AGNPH Stories

Rukario Romance by XD385


The Search Begins

"Hmmmm. Are you certain this is a tunnel that leads directly to Oreburgh City and not a mere cave?" Ashton stood at the entrance to what seemed to be a natural cave or tunnel to the east of Jubilife City. All of his companions stood near him. Kazeerah nodded, "Very sure. I've been all ovah Sinnoh, ya know. They call this the Oreburgh Gate fer a reason." The viscount threw up a hand, "All right, point taken." But just before he could take a step inside the cave, he stopped. "Come to think of it....." Ashton then turned to face Zandria, who was carrying all of Ash's gear in his backpack. "Zandria, hand me Aurora." The Zangoose nodded, "Just a sec." After rummaging through the bag, Zandria held a Safari Ball out to Ashton. Once he held the Safari Ball in hand, Ashton asked, "Um...... How does one release the occupants of these balls?" Lucash raised a hand, "Ooh! I know! You press the little button on the front first, and then throw it!" As instructed, Ashton tapped the round button at the very front of the Safari Ball, causing it to enlarge. Afterwards, he lightly tossed the ball, causing it to pop open with a flash of light. A moment later, a beautiful Suicune with a blue mane stood before them. Ashton spoke, "Aurora... I must ask you a favor."

Aurora glanced around, having not been let out of her Safari Ball for several days. When her eyes fell upon Ash, she slowly turned to Ashton with a frown. "I heard..... He is...." But before the Suicune could continue, Ashton raised a finger to his lips before shaking his head. Aurora then glanced over to Lucash and Sapphire, understanding that it was best to not alert them to their father's fate. She then turned to face Ashton, "Now... You had something to ask of me?" The viscount nodded, "Yes. Do you know what we are searching for?" She nodded, "Lady Ho-Oh, correct?" Ashton smiled, "Indeed. Now, being a Suicune, you are able to speak with her. Am I right?" The Suicune took a step back in surprise, "Me? As in summon her?" Ashton nodded, "Yes. Suicune came into existence because they were brought to life by Ho-Oh herself. Surely you have some sort of connection to her." 

Aurora could only stare at Ashton as she heard his words, but she soon shook her head, "You misunderstand, my lord. Only the original Suicune was born of Ho-Oh's power. And I am not her. I have never once seen or heard the phoenix. I cannot call her. I'm sorry." Ashton sighed, "You are.....certain?" The Suicune nodded silently. After a moment, Ashton asked, "Well, would you be willing to take on a different request?" Aurora sighed, "I shall try..." Ashton then asked, "With your speed, you should be able to scour Sinnoh much faster than the rest of us. Would you search Sinnoh for any traces of Ho-Oh? Of any signs that may point us to her?" At this request, the Suicune nodded, "I shall." With a smile, Ashton caressed her head, "Return to us in Oreburgh City in three weeks time. Now go." At her lover's words, the beautiful Suicune was gone, leaving a gust of northern wind in her wake. 

Lucash spoke up, "Um..... Why are we searching for Ho-Oh?" Ashton gulped, "Um.... The reason for that is..... I mean....." He then had an idea, "Ah, yes. I need her aid. I died once, at the hands of Soul Edge. I need Ho-Oh to restore the Eternal Flame within me to full strength so I may survive another premature demise." The young Lucario smiled, "Oh! That's a good idea!" But Chiara then asked, "But, Ashton..... Can't you call Ho-Oh to us?" The viscount raised an eyebrow, "Pardon?" The Lugia explained, "You are a host to the Eternal Flame. Surely you have some sort of connection to her as you share the same power. And if memory serves, you did speak directly to her once." Ashton looked to the sky, "Yes..... Orochi. She did indeed speak to me during that duel." But he then sighed, "However, I am sorry to say I have no such link to her. And I did not call her. She contacted me." Zandria then asked, "But could you at least try?" After a moment, Ashton looked to the sky and called out, "Lady Ho-Oh! Please, reveal yourself! I must speak with you!" 

A gentle breeze blew across the land. Everyone in Ashton's presence remained silent, as if expecting Ho-Oh to appear at any second. But after a long moment, Ashton glanced around, scanning the sky for Ho-Oh. Much to his disappointment and frustration, the phoenix was nowhere to be seen. He sighed, "I should've known that contacting her would not be this easy....." He then signaled for the others to follow him into the tunnel, "Seems we have no choice but to find her the hard way. Come." Upon entering the Oreburgh Gate, Ashton drew the Flamberge and held it in his right hand. A second later, the blade was engulfed in flames, lighting up the area around him. "Kazeerah. Care to lead?" The Blaziken stepped forward, "No problem. Just don't go pokin' me with that thing." Once Kazeerah was a short distance ahead of Ashton, everyone followed after her.

Not long into the trek, a Zubat in the distance let out a screech that echoed through the cave. Sapphire jumped, "Uh... That was loud." But she soon noticed her mother trembling while tightly embracing Ash. "Mommy? What's wrong?" At Sapphire's words, Ruby came to her senses and looked up at who she was holding on to. Realizing that she was hugging a corpse, the young mother let out a shriek and ran ahead of the group into the darkness. Shadow raised an eyebrow, "That was.....odd of her. Never knew Ruby could be so.....timid." Ashton grumbled, "Good lord, woman. Try to keep your head on until we get out of here." A moment later, the group came across Ruby while she hid behind a large rock. Pearl spoke, "Ruby, there's nothing to freak out over. Stay close until we're through this cave." The Lucario nervously came out from behind the rock and stood near Ashton, as he was the strongest individual with them. As they continued on, the young mother scolded herself, (It's just as I feared. Without him..... I'm weak. I was right all along. All my strength came from him. I'm no different than that pathetic little girl I used to be as I am now.....) Tears flowed from Ruby's eyes as her memories came flooding back, reminding her of her first days with the boy she fell in love with. 

"Hey, Ruby! You coming?!" Ash called through the trees. A moment later, a young female Lucario came bursting through the brush. "I'm here, Ash!" The Trainer took Ruby by her spikeless hand, "While Brock's cooking up lunch, you wanna take a look around?" The innocent Lucario smiled, "OK! Where to?" Her Trainer replied, "I dunno. As long as your nose can lead us back to camp, I don't think it matters where we go." As Ash led Ruby through the trees, the Lucario maiden tightly gripped her friend's hand, never letting go. "Ash, how long has it been since we first met? " The Trainer replied, "Um... I think just a week."

Ash walked with Ruby by his side, the young maiden tightly holding onto him. The Trainer had become accustomed to his new friend being so clingy and did not object to her methods. Before long, the duo came out from the trees and found themselves standing at the edge of a lake. Ash whistled, "Whoa. Who would've thought there'd be something like this out here?" Ruby nodded, "Not me!" She then looked up at him, "Ash, it's pretty hot today. May I go for a swim?" The Trainer nodded, "Sure!" At this, the Lucario maiden made a dash for the lake. As she neared the edge, Ruby performed a small hop while turning, causing her to turn around. Upon touching the ground, she leapt backwards as if performing the high jump at the Olympics. She then gracefully dove into the lake, resurfacing a few seconds later. Ash applauded "Man, you deserve a medal for that! Bravo!" Ruby blushed, "Um.... Really? Thanks!"

After swimming around for a moment, Ruby called out, "Come on in! The water's fine!" At this, Ash remembered that he was not wearing his backpack. "Oh man! I didn't bring my swim trunks! Sorry. I can't come in." Perplexed, Ruby asked, "Why do you need them? Just come in as you are." Ash grumbled, "These are the only real clothes I've got! And I don't want to wear these all day if they get soaked! I'll catch a cold!" Ruby then giggled, "Then why don't you take them off so they stay dry?" Ash blushed, "Take! No way! I'm not getting naked in front of a girl! Really! I don't mind just taking a walk around. One day without swimming won't kill me." Ruby laughed at Ash's reaction, "OK, sorry!" Ash then started to walk around the edge of the lake while frequently eyeing Ruby, worried that she may swim too far out.

After several minutes of swimming, Ruby noticed a dark shadow in the depths steadily approaching her. Intimidated, she started to swim away from it. But as the shadow became larger, indicating it was rising, Ruby began to hyperventilate. The instant she felt something touch her foot, the Lucario maiden let out a shriek. Ash, startled by Ruby's scream, turned to face her. But when he did, Ruby came sailing into his arms, soaked from head to toe. Ash asked, "What happened?!" Ruby pointed towards the lake "S....s...something was gonna eat me..." A few seconds later, something emerged from the lake where Ruby was seconds ago. Ash raised an eyebrow, "You've gotta be kidding. A Psyduck?" Looking around while floating on the surface of the lake was a Psyduck. The yellow waterfowl lazily yawned before swimming to shore and walked away. 

Ash looked down at Ruby, "Um... Psyduck aren't that dangerous. They're probably more concerned with their headaches than a Lucario taking a swim." Ruby blushed in embarrassment, "Um..... Oops?" But it was then Ash noticed that Ruby was no longer shivering in fright. "Wow, you warmed up fast." Ruby shyly smiled, "I's because I always feel safe around you. You're always there for me." The Trainer smiled while rubbing her head, "I said I would be your friend. I don't wanna disappoint you." After a second, Ruby and Ash's stomachs let out a growl. Ash asked, "Which way to lunch?" Ruby quickly sniffed the air, "Um.... This way." The Lucario maiden led her friend back to their campsite, the smell of Brock's cooking guiding them. 

After a good hour of exploring the Oreburgh Gate, Kazeerah pointed ahead, "I see a light! C'mon!" The Blaziken broke into a run with her companions close behind. Seeing a light up ahead, Ashton dispelled the flames around his sword and placed it upon his back. A moment later, they emerged from the tunnel, standing on the outskirts of a vast city that was brimming with activity. Lucy pointed, "That's it. Oreburgh City." Ashton nodded, "So... That's it? And we are to gather information there?" Rukaria hoisted her Hyup Do to her shoulder, "That's the idea." Zandria then asked, "Chiara, any advice you can give on where to look first?" The midget Lugia replied, "Oreburgh City is a mining city that mines for high quality coal that is shipped all over Sinnoh and to other neighboring regions as well. If memory serves, there should be a museum of sorts near the mines." Zandria smiled, "Then let's get started. The sooner we find Ho-Oh, the better." Kazeerah then walked ahead with her companions in tow.

Upon arriving in Oreburgh City, Ashton noticed a different feel in the air from that of Jubilife City. Rukaria noticed the viscount's odd expression and asked, "Something on your mind, Sir Ashton?" He replied, "This presence is.....familiar. The air is quivering in activity. Reminds me of the cities within the Kingdom of Clavice. Being a nation most proud of its military might, the people of Clavice respected strength and often held battle tournaments." But as they walked, Pearl stopped at the sound of a child crying. After looking around quickly, she saw a young boy had fallen and dropped his ice cream cone outside of an ice cream parlor.

Pearl sighed with pity as she watched the boy mourn his ice cream and the scrape on his knee. But her ears perked up as the mother and father of the child ran over to him. The mother reached down and seemed to whisper calming words to him while the father applied a bandage to his son's knee. The boy soon stopped crying and hugged his mother. At this gesture, Pearl's hand slowly reached down and rested over her lower belly, as if caressing a precious dream. A tender smile crept across the young maiden's face as she saw the father pick up his son and sat him upon his shoulders. He then handed up his own ice cream cone to the child, who gratefully took it in hand. By this time, Lucy had noticed that Pearl had stopped and came running back to her. "Pearl, why are you over here? You're going to get left behind." But Pearl calmly replied, "I'm...fine. I'll be right there." But as Lucy turned to run after their companions, Pearl had to use every ounce of mental willpower she had to avoid breaking down in tears. "Why did you have to go..... We...we were on the verge of....." The Lucario maiden turned and ran after Lucy, trying to hold back her tears. 

"Ash, over here! I think this is the section we're looking for!" Pearl waved towards Ash as she waited in a clothing store for him. The Trainer came running over, "OK, what're we looking for again?" The Lucario maiden smiled, "It's over here." She then led him out of the main aisle. It was also a good cover for Delia, who was searching the store for Ash's new attire as a birthday present. With Ash's birthday a few weeks away, Pearl was doing what she could to keep the birthday boy unaware of his mother's actions. 

As Pearl searched around the section of the store she was in, Ash took the time to examine his surroundings. But he was soon unnerved by all of the types of clothing around him. The sizes and styles seemed to be suited for young children, possibly even so young as toddlers. He gulped, "Um..... Pearl? What're we looking for here?" The Lucario turned to face him and held something out to him. "You don't know? We're looking for some clothes for our little one." Pearl smiled with a blush. In her hands was a little blue shirt for newborns. 

Taking the tiny shirt in hand, Ash blushed, "Uh... Pearl? You're not pregnant already, are you?" The Lucario maiden giggled, "No, not yet. I haven't gone into heat since before leaving Hoenn." Ash cocked his head to one side, "Then why...?" Pearl gazed amorously into his eyes, "It doesn't hurt to plan ahead, right? I'll get pregnant someday. Hopefully sooner than later." She then brought Ash's hand down to her lower belly, "Do you remember your promise, love?" After a moment of awkward silence, Ash warmly smiled, "Yeah. I remember. You wanted to baby, right?" Pearl gave the Trainer a straightforward confirmation by pulling him down to her for a kiss. The kiss was short, but was full of emotion nonetheless. "Thank you for remembering." 

Pearl smiled, "Which do you think it'll be? A bouncing baby boy? Or a beautiful little girl?" Ash brought a hand to his chin, "I dunno. Which one are you hoping for?" The Lucario maiden sighed, "I really don't have a preference. As long as I have a child of my own, I'll be happy." Ash raised an eyebrow, "Man, you really wanna become a mom bad, don't you?" Pearl smiled longingly, "I've seen so many children born in my clan. And the joy it brought their parents. I... I always wanted to have a child of my own... A beautiful little baby in my arms. But I wanted to make sure I found the best man possible to sire my offspring." She then looked lovingly up into Ash's eyes. "And I finally found him. He's right here before me." Ash blushed deeply, "I... I love you too, Pearl... I'm glad you wanted to stay with me." Pearl then embraced her lover, "And I'm grateful you gave me another chance. I had no future in Hoenn anymore.... I don't want our child to be born in a land of warmongers." After a solemn moment, Pearl added, "So, which one? Boy or girl?" The Trainer grinned, "I say a boy." 

The first thing everyone did was head straight for the local museum. Chiara glanced around upon heading inside, "Yes, this is it. Surely there have been a few additions since my last visit." However, the Oreburgh City Museum seemed to specialize in geological exhibits instead of ancient lore and the like. Shadow sighed, "I doubt we'll find what we're looking for here..." But Ashton shrugged his shoulders, "Even so, it would not hurt to check. And besides, since this is a museum, let's take our time and enjoy the visit. We just might even learn something useful." The group then split up, examining various exhibits and asking the museum staff for any information that may point them towards Ho-Oh. 

While searching about the museum, Zandria noticed what could have been viewed as the museum's star attraction. A massive block of coal in the very center of the main room. "Whoa... That could probably fuel a thousand fireplaces." But as she gazed up at it, images of a campfire with hot dogs and fish roasting over it appeared in her mind. And fueling the fire were numerous clumps of charcoal. The Zangoose jumped slightly as she felt something cool brush against her right arm and turned to face whatever had touched her. To her surprise, she found Ash standing next to her, seemingly examining the boulder of coal. 

Zandria's eyes looked around and soon saw Ashton standing a short distance away, occasionally glancing over at Ash and discreetly making movements of his hands to have the corpse move around in order to avoid him appearing suspicious to anyone. As she looked up at the body of the boy who she had come to view as a son, Zandria looked over at Ashton and spoke, "....Ashton." Hearing his name, the viscount turned to Zandria. The Zangoose asked, "I know he won't feel it, but....." She then turned to Ash and raised her arms up, as if trying to embrace him. Ashton sighed as he made a quick flick of his wrist. In response, Ash dropped to his knees and held out his arms. Zandria then threw her arms around him and held him in a gentle embrace. Ashton then moved his fingers to make Ash do the same. In her son's arms, Zandria quietly cried, "I hope you can hear me..... I'm so sorry I allowed this to happen to you..... My precious little boy. What kind of mother lets her child wander off to be butchered by a madman...?" Her grasp on him tightened, "Please..... Come back... I want to sit down at the dinner table and share so many more wonderful dishes with you.... I want to see you smile again... I want to hear your voice... Even if just one last time......"

In the secret garden of Altomare, Zandria was hard at work preparing lunch over a portable grill. Many clumps of charcoal glowed a fiery orange as meat, vegetables, and a pot of soup cooked and boiled overhead. As she stirred and rotated the food, Zandria's ears twitched at the sounds of footsteps approaching. She then turned around, "Right on time. How's my favorite boy doing today?" A voice replied, "Hungry! I hope you cooked a lot, Mom!" Running over to her was Ash. "I skipped breakfast like you told me to. I hope this is worth it!" The Zangoose held out her arms and caught her descendant in a warm embrace. "You better be hungry. You're not going anywhere until you finish every last bite." 

Ash watched as his ancestral mother set out the various foods she had prepared. There was seafood noodle soup, teriyaki chicken, grilled carrots and asparagus, and salmon kabobs. The aroma wafting from the food made Ash's mouth water like a river. "That...looks...awesome!" Zandria smirked, "You should know that everything I cook is awesome by now. I just wonder if you can match Atlas' appetite." Ash glanced at the Zangoose chef, "Atlas? Oh, you mean your son?" Zandria nodded, "Yup. That boy was one of the biggest eaters in the family. Whenever I came up with new recipes, he was always the first to test them. I suppose you can say he was the Crimson family's official taste-tester." Ash smirked, "Now I know where I get my appetite from. Guess this means I have a big name to live up to." He then walked up to the table and grabbed a fork and knife. "Just watch, Atlas! I'll match you yet!" 

Over the course of an hour, Ash feasted upon Zandria's private lunch. He made fairly short work of the meats and vegetables, but he took his time with the soup. Once he was finished, Ash let out a satisfied belch that echoed throughout the entire garden. "Dang. That was beyond awesome..." But the Zangoose chef whistled, "I have to admit, you surprised me. I had no doubt you could handle the grilled foods, but I didn't completely expect you to eat all the soup in one sitting." Her expression of surprise soon faded into a warm smile as she crossed her arms, "You really are my boy's kid. I honestly wish he could've met you." Ash grinned, "Me too. He sounded like a cool guy." Just then, Ash looked at his wrist. "Wait, what's the time?! I better get back to the others before Sapphire comes looking for me. Don't want her getting lost. I'll see ya back at the hotel, Mom!" With that, Ash stood up and ran to the entrance of the garden, vanishing from view. Zandria chuckled as she gathered up her cooking equipment, "Just like old times. That's my boy, all right." As she stacked her goods, the Zangoose mother shed a tear, fondly recalling her days with her firstborn son. "He really is just like him. God, I couldn't ask for a better boy to take Atlas' place." 

Feeling that searching the Oreburgh City Museum for information on Ho-Oh was a waste of time, Shadow decided to search elsewhere. The Lucario began to wander around the city, searching for any libraries. But after a short walk, Shadow stopped at the sight of a fairly large building with a design that he seemed to recognize. "Where have I seen one of these before...... Vermillion City?" As he pondered the building before him, the sliding doors opened. Shadow watched as a young man exited the building with a Riolu that had yellow and turquoise fur. The Riolu seemed to be a bit dirty, leading Shadow to suspect that it had just been in a battle. The Riolu's Trainer held something up between his thumb and index finger to the sunlight. The object shimmered metallically. Shadow muttered, "That's.....a badge! This must be a Pokémon Gym!" Hearing Shadow speak up, the Trainer turned to face him. "Huh? Whoa! A wild Lucario out in the open?" Shadow took a defensive stance, "Don't get any ideas. I already have a Trainer."

Seeing that the Lucario before him was already in the company of a Trainer, the human nodded, "Uh.....OK. And you can talk? Weird." Shadow nodded, "All Lucario are capable of speaking human dialects without effort. And who are you exactly?" The Trainer replied, "Oh, I'm Shad. And my little buddy here is Cash." The Shiny Riolu smiled as he waved at Shadow. The Lucario warrior smiled, "He's a good kid. Take good care of him and he'll turn out to be a skilled fighter." Shad grinned, "No worries there! Hey, is your Trainer thinking of taking the Sinnoh League challenge?" Shadow nodded, "That's why we came here in the first place, so yeah." Shad smirked, "Then you'll have no problem with this Gym. The Gym Leader, Roark, specializes in Rock type Pokémon. That means a Fighting type like you should have an easier time than others." Shadow nodded, "Is that so? I'll be sure to pass along that info to him." Shad then waved, "Who knows? Maybe your Trainer and I can have a match someday. See ya around." With that, Shad and Cash headed west towards the Oreburgh Gate. 

Shadow turned and looked up at the Oreburgh Gym. "Never actually participated in a Gym battle before. Wonder if the Pokémon who take part are on par with my clan's warriors?" But as he pondered what a battle against Roark would be like, Shadow felt frustration building up inside him as he thought of his Trainer. The boy who had reminded him of a crucial lesson taught to him by his father, and who had saved him from the evil Thanatos of the Blackflame clan. Overwhelmed with anger, Shadow gave a firm punch against the Oreburgh Gym's wall. "Damn it! I should've been there for him!" He dropped to his knees, "He first friend... Maybe even my only friend... I failed to save him in Hoenn...... And I failed him again here...... Ash, please forgive me...."

"Pikachu, use Double Team!" Ash shouted with zeal. As instructed, Pikachu broke into a dash, leaving a trail of copies in his wake. The electric rodent circled Shadow and jumped back. However, the ring of illusionary Pikachu continued to encircle the Lucario. "Now, Shadow! Use Aura Shuriken!" Ash commanded. Shadow jumped straight up, "Got it!" He then molded his Aura into many small shuriken and hurled a massive flurry of them at the ring of Pikachu. Each illusion vanished the instant they were struck by the hail of Aura Shuriken. When Shadow dropped back to the ground, he smirked, "Child's play. At this rate, I should be ready for the Sinnoh League by tomorrow."

Ash and Shadow began to head back home with Pikachu on Ash's shoulder, their training session in a nearby meadow having tired them out somewhat. Ash grinned, "I still can't get over how many of those Aura Shuriken you can throw at a time. It must've taken a while to get it just right." Shadow nodded, "It did, actually. Took me a good 8 months or so to learn how to mold my Aura into so many shapes while still keeping a grip on it." Ash glanced at him in shock, "8 months?!" The Lucario smiled, "Yeah. But that's nothing compared to Pearl's Aura Whip. It took her over a year to perfect it." Ash nervously chuckled, "Man... I guess I should've expected that considering just how flexible it is."

Upon returning to the Ketchum household, the three friends found Delia hard at work cooking dinner. Shadow sniffed the air, "Mmmmm..... Is that your favorite cooking, Ash?" The Trainer deeply inhaled the aroma, "Yeah, I know that smell anywhere." He then let Pikachu down, who promptly ran into the kitchen in the hopes of sampling the fare. Ash wiped his brow, "I really worked up a sweat throwing all those punches at you, Shadow. Are you sure it helped with your reflexes?" The Lucario nodded, "Absolutely. You've got some quick jabs, so they helped me stay on my toes." Ash headed towards the stairs to the second floor, "I'm gonna wash up before dinner." Shadow nodded, deciding to wait for his turn. 

After a good ten minutes, Shadow headed upstairs to the closest bathroom, thinking Ash was finished by then. But as he entered the bathroom, he was greeted by steam and the sound of running water. He looked toward the sliding glass door to the bathtub and could see movement behind it. Seeing that Ash was not yet done, Shadow turned to leave. However, he soon stopped as a powerful curiosity pulled at him. The Lucario turned and looked at the glass door to the bathtub. "I wonder..." Locking the door to insure that no one would walk in on them, Shadow crept over to the bathtub and slid the door open a crack. 

Shadow's eyes gazed at his Trainer in fascination, having never seen Ash completely nude before. But he soon became nervous as Ash was facing his direction. Fortunately, the Trainer was washing his hair, forcing him to keep his eyes closed. During that time, Shadow took the opportunity to thoroughly examine his Trainer's body. He started at Ash's legs and worked his way up to his well toned torso, and finally to his face. Shadow was actually quite impressed with Ash's figure for his age. 

Before closing the glass door, Shadow gave another look at Ash's body. But his gaze soon rested upon the Trainer's boyhood. At that moment, Shadow felt a slight stirring in his crotch. He then looked down to notice a steadily growing bulge in his blue shorts. He silently gasped to himself, (Oh man... No... No way! I'm not...) Without a second thought, Shadow quickly and quietly left the bathroom. As he closed the door behind him, Shadow began to sweat profusely. "I hope he never finds out about that..." 

Having searched the Oreburgh City Museum for clues on Ho-Oh's whereabouts, Lucy decided to try her luck elsewhere with Kazeerah at her side. The Blaziken muttered, "Like searchin' fer a needle in a haystack, huh?" Lucy nodded, "You could say that..." But after a short walk, the two passed by a church. At that moment, the two sisters noticed the big wooden doors open, revealing a flurry of white flower petals followed by many men dressed in black suits and women wearing white gowns. And standing in the middle of the doorway was a man and woman standing side-by-side. In the woman's hand was a bouquet of white roses. Kazeerah smiled, "Well, would ya lookit that? A weddin'!" 

Lucy and Kazeerah stopped to observe the bride and groom during the last half of the procession. Kazeerah chuckled as the bridesmaids began to crowd together as the bride prepared to toss the bouquet. Lucy smiled, "The one who catches the flowers will get married someday, right?" Kazeerah nodded, "That's how it goes. Who's gonna be the one? Mah money's on the girl with a ponytail." Lucy giggled, "I think the one with blond hair is in a good spot." But as the bride tossed the bouquet, a sudden gust of wind blew. The light bouquet of flowers was blown clear of the bridesmaids and straight towards the two sisters. Startled, Lucy threw up her hands and closed her eyes as the bouquet fell towards them.

A moment of eerie silence passed followed by a low murmur as the bridesmaids whispered to each other. Kazeerah then broke the silence as she spoke, "Lucy.... Ya got it." Slowly, the Lucario maiden opened her eyes. As she looked up at her hands, her eyes went wide as she saw the bouquet of flowers resting in her grasp. The stunned bridesmaids, who at first were shocked that a Pokémon was the one to catch it, burst into applause to congratulate her. Kazeerah smiled, "Who woulda thought? Nevah imagined ya would get hitched someday, sis. So, got an idea on who the lucky guy is? C'mon, I'll keep mah beak shut about it!" However, Lucy silently lowered the bouquet and gazed down at it. As she thought of the tradition involving catching a bride's bouquet of flowers, she began to remember the words of her darker half mere days ago after having encountered Outcast and learning of Ash's demise. "He loved you. Possibly just as much as you longed for him. Imagine it. The two of you walking down the aisle and swearing oaths." Tears began to fill Lucy's eyes as she looked ahead at the bride and groom, almost able to see herself and Ash together, only as husband and wife instead of mere friends. Overcome with sorrow, and weakened from the sheer mental and physical exhaustion from that dreadful night, Lucy hit the ground with a thud, still tightly clutching the bouquet to her chest, as if still clinging to her hope that Ash would return to her someday soon.

Lucy glanced over at the clock. It was nearly six in the evening. She smiled to herself, knowing that it was her friend's birthday tomorrow. Lucy went back to looking through Ash's Pokédex, curious of the data that was in it. She also wondered what Ash was up to as he had left an hour ago with Ruby and Pearl. However, she failed to notice the Trainer sneak by and run up the stairs to his room. Several minutes later, Lucy closed the Pokédex and raised her ears, thinking she heard something coming down the stairs. But before she could turn around, the Lucario maiden felt something take her hand. "Um..... Lucy?" 

Hearing a familiar voice, Lucy turned to face who was now holding her hand. Standing before her was Ash himself. But she nearly gasped at the sight of what he was wearing. The Trainer was clad in a black tuxedo. He was also clearly embarrassed as he had a deep blush on his face. Lucy asked, "Ash, why are you dressed like that?" Ash gulped, "You don't like it? Me neither." But Lucy shook her head, "I don't mean it like that. It actually looks good on you. But why are you wearing it? What's the occasion?" Ash shyly scratched his head, "Er... Would to..... Oh man, I don't know if I can say it....." Lucy's eyes then went wide, "Ash...... Are you....asking me out on!" Ash bowed his head as he flinched, "Not exactly. Just...a private dinner. At Ashton's place." 

Despite Ash's confession, Lucy was all but certain that he was really asking her out on a date. She blushed, "Um... Just a private dinner? Is that all?" He nodded, "Yeah. Unless you wanna dance or something after that..." Lucy smiled, "A dance sounds nice." She then stood up, "I'll gladly go. And is Chiara cooking?" Ash nodded as he led her out the front door, "You bet. It'll be awesome." Standing just outside the door was Aurora. "Are you and Lucy ready, Lord Ash?" The Suicune bowed to allow them to climb onto her. He smiled, "Yeah. And hungry!" Aurora gigged, "I see! Then hold on tight!" Once the two were tightly gripping her blue mane, Aurora made a dash to the west towards the edge of Pallet Town.

After only a minute of running, Aurora stood before the rusty iron gates of the Crimson estate. "Thanks, Aurora. Would you mind joining us?" Ash asked as he helped Lucy to the ground. The Suicune smiled, "I would love to, my lord." As they pushed the creaking gates open, the front door opened with Ashton in the doorway. "Welcome. Are you all hungry?" Lucy nodded, "Yes. What's on the menu tonight?" Ashton smirked, "Come on in and see for yourself." After leading them inside, Ashton brought the two to his own bedroom. "You will be dining in here tonight." Upon stepping inside, Ash and Lucy found a table with two chairs at the sides with a five-pronged candleholder in the center. Five candles flickered gently, illuminating the area. Aurora spoke, "The rest of us will be dining in the dining hall if you need to see us." As Ashton and Aurora left the two friends alone, Lucy asked, "Um... What do we do now?" Ash shrugged, "Wait for the appetizers, I guess." 

A few minutes passed before there was a knock at the door. Ash called, "It's open!" As the door opened, Lucy was surprised to see Ruby walk in while dressed in a cute maid's outfit. She was pushing a cart with two bowls of soup and salad on it. "Just in time, dear! For starters, we have Italian wedding soup and salad topped with croutons, shredded cheese, and French dressing." Lucy's mouth began to water, "That sounds...delightful!" After setting out the appetizers, Ruby gave Ash a kiss on the cheek. He blushed, "You look REALLY cute in that outfit." The young mother giggled, "Then just wait until you see Pearl. She'll be along with your entrees shortly." After Ruby left, Lucy asked, "Has Ruby and Pearl been helping up here since you left an hour ago?" Ash nodded as he filled his spoon with soup, "Yup."

Just as they finished their soup and salads, Ash and Lucy turned to see the door open as Pearl came in while dressed in the same kind of outfit that Ruby was wearing. She smiled, "Hope you two are still hungry. For the main course, we have risotto mixed with a tomato seafood sauce. On the side, we have penne in a creamy white sauce." The aroma of the food filled the room as Pearl set out the plates. "I tried it myself. You won't be disappointed!" Ash grinned, "Tell Chiara we said thanks!" But Pearl gave Ash a wink, "You can tell her yourself. She'll bring your dessert before long. Now it's my turn to chow down. See ya on the dance floor!" Pearl then left the room in a hurry. Lucy giggled, "Dance floor? Guess we'll be having some extras tonight."

Ash and Lucy sighed in satisfaction as they finished their risotto. Lucy grinned, "I can't remember the last time I had a rice dish this amazing..." Ash patted his belly, "You can count on Chiara to cook up something good if she learned from Mom's cookbooks." Right as he said that, the bedroom door swung open. Lucy turned and saw Chiara walk in with two bowls in her hands. "Are you satisfied now? Or do you think you can stomach a little dessert?" Ash nodded, "I'll eat whatever you give me. What's for dessert?" Chiara set down the bowls, "Blood orange gelato. You will find that it is somewhat different from ice cream." Curious, Ash and Lucy took a bite. The gelato had a creamy texture that was somewhere between ice cream and yogurt. It had a rich and intense citrus flavor. Lucy smiled, "Such a powerful taste!" Chiara smiled, "I'm glad that my skills in the cooking arts have improved enough to please you." 

Once Ash and Lucy had finished their dessert, Chiara took their bowls away. Ash sighed, "That really hit the spot. Can't eat another bite..." Lucy lightly panted, "That citrus flavor was too strong. I think my tongue is numb." After a moment of calm silence, Lucy asked, "Ash?" The Trainer looked over at her. She then asked, "Um... Tell me something. Is this.....a date?" Ash shyly blushed, ".....kind of. Ruby and Pearl talked me into it. They wanted me to spend the last night before my birthday with you." Lucy blushed slightly, "......I see..... So it wasn't really your idea." Ash shook his head, "No..." But he soon stood up and walked over to her, "But... I'm really glad I did it. I really enjoyed our dinner together." Lucy smiled, "So did I... I'm glad you asked me along." The two friends then held each other in a warm embrace. Ash whispered, "Care to dance?" Lucy nodded, "Only if you are my dance partner." The two then left the bedroom after blowing out the candles and headed down the hall towards the ballroom. Along the way, Lucy gently leaned against Ash, prompting him to place his hand on her opposite shoulder. 

The sun was beginning to set as Ashton and his companions followed Rukaria to the local hotel. He sighed, "Nothing.... At least we still have plenty of time. And perhaps Aurora's search will prove fruitful when she returns." Upon entering the lobby, Ashton found Kazeerah carrying Lucy on her back. "Um.... What happened to her?" The Blaziken shrugged, "Beats me. Just conked out when she held some flowers fer a minute. She'll be fine." Ashton then proceeded to the main desk. As they were assigned their rooms, Lucash and Sapphire went off in search of something to eat. 

A short while later, Kazeerah laid Lucy down on the bed in their hotel room. After locking the door to the room, the Blaziken turned on a lamp that was resting on a nearby desk. She then opened her sling bag and pulled out a book along with a red feather. She then sat down at the desk and flipped through the book until she came to an empty page. Kazeerah then reached into the bag again and pulled out an inkbottle. "Man, it's been a while since I last jotted down somethin' in here." After setting the bottle down in a place where it was unlikely to be knocked over, the Blaziken dipped the tip of her feather in it for a moment before bringing it to the empty page in her book. After thinking for a moment, she began to write. 

"A lot has happened since I bumped into that kid. Ash was his name. He didn't seem to be exactly human when I first saw him, but he turned out to be a good kid. I guess I also owe him my life, seeing as how he rescued me from Hunter J. And he has quite a gang of friends with him. Looks like he really got around. Only I never expected to see my own sister with them. But she always seemed happy with them, so I'm glad." Kazeerah paused for a moment as she let out a sigh. "I only knew him for about ten days. Looks like some guy from Lucy's old clan bumped into Ash when he was alone. ......The poor kid didn't stand a chance. Lucy found that guy, said he went by the name Outcast. She says he killed himself for some reason, but my gut tells me there's more to it than that. But I won't ask her for the truth. I think it's best she doesn't have to think about it." 

Kazeerah paused for a moment as she pondered what to write next. She nodded and continued to write. "Ruby seems to have taken the news of Ash's death really hard. When they came back, she was in a coma. It didn't last long, thank goodness. But she's not at all the spunky girl I used to know. She's.....timid now. There's no confidence in her anymore. And she used to be such a bold little thing too. At least she's still looking out for her kids like a good mom should."

Kazeerah thought of Ruby's children next. "What surprised me most about Ruby was the fact that she had two kids with Ash. And he's only thirteen! Still, who am I to tell a couple what to do about love? And they seem like a great couple too. Sapphire looks to be the oldest. Heard she's just a little less than one year. She evolved the day I first met her, and she really blossomed that day. She doesn't look at all like a kid anymore. She's a beauty now. But it looks like she's still a kid at heart. And I don't think she really gets the whole clothes deal yet. I honestly felt like I was going to faint when she pulled that stunt back in Sandgem Town. I just couldn't stop laughing." Kazeerah let out a chuckle as she recalled that day. "Then there's Lucash. He does kind of remind me of his dad. Guess that's how he got the name. He also evolved first despite being the youngest of Ruby's kids. I guess that's why he's so short right now. And he really hates it when you point that out. He really does seem like he looks up to his dad. I only hope he and his sister never figure out what happened to Ash. It would break their little hearts for sure."

"Then there's Pearl. She's Ruby's big sister and I can see the family resemblance. She's just as gorgeous as her sister. She's also pretty spunky, but not as bold as her sister. I think she's more of the peace-loving type. She's really sweet, but not too modest. Can't believe she recommended that Lucy get breast implants." Kazeerah had to hold back a snicker as she recalled their night in the hot springs. "But I also get the feeling that she's really haunted by something. Like... I don't know. Maybe she did something that she really wishes she didn't do. But she really does have a soft spot for Ash. She even said she wants to have his baby. I don't know how that's going to work out, but I guess Lucario clans do have harems sometimes. I hope things work out for her."

"Shadow. That's an interesting name for him. He doesn't look any different from most other Lucario. And he isn't very shady either. He claims Ash is his Trainer, but I've never seen him called into a Poké Ball before. I also get the same kind of vibe off of him as I did Pearl. Like he really regrets something he did with a passion. And he's also from the same clan as Pearl. I don't know what happened over there in Hoenn and I won't ask. But he seems to be really close pals with Ash. I almost think he looks up to him like a brother. Kind of reminds me of my bond with Lucy."

Kazeerah brought a hand to her chin for a moment to think. "Then there's Ashton. Or Ashton Redford Crimson, if you want his full name. That guy is something else. Even though he only looks like he's fifteen years old, he's a real veteran when it comes to fighting. I've never seen anyone with a sword that big before, and he swings it around as easily as a butter knife! To top it off, I found that he's some sort of Angel or something from the past. But whoever he is, he is tough. I really hope I can spar with him someday. That will be a load of fun. I hear he's also the ancestor of good old Ash. I can kind of see the resemblance. They have the same markings under their eyes and their eyes are the same color too. A real gentleman at times too. Heard he's a viscount, so I can see where he gets his manners. What really gets me is that he's been dead for 500 years or so, which means he has no idea how modern technology works. He always makes a fool of himself whenever he sees something that wasn't around in his time, so he provides plenty of comedy relief at times."

As she sniffed the air, Kazeerah smelled something good cooking. "There's also Zandria. She's a Zangoose who doesn't have claws on her left hand. She's also an amazing cook. From what I heard, she was around during Ashton's time. She says she's a ghost now. Something called a specter. I guess that's a pretty handy trick. If you're dead, you can't get hurt. But her cooking is the stuff of legends. Every meal is fit for a king when she cooks it up. She also seems to have a motherly bond with Ash since he keeps referring to her as his mother. I guess she was the woman who he's descended from. That makes sense, seeing as how she's Ashton's lover. Kind of hard to believe that kid is part Zangoose. She's sweet, but also a real tomboy." 

"And speaking of Ashton's lovers, there's Chiara. She's a Lugia, but she's pretty small for one. A midget, I guess. But she sure has a lot of brains. Every time we go somewhere here in Sinnoh, she has something to say about it. I guess she's a scholar. Seeing as how Lugia are supposed to be immortal, I can see how she's still around after getting involved with Ashton so long ago. Heard they even had a kid back then. She's usually really polite, but she can be blunt and even a bit rude if someone's acting like a total moron around her. She'll chew out anyone who's acting too dumb for their own good, which is pretty funny when it happens. Out of all the girls with us, I have to say she seems to be the most ladylike." 

"The latest newcomer to the group is Rukaria. She's a Lucario too, but she sure does look weird. Her fur is gray instead of blue and red instead of yellow. And to top it off, her eyes are as pale as the moon. She says she's blind, but she sure doesn't act it. She also says she's immortal, but not by choice. Apparently, it's some sort of curse that was placed on her. She's a nice girl and has a good sense of humor too. But she probably has a dangerous side to her since she carries that.....Hyup Do or something around with her. She also showed us her moves, so she really seems like she knows how to use it. She also has some sort of living sword that stays inside her until she needs it to come out. She calls it Malevolence or something, but the thing talks like a woman. Pretty creepy, but cool too. It was also pretty wild when she went all gaga over Ashton when she found out he's that Angel or something. She comes from the Ironspike clan here in Sinnoh. I think they live pretty close to Oreburgh City, where I am now. But Ashton doesn't like the idea of having to go there, so I doubt we'll be paying a visit anytime soon." 

Kazeerah flipped her journal page over for a fresh page as she was running out of room. "As I said earlier, I never expected Lucy to be with Ash's pals when I saw them for the first time. Man, she really missed me. And I missed her too. I don't even remember how long it's been since I last saw her before that. She seems to be on good terms with everyone and even seems to have found a sister in Ruby and Pearl." She then paused for a moment as she looked over at Lucy, who was still unconscious on the bed. "Lucy was hit really hard too when Ash was killed. As soon as she got back to the hotel in Jubilife City, she locked herself in her room and cried all night. I wish there was something I could've done to help. If I didn't know better, I'd suspect that Lucy was planning on getting hitched with Ash someday. But she's not the romantic type, so I doubt it. But I can tell he's special to her. I hope we can get Ash back on his feet soon."

Kazeerah sighed as she started on the last part of her journal entry. "Ashton felt he was largely responsible for Ash's death. He's searching for Ho-Oh now, as she is probably the only one out there who can bring Ash back. Of course, it's not going to be easy since she is always on the move. To make things easier, he did something that lets Ash's corpse walk around on its own. This does a good job of making him look like he's still alive, so his kids won't think something's wrong. He also won't rot, which I'm sure everyone's noses are grateful for. But's creepy having a corpse following us everywhere. I'll feel a lot better once we find Ho-Oh and get Ash back on his feet again. It'll also be pretty cool to see her in the flesh. I'm not even entirely sure of what Ho-Oh looks like. I just hope this search pays off in the end."

After letting the ink dry for a minute, Kazeerah closed her journal and placed it back inside her sling bag. She then looked over at Lucy, who was still resting. She sighed, "We'll find 'er, sis." The Blaziken then reclined on a sofa nearby and relaxed, wondering what a phoenix would look like.

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