Prelude Chapter 1: The Alpha Area
“The Ancient Shoji Empire, mentioned in many legends, officially began when the Emperor Shoji Hiruyi was crowned a week after the Battle of the Maiden’s Pass; circa the year 239 of the traditional calendar. The creation of such Empire implied the unification of the Doman tribes against the Kami, their common enemy: the creatures we now call *Pokémon*. It was not a peaceful age; many conflicts inside the Doman weakened the fight against the monsters. Today, we treat Pokémon as our friends and loyal companions, but it wasn’t always that way. Some Pokémon still retain their harmful nature even after being captured by a trainer. We still have no evidence on how this war was put to an end; some archeologists theorize that the invention of the Kagori, the predecessor of the modern pokeball, domesticated the monsters. Others proclaim that a divine being calmed the tides of war by magically taming the so called Kami army in the Battle of the Maiden’s Pass. We can only hope that the excavation of the Alpha Area, supposedly connected with the Houri Castle, will provide more clues about our civilization’s past. Thank you.”
With that, Charles Lockworth, famed scholar and renowned authority on history lore, abandoned the dull press conference salon with a glitter of hope in his sapphire eyes. After a year of political turbulence (and many sacrifices from his pocket) he had finally obtained the permission to remove the soil that covered the Alpha Area.
It would be a long, tedious task; the area had been recently discovered by a local farmer when he was preparing the earth for planting. It happened when his hoe hit the tip of a metallic object, which turned out to be a katana engraved with an alpha symbol.
The small Goldenslab farming village, south of Goldenrod and famous for nothing, suddenly became a place bursting with activity from tourists, scholars, and curious archeologists who wished to study the locality even further.
From the factions interested in acquiring the permission from the government to make further investigations, the Sapient Guild, lead by Lockworth himself, was elected.
“Nitwits,” mumbled Lockworth to no one in particular, hastily boarding the gray Jeep that would take him to the excavation site.
Steward, his driver, raised an eyebrow and prepared himself for the upcoming rant, trying to distract himself in the young ladies that passed by in Goldenrod’s streets.
“First they opposed the purchase of the lands of the farmers, demanding a rightful payment for their lands after we offered a million zenny for those unproductive, anhydrous acres. And now they are expecting us to discover an entire buried city! Can you believe that, Stu?” He continued, impervious to Steward’s apathy on the topic, who simply nodded with a sham semblance of paying attention to the old man’s quarrel.
They left the metropolis a few minutes later into the highway; the sun delicately situated the last strings of golden light in such a way that the dirt road that lead to the archeological base resembled a reddish clay trail.
Steward made a full stop to give all the wheels the traction required in the unpredictable road designed by farmers. He’d been advised to avoid the mud traps that occasionally sprouted after a small monticule of earth, lest he wanted to waste precious time getting the Jeep out of it. All of sudden, a strange sound made its way through the entangled mixture of noises from the car; forcing the puzzled driver to bring the vehicle to a second stop, only to realize that the source of the disturbance was Lockworth, who had fell into a deep sleep and was now snoring loudly with a grin on his face. Steward sighed in relief, and guided the Jeep towards the HQ in the Goldenslab village.
The Sapient Guild couldn’t have asked for better weather during the first week of excavation; a southern autumnal breeze gently caressed the marshmallow plantations, which were slowly but firmly removed from the place that had been their habitat for over a hundred years.
Gregory Lumpkin, Lockworth’s best friend and Guild’s vice-leader, strolled with his hands behind his back between what had once been the main (and only) street of Goldenslab.
The few wooden shacks that had once provided shelter to generations of farmers had been transported, furniture included, to the nearby community of Goldenstick: a growing association of celery and parsley growers. The only witnesses that humans had once lived in the surroundings were the geometrical figures of dead vegetation the house had tattooed into the earth.
Gregory stopped at each empty square, sniffed the air as if there were something that spiced the scents that surrounded him. Sometimes he would smile, and move on to the next square; sometimes he would stay still, his eyes closed, flying in the imaginary heaven that existed only in his memory.
He finally arrived at the last terrain, which used to belong to the city mayor, and was obviously bigger than the others. There was a small garden in the midst of all the dead soil, which meant that the house had had an interior garden, an ancient tradition of the Goldenrod region. Irises and poppies decorated the outline of a petite pond, valiantly opposing the dull neighborhood that had surged around them.
Walking laggardly, Gregory approached the pond evading the flowers, just enough to see his own reflection in the crystalline water.
The old man in the water smiled, gently curling the silver beard that graciously fell over his emerald robes. A pair of small, round eyes observed him with detail behind a pair of black-rim round glasses. A hooked nose stood in the middle of the wrinkled face, easily confusable with an old oak’s trunk, if it not were for the pale skin that formed hills and valleys.
“Some people say crinkles appear each time that you reach expertise in certain knowledge, Greg.” Said Lockworth from behind, a malevolent grin drawn on his lips.
Lumpkin was startled by Lockworth’s annoying habit of interrupting him in his precious meditation moments.
“If that were the case, you would posses no mastery of anything, and I’d be the ultimate authority on scholarship.” He replied, pacing slowly towards his old mate, who had no visible signs of getting older besides the two thin lines of white hair that were his eyebrows.
“Is there something you wanted to tell me, Charles? I don’t see a good reason for your presence in here, unless you’ve been following me only for that foul surprise you gave me.” He asked, fixing his gaze on the sky blue eyes that stared back at him.
Lockworth’s eyes sparkled just as his bald head shined with the morning sun; a sign that he was thinking in something exciting was being processed in his head.
“Indeed. We are ready to open the first gate.” He declared solemnly.
As the excavation progressed, four gates were discovered, each one engraved with an image of a Pokémon. The Guild had decided to completely uncover the gate with a Scyther on the front first.
Joyfully, Greg recited a fragment of the Guild’s Hymn as he walked to the base.
“Fantastic. Let’s not waste any time, my friend, for mystery leads to curiosity, curiosity leads to learning, and learning leads to knowledge
Using advanced technology, the Guild had scanned the earth under the farms nearby, finding a complex of four symmetrical buildings hidden deep beneath the marshmallow fields. With the help of Sandslashes and Dugtrios, dirt had been placed in a ring around the four buildings, creating a crater-like structure.
In the center of the crater, identical wooden gates around 10 ft. tall faced each other in with milimetrical precision. The dirt around the Scyther gate had been carefully removed, revealing a dome made of clay and stone.
The Gate had no handles, and further scans determined there was nothing that impeded its opening. But the Guild Protocol stated that no one could enter a cave, tomb or ruin without completing a series of safety measures, such as removing all the earth around the area to prevent unfortunate collapses.
“Marvelous, isn’t it? Take a look at the engraving; the Scyther was first sculpted in the wood, and then filled with some sort of colored sand.” Said Charles, tracing the outlines of the drawing with his wooden staff. The Scyther was facing west, both arms raised, an expression of fury in its red eyes.
All the Guild members had gathered for the occasion. They recited the Hymn completely as some sort of private costume before entering a new area.
After a moment of silent anticipation, Lockworth gave the signal for opening the gate.
A pair of Machamps stepped forward, and opened the gate under a rain of sand and dust.
The morning sun explored the cold interior of what at first seemed a welcoming hall; dimly illuminating two rows of golden torches that outlined a lineal, dusty, carpet from the gate to a distant door. A pair of isomeric walls shaped an isosceles triangle with the gate. The dome was apparently built over Shoji sand, a special sort that isn’t good absorbing the heath.
Following the protocol, a spherical light bulb, powered up by an Electabuzz, was lit in the center of the hall.
The whole Guild gasped at the unison; the walls were engraved with hundredths of figures representing warriors. Against them, different Pokémon were engaged in what seemed a brutal massacre; bodies of humans and Pokémon alike lied dead at the base of the walls.
“Eureka,” exclaimed Lockworth, using one of his cliché expressions. “It’s the Battle of the Maiden Pass!”
“Astounding! Look at that! It’s the Shogun Division!” said Lumpkin, pointing at a squadron of small figurines attacking something that resembled a Tyranitar with tetsubos.
“Look at the ceiling! The flying Kami!” blurted Agatha Christie, a well-known researcher in the lore of Shuge (The Pokémon-cult religion of the ancient empire) and famed Pokémon Trainer.
The dome’s upper surface depicted the 3 legendary birds; Furiza, Sanda & Faiya, flying around what seemed to be a raging Rugia.
“This means… the Kami fought beside the humans?” Agatha mumbled, barely resisting the urge to pass out, since her theory of the Kagori was not compatible with the painting.
“It seems… our concept of the history is about to change dramatically, whether we like it, or not.” Punctualized Lockworth, gently patting Agatha’s back as a sign of compression.
All of sudden, a faint sound broke the silence that reigned in the dome, followed by a long yelp of pain.
“Ouch, I think I twisted my ankle…” Lumpkin’s voice echoed in a far corner of the dome, face down on the sand
Lockworth approached with quick soft towards his friend at the same time he ordered one of the Electabuzz to illuminate Lumpkin with a portable light bulb.
Lockworth extended his hand to Lumpkin, who politely turned it down.
“Now now, Gregory, since I’m already down here I’ll find what made me trip. Why don’t you give me instead a hand removing this sand over here…?” he said, and began moving aside the sand where his left foot was stuck.
Soon, a circular depression was discovered, and when Lumpkin took off his foot from it, Lockworth gasped loudly, and hastily covered his mouth with his right hand, as someone who says something bad and immediately regrets doing so.
“What is it, Charles?” Lumpkin asked, staring at Lockworth with a piercing gaze.
Lockworth slowly lowered his hand, taking a deep breath before answering.
“I… I thought I had already seen the engravings in that hole… but it was just my imagination” he said, making the sound of the “s” longer than usual.
Lumpkin raised his left eyebrow as sign of disbelief, but didn’t press the subject any further. Using what knowledge he possessed of ancient scripts, he slowly muttered the translation for the engraving:
“The time… key… opens the path… to knowledge… but… how can a key open a hole in the ground? Ever heard of these types of keys, Agatha?”
“I’m afraid not, Gregory, but there might be something underneath this sand” she replied, still contemplating the painting on the ceiling.
“Good idea, Agatha. I’ll ask the Venonat team to scan the floor for hidden rooms. Let’s proceed to the next phase, shan’t we?” He said, once again with his characteristic coolness.
Everyone in the guild agreed, and exited the dome, still fascinated with the findings.
Later that day, the Eternal Team of the Sapient Guild, which consisted in five specially-trained archeologist apprentices, identified, photographed and labeled every object within the dome.
It was finally the turn for the Venonat to do their job; three of them were sent inside and asked to report any secret rooms. None was found.
A dark, cloaked figure walked in the desert with quick, hasty steps. The starry sky hosted a new moon, and the soft sand cloaked the sound of the shoes stepping hastily towards the Scyther dome. “Unseen and unheard”, thought the figure, as it hopped over the small fence that protected the area from small critters.
Normally, a group of night watchers would patrol the area as a security measure against tomb robbers, but since nothing valuable had been discovered, no soul was awake. Or at least, that’s what the figure assumed.
Once it reached the dome’s entrance, the figure extended a hand from underneath the black robe, decorated by a small emerald engraved on a yellow ring.
It opened without much effort, and the figure gasped with surprise: The torches had been lit in the corridor, and they glittered as if they were expecting him.
He quickly closed the door again, not wanting to alert everyone in the camp that the corridor had been turned into a discothèque.
Once inside, the figure lowered his hood, revealing a beautiful girl around her twenties. Her tanned skin matched the color of the sand, and her short hair hung in little braids with small pearl-like objects attached.
Her face was round and thin; her right cheek had a line of red flesh right under her right eye, giving her perfect face a touch of raw realism.
She advanced over the old carpet, trying not to balance the weight in her steps as to avoid imprinting footprints on the sand below. The door that delimited the ante-corridor let out a petite ray of scarlet light; which flickered playfully in the corridor’s wall.
The girl, acknowledging the presence of someone inside, crouched to avoid giving much visual attention, and slowly peeked inside the main hall.
A man in the hall’s interior was pacing through the room with what seemed to be a brush on his right hand, and a torch in his left. Now and then, he would sweep harshly the sand around his feet, and would give a grunt of disgust before moving on to another part.
His bald head reflected the torch’s light, and the area around his chemise’s armpit was completely soaked.
After a minute of this routine, a triumphant smile drew on his face: Some kind of circular depression in the ground beneath the sand had been uncovered…
Lockworth’s mind was whirling with anticipation. This was the moment he had been waiting since he became a scholar… no, he had been longing way before when his father, an archeologist, had given him his personal treasure.
Lockworth took a small leather pouch from one of the pockets in his cargo jacket, and from inside revealed a round medallion made of stone, small enough to fit in the open palm. He stared at it just like he had done many times before; the stone was engraved with ancient rune symbols and had a hole in the middle, probably for holding it . Much later he would find, in his university days, what they meant: The time key.
The man now placed the stone circle in the depression he had unearthed previously. For a moment, it seemed that nothing had happened… but then the stone started glowing with pale light. It seemed something exciting would happen, but the shine disappeared as quickly as it began.
As a tomb robber, the girl recognized the value of the man’s artifact; it was ancient, conserved, and part of the history. Her emerald eyes shined with the thought of the treasure’s market value, while her mind wandered in the many vocational spots she could retire to.
Heck - she thought, -the piece is even enchanted with some sort of magic.
With a groan of disappointment, the man bent to his knees and touched the medal as someone does with an object that’s supposed to be hot.
It was the perfect moment for a surprise attack, and the girl accepted the offer with pleasure; she walked slowly until she was close enough for giving the man a knock-out blow, courtesy of small-yet-sturdy club she always carried with her.
She swung her weapon as the man touched the stone, and would have been a sure hit… if the man had not dematerialized into thin nothing.