Angel vs Devil
Lucy gagged from the heavy volume of dust lingering in the air after the strange shockwave had run its course. She then called out, "Kazeerah! Where are you?!" But something soon emerged through the dust storm, "I'm right here. And I'll be fine, except for a sore bottom from the landin'." Lucy ran over to the Blaziken and embraced her, "I was afraid I lost you again..." But Kazeerah patted her on the head, "Like I said, I'm fine. What I'm worried about is our little buddy out there. Whatever that was he threw at us, it wasn't normal. Never even heard of an attack like that." Lucy then looked around with a worried expression, "I just hope the others are all right..."
Ruby glanced around in a panic as she screamed, "Lucash! Sapphire!" A voice above her called out, "We're up here!" The young mother looked up and saw her two children caught in some branches in a tree she had landed next to. But while Lucash seemed no worse for the wear, Sapphire seemed frightened as she was tightly gripping the branch with a look of panic in her eyes. Ruby then jumped up to the branches and carried her children down. A voice then asked, "You OK, Sis?" Ruby turned to see Pearl step out from behind the tree. Ruby nodded, "Yeah, and the kids are fine too. And you?" Pearl smiled, "Just fine. My gut hurts a little from the rough impact, but nothing too bad." Pearl then gazed back towards the area where the shockwave had originated from, her view still obstructed by thick clouds of dust that had not yet settled. "What do you think that was? That roar..... Is Ash all right?" Ruby frowned with a worried expression, "I don't know..... I know he's not a monster....."
Chiara groaned as she cracked her neck after climbing to her feet. "Such a mighty force... Truly not the power of the Eternal Flame. Zandria, are you well?" A puff of white mist soon gathered near the Lugia and began to take on a solid form. "I'm fine. You can't get hurt if you're already dead. Huh?" Zandria then looked behind her old friend and snickered, "Um..... I think you landed on him." Chiara turned around and gulped at the sight of a dazed Shadow lying where she had fallen, his face partially buried in the dirt. "Oh my, I'm sorry! I had no control over my own body at the time!" She then pulled Shadow up and gave him a good shake to wake him up. "Ugh..... I'm OK... Really... What about Ash?" The two ladies looked at each other and shook their heads. Zandria sighed, "Something's not right with him. I just hope Ashton doesn't have to kill him."
Once the dust settled a little, everyone was able to see Ashton and Ash. However, the sky was still clouded with dust, causing the area to seem unnaturally dark. Ashton was sweating profusely as he gripped the hilt of the Flamberge with both hands. The crimson eyes of Ash gazed ahead at the viscount, his mouth curved into a frightening smirk. What was more, the ground that Ash was standing on had rapidly begun to melt. In moments, the ground within five feet of Ash in all directions had been reduced to a molten puddle of lava. Ruby shuddered, "Those eyes... What happened to him...?" She then began to walk forward, "Ash, what's wrong?! Why are you..." But Ruby stopped in her tracks as Ashton slammed the blade of the Flamberge into the ground that was right in front of her. "Don't... That is no longer your lover."
In a truly demonic tone, Ash spoke, "Why stop her? Let her come. So that I may tear her asunder." Ruby shuddered in fright. The voice that was coming out of her mate's mouth was only vaguely similar to the voice he had always used. If she had not seen him change into the beast with fiery orange fur, she would never have believed that he was the same person. "Ash... Why are you..." Ashton frowned, "I know you don't want to accept it, but that beast before us is no longer the kind and caring boy we used to know." Ruby asked, "How?! How is that not the boy I love?!" Ashton explained, "It makes no sense to me either. But if what that monster told me is true, then it is a creature that should've disappeared from this world forever 600 years ago." Chiara gasped, "Ashton..... You can't possibly mean he is....." Ashton hesitantly nodded, "I do. Ash has become the Azure Knight. His body is now a host to the spirit of Soul Edge."
Zandria screamed, "Soul Edge?! What the devil are you saying?! You destroyed that thing! You said it yourself! Should Night Terror fall, Soul Edge will vanish from this world forever!" Ashton nodded, "Yes, that is the knowledge Soul Calibur bestowed upon me. But still....." Ashton then gripped Soul Calibur's hilt with his left hand and asked, "Soul Calibur, are you certain that there was no possible way for Soul Edge to survive Night Terror's demise?" The spirit sword replied, ".....I am very certain, young master. There should have been no possibility for the evil presence to linger in the realm of the living after the obliteration of the Night Terror. This return is nothing short of miraculous." Ashton growled, "Miraculous? More like a sick joke." But Pearl then shouted, "But what is this 'Soul Edge'?! And how can it still be alive?!"
Ashton began to turn towards his companions, but then suddenly turned back towards Soul Edge. The beast chuckled, "Oh, don't mind me. I'll let you tell them." Ashton then turned back to his companions and explained, "Soul Edge. It is an ancient and evil sword that has existed since before recorded history. It has been known as the Sword of Ruin around the world, and is also known to be a shape shifter, changing form to suit whoever holds it. But those who grip its hilt are doomed to become its host. While the person who takes Soul Edge into their hands still lives, their body is no longer their own as Soul Edge takes complete control over them. The host body that Soul Edge manipulates has long been known as the 'Azure Knight' due to Soul Edge choosing to clad its host in azure armor more often than not. Countless lives have been ended by Soul Edge, as it has unleashed massacres throughout history, wiping out entire cities and slaughtering vast armies that tried to stop it. Those who fell before Soul Edge were doomed to an eternity of anguish as their souls were devoured and absorbed by the evil sword. And from these souls, Soul Edge gained more power."
Ruby, as well as the rest of Ashton's companions, was spellbound with silent awe and horror as they listened to the tale of Soul Edge. But Lucy then asked, "But then.... How does Soul Edge still exist? Didn't you destroy it?" Ashton nodded, "Yes, I thought I did. 600 years ago, Soul Edge came to the Kingdom of Rohta and sought to kill me so it could acquire my soul, which had been strengthened by the Eternal Flame. And it partially succeeded. I was left gravely wounded as it devoured a mere fraction of my soul, which was more than enough to satiate it. With its power at its absolute maximum, it took on the form of a mindless and horrific beast known only as 'Night Terror'. At that time, Soul Calibur appeared in my hands to help me combat Soul Edge." Ashton paused for a moment, as he seemed to think back to his most dire battle in his first lifetime. "That battle......was nothing the likes of which I have ever experienced... Everything I threw at Night Terror seemed to do next to nothing to it. A true juggernaut, it muscled through all my attacks. In the end, it came down to a bitter struggle between me and one of this world's greatest evils, if not THE greatest. I was exhausted... It could've gone either way. But.....I succeeded. Night Terror was destroyed, and Soul Edge disappeared from this world forever. The countless souls that had been devoured by Soul Edge throughout the eons were also released." But Ashton then looked back at Soul Edge, who laughed, "Yes, it seems you have not forgotten the past." It then looked towards Ashton's companions and sneered, "His tale was quite accurate. Yes. I am Soul Edge."
Ruby shouted, "Ash, this isn't funny! Stop playing along with Ashton's story! You're not..." But the beast shouted, "Silence!!! The pathetic human whelp you know is gone forever!" He then brought a hand to his face and tenderly caressed one side, "This is MY body now." He then seemed to savor the moment as he rolled his head back and forth, "Oh yes... Never before have I come in possession of a body this fine. So youthful and full of energy. A mere thirteen years old, if I recall." But Ashton then shouted, "That does nothing to explain how you still exist! Tell me, Soul Edge! How did you escape oblivion 600 years ago?!" The fiendish red eyes of Soul Edge gave Ashton a leer, "Very well. I shall explain it all......just before I tear you to shreds."
Soul Edge spoke, "Yes, you did indeed triumph over me 600 years ago, make no mistake about that. However, I would not allow myself to die. Not after waiting for eons to obtain the power I desired! It was finally in my hands, and you destroyed me, body and soul!!!" He then growled, "Therefore, I transferred as much of my strength as possible into a temporary vessel along with a tiny fragment of my soul." Ashton frowned, "Temporary vessel? Of what sort?" Soul Edge then gave Ashton a most wicked grin, "Eleven unborn souls were at the edge of the Dead Forest at the time. And I chose the one...that rested inside her." He then pointed at Zandria, "My host, Ashton of Green Mile.....was YOUR SON!!!"
Zandria's face became one of silent horror as she spoke, "My son... Atlas?" Soul Edge cackled, "Yes! I had to choose quickly, for I had only a few seconds before I was consumed by the holy energy that had infected me. About 98% of my power at the time was transferred into my host along with a fragment of my will. I infused myself into the very soul of the child, merging with the power of the Eternal Flame. I then became dormant to preserve my soul, for I was far too weak to survive for long while active." Ashton asked, "The...Eternal Flame?" Soul Edge nodded, "Yes, exactly. The only way for me to awaken again was for my host to draw out the Eternal Flame's power to its absolute fullest. Only then would I awaken and take my revenge upon you. In other words, my goal was for your son to awaken his full potential, so that I may use the very power you used against me to annihilate you!"
Ashton and Zandria were frozen with both shock and rage at Soul Edge's confession, knowing that their own son could have become a host to Soul Edge at anytime in his life. However, Soul Edge soon frowned, "Alas. By some miracle, your son never drew out the power of the Eternal Flame to its fullest. And when you finally met your end from natural causes, my dreams were filled with nothing but rage and disappointment. My chance to avenge myself was gone forever. Or so I thought. Like the Eternal Flame, I was somehow passed down from parent to child, again and again, until I ended up in this boy. I was most fortunate too. Even though every single one of my hosts had the Eternal Flame at their disposal, not one of them ever drew it out to its fullest." Soul Edge then raised his fist into the air, "Fate smiled upon me like never before today! Imagine my surprise when I discovered that you returned to this world, Ashton!" The fiery beast then glared ahead at the viscount, "Such a shame. After 500 years, you returned to this world. Only to meet your end at the hands of the being you destroyed so long ago. Irony can be so amusing."
Ashton was both horrified and sickened. The very thought that his own son had been carrying a terrible evil within his soul throughout his entire life made his skin crawl. But just then, a voice screamed, "HOW DARE YOU!" Before anyone could react, Zandria made a dash for Soul Edge on all fours. "How dare you use my boy as a host body! You sick piece of trash!" As she came within range, Zandria leaped at Soul Edge with her claws extended. But a split second later, Soul Edge was standing behind her, his right arm looking as if he had lashed out with the blade on his hand. Exactly three seconds later, Zandria burst into a cloud of white mist.
Ashton gulped, "I..... I didn't even see that move..." A moment later, it occurred to him that he had just watched his own lover perish before Soul Edge. "No... Zandria?!" But the cloud of white mist soon floated back over to him and took on physical form. "Relax. I'm already dead, remember?" Ashton breathed a sigh of relief, "Thank goodness..." But Soul Edge raised an eyebrow, "White mist? What are you?! Some sort of living cloud of smoke?!" Zandria shouted, "I'm a specter! A ghost that can take on physical form! Ever heard of it?!" But she then muttered, "But still..... Even though it didn't hurt, I didn't even know what hit me until a few seconds after it happened... That speed... Unreal, even for a Zangoose."
Ashton suddenly recalled something and shouted, "Wait a second! You said that you remained dormant in your host unless it happened to unleash the Eternal Flame at its fullest! Right?!" Soul Edge nodded, "Exactly. Why do you ask?" Ashton explained, "Atlas used the power of the Eternal Flame time and time again during his days as a knight, but his personality and actions hardly changed at all. And like him, Ash never brought out the Eternal Flame's power to its fullest, until now. If you had no influence over him, then why was Ash so bloodthirsty and violent when he was still only at around 50% back in Hoenn while Atlas was not?!"
Soul Edge's eyes went wide at Ashton's question. It brought a hand to his chin, "Strange..... I thought my dreams felt too real during those times... I could almost swear that I was half awake at the time. But that couldn't have been..." Ashton called out, "Well?! What do you have to say?!" Soul Edge shook his head, "A most bizarre phenomenon. I know not how I influenced him when I was still dormant. But there is one thing I can guarantee." He then scowled at Ashton, "Something..... Or someone must have caused it. An external force or spell that was outside my knowledge and control. That's the only possibility I can think of."
Kazeerah stretched a little and walked up to Ashton, "I think I've heard enuff. Whatcha say we finish this fight, Ashton?" But the viscount glanced over at the Blaziken and shouted, "Are you mad?!" But she replied, "C'mon, I can handle it. Ya saw how well we worked together before, right? What's the difference now?" Ashton growled, "What's the difference?! That is no longer just the Devil of the Eternal Flame we are dealing with! That is Soul Edge! The Sword of Ruin! Taking on that monster with your bare hands is out of the question! Only Soul Calibur can stand against it. And I'm the only one suited to wield it!" But Kazeerah gawked, "Aw, c'mon! I think yer just too gentlemanly for yer own good! Seriously, I can...." But Ashton suddenly closed the distance between their faces and stared Kazeerah in the eyes.
Ashton softly spoke, "Listen. I know what I am talking about. I'm not saying that you MAY die if you attack Soul Edge. I'm saying that you WILL die. I have faced Soul Edge before, and your fighting style is one of the worst possible matches for something like that. Trust me. You will be throwing your life away if you try to fight it." But Kazeerah replied, "But... I can..." Ashton spoke, "No... You cannot. And think about Lucy. She thought you were dead. And you were only reunited just a short while ago. Do you want to leave her again, and this time for good?" Kazeerah's eyes went a little wide at the mention of her sister. After a moment of deep thought, she sighed, "OK... I get what yer sayin'. I'll stay outta this one. For Lucy's sake." Ashton gave the Blaziken a grateful smile, "A very wise choice."
Seeing that Ashton had refused Kazeerah's aid, Soul Edge cackled, "Trying to play the hero?! It doesn't matter if it's just one, or a thousand! All will fall before me!" But Ashton glared at him, "I vanquished you before. As long as I have Soul Calibur, I can do it again." But Soul Edge sneered, "If I was the same as back then, perhaps. But I still contain about 98% of the power I had when you defeated me in the Dead Forest. Remember?" A trickle of cold sweat slid down Ashton's face as he recalled Night Terror, its hulking form resisting almost everything he threw at it. Soul Edge then spoke, "And you were only barely able to triumph over me. But now, I possess something that I did not have then. And do you know what that is?" Ashton gulped as his eyes went wide, showing that he knew the answer. Soul Edge laughed, "Yes! I also have your own power in my possession! The Eternal Flame!"
Ashton shuddered, "The power of Night Terror combined with the Eternal Flame..... I don't know if I can handle this one..." Soul Edge chuckled, "Yes, you know it too. Your chances of actually besting me now are slim. But even then, you just may be able to outlast me." Ashton glanced up, "Outlast you?" Soul Edge grumbled, "Yes. This tiny flicker of my soul is far too weak to survive for long without a shell. Before this day is done, I will be gone. Forever. For you see, you did indeed succeed in sending me to oblivion." A slight glimmer of relief filled Ashton's eyes at this revelation. But Soul Edge then smirked, "But even should you, by some miracle, survive my onslaught, I will still have a fine consolation prize." Ashton's eyes went wide with surprise, "What are you saying?!" Soul Edge gave Ashton and his companions a most wicked grin, "When I finally disappear from this realm, this boy..... This host...will die along with me!!!"
At Soul Edge's confession, Pearl shrieked, "WHAT DID HE SAY?!" Ruby shouted, "YOU'RE LYING!!! YOU SICK SCUM!!!" But Soul Edge merely laughed, "You think I'm not being serious?" Ashton added, "I don't believe you either! How can your death effect Ash?!" Soul Edge then asked, "Tell me this. Do you know why my host body always disappeared when I assumed the form of Inferno time and again?" Ashton bowed his head as he pondered this question, but soon looked up at Soul Edge with a frightened glance, "No..." Soul Edge nodded, "My host body never disappeared. It was destroyed by my own overwhelming power! Humans cannot contain my power once it reaches a certain degree. And the power of Night Terror is far beyond that of Inferno. The only thing that is preventing this body from being reduced to a pile of smoldering mush is the restorative properties of the Eternal Flame. But even it has its limits. Before the sun has set, I will be gone, and I will be taking this boy with me."
Ashton growled, "You sick piece of..." But at that moment, he felt someone pull on his cape. Ashton turned around and saw Lucash gazing up at him with tears in his eyes. "Grandpa... Don't let Daddy die..." Lucash then sobbed, "Daddy...already died before... Back in Hoenn... But he came back to life...because of some bird made of fire. It said...he can't come back to life again..." Ashton nodded, "I see. A once-per-lifetime resurrection." Lucash pleaded, "Save him, Grandpa! Don't let Daddy die!" Ashton patted his descendant on the head, "You have my word, Lucash. Your father is in good hands."
After making Lucash return to his mother, Ashton asked, "I am your opponent, Soul Edge. So leave them out of this." The beast of flames replied, "True. I have nothing against them. But then again, I can't be held responsible for what might happen to them should they try to intervene, can I?" Ashton then threw up his left arm to his side and called back to his companions, "You heard him! This is my fight! No one interfere!" But at this, Pearl ran up to him and begged, "No... Please allow me to aid you." Ashton shook his head, "I know you mean well, but..." However, she pleaded, "Don't tell me to stay back! I want to help! I want to stop you from killing him if you're about to go too far!" But Ashton explained, "That won't happen. I have no desire to kill Ash. If I can deliver a purifying strike with Soul Calibur, Soul Edge will likely be exorcized from his body, leaving Ash no worse for the wear." He then looked Pearl in the eye, "That is why I must face him alone. I am the only one who can purify Ash of Soul Edge without killing him." Pearl hesitantly nodded, "I.....see. Don't forget those words. I want to have his child someday, so don't let him die here." Ashton smiled, "I'll look forward to that day."
Soul Edge shouted, "Are you done yet?!" Once Pearl had returned to her companions' sides, Ashton nodded, "Yes. It's just you and me." But Soul Edge growled, "No. Not just yet." Ashton merely cocked his head to one side with a puzzled expression. Soul Edge then pointed at the viscount, "You're not the only one I want to see die. I will smother you along with the despicable shackles that have held me from my goals for far too long! You still carry IT with you, do you not?" Ashton calmly replied as he reached for Soul Calibur's hilt, "You know your other half well, Soul Edge."
Ashton slowly drew the spirit sword from its scabbard with his left hand. Once it was free from the scabbard, the sword began to shine brightly as it grew. When the light receded, Soul Calibur had taken on the form of a massive great sword, just like 600 years ago in the Dead Forest. Ashton spoke, "Consider yourself lucky. This is only the second time I have ever had to resort to Soul Calibur's true power and form." Lucy gasped, "It's beautiful..... But the way it shines... Is it made of glass now?" Chiara shook her head, "No. Crystal. The spirit sword's true form is a sword composed of a beautiful blue crystal." But Shadow then raised his voice, "Is he really going to use two of those giant blades at once?! Now I've seen everything..." Ashton's eyes then became a familiar shade of red as a pair of large wings composed of flames emerged from his back while flickering a rainbow of colors. Soul Edge then cackled, "Yes, just like old times! Now, come! I don't have all day, you know!" Ashton frowned, "I'm well aware of that. You failed to achieve your goal in the Dead Forest and you will fail here as well. For the last time!!!"
Ashton performed a quick double slash with his two swords, sending out a wave of flames from the Flamberge and a wave of blue soul energy from Soul Calibur, the two waves of energy cruising over the ground towards their target while occasionally crossing. Just before they reached Soul Edge, they split and collided head-on at the spot where Soul Edge was standing. But just before they could reach him, Soul Edge suddenly raised his arms, causing the lava around him to rise up and shield him in similar fashion to the Water Wall Jutsu. The walls of lava then fell over the two projectiles, snuffing them out. Ashton gulped, "The Eternal Flame of the Devil... It commands not flames, but the molten blood of the earth?!" Soul Edge then gave a cocky glance at Ashton and cackled, "Do you not see it yet, Ashton of Green Mile? I'm a completely different game from Night Terror!"
Soul Edge shouted, "Now it's my turn!" He suddenly raised his arms above him, causing the ground in front of him to melt and rise up into a wall of lava. "Not even you can take this kind of heat!" At Soul Edge's words, the lava wall began to fall towards Ashton like a tidal wave! Ashton gulped, "Not good." He then plunged the Flamberge into the ground beside him and grasped the hilt of Soul Calibur with both hands in a reverse grip. Ashton then plunged the blade of the spirit sword into the ground, sending out a trail of crystals jutting up from the ground. The instant the crystals touched the wall of lava, they began to crystallize it, making it seem as if the lava was turning into ice. Once the lava had become a massive hill of crystal, Kazeerah let out a whistle, "Now that's cool." But an instant later, something smashed through the wall of crystal, revealing the form of Soul Edge dashing towards Ashton on all fours. "You'll have to do better than that!" As he closed in on Ashton, Soul Edge leapt at him and thrust out his right hand with its blade aimed at Ashton's throat. But before it could collide, Ashton grabbed the Flamberge with his right hand and held his two swords in a type of crossed position, blocking the blade as Soul Edge pushed Ashton back. As the viscount's knees buckled with Soul Edge bearing down on him, the beast closed the gap between their faces and sneered, "Now there's a look I haven't forgotten. You still know to fear me." Ashton's eyes were quivering in fright at Soul Edge's new presence, showing that he was indeed fearful of its new power.
After a few seconds of trying to push Ashton to the ground, Soul Edge chuckled, "You better think fast. The ground beneath us is already starting to melt." Ashton glanced down and saw the air becoming wavy, a sign that the ground was becoming extremely hot. Knowing that the Eternal Flame would not protect him from lava's searing heat for long, he shouted, "Get off!" Ashton rolled backwards and vaulted Soul Edge off of him before jumping to cooler ground. Before Soul Edge could regain its footing, Ashton plunged the blades of his swords into the ground and brought his hands together to form a hand sign. "If Chakra can be used to walk on water, then it can also be used to walk on lava while protecting me from the heat." After making a hand sign for a moment, Ashton returned his swords to his hands and dashed towards Soul Edge. But the beast shouted, "Mind your feet!" He then plunged his hand into the ground, causing a trail of lava to extend from him as the ground melted. But as it extended to Ashton's feet, he simply continued running atop the molten earth.
Soul Edge cackled, "It seems you learned quite a few tricks since our last encounter! However, I too have learned much of this boy's heritage. Including this." Soul Edge then brought his hands together and held the palms a short distance apart. Sensing that he should keep his distance, Ashton came to a stop and held his swords in a cross-shaped guard like before. Soul Edge then asked, "Do you know what this is?" At that moment, a small orb of vile red energy began to gather between his palms. As she watched, Pearl gasped, "Is that.......Aura?" Shadow then shouted, "Ashton, that's an Aura Sphere!" The viscount grunted, "Aura?! But Zangoose can't manipulate Aura....... Oh no..." Ashton then recalled some of the last words he had ever heard from his son Atlas while on his deathbed 500 years ago. He recalled that Atlas had a daughter who had a child with a Lucario as the father. Ashton gulped, "How could I have forgotten? There is indeed traces of Lucario blood in Ash's veins..." Ashton then glanced at the red Aura between Soul Edge's hands, "But that is not Ash's own Aura...... It must be Soul Edge's. And it..... That Aura is like poison!" By then, Soul Edge had completed forming the Aura Sphere and shouted, "You got that right! Now feel the effects of my cursed soul on your own body!"
The beast of flames thrusted its hands forward, launching a massive wave of Aura at Ashton. Knowing he could not evade it on foot, Ashton spread his wings and shot skyward, causing the wave of vile Aura to narrowly miss him. But Shadow then shouted, "It's not enough! Aura Sphere can't be evaded! You need to counter it!" Ashton's eyes went wide as he spoke, "It can't?" As he turned around, the Aura Sphere began to curve upwards and was soon heading back towards him. But Ashton was not able to react in time and shouted, "DARN IT ALL!!!" Ashton let out a shriek as the vile Aura engulfed him. As his body was exposed to Soul Edge's corrosive life force, his flesh began to rot. Strange sounds escaped his throat as his skin was burned away, eventually revealing his bones and entrails. A moment later, his smoldering remains fell from the sky as the Aura Sphere dissipated. Chiara and Zandria brought their hands to their mouths as their lover's remains hit the ground with a sickening splat. The scent of rotten flesh quickly filled the air as Ashton's corpse was burned away to nothing.
Soul Edge stared for a moment at the spot where his hated enemy fell. He then began to laugh hysterically, "Yes... YES!!! Power that even the Angel of the Eternal Flame cannot match!!!" Zandria muttered, "You monster....." Tears began to fall from her eyes, but Soul Edge then turned to face the group and smirked, "Well, that was fun. Only now I have nothing else to do while I wait for my time to end." Chiara gulped, "You wouldn't..." But Soul Edge shouted, "Yes, one final massacre! What a way to end!" But just before he could charge them, Soul Edge froze at a familiar presence. "This..... Where is it coming from?!"
A moment later, something burst out of the ground around ten feet away from Soul Edge, outside the reach of the pool of lava that he stood on. Soul Edge quickly turned and glanced up. "But how?! You're dead!" Ashton held Soul Calibur high above his head with both hands as the blade began to glow. A second later, a beam of holy energy engulfed the blade and reached high above them, tripling the spirit sword's reach. Soul Edge's eyes went wide in terror, "If that hits...." Ashton then let out a shout as he brought his sword down hard in front of him with a mighty overhead swing. The instant the blade of holy power hit the ground, crystals shot up ahead of it in a growing line.
Ashton panted, "Drat..... Just missed him...." He then glanced over to his right and saw Soul Edge gasping for breath as it looked like it had desperately jumped out of the way. Ashton smirked, (So that's it. This is its Achilles' heel. If I can just strike him with this.....) Soul Edge growled, "How.... There's no way you could've survived that! No living creature can withstand my own life force!" Ashton nodded, "True, I would've been a goner. But what you took out was a Fire Clone. Remember?" Soul Edge brought a hand to his face as he thought back to their duel in the Dead Forest, when he crushed Ashton's skull, only to have his body explode in a burst of fire. Chiara and Zandria both breathed a sigh of relief. Chiara giggled, "How foolish of me. I must remember to always have faith in Ashton."
Soul Edge growled, "Stop toying with me!!!" It then screamed to the sky as a shroud of fire shot out from his body in all directions. As the flames passed over the ground, the earth melted. In seconds, the ground within fifty feet of Soul Edge had become a lake of lava. Once he had calmed down somewhat, Soul Edge faced Ashton to see that he was now standing on the lava without trouble. "Don't die too easily. I want to enjoy this!" Soul Edge then lunged at Ashton as the viscount took the Flamberge off his back and into his right hand. As he came within range, Soul Edge began to lash out with the blades extending from his hands while Ashton struggled to match him. With such speed, Soul Edge clearly had the advantage as Ashton very rarely had the chance to lash out at his enemy.
At the edge of the battlefield, Sapphire watched as her father dueled his ancestor. But while Soul Edge was in command of Ash's body, she knew that he was still in there somewhere. She also could not forget Soul Edge's warning. She had nearly lost her father before, and she would soon lose him again at this rate. (Daddy... I have to do something!) Without warning, the Riolu made a frantic dash towards the two dueling warriors. Ruby shouted as she noticed her daughter running away, "Sapphire, no! Stay with...AAAH!!!" Ruby and the rest of her companions were pushed back as a stray lava bomb hit the ground between them and Sapphire, causing a wall of flames to separate them. "Ash, he wouldn't.... He can't hurt his own child!"
As he locked blades with Soul Edge, Ashton noticed out of the corner of his eye Sapphire making a frantic dash towards them. He then glanced down at the field of lava they were standing on as a cold sweat trickled down his face. (If she even steps in that....) Ashton suddenly lashed out with his leg and kicked Soul Edge away. He then ripped of his cape and threw it at him as a diversion as he leapt skyward and hovered in place while flapping his wings in a steady rhythm. He then looked towards the wreckage of J's airship at the edge of the battlefield and screamed, "AURORA!!!"
During the release of the strange shockwave as Soul Edge awakened in Ash's body, Ash's backpack and other gear had been blown clear and had landed on J's airship. At Ashton's call, a bright light burst forth from the backpack and took on the form of a Suicune. Before she could even fall to the ground, Aurora released a potent Hydro Pump from her mouth towards the two combatants. During that time, Ashton made a quick series of hand signs and shouted, "Water Style: Giant Vortex Jutsu!" Aurora's stream of water suddenly expanded and became what seemed to be a massive rotating drill of water! But it then began to curve upwards before aiming down at the very center of the lava lake. Soul Edge tore through the burning remains of Ashton's cape and glanced upwards. "What's the point of this? He's already able to stand upon this lava without being burned, so why cool it?" As Soul Edge finished speaking, the massive load of water slammed into the lava lake, releasing a huge burst of steam as it rapidly cooled.
After no fewer than twenty seconds of constantly using Hydro Pump, Aurora ceased her efforts and ran over to her allies. Chiara asked, "Aurora, did you..." The Suicune nodded, "I heard everything. So, Soul Edge still lives. And in the body of my master?" Zandria nodded, "Yeah. And a certain someone got impatient and ran out there to them." As they spoke, Sapphire ran across the soaked earth and neared Soul Edge, her right hand curled into a fist. As he heard the sound of her footsteps, Soul Edge turned to face the Riolu just as she lunged for him. "Daddy, stop!!!" As she pleaded, Sapphire sent her fist slamming into Soul Edge's face, stunning the demon with the sheer force of the blow. Once Ashton dropped back down to the ground, he took both swords in hand and waited for Sapphire to get away from Soul Edge before he could strike.
Sapphire grabbed Soul Edge by the shoulder to prevent herself from falling. She then gazed up into his eyes and wept, "Stop this, Daddy! You're being scary now! This isn't like you! Come back!!!" But the vile Soul Edge growled and grabbed the Riolu by the back of her neck before shouting, "What must I say to get it through your skull?! That pathetic human whelp is dead and gone!" He then threw the helpless Riolu back towards her family, "Now stay out of my way!" As she rolled to a stop, Sapphire struggled to her feet while trembling in sorrow. Soul Edge shouted, "He is gone. And he will never return! This is my body now!" But the Riolu shuddered, "No... Daddy promised me... He promised....." She then slowly began to walk towards Soul Edge once again, and her walking soon broke into a run as she screamed, "He promised! He promised!!!"
Sapphire's right fist began to glow as she readied a Focus Punch. Soul Edge then sneered, "So be it. Looks like you are my first sacrifice!" Ashton shouted, "Sapphire, stay back! Only I can destroy Soul Edge!!!" But as she ran, Sapphire became engulfed in a bright light, as her body seemed to be growing. Ruby brought her hands to her face, "Sapphire..... You are..." Soul Edge seemed spellbound by this sudden occurrence as he simply stared, "What is this sorcery....?" But just as she neared Soul Edge, the light that was being emitted from the Riolu vanished. At that instant, Sapphire's right fist sailed into her father's abdomen, prompting a roar of pain from Soul Edge, as he was sent flying to the edge of the battlefield and crashing through the forest.
Ashton gazed in disbelief at his descendant, "Sapphire...... What the devil..." Standing before him was no longer a Riolu, but a beautiful Lucario. However, unlike her brother, Sapphire's human traits were more obvious. Her hands ended with five slender fingers and her legs were less reverse jointed like full-blooded Lucario. She was also much taller than the average Lucario, standing just a few inches shorter than Ashton. But what caught Ashton's eyes the most was her hair. She did not have the four dreadlocks that Lucario are known to have. Instead, she had very long shimmering black hair that reached down to the base of her tail. She then gasped as tears still fell from her eyes and spoke in with the voice of a young juvenile girl, "He promised...that he would never leave me. That he would always be there for me... I am his treasure... His Sapphire..."
Moments after being launched into the forest nearby, Soul Edge came sprinting out of it on all fours. He screamed, "You little whelp!!! You won't live to do that again!!!" But before he could reach them, Ashton plunged Soul Calibur into the ground, once again sending out a growing trail of crystals. Soul Edge was not able to stop in time and was quickly engulfed by the crystals as they encrusted him. "Not this again..." Ashton then turned to Sapphire and spoke, "I appreciate your aid, but I must do this alone." However, the Lucario begged, "Let me help! Daddy needs me!" But the viscount shook his head, "I know that. But if your father is to survive this, I must deliver a purifying blow to him. And only I can do that. Please stay out of this fight. For your father's sake." Sapphire could only stare at her ancestor, but soon turned and ran back towards her family. Once he turned to Soul Edge, the beast of flames shattered its crystal bonds with brute force and snarled, "I remember that one. But you won't catch me with that move a third time."
Soul Edge quickly formed a small sphere of his Aura in one hand and lunged at Ashton in an attempt to slam it into him. But the viscount spread his wings and took to the air to evade it. However, Soul Edge soon smirked, "Think you can stay out of my reach by going airborne? Think again!" Soul Edge then thrust its arm upwards, causing a massive rope of fire to extend from it while ending with a hand-like shape. Before Ashton could look back to see it, the rope of fire grabbed his legs. Ashton let out a startled shout as the rope yanked him straight down and slammed him face-first into the ground, knocking the wind out of him and causing him to drop his swords. But Soul Edge laughed, "We're just getting started, old friend!"
Soul Edge yanked his arm back, causing the rope of flames to yank Ashton back up into the air by his legs. Soul Edge then threw its arm downwards, causing the rope of fire to respond like a whip, slamming Ashton into the ground again. It was then that Soul Edge began to speed up the process by smacking Ashton around all over the battlefield in a very erratic pattern. He then began to swing the rope of fire around in a circular motion, causing it to reach the very end of the battlefield. There was the sound of trees snapping as Ashton was sent plowing through the edge of the forests nearby. After a full rotation, Soul Edge yanked his arm upwards to send the rope of fire high into the air just before throwing Ashton towards the ground at high speed in the same fashion as if the hand at the end of the rope had thrown a throwing knife. Ashton hit the ground hard, leaving a significant crater for his size. Soul Edge licked his lips, "Such versatility. This host never ceases to amaze me."
As Soul Edge slowly approached his enemy, Lucy watched with her companions in silent anticipation. Suddenly, a voice spoke in her mind, "What in the world are you waiting for?" Lucy closed her eyes and spoke in her mind, "Don't talk to me... I don't want to hear your voice." But the darker voice continued, "You have the power, so why do you refuse to use it?" Lucy cried, "Never again. Not after what happened to Kazeerah. Even though she survived, she could've..." But the voice in her mind shouted, "So are you saying that boy is worth nothing to you?!" Lucy shuddered, "No... He is very precious to me... He is my friend." However, the voice laughed, "Oh, please. You're too modest for your own good. You know as well as I do that it is far deeper than that. Far, far deeper."
Lucy screamed in her mind, "No... I'm not worthy of him! I can't allow myself to feel that way about anyone! No matter how much I grow to love him, I must not allow myself to become that attached!" But the dark voice in the recesses of Lucy's mind replied, "So you're saying you couldn't care less if he were to meet his end here?" Lucy was silent with grief and offered no reply. The darker tone of her own voice spoke, "You heard that demon. That boy is slowly dying out there as long as that parasite is in possession of his body. And that man with the swords clearly can't stand up to it on his own." Lucy muttered, "But..." However, the darker voice replied, "But what? Are you saying that you're just going to do nothing as you watch him die?!" Tears began to fall from Lucy's eyes as she quivered in silence. A moment later, her blue fur, as well as the blue pants she wore, began to turn a golden yellow while her yellow vest turned a dark, almost black, shade of blue. She squinted her eyes closed as she spoke in her mind, "No... He is...the one..... The only boy I will never accept losing..." Lucy's eyes then slowly opened, revealing that her eyes had turned a darker, almost bloody, shade of red. She then whispered in a much darker and ominous tone than usual, "Wise choice." At that instant, a furious wave of dark purple Aura erupted around her, forcing her companions away from her. As Kazeerah saw her sister's new form, cold sweat trickled down her beak, (Oh crap... Don't tell me she's...)
Miles away, the Skydiamond clan's oracle and her escorts were making their way south to deal with the source of the evil presence she had detected. But at one point, she lost her focus and nearly ran into a tree before one of her escorts noticed and pulled her out of the way. "Oracle, what is it? Has something come up?" The Oracle replied, "This just keeps going from bad to worse." Another escort asked, "What do you mean? Is the demon gaining power?" The Oracle shook her head, "Not at all. There is another demon in the very same area as the one we seek." One of the escorts groaned, "Another one?! Which is it?!" The Oracle replied after a moment of hesitation, "The Angel of Doom."
There was a ominous silence at the Oracle's revelation. One of the escorts asked, "Oracle, are you absolutely certain?" She nodded without a word. The escort shuddered, "This is bad... One demon was bad enough. But another? And the Angel of Doom, no less?!" However, the Oracle spoke, "There may be a glimmer of hope for us. She is still in her first stage. If we hurry, we may have a chance." One of the escorts then added, "Any other good news?" The Oracle then brought a hand to her chin, "Well...perhaps. Demons seldom get along very well with each other. By the time we get there, one of them may no longer exist." One of the escorts grumbled, "I wouldn't hold my breath..."
Soul Edge stood above Ashton, who was only barely able to turn himself over. Soul Edge then reached down and grabbed Ashton by the throat before raising him off the ground. "You disappoint me, Ashton of Green Mile." He then aimed the blade on his spare hand at Ashton's chest and spoke, "Any last words?" Ashton then muttered, "G...... Go to hell..." Soul Edge merely smirked, "Indeed I shall. But not before you." He then reached back with his spare hand as he prepared to impale his hated enemy, "SEE YOU IN HELL!!!!" But just before Soul Edge could strike, something slammed into the side of his head, sending him careening away while flopping across the ground. Ashton dropped to his knees and gagged as soon as Soul Edge released him. When he looked up, he saw what seemed to be a Lucario standing before him. "Those feminine eyes... But a flat chest..... Lucy?"
Ruby gasped, "That's.....Lucy?!" Shadow grumbled, "No way. She said it herself. She is not able to fight, or use any Pokémon moves at all. And if my eyes weren't deceiving me, that was a Mach Punch." But Zandria then asked, "But what was up with that dark Aura? The only presence I've ever felt that was that sinister was Soul Edge itself." She then turned to Kazeerah and asked, "You've known her longer than we have. Any ideas?" The Blaziken then glanced over to her companions and tried to keep a straight face, "Uh..... Nah, nevah seen anythin' like it. But I've gotta guess we should stay outta this one. I think Ashton's in good hands." But in the back of Ruby's mind, she thought, (That dark presence..... Is that the source of the sorrow and blackness in her eyes?)
Soul Edge climbed to its feet and grumbled, "What in the world was that?" He then saw what seemed to be a Lucario of sorts standing next to Ashton, who seemed to be catching his breath. The viscount gagged, "Are you.....Lucy?" The Lucario replied with a dark and ominous tone, "Yes. You're surprised?" Ashton nodded, "Very. You told me that you were not able to fight at all. Care to explain how you did that?" Lucy coolly replied, "It's not important. I'll handle Soul Edge for now. Gather yourself and retrieve your swords." Without another word, Lucy dashed towards the beast of flames.
Ashton quickly glanced around and soon spotted the Flamberge and Soul Calibur near the spot where Soul Edge had first slammed him into the ground by his feet. He dashed over to them and took them into his hands. But as he took Soul Calibur into his right hand, she spoke, "Young master, did she harm you?" Ashton replied, "Why would she? That is Lucy. You know what kind of girl she is." But the spirit sword spoke, "No... Something is amiss. There is... an evil presence, not much unlike the one we now face." Ashton gulped, "Evil presence... In her?!" But he soon shook his head, "No, it can't be as simple as that. She saved my life, so Lucy must have some control over that 'evil presence' to some degree. I shall give her the benefit of the doubt for now. But for the moment, tend to my wounds and fatigue." The crystal core of the spirit sword began to give off a faint glow as she engulfed Ashton's body with holy energy.
As Lucy ran towards her foe, Soul Edge raised an eyebrow, "What is this darkness I sense?" Before he could react, Soul Edge was on the receiving end of a Force Palm, leaving his body slightly numb. Lucy then proceeded to deliver a potent barrage of lightning-fast blows with Close Combat before striking him in the face from below with a Sky Uppercut, sending Soul Edge skywards. But as he was about to reach the height of his launch, Soul Edge was sent even higher with a Vacuum Wave that Lucy launched from her palm. Just after that, Lucy widened her stance and began to gather her Aura between her hands for an Aura Sphere. However, instead of blue, the Aura was a very dark purple, just like the Aura that was constantly billowing around her. As Soul Edge fell back towards the ground, Lucy launched the Aura Sphere, engulfing Soul Edge with a hellish blast of dark power. A moment later, it fell a good distance away from them, landing face down.
Ashton gulped as he shouted, "Um... You DO know that we're only trying to purify Ash, not kill him, right?!" But just after he finished speaking, Ashton took a step back as he saw Soul Edge starting to climb to his feet. "Perhaps..... I need not worry. I'm starting to suspect that it is impossible to kill him while Soul Edge commands his body." Lucy then spoke, "You didn't even try to put up a fight. Are you really that afraid of me?" But Soul Edge then stared ahead at her with a calm grin, "Afraid?" At that moment, a trickle of blood oozed from his mouth, only to be immediately evaporated by the layer of flames covering his body. "That one was free." Lucy then asked as Ashton ran to her side, "Free?" Soul Edge cackled, "Yes! I let you strike me! I could sense darkness most vile in your soul. It has been ages since I have felt such a presence. Your darkness is intimately familiar to me, almost as if it were my own! If I were able to devour your soul, your darkness would provide me with much nourishment."
Lucy asked, "And what does that have to do with letting me attack you?" Soul Edge spoke, "I was curious, and I am most intrigued by your methods. Quick and brutal. No mercy, without hesitation. Almost as if you crave destruction. But even then....." Soul Edge then licked his lips, "While your darkness is indeed quite strong, it still pales in comparison to my own. But even then, it seems this duel has become 2-1. So allow me to share with you...my darkness!" Soul Edge then dropped to all fours and roared, "GATHER BEFORE ME!!! DARKNESS OF THE ABYSS!!!"
Ashton and Lucy braced themselves for a new assault, but soon stared in bewilderment as Soul Edge began to growl in a demonic tone while seeming to tremble. Ashton asked, "Hm? Why does he not strike?" Lucy shrugged her shoulders, "Maybe I hit him a little too hard with that last one." But as they spoke, Soul Edge's bushy tail began to curve with the tip pointing upwards. Soon, there seemed to be something large beginning to form just underneath the surface of the flames as the tail expanded. Ashton soon began to recognize the shape, "Oh no... It can't possibly be what I think it is... Not as he is now!" But with a final roar, something burst forth from the tip of Soul Edge's tail and hung over him like a scorpion's stinger. Lucy gawked at the new sight, "What the....." Extending from the tip of Soul Edge's tail was a disturbing excuse for a sword that was even longer and wider than Soul Edge's own body. Along the sides of the blade was a long narrow row of teeth. And a moment later, the rows of teeth opened as the sword nearly split in too, appearing to be a gaping set of jaws as a long and narrow tongue flailed about as the sword let out a terrible shriek. At the edge of the battlefield, Shadow brought his hands to his mouth to prevent himself from vomiting at the disturbing sight. Chiara shuddered, "Never....did I imagine I would ever see that horrible abomination again..."
As the sword hung above Soul Edge, the vile beast of flames snarled, "Remember this?!" Lucy asked, "What is.....THAT?!" Ashton shuddered, "That is.....the complete form of Soul Edge. The weapon wielded by Night Terror. To think that it could still produce it at will!" Lucy muttered, "So this is Soul Edge..." The beast of flames then shouted, "Yes, but don't think this will end like last time! HAH!" At that instant, the sword closed it jaws and thrust forward before burrowing through the ground, only to emerge a second later with a shriek. Ashton gasped, "It's so fast..." At the last second, Ashton and Lucy jumped sideways, narrowly evading Soul Edge's fangs as it plunged into the ground.
Just after regaining his footing, Ashton turned just as Soul Edge burst out of the ground behind him and lunged at him yet again. As Ashton leapt out of the way, he could see that the rope of flames that had fused with the sword's hilt seemed to be able to extend to near limitless proportions. As the sword curved and prepared to make another lunge at Ashton, the viscount brought the hilts of his two swords together. The instant they touched, Soul Calibur's crystal hilt began to glow as it extended and encrusted the hilt of the Flamberge, fusing them together. As Soul Edge neared Ashton again, he took a swing with his new weapon, striking the blade. An instant later, he spun the double-bladed weapon around, smacking Soul Edge away from it. The beast of flames then muttered, "I recall this technique. Soulfire, was it?"
As Soul Edge's jaws snapped at Ashton, the viscount cleverly alternated between using the blade of Soul Calibur and the Flamberge to keep the blade's fangs at bay. But after a moment of parrying its attacks, Ashton leapt skyward as Soul Edge lunged for him. At a certain height, he reached back with the Soulfire in hand and threw it at Soul Edge's host body with the blades spinning like a massive shuriken. The Flamberge's blade was giving off orange flames while Soul Calibur was emitting blue soul energy, giving the Soulfire a mesmerizing appearance as it flew towards its target. As the massive weapon closed in on Soul Edge, he smirked, "Clever move, targeting the source of the attacks!" But as the Soulfire closed in, Soul Edge evaded them by leaping straight up. However, he failed to notice that Ashton had sent out a rope of flames from his right hand and was approaching the Soulfire's path. As the blades reached it, the rope of fire grabbed the Soulfire and tossed it back towards Soul Edge. Just before it could strike him in the back, Soul Edge noticed and shouted, "Not this time!" He then extended a rope of flames from his own hand, which shot straight down and grabbed the ground before Soul Edge reeled himself in, anchoring himself to the ground and ducking the Soulfire in the process. But as Ashton grabbed the Soulfire and threw it at Soul Edge again, the beast of flames stood ready as he gathered energy inside him.
As the Soulfire closed in on Soul Edge again, with Lucy closing in from another angle with a Focus Punch ready, Soul Edge let out a demonic roar as another shockwave burst from his body, creating another growing dome of dust that blew away the Soulfire while sending Ashton and Lucy flying. As the shockwave ran its course, Ashton climbed to his feet and glanced around. However, the shockwave had stirred up even more dust into the air, making it rather dark around him. Ashton growled, "Where is he?!" But a second later, Ashton froze as the sound of metal cleaving flesh was heard. A voice right behind him spoke, "I'm right here."
Chiara shouted, "Hold on, Ashton! Allow me!" The Lugia then spread her wings before flapping them forward, creating a mighty Whirlwind to blow away the dust storm that was blanketing the battlefield. But as Chiara and her companions caught sight of Ashton, there was an ominous silence. Ashton was standing still with what seemed to be blood oozing down his shirt. And extending from his chest in two spots were the tips of two katar-like blades. Aurora, with tears forming in her eyes, whispered, "That's.....a Fire Clone. Right? He escaped that strike.....did he not?" Chiara slowly shook her head, "I do not believe so..." Soul Edge stood behind Ashton while crouching slightly, his blades impaling the viscount from behind. "Vengeance is mine." He then pulled his arms back, dislodging his blades, before shoving Ashton forward. The viscount gagged, blood oozing from his mouth, as he dropped to his knees and held himself up with his arms. Zandria looked at Chiara and asked, "Where...did he strike him?" Chiara whispered, "If my knowledge of human anatomy is correct..... Those blades impaled him through his liver and the.....very bottom of his heart..."
Ashton gasped for breath as he felt his strength steadily leaving him. Soul Edge then raised his massive blade over him and prepared to impale Ashton through the back. "You made this a very enjoyable duel, old friend. As thanks for making my revenge so satisfying, I shall make this quick." But Aurora screamed, "NEVER!!!" A second later, a potent Hydro Pump struck Soul Edge square in the chest, sending him flying a good distance away. During that time, Chiara used Psychic to toss the Soulfire back towards her lover. Once it landed beside him, Ashton gripped the hilt of Soul Calibur's side. At that instant, the spirit sword spoke, "Young master, you must rest! Do not move!"
Ashton managed to turn around to face Soul Edge, who was recovering from Aurora's surprise attack. But he lost his balance and fell on his rump. Soul Calibur explained, "That last blow pierced the bottom of your heart. With every beat your heart makes, blood will flow. It will not heal swiftly enough, even with the flame of the phoenix aiding its recovery. You will also need my power if you are to survive." Ashton wheezed, "I am...most grateful..." But the spirit sword then added, "However, you must remain still for the healing to succeed. If you continue moving, you will increase blood loss. Only by letting your body rest can your life be saved." Ashton then asked, "So you are saying that for me to survive, I must lie down and cease to move on this battlefield while the power of the Eternal Flame and your power tend to my wounds. Correct?" Soul Calibur replied after a moment, "....Correct." Ashton then sighed, "Out of the question."
At Ashton's defiance, Soul Calibur pleaded, "Young master, please! You must rest!" But Ashton replied, "But if I were to remain still, I would not be able to stop Soul Edge from ending my life." Soul Calibur remained silent at this. Ashton spoke, "If I remain still, I'm dead. If I continue fighting, I'm dead." Soul Calibur muttered, "What do you wish to do...?" Ashton replied, "I will not just stand by and let my child die. Even if it kills me, I will purge Soul Edge from my son." As Ashton broke Soul Calibur's hilt from the Flamberge, he commanded, "Prolong my life as long as possible! That's an order!" The spirit sword sighed, "...As you wish."
Ashton climbed to his feet and charged Soul Edge with only Soul Calibur in his grasp. The beast of flames chuckled, "You're just a corpse who does not yet know he's dead. Allow me to remind you!" Soul Edge then lunged for Ashton with all three of his blades at the ready. If he had just been using the two blades on his hands, Soul Edge would have had to also be on the defensive for any attacks that Ashton may have gotten through. However, the sword of Soul Edge's complete form moved and lashed out as if it was its own master, making it nigh impossible for Ashton to launch an attack without running the risk of losing an arm or leg.
Seeing that he was not going to get in any attacks with a direct assault, Ashton suddenly leapt backwards and raised Soul Calibur above his head with both hands. "I have learned much of Soul Calibur's potential after vanquishing you in the Dead Forest, Soul Edge!" At that moment, holy bolts of blue lightning shot up from Soul Calibur's crystal blade and rained down upon the evil sword. "This..... Not since the Masked Emperor!" Soul Edge began darting to and fro to evade the lightning storm, the holy lightning leaving pillars of crystal wherever they struck. But just as it seemed to end, a voice shouted, "I've got this one!" Before Soul Edge could react, Lucy dashed up into his face and released a massive Focus Blast at pointblank. The wave of dark Aura sent the beast to the edges of the battlefield as Ashton stopped to catch his breath.
Lucy spoke with disdain, "For something that was supposed to have terrified the world for eons, you're pretty feeble, Soul Edge." But as Soul Edge climbed to his feet, he began to tremble violently. A second later, he gagged and dropped to his knees. "Ugh... This body....." He then wheezed as he thought to himself, (Even with the Eternal Flame slowing down the rate of decay, this body is deteriorating even faster than I imagined...) He then looked ahead at Lucy, who was giving him a cruel glare. (And this wretch with a dark soul... She keeps interfering...) Soul Edge then growled, (No..... NOOOOO!!! I have come this far! I will not let some mere mortal take from me the sole reason for which I have survived this long for!!!) He then gathered himself and spoke, "Ten minutes. That's all I have left." Lucy then asked, "Shut up and fight. Or are you too afraid of the dark?" Soul Edge then began to seethe with rage as he glared ahead at Lucy with his crimson eyes. "You..... YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT TRUE PAIN IS!!!"
Before Ashton could even blink, Soul Edge made a dash at Lucy. But before she could even react, Soul Edge had reached her and plunged the blade on his right hand into her abdomen. But despite the look of surprise on her face, she did not seem to feel any pain. Soul Edge roared, "You will not take my revenge from me!!!" He then began to hack and slash away at her, leaving deep cuts on her arms, legs, and torso at speeds that left no chance for a counterattack. After a moment, Soul Edge noticed out of the corner of his eye Ashton preparing to strike with Soul Calibur. As he sent Lucy flying upwards with a Blaze Kick, Soul Edge also lashed out with the blade at the end of his tail, striking Ashton in the belly with the blunt side of the blade, sending him careening a good distance away. But immediately after that, he sent the blade of Soul Edge flying towards Lucy before she could fall from the sky. Before she could even react, the massive blade impaled Lucy through the back. Despite having not felt any pain up to that point, Lucy gagged slightly as blood began to coat the blade that now held her high off the ground.
"LUCY!!!" Ruby and Kazeerah screamed in unison as they watched their sister being skewered on Soul Edge's blade. The beast of flames smirked, "You were a decent distraction, but now we must part ways." With a flick of his tail, the blade of Soul Edge suddenly tossed its blade upwards, causing Lucy to fly upwards from the sudden momentum. But as the Lucario went even higher into the air, Soul Edge stood ready as he gathered an orb of his own corrosive crimson Aura into the palm of his right hand. His crimson eyes watched his prey with cruel precision. As Lucy began to fall back towards the ground, Soul Edge leapt towards his prey at high speed. "You have caused me enough delays! But as a parting gift, I shall share with you...MY DARKNESS!!!"
Once they were almost about to collide with each other, Soul Edge thrust the orb of his Aura into Lucy as it rapidly expanded, reaching well over ten times its original size and engulfing her. A second later, the orb let loose like a cannon as a colossal wave of Aura was launched from Soul Edge's hand. A moment later, the orb itself shot towards the ground with Lucy in it and exploded with horrific force the instant it hit the ground. Once Soul Edge landed, he walked over to the large crater it left behind, his steps shaky as his body was on the verge of failing him. When he gazed down into the crater, Soul Edge grumbled at the sight of Lucy lying face-up in the center. "I'm amazed that her body was not dissolved. The darkness within in her must be more like mine than I expected. Nothing other than myself can resist my own life-force." But as he tried to turn and face Ashton, Soul Edge found that he could not move his legs! When he glanced down at them, he found that they were stuck to the ground by blue crystals that had encrusted over them. "No... This is..."
Soul Edge managed to look over his shoulder and saw Ashton holding Soul Calibur above him as a beam of holy energy engulfed the blade and extended its range, just like before. Soul Edge's crimson eyes began to quiver in fright, "How foolish! I never should've taken my eyes off of him!" Ashton then glared ahead at Soul Edge and spoke, "Lucy gave me this opportunity. I will not let her sacrifice go to waste!" Ashton then held his sword over his shoulder and charged his hated enemy. Soul Edge began to frantically try and break free from his shackles, but the crystals would not give so easily. As Ashton closed in, he screamed, "No! Not now! Not like this!!!" But as he leapt into the air and brought Soul Calibur down with an overhead swing, Ashton shouted, "Now, disappear! And stay gone this time!"
The instant the blade of holy energy hit the ground, a trail of crystals burst forth from both sides of the blade that extended quite a distance from the spirit sword. At the edge of the battlefield, Lucash smiled, "He got 'em. Grandpa..... You're so cool." Pearl breathed a sigh of relief, "I thought I was going to have a heart attack. And this means that Ash should be all right too." But as Shadow closed his eyes to sense Ash's Aura, he gasped, "No way..... It's STILL there?!" Ashton panted in exhaustion as he waited for the billowing waves of holy energy to dissipate. But his feeling of triumph was cut short as he soon saw something on Ash's back. In the way of Soul Calibur's blade of holy energy was the form of Soul Edge's complete form. The grotesque sword had been crystallized into a beautiful blue crystal structure. As it fell to the side, it broke into several pieces as it hit the ground. Ashton then looked back at Ash's body and spoke, "You used your own sword as a shield..." The crimson eyes of Soul Edge were staring at Ashton over his shoulder as they quivered in rage.
Soul Edge growled, "This has gone on long enough." With a lash from his tail, Soul Edge smacked Ashton away from him. He then strained a little more to break free from the crystals that bound his legs. He then walked over to Ashton and stared down at him as he lied collapsed upon the ground, his injuries starting to take their tolls. Soul Edge growled, "This body does not have much longer to go. I'm amazed you managed to hold out this long, even with the aid from that strange mutt. However..." He then raised his right hand with the blade on it angled down at Ashton's head. "It ends here, Angel of the Eternal Flame."
Ashton waited for Soul Edge to end his life for good at his feet. But after a moment, Ashton grew curious of why the attack had not connected. When he looked up, Ashton saw that Soul Edge was standing perfectly still without blinking. It was as if time had stopped in its tracks. However, Ashton soon noticed out of the corner of his eye the movement of Soul Edge's eye on the smooth surface of the blade on his right hand. The eye soon closed, but then soon reopened. Ashton let out a gasp as he saw that the eye staring at him was no longer that of Soul Edge, but the vivid pink eye of a Zangoose. "Ash... Are you there?"
Ashton quickly looked up at Ash's body and saw that his eyes were now those of a Zangoose. The body then spoke with a familiar voice that lifted Ashton's spirits. "Ashton... I'm sorry... You need to take care of me... Hurry! I don't know how much longer I can hold him off!" But at this, his eyes quickly changed back to a terrifying shade of crimson and growled, "Silence, wretched human! This is MY body now! Grah!" Soul Edge struggled to strike his enemy, but his body's original owner would not let it happen. Ashton could even see a translucent body standing behind Soul Edge, his arms clutching him tightly. The being's pink eyes pleaded, "Hurry... Take me down now!" Ashton nodded, "Very well. Hold him steady for me. I do not have the strength to do this again." Ashton then slowly stood up, struggling to not fall over, his body weak from loss of blood. Soul Edge strained, (Impossible... A host has never rejected me since.....since...) He then spoke out loud, "Sieg....fried...."
Ashton took Soul Calibur into his hands and asked, "Soul Calibur, will Ash be affected by the purification?" The spirit sword replied, "I have seen his soul before, young master. His is quite pure. He will be almost completely unfazed." Ashton smiled, "Thank you." He then gripped the spirit sword's hilt with both hands and raised it over his head. A moment later, a shimmering beam of holy light jutted forth from the blade, engulfing it and tripling the spirit sword's length once again. By this time, Soul Edge screamed, "No, not this time!" He then began to tremble as he struggled to aim the blade on his left hand towards Ashton's throat. As the blade aligned with his prey, Soul Edge laughed, "Huh...huhahaha..... Looks like we die together, Ashton.....GAH!!!" Soul Edge let out a shout as a Force Palm struck him from behind, stunning him. Ashton looked ahead and saw Lucy, though bloodied and beaten, was alive with her arm outstretched. Soul Edge then growled, "You..... What will it take to kill you?!" Lucy then staggered away from Soul Edge and dropped to her knees before looking towards Ashton, "Consider yourself lucky...that I won't be conscious long enough.....to see the end of this..." As she fell on her side and lapsed into unconsciousness, she muttered, "I'll kill you all..."
Ashton glared at Soul Edge as Ash struggled to hold his own body back from the depths of his mind. The viscount then shouted, "Prepare yourself, Soul Edge!!!" As he began to prepare to bring Soul Calibur down in front of him, Ashton shouted, "Never return to his realm again!!!" Soul Edge could only watch defiantly as the spirit sword's blade came down on top of him. The instant he was engulfed by the spirit sword's holy energy, a horrifying scream filled the air as Soul Edge's body froze, crystals rising from the ground at the sides of the spirit sword's blade.
As Ashton watched Ash's body engulfed with billowing waves of holy energy, he could see his face was frozen in an expression of utter terror. A moment later, the Devil of the Eternal Flame stiffly fell backwards and hit the ground with a thud, his body position remaining unchanged. Seconds later, the layer of fiery 'fur' began to vanish as small flickers of orange light that gave off a malevolent presence began to rise from Ash's body before dissipating into the air and vanishing entirely. Ashton muttered, "The last traces of Soul Edge's spirit..." However, when the last flicker of the cursed sword's soul left Ash's body, it vanished instantly before it could dissipate. For some reason, Ashton failed to notice this.
Ashton took a few unsteady steps back from his descendant as the loss of blood made him dizzy. He then looked down at Ash and winced as he saw that his flesh was extremely dark, as if he was heavily bruised after an automobile accident. However, the Z-shaped markings under his eyes had returned to normal while his eyes were now their original dark brown color. A moment later, Ash suddenly coughed loudly as he struggled to breathe. Ashton shouted towards their companions, "Hurry! He needs help!" The first to run towards him was Ruby, who dropped to her knees at her lover's side with tears in her eyes. "Ash... Is that really you?" The boy could only nod.
As Ruby began to tend to Ash's wounds, Ashton walked towards the Flamberge to retrieve it. However, Ash gagged as he weakly flailed about, "Ugh... Can't...breathe...." Ruby cried, "I'm healing him as fast as I can!" Her hands glowed brightly with her own Aura as she tried to speed up the healing of Ash's internal organs. Pearl then placed her hands on Ash's body as they began to glow blue. She spoke, "What the hell.... It's as if someone pummeled him with a club countless times!" She then spoke, "Focus on healing his lungs first!" Ruby nodded and adjusted the location of her hands on Ash's chest. Pearl then held Ash's head in her hands and spoke, "Ash, listen to me. When I count to three, try to inhale. Got it?" He nodded as Pearl started. "One...two...three." The instant Pearl said 'three', Ash tried his best to inhale, even though it was impossible on his own. However, Pearl sealed lips with him and breathed into him, his battered lungs inflating with her breath. They kept this up for the next minute as Ruby healed his lungs before anything else. During that time, Chiara tended to Lucy's injuries. But for some reason, the coloration of her clothes and fur had returned to their original colors. No one seemed to mind this, fortunately.
After Ashton had retrieved the Flamberge, he walked back over to his companions with his trusty blade in his left hand and Soul Calibur in his right. By now, his face was starting to look slightly pale. He whispered, "Soul Calibur. Is there any hope for me?" The spirit sword hesitated for a moment before replying, "I..... I am so sorry, young master..." He sighed, "I see. Thank you anyway for allowing me to survive long enough to save Ash from Soul Edge's clutches. At least, this time, it's gone forever."
Ashton soon stood at Ash's feet and asked, "How is he?" Pearl looked at him and smiled, "He'll be fine. The worst is over now." Ashton sighed, "Thank goodness..." Just then, Kazeerah smiled, "Shoot, Ashton. I've nevah seen fightin' that messed up! You're somethin' else! We should spar sometime!" The viscount suppressed a laugh, "I'll take you up on your offer sometime.....guh...!" Ashton gagged as blood spurted from his mouth. As he staggered backwards a bit, he released his grip on his swords as they hit the ground with a clatter. Zandria, Aurora, and Chiara suddenly glanced over at him with looks of concern as his breathing grew labored. With a weak smile, he chuckled, "Well..... This is a first..."
As he spoke those words, Ashton began to lean backwards. Zandria made a dash towards him as time seemed to slow down for her, tears beginning to flow from her eyes as well as those of Chiara and Aurora. A moment later, there was a grim silence as Ashton hit the ground with a thud. Zandria kneeled next to her lover and held his head in her hands as her breathing became erratic. Aurora whispered, "Please... No..."
Zandria gazed into the lifeless eyes of her beloved mate and former master. A few seconds later, she let out a heart-wrenching wail as she buried her face in his bloodstained shirt. Ashton had indeed succeeded in purging his descendant of the evil Soul Edge. However, the evil sword had also succeeded in fulfilling its final desire of avenging itself. The Angel of the Eternal Flame had met his end at the hands of the Devil of the Eternal Flame.