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.