AGNPH Stories

Rukario Romance by XD385


Wrath of the Devil

To the northwest of Eterna City near the edge of the Skydiamond clan's territory, the Oracle leaned against a tree as half a dozen elite Lucario warriors stood nearby in a hexagon formation around her. One of them asked, "Oracle, we've been on alert for that apparition for several days now. Is it on the verge of choosing one path or the other yet?" She replied, "I...can't say just yet. Its mind is still split in twain."

The Lucario warrior sighed, "Look, I know we have been placed at your command to act on a moment's notice, but what's the point if the creature doesn't become a threat?" The Oracle nodded, "True. This new apparition may turn out to be a potential ally instead of a threat. However....." The Lucario raised an eyebrow, "However? What else is there?" The Oracle frowned, "The dark presence has become.....restless. I fear it may take a turn for the worst anytime now." She gazed to the south, "I can only pray that I am wrong. I fear that this demon...may be beyond our ability to contain it..."

J continued to stare at the strange boy who stood before her, a cloak of flames enshrouding him that resembled a Zangoose in shape. He growled, "Hey! Are you deaf?! Hand Kazeerah over, or else!" But J simply brought a hand to the earpiece of her goggles that was covering her right ear. Lights of many colors then flashed along the surface of her goggles as she carefully scanned the creature before her.

J grumbled to herself as her goggles read the creature of flames. (Those flames that are covering him exceed 1,200 degrees. But his body temperature is normal. The flames are even making direct contact with his body. But he's not being burned? What exactly IS he?!) Ash then snarled, "Time's up. How do you want me to tear you apart? Quick and painless? Or agonizingly slow?" J grunted as she reached for her belt and quickly tossed out three Poké Balls at once, "Neither. You're the one who's gonna die here, runt." 

Simultaneously, the three Poké Balls burst open and released streams of bright light. Once the light faded, Ash smirked in anticipation at the sight of three Pokémon standing before him. One was an Ariados, another was a Drapion, and the third was a mighty Salamence. However, Ash raised an eyebrow as he eyed the Salamence, noticing that it seemed abnormally large. It appeared to be twice as large as an ordinary Salamence at most. He snickered, "Oh well. The bigger they are, the easier they are to hit." But J gave him a very cold smirk and replied, "I wouldn't get any ideas if I were you. If you're gonna run away, you better do it now." She then calmly commanded her three Pokémon with cruel disdain, "Slaughter him." 

Ariados made the first move by launching a flurry of Poison Sting needles. Ash growled, "Is that your best?" He stood his ground, making no attempt to evade the attack. But as the needles came in contact with the cloak of flames, they were incinerated in puffs of purple smoke. J scowled, "Drapion, get in there. Cross Poison." The Drapion then made a sudden lunge for Ash, but stopped short. Suddenly, Ash glanced up as the Salamence flew just over the Drapion and rammed Ash's head with a Zen Headbutt, sending the boy flying backwards.

Ash planted his hands against the ground as he rolled from the blow to his head and vaulted himself up, landing back on his feet. "That's pretty good." But before he could rest, Ash noticed a sudden flurry of Pin Missile needles coming at him from the Ariados. "OK... That bug's getting on my nerves." Ash then dropped to all fours and dashed through the flurry of needles as they burst into flames upon contact with the layer of flames coating his body. The Drapion and Salamence tried to stop Ash with a Shadow Ball and Dragonbreath, but he nimbly danced around the assault without even slowing down. As he neared the Long Leg Pokémon, Ash made a great leap into the air. The Ariados attempted to intercept Ash with a Sludge Bomb, but the vile orb of poison evaporated instantly into a plume of foul-smelling smoke upon coming in contact with the cloak of flames. When Ash came down, he plunged his right hand into the ground several feet away from the Ariados and remained still.

J spoke after a moment, "That's it?" But to her surprise, Ash looked up at her with a sinister grin, "Wait for it." Suddenly, heat began to rise from the ground that the Ariados was standing on. A moment later, a plume of magma erupted from under the Ariados, sending molten rock flying upwards as it engulfed and melted the Bug type into molten cinders. J quickly ran away from the Eruption before the molten rock could rain down upon her. Ash smirked, "Bugs can't take the heat. It's your own fault for not giving my friend back!" But J quickly gathered herself and replied, "So you got lucky. The other two should be more than enough to rip you to shreds." Ash scowled, (What the..... She just watched her own Pokémon die right in front of her and she doesn't even care?!) He then roared as he lunged for her, "YOU HEARTLESS WITCH!!!" But before he could reach her, J raised her left arm and seemed to aim a tiny hole on the metal gauntlet she wore at him. "Stay." A second later, a ray of yellow light shot out from the gauntlet towards Ash. Startled, he stopped in his tracks and threw up an arm to shield himself from the strange light.

After a moment, Ash opened his eyes as he felt like nothing had happened. "Hm? What....huh?! What the?!" He noticed that his left arm was coated in the same copper-colored stone that had encased Kazeerah before J captured her. "So that's how it happened?!" He then tried to move his elbow, but his arm would not budge. "Dang. It really is like a layer of rock!" But Ash froze as he felt a presence behind him. J commanded, "Use Crunch. Bite his head off." The Salamence opened its jaws wide as it prepared to chomp down on Ash's skull. But the boy whirled around and struck the surprised dragon in the lower jaw with his own petrified arm, breaking some of its teeth in the process. "Looks like this junk's good for something." But he then grabbed his arm with his right hand as the flames that covered him blazed furiously. The stone shell that encased his arm began to glow brightly as it became hotter. A moment later, it slid off as it melted from the extreme heat. "That's better." But Ash then noticed that J was aiming her strange gauntlet at him again. "Moron! Like I'll let that happen again!" Ash dropped to all fours and dashed towards J while evading the rays of light being fired from her gauntlet. A moment later, he streaked by her with his claws extended as he lashed out at her left arm. A spray of blood doused the grass below her as J tightly gripped her arm in pain, sparks flying from the gauntlet where Ash's claws had cleaved right through it and down to her skin.

Ash growled, "You're lucky I didn't take your whole arm off." He then raised his left hand to his face and gingerly licked the blood from his claws. He grumbled, "You're not just disgusting as a person. Your own blood tastes awful too." J glared at the boy, "You....little runt! No one does something like this to me and lives!" Ash then raised his right hand and extended his claws, "Then I must be the first. Now what would you like to lose first? Arm, leg, or head?" But J's only response was, "Cross Poison." Ash raised an eyebrow, "Cross Poison? What kind of limb is...GRAH!!!" Ash was sent flying a good distance as J's Drapion struck him from behind. J cruelly smirked, "That should do it. The poison should finish the job." Once Ash came to a stop, he groaned as he climbed to his feet. "So that was Cross Poison, huh? Never even heard of that move before......wait... POISON?" Ash felt along his back and felt a few scratches where the Drapion's claws had scraped him. Ash gulped, "Oh man... It got through... But wait..." Ash remained perfectly still for a moment. "I don't feel any different. I guess being part Zangoose means having high resistance to poisons." He then stood up and shouted, "Is that the best you got?!" J gritted her teeth, "The poison isn't working? Fine. If he can't be poisoned, petrified, or burned, then I'll just have to obliterate him."

Ash dropped to all fours and flailed his burning tail, "What's wrong? Outta tricks?" J smirked sadistically, "I've still got one last move up my sleeve. Drapion, get in there and use Constrict when you get the chance." The Drapion then ran towards Ash with its claws glowing a fiendish purple for another Cross Poison. Ash sneered, "It didn't work last time, so there's no way it'll help you this time either!" Ash then dashed towards the Drapion at high speed on all fours. Once within range, the Drapion lashed out with its claws, but Ash dodged and rolled to the side before countering with a Crush Claw to the Ogre Scorpion's armored neck. But to his surprise, the hard shell was only slightly cracked. "Whoa... That's some tough armor." But the Drapion then lashed out with its claws and smacked Ash away with a Knock Off. Once Ash landed on his feet, he gazed at the Drapion as it seemed to press the tip of its tail against the center of its back. "Huh? What... Did it throw its back out?" J smirked as she muttered to herself, "The poor fool really is a rookie when it comes to Sinnoh. He's never even seen an Acupressure before." 

Once it seemed that the Drapion was finishing up, Ash used Quick Attack to quickly narrow the distance between them. "Too slow!" He then slammed his fist into its armored neck after retracting his claws. After getting a good feel for the cracks in the armor, Ash began to hammer away with Close Combat. The rapid blows began to crack and even fracture the armor as the Drapion gagged from the force of the blows. The constant barrage and pressure even began to force the Drapion up on its hind legs, allowing Ash to strike at its armored underside as well. Moments later, the armored shattered, revealing the Drapion's soft flesh. Once Ash ceased his attack, the Drapion seemed to be left reeling, as it seemed to be about to fall over backwards. Ash smirked as he extended his claws and aimed for the soft flesh that was now revealed. "Nice knowing ya." But before he could strike, the Drapion brought itself forward and swung its head down, striking Ash square between the eyes with Payback. Ash staggered back while gripping his face as blood oozed between his fingers. "Guh... That hurt bad..." But the Drapion quickly followed up with a potent Giga Impact, sending Ash flying as blood spouted from his mouth. The boy came to a stop well over 100 feet from where he had been launched. As he propped himself up on his knees, he gripped his mid torso where the Drapion's head had struck him. "I think.....he cracked a rib on that one..." But when he looked ahead, Ash saw the Drapion running towards him with astounding speed. He gulped, "Don't tell me this has something to do with that weird move where it touched its back with its tail!" Ash had only just gotten to his feet when the Drapion was just a few feet from him. But when he lashed out with Fire Punch, the Drapion dodged to the side and got behind him. It then opened its pincers wide and slammed them shut around Ash's body; one pair constricting his arms just below the shoulders while the other pair gripped him around his upper legs. And to add insult to injury, the Drapion sank its fangs into Ash's neck with Poison Fang. Ash screamed in agony as the deadly venom was injected into him, the dark purple fluid oozing down his neck. 

J called out, "Good enough. Now hold him this way!" The Drapion then turned and held Ash out in front of it while facing J and her Salamence, who were a few hundred feet away. Ash snarled as he endured the pain from the Drapion's bite. While the poison was no threat to him, the fangs piercing his flesh were still very painful. J then commanded, "Hyper Beam. Make sure there's nothing left of this punk." Ash's eyes shot wide open as he saw the Salamence open its jaws wide as a sphere of volatile orange energy began to form at the entrance to its mouth. Ash growled, "Unreal. What kind of Trainer uses fatal force against an opponent?" He then closed his eyes, "Maybe..... Maybe it would be best this way..... If I'm gone, I'll never be a threat to Ruby again. I won't be able to hurt anyone if I'm dead..." But his eyes then shot open, "No... What am I thinking? If I quit here, what'll happen to Kazeerah? We only just met, but... She's still my friend. I won't let her be sold like livestock!" Ash then began to focus as the flames around his body began to swirl a little. A second later, he let out a roar as a vortex of flames engulfed him, scorching the Drapion's exposed flesh. The Drapion let out a shriek as it was burned, releasing Ash from its clutches. The boy smirked, "Flame Wheel. Never knew it could be this handy." J gulped, "No, hold your fire! Don't let it loose!" But it was too late. The Salamence could no longer keep its grip on the massive amount of energy in its mouth and unleashed the deadly Hyper Beam towards Ash. But the boy smirked as he reached back and grabbed the Drapion by its arms, "Now its your turn!" He then hurled the Ogre Scorpion towards the incoming Hyper Beam. J shuddered, "You've gotta be kidding me!" 

When the Hyper Beam collided with J's Drapion, it struck the soft underbelly that was no longer protected by its hard exoskeleton. If a horrific explosion, the Drapion was blown to pieces. Ash, J, and even the Salamence watched in silent disbelief as the many pieces of the Drapion splattered across the battlefield, its dark green blood covering its remains. The head of the Drapion rolled for a moment before coming to a stop, its lifeless eyes gazing in the direction of its disgraceful Trainer. J's Salamence seemed dumbstruck by the actual degree of damage its own Hyper Beam had caused. J could only mutter, "What...the...hell..." Ash's eye twitched for a moment as he muttered, "Dang..... I always knew that Hyper Beam is insanely powerful... But for a Hyper Beam from a completely obliterate something like that?" He then glared at J and her Salamence, "It's not natural... What the heck did she do to that Pokémon to make it this ridiculously strong?" 

J slowly turned her head towards the strange boy who had destroyed her Ariados and froze. Never before had anything given her so much trouble. It was beyond anything she had ever experienced. It was then that she understood her plight. If she did not flee, there was a strong likelihood that she would perish. She brought a hand to the earpiece that was covering her right ear and watched the readings being displayed on her goggles. She nodded, "I can still make it." She then turned to her Salamence and gave it a light kick to wake it up from its trance. "Do as you will. Do whatever it takes to destroy this beast. Use everything at your disposal." The Salamence growled as it widened its stance. J then turned and ran east along the road. Ash shouted, "Oh, no you don't!" But as he ran after her, a stream of fire scorched the ground before him. He then glanced over at the Salamence that was snarling at him. Ash growled, "Fine. You die first." 

Ash took a deep breath and launched a mighty Fire Blast while the Salamence countered with a Dragon Pulse. Much to Ash's surprise, his Fire Blast was reduced to a flurry of embers as the Dragon Pulse cut right through it. Ash growled as he stood his ground with an arm winding up for a punch. Just before the Dragon Pulse could reach him, Ash smacked it upwards, causing it to explode in a flurry of greenish blue light. But as he looked back at the Salamence, it was preparing to fire another Hyper Beam at him. Without a word, Ash dropped to all fours and dashed towards his foe. When the Hyper Beam was launched, he shifted sideways to evade it without slowing down. As the Salamence recovered from its endeavor, Ash ran right by it and lashed out with his left hand and slashed the dragon along its face. He then came to a stop a short distance behind the Salamence and turned to face it. When the Salamence turned around, Ash let out a disappointed sigh. A long and deep scratch ran along the dragon's face and up over its left eye, which was tightly pinched shut. He noticed a small trickle of blood ooze out from its eyelid, leading Ash to suspect that it was now blind in its left eye. 

Ash sighed, "I pity you. Seriously, why do you take orders from that witch?" The Salamence only growled as it spread its wings. Ash angrily shouted, "Don't you get it?! Your pathetic excuse of a Trainer just left you for dead! Are you even aware of the harm you've caused by helping her?!" The Salamence was silent as it glared at Ash with its right eye. A moment of silence passed before Ash sighed, "It's sad. I wish it didn't have to end this way. I'm pretty sure that if we met some other time at another place..... I think we just might've been good...friends..." The Salamence remained silent. When Ash looked the Salamence in the eye, he noticed what seemed to be a slight glimmer of respect. The two foes shared a long silent gaze, never blinking once. The Salamence eventually let out a growl and widened its stance as if preparing to take flight. Ash nodded, "So that's how its gotta be, huh? One must live, and one must die." He then gave the Salamence a confident smile, "All right then. No grudges. Let's make this battle one worth remembering." 

The Salamence flapped its wings hard as it took to the air. As it rose through the air, Ash took a deep breath and fired a massive Blast Burn at his opponent. But the Salamence nimbly evaded it without much effort. Once it was a good 1,000 feet off the ground, the Salamence hovered in place as it raised its head and let out a roar. Ash's eyes went wide as he saw what appeared to be a dark distortion appear above the dragon. A moment later, countless large rocks began to rain down from the strange distortion as the Salamence unleashed Draco Meteor. 

Ash gulped, "Just my luck. An opponent that can summon a meteor shower." He then began to leap to and fro as the meteors rained down around him with loud impacts. But as he evaded the meteors, Ash looked up and eyed the Salamence's two red wings. A sneaky smirk then crossed his face as he had an idea. After evading another meteor, Ash leapt straight up and thrust out one hand, sending a rope of fire out from it with a hand-like shape at the end. It soon grabbed a meteor, which Ash then pulled himself towards at high speed. But just before he reached it, he released his grip, causing him to pass it up and continue soaring upwards. He then repeated the process time and again as he hurtled through the meteor swarm. The Salamence gave Ash a startled glance as he neared it. Ash shouted, "You seem really proud of those wings! It would be a shame if something were to happen to them!" 

Just before Ash could reach it, the Salamence snapped at him with a Crunch. But Ash reached out and planted his hands upon the scalp of the dragon and vaulted over it and flew over its back with his claws ready. Before passing it, Ash lashed out at the Salamence's wings near the bases. The Salamence shook its head to recover from the sudden smack it had received on the top of its head, but soon noticed two large flat red objects floating down below it. It then noticed Ash falling as well, who shouted, "Another thing I forgot to mention! The bigger they are, the harder they hit the ground!" The Salamence then noticed that something felt odd. It then looked behind it and stared with a pale expression. The magnificent red wings that it had always treasured since evolving had been cleanly sliced off near the base, the most humiliating injury a Salamence could possibly suffer. At that moment, gravity took command as the Salamence went into a freefall, shrieking in terror as it plunged to its doom with no possible way to save itself. As he neared the ground, Ash thrust his hand towards a tree and grabbed onto it with a rope of fire and anchored himself to it, saving him from a nasty fall. He then looked up as he noticed that the meteors had stopped falling. He then gave a slightly pained expression as he saw the Salamence plummeting from the sky. He looked away, "This isn't gonna be pretty..." A moment later, there was a loud impact and a slight tremor as the Salamence crashed headfirst into the ground. 

Ash turned and saw the Salamence lying in a small crater. With a sigh, he slowly approached it. He winced at the sight before him. The Salamence's neck was badly twisted from the impact and the skull had been fractured. Its jaw was hanging open with a trickle of blood oozing from it while its eyes showed utter terror. Ash sighed, "At least you didn't feel much pain." He then gently closed the Salamence's jaws and did the same with its eyelids. "I'll make sure your 'Trainer' joins you soon." Ash then turned to the east and took off on all fours, his fierce pink eyes filled with bitter determination. 

J looked around as she stood on a small foothold while tightly gripping a thick steel cable that was attached to it. The cable seemed to extend up into the sky. She then spoke into a mouthpiece that extended from the earpiece on her right ear, "I'm secured. Pull me.....uh..." J stopped short of what she was saying as Ash came into view from the west. He then came to a stop a good distance away from J and silently glared at her. After a moment, he asked, "Any last words before I cut out your heart?" J calmly smiled and spoke into her mouthpiece, "Deactivate the optic camouflage." At that moment, Ash noticed that it had become a bit darker around them. Wondering if a large Pokémon was blocking out the sun, he glance upwards. But his eyes went wide in shock as he gulped, "What in the...... That wasn't there a second ago!" Floating above them was a massive airship of sorts that, until it became visible, was hovering silently in place. The sound of jet engines could now be heard. 

Taking advantage of Ash's confusion, J spoke into her mouthpiece, "Pull me up. Now!" At that instant, the cable began to retract towards the airship. Ash soon noticed and shouted, "Forget it!" He then lunged at J and took a swing with his claws. But she was just barely out of reach as the cable pulled her up. "Tough luck, kid. But don't worry. You'll get your turn in a few minutes. Just stay where you are." As he watched J disappear into some sort of docking bay on the underside of the bow of the airship, he shouted, "Coward! When I'm done with you, you'll be begging me to kill you quickly!!!" 

Once inside the cockpit of her airship, J clutched her left arm as more blood oozed from the gash. One of her henchmen asked, "Commander, should I get you some first aid?" J groaned, "Not yet. Wait until we've set a course for the client." She then took a seat in the pilot seat at the center of the cockpit as multiple henchmen looked over control panels below her at the very front of the airship. J sighed in exhaustion, "This job turned out to be far more difficult than I imagined." She then held Kazeerah's Poké Ball in her right hand. "I better charge that client double for what that punk did to me." 

Below the airship, Ash was seething as he watched the ship about to leave with Kazeerah still in J's clutches. "No way..... I promised I would get her back." He then lowered himself closer to the ground and extended the claws on his left hand before plunging it into the ground as an anchor. He then thrust out his right hand and extended a massive rope of fire. Seconds later, the hand-like end of it reached out and grabbed the back of the airship. "I won't let you take her!" 

As the airship began to move forward, the entire ship shook suddenly as if something had anchored it to a mountain. J shouted, "What the hell?! What's wrong?!" One of the henchmen replied, "The engines don't seem to be malfunctioning, but sensors indicate that something bearing an extremely high heat signature has landed at the back of the stern on the outside of the ship. Possibly a Moltres, judging by the size." J grumbled, "That's no Moltres..." She then shouted, "Get to the engine rooms! Set energy output to 100% immediately!" As her henchmen left the cockpit, J growled, "I won't let him get me... I won't let myself be done in by some kid!" 

Outside the airship, the jet engines on the underside became louder as the rotation of the blades sped up. But back inside the cockpit, the intercom on the control panel in front of J spoke out, "The engines are at maximum output! But the situation doesn't seemed to have changed!" J then shouted at the top of her lungs, "Then activate the auxiliary propulsion systems!" Once the intercom shut off, J pounded the control panel with her fist, causing a few sparks to fly from it. She gritted her teeth, "You've ticked me off for the last time, you little rat! Once I turn the ship around, I'll vaporize you!!!" 

Ash noticed two pairs of hatches slowly open on the back of the airship. But moments later, powerful rocket engines let loose as fiery exhaust roared from the hatches! Ash groaned as he struggled to hold on to his prey. He then slowly raised his right hand and growled, "I...won't....let....her...go!!!" At that instant, he jerked his hand downward, causing the rope of fire to suddenly pull downwards. The backside of the airship suddenly dropped, the stern plummeting towards the ground on a steep angle and at high speed.

Several miles from Sandgem Town in a forested area, Lucy spoke up, "We're pretty close now. You can put me down." Ashton nodded, "If you say so." He gently lowered the young Lucario maiden to the ground and smiled as he watched her stretch. "We're a good distance from modern civilization. Is this place you're looking for really in such an obscure location?" Lucy replied, "I'm sorry, but yes. It is a bit out of the way. But it can't be helped. But which way to the seashore?" Ashton looked up, "Just a moment." He then jumped towards a tree and planted his feet against it. He then ran straight up the trunk and came to the very top, which jutted up over the canopy. Lucy giggled as she watched Ashton disappear through the branches, "I have to figure out how he does that."

Ashton carefully gazed in every direction for signs of the ocean. When he looked south, he saw a large body of water beyond the treetops. He then dropped down from the treetops and landed beside Lucy. "It is to the south. In that direction." Lucy smiled, "Thank you. It should be easy to spot as we follow the shoreline." Lucy then headed south with Ashton in tow. Once they came to the shoreline, Lucy continued east with her escort close behind her. 

After a short walk, Lucy pointed, "I think that's it!" Ashton brought a hand to his brow to keep the sun out of his eyes as he peered ahead. Jutting out from the shoreline over the ocean seemed to be a long and narrow peninsula that steadily rose up like a hill. "That?" Lucy nodded, "Yes. Let's hurry. I don't want to keep the others waiting for too long." Lucy then broke into a run with Ashton in tow.

Once they reached the hilly peninsula and started to climb it, Ashton eyed his surroundings. There seemed to be a number of craters littering the hillside, hinting that there may have been a great struggle in the past. However, the craters had since been filled with grass and other vegetation, bringing a tiny smile to Ashton's face that nature had recovered from the damage. Once the two companions neared the very tip of the peninsula, Lucy came to a stop. Ashton looked ahead and saw what seemed to be a single stone that was largely covered with moss. While it seemed rather rugged, the side that was facing them was somewhat flat. Lucy then slowly approached the stone and kneeled before it. Ashton sighed, "So you came here to pay respects, did you not?" Lucy quietly replied, "I'm grateful that you took the time to accompany me here. Yes. A very dear friend of mine perished here some time ago. And I try to visit this spot whenever I can." 

Ashton stood next to Lucy and also kneeled before the makeshift tombstone. He bowed his head and closed his eyes as he offered a silent prayer. Lucy then glanced down at the base of the stone and frowned. Ashton noticed and asked, "Something troubling you?" Lucy nodded, "Something I left here is missing. A journal my friend carried with her. I guess a curious bird took it, or perhaps a strong gust of wind blew it into the sea." Ashton nodded, "A shame. But like a bouquet of flowers laid at someone's grave, there's not much you could have done to shield it from the elements." Lucy sighed, "I know. I was not expecting to find it here anyway." Ashton then eyed the layer of moss covering the tombstone and could barely make out some grooves along it, as if it had grown over some narrow gaps. He then held a hand to the stone and enshrouded his hand in flames. The moss quickly burned away, revealing the words that had been carved into it. Inscribed upon the stone was the name "Kazeerah" and the words "R.I.P. My sister". 

Ashton glanced over to Lucy, "She was your sister?" Lucy nodded, "In a sense. We were not related by blood, but she was the closest thing to a real family I ever had." Ashton quietly replied, " are an orphan?" Lucy whispered, "Please don't go around telling anyone that. I don't want to be pitied." Ashton nodded, "Understood." But after a moment more, Ashton raised an eyebrow as he noticed some more writing at the bottom corner of the stone. When he took a closer look, he asked, "Lucy, this peninsula is where your sister met her end. Correct?" Lucy nodded, "Yes." Ashton then asked, "Did you actually SEE her die?" Lucy sighed, "I saw her fall into the ocean from the edge of the cliff up here. She fell in...and did not come back up." Ashton then asked, "So you never reclaimed the body?" Lucy shook her head, "I could not. Her remains are probably resting at the bottom of the sea." 

Ashton looked back at the tombstone for a moment, but then began to snicker as he tried to not burst out laughing. Lucy gazed at him with an annoyed expression and asked, "Why are you laughing?" Ashton noticed the tone of Lucy's voice, as if she had been offended. He looked over his shoulder at her and gave her an amused grin, "I meant no disrespect, but it looks like a certain someone is playing you for a fool. Take a closer look here." Lucy raised an eyebrow and leaned forward to examine the corner of the tombstone that Ashton was pointing at. A moment later, her eyes went wide with shock. Scribbled into the stone were the words "Thanks, Lucy, but I'm not dead yet". 

Lucy could not believe what she was reading. While the style was a bit sloppy due to the words having been carved in, the writing was very similar to her sister's handwriting. "Is this...real?" Ashton nodded, "I really don't see how anyone could get entertainment out of vandalizing a tombstone by inscribing a lie onto it. And what are the chances of the vandal knowing your name?" Lucy began to hyperventilate as she tried to imagine that her sister was still alive. "I don't..... It can't be... How could she still..." Ashton then placed a hand on her shoulder, "Get a hold of yourself. You're acting like you're fearful of punishment for something. You're not the one who 'killed' her, are you?" Lucy began to sweat profusely at this, but Ashton just laughed, "Easy there. I was merely jesting you. You're too loving to do that to anyone." Lucy seemed to calm down slightly, but she could not forget what she saw. That it was indeed by her own hands that Kazeerah plummeted to her death into the sea. But did she really survive? (Fire types don't fare well against water... But was Kazeerah a strong swimmer?) Ashton tapped her on the shoulder, "If she is indeed alive, I'm sure she will greet you with open arms. Don't think about what happened here." Lucy then looked up at Ashton with a smile, "All right. I won't lose hope."

As Ashton helped Lucy to her feet, there was a sudden orange flash and a distant boom. Ashton whirled around and quickly scanned the horizon. He then gasped, "What in the world....." In the distance, a colossal ball of fire reached into the sky. Lucy gasped, "Isn't that coming from Sandgem Town?!" Ashton carefully scanned the size of the fireball and shook his head, "I doubt it. It's probably a little west of it." Lucy then asked, "But...what could it be?" Ashton frowned, "I can fancy a guess. It's him! Ash! We've found him!" He then reached out his hand, "No time to go on foot. We're going by how the crow flies!" Lucy nodded, "All right. Just don't drop me." Once Lucy was secured in Ashton's arms, a pair of large wings composed of rainbow-colored flames sprouted from Ashton's back. Wasting no time, the Angel of the Eternal Flame took to the sky and made his way back towards Sandgem Town.

It did not take long for Ashton and Lucy to return. Just on the outskirts of the city, Ashton landed and dismissed his wings before setting Lucy down. Ashton spoke, "We were supposed to meet the others at the local Pokémon Center. Any idea where it is?" Lucy nodded, "I've been here before. Follow me." She then broke into a run with Ashton close behind her. They passed many townspeople who seemed to be in an uproar, most likely over the explosion that occurred just outside the city. 

Lucy pointed, "There they are now!" Ahead of them was the local Pokémon Center. And standing outside the front doors were their companions. Ashton called out, "Did any of you see that fireball in the sky?!" Ruby replied, "Not just us. Everyone in town saw it! The police are trying to restore order before they investigate." Ashton then explained. "Well, we're not waiting. Let's go! We need to find the source of that explosion! Chances are Ash had some connection to it!" Sapphire shrieked, "Daddy?! He's here?!" Ashton nodded, "Most likely. And he's probably close by! Let's not wait any longer! Follow after me!" Ashton then made a mad dash for the western border of Sandgem Town with his family and friends right behind him, ignoring the local police forces as they tried to calm the panicking residents. 

Ash stared silently at the smoldering wreckage of J's airship, the stern completely engulfed in flames as the fuel tanks ruptured and ignited upon impact with the ground. He growled, "Not yet. Kazeerah's still in there." He then dropped down on all fours and ran towards the wreckage before leaping onto it. He then made his way towards the bow, intending to enter the airship through the windshields at the front of the cockpit.

J clutched her left shoulder as she sat in the pilot's seat, which had somehow survived the crash. Blood oozed down her face as the left half of her goggles had been shattered. She pressed a button on the remains of the control panel in front of her and spoke, "Is there anyone still alive?" There was no response. All of J's henchmen perished upon impact with the ground. The only thing that had saved J was the fact that she had been securely strapped into the pilot seat. A sense of panic began to set in as J came to the frightening realization that she was now completely alone. Injured, with almost no way of defending herself if that strange creature of flames came back for her. She quickly undid the buckle on her safety straps and slid down the metal slope that was below her. She then limped towards the shattered windshields, a twisted ankle slowing her down. "Gotta get outta here... Can't let him get me..."

J carefully slid down the mangled wreck of the cockpit towards the solid ground beneath her. She stopped to catch her breath, still feeling slightly dazed from the jarring impact of the crash. "Almost... Gotta keep moving..." But before she could get any farther, a voice spoke from behind her, "Going somewhere, meat?" J froze and rigidly began to turn around. Her eyes went wide with fear as she looked up, the creature of flames standing atop the roof of the ruined cockpit. J tried to run, but lost her footing and tumbled down the airship's hull until she landed upon the ground in a heap. Ash then leapt down to her and stood motionless before the poacher he sought to slaughter. 

J gazed up into the hateful pink eyes of the creature that could end her life at anytime it wished. She then pleaded, "Now... Hold on a second... I give. You win. Here, just take it." She then tossed Kazeerah's Poké Ball towards Ash's feet. But he made no response as the ball rolled by him. J then gulped, "Right, I get it. Compensation." She then reached into her coat pocket and pulled out what looked like many bills of currency tied together with a rubber band. "Go on! Take it! And there's more if it's not enough! A lot more!" This time, Ash reached out and took the wad of money. He then held it in his hand as he looked down at it. But he soon glared back at J and spoke, "You really think this'll bribe me into letting you live?" To the poacher's horror, the wad of money in Ash's hand burst into flames and fell from his hand in bits and pieces of ashes. "You can pay me all the money in the world. It still won't change anything. And now that I know exactly what kind of monster you really are, even if you DID return Kazeerah to me, begging for mercy won't help. I'm still gonna kill you." Ash then extended his claws, "You tried to kill me, someone who was simply trying to get his friend back. You had no regard for the survival of your own Pokémon. Even as they went on fighting for you, following every order you gave them, you just used them like disposable napkins. You threw their lives away, just so you could sell Kazeerah for a profit! You're not just an embarrassment as a Trainer....." He then noticed that J was reaching into her coat for something. Acting purely on instinct, he lashed out with his claws and cleaved right through her elbow. J let out a shriek of agony as her right forearm fell to the ground. And in her hand rested a loaded pistol. Ash then glared back at her and took another swing at her, cleaving a large strip of flesh from her mid torso. "You're an embarrassment as a person altogether! You're not gonna die quickly. I'm gonna make you beg! Beg for me to kill you!" 

J collapsed to the ground, screaming as blood oozed from her torso. Ash proceeded to rip her coat off so he had better access to her body. He took a few more swings with his claws, revealing her internal organs. Ash then noticed that her ribcage was blocking access to her lungs and heart. He sneered, "I'm gonna do to you what I did to that Lucario sniper!" He then plunged his claws into the very center of J's ribcage and ripped them outwards, shattering it. By now, her screams were becoming more than just a little annoying. At last, she pleaded, "Just get it over with! Hurry up and end it! Please!" But Ash growled in irritation, "This should shut you up!" Ash then thrust his had into her chest and pulled it back out. Suddenly, J could no longer scream. With what little strength she had, she gazed up at Ash. Her eyes quivered in silent horror. Hanging from Ash's right hand was a pair of human lungs. Her face began to turn blue as she slowly began to suffocate. But Ash smirked, "Looks like I better work fast before you pass out."

Over the next minute, Ash proceeded to cut out J's organs. He started with her liver. Then he proceeded to remove her pancreas. He then chuckled a little as he yanked out her ovaries, "Good thing I didn't miss these. Who would want to have a kid with you?!" After removing her bladder and stomach, Ash noticed that J seemed like she was on the verge of losing consciousness. Wanting to make sure she would feel every ounce of pain he inflicted upon her, he thrust the claws on his right hand into her pelvis. He then looked her in the eyes and whispered, "When you see him, tell that scum, Thanatos, that Ash says Hi." Ash then raised J above him and plunged the claws on his left hand into her pelvis as well. With a mighty pull, he ripped her body in two at the waste, the two halves falling to the ground on both sides of him. He then looked down at her upper half, her eyes quivering in agony, but with no way to scream. Mere seconds later, J's eyes became still with a lifeless expression. Ash sighed in satisfaction, pleased that he made a heartless poacher suffer as much as she could before death finally took her. 

Ash then looked back at Kazeerah's Poké Ball and snatched it up. After a brief moment, he crushed the ball between his fingers. At that instant, a red beam of light emerged from his hand and touched the ground before taking on a familiar form. A moment later, a bewildered Blaziken stood before Ash while facing the wreckage of J's airship. She whistled, "Whoa... What'd I miss?" Ash replied, "Not much. You OK?" Kazeerah turned and smiled, "Just fine, thanks. And I see ya got that creepy flame thing back on. And..... WHAT THE HELL?!" Kazeerah gazed in disgust at the bloodied remains of Hunter J. She gulped, "Ash.... Did ya really..." He nodded, "Yup. And don't you dare question my reasons. That piece of trash had it coming. She was gonna sell you to someone and even tried to kill me when I tried to save you." Kazeerah then looked back down at the corpse before her. "Sell me, huh? I get it. So this was Hunter J. I've heard about her before. Even though this was way overkill, I'm pretty sure I speak for everyone when I say Sinnoh will be a little safer now." Ash only silently nodded. But Kazeerah then spoke, "Oh, and Ash?" He then looked over to her, only to have her throw an arm around his neck and give him a playful squeeze, "Thanks. Guess I owe ya one now." Ash smiled, "You don't have to. That's what friends do, right? They help each other out." Kazeerah smiled, "That they do. You might not be someone people wanna tick off, but yer a true-blue pal." She then gave him a playful bop on the shoulder, "And I'm glad to have ya as a friend too." The two friends then let out a little laugh together. 

Kazeerah jumped to a higher point on J's airship and called, "I think now would be a good time to set up camp!" Ash looked back at her and replied, "I'll be a few minutes." But once Kazeerah jumped down, she then looked to the east and noticed several Lucario, a Zangoose, a Lugia, and a Riolu come into view while being led by a young man who seemed to be in his mid teens. The man gulped, "What the... Is this what that ball of fire came from?! What is this thing?!" But Kazeerah called out, "Careful! Ya'll better stay sharp around here! There's still a fire going, so keep yer distance until it goes out!" But one of the Lucario froze. "That voice..... And that style of speech..... Kazeerah?" 

Kazeerah noticed one of the Lucario staring at her as if she had seen a ghost. "What's up with her?" But she then noticed that the Lucario's right ear was drooping forward. "No way... The only Lucario I've seen who has an ear like that is..." She then smiled and waved, "Hey, Lucy! Where ya been?! Read any good tombstones lately?!" Ruby turned to Lucy and asked, "How does she know your name? Have you met before?" Lucy said nothing as she made a dash towards Kazeerah as tears began to flow from her eyes. Kazeerah simply held out her arms and embraced her sister as Lucy sailed into her. Kazeerah smiled, "Oh, knock it off. There's no need to cry." But Lucy trembled as she sobbed, "I'm sorry... I thought..... That day...on that cliff..." Kazeerah snickered, "Did ya really think I kicked the bucket? C'mon, you know me better than that!" Lucy choked a little, "Then...that writing on that tombstone..." Kazeerah nodded, "Ya saw that, huh? I'm touched that ya put that there, but it's no good if the person it's for is still alive." Lucy let out a slight giggle, "Sorry..... I guess I should've been more thorough in searching for your body..." Kazeerah then rubbed her sister's head, "All right now, that's enough. No more tears. I'm fine. Seriously." Lucy slowly stopped weeping and looked up at her sister, "Um... Just curious, but did you take that....." Kazeerah nodded, "Yup! Thanks for putting it there!" She then reached down into her sling bag and pulled out an old book of sorts. "I noticed mah journal was missing its ink quill, so I just made another one. You still have the old one, right?" Lucy nodded, "Yes. I kept it as a reminder of you. But I guess I don't need it anymore." But Kazeerah shook her head, "Naw, keep it. If you ever need a pen, just use mah old tail feather." The two girls had a good laugh together.

A moment later, Ruby ran over to Lucy and asked, "Lucy, do you know her?" The Lucario turned around and smiled, "Yes. This is my sister. Her name's Kazeerah." But the Blaziken added, "Adoptive sister, to be honest." Ruby gasped, "You have a sister?! Why didn't you tell us?!" Lucy blushed, "Because I thought she was.....dead?" Kazeerah laughed, "Don't be too hard on her! Everyone makes mistakes!" Ruby nodded, "All right, I understand. Kazeerah, was it?" The Blaziken nodded. Ruby smiled, "My name is Ruby. And your sister has become something of a little sister to me too." Kazeerah laughed, "Is that so?! You're a really lucky girl, having so many ladies wanting to be your sister, Lucy!" The Lucario smiled, "Yes... I have been quite blessed lately." Ruby then signaled for the others to approach them. 

Once introductions were made, Pearl asked, "Kazeerah, what exactly IS this hunk of metal debris?" The Blaziken shrugged her shoulders, "Wish I knew. If I had to guess, I reckon it's the private airship of that witch, Hunter J." Lucy, being from Sinnoh, knew the name and asked, "But then, why is it a wreck?" Kazeerah replied, "Ya'll have to ask my buddy. He's the one who totaled it. I don't remember much, but he said Hunter J captured me and he rescued me or something. When I came to, well.....look around ya." Lucy gasped, "Hunter J abducted you?! Who was it who saved you?!" Kazeerah pointed towards the far end of the airship, "He's over there somewhere. Goes by the name Ash. A really good kid." At this, there was a brief moment of silence. Ruby then suddenly shrieked, "Ash?!" She then turned and leapt onto the hull of the airship before running along it towards the bow. When she stood atop the cockpit, she noticed a familiar form covered in flames. "Found you!" She then leapt from the ship and dove right into the boy just as he turned around to face her, tackling him to the ground. 

As Ash recovered from the shock of being thrown to the ground, Ruby propped herself up with her arms and gazed into his fierce pink eyes. While he looked almost no different than the time when he faced the Blackflame Five, his eyes were somewhat calmer now. Ruby quietly asked, "What happened? Why did you leave without us?" Ash silently turned his head away, but Ruby grabbed his face and made him look at her, "Don't ignore me! Why did you leave us?!" Ash sighed, "Because I'm.....dangerous. I was afraid that I would hurt you and our kids..."

Ruby was silent as she heard her lover's confession. But she soon cupped his face and joined lips with him. Once she broke the kiss, Ruby gently caressed Ash's face and whispered, "You're not what you think you are. You might have some frightful power inside you that comes out whenever you get angry, but I know you would never hurt our children or me. This isn't like you. What happened to the boy I fell in love with? The boy who never doubted himself?" Ash sighed as he gave a slight smile towards his lover, "You're right. I don't know what I was thinking... I just love you so much... I would never be able to forgive myself if anything happened to you." Ruby smiled, "Then stop doubting yourself. You're not a monster. You're a boy with a good heart. You are a father of two lovely children. And you will someday be a husband to me." The two lovers then tightly embraced each other and joined lips. Ash soon asked, "Is everyone else here too?" Ruby nodded, "Yes. But Ashton insisted on Latias staying behind in Altomare for now." Ash breathed a sigh of relief, "That's good. I don't think I'm ready for her yet." 

As Ruby helped Ash to his feet, she noticed the disemboweled human remains around them. She shuddered, "Ash..... What happened here?" Ash replied, "She said was J. A poacher." Ruby nodded, "Hunter J? Kazeerah said something about her. And she was a poacher?" Ash nodded, "She stole Pokémon, both wild and from Trainers, and sold them to others for a profit. She even tried to kill me when I tried to stop her from taking Kazeerah." Ruby then glared at the lifeless face of the dreaded hunter, "If what you said is true, then she definitely deserved this. How dare she try to kill the boy I love." Just then, a pair of shadows was cast over Ash and Ruby. When they turned towards the airship, they saw Ashton and Zandria standing atop the ruined cockpit. 

Zandria whistled as she looked at her descendant, "Well, what do we have here?" She then ran down the hull of the airship and grabbed Ash's flaming tail before rubbing her face in it. "Mmmmm, so warm and soft. I'm loving this tail. Looks like I was right. You really are drop dead handsome with a big bushy tail. Even if it is only made of flames..." Ash blushed a little, "Mom... You can let go now." Ruby giggled, "Don't be so modest! I think you look quite appealing with that tail too!" But Ashton then spoke, "Ruby, you and Zandria head back over to the others." The two ladies nodded and ran back over the hull of J's airship. But before Zandria went far, she turned back to Ashton and asked, "Should I gather up those for use in tonight's dinner?" Ashton glanced over at the bloodied remains of J and turned a little blue in the face. "I think I'll.....pass on this tonight." Zandria shrugged her shoulders, "Suit yourself." She then ran after Ruby, leaving the knight alone with Ash. 

Ashton silently gazed at his descendant before casting his eyes upon J's remains. He spoke, "She abducted Pokémon and sold them to her clients, did she not?" Ash only silently nodded. Ashton sighed as he brought a hand to his face, "I can't believe this sort of activity still goes on today... Have my past endeavors meant nothing to this world?" He then turned to Ash and spoke, "She's lucky you got to her first." 

Ashton spoke as he jumped to the top of J's airships' cockpit, "Well, at least this wretch can't harm anyone now. I suppose the war is over for today." But Ash muttered, "No... Not yet." He then gazed down upon the puddles of blood and disemboweled remains of the poacher as something began to stir in his mind. Ashton turned back to face Ash and asked, "Not yet? What is there left to do?" Ash slowly began to turn around and gazed at Ashton with eyes filled with malice, "There hasn't been enough.....blood." 

Ashton, who was within sight of his companions, asked, "Blood?" Ash growled, "More.... I need to see more!" He then leapt towards his ancestor with claws extended, "I don't care where it comes from! I need to see more!" Ashton gazed in sheer disbelief as Ash's claws cleaved right through him. Chiara saw the whole thing and screamed, "Ashton!" But a second later, Ashton was engulfed in a puff of white smoke. Ash gagged, "What the..." A few seconds later, the smoke dissipated, revealing a large hunk of scrap metal from J's airship. Ash then sniffed the air a little and glanced to his left to a hunk of wreckage, "Gotcha!" He then lunged for it and cleaved right through it. But just before he struck, Ashton dashed away from it with the Flamberge in hand. 

As Ash chased and slashed away at Ashton, the viscount shouted, "Ash, what the devil is wrong with you?! Cease this assault!" But the boy cackled, "More! I must see more blood! Now hold still and let me see yours!" Once he was finally on solid ground, Ashton blocked a swing from Ash and delivered a potent kick to Ash's face, sending him rolling a good distance away. Pearl shouted, "What's wrong with you?! Why'd you do that to him?!" Ashton caught his breath, "Something's amiss. Ash is not himself." Ash then scanned his companions, his tongue licking his lips, "Sacks of blood just waiting to be popped." 

Ruby called out, "Ash, what's gotten into you?! Why did you attack Ashton?!" But the boy replied, "Ruby, you love me, right?" She nodded, "Of course I do. I told you that a few minutes ago." Ash then beckoned her to approach him, "Then come closer." But Ruby's gut told her to stand her ground. Seeing that Ruby would not approach him, Ash gazed at his two children, "Lucash, Sapphire. You would do anything to make your daddy happy, right?" Lucash nervously nodded, "Yeah... You're the best dad in the world. I want to make you happy if I can." Sapphire also shyly smiled, "Me too, Daddy. I love you. I want Daddy to be happy all the time." Ash then gave them a sinister smile, "Then come over here and let me hold you in my arms." But as his two children began to approach him, Ruby snatched them up in her arms, "No! Stay away from him! There's something wrong with your father right now." At this, Ash growled, "Fine. If you won't come to me, I'll just come to you instead!" But before he could run towards his family and friends, Ashton stepped forward with the Flamberge in hand and glared at Ash, "Only if you can get by me, that is." 

Ash sneered, "600 years. Perfectly aged. Your blood must have a really bold taste to it." Ashton grumbled, "This isn't natural... Is he possessed or something?" But just then, Kazeerah stood next to Ashton and smiled, "Let me back ya up." But Ashton shouted, "Are you mad?! This is the Devil of the Eternal Flame we're talking about! He's not your average demon!" But the Blaziken replied with a confident smirk, "Oh, I figured that ever since I saw those remains of Hunter J. But if I'm teaming up with ya, I'm pretty sure we can take 'em. Ya look like ya know what yer doing with that there sword." Ashton grumbled, "I still recommend against it. What would make you want to fight against something like that?" Kazeerah smiled, "Ash is mah friend. And there's obviously something wrong with him. So I gotta help set him straight. I also owe him a favor for saving mah neck. If it wasn't for him, I'd probably be on my way to being pan-fried and served up with a side of mashed potatoes right about now for all I know." 

Kazeerah then took a stance with her arms outstretched with them slightly bent. Ashton brought a hand to his chin, "A Mantis stance..." But Kazeerah then asked, "Since I'm new to this, got any advise before we get started?" Ashton replied, "For one thing, he's fast. Very fast. He can move faster than the average eye can track. And those claws of his can cleave through almost anything. And even though it's two against one, the fact that we have him outnumbered won't do us much good." Kazeerah then asked, "Why's that?" Ashton then asked, "Do you know of the Lucario clans of Hoenn?" Kazeerah frowned, "I've been to Hoenn, but I never really heard much about 'em. Why?" Ashton explained, "A few months ago, Ash went up against five of the most elite Lucario warriors in the region, if not THE most elite. And in the end, they were slaughtered with Ash suffering only minor injuries. One of them was even the Alpha male of a clan." Kazeerah gulped, "Yer kidding..... He took on an Alpha and won without breaking a sweat?" Ashton frowned, "I wish I was only jesting you. But I am dead serious. The only one he spared is Pearl over there. But yes, the other four received no mercy and were torn apart." Kazeerah then looked back towards Ash, his cruel pink eyes glaring at her with demonic bloodlust. "If what ya said is true, then this is gonna be fun." Ashton chuckled, "Never say die, eh? Just remember, we're not trying to kill him. If we can just knock him out, that should be enough." Kazeerah smiled, "Glad to hear that. I was hoping I wouldn't need to kill him." She then braced herself as if she was about to sprint, "I'll go first. Back me up!" She then sprinted towards the Devil, her wrists blazing furiously in anticipation.

Ash raised his right arm with claws extended, "I'll bet your blood's as hot as a bowl of steaming tomato soup!" But as he took a swing at her, Kazeerah ducked the slash before reaching up and firmly gripping his arm. Before Ash could react, Kazeerah brought her knee up into his gut, causing Ash to gag. As he gripped his stomach, Kazeerah lashed out with a few quick blows to the face before striking him in the side of the head with a roundhouse kick. As Ash was reeling from these unexpected blows, Ashton closed in with the Flamberge ready for a horizontal slice. As he prepared to chop Ash's head off, Ruby screamed, "What're you doing?! Don't kill him!" But instead of the sound of flesh being cleaved, there was a loud metallic clank as Ash was sent flying on a low trajectory sideways.

Once Ash came to a stop, he brought a hand to the side of his face, which was a bit swollen as if slapped by an angry housewife. "Ergh... What the heck did you hit me with?!" Ashton then held out the Flamberge and replied, "With the flat side of my blade. I'm not trying to kill you, if you recall." But he then placed the Flamberge on his back and turned to Kazeerah, "That was an interesting taijutsu move you did back there. Was that a judo technique?" Kazeerah nodded, "Yeah, it was. Judo's all about using yer opponent's force against 'em. But what's taijutsu?" He replied, "You'll see in a moment. I think it would be best to fight with my bare hands for now. You go first. We fight as one." 

Ash growled, "Not trying to kill me, huh? Then I'll just have to kill you instead!" But as he dashed towards them, Kazeerah let loose a potent Flamethrower. Ash stopped and shielded himself with his tail before it could strike in order to protect against the recoil, as the flames themselves would have no affect. But an instant later, Kazeerah emerged through the smoke and lashed out with a quick Double Kick, followed up by a Dynamicpunch to his head. While Ash was dazed from the explosive force of the punch, Ashton shouted, "I've got this one!" He then leapfrogged over Kazeerah and brought his heel down on Ash's head, stunning him further. Upon landing, Ashton placed one hand against the ground for support before striking Ash's chin from below with an upward kick. He then leapt up after him, sending him higher into the air with a flurry of punches and kicks, leaving no room for a counterattack. He then shouted as he brought his heel down onto Ash's head, "Kazeerah, stay sharp!" As Ash plummeted towards the ground face first, Kazeerah jumped straight up and slammed her fist into Ash's face with Sky Uppercut, sending him flying back up towards Ashton. But the viscount took the Flamberge in both hands and brought the flat side of the blade down hard onto Ash with a mighty two-handed overhead swing. The boy almost immediately hit the ground afterwards with a mighty crash, leaving a slight crater in the process.

Once Ashton landed, he noticed that Ash was not moving. "I think that did it." Kazeerah gave Ashton a playful bop on the shoulder, "Yer pretty smooth with yer hands. We make one heck of a duo." She then approached Ash to check on him. While not seeming to be asleep, he was not moving either. She nodded, "Yup. I'd say he's down for the count." But a sinister voice replied, "You think so?" Kazeerah suddenly leapt backwards at the sound of Ash's voice just as he lashed out with his claws. Upon landing, Kazeerah grunted as she felt a sting near her foot. A shallow cut had been made in her flesh. Ash then gingerly licked the blood from his claws and smirked, "Looks like I was right. You're blood is pretty hot, almost boiling even. And it's a little spicy too." Kazeerah growled, "Really? I'm flattered. But don't be too disappointed if I decline an offer to a fried chicken dinner." 

Ash climbed to his feet and cracked his neck, "That was fun. You fight differently from any other Blaziken I've seen." Kazeerah nodded, "So ya noticed? Yeah. I've come up with mah own style so I can adapt to just about any kind of combat situation." But Ash then dropped to all fours, "True, but now you've got a little handicap. And I'll be sure to take as much advantage of it as I can." He then made a dash towards her, failing to notice that Ashton was nowhere to be seen. Just before Ash could reach Kazeerah, he came to a stop as he felt something grab his ankle. When he looked back, he gave a baffled stare at what seemed to be a human hand extending out of the ground that was gripping his right foot. A familiar voice spoke, "I'm sending you six feet under!" Ash let out a startled roar as he was dragged underground. A brief moment later, Ashton stood before Ash, who only had his head sticking out of the ground. "All right, maybe just four and a half feet."

Ash gave Ashton an annoyed glare as he jerked his head about while trying to get himself free. But Ashton shook a finger, "Nice try, lad. The Headhunter jutsu is not easy to break free from. Only the Azure Knight ever succeeded in escaping from it on its own." Kazeerah let out a laugh, "That's too funny! How'd ya do it?!" Ashton chuckled, "To be honest, I'm not too sure of how to actually teach this technique to someone. My apologies." Kazeerah shook her head, "That's cool. I don't think it would've worked with mah style anyway." Ashton then looked back at Ash, "Sorry to do this, but it is time for you to take a nap." Ashton then took his sword in hand and turned its blade sideways. As he reached the sword over his head, he spoke, "Lights out."

As he watched Ashton prepare to strike him on the head with his sword, Ash tried to summon up as much strength as he could from the Eternal Flame within his soul. As Ashton brought the blade down, Ash let out a roar as a plume of magma erupted all around him! Ashton gasped, "Magma?! Get away!" He and Kazeerah jumped backwards and tried to stay out of range of the molten rock. As the magma stopped falling, everyone could see Ash more clearly as he was now standing parallel to the ground. But Ashton gave a startled glance at Ash's right arm. "Could this be....." The cloak of flames that covered Ash's right arm and leg were now burning far too fiercely to see the flesh and clothing underneath it. It now seemed to be a layer of fiery orange fur. A second later, the 'fur' began to creep over Ash's torso and face, making him look even more like an actual Zangoose. Once the entire cloak of flames covering his body had changed, Ash looked eerily similar to a true Zangoose, except with unusually long legs. The Z-shaped markings on his face were still visible, but now glowed a frightening shade of red. Ashton gulped, "As with the rainbow flames of the Angel, the cloak of fiery fur of the Devil..... The Eternal Flame 100% unleashed..... This could be treacherous..." 

Ash glared at his prey with eyes of bloodlust. "Looks like we're back to square one, huh?" But as he prepared to launch another assault, Ash froze as he felt a dark presence in the back of his mind. It pounded through his head as if his ears were ringing with the sound of his blood pumping. His eyes, which had been filled with malice a moment before, were now overcome with fright. He brought a hand to his head as he dropped to one knee. Ashton asked, "Hm? Something wrong?" But when Ash slowly gazed up at his ancestor, Ashton let out a faint gasp as he saw tears falling from Ash's eyes. He then pleaded, "St... Stay away....."

Ash began to groan as he tightly gripped his head with his hands. As he propped himself up with an elbow, Ashton shouted, "Ash, what's wrong?!" The boy replied, "The my head... They won't stop..." Ash closed his eyes, hoping that these sensations were just a bad dream and that they would soon disappear.

In the recesses of Ash's mind, the boy looked around in bewilderment. All he could see was total blackness. "Where is this? Am I...dreaming?" At that moment, a voice seething in malice echoed from all around him, "For ages, I have dreamed..... Dreamed of the day when vengeance would be mine....." Ash called out, "Who's there...?" The voice continued, "Passed on from host to host... Awaiting the day when the power I required would be unleashed. And now... That day has come."

Ash began to turn around, and froze as he looked behind him. Shining prominently in the darkness with sinister, yet beautiful, rays of light was what seemed to be an eye of sorts. However, the dominant color of this bizarre apparition was a bloody red. The voice then spoke again, this time with a dominant tone, "Rejoice, wretched human, for you are the final vessel that will unleash the ultimate nightmare upon the world!" At that instant, muddy-colored tentacles shot up from below Ash and began to constrict around him. He struggled, but was soon dragged into the depths of his own mind, screaming all the way.

Ash began to growl painfully as the claws extending from his hands seemed to undergo some sort of change. They began to flatten out, resembling blades instead of claws. The base of the claws seemed to be moving as well as they were soon no longer extending from between his fingers, but out from the back of his hands. The claws, now blades, seemed to change from black to an ugly greenish hue as strange tendrils extended up and along the blades. And finally, the tips of the blades bent inwards and fused at the tips, resembling katar-like weapons. 

Ash began to flail about, staggering to and fro as he seemed to be trying to remain in control of his own body. At that moment, Ashton felt the blade concealed under his cape begin to tremble. He reached for its hilt and partially drew it from its scabbard. "It's resonating so strongly..." Soul Calibur spoke, "This.....sensation..." Ashton asked, "Soul Calibur, what is it?" With panic in her voice, Soul Calibur replied, "Beware, young master! The evil presence! It lives!" Ashton looked back towards Ash, "Presence? What evil presence?!"

Ash finally came to a stop as he crossed his arms with his hands closed over his face as he groaned in agony. Then, with an inhuman roar, he threw his arms out to his sides as a massive shockwave emanated from him, creating an ever-growing dome of dust that quickly engulfed everything around him. Everyone was sent flying by the shockwave as they screamed in fright. But Ashton was able to plunge the Flamberge into the ground for leverage. As he squinted his eyes to try and see through the dust storm, he groaned, "This is....not something the Eternal Flame can do... And yet, it feels familiar somehow..... Ash.....what in the world have you become?" 

To the northwest of Eterna City, the Skydiamond Oracle's eyes shot open during meditation, her breathing erratic and cold sweat pouring down her face. The Lucario warriors that were stationed with her noticed immediately and rushed to her side. One asked, "Oracle, is it the strange apparition we've been watching for?" The Oracle panted, "It is..." Another asked, "Has it chosen a path yet?" The Oracle shuddered, "It has..... It has chosen the path of bloodshed and destruction." 

The warriors stood ready for their orders. "Oracle, what must we do?" She replied, "We must find and eliminate this threat immediately. Before it can unleash ruin upon Sinnoh, and perhaps the entire world. It is just to the west of Sandgem Town. If we are swift, we may reach it before it can cause much harm." With a nod, the seven Lucario warriors took to the trees ad headed south as swiftly as they could. But in her mind, the Oracle knew the truth too well. (If this beast is what I have foreseen, we may not survive this battle... But we must contain it. Regardless of the cost.....)

As the dust storm began to settle, Ashton opened his eyes. Massive clouds of dust still lingered in the air, blocking out the sun. Standing ahead of him was Ash, who was in the same stance as when the strange shockwave had been unleashed. His arms were still out at his sides and his legs were in a wide stance, his face gazing skyward. But his fingers were curled inwards, his body twitching erratically and violently. 

After a moment more, Ash's trembling stopped, and he staggered forward, an arm curling up with a hand covering his face as his other arm hung low to the ground. It was then that Ashton noticed something odd about the blade-like claws on his hand. Like polished glass, something seemed to be just underneath it. And an instant later, something moved. Ashton's eyes went wide as he saw an eye staring out from the surface of the blade, as if it was watching from behind a window. "No..... This cannot be true..."

A moment later, Ash lowered his hand and glared ahead at Ashton. His eyes were no longer pink, but a frightening shade of crimson that made his eyes glow like beacons in the night. In a voice that was only vaguely similar to Ash's, he spoke, "For 600 years, I have dreamed of this day. Long have I endured the humiliation of my greatest failure. But today, I will not vanish alone. You, Ashton of Green Mile, will finally suffer the fate you forced upon me in the Dead Forest many years ago!"

Ashton trembled in a combination of disbelief and horror. "This does not make any sense... You should not even exist anymore....." He then tightly gripped the hilt of the Flamberge and screamed, "Tell me, Soul Edge! What will it take to erase your existence forever?!"

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