AGNPH Stories

Rukario Romance by XD385


The Vulcan Warrior Returns

May contain spoilers.

A feeling of tension had descended upon the battlefield as a mysterious teenage boy wielding a massive sword had appeared from a plume of flames. He bore a striking resemblance to Ash, who was frozen at the sight of this stranger's face. His eyes were 100% identical, except they seemed more mature and serious while still being gentle and naive. However, Aurora seemed to have been moved to tears by his sudden appearance. It was as if she knew him and had been dying to see him again.

Ash walked up to Aurora and asked, "Hey, Aurora. Who is that guy?" However, the Suicune dashed towards the young man and screamed, "LORD ASHTON!!!" But she came to a screeching halt when he threw up his left arm. "Not now, Aurora! This is a battlefield. We can catch up on lost time later." The Suicune desperately wanted to embrace the man she loved, but knew that she would only get in the way at the moment. "I understand. I will stand down for the moment. Just be careful. That creature is extremely durable."

Ash's jaw dropped, "What the?! That Ashton?!" Ruby looked at Ash with a baffled look, "What's wrong? Do you know him?" Her husband looked down at her and said, "He's my ancestor! Aurora told me all about him when I caught her. He's been dead for 500 years!" Shadow laughed, "500?! That's absurd! How could a human be revived 500 years after death?!" To answer that, Ashton turned around and replied, "I'll explain everything in due time! Eh?" He quickly noticed the Lucario that did not have the three spikes on her chest and hands that other Lucario had. "Ruby, you're here as well?"

The young man walked over to the group and kneeled in front of Ruby on one knee. "I never expected you to descend with me." Aurora walked up next to Ashton and spoke, "No, my lord. She may look identical to her and have the same name, but this is not the same Lucario you used to know. And believe me, her personality is vastly different." The viscount looked over at Aurora, "Seriously?! How so?" Ruby smirked, "She's right. She tried to make out with my man and I slugged her one." Ashton was rebuked by Ruby's straightforward attitude. "I see. Ruby was much more polite and gentle. You seem to be a very bold young lady." Ruby giggled, "Maybe so, but you're quite a handsome guy yourself. Maybe just as handsome as my husband here." Ruby wrapped her left arm around Ash's waist and held him close.

Ashton stood up and looked down at Ash. "Strange. You look just like me when I was ten or twelve years old." He then snatched Ash's hat from his head. "You even have the same hairstyle that I had back then. Creepy." Ash swiped his hat back from Ashton and smiled, "Funny you mention that. Aurora told me your name is Ashton Ketchum. Well, my name is Ash Ketchum." Ashton's expression changed to one of surprise, but was quickly replaced by a warm smile as he rubbed Ash's hair like an older brother. "If what you say is true, that means you are my great-grandson."

Brock stepped forward, "Wait a second! You're Ash's ancestor?! But...but how can you still be alive?!" Ashton looked at Brock and rubbed his eyes in disbelief. "Uh...what's wrong?" Ashton shook his head, "Sorry. You just bring to mind a priest I knew named Father Pietro. But your face is not quite as wrinkled as his was." Brock made a weird face, "One of my ancestors was a priest?" Ashton shrugged his shoulders, "Perhaps, but I can't say for certain."

May spoke up next. "Wow, so you're Ash's ancestor? I really see the resemblance, even if your hair is a bit different." Ashton's hairstyle was similar to Ash's, although his was longer near the front and stood up in several spots, making it seem wild and refined all at once. When Ashton looked at May, he smirked, "Another case of Déj� vu. You bring to mind a young squire I trained. Eh, Lady Mayka?" May was surprised, "A squire? You mean......wait a second! A squire is a knight-in-training! Does that mean...?" Ashton nodded, "Indeed. I was a member of the Knighthood of Rohta way back when."

Just then, the robotic Machoke standing behind them stomped its foot after climbing out of the muddy bog that had appeared under it. Meowth's voice was heard over an intercom, "HEY! You twerps done ignoring us?! Or do we gotta make ya pay attention?!" The robo Machoke then extended one of its fingers, which then flipped open, revealing a missile launcher inside. "Torpedoes away!" A missile was then fired directly at the group ahead.

Max yelled, "Aw man, we forgot about them! We're sunk!" However, Ashton turned around and grabbed the hilt of the sword on his back and took a few steps forward. Just before the missile could strike him, he swung his blade. A second later, the missile fell to the ground in two even halves. There was a ghostly silence on the battlefield for a moment, as neither friend nor foe could believe what they had just witnessed.

Max shuddered, "D...d...did you guys even see that move?" Shadow gulped, "No way. He was just standing there, and then that missile fell apart." However, Ashton seemed quite curious about the rocket that had just been fired at him and walked over to one of the missile's halves. "This is strange. This rocket is made of metal instead of paper. And I don't see any black powder inside. Intriguing." Ash brought a hand to his face, "This guy's even more out of it than Aurora."

Despite having a missile knocked down in mid-flight, Team Rocket was not intimidated. Jessie giggled, "That boy might be fast, but he can't possibly hope to put a dent in our Mega Machoke. Dump the entire magazine!" With that, all ten fingers opened and pointed at Ashton. "Oh man! Ashton, get outta there!" Ash yelled, certain that his ancestor could not possibly defend against a barrage of missiles. However, Aurora replied, "Do not worry so much. Lord Ashton is by no means a typical knight."

In rapid succession, the missile launchers fired missile after missile. But Ashton just stood his ground. One by one, the Vulcan Warrior slashed away, most of his movements appearing to be mere blurs. A series of thuds were heard as the missiles hit the ground. Both sides were awestruck at Ashton's strength and agility. "So fast.....and he's swinging that monster of a sword around with just one hand!" Shadow gulped in both awe and terror, hoping that this warrior would not come after him.

James yelled out through the intercom, "Just what in the world are you?! Are you even human?!" This brought a smile to Ashton's face as he replied, "I'm so glad you asked me that!" He then began to swing the Flamberge around in slow sweeping arcs, as if he were performing for the audience. "I am known as the Vulcan Warrior, although a small number of my peers refer to me as the Angel of the Eternal Flame! I am Ashton (as much as I hate calling myself this) Redford Crimson of the Kingdom of Rohta!" He then thrust the Flamberge into the ground at his side and kept his right hand on the hilt. There was applause behind him. Ash called out, "That's pretty good, Ashton! A lot better than anything those goofballs could come up with!"

Jessie screamed over the intercom, "DON'T THINK WE DIDN'T HEAR THAT, TWERP! ALL TOGETHER NOW!" The robo Machoke closed the empty missile launchers in its fingers and began to pose. "Prepare for trouble, we're not taking chances!" "And make it double, as our robot advances!" "To protect the world from devastation!" "To unite all peoples within our nation!" "To denounce the evils of truth and love!" "To extend our reach to the stars above!" "Jessie!" "James!" "Team Rocket! Achieving a long-awaited victory at the speed of light!" "Just call it quits now, or prepare to fight!" Meowth did not have time to say his lines as he was focusing on the Mega Machoke's tricky maneuvers. It ended its antics with a pose while standing on one foot as it extended one arm with an open palm at the end.

Ashton raised an eyebrow as he observed Team Rocket's performance. "That pose..... Is it Kabuki?" The Mega Machoke performed a very sudden movement that made it look like it had just been kicked in the groin, and then proceeded to fall on its back with a crash. "KABUKI?! Are you really that dense?! That was our motto, used to strike fear into the hearts of our enemies!" James yelled as the Mega Machoke twitched frequently. Ashton asked, "Fear? You don't seem all that scary to me. I thought you were just some kind of circus performer, what with those three voices of yours' and all." Ash's group then fell over in disbelief as well. "Does he really believe that robot Machoke is actually alive?!" May groaned. Ruby chuckled, "Man, that guy's just plain hopeless."

The Mega Machoke climbed to its feet. Jessie yelled "Three voices?! There are three of us in here! You dunce! This isn't a real Machoke!" Ashton jumped, "Inside?! Interesting. I've never heard of a golem that could be piloted from the inside, but I guess anything's possible with proper sorcery." Finally, Meowth snapped, "Dis guy's driving me bananas! I've had enough! Let's ice dis deadbeat!" As the Mega Machoke charged Ashton, the viscount asked, "Deadbeat? What in the world is a deadbeat?" Meowth screamed, "SHADDAP ALREADY!!!"

The Mega Machoke performed an overhead swing and brought its right arm down hard, pulverizing the ground where Ashton used to be standing. He had made a great leap backwards at the last second. "It would seem that this monstrosity has decided to get serious!" Ashton shouted over to the group, "You may want to get a good distance away from here! This is going to get crazy!" He then jumped straight up to avoid another swing from the Mega Machoke. "What the?! How did he jump so high?!" Brock yelled as he watched Ashton soar to 100 feet, twice the height of the Mega Machoke. Aurora replied, "It's complicated. Ask him once this threat has been dealt with." Ashton then began to descend. "I'd hate to kill you in such a gruesome fashion, but it must be done!" Ashton brought his blade down in a two-handed swing, striking the Mega Machoke on top of its head. But instead of cleaving it in two, all that was produced was a metallic ding.

"What the devil? How is this creature able to withstand the Flamberge?!" Ashton muttered as he dropped back to the ground and quickly made his way away from the Mega Machoke. "I've heard of golems that are made of stone and sometimes wood, but METAL?! This is a very advanced spell!" Jessie laughed, "Don't think we didn't overlook any details with the physical integrity! This robot is covered in the latest compound armor! There's no way a wimpy sword can break through! Only antitank rounds can penetrate it!" Ashton grumbled, "Compound armor? Sounds like a new type of alloy. In that case, perhaps direct sword strikes won't work. But if it's made of metal, then it can surely melt." Ashton then turned the Flamberge's blade sideways.

Lucy noticed Ashton take a wide stance. "Aurora, what is he planning?" The Suicune replied, "Let's just say things are about to heat up." Just then, flames seemed to engulf Ashton's hand and crept up the Flamberge, coating the blade in a veil of fire. "Let's see if you can take THIS kind of heat!" With that, Ashton began to go into a spin, the Flamberge whirling around in a wide circle. As seconds went by, Ashton began to spin faster, a whirlwind of flames surrounding him. Before long, he could no longer be seen as the flame whirlwind reached ever higher into the air. "Prepare to face the beast! Inferno Dragon Cyclone!" At the top of the whirlwind, what seemed to be a Rayquaza composed entirely of flames emerged, the rest of the whirlwind serving as its body.

"Burn to ashes!" Ashton shouted as the cyclone took a dive headfirst at the Mega Machoke with gaping jaws. For some reason, Team Rocket was not screaming themselves silly. Upon impact, the cyclone erupted in a pillar of flames, reaching high into the sky as a mighty blaze enshrouded the remains of the Mega Machoke. The rest of the cyclone began to dissipate as Ashton started to slow down, thrusting his sword into the ground for extra leverage. He wobbled back and forth, "Despite being a technique only I can use, it always leaves me feeling more than just a little disoriented. Urk..."

Sapphire shuddered, "Daddy, that man is scary..." The little Riolu clutched her father's leg. Ash, stunned as he was, picked her up and whispered, "You don't have to worry about him. He's a really good guy." Once Ashton's world had stopped spinning, he turned to face the group. But just when he was about to say something, a giant metal fist shot out of the flames and snatched him up! "What the?! How could it have survived?!" Ashton yelled as the Mega Machoke stepped forth from the flames, its hand being reeled back into its arm by a thick wire. Aside from multiple scorch marks, the robotic Machoke was completely unharmed.

"Pretty clever, using fire against metal! But this is no Pokemon, so you don't have a type advantage! Now say goodnight!" Jessie cackled as the Mega Machoke slammed its open hand into the ground with Ashton underneath. He gagged as the wind was knocked out of him. But when Team Rocket saw that he was still alive, they raised one of the Mega Machoke's feet over him. "See ya!" The robotic Pokemon brought its foot down hard, creating a crater under its sole.

Ash growled, "Those jerks! I'll...what?!" Ash was about to charge Team Rocket, but Aurora stood in his way. "What's wrong with you?! Can't you see Ashton needs help?!" However, Aurora shook her head, "There's nothing to make a fuss over." Ruby also complained, "What the heck do you mean?! Are you saying Ashton could really still be in one piece after that?!" The Suicune simply turned back towards the battlefield and smiled, "Just watch. He's about to surprise you."

The Mega Machoke raised its arms above it and flexed as Jessie laughed, "He should definitely be out of the picture now!" Just then, Meowth gagged, "Whoa! Check out those heat signatures!" James asked, "Where are they coming from?" Meowth gulped, "Right under that foot! It's like we're standing on a volcanic fissure!" Just then, a pillar of flames shot up from the crater, blowing the Mega Machoke backwards, knocking it over in the process.

"Huh?! He's still OK?!" Max yelled in disbelief as the Mega Machoke hit the ground. But he was quickly silenced as a pair of large wings stuck up out of the crater. They were made entirely out of flames, yet they seemed solid. What was more, they shimmered in a rainbow of colors. Soon Ashton stood up from the crater, the wings growing out of his back. His expression had changed to one of utmost seriousness. "So you really intend to kill me. Very well then. Now I will show you why some refer to me as the Angel of the Eternal Flame!"

A rope of fire shot out from Ashton's forearm and latched onto the hilt of the Flamberge, which he had dropped when the Mega Machoke had grabbed him. To everyone's surprise, the flames lifted the sword off the ground before retracting back towards Ashton. He grabbed the hilt as soon as it came within range. Shadow gulped, "He can generate and manipulate fire at will? This guy isn't human!" However, Aurora replied, "Oh, he's human. There's not a trace of anything that isn't human flowing through his veins." Brock then asked, "Then how is he doing all that? Is it magic?" Aurora smirked, "He can explain it better than I can. Don't worry. He will be just fine. There's no stopping him now."

"Man, dis guy's really starting ta bug me! Time to turn him into Swiss cheese!" Meowth groaned as the Mega Machoke climbed to its feet. "Pretty fancy lightshow you're putting on! But that won't save you!" James laughed as a pair of Gatling guns extended from the shoulders. Almost immediately, they opened fire. But one of Ashton's wings folded forward, shielding his entire body. The sound of bullets striking something solid was heard as Team Rocket dumped the entire payload of ammo into their target, creating a cloud of smoke as some of the bullets exploded on contact with the scorching wing.

"Well, that should do it. We just sent every last drop of ammo into that twerp." Jessie laughed as the Gatling guns retracted into the shoulders of the Mega Machoke. But as the smoke began to clear, a voice spoke, "To be honest, the term 'whelp' would better suit your needs as an insult." Team Rocket began to seethe frustration as Ashton stood unharmed, his rainbow wing returning to its normal position. "Man...that guy's tough! I can't wait to hear how he's able to use all that stuff!" Ash exclaimed as he became excited. Shadow also had begun to enjoy the duel. "Hm...I sense a storm approaching. A firestorm."

Ashton hoisted the Flamberge to his shoulder and asked, "Now then, are you going to surrender? Or are you going to allow me to reduce you to a pile of cinders?" The trio of criminals yelled in unison, "SCRAM!!!" At that moment, a pair of long blades extended from the knuckles of both hands of the Mega Machoke. "So you're taking the fight to me? Fools!" Ashton's stance became lower, his wings spreading wide. "Have at thee!" Ashton then made a swoop towards the robotic golem.

When Ashton drew in close enough, the Mega Machoke took a quick double swing with its blades at great speed for its size. Ashton nimbly dodged the first swing and blocked the second with the Flamberge. He then looked up at the chest as he held the metal blades at bay. "Gotcha! FWAAAA!!!" A blast of fire was launched from his mouth. Shadow gasped, "Wha...?! Flamethrower?! How is it possible?!"

Unfortunately for Ashton, Team Rocket had noticed his attack just in time and had activated the heat shield, covering the chest area in an instant. "Too bad, little boy! Fire won't help you here!" Jessie laughed. Now it was Ashton who was becoming frustrated. "Fire alone won't work? Whatever! I'll still bring you to your knees!" With a mighty leap, Ashton soared skyward. May marveled at Ashton's ability to fly. "So those wings really let him fly?! Oh my god, that is just too cool!" Ashton had placed the Flamberge on his back and just hovered in place with his arms crossed, his wings flapping in a slow and steady rhythm.

"What's wrong? Going to run away?!" James mocked Ashton as the Mega Machoke gave a movement of its hand that seemed to say "Bring it!" towards him. Ashton let out a grunt and made a nosedive with his hand on the Flamberge's hilt. When it seemed that he was in range, the Mega Machoke took a swing with its left hand, the blades narrowly missing Ashton as he swerved to avoid it. He then countered with an attack of his own and made an upward swing with the Flamberge, cleaving right through the elbow joint. "Man or golem, the joints are especially vulnerable!" Ashton spoke as he rose upwards again while the Mega Machoke's left forearm hit the ground.

"Oh, I'm sorry! Do you need a hand?" Ashton joked as he saw the Mega Machoke trying to put its severed forearm back. When it became apparent that it could not be repaired at the moment, it cast the arm to the sidelines. "You know, this actually makes for a handy move!" James said as the Mega Machoke raised its left upper arm. The right hand then held it from underneath for extra balance. Ashton then noticed a total of eight holes open. "Heat Seekers, AWAY!" A barrage of eight missiles was fired from the silo in the left arm, seeking out the greatest source of heat. Ashton's wings.

Ashton flew sideways to evade the missiles, but they curved and flew back towards him! "It's as if these rockets are hunting me!" Ashton groaned as he swooped and dodged the missiles as they swirled around him. But he did not have to wait long for an opening. As soon as the silo was reloaded, Team Rocket launched another barrage of eight missiles. "I'll be sure to thank you later!" Ashton took a dive directly at the Mega Machoke with the first eight Heat Seeker missiles pursuing him. By placing the Flamberge on his back, Ashton was able to tuck in his arms and did the same with his wings, minimizing his form. He zipped right past the eight incoming missiles. But when they started to turn, they collided with the other eight, destroying each of them.

"This has gone on long enough. There's no way you'll still be standing after this!" Ashton raised his wings until they embraced his upper body. In a flash, they spread out, causing Ashton to be enclosed by a roaring arrowhead of fire! Although no one could make it out, the arrowhead and Ashton were rapidly rotating like a drill. Just as the Mega Machoke was about to jump out of the way, water suddenly crept over the legs and froze! Aurora called out, "Now, my lord! End this!" Ashton replied, "Well done, Aurora! Now sit back and enjoy the show!"

Ashton shouted, "Behold! The Phoenix Maelstrom!" The deadly blaze of fire struck home, ramming into the Mega Machoke's chest. However, the heat shield was still up. Jessie giggled, "Ohohoho!!! You can even throw a torrent of lava at that shield. There's no way it will get through!" On the outside, the Phoenix Maelstrom spun away, ropes of fire lashing out to the sides. The grass was becoming black from the intense heat. The entire group was silent in suspense as they watched Ashton give it his all.

James complained, "It almost sounds like a jet engine! Good thing it's not as loud as one!" But just then, Meowth screamed, "GAAAHHH!!! There's no way!" Jessie yelled, "Just what is the problem?! Nothing heat-based can penetrate that shield!" That was when sirens went off inside the cockpit. Just then, it occurred to James. "Oh no! I just thought of how he's breaking through! He's not just using fire! He's also pressing against the shield while rotating rapidly! The heat combined with the friction and pressure is raising the temperature beyond the shield's limits!" Jessie gulped, "Then that means....." Meowth sighed, "Da boss is NOT gonna like dis..."

In a flash and screech of twisted metal, Ashton barreled right through the Mega Machoke's torso, breaking out of his attack and landing a good distance away due to the inertia. The group stared awestruck at the gaping hole in the Mega Machoke's chest, molting metal lining the edges. James groaned, "It seems he took out the generator when he passed through. Nothing's responding..." The Mega Machoke then stiffly fell backwards and hit the ground with a thud.

Ashton looked back at the wreckage of the Mega Machoke and breathed a sigh of relief. No longer in danger, Ashton's rainbow wings disappeared in a flurry of embers. He then walked around the body of his enemy and waved at the group. "I do not believe this creature will be of concern to us again." Ash came to his senses and laughed under his breath, "Even after going right through it, he still doesn't get it."

Ashton walked over to the group, but stopped about 15 feet away. With a warm smile, he sighed, "Aurora, it has been far too long." He then held out a hand to her. The Suicune slowly approached him and stopped when she felt him stroke her face. Words were no longer necessary as the two of them joined lips for a kiss that both had wanted for centuries.

As he and his friends watched Ashton and Aurora share a long-awaited kiss, Ash thought of a possibility. (If they're kissing like that, does that mean Aurora is Ashton's wife?) Once they had broken the kiss, Aurora whispered, "For so long I have dreamed of us being together again." Ashton stroked her pretty face, "I too have missed you. I have no intention of leaving anytime soon." Just then, Ash asked, "So...uh...are you and" Ashton noticed Ash's red face, "If you're going to ask what I think you are, the answer is NO. Aurora and I are not married. But that doesn't mean we should not be able to love each other." Ash replied, "Yeah, but..." Ashton covered his mouth, "Let me give you some words of wisdom. Love is a universal good. Never deny it to those who seek it. Especially those who seek it from you alone." When Ruby heard this, she looked over at Lucy out of the corner of her eye. (You heard him, Lucy. If you ever need a man to hold you, you know who he is.)

Max asked, "Hey, Ashton. How did you jump so high?! That was so cool, the way you jumped up and brought that huge sword down on that thing's head! WHOOSH!!! PANG!!!" Ashton chuckled at Max's enthusiasm, "That was thanks to Chakra Control." Shadow asked, "Chakra? Don't you mean Aura?" The viscount shook his head, "No. There is a difference between the two. Aura is one's life energy. Chakra is a type of spiritual energy that can be harnessed and used in many ways with proper training. And like Aura, all living creatures naturally produce it." Brock scratched his head, "You know, I think I've heard of Chakra before. I think it's mentioned in the art of Yoga."

Ash then asked, "Hey, just how did you come back to life anyway? I thought you died 500 years ago." Ashton then proceeded to explain the source of his pyrokinetic abilities, which he had discovered himself when he received a vision from Ho-oh herself while in the Far East. "Ho-oh?! You were saved by that Pokemon?!" Brock yelled in disbelief. However, he froze when Ashton gave him a scowl. "That Pokemon is a very noble and wise woman. She may not be human, but she is still a person." Ruby then asked, "But how does that have anything to do with you being alive now?"

Ashton chuckled, "Do you know about the lifecycle of the phoenix?" Everyone shook their heads. "I'll explain then. The phoenix lives for 500 years before it is consumed in a cataclysm of fire, only to be reborn moments later from its own ashes. Apparently, I undergo a similar cycle. Thanks to Ho-oh infusing me with her power, the 'Eternal Flame', I am reborn on this world precisely 500 years after I died. And it would seem that I am revived in the form when my body was in its prime. For me, that would be 15 years of age. And that was one week ago."

Ashton then turned to Aurora, "How is Chiara? Are you and she getting along?" Aurora shook her head, "I know not. It has been quite some time since I last saw her. She may have taken her life in order to join you in death." Ashton surprised her with a smile, "Not likely. She never arrived at the gates of Heaven. She must still live." Aurora gasped, "Truly?! She is still alive?" Ashton nodded and reached into a pocket on his jacket. "Lord Ashton?" Aurora became curious when he pulled out a strange pendant that seemed to be made of silver feathers.

Aurora saw the familiar sheen of the feathers that were compacted into the golden pendent. "Those feathers. Is that...?" Ashton nodded, "Yes. Chiara made this using her own feathers with all the knowledge she had amassed into her memory. It is a summoning artifact that is connected to Chiara's body. It will bring her to my side upon being used. And it can be used only once. She crafted it should I be a long distance away from her and absolutely need her on a moment's notice. But....." Ashton paused for a moment before continuing, "It has been a week since I was revived. She might be....."

Aurora understood where Ashton was going and nudged him, "It is your decision. What will you do?" Ashton looked down at the pendent in his hand and sighed, "If she is dead, I will at least give her a proper burial." He then clutched it tightly in his hand and whispered, "Chiara. Maiden of the Sea. Come to me." The pendent began to shine brightly. Ashton then tossed it a small distance away and prayed. "Please... Don't be dead, Chiara..."

Everyone marveled at the shimmering pendent as it seemed to be growing in size while changing shape. "Man, magic always looks so cool. Maybe I can learn some from Ashton." Max said as his eyes watched the changing pendent. After a moment of silence, everyone gasped to see a Lugia laying before them that seemed no larger than Aurora, maybe even a little smaller. However, Ash asked, "Uh.....she looks kinda small for a Lugia, don't ya think?" Ashton replied, "She is a midget. This is as large as she's going to get." Ashton walked over to Chiara and kneeled at her side. But he felt his heart sink to see that she was heavily emaciated. It was as if she was starving herself to death.

Ashton stroked Chiara's face, "Chiara, please awaken. It is I, Ashton." But without even opening her eyes, the Lugia whispered, "Leave me..... Just let me die..." Aurora sighed, "It's the same as with Laura. She is trying to starve herself to death since she is immortal. It's one of the few ways that she can truly die." The Suicune remembered the first two weeks after Ashton's death. She could never forget the lifeless gaze in Laura's eyes as she lingered on, waiting for her time to die.

"Laura, please. I know Chiara's cooking may not be on the same level as Zandria's, but you must eat." Aurora tapped the door to Laura's room with her paw as she stood by a small cart that was carrying Laura's meal. After a few minutes of waiting, Aurora tried opening the door herself and found that it was not locked. She nudged the door open and pulled the cart in by gripping the handles with her teeth. "Just leave me alone..... There's nothing left for me if Ashton is not here....."

Aurora sighed at the empty gaze in Laura's beautiful blue eyes. The wild girl of Ashton's eight servants, Laura was cheery and even a bit annoying as she constantly obsessed about her master. Her very existence was devoted to him. But when she saw him die in bed along with Cassandra at the age of 115, she changed. All of her vitality disappeared overnight. Aurora and Chiara, the only other two who still lived, did not even recognize her at first. Her eyes, which had always been so happy and full of life, now seemed soulless.

"Laura, I know it's hard. Chiara and I loved him just as much as you do. I know the pain of losing the one person who saw you as a person and not a mindless animal all too well. You, I, and Chiara would not be alive right now if Ashton had not stepped in." Aurora spoke as she shed a tear, remembering when her master had brought her into his home. But this did not cheer Laura up at all. She just lay there, motionless.

Aurora continued to try and cheer her sister up. "I know that it's not just Ashton. To have five of our sisters leave us is difficult to bear. Laika, Ruby, Serenade, Zandria, and now Cassandra... They lived long and happy lives. But they could not live forever. As neither could Ashton. We must move on. Ashton would not want us to remain miserable for all eternity." She then nudged the cart of food closer to Laura. "Please. Chiara made sure to include your favorites. She included orange sherbet." The Latias replied, "I'll eat it later. Just leave me alone..." With a sorrowful sigh, Aurora left the room.

Once night fell, Aurora came back to retrieve Laura's used plates. But when she opened the door to Laura's room, she found the metal dome still covering the tray of food from before. Aurora did not need to check underneath to know that Laura did not even touch her dinner, as this was not the first time. Aurora could see Laura in the exact same position she last saw her in, the room slightly illuminated by a number of candles just outside the door.

"Laura...please stop this. If you do not eat something, you just may die." The Suicune whispered, hoping to make her understand that Ashton would not want her to throw away her life just because he was dead. The Latias replied, "Just let me be...."

Finally, Aurora cried, "Laura, please! There are others who care for you! Just think of your....." Aurora stopped short of what she was about to say as the Latias looked over at her. "They don't need me anymore. They have grown strong and are together. They can defend themselves if attacked." Aurora wept, "I know, but..." Laura then lied back down, "That's enough. Just leave me." With a heavy heart, Aurora pulled the cart out of the room and closed the door. "Laura....."

Chiara ultimately began to stop cooking for Laura, deciding to let her choose when to eat. But after 15 days since Ashton's death, Aurora came to Laura's room at the time she always would in the evening. "Laura.....please. I just want to talk to you." The Suicune asked as she knocked at the door. Hearing nothing, she slowly made her way inside. She saw Laura still lying in the same spot that she had seen her in for the last 14 days.

Aurora shook her head as she sighed in despair, knowing that there was nothing she could do to help her sister. But just as she was about to say something, Aurora noticed something being grasped in Laura's claws. It was a silver necklace with a pearl hanging from it, her birthstone. It was a gift from Ashton that Laura had always treasured. What was more, she was smiling in her sleep. And it was a very peaceful smile at that.

Aurora walked over to the side of Laura's bed and rested her paw on her side. "At least you can be happy in your dreams. I can only imagine what you are....." Aurora froze as her paw reached the skin under Laura's yellow and white feathers. "No..... Oh Laura...why did you have to be so devoted to him..." Aurora sobbed as tears began to gather in her eyes. Laura's body was cold. She had died smiling, knowing that her time was very near and that she would soon be reunited with Ashton in death. Aurora rested her head against Laura's corpse and whispered, "I only wish I had the courage you do. Farewell....."

"Chiara, please. I only just returned to this world. I don't want to see you go so soon." Ashton pleaded as he held the Lugia's face. "It's just a dream...just my lonely heart crying out....." Chiara whispered. Ashton bowed his head for a second, but his face soon looked up suddenly with a mischievous smirk. "Oh my, this is going to get interesting." Aurora giggled as she stepped back. Lucy asked, "What's up? Does Ashton have an idea?" Aurora replied with a suppressed laugh, "Everyone has what is called a pet-peeve. And you're all about to see Chiara's."

Trying to keep himself from laughing, Ashton cleared his throat and stood up. "Hey Boss, just curious, but how do ships float?" Ashton then adjusted his voice to a deeper tone. "Oh, that's an easy one. It's all thanks to the sails. If the wind blew hard enough, ships could fly too!" Ash's jaw dropped, "Don't tell me he's sounding like a total doofus to wake Chiara up." Aurora giggled, "Well, that's exactly what he's doing."

"OK! Boss, what about this one? How do birds fly?" Ashton lowered his voice again and spoke, "That's another easy one! Birds have tiny strings attached to their heads. They just don't go airborne until they spread their wings." Ashton then raised his voice again, "Oh yeah! How could I forget? Oh, and how come whenever I jump, I fall back to the ground?" Ashton altered his voice back to the deeper tone, "Another easy one! We're all attached to the earth by chains that can't be seen! No matter how high up you go, those chains will always keep a grip on you and yank ya back into the ground." "You're so smart boss! But what about the moon? Why does it never look the same every night?" "Another easy one! There's some guy who eats part of the moon just before it can be seen at night, and it grows back to its round shape when morning comes. But sometimes he just leaves it alone. Oh, and 1 + 1 = 11, just in case you were going to ask."

At that false answer to the math question, Chiara's eyes shot open and seemed to be bloodshot in anger. She jumped up and yelled, "YOU DUNCE!!! WHAT IN THE WORLD IS WRONG WITH YOU?! Ships float due to buoyancy, birds fly by propelling themselves forward with their wings while trapping air under them, gravity keeps you on the ground, the moon always stays round while the shape is determined by the sun's rays of light, and 1 + 1 = 2! Honestly! What kind of total idiot would even.....uh..." Chiara became silent as she stared at the man she had lost 500 years earlier. Ashton grinned, "You never could ignore an idiot's banter, could you?"

The Lugia threw her broad hands around Ashton and sobbed, "So's been so many years since you left us....." Ashton rested his head against her chest, "Sshhh, it's all right. This is no trick. I really have been reborn. And I won't die again for a good 100 years if all goes well." Chiara smiled, "That sounds delightful. Oh?" Chiara looked ahead to see Aurora approaching them. "Welcome back, Chiara." The Suicune bowed to her. Chiara whispered, "So you still live? That means we are the only ones left." Ashton spoke up, "True, but that means less competition for you girls, right?" Chiara giggled, "Oh please, we could never argue over you!"

After a moment of cuddling, Chiara blushed at the sound of her starving stomach. "It seems my stomach no longer wishes to wait." Just then, Ashton's stomach growled as well. "Uh, I guess all that effort earlier worked up an appetite for me." He then looked back at the group and asked, "Say, do any of you know how to cook?!" Brock laughed, "Not a problem! I'll get started on some lunch!"

"Your appetite is just as ravenous as I remember, Ashton." Aurora said with a giggle as Ashton scarfed down some curry Brock had whipped up, although he made sure that it was mild for Sapphire and Max. Chiara seemed to be especially hungry as she devoured an entire pot of curry. She knew better than to eat anymore right away due to her shrunken stomach. Eating anymore without allowing it to expand over time could cause her belly to literally burst.

"Man, I don't think I've had to cook this much in one sitting since before leaving Pewter City! Good thing we stocked up a few days ago!" Brock joked as he finished another batch of mild curry. He then noticed that Ash and Ashton seemed to be having an eating contest, as they were eating quickly while staring at each other out of the corner of their eyes. (Those guys are gonna regret that little challenge if they don't slow down on that spicier curry.)

As Ashton kept his eye on Ash, he noticed the two Z-shaped markings just under his eyes. (He has them too? But that means...) Ashton set his plate down before he finished it. This surprised Ash, as he stopped and asked, "What's wrong? Can't keep up?" Ashton then gave Ash a very stern stare. "Ash, how long have you had those markings under your eyes?"

This surprised everyone, especially Aurora and Chiara as they had been told by Serenade long ago about how Ashton had gotten those markings himself. Ash asked, "What markings? I don't have anything like those." Ashton then grabbed the Flamberge by the hilt and held the shiny blade up to Ash's face. "Do you see them now?" That was the first time that Ash had really put any thought into what those marking's were.

"Those? I've had them since I was born. I guess they're birthmarks." Ashton asked, "Are you absolutely sure about that?" Ash became slightly annoyed, "Yeah! I even have them in my baby pictures back home!" Ashton then set the Flamberge down again. "What about you? How'd you get yours?" Ashton sighed, "These are scars. They were forever burned into my face when I tapped into my dormant powers as a child." May sighed, "Wow. You must've had a tough childhood." Ashton surprised her by smiling, "Not really. I and my sister had a great deal of fun, and I enjoyed my time at the academy as a squire."

The mention of an academy brought something to Ash's mind. "Hey! You made it so Pokemon were always treated as equals, right?" Ashton nodded, "Yes, although I did have some help." He was then surprised when Ash held out his hand. "I need to thank you. If it wasn't for you, I and Pikachu would never have become partners. The same goes for every single Trainer in the world." The little yellow rodent hopped up onto Ash's shoulder and gave Ashton a grateful smile. The viscount grinned, "It does my heart good to know that my efforts have withstood the test of time." He then gave Ash a hearty handshake.

Ash also said, "I still can't get over how cool you were when you took down Team Rocket! Maybe this time they'll really call it quits for good!" Ashton was shocked, "For good? Just how long have they been pursuing you?!" Ash thought for a moment and blushed, "Man, I really don't know! Two years, at least!" Ashton gave his descendent a harsh glare, "And you never had the common sense to destroy them in the first place?!" Before the conversation could continue further, a metallic clank was heard behind them.

"Aw man..... The boss is REALLY not gonna like dis. How're we supposed ta tell him that this baby got trashed?" Meowth gagged as he climbed out of the escape hatch in the Mega Machoke's head. Jessie groaned, "I really don't even want to know. He just might fire us for real this time." Ashton scowled as he watched the three criminals climb out of the wreckage. "So they really were controlling that thing from the inside." He also noticed the similarities Jessie and James shared with the long deceased king and queen of Rohta, but dismissed the thought as just a coincidence. He took the Flamberge in hand and began to approach the crooks.

Ruby asked, "What's Ashton doing?" Aurora gulped, "Oh my, this could be bad. I do not believe that Ashton has any intent on letting those three escape alive." Ash gasped, "He's gonna kill them?!" Chiara added, "Don't interfere with him. It's for the best. Those who spread suffering and misery do not deserve to live."

The three crooks collapsed in a heap next to each other. James panted, "It felt like an oven in there. I thought we were gonna roast. Oh?" He and the other two looked up to see Ashton standing in front of them with sword in hand. "And just where do you three think you're going?" All three of them looked at the Flamberge and came to the horrifying realization that Ashton intended to slaughter them. James pleaded, "No! It's not our fault! We were just following orders! This was all the boss's idea!"

Ashton raised an eyebrow at this revelation. "You were commanded to attack these good people?" Jessie smiled sheepishly, "Yes, that's right! We've been following the same orders for a long time! The boss never gave us new orders, so we just kept trying!" A sly smirk came across Ashton's face. "Heh, this changes everything." He then placed the Flamberge on his back. "You three wait right here. And if you wish to keep your heads, don't even THINK about trying to escape." Ashton then turned and walked back towards the group, leaving Team Rocket blue in the face thinking about his threat.

Ash breathed a sigh of relief when Ashton came back over. "I'm really glad you didn't kill them. It's not..." Ashton interrupted him, "They told me everything. And to that end, there's been a change of plans. I'm going to separate from you guys for a while." Shadow asked, "And why is that?" Ashton smirked, "I'm going to have those three take me to their boss's headquarters. I'm going to destroy this "Team Rocket" at the source." May gasped, "You're going to attack a professional criminal organization head-on?!" Ashton smiled, "It won't be the first time."

Chiara asked, "Lord Ashton, I am feeling well enough to fly. May I accompany you?" The viscount nodded, "Yes. I have a hunch that I will need you anyway. What about you, Aurora? Do you wish to come?" The Suicune looked back at Ash for a moment before looking at her master and shook her head, "Forgive me, but not this time. Ash is my new master now. Besides, I know Chiara is all the help you need." The viscount smiled, "I see. Just make sure that he stays safe. And if all goes well, I'll meet up with you all again in about three months. Sound good?" Ash nodded, "Sounds like a plan. But before we head off, how about helping us with the dishes?"

A short while later, everyone had packed up and continued west in search of Mt. Pyre. That is, everyone except Ashton and Chiara, who now stood before Team Rocket. "If you wish to stay alive, you will answer my master's questions sincerely." Chiara growled as her eyes glowed a light blue, intimidating the criminals. However, Ashton was pondering the markings under Ash's eyes. (If he's had those since birth, then there's no way that they could be an indicator of the Eternal Flame being present within his body. But then just what could they represent?)

Ash told everyone about Ashton's past as they walked, impressing them greatly. Sapphire in particular was enjoying this story like a child at bedtime. Aurora smiled as she listened to her master through the walls of the Safari Ball that contained her.

Unknown to the group, a pair of red eyes was observing them with great surprise. "Shadow? What's he doing with them? Wait a sec....." The creature noticed the female Lucario standing next to Ash that seemed to lack the signature three spikes on her hands and chest. "'re still alive?" A moment passed as the creature simply watched.

And then, it descended in a flash of cobalt blue.
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