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 Harvest of Souls

A death scream filled the air at the Crimson estate. Cassandra, who had just finished tending to her garden, stood before the front door and watched as Ashton approached her while dragging the corpse of a vigilante that had invaded his home. The blade of the Flamberge was bathed in his blood. Cassandra sighed, "Another one?" Ashton nodded, "Yeah. If memory serves, this makes three intruders over the last ten days. Good thing I anticipated it." He then spoke, "Cassandra, let Zandria know to open the kitchen window. I have some more meat to drop off." The Absol shuddered, "Again? That recipe is pretty tasty, but it's starting to get a little old." She then went inside while Ashton looped around to the back of the manor to hand the corpse over to Zandria.

After dropping the body off at the kitchen, Ashton made his way back to the front door. But as he reached for the handle, the door opened from the inside. He then found Serenade standing there. "Sister?" The Gardevoir spoke, "Ashton, a message has been sent to you. The carrier Pidgeotto is waiting in your bedroom. It seems to be from the queen herself." Ashton nodded, "Thank you for alerting me. I'll see to it now." But just before he passed her, Ashton turned to Serenade, "By the way, have you been feeling well?" She smiled, "Yes, I'm quite fine." Ashton then brought a hand to her slim belly. "I'm surprised that you haven't started to show yet." The Gardevoir giggled, "Oh, I assure you our child is growing normally. We Gardevoir take a long time to give birth. Just as long as humans do, to be precise. I'll start to show in another month or so." Ashton blushed as he smiled, "Good to know. Just don't overexert yourself."

Ashton returned to his bedroom and found a Pidgeotto perched on the windowsill. It was also draped in a small vest that bore Rohta's crest, the same one that adorned the sail of the Perla Celeste. Ashton noticed the pouch hanging from its side and removed a message tube from it. After removing the sheet of paper within, Ashton unrolled it and looked it over. The writing was indeed the queen's handwriting. It read, "My dear Ashton, I apologize for not being able to do more for you. I am so proud of you for following your heart and defying the norms of the kingdom. But I need to see you in person immediately. I am aware of the townspeople's hostility towards you, but I know a way around it. The Pidgeotto that delivered this message is wearing the kingdom's crest. Only royal messengers wear it. If the Pidgeotto accompanies you, the townspeople should know that I have summoned you personally. Now please hurry. The sooner you arrive, the better. Signed, Queen Jessica of Rohta."

Seeing that Ashton had finished reading the message, the Pidgeotto fluttered over to him and perched on his right shoulder. "So you're my escort, eh? You're a bit heavy to be perching upon my shoulder. No matter. I'm stronger than I look." Ashton then walked over to the Kusanagi and strapped it to the left side of his hip. "I know you're with me to insure no one attacks me, but I still need to be careful." He then went out into the hall and spotted Serenade again. "Sister, I have been summoned by the queen. Until I return, make sure no one goes outside." She nodded, "I'll spread the word right away. Take care, Ashton." The viscount then made his way out of the manor and down the path towards Green Mile.

As soon as Ashton reached Green Mile, he felt the eyes of the townspeople glare at him with contempt. But as soon as they saw the royal crest upon the Pidgeotto's vest, they looked away and went back to whatever it was they were doing. Even so, Ashton kept a hand on the hilt of his sword as he made his way through the city. He constantly kept his face in a very serious and aggressive expression in the hopes that potential attackers would be intimidated into keeping their distance.

Before long, Ashton came to the moat that surrounded the royal palace. He called out, "This is Ashton of the Knighthood of Rohta! The queen has summoned me!" A guard positioned atop one of the two battlements replied, "Just a moment, sir!" He then turned around and shouted, "You heard him, lads! Drop the bridge!" The drawbridge then began to lower and hit the opposite side of the moat with a crash. "Please proceed, Ashton!" The viscount waved at the guards and proceeded through the courtyard.

After entering the castle itself and heading down a hall, Ashton stood before the large wooden door that stood before the royal hall. The two same knights that Ashton had seen four months ago pushed the two halves of the door open for him. "Thank you, my friends." Once Ashton was inside, the two knights closed the door and stood watch at their posts. Ashton slowly proceeded down the hall, his footsteps echoing throughout the vast room. He could still feel the presence of the shinobi guards hiding behind the great pillars along the sides of the hall. Once he stood before the queen, Ashton dropped to one knee, "You wished to see me, your highness?" The queen waved her hand, "There's no need for you to kneel, Ashton. I know of your deeds in the Far East. Please stand, great hero. There is much I wish to discuss with you."

Ashton climbed to his feet and asked, "The message you sent me claimed that there was something of grave importance you needed to see me about." The queen nodded, "Yes. And I am glad that you arrived so quickly. But before we begin, please tell me. Are your lovers doing well?" Ashton smiled, "Yes, they are doing fine." The queen blushed, "And their children. Are they fine?" Ashton chuckled, "Yes, our children are still growing. They have not been born yet, but I am making sure that their mothers are always healthy." The queen smiled, "It still tickles me that you found love with so many lovely ladies. But which one of them did you choose to be your bride?" Ashton nodded, "I chose Ruby, the little Lucario girl." The queen giggled, "Oh yes, her. She most certainly is a doll. But enough of that. Let's begin."

Queen Jessica began, "Ashton, precisely one week ago, all contact with Verdant ceased. No one has come from the city for seven days. What is more, most people are too afraid to go near it. Those who must pass through it even go out of their way to go around it. I suspect that a swarm of bandits have overrun the city and have taken the townspeople hostage." But Ashton gave her a skeptical gaze, "I really don't see how that is possible. The academy for knights-in-training, which is run by very skilled instructors, is based in Verdant. Not to mention that Garyson lives there. He's the best duelist with a rapier I have ever known. Considering the number of able knights located in Verdant, I really don't see how a bunch of ragtag ruffians could take control of the entire city."

The queen nodded in agreement with Ashton's suspicions, "I too question the truth behind it, but the truth is that all contact with Verdant has come to a halt." She then asked, "Ashton, I want you to investigate what has occurred in Verdant. If there is indeed a hostage situation, do whatever you can to resolve it. If it is beyond your ability, return at once and disclose your discoveries to me so that we may come up with a suitable strategy to restore order to Verdant. Will you undertake this mission?" Ashton nodded, "I shall." The queen smiled and motioned for two of her shinobi guards to approach them. A second later, two shinobi clad in black clothing stood at Ashton's side. "These two shinobi and two elite knights will accompany you on this mission as backup. Leave for Verdant whenever you are ready." She then motioned for the Pidgeotto atop Ashton's shoulder to come to her. The bird fluttered over to the queen and perched upon the top of the throne. The queen then handed the bird a piece of dried fish as thanks for its services.

As Ashton turned to leave the royal hall, the two shinobi walked alongside him. One asked, "Sir Ashton, forgive me for asking, but is it true that you slew the Yamata no Orochi during your stay in the Far East?" The viscount chuckled, "It is indeed true. And it was a hellish duel." The other ninja gasped, "Amazing! To think the Yamata no Orochi truly existed! And up until now, I thought it was only a legend!" But the other shinobi asked, "And what of the emperor? Did he reward you in any way?" Ashton pointed at the sword at his side, "He did. And it's right there." Completely out of curiosity, the shinobi pulled the sword from its scabbard. "Careful there. That's the Kusanagi." The ninja gasped, "THE Kusanagi?! It exists too?! Oh, you are most blessed, Sir Ashton! To be entrusted with such a blade... It is a great honor! Tell me, what is it like?" Ashton brought a hand to his chin, "Well, it is exceedingly sharp and can cut through most thinner weapons without any trouble." The ninja nodded as he slid the Kusanagi back into its scabbard, "Most impressive. I would expect no less from a blade of legend."

Just after reaching the courtyard, Ashton heard the clanking of metal boots coming from the left and right. He looked and saw two knights approaching him that were clad in heavy armor and their faces were obscured by their helmets. One was holding a halberd while the other carried a large battleaxe. One spoke, his voice slightly muffled by his helmet, "A pleasure to meet you, Sir Ashton. It is an honor to fight alongside the Vulcan Warrior." The other knight spoke, "The townspeople may view you with disdain, but we still respect you. Any ally to Rohta is an ally to us." Ashton smiled, "I am pleased to see that I am still welcomed in the ranks of the Knighthood of Rohta. Come, my friends. Let's return to my manor. I need to prepare for this mission." The two knights nodded and followed Ashton out of the castle. To protect him from the unruly townspeople, the two shinobi and two knights formed a cross-shaped formation with the shinobi at Ashton's sides and the knights at his front and rear.

A while later, the four escorts waited outside Ashton's manor as the viscount made his way to the armory after returning the Kusanagi to his bedroom. Once in the armory, Ashton opened a large wooden box. Ruby then peeked inside. "Dear, what are you doing?" Ashton replied, "The queen has asked me to investigate a strange occurrence at Verdant." But the Lucario walked over to him and looked over his shoulder, "But just what are you.....oh! What fantastic armor!" Inside the box was a suit of plate armor that had been delivered to the manor two weeks before. Ashton explained, "After we returned home from Celestica, I asked a local blacksmith to forge a new suit of armor for me. You remember what happened to my last one." Ruby gulped as she recalled when that colossal Dragonite smashed Ashton while Lance was controlling it.

Ruby watched as her fiancé slipped on the suit of armor. After several minutes, he was clad in beautiful blue armor. The breastplate and the armor around his arms and legs were a beautiful shade of blue, but the shoulder armor, which had been designed to resemble feathers, was a vibrant red. "How do I look?" Ruby gazed in awe, "It looks even better than the last one!" Ashton smiled, "Glad you like it. And it should serve me well." But Ruby then asked, "But now that I think about it, don't you normally wear just some shoulder pads and a breastplate? Why are you wearing a full suit of armor?" Ashton explained, "True, I usually wear lighter armor to increase mobility. But in times of danger and the like, I'll don a full suit of armor. And there's no telling what may happen when I reach Verdant. Best to be prepared." Just then, Ashton had an idea, "Ruby, go find Serenade and Cassandra and tell them to meet me at the front gates. And I want to see you there as well." The Lucario nodded and ran down the hall.

A short while later, Ashton exited the manor with the Flamberge on his back. "Looking good, sir!" One of the knights spoke. A few seconds later, Serenade, Ruby, and Cassandra came out of the manor as well. Ashton explained, "When we reach Green Mile, stay close to me." The three ladies nodded and huddled close to Ashton. He then looked at his four escorts, "I'm counting on you to keep the townspeople away." One of the two shinobi nodded, "Leave them to us." The four escorts then resumed their formation around the viscount and his lovers. Together, they made their way for Green Mile.

Upon entering the city, Ashton's three lovers leaned against Ashton as they felt the hateful eyes of the townspeople glaring at them. Cassandra whimpered, "Ashton... It feels like they're going to attack us any minute now..." Ashton calmly replied, "Don't worry. If they try anything, I'll kill them myself." But a moment later, one man shouted, "Hey, Ashton! Nice cows you got there! You gonna milk them?!" But before Ashton could do anything, the shinobi on his right stopped and threw a shuriken at the brute. The blade barely clipped his ear, but it was enough to send him scurrying in fright. "That should shut them up." Ashton smiled, "Wow. Uh...thanks." The shinobi grinned, "Just think of it as my way of thanking you for protecting my homeland."

A while later, Ashton and his entourage left Green Mile through the north gates and headed along the forest path towards Verdant. Serenade spoke, "Last time we headed in this direction was when we went to visit Mother and Father." Ashton replied, "We're not going quite that far this time. Our destination is Verdant." But Cassandra asked, "Could you please explain what the problem is? If you're wearing armor, it must be serious." Ashton nodded, "The queen has requested that I investigate Verdant. For the past seven days, all contact with Verdant has been lost. No one has come or gone from the city. She suspects that a swarm of bandits or the like invaded and took the population hostage. My mission is to figure out what happened and remedy it if I can." But Ruby asked, "And why did you request us to come along?" Ashton smiled, "I'm so glad you asked." He then explained, "Ruby, you are able to sense the Aura of living creatures. You can look ahead and detect how many enemies are lying in wait. Serenade, being a Gardevoir, you can detect impending peril and alert us to it. Cassandra, you can sense even minute shifts in the environment. There is the possibility that the cause of Verdant's silence is a natural phenomenon. Therefore, you will be able to alert us to any impending disasters before they can occur." Serenade smiled, "Brilliant, Ashton! I will do my best to help out."

After about three hours of walking, the entourage came within site of Verdant's south gate. Ashton signaled for them to stop. "Ruby, are there any sentries posted atop the walls?" The Lucario focused for a moment before replying, "No. There's no one there." Ashton then gave the signal to advance. A few minutes later, they stood just outside the city gates. "Are there any sentries lying in ambush ahead?" Ruby checked again. "Strange... I'm not sensing anyone nearby." Ashton raised an eyebrow, "Seriously? Something doesn't add up."

Ashton and his entourage slowly proceeded into the city of Verdant. Ashton muttered, "It's far too quiet. We should've at least bumped into a booby-trap by now." Serenade added, "And I'm not sensing any danger. Something is definitely amiss." But as they continued through the city, they found multiple homes and stores with their doors smashed in, as if something broke through to gain entry. "There is definitely some proof of an intruder here. Stay on guard." Ashton said as he gripped the hilt of the Flamberge. But when they rounded the next corner, the entire group stood aghast at what laid before them. "No..... This is even worse than the rumors!"

Lining the street were countless bodies that had been strewn about. They showed no sign of injury, but were very still. There were also signs of battle as many of the bodies had discarded weapons nearby. But what shocked Ashton the most were the many bodies of various Pokémon lying about as well. "Whoever did this left no soul untouched. It left no witnesses..." The knight carrying the battleaxe asked, "Sir Ashton, what are your orders?" The viscount ordered, "Search for survivors! Leave no stone unturned!"

Ashton left his four escorts and ran towards the very center of the city. His three lovers stayed near him. Along the way, they found more bodies cluttering the road, human and Pokémon alike. Before long, they came to the town square at the center of the city. Ashton then stared in horror at who was at the very center of the square. He ran over to it and knelt down, "Garyson... Not you too..." Garyson still held his trusty rapier in hand, its blade shattered by a strong blow. Ruby gasped, "Sir Garyson as well?" Ashton shuddered as he held his friend in his arms, "Who did this to you.....?"

A moment later, Ruby's ears twitched as she heard a sound. "Someone's still here!" Ashton dropped Garyson and reached for his weapon before looking around. "Where?" Ruby pointed towards a building that seemed to have been left untouched by the intruder. "Wait... Is that..." Ashton recognized the building as the very same bakery that produced Laura's favorite pastries. Ever so slowly, he shuffled towards the bakery while trying to avoid letting his metal boots clank. When he was just outside it, he demanded, "Who goes there?!" A voice screamed, "Don't hurt me! Take whatever you want, but just leave me alone!" Ashton gasped, "A survivor!"

Ashton knocked on the door, "Please remain calm! I am Ashton of the Knighthood of Rohta. I have been sent here on behalf of her majesty!" The voice replied, "Ashton...? The Vulcan Warrior?" The door then slowly creaked open, revealing a middle-aged man cowering in fright. "Ashton?" He nodded, "Yes, it is I. Come. I am most relieved to see you are unharmed." The old man dropped to his knees, "Thank the heavens! I thought for sure it came back for me!" Ashton asked, "Wait..... IT? As in just ONE?" The old man nodded, "Yes. There were no others. It slaughtered everyone! But somehow, I was able to hide. I don't think anyone else was spared." Ashton sighed in despair, "So you're the sole survivor..... A tragedy, to be sure..."

Ashton brought the old man over to a wooden bench and sat him down upon it. "Please tell me everything you saw. What was the intruder?" The old man replied, "To be honest, I thought it was you at first!" Ashton staggered back, "Me?!" The baker nodded, "Yes. I know of no one else who can wield such a blade around with such little effort." Ashton grabbed the hilt of his sword, (A blade like mine? Could it be...?) He then looked back at the old man. "But my suspicion was false as I saw the beast continue its rampage. It did not seem human. Its voice sounded otherworldly, a truly demonic tone to it! Its right arm seemed more like a massive claw, complete with only three fingers! And that sword... I swear I saw an eye staring out from the base of the blade! But I will never be able to forget that shade of blue in its armor..." Ashton nodded, "I see. I also like to wear blue." But the baker then shook his head, "No, wait. It wasn't quite blue... It was more...purple! No, that's not it either. The color was something between the two. What's that color I'm thinking of? It's on the tip of my tongue..." Ashton, straight out of the blue, asked, "Azure?" The baker replied, "Yes! Azure! That beast was clad in azure armor! And those eyes..... Like glowing embers in the night! Oh, the horror!" The baker was now delirious from recalling the horrific event.

About an hour later, Ashton heard the clanking of armor as the two knights returned from their search for survivors. The two shinobi also returned by leaping from the rooftops. "Sir Ashton, I regret to inform you that there do not seem to be any survivors." The other three nodded in kind. Ashton replied, "It's all right. We still have a witness. This baker saw the whole thing." But just then, Ashton remembered to ask, "When did this begin?" The baker shuddered, "It all began just past noon seven days ago. And by the time the sun had set, all I could hear was a deathly silence." Cassandra gulped, "That thing must've worked pretty quickly." But Ashton then muttered, "Something doesn't add up..." Ruby asked, "What's wrong?" Ashton explained, "If this happened a week ago, the city should be overrun with the stench of decay. But I don't smell anything out of the ordinary."

Ruby took a sniff of the air, "That's weird. It doesn't smell like rotting flesh at all." But just then, Ashton's eyes went wide. "Ruby, check for the Aura of anything nearby!" The Lucario nodded and focused. "What is this...?" Cassandra asked, "What do you see?" Ruby replied, "All these corpses..... They still have Aura! They're all a bit weak, but they still have it!" Ashton then ran over to Garyson's body and checked for his vital signs. "Unreal..... They're still alive!"

Serenade glided over to Ashton and kneeled next to Garyson before applying her hands to him. "Strange..... His breathing is steady... I only see a few bruises from blunt trauma..." She then spoke, "It almost seems that whoever did this to him was also being very careful to avoid causing fatal injury." Ashton then gave Garyson a shake, "Garyson, wake up! Who did this?!" But Garyson remained silent. "What gives?!" Ashton then raised an eyelid and saw that Garyson's eyes were still, almost like those of a corpse. "This is scary..... It's like they're dead, yet still alive. Their bodies are still alive, but their souls are dead." But Ashton then recalled the warning Lance gave him while in the Far East. (Or could it be that their souls are gone?! But Captain Lance was killed, so why were they spared?!) Ashton then ran over to a fallen Pokémon, a Growlithe that had most likely been kept as a pet. He found that it was showing the same symptoms. (There's no mistake. This is the doing of what Captain Lance warned me about!)

Ashton scooped up the lifeless Growlithe in his arms and turned to his entourage. "We must return to Green Mile and alert the queen to what has transpired here. Make sure this old man is kept safe." But the knight armed with a halberd asked, "But what about everyone else?" Ashton sighed, "Leave them here for now." He then ordered, "Escort my servants home. I need to get to the queen immediately." At that moment, a pair of wings composed of rainbow flames emerged from Ashton's back. "Be quick! This is a great crisis we are facing!" He then took to the air and flew south. After gazing in awe for a moment, one knight muttered, "Wings of flames..... No wonder they call him the Vulcan Warrior."

After only twenty minutes of flight, Ashton saw the city of Green Mile come into view. Trying to stay out of sight, he flew around to the back of the castle, which was positioned at the very border of the town. He landed on the roof and carefully made his way down to the courtyard. Once on the ground, he dismissed his wings and ran inside. "Stand aside! I bring news for the queen!" The two guards standing outside the royal hall pushed the door open quickly as Ashton ran past them. When he reached the end of the hall, Ashton dropped to his knees with a clank, "Your majesty.... I bring ill tidings from Verdant."

The queen asked, "Ill tidings? Whatever do you mean?" Ashton explained, "There was indeed an intrusion seven days ago, but it was not by bandits. It was a lone barbarian wielding a sword similar to my own." The queen gasped, "Only one?!" Ashton nodded, "Yes, and it slaughtered the entire population. Even the Pokémon were not spared." Jessica brought a hand to her mouth, "My god....." But Ashton added, "However, there was a lone survivor. He claims that the perpetrator was a hulking inhuman beast with a large sword that was clad in azure armor." Queen Jessica nodded, "I will place our military forces on alert for this monster." However, Ashton added, "I still have some good news. Although the population seemed dead, their bodies are actually alive." The queen asked, "Alive? But didn't you say..." Ashton nodded, "Yes, the entire population was targeted, but none of them were actually killed. They are still alive, but are lifeless. It's as if their very souls were removed from their bodies."

Jessica shuddered, "Their souls? But how..." Ashton spoke, "I have something to reveal to you. I was not the one who dealt the final blow to Captain Lance. In the Far East, I encountered him in a reanimated form. Before he could die again, he explained that some sort of monster extracted his very soul from his body and devoured it before killing him when he was injured from our duel. I'd bet my life that the creature who attacked Verdant is the very same abomination." Jessica was silent for a moment before muttering, "A beast that feeds on the very souls of the living..." But Ashton added, "Of course, since it targeted the Pokémon as well, that is proof that they also have souls." Ashton looked down at the lifeless Growlithe in his arms.

Jessica gasped at Ashton's revelation. He gave her a smirk, "You know it too. Why would the Pokémon of Verdant show the same symptoms if they don't have souls? That's because they DO have souls." Jessica sighed in amazement, "Remarkable....." Ashton nodded, "Something good just might come out of this after all." But Jessica replied, "Even so, we cannot be sure that their souls were stolen. Not yet." She then spoke, "Ashton, I shall send a platoon to help you bring the victims here. Until their symptoms disappear, the castle shall act as a temporary shelter for them." Ashton nodded, "Thank you, my lady."

Several hours later, Ashton and the Knighthood of Rohta had brought every last victim of the Verdant massacre, including the Pokémon, to the castle in Green Mile. It was now very late and Ashton had returned home and slipped out of his armor. As he sat in his bedroom, he pondered if the creature that attacked Verdant had any recording in history. Just then, he heard a knock at the door. "Come in." It was Chiara. Ashton smiled, "Ah, just who I wanted to see." The Lugia sighed, "I heard what happened from Serenade. Such a terrible fate for them." Ashton nodded, "True. But the entire kingdom is on alert. That freak won't be able to hide for long."

Ashton asked, "Chiara, did Serenade explain the appearance of the monster to you?" Chiara nodded, "Yes. She told me everything the baker said." He then asked, "And does the description remind you of anything?" The Lugia gave Ashton a shocked glance, but remained silent. "Chiara, you have read every single book in the study. And it contains many volumes regarding many subjects. Are you sure you never read anything that may give a hint to its identity?" Chiara sighed, "Forgive me. I do not recall anything like that." But Ashton was convinced that she was hiding something from him. "I see. Sorry I asked."

At around midnight, Ashton began to research the many books in the study. He checked every book he could find that may contain information about ancient monsters or arcane magic that affects souls. And after an hour of persistent searching, he found a lead. And it shocked him as it was in a book that was out in the open on the bookshelves, a spot Chiara could not possibly have overlooked.

Chiara walked into the study with a candle in hand and a cup of tea in the other. "Ashton, it's very late. Are you going to bed soon?" But the viscount stood where he was, staring down at the book on the table. "Ashton?" He then asked, "You knew, didn't you?" Chiara remained silent. "Why didn't you tell me?" The Lugia sighed, "I had a hunch that it was what you were thinking of, but I had my doubts. I didn't want to spread false information that could lead to trouble later on." Ashton let out a sigh, knowing that Chiara was still lying.

"So, did you find it?" Chiara asked as she shut the door. Ashton sighed and turned around, "Most likely. Although the method it used to extract souls is new. I have never heard of it extracting souls from its victims without killing them first." But Ashton added, "Even so, the rest of the description matches it all too well. And I never thought I would end up having to face this beast." He shuddered, "A massive right arm ending with a claw. A zweihander with an eye near the base of the blade. A monster that wipes out entire villages, devouring the souls of whoever falls before it. And a heartless butcher clad in azure armor."

Chiara remained silent with despair, knowing that her lover had discovered the identity of the mysterious demon. He grumbled, "It all falls in place perfectly. It can only be one thing..." He then faced her, "This beast we are dealing with is none other than the Azure Knight! The wielder of the Sword of Ruin, Soul Edge!"
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