Chapter 100- Dawn of Crimson Twilight

After the heroes' battle with Nova, about a month had passed, and the afternoon sun hung lazily in the sky, as if suspended on an invisible string. Already, cranes and construction sites were spread over Central City, and the rubble created by the cataclysmic struggle had long been cleared away.

It was a familiar scene, reminiscent of a forest, which shortly after burning down, is beginning to be reborn. Tender, vulnerable shoots would grow from the ashes and remains of their predecessors, making the continual, never-ending cycle that is life.

Overhead, the softly darkening skies were completely clear, much like that day upon which the fated battle had taken place. Underneath the azure canvas that was beginning to taint violet, stood a motionless figure.

The being was frozen upon a hilltop, a billowing ebony cloak lightly caressing its body in the piercing wind, which howled and whispered like the screams of departed spirits. Obscuring his features was a deep, almost abyssal cowl... a sea of darkness that hid everything. It almost looked like the cloak was an entity all of its own, and that there was nobody inside it.

The cloaked figure's arms were crossed over its chest, causing the fiery ivory markings on its sleeves to meld together, as a single forefront of flame stretching across an endless expanse of soulless obsidian. Separated from the billowing ebony presence by a few hundred feet were the surviving heroes.

They stood at the bottom of a hill, looking out at the city, each one with a slightly different emotion painted upon their face. The sky blue echidna's eyes were squinting, the scar on his right eye furrowing with his neutral expression. Although he wasn't all that moved by the dark hedgehog's departure, he also realized what a mistake it would be to make the feelings of the others seem less legitimate.

Silver and Blaze had come into contact with Shadow before, or at least, had been given the memories by Mephiles. Although their connections were not as strong as some of the others, they had harbored great hope that he could be redeemed, and brought back into their group. At Shadow's departure, they were deeply saddened, even if not to the same degree as Sonic or Rouge.

The cerulean hedgehog's expressive emerald eyes were glossy and wet, moisture periodically gathering at the edges to signify his tremendous pain. The ring he had found in Central City hung loosely from one hand, as if it would drop to the ground at any moment, and he stared down at the grassy earth, frozen in his sorrow.

With incredible poise, Tikal was saying a few words in the obsidian avenger's honor, partly for Sonic and Rouge's benefit, and much to commemorate his final sacrifice in the battle with Nova.

The cloaked figure moved slightly closer to hear what was being said.

"-in the face of mortal peril, sacrificed himself in order to save the rest of us. Clearly, he was a misunderstood and misjudged individual," Tikal said softly yet ceremoniously, as if they were burying him without his body.

"No honor we can give him is worthy of such sacrifice. It is said that there is no greater love than one who would lay down his life for his friends."

As soon as the word friends left her lips, a dark scowl tainted Sonic's eyes, his emotions breaking free. He began muttering to himself in between sobs over and over, his eyes fluttering madly, almost as if he was going insane.

"It's all my fault... my fault. It's all my fault."

In remembrance of the dark hedgehog's actions, neither Sonic nor Rouge could hold back any longer. Bitter tears that stung like liquid fire trailed down their cheeks, plopping down onto the ground with a disorganized rhythm.

"Although Shadow is no longer with us, surely he watches over us, guiding us along with the spirits of those who are gone," she breathed, her eyes closing momentarily, as if even she had to hold back tears.

Tails had hardly gotten over Shadow seeming to be dead the first time before he'd been subjected to the same thing a second time, the young fox being visibly distraught at the death of someone he knew, even if he was never incredibly close to him.

They all heard the crunch of the grass being compressed behind them, and some turned to see who was approaching. Sonic remained in place, allowing the others to see first that the G.U.N. Commander, unlike the rest of the organization he served, had come to honor the black and red hedgehog.

The aged man first stood in front of Sonic, staring down at the azure hero with mismatched eyes that were dead and empty. "We are once again in your debt," he said, his face a grim mask except for the slight smile turning up the corners of his frail lips. Sonic hardly seemed to notice the Commander had been speaking to him, merely nodding absently and staring off into the distance, as if lost deep in thought.

Rouge looked as if she was on the verge of tears the whole time, and the Commander suddenly placed a comforting hand upon her shoulder, his expression softening in sympathy.

"You have my condolences, Ms. Rouge. This must be especially hard for you."

She bit her lip and nodded, reluctantly accepting the thanks she had been given, yet clinging for dear life to Shadow's ring, as if it would float away if she didn't clutch onto it with all her strength.

Algos' maddening cerulean eyes bored into the Commander, who seemed to recognize the hedgehog, as if he'd seen him long ago. The general quickly turned away from the sand brown hedgehog, staring off at the city that was in the process of being repaired, his lip quivering slightly.

"So this is the thanks you receive Shadow. You can save the world twice, and sacrifice yourself for a city of people, and you still have only your friends to honor you. Sick."

Despite the irreverent nature of the Commander's eulogy, the ice in his voice was not directed at the departed ultimate lifeform, but rather at the very organization he was a part of, the very society he served.

"Perhaps I have underestimated the world's capacity for forgiveness," he stated grimly, before turning away from the reconstruction sites and steel spires. His eyes flicked one time to each of them one final time, as he slowly began to pace away.

He muttered one final set of words as he departed, none of them turning to watch him go. "Thank you, Shadow."

There was an expectant silence left by the Commander's departure, Algos' maddeningly blue eyes trailing after him as he left, until he was indistinguishable. Tikal began to speak again, even more softly than before, and the cloaked figure had to move slightly closer to even hear what she was saying.

"Six of the incarnations may be here to receive this triumph, bit it was seven that cast down the dragon which sought to consume the world in darkness and fire." Somehow, this neutral, vague statement unleashed even more of Sonic and Rouge's emotion, the bat clutching onto the cerulean hero, crying on his shoulder frantically and hopelessly, as if the whole world were meaningless and worthless without the presence of the ebony warrior.

A quiet moment of introspection and consideration passed, the heroes all silently staring into the darkening sky, some weeping outright, others holding back tears, and still some practically unmoved.

The crimson guardian couldn't think of a time when the blue hero had seemed this shattered, this utterly and completely spent, as if he had nothing left to give but his tears, and even they were beginning to run out. Feeling a tinge of remorse, he attempted to comfort Sonic in the only way he could.

Laying a hand upon the hero's shoulder, he smiled, as if to say that everything would be okay. He'd never liked Shadow, and could not summon any poetic words or eloquent speeches to commemorate him. But regardless, he sympathized with his friend.

It starts with...

One thing, I don't know why

It doesn't even matter how hard you try

Keep that in mind

I designed this rhyme

To explain in due time

All I know

As they were all standing there quietly Silver noticed that one of them was missing. He jerked his head around to see if he could spot them, and stopped abruptly, his mouth hung open slightly. A sand brown form was stalking away from them, his legs moving in a slow yet determined stride that was gradually carrying him into the distance. There was no way he was wandering, you could tell from his very walk, his grim silence that the tan hedgehog knew exactly where he intended to go.

Time is a valuable thing

Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings

Watch it count down to the end of the day

The clock ticks life away

It's so unreal

For a moment, the air hung in Silver's throat, as if he couldn't think of any words to describe their group shattering to pieces before his very eyes. He blinked, shaking his head and forcing himself to speak. "Algos, where are you going?"

His shouting alerted the others to the sand manipulator's departure, but it took a moment to rationalize what they'd heard. They turned to stare at him with wide eyes, and he had stopped walking when he heard his name, freezing in place as if he was spellbound by time. He said nothing in response for a moment, as if unsure himself of the answer to the question, despite the confidence that had been apparent in his purposeful stride.

Didn't look out below

Watch the time go right out the window

Trying to hold on but didn't even know

Wasted it all just to

Watch you go

Turning to face them, his brilliant cerulean eyes danced momentarily, catching the light of the evening sun as his lips parted a full second before words came forth. Sonic's teary eyes narrowed, expecting some sinister promise to destroy G.U.N. or something.

Algos' upper lips quivered, as he'd been overtaken by an emotion so powerful, even his twisted, calloused mind didn't know how to control it. "To find the truth."

I kept everything inside

and even though I tried it all fell apart

What it meant to me will eventually be a memory

of a time when

The others were open-mouthed and wordless in response to this, as Algos blinked once, and remained there, motionless for a second. His incredibly blue eyes flicked to each of them, a strange expression within their lenses.

"You taught me the value of friendship Sonic." Algos turned away, but remained in place, raising his hand into the air, some of his sand rising to obey his command. A moment passed as he continued to slowly walk away, particles of sand swirling lazily around him. "But Shadow has taught me that sometimes... you need to do things on your own."

I tried so hard

And got so far

But in the end

It doesn't even matter

They were all stunned, numbed by this revelation, realizing that the sand brown hedgehog was leaving just as Shadow had, walking in the deceased hedgehog's footsteps.

"Wait!" Amy was the first to recover from Algos' cryptic remarks, and as such, was the first to protest to him leaving without any explanation other than the truth, and that he was leaving... which could have meant anything.

I had to fall

To lose it all

But in the end

It doesn't even matter

Algos either didn't hear her, or didn't care, not even hesitating or giving any sign that his friends even existed. As if he had all the time in the world, he slowly walked away, his footsteps crunching blades of grass underneath him, his body growing smaller and smaller until finally, he stopped on a distant hilltop.

None of them moved to stop him, knowing he was dead set in his decision, that none of them could make him stay. They were in no shape to fight Algos, emotionally or physically, and somewhere, in the dark recesses of Sonic's mind, he had given up hope. He had failed Shadow, and he would not stand in Algos' way the same as he had with the dark hedgehog.

One thing, I don't know why

It doesn't even matter how hard you try

Keep that in mind

I designed this rhyme

To remind myself how

I tried so hard

The biting wind tousled the sand hedgehog's quills, tossing them about as if they were its playthings. The Dragon wielder remained frozen for a moment, motionless atop the grassy swell. Then, he gradually began to disintegrate, breaking apart to form granules of his element, his inner strength, slowly transforming himself into millions of the grains that were his blessing and his curse.

The heroes looked on in a mix of horror and sadness, as Algos seemed to disintegrate before their very eyes. Slowly he broke apart into the clumps of sand, no longer a hedgehog but a floating mass of twisting desert.

In spite of the way you were mocking me

Acting like I was part of your property

Remembering all the times you fought with me

I'm surprised it got so far

The tan, dusty material that Algos had become was carried off by the wind, disappearing faster than any of them could move, or speak, or react in any way at all. Only a moment ago, he had been there, and now, he was gone, vanished before their very eyes, like Shadow had done two years ago.

Things aren't the way they were before

You wouldn't even recognize me anymore

Not that you knew me back then

But it all comes back to me

In the end

Amy turned towards Sonic, a look in her eyes that pleaded with him for reassurance, for him to wink, and fire off one of his cocky, toothy grins that insisted that no matter how bad things got, they would always pull through. Her emerald eyes shimmered with unshed tears, ones that mourned Shadow and Algos, a sadness for one friend gone forever and one that was beyond their reach.

You kept everything inside

and even though I tried, it all fell apart

What it meant to me will eventually be a memory of a time when

His face was a blank, dead mask, holding no emotion but the bitter regret and unfathomable sadness. The azure speed demon was devoid of comforting words, he couldn't even maintain his own emotional stability, much less try to support hers. He stared down at her blankly, the wet trails left on his cheeks simmering like twin, silver rivers.

I tried so hard

And got so far

But in the end

It doesn't even matter

Not knowing what else to do, he absently offered her a hug, and the rose female gladly took it, burying her head in his calming, warm embrace. She could feel the soft thumping of his heart against her, a beat that had never seemed so timid and weak before. Despite how warm Sonic felt to Amy, the cerulean hero himself felt as if he had been cast into an icy abyss, as if the frozen sorrows had bubbled up from deep within him to consume him.

I had to fall

To lose it all

But in the end

It doesn't even matter

The pink hedgehog cried against her hero, as he tried to remain strong, and support her. He had already failed Rouge, and in some way, he'd failed Shadow too. With a heavy heart, he frowned in determination as he promised inwardly to protect the others, to never let harm come to Amy or his friends.

I've put my trust in you

Pushed as far as I can go

For all this

There's only one thing you should know

Chaos and Tikal's eyes met, a wordless communication within their glance. They looked at each other a while, before Tikal nodded, and Chaos winked, and then looked away, even his usual cocky smirk not quite gone amidst the sorrows of the others... but faded nonetheless.

"Looks like Sunshine followed his brother's footsteps after all. They're probably together right now." Chaos remained quiet a moment, a slight smile teasing the corner of his lips. "Mortals are such strange creatures."

I've put my trust in you

Pushed as far as I can go

For all this

There's only one thing you should know

The robed figure stood upon a hill overlooking the scene, having witnessed everything that happened. He had no commentary of these events, as if he were a mere cold, indifferent statue silently watching without emotion. The light wind continued to cause his cloak to billow, as if it had a life of its own, a writhing ebony mass writhing wildly amidst the sun beginning to set.

I tried so hard

And got so far

But in the end

It doesn't even matter

A familiar presence materialized behind the featureless silhouette, but he did not turn to greet the newcomer. A voice that hissed like a thousand serpents rang out from the newly arrived being, a voice that sounded as if it could make the leaves upon the trees wither and die, and winter wear on for weeks after the end of the season. A voice that came from the very depths of hell, drowned within malice and despair.

I tried so hard

And got so far

But in the end

It doesn't even matter

"It's time to go..." A gloved hand clasped onto the first stranger's shoulder, the flame design on the newcomer's sleeve rippling as if it were real fire burning into the obsidian cloak of the first.

In response to this command, he nodded, and slowly turned around, to face the setting sun. The sky was stained with the color of blood, as if the very horizon was alight with fiery embers. The burning orb of Sol lapped upwards with roaring scarlet flares, casting dancing shadows over the fields, as the world began to darken.

I had to fall

To lose it all

But in the end

It doesn't even matter...

As the sun neared the end of its downward curve, a final claret flash claimed the heavens, casting a final light on the grassy expanse.

The momentary illumination reflected off the the lenses of the first figure's eyes, setting them alight, and clearly visible within the dark shroud of the obsidian hood.

Catching the last light of the crimson twilight, the eyes glowed with a vibrance and color that matched the sky perfectly. The two figures disappeared the next moment, in a brief flash of luminosity, as the dark of night engulfed the world.

-

Author's Notes: Obviously, the song is "In the End" by Linkin Park. This is the final chapter of the story... but perhaps not the end. Keep an eye out for the sequel in the future, which will answer all of your questions, and unravel the mystery of the remaining Titan Beasts, and the mysterious organization that was responsible for this tragedy.

It shall be called Crimson Twilight. It will be some time before you can expect me to begin publishing the next, and final installment. I'll be getting a head start on writing it, so that I can update regularly without worrying about writer's block.

See you then.