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.

Duel of Souls and Swords

Ashton's breathing became erratic as he stood before the Azure Knight. Cold sweat began to soak his skin as he tried to restrain himself from fleeing from his enemy. The monster nodded, "Yes. Good. You know that you should feel terror when in my presence." The Azure Knight then looked around, as if savoring the area he stood in. "Yes..... Brings back so many memories..... This forest still smells of blood..." Ashton gulped, "Memories? Are you saying you've been here before?" The Azure Knight replied, "Have you forgotten? Even you must know of what occurred here some time ago. A heartless butcher cornered by the two nations that border this forest." Ashton gasped, "That thing.....was YOU?!" The Azure Knight laughed, "Yes. And it was not even all that long ago." Ashton shuddered, "You mean that it took place more than 300 years ago?" The Azure Knight shook its head, "No. That ill-fated day happened barely more than a single century ago."

Ashton took a step back, "But how?! If you indeed met your end that day, then how are you still standing?!" The Azure Knight replied, "Although my body was slain, my true form, this sword, remained untouched." Ashton looked at the accursed blade that the Azure Knight held in its left hand. But Ashton asked, "Wait... From what I read, Soul Edge finally met its end at the hands of the Kingdom of Wolfkrone in a distant land." The Azure Knight nodded, "Not exactly. All that wretch managed to do was slay my body and shatter my being. And for a time, about seventy years or so, my shattered remains sat atop that tower. Until he returned..." Ashton asked, "He? Who?" The Azure Knight replied, "The immortal who created a new body for me after my last host broke free from my control. He gathered my fragments and restored them into a whole sword. However, I lost much of my strength from being shattered and had reverted to my more primitive state. Many of my fragments had even been carried away on the wind and in the hands of adventurers who had wandered towards my resting place. He then crafted a new body for me and I rose again. However, he said that it was his final gift for me, claiming that I would eventually meet my ultimate doom. I eventually ended up here in the land of Rohta. I then began to seek out more souls to restore the power I lost after falling before the Kingdom of Wolfkrone. That is, until I met my end here, a little over a century ago."

Ashton asked again, "Tell me. If you did indeed perish here, how did you return?" The Azure Knight explained, "My body failed me after enough attacks got through to it. But my true self, this sword, was left intact. As a result, I lost very little strength. But by then, the kingdoms of Clavice and Rohta had become aware of what happens when someone grips my hilt. Taking great caution to avoid such a fate, they sent me to the Far East, where the shinobi skilled in mystical arts may be able to find a way to dismantle me for good." The Azure Knight then seemed to look down slightly, as if thinking of more to say. Ashton asked, "And then...?" The hulking monster continued, "For a time, I was kept under tight security and was not even revealed to the townspeople that resided in the city where the temple stood. Many shinobi of great wisdom researched me for any possible way to permanently destroy me. All I could do was watch them and wait for my time to come. Sooner or later, they may have found a way. But it was no easy feat as many decades went by without success. But just three years ago, I was saved."

Ashton gulped, "Saved? By who?" The Azure Knight chuckled, "Saved. By the very same cult you destroyed!" Ashton gasped, "Them?! They were the ones who stole you?!" The Azure Knight nodded, "Indeed. Even so, they were somewhat careless as they carried me away from my captors. One of them even grasped my hilt to drag me more easily. But I was curious of what they wanted to do with me, so I did nothing." The Azure Knight paused for a moment before speaking, "There was a frantic search as the shinobi of the land tried to locate me. But the nameless cult was clever and managed to avoid detection. They waited for the search to be called off before making their move. After a few weeks, the shinobi of the land called off the search as they could find no trace of me. They apparently assumed that someone had stolen me and later destroyed me."

Ashton asked, "So the very same cult Koga and I destroyed was the same one that stole you?" The Azure Knight replied, "The very same. Their leader used some sort of forbidden art to craft a new body for me that was familiar in form. Once I had taken control of it, I asked the cult what they wanted from me. As it turned out, they only wished to help me acquire my full strength and even claimed that they intended to give me a sacrifice. But during that time, I made my way back to the Far West to gather up more souls. But during the voyage in the belly of a merchant vessel, I pondered something that I had never thought of before." The Azure Knight then curled its massive right hand into a fist and trembled, "How did it happen again? I have claimed countless souls throughout the centuries! And countless times, I have fallen before warriors who wished to stop me! And countless times, my blade was shattered, reducing my strength drastically! And although the souls I have devoured remain trapped, the power I acquired from them was lost with each failure." The Azure Knight then raised its fist, "What was it that was causing me to fail in my search for perfection?!" Ashton took a step back at Soul Edge's moment of frustration. The Azure Knight then calmed slightly, "I visited various cities and ancient tombs under the guise of a travelling frontiersman while hiding my azure armor. I searched for information regarding what might be preventing me from reaching my ultimate potential. And I found it." The Azure Knight then stomped its foot, "The reason behind my countless failures was due to my own self-indulgence!"

Ashton gulped, "Indulgence?" The Azure Knight grumbled, "There is nothing I enjoy more than the sight of my victims being torn asunder. And it was due to my lack of self-control that led to my many defeats. I discovered that when someone suffers a grave injury, the quality of the soul diminishes due to the trauma. And when the body is killed, the soul's power drops significantly. So you see, I was at fault for my own failures. I then tried to develop a way for me to extract the souls of my victims without killing them in order to preserve their quality." The Azure Knight then pointed at Ashton, "And my test subject was your own mentor." Ashton gasped, "Captain Lance?!" The Azure Knight nodded, "He was gravely wounded, but his soul still had some fire left in it. And the experiment was a success. His soul became mine while his body lived on." But Ashton then asked, "Wait... Captain Lance died afterwards. How did he perish while the people of Verdant survived?" Soul Edge replied, "To be blunt, irony. As I said, I enjoy slaughtering my victims more than anything else. So once that man's soul became mine, I impaled him upon myself. However....." The Azure Knight seemed to sulk, "It was not the same. The body was lifeless. It did not scream in agony or writhe in pain. It showed no reaction at all. I cannot enjoy myself if the target does not show its pain or beg for mercy. That is why spared the people of Verdant. Because it would have been an unfulfilling waste of time. I will have to restrain myself until I have reached my ultimate goal." Ashton sweated a little, "As twisted as that logic is, I'm still grateful that you spared them."

The Azure Knight chuckled, "But speaking of Verdant, I am getting ahead of myself. As I said before, that nameless cult intended to summon a sacrifice. A being whose soul would provide me with enough power to reach my true potential. The soul of a true immortal." Ashton gasped, "The Yamata no Orochi?! But I thought they summoned him out of worship!" The Azure Knight laughed, "Just a cover. I am certain even the Orochi itself was not aware that it had been summoned as fodder for me. Once I felt its unmatched soul return to this world, I made my way to the nearest harbor to return to claim my prize. But before I could even reach a vessel, I felt the Orochi's soul vanish!" The Azure Knight then angrily demanded, "Tell me! What did you do with the soul of the Orochi?!" Ashton calmed down slightly and explained, "With the aid of the spirit of death, I sent the Orochi's soul to a place where no one from this world would be able to reach it. The soul of the Yamata no Orochi now resides within Oblivion."

The Azure Knight seemed to glare at Ashton for a moment, but then sighed, "I see. Even so, I did have a plan should the sacrifice not survive long enough for me to devour it. When I felt the Orochi's soul vanish from this realm, I called the fragments of myself back to me. Just like long ago." Ashton gulped, "Then...those metal fragments that I saw flying through the night sky the day after the Orochi's demise were....." Soul Edge replied, "They were the fragments of me that had scattered after my fall at the hands of Wolfkrone. And now, I have become whole again. What you see before you is actually my true complete form." Ashton gulped, "So this crystal blade and azure body is the result of all of Soul Edge's fragments reuniting?" The Azure Knight nodded, "Yes."

Ashton asked, "But why? If you are whole again, why do you still seek more souls?" Soul Edge explained, "I have once again become whole. But I still am not at full power. In order for my true form to emerge, I must drown myself in souls. I must seek out enough souls to bring what I am on the inside to the outside." Ashton shuddered, "You mean.....the apparition referred to as Inferno?" The Azure Knight shook its head, "No. Although the form known as Inferno is indeed powerful, it is not quite me at my strongest. I have taken on the form of Inferno several times throughout history, but it still is not my strongest." Ashton gulped at the thought of something more terrifying than the embodiment of hellfire. "If that isn't your goal, then what is?!" The Azure Knight curled its right hand into a fist, "What I seek is a power that I have never reached before. A power that has always been nothing more than a prophecy up until now. But with my new means of extracting souls without damaging them, I now have a means of achieving that goal." It then let out a satisfied sigh, "The souls of the people of Verdant were much more invigorating without harming them. I have never felt so much power in one feast before. Especially the soul of that boy with the rapier." Ashton clutched the hilt of the Flamberge tightly, but his fear still held him back. But the Azure Knight added, "But that old man I left behind..... He told you about it, did he not?" Ashton asked, "You KNOWNINGLY left that baker alone? Why?" Soul Edge replied, "I wanted to insure that you would learn of me. I wanted you to seek me out. After all, what better delicacy than a soul that has been empowered by the Eternal Flame?"

Ashton gasped, "You know?" Soul Edge replied, "A soul that holds the power of reincarnation must be a truly delicious source of power for me. I would not be surprised if the quality of your soul has been strengthened at least a thousand fold. If I were to devour your soul, I would surely reach my ultimate state. The ultimate Nightmare! A Nightmare that no one can awaken from!" It then pointed at Ashton with its right hand, "Now then, Ashton, you know what to do. Give me your soul!" Ashton staggered back slightly, horrified by Soul Edge's demand. But the Azure Knight added, "Or if you prefer, I can leave you alone and go after your family instead. The children they carry in their wombs must surely have embers of the Eternal Flame as well."

Ashton's eyes went wide with horror at Soul Edge's threat. He could still vividly remember the dream he had several days ago, when he found the bloodied corpses of his eight lovers and their children. Tears pouring from his eyes, Ashton whispered, "Never....." The Azure Knight asked, "Hm? What did you say?" Ashton then firmly gripped the Flamberge in his hands, "I said..... Do not lay your hands on them!" The Vulcan Warrior glared at the Azure Knight as he found the courage he needed. Soul Edge asked, "What's this? Are you saying that you are not afraid to die?" Ashton nodded, "It's true. I am very much afraid of you, Soul Edge. But I fear what will happen to my loved ones more. The possibilities of what will happen if I flee are far more terrifying to me than facing you in battle." He then balanced the side of the Flamberge on his left arm as he growled, "I made a promise to Captain Lance. I will slay you here, Soul Edge." Soul Edge chuckled, "Fine. I do not wish to cause any harm to your soul, but if you wish to slay me, do not expect a painless death. Even if your soul loses some of its quality, I will simply have to find more souls to compensate." The Azure Knight then raised its right arm as it held its hellish sword at its side in its left hand, "Now, come! Show me the madness that lies within!"

Ashton let out a shout as he took a swing with the Flamberge. The blade was intercepted by the blade of Soul Edge. The two locked blades for a moment before they separated. Ashton began to swing the Flamberge around only to have Soul Edge counter each blow. Despite its bulky form, the Azure Knight was quite agile. But to Ashton's surprise, the Azure Knight lashed out with its giant right arm and landed a punch on Ashton's chest, knocking the wind out of him. As he buckled from the force of the impact, Ashton looked up to see the Azure Knight grab him by the neck with its massive right arm. It then raised him into the air before throwing him into a tree nearby. Ashton hit the frail dead tree so hard; he smashed right through it with splinters flying everywhere. After catching his breath, Ashton stood up and thrust the Flamberge's blade into the ground. (This is a monster that has taken the lives of thousands of people, if not millions. I can't afford to hold back. I must be willing to use everything at my disposal!) Ashton took a deep breath as he whispered, "Fire Style: Dragon Flame Bomb!" He then let loose with a powerful blast of fire from his mouth and continued to breathe a stream of flames at Soul Edge. But the hulking form of the Azure Knight stood where it was and took the attack head-on. After a few seconds, Ashton pressed into the attack, causing the flames to turn a bright white as the heat intensified. But after a moment, Soul Edge shouted, "How much longer are you going to toy with me?!" Ashton, stunned by the lack of pain in the Azure Knight's voice, ceased the attack and waited for the flames to clear slightly. Standing in the middle of the burning forest was Soul Edge, completely unscathed as the flames burned around it. "Flames are useless against me. I command the fires of Hell." It then hunched forward slightly as it tightly gripped the cursed sword in its left hand. Ashton took the Flamberge in hand as he waited for an attack. But the fiery orange crystals that adorned the Azure Knight's body began to shine brightly. "Feel the true power of Soul Edge!" It then threw its head back while letting out an inhuman roar, a massive sphere of dust expanding as entire trees were uprooted and flames snuffed out. Ashton clutched his sword tightly as he was sent flying by the massive shockwave.

Having just arrived in Verdant, the eight ladies were a bit intimidated by the lack of life in the city. Ruby shuddered, "It doesn't feel right when it's this quiet..." Zandria patted the Lucario on the back, "Don't worry about it. Since no one's here, we don't have to worry about any ambushes." The eight ladies proceeded to the center of the city. They quickly looked around. Laura groaned, "Even though we're looking for Ashton, we don't even know where to start!" Laika then tried sniffing the ground for Ashton's scent. "He's been here. Quite recently too." Cassandra gasped, "Really?! Which way did he go?!" But before Laika could reply, she detected another scent. "Wait..... Someone's nearby." She then looked around before facing north. "Someone is approaching. The scent is familiar, but I'm not entirely certain of who it is." The other seven ladies gathered around the Mightyena to support her. But a minute later, Laika's ears twitched, "It sounds like it just drew a blade!" They then noticed a dark figure jump out from behind a large cart that was filled with hay. It then made a dash for them. Chiara growled, "I've got this one." A moment later, the figure froze, its feet bound to the ground. Chiara smirked, "Serenade, I'll hold it down. You go near and see if it's a threat." The Gardevoir nodded and approached the intruder. When she got close enough, she heard it complain, "What the devil is this? Why won't my legs move?! Some sort of trap?!" Serenade recognized the voice and came closer. "Father?" The figure replied, "That voice..... Serenade?"

The Gardevoir turned to face her sisters and shouted, "It's all right! It's just my father!" Laika nodded, "So that's why it seemed familiar to me." Chiara released her mental grip on the Gallade and approached them while Zandria ran over to a nearby wall to retrieve an unlit torch that hung off it. Using Flamethrower, she ignited it and ran over to the others. "Oh, Siegfried! Sorry about the rude welcome. We couldn't see too well in the dark and thought you were a bandit or something." The Gallade smiled, "Oh, that's quite all right. I honestly thought you girls were looters waiting in ambush." He then ran a few fingers along his daughter's belly. Serenade gasped, "Father! What are you doing?" Siegfried chuckled, "Just checking. I heard from Ashton that you're carrying my grandchild." Aurora gasped, "Ashton?! You saw him?!" He nodded, "Yes, he even spent the night with me and his mother yesterday. Hm?" Siegfried stopped caressing his daughter's belly. She asked, "Something wrong?" Siegfried smiled, "I can feel your child. There isn't much of a bulge yet, but I can feel a certain firmness." Serenade blushed, "Oh, Father...." He added, "Your mother is very proud of you, as am I. We are looking forward to meeting your children." Serenade giggled, "Yes, and I am glad I was able to keep my promise to her. There's no real way to describe the feeling of knowing that you are carrying new life inside you."

Ruby stepped forward and bowed, "Sir Siegfried? I don't think we've met. My name is Ruby." The Gallade turned to the Lucario and smiled, "You're right. We have not met in person before. And now that I think about it, you must be the little Lucario girl Ashton chose to be his bride." Ruby blushed, "Yes, he did. Ah?!" She gasped to feel Siegfried caressing her swollen belly. "My word, you look as if you're on your sixth month. And to think each of you is carrying a child." Ruby giggled, "Actually, we Lucario only take two months to give birth to our pups." Siegfried chuckled, "Two months? No wonder you've grown so quickly compared to the others." Just then, Siegfried felt a powerful jolt hit his fingers. "Hm?" He held his hand still. A moment later, two more tremors were felt against his hand. He laughed, "Ha! It seems my grandchild is starting to like me already!"

After a moment more of catching up on lost time, Serenade gasped, "I forgot! Father, this isn't a good time! Tell us, where is Ashton?!" Siegfried asked, "Why do you need to know?" Cassandra wept, "If we don't find him, he will die!" Siegfried laughed, "Die?! As if! Ashton is by far the finest knight I have ever seen! What could possibly kill him aside from old age?" Zandria growled, "The Azure Knight, of course." Siegfried sighed, "That again? Ashton is most likely crossing swords with it as we speak."

Serenade gasped, "He found it?! Where are they?!" Siegfried replied, "Ashton stopped by on his way to slay the Azure Knight. He claimed that it resides within the Dead Forest. I have faith in my boy, but I also set out after him to provide support." Aurora asked, "The Dead Forest? Why there?" Just then, Laura spoke, "Wait..... Do you remember that legend Ashton told us a while back? When we went to visit his parents?" Zandria added, "You mean about a heartless butcher that met its end in the Dead Forest?" Chiara brought a hand to her chin, "Ashton once told me that legend. The way it wiped out entire armies and used a large sword..... Of course! It must've been the Azure Knight! What better place for a final showdown than where it last met its end?" Siegfried nodded, "Yes, that sounds about right. So, how about it? Are you girls going to help me support him?" Laura shrieked, "Are you kidding?! We're gonna get him outta there! He can't kill the Azure Knight!" Siegfried scowled, "How dare you..... I cannot believe you would have such little faith in my son!"

The eight ladies cowered slightly at Siegfried's remark. "I know how you feel, and I am well aware of the power of Soul Edge. But I still have faith in Ashton. I know he can succeed." Serenade then spoke, "But...Father..." He barked, "Shut up and listen!" After Serenade had backed down, Siegfried growled, "That boy of mine has come much farther than I ever dreamed he would. He has surpassed me in almost every way. I know he can do this. He will slay the Azure Knight. He has made me proud, and he most certainly will not die without seeing his children born!" The eight ladies were silent with tears falling from their faces. Siegfried finished his lecture, "I'm going on ahead. If you wish to assist him, feel free to follow me." He then ran to the west as the eight ladies soon followed him.

Ashton dove out of the way as a tree fell towards him after being cleaved in two by Soul Edge. He then lunged at the Azure Knight and brought his blade down hard, forcing the hulking knight to block it with its own sword. But the design of the Flamberge's blade caused the Azure Knight's body to shudder with vibrations that caused its knees to buckle. Seeing that the Azure Knight had been thrown off balance, Ashton gave a sharp kick to its head before slamming the flat blade of his sword against its back, sending the Azure Knight falling forward. Ashton then raised his sword above him and brought it down hard into the Azure Knight. It let out a roar of pain, but countered by sending out a sphere of dark energy from its entire body, forcing Ashton to jump backwards. Ashton groaned, "This thing is a lot more durable than I imagined!"

Once the Azure Knight climbed to its feet, it shared a long stare with Ashton while clutching Soul Edge in its left hand. But after a moment, the Azure Knight looked towards the east. Ashton noticed and asked, "What? Something catch your eye?" Soul Edge replied, "More..... More souls are approaching us." Ashton asked, "More? Who is it?" The Azure Knight faced him and chuckled, "You know them quite well. Eight young maidens carrying new life inside them and a veteran warrior who raised you as a child." Ashton gasped, "Father?! And them too?!" He then groaned, "They must've seen through Master Koga's disguise. Are they really so blind that they would charge into a battlefield to take me home?" Soul Edge let out a sigh, "It does not matter. If you die and your soul proves to not be enough, I'm sure their souls can make up for the loss." Ashton screamed as he made a dash for the Azure Knight, "Keep your hands off them!" But the knight replied by sending one of its metal feet into Ashton's stomach, causing him to gag and drop his weapon as he clutched his belly with both arms. The Azure Knight then grabbed Ashton by his head and held him above the ground with its massive right hand. "Now your soul is mine!" The massive hand began to apply more pressure as it squeezed the head of its victim. Ashton yelled, "Stop it! Let me go!" A moment later, Ashton let out a terrible scream as the sound of bone cracking came from his skull. Soul Edge spoke, "It's over." A second later, there was a sickening sound as Ashton's head was crushed, his body hanging limply from the hand of the Azure Knight.

About ten minutes into the Dead Forest, Serenade shuddered, "This overwhelming presence of bloodlust..... The Azure Knight must be here!" Laura began to sweat in anticipation, "I know... It feels like we're not going to leave this place alive..." In desperation, the entire group moved through the frightening forest quickly to save time despite the threat of tripping over the mangled roots. Of course, Laura and Chiara were always airborne, so they did not need to worry. Even so, they had to be careful of low branches that may get in their way.

Ruby suddenly called out, "Wait a minute! Let's stop for a second!" Everyone came to a halt and looked at her. Ruby spoke, "Let me try to figure out where he is." She then began to focus as she searched for Ashton's Aura signature. A moment later, she gasped, "Is that.....the Azure Knight?" Aurora asked, "Did you find him?" Ruby shuddered, "That thing..... Its Aura is as red as blood... But...I can see Ashton. His Aura still seems strong." Cassandra breathed a sigh of relief, "So we're not too late..." But Ruby added, "But it's strange. It seems that Ashton is.....underneath him? Ugh, never mind! He's to the northwest!" The nine allies made their way off the main path and through the mangled trees that filled the Dead Forest.

The Azure Knight cackled, "Yes, now my time has arrived!" The eye of Soul Edge became enraptured as it watched Ashton's blood ooze down his lifeless body. Soul Edge then spoke, "Now then, give me your soul!" But after a moment of awkward silence, the Azure Knight grumbled, "What's taking so long? Where is his soul?" But just then, Ashton's body ignited and exploded outwards in a fantastic inferno of flames! The Azure Knight staggered backwards from the force of the blast. "What is this?! Did he burst into flames as a safeguard to prevent me from taking his soul?!" The Azure Knight let out a roar of anger as it shook its arms while shouting to the sky, "GRAAAHHH!!!!! I WAS SO CLOSE!!!" But just then, it felt something grab its heel. "What the...?!" A moment later, something dragged the Azure Knight underground until only its head remained above ground. And standing before it was Ashton.

"Gotcha. Earth Style: Headhunter Jutsu." Ashton said with a giddy smirk. The Azure Knight looked up at him, "But how?! I killed you! How are you still living?!" Ashton laughed, "I'm so glad you asked! What you killed was my latest creation. I call it the Fire Clone Jutsu. Basically, I create a physical copy of me that fights in my place. But should it die or suffer an injury, it bursts into flames, scorching my opponent! I guess that's not really a threat to you, but it did give me an opening." Ashton then raised his sword and gripped it in both hands, "Now I'll show you why that technique is called the Headhunter Jutsu." Ashton shouted, "Off with his head!" But when Ashton performed a low swing, the blade of Soul Edge shot up from the ground and blocked the swing!

Ashton grunted, "What the...?! You shouldn't be able to move with all that earth encasing you!" Soul Edge growled, "You underestimate my strength. After devouring so many souls, my physical strength is unmatched!" At that moment, the massive right arm burst out of the ground and tried to grab Ashton, who jumped backwards to evade it. The Azure Knight then pulled itself out of the ground and shook the earth from its body. "You cur!" Ashton shouted as he charged Soul Edge. But just before Ashton reached it, the Azure Knight stepped sideways to evade the overhead swing. After Ashton's blade struck the ground, the Azure Knight grabbed Ashton by the back of his head and threw him to the ground while making sure he landed on his back. While Ashton felt the wind fly out of his lungs from the impact, the Azure Knight raised its massive right hand above Ashton and curled it into a fist. Before Ashton could react, the hulking beast slammed its fist into Ashton's gut, creating a slight crater underneath him from the force of the blow.

Ashton coughed up some blood as he felt some of his ribs crack from Soul Edge's attack. But just then, the Azure Knight looked to the southeast. "I suppose I can wait a while longer before feasting on your soul. It would seem that some appetizers have arrived." Ashton gagged, "No... They're here...?" The Azure Knight then turned around and faced the direction Ashton's lovers and father were approaching from. "Yes... Every little bit helps." But just then, Ashton spoke, "You just made the most amateur mistake possible, Soul Edge!" The Azure Knight grunted in surprise and began to turn to face Ashton. "Never turn your back on the enemy!" Before the Azure Knight could defend itself, Ashton brought his sword up with an upward swing, neatly cleaving its grotesque right arm from its body. As the disgusting claw fell to the ground, the Azure Knight let out a terrible shriek as it began to flail about. Ashton leapt backwards and collapsed from exhaustion as he tried to get out of reach from the wildly slashing blade of Soul Edge. As he watched, Ashton saw his father and eight lovers arrive. But they watched in shock and awe as the dreaded monster roared in agony. After a moment more, the Azure Knight raised its left arm into the air while holding Soul Edge high. As it twitched in shock, it fell backwards and hit the ground with a crash. As the Azure Knight became still, the eye at the base of Soul Edge's blade closed for the last time.

Ashton watched with a touch of disgust as a dark liquid oozed from the wound at the Azure Knight's shoulder. "Such horrid blood. So it DID transform this forest into what it is now." Siegfried then walked over to Ashton and smiled, "I have to say you surprised me, Ashton. I didn't think you could bring this thing down without my help." Ashton chuckled, "You only came to provide support? Sorry if I disappointed you, but the fun is over now." But he then looked over at the eight ladies that stood at the edge of the clearing. They were giving him looks that showed both pain and anger.

Chiara spoke first, "How could you, Ashton? How could you be willing to throw your life away and leave us all alone?" He only looked at them in silence. Ruby spoke next, "And to think you had Master Koga help you sneak off! How could you trick us like that?! What about your children?! How could you just leave them like that?! What if you died?! Would you be able to forgive yourself for abandoning them?!" The other six ladies began to shout arguments in a jumbled mess, but Ashton finally could not take the one-sided thoughts of his lovers any longer and shouted, "SHUT UP!"

All eight of Ashton's lovers stood silently at his order. He glared at them, "Leave them alone?! Abandon them?! What about the rest of this world?! Well?! Would you honestly lock me up at home and do nothing as Soul Edge covered the world in flames?!" All eight gave him a look of absolute embarrassment and fright. He then added, "Do you know something? Do you know what my mother, my father, and Master Koga have that each of you does not?!" Siegfried looked over at them with a hint of disappointment. A moment of silence passed before Ashton shouted the answer. "FAITH!!!"

Ashton watched as his eight lovers began to shed tears of shame. But as he climbed to his feet, Ashton added, "Even so, I should be grateful that you arrived. When Soul Edge sensed you all coming, it turned its back on me. That gave me the opportunity I needed. And now look." Ashton walked over to the corpse of the Azure Knight. "It's over. The Azure Knight has fallen. At least...I THINK it has." He then playfully kicked the head of the Azure Knight a few times before tapping it with the side of the Flamberge. "Yep, looks dead to me." He then turned to his lovers, "Promise me this. If a crisis comes in the future, do not stop me from fighting it. I have too much to leave behind. And I will NEVER abandon a family that I risked my life to begin." The eight ladies ran over to him and crowded around him while sobbing. He wrapped his arms around them and smiled, "I will never leave you. I promise." Zandria sobbed, "And we'll never doubt you again. Right, girls?" The other seven nodded in unison.

After a tender moment, Ashton spoke, "OK, let go. It's gotten late and I think we should head home." Siegfried laughed, "And it would seem that I'll be getting home later than I claimed I would." Ashton laughed, "Oops! Better have a new diamond ring to tame the angry beast!" Serenade giggled as she heard her father and brother joke with each other. Ashton sighed, "All right then, time to find the path home. Let's head south. And give me some room here." The eight ladies stood aside from Ashton while Ruby stood behind him. With the Flamberge in hand, Ashton began to walk south.

However, as the family began to walk away, the eye at the base of Soul Edge's blade opened as the eyes of the Azure Knight began to shine brightly with rage. Ashton suddenly came to a stop at a sound. (No way....) He then slowly began to turn around while everyone but Ruby continued walking. But just before he could actually face the Azure Knight, it growled, "I...WILL have your soul...ONE WAY OR ANOTHER!!!" The Azure Knight then threw Soul Edge right at Ashton. With no time to intercept the blade, Ashton set his hand on Ruby's shoulder and threw her to the side to insure she would not be impaled as well. Ruby could only look on in horror and despair as her fiancé was about to be struck down in cold blood.

There was the sound of metal fracturing and flesh being cleaved as Siegfried and the other seven ladies turned and watched in absolute horror as Ashton was impaled through his breastplate by the cursed sword. The force of the impact had sent Ashton flying backwards, his facing showing great shock and pain as blood soaked the blade of Soul Edge on the other side of his body. His body hit the ground with a thud as his face seemed frozen and unfeeling. His eight lovers feared that he had died instantly.

The eight ladies screamed in horror as they ran to Ashton's side. Ruby whimpered, "No... Oh god, NO! You can't die on us! You promised!" As they mourned, the eye of Soul Edge began to glow a bright blue as it began to extract Ashton's soul from his body. Serenade tried to apply Recover to Ashton's wound, "Don't die..... I love you, brother... DON'T DIE!!!" But a second later, Ashton regained consciousness and coughed up a large amount of blood as he struggled to breathe. Cassandra ran over to him and wept, "Don't move... You're going to be all right... Just don't leave us..." But Zandria then spoke, "The sword... Maybe if I..." But as she reached for the hilt, Ashton screamed, "NO! DO NOT TOUCH THE HILT!!!" Zandria froze as she looked at Ashton in tears. "If you lay your hands upon the hilt of Soul will become...its next.....offering..." But Aurora cried, "But we must remove it! If we are to save you, that blade must be..." But she stopped as a hellish red glow began to emanate from the eye of Soul Edge.

The Azure Knight looked at its sword with surprise, "Hm?! Could it be?!" It then chuckled, "Amazing. Simply amazing." It then began to approach Ashton. But Siegfried extended his elbow blades and charged it. "Stay away from my boy!" But the Azure Knight lashed out with a punch with its left arm and sent the Gallade flopping over to the side. "Don't waste your breath. I have no intention of killing him now." The hulking monster then stood before the fallen viscount as the eight ladies glared at him with defiance. "Stand aside. There's no need to harm him further." The Azure Knight then planted one foot on Ashton's body while gripping the hilt of Soul Edge with its left hand. It then yanked the blade out of Ashton, prompting a shout of pain as he felt the burn of the wound.

Soul Edge spoke, "I am most grateful, Ashton. I never imagined that even with such a ghastly wound traumatizing your soul, I would only need to extract a mere portion of your soul." It then took a few steps back and looked around, "Yes... I am most grateful indeed. For today, the prophecy becomes reality." It then slowly raised Soul Edge high into the air, "At long full power has been reached. Yes..... I have been looking forward to this day...FOR TOO LONG!!!!!"

At that instant, the Azure Knight was engulfed in a veil of flames as it slowly began to levitate. All the while, it laughed in great satisfaction at its success. But a few moments later, its laughter began to change into beastly growls and roars as a pair of large wings seemed to emerge past the veil. They were composed of flames like Ashton's, but were a fiery orange.

Laura shuddered, "What in the world....." Chiara gasped, "It's happening...... It's really happening..." Ashton weakly gasped, " don't mean.....IT, do you?" The Lugia silently nodded in terror. But Laika asked, "And what is IT?" Chiara replied, "I found it in an ancient tome during my studies. I did not think much of it since I was skeptical of Soul Edge's existence... But now..." Ashton asked, "What did it say...?" Chiara whispered, almost as if to herself, "Destruction incarnate, unleashed from its shackles, now seeks to destroy existence..." Ashton shivered from loss of blood, "I see... I remember you showing me that... Only is much more than a mere prophecy. It has become a dark fact..."

As the evil blade reached its true form and power, a veil of darkness began to descend upon the world. And a new age of terror had begun.
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