AGNPH Stories

Forbidden Love by XD385


Story Notes:

This may become a bit of a Naruto crossover, but no characters from the series will appear, this I promise.

A Royal Request

"Curse those Black Wing scumbags..... How dare they do this to my garden?!" Cassandra grumbled as she replanted the flowerbeds that had been ravaged by the Black Wing's attack on the manor. The sun had just risen into the sky. The Absol sighed, "He said that they would be back by morning at the latest. If that's true, then where are they?" Right when she said that, a northern wind blew in. Instinctively, Cassandra spun around and saw Aurora standing at the crumpled gate.

"Aurora?!" Cassandra called, only to be greeted by, "Lady Cassandra!" The Absol gasped to see Ruby jump off of Aurora's back and ran over to the Lucario. "Ruby! Lord Ashton stayed true to his word!" Rearing up on her legs, Cassandra embraced her 'sister' as Ruby did the same. "Yes, Lord Ashton rescued me." Aurora then asked, "Cassandra, would you be a dear and alert Serenade? Ashton took some knocks and could use some medical attention." Cassandra immediately let go of Ruby and ran inside.

"Well, we're home, my lord." Aurora sighed as she looked over her shoulder. Ashton was leaning forward while asleep. "Lord Ashton, I know you're exhausted, as am I, but now that we're home, wouldn't a hot bath do you well?" Aurora gave her body a quick shake to wake him up, but instead he slid right off her back and hit the ground with a clank as his fractured armor broke further.

Aurora sighed, "The poor dear. Must be exhausted to not even wake up. Ruby, please take him to his quarters. I need to tend to my own injuries." Aurora then made her way inside, leaving the Lucario with her master. "OK. Just hold on, Lord Ashton. You'll be resting in bed soon." Ruby then hoisted Ashton onto her shoulders and proceeded inside, closing the door behind her.

"Ugh.....uh?" Ashton slowly sat up as his body ached. "Wait... Am I back home?" A familiar voice replied, "Yes. You've been asleep for quite a while. It's already past noon." The viscount looked to his left and saw Serenade sitting at his bedside. "Your wounds are fairly significant, but I just finished closing them. Even so, I recommend taking it easy until tomorrow morning." Ashton felt the right side of his face and could not even feel a scar where Lance had slashed him. "I'll say it again. Your medical skills are centuries ahead of our time."

"Sir..." Ashton looked down at his right and saw Laika looking up at him. "Laika? Did you watch the estate while I was away?" The Mightyena nodded, "Yes. No one intruded during your absence. Are you well?" Ashton grinned, "I'm surprised you would be so concerned for a human. Do you have a fever?" Laika snorted, "You are the only human who has ever shown me kindness. It's only natural that I would be concerned for your wellbeing." The viscount smiled and gently rubbed her head. This prompted a sigh of pleasure from the Mightyena.

Ashton looked at Serenade and asked, "What of Aurora? Were her wounds severe?" Ashton's sister smiled, "I'm surprised by just how durable she is. Her injuries were fairly mild. It was no trouble at all to heal her. She is already back on her feet." The viscount breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness. And what of Chiara? Did her condition improve overnight?" Serenade nodded, "Yes. She also applied a self-healing spell to hasten the mending of her internal injuries. I believe it was Recover. She even went out for a little flight to stretch her wings just before you returned." Ashton sighed, "Sister..... I am in your debt." Serenade blushed, "Nonsense. I was just doing my part in helping our family."

A knock was heard at the door. "I got it." Laika spoke as she approached the door and nudged it open slightly with her muzzle as it was not entirely closed. She saw Ruby standing in front of her. "Lady Laika, may I enter?" The she wolf stepped back a bit and looked at Ashton. "It's Ruby. May I let her in?" Her master grinned, "Of course." Laika pushed the door all the way open and nodded, "You may enter." At that, Ruby ran in and leapt onto the bed. "Lord Ashton, let me say once again how grateful I am that you rescued me!" The viscount blushed slightly, "It was not a problem at all. I would never allow a gang of ruffians to have their way with a lovely maiden like you."

Ashton asked, "Now that I think about it, would you like me to paint your portrait now?" Ruby's face lit up, "OH YES! Please do so!" Ash chuckled a bit, but grunted as he tried to climb out of bed. "Allow me." Serenade walked over to the chest where Ashton kept his art supplies. She began to rummage through it. "Let's see... I think this is all." She then set up the easel and canvas next to the bed. "Did I miss anything?" Ashton shook his head, "No, you got everything. I'll handle the paint and such myself." He then managed to sit up in bed. "Ruby, where would you like to pose?" She glanced around for a moment and pointed at the sofa that Laika had chosen. "I see. Serenade, please leave us for now. I need to focus." Serenade bowed to her brother and left the bedroom, shutting the door behind her.

"Ruby, could you come over here? I wish to give you something before we begin." Curious, the Lucario approached her master. Ashton then reached under his pillow and pulled out what seemed to be a choker. "Remember the day you and I went to the market together? I picked this up just for you." Ruby quickly noticed the jewel on the front. It was a bright red ruby. But just then, she had an idea. "Lord Ashton, may I ask you a favor?" The viscount nodded, "Absolutely. What will it be?" Ruby then fitted the choker around her neck and said, "I want you to paint my portrait with me wearing this." Ashton grinned, "I was about to ask you the same thing." But then Ruby added, "I meant, wearing ONLY this."

Laika raised an eyebrow at Ruby's request. She could think of only one possibility of why she would want to be almost completely nude in front of her master. (Ruby, you better not push your luck.) Ashton simply laughed, "What do you mean?! You're not wearing anything but that choker right now! Uh.....what are you doing?" Ashton stared as Ruby brought her hands to her waist. "Have you really forgotten?" With a quick yank she slid her blue pants down to her toes. "Ga.....I..." Ashton was left speechless as he stared at the now nude form of his servant. Her upper legs were covered in sleek black fur like her lower legs while her torso was covered with the same yellow fur as her upper torso. But what caught Ashton's eyes the most were the delicate virgin lips between her legs.

"Now that I'm wearing only this choker, may we begin?" Ruby asked with a sweet wink. Ashton's face began to turn red in a deep blush. Laika noticed and gulped, (Is she trying to seduce him?) Ashton remained silent as his gaze remained focused on Ruby. The Lucario could see how he was trying to restrain himself and blushed, (Does this mean he loves me as well? Will he set aside his differences and mate with me?) Much to her disappointment, Ashton gasped, "Stay calm.....deep breaths....." Ruby sighed as she realized Ashton had not caught on.

" you want me to paint your portrait while you are wearing nothing more than that choker? I can handle that." Ashton sighed as he wiped a minor nosebleed from his face. Ruby nodded and reclined on the sofa, her left arm draped along the top of the back while her right hand rested on her abdomen. Ashton blushed, "Good God, you're beautiful. Even by human standards, you are very well-endowed." Ruby blushed in delight as she let out an adorable giggle. Ashton then took the paint and set some on the pallet. "Are you comfortable? Then let's begin."

Cassandra breathed a sigh of satisfaction as she assessed the flowerbeds she had replanted. "Hm! I can't even tell that they were uprooted! All that's left is the bushes." The Absol turned to face the closest bush sculpture, which was still messily decapitated. Cassandra made a weird face as she gulped, "Um...maybe later." Just then, she felt some strong wind and heard a thud behind her. When she turned to welcome the visitor, she saw Chiara folding her wings.

"Welcome back, Chiara! Ashton returned while you were away. Ruby and Aurora are doing well." The Lugia gasped, "He saved her?! Bless his soul. I must give him my thanks!" As Chiara made her way to the front door, Cassandra spoke up, "I don't think that's a good idea at the moment. He suffered some injuries and is not in the best shape. At least wait until this evening." Chiara sighed, "I see. I'm at least relieved that he will be just fine. I'll just wait until Zandria prepares dinner then." The midget Lugia then proceeded inside while Cassandra rested her head in a flowerbed, indulging in the many aromas.

About three hours passed before Zandria began preparing dinner. She had already heard of Ruby's rescue and was preparing a very special dish just for Ashton. A smirk crossed her face as she sang, "You always thought you were on top, thinking you could take any girl as your mate. Well I found mine, and you'll be on tonight's dinner plate!" The Zangoose whistled as she diced some meat and skewered them on spits before setting them over the fire.

"Zandria, did you hear?! Lord Ashton brought Ruby home! He followed through with his promise!" Zandria turned to face her guest and grinned, "I already heard from Aurora. As for you, Laura, shouldn't you be dusting the art in the manor?" The Latias giggled, "I will just as soon as Ashton finishes the newest portrait. He's painting Ruby's picture at this moment." This surprised the Zangoose. Zandria asked, "He is? Then that leaves Aurora and Chiara that he hasn't painted yet. Wonder when he's gonna get around to them."

After another hour of cooking, Zandria loaded up the cart and set off down the hall. She stopped by Chiara's, Aurora's, and Serenade's rooms before coming to Ashton's. Forgetting to knock, she walked right in. "Dinner is served, my lord." She then noticed Ruby putting away Ashton's art supplies. "Oh, hello Lady Zandria! Lord Ashton is still a tad bruised, but he'll be able to walk tomorrow." Ruby said with a bow. Zandria then noticed the painting near the bed. "Did you just finish that?" Ashton nodded, "Indeed. The paint's barely dry. Care to have a look?" Zandria smiled, "You bet." She then wheeled the cart of food to a table and approached the painting.

Zandria marveled at the detail, somewhat surprised that Ashton had not used his art skills for profit. "Hm? Is that a choker with a ruby on it?" Ruby spoke, "Yes. It's right here." Zandria turned and noticed the choker right around her neck. Ashton spoke, "I picked that up for her myself. Just like your circlet." The Zangoose grinned, "OK, thanks. I was almost jealous for a second." She then looked back to the painting, her eyes scanning it. Just then, her face had a look of bewilderment. She looked over at Ruby and asked, "You took off your pants?" Ruby said nothing and merely blushed while letting out a giggle.

Ashton clapped his hands, "Now then, who thinks it's time to eat?" Laika and Ruby nodded in approval as Zandria rolled the cart over to Ashton's bedside. "This is a new kind of meat I'm testing out. Let me know what it's like." She then lifted the metal dome, releasing a plume of steam. Ashton's mouth began to water at the aroma of the steaks that lay in front of him.

Ashton took a knife and fork and quickly carved a piece from a steak and started chewing. At first, he was quite pleased with the flavor, but his face of delight began to change to one of deep thought. The flavor led him to believe that the meat was extremely lean. Too lean for standard livestock. He also noticed the skin was still intact around the sides of the steaks. It was a shade of grey.

Zandria noticed Ashton's face turn a little blue. (Oh boy, has he figured it out?) Once Ashton swallowed his load, he asked, "Zandria. Is this stuff what I think it is?" The Zangoose shrugged her shoulders, "That depends. What do you think it is?" He shuddered, "Please tell me that this is NOT the Machoke that you killed in the tournament a few days ago!" Zandria smirked, "Very well then. I won't tell you that." Laika had to suppress a grin as Ruby burst into laughter while Ashton tried to keep a grip on his stomach.

Once Ashton had finished dinner, leaving the Machoke meat alone, he heard a knock at the door. "You may enter." The door swung open and Chiara stepped forth. "Well done with tonight's meal, Zandria. I never knew Machoke meat was so delectable!" Zandria grinned, "In that case, you can have Ashton's share. Is that fine with you, my lord?" The viscount groaned, "Yes, just don't make me eat that stuff anymore!" Chiara smiled, "Then I'll just take them off your hands." She then started to chow down on the steaks that Ashton had refused to eat.

"Mmmmmmm! Delicious! Another work of perfection! But in any case, I have a message to you, Lord Ashton." She then reached into the satchel that was hanging from her neck and pulled out a message tube. She then handed it to Ashton. However, he was quick to notice a red ribbon around it. "A red ribbon?! This is a message from the queen!" Chiara nodded, "Yes. When I left this morning, I went straight to the castle of Green Mile to inform the queen that you had gone off to deal with the Black Wing at their headquarters. She gave me this message to give to you, should you happen to return alive." Not wasting anymore time, Ashton popped open the end of the tube and slid out the note inside. He unrolled it and began to read it silently.

Ruby was the first to ask. "Lord Ashton, what does the message say?" Ashton lowered the message and smiled, "The queen has requested me to appear before her tomorrow at noon. She has also requested that all eight of you join me. I should be well enough by morning to walk on my own, but what about you girls?" Chiara nodded, "The queen is a very good person. I would enjoy an audience with her." Ruby added, "Me too! She must really like Lord Ashton, so I wanna meet her!" Ashton then looked at Laika. She snorted, "Do I have a choice? I have to be near the master at all times." Zandria also nodded, "I guess I'll tag along too."

Ashton grinned, "So it's decided then." He then grabbed a nearby writing quill and began to jot down his name at the bottom of the message, a sign that he agreed to the queen's request. Ruby walked over and looked down at Ashton's name. However, it was not the name she knew her master by. "Lord Ashton? Why are you not writing your real name?" The viscount looked at her and replied, "This IS my real name." Ruby was baffled and asked, "So your real name is Ashton Redford Crimson?"

Zandria chuckled, "Redford Crimson? That's a really noble name!" Ashton on the other hand groaned, "Please.....never call me that. It just does not appeal to me." Laika then asked, "So then how did you get that name?" Ashton frowned, "Crimson is my family name. Not Serenade's parents, but my own. Redford is my middle name, but I just can't stand being called that. I'll never understand what my mother was thinking, giving me that name on her deathbed. At least, that's what Serenade's parents claim. I decided to go by the last name of Ketchum to sound more casual and not as snooty, which many would expect of someone from a noble family." Chiara giggled, "Well it most certainly is unique. But you must never forget your roots. Words to live by, believe me." Ashton slipped the letter back into the message tube and smiled, "Very true. Chiara, please deliver this promptly." Placing the tube back in her satchel, the Lugia made her way back outside and took to the sky.

That night, Ashton read over a book about legends in the Far East by candlelight. He had long been fascinated by the exotic myths and stories in his former teacher's homeland. The story that caught his eye the most was the legend of the Yamata no Orochi and how it was slain by a warrior known as Susanoo. He could never quite imagine the size of that beast, as it was stated that its body extended over eight valleys and hills. He pondered the size of the eight-headed serpent again as Laika drifted off to sleep at her master's side.

Ashton jumped slightly as he heard the door open. "Who goes there?" A voice replied, "Ruby, sir!" Ashton then asked, "Isn't it a bit late for you?" The Lucario walked in and shut the door behind her, "I just.....well... I want to be near you tonight. I want to stay close to the man who saved me." Ashton sighed, "Very well. Climb in."

Ashton held up the blanket for Ruby to slide under. Once she was in bed, Ashton draped them both with the blanket before snuffing out the candle. Ruby was resting on one side of Ashton while Laika was on the other. "Ashton, what do you think the queen wishes to see you about?" Ruby asked as she snuggled closer to her master. Ashton placed a hand on her back as he replied, "Can't say for sure. We won't know until we arrive."

Ruby let out a yawn as she asked, "What is the queen like? Is she pretty?" Ashton let out a bit of a giggle, "Very much so. Her name is Jessica and she has been queen for little over five years. She was the daughter of a duke, but she caught the eye of our late king, who was slain not that long ago by the Night Hawk. He was hardly any older than her and they wed soon after meeting each other. Our king was known as James II, also known as the Indigo Archer as he was quite skilled with the bow. They were a very happy couple, and they were very kind to Pokemon as if they viewed them as friends."

Ruby sighed, "But if they see Pokemon as friends, why have they not forbid the awful acts the humans keep doing to us?" Ashton shook his head, "I intend to ask the queen that question myself when we see her tomorrow. Let's get some sleep before then. OK?" Ruby nodded, "OK. Good night, Lord Ashton." The two fell asleep in a tender embrace, unaware that Laika had scooted closer to Ashton and rested her head against him.

Once noon came, Ashton and his eight servants gathered at the newly repaired gate of the estate. "So everyone is coming?" Laura giggled, "Where you go, we go!" The viscount smiled, "I'm grateful. Oh yes! Serenade, would you mind giving me a hand?" The Gardevoir nodded, "Oh, I see. Absolutely." The two of them stood side by side just in front of the gate. Aurora asked, "Just what are you two doing?" Serenade replied, "We wouldn't want any bandits breaking in while we're away, would we?"

Ashton held his right hand out to his side while Serenade did the same with her left. The two siblings grasped each other's hand and pressed their other hand against the gate. Together, they began to mutter some sort of chant. Aurora cocked her head to one side, "What is this incantation?" Chiara smirked, "Just wait and see." As soon as she said that, a faint blue ring rose from the gate and walls that surrounded the estate and rose upwards, as if moving along an unseen dome. Once the ring of ethereal light closed above the manor, it vanished. "There we go! No need to worry now!"

Ashton and Serenade walked back over to the group. However, Aurora asked, "Just what happened?" Ashton looked at Chiara, "Care to do the honors?" The Lugia smirked, "I shall. What Lord Ashton and Serenade just used was a type of sealing spell that requires two individuals with an unbreakable bond. Although you can't see it, the blue ring of light we saw just now created an invisible barrier that allows gases and liquids through, but blocks anything solid. It even extends underground, just in case someone tries to dig their way in." Ashton nodded, "Your knowledge is as deep as ever. Now then, shall we be going?"

It took about an hour for Ashton's entourage to reach the perimeter of the royal palace of Green Mile. The entire castle was surrounded by a moat to hinder invaders. As they stood before the drawbridge, a guard called down from one of the two battlements that bordered the entrance. "You there! Are you Ashton?!" The viscount replied, "Indeed I am! I have arrived for my audience with the queen!" The guard then turned around and shouted, "Alright lads! Drop the bridge!" At those words, the wooden drawbridge began to lower. It hit the ground with a loud bang which startled Ruby. "Ease up, Ruby. If anyone tries to getcha, I'll skewer them with my claws." Zandria said as she patted her 'sister' on the shoulder. This comforted Ruby somewhat, as she seemed to stop shaking.

Ashton's entourage passed through the courtyard before entering the palace itself. "The royal hall is directly ahead." Ashton said as he led the eight ladies. A pair of heavily armed knights stood guard at the large wooden door that stood vigil before the royal hall. "Lord Ashton, you and your guests are cleared to enter." The guards then pushed the two halves of the door open. Once the nine guests had entered, the guards pulled the door shut and stood watch at the entrance again. At the very end of the royal hall was the queen herself, seated upon her throne. The king's throne stood empty to her left. But as they approached, Ashton noticed something lying at the queen's feet. The creature looked ahead in shock when the sunlight shone on the viscount's face.

"SERRA!!!" Ashton dashed forward as the Salamence bounded down the hall towards him. When they reached each other, the Salamence reared up on her hind legs and embraced her old friend as Ashton did the same. "It's been so long..... I missed you, Serra..." Ashton sobbed as he held Serra tightly, both of them shedding tears of joy.

Laura's jaw dropped as she watched her crush giving love to some random Salamence. Serenade noticed her expression and laughed, "I assure you, it's not what it looks like at all! Serra is just an old friend of Ashton when he was still a squire. She was originally going to be his dragon mount when he graduated, but an unforeseen tragedy left her wings crippled. Chiara took her place after that." Laura snapped back to reality and said, "Oh, I get it now!" Chiara then spoke, "So that's Serra. Poor girl. No wonder she's so happy to see him."

"OK, that will do, Serra! Please!" Ashton pushed the Salamence off him, as she had knocked him to the ground. "I'm very relieved that you're doing well, but I have some business to attend to." He then proceeded towards the queen with Serra at his side. His eight servants stood close behind him. Once he was before the queen, he dropped to one knee. "What did you wish to see me about, your highness?" Queen Jessica raised her hand and smiled, "No. Please stand, Sir Ashton. It is I who should bow. I, as well as the entire kingdom, owe you greatly for your deeds."

Jessica stood up with the royal scepter in hand. She was draped in an elegant white gown while a dazzling purple circlet encircled her cranium. Her long red hair flowed behind her before curling inwards slightly at the end. Her earrings were simple in design and were made of jade. She sighed, "Allow me to personally thank you for slaying the Night Hawk. Now my beloved husband can rest in peace."

Ashton stood up and nodded, "I'm sorry to say that I have no memory of the climax of that duel. Are you certain that it was I who killed her? I thought she perished in a failed suicide attack." Jessica shook her head, "I received word directly from one of my aides that you dealt the final blow yourself. Although he did seem a bit pale. Perhaps your means of dealing with her was a tad extreme." Ashton shrugged his shoulders, "Strange. I wonder what really happened." She then added, "Of course, I should thank you as well, Serra. If it was not for you, I would have been slain along with my husband."

Cassandra spoke up, "What?! You mean that the Night Hawk targeted you as well?!" Jessica nodded, "Yes, Lady Cassandra. The Night Hawk had been commissioned to slay me along with the king. But when she came for me after murdering my husband, Serra defended me fiercely. I never knew that a Salamence that had lost its ability to fly could be so dangerous. The Night Hawk fled in terror when she realized that she could not triumph over Serra." Ashton looked at Serra and joked, "You always did have a fiery temper. No wonder she was so frightened of you." Everyone present laughed, although Laika simply smirked.

Jessica added, "Also, I am grateful for you disbanding the Black Wing. But did you learn the identity of their leader?" Ashton sighed, "It was Captain Lance. He formed the Black Wing after he resigned from his duty." The queen gasped as she brought a hand to her mouth, "Lance? Why? He was always so loyal to us." Ashton then frowned, "The reason he betrayed Rohta was because of the injustice and cruelty the Pokemon here suffer with every day. He intended to commit genocide on the human population and rebuild the kingdom from the ground up where Pokemon would live as true equals with the humans that see them as such." He then pointed at Jessica and shouted, "Why?! You know that Pokemon are people too! Serra proved it when she defended you! Why do you allow this subjugation to continue?!"

By now, the queen was in tears as she dropped back into her throne. "Forgive me. I know how the Pokemon you care for so tenderly are suffering. But you must understand, I cannot make it law that Pokemon are equals to humans without proof that they are people too. Until solid proof is uncovered, I cannot make it so without risking mass rebellion among the human population." Ashton sighed, "I...understand. You are right. Unless there was obvious proof, the humans of this kingdom would never accept such a law." Ruby then spoke up, "It's all right. Some proof will surface someday. But why did you want to see Ashton in the first place?"

Jessica wiped away her tears, "Yes, thank you for reminding me. Ashton, is it true that a traveling shinobi from the Far East trained you for a brief time?" The viscount looked up, "Ah, you must mean Master Koga." Jessica nodded, "Yes, him. We received word from him that the emperor of his nation wishes to form an alliance with us and expand trade. I was hoping that you would become our ambassador for this treaty signing. Will you accept?"

Ashton looked back at the girls and asked, "Well? Does a trip to the Far East interest you? I'm not leaving if either of you wish to stay." They began to discuss amongst themselves. Cassandra whispered, "I've heard they have very exotic plant life and architecture. It sounds like fun!" Zandria added, "I've heard they have strange, but delicious food over there. I'd like to add those recipes to my cookbook." Ruby sighed, "I wouldn't mind going back there for a visit. I'm curious of how much my homeland has changed." The ladies discussed the matter for a minute or two before turning towards Ashton. Serenade spoke, "We have decided. We all wish to go along with this mission."

Ashton faced the queen, "I hereby accept my mission. We shall be leaving tomorrow aboard my family's private vessel." Jessica smiled, "Many thanks, dear Ashton. I am also financing the journey, so you need not worry about supplies. Where would you like them delivered?" Ashton replied, "Have them delivered to my front door." This puzzled the queen, "But doesn't that seem a bit far from the harbor? Well, if that is what you prefer, so be it. Your supplies will arrive this evening." Ashton then bowed before taking his leave. "Oh yes, I have one last favor before you go." Jessica called out before Ashton could turn to leave.

"Please take Serra along with you. I know how much you two cared for each other and I'm sure she wishes to make up for lost time." Ashton and Serra looked at each other in surprise. "But isn't Serra supposed to protect you?! What if another assassin comes?!" The queen giggled, "I have taken precautions to prevent such an event from happening again. This castle is now being secretly patrolled and guarded by shinobi that the emperor of the Far East has stationed here. He is a good man to care so much for my wellbeing, even before the treaty has been signed." Ashton looked very carefully in all directions and could barely make out shrouded guards hiding in the shadows of all the pillars that stood in the hall. "Sneaky and efficient."

Ashton nodded, "I thank you for allowing Serra to join me, your highness. I shall return." He then bowed to the queen and turned to leave with his ninth family member at his side. Serra leaned her head against his side, blushing that they had at long last been reunited. However, Laura could see how attached this Salamence was to Ashton and was already seething jealousy.

That evening, Serra lay in bed in one of the two guestrooms after having eaten some of Zandria's cooking. She never expected to eat such high quality food, even under Ashton's roof. However, her peaceful state of mind was interrupted by a knock at the door. Serra hopped out of bed and walked over to the door before turning the knob with her mouth. Floating just outside the door was Laura.

"Can I help you?" Serra asked the Latias in her native tongue. Laura replied, "I need to talk to you in private." Serra nudged the door shut after Laura floated inside. "Look, I know about your past friendship with Ashton. You and he may be the best of friends, but I need to make something clear with you." Serra cocked her head to one side in confusion. Laura then growled, "Ashton is MINE! Got it?! No one will have him but me!"

Serra staggered back at Laura's bold claim, but growled, "Not a chance! Ashton is the only man I have ever loved! I won't let anyone take him away from me! And what's more, he has already chosen me to be his bride someday." Laura gasped, "What?! No way!" Serra smirked, "It's true. When he was ten years old, he personally proposed to me. And I accepted." Laura's face went blank for a moment. But she soon sneered, "Even so, that was five years ago! And it still is not legal for humans to marry Pokemon! I still have time to win his heart!" Serra brought her face right up to Laura's and laughed, "HA! I accept your challenge! But I have spent more time with Ashton than you! He will marry me, and that will not change!" Laura replied, "Oh yeah?! Well we'll just see about that!" With that, the Latias flew out of the room and down the hall. Serra snorted in confidence, remembering Ashton's proposal to her.

Morning came, and the entire household was waiting outside for Ashton. However, Serenade was not present. Aurora muttered, "I wonder what is taking Ashton and Serenade. Are they still preparing?" Laura sighed, "He must be preparing something special for us. Or maybe a gift for the emperor? Oh, our little Ashy is so thoughtful!" Zandria sounded like she was going to pass out from laughter. Chiara grumbled, "Never call Ashton by pet names. He wouldn't like it." Just then, Ashton shoved the front door open and yelled, "What are you all doing out here?! The supplies have been loaded and we're ready to set sail!"

Ruby asked, "What do you mean?! We have to go down to the harbor to set sail, right?!" Ashton smiled, "Not for this vessel! And besides, the estate is being covered by that magic barrier, so you can't leave anyway. So come. I have something to show you." He then walked back inside. Curious, the eight girls followed, closing the door behind them.

Ashton led the ladies down into the cellar. Ruby spoke, "I haven't been down here since the day you brought me in, Lord Ashton." The viscount stopped next to the wall at the end of the corridor, "Indeed. Now watch closely." He then pressed a stone that was near the bottom of the wall. To their surprise, the wall slid over past the other wall, revealing a secret passage. "Right this way."

Ashton carried a torch as he led the girls down a dark passage. "This has been here ever since the estate was constructed. I happened to stumble across this by looking through my family's records." After about three minutes, the group of eight came to a vast cave that contained a wooden dock like those at the harbor. Light was shining in through a waterfall at the far end of the cave. And docked in front of them was a grand sailing vessel fit for a noble.

"What took you so long, Ashton?!" Serenade called while looking down from the back of the stern. Ashton waved up at her, "It seems they knew nothing about our private cruiser! We'll climb aboard in a moment!" He then turned to face the girls, "This is the Flying Duskull. And please do not ask me how it got that name. My grandfather was the one who named it." Aurora chuckled, "Perhaps it got that name because it's 'a terror on the high seas'? It must have a reason." Ashton sighed, "Whatever. We've wasted enough time already. Let us board, shall we?"

Following Ashton up the gangplank, the ladies then worked together to pull it up to the deck and set it aside. Ashton then made his way to the stern and manned the helm. Just then, he laughed, "Of course! Just how am I supposed to pilot us out of here if there's no wind to fill the sails with?!" Chiara overheard and replied, "Allow me!" She then flew to the very back of the stern and perched herself there while facing the sails. She then flapped her wings forward, causing the sails to become taut instantly as if filled with a strong gust. Ashton spoke, "Well done. Just don't flap too hard. You'll break the mast if that happens." The midget Lugia replied, "I'm aware of my own strength. I won't overdo it."

As the ship approached the waterfall, Ashton called, "Aurora! Would you mind halting that waterfall so we don't get drenched?!" She nodded and focused. The waterfall seemed to disappear for a moment. Once the Flying Duskull had drifted out of the cave, everyone looked up to see a stationary wall of water above them. It came crashing down with a roar once they were out of range.

Chiara continued to direct a steady supply of wind into the sails, keeping the ship moving forward. Ashton then pulled out a map that Koga had left behind for him. "First we head south. Once we pass the Seafoam Isles, we'll head east." Zandria then asked, "Sir, think I should serve up some fish tonight?!" Ashton joked, "When out on the high seas, that's all you'll find!" However, when the Flying Duskull passed the Seafoam Isles, a certain Starmie noticed it and sank out of sight after observing it for a moment.

"Captain! Our scout has returned!" A young man called out as the Starmie rode a Surf attack up to the deck. A young woman walked over to the Starmie and kneeled down to it. "So, whatcha find?" The Starmie's crystal flashed green. "A viscount level vessel? Not a bad haul. How many crew?" The crystal flashed ten times in quick succession. "Only ten? This'll be like taking rum from a bloke with two peg legs."

The captain called out, "Listen up, boys! We're changing course! Set a course for the northeast! We've found our first catch of the week!" The sail opened and became filled with a strong ocean breeze, its skull and crossbones design waving in the wind. As the pirate ship set a path for the northeast, the captain giggled, "Just ten crew? Sounds like these landlubbers have never heard of the temptress of the seas. Oh well. They'll learn the name of Captain Black Mist soon enough."
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