“Matt? Matt, do you have the video on?”
“Grandfather, it’s been on for the last five minutes!”
Evidently, and made especially obvious from the static and poor quality of the image, this was an old home video. Matt could be heard from behind the camera, while Sutter was in front of it being filmed. They were in what appeared to be a system of ancient tunnels and paths, walking in some tall grass.
“Okay then... Sutter Chiaki here, and today my grandson is assisting me in exploring the legendary Ruins of Alph in Johto. We’re investigating the Pokémon native to this area, as you might be quite surprised at their variety. Matt, name some that you know.”
“Well, I think Natu live in this area. I’m pretty sure Smeargle and Wooper do, and...” Just then, a flock of small, green, round-bodied Natu flew out of a tree behind Sutter and swooped down near him. “Grandfather, look out!”
Though the Natu didn’t actually hit him, Sutter was shaken by their appearance, and stumbled forward before falling onto the ground. Matt shouted in shock and dropped the camera, causing it to cut out temporarily.
When the image returned, Matt---dressed in a white lab coat with various shades of blue and mint-green pants beneath---had rushed to Sutter’s side and begun helping him up.
“Are you alright?” the concern in Matt’s voice was easily noticed.
“Oh, I’m fine. That was some swarm of Natu though!”
Back in the present day, Matt was actually sitting at a table in a small café at the train station, watching that video on his computer. At this time, they’d reached their destination, La Ciudad Dorada, in the early evening.
“Matt, stop watching that video,” Cassy hissed from where she was standing nearby, in front of a wall map. “You’ve watched it four times in the past twenty minutes, and we have to go.”
Sighing, Matt closed the computer and stood. “You’re right. I’ve just been watching it because...”
Matt trailed off. Together with Cassy, he began walking down a path away from the train station, one that was surrounded by ravaged land, land that was framed with sadly cracked and broken white fencing. It wasn’t until they had walked down the path a ways, taking note of the unfortunate look of many of the stone and clay buildings, that either spoke again.
“Well? Are you going to finish that sentence?”
“When we were talking back there. You never finished your sentence.”
“Oh, that. It’s just that I’ve never had to go on such a major expedition without him around for support before...I’m nervous.”
“Don’t be,” Cassy said reassuringly. “You need to get more confidence in yourself.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Matt snapped back, doubt clouding his mind. “You haven’t been through half of what I have.”
Turning her head away, Cassy looked back at Matt one more time through the corners of her eyes and grimaced, then continued walking.
Meanwhile, in a checkerboard-floored chamber of the palace, Count Fernando stood staring out a window over his land. Two of the guards entered, both of whom bowed carefully even though he didn’t turn around to acknowledge them.
“Count Fernando,” one said slowly, “your expected guests just arrived at the rail depot.”
“They’re heading for the palace now.”
“I know, my adorable guards, I know...” the Count murmured. “You are both doing a good job at your positions. Certainly much more than I’d expect out of most women. Please return to your posts.”
“Right away!” both guards shrilled before turning and leaving.
Once he was alone again, Fernando took a step closer to the window and looked downwards toward a ravaged garden in front of the palace. A number of pillars had cracked and fallen over in it, and its earth, like everywhere else in the kingdom, looked burnt beyond belief.
“Sad, so sad... such a sad sight. I truly believe this will be resolved, but first... ahahaha...”
Down in the garden, some of the terrain began to quake and crack, as if something were emerging from it.
As Matt and Cassy took their steps up to the grand palace, two of the young guards stepped in to impede their path.
"Not just everyone gets in here," one of them droned in a thoughtless voice.
"Do you have invitations?" the second demanded.
Matt fumbled for his bag. "Actually, we do. A gentleman named Count Fernando sent us a letter requesting that we---"
Suddenly, an explosion from somewhere not far away shook the ground. Both Matt and Cassy spun around in shock, only to see a large fire burning a short distance from the castle.
"The garden!" screamed the first guard. "That fire's in the garden!"
"After the drought?! We have to alert the count at once!"
With that, both guards turned and ran through the front gates and inside the palace. Left with no other choice, Matt and Cassy went the other way and headed towards the fire in the garden.
When they got there, a terrible scene was unfolding. With no good coming from the obviously dry and dead grass surrounding the paths and stone pillars, a raging fire burned, frightening away all the Pokémon, among them some Buizel, Kricketot, Combee, Yanmega and Nosepass.
"Look at this! We have to do something..." Reaching for her Poké Balls, Cassy chose one and threw it upward. "Wave Rider, Hydro Pump!"
Bursting from the light of the open ball came the streamlined, bullet-shaped body of a Sharpedo. It immediately opened its mighty mouth and loosed a flood of water onto the flames, yet, only a tiny bit of the fire actually seemed subdued by it.
Seeing this wasn't helping, Matt decided to add his own effort, and threw a ball of his own. "Harvey, make your mark!"
An oozing, slimy Muk emerged from the Poké Ball. It stretched its body, preparing to take any impending order.
"Stop! Help me! Just get me out of here, someone!"
Matt froze, then gasped as he looked closer into the flames. "Cassy... someone's trapped!"
Indeed, on closer inspection, a light-blue pigtailed girl with a big pink hair bow stood at the center of the blaze, cringing as the flames lapped dangerously close to her ruffled green, floral-patterned dress. A Teddiursa was clinging to her leg in fear.
"What should we do, Matt? We can't get her out of there..."
Coming in from the bushes, a young blue-haired man wearing dark black sunglasses stepped in front of Matt and Cassy. He was also wearing a black coat with the neck lined with fur, purple pants, and black shoes. On his right arm was a red device shaped in an elongated oval, bearing a top-like object at the tip near his hand---a Fine Styler. At his heels was a Riolu.
"A Pokémon Ranger?" Matt and Cassy both said at once.
Without a word the Ranger opened the monitor screen on his Styler and quickly became interested in the three Buizel nearby.
"Buizel, help me save your home. Capture on!"
The top launched out of the Fine Styler, and soon it began circling the Buizel at a high rate of speed.
As the Ranger spun his arm in circles, the circles around the Buizel became more solid, and soon, they absorbed into the bodies of the three Water types.
"Capture complete! Now Buizel, all of you use Water Gun!"
Following what they had been told to do, the Buizel all spat streams of rapidly-flowing water on different parts of the fire. Unlike the single attack used earlier, this technique proved effective. The fire faded, and soon enough was gone, much to the girl's visible relief.
"T-thank you..." the shaken young woman said gratefully. "Thank you...um..."
"Ross. Top Ranger Ross, the pride of Almia. Just doing my job, even though I'm on vacation." Finishing with the girl, Ross turned to Matt and Cassy. "You two shouldn't have gotten involved in this. Only Rangers get the training necessary to deal with these dangerous situations."
"We were here first!" Cassy screeched.
"It doesn't matter who was here first!" interjected the girl. "You two tried to help me too... so thanks. My name's Eleanor, Eleanor Laplace of the Laplace Doll Shop in Auraline City. I'm on vacation too, I guess. And you are?"
"Matt Chiaki's the name. This is my friend Cassy Natsuka."
"Those are nice names... and you're kinda cute." Matt clearly was taken by surprise by this. "Oh, don't mind me."
From behind, the sound of clapping alerted them all to another presence, which was that of Fernando himself. A pleased yet amused look was on his face as he stepped up to the group.
"Thank you! Thank you very, very much, all of you. My guards alerted me to this fire but I couldn't make it in time. Thank you for taking care of it."
"Guards?" Cassy remarked, puzzled. "If you have guards, does that mean you are...?"
"Aha! Yes, my fine young example of a woman..."
"Don't call me that, you lech."
"...AHAHAHAHA!!! Oh, what a fiery spirit! But I digress. My name is Fernando, the Eighth Count of La Ciudad Dorada. You may call me Count Fernando."
"Fernando," inquired Ross, "can you give us any insight into the cause of this calamity?"
"Oh, can I ever. Heatran..."
"Heatran?!" gasped the entire group other than Eleanor, before Matt spoke up, "The legendary deity of fire, Heatran? It appeared here?!"
"There have been a number of sightings of Heatran in the kingdom recently, from around the time this dreadful drought occurred. Ahahaha, but this is not the place for such talk. Let's go back to my palace."
Unlike the garden and clay paths of the city, which were drenched in horrid heat, the inner hall of the palace---tiled neatly in a black and white checkboard patterned floor, orange brick forming the walls, which were lined with silver shields in the shape of Bronzor---was very cool and comfortable. A number of blue tapestries hung down from the high ceilings, and multiple paths split from the main hall just a short distance in. Fernando led his followers to the nexus of the paths before stopping and turning to face them. He immediately zeroed in on the worry plastered on Eleanor’s face.
“Oh? What’s wrong, my lovely little piece of lolita fluff?”
“Don’t speak to me in such a way, you! Especially...not now! Just...not now...”
Fernando stepped back. “Mmm...alright, I apologize. What is bothering you?”
“I...I was right there.” Eleanor’s voice was quaking. “I was walking in the garden with my Teddiursa, and...Heatran just burst out of the ground and started burning things! It was terrifying!”
“Mmm. I can see you’re shaken.” Turning, Fernando directed his guests’ attention to a hallway to the right. “I’ll get a larger account a little later. For now, let me escort you to the museum portion of this palace. There, I’ll show you about the history of my kingdom. Is that acceptable?”
“I think so,” Matt said, nodding. “Let’s hear what this is all about.”
The heavy wood door, marked on both sides with a brass plate reading “MUSEUM,” creaked weakly as Fernando pushed it open in order to allow his guests inside. Though the blue stone walls emenated coldness, the fact that they were lined with things like red tapestries, silver shields and numerous paintings allowed Matt and the others to ignore that fact.
“Impressed?” the young count said boastfully. “This area highlights our rich history. It’s everything you could possibly want to know about my kingdom.”
“Well I bet there’s stuff my grandfather told me that isn’t here.”
Fernando turned, a sort of irritated rage on his face. “Don’t be a smart guy with me. The old man and this place were tied together without fail, and from the impression I’ve got of you, you’re just an annoyance compared to his genius!”
Matt, Cassy and Eleanor all recoiled at this sudden outburst, but it was the latter who actually spoke up. “What was that for? Absolutely rude!”
“Mmm...you’re right, forgive me. I’m a little...touchy...about that kind of thing. Sorry.”
While all three others rolled their eyes, Ross had approached an imposing statue of an especially tall man. Whoever it was, the figure was wearing a mask with a cross cut out of the face, revealing two narrow eyes, a nose and part of a mouth. Long hair draped around the mask and the figure was caped and holding a spear. Standing next to the statue was another statue, this of the dinosaur-like Pokémon Rampardos.
“Who is this?” questioned the Ranger.
“That is a very important figure in our history, Ross. He is a knight who lived around five hundred years ago and is said to have been one of the last living people to have seen the Golden City. People called him the ‘Azure Angel’ in his time, as you can see.”
Matt’s eyes widened as he approached with Eleanor and Cassy. “The Azure Angel... that is the knight in the story my grandfather told me as a boy, but I didn’t know what he looked like before.”
“Matt...” Cassy said quietly, “why do I get the feeling I’ve seen this guy before?”
“You know, on second thought he does look familiar. I think we’ve met someone who looks like him.”
“That’s impossible!” Fernando snapped haughtily. “This man died centuries ago. Anyone you saw who resembled him was just an imitator. Let’s move on.”
Matt shrugged, and with the others, followed Fernando to another display, a row of golden statues of men. Though stands and display panels were set up for seven, the first and seventh had no statues.
“What’s up with this?” Eleanor inquired. “Why are some of the statues missing?”
“If you’d let me explain...” hissed Fernando, momentarily losing his composure again, “this section is dedicated to the kings of La Ciudad Dorada. Many of our kings have been blessed with unusually long lives, so that’s why there have been a total of only seven to the present day. When a king does pass on, we encase their body in gold and set it up as a display to memorialize them.”
“Like mummies...” Matt said in wonder. “So I guess this first space would be for Fernando I? Why isn’t he here?”
“Read the panel.”
Figuring Fernando was going to force him if he didn’t, Matt approached the panel next to the empty space and began reading it aloud.
“King Fernando I. Said to have lived 1422-1508. Fernando I was the only king to have actually ruled over the Golden City of La Ciudad Dorada, and it is said his body disappeared with his kingdom. Revered as the founder and first leader of the city.
...That’s it? The details are rather sparse.”
“Well, what do you expect? We couldn’t exactly get perfect information, everything recorded about that part of history went away with the Golden City!”
“That’s true,” Cassy concurred. “Let’s see the next one.”
The next statue was that of a gaunt man holding a scepter, a figure that didn’t cut the kind of appearance one would think of a king. Matt thought about saying that, but then realized Fernando would probably snap again if he did, and just went about reading the tablet instead.
“King Fernando II. Lived from 1497-1689. The son of the great King Fernando I, and one of the only known survivors of the Golden City. Fernando II was the founder of what became the modern-day La Ciudad Dorada. He ruled with an iron fist but meant well for his people, believing that it was necessary for their well-being.”
“That’s interesting,” uttered Eleanor. “Who’s next?”
Next in line, there was a statue of an obviously very old, elderly man, whose face was completely sunken in and droopy, with sunken eyebrows over his eyes to match. His attire was unremarkable, except for a cape.
“Let’s see this one...
King Fernando III, known as the Forever King. Lived from 1619-1851. Fernando III was the longest reigning and longest living of all the kings of House Fernando. After taking over following his father’s death, Fernando III implemented a more open society than that of his predecessor, bringing freer will and life to the kingdom.”
“Besides Fernando I,” the count said proudly, “I’m most prideful of him. Fernando III was a truly great man and did many good things for us.”
“I can imagine,” Ross replied. “He does sound like a good ruler.”
Matt had already moved on to the next statue---which surprisingly was a man much, much younger looking than the three before him.
“King Fernando IV, the Boy King. Lived from 1840-1910. The youngest king and the one with the shortest life. Fernando IV, owing to his age, did not accomplish many new feats, instead continuing the successful path of his father.”
Before anyone else could say anything, Matt had already looked at the next statue---a bearded man with long hair---and rushed over to it with a sense of familiarity. This visually annoyed Count Fernando but he remained silent.
“I know this one! My grandfather worked with him!
King Fernando V. Lived from 1888-1995. While continuing on the path set by his father and grandfather, Fernando V spurred into action an investigation into the history of the Golden City. Along with the archeologist Sutter Chiaki, Fernando V made much headway into revealing the truth about La Ciudad Dorada’s past.”
“Yes, that is true. I met your grandfather when he was alive and working with my grandfather on this project. For all his faults, he was a very smart archeologist.”
“Faults?” Matt snapped. “I’m so sick of hearing about his supposed faults! Back off!”
“Sensitive much? I mean, fifty years searching for something most consider a fairy tale. Seriously. But fine, if you want to move on to the next one...”
Again rolling his eyes, but saying no more, Matt moved to the final statue in the row. This one greatly resembled the count standing next to him.
“King Fernando VI. Lived from 1910-2006. Like his father, Fernando VI sought to find the Golden City and restore the lost history of La Ciudad Dorada. Also along with Fernando V, Fernando VI is remembered as a kindhearted and gentle king.
...That’s nice and all, but why is Fernando VII’s booth empty?”
Count Fernando shut his eyes. “Nobody knows where he is or what happened to him. He merely vanished one day last year along with my mother, Queen Cassandra. No body has ever been recovered and it is not known if he still lives. That’s why I can’t claim the throne. I’m just ruling in place of my father until I can take my rightful place as King Fernando VIII.”
“Isn’t it strange though?” Eleanor commented. “Look at all the strange things that have happened in relation to this place in the past two years. First Sutter was murdered, then the king and queen vanished, and now the appearance of Heatran with this drought. I think something more is going on here.”
Matt nodded in agreement, saying quietly, “I think you might be right. It’s getting a little late, so tomorrow I’d like to have another look at that garden where you saw Heatran. I think there may be some answers there.”
“Aha! Very well then!” boomed Count Fernando. “Do allow me to show you to your accomodations for the night.”
In a rather hasty fashion, Fernando ushered his guests out of the museum hall, back into the main area of the palace.
Some time later that night, much later, a shady figure was moving about inside a chamber of the palace that, with the equipment present---several ornate globes, multiple maps and star charts, and a telescope---greatly looked like an observatory. Eventually, the man approached the window, and the moonlight revealed his appearance---rags covering his face, a yellow top hat, and gray clothing giving him the general appearance of the ghost Pokémon Dusknoir.
Before he spoke, he peered through the telescope. “Ah, La Ciudad Dorada. Soon, soon you will fall under my rule. All that is left is to discover the secret of the Golden City and capture its lord, then I will have my wish...”
“That is my wish as well, Dominar...” said a deep voice from the nearby darkness. Glowing yellow lines in the shadows revealed the presence of an actual Dusknoir, which resembled a round-bodied magic genie with one red eye in a mouth-like opening on its head, while its body had jagged yellow marks across it.
“Yes, Dusknoir,” the man said to his Pokémon, turning from the window. “Our plan is nearing its climax. We now only need to manipulate the Chiaki boy into doing the dirty work of deciphering where the Golden City is and how to enter it. From what I understand, tomorrow he is going to investigate today’s sighting of Heatran in the garden. I plan to free the Hippowdon to test him.”
“A wise choice...”
“Ugh... what... oh geez, why is it so hot in here?!”
Sitting up in his plainly-sheeted bed with a start, Matt looked around the equally plain lodging room to see his companions all standing by a nearby open window, desperately trying to cool off.
“Guess the heat finally woke you up, eh?” Ross said, rather jovially. “Can’t explain what’s with this sudden heat wave, but I guess it’s to be expected when there’s a drought.”
“You’re right. Still though, it’s way too hot for me to be wearing my school uniform. Good thing I brought my old expedition clothes from the old days.”
Matt headed into a side room through a curtain. While he was in that room, the others continued staring out the window.
“This place is so beautiful, yet it’s so sad...” Cassy stated softly. “I think it’s good, though, that there’s someone who cares about it as much as Count Fernando does. Once he becomes king, hopefully things will turn around.”
“I don’t know about that...”
While Cassy was talking, Matt had returned from the side room, now dressed in his blue and green expedition clothes and wearing a black backpack instead of his computer bag, one that had gray egg-shaped devices with red buttons on both straps. Just then, the sound of bells ringing sounded through the air outside, coming through the window.
“The problems here are too great to be solved by any one person,” he continued, “and I think even Count Fernando knows that. He contacted us because outside of anyone living here, we probably know the most about this place through the fifty years my grandfather spent studying it.” Matt then turned towards the door. “Come on, let’s get on the move. I’ve got my palm computer all set up, so I don’t need that big laptop. It’ll just get in the way during fieldwork.”
In response to this, Cassy gave a nervous smile, not doing well at masking her embarassment. “I think Sutter trained you too well. You’re always in research mode...”
Matt gave a similar smile back, however his was simple amusement. “You’re probably right, but it’s good to always be ready for anythi---“
It was a good thing that Matt was about to say ‘ready for anything,’ as a great banging on the door came through the air, followed by the panicked voice of one of the palace’s guards.
“Matt Chiaki! Cassy Natsuka! Eleanor Laplace! Ross...um, whatever your last name is! Count Fernando needs to see you now! There’s an emergency!”
“What’s the emergency?” Eleanor asked, becoming slightly alarmed.
“Look! Out in the garden!” shouted Ross, pointing out the window. This prompted the others to rush alongside him. “Look out there! Is that a sandstorm?”
The Ranger’s vision wasn’t fooling him---there did indeed appear to be a swirling cloud of sand down in the gardens outside the palace, where Matt and Cassy had found Eleanor the day prior.
“Hm? What’s that?” Seeing something within the sandstorm, Matt pressed the button on his right backpack strap, bringing a robotic arm out of the bag that held a viewing lens up to his face. He then pressed a button on the lens several times to adjust the view, then gasped. “I can see something inside that mass of sand. It looks like a bunch of wild Hippowdon!”
“That would make sense,” Ross concurred. “Their ability, Sand Stream, is causing the sandstorms... I’d assume this is the emergency Fernando wanted to tell us about.”
“You’re damn straight it is!” Not a soul in the room didn’t know that the voice now booming through the door was Count Fernando’s. “I need you guys down there right away! You’re probably the best battlers in the kingdom right now, and those Hippowdon need to be quieted down!”
“Alright!” Matt shouted back. “Come on, guys, he’s not gonna leave us alone until we do something about this. Let’s get moving.”
Minutes later the group of four had left the palace and were running into the garden, towards the sandstorm, and oddly enough, Fernando hadn’t followed.
“This isn’t gonna be easy,” Matt observed. “Cassy, you’re gonna have to help me with this, and Eleanor, I don’t know what kind of Pokémon you have, but I’ll need your help too.”
Both young women nodded briskly and readied one Poké Ball each.
“Sand gets washed away by water, so go Wave Rider!”
“And Ground-types hate ice. Jynx, I’m sending you out!”
Wave Rider emerged once more from Cassy’s ball, while a humanoid, purple-faced Jynx burst from Eleanor’s. Side by side, they stood ready to face the Hippowdon onslaught.
“As for me....” Matt pressed the left-strap button, bringing out of his bag a robotic arm holding a palm computer that unfolded at its bottom half to reveal a keyboard, then drew out two of his own Poké Balls and threw them. “Zero and Clay, make your mark!”
Matt’s Magnezone, a UFO-like silver iron creature named Zero, and Clay, his dark brown and black ancient clay doll Pokémon, a Claydol, sporting red eyes around its head.
“I think the best solution would be to get rid of this sandstorm first. Clay, use Rain Dance!”
Clay’s two bulbous arms began to glow blue at their tips, as did its eyes. Soon, a blue beam of light shot out of the point on its head into the sky, creating dark clouds that quickly began to drop rain. This rain, in turn, washed away the sandstorm and exposed the three Hippowdon, which all had strangely vacant looks in their eyes.
Even as such, one of the Hippowdon immediately turned to face its enemies and opened its mouth wide with a mighty roar, making spears of dirt burst out of the ground heading in Zero’s direction.
“That’s Earth Power!” Eleanor shouted. “Zero’s going to get hit hard!”
“I don’t think so,” was Matt’s calm reply. “Zero, Magnet Rise!”
Before the Hippowdon’s Earth Power attack could hit its target, Zero formed beneath itself a field of electromagnetic energy, rising several more feet upward. Not only that, the energy field deflected the Earth Power blasts when they entered it, rendering them all useless.
“Wave Rider, attack them with---“
“Stop!” Ross cried out, frantically looking up and down from his Styler’s monitor screen. “Don’t attack!”
“What?” answered Cassy in hesitation.
“Something’s wrong with these Hippowdon. It looks like they’re under some kind of mind control. If you can defeat them, it’ll be useless still if I can’t capture them...”
“That glow in their eyes? That’s got to be it.” Dubious, worrying thoughts entered Matt’s mind about the situation, but beyond dampening his expression a bit, he pushed them back. “Then there’s only one thing we can do. Clay, Ice Beam, now!”
“Wave Rider, Hydro Pump!”
“Use Ice Beam too, Jynx!”
While Clay formed a sphere of ice in front of itself using energy from its arms, Eleanor’s Jynx formed a similar sphere in between its hands, which it was holding over its head. Simulatenously, beams of ice shot out from these spheres, at the same time as Wave Rider releasing a jet of pressurized water from its mouth.
Together, these three attacks buffeted the Hippowdon; the combined force of the two Ice Beams was enough to fell one of them, while the Hydro Pump significantly weakened another.
“Buizel, hurry and use Aqua Jet!”
While the others had been fighting, Ross had gone off and captured a pair of Buizel, which he now had under his control. The two Buizel both sprang at the pair of still-standing Hippowdon, propelling themselves with their spinning tails and surrounding themselves in water. Each one inflicted a hit that, while not causing much visible damage, stunned both of the Ground types.
“Now, capture on! Batonnage!”
Ross pointed his arm at the fallen Hippowdon and activated his Styler. The Capture Disc shot out of it and began spinning around its target as Ross spun his arm in wide circles, forming a boundary of energy and finally taking hold on the Hippowdon.
“Capture complete! That’s one down, get the others!”
“Alright.” Turning back to the battle, Matt raised his arm to give his next command. “Flash Cannon, Zero!”
Using its centrally-located, red eye to aim, Zero locked on to the Hippowdon farthest from Matt and quickly fired out a glowing silver blast, which the Hippowdon attempted to counterattack with a failed attempt at using Hyper Beam that simply exploded in its face upon being struck by Flash Cannon.
Turning to Eleanor, Cassy then said with a trace of urgency, “If we want to finish this quickly, we’ll have to work together. There’s no other way.”
“You’re right,” the other girl replied, nodding. “So let’s do just that.”
However, while Cassy and Eleanor plotted their strategy, the other two Hippowdon had recovered, and both let loose their Earth Power attacks at Wave Rider, the combined force battering down and crushing the shark.
“W-Wave Rider! Matt, get those ugly things back for doing that!”
“Allow me!” Eleanor burst out confidently, stepping in front of Cassy---but not noticing her scowl upon this event. “Jynx, attack with Blizzard! Hit them both!”
“And you use Earthquake, Clay!” Matt added.
Beginning the offensive, Jynx extended both of its open hands in the direction of the Hippowdon; gusts of icy wind immediately blasted out of them to buffet the two Ground-types. Not only was this quite effective in stunning them, it caused enough damage to actually frost their shell-like backs.
Clay followed this by floating upwards about a foot then slamming its entire weight forcefully downward into the ground, creating a shock wave. While it did impact Jynx, the force on the already-significantly-weakened Hippowdon was enough to fell them both.
“Good going, you guys. Capture on! Batonnage!”
Ross took full charge of the situation once both Hippowdon were down, launching his Capture Disc at them both, and only a few quick loops later, he had captured them.
“Capture complete! I think we’re done here.”
Taking a step back and looking around, Matt gasped as he took in just what had happened. “Look what those Hippowdon did to this garden...”
Indeed, the garden lay in ruins. What appeared to have once been pools of water were now drained and largely refilled with sand, and the stone pillars around the pools were cracked. Not only that, sand filled the cracks of the stone plates that formed paths, at least where there wasn’t completely dry and dead soil.
“It’s a shame.” All four jumped, only to find Fernando behind them. “This place used to be so lovely, but look at it now! Look, it doesn’t fit the beauty of my kingdom at all!”
“No offense,” Eleanor deadpanned, “but it isn’t exactly beautiful right now.”
An absolute mistake. Instantly, Fernando exploded. “Shut up, you short-sighted *****! It’s no good to see the kingdom now, if you had actually been here before this drought you’d have to eat your words!”
“Well I never! Such ill manner for a supposed member of royalty. Where I come from, I would treat your type as a servant!”
“Um, guys, cool it long enough to have a look at this...” As Eleanor and Fernando had been going at it, Matt had approached one of the destroyed columns. Inside one of the cracks in the column appeared to be some sort of stone tablet. “Look at this. I think those Hippowdon did us a favor.”
“What is that?” Ross had approached and was now peering into the crack.
“It looks like...” Reserving comment, Matt carefully removed the object from the crack in the pillar. “...some kind of tablet. Who would have thought these things were hidden in pillars?”
Fernando took a step forward. “And look at the writing on it.” It was true that the tablet was covered in markings, but they were blurred and and difficult to make out. “You studied under the great Sutter, so shouldn’t you be able to read that?”
“I don’t know. I’ve definitely seen these before but their meaning isn’t coming to me right away...”
“Come on!” Once again the count was becoming angered. “With all your studies, everything you’ve learned, you’re telling me that you can’t read that and tell me where the next one is?!”
Matt shrunk back, fear visibly reaching his face. “Just...um.... look, he didn’t teach me everything... but I’m trying...” And with that, Matt broke down in tears.
“Matt!” Immediately, Eleanor rushed to him and embraced him. “Calm down, it’s okay...”
“What a whiner. He needs to toughen... no, he needs to grow up.”
Cassy, however, ignored Fernando’s snide remark and concentrated on something else. “You said you wanted Matt to tell you where the next ‘one’ was? What’s this ‘one?’”
“Oh, uh, nothing. I just think there might be more of those tablets, that’s all.”
“That’s...that’s fair...” Matt had recovered a bit and now could speak again as he regained his composure. “I just need to... have a look at it. I should be able to decipher it without too much difficulty.”
“Good. Perhaps there may be a book in the palace’s library that can help you. I’m heading back, meet me there. The guards will direct you.”
Fernando turned, maintaining his haughty air, and began walking back towards the palace. Matt followed with the tablet tucked under his right arm, while Cassy, Eleanor and Ross were behind him.
Some time later, in a mysterious, unseen temple, the man in the yellow top hat and his Dusknoir stood before a strange machine. This machine appeared to be some kind of computer, but on its top was a gyroscope with a craggy red rock in its center.
“The Hippowdon experiment was a failure,” the man stated evenly. “It would appear that the Ranger’s Capture Styler is enough to counteract this machine’s influence. However, the machine still can control Pokémon, and as long as I have the Magma Stone, Heatran is under my command.”
“Excellent, Dominar. By my judgment, the birth of our era is nigh. It will not be long now before those children lead us to the Golden City and its promise of unlimited power.”
“Indeed, my faithful servant. We have manipulated everyone perfectly. Things are quickly falling into place... ahaha! Ahahaha!! AHAHAHAHAHA!!!!”
The man continued to laugh maniacally as the sound of bells ringing filled the chamber.
END of CHAPTER 1