Just One Bad Day: Chapter 3
Those eyes, those ruby red eyes I used to adore staring into...
They looked so cold, so hard.
I didn't recognise them anymore. They weren't those red depths I used to love staring into anymore.They had changed, they were different.
"Sonic!" Someone called my attention as I had been lost in thought once again. It was Amy who had called my name and I looked up to her.
We, not just Amy and I, but also Knuckles, Tails, Rouge and Omega, were in the conference room of the G.U.N headquarters.
It's been days since Shadow's escape, a week even.
That hedgehog had been transferred to a hospital a few cities over for reasons they and the prison conveniently forgot. Word is that he ran away with a baby, one he stole from the mother. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen the child for myself.
Sure, I had only seen him for only a split second before he sped off in the car and my attention had mainly been taken by his eyes, but I definitely saw a small being in a car seat next to him.
It doesn't sound like anything he'd do, but prison is said to change people. I just hope he brings the child back soon. As someone who's always wanted kids of his own, he must understand how those parents must feel.
Speaking of which, why wasn't anything known about the parents or the baby?
"Does anyone have any ideas?" Amy asked, earning Tails the most looks as he was usually the one to come up with all sorts of plans, but it didn't seem like the kitsune had any of them at the moment.
An audible sigh left most of us as no one had any idea about what our next step was going to be. We were all called to meet here with the G.U.N Commander not long after word got out that a dangerous convict escaped and we were ready to face this bastard head-on, but this was Shadow we were facing here. We fought alongsides him, we used to call him our friend. Everyone felt reluctant to fight him.
"Come up with a plan." Is what the Commander had said, but that was easier said than done.
What was Shadow planning to do? Would he come after u? Would he keep that baby hostage until he got what he wanted? Would he just try to dissapear from the face of Mobius?
We had to know his next move or wait for him to make a mistake.
"Sonic." As my name is called, I looked up to find my friends staring back at me with barely hidden concern, though Knuckles looked as stoic as usual.
"Sonic, since Shadow is your ex, maybe it's not such a good idea for you to take part in this." Rouge spoke up. It seems like the others agree with her.
"What are you talking about?" I had to ask, wanting to know just what she was insinuating.
"You asked for a divorce five months after Shadow was thrown behind bars. He might not be so happy to see you." Rouge responded to my question. Though I could see where she was coming from, I did not agree.
"That's true, I'm his ex, but that doesn't mean I'm just going to back down." I stubbornly decided.
And then there was still the matter of his eyes and that baby. A big part of me wanted to know what made his deep rubies turn to stone and with my speed I might very well be the best chance the kid has.
"And you shouldn't. If there is anyone who can find former agent Robotnik, it's you and agent Rouge. You two were the closest to him and Omega would stand out too much." The Commander himself stated as he entered the conference room, soon dropping a faded yellow folder with 'Top Secret' printed on the cover on the table between Rouge and I.
No need to guess twice of what that might be.
"Sir?" Rouge looked at the file in confusion.
"I'll make this brief." The Commander said, hands clasping behind his back.
"As you are all aware, today a week ago Shadow Robotnik escaped after being transferred to a local hospital. We don't know why he was transferred and not the hospital nor the prison facility are willing to answer our questions on grounds of confidentiality. It is also because of it that they are entitled to keep every file concerning Mr. Robotnik to themselves." Towers looked visibly agited with the lack of co-operation. I was just agitated with the fact that he pretended like Shadow was just a stranger.
"Because those files might be the key to finding him, I would like to task you, Rouge, with getting your hands on any information you can find. Medical files, psychiatric evaluations, get everything." The human turned towards the bat, who answered with a simple curt nod.
"Sonic, you and your group will take the field. I want to hear a report from both of you as soon as you find something new. Dismissed." And just like that, the meeting was over. No questions asked.
Brief, just like the Commander had said.
Shortly after we found ourselves sitting in the livingroom. There was a reality tv-show playing on the television, but no one was listening or watching. We had more important things on our minds.
"How the hell are we supposed to find Shadow? Mobius is a big planet, that hedgehog could be literally anywhere right now!" Knuckles snapped as he leant with his elbows on his knees as he sat in the armchair, annoyed.
"No, he can't Chaos Control anymore. So he's pretty much stuck with the regular way to escape with a car or something." I responded, which seemed to surprise everyone else. This was news to them.
"To avoid having Shadow escape, he was given these stronger inhibitor rings. Chaos Control and all that isn't available to him anymore." And as I explained, Tails groaned.
"Why did they do that?! I could've tracked Shadow through his powers and we could've found him in a day!" The kitsune was obviously distraught as it seemed like he wouldn't be of much use in this mission.
"You can't track him with those rings on?" Amy asked. She didn't understand why it would be impossible to track Shadow down through his powers now.
"Shadow doesn't radiate Chaos Energy as much as Chaos Emeralds do, but it was always fairly easy to find him, especially without his old inhibitor rings. With these enhanced ones created to blot his abilities out completely, my tracker won't be able to find him unless he's in the same city." Tails replied as he pulled his knees up, tails wrapping around them. An air of dissapoint hung all around him.
"Can't you use it now? Maybe Shadow stayed? It's gotta be hard for him to leave without Chaos Control." Knuckles spoke up again, trying to give the kitsune something to try out.
"Shadow may not be able to Chaos Control or take the plane, but he can still leave the country via a car, train or boat ride. I doubt he's going to stay in the same city and I doubt he's coming here." Rouge argued. Despites his lack of teleportation, she was convinced he still could've gone very far.
Though I've seen Shadow in that car when he escaped, the same vehicle was found that same evening, apparently with blood in the car seat and driver's seat. That detail worried a lot of people, but I know Shadow could never hurt a child, especially not a newborn. All that blood must've come from himself.
Anyway, Shadow left his original form of transport. He knows how fugitives are tracked and found, he's most likely taking more than one form of transportation to avoid being caught. Maybe our best chances to find him are to keep an eye on trains, planes and boats. An extra passenger might suddenly show up.
I suggested this to Tails.
"That could've helped, but I would never be able to monitor all of that footage on my own. Even if I had help from you guys, it would still be impossible to track him down. We would have to be lucky." Tails rejected my suggestion, but my idea did sprung another one in his mind.
"I could keep an eye on the media. With Shadow being your ex, the media is having a field trip! Even if as much as a rumor spreads, the media will be all over it. All I have to do is browse news channels, news sites and newspapers and something's bound to pop up!" Tails' everlasting trust in the power of the internet once again reared its ugly head as the kitsune quickly grabbed for his laptop, propped it up on his lap and turned it on.
"Check with the murders. A corpse or two is bound to pop up now that Shadow is free." Knuckles stated, as bluntly as ever.
My fists clenched on my lap as his statement agitated me.
I didn't speak up, though.
Even if it was self-defense, Shadow committed a mass murder.
I surprised myself with that thought running through my head. What am I thinking? What he did was the result of fear and anger, how could I ever think he'd suddenly go around killing people?
"Shut up, Knuckles." I hissed.
"What? It's the truth, isn't it? Once a killer, always a killer. That hedgehog tried to blow the planet up! Just because he decides not to do it doesn't mean he's suddenly a good guy." The echidna responded, making it quite clear to us that he's never trusted Shadow from the beginning.
"It was self-defense, his Chaos Blast was nothing more than a spur of the moment kind of thing. You of all people should understand how that works, Knucklehead!" I growled at him, unintentionally raising my voice in front of Tails.
"I should understand? Well, Sonic, obviously I don't understand it as much as you do. Since you're going out of your way to pick a fight with me to defend your ex, the mass murdering psychopath, than I'm sure you can answer me this one question. Why the hell did you ask for a divorce?" Knuckles nearly shouted as he shot up from the couch. He always did have the reputation of being a hothead.
I couldn't answer.
I sit here and defend him when I had made it quite clear that I wanted nothing to do with him before.
So why did I file for divorce?
"That's what I thought." The knucklehead huffed and dropped down on the couch.
Ever since word of Shadow's crime got out, he's never allowed anyone to let it rest. It's like he holds me personally responsible for inviting a killer into our group.
"Leave him alone, Knuckles." Rouge told him bitterly to which she only got a grunt for an answer.
An awkward silence fell in the room, only broken by the noise coming from the tv.
Amy and Tails hadn't exactly been comfortable with the fight that nearly broke out in my livingroom nor with the silence that now hung in the air. The latter decided to break it.
"Guys, I think I might've found something." He said and we all turned to look at the kitsune.
"Four days ago a man was found murdered in a cargo cart of a train. Seventeen stab wounds in total." He said as he read the article, eyes swiftly scanning each word.
"Seventeen of them? Sounds like someone was really pissed." Knuckles noted audible.
I got up from the couch to join Tails by his side to look at the article myself.
That murder wasn't a simple robbery or a 'at the wrong place, at the wrong time' kind of thing. Knuckles was right. Someone had been pissed when that poor man was brutally stabbed to death.
"People described the cart as being filled with pressure and a feeling of rage, they felt like it was hard to breath in there." Tails continued to read.
"What does that have to do with anything, Tails?" Knuckles asked, acting like it was stupid for Tails to even bring that up.
"Not much, just that Chaos Energy is all around us. Shadow may not have been able to tap into it, but he could be capable of effecting the atmosphere with negative emotions, especially with how powerfull he used to be. Not to mention that people often state how uncomfortable places filled with anger are." He explained, which didn't answer our question at all.
"So you think it may have been Shadow because people think that the atmosphere in a place where a brutally stabbed body was found felt a little off?" Rouge sighed as her hands came to rest on her hips.
"No, that was just something I heard and wanted to share. I think it was Shadow because the kitchen knife found stuck in the body looks exactly like the kitchen knife Shadow had been swinging around in one of the train stations that train passes everyday when threatening a conductor." The kitsune replied, looking up to the bat.
"Oh." Was all she replied.
"Well then, I think I know where I'm going tomorrow." I said to no one in particular as I took note of where this had apparently taken place in. Looks like my first stop is going to be that train station.
The next morning, after a refreshing shower, a morning jog and breakfast, speeding off towards the train station was the first thing I did.
The train station was your typical small station. It wasn't all that well-kept and not so crowdy either. In fact, besides three other passengers, I was pretty much the only one here.
Figuring that a small station like this wouldn't have many conducters, I began to ask around, picture of the man I was looking for in hand after it had been pulled from the cameras. A little while later, I hit the jackpot.
The man was a nervous type, which I'm sure was also because he had been threatened by an escaped convict just hours before a dead body was found with the same kitchen knife stuck in his chest as the one he had been threatened with.
The conductor pulled me into this empty office when I approached him about his encounter with Shadow. It didn't seem like he wanted to speak about it unless we were alone.
"Yes, I did have a rather unpleasant meeting with that criminal." The conductor said after making sure the door was closed and there was no one else but us in here.
He took his hat from his head and held it in a tight grip, fumbling with it, his hands could not be stilled. He looked around nervously, as if the said criminal could come bursting in any moment now.
"Can you tell me what happened?" I asked, trying to give the man the impression that there was no danger here.
The conductor felt himself calm down and took a seat. I pulled up a chair to stay at the same eye level as him.
"The day started out like any other. News of that dangerous escape convict was all over the place, but it was so far away from here, so, I didn't worry too much over it. And then, in the afternoon, we passed eachother and I recognised him from the picture they had shown on the news." The man started fumbling and wringing his hat again.
"I wanted to call the cops, but suddenly he cornered me and swung that knife around. He was covered in blood and held a baby in his arms and tried to threaten me. He said that, if I told anyone I had seen him, he'd come back to finish me off." He was a nervous wreck as he spoke. He still felt like Shadow could come bursting in through the door any second now.
"I heard on the news about all of those deaths he's caused ever since he got out, so I was terrified. I haven't told a single soul about our encounter. You're the first to hear about this." He finished his brief tale.
People say that it always feels like a weight is being lifted off of your shoulders if you talk about your burdens. But this guy just looked even worse off now. Shadow's threat must've really affected him.
Honestly, I don't blame him. I remember what he used to look like back when he was still trying to collect the Chaos Emeralds to power up the Eclipse Cannon. He had this look in his eyes that chilled me to the very bone.
And those deaths. I heard about all of the people that died when a police force attempted to retrieve the child. I wanted to believe Shadow had nothing to do with their demise, but it was clear even to me that I was only trying to convince myself to believe a complete lie.
I defended him yesterday, but the evidence was stacking up against him once more. And if kidnapping an infant and his killing spree wasn't enough, there was still the same knife he had stuck in a dead hobo's chest.
"What did he look like? Was he nervous? Tired? Scared?" I asked, wanting to know more about his attitude during their encounter.
It took him a while to come up with an answer. The conductor hadn't really thought about that before.
"I can only describe it as a cornered animal. Angry, scared, nervous, you know." But he did come up with an answer.
"Do you have any idea where he might've gone?" I asked, leaning forward with my elbows on my knees.
"He hitched a ride with the train. He broke into the cargo cart where that man was found dead that same evening." The conductor responded.
I guess I should've figured that out myself. Why else would Shadow come here?
But now that I know this, another problem arises.
For how long was Shadow on that train? Where did he get off? Is he still in the city or town he chose to be his stop or did he move on already? If he did, which direction did he go? Which mode of transportation did he take this time?
So many questions and no answers.
I think it's about time I leave. The longer I linger the farther he'll get. But I had one more question to ask before I could leave.
"What about the baby?"
"He still had it with him. I think it was asleep. It was wrapped in something and held in a sling." The conductor replied, which relieved my greatly.
So it was like I had hoped. Shadow may have kidnapped a kid, but at least I was sure he was taking care of it. When I find him, I'm sure the baby will be healthy and cared for.
I left that little office and soon the station before I grabbed my phone and dialed Rouge's number. The Commander did tell us to stay in close contact with eachother.
"Any news?" Rouge, knowing it was me who called, immediatly asked without as much as a proper greeting.
"Yeah, Shadow did take the train that dead body was found in. He was even in the same cart." I informed her and I swore I could feel her dissapointment all the way from the other side of the line.
"So now our next move is trying to figure out which stop he took. If he didn't jump out while the train was still moving. Chaos abilities or not, Shadow can still survive pretty much anything." The bat said as she paced around the room. Even through the phone could I hear her heels clacking on the floor.
"He wouldn't jump off while it was still moving, that would've endangered the baby. Shadow wouldn't have risked that!" I protested.
"Well, listen to you. Such confidence in our little serial killer." She teased, but I wanted none of it.
"Seriously, what is it with you people and thinking the worst of him? He wouldn't harm a hair on that child's head!" I felt myself growing a bit angry at the accusation. How could she ever believe Shadow to be capable of taking any sort of risk with a baby in tow?
The bat on the other line sighed.
"Let's just try and figure out where he went. You should get your hands on the route the train he took takes." And she hung up.
With the sound of beeping in my ear I suppressed a sigh and put my phone away in my pocket.
I returned to the train station and met up with the nervous conductor again. I managed to get him to tell me which train Shadow had taken, had to profusely reassure him that no dangerous escaped convicts would come after his ass, and managed to get my hands on the route.
Now the real search could begin.
Three whole months.
That was for how long we had been searching for him exactly. Well, three months, a week and two days to be prices, but that was besides the point.
For three months did I follow the train's route. I searched the settlements the train stopped in and I searched the neighbouring towns and cities. I practically went from door to door, showing a picture and asking if anyone had spotted an ebony black hedgehog with red streaks in his fur and quills and looks no older than fifteen.
You'd think someone like that would stand out, but nope. Not a single sign of him. I don't know if he's truly become the master of eloping, but I could not find him. Tails' nifty device, finetuned to pick up on very faint Chaos Energy, didn't help in the slightest. And as more time passed, it would be more and more difficult for it to pick up on any residual energy of some kind.
Either way, I was actually kinda starting to lose hope. Of course, Knuckles accused me of giving up on purpose because of the relationship he and I had, but I didn't let that trouble me.
I was genuinely starting to believe Shadow was untraceable.
Until one day.
I decided to take a little pitstop in this small-time diner as my body was in a real need of a break and some food. Shadow's picture was in full view as I looked at the menu and tried to decide what I should eat, since chilli dogs weren't part of the assortiment, when this waitress came to my table to take my order and noticed the picture.
"I know that hedgehog! That brat didn't pay for his order! Just excused himself to the bathroom with the excuse that his baby needed to be fed and didn't came back out! The windows of the bathroom have been barred ever since!" She said, snatching the picture off the table to take a closer look at it.
"So you've seen him before? You're absolutely sure it's him?" I asked, hope finally swelling up inside.
"Oh yeah, it's him. I even remember what he ordered. Pancakes and decaf." The waitress replied and returned the photo to me.
"Did he escape through the men's or women's bathroom?" I asked, jumping up from my seat.
"Na-ha, you're staying! I won't let you leave until you've paid for your friend's meal. And if you see him, punch him for me." The waitress protested as she grabbed my collar and pulled me down to force me to re-take my seat. I didn't show much resistance and just plopped down.
I was in need of a good meal and a good night's rest anyway. So I might aswell pay Shadow's bill and find a place to crash for tonight.
Tomorrow I'll find him for sure.
I woke up as soon as the sun rose in the sky. I took a shower, got dressed, ate some breakfast and felt ready for another day.
I investigated the bathroom Shadow escaped through with the baby and took another look around that part of town.
A second search and questioning allowed me to discover that Shadow had switched the doctor uniform he had been sighted with for something a little more appropriate for the warm weather before leaving town. This one person had pointed towards the general direction he had seen Shadow dissapear to and I was eager to follow it.
And then I faced another problem.
I don't know why Shadow decided to traverse a place as dangerous as a desert, especially with a young infant, but for some reason that's exactly what he had done.
That's when my concern for him and the child grew.
Shadow would've tried to determine which road to take, not that there are many to choose from and there weren't alot of desert villages he could hide out at.
I suppose I should take a look in the nearest one, which was already hours and hours away on foot. Good thing I'm the fastest thing alive.
So I did what I did best and that was run. I followed this one road leading to the nearest village and it took a surprisingly long time to get there. Because of the hot sun roasting me alive and the warm climate I actually had to take a couple of breaks to catch my breath, but now I'm finally here.
I had just crossed the border when a sudden vibration came from my pocket. I pulled the tracker Tails had given me out of my pocket and looked at the small screen. An ever so small dot was present on the small map it showed.
That little dot meant that there was a source of Chaos Energy here and with such a faint registration, it could only mean on thing.
Shadow is here.
That little dot gave me so much hope. After three months of searching, I might've actually finally found him.
With renewed hope and strength, I entered town, determined not to leave until I've found that hedgehog.
It was surprisingly easier than I would've thought.
This wasn't exactly a small village, but the community was still small enough for everyone to know everyone. And when you're a pitch-black hedgehog with red streaks and red eyes, you tend to stand out a little. Especially if you look forever fifteen and have an infant with you.
So finally people were able to give me an actual address this time. Can you believe it? After three months! An address! Finally!
I followed the directions given to me and came upon this one dump of a place, squished between two normal houses. Okay, it wasn't a complete dump. It was just incredibly small and obviously not all that well-taken care off, like it's been neglected for a very long time now.
It's probably cheap. If Shadow does live in here, that must be the primary reason why.
I jogged up on the porch and rang the doorbell, only to discover that the thing didn't work, so I resorted to banging instead, making sure I was heard.
A little while later there was still no answer, so I was left to wonder if anyone was even home before I attempted a second time and the door opened.
I looked down and saw a human child looking up to me with a bit of an annoyed gaze.
"Mama's not home." She said, another small human peeking from behind the door frame.
"Heh, sorry about that. I must be at the wrong address." I excused myself, but the little girl just poked her tongue out and slammed the door shut, stumping me.
"Hey, wait! If your mother's not home, than who's watching you?!" I shouted, concern rising upon these two kids possibly being on their own.
"Babysitter!" Was the single answer.
I supposed I could leave them alone for now. I could always come by later as right now I wanted to find a wanted person first.
I won't find him here. Figures. Of course, this wouldn't be the right address. Just because I might've found the right desert village, doesn't mean it'll suddenly be easy to find him.
I walked off the porch and got back on the road again, planning on resuming my search.
But first, lunch.
My stomach was growling, aching and felt like it was trying to eat itself. I just had to get something to satiate this hunger of mine. And let's not get started about how thirsty this heat was making me feel. As someone with black fur, I'm genuinely amazed how Shadow manages to live here.
"Excuse me!" I told a human woman as I nearly bumped into her.
"Oh, no harm done!" She replied cheerily and continued on her way. I couldn't help but watch her go for a moment. Strange, she had a small wolf cub in her arms. Not that relationships between two different species were unheard off.
I walked towards the local diner and walked inside. In an instant this delicious smell filled my nostrils and the cool wind of the airco brushed through my quills and I knew I had chosen the right place to eat at.
I approached the counter where a few people were queueing and decided to let my eye wander while I waited.
This place was clearly old fashioned, like you'd see in the movies, but it had a certain charm to it. The diner was obviously well-kept and the staff wore neat uniforms. I know Shadow would've liked to try this place out because of the smell and cleanliness alone.
As my eyes wandered, my gaze couldn't help but fall on a blackboard hung on the wall near the door. All sorts of flyers and papers were kept in place with magnets. They were colourful and several fonts were used. Musical events, townmeetings, all sorts of things, and a fight competition.
Leaving the queue, I decided to take a closer look at the latter and for good reason too. Faint drawings of many fighters littered the surface of the paper, some wore masks to conceal their identity and some were partially hidden by the letters, but there was only one that caught my eye.
There, at the very bottom of the left corner, was an artistic sketch of a dark hedgehog with highlights in his quills and a fierce gaze.
Hurriedly I scanned the paper for a date and time, but found absolutely nothing except that it was a regular thing. Once again I'm out of luck. No time, no address, how was I supposed to attend this thing?
I was so caught up in staring at the piece of paper that I barely even noticed this mouse bumping into me on his way to the exit. I didn't even pay him any attention until I felt him push something into my pocket.
My eyes fell on his back as I stared at him as he left. I quickly dug in my pocket and found a small piece of paper.
'The old farmhouse of 'The Miller's Ranch'. 1am.' That's what it said.
The guy must've coincidentally seen me staring at the poster and assumed that I would want to go.
He'd been right.
Tonight I might actually find Shadow.
The time passed slower than it ever had before. There wasn't really anything I could do besides renting a room in the inn and exploring this settlement a little more, deciding if I should contact Rouge or wait until I'm sure Shadow would really attend the fight and not just someone who happened to look a lot like him.
Either way, it had been a long wait, but now the time had finally arrived.
At exactly 1am, the game would begin.
Underground fighting was exactly what you'd imagine it to be, There were no cages or anything, just a circle of people closing the two competitors in. Woman on woman, man on man, man on woman, no pair was excluded. There were very few rules to follow too.
"Folks, you know the rules. No killing or the purposely mutilating of genitals! I'd rather avoid another lawsuit like that." Is what the announcer would say before commencing each fight. Only two rules to follow.
Heh, so that kind of lawsuit has happened before? And people wonder why fights like these were illegal. But I wasn't here to bust anything or anyone. I only wanted to find one particular person.
Far on the sidelines, standing on a crate to still see well enough, I watched fight after fight with a frown. Sure, on tv things like this could be entertaining, but that was in a controlled environment.
These fights could become pretty brutal. With only two rules to pay heed to, these competitors were allowed to not just kick and punch, but also bite, scratch, twist and us objects as weapons.
I had to look away and cringe a lot of times.
Every fighter beat the other bloody and broken. Some winners even lasted a couple of rounds.
But 5am arrived and the winner of the last few rounds waited for his next challenger. He was a burly, strong lion. His muscles bulged with every move he made and looked like he could crush a baby's skull in one hand. His mane shone with pride as he stood up straight, hands resting on his hips. He was littered with bruises and his fur was damp with sweat, but he could definitely take on another few fights.
"No one?! Well then, I assume it's time for a rematch with the brat." The lion growled in delight as he stared at two black ears perking in the crowd.
"This won't be much of a rematch. You only won last time because you punched glass into my eyes!" Finally, the hedgehog I had been looking for emerged from the crowd, pushing past the crowd, upon being taunted by the other.
My heart fluttered in my chest and this warm feeling welled up in my chest.
For a moment his crimes and the cub he kidnapped were non-existent and I could only stare at his slender form. Not all that muscled as his body was more trained to be agile and flexible, to generally get into places normal soldiers might not get into, and there was barely an ounce of fat on him.
Except where it counted. If you would permit me, his behind still looked exactly as round and perky as I remember.
It felt so good to see him again, but that wasn't enough. I wanted to feel him again aswell. His fur beneath my fingers, muscle rippling beneath his skin, his body heat. I wanted to feel his body against mine.
I think I've only now realised just how much I've missed him.
"Serves you right, little kids don't belong here." The lion taunted back.
The announcer stepped forward to commence the fight.
"Ladies, gentlemen and kiddies."The announcer send a smirk Shadow's way. "As the last fight for this evening, our champion will have a rematch with the, admittedly tough, fresh meat. Give them a round of applaus to boost both of their egos before one of them will ultimately be humiliated and branded by defeat!"
A loud cheering came from the crowd, and while the lion was fully enjoying it, the look in Shadow's eyes told me he didn't care. He was focussed on solely one thing, raising both of his fists and glaring at his opponent. You could just see the anticipation of beating this man's face in grow in his eyes.
My fists tightened by my sides in dread of what was to come. I've seen Shadow fight before, heck I've watched him end up in the hospital a couple of times, we even shared rooms on those occasions, but I still did not want to see him get hurt. I've seen him stand his ground in front of much greater threats, but I still could not help but feel like I wanted to interfere.
But I stood in place and just crossed my arms instead, resolving to only seperate them if this got out of hand.
The announcer took a few strides back and the two contestants got ready to fight, fists raised, feet apart and one an angry glare while the other smirked.
With one blow of the whistle the fight started.
The lion made the first move, lunging forward with his right fist headed towards Shadow, but the hedgehog simply dodged out of the way, hands raised to form a protective barrier in front of his face.
The lion attacked and Shadow moved away, his short and lithe body faster than the other's bulkier and heavier one.
"Stay still!" The larger mobian growled as he threw punch after punch, which Shadow avoided with ease. Both of them were inching closer and closer towards the crowd, but Shadow remedied that by diving underneath his arms when the lion attempted to grab him and moved behind him.
Shadow's opponent growled as he connected the dots and figured out what the hedgehog was trying to do.
"Trying to tire me out, ey? Well, it ain't gonna work. Next punch thrown will be coming from you." The lion decided and he meant it.
Looks like Shadow will have to change tactic. The hedgehog growled as he realised this aswell.
"Fine." He grumbled and made his move. With a a simple swing of his fist, he attempted to punch the feline in the face, but only got the limb caught in a large hand and pulled closer, only for the lion to punch him in the face.
His jaw ached, but Shadow didn't let that stun him as he retaliated with another punch of his own, missing by a hair as the lion moved out of the way, getting around him enough to try and grab his quills, but they were puffed up and dangerous, so with a growl he had to let go, grimacing.
With the lion behind him, Shadow send him back with a powerful kick to the gut, his opponent hunching over and stumbling back. As a follow up to his kick, Shadow intended to uppercut him, but the other didn't allow it as he dodged and punched the smaller mobian square in the face once more.
Dazed, Shadow couldn't help but fall to the floor, only just barely able to catch himself. Now on his knees, a swift kick made the ground dissapear from under the lion's feet and wiped his smirk off his face as his heavy weight ensured a hard impact with the dirt ground, head colliding harshly with the surface.
Shadow stood back on his feet and panted. He knew better than to attack his foe while he was on the ground and simply watch him, wiping away the blood that came dripping from his nose.
The other didn't stay down for long as he practically jumped back to his feet. He made use of Shadow's surprise by quickly punching him in the gut with a large fist and following that up with a kick to the chest and Shadow was send falling down to the ground again.
The lion gave him no time to recover as he kicked the hedgehog in the face, earning a pained yelp out of him.
And all the while the crowd kept shouting, cheering and jeering. I called Shadow's name in terror, but I could barely even hear myself over the noise.
Shadow's face ached, I could see it written all over his face.
"Get up, brat." The larger mobian growled, watching in satisfaction as Shadow listened and got back up on his feet. Blood poured freely from his nose and his lips was busted, but he wasn't about to go down just yet.
I hated standing here at the sidelines, unable to push past the circle of people. Competitive fighting or not, I wanted to help him. I can't stand to see him put himself through this so unnecessarily.
The lion grunted as Shadow, despites his size, planted his elbow firmly in his side, surely bruising his ribs.
The fight just continued on and on. Much like the others, they beat eachother bloody and broken, but still neither one of them gave in.
Shadow looked considerably better than the lion's previous foes, which didn't say much. A bruised eye, a busted lip, a bloody nose and something in his chest ached. And that was just scratching the surface.
"Argh!" A firm punch send him falling to the ground and it took a bit of effort to get back up, but he used the position to his advantage and kicked the lion's feet from under him again, sending him to the floor aswell.
The much larger mobian didn't stand down for long as he swiftly kicked Shadow in the face, to which the hedgehog didn't do much more besides covering his face, trying to hide how much it hurt. He was getting more and more tired of this arduous fight.
His opponent, on the other hand, got back to his feet and kicked him again. This time Shadow, thankfully, saw it coming and dived underneath, sucking up a quick breath of air as he jumped back to his feet.
He threw a punch, but, surprisingly, it was off. The lion barely had to dodge.
"Still getting up? You're resilient, I'll give you that, but I'm the champion here!" Furious at his competitor's will to keep getting back up no matter how many times he was beaten down, the champion gave one last growl as he threw a hard and quick low blow to Shadow's lower abdomen.
His eyes widened in utter shock and suddenly he collapsed.
I watched as he fell to his knees, arms wrapping around his stomach and hunching over, as if wanting to curl up like any hedgehog's basic instinct allows him or her to do.
"Shadow!" I called out, but my voice was drowned out by all the others present. I jumped off the crate and tried to push past, wanting to reach him as he looked like he was really in pain, but I couldn't get to him.
The lion smirked widely and maliciously as he threw his fists in the air and the crowd went wild. The champion went undefeated.
"You asshole." Shadow growled at the lion, but, just as the announcer had said, only two rules applied and 'not cheating' wasn't one of them.
"Stop cheering! I'm not done with you yet!" Shadow attempted to resume the fight, cringing as he climbed back up on his feet, but his shouting went ignored.
Everyone just ignored every word he spoke, completely forgot he was here as they all swooned over the lion, some of the shallow women in the crowd fawning over him and complimenting his muscles.
Of course, the winner of this evening drank it all up in glee.
Shadow huffed as he left the group, earning himself a few unwanted stares that made him visibly uncomfortable, and attempted to retreat.
It was then that, as he passed, our eyes met again for just a split second.
Shadow immediatly recognised me and, with his lips pressed onto eachother as his body tensed up, strode past me in an attempt to make it seem like he hadn't just seen me, silently hoping I hadn't seen him either.
And so he retreated to somewhere out back.
Not wanting to lose him, I quickly gave chase and found him sitting on a haybale with his arms wrapped around his abdomen. Looks like that lion has gotten him pretty good.
I wonder how, though.
The hedgehog's every fiber tensed up once more as my familiar voice reached his ears, which perked.
He tried not to look at me, though, as if that would make me disappear somehow. But realising that I was probably not leaving, he reluctantly looked up to me.
He held his breath when his gaze fell on me. He looked unsure of what to do. He looked like he wanted to jump up and embrace me and also jump up to punch me in the face.
But instead he kept one arm around his stomach and stayed seated. Undecisive.
"If you're here to drag me back to prison, I'll have to disappoint you. I'm not going anywhere." Shadow simply said, keeping it cool. He looked like he was holding back, but what I had no idea.
"Well, I wasn't planning on taking you back just yet. I gotta figure out where that pup is first." As those words rolled off my tongue, I could see his fists clenching.
"I think we're done here." He spoke abruptly and stood up from his seat, but only ended up wincing and cringing.
As if on instinct, I shot forward to grab him to keep him from falling and hurting himself even more, but like this I ended up holding him close.
His smaller body was pressed against mine. I could feel his heat, his fur, his warm breath on my skin, his lithe body in my arms. A warm feeling welled up inside, my heart actually fluttering just like every time I used to hold him before his incarceration, and I could no longer let go.
For a moment, Shadow didn't know what to do and simply stood there, eyes wide, body tense and head resting on my chest.
One hand moved to grasp my shirt ever so slowly.
"Sonic... Can you keep hol-"
"I cant believe this. I just can't believe this!"
A chimp about a few mere inches shorter than me, but still taller than the forever fifteen year old hedgehog, came walking into the room, suit wrinkled and ruined.
"Let go of me." Shadow hissed at me before pushing me away to face the other mobian.
Whatever he felt when we shared that moment, it had turned to annoyence now.
"Chad, what the hell was up with that fight?! You could take that lion down! What was up with that poor performance out there?!" The chimp raged on Shadow, but the hedgehog simply sighed and drew away from me.
"You know why he won. He-"
"I don't care if he uses dirty tricks or not! If he fights dirty than so do you! Simple as that! That piss poor fight you put up was worth nothing! If you intend to make a living for you and your kid, you better step it up or I'll look for someone else!" The guy shouted, cutting Shadow off in the middle of a sentence. I could see his fists tightening.
But wait a sec. Shadow still has the wolf cub with him? Looks like finding him and reuniting him with his parents will be a breeze after all!
"I took nearly everyone down this past month! The only ones I haven't been able to defeat is that lion and that one human! The former of which discovered my single two weaknesses! You won't find anyone better than me!" Shadow shouted back, clearly angered with the threat of getting sacked.
I wanted to interrupt and speak up, but the two just continued to shout at one another despites my attempts.
Geez, rarely have I seen Shadow getting so worked up over the thought of getting fired. last time he nearly got fired, he just started looking for a different job, accepting that fate with, dare I say, relief. But now he pretty much went ballistic.
"Shade, I won't argue about this any longer. Step up your game or you're fired!" The chimp ended the discussion and walked away, still seething over the money he had lost betting on his own fighter.
"It's Shadow, you degenerate-"
"Hey, take it easy! You're hurt and exhausted. Instead of wasting time and energy on him, don't you think it's a better idea to just let it go and go home instead?" I interrupted his insult and stood in front of him, cutting off his view on the chimp.
That's when I noticed something peculiar about him. His eyes squinted just slightly, like he was trying to focus on me while the sunlight was blinding him, though it was night.
"I suppose." He grumbled and crossed his arms in front of his chest, casting his gaze downwards.
"You're right, I should be getting home." He couldn't help but admit and unconsciously rubbed his chest as if that place was sore. He walked past me to leave, but soon suddenly halted.
"You... You believe he doesn't belong with me either, do you? The wolf pup? You believe whatever lie the media has told you?" Shadow asked reluctantly, but he didn't look at me.
'He'. So the missing wolf pup is a boy. Funny how is own supposed parents didn't mention that.
No, scratch that, no one knows anything except that the infant looked like a wolf. No one knew anything about his parents either. You'd think the parents of a missing baby would've had their faces plastered all over the place, weither they wanted it or not.
With seemingly none-existent parents, where did the boy come from?
Shadow noticed the confusion on my face as my gaze was cast downwards. He could pretty much see the doubts forming in my mind.
That lightened his mood a little, like he was relieved.
"You go ahead and wreck your brain over that question, just don't look too far. You'd be doing me a real favour." An ever so small smile appeared on his tan muzzle.
Truth is, I did take the media's word for it. I've never really been a fan of their ability to make a parody of the truth, but I still believed them. I never really took an actual step back to think clearly about the matter of the boy's parents, not until Shadow asked me to.
Then a thought formed in my head. It seemed almost ridiculous, but I still couldn't help myself.
"Shadow, are you..." I looked up to ask him a question, but he was already gone.
With my speed I ran out of the barn and noticed Shadow up ahead, simply strolling and hoping that the cool desert air would fight the inevitable swelling of his bruises before he returned home to his pup.
I tried catching up to him, but it wasn't as easy as it sounded. Speed was nice and all, but not when you had to avoid all kinds of people, pumped up by the fight matches they had just watched. They were unpredictable and I did not want to run into someone.
So I was left with pushing past the crowd in my attempt to reach Shadow.
"Shadow, wait!" I was always just a tad bit too far away to be heard, my calls falling on deaf ears as people hollered and cheered all around me, excited to tell their family and friends about the fights they had just witnessed.
Meanwhile I was left to chase after Shadow. By the time the crowd dissipated enough for me to run, Shadow was already way up ahead, pulling a sorry looking key out of his pocket to open up a sorry looking door to an even more sorry looking house.
I wouldn't know exactly why Shadow would ever want to live here, but I do know that it was the same dump of a house I had knocked on before when that little girl opened up.
I ran for the door and nearly banged on its surface in my hurry to get inside.
Unlike before, it was a human woman who opened the door. She had this friendly and motherly look to her.
"Yes?" She simply asked, tired and suspicious that someone would come knocking at this hour.
I decided to give her the most cheepish and innocent grin I knew.
"Excuse me for the early hour, miss, but I saw Shadow walking in here and he's a really good friend of mine. I haven't seen him in eons and I'm dying to see him again. I hope you don't mind if I come in and just say 'hi'?" I askd as innocently as possible. Fortunatly, she let me.
"Well, I just can't say no to that, can I? Come on in, boy." The woman stepped aside in her slippers and I gratefully entered her humble abode, quietly traversing the short hallway in my search for Shadow. I had probably awoken this poor woman from her sleep, I wouldn't want to rouse her family aswell.
"It's okay, Lucan, mommy's here." It was soft and barely audible, but it was definitely there.
I came upon the livingroom that was lit up poorly by a single candle, the mother in this household made her way past me in order to grab said candle, but there was also dim light coming from the other room through a slight crack in the doorway.
As quietly as I could, I sneaked my way towards the door and opened it just enough to slip inside.
I met with quite a sight.
Shadow sat on a mattress on the floor with a mess of blankets that almost resembled a little nest for him and the baby he held in his arms, a little wolf cub suckling from his left side greedily, to curl up into. A pair of glasses, with one side missing its glass, was perched on top of Shadow's nose through which he stared at me in shock, like I had caught him at the wrong time.