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    Default Kyogre's Ambition

    Written a while back, figured I'd crosspost it here. Three chapters. Pokemon Conquest/main series (though a games/anime/manga composite version of the main series) crossover.

    Summary:Ho-oh returns, but Johto is in mortal peril. Team Aqua, led by Kyogre, is sailing north, and Hoenn is drowned beneath Kyogre's rain. And called by Celebi, Ransei-era generals appear in modern times, to save the world... or to rule it.

    ---


    Before this day, there was only one person alive – indeed, one person in the past five hundred years – who had seen the real Ho-Oh. His name was Red, except when it was Ash, for he traveled under both names and only Pallet Town knew which of the two was the alias. He had made headlines by winning the Indigo Pokemon League at age eleven, then resigned his title to train in Mount Silver, and its deepest, most inaccessible corner became his new home. Yet despite the careful image he maintained of constant training, he frequently ventured off the mountain on the back of his Charizard to fly anywhere strange and powerful pokemon gather against whom he can test his strength. The first time he saw Ho-Oh was at the beginning of his journey, a symbol of hope flying over a rainbow after he and his Pikachu were nearly killed by a mad flock of Spearow.

    It was not by coincidence that he was in Ecruteak today. Someone – he didn't know who, for they had come in the night as he slept, but it was clearly someone strong enough to venture through Mount Silver to reach his inbox – had delivered him a message telling him to come to Ecruteak on this date, which his curiosity would not let him neglect. And no sooner did he begin his investigation than was he, and the rest of Ecruteak City, greeted by the sight of a giant rainbow bird of legends flying across the sky.

    Although it was noon on a work day, a crowd gathered all the same, building after building emptying as though the world was coming to an end to see the sparkling bird of rainbows fly across the sky in the direction of the city's great towers. It seemed impossible. Although the Sacred Ash was still kept as a holy item in the Tin Tower, it had been so long since the war that many had begun to wonder if the pokemon it had come from had ever existed, or if it was merely a sort of national myth by the old priesthood who became the Keepers of the Sacred Ash as a reason to increase their spiritual authority. Even those who still believed so faithfully that the day would come doubted it would be in their lifetimes. Yet it made sense, some of the crowd whispered; hadn't the legend said it would come back when humans and pokemon alike learned to live together in peace?

    Yet others asked "why now?" Sure, Team Rocket had been beaten recently, but it was barely a Johto organization to begin with, and it had been a couple years since then anyway. And Johto had been a peaceful place for as long as anyone alive could remember. It didn't make sense... unless one remembered the other version of the story.

    The Keepers of the Sacred Ash had always denied this version, and back when they had the ears of emperors or power in their own right, people who spread the story were executed for heresy. Yet since Johto's revolution, freedom of religion had been proclaimed, and the world had become such a peaceful place that it had begun to make sense. Ho-Oh, it was said, either did not care about peace and co-operation (according to the radicals whose doctrine had long been forgotten) or, as perhaps one in ten of the crowd believed, this was not its only requirement for returning. It was a hero to return only when the people were both worth saving and truly needed it, and then it would come to find its destined trainer and do its best to save the world.

    So as it descended to perch on the ruins of the Burned Tower, there was a small undercurrent of fear. But it was dwarfed by an overwhelming, impromptu celebration.

    Ho-Oh had returned!

    Morty of Ecruteak, Gym Leader and therefore the closest thing the stateless society of Johto had to a local authority, was among those watching in awe. The idea was not his own, and truly must be credited to Ho-Oh itself, who perched not on its old nest in the Tin Tower, but on the top of the two-story ruins where three beasts had perished, which Lugia had once called home. A few construction workers had left with their Machoke the moment Ho-Oh landed, and returned with a large stockpile of construction materials and whatever brass plating they could find soon after. But his encouragement certainly helped.

    "People of Ecruteak! For years, the Brass Tower has remained a burnt pile of rubble, a monument to our own folly. But no more! It is time we honor Ho-Oh and rebuild it, bigger and greater than ever – and strong enough that nothing can burn it down ever again!"

    A loud squawk and a glorious spreading of its rainbow wings signaled the great bird's agreement, and Ho-Oh flew up to its old perch on the tower next door, watching humans and pokemon work together with a strange mix, however brief, of pride and relief. Johto deserved one great moment of celebration before the storm.

    ---

    The first inkling anyone in Johto had that something was wrong in Hoenn was when the Wingull Post stopped coming.

    The second, about a week later, was when the Wingull Post came, carrying not letters but refugees, accompanied by Taillow, Swablu, and practically every other species of flying type in Hoenn, so many in number that daylight ended at noon, for they could no longer see the sun. Across Johto a third of their number landed, directed by Winona of Fortree City, whose command of flying pokemon had placed her in the de facto role of leading the evacuation. She wore her normal outfit, and its light blue shade made her stand out all the more against the red and black with homemade Team Magma symbols sewn on, which those refugees who found the time to change and modify clothes before evacuating wore.

    When the first trainers landed in Johto they told their stories – stories of how the war they had ignored for so long had ended decisively, of regret for staying out of it; had there been nearly as many Team Magma members before Kyogre's rebirth as there were now, Hoenn would never have been lost. Stories of Kyogre and Groudon fighting a battle which destroyed Sootopolis, of a decisive Water Spout and Groudon's body vanishing, the orb from which it came sinking to the bottom of the sea. Stories of an endless rain which flooded the land, of evacuation to mountaintops, of a heroic guerrilla resistance by what remained of Magma which made life very dangerous for Team Aqua members, but no victories over Aqua Grunts or even their leadership would ever stop the rain. Nothing would, so long as Kyogre lived.

    And no one in Hoenn had any hope of stopping Kyogre. When the rain covered the last mountaintop – and day after day, as more refugees came and more hapless trainers drowned, the mountaintops grew smaller and smaller – Team Aqua would sail north.

    And Kyogre would be with them. And if Kyogre wasn't stopped, Johto would share Hoenn's fate.

    If the world survived, historians and archaeologists would do extensive research to determine the precise number of dead in Hoenn. The land had not had a proper census in decades, so even the percentage was guesswork. But when one extrapolates from the number of refugees found in Kanto, Johto, and Sinnoh, it is quite reasonable to conclude that only half of Hoenn's people escaped alive.

    Forty days and forty nights after the flood began, the birds stopped coming. But there was no Ark, no Ararat, and no rainbow, just a great bird with rainbow wings determined to fight back.

    Hoenn was no more.

    ---

    The strongest trainers of the realm – some long retired, some who looked to young to even operate a pokeball – had gathered in Ecruteak, for news of Ho-oh had roused them all. Indigo Plateau had emptied, as had the Battle Frontier, and the Pokedex holders had joined them. And much to Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald's chagrin, not only had Team Magma showed up, but they showed up in enough numbers that the crowd would have cheered if Maxie called for the abolition of the ocean.

    Maxie, thankfully, was saying nothing of the sort. Not yet, anyway. It was emotional appeals to support his organization, stories of atrocities committed during the war, of fighting to protect Hoenn, of how he wanted to save his homeland; even Ruby wept at his passion. There was plenty of passion in the room, for Hoenn's finest trainers had virtually all made it out; few lacked a swimmer or flier in this era.

    What they needed was not passion, but a plan. And there, the crowd was silent.

    There were two enormous problems which faced any hope they had of fighting back. The first was that, unlike Team Aqua, who had been waging war since its foundation, Johto had not had a proper army since it was still called part of Ransei. A few called for meeting them head-on, but no one knew how to organize such large groups of people in combat – Magma had fought many battles, but had lost the ones that mattered, and their enemy grew stronger with water pokemon from every victory. The armada they now faced was larger than they had ever seen.

    The second was that they were trying to stop a god. To be fair, they had their own god. But Kyogre had a type advantage, and Ho-oh had absolutely no confidence in defeating it head-on.

    They brainstormed for hours. No one had a plan, and half the crowd wanted to force Maxie to try to lead them again – never mind his criminal connections, history of defeat, or absolutely shattered self-confidence. But slowly, awkwardly, hoping the crowd would forget his disgrace, Lt. Surge stepped forward. "Electricity. We zap them to bits."

    "We know our type advantages!" A heckler shouted from the crowd.

    "Not what I meant. We don't have the electric pokemon for this task," he said, emphasizing the word pokemon. "But we do have the electricity!" He shouted, pointing up to the lights, then outside to the power lines. "The electricity needs of Johto, channeled into the ocean, are more than enough to take down even Kyogre!"

    "Kyogre and everything else in the sea." Misty grumbled, but to little avail. No one cared about saving the Horsea or Shellder when they could be saving the humans. A battle plan was soon brought up, but it relied on pokemon primarily in a diversionary role; they were to lead an army to the shore, seek combat, and as they approached fill the sea with enough electricity to render the sea barren of life for five square miles. Any Quagsire or other ground types in the force who survived this attack would be picked off by a corps of grass-types lead by Erica. It was a simple, effective plan, and its only drawback would be the week-long blackout which would inevitably be required, but better a week without light than a lifetime without land.

    Yet there were no military strategists among them to remind them that no plan survived contact with the enemy; had Team Magma known that, maybe the world would be fighting Groudon and the expansion of the land. The only one who could possibly have such knowledge was Ho-oh, and Ho-oh had no interest in learning the means by which mortals best committed their fratricidal bloodshed. War was chaos, war was bloodshed and cruelty that shattered Ransei and left rampaging samurai and pokemon more savage than their wild counterparts in its place.

    Ho-oh had never imagined a war like this, when heroes would have to unite to protect their world from devastation.

    ---

    The sky itself was crying a pouring rain, to the chagrin of the masses of Pidgeot, Fearow, and Noctowl acting as lookouts. The tide was extremely high – not the natural tides of the moon, but the sort encountered during typhoons, or whenever Kyogre was near. The docks of Olivine were beginning to flood as the largest armada the pokemon world had ever seen came into view. And it was a true armada, not the giant school of water pokemon they had imagined, but a navy of the sort not seen since centuries ago, when Kanto and Johto were still called Ransei. Instead of swimming, water-types crowded the deck of each and every boat, from Spheal to Mudkip, with Kyogre taking up the entirety of the largest one of Aqua's ships of the line.

    "How could they be even more than they were when they beat us in Hoenn?" Maxie wondered aloud, a terrified shock on his face. They had been cut off from news, but they assumed there was none to learn. Yet people in desperate situations will even join groups working to flood the world if that's what it takes to survive, and Archie and Kyogre could be extraordinarily persuasive at convincing new recruits the world needed to be cleansed in water. Team Magma was not the only group to grow massively in number from Hoenn's fall, and the Magma-aligned refugees and Johto and Kanto's combined forces at best matched them in size.

    A nation's power supply rest in the Olivine Lighthouse, connected by wires from across the land to three very confused electric pokemon, whose trainers had no clue which order to give now.

    Unless.

    "Without Kyogre, Aqua can plunder us, but Johto can never sink! It's a smaller target, but it's one we can hit!" Surge shouted, pointing from the lookout to Kyogre's ship; even from this distance, there was no mistaking that great blue leviathan for a Wailord or anything else.

    Jasmine's Ampharos, Surge's Electrode, and Red's Pikachu, together hooked up to enough electricity to power all of Johto for a week, let loose from the lighthouse with the largest burst of thunder the world had ever known.

    A large boat turned, but too slowly – far too slowly. A desperate Kyogre leaped out of the way, soaring like a Wailord through the air. The lightning engulfed the boat completely, ripped through its hull and sent its charred remains to the bottom of the sea. In midair, Kyogre pointed its blowhole and fired an enormous jet of water at the lighthouse, like the most gargantuan hose the world had ever seen, toppling Olivine's lighthouse backwards and smashing it onto the rocky beach, snapping the hundreds of wires connected to the three electric pokemon in the process. The Electrode and Ampharos were quickly recalled, but Pikachu dove with the three trainers out the window, each of them who would be caught well before the ground by the sudden movement of Ho-oh; with the air force whirlwinding away into the ocean, there was only one bird alert enough and convinced that Red, whatever the circumstances, must not die. Simultaneously, Kyogre landed on another large ship, sweeping half a boatload of pokemon over into the electrified ocean and crushing the other half beneath its enormous bulk.

    Ho-oh let the three trainers down onto the ground, then turned, opened its beak, and ignited the sail of Kyogre's new boat with a ball of sacred fire. Erika's grass corps fired a volley of razor leaves into the sea, aimed not at the waterline towards the ships (which were clearly too large for them to sink) but at the water pokemon atop their decks, a full half of them aimed at Kyogre. Many of the attacks connected, but not enough to noticeably shrink Aqua's armada.

    And then Archie raised his hand and shouted "Attack!" to all the sea. In perfect unison, every pokemon on every boat summoned up bursts of water which merged with the torrential rains into an enormous tsunami; a tsunami which swiftly washed all of Olivine and the united army of Johto away. Yet with Kyogre's ship catching fire, Team Aqua turned their ships around and beat a hasty retreat, at a moment when there was no army in the field left to stop them from flooding the world. No army, but a burnt Kyogre on a sinking ship in an electrified sea. And without Kyogre, as Archie well knew, there could be many devastating storms, but no repeat of the sinking of Hoenn, no final victory over the land.

    Besides, it wasn't as though Maxie and his allies could pull off a plan like that again. Just as Groudon was weaker than Kyogre, and that was why it now lay at the bottom of the sea, Maxie had been a poor commander forced to lead by circumstance with neither knowledge of nor aptitude for tactics, but whether or not they had tossed his incompetence aside had no hope. Because the people of Johto, although numerous, had no discipline, no officers, no idea how to fight a war.

    Next time, Archie proclaimed to his army, with plenty of enemies left in earshot to spread his message, no one would make them retreat. Next time, they would sweep away Johto, Kanto, and even Sinnoh without stopping until the whole world was Kyogre's. Next time, Ho-oh, not some lighthouse containing an ultimate electric weapon, would be the first one Kyogre shot out of the sky!

    ---

    It was the day after a draw which historians (if any survived) would call a victory, but which the people of this time, watching Olivine's ruins and thinking little of how much was spared, saw as a disastrous defeat. After informing only Red, Ho-oh flew at the break of dawn to the Ilex Forest in order to answer Celebi's request for a meeting.

    "Ransei." It was one word, but it communicated everything about Celebi's plan which Ho-oh needed to know.

    "You shouldn't do this, Celebi. You've lived through it too. The tyrants of the past must not be allowed to rule our world again." Ho-oh retorted angrily, spreading its wings to impose its great size upon the small, bug-eyed fairy.

    "What choice do I have?" Celebi answered with a sigh.

    "There has to be another way." Ho-oh replied, speaking with more of the blind determination of a shounen manga hero than any reasoned conviction.

    "Ho-oh, I'd like to know what it is. The beasts are cowards who run away at the first sight of trouble. You were the only bird at Olivine: the others don't care what happens as long as their caves survive, and they're halfway underwater and well protected already. Mewtwo's a pacifist who'll never fight again. I don't even know where Mew is. And if Hoenn's other gods had any power, we wouldn't be in this mess." Celebi explained, shaking its oversized head.

    "Mortals. Our army was as large as theirs. If we believe in them and put our strength behind them... their ingenuity astounds even me sometimes, electrifying the ocean like that. They'll find a way."

    "And now there's panic in the streets, riots over blackouts, and no more Olivine City. And nothing to suggest they've gained any grasp of military tactics next time around."

    "You have all of time to pick from! Even if this isn't the answer..." Ho-oh begged.

    Celebi gave a long, sullen look Ho-oh's way. "I tried. I tried every time and history book I could get my hands on. I looked up generations of Team Magma's leaders but they're if anything worse. I'm sorry. There is no other way."

    There was a part of Ho-oh that wanted to use Sacred Fire, that knew it would regret sparing Celebi long enough to complete the ritual. And there were certainly many who would criticize it after the fact, who would write of its majestic plan and how had it been willing to strike Celebi down, Ransei would remain at peace.

    Yet in that moment, Celebi had made Ho-oh waver; at least this way, there would be those left to issue criticisms. And plenty from the past who would read the criticisms which later generations of historians gave them, if they lived long enough.

    Hideyoshi. Tokugawa. Mitsuhide. Vassals upon vassals, often warring with one another. Names echoing throughout history, all kept in check by a man who mastered far more than the sport of pokemon battle until a young trainer and his Eevee defeated him.

    Oda Nobunaga. The name still reverberated throughout history, hundreds of years after the clan system had been abolished and trainers known only by their class. The first man to unify Ransei in centuries, yet cut down barely a year later in a rebellion led from Aurora Castle. But that hadn't happened yet.

    And the rebellion's leader, lionized as he had been by the scribes, had died of tuberculosis soon after and plunged Ransei back into chaos – at least, until Tokugawa could finally end the warring states' era. More to the point, he had shown no ability to lead the truly massive armies needed today; his skill was in besieging castles with teams of six powerful pokemon. Even Ho-oh did not broach his half-forgotten name. He would not be among those from the past.

    But practically everyone else from that age would be, regardless of their conflicting schemes for the throne, for Celebi needed Nobunaga at the height of its power with every trainer he could muster. In a dazzling light, a great army of nearly two hundred trainers from the distant past materialized in the modern-day Ilex Forest.

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    Default Re: Kyogre's Ambition

    There was a great deal Celebi had told Nobunaga, when it had traveled back to request his assistance. And having brought unification and the first blossoming of peace back to Ransei, he felt a duty to to oblige. There was also a great deal Celebi had not told Nobunaga – could not, for over four hundred years of changes were beyond its own ability to summarize.

    For one, the map. The site where he had landed, now called Ilex Forest, was known in Nobunaga's time as Chrysalia, and it was one of the region's larger cities; today, although the wildlife remained similar, it was a peaceful forest where not a brick remained. It was not an area of particular importance to Nobunaga; his capital was in far-off Dragnor, but he had marched his army there because it was the one spot where Celebi could send others through time.

    The nearest regional center according to his map was Azalea Town, but given the threat Kyogre posed, he wanted a single, grand demonstration of his power which would eliminate all resistance throughout modern Ransei. And for that, he didn't want some remote town full of Slowpoke, with barely a strong trainer to beat, let alone an army. (Though Celebi had said something about them not having proper armies anymore.) In other words, Oda Nobunaga needed to take Goldenrod.

    A couple hours' march later, one hundred ninety-nine trainers clad in Sengoku-era armor arrived at the entrance to Goldenrod City.

    "There are no walls."

    "How do we attack a city with no walls? Do we just march in and sack the buildings?" Another muttered, and a few ran into the city prepared to do just that.

    Nobunaga's Garchomp loudly stomped his foot to halt the chaos in the ranks, snapping his trainer, who had been staring at the Radio Tower in awe, back to attention as well. "There is to be no looting. We can take what we like after we have taken my new capital!"

    "But where do we go?"

    "There's no castle. Apparently, cities in modern Ransei are... not run, but in a way led by people called gym leaders, and in this town it's a woman called Whitney who specializes in normal pokemon. So find the gym, surround it, and demand her surrender!"

    As Nobunaga's forces marched towards the gym, he noticed countless civilians with pokeballs on their belts fleeing the same way. It seemed bizarre, almost impossible; they were in another time, and Celebi assured them they knew nothing of war, so how had they coordinated it so well?

    It was only when sound filled the air that he understood – not one sound, but one message sent from many tiny points. He didn't understand the sorcery in those small listening devices, nor their connection to the tall tower he had admired. Didn't know that radios were the one device whose power had not been taken for the attack because of their military necessity, didn't know that on an ordinary day the streets would be shining with lights. But he did understand that he was in for a fight!

    By the time his pokemon army of the past arrived, a makeshift barricade had already been set up around the Goldenrod City Gym.

    "Earthquake!" He called out. Twelve electric pokemon climbed onto birds for protection, and Garchomp, Shingen's Rhyperior, Keiji's Bastiodon, and a bunch of Excadrill and Krookodile and Gigalith owned by trainers lost to history stomped their feet in unison, shaking the unarmored defenders of Goldenrod and toppling the barricades.

    The gym itself stood: the building had been made sturdy enough for pokemon battles, and its engineers had erred on the side of caution in making it resistant to all possible attacks. Whitney exited the gym at this point, riding on her Miltank, an old sword – probably a family heirloom - in hand.

    "This doesn't have to end with bloodshed. If you want to challenge me, we can do it with a one on one gym match!"

    Nobunaga laughed. "You'd want that, wouldn't you? I don't think you have either the numbers or the power to win if we fight the old-fashioned way!"

    "I've learned a thing or two from the archives," Nobunaga wondered how she had been informed of his approach, and marveled at her reading speed, but also questioned how much she could have really learned. "Everyone, Rollout!"

    A collection of round pokemon of every color and type, most not owned by Whitney's apprentices but by people from around the city, rolled like an avalanche out the gym and into Nobunaga's column of soldiers.

    "Bodyguard!" Nobunaga shouted, and every rock or steel pokemon in his army pushed their flesh-bodied teammates down and leaped into the way to break the avalanche. One hundred ninety-nine pokemon raised their claws or fists or whatever else they had, and one hundred ninety-nine soldiers drew their swords, and together Nobunaga's army charged.

    There would be no people or pokemon hacked down by Nobunaga's forces in this battle; in fact, he had ordered his soldiers to avoid killing or permanently maiming their foes. It was for this reason that his army had solely been equipped with swords for this battle, eschewing the arquebuses that normally formed the basis of his military strategy. But there were none in Goldenrod's hastily assembled self-defense force who knew that fact, and the ancient army's superior (now doubled) numbers, willingness to draw blood, and targeting of humans as well as pokemon sent over half their opponents fleeing in terror.

    As the ranks broke, Nobunaga calmly stood, watching the battle as his Garchomp slashed its way through enemy pokemon. "You must surrender," he commanded Whitney.

    "I surrender," Whitney answered as she held an enormous white tissue in the air, then when the fighting stopped, used it to try in vain to dry her tears.

    ---

    "This has happened before, Jasmine," Blaine was trying to be warm and fatherly, but the old eccentric had no children, and although he was burning, he always seemed to lack a touch of that human warmth.

    The crying girl – yes, a child prodigy, master of steel pokemon at an astonishingly young age, but at this point nothing more than a weeping little girl who had lost everything – nodded. At least this time, she responded.

    The great army of Johto had gone away; few, whether involved in that battle or otherwise, had perished in the tsunami, but there was no food, no shelter, no possessions, and no power for countless people who had called that city home.

    Jasmine had a responsibility to lead them to safety, as they never tired of reminding her, but she had been hit as hard as anyone.

    The soldiers took to blaming one another. Maybe Surge's plan was a terrible idea. Maybe it was Maxie's poor leadership, or maybe Erika's. Or maybe it was the fact that, no matter who they tried to blame, they had no leadership at all.

    News had arrived – messages on a flock of Spearow, far too numerous to be suppressed even if anyone wanted to. The message was bizarre; the fact that radio confirmed it and the messages came from some very respectable people meant that it had to be taken seriously. Somehow, an army from the past had taken Goldenrod. Worse, there was no shortage of soldiers filing out to join up with him: the Hoenn exiles stayed loyal to Maxie, and Maxie stayed loyal to this strange assembly of gym leaders, each who carried their own cadre of apprentices. But they and the pokedex holders together barely numbered one hundred trainers: half the size of Nobunaga's force when he took Goldenrod, and in times like this people would march behind whatever banner could save them from flooding, so Nobunaga's would grow larger still.

    "Maybe it's time to cut our losses and try to overthrow Nobunaga later," a discouraged junior trainer said, echoing the thoughts of many.

    "I won't give up," Jasmine said through tears, to the surprise of the assembled camp of leaders. "The lighthouse had a few history books. And we all know why Ho-oh's been gone for so long, and what drove it anyway. It hurts and it's horrible, but we have to fight back. And to do that, we need a leader – not a shogun, but a hero, a champion. Someone who treats people and pokemon with kindness, yet someone strong enough to win over or fight even the gods."

    Jasmine needed to say no more, and Ho-oh sung out in approval. There was only one person alive who fit that description, and those words of praise and Ho-oh's loud call had reinvigorated a despondent crowd. The vote was unanimous, for despite their small numbers and recent defeat, they had one person remarkable enough to give them hope.

    In that moment, the remaining trainers-turned-soldiers truly believed that Red of Pallet Town could save Johto.

    ---

    Even among a people who have lost all martial vigor, resistance is not difficult to carry out when one possesses popular support. An army can take land easily: the hard part is holding it.

    Yet for a people lost to literal darkness, amidst refugees from an approaching enemy intent on sinking their homeland, there was simply no appetite for a popular resistance of any sort. Red tried sending carrier Pidgey to powerful trainers unaffiliated with the League, but many were intercepted and only a small percentage of those messages which were delivered bothered to write back. When Nobunaga took Goldenrod, he also took its Radio Tower, and rather than broadcasting messages for the resistance it broadcast propaganda about Nobunaga's benevolent rule and how he was Johto's only hope.

    By the time the first day of darkness passed, Nobunaga already ruled all of southern Johto. Red's army had arrived in Ecruteak, garrisoning a city stirred to fight by Ho-oh's return, and from there, through Cianwood and Blackthorn, a supply and communication line to Kanto was kept open. (The fact that all three of these cities were inland certainly helped morale and loyalty for Red's forces, as well.) Nobunaga had sent a foray under Tokugawa in that direction, but faced with skilled trainers prepared to resist and civilians willing to wield swords and send out pokemon alike, he had retreated.

    There would be no battle yet. Nobunaga had no idea when Team Aqua would return, and Celebi had warned him well about the threat they posed; he had no need to subjugate inland cities at a time like this. His army, used to one battle a month at most, had been dramatically fatigued by the day of near-constant marching, although at least this time there were decent roads.

    What he needed was not more land, at the moment, although it certainly wouldn't hurt. He was extremely tempted to march through the Tohjo Falls and take Pallet; perhaps with his hometown held hostage, Red would surrender. But first, he had to turn his conquered subjects into a fighting force.

    For one, arming them. There was ore in Union Cave, but it was not being exploited at the moment and indeed there were few miners in the region, all who came from abroad. There were plenty of men and women capable of fighting, but all of them let their pokemon fight their battles. He needed soldiers. He needed to train soldiers. He needed to pay soldiers – amazingly, Johto had functioned for all these years without any system of taxation! And he needed to stop people from traveling from city to city as a means of escape the duties he would impose – either to fight, or to produce war material for those who would, either by raising powerful pokemon, supplying food to the massively growing population, or working in the mines.

    Many would refer to Nobunaga's legal reforms as serfdom, a term used widely from the moment they were enacted. Yet some, including Nobunaga himself, said this term was colored by bias simply because he had come from the past. They spoke in terms of conscription, self-defense, and a temporary militarization, and pointed to many parallels from before the Sengoku era to demonstrate that he was not simply importing his own social system to the present.

    Yet few were convinced, and many grumbled that had they known, they would have listened to Red and fought back. Indeed, this criticism was echoed silently by two of Nobunaga's own subordinates; the high-ranking vassal Akechi Mitsuhide, and Nobunaga's own sister Oichi...

    ---

    "So why have you called me here? Sex or treason?" It was an odd letter Akechi Mitsuhide had received for this rendezvous – nothing more than a "please come to this secluded part of Goldenrod at ten o'clock pm." A message like this could mean one of two things. And Mitsuhide wasn't sure which Oichi wanted. She had never shown any interest in him, and it was an odd location for a midnight romp, but to betray her own brother...

    "Treason," Oichi said somberly. "If you must call it that."

    "Do you have others?" Mitsuhide asked. "Or is the plan just to infiltrate his bedchambers, have Wigglytuff sing and Lapras to finish him off?"

    Oichi looked horrified by the suggestion. "Of course not! I don't want to kill my brother!"

    "Then how do you propose to stop him?" Mitsuhide half-asked, half-shouted. "The people hate him. He's reduced half of Johto to serfdom, thrown centuries of progress away... and if we do turn on him now, how are we supposed to defeat Team Aqua?"

    Oichi smiled. "There's a reason I came to you, and it's not just because I know you'd betray him. Celebi lied to us."

    "There is no Team Aqua?"

    "Not that. Nobunaga isn't our only hope, because Ho-oh and Celebi aren't the only two legends left. You've done it before. The god of ice, Articuno, will listen to the lord of Nixtorm – his once and future trainer!"

    Mitsuhide's normally stoic face lit up at the thought. He would have a double type advantage against Garchomp that way. All he'd need to do was fire a well-placed ice beam in the chaos, and they could win this war without dooming Johto to the horrors of the past.

    Oda Nobunaga had never battled Team Aqua, but he understood piracy well enough to keep a coastal watch. As Mitsuhide and Oichi made their way towards the harbor, both disguised in modern clothing, they continued to discuss their plan is whispered tones.

    "Lapras can probably make it there in seven hours if I push it hard. If we succeed, I'm confident we can be back in time, as long as we make it past the guard. Articuno's fast, after all. If we fail..."

    "Don't worry about the guard," Oichi said with a smile. "I've made a few arrangements."

    "You bribed them?" He whispered, as they approached the shore.

    "Oichi-sama, as my lord's sister you may come and go as you please." Chosokabe Motochika said, greeting the two. "But I don't see what Akechi Mitsuhide will be doing in Kanto. Unless he plans to capture Articuno..."

    "Was my payment not enough?" Oichi asked through gritted teeth.

    "I'll gladly enrich myself, but there is no payment good enough to make me betray Nobunaga," Motochika answered with a laugh.

    "I have no intention to betray Nobunaga. Articuno is being captured because we are at war with an extraordinarily powerful enemy," Mitsuhide lied.

    "Very well. Show me your letter of permission and you may go."

    "I don't have it in writing. Do you want me to wake Nobunaga? I fear he may not be pleased..." Mitsuhide threatened.

    "He will not be, indeed," Motochika retorted, calling his bluff.

    "We have no choice. Wigglytuff, Sing!" Oichi shouted, opening her pokeball to summon a pinkish-white, rabbit-eared balloon whose beautiful lullaby sent Mitsuhide and Motochika alike into a deep sleep. Oichi proceeded to drop an Awakening into her co-conspirator's mouth. Groggily, Mitsuhide sat up, summoned his Lapras, showed it a map, and ordered it to ferry them to Seafoam in Kanto, and the tall-necked water-pokmon obediently nodded. Awakenings, as any trainer knows, are an item designed to rouse pokemon, not humans; no sooner had Mitsuhide climbed onto Lapras' shell and the pokemon made it into the water then did the warlord drift back off to sleep.

    ===

    Akechi Mitsuhide woke hours later to the sight of Oichi struggling to keep her eyes open: together, they had already crossed the Tohjo Falls and made their way past the volcanic ruins of Cinnabar Island. It was not much later that the vast network of caves in whose deepest cavern Articuno was rumored to dwell came into view.

    "Have a map of this part?" Oichi joked, to be answered with Mitsuhide's stern expression; he had no such map, and the caverns looked so vast from the outside that it seemed that he could be trapped there forever.

    What he did not expect to see was Articuno waiting for him at the entrance. "It's been a long time." The great bird of ice spoke, its voice shaking the walls.

    "What have you been doing?"

    "This war, or these centuries?" A somber tone had crept into Articuno's voice.

    "Just the war," Mitsuhide answered. "I fear we do not have time for such lengthy stories..."

    "Aqua won't attack before I even finish my story. Or did you mean..." understanding flashed across the blue bird's pointed face. "So you didn't tell your master? You won't make it back in time. Even I can't fly that fast." There was something deeply unnerving about the way Articuno had said your master. If he was a traitor, what loyalty did that pokemon owe him? "Nonetheless, I will spare you the tale of generations, and only show you what returning to me would mean leaving behind."

    With Articuno, flying low to the ground, leading the way, and Oichi following, Mitsuhide walked into Seafoam. But what he saw was not the vast network of caverns the maps displayed, but a vast subterranean city, filled with people and pokemon alike.

    "Refugees," Mitsuhide noted. "From... Hoenn?"

    The great bird nodded. "Even the League couldn't get everyone out. And in time, they gave up. Yet people always fight on, even if it means cramming six people onto a Wailmer into the middle of the ocean."

    "You lead them here?"

    "Myself, Zapdos, and Moltres. Lugia did the same in the Whirl Islands. Mewtwo in the Unknown Dungeon – imagine that, a dungeon of the free! And there are still people left, making their way out... though not many."

    "Why here? Why now? Why don't they let anyone know?" Mitsuhide asked, a rare tear running down his face.

    "Because the world gave up on them. Can you ask me to give up on them too?"

    "I can not," Mitsuhide said, falling to his knees. "But I must. If only for a single battle. I can not let the horrors that ruled Ransei rule the world again. I can not let these refugees in caves be the only free people in all of Kanto and Johto, nor can these caves hold those who would come if Aqua triumphed."

    "And Red?" Articuno asked. Was it an excuse, or was it a test?

    "The man who even Ho-oh believes in." Mitsuhide noted. "Yet he has not stopped Nobunaga yet, nor convinced me he can."

    "You are as wise and righteous as ever, my lord. I should not have tested you." Articuno said, dipping its head in a vow of obedience as Mitsuhide lifted his pokeball, and Mitsuhide spoke words he had spoken so often, but which Articuno had not heard from his lips in centuries.

    "Articuno, return!"

    ---

    They met at the gates of Ecruteak this time, as contemptuous of each other as they had ever been, but striking the other down would not undo the plans the other had set into motion. The rainbow phoenix and the fairy of time. Ho-Oh and Celebi.

    "So Articuno has returned. If we all band together against Kyogre..." Ho-oh spoke, trying to find hope – together, they could beat Kyogre and Nobunaga alike.

    "The others will not join. This is the age of mortals, and we're not talking about helping trainers. Only Mewtwo and Articuno had them, and Kenshin can't get to the Unknown Dungeon..."

    "Are you asking for safe passage?"

    Celebi shook its tiny head. "No. Much has happened in the past hundreds of years. Mewtwo will not fight, trainer or no trainer; I'd rather have Gallade on our side."

    "Then why are you here?" Ho-oh asked. "Half of Johto has slipped back into feudalism. Are you so lost in the past that you consider that a victory?"

    Celebi smiled. "And we have an army now – not your rabble who can't even hold Johto. You're welcome, even though I've come all this way for no thank you."

    It took every ounce of willpower Ho-oh had not to burn Celebi to a crisp, a task from which the fire bird only refrained because grass pokemon such as Celebi were strong against water pokemon such as Kyogre. Instead, it covered itself with flames and menacingly flapped its wings as it spoke.

    "Johto will be saved. From Kyogre, and from you!"

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Kyogre's Ambition

    Roused by his trusted Pikachu, Red awoke in the middle of the night to an enormously drowsy Maxie at the door to his improvised secret base, clutching a letter with Team Magma's insignia. "Tomorrow, Team Aqua will sail for Goldenrod."

    Red rubbed his eyes as he got out of bed and stepped outdoors; this had become a common enough occurrence in his six days of leadership that he had taken to sleeping in his day clothes (and often sleeping again in the early afternoon) but never had the information been this important. "How sure are you of this information?"

    "My most trusted admin is undercover in Team Aqua's organization. I'd bet my life on this." Maxie answered.

    "The boats!" Red had wondered how Team Aqua had discovered their plan at Olivine, but if Team Magma had spies in Aqua, the same could be true in reverse.

    "If I had known about them, I would not have hid this information from you. I admit I've been a schemer at times, but what reason could I possibly have for engineering that disaster at Olivine? We slipped her in during that battle, not before."

    "Not that," Red said. "How did they know what we were planning? Can Magma be trusted?"

    "No. It can not," Maxie answered sadly. "And neither are all the refugees truly refugees. Aqua's even better at espionage than we are. There are no secrets in this war."

    For a moment, Red wanted to purge all Team Magma elements from his army and throw Maxie himself in the dungeons of Ecruteak. Why didn't they say anything? How could they have let a plan so dependent on secrecy come so far? Was the Olivine blackout a plan to screw up, take the blame, and assume leadership, which Jasmine had foiled by acclimation? And then Maxie's voice came again, snapping him out of his thoughts of rage. "If I wanted to lead, I would not have needed to stage a blackout and throw a battle like that. I believed we would win even with the boats, and we nearly did. But we can deal with that later. Right now, Team Aqua is sailing for Goldenrod. What, Champion Red, are you going to do about it?"

    "What do you recommend?" It was an honest question. How could he have been so stupid? At this point he might as well take Maxie's counsel; he was the only one with a clue.

    "We wait. Let Nobunaga and Archie exhaust each other, and when the battle ends, we strike!"

    Ho-oh circled overhead as Red considered the option, but said nothing, It was not that the phoenix had no preference; on the contrary, if Red chose wrong, it had no reason to remain of this world and would resume its centuries of exile.

    Red's attention was diverted from considering Maxie's option, loathsome as it was, by the sight of a giant blue bird approaching, carrying a man and women recognizable even in their modern veteran's outfits instead of their usual full samurai armor. Yet as Red reached for his pokeball to defend against this attack, Akechi Mitsuhide did not try to assassinate him or freeze Ecruteak, but gently landed. Oichi held her Wigglytuff in its pokeball. And no more soldiers followed.

    "So this isn't an invasion. Are you here as an emissary?"

    "No. A defector." Mitsuhide answered.

    "Tell me everything you know."

    "With regards to your current argument, I believe waiting to strike would be ineffective. At the moment, Nobunaga's force consists of nearly two hundred skilled warriors from the past, but also a great many unhappy conscripts. His grip on the people is entirely based on their fear of Kyogre, and even still he is driving them hard that the streets whisper with conspiracies of rebellion."

    "Then I'll align with him." Red answered, echoed by Ho-oh's loud chirp of approval. "We can focus on Johto's future once we make sure it has one. Right now, it's time to save the world!"

    ---

    Team Aqua's armada may have been large compared to those of the past, but in terms of technology and tactics, there was nothing about it Oda Nobunaga could not recognize from his own time period. He had repulsed naval assaults in Ransei and initiated them. Seen battles with pokemon on ships and with them swimming behind or in front of them: Aqua, undoubtedly spooked by Red's last attempt, had chosen the former strategy. He had set up a lengthy coastal defense, manned by electric and grass pokemon at every beach in Goldenrod. His army had swelled to five times its original size, although only the original fifth knew what they were doing; the rest were for the most part simply handed a sword, told to pick their strongest pokemon and to fight as best they could; there would be no amazing commands like Aya's healing or his own ability to make enemy pokemon flinch. Then again, in a battle of this scale, numbers mattered more than that type of skill.

    Team Aqua's fleet sailed into view, much the same as it had when it came to strike Olivine; so many ships it seemed they could cover the entirety of the coast, each full of water pokemon – if he estimated sizes, Nobunaga probably had a 2-1 advantage, but Aqua's ships had cannon.

    And perhaps more importantly, Aqua's ships had Kyogre.

    A sudden downpour alerted the defenders of Goldenrod to march to the city's coastline, many mounting flying pokemon for desperate air-drops. It could not be called paratrooping, because no one had realized the military use of parachutes yet, but the way large flying pokemon like Noctowl and Pidgeot tried to descend onto the ships had a similar effect; they were met with Pelipper, who used their large, bulky bodies to slow the descent and try to knock their trainers loose; many succeeded, and many of those trainers drowned.

    Volleys of flamethrower and thunder and solarbeam blasted towards the large warships, but only two ships of fifty caught fire; the rest, covered in water pokemon, were able to protect their hulls if not their ships. Nobunaga himself sat back with a column of the air force - perhaps the most dangerous - from atop his Hydreigon, and as he watched the battle unfold from afar, it became clear to him that he was not going to triumph simply by giving commands.

    Risky though it was, he would have to enter the fray.

    A Leaf Storm from Celebi encircled Kyogre as Nobunaga flew above the leviathan's back and fired a dragon pulse into its blowhole, only to be met with Archie of Team Aqua standing tall, pointing up, and knocking Hydreigon out of the sky with a water spout, while an ice beam from an Aqua Swmapert took care of Celebi with surprising ease. Nobunaga quickly recalled his dragon, reached for his pokeball, and opened a much larger one. The very fact that they were fighting Kyogre meant things were fatally out of balance, and part of him doubted its power, but the time had come to play his trump card.

    The weather suddenly cleared, although it was hard to tell, for so much water and lightning was flying back and forth that few noticed that none of it was falling out of the sky. And a black, serpentine dragon as large as Kyogre appeared in the Johto sky.

    "Rayquaza!" Archie shouted, standing back with Kyogre in a mix of awe and fury. Although this god had been long depicted and recorded as green, there was no mistaking the shape.

    "The time has come to confront you, Kyogre."

    "Finally out of hiding?" The whale sang, and for a moment the battle stopped as both sides watched in awe of the feuding gods.

    "I do not show myself when there is no chance of victory. But even if I must go to Johto to find allies, the balance must be restored!" Rayquaza spoke, its voice booming across the ocean as though it wanted to be heard as far as Hoenn.

    "There can be no balance with the land, for it has tried to reclaim the sea since its birth." Kyogre and Archie said, scoffing in unison. "Ice Beam!"

    ---

    Red, ever the solitary master, could never be comfortable leading an army or a nation. Yet there was something about riding between Ho-oh's wings that calmed even his enormous nerves.

    The attack was still so far away he could barely make out the pokemon using it, yet there was no mistaking the giant serpent in the sky, even if Groudon's death had drained it of its usual green color and turned its skin a mourning black. No mistaking its allegiance either, now that Oichi had informed him of a secret weapon which even Mitsuhide did not know about. And no mistaking that, god or not, it was still in grave peril from an enormous ice beam being shot out of the water.

    "Ho-oh, intercept it! Sacred Fire!" Red shouted, pointing to the beam as the phoenix shot a ball of flame over Goldenrod City, vaporized the ice, and saved Nobunaga's most powerful pokemon.

    Reinforcements – the gym leaders of Kanto, even the ones whose cities he had seized – charged on that signal into the ocean on their pokemon with such speed and fury that one wondered if they had even noticed the water, mounted great sailing ships as though they were triremes, and half the ships were soon no longer part of any armada, merely a staging ground for great battles; the cannons were soon destroyed by their own users to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Nobunaga's own forces seemed reinvigorated by the support, and for a few brief minutes it seemed that the land had at last repelled the sea: Kyogre itself struggled to fight off Rayquaza, Articuno, Ho-oh, and Celebi at once.

    "Abandon ship!" Archie called out, and although the order seemed bizarre to the enemy, Team Aqua's pokemon on each and every boat still standing complied. "Now, Surf!"

    Another tsunami, as big as the one which destroyed Olivine, towering above even Nobunaga's Rayquaza, certain to wash land, sea, and air enemies away.

    "Whirlwind!" Red commanded Ho-oh, but every bird from Articuno to the Pidgey of Falkner's apprentices complied. A hurricane met a tsunami, and the water had nowhere to go but up in an enormous, swirling display which could be seen from space.

    "Stop!" Kyogre cried, breaking off its own attack to fire blasts of ice into the air. For a moment, the enemy army was baffled, but as soon as they looked down they understood its meaning; Team Aqua had used up so much water in that attack that it had beached itself. Very little would fly off into space or be lost to the higher atmosphere; most would re-enter the water cycle, and Goldenrod would not gain more than a few yards of dry land when all was said and done.

    Yet to a pokemon terrified of Groudon, Team Magma and the land pushing outward, this was not something they could do even if it would give them victory.

    While the water, pushed by an enormous storm, fell back into the ocean, a navy and air force became an armyand charged forward with their swords and the advantage of dry land. Within the crowd was Maxie of Team Magma, possessed by the rage of a lost nation. Archie and Kyogre as one turned to him, the former throwing his sword like a javelin, the latter firing an ice beam, both shooting to kill. Maxie let loose a harpoon – a weapon he had been holding for this day, and thrown Kyogre's way to no avail many times before.

    The harpoon struck Archie of Team Aqua in the neck, and the sword did likewise to Maxie; both were slain on contact. As for Kyogre, on dry land even a god had no protection from the survivors of Olivine and Hoenn, desperate for revenge against the monster which had destroyed their homes; it could not be said for certain which of them had dealt the killing blow.

    ---

    Team Aqua's remaining forces surrendered in unison, giving all manner of excuses as to why they had joined that organization, from brainwashing to coercion to well-meaning religion which had gotten far out of hand. Some of them were even true.

    The modern pokemon world had little in the way of prisons – occasionally a Jenny would take in the local rockets, or a particularly notorious criminal, but justice had usually functioned on forcing people to see the error of their ways.

    For such enormous crimes, this simply would not do, yet there were no prisons yet to hold them. Therefore, on the beaches of Goldenrod, Red and Nobunaga came to an agreement that they would be sentenced to hard labor and put to work reconstructing Olivine and providing new towns with permanent housing for Hoenn's exiled.

    "Will you go home now, then?" Mitsuhide asked.

    Nobunaga laughed, as though the question itself was absurd – it was not an amused laugh, but that of a megalomaniac. "Ransei is no more, and I have seen what it has become. Tell me, why would I want to go back? This land has become wonderful."

    "So you'll live here as a pokemon trainer?" Red asked, Celebi and Ho-oh staring daggers at one another next to them. "As long as Johto is free, do what you like."

    "Free? You can't even imprison criminals! The centuries have been kind to Johto, but peace has made it soft. Ransei needed unification, but Johto needs order!"

    "And you seek to bring it to them? Regardless of what Johto's people think of it?"

    For a moment, Nobunaga paused, thinking Red's words over. He was a wise man, for sure – gifted with enough skill to lead, even if he had no intention of doing so.

    "Remember why I have brought you here." Celebi spoke. "Kyogre is vanquished, but there is-"

    "Articuno, Sheer Cold!" Mitsuhide shouted from above before the fairy could finish; he had already trained his pokemon's eye on Celebi with a Mind Reader while Ho-oh had distracted its attention.

    Celebi fainted instantly. For a moment, Rayquaza flew at Articuno, but Nobunaga held his pokeball aloft and recalled it.

    "Red, I don't like it, but you've proven your point. There is no place left for war in this world – and maybe you really have built a better one with no order save for those of pokemon battles." Nobunaga said with a sigh. "And I would not win this war even if I chose to fight. Mitsuhide, you won't need to betray me to the hero – I've learned my lesson in this timeline."

    Mitsuhide and Red nodded in agreement.

    "So what will we do?" Oichi asked, speaking not only to her older brother, but the vast host of famous warlords who had come with him – one hundred ninety nine people stuck out of time in a world where pokemon were used only for one-on-one battles.

    "There's one thing we're good at, but it doesn't have to be to the death." Nobunaga said, cracking a rare smile. "One on one pokemon battles are fun and all, but let's bring back the sport of Pokemon Conquest to the modern age!"

    ---

    Ho-oh flew to the Ilex Forest, carrying Celebi in its beak. "You're lucky I didn't put you back in the G/S ball. What on earth were you thinking?"

    Celebi sighed. "Maybe I really have spent too much time in the past. My plan failed, and I lost my way."

    "What is lost can always be regained." Ho-oh answered, handing Celebi a small piece of Sacred Ash. "Remember that." And with that call, Ho-oh flew home to Ecruteak.

    Somehow, by the time Ho-oh arrived, its tower's rebuilding had already been completed. For the first time since the warring states' era began, it perched above Ecruteak, looking upon the modernized city which had left for centuries, but which had never ceased to be home.

    People and pokemon had found peace at last.

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