Chapter six is here~ Eh...sorry for the slow (and utterly boring) beginning part of this chap...oh but it gets slightly better in the middle at least. The story about Sonic's father is totally made up, (you'll see what I'm talking about).

Everything belongs to their rightful owners (XD I'm getting lazier).

Chapter 6:

The River

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Hidden within the mountains was a base.

It was large, and it had been shaped out of the very mountain itself, like a cave. Metal walls covered its dome like shape, and light glowed out of its windows. Outside, there was no fence to protect it, for it didn't need one.

Because guarding the heavy bolted door were robots.

The guards were a cold blue with large, convex shaped bodies. They milled around the base, soft beeping sounds emitting from them as they patrolled the mountainside, ready to sound the alert if anyone appeared. Their globed shaped fingers were powerful and dangerous, able to squeeze the breath out of anyone. Their small, domed shaped heads seemed too small for their bodies, and two, blinking yellow eyes protruded out of them.

Of course, if they were to fail to protect the base, the interior of it had plenty of other "defenders" to secure its safety, along with the built in laser beams and security cameras. Whoever owned the base sure wasn't taking any chances.

"Don't you reckon the Doc is being a bit too careful?" a voice sounded from the corridor. Two robots were making their way down the hallway, heading towards a glass door. The one that had just spoken was a small, cube like yellow robot with two, spindly arms. It had a cubic head and a cubic base that allowed it to float in the air. Its blue, glowing eyes were half crescents as it rubbed its head and peered curiously at its counterpart. The other robot was a small, sphere shaped red robot with a domed head and a domed base, allowing it to float next to the yellow robot. The red robot raised its arms and shrugged at the yellow robot's question. "One can't be too careful, Cubot. The doctor can't have anyone interrupting with his plans, especially that up to no good Sonic," it bleeped back. As they reached the door, the one called Cubot punched in the code and the pad lit up with green light, the doors sliding open and accepting their entrance. The two floated cautiously into the dark room, eerie, cold blue light coming from the ceiling. The room wasn't that big, but the giant screens and platform of controls were daunting. Little lights flashed from the controls and buttons, and the screens whirred quietly as they showed images of the base, both interior and exterior. To the right, a single, domed glass case mounted on a steel pedestal was plugged into the controls, something shining from within. Sitting right at the front of the controls was a…

"Ho, ho ho!" a loud laugh came from the figure sitting on the floating chair. Although it was floating, his feet touched the ground because of his long legs. The chair was practically groaning from his weight, for his body was so big and round. As Orbot and Cubot approached, they could see the wide grin on his face.

"Well, the boss seems real happy today," Cubot twanged with a cowboy accent, and at the sound of its voice, the oval shaped man turned his head and instantly dropped his smile and glared at the two of them. Although his eyes were hidden behind his blue glasses, the way his thick eyebrows furrowed together was enough to show his annoyance at their arrival. "Well! Decided to show up you two? As if I hadn't had enough robot chatter today." He stroked his long brown, bushy mustache, and Orbot rung its hands at his comment. "What do you mean by that, Dr. Eggman?" it asked, and the man swung his arm out dramatically at the glass case connected to the controls.

"That, is what I mean. I shouldn't be telling you two this, for you both are just annoying robot junk, but I'm feeling so proud of myself that I must gloat about it." Dr. Eggman turned around, plopped into the chair, and gripped a lever on the armrest. He pushed it forward, and the chair began to hover over to the glass case, leading him towards it. Making a gliding stop, Dr. Eggman gestured at the obscure glass and started to explain, "A squad of robots I sent out earlier went to go looking for Chaos Emeralds. Unfortunately, they didn't find any, but they did find…" he slowly reached a finger out to press the red button on the pedestal, "…something that is of similar interest." He pressed down, and the glass started to glow with white light. Orbot and Cubot leaned forward with interest when the glass flashed and melted away, leaving the object that had been concealed inside exposed to its inspectors. The two robots bleeped in awe at the glowing object. It was as big as a Chaos Emerald, and four, curved metal rods, pinching it in the middle, were supporting it. It was green, and it was shaped like a jagged lightning bolt. The glow coming from it was warm and soothing, and on impulse, Cubot moved forward to touch it.

And was zapped with an electrifying jolt.

Cubot yelped and reeled backwards, nearly crashing into a surprised Orbot. Dr. Eggman chortled at its shocked expression and shook his head. "That is the problem with this mysterious gem," he tsked, staring at the item. "Every time someone touches it, it produces a shock. But, if you look carefully, you aren't damaged at all, Cubot." At that, Cubot glanced down shakily at its right limb and realized that the Doctor was telling the truth. It had been jolted, but nothing was wrong with its arm. No joint coming loose. No malfunctioning. It was completely normal. Breathing a sigh of relief, Cubot wiped its metal head and muttered, "Keep this up and I'll be a wreck, I reckon." Orbot shook its head and glanced at Dr. Eggman, a question in its glowing eyes.

"So does the shock affect you, Doctor?" it questioned, and Dr. Eggman stroked his mustache thoughtfully, for once, not scolding it for asking a question. "Actually, I haven't even touched it yet. It was a robot I had ordered to set it up in the glass case, and it drove me crazy not being able to examine it. As I said, after the shock, the gem seemed to not affect the robots at all, and they were able to carry it around. However, I was not going to risk getting electrocuted, and so I hooked the gem to the energy reader." As he talked, Orbot looked down on the gem and saw the little cord trailing from it to the panel of controls. Little sparks of light were traveling through the wire and Dr. Eggman maneuvered his chair away from the pedestal and to the panel. Orbot and Cubot followed behind, and they watched as the Doctor pulled something up on the screen, overlapping the images of the base. It showed the outline of the gem, and charts, bars and binary code messages flashed across the screen. Dr. Eggman punched the buttons and a particular picture came up where the gem was shown close up with little arrows coming out of it. He studied the screen as he observed mostly to himself, "Based on my findings, this gem isn't like a Chaos Emerald. It has different energy readings and levels. It is extremely sensitive and has an irregular circulation of energy. It seems to not fit in any of my transmitting devices either. What a peculiar discovery!" He suddenly exclaimed and stood up, the chair spinning back a few inches from his sudden movement. He turned to Orbot and Cubot, who had driven clear of his chair, and clasped his hands together, rubbing them almost greedily. "What I have discovered might be a new revolution! If I can just harness its power, without getting myself zapped, I can use it to build my new Eggman Empire! Just think about the new opportunities upon my discovery!" He turned around to look at the screen again, a grin on his face as he looked at the gem. "Maybe, there are more of them, and with the Chaos Emeralds combined…" he chuckled at the very thought and began punching buttons.

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"It's coming from the front door," Sonic exclaimed, already moving towards the house. The banging was louder now, but Lavendar still couldn't make out what the high-pitched voice was saying. She followed the blue hedgehog back into the house, sliding the door behind her. Sonic took a step and dashed through the hall in a single second, reaching the front door. Lavendar was slower though, and when she came behind the hedgehog, the door was already open, and sunlight streamed through. She approached hesitantly next to Sonic, who was busy staring at the subject that was outside, and whom presumably had been banging at the door. It was a…

"Sonic! Oh, I'm, so, glad, you're, home," the little brown rabbit panted, rocking on her toes. Her ears were drooping and shaking with exhaustion, and her fur was ruffled. Next to her, a small, blue creature about the size of her hand with pink wings and a read bowtie circled urgently about, squeaking "Chao chao chao!" Lavendar could only stare at them as Sonic opened the door wider and rubbed his head confusedly. He said in a slightly bemused tone, "Uh…Cream, what a surprise. Didn't expect you to come by today? Did your mom come with you?" At the word "mom", the small rabbit suddenly jerked upright, her eyes wide with urgency and fear. "Oh no! How could I tell mother what happened? She would worry herself sick!" she exclaimed in a high-pitched squeak, biting her lower lip as she did so. Lavendar stepped forward from behind Sonic to get a better look at her. The rabbit, which she presumably thought was Cream, was small, about up to Sonic's chin. Her orange dress was dirty, and her cream colored fur was matted. When she looked up, her eyes were a chocolate brown. Suddenly, a memory was triggered, and Lavendar glanced at the wreath of flowers hanging on the front door, remembering what Sonic had said. "That was from a little rabbit friend of mine, she insisted me on wearing it everyday. I decided to just hang it on the door, just so she'll know that I appreciate her kindness."

So, this was the rabbit. And her little Chao was still flying in agitated circles around her. Suddenly, he felt Lavendar's gaze on him and stopped in mid-flight, staring at her with blue eyes. Lavendar looked back, and he tilted his small head to one side. "Chao?" he asked curiously, and at the sound of his voice, Cream looked at him and followed his gaze, for the first time catching sight of the magenta hedgehog half hidden in the shadows of the house. Her eyes widened in surprise and she asked, "Sonic, who's that other hedgehog behind you?" Sonic turned around, seeming a little surprised that Lavendar was there behind him; as if he had forgotten she was there in the first place. When Lavendar said nothing, he gently nudged her forward so that she was standing at the doorframe, and the sun lit up her whole being. Smiling, he faced Cream again and explained, "Let me introduce you two. Cream, this is Lavendar Silverwind. She's going to be a guest here for a while. And Lavendar, this is Cream the Rabbit. She was the Mobian I was telling you about earlier." He was about to close his mouth when the Chao flew forward and grabbed his ear, pulling it down vigorously. "Chao chao chhaoo!" he protested, and Sonic chuckled and grabbed at him, unsuccessfully trying to make him let go. "Oh, I haven't forgotten you," he retorted, although Lavendar knew that he actually had and was trying to cover it up. "This is Cheese," he half turned to Lavendar, half tried to shake his head to get rid of the Chao. "He's a nice little fella, well, if you make sure not to tip him off." With a jerk, Sonic pulled the blue Chao off his ear and held him with his hand, holding him out in front of Cream. Cheese squirmed out of his grasp and leaped for Cream, burying himself in her collarbone. Cream giggled and caught him while Sonic rubbed his ear. "He's small, but he's stronger than he looks," he murmured around his mouth at Lavendar so only she could hear.

Lavendar's ears twitched and she faced the two Mobians. "Nice to meet you Cream," she stretched out a hand and said, hoping she sounded friendly. Luckily, the rabbit smiled and grasped her hand with both of hers, shaking it eagerly. "Nice to meet you too, Lavendar! Welcome to New Mobotropolis!" Cheese flew up to her head and put a small paw under his chin as if examining her. Lavendar blinked and tentatively put her other hand in front of him. "Nice to meet you too, Cheese," she repeated, and he broke into a smile, grasping her hand with all four of his little paws. "Chao chao!" he exclaimed, and he whirled around in circles around her.

"He says he likes you, and that you are very nice," Cream translated, watching him fly like a mini plane. Lavendar smiled too, glad that she had been accepted. However, Sonic seemed a little impatient, and he cut in before Lavendar could reply. "That's nice that you are all getting along," he said, seemingly genuinely happy. "But Cream, you seemed pretty nervous a few minutes ago. What's the matter? And how did you get here all by yourself? Shouldn't your mom Vanilla be with you?" He crossed his arms, cocking his head to the side while Lavendar couldn't help but run the names through her head. Cream, Cheese and Vanilla? It kind of sounds like a bakery now, she thought in her head, but quickly dismissed it.

At the sound of his serious tone, Cream's smile melted off her face and was replaced with a grim line of worry. Fiddling with the yellow bow on her chest, she replied in a soft voice, "This morning, me and Cheese were down at the valley picking flowers. I was going to make more flower crowns for my mom. The flowers are really beautiful this time of year…" she glanced at the wreath hanging on the door and sighed. Lavendar couldn't help but wonder if the rabbit was regretting giving her crown to Sonic (since he never really wore it). Sonic saw her look at the flowers and hastily took it off the door, looping it around his neck and grinning sheepishly. "Yeah, the flowers are really nice," he sniffed their aroma, and the little rabbit perked her ears up a little more. She continued, "They smell so nice and look so pretty…but while I was picking, I heard something go crack in the flowerbed. There was this really big and black figure crouching in the flowers, and when it saw me it had a really scary, red bow on its back!"

Suddenly, at the word "bow", both Lavendar and Sonic's eyes widened. However, it was Lavendar who pushed forward and stood urgently in front of the rabbit, her eyebrows furrowed. "Did you say bow?" she asked intensely. Cream took a step back at her sudden graveness, looking up at her with big eyes. Realizing that she had startled the young girl, the magenta hedgehog relaxed her stance a little, bent down and stared intensely into the rabbit's eyes, willing her to continue. "Did you actually make out what the creature was? Or had it been covered by a black cloak?" she prompted, and Cream's eyes lit with recollection. She nodded vigorously, "Yes, yes! It was wearing a bulky black coat or cape. And it had really, scary yellow eyes! It made me feel really cold when I looked into them…" she shivered from the memory, and Cheese landed on her shoulder to reassure her.

But Lavendar was too busy staring into space. It must be the same Mobians that attacked me that night, she thought, her heart pounding. She instinctively clutched at the gem around her neck, a bead of sweat collecting on her forehead. So they were still after her…the very thought made her shiver, even though it was warm and sunny. She wasn't safe here, how long would it take for them to reveal her location? A week? A day? A couple of hours? But she had to make sure that her assumption was correct. Did Cream really see one of those foul creatures? And where had they seen Cream? She couldn't imagine how scared the poor rabbit would've been…

"…and then me and Cheese got out of there, before the other one could catch up!" the rabbit's thin voice broke through her frozen trance and she blinked, returning to the present. She realized that she had been kneeling on the floor; staring at the ground the whole time while Cream had continued telling her story to Sonic. The blue hedgehog's eyebrows were furrowed and he scratched his head. "That's pretty dangerous Cream. You could've gotten hurt by that knife…" he said, and Lavendar's ears twitched. Turning around, she looked up at the hedgehog with a questioning look on her face.

"Knife…Cream?" she asked, and Sonic shifted position so that he was leaning on his left leg, nodding his head. "She said that another figure was also with that reptile, and that he or she had thrown a knife at her," he repeated, his face concerned. "It sounds crazy but…it's a crazy world we live in…" The blue hedgehog suddenly righted and stood in front of Cream, Lavendar still crouching on the floor with a bewildered look on her face. "Hey Cream, long story, but from what you've described, Lavendar was being chased by one of those Mobians you were talking about a while ago. She got hurt pretty badly, and so that's why she's staying with me right now," he explained, gesturing at Lavendar and her bandaged shoulder as he spoke. "Can you take us to the place where you saw them?"

At this, Cream's eyes widened as she looked Lavendar over again, noticing her bandaged shoulder and letting out a squeak. "Oh! I do hope you're feeling better, Miss Lavendar!" Lavendar gave her a grim smile, and the rabbit turned around to face Sonic again, her brown eyes determined, "I don't want anymore Mobians getting hurt. I know Sonic can stop them. I'll take you there, Sonic!" she exclaimed, Cheese squeaking in agreement. The blue hedgehog grinned at her and gave her a thumbs-up. "Alright!" He turned to Lavendar, who was slowly standing up and brushing herself off. Giving her a curious look, the blue hedgehog put one hand on his hip and smirked at the other hedgehog. Lavendar didn't need to ask him to know what he was thinking; she could hear his thoughts well enough, and something like a wave flared inside her. "I'm coming too," she said defiantly, meeting the hedgehog's green eyes. "Don't try to stop me from coming. I may be injured but…" she covered her gem with one hand, "I'm not going to wait here and let the enemy find me." And I will avenge the death of my loved ones, she amended furiously.

However, no matter how hard she tried, a small, taunting voice kept echoing inside of her, "You can't do anything. You nearly lost it just by being near the evil aura around the arrow. How can you possibly stand up against them?" She swallowed, feeling her gem glow with warmth. She had to at least understand the situation she was in right now. However, fighting was a different matter entirely. She knew that the skills she possessed now were not effective enough, but it was at least something. "I would also feel more secure with my nun-chuck with me," she stated, and the blue hedgehog's ears twitched. He let out a short huff and smirked again, glancing at her slyly and answering in an almost boasting tone, "Ha! With me around, you'll feel real secure, I assure you." He snagged a finger through the leaf wreath around his neck and twirled it slightly, watching the petals brush against his finger. "But we'll get your nun-chuck. And I'll let you come along, even though Dr. Quack will probably kill me if he ever finds out." With that, he tipped the wreath onto his head, where it rested slightly crooked and looped around his right ear.

Lavendar nearly sighed in relief. So he was letting her come. She had been afraid he would force her to rest, but it seemed that Sonic understood her intentions. Giving him a nod, she faced Cream and urged, "Please show us the way Cream."

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"So you're saying you flew all the way here Cream?" Sonic questioned, jogging at a leisurely pace. The little rabbit was flapping her long ears vigorously as she flew close to the ground, Cheese closely beside her. They had already stopped by at the hospital, although Sonic had seemed really anxious of getting out of there. Lavendar knew he was afraid of getting caught by Dr. Quack, but luckily, they hadn't seen feather or tail of the doctor. Sonic had let Lavendar go into the storage room alone, and so she had stuffed the only two belongings she had left with her; the nun-chuck and the crystal locket, into her pocket. She had quickly retrieved her nun-chuck, which fortunately hadn't been damaged in her fall, but had taken some time to inspect the locket. It was shaped as an oval and was made of a very fine, white crystal material. There was an intricate pattern in the middle of the outer shell. She couldn't quite make out what the pattern was, but she had dismissed it when she clicked the outer cover open. Inside, there was no pattern, but the crystallized walls had seemed to give off a milky sheen when she had gazed at the picture inside. In the photo were three Mobians, her mother, father, and Raven. Their eyes and smiling faces gazed up at her, causing her heart to ache. She had kneeled on the floor of the storage room, staring at the Mobians she had loved the most, trembling with agony and anger. I promise to avenge your death Raven; she had vowed mentally. I promise to avenge all of you.

Now she was having a hard time believing that a rabbit could actually fly.

"Yes, it's tiring and I nearly crashed into a tree," Cream huffed, shaking her matted fur, "but it's the quickest way to the valley. Oh!" She suddenly stopped in mid-air, twirling her ears like a propeller above her head. "This part is difficult!"

The four had come to the outskirts of New Mobotropolis. Fortunately, Cream had shouted out a warning, and the three of them had stopped. Cheese had to backpedal in the air to stop him from barging onwards, and he looped around, landing on Cream's head. Lavendar, panting from the over excursion of running for so long, widened her eyes as she took in the view.

In front of them was a steep gorge, sloping down at such an angle that it was impossible to slide down without falling face down at the bottom. In fact, there was no ground to land on, and instead, a fast moving river met the base of the cliff, its water lapping at the hard packed dirt. When Sonic put a foot cautiously over the edge, loose dirt came free and he stepped back, saving himself from tumbling down into the river below. Unfortunately, the flower wreath on his head came loose and fluttered down below. Cream did a little bounce and launched herself after it, emerging a few seconds later with the wreath in her hands. Flapping her ears and turning around to face the two hedgehogs standing on the edge of the gorge. "I forgot about this part. It's a lot easier to fly across, but only me and Cheese can do that," she squeaked, looking around for another way to get across the obstacle. Lavendar peered down over the edge of the gorge, hearing its soft murmuring even from this height. The little waves seemed to invite her down, willing her to jump down into the water below, its hushed gurgling beckoning, Come, there is nothing to fear, not when one is whole in the water. The magenta hedgehog shook her head, blinking in the sunlight. Was this all her imagination? How could water seemingly communicate with her? And yet…closing her eyes, she felt the deep pulse of aura emitting from the river, as if it were alive. Deciding to take a risk, she plunged herself in the river's thoughts, and found herself being washed around, like a pebble, in the tide. It was as if she were actually in the water, a part of the river itself, flowing rapidly downstream, passing by everything in just seconds. Fish swum within her, their slippery bodies gliding against the water. Pebbles tumbled around at the bottom of the riverbed. As she made this journey, she suddenly felt something brush against the tide, causing the water to corrupt and split around the object. She could make out the solid shape of a tree's root, protruding out of the bank and snaking into the riverbed, and suddenly, her eyes flickered open and she let out a gasp.

Sonic's ears swiveled towards her and he looked at her curiously, asking, "Hey, what's up?" Lavendar had to swallow a few times and recollect her thoughts before she turned towards him and started walking, passing by the hedgehog and still going further. Sonic watched confusedly as the magenta hedgehog reached the right side of the ledge and pointed, exclaiming, "See that huge tree there? Positioned on the side of the bank where the cliff is?" She pointed towards a large, oak tree that was so big that a couple branches rested on the top of the ledge, creating a mini bridge from the cliff to its trunk. She hadn't noticed it before, but after being in the river's thoughts, it seemed to stand out against anything else. Sonic approached it and took a good look, inspecting the tree from top to bottom, all the while rocking back on his left foot. Lavendar continued, "If we could somehow make the tree fall over on its side, it could make a bridge over the river, and if we do it just right, the trunk won't actually touch the water with its branches supporting it…" She trailed off, thinking about what would happen if they completely sealed off the rushing water. It would cause the fish in the river to die, and possibly over flood the banks. She didn't want that to happen.

Sonic wrenched her thoughts back to the present when he suddenly chuckled and leaped right off the ledge and landed on the tree's branch, his blue quills flexing a little as he stood on the balls of his toes. "Well, that's great thinking Lavendar. You just gave me an idea." He faced the trunk. "We can't just knock the tree over and jump off, it's too risky. I can probably manage it, but with your injured shoulder, I don't want you getting hurt. So, we'll have to climb the tree first, and then…" he took a half step and then jumped onto the next branch, sliding into a crouch as the leaves skimmed over his head and back, "…I'll take it from there."

Cream propelled herself forward, looking over her shoulder as she called out, "We'll meet you on the other side, Sonic, Lavendar! I'll keep the crown with me for now, so it won't fall off during your climb!" With that, the rabbit and the chao descended towards the riverbed. Lavendar eyed the tree in front of her, looking at the distance between each branch. "What do you mean you'll take it from there?" she asked, rotating her ears. It was just a thought, didn't actually think he would agree to it, besides, how are we going to break the tree..? She thought, but Sonic was already climbing up the tree, jumping nimbly to each branch, and she decided to just go along with it. It wasn't hard. She took a step forward, putting one foot on the branch. Back at her own village, she climbed trees all the time. The only problem with that was that she was scared of heights, and so she had always climbed to a certain spot before coming back down. This tree was really high up, and as she scaled along the branch, she forced herself to not look down. She made it to the trunk and hoisted herself onto the second branch, the move coming to her with ease, but her hands felt clammy as she gripped the branch. I won't look down, I won't look down, she reminded herself repetitively, regaining her balance. Something rustled above her, and when she peered up, she saw Sonic crouching on a branch higher up, his eyes watching her.

"Hey, you're pretty good," he complimented, and Lavendar quirked her mouth upwards, brushing against some leaves as she made her way towards him. "Thanks, I climbed trees a lot back at Homotropolis, and I…" Suddenly, in the middle of her sentence, the tree branch that had been supporting her weight on creaked and cracked, and she was jerked downwards, leaves shaking at the movement. Dazed, she felt her other arm losing its grip on the above branch, and she clawed at the trunk, desperately grabbing onto the bark. The branch hadn't cracked all the way though, but it kept slipping under her weight. Lavendar tried to find another branch to put her foot on.

And made the mistake of looking down.

Her stomach made a flip-flop as she wobbled, her eyesight blurring and her fingers felt weak. She was high up in the tree, and the distance between her and the river loomed ominously. The river itself wasn't frightening, for some strange reason, she wasn't afraid of falling into the water. No, she was only afraid of the height that she would fall from if it were to happen. She could feel the branch about to snap, and all she could do was stand there, frozen with shock.

Suddenly, she felt a breeze from behind her, and she was whisked up, her head tilting upwards and spinning away from the river so that she was looking up at the sky. She felt herself being carried upwards, away from the damaged branch, and she heard Sonic saying, "Whew, that was close."

The blue hedgehog was carrying her in his arms, one hand leaning against the tree trunk and the other wrapped under the small of her back. They had nearly reached the top of the tree, and the sun shone down on Lavendar, who was still shocked. Sonic slowly set her down and righted her on the branch, and she felt herself pitch forward. The blue hedgehog grabbed her by the waist, exclaiming, "Whoa! Careful now. I caught you just in time. That branch couldn't hold on any longer." The branch had long already snapped, and the remains of it tumbled down into the river below, disappearing with a splash. Lavendar shook her head, trying to shake off her dazed feeling. If she had been on the branch for just a second longer…the thought made chills crawl up her spine. Leaning on the trunk for support, she blushed furiously and muttered, "I'm so sorry Sonic. I was being foolish, how could I think that I would've been able to pull that off…" She sneaked a peek at the blue hedgehog, who was standing on the opposite side of the branch. He looked slightly confused, and he cocked his head to the right. "No problem, but…what happened? You seemed pretty steady in the beginning…did something startle you?"

His question seemed harmless enough, yet Lavendar could feel herself hesitant to answer. Being acrophobic wasn't anything to be proud of, and she was already ashamed of herself, putting her life and Sonic's at risk. She didn't want him to think of her as a coward…but she could feel his gaze on her, and she shuffled and looked at her boots as she replied, "Well, you see, I'm not particularly fond of…heights." She sweat-dropped and rubbed her head, feeling her cheeks flame. Back at her village, when she was young, she had been teased often by the other kids because of this, and they hadn't allowed her to play along with them, or even let her climb trees, saying it was a disgrace for a tree to be climbed by a Mobian afraid of its height. It had always bothered her to let anyone know of her fear of heights, and she couldn't meet Sonic's eyes now as she waited for his response.

To her surprise, Sonic came forward so that he was standing right in front of her, putting one hand on the trunk so that he was slightly leaning forwards towards her. When she looked up quizzically at him, he had a knowing expression on his face and he said, "Don't be ashamed of your fear. Everyone has their fears, and all you can do is try and overcome it." A little bit breathless at being so close to the blue hedgehog, Lavendar could only stare into his green eyes and whisper, "You-you have a fear?" For some reason, she couldn't picture Sonic fearing anything. He seemed so confident with everything, eager to take on any task. But a strange expression crossed over his features, and he withdrew from her suddenly, turning his back as he stated flatly, "Yes, I have many fears, Lavendar, and they can be very…complicated." He paused, and Lavendar slowly stepped away from the trunk, feeling herself steady once more. She watched Sonic standing there, silent, his fists slightly clenched, and she didn't even have to sense that a thick wall was blocking his thoughts. "Sonic…" she began, but he turned around again, glancing down at the river below. "But this isn't a time to discuss that. We have to get over the river. Cream will be waiting," he replied briskly, and Lavendar blinked, her unfinished sentence trailing in the air. Sonic stepped closer to the edge of the branch, bending forward a little to keep his weight evenly balanced. Taking a glance over his shoulder back at Lavendar, he ordered, "Stay close to the trunk. When you see I'm almost through, prepare to jump. It'll be a little scary, especially being so high up, but don't worry. I'll make sure you're safe." He smiled, and it was as if the tense moment before hadn't happened. But Lavendar knew that he was still bothered, inside. She wanted to apologize for making him feel so uncomfortable, but she didn't even have time to take in a breath when the blue hedgehog took a step forward.

And jumped off the branch.

"Hey!" Lavendar cried out, but she remembered his words and forced herself to lean against the trunk, her hands gripping the wood. What was he doing? She peered over the side of the branch and saw him falling down, but during his descent, he pulled his legs close to his body, and started to spin, fast, until he was just a rotating blue ball. He suddenly changed direction and angled toward the bottom of the trunk, smashing head on into it. The whole tree shuddered at the impact, and Lavendar jerked her head upwards, not believing her eyes. She couldn't see Sonic anymore from her position, but she could hear and feel the tree's trunk being cut into, like a razor cutting into wood, and started feeling the tree lean backwards. Clinging to the trunk, Lavendar saw the river looming closer and closer, and she remembered what Sonic had said, "When you see I'm almost through, prepare to jump." Did that mean when he was almost done cutting, she would have to jump? Jump where? Down? Up? Left? Right? A loud groan filled her ears, and she clenched her jaws, bracing herself. She'll just have to jump and trust Sonic. The thought of jumping from this height made her heart leap, but there was no time to think. The tree was about to collapse. She took a running start, and right when the tree snapped, she boosted herself up into the air.

Perfect timing. Right when her foot left the trunk, the tree trunk split and tumbled over on its side, crashing onto the river. Water splashed up everywhere, and Lavendar was pelted with droplets. She could feel herself suspended in air, as if she was flying, but she knew it wouldn't last. In a few seconds, she would be plummeting down.

Suddenly, she sensed something rushing towards her, and then felt arms encircle her. Gasping, she cleared the water from her eyes to see Sonic, carrying her, and to feel them rushing downwards. For a brief second, their eyes made contact, and the blue hedgehog smiled at her crookedly, giving her a wink. The next second, he suddenly tensed and tilted his head downwards so that he was covering her in a protective manner. He braced himself, bent his knees and landed in the middle of the tree trunk, causing the trunk to bob from his impact. Lavendar felt him resound the impact and he lifted his head again steadily, preparing to get up.

And he suddenly collapsed.

"Sonic! What…" she exclaimed urgently, panic creeping into her voice. The blue hedgehog had seemed absolutely fine when they had landed, but then all of a sudden, his knees had buckled, and now he was kneeling on the trunk, breathing hard. He was still holding her tightly though, but she could feel his breath rasping and his body shaking. Bewildered, Lavendar wriggled herself free and hurriedly got to her feet, kneeling down next to the hedgehog, who pitched forward and landed on his hands. "What happened? Are you ok? Say something!" she pleaded, putting her hand on his shoulder and shaking him. His eyes were shut, and his body was tense and curled in a defensive pose, as if he was anticipating an attack. Did he get attacked during their fall? Lavendar hadn't sensed or seen anybody. She looked about, trying to search for Cream, but there was no sight of her. She had to do something quick.

Suddenly, Sonic let out a breath and said in a strained voice, "No, Lavendar, it's-it's ok. I'm fine." He opened his eyes, his pupils a little dilated and he hunched his shoulders, trying to slow his rapid breathing. Lavendar peered anxiously at him. A bead of sweat had collected on his forehead, but he raised an arm to brush it away, and he let go of the branch, crouching on his feet and staring at the water. Where his hands had been on the trunk, there were deep gouge marks, and Lavendar realized that he had been gripping the tree with an iron grip. Tentatively, she examined the blue hedgehog, seeing that he had seemed to have recovered from…whatever it was that happened. His face was distant, and his eyes were fixed on the water, his reflection staring back at him, and Lavendar felt a hollow feeling inside him, as if he was lost in his own self. "Sonic…what happened?" she asked, and the hedgehog blinked, letting out a breath. Without turning to look at Lavendar, he said in a soft voice, "When I landed, I was suddenly struck by a memory."

The river rushed past under them, and the sound of birds chirping could be heard. Lavendar realized that the two of them were the only ones there, and her ears twitched. Where was Cream? Perhaps she was further down the path, waiting. Would she have known what happened to Sonic?

Sonic slowly closed his eyes, his face once again regaining its distant look, and he murmured, "I think it was because of the same scene that triggered it. It was the day when my father died."

Lavendar's eyes widened in shock, and she breathed, "Your father is…" She had never even thought about Sonic's family. She had only been grieving over he loss of her own, and now, she lowered her head and said, "I'm sorry."

To her surprise, Sonic's head shot up and he snarled, "It's no one's fault but my own. I was the reason for his death. I knew what I was doing was dangerous, but I did it anyway, and I paid with my father's life." He shook violently and his breathing had sped up again. Lavendar shrunk backwards in alarm. She had only known Sonic for a few days, but she had never seen him like this before. His usual green and warm aura had somehow turned cold and a dark blue. His green eyes, usually lively and playful were dark and sorrowful, and for a second, he was someone else. No longer the calm, laid back hedgehog a few minutes before.

He must've realized what he had done, for he flattened his ears against his head. Bowing his head, he said, "I'm sorry Lavendar. I didn't mean to take it out on you. Don't be scared ok?" He leaned forward so that he was crouching just a few inches away from her. "You trust me do you?" His aura had returned to green, and there was no longer anger on his face. The magenta hedgehog paused for a few seconds. Just now, she had sensed a significant change in Sonic's aura, and it made her wonder what inner turmoil he was really feeling. It would explain why he was always blocking his thoughts.

But this was a hedgehog that had saved her life, who had been so kind to help her with her troubles. She had to at least help him with his troubles as well in return. Lavendar nodded and relaxed her tensed position. "I trust you Sonic," she replied, and despite everything, Sonic actually smiled. Sitting back on the trunk, he tilted his head upwards and gazed at the sky, the wind making his quills sway gently. "I was a small kid back then. It had been a sunny day, right after it had stopped raining. My father was taking me out for a walk. Well, he was walking, but I was running." He chuckled, his eyes warm as he recalled the fond memories. "My dad was scolding me as usual, saying that if I wasn't careful, I would hurt myself. How right he was." Lavendar could sense a change in his tone now, and realized that he was getting to the main part.

"We were walking alongside a river, and it was slightly flooded with all the water from the rain. It was really fast and deep too. I saw a log in the middle of the river and thought I could prove to my dad that I wouldn't get hurt. In the beginning I was fine. But in the middle, it got really slippery, and well, I lost my footing and fell into the river. It was so fast moving, I couldn't swim and I couldn't breathe." Sonic shuddered, staring at the water's surface. "My dad jumped in to save me. I was heading toward these very sharp rocks, and he managed to get to me and shove me on a little flat rock close to the bank. But he himself failed to grab a hold of it. I could only watch in horror as he flailed and was shredded by the sharp stones…" his voice caught and he went silent, his ears drooping by the side of his head, his eyes shut as if to block out the horrible images. Lavendar sat in silence, feeling bad for the hedgehog. It must've been terrible, watching his father die in front of his very own eyes and not have been able to do anything. At least she hadn't watched her parents burn to death; it would've driven her insane.

She didn't know what to do, watching Sonic suffer. He was still crouching on the edge of the trunk, his eyes closed, his head bowed. She decided to move close to him and press against his side, a simple comforting gesture, and kept quiet, letting the hedgehog grieve. The river made small hushing noises at them, and Lavendar felt her gem glow, and once again, she heard the water whispering at her, as if it were trying to talk. She wanted to snap at it and tell it to be quiet so Sonic could have some peace, but knew it would be foolish. How could water possibly talk?

At that moment, Sonic finally unfroze and let out a long breath, acknowledging Lavendar there against him. His green eyes like emeralds, he continued, "From that day on, I've been terrified of water. Yes, I am hydrophobic, that's one of my biggest fears, like how you're acrophobic. And just being on this trunk gives me chills. When I landed, I imagined that this trunk was that log again, and that I was in the middle of it, on the slippery part, and that I would fall again. That's why I collapsed."

He slowly stood up, Lavendar getting up as well, and she watched as he stared off into the distance. "I found my father's body later, on the banks of the shore, and on that very day, I made a promise," he exclaimed, his voice determined and hard. "I vowed that I would never, ever, put anyone's life at risk again because of me. I promised to get stronger, so that I could protect others. I would never let any one else put their life at risk to save mine, and instead, do all I can to risk my life to help others." He turned and fixed Lavendar with an unwavering gaze. "That's why Lavendar, I want to help you. To help you avenge your loved ones' deaths. To never let go even if I do fall one day. Because I know how it feels to lose someone you care about. Unfortunately, I can't really get my revenge on water now, can I?" he remarked humorlessly. "But if those cloaked Mobians are out there, we'll find them, I promise."

Lavendar felt taken aback at his defiant tone. He's one strong hedgehog, She thought in her head. Compared to her, she was a coward. Yes, she wanted to avenge the death of her loved ones, but would she be so brave as to risk her life for total strangers? Like she was to him, a stranger he happened to save? No, and that's why, she admired his courage and his determinedness. Lavendar fixed him with a gaze just as strong as his and said, "I truly am grateful, Sonic. I vow to get stronger, to overcome my fear over them." She covered her gem with her hand, feeling a soft pulse throughout her body. "I don't know why they are after my gem, but it cost my family and my loved ones' lives." She felt anger spark inside her, and she turned her back, facing the opposite bank. "I want to get them back for that. I want to find their reason. My gem means a lot to me and it's special, but what would they want with it? That's why, I have to know."

Sonic watched the new, determined figure of the magenta hedgehog, and he smiled inside. She's different from the frightened hedgehog she was during the hospital, he thought, and he nodded. "Let's go find Cream and get out of here," he replied. With that, the two made their way to the other bank and headed down the path.

The massive tree lay on its side, the flow of the water still smooth and unbroken. Under the water, something red flared, then went dark.

Aw...poor does he live with that type of guilt? Anyways, thanks for reading! The next chapter will be up...sometime!