Sins of the Flesh
Chapter 16: Her Decision

Sonic looked from the king to Sally – he knew she would not be merciful, and he wouldn't blame her if she gave him a dozen life sentences. In fact, Sonic figured Sally would be more inclined to sentence capital punishment. The princess approached Sonic with an emotionless expression. Sonic could only bear to look into her eyes for a second before turning away and kneeling before her.

"While I realize what I had done to bring Sasha into this world was wrong, I never have and never will condone you murdering any child. I commend you for having the courage to come forward and admit what really happened at the risk of losing your life, but it does not pardon the crimes you've committed."

Sonic, while staring down at the floor, noticed tiny droplets appearing in the carpet – he knew Sally was crying, but doing her best to not allow it to be audible.

"Sonic the hedgehog – I sentence you to death by hanging", Sally said with her voice cracking toward the end of the statement.

"So be it", said the king. "Guards, put the prisoner in shackles and await my signal to bring him into the village square for the execution."

The guards heeded their orders and roughly put shackles around Sonic's wrists and ankles – he didn't fight back. He didn't want to die, but he wanted to take the punishment for the crimes he had committed. The king opened the castle doors and emerged to the front of the castle where he addressed the crowd, still waiting for a verdict.

"The trial has ended, my people! I must announce that Shadow the hedgehog – originally thought to be responsible for the kidnapping of the child Sasha – has been proven innocent and has been released."

The crowd began to jeer. "Well then who did it?", someone called out.

The king sighed. "Some of you may be reluctant to believe this, but we have found that Sonic the hedgehog admitted to and has been held responsible for the kidnapping and murder of the missing child!"

Everyone gasped. "No, not Sonic" and "Sonic would never do such a thing" were whispered among the members of the crowd. Tails turned away, outright refusing to believe that his best friend had murdered anyone. Bunnie sobbed into her hands, unable to believe Sonic did what he claimed to do. Antoine stood and smiled smugly knowing the force impeding his relationship with the princess would soon be eliminated. Shadow lay in the castle's small recovery room with numerous bandages, wondering if what had just happened was a dream or not. The king stepped aside so the guards could bring the guilty party out. Sonic hung his head low and said nothing – he couldn't face the village that had praised him for so long for his heroics now that they knew he was a murderer.

"That's right, Knothole – your hero has the blood of an innocent child on his hands! The princess has sentenced the murderer to death, which will take place in the village square immediately."

The crowd parted as the king headed for the square, which was barely on the outskirts of the village. The guards carried Sonic through the crowd, eliciting numerous reactions. Some people stared angrily at him, some turned away, unable to look at the killer. Some cried, some spit on him, some threw rocks…everyone had either shifted their negative feelings entirely to Sonic from Shadow or they were upset over what he had done and could not yet come to terms with it.

Within moments, everyone was gathered in the village square, where a noose had been prepared. The guards dragged Sonic up onto the square and the executioner wrapped the rope around the hedgehog's neck and tightened it. Sonic stood before the crowd with his head down while the villagers threw food and rocks at him – he went from hero to criminal in a matter of minutes. The king stepped up onto the square and calmed the crowd.

"As per law, despite the nature of the crime committed, the sentenced are given one wish before the execution is performed" He turned to Sonic. "Sonic, do you have a wish before the sentence is carried out?" The crowd loudly protested Sonic having any rights after finding out what he had done, but the king refused to bend the village laws to please the crowd, who was clearly eager to watch the death of the long-sought assassin.

"My only wish is for Sally to find happiness again someday."

The crowd booed at him even more – if given the opportunity, they probably would have torn him apart. Sonic's statement did not help Sally to cope with her feelings of doubt; she was upset with him for what he'd done and for lying to everyone, but she could not stop herself from wondering if she made a mistake sentencing the man she loved to death. She began to sob lightly again hearing Sonic – his final wish was for her happiness. Despite what he had done and the sorrow he had caused her, his statement still touched her heart. He looked at her with the most dismal eyes that sparkled with tears. She couldn't bear to watch him die – she closed her eyes and hung her head during his final moments.

The king was silent. He didn't know what to say to Sonic's wish. All he did was nod to the executioner to continue with the hanging.

"Goodbye, murderer", the executioner said before pulling the lever. The floor dropped out from beneath Sonic's and he plunged toward the ground. The rope allowed gravity to do its job and Sonic let out a choking noise as the rope strangled him. His fingers twitched for a moment after he fell, and then he dangled in the air completely motionless.

Most of the crowd cheered – Bunnie and Tails held each other and cried. Sally broke down crying when she saw the lifeless body of her lover hanging from the rope and she ran back to the castle. Eventually the excitement of the execution wore away and the villagers went back to their homes. The king turned to the executioner. "So, what do you want me to do with the body, your highness?"

"I have a feeling giving him a proper burial would result in an angry outcry from the people. Just put him in a coffin of any kind and have the gravedigger bury him without a tombstone."

The executioner nodded and untied the rope, letting Sonic's body fall to the ground. The king walked back to the castle to find the princess. While he walked, even he wondered if what happened was the right thing to do. Sonic spent his life and risking it to protect Knothole – would they be able to find another hero? Sonic was valued in the battle against Robotnik for his speed – who else had feet that fast? Would Sally be plunged into another depression because of this, especially since she is the one who chose the sentence? Was it right to put the hedgehog who had been the village hero into an unmarked grave?

Looking back at the square, the king only hoped the right decision was made. He entered the castle and went down to the medical ward to see how Shadow was faring.

"Well doctor, how is the dark hedgehog?"

"Those bounty hunters did a number on him, sire. He had some broken bones, fractures, and he lost a considerable amount of blood. But he'll be fine – he just needs to rest for now."

The king nodded and went to find Sally. He found her in her chambers, sobbing into a pillow. He entered the room and sat down on the edge of her bed and rested his hand on her shoulder. "Sally, what's the matter?"

She turned over, her face streaked with tears. "Oh daddy…I feel like I've made a terrible mistake. I was so mad over what Sonic did, but…as mad as I am, I miss him already. I feel awful…I…I killed the man I loved."

"Sally, listen to yourself. How much could you love a man who murdered your child? If he had the capacity to kill an innocent baby, who is to say he wouldn't kill any of the other villagers?"

"I…I don't know…"

"I know it might seem like you did something wrong, but I think you made the right decision." Sally sat up and hugged her father – they both hoped she made the right choice.

A small handful of the villagers were in their homes with tears in their eyes. Tails was having an especially hard time coping. "I…I just can't believe he's really gone. My best friend is gone…" The little fox sobbed to the point where he couldn't breathe; Bunnie was with him and she held him.

"Jus' let it out, sugah. I miss him too."

"I'm never gonna forgive aunt Sally for this! She killed Sonic!"

Bunnie wanted to tell Tails otherwise, but when she thought about it, the little fox was right. It was Sally's fault that Sonic was dead – she could have chosen to let him live with a lighter punishment. Although Bunnie would still remain friends with the princess, she felt a small part of her would be unable to forgive Sally for killing the man she loved. Late that night, Shadow lay in bed, finally awake and unable to sleep.

"I can't believe he's really gone", he thought. "He…he gave his life just to prove I was innocent. Guilty or not, he saved me."

Shadow tossed his blankets off and hobbled over to the window – from the window, he could see the square where Sonic took his last breaths earlier that day. No one had ever done something like that for him. He realized that he truly did have a friend in Sonic.

"Rest in peace, my friend", he said as a rare tear escaped his eye.


...or is it? I decided to take one reviewer's advice and break the story up into two separate stories following Sonic's death. Look for the story "Gentrified" to read the 'rest' of this story and what will eventually be the actual ending. Thanks very much for reading and reviewing, everyone! ^-^