Back after a long break! Sorry about that!


"This is so strange…"

Tails propped his elbows on the desk in front of him, completely puzzled as he stared at a computer screen. He was sitting in the corner of his workshop, hoping to find any information on the creatures they've encountered, but he was coming up empty.

Every scan and test he'd done on the feather and strands of fur all had the same result. Red letters spelling out 'unknown' had been flashing at him for the past half hour. It didn't make any sense, though. Rufflet was obviously a type of bird, so some kind of avian genes should have shown up. But no. He was just as clueless now as he was when he first sat down.

Tails ran a hand through his bangs, looking between the computer and the machine connected to it. He knew that running the tests a fourth time wouldn't change the result, but it wouldn't hurt to-

The kit's train of thought derailed when he saw movement in the corner of his eye. Tails peered out of the window to his left, looking at the shifting trees that led farther into the Mystic Ruins.

He stiffened when pale eyes stared right back.

"What…" Tails forgot all about his work as he focused on the creature partially hidden in the shade of the canopy. He was instantly drawn to the long black horn on one side of its head, sharply contrasting the hanging white fur on the other. Its whole body was like a contradiction. The longer white fur flowing in the slight breeze accented the dark pigment of its face, four feet, and tail.

Tails would've been completely amazed if unease hadn't been crawling up his spine as well. It was those pale eyes. They were staring blankly at him, unbothered that Tails had caught them in the act. Something about the gaze was…off.

It stared and Tails stared back until it broke the spell, turning around. The kit hastily stood out of his chair when the creature loped away, being quickly hidden by the thick foliage.

"Wait!" Tails yelled even though he knew it wouldn't hear him. He flew past the parked Tornado toward the front door, practically throwing it open in his haste to leave. He gained the attention of everyone with the loud slam.

Sonic, who had been sitting with Knuckles and Amy on the ground, rose a brow at his abrupt appearance. "Whoa! Where's the fire, bud? Did you find something about 'em?"

"Nothing about the ones we have!" Tails pointed in the direction the strange one left in. "But I saw another one! It went that way into the forest!"

The trio instantly stood in surprise. "Seriously?" Amy gasped. "What did it look like?

"Uh…it's looks like a mix between a cat and a dog with white fur! And it's got a long horn!"

Knuckles didn't know what this meant. There were wild ones running around now? "And I guess we're going after it?"

"Is that even a question?" Sonic grinned. There was no way that he would pass up meeting another one of these unique creatures. However, he hesitated at the thought that having the whole group chase after it would be a bad idea. They didn't want to scare it off. "But how about just me and Tails go? You and Amy stay here and watch the little guys, 'kay?"

Knuckles opened his mouth to fight the decision, but Amy cut him off. "Yeah, we can wait here! Go on before it gets too far away!"

"Right!" He saluted the rest of their small friends watching on in confusion. "We'll be back in a sec with another pal!" Sonic didn't wait for a response from them, jogging to Tails. "Lead the way!"

Tails was already hovering away. "It went in this general direction!" Sonic caught up to him when they hit the trees, careful to duck and dodge around trunks and low hanging branches.

After a while, they slowed down and began to search for any hint of the creature. Sonic kept his eyes on the ground for footprints while Tails was on the lookout for any strands of white fur.

The speedster checked around a tree, finding nothing, and asked, "So, how big is this thing?"

Tails was a bit of a distance away, scanning the greenery with perked ears. "It was bigger than any we've seen so far… I think it's almost as tall as us on its four legs."

"They come in all shapes and sizes, huh?" Sonic leaned against some bark, wondering how sheepish the creature was. Searching like this wasn't going to get them very far. If only the canopy wasn't so thick, Tails would be able to fly… "Do you think it would come to us if we called?"

"Maybe?" Tails remembered that bold stare, believing that it surely wouldn't be scared of them. To come when called, though? He wasn't sure. And who knew if it was still in earshot, but it was worth the try.

Tails cupped his mouth, shouting, "Hey! Are you out there?" Normally, no one else would be out in these woods, so the only one to answer should be the creature. "I saw you through the window, and I was wondering if we could be friends?"

They waited for any kind of response, vocal or otherwise. There was nothing other than the rustling leaves, birds chirping high overhead, and the distant waves.

Sonic decided to give it a try. He jogged forward a bit, yelling, "We're not gonna hurt ya, promise! We've got friends like you who can't wait to meet you!"

Still nothing. Tails stepped up to Sonic's side and provided one last attempt. "We have food if you're hungry!"

Sonic couldn't stifle his chuckle when that didn't gain them a response either. "You get an A for effort, Tails! Hm…maybe if we bring some bagels out here, then it'll show its face aga-" His words died off when something splattered on top of his head. "What the…"

He and Tails both glanced up, simultaneously freezing at the giant black snake hanging right above them. Elongated red fangs protruded out of its gaping maw. Pale eyes narrowed, a muscular coiled body tensed, and Sonic knew that they had to move now.

The blue hero grabbed Tails' arm and yanked him backwards, backpedaling when the snake struck where they had been standing. It hissed at them as it slithered off the sturdy branch, landing on the ground. The glare was heated it rose its head high enough that the brothers had to look up to maintain eye contact.

It was then that Sonic noticed the red blade on its tail. They really needed to stay clear of that.

He slightly positioned himself in front of Tails, whispering, "This has gotta be another one of them, right?"

"Yeah!" Tails was trying to calm down his frantically beating heart. "It has to be! And it…it has the same eyes as the one I saw before!"

"The same eyes?" Sonic focused on those pale irises sizing him and Tails up, but he didn't get to question it for the snake loudly hissed, tongue flickering. Sonic held out a halting hand and managed a genial smile. "Hey, pal! We're not here to hurt you, alright? I'm sure you heard what we said before! We're all friends here!"

The sharp gaze narrowed, and the hissing grew in intensity.

"Or maybe not," Tails muttered, unsure if taking this one back would be a good idea.

Sonic's smile didn't falter as he continued to persuade. "C'mon, don't act like that! I know you can understand every word I say, so you know that if you come with us, you don't have to be alone anymore! Plus, we got breakfast if you want any!"

"And it's not us!" Tails hurriedly chimed in. "Just to be clear!"

Apparently, they were the only thing on the menu for the serpent. It lunged forward with no warning, mouth agape and glowing fangs ready to bite down. Tails and Sonic hopped out of the way in opposite directions, both of them starting to realize that negotiating wasn't going to work.

Tails stiffened when it whirled around to face him, those pale eyes making a chill go down his back. He gasped and flew into the air when the snake lunged. Gulping, Tails looked down at the angered creature and exclaimed, "I think that we should leave it alone, Sonic! It's too dangerous!"

Sonic agreed that this snake was a bit on the wilder side, but that was part of the reason why they shouldn't let it out of their sight. It could get somewhere it shouldn't be and attack an innocent person with no clue to what was going on. But how could they bring it back, though? They could always knock it out, but that was-

"Whoa!" Sonic was thrown out of his thoughts when the bladed tail whizzed right by his head. He had stepped back in time to avoid being slashed, years of fighting having fine-tuned his reaction times. The snake was homed in onto him now since Tails was out of range. Sonic grinned. "You might wanna rethink attacking us! We're the last ones you want to mess with!"

"Se…" It bared its fangs once more, tensing its body. Sonic shifted on his feet so he could move at any time. The coil then snapped, and the snake sprung forward. "Viper!"

It turned out that Sonic didn't have to dodge at all.

A white and grey blur bulleted from the side and slammed into the snake's face, snapping its head to the side. Sonic stared in surprise until he recognized the unexpected attacker. "Rufflet?"

"Ruff ruff!" He chirped as he flapped over the serpent, glaring down at the fanged creature. The snake hissed up at the bird, wasting no time in jumping into the air to retaliate.

"Oh no you don't!" Tails intercepted the attack, kicking the snake in the side before it could hurt his new friend. He felt a little bad when it was flung into the tree trunk, but the happy tweet from Rufflet made up for it.

However, the happiness faded away when the snake recovered from the hit. Rufflet's feathers ruffled as he swooped down once more.

He didn't get far, for a shrill screech pierced the air. Sonic and Tails gasped as the sound attacked their ear drums, and Rufflet squawked, faltering in his approach.

Tails' breath caught in his throat when the snake sneered, seizing the opportunity it created. Rufflet cried out in pain when the serpent slashed his side, sending the bird to ground.

"Rufflet!" Alarmed, Tails darted over to the avian as he shook off the hit. Tails carefully picked up and scanned his friend, relieved that the blade hadn't broke skin. "Are you okay?"

Rufflet nodded with no hesitation. "Let!"

"Viper!" Tensing, Tails glanced back to find the snake lunging for them again.

Until the heel of Sonic's foot stopped it then and there.

The ax kick rendered the serpent unconscious before it hit the ground, its long tongue lolling out of its mouth.

"I didn't want to do it, but…" Sonic sighed as he eyed the long creature, searching for any movement. It was breathing, but nothing else. "If free food didn't make it want to listen, nothin' will."

Tails let Rufflet go, and the bird sought out revenge by pecking at the snake's head a few times. The kid genius bit his lip. "I hope it won't be too mad at us when it wakes up…"

Sonic waved him off. "No madder than it already was. We just gotta keep it someplace secure until it calms down and we can-" The rest of his words died in his throat when the black serpent faded out of existence. "-well, that's new."

Tails couldn't wrap his mind around this. "What?! Where did it go?" He ran over to where the snake should have been, feeling around with wide eyes to make sure it didn't turn invisible somehow. "It's really gone!" He turned to Rufflet, seeing the bird just as shocked as he was. "Did you know it could do this, Rufflet?"

The avian shook his head. "Let let!" He landed and hopped around the grass the snake had squished down, chirping in distress.

"Disappearing when knocked out…" Sonic scratched the back of his head with a pensive frown. "Wait, is this just this snake's thing, or do all of you do that?"

Tails' gut dropped at the question. That was the last thing that needed to happen.

Rufflet didn't seem to know the answer, still hopping around with ruffled feathers.

Sonic ran a hand through his quills. "Well, we've got to be extra careful with you guys from now on!" He smiled at the bird. "Don't want any of our new friends disappearin' on us!"

"Yeah!" Tails held out an arm, and Rufflet landed on it. The kit petted the avian with his free hand. "Especially after what you did, Rufflet! Thanks for showing up and helping us out!"

Rufflet cooed at the praise.

Sonic deeply exhaled, still processing all of this. "I guess…that's that?" The fact that the creature disappeared after being kicked made him feel worse about it, but it wasn't actually dead somehow, right? Hopefully. Sonic searched around the now quiet forest. There was still no sight of the black and white cat/dog thing. "Are we gonna look again for the one you saw earlier, Tails?"

The fox thought on it. "I think we should leave it alone for now. It knows where we live, so it might show up again later. Plus, I don't want a bad run-in with that one. It's got pretty long claws."

Sonic understood his bro's hesitation, however, "Since it didn't attack you at the workshop, I'm sure it's friendly! But yeah, I think it's best if we head back and tell the others what happened so they can be on the look-out."

"Right!"

The trio retraced their steps and rushed back out of the woods, eventually bursting into the clearing the workshop occupied.

Amy released a relieved breath when she saw Tails and Sonic approaching with Rufflet in tow. "Sorry we couldn't keep an eye on Rufflet!" She giggled as Vulpix, Shaymin, and Buizel ran to meet the boys, any worry they had gone with the wind. "I guess he was really concerned when you two left!"

"Don't sweat it!" Sonic grinned, catching Shaymin when it practically jumped into his arms. "I'm honestly surprised the rest didn't follow too! Rufflet was a good help, though!"

"A good help?" Amy furrowed her brow when the two heroes stepped in front of her and Knuckles. "A help with what?"

Knuckles glanced behind the brothers at the trees before asking, "And where's the creature that Tails saw? You didn't find it?"

Tails shook his head, holding his hands out wide. "No, but we did find this huge snake that tried to attack us!"

Amy gasped as she looked them over. "Seriously? You didn't get hurt, right?"

"Well…" Tails glanced over at Rufflet, who had settled onto Vulpix's back. "Rufflet got hit with the snake's blade tail, but he bounced back!"

Knuckles slowly blinked. "Did you just say…blade tail?"

"Oh, right." Sonic chuckled. They had left out one important detail. "It was definitely one of these guys." He gently squeezed Shaymin, and it chirruped in response. "I think it had the same speech patterns, and well, you don't regularly see a snake with foot-long fangs 'round here."

Amy felt a bit uneasy. "I'm kinda glad you didn't bring it back here! What happened to it?"

"It disappeared." At the confusing looks, Sonic explained, "We tried to talk to it, but it was real determined to sink its teeth into us. I kicked it in the head to knock it out, and…poof! It was gone."

Amy couldn't believe what she was hearing. "This…is just so weird!"

Knuckles rose a brow at the speedster. "So, you killed it?"

"No!" Sonic hastily opposed. "It was still breathing and everything! Right, Tails?"

The kit jumped to Sonic's defense. "Totally! We were about to drag it here, but it just faded away!" Rufflet chirped to confirm as well.

Knuckles crossed his arms, this whole situation not settling well in his stomach. It was clear that the one who ran away and the one who attacked weren't as friendly as the creatures listening in at the moment.

The only difference, he assumed, was that Celebi was the one who delivered the nice ones and the others…from an unknown place. He somehow doubted that the green pixie thing who had barely been supporting its own weight dropped eggs in random places. There had to be a reason. Too bad he had no idea what it was.

"What do we do now?" Knuckles grunted. "There's obviously more of them out there, at least in the forest, and not all of them are friendly."

"We should find them, right?" Amy suggested, curiosity peaked. "Or at least try to find out where they come from?"

"And risk being attacked by those things?" Knuckles was no stranger to fighting, but apparently these creatures come in multiple shapes and sizes. There's a randomness he didn't like.

Amy teasingly grinned at him. "Don't tell me you're scared, Knuckles!" Before he could defend himself – because he definitely was not scared – she continued, "We could get our friends to help out! To talk to the ones who are a little shy!"

Tails tapped his chin. "I guess that could work… There hadn't been a lot of talking between Rufflet and the snake before things got physical." It was the only plan they had at the moment, anyway. He addressed Rufflet and Vulpix, "Are you two up for it? Meeting new friends?"

They cheeped and yipped in agreement.

Sonic glanced down at Shaymin in his hold and Buizel at his side, grinning. "I'm ready for a little exploration! How about you guys?"

"Bui bui!"

"Shay!"

Amy smiled at their enthusiasm. She squatted down to ask Budew – who was a little more awake now – and the straight-faced Ralts, "Do you want to tag along too?" Ralts simply grabbed a small handful of Amy's dress. Budew yawned as he waddled over to her. She giggled as she wrapped him up in his arms, standing once more. "I think those are yeses!"

Knuckles didn't have to say anything for Sandshrew to run excitedly around him, ready to go. In contrast, Riolu was staying quiet.

"You're not staying here by yourself, so you're coming with," Knuckles said to him. Riolu let out a meek whine but didn't otherwise argue.

"It'll be alright, little guy! You'll be safe with us!" Sonic tried to reassure, but the pup was too busy staring at the forest in trepidation. Thinking that the other would get used to their lifestyle soon enough, he added, "We gotta keep an extra eye out, though. We don't know of the disappearing thing was just a one-time deal, or if they all do it."

Amy's eyes widened, holding Budew a little tighter. "Hopefully the snake is the only one!"

"Yeah." Knuckles wanted that to be the case too. Sure, Sandshrew and Riolu were surprises, but they weren't entirely unwelcome ones. "Those creatures would have to get through me first."

"Way to go, Knux!" Sonic smirked. "You've fully embraced your cute and cuddly side-kicks!"

"Let's go before I accidentally punch someone off a cliff," Knuckles mumbled as he stomped toward the trees.

Tails, Amy, and Sonic stifled their chuckles as they followed with their bubbly new friends in tow.


Shadow was leaning against the doorframe of his bedroom, peering inside with his arms folded. He stared hard at the blue lion cub still sleeping on his pillow. It was turned on its back, mouth open as it snored.

A frown marred Shadow's face as he recalled the Commander's words from earlier. Apparently, there were more of these creatures in Mystic Forest who had the potential to attack people. Shadow hadn't wanted anything to do with the things, but now his curiosity had roped him into this situation. His job had a bit of influence as well, but not as much as the interest growing within him.

The questions of what and where needed to be answered as soon as possible.

His attention drifted off the feline when he heard the front door open. The cub didn't twitch at all at the sound. Shadow gave it another lingering look before walking to his living room, seeing a fully dressed and ready Rouge standing in the middle of it. She had made him wait because she refused to leave in her pajamas.

His frown deepened when he noticed the small bat and the ghost flying behind her. "Why didn't you leave them in your apartment, Rouge?"

The white-furred agent rose a brow. "And let my little ghosty here get out anyway? I assumed that we were bringing all of them with us."

"You assumed wrong." Shadow would rather not have tagalongs that could possibly slow them down. "Keep them in my apartment and tell the ghost to not leave." He gave the floating spirit a pointed look, and it avoided his gaze.

Rouge put a hand on her hip, smirking. "It's like you're asking for your place to be trashed, hun."

"Then we'll keep them in yours."

She rolled her eyes, used to his sour attitude. "Listen, the last thing we need is them somehow getting out and wandering downstairs into the club. I will cry, Shadow, if any of the expensive stock ends up spilled on the floor." The hedgehog scoffed at that. Rouge grew more serious. "And plus, don't you want to observe them? They're mysteries! Why are some of the creatures attacking people while others-" She reached over to scratch under the other bat's chin. "-are adorable pets?"

Shadow didn't consider them pets quite yet. "They'll get in the way."

"Only you think so, Mr. Grouch." Rouge opposed. "I think that they'll be a help. They obviously understand each other, so what's to say that they won't understand the ones out there? It'll speed up the case for sure if we manage to get answers faster that way."

Shadow glared at her, trying and failing to bring up a counterargument.

Realizing that she had won, Rouge grinned. "Now, go wake up your little kittens so we can get this show on the road."

Shadow turned on his heel without another word. If things went south, it would be all on her.

He trudged back into his bedroom, walking right up to the sleeping blue cub. He poked it in the stomach and barked out, "Wake up." It didn't respond at first, and Shadow was about to do it again with more volume. However, the snores suddenly cut out and a dreary eye peered open.

"Let's go. We're leaving," Shadow ordered with no room for arguments.

The cub didn't move, instead whining out a sleepy, "Shi…"

Shadow hardened his gaze. "I'm not telling you again." There was a brief stare-down before the feline yawned, flipping over and stretching. Shadow nodded before leaving the room. He heard the other jump to the floor, following with soft steps.

Rouge looked up when Shadow returned, watching the drowsy cub. "Well, hello there." It looked up at her and the flying creatures before yawning once more. Rouge chuckled. "Sorry for disturbing your sleep, sugar, but we need all of you."

It plopped down in the middle of the space with a huff, ears dropping. "Shinx." The smaller bat and ghost surrounded it and tried to talk, but the cub wasn't having it. Not until it got more sleep.

Rouge smirked. "It reminds me of someone else I know."

Shadow rose a brow at her. "You?"

"I don't get moody when I don't get enough sleep. You're borderline impossible to talk to." When Shadow rolled his eyes at her, clearly not going to entertain this argument even though she might have a point, she asked, "Where's the other one?"

"I told you it's in the freezer."

"You were serious about that?" Instead of answering, Shadow motioned for Rouge to follow. She did with her newfound friends in tow. The cub stayed put, fighting sleep.

Rouge blinked in surprise once she reached the kitchen. Shadow, by the fridge, held the freezer door open. There was a bigger cat-like creature stuffed in there, deeply asleep. "Well, you don't see that every day."

"Noi noi!" the bat agreed, plopping down on her head. It was too cute for Rouge to get mad.

"Vus!" The ghost nodded and floated a bit closer in interest.

Like earlier, Shadow poked the black feline in its side. It stirred but didn't wake. Shadow did it again harder this time, and red eyes flew open in shock before settling on the hedgehog.

Shadow stepped back to allow the other some room. "You're coming with us. Get out."

"Sne?" Its gaze drifted to the others in the kitchen, blinking the sleep out of its eyes. Shadow didn't need to repeat himself, however, for feathered creature slid out of the freezer and onto the floor like it just hadn't endured below freezing temperatures. It raised its arms in a stretch, small flakes of ice sloughing from its fur and falling to the tile below.

Rubbing an eye, the feline looked at Shadow and muttered, "Sneasel sne?"

That was a question that Shadow couldn't exactly understand, but he had a good assumption it was something along the lines of Where are we going? "You'll see once we get there."

His guess proved right at the understanding nod he received. Then, it turned around and pointing one of its claws at the cereal boxes on the fridge. "Sne?"

Shadow frowned. "No." He had just cleaned that mess up, and it couldn't be hungry enough yet to want more.

The creature frowned at him before begging over at the ghost, still pointing. "Sneasel?"

The spirit moved to comply until Shadow glared at it. "No. Leave it alone."

The ghost wisely backed off, and Rouge couldn't help to be amused by this. "Come on, Shadow! Obviously Sneasel wants a little snack for the road."

"It has already eaten enough, and-" Shadow paused, rewinding to what she had said. "Sneasel?"

Rouge shrugged. "We have to call these darlings something, don't we? Sneasel is what it says, so to keep it simple, we should go with that." She pointed at the ghost and then at the bat on her head. "That's Misdreavus and this is Noibat. The other kitten in the room should go by…Shinx, right?"

Shadow wasn't going to argue her reasoning or the fact she thought it was important to do so in the first place. "Whatever floats your boat, Rouge." He then grabbed Sneasel's wrist, leading it out of the kitchen. It pouted but didn't struggle. Shadow frowned at how cold it was at the touch, but he figured it was because of the nap in the freezer and left it at that.

In the living room, Shinx had almost succumbed to sleep again, Shadow's return made it straighten its sagging head. Shadow wanted to keep them here even more after these interactions, but he realized that the pros outweighed the cons…for now.

Shadow stood by Shinx and let go of Sneasel, who was now free to cross its arms with puffed cheeks. Once Rouge and her followers were close enough, he asked, "Are you ready?"

She nodded. "Ready when you are, hun."

Shadow tapped into the boundness energy emitting from the Chaos emerald hidden in his quills and uttered, "Chaos Control."

There was a surge of chaotic power within him that burst out, engulfing everyone around in a bright light. Once it cleared, they were surrounded by rustling leaves and a cool breeze that caressed their faces.

All sleep was gone from Shinx's system now as it, along with the other creatures, looked around in shock. "Shinx shi?"

Rouge gestured to the greenery surrounding them. "Welcome to Mystic Ruins! We're aiming to find more of you out here."

"Noi?" Noibat's surprise morphed into excitement when it flew off of Rouge's head, circling around the group. "Noibat bat!" it cheered. Misdreavus began to do the same thing, its joyous cries mixing with the bat's.

Shadow sighed at the noise. "Control them," he told Rouge, looking off in a random direction. "Let's start our search." He glanced back at Shinx and Sneasel. "You two better keep up."

Rouge tisked when he started up his rocket skates. "Always the buzzkill." She spread her wings, reassuring the others. "He shouldn't go that fast because we're here to look and we don't want to miss anything, right Shadow?"

"Sure." He hadn't planned on going full speed anyway. He wasn't stupid enough to blast through here scaring away the very things they were looking for. However, that didn't mean that he was crawling through the forest either.

With no more words, Shadow skated off. He peered over his shoulder to find Rouge flying after him, trailed by Noibat and Misdreavus. Shinx was running, making an attempt to keep up, but Sneasel was just standing there, watching Shadow get farther away.

Frustration grew within him because they didn't need distractions like this, but it all nearly fizzled out when Sneasel sprinted, no…skated after him.

Astonished, Shadow slowed to a stop as he observed the other's movements, Rouge doing the same. Sneasel was copying his form, swishing back and forth on…was that ice being created under its feet?

It was grinning victoriously as it quickly closed the distance, leaving a trail of glittering ice behind. Once it caught up, Sneasel skidded to a halt, looking proud of itself.

Rouge was staring at the ice like it would soon disappear in a puff of smoke. "Maybe that's why it was sleeping in the freezer…?"

In contrast to the black feline's smile, Shadow was frowning. These things had powers? That put an entirely different spin on their current mission. Not only did they have a chance of being attacked, now they had a chance of being frozen along with who knew what else.

Curiosity at its max now, Shadow looked over at Shinx, who was pawing at the melting ice. "What abilities do you have?"

"Shi?" Shinx tilted its head at him as the yellow bands on its front legs began to glow. Small strings of static jumped between the furs for a few seconds before eventually fading away.

"Electricity…" Shadow breathed out, completely thrown for a loop.

Rouge was no better, but she managed a smug grin. "Bet you're glad that we brought them along now, huh?"

He ignored her, focusing on Misdreavus. "Your ability is being a ghost-" His attention snapped to Noibat, looking it over. "-what about you?"

The fluttering bat had no time to respond, for string shot out of a nearby bush, rocketing through the air. Shadow barely had the thought of shouting Chaos Control when his body was tightly wrapped in the stuff. His legs and his arms were forcefully bound, so there was nothing to cushion his fall to the unforgiving ground.

"Dammit!" He cursed upon landing, his cheek taking the brunt of the fall. Shadow struggled to escape the binding, but it was impossible. The string painfully stuck to his fur. There was no give at all.

Shadow was about to ask Rouge why the hell she didn't catch him, but then her wrapped body crash-landed beside his. The white string covered her from the neck down, constricting any movement.

She hissed upon impact. "What in the-? What is this disgusting stuff?!"

Shadow didn't have an answer for her, a slew of curses echoing in his mind as every attempt to escape fell through.

"Noi noi!" He glanced up to see Noibat facing the bushes the string had originated from. Then, visible sound waves pulsed from its large ears, distorting the air around it. Cries emitted from the foliage when the attack landed, and the others wasted no time.

Sneasel dove into the bushes, and two green spiders with red pincers were thrown out into the open. "Spin!" they cried when they bounced against the ground. The duo was shaky when they stood up, wobbling back and forth like they would trip over their many feet any minute. The spiders seemed confused, walking around in circles, their milky eyes focusing on everything but their targets.

Shinx growled at them, fur bristling. It charged the nearest one, tackling it full force. The spider skidded along the ground, but Shinx didn't let it get back up. It rushed the bug once more, knocking the annoyance away again. The spider didn't move after that.

The bug's partner received the same treatment. Instead of being forcefully hit, it was engulfed in a purple energy wave that had been shot out of Misdreavus' mouth.

"Spinarak!" the spider hissed in pain before slumping to the ground, unconscious.

Sneasel, who had climbed back out of the bushes, saw the bodies and smirked. "Sne! Snea…" It, and everyone else, was stunned when the two spiders then faded away like they were nothing. "…sel?"

Rouge slowly blinked, more confused than those spiders had been. "What just happened?"

Shadow was pissed that they had been attacked by those weak things, but they had one trait that he'd noticed. "Did you see that their eyes were pale?"

"Really?" Rouge faced him as best as she could, severely unenthused. "So, the creatures we were looking for just disappeared, and we're left stuck in sickening stringy goo. What else could go wrong?"

A bit of a distance away, a voice rang out, "Hey, guys? I think I heard voices coming from over here!"

Shadow deadpanned at her because there was no mistaking Sonic's grating voice. He could already feel the irritation and humiliation creeping up.

Rouge had the decency to be somewhat guilty, but then her grin sharply contrasted the look. "At least we're getting saved, so don't be like that."

Shadow deeply sighed and braced for the inevitable.


So all of the pokémon in the forest are hostile, huh? Well, that can't be good…