Chapter Two: Justice and Death

They'd been falling for a while before finally landing on the ground. If one could call it that. A long, narrow trail of paper floating in the sky, riddled with a few holes and surrounded by still more swirling pages of text. Looked like a weird funneling portal... Which it probably was now that he thought about it. They walked along that endless road for hours really, eventually stopping to simply sit on the side of the 'road'. The glowing light surrounding them seemed to dim... Eventually, the pair fell asleep to the side, waking up in the morning to continue on in an uncharacteristic silence.

By noon however, things had begun to ease up- The bright glow of the pages had an oddly cheery effect it seemed... Pretty soon, Joey was looking around and ready to act his usual self again. Staring at the enormous gates as they passed beneath them, the pages swirling around the road in a solid motion...

"So... This is where you live then huh?" Joey crossed his arms behind his head, "Pretty cool lookin', not too sure about the sleeping arrangements though, hehe!"

While the atmosphere had a glee-inducing effect on Joey, it appeared to have the reverse effect on Shahra. She could swear that the journey should only have taken an hour or so- But Joey was simply walking. Not once did he sprint, or even jog... She turned to him, frowning. "Please Master! Be serious about this! It has taken hours to travel what should have only been mere minutes to you!!"

Joey looked over at Shahra, scratching his ear. "Neh... D'you think you can stop with the whole 'master' thing? Name's Jonouchi, Katsuya... An' if that's to difficult for yah, than just call my Joey!" Staring forwards, he continued walking at his painfully slow pace. "'Sides, I can't even see the end of this path- No way I can possibly run the entire thing if that's what you're expecting!" He frowned however, when he saw just what was at the end of the path. "Aww man.. How am I supposed to jump that..."

"You could simply run at the gap and leap it... As a human it is true, doing so would exhaust you, but as a mobian it is an amazingly simple task!"

It would appear that Joey had something else in mind however... "Whaaat!? And fall into the bottomless swirl below it? No way lady! Ain't doing it! I'd much rather wish," Shahra reluctantly sighed, waving her hand as a glowing path appeared to bridge the gap, "For a bridge. Wow! That's some skills there! What'd you do, read my mind?" He walked calmly over to the bridge, grinning. "Sorry Shahra... But there's just no way I can run the enti- GHHHH!!!" As he brought his foot down on the bridge, he hopped backwards, paling considerably as the bridge faded out of existence. "Chaaaa!! What're you tryin' to do, kill me!?"

"Oh please. I would have caught you, Master Joey... My life is as much linked to yours after all. I merely thought that the illusion would perhaps inspire you to move at a slightly more tolerable pace..." She turned away, crossing her arms. "It would appear, however, that I was wrong."

Joey's once cheerful mood quickly vanished. "I'm telling yah lady! I would if I could, but I can't!"

"Clearly, you know nothing of the mobian race!" Shahra turned back, her hands glowing as an orb was created between them, the woman holding it before Joey as various images swirled through it. A blue hedgehog, a cocky smirk plastered on his face, ran swiftly across it, leaping and dashing in the violet mist. "Able to run at near sonic speeds, some even surpassing it... Mobians have long been known for their strength, longevity, stamina, and most importantly their swiftness. Believe me when I tell you this, oh Master of the Ring, that you can easily make this jump- Take a running start, humor me with this at least! I swear upon my life, that I will catch you whenever you fall!"

There was a bit of silence, as Joey continued to look at Shahra with skepticism, before finally caving. "Alright, alright... I'll try the running thing..." Walking past Shahra for a bit, he continued scowling. "But if I end up with a broken neck or something, I'm blamin' you!" Shahra in the meantime simply tensed as Joey's loud voice pierced her ears even from the distance he was at. Geeze, could he at least try and keep it down..?

Off in the distance, Joey watched as Shahra moved to the side. He took a deep breath, shutting his eyes. Here goes nothing... One foot. Two foot... Step, step, step step stepstepstep.... One after another as he brought his feet down, he felt himself picking up speed. Hair flew back with his flapping ears, his arms with them once he felt no need to move them. The gap was coming closer.. Closer...

So why was it that he suddenly wasn't afraid of falling and snapping his neck in half? Eh... He'd done riskier things back home he supposed... There was the edge, he thought as he sped even faster, feeling no exhaustion, no pain... He kicked off the ledge and leaped, finally halting the movement of his legs and looking down.

It reminded him of something that happened way back when he and the others had gone on a trip to India- While they were all stuck in the 'capsule monsters' game. Sailing over the skies on his red eyes, the wind simply brushing by...

Unfortunately, back then he had someone to land for him. Scrambling around as he fell helplessly from the air, Joey squeezed his eyes shut tightly. Ahhhh... Not good not good!! His legs caught the ground however, and when he opened them again, he was still running. "Ahahaha..." Well... That was.. "Hahaha!! WHOOOO!" Pages blurred past, and still the speed was picking up. In an unconscious motion, he hopped onto a metal railing laying to the side, his shoes skidding across it and causing sparks to fly off to the side. There was a bit of an obstacle ahead though...

Joey smirked. Some sort of floating robot thing... Probably a peon of the 'Eraser' guy, nothing more than a simple thug! He sped up, hopping off the rail and aiming for the robot, jumping up and preparing to throw a punch.

-wizzt!- "Guh!" He missed?! The robot skillfully dodged to the side, Joey sliding to a stop on the ground. "Unng... What the hell?" He never missed a hit, not like that anyways! He turned, clambering back to his feet. "Alright then... Let's try this again!" Charging towards the metal beast, he heard Shahra's voice from within the ring.

"Joey! I will hold him in place a bit... Just enough that you can attack him. Aim for me!" A glowing orb arose to surround the robot, hindering it slightly. "It won't affect me at all, please try it Master Joey!"

Aim for her? " Alright then..." Rushing forwards he tackled the robot as hard as he could, jumping backwards as it exploded into a puff of smoke. "Sheeesh! It's like watching duel monsters being defeated that!" The edge of the road was in sight, Joey looking ahead and skidding to a stop. "Well... That's the end of it I guess... So where to now then? Do you know where this Eraser guy is?"

There was no answer. Joey turned to look at Shahra, the genie staring off past the cliff with a blank and distant look on her face. "Hn?" She turned back with a start, blinking before speaking. "Ah.. It's nothing... As for where he is, I am not sure..." She turned away, frowning. She could have sworn she heard-

"I'm closer than you think, my dear Shahra..." The pair turned looked up swiftly as a deep purple spirit appeared, his hair styled similarly to Shahra's and his body surrounded by a cape. "Hmhmhmhmhm... And it would seem you brought along the destined sacrifice!"

That one threw Joey off. "Sacrifice!?"

Shahra moved in front of the dog protectively, a nervous look of determination set on her face. "I... You will not take this one, Erazor! No matter what!"

"Hnhnhnhn... HAHAHAHA!!! Really now? We'll see about that my dear... But first, tell me... Have you brought the seven World Rings as I asked? A sacrifice is pointless without them after all..."

The woman shook her head, still glaring at the man across from her. "The seven world rings do not exist! They were destroyed when Sonic left the book years before! And, even if they still did..." She backed up against Joey, the dog currently frowning. Something didn't seem right, and he was starting to get really nervous about these two... "I would never gather them for you!"

Erazor backed away, a scowl on his face. "Is that how it is then now? Well then, perhaps I should give you an incentive!" Raising two fingers and pulling them back in the motion an archer would when firing an arrow, a single flame appeared at his tips. "If you won't bring them to me when you're alive..." He fired, the flame shooting directly towards Shahra as the genie froze with terror and determination. "Then you can do so in death!"

"As if, yah sorry excuse for a spirit!" Refusing to take anymore of things, Joey lept around Shahra, and before the genie could even scream, he was hit in the chest by the arrow of flame. "Grnn!" Falling backwards, he propped himself up on one arm before glaring up at the Erazor. "You damn bastard!" Leaping forwards without a second thought, Joey heard the Djinn 'hmmp', before throwing him back as though he was nothing more than a stuffed toy.

"It will take much more than that to defeat me, little rat! Now listen and listen well... If you don't bring me those world rings within seven days, that flame will extinguish... And with it, your life! Now then... There are a few annoying kings to deal with..." Before Joey could retaliate, the Djinn vanished, leaving the dog to glare at nothingness.

Biting his lip, he turned to Shahra and scowled. "That purple little... That was him was it?" Shahra simply nodded, before floating to the edge of the road.

"Indeed it was... But this is more than unfortunate... Not only is time against us now, but the creator of our world and the author of the tales within it is being targeted... The Erazor made his move to soon for me it seems. Our road ends here, when it should have spiraled down to the sands below, we cannot go further..." At least before, when this had happened, she had had enough power to carry Sonic down... But now...

Wait what? "You're sayin' that after bein' hit with a time-bomb, I oughta give in!?" The genie looked away sadly, her eyes closed tight. "Man! Now I think I really am being set up!"

"Master, that isn't true! I would never-" No! No, she wasn't like that! Please...

The genie was met with a frown, Joey crossing his arms and turning away. "Whatever lady... I'm going, with or without you.. In fact, no matter what, don't you dare try and fly me back up here!" How that worked he didn't know- Maybe it had to do with the distance from here to the ground, that she couldn't simply fly them down. But either way, Shahra was forced to watch and remain completely still as Joey lept from the path, shooting down like a rocket.

"No!! Master Joey!!" That fool! Didn't he know? Even mobians had a limit when it came to heights, and this was one of them! "Joey!!"

From above Shahra, a shadow frowned, before disappearing downwards in a flash of black, red, and gold. He didn't know why he was here... But he'd be damned if he let one of his friends die.

Watching with confusion, Shahra was still only able to watch from above... But this time, it was alright. For flying downwards at top speed was the familiar avian form of a 'Ba', an Egyptian 'ghost' of sorts, the form that they would take once their body was completely 'disposed' of. The form of a human-sized bird... With the face they bore in real life.

Flying down towards Joey at top speed was one such, and as Joey turned his head to watch this, the dog gasped with shock.

No way... It couldn't be..

"A-Atem!?!" Snatched up by the razor sharp talons, Joey didn't receive an answer for a few seconds, instead finding himself looking at the cartouche that currently hung around the 'bird's neck. "Wh-What... You ended up cursed too!?!" His friend was a giant bird. A giant bird, what else could he be.

The face of his old friend looked down, stern eyes narrowed into a look of confusion. "....Cursed? What are you talking about, I've been this way since I ascended into the afterlife. All Egyptian spirits end up this way, much like your 'ghosts'... I am not in any way cursed." The explanation was in vain however, when Atem had said 'ghosts'.

".... AAAHHHH!!!! G-Ghosts!?!? I'm being carried away to the after life by a ghost!?!" So then he had died already!? Crap! Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap! He didn't even see the bottom, what the heck!

Atem paled, almost dropping the dog. "W-What!? What are you going on about, you're still alive! Besides, if you've been cursed, then I doubt that it would do more than the transformation that already occurred on yourself!" What HAD happened there anyways...

Joey still bore an expression of fear however, for friend or not, a ghost was a ghost. "N-Nyeehhhhhh..... G-Ghosts...."

"Hah...." They were approaching the ground, and Atem dropped his friend on the sands below before alighting across from him on a pillar. "Joey.... You have nothing to fear from me, I only mean to help..."

Said friend blinked, shaking his head. "....I got that but... Man, if you'd at least looked human!"

"You are one to talk Joey..."

Joey scowled, fists tightening. "Hey! I'd rather not be reminded of that! ...How did you get here anyways, shouldn't you be in heaven or somethin'?"

Atem's feathers ruffled, the Ba turning his head away with a slight scowl. "I don't know why I am here Joey... All I remember is seeing two strange figures approach me and then suddenly I found myself flying through a storm of Arabic letters." He turned his head back, continuing. "Listen... I cannot stay here long-"

"Eeeeehh?!? Whaddya mean? You just said you don't know how or why you're here and now you say you can't stay!?"

Joey jerked back at the look Atem sent him with those words. G-Geeze, no need to be so harsh... "Your time is limited, is it not? I plan to do all I can to find these 'World Rings' so that you can locate them in time... But at the moment, you need to look as well. The genie, Shahra is not your enemy Joey... Trust in her, and she will guide you through the book faster than you can imagine." He spread his wings, the feathers causing them to span a good 20 feet before Joey, who currently looked at the wings with awe. "I will see you again, Joey. But until then, stay safe my friend!"

With that, Joey watched as he flew off, before looking down at the ring and back above where he had left Shahra. "Well... I suppose... I do wish I knew where to head off next.."

As the spirit of the ring appeared beside him, he caught a now familiar caring smile across her face, a look of understanding. "I couldn't have wished for more, Joey..." And with that, the pair ran off at top speed, heading towards the palace as fast as they possibly could lest time run out for them.


AN: 'Ba' Atem was inspired by the wonderful picture by Hibbary of Deviant Art! It's in her scraps, go look at it, it's pretty. 3 (Plus imagining Atem as a giant bird added lulz. :D)