like this, you?” It grinned, thinking of Rosalita. “I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. You’ve always been a daring one, you. If this is your choice, so be it!”


    The golden light strengthened to such a degree that it spilled from between Regigigas’s fingers and bathed La Ciudad Dorada in its warmth. On the skyship’s deck, Fernando ceased his attack on Matt and ran to the guardrail to see what was happening, while Rosalita stared in awe on her way back to the craft.


    “So this is the Golden Sky Bouquet...” she uttered.


    As the erupting light continued to intensify, the same triangular arrow shape from the witch trainer’s Z-Ring flashed in front of Regigigas’s hand. Within its grip, Shaymin had gained so much strength that it was able to begin pushing the titan’s fingers apart.


    “You need to return to your senses, you!” it screeched at its brainwashed captor. “If you can’t do it by yourself, I’ll set you straight myself, Regigigas! Now take this!!”


    Both Shaymin’s power and the gleaming glow radiating from its body reached a peak. Harnessing the immense amount of gratitude it had been given along with its own life energy and the Gaia flowing in the land nearby, it unleashed an explosion that dwarfed any Seed Flare it had ever used before. Its detonation was so vast in scope that it consumed Regigigas, freeing Shaymin from its Crush Grip and sending the titan skidding back from the ruined wall and away from the city. By the time it stopped moving, hills of sand had collected behind its immense legs.


    The skyship was also caught in the turbulence, throwing Matt, Fernando and their Pokémon down onto the deck. When the count pulled himself back up on the guardrail and saw what had happened, he flew into even more of an unhinged rage.


    “I won’t let you get away with using something so sacred against me, Rosalita!” he yelled out at the open sky, unable to see his sister. He snapped his fist closed to activate his gauntlet and commanded, “Regigigas, Metal Burst!”


    For all the immense power Shaymin wielded with Golden Sky Bouquet to overwhelm Regigigas, it still hadn’t defeated the titan. That left Regigigas able to harness the same power in its counterattack. It clenched its body up as a giant swarm of iron pieces appeared around it, then swung its arms skyward to send them flying at Shaymin. Despite it being Regigigas’s strongest Metal Burst yet, Shaymin still had strength to spare and used it to navigate the storm of steel with little effort. Not only that, while Regigigas was occupied with Shaymin, it was suddenly hit from behind by a Hurricane from Edrei’s Mega Pidgeot. He’d forgotten all about the guard’s Pokémon after she fell into the desert earlier.


    “That was the Golden Sky Bouquet?” Matt wondered, still uneasy on his feet. “Rosalita wasn’t kidding about it…”


    Fernando lashed around and spat at him, “You have no right to invoke its name!” Pointing his fist toward Matt, he started to say, “Dragonite, Hor-”


    Dragonite braced herself in preparation to strike, but her order never came. Fernando was so consumed with his fury at Matt that he left himself completely open to an ambush from his sister. Reyes dove into him from behind, forcing a sickened wheeze from him as he fell once more to the ship’s deck. Rosalita then leapt off her Staraptor’s back, landed near her brother’s prone form, and ripped the gauntlet from his arm while he was still dazed.


    “Consider this the end of what you’ve done,” she scolded Fernando as she backed away from him, “and the beginning of justice being served.”


    Rosalita threw the gauntlet down, and Fernando snapped back to reality just in time to see her raising one of her legs over it. In an instant, all his anger turned to sheer panic.


    “No, Rosalita, don’t do it!” he cried out. “You won’t be able to stop it!”


    “You have sacrificed any right for me to listen to you,” she coldly replied, believing his response meant she wouldn’t be able to stop his army. She drove her foot straight down into the gauntlet’s gem, shattering it with her years of well-honed, athletic strength.


    The moment Rosalita destroyed the gauntlet, Dragonite’s collar started to flash, and Fernando’s Pokémon froze in place. Regigigas reacted in the same fashion, and even though those on the skyship couldn’t see it happen, Kommo-o and the rest of the army in the market also ceased all movement.


    “What is this, Rosalita?” Matt asked her, ignoring Fernando’s increasing panic.


    “Without the control device, the Pokémon can’t receive commands even if the system is still active,” the princess explained. She raised her voice for what she said next, making sure her brother heard every venomous word. “Of course, we have an answer for that as well, don’t we?”


    It was not until that moment that Fernando finally realized Eleanor was nowhere to be seen. “Where is the engineer?” he begged Rosalita on his hands and knees, well aware of Eleanor’s talents. “What have you done?”


    Rosalita turned her back and ignored him. Coincidentally, Eleanor’s voice came through the ship’s radio mere seconds later. It was loud and clear, allowing Matt, Rosalita and Fernando to hear her every word.


    “Hey, you guys!” she called out from the bridge. “Wanna see a magic trick?”


    Matt lowered his eyelids and deadpanned, “I suppose it doesn’t surprise me she’d do it like this.”


    “This is a two-way radio, Matt. I can hear you,” Eleanor snarked back. “Doesn’t matter, though. Now, for my coup de grace, I call this one ‘Making Your Crazy Brother’s Evil Smile Disappear!’ Abracadabra!”


    Although Matt, Rosalita and Fernando couldn’t see her do it, when they heard a loud click from the other end of the radio, they all knew it was Eleanor hitting the shutdown key. If they hadn’t already realized it, they would have when Dragonite’s collar sparked and detached from her neck. The red glow faded from her eyes as, for the first time in years, she was able to think fully for herself. She stumbled and looked around herself in confusion. The last place she remembered being was Fernando’s workshop in Lingote Palace, not the skyship and certainly not over La Ciudad Dorada. Fernando, that was it. She remembered him, and she remembered that the last thing that happened before her lost memories was him putting the collar on her. She roared and launched an electrical bolt at him, and although he sprang up to defend himself with his staff, it blasted the Griseous Orb clean off. The jewel fell off the side of the ship as Fernando backed against the rail.


    Meanwhile, in Dorada Market, the collars on Kommo-o and the rest of the army fell off as well, releasing all of them from Fernando’s control. They all had the same memories as Dragonite, so when they came around and realized they were faced with a huge group of Pokémon opposing them, they retreated in frightened surprise.


    Finally, Regigigas’s armor buzzed as it shut down. The individual pieces cracked and fell off the titan’s body one by one, and once they were gone, it too was free.


    “Well done, Adiela,” Rosalita told her Rapidash, petting the Fire-type Pokémon’s muzzle. Adiela replied with a content neigh before the princess returned her to her ball.


    “You did a good job, too, Anton. Thanks for your help.”


    While Matt recalled his Rhyperior, Rosalita finally turned her attention to her defeated brother. Stepping forward with her hands planted firmly on her hips, she said to him in a grave voice, “Your ambitions are at an end, Fernando. I still want to show you mercy… but right now, the only place that is fitting for you is the dungeon.”


    “This isn’t over,” he mumbled, so low that Rosalita couldn’t make it out.


    “What did you say?” Rosalita demanded.


    “I said this isn’t over.”


    “Is that supposed to be a threat?” she said with a sigh. “You aren’t well, Fernando. It’s time to face reality - we completely stopped your invasion ourselves.”


    “But it’s not over.”


    -:-


    On the skyship’s bridge, Eleanor leaned back in the pilot’s seat. It took every ounce of her care to not put her feet up. She would have done so, but she knew to avoid accidentally hitting any of the controls.


    All of a sudden, the control panels all turned a bright red color and an alarm started sounding in the room. Eleanor snapped to attention, only to discover that the systems she had just been manipulating had vanished. In their place, the control panel was projecting two images. One was of belt-like objects strapped to a giant, glowing sphere, while the other was a countdown timer that immediately started running.


    “What’s this?” she cautiously asked herself. She then turned her attention to the holographic navigation globe, which was projecting a map of the kingdom with an arrow pointing towards the mountains.


    -:-


    Matt and Rosalita had to brace themselves against some of the iron structures fixed to the skyship’s deck as it abruptly began turning around.


    “Rosalita, what’s happening now?!” Matt shouted over the sound of the wind.


    “I don’t know!” she replied.


    Just as suddenly as it began, the skyship finished its pivoting maneuver. As soon as it did, however, the skyship started flying away from La Ciudad Dorada, its speed increasing by the minute.


    “Hey, guys?” Eleanor murmured through the radio.


    “Eleanor, talk to us!” Matt called up to her. “Is there something going on?”


    “Uh… I was gonna ask you the same thing. Somebody wanna tell me what these belt things are? Why there’s a clock counting down?”


    Both Matt and Rosalita turned to Fernando, but it was the princess that spoke first. “Fernando…” she hissed, “what have you done?”


    “No price is too high to protect the kingdom,” he confessed, barely having the energy to open his eyes even slightly. True, absolute despair gripped every cell of his body. “I thought that if our treasures could not be protected, it would be better if they were destroyed.”


    “But you said you wanted a place to belong!” Matt yelled, unable to do anything else. “And you snapped when you saw the city was being destroyed! How can you say that now?”


    “I wanted a place to belong before I understood what my place actually is. As I am the scorned prince, the only place I belong is ruling over the ruins left behind…”


    “How can you say that?!” Rosalita pleaded with tears welling up in her eyes. “You always had a place in our home! A place with me, at my side!”


    “That can never be, not now.” Fernando took one limp, lifeless step forward and let his head tilt over. “As long as there were two of us, two siblings, this would always be the hand fate deals us.”


    “You’re wrong! There never were siblings before, that’s the truth!”


    Fernando moved his head so it tilted in the other direction. “You do not need to try and make this hurt me any less by lying to me, Rosalita. What’s done… is done. If our treasures are destroyed, the outsiders will not steal them… so I prepared a contingency plan in case I was defeated. I set a time bomb on the skyship’s engine and programmed the autopilot to take it to the Golden City if the collars were shut down."


    “You what?!” Rosalita gasped in horror.


    “You’re an absolute maniac!” Matt roared at Fernando. He rushed toward the count, demanding, “Disarm it!”


    “Impossible.” Before Matt reached him, Fernando undid the pin holding his cape up, allowing it to fall to his feet. Underneath it, he had a flightpack identical to those Noel and Leon used. He lifted into the air and out of Matt’s reach, then added, “Once it has activated, there is no stopping it. If you want my advice, save yourselves while you still can.”


    With that, Fernando flew off over the desert and away from the skyship. Matt briefly considered pursuing him, but he quickly realized there were much more serious matters to deal with and discarded the idea. Instead, he hurried back over to Rosalita’s side.


    “What do we do now?” he asked the princess, who was covering her mouth with her hand and nearly hyperventilating. “There has to be some way to stop this, right?”


    There was a long, tense silence before Rosalita finally lowered her hand and replied. “I… I don’t know,” she admitted. Just saying those words tore her heart in half. She was soon to be the queen. She had to know how to lead her people. And yet, there she was, facing an existential threat to the kingdom and unable to figure out what to do.


    “What if we have Regigigas destroy the ship?” Matt suggested. He felt the urgency of the situation just as much as Rosalita did. “It certainly has the power to…”


    “No, that won’t work.” Rosalita looked down at her feet. “The skyship’s engine is an Arcane Science generator, running on the same unique energy that everything else in La Ciudad Dorada does. That is why this situation is so dangerous.” The princess shut her eyes. Images of horrific destruction played through her mind, of houses, factories, mountains, temples, even Lingote Palace itself being consumed by an apocalyptic explosion. “Normally, Arcane Science energy is safe. But, if it is exposed to the flames from Fernando’s bomb, a catastrophic chain reaction will occur. If it detonates on the ship’s current course, the Golden City, the Fountain of Life and the entire trial path will be annihilated along with the mountains and everything living there. If we were to destroy the skyship…”


    “Regigigas would cause an explosion and set the bomb off early…” Matt realized. “We’re too close to La Ciudad Dorada, aren’t we?” When Rosalita nodded, he rushed to say, “Can we send the skyship somewhere else, then?”


    “Also not an option. If we were to even come close to detonating such a device outside of our own borders, it would be called an attack on Lapidaria and lead to the end of La Ciudad Dorada as an independent kingdom. They would be completely justified to invade us.”


    “Guys…” Eleanor listlessly said through the radio. “There is one thing left I can do. Only I can do it.”


    “What is it, Eleanor?” Matt asked her.


    “I can’t disarm the bomb from here. I might be able to if I went to the engine room, but there may not be enough time. It’s not a sure thing. What I can do is disconnect the autopilot and send the bomb to the one place it can detonate safely.”


    “Where is that?”


    Eleanor ignored Matt’s question and instead addressed Rosalita. “Rosa, please, there’s something I want you to do. Please let Persian, Rotom and Litwick live in the palace with you. Take good care of them, and make sure the people of La Ciudad Dorada know what I did.”


    Matt failed to realize what Eleanor was implying right away, but it dawned on Rosalita instantly. “Are you sure that this is the only way?” she questioned, bringing her fist up against her breastplate.


    “You’re…” Matt finally understood what Eleanor was planning to do after hearing Rosalita’s words. He grew emotional, yelling up at the bridge, “You can’t, Eleanor! You don’t have to do this! There’s got to be some other way… let me go! Let me take it!”


    “No,” Eleanor replied. Though her friends couldn’t see it, she sadly shook her head. “It has to be me. I’m the only one who can fly this thing… and you must continue to live, Matt. You’ve got a whole life ahead of you and your sister still needs you. I’ve never really had a place to fit in until I came to La Ciudad Dorada… if I can show my gratitude by saving it, I will not be afraid. I’m begging you, don’t blame yourselves.”


    “But...but…” Matt couldn’t come to terms with what was happening, but deep down, he knew there was no way he could change her mind. “Fernando wasn’t happy with killing Sutter and his parents, now he has to take her life too?!!”


    “I will care for your Pokémon as if they are my own,” Rosalita said, staring up at the bridge with a look of sheer determination. “And I shall enshrine your tale in Doradan history for all of history. You will never be forgotten, Eleanor. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”


    “Thank you, Rosa… now go! We’re running out of time for me to get this thing outta here!”


    “But, Elea-”


    Rosalita cut Matt off mid-sentence by grabbing the collar of his coat and pulling him over to Sally. She pushed him onto the Salamence’s back, then said, “Sally, fly him down to the ground. I’ll be right behind you.”


    Sally gave a short nod and grunted in assent, tiny embers issuing forth from her mouth. While the Dragon-and-Flying-type lifted off the skyship’s deck and took Matt away, Rosalita sprinted over to Reyes and mounted him. She barely had gotten situated on her Staraptor’s back when she saw Matt climb off Sally, intending to keep trying to persuade Eleanor that there were other options.


    The princess sighed irritably and said to her Pokémon, “He won’t listen. Reyes, you’re going to have to take him down to the ground yourself.”


    Reyes cawed and lifted off from the deck with a powerful beat of his wings. He darted straight toward Matt and seized Sutter’s grandson in his talons. Knowing there was no way to escape safely, he gave up and went limp.


    -:-


    From the bridge, Eleanor watched Rosalita leave on Reyes with Matt in tow. Sally followed, while Dragonite departed as well. Once she was alone aboard the skyship, she made her way over to the navigation globe and reached underneath it. She took all the wires running from the main console into the globe in her hand and tore them out. The projection of the ship’s course vanished, and a message reading ‘Auto navigation system offline - manual control’ appeared in its place.


    Seeing this, Eleanor dropped herself back in the pilot’s chair and slipped her goggles on over her eyes. “See you later, guys,” she said out loud, even though nobody would hear her.


    With that, and thinking only of her friends and the Pokémon she was leaving behind, Eleanor grasped the control stick and pulled it all the way back. The skyship pitched its bow skyward at a sharp angle, and when Eleanor set all of its speed controls to maximum, it rocketed off into the clouds.


    It took all the strength Eleanor could muster to keep the skyship on its ascent. She could hear the iron around her vibrating from the immense force it was being subject to, and the higher it went, the colder and thinner the air became.


    “Come on…” she told the ship as she felt herself start to gasp for air as the skyship pierced through the clouds. “Come on! Don’t you fail me now! Come on!!”


    The skyship almost seemed to reply to her, as she noticed its engine groan as she pushed it to the limit. She wasn’t sure, however, if it actually had made the sound or if what she heard was merely a product of delirium as her supply of oxygen grew thin.


    Yet, even as her consciousness started to slip thanks to the altitude, she felt remarkably little fear. When she told Rosalita and Matt that she never really had a place she felt like she belonged in before, she meant it.


    “I’m… I’m okay with this,” she said to herself. “Maybe I’ll… come back in another life after all. N-now…” Eleanor realized she was shivering. “N-now, the b-best thing I c-can do… is s-save them…”


    Once she noticed her involuntary reaction to the extreme cold, Eleanor felt the harshness of her environment far more than she had to that point. She could tell she wasn’t going to be able to stay conscious much longer, but she also knew that once she blacked out, that was it. She would not be waking up again. Worried that she would lose control of the ship before finishing her mission, she put everything she had left into forcing it even higher.


    Luckily, before she lost consciousness, the ship broke through the last of the clouds. Beyond that layer, she was granted a stunning view of the stars beyond Earth. She would never be able to make it any further into the upper atmosphere, so she certainly wouldn’t be able to reach the stars, especially not in the skyship. Seeing what existed just beyond the limits of the planet, in the infinity she would soon be a part of, was good enough.


    “Th-thank you…” she barely managed to utter, the brutal cold and thin air nearly consuming her. “I-If this… is the last th-thing I see… I’m so h-happy for i-it…” Her mind wandered to Matt and Rosalita back on the planet’s surface. “Y-you g-guys… you were r-right… the s-stars, they truly are b-beautiful…”


    Eleanor glanced slowly over to the timer, which was flickering as the skyship’s systems failed. It didn’t matter anymore if they were going to fail, she realized, when she saw the countdown was in its final ten seconds.


    With nothing more to say, and barely enough strength to do anything, Eleanor closed her eyes and smiled. The clock hit zero, and a blinding light began to tear through the ship.


    Back in La Ciudad Dorada, it appeared to those left behind as if a second sun had appeared in the sky. Sheena, Cassy, Noel, Leon, Laura, Wally, Door, Edrei, his guards, and all the other tourists and citizens watched from on and around the Sacred Hill with their Pokémon as the immense, brightly gleaming sphere shined cleanly through the dark clouds.


    Matt and Rosalita, meanwhile, observed the detonation from the desert outside the city. He fell to his knees in the sand, unable to hold himself up any longer. Regigigas, Shaymin, Pidgeot, Sally and Reyes were nearby.


    Whether human or Pokémon, every living thing in the kingdom turned their eyes toward the sky with the full knowledge that Eleanor’s sacrifice saved them. It was an act that connected them all together in gratitude.







    END of CHAPTER 8
     
  4. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    Well, the climax is done. Now we can finally begin winding down, but don’t think things are over just yet…


    -:-


    CHAPTER 9: The Meaning of Gratitude


    -:-


    Eleanor's sacrifice brought a decisive end to the war Fernando’s actions instigated. In the hours following her death and the count's disappearance, a newfound sense of peace settled in over La Ciudad Dorada. The clouds overhead seemed to recognize this and left the sky, allowing the evening sun to bathe the desert kingdom in its warm rays of hope.


    Exhausted by the time it spent subjugated to Fernando's will, Regigigas made its way back to its place of rest in the Golden City. Matt and Rosalita followed it there on Sally and Reyes with Shaymin accompanying them, and once they arrived, they waited for Cassy and Sheena to catch up with them. There was still work left for them to do.


    "This place is as amazing as everyone said," Matt quietly told Rosalita as they walked together toward the Fountain of Life at the heart of the Golden City. He stopped and lightly set his hand against one of the golden pillars, which like all the others was glittering in the setting sun. "I'm glad we made it here."


    Rosalita glanced over at Matt, and her lips curled into a slight frown. Even as her own nerves over what was to come made her scratch at her palms, she could read him like a book. Everything, from his murmuring speech to his slacking posture, gave away just how distressed he was over Eleanor's fate. He'd been that way ever since her act of sacrifice, and the princess shared a look of mutual concern for him with Shaymin. She didn’t put it into words, but what had happened weighed heavily on her mind, too.


    "When we are done here," she thought to herself, "we must do something to lift our spirits. We all need it…"


    Just then, the pair could hear a voice overhead. "Look, there they are! Matt! Rosalita!"


    Matt and Rosalita looked up to see that it was Sheena, sitting behind Cassy on Swellow's back, who had called out to them. Cassy tapped Swellow's shoulder and guided him to land in front of the pair.


    "Are you alright?" Cassy hastily inquired, tightly clutching her bag. Her feet weren't even on the ground before she started her question. Matt turned away and didn't answer, leading her to grow visibly angry. "What did Fernando do to you now?" she demanded, her words coming out as a hiss between her gritted teeth.


    "Nothing, not directly to him," Rosalita answered for Matt, earning her a glare from Cassy that she ignored. "We won the war, but not without loss."


    It was then that Sheena spoke up. She'd been surveying the area since landing and was growing more confused by the moment. "Where is Eleanor?" she asked. A chill ran across her skin from Rosalita’s statement and the subconscious realization it fostered.


    No answer came from either Matt or Rosalita, leading Cassy to begin piecing the truth together. She lowered her head, causing her bangs to cast a shadow over her eyes. “What happened to her in the end?”


    “Fernando had a timed explosive strapped to the engine of the skyship,” the princess explained in a manner devoid of emotion. She simply felt too drained to do anything more than turn her sad, partially-closed eyes to Cassy. “Eleanor gave her life to fly it to an altitude at which its detonation would be safe.”


    Sheena gasped in horror when her friend’s fate was confirmed. They hadn’t known each other for long, but in their few days of traveling in La Ciudad Dorada, they’d grown close.


    The priestess brought her right hand to her mouth and bit at one of the fingers of her white glove. “Eleanor was having such a good time on our adventure… she was looking forward to seeing you take the throne, too, Rosalita… and now she’s gone…”


    “There’s nothing we can do to bring her back now,” Cassy bitterly noted, turning away from the others. “All we can do is see this through to the end. It’s what she would have wanted us to do.”


    “You are correct,” Rosalita concurred with a tired, sad sigh. “We must press on… come, let us head to the Fountain of Life.”


    A painful, uncomfortable silence settled over the remaining members of the expedition as they continued down the path leading straight to Regigigas’s throne and the Fountain of Life. Even though they weren’t yet at the titan’s feet, its immense size made it easily visible to them as they trekked toward it.


    Shaymin, floating behind its human allies, had plenty on its mind but no knowledge of what it should put into words. “Should I reassure her that everything will work out okay here?” it thought. “Promise to help her find Fernando? Just… let her know Eleanor’s in a better place? What should I do?”


    In what was perhaps a lucky coincidence for the mythical Pokémon, it felt a strange sensation. It looked down and quickly noticed that there was light radiating from its body, which prompted it to then turn toward the sky. The sun was dropping below the horizon, Shaymin realized, and it knew what was about to happen.


    “Rosalita!” it called out, making the group pause and look back at it. Her name was the last word it could manage before the light completely enveloped it.


    “Oh, Shaymin…” Rosalita said, making her way over to her lifelong friend and partner. The mythical Pokémon morphed back into its Land Forme and plopped to the ground, sneezing when it landed. “I’m sorry, I forgot all about this.”


    “Don’t worry yourself, yes?” Shaymin’s more timid speech pattern made Matt realize just how used he’d gotten to the brashness of its Sky Forme. The Grass-type contentedly nestled itself in Rosalita’s arms when she picked it up. “It is not important right now. What is important is fulfilling the final part of the trial of succession, yes.”


    “That is right…” Rosalita’s armor creaked on her when she drew in a deep breath and exhaled to steel her nerves. “That is right,” she repeated. “We’re almost there. Everything will be done when this is finished.”


    The princess wasn’t joking when she said they were almost at their destination. She only had to lead the group for a few more minutes before the pathway they were on gave way to a spacious square not unlike Dorada Market, a similarity that was not lost on any of her companions.


    “Instead of the Sacred Hill, though, there’s Regigigas…” Matt observed. His comparison was quite literal, in fact, as the titan on its throne stood at a roughly equal height. Regigigas easily dominated everything else in the area, and could have flattened the humans standing before it without even getting up. It was then that Matt truly appreciated just how powerful the titan really was.


    He wasn’t the only one feeling such a way. Sheena and Cassy, having stayed behind at the Sacred Hill during the battle, hadn’t yet gotten to see Regigigas up close. Its commanding presence, even at rest on its golden throne, cowed them both into nervous silence.


    Rosalita was on edge, too, but not due to Regigigas like the others. “Where is the Fountain of Life?” she asked the Pokémon in her arms.


    “Right there,” Shaymin replied, jabbing one of its pudgy arms straight ahead.


    As it turned out, there was an ornate golden fountain sitting just in front of Regigigas. Rosalita and the others had completely missed it thanks to how thoroughly the titan dwarfed it. Realizing her fate was finally at hand, the princess dashed the rest of the way to the wellspring, leading Matt, Sheena and Cassy to follow her there.


    “So this is it,” Cassy said, carefully looking over the finely carved curves of the fountain. The sacred nature of what was about to happen wasn’t lost on her or any of the others. “What people throughout history have searched for here…”


    “I still can’t believe my grandfather drank from it…” Matt adjusted his glasses, which were still sitting awkwardly on his bandaged face. “It’s the fountain that ended his life, too…” he mentally added, recalling the reason for Fernando’s first crime.


    Rosalita carefully leaned down to set Shaymin on the edge of the empty, dry fountain, never taking her eyes off the Gracidea-shaped statue at its top. “Everything in my life has been leading to me standing here…” she breathlessly said to herself. The pieces of her armor were clinking together from her trembling, but even though she heard the noise, it didn’t register to her. She was too preoccupied with the deluge of memories flooding through her mind, memories of herself, her parents, Fernando and Shaymin. All the friends she’d made along the way. Everything she’d lost. “All the expectations placed upon me by those who have walked this path before… and all the promises I’ve made…”


    Suddenly, Regigigas began beeping and its seven dots started to flash.


    “It’s still awake!” Matt exclaimed, thrusting his arm in front of Sheena and Cassy despite being unsure of what it would do to protect them. “Get back!”


    “Wait,” Sheena gently said. She clasped her hands together, but did not recite the chant to activate her powers. “Right now, I can feel Regigigas’s intent without even connecting to its heart,” she told him, anticipating what he would ask. “It is not going to attack us… it’s completely peaceful.”


    “I wish you would have mentioned that earlier,” Cassy sarcastically remarked. “It scared me out of my skin.”


    Rosalita had been looking over her shoulder after she heard Matt yell, but returned her attention to Regigigas when she saw that they were aware of the titan’s benevolent nature. She knew it all along. There was nothing for them to be afraid of, not when they had done nothing wrong to earn Regigigas’s wrath. It was Fernando and Fernando alone who was to blame for everything.


    When that thought entered her head, Rosalita felt a chill run through her body, but she swiftly suppressed it. “Now is not the time to be concerned with him.” With that, she raised her arms up to Regigigas. She didn’t do so in a ragged, hysterical fashion like Fernando had done. Instead, she simply bowed her head in respect and brought her hands toward her kingdom’s great protector as an act of true supplication.


    “Regigigas, I am Rosalita Renata the First, the blood of Fernando VII and Sophia,” she said to the giant. “I humbly come before you to accept the responsibility bequeathed to my father and the men before him. Grant me the power of the Fountain of Life so that I may lead La Ciudad Dorada with the wisdom of true gratitude.”


    Regigigas beeped again, then did something that even caught Rosalita by surprise - it spoke. “We welcome you, our successor,” it replied to her in a voice that sounded like many different people all speaking at once. “You have passed the trials of the Three Pillars and proven yourself worthy of inheriting our crown.”


    “What’s with the way it’s talking?” Matt quietly asked Sheena, hoping she could shed some light on the situation. “Why does it sound like a lot of people at once and why is it referring to itself as a collective?”


    “I can’t tell.” Sheena shook her head. “I couldn’t connect with it now if I tried. Something’s blocking me out.”


    Somehow, Regigigas heard their exchange. “Grandchild of Professor Sutter Chiaki, our overseer. We are those who have come before. Those who have become a part of Gaia. We thank you for standing alongside our heir as your grandfather did for us.”


    “You’re welcome, Regigig-” Matt cut off his expression of gratitude when he realized how Regigigas had identified itself. His mouth fell open as he asked, “Those who have come before, who my grandfather stood alongside…? Are you…?”


    “It cannot be,” Rosalita flatly said. Despite her words, she badly wanted to believe her interpretation of the titan’s speech was correct. “Regigigas, how can you be those who have led La Ciudad Dorada if you were here before we were? If you really are them, allow me to speak to my father!”


    “I am merely Gaia’s vessel, in addition to being your kingdom’s protector.” Rosalita and the others understood this to be Regigigas referring strictly to itself, but the princess cocked her head, still confused by what she was hearing. “We… we are those Regigigas carries within.” At that point, the many voices within Regigigas’s collective began to fall away until only one remained. “I’ve waited so long to see you here, Rosalita.”


    Rosalita’s eyes widened when she heard the one voice with which Regigigas now spoke. “I-it… it cannot be…” she whispered in shock.


    “Allow me to come out and see you.”


    Regigigas raised its right arm off the side of its throne and spread its fingers, a green glow surrounding each of the three digits on its hand. The titan’s gesture caused veins of gently flowing green light to radiate from the ground throughout the Golden City, originating from the Fountain of Life.


    “What’s this?” Cassy demanded, looking around with a sudden sense of panic. One of the waves of light approached her, and although she jumped back, it still washed over her.


    “Cassy!” Matt shouted fearfully.


    “It…” Much to her surprise, there was nothing more than a warmth inside the light. “It’s actually really warm and comfortable… it feels good.”


    “Warm and comfortable?” Matt blinked when he realized he was feeling the same sort of sensation. “I think I feel it, too…”


    “This must be Gaia’s flow…” Sheena posited. “The life energy of the earth and all living things…”


    “Regigigas, I do not understand!” Rosalita called up to the giant. “What are you doing?”


    Regigigas did not answer the princess’s plea. Instead, the individual voice that had last spoken to her addressed her from a particularly intense flare of Gaia energy nearby. “Now we can see you with our own eyes once again, Rosalita.”


    The princess pivoted around so fast that she nearly slipped and fell on the stones under her sollerets. Two human figures appeared within the flare, their features initially obscured by its gleam. With each step they took toward Rosalita, they became more and more recognizable until they finally emerged from the energy entirely, and as soon as Rosalita could clearly see them, her already wide eyes filled with tears. Every inch of them both was indelibly etched into her memory, from the man’s striking resemblence to an aged version of her brother to the glistening blonde hair and stately poise she inherited from the woman.


    “Mother… Father…?” she stammered as Fernando VII and Sophia stood before her. She didn’t entirely understand how or why they were there, but her overflowing emotions kept her from thinking about it very much. It hadn't been all that long since the last time she saw them, but to her, it felt like forever. Rosalita threw herself into her parents’ arms, and she started to cry. “Mother! Father!! You’re here! I don’t… how? Why?”


    “We wouldn’t miss our princess’s big day for anything, Rosalita,” Sophia told her, gently patting Rosalita on the head.


    “We have seen all your exploits,” her father added. “Everything you and your allies did on the way to this point. You have made us and our ancestors proud.”



    “But… but…” Rosalita was only becoming more overwhelmed by getting to see her parents again. “Fernando killed you both… and you’re here…”


    “Just like those who have come before us, when our lives end, we become a part of Gaia.” The fallen king smiled proudly at his daughter as she looked up at him. “In a sense, this is our immortality. One day in the future, you will join us here, but for now… your place is in the world of the living, as Queen Rosalita. Regigigas let us come here to witness you ascend the throne.”


    Hearing her name with the title of queen only overwhelmed Rosalita even more, but she managed to stop weeping. “I have made so many mistakes on the way here… do I really deserve it?”


    “Leading with wisdom does not mean being flawless,” Fernando VII assured her. “A wise leader learns from their errors and becomes a better leader for them. And you recognized that you could not take all of this burden alone…” He gestured with his head toward Matt, Sheena and Cassy, who were dumbfounded by what they were seeing, before finishing, “That shows me that you are already wise beyond your years.”


    "Yes, you are correct, Father. They have helped me so much…"


    "Would you introduce us to your friends, Rosalita?" Sophia requested, setting one of her white lace gloves against the brooch on her crimson dress.


    "I would be delighted to." Rosalita led her parents over to her three allies, who were still staring slack-jawed at the sight of the resurrected royals. "Mother, Father, please meet Sheena Carnet, Cassy Natsuka and Matt Chiaki."


    "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintances," the previous queen greeted them. "I thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring for my dear daughter."


    "It's no big deal, really…" Matt replied. His attempt to downplay his involvement earned him an elbow in the side from Cassy.


    "Matt…" she muttered irritably, "...how many times do I have to remind you to show proper respect?"


    "Oh, no, it is fine," Fernando VII chuckled. "I understand you may not be used to our customs. It is no matter." The fallen king's upbeat nature soon grew more grim. "Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my son. He has harmed you all, but perhaps you most profoundly, Matt Chiaki."


    Fernando VII put his hand on his chest and bowed his head to Matt, making both Matt and Cassy step back in surprise. Cassy was shocked that the king would show a commoner such respect.


    "On behalf of the entire House of Fernando, I apologize for my son's murder of Sutter Chiaki." Fernando VII lifted his head back up and continued, "You should know he spoke highly of you and your sister. I rarely saw or heard that man light up as much as he did when he discussed you. It was his sincere belief you would accomplish great things as the heirs to his work."


    "I-I…" Matt stammered, thoroughly overwhelmed by what he was hearing. "Thank you, but… Amanda really deserves it more than I do."


    "Nonsense. You proved yourself as you walked this path, just as Rosalita did." While Matt shrank back and tried to process his emotions, Fernando VII turned to Sheena and Cassy. "I should not disregard you two, either. I can only hope your fine work here has given you each something invaluable to take away."


    "Oh, it definitely did," Cassy said, almost reflexively. She didn't elaborate until she realized the questioning gazes of those around her had turned her way. "I mean, I prefer studying, so getting to read all the books I did… that's something I don't get to do every day."


    "I came to La Ciudad Dorada hoping to learn more about my peoples' connection to this land," Sheena added, her voice serene and content. "Just by speaking to you, your highness, I now know that a major teaching in our beliefs is true."


    "What do you mean?" Matt asked her.


    "Many Tenganist sects believe that when someone passes from this world, they become a part of the flow of Gaia. Just by having the king and queen here before us… we know it's true."


    "There is someone else…" Rosalita spoke up before catching her error. "Or I should say there was someone else. Eleanor Laplace was an engineer interested in our Arcane Science, and she sacrificed herself to ensure our survival."


    "We know." Outside of Fernando VII's sight, Rosalita's allies looked at each other in confusion, unsure of what to make of his statement. "Rosalita, you must never forget those who have departed your world. Their wishes become a part of those they leave behind."


    "I understand, Father." Rosalita's face hardened into the look of determination Matt and Sheena knew so well. "I already plan to memorialize Eleanor right away upon taking the throne."


    "That is a just course of action, Rosalita. I applaud you." Sophia frowned and glared at the palm of her right hand. "To think our son destroyed so many lives and came close to destroying La Ciudad Dorada itself, all for his hatred of outsiders."


    "Mother, please forgive me for saying this, but you are wrong." For the second time, Matt, Cassy and Sheena all felt their mouths fall open. None of them could believe she was breaking with her mother in such a way.


    "Rosalita, explain yourself," Fernando VII firmly said.


    The princess's resolve barely wavered in the face of her father’s challenge. "I am sorry, Father. I know how this must sound, since you and Mother are only here because Fernando killed you." She stopped to briefly consider what she said. "It is so confounding to think about how you are here… regardless, I do not think Fernando did this all out of hatred. I believe him when he said he only wished to understand his place in our kingdom. We didn't try enough to help him understand why his ideas were wrong because we ourselves were making mistakes. We all failed him, and that is my judgment as the kingdom's next leader." Recalling her father's words, she repeated, "Leading with wisdom does not mean being flawless. A wise leader learns from their errors and becomes a better leader for them."


    "Rosalita…" Fernando VII's expression softened, and behind him, Sophia smiled in delight. "You learn quickly. I am proud of you."


    "It is true," Sophia picked up from her husband, "while we were a part of your world, we did not fully understand things ourselves. There is so much one learns when they join with those who came before."


    "You’re right," the king agreed. "We now know what we should have known in life, and what we needed to help your brother. Unfortunately, for us, it is too late."


    "So that responsibility falls to me now," Rosalita realized. Her breath grew short as she turned to look at the fountain and Shaymin. The weight of her position was back on her mind. "And there's something I must do in order to take on that responsibility."


    “That is correct, Rosalita.” Fernando VII stepped forward and placed his hand on his daughter’s shoulder. She could feel his touch through her armor. It was strangely warm, as if he were still truly alive. “From that day so many years ago, when we summoned you to the site of the first Gracidea and Shaymin selected you, this has been your destiny. Your time has finally come.” Turning to the mythical Pokémon, who was still sitting on the edge of the fountain, he called out, “Shaymin, it is time! Bring forth the waters of the Fountain of Life with your Aromatherapy!”


    “Yes,” was all Shaymin said in response.


    “How fitting that it says that now…” Matt thought to himself. He watched Shaymin scale the fountain, not noticing until then that its finely carved arches formed a convenient path for Shaymin to climb.


    When it reached the top of the fountain, Shaymin settled into the center of the Gracidea statue and started to glow. Veins of light worked their way down the fountain, eventually heading underground. A few seconds passed before crystal-clear, pure water erupted from the fountain, flowing from numerous points all up and down its statue. It radiated with the same glow of Gaia energy as the rest of the Golden City. The mythical Pokémon then jumped from the fountain and bound over to Rosalita's side.


    “Go forward, yes?” Shaymin urged the princess, who had frozen in place staring at the pristine, shimmering water. She knew what kind of power it held and what it meant for her, and although she had mentally prepared for it, seeing the water underlined how real everything was.


    “No, I have to do this,” she said to herself, taking another deep breath to reinforce her nerve. She took one slow but decisive step in the fountain’s direction, followed by another. “Just one step at a time…”


    “Rosalita, stop!”


    The peaceful scene was suddenly interrupted by a shrill shriek from the sky overhead. Rosalita paused and turned her head upward, an action the others all also took. They were just in time to see a disheveled-looking Fernando land and discard his flightpack.


    “Have you not had enough already?” Cassy snarled at him. Matt and Sheena nodded in agreement as they glared at the count. “Go away!”


    “I… I cannot. I cannot leave.” Fernando shakily moved forward, his head tilted and his arms hanging limply at his sides. “Rosalita, I cannot allow you to take that power. Not before I know the land’s judgment of me… not before I know if I still have a right to be here after all I have done.”


    “Fernando Renato the Eighth, cease this at once!” his father commanded, the king’s booming words echoing off the golden buildings around them. “You have done enough!”


    “Father?!” Fernando gasped in horrified surprise. Spotting Sophia nearby, he exclaimed, “And Mother, too? You can’t be here!”


    “But we are here, Fernando,” Sophia said, trying to speak in as gentle a manner as possible. “You have a place, you always have. It is in La Ciudad Dorada with Rosalita.”


    “No, no, no!” Fernando grabbed his head with both hands and shook it back and forth. “It’s about far more than that now! This cannot be real… I must be hallucinating. That’s it. I’m imagining what Mother and Father would say to me, of course.”


    "You are wrong, Fernando!" Rosalita boldly declared. His abrupt arrival had shocked her, but she swiftly decided to take charge of the situation. It was what a leader would do. "Mother and Father are very much real, and they speak the truth." She pressed her hand against her breastplate and implored, "I want you to come home with me, Fernando. This is my decision as both your sister and your queen."


    "I cannot!" Fernando violently rejected her. Seeing his parents and the pleading look in his sister's eyes had caused all the shame he felt for his actions to intensify anew. "There may be nowhere I can go after what I have done. You cannot make that judgment, Rosalita. Only the kingdom can decide my fate!"


    "Fernando, it is up to those in the world of the living to determine their own fates."


    Ignoring his father's advice, and still dismissing the king's presence as a trick of his broken mind, Fernando dashed for the fountain. "I must drink from it… then I will know the answer…"


    With every step he took, Fernando felt his long-held dream getting closer. All he had to do was get to the fountain. Once he drank from it, he’d have the answer he sought for so long. He just had to make it a little further, and and he would know.


    And then, as soon as it started, his sprint ended. Rosalita grabbed him from behind in a tight embrace, holding him with all her strength. He could feel all his momentum evaporate nearly instantly.


    In his surprise, Fernando looked back over his shoulder and sputtered, “R-Rosalita?”


    “There is so much I could say to you right now,” she murmured. “Indeed, there is. But what I want to say to you right now is… I’m sorry, Fernando.”


    Those three words shook Fernando to his core. "What have you to be sorry for?" he quietly asked her. "After everything I have done, I don't deserve-"


    "It does not matter!" Rosalita interrupted, tightening her hold on her brother. "I failed you, Fernando. We all did. I never showed enough gratitude for how much you love our kingdom. If I had stopped being so self-absorbed with my training for the throne, I could have given you the hand you deserved in finding your place. To think I neglected you after you helped me become the person I am… it disgusts me to my core!"


    Listening to Rosalita lay such blame on herself broke Fernando's heart. He went limp in her arms, feeling all his strength evaporate as he finally understood how badly he had hurt her. His beloved sister, the one who he had protected from their childhood, was blaming herself for his crimes. His murders. His treason. Ultimately, even his endangering La Ciudad Dorada's survival. She was telling him she felt disgusted with herself, but deep down, he knew he was far more disgusted with himself for making her feel that way in the first place.


    "Rosalita, are those your true feelings?" he asked her while staring blankly up at the late evening sky.


    "They are," she replied.


    That was it, the answer Fernando felt he had to hear. He'd hurt her far too much, and there was no forgiving that.


    "You know, Rosalita," he said, "I have always admired your will. Even when your confidence flags, you never stop pursuing what is right. You have always had the strength to face your fate head-on."


    "I have only done what is necessary." Rosalita let go of Fernando, and he turned around in time to see her hold out her hand. "Right now, doing this is what I deem necessary. I should have given you this hand many times in the past. Please let me make up for my failures by giving it to you now."


    "You always were the stronger of us. Even now, you prove that to me." Fernando slowly started to reach out to his sister. "You truly are able to make your own answers to life's questions, no matter what."


    Rosalita smiled in relief. "Thank you." Just before Fernando's fingers met Rosalita's, however, he paused. Still believing in him, she said, "I know this is difficult for you to come to terms with. Come, we will face this challenge together. We’ll face all the challenges the future holds together."


    Behind the princess, Matt had a different read on the situation. He shared a worried glance with Sheena and whispered to both her and Cassy, "Something's wrong."


    "You are strong enough to make your own answers…" Fernando repeated, "...but the truth is, I am not."


    With that, Fernando changed the angle of his hand and shoved it into Rosalita's breastplate, making her gasp in horror as he pushed her away from him. Once the one obstacle to his quest was removed, he made it to the edge of the Fountain of Life.


    "Don't do it, Fernando!" Sophia called out after him.


    Ignoring his mother as a figment of his imagination, Fernando dropped to his knees and plunged his head into the shimmering water. "Finally! Finally, I will know the truth of my existence!" he mentally rejoiced, opening his mouth to take one big gulp of the fountain's bounty.


    Rosalita ran up behind him and yanked him out of the fountain by the collar, but by then it was too late. Fernando had already swallowed the water. He looked upon his sister, their parents and their equally horrified audience in satisfaction.


    "What have you done, Fernando?!" Rosalita shrieked, equally furious and appalled. "What have you done? Was everything I said meaningless to you?!"


    "No, of course not. And if it helps you feel better, I meant everything I said, too." Much to her surprise, Fernando tightly hugged her. "I had to know the land's judgment of me. That has no reflection on you. As I said, I could not live with the torment of not knowing." The count let go of his sister and stretched his arms out, looking over them curiously. "I believe I have my answer… I do not feel anything, even though I managed to drink from the Fountain of Life..." Fernando put his arms down and sighed in resignation. All his years of work had finally come to an end, but not the end he had hoped for. It saddened him, but he also felt a burden lift from his shoulders. "That proves beyond any doubt that you are the true heir, Rosalita."


    "You absolute fool!" she angrily reproached him. "Even though I must bring you back home to face justice, I know there must be a future for us. We promised each other we'd be the best leaders La Ciudad Dorada ever had, remember? I would still value your advice, even now. I should have let you know that years ago. I'm sorry, but you did not have to do this!"


    “There was no other way,” Fernando said, sadly shaking his head. “As twins born to the royal bloodline, it was always fated that one of us would be cast aside.”


    “But it did not have to be that way!” Rosalita desperately protested. “I told you, the historical account of the war was falsified! There never were any siblings before us, so there really was no reason for us to be divided the way we were. There can still only be one ruler, but we can work together for the kingdom!”


    The count dismissed his sister’s claim with a wave of his hand. “Thank you, but you still do not need to try and mislead me. There was simply no other way besides hearing through Gaia whet-”


    Fernando was suddenly seized by an unseen force, cutting him off mid-sentence. He entered a trance-like state and stiffened from head to toe as Rosalita backed away from him.


    "What's wrong?" she nervously questioned him. When he gave no reply, she lashed around to their parents, who were watching in mournful silence. "What is happening to him?!" the princess demanded in panic.


    "No way is he really the king after all," Cassy uttered. “I refuse to believe that.”


    "No…" was all Fernando VII could say. "No, he is not."


    Rosalita, Matt, Cassy and Sheena all stared at the younger Fernando, waiting for something to happen. None of them had any idea of what to do, and with the king and queen remaining silent, they knew nothing about what was really happening. The one thing all four of them could conclude was that something was undeniably wrong. Fernando's limbs had twisted into unnatural angles no human could maintain so rigidly without hurting themselves, but his face conveyed no pain. His expression remained fixed in an inscrutable state, with his wide eyes glaring toward the sky but plainly looking past it, as if he were trying to see something beyond.


    "I saw it…" he suddenly uttered, a single tear rolling down his cheek as he broke from his trance.


    "W-what?" Rosalita stammered, unprepared for him to speak.


    "I saw it…" Fernando listlessly repeated. At that, the force locking him in place released his body all at once. He fell backward against the side of the fountain, unable to hold himself up. "I saw the truth about everything, about the grandson of Fernando the Great, his betrayal of his heir, about the war…"


    "How?" his sister asked. She wanted to say that he should have listened to her, but those words were lost when she looked down at the emotional wreck sitting at her feet.


    "I don't know!" Fernando cried out, meeting Rosalita's gaze and allowing her to see that his one tear had become many. His body and mind were burning with the knowledge that had just been seared into him. He felt like he wanted to tear off his shirt to get at what was underneath, but also go even further beyond that, ripping his flesh from his bones if that was what it took to exorcise the soul-crushing shame that was claiming him.


    Fernando VII and Sophia drew closer to the siblings with Matt, Sheena and Cassy following, but they remained at a fair distance. “The Fountain of Life shows those who drink from it that which they need most to see,” the king informed both his children and their audience. “It was so for myself, and for all those who came before me.”


    “Then it was not my place that I most needed to know, but the reality of what I was doing…” The younger Fernando drove his fist into the ground in anguish. Nearby, Shaymin hid its face behind the grass on its back, itself ashamed by what its lies had led to. “What have I done, Rosalita? I became the very thing we swore we wouldn’t! While you kept your word all this time, I broke it!”


    “It might hurt that you broke one promise we made to each other,” Rosalita tried to reason, “ but we can still keep others. It’s not over.”


    “The fact that I hurt you in such a profound way is exactly why it’s over,” he argued. “Not just you, but Mother, Father, all the people of La Ciudad Dorada and those who tried to help it… Shaymin sacrificed its conscience to ensure our family and our subjects would live peaceful, rich lives in ignorance of the past, and all I did was take it for granted. I see that now with perfect clarity…” Fernando turned his head away from his sister. “I deserve nothing less than to be stripped of my name and exiled from this land of gratitude, seeing as I have shown none for what it gave to me.”


    “Well, I am not doing that,” Rosalita flatly declared, taking Fernando’s hand in her own. “If this is what it takes to get you on your feet and moving forward again, consider it an order from your queen. I command you to return to La Ciudad Dorada with me.”


    Fernando said nothing, but he offered no defiance when Rosalita tried to pull him up. His silence was why, when she found herself unable to get him to stand, she became confused.


    “Come on, Fernando, don’t fight me. Stand up.”


    What she didn’t expect was for him to be equally confused. He fell back against the fountain again and looked down over himself with his eyes narrowed and lips pressed together.


    “Rosalita, I’m not doing this. I can’t move my legs. I… just can’t.” On top of his legs being immobilized, he suddenly started feeling lightheaded. “Something’s wrong,” he said out loud, his tears abruptly ceasing. “I do not feel right.”


    The princess opened her mouth to speak, intending to try and extract further information from her stricken brother on his condition. Any words she could have mustered died off in her throat, however, when she glanced over Fernando’s body for herself. Her eyes went wide in terror once they settled upon Fernando’s feet.


    Not only his extremities themselves but the boots he wore over them had transformed into gold. The same genuine gold the ancient Doradans had assembled the city around them and all their other riches using. It was creeping up his legs, too, slow and yet unrelenting in its progress.


    “What’s happening to him now?!” Rosalita fearfully demanded of her parents. “What in Shaymin’s name is this?”


    “I am afraid there is a way the Fountain of Life prevents those not deemed worthy from claiming its power,” Sophia grievously informed her children, “even if they manage to drink its waters.”


    Matt found himself unexpectedly remembering something he had nearly forgotten. It was a seemingly minor piece of information he had seen during their adventure, but he now realized its true meaning. “But beware, for the bounty of gratitude shall only be reaped by the worthy,” he recited, recalling the message on the monolith at the Golden City’s gate. He covered his mouth, muffling his voice somewhat. “All others shall face the wrath of Gaia.”


    "Gaia gives bountiful life to those who use it with wisdom," Sheena added, her own dread over what she saw taking place keeping her voice soft. She felt disconnected, as if she thought everything wasn't real despite her senses and education telling her otherwise. "But if used unwisely, it will instead drain life away."


    "I refuse to accept that." Rosalita's facade of bravado masked a darker realization, one that she knew deep in her heart she had to face even as badly as she wished not to. She turned her green eyes to Regigigas, but they were not full of the intensity that so characterized both siblings. They were watery, although Rosalita didn't realize it. "Regigigas, I beseech you, stop th-"


    The princess gasped when she felt her brother seize her wrist. She already knew what he would say, but silently prayed she was wrong.


    "No, Rosalita, don't…" he weakly urged her, and in an instant, her heart sank. Her prediction was right. "This… this is how it should be."


    "Says who?!" she protested, in full defiance of reality. "There is not a single person with the right to decide this for us!"


    "This was the fate that befell the third king when he betrayed our kingdom." Nearly the entire length of Fernando’s legs had turned to gold by then, and he was growing delirious. "I have c-" Fernando paused to cough. "I have committed such profound crimes… not just against La Ciudad Dorada, but against you, Rosalita. It may be hard to believe, but right now, that is what hurts me the most, now that I have seen the truth… this is justice for what I have done."


    "How… how can you say that?" Rosalita's face curled, her emotional veneer starting to crack. "None of your actions could hurt me more than having to face the future we promised each other without you…"


    Much to Rosalita's visible surprise, Fernando summoned all of his ebbing energy to reach out to her. She gasped and her eyes went even wider when she felt his hand touch her cheek.


    "Be strong, Rosalita. Be like you always have been." Fernando laughed softly to himself, but halfway through, it turned into another cough. "What a fool I truly am… to think I believed you would surrender the throne. That I forgot your compassionate nature is backed by a will of the strongest iron. You have never wavered in your strength, even in times of doubt. By standing so resolutely against me in order to serve the kingdom's best interest, even when surrendering would have been so easy… it is truly inspiring, Rosalita."


    "I only did what I had to…" The princess put her head on her brother's shoulder, not noticing how her entire body was shaking. "Why did all of this have to happen? Why did that threat ever have to arrive?"


    Fernando gave no response, and a blanket of quiet despair settled in over the Golden City. Sophia, unable to watch her childrens' anguish any longer, buried her face in her husband's regal robes. She had never forgotten the day they were born, the offspring of a king and a royal minister's daughter. The queen had once thought that fairytale dream she lived would last forever, a fantasy that now seemed to cruelly mock her with how it had shattered. For his part, Fernando VII could offer Sophia nothing but unspoken support. Even he was moved to tears by the generations of tragedy now unspooling all at once in front of him and being inflicted upon his beloved children.


    Seeing their grief, Shaymin padded up to Fernando VII and Sophia. "I apologize, yes…" it said to them. "This all happened because I lacked faith in the people who gave me a home. I failed you."


    Behind the royals, even Matt, Sheena and Cassy - those most targeted by Fernando's campaign - found themselves caught up in the overwhelming sadness of the circumstances. While Sheena held her hands together in silent prayer, it was Matt of all people that spoke up.


    "Even after everything he did…" Matt recalled the day he saw Sutter's body. He still hated Fernando for taking away the only real parental figure he and Amanda had, but it was that bond he shared with his own sister that overrode all his other emotions about what he was now seeing. "They didn't deserve this…"


    "I'm surprised to hear you say that," Cassy chimed in.


    "Well, it's how I feel,” he insisted.


    Cassy said nothing further, and silence again settled in among those gathered at the Fountain of Life. What seemed like forever passed before Fernando broke that veil by speaking up again, his voice even weaker than before.


    "Hmph… how ironic that only now do I realize what my place truly is.”


    “What?” Rosalita felt her breath catch in her throat. She lifted her head from Fernando’s shoulder to stare at him face-to-face and asked, “What are you speaking of?”


    “What a fool I was not to see the truth sooner…” When Fernando failed to immediately answer her question, Rosalita shook him by the shoulders. That act snapped him back to reality, and after coughing, he said, “No matter what our customs say or don’t say about siblings, there is no way around the fact that only one of us could take the throne. Rosalita… I did so much to you, fought you with such ferocity… and yet, you walked through the flames and emerged unscathed on the other side. If there was any doubt, that erased it… you are the leader La Ciudad Dorada deserves. My place… was always to be the stepping stone for you to reach that exalted position.”


    The soon-to-be queen found her stomach turning from what she was hearing. What little remained of her strong facade was starting to give way, and she had to sniff to stop herself from crying right then and there. “Calling yourself nothing but a stepping stone… after everything that I’ve said, how can you still place such little value on your life? Can you not see how important you are?”


    “On the contrary… this is what gives my life value.” Fernando tried to raise his arm up to touch his sister’s face again, but found himself unable to; the corruption was working its way up his torso and limbs. “The fact that my life could be used to elevate one such as you, to fully forge you into a warrior who will fight for our kingdom until the very end… I am at peace with that.”


    “But… Fernando…” Rosalita froze when she caught sight of the gold replacing her brother’s upper body. She was initially too overwhelmed to react, but that soon gave way to a state of sheer panic. “No, not yet! It cannot be this way! You can’t go and leave me here to-”


    “Hush,” he softly urged her, flashing her an incredibly weak but content smile that only devastated her even more. “The kingdom’s future… it is bright. Be strong, Rosalita. Be strong and lead it into that future… let them all see that strength that I know. In the end…” Fernando paused. His glittering petrification was nearing his neck, telling him time was short. “...even if I became your enemy, I fulfilled our promise after all… with the aid I’ve given you, you shall be the greatest ruler La Ciudad Dorada has ever seen…”


    That was it. There was no way Rosalita could maintain her composure any longer. "You still are the brother I always knew, nobody else…" Tears flowed freely down her face, and she sobbed, “Th-thank you, Fernando… I’ll keep my word to you. I’ll always keep it…”


    “I… give you my gratitude as well, Rosalita…” The count felt his neck start hardening, and knew his throat would soon be next. Summoning the last of his strength, he looked straight into Rosalita’s eyes. “I… I thank you, Rosalita… for standing alongside me in this life. It was… quite a fascinating one. Thank you for… being my sister.”


    Satisfied that he had said everything he wanted to, Fernando closed his eyes and smiled. He could hear Rosalita’s weeping grow stronger, but he had faith in her. If he hadn’t lost his speech, he would have told her that while she might find things too painful to deal with in the moment, she would persevere. There was nothing she couldn’t do, he firmly believed, and with time, she would come to understand. If it meant elevating Rosalita and the kingdom to even greater heights, he was at peace, truly believing that even his own life was an acceptable price to exchange.


    When he expressed his gratitude for her, Rosalita froze. A barrage of images from their past flashed through her memory, reminding her of all the time they’d spent together. Their cheerful playing in the garden atop the Sacred Hill. The first time their parents took them to meet the people they would one day lead. All the years of dedicated, almost obsessed preparation they shared for their future. How even after their individual interests started to diverge, they still supported each other, with Rosalita attending the plays Fernando created and his watching her compete with Adiela. Each memory only pushed her further into despondence, but one stood above all the rest: the two of them, still just children, sitting in the garden and watching one of La Ciudad Dorada’s legendary sunsets.


    “Why could you not see that you were always more than just a tool for the kingdom?” she whimpered. “You never needed to be anything besides my brother… nothing had to change for us, we only had to be the same people we always were… it never had to come to this…”


    It was at that point Rosalita stopped speaking and just watched as the golden transformation claimed the last of Fernando’s body, pushing over his nose and soon engulfing his entire head. Every inch of him had become the precious metal. Nothing remained of the human being he once was. Rosalita had tried to fracture herself from what was happening with all her might, but there was no denying it anymore. Count Fernando VIII, her beloved brother, was gone.


    Why?!” she cried out anew. Rosalita threw her arms over the newly-formed statue’s shoulders and sobbed directly into its chest. “Why did any of this have to happen?”


    Behind her, Fernando VII and Sophia held each other even more tightly. Even as a spirit, the king could feel himself slumping. “Look at what has become of our children…” he uttered in despair. “I failed them as both a king and as a father. I should have done something to prevent this…”


    “It’s already too late,” Sophia sadly pointed out. “The time for us to intervene would have been many years ago… there is nothing we can do now but bear hope for Rosalita’s future…”


    “I don’t know how she can do it…” Matt bitterly said. He, Sheena and Cassy had stepped out from behind the royals, but he was the only one of them who spoke. “Look at how many lives have been torn apart by this catastrophe.”


    “A catastrophe it is,” Fernando VII agreed, hanging his head.


    “There must be something we can save, yes?” Shaymin piped up. The mythical Pokémon bound over to Rosalita, who was still crying on the petrified body of her brother. “Rosalita… please…”


    “This all happened because nobody really knew what to feel gratitude for…” The princess’s words cut Shaymin to the bone, but it knew she was right. “So much of our history was wrapped in lies… he fought for something that was never real. The lying has to stop or future generations will be caught in this same tragedy for a third time…”


    “I agree with you, yes,” Shaymin emphatically said, forcing its sense of guilt aside temporarily. “The right time would have been when your grandfather discovered the truth, but I do not believe it’s too late.”


    “I wish… I wish Fernando could have known just how important he really was… but…” Rosalita had arrived at a conclusion. A soul-crushing one, but a conclusion nevertheless. All she had to do was resolve to follow it, just as Fernando IV had struggled with his decision to lie centuries earlier. If Fernando IV’s falsehoods had been crossing a line in the name of peace, she reasoned, what she wanted to do would hopefully allow the kingdom to step back behind that line. “The people deserve peace, and we’ve seen that lying to them only pushed the conflict off onto a future generation,” she finally declared, sniffing and trying to wipe the tears from her eyes. What she had to say next was more painful than anything she could imagine, but it was a necessity. “I cannot… there is nothing I can do to restore Fernando’s life now. All I can do is take his wishes and the stories of those who cannot go into the future onto my own shoulders… I… I must untangle all the lies and lead the people through this turmoil into the peace that waits beyond it.”
     
  5. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    As her parents, Shaymin and Matt’s group watched, Rosalita rose back up. The loss of Fernando weighed on her, as did Eleanor’s sacrifice and all the destruction Fernando’s campaign had wrought. Yet, she could feel her brother’s will giving her the strength she needed to push back against all the adversity. He had been completely sincere in his wish to save La Ciudad Dorada, she firmly believed. How he wanted to accomplish that was where the problem lay.


    “Even with all your crimes, I thank you, Fernando,” Rosalita quietly said. “You showed me what my rule must be about. You may be gone, but…” Just saying those words made her pause, but she quickly recovered. As sad as it made her, she had to move on, to reach that future so cruelly denied to so many others. “I swear, you will live on with me.”


    Shaymin plodded closer to the princess, nudging a dish-shaped lilypad with its nose. Numerous flowers had sprouted from its back, the product of Rosalita’s expression of gratitude. “I take it that you are prepared, yes?” it asked her.


    Rosalita eyed the glimmering water in the Fountain of Life, and for an instant, she hesitated. “I just saw that water drain away Fernando’s life and transform him into a statue…” she contemplated, a drop of sweat rolling from her brow even though the desert air was beginning to cool. “If I were to consume it as well…”


    Sensing Rosalita’s consternation, Shaymin assured her, “Remember, the bounty of gratitude shall only be reaped by the worthy. You are worthy, yes.”


    “You are correct,” she replied, composing herself. Rosalita could feel the expectant stares of her parents on her, but they weren’t the only ones placing their hope in her. Every single man, woman and child living in La Ciudad Dorada was trusting that she would continue the kingdom’s peace and prosperity, as so many generations of leaders had done before her. “There is no way I can let Mother, Father, or any of them down,” the princess mentally resolved.


    Glancing over her shoulder, Rosalita saw that her parents, Matt, Cassy and Sheena were all watching her with anticipation. None of them said anything, so she turned back to the fountain. She picked up the lilypad Shaymin brought to her, then inhaled and closed her eyes.


    “Fernando, Mother, Father, Eleanor, Professor Chiaki… all of you, I will take your stories into the future with me. In that way, all of you will live on. I swear it.” At that, Rosalita puckered her lips and gently exhaled through them before peering down at the fountain. “There is no reason to delay this…”


    The princess slowly and deliberately lowered herself to her knees in front of the wellspring. Nestling the lilypad carefully with both hands, she dipped it into the water before raising it back out. Rosalita stopped to stare at the modest amount of liquid it held.


    “The future of my home and its people all relies on this,” she thought. “I mustn’t hesitate any longer.”


    Rosalita brought the lilypad to her lips, and despite her resolve, hesitated for the briefest moment before tilting it back and ingesting the water.


    “What happens now?” Matt nervously asked. Like when Fernando drank from the fountain, nothing appeared to occur at first for Rosalita either.


    “Wait,” Sophia urged him.


    True to the former queen’s word, within seconds, Rosalita shot up like a bullet, standing completely straight and staring at the sky while the lilypad went flying from her hand. Both Matt and Sheena gasped in surprise, and Matt went to run to Rosalita, only for Sophia to hold him back by putting her arm out.


    "This is how it always is," Fernando VII informed them. "None of us should interfere. What she will see is for her to experience herself."


    Matt shrank back, his mind not entirely at ease. "If you say so…"


    Rosalita remained unaware of what was going on behind her. She rigidly stood with her arms spread wide, seemingly transfixed on Regigigas. In that moment, however, she couldn't even see the titan. Regigigas, Shaymin, the Golden City and her parents and friends - for her, they had all vanished into thin air.


    While her body was still, her mind brought her to a place far away. She found herself at the foot of what she recognized as the Sacred Hill. La Ciudad Dorada was also nowhere to be seen, a community of modest canvas tents sitting in its place.


    "I've never seen the Sacred Hill so bare…" Rosalita observed. True to her comment, it was just a huge accumulation of dirt, completely devoid of any life. The way she knew it, even the hillsides had flowers growing from them.


    While she pondered the Sacred Hill's state and the presence of a tent village in her hometown’s absence, she overheard people conversing. Nearby, there were two farmers in light canvas clothing talking to a third, older man whose presence forced a surprised gasp through Rosalita's lips. She recognized him instantly, thanks to his shaggy, golden hair, thick beard and the gnarled staff he carried. There was no way she wouldn’t, not with how many times she had seen his face before.


    "My ancestor…" she said to herself, "Fernando the Great…" Seeing the revered first king helped Rosalita make sense of many of her questions. "This vision, it is what La Ciudad Dorada once was…"


    One thing she didn't yet know was why she was seeing a fantasy of those times in the first place. She considered trying to ask one of the three men, but when one of them looked right at her and didn't react, she concluded that they couldn't see her. She changed tactics, walking closer so she could better listen to them. As she drew nearer, she saw one of the civilians poking at the ground with a wooden tool. A Zebstrika, Camerupt and Ursaring waited with them, while Fernando I's Delphox was at the future king's side.


    "I'm telling you, Chief," the man reiterated to Fernando I, jabbing the earth again in frustration, "the land's giving us nothing."


    "Have a look," the second farmer added. "Ursaring, show him."


    Rosalita quietly watched the Ursaring hand a burlap sack over to Fernando I, who passed his staff to his Delphox before taking the bag. She identified the plant he pulled from it as the Lapidarian Topo, a foodstuff native to the region. The berries on its root were horrifically shriveled, however, so much so that Rosalita barely recognized them. She'd never seen a Topo plant in such a state. A healthy Lapidarian Topo bore firm, pink fruit, not the withered, brown offshoots she was looking at.


    "This is the state of your entire crop?' Fernando I asked as he examined the dehydrated, dead root. When the farmers nodded, he grimaced. "We won’t last very long before our food reserves fall into a state of depletion..."


    Circumstances did not allow Rosalita the chance to think about what she was seeing, for as soon as her ancestor spoke, reality warped around her once again. Days, weeks and months sped past her like a video being run on fast forward. Sunrises followed sunsets, over and over, until the princess’s mental trip through time came to an abrupt end, dropping her off on top of the barren hill. A veil of darkness hung over the desert settlement, furthering her anxiety as she looked around. There were only two people with her on the peak. Fernando I was there with his Delphox, having not changed at all in appearance since she last saw him. The supposedly immortal wanderer was there as well, and it both his presence and the single Gracidea planted in the dirt that confirmed to Rosalita where she was.


    “The founding of La Ciudad Dorada…” she marveled. Rosalita wished that she could interact with the two legendary figures from the past, but she had to resign herself to her inability to catch their notice. She instead watched as the wanderer approached the edge of the hill, his Lucario and Golisopod following behind him.


    “Hear me, people of this blighted land!” he thundered to the villagers, who were gathered at the foot of the Sacred Hill. His deep and commanding voice made a chill run down Rosalita’s spine, even in her ethereal state. “Reach deeply into your hearts and find everything you can feel gratitude for! This will give the Gracidea the ability to restore life to your home!”


    Though she could not see the villagers from where she was, Rosalita knew enough about history to anticipate what would happen next. She followed the wanderer and his Pokémon back over to the Gracidea, which had already started flickering with a exponentially intensifying golden light. As the glow grew stronger, wind began gusting around the Gracidea, sending both the wanderer’s cape and Fernando I’s ragged robes fluttering. Nearby, Delphox, Lucario and Golisopod shielded their eyes from both the light and the gale accompanying it.


    “Gardener of Gratitude, these people call out to you!” the wanderer shouted, raising his hands into the air. “Even as the gifts of Gaia’s energy have left them, they speak words of gratitude for what they still have! I beseech you, bringer of purity, hear their cries and bless them by saving this land!”


    Rosalita swore she could have been the Gracidea actually move in response to the wanderer’s plea. A beam of light shot from it up into the sky, while at the same time, pulses of green energy flowed through the earth from where the flower was planted.


    “Gaia’s energy…” she whispered in awe. Seeing the creation of her home first-hand, a tale she long believed to be nothing but a fixture in history books, deeply moved her. Even though she was well aware that her presence could have no effect on the events playing out, she felt compelled to bring her hands together and express gratitude herself. “Thank you for giving me such a wonderful home, and thank you for giving me the family I received… thank you for my friends and my people, and for letting us all live in peace and comfort…”


    A silhouette appeared in the beam of light and slowly descended toward the Sacred Hill. Its shape was at first murky and indescribable, but as it got closer, its features became more defined and there was no mistaking what it was. The canine body, long ears, scarf and jagged tuft of hair all confirmed that it was Shaymin in its Sky Forme, appearing in La Ciudad Dorada for the very first time. Seemingly as a herald of the mythical Pokémon’s arrival, an even greater wave of Gaia burst through the Sacred Hill, causing grass and flowers to erupt from its surface en masse.


    Just as suddenly as it had come, the vision of La Ciudad Dorada’s creation fell away, returning Rosalita to reality. Regigigas, the Golden City and the Fountain of Life all reappeared before her, overwhelming her senses and making her fall down next to the statue that was once her brother.


    “Rosalita!” Sheena cried out. This time, there was no keeping Matt’s group separated from her. Both he and Sheena pushed past Rosalita’s parents and rushed to her side, Cassy following soon after. While she and Matt helped Rosalita stand back up, Sheena asked, “Are you alright? What happened?”


    At first, Rosalita said nothing. She gradually opened her eyes, revealing to those around her a soft, almost imperceptible glimmer in them. When she finally spoke, it was to Fernando VII and Sophia. “Mother, Father… I had a vision, just as Fernando did.”


    “What was it, my dear?” Sophia wondered.


    “I saw the state of desolation our land once fell into…” she described. Before continuing, she gently freed herself from Matt and Sheena’s grasp and took a single step forward. “And then, I saw Fernando the Great and the wanderer bringing life back to our home and turning it into La Ciudad Dorada. I… I get it now. I know what I have to do…” As she so commonly did, Rosalita pressed her fist against her chest. This time, however, the compassionate smile so indicative of her true nature crept onto her face. “Everyone’s lives were so simple in the beginning of our kingdom… so peaceful and prosperous. They never needed all these lies to feel gratitude… now, more than ever, I know that I must have faith they can accept difficult truths and move forward into the future. I can… I can feel myself connected to everyone who’s come before me now. I know I am right.”


    “It is more wonderful than I ever could have imagined to see you embrace your responsibility…” Sophia praised her daughter.


    “Yes, I must agree,” Fernando VII added. “I am so, so proud of you, Rosalita. You have come so far and grown so much… there is only one thing you are incorrect about.”


    Rosalita cocked her head, surprised by her father’s words. “What is that?”


    Fernando VII smiled more broadly than Rosalita had ever seen him smile before. “It is not our kingdom anymore, it is yours. Our time is over now. As of this moment, you are no longer Princess Rosalita, you are Queen Rosalita the First.”


    Rosalita's eyes watered up once again, but it was not sadness swelling within her, it was pride. Pride in her accomplishments. Pride in the fact that her parents and seven hundred years of predecessors had faith in her to carry on their legacy. And just as importantly to her, pride that she would get the chance to fulfill her promise to her late brother. Overcome with joy, she threw her arms around Fernando VII and Sophia.


    "Mother, Father, thank you!" she beamed. "Thank you for everything! I shall honor you with all that I do, I promise!"


    "You already have," Sophia said as she stroked the top of Rosalita's head anew, "many times over."


    The royal family's shared embrace was interrupted by Regigigas's beeping. Fernando VII turned upward and contemplated the kingdom's great protector as its dots flashed.


    "Rosalita, our time together is unfortunately at an end," he revealed, understanding what Regigigas was indicating. "Now is when you must go into the future, where we are unable to follow. I implore you, always be strong."


    "I will," the newly-crowned queen replied. She felt no more fear or despair. Her newfound connection to her ancestors helped her replace those worries with a sense of hope. "I gave Fernando my word years ago, and I shall give it to you as well. For now, though… might I walk with you and Mother one last time?"


    "Of course," he said with a nod. "Let us go."


    Rosalita joined her right hand with her father's left, and vice versa with her mother. The three of them then made their way toward a particularly intense flare of Gaia energy that had appeared. As they walked, Rosalita couldn't help but think of all the times they had done exactly the same when she was a child. Her memories of those times in Lingote Palace, the garden and La Ciudad Dorada brought a wistful smile to her countenance. Her sadness over how that chapter of her life was at a close had declined significantly. The memories would always be there, with Fernando and their parents living on within them.


    When they reached the precipice of Gaia’s flow, Fernando VII and Sophia separated from their daughter and turned around to face her.


    "Well, this is it." The former king chuckled awkwardly and rubbed the back of his head. "Sorry... as prepared as I was for this day, I did not think about this part very much."


    "You don't need to be so straightlaced, Father." Rosalita gave his shoulder a playful push. "It is not something to be worried about right now."


    "There's that wisdom of yours again," Fernando VII said to her. "I know everything shall be safe in your hands."


    "He's right, Rosalita," Sophia added. "We gave you all that we could to prepare you, but what truly matters is what you do on our own. I have great confidence in you."


    "Thank you, Mother." The new queen bowed her head in respect to her predecessor. "I will make the two of you proud."


    "I know you will." Fernando VII glanced back up at Regigigas for a brief second. "We will meet again one day. For now, Rosalita, take care of yourself and our home."


    "I will," Rosalita declared, fully accepting her role. "Mother, Father, I bid you farewell!"


    "Goodbye, dear," Sophia replied.


    Rosalita and her parents waved goodbye to each other as the flare of Gaia enveloped the royal couple. Soon, they were gone, along with the warm energy flowing through the Golden City. She could instinctively tell that with their exit, the coronation ceremony was over. Something she had considered a vague 'tomorrow' for years had finally come.


    "Queen Rosalita the First…" she said to herself, considering her new station in life. “It sounds… right.”


    Shaymin, meanwhile, scampered up to its companion after stopping the Fountain of Life's waters. "Now that things are up to you, what will be your first act?" it inquired.


    Rosalita scratched her chin and pondered Shaymin’s question for a moment before picking the mythical Pokémon up. “I must address the people as soon as possible and inform them of the truth,” she decided. “We shall return to Lingote Palace at once to begin preparing.”


    “I will do whatever I can to assist, yes,” Shaymin promised, sagely nodding as it spoke. “This all happened because of me. I must help fix it.”


    Rosalita pet Shaymin's back, and flowers popped out of it as it curled up in her arms. She then turned to Matt, Sheena and Cassy, and as soon as she did, Cassy got ready to jab Matt with her elbow yet again.


    "You should kneel wh-" Much to Cassy's surprise, both Matt and Sheena had already dropped to one knee in deference to the new queen. With her intended reproach rendered useless, she shook her head and laughed instead. "Took you long enough," she sarcastically said to him as she knelt herself.


    "You may stand," Rosalita informed the three after making her way over to them. "I will inform the guards that you are to be granted quarter in the palace. There is much work to be done, so we must return right away."


    -:-


    Back in La Ciudad Dorada, Edrei was supervising his subordinates in their cleanup of the fire-ravaged garden atop the Sacred Hill. As he watched the other guards remove the remains of the scorched plants, he scowled and clenched his staff tightly in his right hand.


    "This is all just foul," he bitterly thought. “So many years of life, wiped out in the blink of an eye…”


    The captain's mind wandered back to his own childhood spent upon the hill. As the son of the previous guard captain, he too had grown up in Lingote Palace and played among those flowers as a boy. Custom dictated that he and the royal siblings of similar age were not to mingle, owing to their dramatically different stations in life, but all three defied that tradition. He became Rosalita and Fernando's closest non-relative friend, but as they got older, their duties started to diverge. Ironically enough, that divergence ultimately pushed Rosalita back into his orbit when she asked to train with him. At the time of her request, she still believed Fernando would be king and wished to join the guards so she could act as his personal knight in accordance with their childhood promise. It was that training, which she elected to continue even after being named crown princess, that played a big part in her building up both her physical strength and the power of her Pokémon.


    As he reminisced, Edrei absentmindedly looked at the Key Stone set in the back of his gauntlet. He'd inherited both it and his Pidgeotite from his father. "I let you both down," he thought, gazing up at the sky. "Father, I failed in my duty. I do not deserve this position or to call your precious items my own… and Rosalita, I am ashamed I doubted you. I know you better than that..."


    "Captain Edrei!" one of the women in his squadron called to him, snapping him out of his daydream.


    "Yes, what is i-" He stopped mid-sentence when he spotted most of his subordinates clustered around one of the elevators with their staves drawn. Fearing that the war was not yet over, he sprinted to join them, the individual pieces of his armor clanging together as he ran. "Move, let me see!" he ordered the guards.


    When the group split to afford him a view of what had them so alarmed, he was greeted by the sight of Noel and Leon with their hands in the air.


    "Yo, you the boss of these guys?" Noel asked him, correctly perceiving his higher rank at first glance. She put her left hand on her hip and scowled, as she so often did. "Wanna tell 'em to back off a lil' bit?"


    "Why would I do such a thing?" Edrei countered. "I know who you are. What kind of fool do you take me for?"


    “We made a deal with Princess,” she explained. “She said she was gonna take us in when all was said and done, so here we are.” When Edrei seemed reluctant to believe her story, Noel crossed her arms and closed her eyes. “I ain’t stupid, I know how these stories usually go. The knight in shining armor who keeps the princess safe has a crush on the girl he’s gotta keep secret ’cause tradition says so, but he’d do anythin’ at all to please her.” Noel opened one eye and raised her finger. “How much of that was right? All of it? Do it for her.”


    Edrei’s face had flushed before Noel even finished speaking. Somehow, the roughneck from Orre had read him like a book. He couldn’t admit that, though. Instead, he tried to ignore Noel’s taunts and sputtered, “Wh-why should I believe you?”


    Noel gave Leon a playful smack. “’ey, Bro, I was totally right.”


    “You said it, Sis. Dude’s as red as a Spelon Berry!”


    The siblings shared a hearty laugh at Edrei’s expense, and he was too flustered to do anything about it. His subordinates picked up the slack by brandishing their staves, an act that cut Noel and Leon’s mirth off.


    “Whoa, calm down!” Leon exclaimed, putting up his hands in a defensive posture. “We ain’t doin’ nothin’!”


    “Do all of you got brains made of the same metal you’re wearin’?” Noel said with her usual scowl. “If we were gonna do anythin’, we woulda did it already. And if we were gonna run, don’t you think we woulda instead of comin’ and helpin’ you all?”


    “That does make sense…” Edrei conceded. Turning to the other guards, he ordered, “Take them into custody. We’ll sort this out when Rosalita returns.”


    “Wait, just wait one minute!” Noel yelled at them when they moved in to detain her and Leon. “We got a demand!”


    “Why does that not surprise me?” Edrei sighed. “You are in no position to demand anything right now.”


    “Is it really so hard to keep Bro and I together?”


    Noel’s question gave Edrei pause. The idea that all she wanted was to stay together with Leon was the last thing he anticipated hearing her say. “You… what?” he stuttered.


    “Yeah, I don’t wanna get anythin’ else. Bro and I’ve been together since we were little squirts on the streets.” She looked up to her brother, who smiled at her. “That ain’t endin’ now.”


    “Fine,” the captain acquiesced, “there’s no reason I should say otherwise.”


    -:-


    Late that night, Rosalita was walking down a hall on Lingote Palace’s top floor with a lantern in her hand to light the way. Her soft, pink slippers made not a single sound as she ambled along the corridor’s red carpet.


    Things had been very busy once she returned home with Matt, Sheena and Cassy in tow. Immediately after giving Edrei the order to allow her three surviving allies to stay in the castle, she had to deal with the issue of Noel and Leon’s detention. Edrei had still harbored doubts regarding their account of their bargain with Rosalita, so her confirmation of their claims caught him by surprise. They were less than thrilled to have to spend a full night in the dungeon, but grudgingly accepted their situation when she told the guards to treat them as guests.


    After that came an impromptu meeting with the nobles who acted as advisors to the crown. Raul’s earlier communication with his fellow court members saved Rosalita a significant amount of time in convincing them of what had taken place. She made certain that all of her aides were on the same page before tasking them with making arrangements for her address to the people of the kingdom. Such an event required much coordination, so they went about their work as soon as she ordered it.


    It wasn’t until all that work was done that Rosalita finally got a chance to try and unwind. The day was won, and now she could rest. Being able to remove her armor and take a long, hot bath was a relief after all the stress she’d faced just in the last day alone. She even almost fell asleep in the water while one of her handmaidens washed her hair. Ironically enough, when she actually tried to go to bed, restlessness kept her awake. Her plush sheets and airy nightgown did nothing to help her.


    That was why she was in the hallway at such a late hour. It led to one of her favorite places, the palace’s observatory. She approached the grand doors that marked its entrance and paused to appreciate the intricate golden lines sprawled across them, which depicted a sky full of shooting stars above a single Gracidea planted in the Sacred Hill.


    “How wonderful,” she said to herself before pulling one of the doors open. The carvings had always been one of her favorite works of art.


    Beyond the threshold was a sizeable chamber lit by lamps hooked on the walls. Its most notable feature by far was the giant glass dome that hung overhead, affording a spectacular view of the stars above the remote desert kingdom. Much to Rosalita's surprise, Matt and Sheena were there, the latter using one of the observatory's ornate telescopes while the former sat at a table in the center of the room, quietly drawing in a sketchbook. Both turned from what they were doing when they heard the door open.


    "Oh!" the new queen exclaimed when she saw her friends. "I did not expect to see you two here."


    "I could say the same for you," Sheena replied, leaving the telescope and making her way to the table where Matt was. "Is something wrong, Rosalita? You should be resting for tomorrow."


    Rosalita fidgeted. "I know, but… to be truthful, I could not sleep. There is too much on my mind."


    "Let's talk about it, then," Sheena suggested as she pulled out a chair for herself. "What has you worried?”


    Even though a seat was available for Rosalita, she was initially reluctant to take it. “I know I said I am ready to take on my new responsibilities, and I am… that is not a lie. But…”


    “But?” Sheena questioningly repeated.


    “I do harbor some concern that with all the duties I now have, I will lose everything already dear to me.” Rosalita turned away from Sheena and grimaced. “To tell the truth, I am scared. Everything that lies ahead for me is so different from my life to this point. The more I ponder that unknown, the more uneasy I become, and I must face it alone.”


    “No, that’s wrong. You aren’t alone.” Sheena reached across the table and took Rosalita’s right hand in her own, making the newly-crowned queen look back at her. “I won’t lie and tell you that what’s ahead of you will be easy. It won’t be, but you aren’t ever facing it alone. Besides Matt, Cassy and I, you’re going to have the people of La Ciudad Dorada behind you. Shaymin said you lived as one with the people, unlike your private ancestors. They know you and who you are. There’s no need for you to turn yourself into someone else. Just be who you always have been, and everything will be okay.”


    “Sheena…” Rosalita was so moved by Sheena’s words of reassurance that she felt herself nearly tear up again, but she kept that swell of emotion in check. “...thank you. I think… I think that was exactly what I needed to hear. You are correct… I cannot afford to lose who I am, not for my sake or for the people who will place their faith in me. If I were to become the same as my parents and those who came before them, all I would be doing is perpetuating the cycle that led us all here. I remember something else Shaymin said now.”


    “What’s that?” the priestess wondered.


    “It said it chose me because I am different from my ancestors. Because I’ve lived with the people and I know their lives on a personal level. That’s why I was chosen instead of Fernando, who would have simply maintained the status quo…” Coming to this conclusion made Rosalita feel sad about Fernando’s fate yet again, but it also bolstered her confidence. As much as she mourned her brother, she’d accepted that there was no way to undo what had happened to him. “The only way forward is to embrace the future with my own hands, not those of anyone else… and those who couldn’t go with me must not be forgotten. I understand now… all of this happened because of lies told to maintain a false peace, so I am here to unravel those lies and lead La Ciudad Dorada into real peace…” Cheered up by her newfound certainty in her purpose, Rosalita placed her left hand on top of Sheena’s. “Sheena, thank you. Thank you so much for helping me figure that out.”


    “You’re welcome,” Sheena replied with a smile. “I’m proud of you. You'll do great, I'm certain of it."


    "If everything happens for a reason, I'm fortunate I got to meet you, Matt and everyone else. Thank you." When she said his name, Rosalita realized Matt had remained completely silent during her entire exchange with Sheena. He was still sitting there on her left, quietly drawing in his sketchbook. "Might I ask what it is you are working on?"


    Matt didn't answer immediately, and when he did, he spoke in a low voice that bordered on a mumble. "The stars in La Ciudad Dorada's night sky," he revealed while remaining fixated on the paper. "I took up painting because one day, I hope I might figure out some way for Amanda to see again." Matt stopped drawing and subconsciously ran his fingers over the bandages on the left side of his face, tracing along the edges of his own damaged eye. "I've been painting things I want her to see, and, well…"


    "You need not say any more," Rosalita said, seeing his obvious distress. "I sincerely hope you succeed in restoring her sight. Even if you do not accomplish that goal, I still would like to meet her. Please consider coming back to La Ciudad Dorada with her one day."


    "Maybe…" Matt replied, continuing to avoid Rosalita's gaze.


    -:-


    By mid-morning the next day, La Ciudad Dorada was abuzz with anticipation. The royal advisors had spread the word of the upcoming royal address on Rosalita's order, but absent any significant detail, it gave rise to significant speculation regarding the event's nature. All the secrecy practiced by past generations only stoked the conjecture further.


    Among the hordes gathered at the Alliance Battle stadium for the address, there was certainty that they would hear the reason for Regigigas's appearance and the attack of the brainwashed Pokémon. That much was obvious. Rumors abounded when it came to the particulars. Word even started to circulate that a transition of power had taken place, inducing much consternation among a wide swath of the kingdom's population. The raids on Lingote Palace and the city walls led to the word 'coup' being thrown around, although there was disagreement on whether such subversion had succeeded.


    Such worries were the farthest thing from Rosalita’s mind as she made her way down the hall connecting Lingote Palace to the arena. She knew, after what Sheena told her the previous night, to have faith that everything would work out. Clad in red-and-white robes fringed with gold, she carried herself with the same poise she so admired her mother for as a girl. Her clothing, created specifically for her by her handmaidens from the finest silk and quickly finished in time for the address, glistened in the sunlight flowing through the hall from the full-length windows lining it.


    As she walked, Rosalita reached to her chest and gripped the pendant she wore. It had previously belonged to Sophia like her rings and other jewelry, but the pendant carried special significance to her. It was made of a ruby with gold set into it in the shape of Shaymin’s Land Forme, and Rosalita had always been dazzled by it. She was fascinated by it even before she was old enough to fully understand why adults wore jewelry, and the first day Sophia let her try it on was a memory she still treasured. Back then, it didn’t fit on her at all, but now it suited her perfectly.


    “Mother, please look upon me and smile,” she thought to herself while clutching the pendant. Her mind then wandered to the golden, jeweled crown sitting on her head. It had been specifically made for her, just like her robes. Despite that, she still felt it carried the weight of her father’s legacy as king. “You too, Father. I will go my own way, but I will never forget to honor the path you both guided me along to get here.”


    Shaymin, who had been walking alongside Rosalita, dashed ahead of her once they could see Edrei waiting for her at the end of the hall. "You are ready for this, yes?" it asked its friend and partner.


    "I have never felt more prepared than I do right now," Rosalita replied. "My head is clear. I understand my obligations, and I know I am still myself. This is what I was born to do."


    "Most excellent!" Shaymin happily exclaimed. "The road here hasn't been an easy one for either of us. I must say, this has been a humbling experience, yes… I have made many mistakes myself. Together, we must fix them."


    "I agree," the new queen said. Shaymin jumped up into her arms, and she scratched its cheek. "When we are done here, I will get you cookies."


    Shaymin became so excited it nearly leapt right back out of Rosalita's arms. "Cookies?! Now I almost wish for your speech to go quickly, yes!"


    Rosalita couldn't help but laugh at the mythical Pokémon's innocent enthusiasm. They arrived at the end of the hall soon after, where a heavy red curtain separated her from the royal family’s viewing balcony in the arena.


    "Queen Rosalita," Edrei greeted her, trying with all his might to remain perfectly composed and at attention.


    "Captain Edrei," she responded with a smile, "thank you for your diligent service."


    There was so much Edrei wanted to say to her. Both had ended up following in their parents' footsteps, and even though he knew it would one day come, actually seeing Rosalita as queen overwhelmed him. All he could actually put into words was, "I am just fulfilling my duty. Please wait here for your introduction."


    "Again, let me extend my gratitude," Rosalita said to him. In that moment, such a sentiment was all he wanted. He bowed to her, both as a gesture of respect but also to hide the pleased smile that stretched across his face.


    Rosalita, Edrei and Shaymin soon heard horns blaring on the other side of the curtains. Upon their sound reaching her ears, Rosalita put Shaymin down on the ground and brushed her hands across the front of her robes.


    Her time had come.


    -:-


    Outside, Matt, Cassy and Sheena had front-row seats on the battlefield as the trumpeters backed up. Rosalita had arranged for their accomodations at the event, informing the guards that they were to be considered special guests. They glanced around at their surroundings as the people of La Ciudad Dorada fell silent thanks to the horns’ fanfare.


    “I guess things are getting started,” Sheena observed.


    “You can say that again,” Matt added, adjusting his sky-blue necktie. It, like the white dress shirt, dark green slacks and matching hat he now wore, had been given to him to replace the ragged coat Sheena salvaged from Registeel’s fortress. A new, lighter coat in the same green color lay folded on his lap.


    Sitting between Matt and Sheena, Cassy fidgeted nervously in her seat. Matt failed to notice her, but the priestess did. “Are you alright?” Sheena asked her.


    Cassy’s immediate, involuntary reaction was to tighten her hold on Swellow’s bag, which she had taken to wearing herself. Before she could give any sort of verbal response, a man clad in red military garb stepped forward, taking up a position right at the center of the field.


    “Now presenting the new ruler of La Ciudad Dorada and the master of Lingote Palace,” the man announced, “Queen Rosalita the First!”


    The silence in the arena was broken as quickly as it came, giving way to applause and cheering as Rosalita entered through the curtains. She calmly walked to the edge of the balcony, where a microphone was set up for her address, but waved to her people instead of starting to talk right away. Their enthusiasm despite the confusing, dramatic events surrounding her accession to the throne buoyed her hopes that everything would turn out alright.


    “Surely you have much to say to them, yes?” Shaymin urged her after pulling itself up onto the balcony’s railing.


    “That is right…” she replied. When she approached the microphone and prepared to speak, Rosalita found herself seized by a sudden rush of nerves. Her audience really was comprised of her people now. Their peace, their prosperity, all of it rested squarely on her shoulders. She started to sweat, but then remembered the connection to her predecessors she had gained. As soon as she thought about that, she could almost feel her parents and brother on the balcony with her, encouraging her to keep going. That helped Rosalita center herself again, and she took a deep breath to calm her mind before beginning her address.


    “My friends, much has taken place in our beloved kingdom of La Ciudad Dorada recently. Many of these events may have left you frightened, worried that perhaps the wonderful state we have long lived in will wither away and die. I am here to give you my word that such an event will never happen. I have faith in you all that you will work side-by-side with me to ensure our peace survives forevermore. With that said, I have discovered what took place in La Ciudad Dorada over the past several days is the end result of many generations’ worth of lies being told. These lies were told in the name of peace, but tragedy has now visited our land twice due to them, and as your new leader, I am putting an end to them once and for all. What binds us all together is our love of La Ciudad Dorada, so these secrets are no longer necessary to keep us together.”


    Rosalita exhaled and looked over at Shaymin before continuing her speech. The mythical Pokémon was grimacing in guilt, but there was an unspoken understanding between them that what Rosalita was about to do was necessary.


    “Let us first begin with the raid on La Ciudad Dorada that occurred yesterday. That attack was the work of my brother, Count Fernando VIII.” A faint murmuring erupted among the crowd at this news, and Rosalita had to internally acknowledge how much it still hurt her. Still, there was no turning back. “After I was chosen to inherit our father’s throne over him, Fernando grew despondent, as he believed that he did not have a reason for existing. More recently, a message threatening La Ciudad Dorada arrived, and Fernando wished to awaken Regigigas to repel this threat. When he was spurned, Fernando murdered our parents and framed me in the hopes that his gambit would lead to him taking the throne.”


    “I wonder if revealing that so soon was a wise idea,” Matt said to Sheena and Cassy when the murmuring around them escalated dramatically.


    “Please, there is still much more to be said,” Rosalita pleaded with the crowd, harboring the same concerns as Matt. “Fernando held back and allowed me to pursue the trials of the Three Pillars, as all Doradan rulers must do in order to officially be crowned. He then ambushed us in the Golden City and placed Regigigas under his control using Arcane Science technology. That is why Regigigas attacked La Ciudad Dorada. The Pokémon army that you so courageously united with visitors to our kingdom to fight against was also a part of Fernando’s strategy. Luckily, I was not alone in standing against this threat from within.”


    Rosalita looked down from the balcony and locked eyes with Matt, making him nervously lower his hat over them.


    “As a part of his plan, Fernando enlisted Matt Chiaki, the grandson of the great explorer Professor Sutter Chiaki, to act as an unwitting pawn in searching for the Golden City. Matt, along with his partner Cassy Natsuka and friends Eleanor Laplace and Sheena Carnet, aided me in foiling Fernando’s plot once they learned the truth. Their names will go down in Doradan history as pivotal allies who prevented the second civil war from destroying our kingdom and everything we have held dear. However, I must call special attention to one of them in particular.”


    Closing her eyes, Rosalita thought about Eleanor’s Persian, Rotom and Litwick, the new residents of Lingote Palace. One of the hardest things she’d had to do the previous night was inform them of their beloved trainer’s fate, news that they took as hard as she had expected them to. All three remained hidden in the room Rosalita had given them for almost the entire night, with the only indication of their coming out was the empty food dishes left in front of their door.


    “Eleanor Laplace was an engineer who hailed from Orsay City in the region of Kalos,” Rosalita stated to her people, her heart sinking anew as she thought about what happened. “She possessed an innate understanding of machines, even those powered by our Arcane Science designs. Like my other allies, Eleanor fought with her entire heart and soul for La Ciudad Dorada’s survival. However, at the decisive moment, Fernando activated a time bomb aboard the royal family’s skyship, which would have destroyed the Golden City, its surroundings and everything living there. Eleanor sacrificed herself to carry out an act of heroism only she could perform, by piloting the skyship into the atmosphere so the bomb would detonate safely. I will… I urge you all to join me in honoring her memory. Our kingdom would not survive in the form we have always known if Eleanor did not lay down her life for us.”


    Rosalita had to stop and sniff back a tear.


    “She was not the only life lost during Fernando’s campaign. At the end, Fernando threw himself into the Fountain of Life, the source of our leaders’ longevity, in a desperate bid to determine his place in La Ciudad Dorada. Because he was unworthy of the fountain’s power, Gaia inflicted a harsh judgment upon him. His life was forfeit, and his body transformed into a golden statue… the true tragedy of this all is that he feared being cast aside as my twin, as our history would suggest must happen. This is the great lie I have discovered. When our first civil war took place, it was not between King Fernando III and his twin brother, as has been taught to generations of Doradan citizens. King Fernando III betrayed our traditions and attempted to attain true immortality by imprisoning his own son along with Shaymin.”


    At that, the murmuring in the crowd returned with a vengeance. Such a turn of events didn’t surprise Rosalita at all. As the truth about the civil war was something she anticipated would provoke a reaction, she’d already steeled herself to carry out the revelation.


    “That is correct,” she continued. “The first civil war was fought between Fernando III, his son Fernando IV, and the forces loyal to each. It only concluded when Regigigas awoke and consumed the Gaia energy giving Fernando III life. Once the battle was over, Fernando IV decided he would spread the lie that an unknown twin brother caused the war out of fear the people would lose faith in our leadership right when La Ciudad Dorada was still a nascent nation. While I understand why he did this, we have reached a time in our history where this lie is no longer needed. We must walk hand-in-hand together into our shared future, and no longer be shackled to a false image given to us by the past.


    Because we must reach that future, I am hereby announcing the following measures. First, the royal family will no longer conceal the Golden City. We will form a council of knights to act as its protectors, and then open it as part of La Ciudad Dorada’s historical tour. The mining community in the desert and abandoned fortress in the mountains shall also be restored, all so those who embark on the tour can gain a firsthand appreciation for our traditions and how our people have lived while we continue working to protect these sites. Finally, I have ordered an entirely new section of our museum to be created documenting the truth about both civil wars. No longer will the facts be available only to a select few in the royal family. Soon, these truths will be released to the public for all to learn about. We must change in order to prevent these tragedies from taking place yet again. Please, I ask of you all, join me and let us go together into a peaceful and prosperous future!”


    While her people applauded her, Rosalita looked up at the clear blue sky and thought to herself, “Fernando, I hope I have made you happy, wherever you are. In some way or another, I intend to keep our promise.”


    -:-


    Later that afternoon, Rosalita managed to catch up with Matt at the train station before he boarded. Edrei and his subordinates, who traveled there with her, held back the sizable crowd that developed around her as she spoke with Sutter’s grandson near the train.


    “Must you really leave us without partaking in our festival?” Rosalita asked him with Shaymin sitting on her shoulder. “It is the customary celebration for when a new leader takes the throne. Security may be heightened due to the threat we received, but I intend to hold it as a way of guiding La Ciudad Dorada back to normalcy. I would be honored if you attended it.”


    “I’m sorry, Rosalita, I must refuse.” Matt lowered the edge of his hat, casting a shadow over his uncovered eye. “Too much has happened here. I can’t… I can’t be here any longer right now.”


    “I understand. These last few days have certainly been difficult for us all,” Rosalita expressed. It saddened her to look at how he bore both the physical scars of Fernando’s campaign and internal wounds she could only imagine. “He was dragged into this years ago, and it is finally over,” she wordlessly considered. “I cannot place the emotional burden of being here on him given what Fernando did to his family…”


    “I should have never responded to Fernando’s letter,” he abruptly said, snapping her out of her thoughts. “If I never came here, you would still have your brother with you. It’s thanks to my efforts that he found the Golden City and drank from the Fountain of Life… Eleanor would still be here, too. She would never have been caught up in this and never have been aboard that skyship…” Matt pounded his fist against his bag and took sudden notice of the blazing hot sun. It made him start to feel dizzy as he mentally replayed the circumstances of the skyship’s destruction. “All of my own working with machines should have given me some knowledge to do something.”


    Matt’s outburst caught Rosalita off-guard, and she initially didn’t know how to answer it. “You cannot blame yourself for my brother’s crimes,” she finally said. Seizing his free left hand with both of her own, she assured him, “The only one to blame is Fernando, and as hard as this is for me to say, he has faced justice for what he did. That includes the decision Eleanor made to save us. He put her in that position, not you, and it was her choice to take the actions she did.”


    “Yeah, but…” Matt felt no further drive to dispute Rosalita’s words, so he turned away from her instead. “I guess.”


    Seeing his clear unease, Rosalita decided to change the subject. “What shall you do now?”


    “I’ll be heading back to Lapidaria’s capital, Amaranth City,” he replied, growing only slightly more lively in his speech. “Amanda’s there waiting for me, and we’re going to be meeting up with our friends and their daughter soon.”


    “But Cassy is not going with you?” the new queen inquired.


    “She said she had something she still wanted to do here,” Matt offered with a shrug. “She’ll probably want to participate in your festival herself, too. Regardless, she told me she’d catch up with me when she was done.”


    “Would you mind some other company on the ride?”


    The new voice in the conversation belonged to Sheena, who had just arrived at the train station herself. Her existing amity with Rosalita got her through Edrei’s blockade, and her presence brightened the queen’s expression.


    “I am glad you caught up with me, Sheena,” Rosalita said. “Matt, I think it might be helpful for you if you aren’t alone on your trip, as Sheena suggested.”


    “I suppose you’re right.” Matt turned to Sheena and questioned, “Why, though? Didn’t you have your own plans for your trip here?”


    “There’s one way in and one way out of La Ciudad Dorada, so why should either of us head back to Amaranth City alone?” Even though she had answered his question with another question, Matt knew Sheena was right. “Besides, I still wish to speak to you regarding your grandfather’s research into my people. There’s a pretty long train ride ahead of us, perhaps it would be best if we didn’t spend it thinking about what happened these last few days.”


    “When you’re right, you’re right,” Matt admitted. Just then, he noticed something pinned to Sheena’s coat. It was a red-and-gold military medal bearing the shape of a Gracidea beneath its ribbon. “What is that?”


    “Oh, yes, I nearly forgot,” Rosalita interjected, answering for Sheena. She produced a small box and handed it to Matt, who opened it to discover an identical medal. “This is the Gracidea Order, one of the greatest honors our family can bestow upon an individual. Matt, you earned this for your assistance in defending La Ciudad Dorada, just as Sheena did.”


    “Thank you, Rosalita…” was all he could say. With his coat slung over his right arm he couldn’t put the medal on, so for the time being he closed the box and placed it into his bag.


    “No, I should be thanking you. All of-” The sound of the train’s whistle cut off what Rosalita was going to say, and she decided against repeating it. “Unfortunately, it would appear our time together is reaching its end. I want both of you to know you will always have second homes here. La Ciudad Dorada will always welcome you with open arms, whenever you feel like returning.”


    “I’ll definitely come back one day,” Sheena promised, placing her hand on her chest and bowing her head. “Until then, keep on being the best leader you can be for your people.”


    “I will make that promise with you,” Rosalita affirmed.


    “Until next time, then,” Sheena said as she climbed aboard the train. “Matt, let’s get going.”


    “Right. Rosalita, goodbye for now.”


    “I look forward to the day you visit once again!” Rosalita called after him.


    Matt gave a short nod of acknowledgement to the queen’s words, then boarded the train himself. Before he got fully up the stairs into the coach, he looked back over the platform and froze at what he saw.


    There were two figures in the distance, far behind the crowd gathered to see Rosalita. He couldn’t clearly make them out, but he could have sworn that they were Sutter and Eleanor. One had a long coat much like his grandfather’s, and the other, a billowing skirt like Eleanor’s. He was so taken aback by the sight that he rubbed his eyes, but when he blinked, they were gone.


    “I guess that this is a chapter in my life that’s closed now,” he mused, “if I’m leaving Sutter behind here. I did complete his work… but I still should have been able to do something...”


    The train’s whistle blared out across the station again, forcing Matt to stop gawking and get fully aboard before it pulled away. Rosalita waved after it, bidding her friends a final farewell until the day they would meet again.


    -:-


    Unbeknownst to Matt, Sheena, Rosalita or anyone else on the platform, the apparitions of Sutter and Eleanor were real. From their vantage point, Sutter watched the train to Amaranth City depart. Once it had left, he turned back to Eleanor and smiled at her, then both directed their attention to Fernando’s liberated Dusknoir, who was there with them.


    “I would say it’s about time we get on our way as well,” Matt’s grandfather declared.


    “Yes,” Eleanor agreed.


    Dusknoir grunted his assent and reached out to both Sutter and Eleanor, gripping the two phantoms in his broad, gray hands. He gradually drew the pair of spirits into his ghostly body before sinking into the earth, all in order to bring them to the other side.


    -:-


    Meanwhile, with Rosalita, Edrei and all the guards occupied elsewhere, Cassy traveled to the area of the city damaged by the clash with Regigigas at the wall. She carefully traversed the wrecked terrain, navigating over the broken chunks of stone, following something she was observing using her phone. Swellow was with her, but she was still wearing his bag herself.


    After some time exploring the area, her phone started giving off a beep, signaling to her that what she sought was nearby. She hastily followed the direction the phone indicated to her, nearly slipping once or twice on the wreckage in her rush to reach the marked spot on its screen.


    A large boulder was lying in the specified spot when she arrived, so she turned to Swellow and ordered him, “Break that with Steel Wing!”


    Swellow chirped in compliance and smashed the stone with his metallic, glittering wings, turning it to rubble. Cassy waved away the resultant dust with her hand and reached into the newly-opened hole, retrieving what awaited underneath - the Griseous Orb, left behind when Dragonite smashed Fernando’s staff aboard the skyship.


    “Finally…” Cassy said in awe, her eyes widening and the orb shining in them. She placed it down for a moment and reached into her bag, taking out a perfect duplicate of the jewel that she swapped with the real one. With that done, she tapped the screen of her phone several times and brought it to her ear. “Mercury, it’s Séduire,” she addressed the person who answered her call. “Everything worked out exactly how Finansielle told us it would. I threatened them, and they ended up inviting me right in their front door. They never suspected a thing. Yeah, I’ve got the Griseous Orb.” Pausing for a second, she slipped her bag back onto Swellow’s body. “I’m sending Swellow to you with the real thing now, while I return the fake to them. Now that we’ve got this thing, Polaris is nearly done manipulating Team Galactic, right? Good. I can’t wait to destroy Team Galactic for what they did to me.”


    With that, Cassy tapped the screen again, dismissing her call. The image of a double helix twisted into the letter ‘P’ briefly flashed on it before disappearing.






    END of CHAPTER 9
     

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