Chapter four – The rise and fall
The bleak February wind gusted across the island shuddering Knuckles awake.
Crap. How could I have fallen asleep?! He quickly stood and franticly looked left and right. Knuckles turned to face the Emerald behind him.
"Did you take her away again?" He asked the gleaming gem. "Tikal… are you in there?" He placed a mitten hand upon the surface of jewel. Knuckles looked around. Left, nothing. Right, nothing. He turned and began to descend the stairs, still looking about.
"Tik—," Knuckles' shout was cut short by Tails' suddenly appearing behind a bush.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY KNUCKLES!!!" He shouted along with Sonic who popped out blowing a party favor and Amy, who ran up to Knux and placed a wreath of dried flowers, perfectly preserved around his neck.
"What the…what's all this?" He asked lifting the wreath, inspecting it with much suspicion.
"It's your birthday, Knucklehead! What's wrong? Already got Alzheimer's? Or is it too many hits to the head?" Sonic sneered.
"Shut up!" Knuckles growled.
"Sorry I'm late!" piped a squeaky voice.
"Everybody turned and spotted Cream and Cheese arriving to the scene.
"Hey no problem, we just surprised Knuckles, so you just came just in time," replied Amy patting Cream on the head. The shy bunny walked up to him.
"Happy birthday Knuckles"
He smiled warmly, "Thank you, Cream."
"I brought my mom," she pointed towards the bridge where Vanilla the Rabbit was making her way to the island, holding in her hand a huge birthday cake. The site caused everyone to cheer with glee.
Plates were passed around and songs were sung and stories about good old times were told. The crew were all seated in a circle at the foot of the ruins' long stairs.
"Man," started Sonic, "Times sure change," he looked at Tails with much fondness," I found you crying in diapers and you've been with me ever since."
Knuckles chuckled, "And we were worst enemies."
Sonic laughed, "Yeah…"
"Uh, Knuckles?" asked Miles.
"When you woke up, we saw you walking around as if you were looking for something—were you?
Knuckles lips tightened. How should I answer? What should I say? And why do I feel like I need to keep Tikal a secret?
"Nothing," Knuckles replied, "I guess I just saw something that's all…nothing more."
"Oh…" Tails took a spoonful of cake popped it in his mouth. Still left at the end of his mouth was a piece of frosting, which Cream spotted. She took a handkerchief and leaned towards him and wiped it off.
"Oh," Tails flushed, "Thanks."
Sonic raised a brow but said nothing.
Amy Rose watched all of them with much tenderness and love. They are all my friends, my dear, sweet beloved friends… Her eyes moved and landed on the blue hedgehog. Ah…Sonic my love, how long will it take for you to see the love I have for you? Oh, but I will keep trying; I'll do whatever it takes for you to notice me…
"Eh?" Sonic the whole time, felt a stare over him and he then noticed Amy's eyes gazing lovingly at him. He tired to ignore it, acting like he never noticed. But it bugged him, irritated him. Just stop it. Stop it.
"Hey, Amy?" called Sonic calmly.
"Yes, Sonic?" She leaned closer to him.
"You're kinda staring pretty hard at me ya' know?"
"Oh?!" she placed her hands at her reddening cheeks, "I was?" she smiled shyly, "I didn't noticed."
"Do I got something on my face?" Sonic gave her a smirk.
"Maybe…." She giggled as she inched towards him.
"Aww, man Sonic thought, I gotta go before she sticks to me like glue…
Knuckles spoke up after a moment of silent eating, "Thank you everyone for doing this for me… This really caught me by surprise," He smiled warmly.
"It seems like you were about to call out to someone at the time we surprised you," commented Tails.
There was silence.
"Tails, you shouldn't say those kinds of things, it makes you sound like a nosy person and it makes others uncomfortable," Cream frowned and looked at Tails with a face that showed disappointment.
"I'm sorry," Tails flushed.
Everybody continued eating and sharing conversations with each other. Tails didn't really participated much but instead looked around him and at all of the vivid faces. Sonic cool and casual, Amy whose eyes were glued and in tune with Sonic's very gesture, Knuckles whose voice boomed with much happiness and pride as he shared some stories about way back when. He seemed really happy, thought Tails. He saw how his rich laughter filled the air after Sonic told him of some of his comedic run-ins and mix-ups he's had in the past. His eyes shone, his hands moved about expressing everything in gestures and words. He seemed to drink in their company…He is lonely, thought Tails remembering the conversation he had with Sonic. He then looked and lastly noticed Cream. She was such a sweet person and just noticing her there helping out with the cutting of the cake and Cheese bouncing about her, she began to look beautiful. Tails looked back at his own hands and sank deep into his own thoughts. He never really noticed her. But over the long winter days, Cream and her mother often stopped by and he felt indebted them especially to her—Cream.
"You know," began Vanilla after another silence, "Back when you all saved the world that time, it was a wonderful night. All of the stars in the sky shone like diamonds…" Vanilla continued, "I remembered that there was one star that stood out. It was bigger than the North Star… It flew and streaked across the sky and I made a wish," she closed her eyes. "Then, the star moved and it seemed to have landed somewhere here on earth."
"Really?!" cried Tails.
"Yes," she answered quite calmly.
There was an awkward silence in the group. Amy Rose stood rapidly. Her bottom lip trembled with excitement.
"Where, where do you think it could be?!" she asked nervously shaking. No one else said anything but they all calculated and come to her conclusion. It's just that nobody wanted to say it or even believe it for that matter.
Did Shadow survived?
Vanilla put her finger to her bottom lip, "I think…yes, it seemed to have landed north from my house," she concluded. Then looking at all the different expressions she added, "Did I say something wrong?"
"No, no, you didn't," soothed Tails, "Don't worry."
"Are you going to find the shooting star, Tails?" asked Cream. She was just as confused as her mother was. She was asleep when the world was threatened to be destroyed.
He placed his hand on her shoulder, "Don't worry about it… Maybe I might find a pot of gold." Tails laughed to lightened the mood.
Cheese screamed at him in a bickering set of Chao-like noises. Cream translated, "Tails, you find pots of gold at the ends of rainbows, not shooting stars."
"Oops, ehehe, sorry." Tails rubbed the back of his head with one hand, "I get all those myths confused.
"Sonic!" cried Amy, "Let's go and figure this out!" Sonic remained silent, his hand at his chin in deep thought.
"If I'm correct," began Knuckles, "The Mystic Ruins lies north of there."
"Then it's settled!" said Amy slamming her fist into her hand, "I'll go pack, me and Sonic are going to find out the location of that fallen star in the Mystic Ruins!" she boomed. "You wanna come too, Tails?"
Tails moved his gaze from Amy to Sonic, "Sonic?" he asked. His eyes watched as the blue hedgehog took to his feet.
"Amy…who said I was going?"
"No buts, Amy," he looked at her calmly. He had a melancholy look, one that showed that he didn't want to go at it. "What gives you the certainty that he could be alive…and even if he was, what are the chances that he can become one of us?" Sonic looked up at the sky, "Shadow from the start, was fated to be different, different from everybody else."
"Sonic…" Amy's eyes lowered and gazed to her feet.
"I don't want to learn or find out anything that has to do with Shadow. He has always been a secret for everyone, I want it to stay that way—a mystery."
Tails wanted to change the subject—badly. He hated to see Sonic so upset. He was never like that.
"If there was an opportunity to like a human being—would you take it?" he asked. It was a question directed to everybody and it landed in the atmosphere and weighed heavy in the air.
"ARE YOU CRAZY?!!" Knuckles cried out indignified. I stay enchinia for LIFE!"
"Me too," said Sonic. He looked at Tails and smirked, "I told ya, don't you ever take me as your guinea pig!"
Everybody laughed, Tails smiled. Sonic's mood lifted up again. That's good, he thought.
"I'll do it."
Everyone looked at Amy as if she had lost her mind.
"Defiantly," she continued, "Humans got soooo much more to chose from when it comes to clothes, it's amazing. Cute accessories too!
Everyone sighed, Cream and Vanilla smiled.
"I want to see how it feels like, ya' know?" added Tails.
"Well," began Sonic, "You've got the machine—make that plan work!" he encouraged.
"Machine?" asked Knuckles disgusted with the thought of such an idea to be a possible reality. Tails told everyone about the Animal-Changing Machine keeping the origins a secret.
"That's soo—cool!" Amy squealed, "I'll volunteer—Oh Sonic, please try it with me!"
"You lost your marbles!?" Find someone else!"
Amy bit her lip.
"Cream, do you wanna try it?"asked Tails softly.
"I don't know, I feel happy with the way I am, but it sure sounds fun!" she smiled and Cheese was bouncing all over the place. She nodded and stuffed her hand inside her pocket, pulling out a yellow gem. Tails backed off in shock.
"Cream! Where did you find that Chaos Emerald?"
"I found it while I was digging snow out of my sandbox one morning." She placed the precious gem in Tails' wide open palm with both of her hands, "Use it to power up the machine, Tails!" she smiled.
Sonic saw how his cheeks began to glow and how his eyes softened. He had to look away. Somehow he had to accepted it, that awful word…
"I will, I promise!" chirped Tails with all the certainty in the world.
"Those two seem rather close, don't you think?" whispered Knuckles into Sonic's ear.
"Yeah…" he whispered back. Sonic noticed that Knuckles' last remark was done with a little grin. Am I the only one who's uncomfortable with this?! He thought. He saw Amy smiling and acting all bubbly and giggly. She must have noticed it as well. I bet even Vanilla knows because she's smiling too. I guess only Cream is the one oblivious of his feelings for her…
"Sonic? Where are you going?"
He turned and spotted Tails looking back at him. Somehow, Sonic thought, he always, always catches me right before I run off…"Well, the party's over and I'm gettin' bored," he answered casually. He stretched once, twice and in a blink of an eye, he was gone.
"There he goes," sighed Knuckles, "Amy, what are you going to do now?"
Amy sighed as well and placed her hands at her hips, "Well, first of all let me ask you; Are you interested in checking out that fallen star?"
It was true…it peaked his interest but Knuckles was more concerned on finding Tikal. The Master Emerald granted me another chance to live…
"I'm sorry Amy, I'd like to, but I have other things to attend to.
Amy pouted, "I'd thought so," she turned to Tails who was getting ready to leave with Vanilla and Cream. "Wait for me; I'm coming with you, Tails!"
"Sure, you can come with us," Tails called.
She ran up to him and she placed her hand on his shoulder, "Tails let me volunteer—I want to be human."
There was something in the seriousness of her voice that shocked him. After all, with a dangerous experiment, anything could go wrong, since it messed with the atom configuration of an organism.
"Are you sure?" he asked, his face solemn.
"Yes," she nodded, "Who knows?" she giggled, and "I'd love to see Sonic's reaction!"
She turned around the see Knuckles looking at her, "Keep me posted, about the fallen star thing. As soon as I fix things up here, I'll head over and start investigating."
Amy Rose's face broke out in a brilliant smile, "Yup! Don't worry, Knuckles, I'll tell you everything!"
"Bye-bye, Knuckles!" she cheered as she walked off.
"Bye Knuckles!" cried Tails, "Happy birthday!"
"Good bye, I hope your birthday wishes come true!" chimed Cream with Cheese singing behind her.
At the mention of "birthday wishes" he face colored up flushing up to the deepest shade of scarlet. I wonder it if will come true… He thought.
The small group broke out in smiles and laughs and Knuckles stood there, like the guardian he was, watching until they were nothing but a group of dots in the distance.