AGNPH Stories

Rukario Romance by XD385


Balance Shattered

"Easy now, child. Drink it all." Chiara helped Ash to a chair and assisted him in drinking a cup of tea she had concocted to cure his paralysis. In the center of the hotel room was the Team Galactic operative Lucius had captured, bound to a chair by Pearl's Aura Whip. The children had been placed in a separate hotel room to not have to witness the interrogation. With Lucy having been abducted by the mysterious organization, the grunt was their only means of learning who they were, what they were after, and why they had taken Lucy away. Lucius hoisted his sword onto his shoulder, "You better start talking if you know what's good for you. Where is she? Where is my sister?" 

The man with sea green hair gulped nervously at the many angry faces surrounding him. "I already told you! I don't know nothing! I'm just the low man on the totem pole! I haven't even been issued any Pokémon yet! I guess you could say I'm the gruntiest of the grunts." But Ashton scowled, "Even foot soldiers must know something about the intentions or goals of their commanding officers. And I must say that it is in your best interest to cooperate." However, the captive continued to deny having any knowledge of the organization's goals. "You expect them to tell us anything?! Only the higher-ups know the full story!" Ruby cracked her knuckles, "I don't buy it. If you don't wanna be black and blue all" Ruby turned to face Zandria as the Zangoose placed a hand on her shoulder. "I've got this one, Ruby. Watch and learn." 

Zandria kneeled next to her captive and pulled out one of her large kitchen knives. Amusingly, the Team Galactic operative's eyes were more focused on her large breasts than anything else. "Hey, I'm gonna give it to you straight. We're in a hurry, and you're the only one who can give us what we need." After flicking his nose to get his attention, Zandria tenderly dragged the very tip of her knife across her captive's throat. "Of course, if you won't talk, I may as well just use you for lunch tomorrow. I know of a recipe that requires human meat." She then held the tip of the knife to his lower jaw, "And to be honest, it's really tasty. So I'm actually hoping you don't tell us anything. Any last words before I use you for tomorrow's main course?" 

Horrified at the thought of being chopped up and eaten, the Team Galactic grunt cried, "All right, I'll talk! I'll talk! Just don't eat me!" Ash stared at the frightened man, "Wow, Mom. You're good!" The Zangoose stood up with a smirk, "No man can resist my 'charms' when it comes to persuasion. Now, out with it! What do your bosses want with Lucy?!" The captive gulped in nervousness, "OK, don't shout. I'll tell you what I know. Even if I don't know all that much to begin with."

Everyone gathered around as the captive Galactic operative began to speak. "What I know is that Team Galactic is an organization that is trying to create a perfect world without strife. Or at least, what the boss sees as strife. After the hefty fines we got from commissioning Hunter J, most of our assignments were put on hold. But we've been keeping an eye on one particular Lucario who the bosses say has a special gift. Something that can be used to create the 'perfect' world the boss desires." As the grunt spoke, Chiara pondered to herself. (A special gift? Perhaps a unique power? Is it what she showed when Soul Edge emerged and possessed Ash on the outskirts of Sandgem Town?) 

The captive grunt continued to explain his mission. "I don't know the full details on why the boss didn't give us the go-ahead to capture her until just recently. All I know is that the boss plans to show that Lucario something to draw something out of her. Can't say I know what though." Lucius then asked, "OK, now where did you take her?" The grunt replied, "Our base of operations. Our headquarters is in Veilstone City. But the place is..." The captive stopped speaking at the sound of a door slamming shut. Everyone faced the room's door that led out into the hall. Rukaria then asked, "Wait a second... Where's Ash?" Ruby gasped as she ran out into the hall. When she looked to her left, she found his hat and gloves on the floor. "Why would he leave these behind...?" Ashton gulped, "He's prepared for a fight. But will he be all right on his own?" 

Ash stopped just outside the hotel and set his Pokétch to the map function to determine the location of Veilstone City. "To the east... Got it." He then broke into a run as he ran east. Along the way, a familiar cloak of flames began to engulf him. The layer of flames grew two long ears on top of his head and a bushy tail extending from his spine. Ash dropped to all fours and sprinted ahead as his eyes became a vivid shade of pink and his Z-shaped facial markings became bolder as the end of the one under his left eye extended up his eyelid and forehead. As the night began, the Devil of the Eternal Flame growled, "Just hang in there. I'm coming for you, Lucy!" 

One hour later, a helicopter set down on the Team Galactic headquarters. Saturn and his subordinates promptly emerged from the vehicle and proceeded to their commanding officer's office. Upon entering, Saturn handed a Heal Ball to Cyrus. "Operation: Black Dawn was a total success. The target is within this ball." Cyrus nodded, "Well done. Now, gather as many men as you can and guard the entrance. I suspect we will be expecting some uninvited guests. And station Mars and Jupiter outside my door. I want no mistakes." Saturn nodded and ran out the door with his men. 

"Alone at last." Cyrus muttered as he opened the Heal Ball in his hand. In a flash of light, Lucy emerged while glancing around nervously. "Where is this...?" Cyrus explained, "There is no need to be afraid. You are safe here." Lucy immediately faced Cyrus and saw that his uniform was similar to that worn by Saturn. She growled, "You... You're one of them! Why did you hurt Ash?!" Despite being yelled at, Cyrus' face remained perfectly stern. "Your friend was simply in the way. But from what I understand, whatever was inflicted on him was minor. Besides, I doubt he truly deserves your friendship. And certainly not that kiss."

Lucy blushed at Cyrus' words. "Kiss... How did you know?" He replied, "We have been observing you for quite a while now. And at the moment, I want nothing more than to reveal to you the true nature of your so called 'friend'. I believe you called him Ash." The Lucario maiden frowned, "I won't believe a word you say. Ash has stayed by me since the day I met him. He's one of the best things to ever happen to me. He is my friend. Possibly the greatest friend I'll ever have." However, Cyrus asked, "Is that so? Then what did he do to the Blackflame Five?" 

With a sigh, Lucy recalled the frightening day when Ash unleashed the Eternal Flame within him for the first time. "I know... With the exception of Pearl, he killed them. I knew there was no way around it. They had committed horrible crimes. I hated the idea, but I knew it was for the best. They had to die. But... I begged Ash to make it quick. To not make them suffer..... I'm sure that's what he did. He even agreed to it." Cyrus shook his head, "Our surveillance satellite recorded the entire battle. And I'm sorry to say that their demise was anything but swift." Lucy felt her blood chill, "You... You can't be serious... He wouldn't..." He then pointed to his computer, "If you have the bravery, see for yourself." Lucy approached the computer and gazed at the screen. A video file had been paused at the very start, showing a black screen inside the frame. She felt a terrible foreboding as she imagined what could be in the video. However, she could not ignore Cyrus' claims until she confirmed them to be false. With great hesitation, she took a seat, moved the cursor to the play button, and clicked the mouse.

When the video began to play, Lucy immediately recognized Ash with the Eternal Flame within him active, despite the view being top-down. Five Lucario were standing before him, all but one holding their Aura weapons. One streaked past Ash, coming to a stop behind him. The Lucario seemed to react to something with shock, even appearing to yell at the Trainer. Then the battle began. Lucy was hardly surprised by the ferocity of the battle, though she was taken aback by Ash's speed and how well he repelled his attackers. She soon watched as Ash jumped high into the air and unleashed a hail of fire bombs around his opponents. While disgusted that the forests nearby fell victim to the assault, she took some comfort knowing that the damage was kept to a minimum due to Chiara and Aurora using Rain Dance afterwards. However, when the Lucario carrying what seemed to be a battleaxe crafted from Aura charged Ash alone, the battle took a turn for the gruesome. 

Lucy watched as Ash slashed away at the Lucario with his claws before streaking past him. She did not even see the move, as if she had blinked and Ash ended up behind his opponent. To her bewilderment, the Lucario remained perfectly still while his allies watched. But a moment later, a thin trail of red began to trickle down the Lucario's body, Lucy gasped, "No... Don't tell me he..." A moment later, the Lucario's body split into two perfect halves that fell away from each other. As the view was top-down, Lucy could perfectly see the entrails and other internal workings of Ash's opponent. Lucy felt her stomach churn as she watched the brutal execution of Ash's first victim. "Ash... Why...? You promised..." 

The only female Lucario, obviously Pearl, could be seen screaming in horror at the death of her comrade. Lucy gasped as she watched Ash point at Pearl and grab her by the throat before pinning her to a tree. The Lucario armed with a bow crafted from his Aura took aim, but held his fire. But after a long moment, Ash turned and threw Pearl off screen. Lucy breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that he had removed Pearl from the fight to avoid harming her. "OK... Maybe he just lost control... Maybe he didn't mean to do it... And he spared Pearl... Surely he made the others die swiftly..." 

After barreling through a volley of Aura Bolts launched by the Lucario with a bow of Aura, Ash seemed to punch him and then slammed him into the ground on his back. But Lucy shivered as she watched him plunge the claws on both hands into the Lucario's chest and rip them out to the sides. From above, Lucy was given a perfect view of the Lucario's chest cavity, from his lungs to his still beating heart. But after the Lucario managed to fire another Aura Bolt into Ash's face at point blank range, Lucy very nearly vomited as she observed Ash rip the Lucario's heart out by his teeth and proceed to eat it after scorching it with flames. "Ash... You... My god... How could you... What were you thinking?!" 

A moment later, one of the two remaining Lucario closed in. However, Ash sent him flying upwards with a Blaze Kick to the chest. Who seemed to be the leader of the Blackflame Five then dashed forward and tried to bring the Aura battleaxe down into Ash's head after retrieving it from his comrade's corpse. But Ash was able to grab the blade and blasted his opponent away with what seemed to be a Heat Wave while still holding the axe. The Trainer then took the axe in both hands and seemed to be winding up for a swing. "No, Ash.... Please... Don't you even think about..." But Lucy froze as Ash swung the axe, swiftly beheading the Lucario he had kicked skyward a moment before. He then held the head in his hand and crushed the upper half between his fingers while facing the remaining Lucario. By then, Lucy had burst into tears. "I can't believe you... Why... You promised you would... Why did you break your promise?" 

Ash and the lone remaining Lucario seemed to engage in a conversation before the Lucario's Aura surged like a blue flame all around him. As Thanatos was the last to fall, Lucy knew that Ash's opponent was now the evil leader of the Blackflame clan himself. But after Ash suddenly dashed up to him and stabbed him in the abdomen with his claws, the Aura around Thanatos surged violently, blowing Ash off screen. From that point onward, the satellite's camera had great difficulty keeping up with the two combatants. But after a few minutes, the two fighters came to a stop on the same battlefield where Titan, Hawkeye, and Silent Fang laid dead. Thanatos leapt skyward and seemed to levitate as he focused a massive amount of Aura into his hands before launching a colossal wave of Aura towards Ash. Lucy already knew that Ash would survive, but could not help feeling a sense of suspense. Moments after the dreaded Aura Cannon struck the ground; Thanatos froze as Ash impaled him on his arm after leaping through the wave of Aura. By then, Lucy was praying that Ash would have enough mercy in his heart to at least end the suffering of his greatest enemy. 

After watching Thanatos and Ash fall to the ground, Lucy was surprised to see the evil warlord drop to his knees and bow before Ash. The two opponents seemed to speak to each other for a moment before Ash turned his back and began to walk away. Lucy breathed a sigh of relief, amazed that Ash would be willing to allow such an evil man to live. But her relief was short-lived as Thanatos suddenly leapt at Ash with a type of Aura blade extending from his palm. But moments after plunging the blade into Ash's back, the Devil of the Eternal Flame punched Thanatos away and dropped to all fours. Lucy knew then that Ash was out of patience and was going to finish his enemy off. "Please make it quick..." But Lucy's pleas went unacknowledged as Ash threw Thanatos into the air and began to move at blinding speed while slashing him on the run. In seconds, it seemed that a massive spider web composed of flames was keeping Thanatos off the ground. After an uncountable number of strikes, Ash appeared above Thanatos and slashed him with both claws as he fell past the evil Lucario. At that instant, Thanatos' entire body literally fell apart in a burst of blood, organs, muscles, and bones as he was scattered all across the battlefield. 

The horrific death of Thanatos was the final straw for Lucy. She began to convulse, screaming in horror and pain as she fell out of her chair. Cyrus only watched silently, knowing that his plan was on the verge of coming to fruition. Lucy screamed, "How could you, Ash?! You promised! You agreed to kill them quickly, but you stabbed me in the back!" She began to quiet down as a dark Aura began to billow around her. "I loved you... ignored me... My wishes... My pleas were nothing to you... You could've refused...but you had to lie about it about it to my face... For all this time!" An excited smirk began to creep across Cyrus face as Lucy's yellow and blue fur began to slowly change to dark blue and golden yellow. 

In her mind, Lucy could hear the Angel of Doom speaking to her. "What a shame... How could the boy you love turn out to be such a heartless beast?" Lucy sobbed, "I loved him... I thought he loved me... He even said he loves me as a friend... Was it all a lie? Do I really mean nothing to him?" Doom smirked to herself, "This is the risk we take when we allow ourselves to love. There is always the risk of betrayal." Lucy wept bitterly, "It hurts... I've never felt such pain..." Doom then whispered, "Then let me help. Rest now. Let me take all your suffering away. You will never have to feel pain again. What is more, if he betrayed you, who knows how much longer until he betrays your sisters. I will ensure it does not happen." Lucy, her faith in Ash utterly shattered, cried, "Yes... Please... Anything to protect them... I need to forget the one who betrayed me..." 

Lucy slowly stood up as a dark Aura surged around her, her red eyes now a bold crimson. Cyrus, despite his lack of emotion began to laugh, "Yes... Yes! The Angel of Doom is mine! The world will end! And a new world... MY world...will begin!!!" However, Doom asked, "A new world? Whatever do you mean? What's the point of creating a new world when doom will come to it in time?" Cyrus, not expecting her to object, replied, "What? You are the Angel of Doom! That which brings oblivion to the world! You shall end this world and create a new one in its place!" Doom, with a malicious smirk, slowly began to approach Cyrus. Feeling a twinge of fear, Cyrus held out the Heal Ball that had been used to capture Lucy. "Stay back! I command you!" Doom then spoke in a calm voice, "I suppose I shall explain myself in a way you can understand. I am a simple woman with simple desires. All I desire..." She then extended her hand and grabbed Cyrus by the throat. He screamed, "Mars! Jupiter! Assist me!" As she formed a ball of dark Aura in her spare hand, Doom completed her sentence. "Is to bring Doom to all." A bloodcurdling scream filled the air throughout the top floor of Team Galactic's headquarters. 

Far to the northwest, the Skydiamond clan's Oracle gasped as a frightened expression crept across his/her face. "No... How could this happen?!" Tia, who was nearby, asked, "What has occurred, Oracle?" The Oracle replied, cold sweat trickling down his/her face, "The Angel of Doom... She has emerged..." Tia gasped, "What?! But how?! Is it like before?! Is it only a sliver of her power?" The Oracle shook his/her head, "No. The Angel of Hope's faith in her dearest friend has been shattered. The shock scarred her too deeply. And the Angel of Doom... She has taken full control. It is only a matter of time before she..." The Oracle gritted his/her teeth, "How could I have overlooked them?! To think that someone would believe that the Angel of Doom could be bargained with, let alone controlled!" Tia then growled, "It matters not how she was brought to the surface. All that matters now is that we stop her. Wait here for me. I shall fetch the finest Demonslayers the clan has to offer." Tia then vanished into the forest, leaving the Oracle waiting for her.

Less than five minutes later, Tia returned with ten other Lucario by her side. Each was clad in a light blue cuirass that bore a diamond-shaped crystal in the center. Each of them was also carrying a type of polearm that seemed to consist of a wooden staff with a diamond of sorts at one end. Tia was clad in the same armor as her comrades, minus the crystal in the center. Tied around her neck and hanging down her back was a silk cloak that was purple on the underside and dark azure on the back. In the center of the cloak's backside was a large engraving that depicted a circle with a diamond dividing it in half. On the left side the circle was blue while on the right it was red. The diamond itself was white except in the center, which seemed to be blood red. A brooch that depicted the same emblem fastened the cloak around Tia's neck. A red cloth was tied over her blind left eye, the knot resting just over her two left dreadlocks. With her hand on the hilt of the Skydiamond sword at her side, Tia spoke, "We are prepared to face the Angel of Doom. Lead on, Oracle. Time is of the essence." The Oracle nodded and dashed to the east with Tia and her escorts in tow. 

Ash dashed on all fours at great speed as he approached Veilstone City from the west. After crossing Mt. Coronet's mountain range and sprinting through Celestic Town, he was finally on the verge of reaching the location on his Pokétch's map. "Almost there... Hang on, Lucy..." Bursting out of the forest, Ash went airborne after running off a cliff. His eyes quickly scanned the city, "If that guy was dressed so strangely, then the place he came from must also look pretty weird too!" Near the northern edge of the city, Ash saw exactly what he was looking for. A building with two large radio dishes sticking up out of the lot before it with several 'spikes' extending out of the east and west sides in a vertical pattern. Before he could fall too far, Ash extended his hand and launched a rope of flames towards the nearest skyscraper and lassoed a communication tower atop it. He then began to whirl himself around the skyscraper, picking up speed. Once fast enough, he released his grip and was sent hurtling towards Team Galactic's headquarters like a rocket. "You're not getting away from me this time!" 

As he rapidly neared his destination, Ash noticed a swarm of men and women standing in the lot before the building. They all had the same sea green hair cut in the same style save one, who had blue hair. Suddenly, numerous Golbat emerged from the gang and launched what seemed to be blades of focused air at Ash. "That's.....Air Cutter!" Ash curled up into a defensive position as he fell, shielding himself with his flaming tail. However, he had no time to prepare for a landing and struck the ground hard, rolling and flopping along the ground before stopping at the feet of the very man who captured Lucy. "So this is why the boss warned us to capture the target in a discreet manner. This is a pretty fearsome power indeed." Ash glanced up at Saturn and growled, "Where is she?! Where's Lucy?!" 

Before Ash could react, the Team Galactic members released all of their Pokémon and surrounded him. Along with the Golbat that had attacked him before, there were Dustox, Murkrow, Stunky, Houndour, Croagunk, Carnivine, and Staraptor. A Toxicroak stood before Saturn, indicating that it was his signature partner. Saturn smirked, "We have orders to prevent any outsiders from gaining access to the main facility. Are you going to stand down, or are we going to have to beat you to a pulp?" Ash jumped to his feet and extended his claws on both hands, "How about either you let me through, or I slaughter the lot of you?!" Suddenly, something fell past Ash's face and struck the ground with a metallic clink. Ash and Saturn both looked at Ash's feet to see what seemed to be a black knife of sorts sticking out of the ground. "What the...?" A voice from somewhere behind Ash shouted, "Ash, get away! Quick!" Recognizing the voice, Ash jumped straight up as what seemed to be a paper tag wrapped around the knife's grip began to give off sparks. Saturn shouted, "Explosives! Duck and cover!" The entire lot of Team Galactic personnel turned and ran before dropping to the ground and covering their heads. An instant later, an explosion burst forth from the knife. Upon landing, Ash turned and asked, "How'd you guys get here so fast?!" 

Ashton took his sword in hand, "Well, it's certainly faster by air. And when you're as swift as the wind." Standing beside the viscount was Aurora and Chiara. Each of them were carrying a few of his Lucario companions. Ruby and Pearl dismounted Aurora while Lucius, Shadow, and Rukaria jumped off of Chiara. But due to the size of her weapon, Rukaria had chosen to not bring her Hyup Do with her for fear of interfering with Chiara's flying. After scanning his companions, Ash asked, "Wait. Where's Mom?!" Shadow replied, "Zandria stayed behind to look after the kids and our stuff. She wanted to make sure they wouldn't freak out when they learned their aunt had been kidnapped." Ruby then shouted, "And don't you dare tell us to stay out of this! We're here not just for you, but for Lucy too!" 

Ash Sighed as he faced his lover, not wanting her to get caught up in the battle that was about to begin. "Ruby, I don't want you to get hurt! Stay outta this!" But Pearl replied, "Team Galactic is plotting to do something to Lucy! She's like a sister to us! Why do you think we're here to help?!" Rukaria drew her kris dagger from its concealed location in her thigh fur, "You're strong, there's no denying that. But you've been killed before! We're not gonna let that happen again!" Lucius then drew his sword, "Ash, I have trusted you with my sister's life. Please, allow us to assist you to make certain that she will be safe." Ashton then stepped forward with Chiara and Aurora at his side, "What is more, we have no need to slay our enemies. We just need to make a path." He then pointed his sword towards the building before them, "Ash, I want you to stay back. As soon as you see an opening, make a break for it." Ash, anxious about Lucy's well-being, nodded reluctantly, "OK, but don't waste time! The sooner I can get in there, the better!" 

Saturn and his men formed a wall of sorts by spreading out while their Pokémon stayed close. "I never imagined we'd have to deal with these guys directly... But if we can just hold out long enough for the boss to get the job done, it won't matter what they do." Saturn, along with all the other Team Galactic operatives, drew what seemed to be extendable riot batons and held them in defensive stances. Chiara grunted, "So they too have some skill in armed combat." However, Ashton threw up an arm to his side, "Chiara. Aurora. I want you two to support us from a distance." Aurora nodded, "Yes, my lord." Shadow formed two large rapidly spinning Aura Shuriken in his palms while Pearl formed her Aura Whip. Rukaria held her dagger in a reverse grip as her characteristic black Aura flowed around the blade. Lucius stood ready with the blade of his sword equally shrouded in his Aura. After Ash ducked behind his companions, Ashton raised his sword and shouted, "Now, stand aside!" 

All of the Dustox began by launching a flurry of Poison Sting needles at their enemies. But Ashton turned his sword sideways and made a hand sign. "Wind Style!" He then made a wide swing, "Wind Scythe Jutsu!" The flurry of needles was blown back into the Dustox, followed by the gale of wind blades. After being diced, the Dustox fell to the ground. Saturn growled, "Dang... No wonder the boss wanted us to avoid confrontation with these guys. Attack! Don't let them through!" The rest of the Pokémon and Team Galactic operatives charged their enemies as Ashton led the assault on the Galactic headquarters. 

Ashton swung the Flamberge at his enemies, but was surprised to find that he always missed the Pokémon. (The Flamberge's safeguard... Are the Pokémon simply misguided and not truly evil?) Not wanting to harm those without evil in their hearts, Ashton placed the Flamberge on his back and continued to fight with just his bare hands. His unarmed combat skills were proficient enough to defend against his human opponents and some of the Pokémon. "I'm not used to fighting with such a handicap!" 

Shadow lashed out at his opponents without letting go of the Aura Shuriken in his hands, using them like saw blades to slice through his enemies. "Now you know what it's like to face someone from the Blackflame Six!" But he soon noticed a number of Carnivine closing in around them. (Judging by this approach... They're gonna restrain me with Bind.) As expected, the Grass types lashed out with their vines. But before they could strike, Shadow leapt skyward while going into a spin. "Let's see if it's as effective here! Aura Shuriken Storm!" The Lucario warrior unleashed a flurry of smaller Aura Shuriken that scatters all over the battlefield, striking many of the Team Galactic operatives and their Pokémon. "The smaller ones aren't all that damaging if I don't hit the head..." He then landed on top of one of the Carnivine and launched an Aura Sphere at another. "All right, who's next?!" 

Ruby and Pearl remained close to each other as they tried to scatter enough of their opponents to make a path to the front door of the headquarters. Suddenly, a Staraptor made a dive for Ruby with Brave Bird. Pearl gasped, "Ruby, heads up!" The Genetrix lashed out with her Aura Whip, lassoing the shocked Staraptor. Ruby smirked as her sister began to swing it around like a flail. "C'mon, let me at him!" Pearl grinned as she swung the entangled Flying type towards her sister. Ruby reached back and then thrust her hand forward, striking the Staraptor with a Force Palm that contained so much force; it was sent crashing through a group of Team Galactic members. Pearl laughed, "Looks like a strike to me. Haha...OW!" The Genetrix yelped as one of her human opponents bashed her in the back of the head with a riot baton. "Jerk!" Pearl then used Psychic to 'throw' the grunt into an approaching Houndour. Ruby smiled, "Getting the hang of your new Psychic half, huh?" Her sister nodded as she lashed a Stunky with her Aura Whip, "Yup! Chiara's lessons came in handy!"

Lucius slashed away with his sword, leaving temporary arcing waves of his Aura in the air with each swing. He would frequently perform wild types of moves that involved him going temporarily airborne for an instant, leaving his opponents bewildered and having a difficult time approaching his wild style of fighting. The Shiny Lucario paused as he realized that his opponents were keeping their distance. (They're not coming to me, huh?) In an instant, Lucius vanished. One Galactic grunt shouted, "Where'd he go?!" A voice replied, "Right behind you." In a wide sweep of his sword, Lucius slashed several of his opponents with the Aura on his blade, cleaving internal damage without breaking the skin. "My signature ability. Anyone else want some?" He evaded a Night Shade from a Murkrow and frowned, "I guess that's a yes." 

Rukaria lashed out with her dagger, being overwhelmed by the swarm of enemies. "I'm not used to fighting this way... Ow!" Despite her range being extended by the Aura on the blade, Rukaria was somewhat clumsy with it and kept getting struck every few moments. "It's a good thing I can't die... What?!" From behind, she could see Saturn's Toxicroak preparing to launch a Dark Pulse from its hands. The blind Lucario smirked, (Think I can't see what's going on behind me, do you?) Once the black and violet blast was launched at her, Rukaria turned to face him, "Think again!" She then launched an Aura Sphere from her empty hand, its color a frightening shade of black. Due to the type advantage, the Aura Sphere cut through the Dark Pulse and exploded into the shocked Toxicroak. Rukaria then smirked, "You can't hide from me. I see all that happens around me. For example... Ha!" She jabbed her dagger into the belly of a Team Galactic grunt that was about to strike her from behind. He wheezed, "How the... You didn't even face me..." Rukaria then retracted the bloodied dagger from his body and replied, "It's like I said. I see all." She then kicked away a Croagunk that had lunged at her with a Faint Attack. 

As the battle dragged on, Chiara and Aurora provided support in the form of Aurora Beam and Dragon Pulse in order to intercept any overly threatening attacks that were about to connect with their companions. Out of patience, Ash shouted, "This is getting us nowhere! Can't you think of something?!" Chiara grumbled, "At this rate, they won't succeed in time..." She then closed her eyes and spoke to Aurora via telepathy, "Aurora, I have a plan. Once the others fall back, use Surf to create a wall of water." Aurora silently nodded to avoid giving the Team Galactic operatives the impression that they had a plan in the works. 

Chiara called out her six battling companions with telepathy, "Quickly! Fall back! I have a plan!" Without a word, all six of them retreated past her and Aurora. Once they were out of the way, Aurora launched a plume of water from her mouth that grew into a massive wave before her. Saturn shouted, "What the hell?!" Before they could react, the entire defense team was swamped by the Surf. However, once they had all been knocked to the ground, Chiara used Psychic to make the water rise into another wall of water right up in the middle of the soaked group. She then caused the wall to split in two and pushed the two halves of the group away to the sides using the walls of water much like a bulldozer. Once the walls fell, there was a perfect empty path leading to the front door of the Team Galactic headquarters. "Now is your chance, child! Go!" 

Ash responded to Chiara's call by dropping to all fours and making a mad dash for the front door. But Saturn shouted, "Stop him! No matter what, don't let him through!" A flurry of projectile moves, ranging from Shadow Ball, Poison Sting, Sludge Bomb, Flamethrower, Air Cutter, Night Shade, and Bullet Seed were launched at the Devil of the Eternal Flame from both sides. Relying entirely on his sharpened instinct, Ash weaved around the incoming projectiles without slowing down once. As he neared the automatic door, Chiara shouted, "Aurora! Assist me!" The Lugia then launched a Hydro Pump towards Ash. Aurora gasped, "I see!" Just after Ash passed through the door, Aurora launched an Ice Beam. When the blast of water struck the door, the Ice Beam froze it solid. A wall of ice now barred the entry, freezing the door shut. Ashton nodded, "There. The rest is up to Ash." But the viscount soon felt Soul Calibur resonating on the back of his hip. "Young master... Something has been troubling me since we entered this city..." Ashton gripped the spirit sword's hilt, "What is it?" Soul Calibur replied, "I detected a very dark presence upon reaching this city... And it is coming from above us. Inside that structure. Such a foul presence... Not unlike the evil presence we vanquished." Ashton gasped as he looked up at the Team Galactic headquarters, "In there?! Lucy?! What have they done?!" 

Ash dashed up the stairs, ignoring any research personnel he came across. "She's gotta be at the top..." In moments, he reached the top floor. However, he noticed what seemed to be a dark light of sorts coming from the room at the end of the hall. Knowing better than to drop his guard inside Team Galactic's stronghold, Ash cautiously walked down the hall as he extended his claws. However, as he drew near, a woman's voice spoke, "What're you doing?! Put me down right n..." The woman's voice was cut off by a brief sickening sound that made Ash's skin crawl. The voice of another woman screamed, "Jupiter?! What the hell did you do?!" A bright red object flew out of the room and struck the window before falling to the ground. Ash turned as he was reminded that the hall he was in bordered the perimeter of the building, as he could see his companions on the lot outside. But he quickly turned to face the strange object on the floor. A smear of red blood was left on the window where it had impacted as the object itself was saturated with blood. At that instant, the same voice screamed, "Screw this, I don't wanna die!" But as he heard a strange droning noise, Ash instinctively brought his tail up in front of himself to shield against whatever was about to happen. 

Outside the building, everyone's eyes gazed upward as a massive explosion ripped through the top floor, blowing out all the windows as a shower of glass fell to the ground below. The explosion was dark in color, an almost black shade of purple. Saturn muttered, "What the hell..... Was that what the boss had planned?" Ashton gulped, "The color of the blast..... That was not the doing of the Eternal Flame..." Soul Calibur whispered, "It is the same presence from before. When that maiden became a golden hue." Ashton gasped, remembering when Lucy had assisted him during his fight with Ash while possessed by Soul Edge. "Then...that was Lucy...?" 

Ash coughed as he climbed back up the stairs, having been sent flying down the hall by the force of the blast. When he reached the room he had heard the voices come from, he found the place in disarray. The explosion had nearly blown out the walls with heavy scorch marks of some sort all over them. The ceiling had been blown out too as the night sky could be seen. By some miracle, a computer sat at the far end of the room undamaged. Ash gulped as he found the corpse of a woman with vibrant red hair lying at his feet. Her face was frozen in terror as her body had severe burns of some sort all over her. Strangely, her uniform was not burned as well. Nearby were the bodies of a Skuntank and Purugly that had been equally scorched. Against one of the walls was a man with a ghastly expression on his face with spiky blue hair. In his hand was a damaged Heal Ball. His body also bore the same type of burns as the others. And standing in the center of the room was a Lucario with its back turned. Ash asked, "Lucy...?"

At the sound of her name, the Lucario turned to face Ash. However, her fur coloration differed greatly from when he last saw her. Her color pattern was now very much like that of Lucius, only the hues were bolder. The blue fur had become an almost golden shade of yellow while the yellow fur on the torso was now a very dark shade of blue that almost seemed black. What was more, a dark Aura constantly billowed around her. Her right ear, which was normally drooping forward, was now standing up just as straight as her left. Lucy stared ahead at Ash, her expression very stern. Ash, relieved that she was unharmed, smiled, "I'm glad you're OK, Lucy. Let's go. Everyone's waiting for you." However, Lucy replied by holding up her arm towards him and molding her Aura into a sphere in her palm. Instead of the usual blue, it was now a vile shade of purple. Ash took a step back as the Aura Sphere reached full size, "Lucy... What're you doing?!" 

At Ash's words, Lucy's body suddenly twitched. The Aura Sphere instantly dissipated as well. Ash stood bewildered. From what he had just witnessed, Lucy was on the verge of attacking him. Lucy then pointed towards the computer in the room and spoke in a dark tone that Ash had never heard from her before. "View that file and see the damage you have wrought." Before Ash could react, Lucy shoved him aside and leaped out the window to the lot below. Meanwhile, at the end of the hall in a maintenance closet, Charon muttered, "Is it safe yet...?" 

Saturn and his men turned to face Lucy as she landed before the frozen front door. "That must be it... The body structure... That's the same Lucario from before..." When Lucy suddenly glanced ahead at the men before her, they all scattered at the feel of malice she was seething with. Ruby called out, "Lucy!" The Lucario maiden gazed at her companions as the Angel of Doom pondered to herself. (My grip on this body is not yet strong enough. She will likely resist if I try to harm them. I shall let them live for the time being.) Lucy then dashed to her right towards the edge of the building. Ruby ran over to her 'sister' and pleaded, "What's wrong?! Where are you going?!" To her shock, Lucy turned and lashed out at her with claws composed of her sinister Aura. Ruby yelped as the claws cut through her blue shorts on her left thigh, leaving a shallow cut. As Ruby clutched her leg in pain, Lucy muttered, "Do not follow me." She then turned and ran, turning north once she was past Team Galactic's headquarters and disappearing into the forest at Veilstone City's border. All the while, Ruby asked, "Lucy... What happened to you?" 

Ash looked at the computer screen in Cyrus' ruined office and found a video file on it that had been left open. He felt a sensation of dread come over him as he imagined what could possibly be on it. Knowing that it likely held the answer of what had caused Lucy to nearly attack him; he took a seat and clicked the play button. Ash gasped as he saw himself and the Blackflame Five facing each other. "Oh no... Don't tell me they...recorded this." He did not have to wait long for his answer. The Trainer felt a chill run down his spine as he watched himself split Titan in half down the middle, and nearly vomited as he watched himself rip out Hawkeye's heart before eating it. After watching himself behead and crush Silent Fang's skull, Ash could only pray that he did not make Thanatos' death too gruesome. "The last thing I remember is slashing through him before passing out. What happened to him after that hit?" 

Thanatos was engulfed by his mighty Aura as Ash recalled the final confrontation with him. He was shocked by the speed he and the evil Lucario moved at as the satellite's camera could hardly keep up. He watched as Thanatos used the dreaded Aura Cannon, and gasped as he saw himself barrel through the wave of Aura before impaling Thanatos on his arm. Ash felt a slight twinge of disgust when Thanatos stabbed him in the back after promising to mend his ways. But his disgust turned to horror as he watched himself slash Thanatos dozens of times before ripping him to pieces. Literally. His face turned pale as he saw the Lucario's body come apart in a rain of blood and entrails. As the cloak of flames covering his body began to fade, Ash buried his face in his arms and sobbed. "My god... What have I done...?" 

A short while later, Ash proceeded down to the front door to find that Ashton had melted the ice that was holding it shut. He found his companions waiting for him just outside. Ruby asked, "Ash... What happened to Lucy?" The Trainer was quick to notice the rip in the Lucario's blue shorts, blood oozing from the cut in her leg. He sighed, "They... They showed her what I did to the Blackflame Five..." Pearl gasped, "Wait... If I remember correctly... Didn't Lucy beg you to not make them suffer too much?" Ash nodded tearfully, "She did... And I even agreed to it. But... I don't even know why I did it! I know Soul Edge must've had something to do with it at the time, but I was still me! I was still in control! So why did I ignore my promise to her?!" Once again in tears, Ash dropped to his knees. 

Ruby walked over to her lover and embraced him tenderly. "It's all right, Ash. You just lost control... I know Lucy will forgive you..." Ash sobbed, "How could I...? I love her... I love her so much... How could I betray her like that?" Ruby then asked, "Then let's go to her. We'll make her understand." However, Ash wiped his tears away and stood up, "No... I'll go. I have to do this alone. I'm gonna find her, walk up to her, get down on my knees, and beg her for forgiveness." But Aurora pleaded, "Lord Ash, surely you jest! She is the same now as she was when you became Soul Edge's pawn! You know how powerful she is!" Ruby also pointed to her leg, "She also did this to me. She probably isn't really herself anymore. It's safer if we all go." But Ash smiled solemnly, "Sorry. I know you guys mean well. But... This all happened because of me. It was my actions that hurt Lucy. So I have to do this alone."

Rukaria slowly approached Ash and asked, "You... You'll come back in one piece, right? I... I don't want to lose you..." The Trainer gave her a sweet kiss on the muzzle and smiled, "I promise. And next time you see me, I'll have Lucy with me." However, Ashton stepped forward, "Ash, I really must insist that I accompany you. That dark presence... I fear you won't be able to handle it on your own." But Ash gave a confident smirk, "What? Have you forgotten who I am?! I'm the Devil of the Eternal Flame! Not to mention I'm the descendant of the legendary Sir Aaron! I know I can save her!" With a sigh, Ashton frowned, "Well...fine. I will honor your wish. But please do be careful. We do not know what to expect." Shadow spoke up, "We'll just check into a hotel while waiting for you. Be careful out there, Ash." The Trainer smiled, "Thanks, Shadow. I will. Now, where'd she go?" Chiara pointed west, "She ran over there and then headed north. I advise you be swift." Ash nodded and then removed his Pokétch and Pokédex before handing them to Chiara. "These will just get in the way. And I can't afford to risk getting my Pokédex damaged. I can't replace it." The Lugia smiled, "Then I shall keep these safe for you. Run along now, child." 

Ash ran along the left side of Team Galactic's headquarters, but stopped when he felt someone grab him by the arm. "Wait." Ash turned around and found Lucius standing before him. "What's wrong, Lucius?" The Shiny Lucario bowed his head, "Ash... You know Lucy is my sister, right?" The Trainer silently nodded. "And you know that I trust you with being with her." Ash took a step back, "Um... What are you saying?" Lucius then pleaded, "Please... Bring my sister back. And once she has returned... Never make her cry again..." Ash, once again feeling tears in his eyes, asked, "Lucius... May I ask you a favor?" The Lucario replied, "I suppose... What is it?" Ash then blushed, "If... And this is a big if... If Lucy and I ever get married...would you be my best man?" Lucius stood aghast at Ash's request, having never once expected that his friend would actually consider officially marrying his sister. But he soon smiled warmly, "I... I would be honored. But that will never happen if she never returns. Please, go to her! And bring her back! Please!" Ash then shook the Shiny Lucario's hand, "That's a promise, Luicus! Wish me luck!" But after taking a few more steps, he turned and smirked, "Oh, and next time you see those weirdoes in those funky uniforms, tell them I think their boss is toast." Lucius glanced up at the blown-out windows of the building's top floor and nodded, "I'd be surprised if he survived that blast anyway. I'll let them know." Ash then turned and ran. Once he rounded the corner, he dropped to all fours and dashed into the neighboring forest as he was engulfed by a familiar cloak of flames. "I'm sorry for breaking my promise, Lucy... But I'm gonna set things right."

It did not take long for Ash to come across signs that Lucy had passed through. The corpses of various small nocturnal Pokémon were strewn across the forest with the trail steadily leading north. Most were covered in the same strange burns that her previous victims had, although some were horribly mangled while others were nothing more than small 'balls' of blood-soaked pulp. Ash shuddered, "I don't get it... Why would she do this to innocent Pokémon that never did anything to her?" Ash continued north, a sinking feeling in his gut.

After trekking no fewer than five miles north of Veilstone City, Ash came to a vast meadow that was not very far from the ocean. The moon was full as it shone in the sky. Ash carefully scanned his surroundings, hoping that Lucy was somewhere nearby. To his relief, he noticed a figure standing in the very center of the plain. Not wanting to give off a hostile presence, he dissipated his cloak of flames while approaching the figure. As he drew closer, the Trainer could clearly see the form of a Lucario that was surrounded by a billowing dark Aura. "Lucy..."

Ash stood no fewer than ten feet from Lucy, remaining silent for a moment. He eventually spoke, "Lucy... I... I guess you know what really happened with the Blackflame Five now..." There was no answer as Lucy remained still with her back turned. Ash continued, "I don't know what I was thinking at the time... I know I agreed to what you asked of me, but..." He sighed, "I feel like an idiot... I'm sorry... I know you're probably angry at me and I don't blame you for it..." But a much darker tone of Lucy's voice spoke, "Oh, really? You are sorry for betraying her?" 

Lucy slowly began to turn around as Ash stared. "That... That voice... I never heard Lucy ever sound like that before..." The Shiny Lucario before him glared at Ash with stern crimson eyes. The Trainer shuddered as he felt cold sweat begin to trickle down his face, (What is this feeling...? It' dark... What happened to her? Is this even Lucy anymore?) Lucy then spoke, "Your actions have led to this momentous occasion. I suppose I should be grateful, but that will not spare you from your fate. Scream if you must...for Doom is upon you."

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