AGNPH Stories

Rukario Romance by XD385


Making Amends

A deathly silence had fallen over the battlefield as Ashton, Tia, the Oracle, and the ten other Skydiamond Lucario looked on in awe at Lucy. With the Angel of Doom sealed completely, Lucy had been freed from the fallen Angel's clutches. Ash, though grievously wounded, had been discovered to have survived his clash with the Angel of Doom. However, the lingering demonic energy of Doom's final strike was steadily corroding his body and even the Eternal Flame within. Should he not receive the required aid soon, his soul would be lost forever. As Lucy understood that the boy she had come to love was alive, but slowly dying, a pair of white-feathered wings had steadily emerged from her back. The Skydiamond Oracle muttered, "The Angel of Hope..." 

The Angel of Hope gazed down at Ash's ravaged body, able to sense the lingering presence of her 'sister' inside the gaping wound in his chest. "Valiant child... It is too soon for you to go." However, to the ears of everyone else, Hope's words soundly like a heavenly hymn with lyrics that could not be deciphered. She gently held Ash's body in her arms and folded her wings forward as if to shield him. Ashton reached for Soul Calibur, but stalled his reach as he looked on. "Is she going to harm him?" Tia shook her head, "No. Have faith. She is the only one who can help him now." 

A gentle white glow began to cover Ash's body as a light filled the gaping hole in his chest. Moments later, the light faded as his wound had vanished. The holy glow began to restore his clothing as well, every rip and tear being mended so effectively that any tailor would be made green with envy. The Angel of Hope gently laid Ash's body down as her work was done. However, she then spoke, "Please... Never leave my friend... Lucy... She needs you..." She then closed her eyes as her angelic wings collapsed into a flurry of feathers that faded away. Lucy's eyes opened briefly, but closed soon after as she fell beside Ash. Her hand fell upon his, clutching it tightly as she lapsed into unconsciousness. 

Ashton readily rushed to Ash and Lucy's side, fearing for their well-being. But the Oracle smiled, "Do not fear, Sir Ashton. The Angel of Hope spared him from death. He shall be fine. And Lucy merely fainted. Judging by how long the Angel of Hope was active..... She will likely be unconscious for three days at the least, I'm afraid." Ashton breathed a sigh of relief, "Angel of Hope... You have my thanks." Tia then smiled as she rested beside her ally, "This was all thanks to you, Sir Ashton." The viscount replied, "I would not have succeeded without your aid, Lady Tia. Do not sell yourself short. Although... I suppose I do have a few questions." He then asked, "You mentioned earlier that the Angel of Doom had been slain many times before. What did you mean?" The Oracle spoke up, "I can answer that question best, Sir Ashton. Though this information is a clan secret, I suppose you have earned the right to know."

Just before the Oracle could explain Tia's words, everyone present glanced over at Ash at the sound of a groan. The Trainer slowly opened his eyes, appearing somewhat dazed. "What happened..." Ashton smiled, "Welcome back, Ash. Are you rested?" But after taking a moment to recall what had occurred, Ash gasped as he sat up. "What about Lucy?! Where is she?!" Ashton pointed down at Ash's hand in response. Upon looking down, Ash found Lucy lying beside him with her hand tightly clutching his. "She will be fine, Ash. You can relax now." Overwhelmed with relief, the Trainer held Lucy in his arms and broke down crying. "I'm so sorry, Lucy... I'll never betray your trust again... I love much..." 

The Oracle approached Ash and rested a hand on his shoulder. "Child... I believe you too have the right to know of Lucy's true origins." The Trainer stopped crying and muttered, "I think...Doom already told me... Was it...true?" The Oracle replied, "I know not what the Angel of Doom told you. So I will tell you all that I know." He/she then glanced at Ashton and explained, "The Angels of Doom and Hope have existed long before this time. Their origins are so ancient, no one knows when they truly first appeared in this world." Ash bowed his head and muttered, "That's just like what Doom told me..."

As his/her companions listened, the Oracle continued to speak. "The Angels of Doom and Hope are in some ways two halves to a whole. Neither can remain in this world without the other. Despite this, they are separate entities that contrast each other entirely. The Angel of Doom is a most foul demon of godlike power whose sole desire is to bring death and destruction to the world. In fact, the Skydiamond clan was created more or less for the sole purpose of combating and containing her. The Angel of Hope is the exact opposite of her other half. She is an equally powerful entity, perhaps stronger. As you saw, Sir Ashton, she is an extraordinarily merciful being whose only desire is to aid those in need. Where life shrivels and dies, Hope can restore them to pristine state." Ashton muttered, "Where Doom destroys, Hope restores. A perfect opposite..."

With a sigh, the Oracle bowed his/her head. "However, these two beings cannot exist in this world without a medium. To this effect, they inhabit a host." He/she then gazed down at Lucy, "This young maiden... Since her first life, she has always been the host of the Angels of Doom and Hope. Her name has always been Lucy. She has always been born a Riolu and evolved into a Lucario at some point. And she has always been entirely powerless on her own. Her desires have always remained the same in each life. Friends she could always trust and love." But the Oracle then closed his/her eyes, "And in every life, her fate was the same. To be born in sorrow and to die in sorrow."

Ash and Ashton could feel their hearts sink at the revelation of Lucy's morbid past. The Oracle continued, "With every rebirth, her memory is wiped clean. She has no knowledge of any of her past lives or the people she knew. If she did learn of her fate... The poor child would likely go mad. She has never once known the peace of Heaven or the agony of Hell. Not once. Upon death, the Angels of Hope and Doom enter her next body before birth. The newborn child remains the same person as she was before. Just born anew to live out her same fate. Her fate has always been, and always will be, the same. As tragic as it is, the only way to end this eternal cycle is to erase one Angel or the other. But doing so would come at the cost of her soul. Her body would be left alive, but without a will. A puppet, so to speak." The Oracle then glanced at Ash before gazing at Ashton, "This is the truth of the cursed angel. But please... Keep this information secret from all but those who are closest to her. And even then, only under the condition that they never reveal it to her." 

Having heard the Skydiamond Oracle confirm the truth about Lucy's past and ultimate fate, Ash clenched his fists in sorrow and despair. "That's...horrible... Why does she always have to live that way? Born and die in sorrow?! No one should have to live and die like that over and over again!" Tia shook her head, "You are right, child. No one deserves such a fate. But there is no changing it. Trust me, if there was a way to alter her fate for the better, I would do it. But sadly, it is not possible." In tears, the Trainer stood up and shouted, "If that's the case, then I'll break that cycle! She might've been born in sorrow in this life, but mark my words, I'll see to it that she dies in joy!" 

Tia, the Oracle, and the ten Demonslayers were amazed by Ash's resolve and devotion to Lucy. The Oracle spoke, "Child, your determination is admirable, but defying fate? A fate that has remained unchanged for eons? I strongly recommend against it. You will only..." But Ash's eyes suddenly changed to a familiar inhuman shade of pink as he shouted, "You shut up!" He shuddered, his voice breaking, "You can't possibly imagine what Lucy means to me! I know her pain because I'm just like her! I know what it's like being a host to an evil monster who forces me to hurt those I care for! There's no one else out there who understands my pain! My guilt!" He then gazed down at Lucy, "No one...but her. I know her pain and she knows mine. Right now, I don't care if even the entire world is against us. I love her... More than you could ever know!" Now sobbing as he spoke, Ash was struggling to remain standing. "I swear it... I'll do everything I can to make sure that starting when she wakes her life will be nothing but happiness! No matter what bad times come our way, I'll always be there for her!" 

A moment of silence passed as Ash glared at the twelve Lucario before him. Soon, Tia smiled calmly and placed her hand on the surprised Trainer's shoulder. "Boy... I have never once met someone, human or Pokémon, to show such unwavering resolve in their bond towards someone. Let alone Lucy Hikari." Ash's eyes slowly returned to their original dark brown coloration as his tears began to slow. The Skydiamond Alpha smiled, "Never leave her side, Ash. That is your name, isn't it?" The Trainer sniffled as he dried his tears, "That's right... My name is Ash Ketchum." The Lucario warrior nodded, "A pleasure to meet you, Ash. I am Tia Effrine. Oh, and the Oracle is known as Shynn." Ashton spoke up, "I shall remember that name Lady.... Sir.... Um..." The viscount brought a hand to his chin as his eyes scanned the Oracle's body. "The voice is somewhat feminine, though the body is..." Baffled, he finally asked, "Shynn, which gender are you?" To his surprise, the Oracle gave him a sharp glance and smacked him on the head with his/her staff right between the wing-like extensions above his helmet's forehead. "How rude." Ashton shook his head as Ash and the other eleven Lucario burst into laughter. "Good thing I was still wearing my helmet..." 

Ashton climbed to his feet after resting a moment longer. Ash then asked, "Ashton... Did you guys save Lucy?" The viscount nodded with a smile, "Yes, though not without aid. You are just as responsible as I was in sealing the Angel of Doom away. And Lady Tia's presence insured that we succeeded." To everyone's surprise, the Trainer threw his arms around his ancestor and held him in a tight embrace. "Thank you..." Ashton grinned as he patted his descendant on the head, "You are very welcome, Ash." Tia then approached the viscount and smiled, "Since the threat of the Angel of Doom has been dealt with, hopefully for the last time in her host's current lifetime, we must return home." Ashton faced the Skydiamond Alpha and dropped to one knee. "It was an honor fighting alongside you, Lady Tia. I pray our paths cross again. But how will I ever find you if I need to contact you?" She smiled, "As do I, Ashton. But for that..." She brought a hand to her chin as she pondered whether or not to reveal the location of her home.

After a moment of personal questioning, Tia nodded, "Well... You have proven yourself worthy of trust, Sir Ashton. I believe this information will be safe in your hands. The Skydiamond clan's general territory is north of Eterna City. However, we tend to move around every now and then to elude the detection of others. You may have to look around a bit to locate us. But do not reveal that information to any outsiders. Can I trust you with that?" Understanding that it was for the best, Ashton nodded, "Agreed. Can you keep that secret, Ash?" The Trainer nodded, "Yeah, no problem. My lips are sealed." Tia then outstretched her hand, "Good to hear. Just remember this, Ashton. You have friends in the Skydiamond clan." The viscount reached out and took Tia's hand before kissing her once again on the back of her hand. Though surprised, Tia smiled, "I have never once met a human like you, Ashton. Take care." Ashton and Ash waved as their new friends turned west and began to head home. But as they neared the end of the ravaged wasteland, the Oracle asked, "Lady Tia, do you think this area should receive a name considering what happened here?" Tia turned and surveyed the area as the rain began to stop. Once a vast meadow, the Angel of Doom's attacks had turned the place into a desolate wasteland and then a valley of sorts in the very middle. "It looks awful now, but life will return in time. As for a name....." But Tia then muttered, "Wait a minute... How did the grass regrow so quickly around here? An effect of the Angel of Hope's presence?" Everywhere she looked, the entire wasteland had become rich in plant life once again. She then smiled with her arms crossed. "A valley where a Devil defied an Angel. Where one defied certain death. Where a cursed Angel was defied her everlasting sorrowful fate." As she turned to leave with her comrades, Tia muttered, "The Valley of Defiance." 

After seeing their new friends off, Ashton pulled out his armor scroll and unfurled it before planting his hand against a symbol inscribed in it. He was promptly engulfed in a puff of white smoke. When the smoke cleared, he was clad in his traveling attire minus his blue cloak. "That should make moving around a little easier." He then returned the scroll to the pouch on the back of his right hip. Ashton then faced Ash and asked, "Could you carry Soul Calibur for me? I will handle Lucy. It's a long walk back to Veilstone." Ash nodded in agreement, knowing that Ashton could carry Lucy far longer than he could. "Thanks, Ashton. I'll take good care of your sword."

Ashton led the way while carrying Lucy in his arms while Ash walked beside him with Soul Calibur in his right hand. The trail of destruction and burned corpses of various nocturnal Pokémon left behind by the Angel of Doom made the path to Veilstone City easy to follow. However, after some time, Ashton noticed that Ash seemed to be lost in thought with a melancholy expression. "Something on your mind?" Ash sighed without even looking at his ancestor. "Ashton... I... I just can't believe Lucy has been through so many past lives with so much pain and sorrow... I don't understand why she would deserve such an awful fate..."

Ash looked up at Lucy as she rested in Ashton's arms. "More than ever... I want to be there for her. She's more important to me than anything right now." After a moment of silence, Ash sighed, "I've decided. I'm gonna do everything I can to make her life happy until she dies." Ashton smiled, "A noble life goal, Ash." But the Trainer clenched his fists, "But I won't stop there. If I really will be revived 500 years after I die, then the first thing I'll do when I return to this world is seek Lucy out. Even if she doesn't remember me, I'll still remember her." Ashton remained silent, impressed that his descendant was thinking so far ahead of his life and even into his next lifetime. "What if she truly does not remember you?" He asked, worried that Lucy would be unnerved if Ash came up to her and insisted that they had met before while having no memory of him at all. The Trainer smiled calmly, "Then we'll just start from scratch all over again. Just like when I first met her in Hoenn..." He then reached out and held Lucy's hand, "I promise, Lucy... I'll always be there for you. In either body or spirit. You'll never be alone again." 

After shortly over an hour, Ash and Ashton entered Veilstone City from the north. Ash yawned, "I think it's past midnight..." But Ashton replied, "I doubt your loved ones went to bed just yet. They are likely still awake waiting for you to return." The two companions wandered through the streets until they located the hotel they had chosen to stay at. "You sure this is the place, Ashton?" Ash asked, having no knowledge of where they were staying. Ashton nodded, "Yes. They are inside somewhere. Although..." He then set Lucy down against the wall, "Could you give Soul Calibur to me? It would be best if they do not know I left with her." Ash nodded and handed the sword over, not giving much thought to what Ashton was worried about. He then watched as the viscount focused his Chakra into his feet before running up the side of the hotel. Ash then turned and walked through the front door while carrying Lucy in his arms.

Ash gazed around slowly, not certain of where his companions would be. But a voice spoke up to his right, "Ash?" The Trainer recognized the voice immediately as he turned to face his friend. "Hey, Lucius..." The Shiny Lucario ran over to him, "Are you OK? Is Lucy OK?" He spoke with a hint of panic in his voice. But Ash replied with a soft smile, "She's fine. Just out cold." With tears in his eyes, Lucius surprised the Trainer by giving him a warm embrace. "Thank you, Ash... I knew you would take care of her." He then held out his arms, "It must've been tiring carrying her all the way here. I'll carry her for now." Ash, pretending to be tired, nodded, "OK... Thanks, Lucius." He then handed Lucy to her brother. "We reserved a room for you. Come with me." The Shiny Lucario then led his friend to the elevator. 

Lucius led Ash to an unused room and laid Lucy onto the bed. "Should I let the others know you've returned?" Ash nodded solemnly, "Sure... I'll be right here." He then took a seat on the bed as Lucius left the two of them alone. Less than a minute later, the door burst open. "Ash?! Are you all right?!" The Trainer jumped as he was startled by the sudden entry of Ruby. Before he could react, the young mother sailed into his arms, squeezing him against her. "God, I was so worried... Are you all right? And is Lucy OK too?" The Trainer gasped for breath, "Yeah... I'm good... And Lucy is...all right too..." Finally, he groaned, "Let go... Can't...breath..." Realizing that she was crushing him, Ruby let go with a blush, "Oh... Sorry, dear. I was worried sick about you two." Following after her was Pearl, Shadow, Chiara, Aurora, Lucius, and Rukaria. Aurora asked, "Lord Ash, are you well?" Her Trainer nodded, "Yeah..." Rukaria and Pearl then approached him and held their lover in a tight embrace. Pearl whispered, "We feared you would never return, honey..." Rukaria added, "We felt a powerful dark Aura a while ago. We were afraid you wouldn't be able to handle it..." Ash held them gently without saying a word. Shadow asked, "Is Lucy all right? You didn't hurt her, did you?" Ash shook his head, "She's fine... Just out cold." Chiara was quick to notice Ash's melancholy demeanor and asked, "Child... Are you certain you are well?" Ash sighed, "Just a lot on my mind... Hey, I don't want to sound rude, but could the rest of you guys leave for a while? I need to have a talk with Ruby, Pearl, and Rukaria." 

Although somewhat worried, everyone left the room while Ruby, Pearl, and Rukaria stayed behind. A moment of silence passed as the three Lucario waited for what Ash was going to say. "Girls... You know I love you, right?" Rukaria replied, "Yes... And we love you too, Ash. That won't ever change." He solemnly smiled, "Good... We've spent a lot of time together and I'm glad I met each of you. I don't ever want to lose you." Pearl smiled, "Thank you, dear. The last thing we want is to lose the man we love and our children's father." But Ruby then asked, "But...why are you telling us this? This isn't like you..." Ash sighed as he looked back at Lucy, holding her hand gently. "I've been putting a lot of thought into this. And it wasn't easy for me to decide. But..." He then faced the three women, "I've decided.....that Lucy is the girl I will marry." 

Ruby stared in shock at what her lover just said. "W...what...?" Ash explained, "When I was fighting to save Lucy... I came to realize just how much she was worth to me. Make no mistake. I love each of you. I don't want to ever lose you. But..." He sighed, "Lucy... It goes deeper than just love... She's more like me than you could ever understand. I know how she feels and I understand her pain more than anyone else. That means she understands my pain too." He then bowed his head, "I know I didn't explain it very well, but that's the best reason I've got." His eyes then met with Ruby's, who was on the verge of tears. "Ruby... You were...the first girl I ever loved. I love you. That will never change. I know we were planning on getting married someday, but..... I'm sorry. Lucy is the one."

The room was filled with an eerie silence as Ruby could only stare at the boy she loved. The boy she adored enough to bear his children twice. Pearl and Rukaria stood ready to intervene, fearing she may lose control. However, the young mother dropped to her knees and sobbed. "You loved me despite the one glaring reason why everyone in my clan neglected me... You were the reason I lived, Ash. I love you. I lived for you. I even remember dreaming that...we were getting married..." She then asked, "Was it.....all a lie?" Before she could speak anymore, a tearful Ash stepped forward and embraced her tightly. "Ruby... You were my first true love. That means you will always have a special place in my heart. And besides..." He then looked her in the Lucario's eyes and smiled, "Pokémon mate for life. Right?"

Ruby gazed into the dark brown eyes she had looked into so many times before. Despite being teary, they were still filled with love. She smiled, understanding that he had not forsaken her. "You... You're right. Even if it is Lucy you officially marry, we... We will always be life mates..." She then embraced Ash tightly, "Thank you, Ash. I feared I was about to lose you, but you proved me wrong. I'm proud of you, dear. Love Lucy like you love me. Make her the happiest Lucario woman in the world." But she then looked her mate in the eyes and smirked, "And if you ever break her heart, I'll break YOU. Got it?" Ash replied with a nervous chuckle, "Um... No worries there. I'll make sure she never cries again." 

Rukaria and Pearl approached Ash as he stood up. Pearl asked, "Honey, will you always be with us?" Ash smiled, "You bet. I'm not ever gonna leave you girls. I love you. Just as much as I love my kids." Rukaria blushed, "But... I don't have any children yet..." Her lover then held her hand and surprised her with a kiss on the cheek. "We'll fix that next time you go into heat. Right?" The blind Lucario maiden felt her heart leap in excitement, "Yes! Please!" Ruby and Pearl giggled at her reaction, finding her desire for a family adorable. Pearl then asked, "So, we'll be returning to pick up Zandria and the babies tomorrow?" Ash turned to face Lucy and sighed, "Not until she wakes up. According to her clan's Oracle, she's gonna be out for three days at the very least. I'm not going anywhere until she wakes up." 

Hearing how long her 'sister' would be unconscious, Rukaria asked, "She's in a coma? And her clan's....'oracle' told you that?" But Ruby, remembering that Lucy was not on good terms with her clan, growled, "Wait... They were there?! Ash, did they try to harm her?!" Remembering that he was not conscious when the Skydiamond clan's warriors arrived, Ash thought up a response carefully. "No, they didn't try to hurt her. In fact, it was thanks to their help that I survived that fight. When Lucy was knocked out, they left her in my care." The young mother breathed a sigh of relief, "That's good..." But Ash spoke, "But still, until Lucy wakes up, I'm not leaving. I'm sorry, but she's the most important person in the world to me. I won't risk her well-being while she can't move. I'm staying. And that's final." 

Pearl sighed at her lover's ultimatum, "I understand, dear. But...I really must get back to Eterna City. I need to feed Sol tomorrow." Ash nodded, remembering that his son was still an infant and needed his mother's milk. "Will you be OK getting back there on your own?" The Genetrix nodded, "I shall ask Chiara to take me as soon as possible. Don't worry about our son. I'll look after him until you return." The Trainer smiled, "Thanks. Give Sol a hug for me..." Ash paused as he let out a yawn. Rukaria asked, "That must've been one heck of a fight. Should we let you get to sleep?" He nodded, "That would be great..." The three women looked at each other and nodded before turning to leave. But Ruby turned and smiled, "Just remember, dear. We love you." 

Once he was alone, Ash fell onto the bed and lied next to Lucy. He wrapped his hand around hers, gazing at her face. "Lucy... I'm sorry for everything I ever did that hurt you... Even if you never forgive me, I just want you to be happy..." He moved closer to her and held her body in a tender embrace. Praying that she would awaken soon, he soon fell into a deep sleep.

Over the course of three days, Ash's companions decided to spend their time sightseeing around Veilstone City. After seeing off Pearl as she hurried to return to her son in Eterna City while riding Chiara, Ruby and Rukaria began to explore the city together. After some exploring, the two Lucario came to a tall building that seemed to have a significant number of people entering and leaving with every minute. Ruby asked, "You're native to Sinnoh. Any idea what's in there, Rukaria?" The blind Lucario maiden replied, "That's the Veilstone Department Store. They have all sorts of stuff in there for pretty much any kind of person." Hearing this, Ruby reached into her blue shorts and pulled out a small envelope that was hidden inside. Rukaria watched in curiosity as Ruby looked inside. "Yup. Look's like I still got plenty." Rukaria asked, "And what's that?" Ruby replied, "My leftover payment from working part-time in a strip club in Hoenn. I got a large bonus for some....'special events' that occurred due to my services. And I've got quite a bit of cash left too." Hearing this, Rukaria smirked, "Then that means..." In unison, the two Lucario girls jumped in joy, "Shopping spree!" 

The two Lucario 'sisters' quickly browsed through the various sections of the massive department store. "Hmmmm... I think Lucash would like these." Ruby muttered while browsing some chocolates in a food aisle. Rukaria asked, "You think Sir Ashton could get some use out of these?" She held up a few large kitchen knives. Ruby giggled, "Ruakria, he's a knight. Not a killer chef. Although I'm sure Zandria could get some use outta them." Rukaria grinned, "Good point! Though I think she already has a few big ones... I guess some smaller ones will do." 

Once they were done with the food and kitchen aisles, Ruby and Rukaria proceeded upstairs to the beauty section. While looking through cosmetics, Ruby spoke, "Don't overload on stuff, Rukaria. We need to be able to carry around everything we buy." The blind Lucario maiden nodded, "I know that. Although...I don't think this stuff is much good on girls who are covered in fur." Ruby giggled, "Good point. Let's stop wasting our time looking through this stuff." 

The next floor specialized in various gear used by Pokémon Trainers and Coordinators. After observing the merchandise for a moment, the two Lucario decided to split up. After several minutes, they met at the stairs. "Find anything good?" Ruby asked as she observed her friend's basket. Rukaria smiled, "Just a bunch potions and the like. Can't go wrong with those. What about you?" Ruby smiled, "I saw some new type's of Poké Balls, so I picked up a few for Ash to use at some point." In her hands were five balls. Each bore a different design and color scheme. Rukaria brought a hand to her chin, "Let's see... These are a Net Ball, Timer Ball, Dusk Ball, Quick Ball, and Heal Ball. Did they come with explanations on their effects?" Ruby nodded, "Yup. Each came with a slip of paper that shows what each is best for. Now then, let's see what they have upstairs." The two 'sisters' ran up the stairs to the clothing section. 

"You about ready yet?" Rukaria asked as she sat outside the changing booths. Ruby was inside one while changing into a dress that caught her attention. She replied, "Just about. Ready to see the new me?" The young mother opened the door, displaying herself to Rukaria. The blind maiden whistled, "Whoa... That looks amazing on you!" Ruby was clad in a red dress that was visually identical to the one she wore during a dance party on the ferry ride from Lilycove City and Mauville City back in Hoenn. Underneath the dress she was wearing black lingerie as she had removed her blue shorts. "What can I say? I look good in red, don't I?" Ruby gave Rukaria a playful wink. "Yes, you are. I'll bet our sweetheart would love to see you in that." Ruby then jumped back into the changing booth and swapped back into her blue shorts. "That settles it. I'm keeping this dress. What about you? Got anything special?" Rukaria blushed, "I do... Just don't laugh at me if it doesn't look right." Ruby took a seat with her merchandise as Rukaria entered the changing booth with a bag in hand.

Minutes later, Ruby crossed her arms as she began to become impatient. "Everything OK in there?" Rukaria replied, "Um... It feels a little weird. I've never worn anything like this before." Ruby smiled, "Don't worry about how it feels. Just come on out and let me see you." With some hesitation, the blind Lucario maiden exited the changing booth. "How do I look...?" Ruby stared at her 'sister', Rukaria now clad in a dress that was identical to her own with the exception of being a deep green color. With a grin, Ruby giggled, "Rukaria, don't take this the wrong way, but you look.....HOT." Hearing this, Rukaria blushed, "Wait... Seriously?" The young mother stood up and grinned, "I mean it! That dress looks awesome on you! The green goes really well with your red torso fur... Oh, I see what you meant by it feeling weird. You're all fur, so it probably feels a little stuffier than it should." Rukaria nodded shyly, "Yeah, it feels like another layer of fur almost." But Ruby patted Rukaria on the shoulders, "Don't worry about it. It looks great on you and I mean that. Is there anything else you wanna pick up while we're here?" The blind Lucario maiden shrugged her shoulders, "Nothing else I can think of." Ruby nodded, "Ditto. Guess we should get going. Just leave all the payments to me." 

The following day, Lucius and Shadow decided to take a walk while exploring Veilstone City. "What's the deal with so many high and low elevations here?" Shadow asked, somewhat baffled by some areas of the city being higher than others. Lucius explained, "This city was built on very rocky and uneven terrain. The many fluctuations in the elevation are also known for disrupting air currents, hindering warmer air currents from getting through the whole place." Shadow muttered, "So that's why I thought it was a little chilly around here..." 

Before long, the two Lucario passed by a long wall that was somewhat low. Shadow was quick to notice and asked, "Wait a sec... The design of this wall looks a bit.....dated." Lucius chuckled, "This wall surrounds the Veilstone Gym. They specialize in Fighting type Pokémon, so it was designed to resemble a Japanese dojo." At the mention of a Pokémon Gym being on the other side of the wall, Shadow smirked. "A Gym specializing in Fighting types, huh? Sounds like my kind of place." Lucius asked, "You planning ahead for Ash's next Gym battle? Just be careful. You're part Steel type. That makes you vulnerable to your other type." The Lucario warrior nodded, "You don't have to tell me." He then jumped over the wall, leaving Lucius behind. "Hey! Where ya going?!" The Shiny Lucario pursued his companion, worried that he may get himself in some sort of trouble.

"A dojo, huh? I'm not seeing it." Shadow spoke to Lucius as he gazed upon the Veilstone Gym. While the walls that surrounded the complex were truly Japanese in design, the Gym itself looked far more modern and western in design. The walls were a pale hue while the slanted roof was red. Lucius smirked, "Yeah, I know it doesn't look like much from the outside. But just wait until you see the inside." Together, the two Lucario entered the Gym through the front door. 

The two Lucario did not go far before entering what seemed to be a gymnasium of sorts. Various types of workout gear could be seen while a few burly martial artists were training with punching bags and barbells. But to the rear of the room, Shadow and Lucius noticed a young girl with pink hair striking a heavy punching bag with a Lucario doing the same near her. Despite her very lithe frame, the girl seemed to be striking the punching bag with remarkable force. Shadow asked, "You think she's the Gym Leader?" Lucius replied, "Well, Gardenia said she would let someone named Maylene know Ash was coming. And seeing as how that is a girl's name, I wouldn't be surprised."

Shadow approached a punching bag while the rest of the training martial artists were too engrossed with their exercises to notice their visitors. Lucius watched from a distance as he was curious of what Shadow was about to do. Shadow eyed the other Lucario in the room, observing how much force it was putting into its hits. (Doesn't seem to be hitting very hard. Or is it just really heavy?) The Lucario warrior took a deep breath as he focused his strength. After a moment of preparation, Shadow performed a leaping roundhouse kick and struck the punching bag with frightening force. The heavy bag of sand was yanked from the ceiling and was sent flying into the wall at the other end of the room. At the sound of the crash, everyone in the room froze and looked towards the bag. Shadow winched as he wiggled his foot, "Ow... That kinda hurt." 

Lucius approached Shadow and asked, "Was that really necessary?" The Lucario replied, "I've never trained with this stuff before. How was I supposed to know it couldn't endure the hit?" Before they knew it, the two Lucario were surrounded by the martial artists. One asked, "Which of you did that?" Shadow replied, "That was me. Sorry if I damaged it." The men backed away suddenly, not expecting him to be capable of speech. The young girl then stepped forward with the other Lucario by her side. "Not even my Lucario has ever done that before. Who are you?" Shadow replied, "I'm Shadow of the Blackflame clan." The girl smiled, "Blackflame clan? Sounds dangerous. I'm Maylene. I'm the Gym Leader of Veilstone City."

Maylene asked, "Well, you really did a number on that punching bag. Who's your Trainer?" Shadow replied, "Ash Ketchum. He defeated Gardenia in Eterna City a day or two ago." The Gym Leader gasped, "He's here already?! Wow, I didn't think he was THIS eager to face me. Gardenia let me know he was coming. Where is he?" Lucius spoke up, "He's not able to battle today. He's going through a very important situation right now. We're just taking a look around." Baffled by Lucius' odd color scheme and attire, Maylene asked, "What kind of Lucario are you?" He replied, "I'm not all that different. It's just a rare fur coloration." Maylene nodded before facing Shadow again. "After seeing you do that, you've really piqued my curiosity. Wanna have a practice match?" 

Thinking Maylene's challenge would be an effective means of getting a feel for how the Gym Leader fights, Shadow readily agreed. "OK then. I'll have Lucario face you today. You OK with that, Shadow?" Maylene asked as her Lucario stepped forward. Shadow smirked, "Fine by me." Lucius stepped back with the other martial artists, "I didn't come here to fight, so I'm sitting this one out." Shadow faced Maylene's Lucario as he waited for her to make the first move. 

"Lucario, let's start with a Force Palm!" Maylene called out, the Aura Pokémon lunging for its opponent with hand open. But just before the Lucario could strike, Shadow stepped forward and intercepted him with Bullet Punch. "Too slow." The Lucario warrior then pummeled his opponent with Close Combat before blasting him away with Aura Sphere. Maylene jumped out of the way to evade her own Pokémon as the Lucario was sent flying past her before slamming against the far wall. It dropped to the ground a second later, completely unconscious from the impact. 

"Just three moves...? What kind of fighter are you?!" Maylene shouted, having never expected an opponent to overwhelm her strongest Pokémon so quickly. Shadow scratched his head, "Um... I actually feel kinda bad now. That was a total mismatch. Is he gonna be all right?" Maylene chuckled, "Don't worry. My Lucario's the best I've got. He'll be fine. Now answer my question." Shadow explained, "Well, I was one of the six strongest members of my clan at the time I left it. So strong, I was recruited into the elite team known as the Blackflame Six. And you just saw the results of my clan's combat training." Maylene winced, "Wow... Um... I'm glad I don't have to face the strongest. I'll get to work on coming up with some strategies to counter you. Let your Trainer know I'll be ready for him in a few days." Shadow grinned, "Good luck with that. Hopefully you'll put up a better fight than Roark did. See ya around." Shadow then left with Lucius as Maylene tended to her Lucario's injuries. 

While his friends and family were enjoying themselves, Ash was almost constantly by Lucy's side with every waking moment. Aside from bathing and going to get food, he was by her side at all times. But on the night of the second day, he heard a knock at the door. "Yes?" A familiar voice replied, "Lord Ash, may I enter?" He sighed, "Sure, Aurora. Can you open the door on your own?" The door soon opened with Aurora gripping the doorknob in her mouth. "There are times when I wish I hand functional hands... But in any case, are there any updates with Lucy?" Her Trainer shook his head solemnly, "Nothing... She's still out like a light."

Aurora approached Lucy and gently nudged her face. "I pray she will be well... What have you been doing to keep yourself occupied up here?" Ash sighed, "Nothing. Lucy's all that matters to me right now. I'm not leaving her side until she wakes up." But the Suicune asked, "But...surely you must be bored silly." The Trainer gently held Lucy's hand, "It's not so bad when I'm with someone I love..." Concerned, Aurora sat across the bed from her Trainer. "Well, may I help you pass the time with stories?" Ash yawned, "Sure... I'm up for anything entertaining right now."

Ash watched his Suicune companion as she tried to think for something interesting to talk about. Suddenly, she giggled. "Oh yes, I know what will make you laugh. It involves Lucash and Atlas." Ash asked, "Lucash? ....Oh wait. You mean Ashton's son. And Atlas was Mom's first son, right?" Aurora nodded, "Indeed. Since Atlas was Zandria's son, he often spent time in the kitchen of the Crimson estate. Due to this, he knew where Zandria would stash the estate's food stores and which kind. When he and Lucash returned home from a border patrol, they went to the kitchen to look for a snack. Atlas did all the searching and found a stash of rice balls with plum filling." Ash then asked, "That didn't make me laugh..." But Aurora snickered, "Do not worry. It gets better." 

Aurora continued, "While they snacked, Lucash noticed that the rice balls had a slightly sour flavor to them. But it was still likeable. However, they had to hide when Zandria came into the kitchen as she would have not been pleased with her son and nephew snacking on some of her favorite foods. She always did love Oriental dishes. However, they left the rice balls in plain sight in their haste. But when Zandria saw them on the table, she exclaimed that they were spoiled. She then settled for a pear and left." Ash raised an eyebrow, "Wait... They ate spoiled foods?" Aurora smirked, "That they did. And they heard every word Zandria said. It was also due to the fact that they were spoiled that gave the plum filling a slightly sour taste." Ash snickered, "Is that when..." The Suicune nodded, "Yes. When they got the mother of all stomachaches."

As Ash began to chuckle, Aurora continued, "Knowing that they would soon have to remove the spoiled contents from their stomachs, Lucash and Atlas made a run to the bathroom. But neither was willing to wait for the other to go first and they attempted to fight each other for the right. Of course, it's not easy to fight while on the verge of vomiting without spilling the contents of your stomach all over the floor. They found that out the hard way." Ash burst into laughter, imagining the scene in his mind. 

Aurora snickered, "If that wasn't bad enough, Lucash's mother ran into the bathroom and locked the door while they were bickering. Left with no other solution, they ran outside and used part of Cassandra's garden instead of a toilet." Ash then asked, "Bad move?" Aurora chuckled, "You have no idea. They knew better than to do it out in the open, so they endured the pain a moment longer to get behind the manor. They used one of Cassandra's flowerbeds, hoping that the next rainstorm would wash away the waste before Cassandra could notice it. Only...she arrived before they could leave. I cannot remember the last time she was so furious before. She chased those boys around the estate's walls several dozen times before Ashton decided to intervene." Ash fell onto the floor laughing as he clutched his stomach. 

Trainer and Pokémon laughed in unison for a moment before they managed to stop. "Man... That was funny. Thanks, Aurora. You know any other good stories?" The Suicune smiled, "Well, there was this time with Laura at a local bakery..." Aurora continued to tell Ash entertaining stories from her past well into the evening. However, he still did not leave Lucy's side once. 

On the night of the third day, Ash fell asleep next to Lucy as usual. But less than an hour after the Trainer entered a dream state, Lucy began to stir. Her eyes slowly opened as she weakly sat up. "How long...has it been since..." But when she tried to move her hand, Lucy felt it being restrained. She then looked down beside her. Ash was sleeping soundly with his hand tightly wrapped around hers. "Ash... You stayed by me the whole time?" She then rapidly shook him to wake him up. He mumbled, "Mmph... Five more minutes, Mom..." But Lucy pleaded, "Ash, please. Wake up. I want to talk to you. It's me... Lucy. The girl you love, right?"

Upon hearing Lucy's name, Ash sprung awake and sat up. He found himself face to face with the Lucario maiden he had put his life on the line to save from the Angel of Doom's clutches. "Lucy..." She replied, "Ash..." Once again struck with grief over his betrayal of her, Ash closed his eyes and shuddered, "Lucy... I'll say it again. I'm sorry. I know I betrayed you...and I don't even know why..." But the Lucario maiden reached out and gently caressed his face, "It's all right, Ash... Do you remember? You proved yourself to me. You showed just how sorry you were and how your own actions disgusted you." She then smiled, "I forgive you. I really do." 

Amazed by how willing Lucy was to forgive him, Ash asked, "You... You really don't...hold anything against me?" Lucy frowned, "Well... You're the first friend of mine who has ever lied to me about something so horrific. If you had confessed your actions to me instead of lying about it for months, I would've forgiven you. I would still be shocked and disappointed, but I would still have felt better that you came clean instead of me finding out the hard way." Ash bowed his head silently. "After this, I would normally have a much harder time trusting you. Even though you went to extraordinary lengths to redeem yourself. But..." She then sighed, "Considering what was happening to you at the time...I suppose I should not have been surprised you lost control of yourself." 

Ash raised his head and gazed into Lucy's eyes. "You...mean that?" Lucy nodded, "When Ashton arrived and Doom told him what happened, he told me something I never thought of before. I suspected that Soul Edge's presence was influencing you at the time of the Blackflame Five's demise, but you still remained in control of yourself. However, Ashton explained to me that the first time someone unleashes the Eternal Flame is the most disastrous time as they have no experience with it. They are consumed by the will of the flames, which he claims are wild and destructive." She then frowned, "Combine that destructive and uncontrollable instinct with the bloodlust of Soul Edge and I'm sure no one could possibly restrain their urges for very long at all. Even those who made a promise to a dear friend." Lucy then touched Ash's hand, "I'm sorry. I should have confronted you before losing all faith in you. I understand now that you had no control over yourself, Ash. And that no matter what, the Blackflame Five's horrible deaths were unavoidable. But please tell me. Just to put all my doubts to rest. Why did you keep the truth hidden from me for so long?"

Half-predicting Lucy's question, Ash sighed, "I won't lie. When I finally remembered what happened that day, I felt sick with myself. Looking back on it, I really should've told you the truth. But..." He then clenched his fists, "I... I didn't want you to be hurt... I knew that you had been hurt before. Ruby told me...that you had the same eyes she did once. The eyes of someone with a long and painful past. I didn't want you to be hurt anymore. I promised to protect you, and causing you pain would be the same as breaking that promise..." Lucy asked, " hid the prevent me from being hurt?" Ash nodded, "I know I made a mistake... And I don't blame you if you don't trust me anymore. I love you... And more than anything, I want you to be happy. And to that end... If you don't trust me anymore...and want to be rid of me..." Ash then bowed his head and closed his eyes while holding back tears, "Then...I won't stop you... You can leave... I won't follow you..."

Lucy remained silent at Ash's offer; shocked that he would be willing to let her go if it meant it would make her happy. He muttered, "I'll always love you, Lucy... But if you want to be free..." Lucy began to play over in her head the event from three nights ago. The horrific discovery of the Blackflame Five's gruesome deaths. Ash's tearful vow to save her from the Angel of Doom's grasps, even at the cost of his life. His remorse for his actions and his dying words of love to her. And lastly, Ashton's thorough explanation of Ash's actions that she had never considered before. "Ash... I can think of only one response to your offer." Gathering her courage, Lucy placed her hand behind Ash's head and pulled him in close for a kiss. The Trainer's eyes shot open at Lucy's response to his offer. When she broke the kiss, Lucy had begun to cry. "Ash... You are the best thing to ever...EVER happen to me since I met Kazeerah. You've given me friendship. You've given me new friends and even a home of sorts. But most importantly..." She smiled as tears flowed down her face, "You have given me the one thing I have desired throughout my entire life. Love. You loved me for who I am, despite my flaws. Any other human would've just discarded me for my lack of aptitude in battle. But you..." She collapsed into Ash's arms and embraced him tightly, "Please don't go... Don't leave me... I can't imagine life without you now... I love you, Ash... I love you so much..."

Ash felt tears building in his eyes as he heard Lucy's desperate pleas as she wept in his arms. He soon whispered, "Lucy... May I ask you something important?" The Lucario maiden sniffled, "Yes..." Ash then asked, "Lucy... I know I'm probably too young to do it right now. But...someday.... When I'm old enough..." He then pulled back from her and held Lucy's hand between both of his. "Will you marry me?"

Lucy froze as her jaw fell open. The words she had never even dreamed of had just been spoken to her. "Ash... What...did you say?" The Trainer replied, "Will you marry me?" As he said those four words, Lucy slowly smiled with the most joyous expression Ash had ever seen from her. Tears cascaded down her face as she choked on them. Concerned, Ash asked, "Lucy...?" The Lucario maiden replied, "Yes..." She then threw her arms around him while speaking her answer over and over again. "Yes...Yes...Yes..." Ash too began to cry as he held the woman he loved in his arms. "I love you, Lucy... I love you...forever..." Lucy shuddered as she whispered, "I love much... much..." 

With all doubts and fears washed away, the two friends gazed into each other's tearful eyes before sealing lips as lovers. Lucy held Ash tightly in her arms as if she was afraid he would soon vanish. Ash too embraced her warmly, not letting go once. Soon, Ash licked at Lucy's lips. Though not certain of what to expect, Lucy trusted her lover and parted her lips. She felt the unfamiliar feel of Ash's tongue against her own. Lucy blushed deeply as she tasted her lover while he tasted her. The kiss soon ended as Ash did not want to force the kiss onto her. The two lovers gazed into each other's eyes dazily for a moment without speaking. Lucy soon blushed, "That was a new experience... May we do it again?" Ash blushed in response, "Absolutely. Anything for you, Lucy." They then sealed lips with her once again as they began to kiss more passionately. Several minutes passed before breaking the kiss, Lucy nearly unable to remain sitting. Ash noticed the dazed look in her eyes and asked, "Lucy? You OK?" The Lucario maiden muttered, "I... That felt so...soothing..." She then collapsed into her beloved's arms, "I'm not used to this kind of love... Not yet." But Ash smiled as he held her hand, "We have plenty of time to get used to it....honey." Lucy blushed at Ash's use of words, "I also need to get used to being called that... I like it." She then yawned, feeling somewhat tired as she was not truly asleep before. Ash too yawned, "I only just fell asleep when you woke me up. Wanna go back to dream land?" Lucy nodded, "Sounds lovely... May I sleep with you tonight?" The Trainer smiled warmly, "We'll sleep together every night from now on. If you want it that way." The Lucario maiden blushed, "I... I wouldn't have it any other way..." The two lovers lied down while still facing each other. Grasping each other's hand, they fell asleep smiling.

Next morning, Ruby groggily knocked on the door to the hotel room Ash and Lucy were resting in. When she got no response, she used the spare key to unlock it. But upon stepping inside, she froze. "" Ash and Lucy were lying on their sides while facing each other. Both had peaceful expressions on their faces while grasping each other's hand. Ruby immediately deduced what had occurred and silently left the room. "Seems things went well." She skipped merrily down the hall with a joyous spring in her step. 

Ash and Lucy awoke a short while later, almost in unison. Lucy beamed a bright smile at Ash and giggled, "Good morning, Ash." The Trainer replied with a grin, "Good morning, Lucy." The two lovers gave each other a brief kiss, still getting used to their new bond. Once Ash explained that his children, Pearl, and Zandria were still in Eterna City, the two lovers decided to pack up and return to them. They stepped out into the hall hand-in-hand and went to round up their companions.

"I got it." Rukaria spoke as she heard a knock at the door. Upon opening it, she froze in place. "What's with that look? You see a ghost?" Ash asked, not understanding her shocked expression. She turned and called, "Ruby! Lucy's OK!" The young mother smiled, "I know! Bring her in, Ash! I wanna see her!" Lucy clung to Ash, slightly nervous from Ruby and Rukaria's outbursts. The two Lucario rushed over to them once both had stepped inside. Ruby asked, "How do you feel? Any soreness?" Lucy giggled, "I'm fine. Really." Rukaria then asked, "Well, did Ash say anything to you?" The two lovers blushed deeply in embarrassment at the question. Lucy muttered, "He...proposed to me... And I accepted." 

Ruby and Rukaria let out a loud gasp despite knowing that Ash had every intention of asking Lucy to be his bride someday. Ruby, tears in her eyes, smiled at her mate, "Well done, dear. I' proud of you... You better take really good care of her!" Ash chuckled nervously, "Don't worry, I haven't forgotten what you said you'd do if I didn't!" Ruby then held her little 'sister' in a firm embrace. "You have no idea how lucky you are, Lucy." The young maiden blushed deeply, "I do... And I'm grateful." Rukaria grinned, "I'll go round up the others. Be right back." 

Minutes later, the rest of their companions had gathered around to welcome Lucy back. Shadow chuckled, "Proposed? Seriously?!" Lucy nodded nervously, "Yes." Ash held her in a tender embrace from behind to help calm her with so many people focused on her at once. Ashton smiled warmly, "It does my heart good to see that this crisis resulted in such a wonderful occasion." Ash blushed deeply, "Yeah... I'm grateful for that." But Shadow then asked, "Well, now that things are back to normal, or better, what's next? Since we're here, you planning on challenging the Veilstone Gym?" However, after a moment of thought, Ash calmly smiled, "I'll pass for now." 

Puzzled that Ash was so close to the next Gym but showed no interest in it, Shadow asked, "You don't want to? Why?" Ash explained, "I don't know why... I still want to become a Pokémon Master, doesn't seem as appealing right now. It feels like it's been replaced as my main goal in life." He then looked down at Lucy, "My main goal Lucy. She's #1 in my life starting today." The Lucario maiden blushed, "Ash, you don't have to quit being a Trainer just for me. I'll stay with you no matter where you go." But the Trainer smiled, "I didn't say I was quitting. It just doesn't feel as important anymore. If I ever get my drive back, I'll pick up where I left off. But right now..." He then held her hand, "I just wanna go home. With the girl I fell in love with." 

Lucy blushed deeply as Ash revealed just how important she had become to the boy she had come to love. Chiara then spoke up, "If that is how it is, I suppose we should first return to Zandria and the children. Shall we depart?" Ash chuckled, "Yeah, I remember we left all our stuff back there." But Rukaria smiled, "Not quite. You left these with us when you went to help Lucy." The blind Lucario handed Ash's Pokédex and Pokétch to him. "Oh, right! Thanks! I'd be in a lot of trouble if something ever happened to these." He slid the Pokédex back into his pocket before attaching the Pokétch to his wrist. "OK, I'm all set. Let's go home." But as everyone shuffled out of the room, Lucius grabbed Ash by the hand. "Ash, got a minute?" The Trainer stopped and smiled, "Sure thing, Lucius." The Shiny Lucario smiled warmly, "I just want to thank you for bringing my sister back. I knew I made the right choice in placing my faith in you." He then asked, "By the way, is that best man offer still open?" Ash let out a laugh as he remembered his request. "You bet it is! I can't wait for that day!"

A short while later, Aurora and Chiara were running and soaring to the west back towards Eterna City. Ruby, Rukaria, and Shadow were riding Aurora while Lucius was standing upon Ashton's back while he soared through the air on wings of flames. Ash and Lucy rode on Chiara together, the Lugia trying to be as steady as possible. The Trainer and Lucario held each other's hand as they watched the scenery go by. Lucy whispered, "I love you, Ash." Her lover blushed, "I love you too, Lucy."

Within the deepest depths of Lucy's psyche, the Angel of Doom struggled against her shackles. She flailed and strained as hard as she could while growling in wrath, furious at the ones who sealed her away. Bluish white crystal chains bound her hands and feet, her strength negated. No matter how she struggled, her restraints did not weaken. She soon stopped, realizing that her efforts were futile. She sighed, her mouth clamped shut by a muzzle also composed of the same crystal. She muttered to herself in frustration. (You may have sealed me away, Angel of the Eternal Flame, but you have only delayed the inevitable. But mark my words, if I ever get out of here, you and your descendants will be the first to suffer for this humiliation.) Doom then bowed her head as she tried to pass the time with sleep. (Even if this pitiful girl does die in happiness, the cycle will only begin anew. You cannot stop me. No one can halt the process. For as we all know, eternal.)

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