Fate of the Arceans The following is a wrap up to the Japan side of the conflict we've been embroiled in for quite some time now. Keep in mind that these events are taking place a few days after the Dragon's jaws closed on Texico City. Skipping is not advised for this one. Hearthome City - Sinnoh Region The assault had not gone as planned. With overwhelming victory in Sunyshore, the forces from the Dragon Empire's Rio allies had departed, and after aiding with a string of such overwhelming victories all the way up Japan, Red didn't blame them. The word was that Caleb Pravus had been felled, by Alex no less, who seemed to have taken a page from him and Mewtwo. He didn't entirely mind, nor was it unexpected. Redwood was the kind of Trainer that learned from every battle he watched, and in the early days of their Swamp training, he had drawn crowds of curious eyes as he and his Charizard studied the moves of Galar's own unbeatable Champion he'd had recorded on his portable computer, as they tried to replicate them. Red knew well how good Leon was, and he'd seen Redwood's Charizard pick up several maneuvers, and then make them his own. Their Burst technique had not, evidently, been a new discovery, for while he'd held that enlightened state, the fused brain of the most powerful psychic type and an awakened human had witnessed visions from the world around them, from the past, from the near future, they had seen once that such techniques had been as common as the rainbow colored stones they required to perform them. There was more to it though, Red had found, as the process of disconnecting Mewtwo from the stone had been arduous. He had refused to undergo it again, but Red's partner had been only too eager to step up instead. He embraced the bond with the stone, and their combined shape was stronger for it. The form they took looked similar to his X strand Mega Form, though there had been a few changes. He had thinner legs, and four toes. His tail, formerly up behind his head, had returned to where it usually hung while in his unevolved state, and grown in length and bulk. He had found that applying different types of energy to it while he swung, made it rather effective for physical moves. A burning circle of their crimson power made manifest hung behind their back, and that too, had proven to act as a useful, movable shield when the pair was in the thick of the fighting. Into the back of each shoulder extended a bundle of nerves from their neck, and the backside itself was covered in the dense purple muscles that had appeared on their limbs and body, atop every known pressure point and weak area. Their moves were incredibly quick, when in melee, and they had been able to outpace the Y strand's Mega Form while flying, in their fused state. Their weapon, however, usually required two hands to wield. Red's Mewtwo had used its new heightened power to fuse his spoon with the essence of his human's weapon. It didn't seem to actually damage the weapon, so Red had embraced it as well, though actually holding the blazing blue plasma spoon was not feasible. Levitating it took less than no effort for them, though. It was good that they had held the fusion, for as their attack on Hearthome was routed, they were almost solely responsible for keeping the fleeing Japanese forces alive. Red shared his partner's irritation, as they slowly fell back, and reflected blast after powerful elemental blast from the Arcean Crusaders that had made the city their foothold in Sinnoh. They'd also taken Mt. Coronet, and each of the towns and cities surrounding the massive mountain were currently held by the Church's forces. This charge had been to test their defensive strength, and as Clay had warned him, they would need the aid of Unova and Kalos to take the city. They were currently coming up to Pastoria City to reinforce Red's army of roughly four million Trainers. Clay had an additional two million coming with him, as they'd mopped up behind Red's unstoppable charge up the island, at Alex's request, once the forces in Fornia rendezvoused at the Oasis of Glory. Half of the men were fellow Texicans, eager to follow the famous Gym Leader strong enough to have a Gym in the Victory League. The other million came from Kalos, and had been under Grant, until Tao had sent them to reinforce Japan alongside Clay. They'd been playing catch-up since landing, and often, mopping up meant dealing with Arcean holdouts Red had simply not seen as he blazed forward in his combined form with the Genetic Pokémon, and a company of Scales, as well as fellow Champions from across their nation's regions, old and new. The overwhelming power of those Trainers had broken the Arcean lines all the way back to Sinnoh, and the last group under Pravus's Hand in Japan. Clay had a bad feeling about leaving the zealots with so much free access to Mt. Coronet, especially when they had remnants of Sinnoh's own Team Galactic in their ranks, if their spies were to be trusted. Caleb Pravus had committed much of his Church's manpower to taking Sinnoh in particular, and the 'holy mountain' had been a great victory for Arceans the world over. At this point, they'd held it for several months, but as far as the Japanese and their allied forces knew, they hadn't achieved anything with it in the time they'd held control of the mountain. The masters of Time and Space hadn't appeared in the sky, as they had when Cyrus pulled them from their dimensions, to the top of the mountain. Clay's Holociever went off as he and the forces from the Dragon Empire began to disembark in Sinnoh. When he answered, he found none other than Gary Oak on the other end. "Yo, Clay! The attempt to take Hearthome failed, they've reinforced it too heavily to just charge at it. We're heading for Pastoria now. Red wants us to link up there." "Pastoria, eh?" Clay said, arching a weathered eyebrow. "Tha's where we're a'headin' too. Is the city on our side?" Gary chuckled. "Crasher Wake was one of the only Gym Leaders that managed to hold on to his city, and that's largely thanks to the swamp and forest surrounding it. Eventually, the Arceans stopped sending men into the Great Marsh, and focused on Mt. Coronet, and the cities surrounding it." "Sounds to me like we need a plan, pard. Does Red have one?" Clay asked, sounding more and more reluctant to aid as the call continued. He knew well the advantage an army could have if they holed up within a mountain, and one as large as Mt. Coronet could hold all six million of the troops the Church had committed to Sinnoh. Between Marius's charge and Red's, that number had dropped, but when it came to defending, the Arceans could hold multiple places with only a few Crusaders, thanks to the shields their Staves could form when linked together. "Maybe. If he does, he hasn't told me, but then, he doesn't talk much as a rule. Just tell Crasher that we're comin' in hot, if you manage to get there first." Gary looked away from the Holoscreen, as a loud boom sounded around him. "I've gotta go, Clay. Smell ya'!" As the Pokémon Professor hung up, Clay turned to his now disembarked troops as they piled onto the deserted beaches of Sinnoh's Route 213. "Listen up lads an' lasses! We're heading for Pastoria. Apparently it's a friendly city. I want you fast fliers to go ahead of us, an' kindly warn their Gym Leader that we're a'comin. We'll be linkin' up with Red's forces, and they'll be comin' in with Crusaders on their tails. Once we get to the city, start fortifyin'!" The soldiers responded with their company's usual 'Aye, Field Marshal!', and then began moving. Several with fast flying types took to the air to do as Clay ordered, while the rest began marching through Sinnoh's wilderness, towards the route that led to Pastoria. By the time Clay arrived, he and his forces could see the smoke in the distance from the battle at Hearthome, where Red's seemingly unstoppable charge had finally faltered. Clay didn't have to guess who the Gym Leader of Pastoria was, as he was standing in the center of the city once he arrived, a Gyarados behind him, directing his soldiers on where to station themselves, and humming a catchy tune under his breath. "Field Marshal Clay!" The man said, upon seeing his hat, and attire. The Imperial military had given him the same black and white colored armor as his troops, but the classic Texican hat adorning his head was something he'd insisted on keeping. The compromise, had made it armor plated, something he found incredibly useful, as he could wear it while mining now, too. Crasher walked towards the Unovan Gym Leader, as his Gyarados watched with fierce eyes. Their faces were unreadable at the best of times, but as a ground type Gym Leader, he'd gone up against them before, and knew what they did before attacking. He doubted a Gym Leader's Pokémon would rampage on its own in a crowded town, but then, it was a Gyarados. The man known as Crasher Wake greeted him with a proper handshake, and a grin. "Welcome to Pastoria City! I'm glad Unova decided to help us with this...I don't like admitting it, but these Fornians are seriously strong." "Mm. Tha's what happens when they infuse Shadow into their Pokémon." Clay said, nodding sagely. Upon seeing Wake's confusion, he elaborated. "Shadow Infusion, pard. It takes evil, downright foul energy, and fuses it into a Pokémon's body, makin' them much stronger, meaner, and downright narsty to deal with. Apparently, Caleb Pravus made it a part o' his Crusaders trainin', havin' them master Shadow moves, an' such. They're resistant to regular moves, an' Shadow moves have super effectiveness on non-infused Pokémon. Try not to let yours get hit, yea?" Crasher Wake gave the man a thumbs up, and a grin. "We'll just have to drown them with our power before they get the chance to attack! Yea! Gyarados!" The massive water dragon glanced at its Trainer, as he called. "Let's go! I want the first shot at those zealots once they get in range of our city!" The Gyarados roared in response to its Trainer's heightened passion for the imminent battle, and began moving towards the city's western exit. Wake turned back to Clay, then. "I'll leave organizing the rest of the men to you, Mr. Underground Boss. Do whatever you need to, my home is yours!" "S'preciated." Clay said, tilting his hat, as the eager water type master followed after his partner. He turned to his men then. "You heard'im! We're fortifyin' and defendin', until Red tells us otherwise. Now 'member, we're here under Japan's authority! Their government wants as li'l city damage as possible!" As his troops made ready, Clay headed for the western exit of the city as well, which was little more than an open route entrance, blocked only by swamp. It didn't take long for Red's forces to arrive. The exhausted Japanese Trainers, as well as quite a few rather famous Champions, were singed, wounded, and demoralized after being forced to retreat. Thus far, 'Redtwo', as the troops had nicknamed him, had broken through every defensive posture the Crusaders had taken. Now that something had finally given the insanely strong fusion of human and Pokémon pause, they knew the Arceans would be using the same methods, in the future. As Trainers streamed in covered in grime, swamp, and sometimes blood, Clay noticed Crasher Wake's enthusiasm had faded into a grim look. "I heard it was bad throughout Sinnoh, but to be honest, I hadn't heard specifics. The media went silent weeks ago, and I've been defending the Marsh since these zealots landed. How's the rest of the country?" He turned to Clay, as he asked. Clay grimaced. "General Marius's Regigigas left a wide wake o' carnage behind it...thankfully, most humans an' Pokémon avoided its initial charge, but the Crusaders're just as bad. They torched every berry grove from Kanto to yer fine region. Easy ta do, when they can launch beams o' fire energy at whatever they darn well please. Yall'r in fer a lot o' cleanup…" Clay met his fellow Gym Leader's eyes then. "But we'll be aidin' ya with that, too, I reckon. The Original Dragon aint the type to leave his allies hangin'." At that, Wake arched a brow. "Oh? You've met the First Dragon? I hear his Tamer is a pretty strong Trainer." Clay chuckled, and looked down as he recalled their gym match. Like Hilbert and Nate before him, Alex Redwood's eyes had burned with passion, and his Swampert had been brutally effective at taking down fellow ground types. "Aye, I've met'em both. His Tamer challenged my Gym once, though I reckon he's changed a bit since then. He was only a pup when we Battled, but his Swampert was...fierce. He whooped me, an' Chili, one o' the Gym Leaders of Striaton, on the same day. Without so much as a Hyper Potion between matches. Prolly an Elixir though. If the legends are to be believed, the Dragon has only made'im stronger. The Scales of Balance're pretty much all psychics, like your Red." He said, nodding towards the direction the Champion would be coming from. "They're just as powerful, too. I ain't never seen a human able to slice through energy beams like that. Whatever the Dragon's teachin'em, it's workin'." Wake's grin returned, as Clay spoke in his Texican accent. "Right. Well, at least we have Trainers to fall back on if these zealots manage to stop us." Clay met his grin with one of his own. "Don't go underestimatin' Red now, y'hear. That man is jus' as strong, 'specially with a pair of Mewtwo behind'im." Before Wake could reply, they both got a good look at the aforementioned pair of Genetic Pokémon, as they hovered into view. The Y strand was mega evolved, and as it hovered roughly a mile from the entrance to Pastoria, it unleashed a Psystrike, presumably on Arcean forces they couldn't see. For his part, Red was deflecting, and often redirecting, energy beams back at the advancing Arceans by empowering the giant glowing plasma spoon with Mirror Coat. "Let's go!" Crasher Wake said, as his Gyarados rose from the muck of the swamp outside the city. With a single leap through the air, the water dragon landed in the part of Route 212 that had a minor lake within it. There, the Gym Leader had been able to keep anyone from crossing that wasn't friendly. His Quagsire and Floatzel came to the surface nearby, ready to aid if Gyarados wasn't enough. He didn't see Clay follow him, but then, he figured someone with 'Underground Boss' as a title probably wouldn't follow too obviously. Marsh terrain was nothing for an Excadrill, though getting back through the tunnel they'd made was definitely not going to be possible. Clay waited below, trusting his partner to pop up and attack at the right moment. Up above, the Gyarados and his Trainer waited out of sight. Crasher Wake gave the fused Red a nod as their eyes met, and upon seeing them, he and the other Mewtwo stopped attacking, and headed for the city. Then, came the Crusaders. White armored in a design that was foreign to Sinnoh, as they'd never really heard of or seen Cipher's aesthetic, their forward ranks were shielded by a combination of the three elemental types they'd mastered manipulating thanks to the Original Dragon's time as their prisoner. "We'll have one chance to break them…" Wake said, assuming Clay could hear him, and was nearby. "Hit them with everything you have!" Both Clay and his Excadrill heard, and readied themselves. In Sinnoh, the use of Plate crystals for Mega Evolution had been a growing trend that had been derailed by the sudden foreign invasion and subsequent takeover by the Fornian forces. Wake and Clay had a different use in mind for theirs, however. Against foes with strong defenses, the Trainers of Japan had focused on mastering 'Ultimate Moves', not all that different to Z-Moves, and the Plate crystals were just as capable of powering those, as they were Mega Forms. Most Trainers used the boost from mega evolving to further strengthen the attack, which more often than not was just a more powerful variation of a move they already knew. As the Crusaders reached the edge of the lake, the shield lowered, and the soldiers switched to ice typing, as they prepared to cross. Moments after they froze the surface, the massive form of a Gyarados, and its Trainer, broke through the fresh ice with the force of a great typhoon, and a typhoon was, essentially, what the water and flying typed Gyarados unleashed upon the unshielded humans as his Trainer called the move, "Crashdown Tidal Wave!" Nature itself became as enraged as the Gyarados began stirring it up, and Crasher Wake's right fist shone blue as his partner drew on the energy needed to unleash what was essentially a Surf attack, on a much bigger scale. A blast of wind knocked the Crusaders on their rears, and the following wave of water sent them hurtling into the forest that surrounded the Route. They took roughly a minute to reform some semblance of a front line, charged with electricity aimed at the Gyarados. With one move, Crasher Wake had reduced the force chasing Red from just over a thousand, to roughly half. Many Crusaders weren't moving, after feeling a Gyarados' rage. As the hastily regrouped soldiers fired their electric beams in unison at the recharging Gyarados, a spinning figure burst up and out from one of the hills that blocked their path over the water, to Pastoria. Clay was standing on the adjacent hill, and tipped his hat as he raised a fist radiating ground typed energy. His Excadrill took the electric beams with little to no effect, and then propelled himself towards the still standing Crusaders as Clay called his own Ultimate Move, a practice he and the other foreigners had taken to with much enthusiasm, as they traveled the length of Japan. "Subterranean...Smaaaash!" His Excadrill dug into the ground under the Crusaders with speed only a Pokémon could produce, and the ground under them began upheaving. Massive boulders rose up suddenly, and usually right under groups of Crusaders, sending them flying. At least ten times the earth exploded with fierce protrusions of hard rock, and the Arceans began to retreat as the Excadrill popped up by his Trainer, and the Gyarados loomed over them all. The power of unleashing such an attack had caused it to mega evolve, and Crasher Wake was not one to let his opponents escape unimpeded. "Destruction Beam!" A beam of yellow-orange death flashed across the scattered Arceans, and the following line of explosions ended most of those who had been getting to their feet. Thoroughly routed, the few smoldering survivors that had managed to summon a Pokémon for defense readied more Protects as they gathered what Crusaders still lived, and would survive the trek back up to Hearthome City. The retreating survivors had been reduced to double digits, and neither of the scowling Gym Leaders, upon viewing the carnage they had wrought, felt it was a victory. They'd forestalled a few hundred, but by now they knew better than to go anywhere near the marsh. The two Gym Leaders recalled their partners not on watch duty, and headed back into the city, where they could already see Red talking with the others, seven colored stone in hand as his Mewtwo was beside him. Mt. Coronet, Upper Level - Sinnoh Region "They have been repelled, my Lady. Hearthome is still ours. You were correct, without Zigma to break our shields, the Mewtwo abomination could not hit us as effectively in an entrenched position." Many hadn't liked retreating after Marius failed, not only in war, but in keeping his men loyal. Whatever the psychic scum had done, it had made their troops under the old General turn. Lisa Pineus gave a nod to her female lieutenant, and then looked towards the former Champion of Sinnoh, the woman who'd lost the title to a foreign ten year old from Galar, and his Torterra, before focusing on ancient myths, and eventually becoming a Professor who specialized in exploring them. Lisa knew it was not Cynthia she spoke to though, for the witch controlling her had introduced herself only as Morgana, and had revealed that she'd been an ally of Pravus himself. With him now beheaded, his Darkrai lost to the crushing fathoms, and his Church in the process of being deconstructed by the Original Dragon, Lisa found herself the leader of all five million remaining Arcean troops housed across the six cities they held in Sinnoh. "Bring up the map. How many still defy us, now that we've returned?" Her Lieutenant did as ordered, and then spoke once more. "Oreburgh City, and the surrounding Coal Valley continue to repel us, with their mastery of rock typed moves at Oreburgh's Gate, and they continue to seal whatever holes we make in Mt. Coronet before, or during, troop movements through them. Sandgem and Twinleaf continue to peacefully protest our presence, but Professor Hikari has shown that she isn't afraid to Battle, if one of our soldiers gets rough. We agreed to put more...foreign friendly Crusaders in their area, and there have been no issues since." The Hand had scowled at the mention of Oreburgh. Roark and Byron had protected the combined inhabitants of Canalave City and Oreburgh all at once, moving their people before their Crusaders had bothered with Canalave. The initial focus had been on Jubilife, and somehow, the population of an entire city had managed to sneak past them. Since then, their Trainers had only grown stronger after repelling their attempts to take the Gate, and attack from within Coronet. Any more assaults from that side threatened to collapse part of the massive mountain. "I would consider the Professor's knowledge on Pokémon evolution to be valuable enough to interrogate her...but she was capable of beating the Elite Four, if not Cynthia. No matter. It's not worth the effort at the moment. Who else defies us?" As her tan and blonde superior allowed her to continue, her lieutenant was glad that she, at least, did not regularly beat her subordinates. More than a few Hands had copied the Prophet in that regard, but Lisa Pineus was more rational, and viewed her underlings as pieces on a board, rather than punching bags good for little more than venting frustration and carrying out orders. She pushed her square glasses up as she again regarded her data pad, and gestured to the map. "Snowpoint continues to be stubborn in its refusal to talk to anyone, and since we already took their Regigigas, there is little left there to worry about. Their Gym Leader raids around Eterna City sometimes, but our soldier's armor can handle what he throws at them. Usually. That leaves Sunyshore, which was reclaimed almost single-handedly by Zigma's Tamer, and all but demolished in the process, and Pastoria, which is where we assume Red has retreated to. Crasher Wake may be getting old, but his Gyarados has no such infirmities. Sending troops into the Great Marsh now, would only result in losses we can't sustain." The Hand nodded again, pondering their position. No aid would come from Fornia now. There was a gut wrenching creak as the Shadow puppet that was Cynthia turned towards her, eyes alight with a dim purple, and a downright sinister smile on the aging woman's wrinkled face. "Sounds to me like holding the mountain is no longer...worth the effort. If you give Red and those other...Heroes...a chance to regroup, they will surround your holdings, and take down your troops. Maybe even turning more of them. Bring your soldiers to Albion, and I will make them the guardians of a kingdom all their own. Power you cannot imagine lies in this land...and if someone does not claim it soon, some nosy Trainers undoubtedly will." The Hand stood during Morgana's little speech, and she listened closely, knowing the witch for what she was. A psychic wretch that thought herself clever. She could recognize the foul Aura such abominations produced radiating from the old Sinnoh Champion. For all her tricks, the ones she was and was not aware of, she had managed to give them perhaps the only thing that could take on the awesome power of two Mewtwo that had been genetically engineered to be the best. "I want the Rayquaza. Give me its ball, and I will send my troops to your Albion." She held out her own hand now, wondering if the witch could see just how many moves ahead she was playing. Her answer would decide the fate of her troops, no small number of Fornians, and would no doubt have ramifications in the future. She may have offered her people to someone that could take control of them the closer they went to her land, but she did have a plan. Cynthia's creepy smile remained static on her features, until finally, the voice of the witch controlling her came from her mouth. "Deal." The Champion then awkwardly shifted her hand to her belt, and drew a Dark Ball that now acted as the Rayquaza's home, though Lisa had never seen the witch summon it. Morgana claimed to have found Cynthia training with the Legendary dragon, and had subdued them both with stealth and speed, recalling the mega evolved behemoth of a dragon before it could break free. Transferring it then to a Dark Ball had been as easy as going to a Pokémon Center during low peak hours, and then slipping away just as quickly, before anyone noticed her new, famous puppet. The hand stopped, as it grabbed the Dark Ball, and after struggling for a moment, it again moved forward. A high pitched giggle came from the witch. "Apologies, my dear...this one still struggles…" Eventually, she managed to get the ball into the palm of the Hand, who took it eagerly. "You remind me much of myself, when I was your age…" The creepy voice paused to giggle again, and Lisa resisted rolling her eyes. "Take care with that one, now...if it gets Purged by a Light user, you won't enjoy what it does to you." Lisa paused at her words, and glanced at the ball. Then, she decided to roll the dice, and hoped that the Light wielder doing the Purging, would keep the dragon's rage in check. Assuming she could get to the top of the mountain with it unimpeded. Plans had a tendency to fall apart right as they started to work, and as she gripped the Dark Ball, she knew she was taking a large gamble, but saw no other path forward for her people. "Why would I let it be Purged? This is our best chance at stopping Red's unholy fusion." With that, she turned back to her Lieutenant. "Have the six cities we do control gather every scrap of fuel they can find. We should have enough to reach Albion." She looked back at Morgana then. "I have things to do. You should store your puppet somewhere safe." Morgana said nothing, and she left the room before giving Lisa time to say anything else. The Fornian watched the witch leave, clutching the Dark Ball in her hand rather tightly. Then, she ascended. Mt. Coronet's summit was as lifeless and bare as it had been since the Arceans had arrived. All that remained were traces of Pokémon battle that had lingered despite their age. While their old Team Galactic allies had tried to summon the patrons of Space and Time, they had failed completely, as they had when they tried bringing Giratina back as well. There was, as usual, no trace of Arceus. Lisa fished in her bag for the item that, she hoped, would summon the aforementioned Light wielder, and the Fornian's last best chance at avoiding whatever grim destiny Morgana had planned for them. The wind around her picked up, as she withdrew an ancient looking Azure colored flute, and put it to her lips. She was not a musician, and as she forced air into the flute's mouthpiece, nothing came out. Nothing interesting happened. She tried again, and again, but only soft air was heard, and it seemed to vanish, as she blew into the flute as hard as she could. Lisa fell to her knees, a look of despair on her face, as she looked at the Dark Ball in her hand. She had not expected failure. The old caretakers who had fiercely guarded the Azure Flute had warned her that she could not make use of it, but then, that was a running theme with those who guarded ancient objects of power. Their 'morality' did not keep them from lying, in an attempt to dissuade people from trying to steal such artifacts. Evidently, in this case, the Pokémon she had intended to summon knew who she was, what she had done, and had been part of in her time as a Hand of the Prophet. The tears that fell from her eyes surprised her at first, but she knew why they were appearing. Heroes like Red had a long track record of victory in conflicts like this, and now that Pravus was dead, she was on the wrong side of history, as were her people. It didn't matter how benevolent the Original Dragon and his Tamer claimed to be, the Arceans would forever be hated for what they had started, and done to their Pokémon. An appeal to Arceus directly had been their last chance, and as only darkness and Shadow lay before her path ahead, she put the flute to her lips one last time, and filled it with air. She nearly jumped, as a note began to echo, and she inhaled through her nose, then exhaled into the instrument, urging it to continue playing. The eerie melody echoed across the Spear Pillar, and as it faded into nothingness...nothing happened. Light did not fill the sky, Palkia and Dialga did not appear, nor did the shadow of Giratina. She waited several minutes, her faint flaring hope once more crushed by the lack of an appearance on the part of her deity. It did not take long for anger to replace the sadness and mix with her frustration as she glared accusingly at the Azure Flute. "You were supposed to work!" She raised it then, intending to smash it against the stone floor, but stopped halfway through the motion as tears appeared once more. "This was our last chance...if Arceus cannot save us...nothing can." You must be the ones to save Yourselves. Lisa's eyes went wide as the almost overwhelming tones of Arceus' voice thundered in her skull. She looked up, tears streaming down her cheeks as she squinted at the bright light before her. She made out a familiar outline, and then fell to her hands as well, bowing in the most respectful manner the people of this island nation had. "Please...Alpha Pokémon...save my people! We're doomed to the Shadow if you don't!" The red eye of the manifested deity became visible as the light around him faded. It expanded, and shrank, and the woman winced, groveling closer to the ground as the rage in the tone of the Alpha Pokémon shook her very being. Your people were doomed to serve the Shadow ages ago, and served it you have. As the last remaining Arcean in power, the sins of your leader now fall on your shoulders. You seek honest redemption. The flute would not have played, otherwise. Listen well, mortal for there is but one path back to the Light, for your kind. Lisa raised her head, and looked upon the Alpha Pokémon as she pleaded. "I will do anything! Please, I...I just want us to live...and remain human." Purge the Shadow from every Pokémon your forces possess, and cleanse it from your own auras as well. I will not abide Shadow worshipers using MY name to further their agenda! The blonde and tan woman, face still streaked with tears, spoke only a single word. "How?" Arceus descended from the sky, and hovered closer to her. His words still thundered, but they seemed quieter, more inherently kind. The Dragon Emperor possesses the means. Submit yourselves to the human known as Red, and you will be on the path to redemption. At that, Lisa's eyes narrowed. "The Dragon's Puppet? You must be joking...an intolerant Trainer playing politics will only lead us to ruin! To domination by Psychic Types!" She had never heard a God sigh, but that was what Arceus did, as he registered her words. Caleb Pravus has lied to you about many things. Psychic types are but one of them. They are not evil, not inherently. There is good, and there is bad among their kind as there is among all my children, and whether you accept it or not, humanity is rapidly discovering their potential for psychic power. The Dragon Emperor was given authority by myself to dismantle your leader's cult. Submit to him. There is no other path to the Light for your people. With that admission, Lisa's indoctrination began to kick in, and anger replaced her humility rather quickly. Her left hand gripped the Dark Ball tight, and she glared at the Pokémon before her. "I knew it...you are not Arceus...no divinely good entity would ally themselves with a human like Unova's leader! The real Arceus is gold and black!" The deity mirrored her anger, though his was slower to rise, it lay beneath the baritone thundering in her head. This is but a clone of my original body. But all of my clones share my mind. I am the Alpha Pokémon, and I have better things to do than argue with a human blinded by Shadow. The choice is yours, Lisa Pineus. Lead your people to the Light, or doom them in Shadow. As Arceus began to ascend then, light flared around him, but his rise was stopped, as the human threw the Dark Ball in her hand, and summoned the Shadow infused Legend within it. The red eye slid back to her, as the black scaled Rayquaza roared into the air, already mad with rage and hate, emotions that were being fueled by the infection within its body. The audacity of you humans... You dare to infuse one of my Guardians with Shadow, and summon it in my presence? The Arcean's last remaining leader gave the self-proclaimed deity a grim smirk. "If you will not aid me willingly...you will do so by force!" She readied another Dark Ball then, and shouted, "Shadow Speed!" The black scaled Rayquaza could only obey, and it vanished in less than an eyeblink, before reappearing above the Alpha Pokémon, as its body coiled into a circle of black scales, and brought its Shadow infused tail down on the Alpha's form. Arceus typically won his battles by instinctively shifting to typings that resisted whatever move was being used, and then countering. Unfortunately, Shadow Pokémon had only one weakness, and gaining the Light typing took even the Alpha Pokémon a moment to summon. But Lisa Pineus did not give him a moment. "Shadow Rage!" The command came immediately after the hit that sent Arceus hovering closer to the ground but didn't seem to faze him, and from above, the enslaved Rayquaza opened its maw, as it bathed the Alpha Pokémon in black and bluish flames. A barrier of golden energy surrounded the Alpha Pokémon, and the red eyes moved between the human and her enslaved Guardian, one of the few that had the strength to match his clone's power. Before she could call another move, he Teleported out of the human's sight, and from behind her, golden Light filled the area. The presence of such an intense source of Light energy made the human and Legendary dragon infused with its eternal opposite intensely uncomfortable, but before Lisa could turn and call another move, Arceus had retaliated. A sphere of Light soared across the Spear Pillar, and hit the Legendary dragon, encompassing it in the Alpha Pokémon's Light, as he cleansed the Shadow from the dragon's body and aura. A low growl rumbled across the summit, as the no longer purple glowing eyes of the Rayquaza revealed the rage in its golden irises. In shape, the sockets greatly resembled the Original Dragon's, but unlike its forebear, Rayquaza actually had pupils. They shifted from the human to the Alpha Pokémon, and the growl ceased. One claw straightened three fingers, while the other curled into a fist. The Legendary Guardian pressed the fist into the straightened palm, and inclined its head in deference. A single word echoed across the suddenly calm mountain peak. "Alpha..." Arceus ascended over both of them then, and Lisa was clutching her hand as she watched. The Dark Ball she'd been holding had exploded in the waves of intense Light the deity had given off with his attack, and she had a feeling her belt of Pokémon had been similarly cleansed, like her Rayquaza. She kept them where they were, as the Alpha spoke again. I know you are angry, Guardian, but you must retain your senses for the Battle to come. Do not let the Shadow's followers flee this land. With that, Arceus ascended in a bright flash of light, and vanished. The still fuming dragon turned its golden gaze to the human, and its psychic voice echoed in her head, though her stressed mind could not rightly determine if it was male in tone, or female. "Surrender, human...you did not imprison me in Shadow, and that alone is what is keeping me from ending you. Obey the Alpha. Kneel, and beg for your life. Only then might I show mercy..." As Lisa met the Legendary Pokémon's gaze, she could've sworn the divine lizard was smirking at her. That, enraged her, and her eyes narrowed. "Never!" Before the dragon could act, and end her existence for her defiance, she raised the Azure Flute, and smashed it against the stone below her. There was a violent discharge of Light energy as the ancient artifact, a gift to long dead residents of the Sinnoh region, was smashed to pieces. The Light did manage to temporarily fool the dragon's eyesight, blinding it, as the human retreated into the mountain. Enraged, the black scaled Rayquaza roared its fury into the heavens, and descended down from Mt. Coronet's peak. This Rayquaza knew Sinnoh rather well, and there were only so many ways humans could flee from this place. It had no intention of defying the Alpha's command, and so it vanished into the clouds, to bide its time, and wait for its prey to attempt an escape. Oreburgh City - Sinnoh Region Red and Clay had been joined by Crasher Wake as they moved their forces to western Sinnoh, to link up with the locals who had actively rebelled against the foreign occupation of their home. The Champions of Japan's many regions had been welcomed as heroes, and while Professor Hikari of Twinleaf was present among the rebels, Lucas, their Champion, had been absent, missing evidently since the Arceans first took Hearthome City, and Mt. Coronet soon after. Byron, Roark, Clay, and Crasher Wake flanked Red as he addressed his troops. He paused, awkwardly and totally silent before the crowd of faces, some familiar, some not, some from Japan, and others clearly foreign. Finally, he spoke. "Today, we free Sinnoh from the last remnants of the Arcean Crusade...! Roark will stay behind with the non-Trainers, while Byron and all who can battle will infiltrate Mt. Coronet, ascend to the upper levels, and begin purging Crusaders from its holy tunnels! I will be taking my squad to the summit...and we will work our way down from there, once we determine what the Arceans have done to the most sacred mountain in this country. Stay on guard...and stay alive!" The cheering started from his countrymen, but was eagerly picked up by the foreigners from Kalos and Texico as well. Red raised his hand then, the seven-colored crystal burning in his palm, as he reached out with his mind to his Mewtwo, and once more assumed their fused form. Gary, Leaf, Hibiki, and several other skilled Trainers found themselves surrounded in red psychic aura, as they suddenly ascended, rapidly, towards the summit of Mt. Coronet, high in the sky. Clay nodded at Crasher Wake, and those who remained. "Byron'll be leadin' us into the tunnels! Keep an eye on yer backs, and be ready to roll!" Byron summoned his Aggron as the amassed force of rebels and soldiers followed the Pokémon's massive tunnel into one of Japan's most iconic peaks. Strangely, as they advanced to the upper levels by carving and crafting their own path, they found the peak empty, seemingly abandoned. When they did finally happen upon obvious Arcean trappings, symbols, ration containers left to litter the ground, there was similarly nobody to meet them. Clay's grimace only grew wider each level they ascended, and eventually, they had made it up the entire peak without so much as a battle, for wild Pokémon were scarce as well, though Byron was convinced they were simply hiding. Of the Arceans, there was no sign. Up above, Red and his team of six other Trainers looked around the summit, only to find it similarly empty and abandoned. Gary came over to the fusion of human and Mewtwo after several minutes of looking around. "I don't like it, Red...there's signs of recent Battle, a pile of azure shards, but nothing to suggest that anyone is here. Leaf just checked below, too...this mountain seems abandoned. Their command center is empty." Saying nothing, as his frown spoke for him, the not unappealing fusion of features on Red and his Pokémon partner evened out as they closed their eyes, and used their third to make sense of what they were seeing. Moments later, aura covered Red's squad once more, and they gathered close to him as he spoke. "The Arceans are making for Canalave...they intend to sail somewhere in Galar...we must stop them." The others nodded, and Leaf gave him a smile that emboldened the human, and deeply confused the Mewtwo with which he was fused. "We're ready. We can take them." Red glanced around at the gathered Trainers. Silver, Calem, and Serena had joined them as well, as each had proven to be top tier Trainers in their own right, though they could each claim to have lost a battle against Red's team. Red nodded to Gary, who opened his Holociever, a device that was unimpeded by rock. It soon made contact with Clay's. "Field Marshal, the mountain has been abandoned. The upper levels are empty. Red figured out that they're heading for Canalave. We're heading out to stop them. Send your forces to check the surrounding towns, and have the rest start heading there as well. They won't get away." Gary closed the device after he received an 'Aye, 'pard', and with that, Red launched the seven of them into the air, hurtling them out of Mt. Coronet and towards Canalave City as fast as he could manage. Canalave City - Sinnoh Region "What is our status, Lieutenant?" Lisa Pineus asked, as she looked east, waiting for the ruse to be discovered. "Ma'am! The Crusaders are loaded, now we're finishing up with Pokémon food and fuel. The fleet will be ready to move in a few minutes." She gave her superior a salute as she spoke, but the last Hand's eyes stayed on the horizon. "Good...tell them to move faster. We may not have the time to...wait...what's that light?" The Hand gestured, and her Lieutenant pulled out a pair of binoculars. In the distance, just over Jubilife City, seven crimson lights rose into the sky, and then came hurtling towards them. "It's Red, Ma'am! And he has backup!" Lisa swore, and looked at her belt. Only three of ten had thus far been re-infused with Shadow after being cleansed atop Mt. Coronet. She knew it was a corruptive, even evil energy, but Arceus himself had sided with the psychic type's puppet. The darkness was her people's only chance. She took the binoculars, and confirmed it for herself. "Lieutenant, tell the fleet to go. Now!" The woman saluted, and rushed off into the city to do as ordered. "Shame you lost my Rayquaza...it would've come in handy...no matter. I will need your aid to distract them, while the fleet escapes." Cynthia was puppeted up next to Lisa, as they stood outside the building that led to Canalave City itself on Route 218. The former Champion's team was summoned all at once, and Lisa summoned her own three that were ready to go, for all the good they would do against bonafide Champions. As the seven spheres of crimson came closer, one broke away from the pack, flying forward on a Togetic. Then, moments later after an Extremespeed, it was above them, and a male voice rang out, "Exbo! Eruption!" An old style Pokéball arced down towards the women, and Morgana raised a hand. "Coalossal. Exterminate it." The ground around them shook, as the Typhlosion appeared, and began his attack, only to have the vents of rising plasma blocked as the Shadow infused Coal Pokémon plugged them with giant rocks, by way of Ancientpower. The same voice, sounding irritated, gave another command from above, as the former Champion's Garchomp tried to bring it down with Rock Throw. "Again! Eruption!" The Typhlosion made the earth rumble once more, but before Morgana could stop the attack, a Hydro Pump slammed into the massive Coal Pokémon, hammering it onto its back with the force of it. A woman in black and red appeared behind it, riding on the shell of her Blastoise as the rest of the Trainers Red had brought with him began attacking. Chaos erupted, as the Typhlosion got its most powerful move off, and took out Cynthia's Roserade and Glaceon in a single plume of lava. Her Shadow infused Togetic Double Edged the one carrying the Trainer Lisa recognized as the man who'd battled Red on Mt. Silver, after becoming a Champion himself. The normal Togetic began to plummet as the man hung on for dear life, but he was saved by a timely Pidgeot belonging to none other than Professor Gary Oak, and the injured Togetic was recalled, as the now encumbered Pidgeot faced down the former Champion's Togetic, and its rage. A Gengar and a Delphox from the iconic Kalos Trainers brought down her Spiritomb, and the two women huddled by Lisa's Cloyster, their ticket to escape, once they got the all clear. As the battle continued, Lisa frowned, as she realized their skirmish had yet to involve one very powerful, and very specific enemy. Red's abominable fusion between himself and his Mewtwo was nowhere to be seen. Red and Mewtwo left the battle outside the city to the others, while they focused on stopping the Arcean's fleet of battle capable yacht-sized boats. They raised a four fingered hand, and the circular halo of crimson energy that usually hung on their back, or in front of their hand as a shield, now faced the sky, as it hovered above their palm. Their arm moved, slowly at first, in circles, and the crimson halo began to spin. As it did, the clouds around the city gathered together, and grew dark, as the power of Mewtwo and his human began influencing the skies and more importantly, the sea. Beside them, the Mewtwo that had thus far aided them had his arms crossed beneath his ragged brown cloak, as he smirked. "Not a bad idea. I like this move." The fused pair's eye glanced at him, then back at their targets. The fleet had already pulled out of Canalave's harbor, but they wouldn't be getting very far. As the crimson halo spun faster, thunder boomed across the sky, and the waves rose to massive heights. The wind picked up as well, and they knew it would be a matter of time before the boats sank before the storm's fury. As the battle between the Trainers Red had brought with him and the Hand began to shift in the hero's favor, Morgana nodded at Lisa, who gave her Cloyster the command. Throughout the battle she had been Protecting them, and now, she would bring them to safety. Beams of purple light recalled their Pokémon, and the Hand shouted, "Teleport, Cloytser!" Just like that, they were gone, and the six Trainers, who had experienced some difficulty despite outnumbering their prey, were left panting and clueless as the two women appeared aboard the flagship of the Arcean's remaining fleet. Morgana crossed Cynthia's arms, as her creepy voice echoed from her mouth. "That was too close. Maybe now, we can-" She was interrupted, as several things happened at once, each competing for the attention of their ears. Thunder rolled through the air as lightning split the sky, but it was not the only thing in the clouds. Rushing out onto the top deck that supported their command bridge, Lisa and Morgana found themselves surrounded by unnatural calm, in the midst of the storm. They didn't have to guess what was behind it. The ominous shape of the black Rayquaza they'd lost to Arceus's Light cleansing had returned, for vengeance. Morgana forced Cynthia to throw a Dark Ball, and this time, her as yet undefeated Garchomp came forth. She had given the Trainers outside the city a hard time, and now, the Shadow infused Garchomp would buy them time to escape. Morgana's voice echoed in Lisa's head, as the Rayquaza met the Garchomp's Dragon Claw, though instead of the usual bluish purple coloring, it was red, and the ground dragon's entire form sparked with crimson lightning. "Sailing is no longer an option. Gather as many as you can in the ship's hold, have others port onto this ship as well. I have an anchor your Pokémon should be able to lock onto, set in Albion." Lisa glanced up at the Champion level Garchomp, going claw to claw with a Legendary Guardian. "We can't Teleport that far...it's over...this storm has us, and if Red doesn't get us...that thing will." Morgana narrowed Cynthia's eyes, and then stepped close to Lisa, glaring as she snatched an unoccupied Dark Ball from her belt. "Let me handle the Rayquaza. Do as I told you, girl! Now!" The Hand's eyes narrowed, as Cynthia's dominated face came infuriatingly close to her own. "And if I refuse?" Morgana seemed genuinely angry, as evidenced by the purple swirls of smoke that now sloughed off of the former Champion's body. "We had a deal, Pineus. Do not go back on it now...you will not survive double-crossing me." Though she intended to keep arguing, Morgana marched Cynthia out onto the bridge's balcony then, and her unnaturally amplified voice reached her Garchomp. "Shadow Rush, and return to me!" The Garchomp obeyed, hitting the Rayquaza hard, and then zipping back towards her Trainer. Cynthia stared down the Rayquaza. "Come, dragon! Do you not desire your vengeance!?" Rayquaza answered her, by lighting up a ship to their port with an Outrage, sinking it in a single shot. It did the same with a ship on their starboard, and then, the final blast was aimed at Cynthia herself, but the Legendary dragon did not see the Dark Ball she'd hurled its way, as it flew within range to destroy the second ship. Furious, and feeling itself once more drawn towards the black abyss that was a Dark Ball, the black scaled Rayquaza turned and focused the Outrage on the ball itself, obliterating it, but confusing itself in the process as the super effective move exploded in its face. When it looked back to find its Trainer, now a puppet of some Shadow user, all the Rayquaza saw, was an empty balcony. It roared its fury, and began haphazardly firing draconic beams of energy at anything near it, furious that Morgana had escaped, and frustrated, for it could not free its Trainer from her grip. In the bowels of the last Arcean flagship, roughly two million of Fornia's soldiers had managed to fit in the massive yacht's cargo area. Pokémon who knew Teleport were somewhat rare among the Crusaders, as it was a psychic typed move, but one of the few not outlawed by the Prophet, as it wasn't inherently evil, and could even be useful for furthering their plans. Now, those plans seemed silly, idealistic, even. Morgana's voice rang out through the hold, as she joined them, somewhat out of breath. "Everyone, link arms! Prepare to Teleport! We are out of time!" Then, she went quiet, as she linked to the Shadow infused minds of the Pokémon that would be bringing the surviving Arceans to Albion. The disciplined soldiers did as they were told, and then with a bamf sound, the crowd was gone, the massive ship was empty, and the last vestiges of the Arcean cult managed to escape. Moments later, a furious, but refocused Rayquaza using Dragon Ascent through the ship itself mega evolved, as it tore through the vessel, and found nothing. Enraged, the Legendary dragon arced upwards again, howling at the sky in fury. Then, it whirled in place as it sensed a power that could match its own, right behind it. Red and Mewtwo held up a hand in the universal gesture for 'wait', and the dragon paused, eyeing the strange creature before it, golden eyes blinking as it spoke. "They have escaped." The Rayquaza growled, but the creature continued. "Your Trainer was among them when they did...the other Arceans are dead now, either by capsizing to the storm, or blown apart by your rage." The crimson aura covered being floated close to the Legendary dragon then, and met its intense gaze evenly. "If you open your mind to me, I might be able to find out where they are going, and together, we can free your Trainer." The dragon stared, irritatedly swishing its body as it pondered, and then finally nodded. A vastly powerful mind touched the fusion of Red's and Mewtwo's, and an impressive, angry baritone thundered in their head. "I...agree. Together...we can do this." As the storm around them faded, Red and Mewtwo placed their hand on the Rayquaza's head, searching its memories, both recent, and from when Shadow had infused it. The latter were hard to decipher, but eventually, Red figured out their destination. With the Arcean's force again split in half by battle, Sinnoh had been freed, but many were wondering what had become of their oppressors. Officially, the battle at Canalave City had seen their destruction at the hands of 'Redtwo' as the locals had also started calling the fusion of human and Pokémon, and the black scaled Rayquaza, who seemed to have joined the Trainer's party. Of Cynthia, the dragon's Tamer, there was no sign, and nobody was willing to speak on her location. Those who knew it, kept it quiet, so as to discourage any other attempts to track her down, and bring her home. Red knew that Albion would be much harder to reach now that it had Arcean tech defending it, but thankfully, the Scales of Balance were rather well equipped to handle such a threat, and it was to them that Red intended to go, once Japan had healed from the scars the Arcean Blitz had left all along their island.