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.

To the Future

Garyson dropped to his knees as Ashton held the blade of the Flamberge to his neck. "Checkmate." Ashton said with a smirk. Garyson bowed his head and sighed, "I can't believe that you've won over 100 duels in a row. You really are a natural with that sword." Ashton brought a hand to his chin, "Well, we started this tradition back when we were 12. We hold a duel once a month and there are twelve months a year. And it's been about.....thirteen or fourteen years. I really have won over 100 duels in a row!" Garyson groaned, "Will this losing streak ever end?!"

Eight years had passed since the day Ashton was married to Ruby. And little had changed at the Crimson estate. After Garyson had sheathed his rapier, he pointed at Ashton, "You win this round, but I'll get that winning streak back someday!" Ashton chuckled as he placed the Flamberge on his back, "We'll see, Garyson. We'll see." The knight then left the manor as Ashton noticed Ruby heading up the path towards their home. As Garyson gave her a passing wave, she handed him a spare apple from a basket hanging under her arm. She had done some shopping at the market in Green Mile as it was late spring and the weather was lovely.

Ruby asked as she closed the gates behind her, "Who won?" Ashton smirked, "Me, as always." Ruby giggled, "I wonder how much longer it's gonna take Garyson to realize that he just can't beat you anymore?" But before Ashton could reply, he and Ruby picked up an aroma on the wind. He grinned, "Smells like lunch is almost ready. Let's get to the dining room." Ruby nodded, "Sounds good to me!" They then went inside and proceeded to the dining room after Ashton returned the Flamberge to his bedroom.

As they took their seats at the head of the long table, Ashton and Ruby glanced around as Zandria lined the table with trays of food. Ashton looked towards the far end of the dining room and smiled, glad that the gaping hole in the wall had been repaired. Ruby also noticed the spot and blushed in embarrassment as she remembered the terrible scuffle she and the other eight ladies got into when she went into heat and revealed her love for Ashton. The two lovers then watched as the other ladies and their children entered the dining room to join them.

Cassandra breathed in the aroma deeply as Zandria finished setting out the trays of food. "Fabulous work, as always. Your cooking is still the finest I have ever tasted, Zandria." The Zangoose smiled, "I've been cooking for around a decade now. It's only natural that I'd be this good by now." Once she was seated, Zandria looked towards the head of the table at the lord and lady of the Crimson estate. Ruby smiled, "This feast smells delightful, Lady Zandria." But the Zangoose replied, "You don't have to call me that anymore. You are the lady of this household, so I am no longer your superior." But Ruby shook her head, "I know that. I just like calling you that."

As the family feasted, Ashton looked near Laika as she enjoyed some roast duck. He only saw Luna sitting next to her. He then asked, "Luna, it's been several months since your brother and sister left home to find their places in the wilderness. Do you have any intention of following their path?" The young Mightyena, having recently evolved, looked towards her father and replied, "That way of life does not suit me, Father. I want to remain here at home. This kingdom is my real home." Laika turned and nuzzled her daughter, "You do not need to live in the wild if you do not want to. You'll find your calling someday." The dark-furred Mightyena licked her mother's face, "Thank you, Mother. And I also want to be near you and Father." Ashton nodded, "Your company is always welcome, Luna. And to be honest, I don't want you leaving home anytime soon."

Ruby turned to Zandria and asked, "Lady Zandria, Have you gotten any word from our children since they returned to the academy last week?" The Zangoose replied after swallowing a mouthful of potatoes, "Nope. But you don't need to be worry about them. You know how well your boy and mine work together. They're an ideal team." Ashton added, "They've been enrolled at the academy for around four years. I'm sure they're on the verge of graduating by now. I'm certain Lucash and Atlas will make fine additions to the Knighthood of Rohta." Ruby giggled, "They seemed much focused on following your footsteps."

Ashton looked towards Chiara as she enjoyed fresh seafood soup. "Chiara, have you heard from Winston?" The midget Lugia nodded, "He sent word from somewhere in the Orange Islands. Apparently, he finds the place quite enjoyable and has chosen to find a home down there." Ashton nodded, "The Orange Islands? That's quite a distance to fly. But he does have plenty of room out there. He's just too big now to fit through the manor's hallways." Laura laughed, "Tell me about it! I lost count of how many times he knocked the paintings off the walls while walking by!" Ashton then asked, "Now that I think about it, what about your children? Where are Latios and Latias?" Laura smiled, "They heard about a city in Clavice that has roads of water instead of earth. I think they went there to see it for themselves. Wouldn't surprise me if they decided to move in." Ashton smiled, "A city with roads of water? I'll have to remember to visit it someday."

Zandria asked, "Cassandra, where's little Cleo?" The Absol smiled, "She was given a position at the castle by the queen. Apparently, she was offered the role as the royal gardener. She accepted it with joy and moved in right away. I hear she has made quite a few bush sculptures, even one modeled after the late king himself." Zandria smirked, "Sounds like you taught her well."

Ashton looked down the table towards Aurora and her daughter. The young Suicune asked, "Father, could you please pass the tempura?" Ashton nodded, "Absolutely." He then slid the plate of tempura-fried veggies down to Zandria, who then handed it to Chiara, who then set it near Aura. She smiled, "Thank you." Aurora then nudged her, "You've been addressing Ashton as your father lately." Aura giggled, "Yep! I think I'm getting the hang of it!" Ashton nodded, "That's my girl." By then, Aura had reached about � the size of her mother.

Ruby then noticed her nephew standing up on his chair to reach his plate. "Are you OK, Kota? Can you reach the silverware?" He replied, "Um...yeah. I've been able to reach it by myself ever since I evolved." Kota had recently evolved into a Kirlia. But he was extremely distraught by how feminine he looked and that several townspeople had mistaken him for a girl when he was out and about with his mother. Serenade asked, "Are you sure you're fine? Most people don't stand up on their chairs to reach the table." Her son replied, "I'm fine. I don't feel like I'm gonna fall." He then stuffed his mouth full with soba noodles that Zandria had prepared.

Ashton asked, "Kota, have you decided on what you want to evolve into?" Kota turned to his father and replied, "You mean I can evolve again?" Serenade answered, "Yes. You can evolve into a Gardevoir. You'll look just like me. Well...that is, without these." She brought a hand to her chest as she referred to her breasts. Kota thought this over in his head as he observed his mother, but he soon shuddered, "Do I have to?" Serenade asked, "Well why not?" Kota gulped, "I don't want to look like a girl!" Ashton then recalled a certain day several years before and spoke, "Kota. Once we've finished lunch, meet me in my bedroom. There's something I want to show you." Kota asked, "Is it a new skirt?" Ashton suppressed a laugh, "Nothing of the sort! I'm sure you'll like it."

After several more minutes, Laika froze as her ears twitched. Luna noticed and asked, "Something wrong, Mother?" The albino Mightyena replied, "Ashton, there seems to be someone at the door." The viscount stood up and nodded, "I'll be a minute." He then made his way to the door of the dining room, but turned back and asked, "Did the guest sound hostile?" Laika shook her head, "I didn't even hear footsteps. I doubt it's armed." Ashton then made his way down to the front door of the manor and slowly opened it. To his surprise, a Gardevoir was standing at the door. ".....Mother?" But after a moment, Ashton dismissed the possibility of the Gardevoir being Starlet as she was slightly shorter and her chest was not nearly as developed. The Gardevoir smiled and spoke with the voice of a preteen girl, "Hello, Father."

Ashton took a closer look at the Gardevoir and asked, "You are.....Monica?" She nodded, "Yes. It's been a while since I last saw you, Father. Is Kota and Serenade well?" Ashton nodded, "Yes. In fact, they are enjoying lunch as we speak. Would you care to join us?" Monica grinned, "That sounds splendid! Thank you!" She then stepped forward and embraced her father. Ashton then asked, "What are you doing all the way out here by yourself? Did anyone come with you?" Monica shook her head, "No. I'm alone. I wanted to live with you, Father. I wanted to see you more often." Ashton asked, "You...want to move in to my home?" Monica smiled, "Yes. Is that fine?" Ashton smiled as he nodded, "Of course it's fine. I could never deny my own daughter my company. And we have a spare guestroom. I'm sure you'll feel right at home. Now come. Let's get to the dining room before your siblings and aunts finish without us."

An hour later, Ashton waited in his bedroom for Kota to arrive. He did not have to wait long as he soon heard a knock at the door. "Father? You wanted to see me, right?" Ashton opened the door for the little Kirlia, "That I did. Please enter." Once Kota was seated on Ashton's bed, the viscount closed the door and stood before his youngest son. "Kota, are you pleased with how you look right now?" The Kirlia shook his head, "Not at all. I hate looking like a girl." Ashton then asked, "But you do not want to evolve into a Gardevoir, right?" Kota shuddered, "They look even more feminine! I dread the thought of being one!" Ashton nodded, "I thought as much. But would you like to evolve into a Gallade?" Kota gave his father a baffled expression, "A Gallade?" Ashton replied, "Your grandfather is one. Would you like to look like him?"

Kota thought back to the last time he saw his grandfather, Siegfried. He seemed very masculine and confident. But Kota then asked, "Father. If I were to evolve into what Grandfather is, would I have to become a warrior?" Ashton replied, "Why do you ask?" Kota shivered, "Combat.....terrifies me. I hate the thought of having to hurt others. I don't want to become a warrior. I want to be a scholar." Ashton walked over to his son and gently caressed his green hair, "You don't have to follow the path of a warrior if you choose to evolve into a Gallade. While they have powerful physical bodies, their mental powers are nothing to gawk at either. I think you would make a fine scholar." Kota reached out and clutched tightly at his father, "Thank you. Then I want to evolve as soon as possible."

After giving his son a gentle pat on the head, Ashton walked over to a small end table next to his bed and pulled a drawer open. "I haven't looked in here for years, but I'm pretty sure it's..... Ah, here it is." Ashton pulled a familiar shiny green stone out of the drawer and walked over to his son. "I cannot recall where I got this, but that's beside the point. If you wish to evolve into a Gallade, you need one of these. This is a Dawn Stone." Kota hopped off the bed and smiled, "That's it?! That's all I need?! OK, I want to evolve right now!" But Ashton held out his hand, "Hold on. You know what happens after you evolve, right? Once you evolve, there's no turning back. You will never be able to become a Gardevoir. Are you certain you wish to become a Gallade?" Kota nodded, "Yes, Father. I have made up my mind. I want to become a Gallade." Ashton calmly smiled, "I see. Then take this stone."

Ashton set the stone on the floor and took a few steps back as his son approached it. Once Kota walked forward and picked the Dawn Stone up in his hands, the Kirlia and stone were engulfed in a bright light. Ashton shielded his eyes as the Kirlia began to grow and change shape. Once the shining light died away, Ashton gazed upon the new form of his son. A Gallade now stood before him. Kota looked just like Siegfried, except he was green instead of blue and was somewhat smaller than him as he was still a child. But Kota asked, "Did it work?" Ashton pointed to a mirror, "See for yourself." Kota walked over to it and froze when he saw his new form staring back at him. When Ashton saw his son not moving, he asked, "Is there something wrong?" But the Gallade then looked over at his father with tears in his eyes. Ashton gasped, "Kota?" The Gallade responded by running over to his father and tightly embracing him, "I love it. I love this new form. Thank you, Father. I love you." Ashton smiled and hugged his son back, "Anything to make my little boy happy."

A month later, Cassandra was tending to her garden during the afternoon when she thought she heard someone approaching the estate. "Those voices..... I need to alert Ashton!" The Absol ran along the side of the manor until she came to the open window of Ashton's bedroom. "Ashton, come quick! They're home!" His voice replied, "They are?!" He then jumped out of his window and landed beside her. "Alert Ruby and Zandria." He then ran to the gates and opened them as Cassandra disappeared inside the manor to alert her 'sisters'. A moment later, Ashton smiled as a Lucario and Zangoose came into view along the forest path.

The Lucario and Zangoose were chatting with each other until the Lucario stopped when he noticed Ashton standing at the open gates. "Father!" He broke into a run as the Zangoose took note. They ran alongside each other as the viscount welcomed them home. The two boys leapt into their father's arms, nearly knocking him off his feet. "Welcome home, Lucash, Atlas."

As he walked them into his home, Ashton asked, "So, you back home on holiday?" Lucash laughed, "No way! We're home because we graduated! Atlas and I are members of the Knighthood of Rohta!" Ashton smiled, "I had a hunch that's why you came home. And you graduated together?" Atlas nodded, "Yeah. We promised we wouldn't graduate unless they knighted us together." Ashton patted them on the shoulders, "That's my boys. But what weapons did you train with?" Atlas laughed, "Weapons?! The only weapons I use are the ones I was born with!" He then extended his red claws. Ashton then turned to Lucash, "And what about you?" Lucash replied, "I trained in the use of two-handed swords. I wanted to be just like you, Father." Once they reached Ashton's bedroom, Atlas recognized the smell of his mother's cooking and made a dash towards the kitchen. Ashton laughed, "Looks like it's just you and me now, Lucash. Come on in. I want to give you something."

Once in his bedroom, Ashton walked over to the Flamberge and retrieved it from the wall. "You trained in the use of great swords, didn't you? How does a zweihander suit you?" Lucash stepped forward and took the Flamberge into his hands. After making a few very slow swings to get a feel for its size and weight, the Lucario shook his head, "No... It just doesn't feel like the weapon that suits me. It's just too big." Ashton frowned in disappointment, "I see." He then took his sword back and placed it on the wall. But Lucash then added, "But the grip felt right. I think what I need is a sword that's about as long as a hand-and-a-half sword, but with a hilt that's long enough for both hands to grip it." Ashton pondered this for a moment before reaching into a certain chest in the room. He then pulled out a familiar sword that seemed to fit Lucash's description.

"Father, what's that?" Lucash asked as his father approached him with a sword contained in a black scabbard. Ashton replied, "This is the Kusanagi, also known as the Grass Long Sword. I could never get the hang of using it, so I stored it away for a day I might need it. But since I am not suited for wielding it, I think you should take it." But Lucash asked, "And what kind of sword is it? A type of bastard sword?" Ashton shook his head and gripped the hilt with both hands, "No. This is a tsurugi. It's a style of sword from the Far East that dates back to the Bronze Age. It's a double-edged sword just like those used in this land. And as you can see, the hilt is long enough for both hands to firmly grip it." Ashton then held the sword with both hands by gripping the scabbard, "I know that you will get much more use out of this sword than I will." Lucash smiled and reached for the Kusanagi. But just before he could touch it, Ashton swiftly yanked the sword out of Lucash's reach and held it to his chest. Lucash gave his father a stunned look as he tried to understand this sudden withdrawal from his offer. Ashton then spoke, "It is a unique sword of legend, capable of cutting through iron. It was bestowed upon me by the emperor of the Far East himself." He then slowly extended his arms with the sword's scabbard in his hands, "Use it wisely." Lucash closed his eyes and solemnly bowed before his father before tenderly taking the legendary Grass Long Sword into his hands. He slowly drew the blade from its scabbard and grabbed the hilt with both hands. He then took a few practice swings while being extremely careful to not strike anything, even the floor. After returning the sword to its scabbard, Lucash faced his father and embraced him, "I will treasure this sword. It feels as if I was meant to wield it. No weapon I have ever held has felt so fitting in my hands." Ashton patted him on the back, "It is yours now. Use it only to protect those you hold dear and to slay the wicked who would make the innocent suffer."

The day after his two sons had returned from their enrollment at the academy for squires, Ashton stood before the drawbridge of the castle in Green Mile with Lucash and Atlas by his side. Along with them were the boy's mothers. As the drawbridge hit the opposite side of the moat with a crash, Atlas asked, "Father, why are we here again?" Ashton shrugged his shoulders, "Not sure. The queen requested our presence." But once they crossed the bridge, a cheerful voice greeted them. "Papa!" Ashton looked to his left and smiled as he saw an Absol with a silver tail running towards him. With a smile, he reached out and caught the Absol in his arms as she leapt at him. "I wasn't expecting to see you, Cleo. How have you been fairing since moving in?" The Absol giggled, "It's been lovely! I just finished tending to the courtyard and gardens, so I have the rest of the day off. I just love working with plants and flowers." Her father chuckled, "You're the spitting image of your mother, all right."

Once Ashton set Cleo down, she turned to her two aunts, "Hello, Aunt Zandria! Hello, Aunt Ruby!" The two ladies gave their niece a loving hug as she nuzzled them. Zandria smiled, "I brought you some of your favorites. Peach tarts." She held out a small basket and handed a tart to Cleo. The Absol made short work of it before scooping the curved horn on the side of her head under the basket handle and making it hang off of it. "I'll save the rest for later. And thank you for remembering me!" Ruby then asked, "Did you hear your brothers graduated from the academy?" Cleo looked over at her two half-brothers before looking back at Ruby. After the Lucario silently nodded, Cleo ran over to them and jumped up to Lucash, "Big brother! You and Atlas graduated?!" The two brothers nodded. Cleo squealed, "That's so amazing! That means you're knights, just like Papa!" But Ashton then spoke, "Forgive me, but we have been requested for an audience with the queen. Let's catch up on lost time once we are dismissed." Cleo nodded, "OK then. I'll be out here checking for any errors in my bush sculpting." She then went over to a large bush that had been sculpted in the form of a knight with a lance in hand.

Once Ashton and his family had reached the doors to the royal hall, they quickly noticed that there were four knights standing guard instead of two. But before he could request them to open the doors, Ashton raised an eyebrow, "What the...?" He noticed that the two extra guards were not human at all. One was a Blaziken while the other was a burly Machamp. Both were clad in chain mail and plate armor. The Blaziken was armed with a heavy lance while the Machamp carried two sets of dual swords. One set was worn on opposite sides of the hip for the two lower arms while the other set was worn on the back for use by the two upper arms. The Blaziken noticed Ashton's puzzled glance and cleared his throat before speaking, "Sir Ashton, it is an honor. I have recently perfected speaking English, so let me be the first to thank you for your hard work for us Pokémon. My name is Richard while my comrade over here is Benjamin. He has not quite perfected English speech, so do not ask him anything. What can we do for you?" Ashton smiled, "The queen has requested an audience with me and my two sons here." The four knights then pushed the doors open for Ashton and his family. The five of them then proceeded down the hall as their footsteps echoed throughout the vast chamber.

As they reached halfway down the hall, Ashton and his family could not shake the disturbing feeling that they were being watched. Ashton did recognize the presence of the shinobi guards, but he could also sense the presence of multiple beings that were not human. At the top of many of the large support pillars hid several Sneasel, Weavile, and Scyther. Ashton whispered to his family, "Don't worry. The guards are simply standing by. We're not in any danger." They then proceeded to the end of the hall and stood before the queen. "You called for us, your majesty?" The queen smiled, "I did. And you have grown quite nicely, Ashton. You look less like a boy and more like a man." Ashton nodded, "Well, I am 25 right now."

Ruby asked, "Lady Jessica, what did you wish to see us about?" The queen spoke, "Last night, I received word that two of your children had graduated from the academy for all squires in this kingdom. I wanted to speak to you about a proposal I wish to offer you." Atlas asked, "What kind of proposal?" The queen explained, "I have discussed with our knights and soldiers about establishing a special unit of knights. A unit that hunts bandits and those who enslave and subjugate Pokémon in this kingdom. Ashton, many feel that you and your two sons would be suited for leading this unit. Do you accept?"

Ashton, Atlas, and Lucash were stunned. They had been asked to become the commanders of a special unit of soldiers? Ashton asked, "Before I decide, what would our course of action be should we find those who abuse and enslave Pokémon?" The queen explained, "Thanks to your efforts and the proof revealed by the evil Soul Edge, we have confirmed that Pokémon and humans really are no different. However, I have reason to believe that there are some in this kingdom who refuse to accept the truth. If you happen to find those who would ignore this law, you have the authority to execute them on sight. Slavery is punishable by death and it would be hard to mask mistreatment of Pokémon as anything else. And many Pokémon have volunteered to join this unit as they would feel honored to fight alongside you." Ashton glanced over at Atlas and Lucash, whose eyes were filled with excitement over this proposal. He then glanced at Ruby and Zandria, who seemed to acknowledge their son's decisions. Ashton then turned towards the queen and smiled, "If there are those who wish to fight alongside us, how can I say no?"

Jessica smiled, "You have my thanks, Ashton." But Ashton then spoke, "However, please remember that I am an independent knight. I swear no direct allegiance with any nation. If the unit needs me, please send word to me ahead of time so I may assist them with their objectives." Jessica nodded, "I understand. And it shall be done. But what about you, Sir Lucash and Atlas?" The two half-brothers looked at each other before looking back at the queen. Atlas spoke, "We would be honored to lead this special unit, your highness. And we will share our duty as brothers." Lucash added, "My brother and I work very well together. We'll guide our soldiers to many victories." Jessica smiled, "You have my thanks. I will send word to you once the unit has been properly established. But for now, please rest up at home." Ashton smiled, "Will do. And I look forward to fighting alongside my boys here. Send word to me if you ever need me."

Years passed as Lucash and Atlas made their names known throughout the kingdom as they led many assaults on gangs of bandits and lowlifes who marketed and enslaved Pokémon for profit. The unit suffered injuries from time to time, but under the wise guidance of their three leaders, the elite unit never suffered any casualties. But after decades of service to Rohta, the Crimson family was dealt an unexpected blow when Chiara returned home with a message from Ashton and Serenade's mother. Fearful of what it was about, the two lovers set out for their former home.

Ashton and Serenade gave a knock at the door of their parent's cottage during early autumn as the sun had set and a cool evening breeze blew through the trees. When someone answered the door, Ashton and Serenade found Starlet with a solemn expression on her face. Though now somewhat elderly, she still looked quite beautiful for her age. Her eyes told her children the sad tale that had been written in her message. Ashton asked, "Where's Father?" Starlet replied, "Follow me." The Gardevoir led her two children down the hall of their home to her bedroom. Lying upon the bed was Siegfried. Ashton walked over to his father and took his hand between both of his. They still felt like the rugged, yet gentle, hands of the man who raised him. But they were now weak and slightly cool. Ashton struggled to hold back tears. He knew that his father was dying.

Serenade whispered, " he...?" Ashton looked over at his sister and shook his head, "He doesn't have long." Serenade wiped a tear away as she kneeled next to him, her mother watching from the doorway. Ashton tenderly caressed the wrinkled face of the elderly Gallade, "Father, I'm here now." Siegfried slowly opened his eyes and looked over at his children. "Ashton... Serenade..." His daughter came over to him and smiled as tears fell from her eyes, "Yes. We're here, Father." He smiled, "Looks like I can die happy. Everyone's here now." He then looked up at Ashton and gave him a puzzled stare, "Wait a second... Ashton, how old are you now?" The viscount replied, "I'm in my late forties. Why do you ask?" Siegfried explained, "You don't look your age. You seem like you're only in your mid thirties." Ashton shrugged his shoulders, "Must have something to do with the Eternal Flame." Siegfried chuckled, "Right. Doesn't really matter." But he then spoke, "Ashton, listen closely. There's something I want to tell you about your father. The man who entrusted me with your life."

Ashton and Serenade listened closely. Ashton asked, "My father..... You mean my true father?" Siegfried nodded, "Indeed. And believe it or not, he was just like you in the way you view us Pokémon. He was a knight, but eventually became a gladiator in a place where ones' worth was determined by his abilities in battle instead of species. I met your father when he was 28. We became fast friends and thanks to him, a gladiator system was built where even Pokémon could become equals to human warriors. In a way, it was this kingdom's first step to establishing true equality between humans and Pokémon. He was the finest warrior in the arena, surpassing even me. I'm sure he could even give you a serious run for your money if he still lived." Ashton asked, "Who was my father?" Siegfried replied, "Your father.....was Akien Crimson."

Siegfried continued, "Your father met a woman named Maria and they were wed shortly after they first met. And of course, you came into their lives. But as I'm sure you know, both of them were struck down by the Plague that ravaged the two kingdoms of this land. The same disease that very nearly claimed your life as well." Siegfried explained, "Your father entrusted me with you should anything ever happen to him. I raised you as if you were my own flesh and blood. As much as I love you, I felt a need to tell you about your true parents, Ashton." The viscount smiled, "Thank you. But when all is said and done, you are still my father." Siegfried smiled, "You really do have the same kind and understanding heart your father had. You even succeeded where he failed in finding proof of the fact that Pokémon have souls. He would be very proud of you."

Ashton and Serenade held their father's hands as Siegfried's life began to fade away. The Gallade whispered to them, "Watch over my grandchildren. They are in your hands now." Ashton and Serenade silently nodded as tears cascaded down their faces. Ashton whispered, "Goodbye, Father. We'll meet again someday." Serenade added, "We love you, Father. You can leave this world to us." The two siblings remained rooted to the spot as the Gallade's breathing stilled. Only when his hands became cold did the two let go of him. They then embraced their mother as all three began to sob as they mourned the death of the gallant Siegfried.

The next day, Siegfried was given a proper burial next to the grave of his dear friend, Akien Crimson. His surviving friends from his gladiator days joined the funeral at the cemetery for fallen gladiators as they bid farewell to a truly remarkable man. But less than a week later, Ashton and his family helped Starlet move out of the cottage where she and her husband had lived out their lives. Now alone, she could not live a happy life. So Ashton arranged for her to move in with him at the Crimson estate. But while they were able to remove most of the furniture on the first floor, most of the furniture in the underground guestrooms had to be left behind as they had been assembled inside the rooms, making it very difficult to remove them. When they finally left their old home for the final time, Ashton and Serenade bid a tearful gaze of longing at the humble cottage, knowing that they would never see it again.

The following years were of little significance as the kingdom's prosperity more than tripled since allowing Pokémon to live like humans. Many started families with humans while some even ran their own businesses. Ashton's daughter, Monica, was even handpicked by Lady Jessica to rule the kingdom as the new queen when she reached her sixties. While not royally born, her connections through her father were enough to earn her the peerage to truly be accepted by the people of Rohta. Under Monica's rule, the kingdom thrived just as well as when under the rule of Jessica.

The first of Ashton's nine lovers to pass away was his adoptive mother, Starlet. She died in her sleep five years after the death of her husband, Siegfried. The next to die was Laika in her seventies. Her death may have been attributed to old injuries suffered during her hellish years as a piece of property before encountering Ashton. Serenade died several years later in her mid eighties. The next to follow was the chef of the Crimson estate, Zandria. But thanks to her records of various recipes, Chiara was able to perfect her cooking skills to compensate for the loss of the estate's chef. The next of Ashton's lovers to perish was his beloved wife, Ruby. She died in his arms as her body failed her. But his four remaining lovers helped ease the pain.

One day, a message was sent all over the land of Rohta to all of Ashton's relatives. The message instructed them to return home immediately. But in the end, only four received the call. On a rainy night in the month of May, four figures stood outside the front door to the Crimson estate. They were Lucash, Atlas, Cleo, and Monica. Standing near them was a pair of royal guards who had accompanied Monica as she was still the mother of the current king. When the door opened, they saw a tearful Laura floating in the doorway. Lucash asked, "Are we too late?" She shook her head, "No, you're just in time. But hurry. I can't say how much longer he has." The six guests followed Laura inside, failing to notice that Cassandra's bush sculptures had not been tended to for quite some time as they were terribly overgrown.

The six guests were led to Ashton's bedroom. They were not surprised to find the viscount surrounded by Aurora and Chiara, but they did not expect to see Cassandra lying in his arms. Cleo gasped, "Mother?!" She ran over to the bed and bounded up to it. She tenderly nudged Cassandra, but Chiara whispered, "It's a miracle that she has been able to live this long. The average Absol lives around 100 years. Your mother is now 113." Cassandra's gorgeous white fur was now matted and scraggly due to her loss of flexibility. Her old age had taken its toll on her body. Cleo tearfully whispered, "Mother..."

Ashton soon looked around at his children and lovers. "Are you the only ones who received the notice?" Atlas nodded, "I suppose so. Perhaps the rest of them are not in Rohta at all. And I know Winston is all the way out in the Orange Islands. There's no way he could've gotten it." But Ashton smiled, "No matter. At least you were able to come." Monica approached her father and smiled, "That's right. We don't want you to die alone." But Cassandra then whispered, "Thank you all. And don't worry about Ashton dying alone. I'll be gone too before long." But Cleo cried, "Don't say that! I don't want to see you go!" But the Absol nuzzled her daughter, "It's only a temporary departure. We'll be reunited someday. Besides, who knows how long you have left?" That was when it occurred to Ashton, "Now that I think about it, how old are each of you?" Monica replied, "We're all the same age. 100 years, give or take a month." Ashton thought to himself, (100? But they still look fairly young. Perhaps Pokémon age better than humans do.) But Lucash then asked, "Wait a minute... Father, you are 115, right? But you look like you're only in your early fifties." Ashton replied, "I'm sure it's a side-effect of the Eternal Flame. But I can't cheat death forever. My days are at an end."

Lucash sighed and approached his father, "Father, I wish to return this to you." He then held out the Kusanagi in its black scabbard. Ashton stared for a moment, but then spoke, "But..... But that was my gift to you. It's yours. You don't have to give it back." But Lucash smiled, "I no longer have any use for it. I have been officially retired from knighthood for over ten years now. And besides, this was bestowed upon you by an emperor, right? In the end, it is still a treasure that belongs only to you." Ashton sighed, "Very well then. If that is the case, please place it in that chest over there." Lucash walked over to a nearby wooden chest and set the Kusanagi inside it. But before he could close it, a voice spoke, "Lord Lucash, please... Take me to my master..."

Lucash looked down into the chest and saw a bluish glow. When he reached in and pulled out the source, Soul Calibur appeared in his hand. "Please... I wish to be near him." Lucash nodded and brought the spirit sword over to her master. Ashton took the sword and scabbard in hand and rested them on the blanket that covered him. "Soul Calibur, I wish to thank you for all your years of dedication to me. I would not even be here right now if you had not shown up when you did." The spirit sword replied, "It has always been a pleasure to serve you, young master. And even though Soul Edge is gone, I feel a sense of.....accomplishment just by being in your hands." She then spoke, "Young master, I have a request. Please allow me to stay with you after death, so I may watch over your tomb." Ashton nodded, "Very well. You may follow me to my grave. I cannot deny you that after you saved my life and soul back in the Dead Forest." Soul Calibur replied, "You have my gratitude. And I will watch over your tomb...from my sleep..." The spirit sword then became silent.

Ashton turned to Lucash, "How are your children doing?" Lucash smiled, "My son is doing very well. He even found a bride quite some time ago. They're even expecting twins in a short while." Cleo then spoke, "My daughter had a beautiful baby girl over in Celestica. Instead of working on flowers, she works with water." Monica spoke next, "My son has become a splendid king. I'm sure he gets his kind heart from you, Father." Ashton then looked at Atlas, "I heard you had a lovely daughter, Atlas. And she even found love too?" The shiny Zangoose smiled, "She did. She fell in love with a Lucario from the northern border of Rohta. I heard they had a beautiful daughter together."

Ashton smiled as he felt his family around him. He turned to Aurora, "Aurora, you were always a motherly and thoughtful woman. You will live on and share your wisdom with many, I'm sure." The Suicune tearfully nodded, "Yes, I will live on. But I will never forget my love for you." He then faced Chiara, "Chiara, your knowledge is enviable to many sages. I'm sure your knowledge will only continue to grow as time moves on." The midget Lugia wiped a tear from her eyes, "It is my passion to seek knowledge. I will watch for new discoveries in this world." Ashton then faced Laura, "Laura, I know just how much you adore me. I'm sure you will be the most hurt by my passing, but I want you to move on. To enjoy life however you can." Laura struggled to hold back her tears as she sobbed, "I can't guarantee that, but I'll try my best for you."

Ashton tenderly embraced Cassandra as she rested near him. "Looks like we get to die together. Right, Cassandra?" The Absol whispered, "I couldn't ask for a better ending, my dear." They shared one last kiss before closing their eyes, their hearts slowing as their bodies failed. Just before his body failed him, Ashton whispered, "No more waiting, Serra. I'm coming..." As the two lovers left the world of the living, Laura let out a wail of remorse as she collapsed upon Ashton's corpse. His four children and two other lovers silently sobbed as they mourned the passing of the illustrious Vulcan Warrior.

In the Dragon's Den, a tomb had been dug out of the earth for Ashton as he had requested to be buried in the home of his old friend, Dimitri. His three lovers watched as his corpse was sealed within the tomb along with Soul Calibur and the Flamberge, the swords that had loyally served him throughout his life. Laura screamed in despair as she was held back by Dimitri, who had by then evolved into a mighty Dragonite. From then on, the kingdoms of Clavice and Rohta enjoyed prosperity while forever remembering the name of the man who had saved them both from eternal damnation and paved the way for a new era of understanding. And his example would set the standards for the path followed by those known as Pokémon Trainers. And the name of Ashton Redford Crimson would never be truly forgotten as his tomb remained intact throughout the centuries.

Until 500 years later, when the Angel of the Eternal Flame would rise again from the ashes.....

Chosen by history, a man becomes a hero. Engraved into history, a hero becomes a legend.
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