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.

Freedom or Desire, Laika's Dilemma

"Where am I?" Laika wondered as she walked through what seemed to be a dark forest. She noticed that her once broken leg had healed and could function normally. Wanting to leave this creepy forest, she continued on straight ahead. However, again and again, Laika kept coming back to the same area. Nothing changed, even though she had been going in a straight line.

"This has to be a dream. It just has to be." Just then, Laika shuddered at the sound of evil cackling. It was a sound with which she was intimately familiar with. The cruel laughter of her many masters. "No... Stay away!" A few moments later, multiple human figures arose from the shadows. "Come back to us... little whelp..." Laika was terrified, "No! Leave me alone! Where is he? Lord Ashton?! Please!" As the laughter grew louder and closer, Laika collapsed and covered her face with her paws. "I want to be free... Just...just leave me alone..."

A second later, Laika heard the recognizable sound of flesh being torn and the screams of her captors. After waiting for the sound of their bodies to hit the ground, Laika raised her head and looked around. Then, she saw him. A lone human male was standing with his back turned to her. He held a massive zweihander in his right hand. A moment later, Laika saw him turn his head to look over his shoulder at her. Even through the darkness, Laika could see his fierce, but gentle brown eyes. Suddenly, he made a dash through the forest. Desperately, Laika tried to keep up, not knowing where she was going.

"Idiot. Why would he run? Why didn't he kill me too?" Laika thought to herself as she raced through the forest. Suddenly, she burst out of the forest and into a clearing. A gentle stream was flowing by her while a small waterfall ahead fed it. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and there was a full moon out that night. As Laika's vision trailed off from the sky, she saw the same young man who saved her standing next to a tree. Ever so cautiously, she approached him, ready to attack if need be. When she got within twenty feet from him, the young man turned to face her.

"Welcome. Did those ruffians harm you, Laika?" She recognized the face and voice immediately. "Ashton..." He took a seat next to the tree and looked to the sky. Laika, exhausted from her sprint, took a seat next to him. It was then that she noticed a swarm of fireflies dancing around the clearing, making the view even more beautiful.

Several moments passed before Laika decided to thank her savior. "Ashton..." He looked at her with concern. She continued, "I...I don't know how to say this, but... Back there... Thanks..." He grinned and gently stroked her head. "I never expected to hear that from you. Perhaps I should return the favor." Laika's ears perked up. "What do you...?" Laika was cut off when Ashton gently grasped her lower jaw with his hand. "I meant this." While cupping her face, Ashton sealed lips with the young Mightyena.

Laika was overcome with shock and disbelief, "This isn't right! No human could ever feel this strongly about me! Why!? Why is he doing this?!" Laika struggled to break free from Ashton's grasp, but her body just didn't appear to want to. Slowly, she became more and more relaxed. She even began to enjoy it. Her eyes began to close as her tongue slipped into the mouth of her master. For a moment, they danced with each other as their saliva mixed. His saliva was warm and had a strong, but enjoyable flavor. All too soon, their kiss ended, leaving Laika craving more.

For a moment, Laika gazed into Ashton eyes with her own red and yellow eyes. "That...That was the most wonderful feeling I've ever had. It seemed so wrong, felt so right. I have always hated humans, but why did Ashton do that even though he knew about it?" Ashton spoke first, "Are you all right?" At first, Laika was silent. After a moment, she stood up and turned away from him. "Laika...?" She looked back at him. After another moment of awkward silence, she raised her tail as high as she could. Laika could see Ashton's face turn a bright red. Slowly, he nodded and began to remove his clothing.

As Laika looked ahead and closed her eyes, she wondered, "What do I do? My instincts tell me to run, but I want him to take me..." As she pondered her next move, Laika felt Ashton's hands grip her shapely hips. She felt him gently caress them before gripping them tightly. Then, oh so slowly, she felt him push into her. Laika's mind became overwhelmed with waves of pleasure. All of her hatred became suppressed as her master began to pull in and out of her with such gentleness, she knew that he cared for her on a greater level that no one else did.

Without warning, a steady stream of tears began to flow from Laika's eyes. This new feeling was so alien and wonderful, she didn't want it to ever end. All her years of suffering. All those years of pain and neglect. She would frequently wonder if she would ever find her life mate. After several unforgettable minutes, Laika felt her inner walls clamp around her master. With a groan, Ashton filled her womb with his seed as she howled in ecstasy. Slowly, he pulled out of her and collapsed at her side.

Laika felt heavy with life as she lay down next to her mate. After a moment, he looked at her with a look of exhaustion and satisfaction. "Did...did you enjoy it?" Laika still had tears falling from her face. Knowing what she wanted, she suddenly sealed lips with a very surprised Ashton, intertwining her tongue with his. A moment later, they broke the kiss and embraced each other.

Laika awoke to the aroma of freshly prepared breakfast foods. A voice she knew well spoke, "Good morning, Laika. I trust you had a pleasant dream?" She looked around and saw Ashton seated near a small table with Zandria standing next to him. "Well, are you hungry or not?" Laika tried to stand up, but her broken leg prevented her from doing so. Ashton sighed, "Zandria, would you leave us, please?" Before replying, Zandria flashed a glance at Laika that translated, "Try something and you're dead." Laika remained silent. Zandria placed their breakfast on the table and bowed to Ashton before pushing her cart out the door and closing it.

Ashton carried their dome-covered meals over to the bed. Laika looked at him with cold eyes, but they seemed warmer than yesterday. Ashton placed Laika's breakfast in front of her and lifted the metal dome off, releasing a cloud of steam in the process. Laika was stunned by the variety. There were quail eggs, roasted pork, fried potatoes, and a bowl of orange juice. Ashton laughed, "More than you expected? Zandria knows that it's safe for you to eat a full meal now." She snorted. Since Laika had no hands, Zandria had prepared everything in a fashion that allowed her to eat without making a mess.

Outside, Cassandra was busy gardening after just finishing breakfast. Like the day before, she had a special dream of her and Ashton making love. Due to this, she was putting an abnormal amount of gusto into her work. "Oh Ashton... Why do you have to be so perfect? You and me... Our children would be the most gentle and beautiful children in all the land..." She soon decided to rest in a flowerbed of violets.

Just as Cassandra was beginning to yawn, she spotted something glisten in the air. She just managed to evade the object, a kitchen knife! "A knife?! Who... AHH!" Cassandra was soon being barraged by a rainstorm of small knives from above! She ran through the garden while evading and deflecting knives. When she had the chance, Cassandra noticed that the knives seemed to be coming from the roof of the manor. Quickly, she ducked behind a bush she had sculpted. It was too thick for the knives to cut through. Cassandra took a moment to catch her breath and noticed that there was no sound of knives hitting the bush. "That was close. I hope who ever was throwing those isn't after Ashton."

After waiting a minute, Cassandra peeked behind the broad square base of the bush sculpture to see if anyone was there. From the ground to the roof, there was no one there. Suddenly, Cassandra heard quick light steps in the grass behind her! She dodged to the left as her assailant thrust its claws into the base! It turned and glared at Cassandra with its fierce pink eyes.

"Zandria?!" Cassandra couldn't understand why Zandria had just tried to kill her! Without answering, she removed her claws from the base of the bush and began swiping away at Cassandra! Cassandra managed to blow Zandria away with a Razor Wind. While Zandria climbed to her feet, Cassandra yelled, "Why Zandria?! Why did you do that?!" To Cassandra's shock, she saw tears falling from her eyes. "I know who it is you plan to mate." Cassandra was silent. Zandria continued, "Well, I won't let you take Ashton away from me! I love him more than my own freedom! If you try to stop me, I'll have to kill you!" She then extended her right hand and pointed her claws at Cassandra.

At first, Cassandra just stood there. She had her head tilted downwards. "Ashton...You are the most loving, gentle, and handsome male of any specie I've ever laid eyes on. I want to be a loving wife to you and a caring mother to our children. But if I let you go now, that will never happen. So....." Zandria tapped her foot impatiently. "So, what is your decision, Cassandra? Hm?" Cassandra raised her head and looked directly at Zandria. Her eyes were filled with a type of determination that Zandria had never seen before. "Zandria... I know you love Lord Ashton deeply and truly. However, I do as well. I intend to bear his children some day, but if you become his mate, I will never become a mother to them. I'm sorry, but if you want to become Lord Ashton's mate, you will have to go through me first!" Cassandra cocked her head so that the blade on the side of her head was angled forward. Zandria yelled, "So be it! Bring it on!"

As Laika finished her breakfast, Ashton asked, "So, Laika, how is your leg healing up?" Laika looked back at her leg. She had completely forgotten about it. It was still wrapped in a tight bandage. "Here, let me get that for you." Ashton gently unwrapped Laika's leg. Once the bandages were off, he asked, "Try standing up." Very slowly, Laika rose to her feet. She expected to feel a sharp pain like the day before, but was surprised to not feel any pain at all. "Hm, it would seem that Serenade used Recover to repair the damages to your bones." Laika flexed her legs as she stretched. It was fully healed.

While Ashton read a message that was sent to him, Laika began to take a stroll around the room. She noticed the paintings of five of the ladies living in the manor. Did Ashton paint them himself? Once Ashton had finished reading his message, he looked at Laika out of the corner of his eye. He grinned slightly when he saw Laika show a rare smile. "She seems cold, but she does have a good heart." Suddenly, someone began pounding on the bedroom door! When Ashton answered it, he saw Ruby looking out of breath.

"Ruby, what's wrong?!" Once she caught her breath, Ruby explained, "Lady Cassandra and Lady Zandria are outside fighting! I tried to calm them down, but they won't listen!" Ashton was shocked, "Zandria?! What has that tomboy done this time?! Ruby, watch over Laika. I'll handle them." Ashton grabbed the Flamberge off the wall and ran down the halls and out the front door. When he rounded the corner to the side of the manor, he stopped dead in his tracks. "Guh..... What the...!?" The garden was a complete mess. Most of the bush sculptures had been messily decapitated and some of the flowerbeds were uprooted. There were also many kitchen knives sticking out of the ground. With a nervous twitch in his eye, Ashton noticed that he had dropped the Flamberge. After picking it up, he laughed, "Heh, I can't wait to hear their excuse for this!"

Ashton could hear the sound of combat as he approached the rear of the manor. Sure enough, as soon as Ashton rounded the corner, there they were. Zandria was trying to slash at Cassandra with her claws while Cassandra used the curved blade on her head as a weapon. She would also try to slash at Zandria with her long and wide blade-like tail, which glistened silver, like a sword. Whenever they would stop for a second, Ashton could see great anger in their eyes. After they were blown away from each other by simultaneous blows, the two Pokemon charged at each other. However, just before they reached each other, a large blade smashed into the ground in between them! The shockwave was strong enough to knock them off their feet.

"Oof! Who..... Oh no..." Zandria froze at the sight of her master and love standing in between her and Cassandra with the Flamberge resting in his hand. A moment of silence passed before Ashton asked, "Now, why did you girls make a mess of the garden?" Cassandra's eyes went wide with disbelief, "We did what?!" Ashton shook his head, "Don't tell me you were not even aware of what was around you?!" The two girls remained silent. "Tch, come with me." Both girls gulped in fear of what was around the corner.

As soon as Cassandra saw the destruction she and Zandria did to the garden, she let out a scream. "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! I can't believe I did this to my beautiful garden! NO NONONONOOOOOO!!!!! I'M SO SORRY!!!" Ashton took a look at the bush sculptures. "Hmmm, at the very least, I think I can restore those." Zandria asked, "Just how will you do that?" Ashton yelled, "Cassandra, get over here!" In tears, Cassandra shuffled over to her master. Once she was out of the garden, Ashton took several steps forward and gripped the Flamberge in one hand while making some sort of hand sign with the other. Zandria wondered, "Could it be that Koga taught him more than just basic Chakra Control?" In a moment, she had her answer. Ashton grabbed the Flamberge's hilt with both hands and yelled, "Ninja Art!" Then, as he swung it forcefully, he added, "Wind Scythe Jutsu!" To Zandria and Cassandra's disbelief, a wind storm formed throughout the garden! Soon, they could hear the sound of slashing as blades of air cut away at the large bushes. When the sound of whistling wind ended, they marveled at the restored forms of the bush sculptures. Every last one of them had been trimmed to perfect detail! Cassandra ran up to her master, stood on her hind legs, and embraced him with her forelegs. Over and over, she kept weeping, "THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!" Judging by her shock at the state of the garden, Ashton concluded that Cassandra didn't start the fight.

"Zandria." Nervously, she approached Ashton. "Y...yes, my lord?" Ashton gently pried Cassandra's arms from his waist. "I would like to speak with you in private. Come with me. Cassandra, you stay here and tend to the flower beds." Cassandra bowed and began to replant the flowers that had been uprooted. With a sinking feeling in her gut, Zandria followed Ashton into the manor.

After putting the Flamberge back in his bedroom, Ashton led Zandria to her own bedroom and locked them both inside. Ashton pulled up a chair while Zandria took a seat on her bed. After a moment of silence, Ashton asked, "Zandria, I know that you have a competitive nature, but that is no excuse for attacking Cassandra. Why did you try to harm her?" Zandria felt intense guilt. She desperately wanted to confess her feelings to the young man she loved, but she knew it was also a forbidden love. If she was to have sexual relations with Ashton and the people in Green Mile discovered it, she could be killed. At last she spoke, "With all due respect, Lord Ashton, I can not tell you my reasons. True, I attacked Cassandra for selfish reasons, but I just can't tell you why. Please forgive me." Ashton could tell by her sincerity that Zandria was being 100% truthful. "Very well. You don't have to tell me the details, but I don't want to see you brawling with any other members of the family. You must treat your 'sisters' with respect. Do I have your word?" Zandria bowed, "I promise. I won't allow my emotions to get the best of me ever again." With a grin, Ashton gently scratched Zandria's furry little head, making her purr with approval.

After his talk with Zandria, Ashton went back to his bedroom to check on Ruby and Laika. He found them resting on his bed while conversing. "Well, hello ladies. Seems like you're enjoying yourselves." Ruby replied, "Yep! Lady Laika seems to like you now, Lord Ashton!" Ashton glanced at Laika. She had a cold look in her eyes, but it obvious she was trying not to smile. "I see. Well, I have some errands to run. Would you girls like to accompany me?" Ruby jumped right off the bed, "Oh yes! Where are we going?!" Ashton chuckled, "Oh, you'll see! What about you, Laika?" With a yawn, she answered, "I guess... I could use some fresh air." With a bound, she was on the floor too. Ashton said, "Very well. Now then, we only need to find Chiara and we'll be on our way." As Ashton walked down the hall to Chiara's bedroom, Laika asked, "Who's Chiara?" Ashton answered, "She is the manor's messenger. If need be, she may serve as a form of transportation. Well, here it is."

Ashton tapped on the door a few times. A second later, a seductive voice replied, "Come in." Ruby asked, "Lord Ashton, are you sure this is Lady Chiara's room? That sounded more like Lady Laura." Ashton replied, "I.....think this is Chiara's room." Slowly, he opened the door. Sure enough, lying on her back with her head hanging off one side, was Chiara. As soon as she saw Laika and Ruby with him though, she immediately rolled over off the bed and onto her feet. "Oh, uh, Lord Ashton! I thought you were alone!" She suddenly noticed Ruby giggling. She knew that Chiara had been laying upside down like that in the hopes that Lord Ashton would come in alone and mount her. Ashton laughed, "Well, I was, but Ruby and Laika want to come along today." The midget Lugia was hesitant, but said, "Very well, but it will be difficult for all three of you to hold on. Let's go outside then." In single file, the three followed Chiara down the hall and out the front door.

Once they were outside, Chiara asked, "Ruby, Laika, is this your first time flying?" The two nodded. "Well, you had best hold on tightly to my dorsal fins. Ready?" One by one, Ashton and his two servants climbed on board Chiara's back. It was indeed a tight fit. "Now then, where do you want to go today, Lord Ashton?" Ashton replied, "I need to visit Sabrina's dwelling." Chiara replied, "Understood. Now, hold on!" With a strong flap of her wings, Chiara became airborne. Almost immediately, Ruby became nervous and giddy. Soon, the four were soaring through the sky to the south, over Green Mile. Loudly, Chiara spoke, "Sabrina is a forest hermit who lives in the Black Woods to the south. It is believed that the forest is haunted, so most folks try to avoid it. She is extremely skilled in medicine and is said to be psychic." Ashton applauded, "Chiara, ever the scholar!"

Back at the Ketchum estate, Laura was going about her duties of restoring the artwork throughout the manor and cleaning the chimney. Just after finishing cleaning the chimney, she decided to pull a little prank. Covered in soot, Laura flew around to the front door and knocked loudly. However, as she waited, Laura's nose began to itch. She tried her best to not sneeze, but it was unavoidable. As soon as the door was opened, she let loose with a mighty sneeze. Most of the soot was blown off of her in all directions. When she opened her eyes, Laura had to choke back a laugh at the sight of Zandria's front side being covered in soot!

"*hack* Laura! Wha...*hack* what was that for?!" Laura giggled loudly for a moment before replying, "Heeheehee, sorry! I was just cleaning out the chimney, so some soot got up my nose, I guess! I better go wash up now! Bye!" Before Zandria could object, Laura flew down the halls to the bathroom. At the top of her lungs, Zandria yelled, "What about me?! I'm filthier than you are, all thanks to you!"

After closing the door and locking it, Laura turned the handle for hot water to fill the marble bathtub. Soon, the whole room was filled with steam. Slowly, so as to not burn herself, Laura submerged her sooty body. "Hooooooo, Lord Ashton's parents knew what they were doing when they built the manor near hot springs!" Using some soap, Laura began to scrub all the remaining soot from her white and yellow feathers with her claws. Once she was free of any soot, she just decided to relax in the tub for a while.

After a few minutes passed, Laura came up with an idea. She closed her eyes and, using her keen psychic abilities, created a dream world on the lids of her eyes. She saw the young man she was oh so madly in love with, Lord Ashton. He was completely nude; a state Laura had seen him in only once. When he turned to face her, Laura felt her heart leap. He slowly approached her and embraced her. She gently whispered into his ear, "Please, Lord Ashton. Please mate with me. Please, be my first..." He pulled his head away from her face and looked at her for a moment. Then, he surprised her by pressing his lips against her own. Instinctively, Laura slipped her tongue past her lover's lips and closed her eyes as she swirled her tongue around Ashton's, trying to get to know him as much as possible. After a moment, they broke the kiss and Laura tightly embraced her master.

Soon, Laura gave Ashton a look of pure lust. She also felt his member pointing up past her feet. Suddenly, she noticed her own bed behind her. Embracing Ashton again, she fell backwards onto it, pulling Ashton down on top of her. When he looked at Laura again, Ashton knew what she wanted. Laura closed her eyes again, waiting for the moment of penetration. The instant she felt him enter her, a sudden banging sound woke her up from her trance, ending her dream vision.

"HEY, LAURA! Are you done yet?!" Laura recognized it as Zandria's voice. "Awwwww, and I was so close too." Zandria banged on the door again, "Hurry up! I'm a lot worse off than you are!" Laura yelled back, "Just give me a minute, I need to dry off!" She grabbed a cotton towel and wrapped herself in it. As soon as Laura opened the door, Zandria barged right past her and jumped into the bathtub, which was still full. Laura shut the door, knowing that Zandria liked her privacy. "Someday...Yes. Someday, Lord Ashton will...Oooooohhhh...It's not like me to be so sentimental!" Laura flew down the hall towards her room. She was in the mood for a nap.

"Brace yourselves! We have arrived." Chiara alerted her passengers of their approach of the Black Woods. Soon, they smashed through the thick canopy and dropped rather nosily to the ground. Very little sunlight was getting through the leaves on the trees. It truly gave the impression that dark forces were at work. Chiara stopped herself from hitting the ground too hard with her psychic powers. After lowering a wing to the ground, Chiara said, "Lord Ashton, we have arrived." A slightly muffled voice answered, "Mmmph, I know." Curious, Chiara turned to face Ashton once he was on the ground and covered her mouth with her large hands. Ruby had climbed on top of Ashton's head and wrapped her arms and legs around his face while Laika was clutching his leg! They both looked quite traumatized. "Please.....don't laugh..." Chiara, trying not to laugh, commented, "Oh my, are they going to be fine?" Ashton sighed, "Let's just continue to Sabrina's dwelling and hopefully, these two will have snapped back to their senses. Please, lead on." Chiara nodded and headed in the direction of Sabrina's dwelling while Ashton lumbered through the brush with Laika weighing down his leg.

After trekking through the forest for a few minutes, they came upon Sabrina's dwelling. It was a quaint little cottage that had been completely overgrown with vines. Anyone who looked at it would instantly think that it may be a den to monsters, but not Ashton. However, when he approached the entrance, he barked, "That's it! Both of you get off! NOW!" Ashton tried to shake Laika from his leg while attempting to pry Ruby loose from his head. When they still wouldn't budge, he came up with a clever idea. He closed his eyes. Soon, flames, just like before, began to enshroud his body. However, they didn't even touch Laika or Ruby. Soon, Ashton's entire body began to heat up. As soon as it reached a certain temperature, like that of a metal spoon being taken out of a pot of boiling water, the two girls snapped to their senses and dropped off of Ashton with a shriek! "Owowowow! What was that for?!" Ruby looked at Ashton with a gaze of hurt. Ashton knelt down and gently stroked her little head, "Sorry, but I had to do something to make you come to your senses. Was the flight here really that scary?" Ruby blushed, "Yes, it was very scary. I thought I was going to fall off." Laika remained silent, even though she had been equally terrified.

"Don't be shy. Come with me." Ashton led the three ladies into the well-disguised home of Sabrina. Just past the door, Laika and Ruby were surprised by the interior. There were many beakers in metal frames being held over small flames. There were many silk curtains hanging. Just ahead, there was a staircase leading down into a lower room. There was also the sound of glass striking glass.

"Don't touch anything." Ashton led his servants over to a desk near the stairs and rang a bell that was on it. Shortly after that, footsteps could be heard coming up the stairs. Soon, a hooded woman stood before the desk with a vial containing a steaming concoction. She had stern black eyes and an emotionless face. After gently setting the vial down, she lowered her hood, revealing her long black hair. Her skin was slightly pale, but she showed a slight grin when she looked at Ashton.

"It is good to see you again, Ashton." Ashton nodded, "Glad to see that you are doing well, Sabrina." She looked behind Ashton and noticed the three females. "Lady Chiara, I trust that you and your 'sisters' have been performing your duties well?" Chiara bowed, "Indeed." Sabrina then asked, "Ashton, who are those two?" Ashton chuckled, "Oh right, let me introduce you. This is Ruby, a Lucario from the Far East. I got her from a merchant a few days ago. This is Laika, a Mightyena that I rescued from some ruffians yesterday. She harbors deep hatred towards humans, so don't be surprised if she says anything harsh." Laika flashed a cold glare at Sabrina, only to realize that Sabrina seemed to be immune to such gestures.

"Now then, let's get down to business." Sabrina interrupted, "You need not say anything, I know why you are here." Sabrina handed him the vial she had carried upstairs with her. "Hmmmm! I suppose you really are psychic!" Ruby asked, "What is it?! It looks pretty!" Chiara explained, "That particular potion is known as Heaven's Mercy. It was used to heal Laika's wounds when Lord Ashton brought her in. An unbelievably powerful remedy, it destroys any and all harmful bacteria and diseases as well as promotes healing. The recipe for it is a fiercely guarded secret since it is so powerful." Sabrina grinned, "Well done. You truly are the brains of the Ketchum estate." Having acquired what he needed, Ashton said his farewells and left the lab.

Once outside, Ruby exclaimed, "Lady Sabrina is very pretty! How old is she?" Ashton covered his mouth for an instant after suppressing a laugh. "Usually, it's rude to ask a woman her age. But if you must know, she is just under 30 years. She has looked after me since I was born, you know." Ruby blushed, "Right, I remember now!" Chiara lowered a wing so her three passengers could board her. Once they were seated, Ashton warned, "This time, I will be the one who holds on to anyone. Let's go home, Chiara!" First, Chiara used her psychic powers to levitate herself above the treetops to avoid any collisions with the trees. Then she began to soar through the sky with her wings. This time, Ashton wrapped his arms around Ruby and Laika tightly before they could freak out.

That night, Cassandra just finished her dinner when she heard a knock on her door. She was surprised to find Zandria holding a tea kettle. "Zandria?" Quietly, she asked, "May I come in?" Cassandra nodded and nudged the door open wider to allow her in. Zandria gathered up Cassandra's dirty dishes and placed them on a cart just outside the door. Afterwards, she pulled up a chair to Cassandra's bed. "Would for some tea?" Suspicious, Cassandra agreed. Zandria laid out a small tea set on an end table near the bed and poured them both some tea. Using her three claws on one paw, Cassandra could maneuver them through the teacups' handle and hold it much like a human could.

As Cassandra rested on her bed, she decided to ask Zandria why she was treating her to tea. "Zandria, why are you serving me tea at this hour?" Zandria set her cup down. "What I did to you today?'s not easy for me to say this, but.....I'm sorry." Cassandra was silent. "My feelings for Lord Ashton just got out of hand. I couldn't bear the thought of losing him forever. He saved me from the harsh life of a 'breeder' and helped me find my calling. I know I can't repay him for his mercy, but I hoped that someday...just someday..... I could give birth to his children and continue the family." Cassandra giggled, "You know, I think, as a matter of fact, you would make a great mother and mate!" Zandria looked at Cassandra with surprise, "You think so?!" Cassandra nodded, "Yes, but still, I too don't even want to imagine losing him to another girl. He saved me from hunters who thought I caused harm to their home. I often wonder what my children would be like if Lord Ashton was to take me." Zandria sighed. Cassandra always was quite the romantic. She would also make a loving mother and wife.

After a few minutes of calm chatting, Zandria exclaimed, "Yeah, I know we two girls are madly in love with the same angel of a man, but Cassandra, Lord Ashton is the only one who can decide who he will marry. It could be you, me, or any other female in the whole village." Cassandra agreed, "I know. We're rivals, but only Lord Ashton can choose. Thank you for the tea, Zandria." Zandria stood up and bowed, "It was my pleasure. Good night." Zandria gathered up the used teacups and kettle and carried them out and placed them on the cart. "Oh, Zandria!" She quickly looked back into Cassandra's room. Cassandra smiled, "I accept your apology. Just remember though, I won't surrender Lord Ashton to you!" Zandria grinned and closed the door before carting away the dishes before turning in for the night. "Neither will I, Cassandra."

Shortly before midnight, Laika was taking a stroll through the front yard. The fresh night air refreshed her mind. There were hardly any clouds in the sky and it was a full moon tonight too. Every once in a while, Laika would think back on her life, going from owner to cruel owner. She was never fed enough and rarely received medicine when she became ill. But more than anything, she thought about Ashton. Why did he risk his life to save her when any other human would have let her die? It vexed her to no end. The dream she had the night before only confused her more. That impossible fantasy... No human would ever feel that way about her.

A sound above Laika caught her ear. It sounded like footsteps. Her ears lay back against her head and she slunk low to the ground. When she looked up, a heavily cloaked figure leapt from the rooftop of the manor! It landed lightly, hardly making a sound. Its scent was very strange, like a variety of spices, possibly to hide its identity. Laika growled, "What do you want? Did you come here to take me back to my masters?" The mysterious human remained silent. After a moment, it raised its hands together to form a type of hand sign. After a moment of silence, he spoke with a creepy voice, "Ninja Art of Beast Mimicry." Laika noticed his fingernails elongate and seemed to look like claws. He lowered his upper body to the ground. "All Fours Jutsu." The mysterious man was now on all fours, like a wild beast. "I will feast on your flesh."

With a roar, the assailant charged at Laika and tried to take a swipe at her with his claws! She managed to evade him, but his newly acquired beastly prowess made him hard to keep up with! At one point, he actually succeeded in biting Laika on her rump! Even his teeth had changed, into fangs! "Grah, HEY! You little... I'll kill you!" As the cloaked figure made a lunge at Laika, she let out a Roar! The powerful soundwaves blew him head over heels backwards! However, the assailant used the added distance to use a new type of attack. As he ran towards Laika, he began to spin at high speeds, like a drill. "Piercing Fang!" Around and around, the assassin flew, clawing and slamming into Laika whenever possible. He appeared to be a small black whirlwind!

As Laika was being pounded and knocked around, she started to get a feel for the assassin's movements. Less and less often, the cloaked figure managed to strike her. Eventually, he could no longer touch her as Laika ducked and dodged her way through the assassin's attacks! At last, she saw an opportunity. As the assailant closed in on her, Laika fired a potent Shadow Ball squarely into his body! A black explosion sent the human into the stone wall of the manor headfirst! A sickening crack was heard before the assassin fell to the ground, his back leaning against the wall. Laika snorted, "Weakling. I will never again bend to any human's will."

Curious, Laika made her way over to the seemingly unconscious body of her attacker. When she got close, Laika could smell blood. The impact must have opened a wound on his head. When she was right next to him, Laika slowly pulled the hood backwards to see the face of her assailant. When she saw his face, there was an audible gasp as she quickly backed away. The still conscious human, blood trickling down his face, spoke, "Well done, Laika. You passed."

Laika's mind was filled with confusion and pain. "Lord Ashton.....why?" Ashton grinned, "I'm sorry if I hurt you back there. I just wanted to see if you could fend for yourself against wild beasts in the wild. The Ninja Art of Beast Mimicry allows me to fight with the primal instincts of many kinds of beasts, so it was a real simulation of an attack by a hungry animal." Laika asked again, "But why? Why did you...?" Ashton explained, "Do you remember yesterday? I promised to release you into the wild once you were well enough. You will thrive in the Black Woods. Head south, before the sun rises. There are no hunters out and no humans will ever think about going into the Black Woods to find you. Now, go." Laika just stood there for a moment, then walked over to Ashton and rested her head against his chest. "No." Ashton was stunned, "What? I thought you hated humans, which you never wanted to see again. This is your chance to be free forever. Why do you refuse?" Laika looked into his eyes, "Because, this is my home now. When you attacked, and I still did not know that was you, I really was not concerned about my own survival. I feared for your safety. I wanted to protect you, the same way you protected me. I will not leave. I want to stay here." Ashton was still silent. Soon, Laika began to lick the blood from Ashton's face. He surprised her by embracing her. "I understand. I will assign you as guardian of the estate. Should there be any intruders, it will be up to you to deal with them. OK?" Laika coolly nodded, "Agreed."

After visiting Serenade to bandage up his head, Ashton prepared for bed. Once in bed, Laika jumped up with him. "As guardian of the estate, it is my duty to stay close by at all times, right?" Ashton gave her a grin, "Well, sure, I guess." Ashton raised the covers for Laika, who slid under them next to her master. "Laika, do you want your own room? I can arrange for it." Laika shook her head, "No. I want to stay with you while you sleep so no one can sneak up on you in the night." Ashton scratched her head, "Thank you." He then blew out the candle next to the bed. After embracing her from behind, Ashton whispered, "Sweet dreams, Princess of the snow." He couldn't tell through the darkness, but that comment made Laika blush heavily. Soon, she fell asleep with a gentle smile on her face. A few minutes later, while still asleep, Laika whispered, "Lord Ashton.....I love you..." However, the next day, Ashton would be fighting for his life, and there would be nothing that Laika could do to defend him.
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