The Crimson Dream
Chapter Five: Tragic Fate
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Joke Summary: In which Amy learns she has been promoted from just a child to imminent threat
Amy inspected the drab training area and sighed, reminded of her less than ideal circumstances. Ever since she’d been forced to ally with Eggman, she’d been deprived of color and no amount of multicolored lights haphazardly dotting the factory could make up for that. Amy was tired of machinery. Her brief escapes into nature could only do so much to cheer her up.
Shadow’s mutterings pulled her out of her own thoughts and lightened her mood. Was he really still going over that dumb list? Amy wouldn’t have even offered it to him if she really thought anything on it could actually defeat Sonic in any significant way. She just hoped it would help keep him safe in the long run.
“Acts before he thinks, tends to underestimate his opponent once he has the upperhand, likes chilli dogs,” he paused again, amused to find yet another food item on the list.
“How many of these are food related?” he asked, gesturing to the list and narrowing his eyes accusingly. He was on to her.
Traitorous giggles escaped her lips. She really hadn’t expected him to go through the whole thing before they started their training session.
“What? He likes food,” she insisted, defending her choice.
“Do you expect me to set up a box trap and place some cake under it and call it a day?”
Amy rolled her eyes and shot him a fond look. It was clear from his tone that he was teasing her.
“Pretty sure, Eggman tried that in the early years with chilli dogs. It didn’t work out. ”
Shadow hmphed, attempting to appear indignant before ultimately cracking a smile. This Shadow never could seem to stay gloomy for too long. She supposed that was a nice silver lining to the horrible curse she’d inflicted on him. No person should ever be as lovesick as she’d been and in some ways still was.
“You’re lucky I knead you in my life, and I loaf you very much,” he said, unironically conjuring bread to illustrate his point.
Face flushed, she felt like a Sonic-shaped cherub had snuck up on her and struck her directly in the heart with its arrow. Was he trying to be more like Sonic, on purpose?
Oh Chaos, giving him an ego boost had been a mistake, Amy didn’t want him to act more like Sonic. She couldn’t handle that level of chaotic energy in her life. And yet, she couldn’t help but indulge him.
“I doughnut know what I’d do without you, but we really should get to that training session. I can’t afford to skip another one, unless you want to fight all my battles for me,” she said, materializing a doughnut out of thin air and batting her eyelashes as she attempted to mimic Rouge’s flirty technique.
There was that look again, a cursed reflection of her own hopeless devotion.
“I would if I could, but I’m afraid I don’t have the best track record,” he said quietly. The sincerity of it nearly broke her, and she instantly regretted even trying to flirt. It had backfired horribly.
“Forget I said anything, I can-” He casually picked her up, bridal style as if they always did this.
“Take care of myself,” she finished, hating how she automatically wrapped her arms around his neck.
This couldn’t be her new normal. It simply wasn’t real, no matter how much the ruby wanted to convince her it was.
The gem throbbed painfully against her chest, and she clutched it, in an effort to soothe the mysterious ache. Amy only vaguely registered Shadow snatching the doughnut from her hand with his teeth, or he might have earned another giggle.
When this failed to elicit a reaction, he ran around the large enclosure a few times, aware she liked the rush of adrenaline only a high speed run could bring her. Unfortunately, he only succeeded in kicking up dust and making her cough. He set her down, sensing he was getting nowhere.
Ear twitching, he observed her, annoyingly attuned to her every little emotion. Amy tried to hide her dissatisfaction with the old musty training facility as she struggled to pick off the dust clinging to her skirt, but her temper got the better of her, and she nearly ripped the frilly fabric to pieces. It’s not like she needed the extra layer of clothing. The dress looked just as good without the silly skirt, and the itchy thing was only adding to her misery. Shadow frowned, confiscating her hands before she had the chance to ruin yet another skirt. She ducked her head, ashamed that it only had taken him a day and a half to pick up on her more self destructive habits. He sighed, and she could already sense the day slipping away from them as he prioritized her happiness over getting any kind of training done.
“We don’t have to train here if you don’t want to. I didn’t think of how long it's been since an actual person has been here,” he offered, letting go of her hands. His eyes were already fixed on the exit and likely thinking of a plan B.
“No, this is fine,” Amy said, only grimacing slightly at the lack of windows. She didn’t want him to bend over backwards to please her.
She was a rose, and a rose could survive anything if given the proper care. He squeezed her shoulder, a mischievous glint in his eye.
“Are you sure? I wouldn’t mind another game of tag.”
Amy rolled her eyes. She was not going to let them goof off again.
“Nah, it was way too easy to catch you,” she said, trying to goad him into acting a bit more like she’d told him to. He wasn’t even a little angry. Instead, he smirked, playfully skating around her as he suggested another possibility that she really should have seen coming.
“Maybe, I wanted to be caught.”
Her face turned crimson, getting the tiniest bit flustered. The idea itself wasn’t new. She was sure that Sonic intentionally slowed himself down for her on occasion when he was in a particularly friendly mood, but it wasn’t something he’d ever admit to.
“Oh you,” she said with a dismissive wave.
Still feeling a touch guilty for making him care so much, she looked around at the mostly empty training area and grinned, getting an idea. Maybe, she couldn’t in good conscience accept his affections, but she could at least make him happy while he was with her. Chaos knows, the real Shadow wouldn’t want anything to do with her when he finally finished reliving his days on the ARK. She might as well enjoy the fantasy a little longer.
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes for a moment and opened them again to find herself in between the two golden arches of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Wishing to add her own flair, she’d replaced the stretch of road with multicolored tiles. The impromptu dance floor only covered a third of the bridge before abruptly ending. The rest of the would be road was an empty abyss that led to the ocean below. Naturally, the strange architecture wasn’t the first thing that caught his attention. Shadow stared up at the night sky, utterly captivated by the carefully crafted illusion.
“What do you think?” Amy asked, a sly grin on her face. She already knew he loved this spot.
The last Shadow had told her as much.
He chuckled, shooting her a playful look.
“You don’t have to try so hard. I already like you.”
Amy nodded, a little melancholy. This didn’t feel as good as she’d hoped. He was stuck feeling her feelings so of course any little thing she did would send him over the moon.
Shadow watched her, one ear pointed her direction while the other stood alert, unsure of what to make of her sudden mood swing. He reached out for her hand,and she allowed him to take it.
“Why the big gap?” he asked, trying to distract her.
Remembering the point of all this, she brightened, pulling him closer to the edge. He instinctively tried to jerk back, but her grip was simply too strong.
“Let me show you, ” she insisted, dragging him uncomfortably close to the edge.
“Rose, what are you doing? Did you want to practice flying? Because you’re going about this all wrong,” he said, shifting his stance so it wasn’t as easy to toss him around like a rag doll.
Amy giggled again, absolutely ready to cause some mischief. He was going to love this.
“I’m not going to fly, silly. And, what happened to Miss Rose? It was cute,” she teased, letting go of his arm.
Shadow lurched back, not expecting her to release him so suddenly. He fell to the ground right as she jumped into the abyss. He scrambled onto his hands and knees and crawled over to the edge, worried when she didn’t surface right away. Planning for this exact scenario, Amy lazily floated up, body bobbing up and down as she allowed herself to give in to the weightless feeling of the antigravity field.
“Boop, gotcha,” she said, booping his nose. He scowled but was far too puzzled by the unfamiliar scenario to stay angry for long.
“How on earth? You’re definitely not flying,” he said, thousands of possibilities already going through his head as he sat up.
Amy frowned, wondering if she’d miscalculated. “Do you really not remember? You should have access to the memory.”
“Oh right,” he said, furrowing his brow as he concentrated. His eyes widened as he made the connection, turning to face her.
“I fell off the Golden Gate Bridge once and ended up in some kind of antigravity field. No one believed me, not even Sonic.” he said, pouting slightly before giving her a fond smile.
“Then, you came in and defended me,” he said, chuckling again.
Amy felt her cheeks warm as the lines between reality and fantasy began to blur again.
Stop it, brain. Not actually Shadow, do not, I repeat. Do not let yourself feel something for a fake. He’s only an echo of your own unfulfilled desires. You know this.
“Are you calling Shadow a liar, Sonic? Because his story sounds a lot more believable than you conveniently falling into a story book just before our date,” he said, managing to capture her indignation if not her high pitch. His voice was far too deep for that.
“I was happy you took my side, even if you were probably just mad at Sonic for ditching you,” he admitted, before suddenly breaking eye contact as if he’d revealed something truly scandalous.
It was telling, and Amy raised an eyebrow, puzzled that such a small thing held so much significance to him. Then again, trust was something Shadow deeply valued and didn’t give lightly himself. She felt butterflies invade her stomach as she thought up another possibility, one that she’d dismissed out of hand as impossible until this moment. Could she be more important to Shadow than he led on?
On impulse, Amy grabbed the edge of the dance floor and pulled herself up, blurting out the question without thinking.
“Hey, what does the real Shadow think of me?”
Her Shadow raised an eyebrow, clearly taking offense to that. Whoops, accidentally called him a faker. Mobius, Amy really wasn’t handling this any better than Sonic would.
“I mean what does the original Shadow think of me. Is he still mad?” she asked, shrinking against herself at the thought. She was fully expecting a roundhouse kick to the head when he woke up.
Returning his gaze to the stars, it was a long time before he spoke. Amy occupied herself by wringing her hands together, strangely anxious. She already knew the answer, didn’t she?
“It’s a bit complicated. Often, he thinks of you as a child. You two did meet when you were very young,” he answered.
Amy sighed in relief. Yes, of course, that made the most sense. No need to reexamine that particular relationship just because she was dealing with some Phantom Ruby shenanigans.
“I thought so. Thanks for telling me,” she said, about to place a hand on his shoulder when he intercepted her, meaningfully entwining his fingers with hers.
“But, sometimes, he sees the person you’ve become and wishes you weren’t destined for another,” he said, releasing her hand and getting up.
Amy froze, growing pale as the truth sank in. By letting go of her original destiny, another path had opened, one of tragedy. A loss she refused to accept. A fortune that would put her conflicting loyalties to the test and possibly lead to her ruin.
The true warrior will rise and finally eliminate his shadow after falling from illusion’s grace.
Could she still prevent his fate? Or was he destined to be destroyed by the original regardless of what she did?
“As for what he thinks of you now, ” Shadow paused, eyes full of mirth as chaos energy gathered between his fingertips. A signal that the training session was starting in earnest.
Amy used Chaos Control well before the Chaos Spears had a chance to reach their target, but he easily predicted where she would reappear and grabbed her by the throat.
She gasped, not expecting this kind of brutality from her Shadow. He gave her a hard look, and she had her answer. Exactly as she feared, Shadow would show her no mercy when he awoke from his slumber.
“Congratulations, you’ve been upgraded from a child he must protect to a threat he must neutralize.”
He dropped her then, having made his point. His eyes burned bright as if set ablaze, and she instinctively crawled away, a foreign fear invading her senses at the subtle change.
“I would advise against freeing him prematurely, darling. You’re far safer with me,” he said, slowly making his way to her. The action came off as predatory when he was usually unbearably sweet.
Amy whimpered, rubbing her throat, wondering if more pain was coming her way. She certainly didn’t feel safe anymore. Could she trust any Shadow at this point?
As if reading her thoughts, his expression softened looking at her as if she were a soft fragile thing. He bent down and offered her his hand.
“Did I not give you enough warning?” he asked, frowning when she refused his help and got up herself.
“It’s not that. You seem different from before,” she said, picking at the bits of dust trapped in the folds of her skirt even though it was a futile effort. Anything to avoid eye contact right now.
“Do you really find me so unappealing?”
She looked up, then, suspicious of the question. It didn’t match his new programming. Red eyes continued to burn into her, as if possessed.
“Who are you?” she asked bluntly, a feeling of dejavu passing over her.
He laughed, eyes growing brighter as he adopted Shadow’s signature pose. “You really are far too intuitive for your own good, consider me a friend.”
“That doesn’t really answer my question. Why are you even here? I wanted to train with Shadow, not you,” she said, surprised by the venom of her own words.
“This Shadow is very good at his primary function, but he lacks the discipline of his last iteration. The boy does not have the skillset to teach you. I do,” he explained, showing little interest in the conversation. He was too busy taking in her makeshift world.
Amy scowled, following closely behind him. She hated being ignored. And, who was he to decide these things anyway? She was in charge here. Why was he acting like he could do whatever he wanted?
“That’s not true. He taught me to fly, just the other day,” she argued.
He side-eyed her and scoffed. “You’re giving him far too much credit, darling.”
“He was certainly present, but you picked up the fundamentals of flight quite quickly, without much prompting. You're a fast learner, but I suppose given your history that’s to be expected.”
Amy bent her ears back reflexively and crossed her arms, not entirely sure she liked what he was implying.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she shot back.
“You’ve always had to fend for yourself. No family to speak of, only a fickle wind to follow that offers little to no guidance. In that kind of environment, a young girl has to adapt swiftly if she doesn’t want to get left behind,” he answered calmly, waiting for a rebuttal.
He didn’t receive one. Instead, Amy looked away, feeling the need to explain herself.
“I didn’t mind. I wanted to prove myself, and I did. Maybe, I got in over my head sometimes, and some things would have been easier if I’d had someone to help me, but if I had the chance to take it all back, I wouldn’t, even if nothing turned out the way I thought it would. I helped a lot of people, and that’s worth more than any tear I might have shed.”
A warm feeling surged through her, lighting a flame inside her soul, maddeningly familiar yet foreign to her senses. The growing light threatened to burst and its excess energy left her core and bathed her fur in a faint golden glow. Amy couldn’t believe her eyes, and yet, she knew this was no dream. She’d been seconds away from going Super. But why now?
If the look in his eyes was anything to go by, the danger had long since passed.
He was so utterly enchanted by her that there were practically stars in his eyes. With little regard for her personal space, he squeezed her cheeks and ruffled her quills.
“You really are precious. I promise good fortune will come to you so long as you’re with me,” he said, creating an apple blossom from thin air that he happily placed behind her left ear.
Amy touched the pale pink flower, aware of the flower's other meaning. Prefer me to all else, huh? She sighed, rubbing her throat. Lucky her. She cast him a suspicious glance. The fear had ebbed, but the curiosity remained.
“What should I call you?” she asked, hoping a name might help place him in her mind. He seemed so familiar. Where had he even come from? What was he?
The Phantom Ruby pulsed, giving her a hint. She looked into his illuminated red eyes and realized the truth of them. He gave her a coy smile, otherworldly presence more visible now that she knew the truth.
“Anything you like,” he teased. The dark mist flickering around him like flames.
“I think I’ll call you, Red. Simple and to the point,” she reasoned.
His usual self assured demeanor disappeared, and he scrunched up his nose in distaste.
“Is that really what you're going with?”
Amy giggled, knowing full well what name he’d been expecting, but she wasn’t looking to feed his ego. She already had Mister Ultimate Lifeform to deal with.
“Would you prefer Hyde?” she asked casually as if she wasn’t fully aware of the connotations of the name. She’d started reading the book during her short lived attempt to impress Sonic with her love of literature but found the dark themes a bit too depressing for her to ever finish. When Sonic found out, he’d been quick to recommend happier titles.
Unfortunately, the weather had cleared up, and he hadn’t stuck around to keep her company, but that was typical for them, then. Wasn’t it? Every sweet moment she had with Sonic was fleeting and hard to string together into any sort of foundation. Nothing ever kept the wind’s attention long.
Red flinched, immediately understanding the reference. He looked away, ears bent and glitching slightly. “No, Red will suffice,” he decided.
Amy’s expression softened, and she touched the stone, contemplating the being whose existence was tied to it. He clearly cared what she thought of him, and if nothing else, he was loyal to her. That had to count for something. Maybe, if she took the time to befriend him, she paused, touching her throat. He’d be less intense.
As if hearing her words, he snapped to attention, and a trickle of sweat fell from her forehead as she was reminded of his otherworldly origins. She let go of the ruby. He chuckled again, shaking his head.
“I can always hear you. It’s simply easier to communicate with you when you reach out to me,” he answered honestly.
As the implications of this hit her, Amy’s mind was reeling. He probably did know her whole life story as well as every embarrassing fantasy or desire she’d ever had. Panicking, she instinctively curled up into a ball in an effort to hide herself away. Something she hadn’t done since childhood when she still called herself Rosy the Rascal.
Red crouched down beside her and rolled his eyes. He’d never seen a hedgehog curl up like that and remain stationary for long, but he could guess well enough that she wanted to be left alone and didn’t try to coax her out of this strangely compact form. At least, not physically, he could read her emotions like a book and easily discovered where he’d gone wrong.
“Don’t be so dramatic, darling. I would never use anything I learned against you. Like or not, I am on your side,” he insisted, and he did mostly mean that.
So long as he could keep her, Red was more than content to follow her whims, even if he had to deal with an obnoxious blue hedgehog for all eternity. With any luck, he wouldn’t end up being quite as immortal as this one.
Amy uncurled slightly, squinting her eyes at him as she held her knees extremely close to her chest. Ears uncharacteristically flat as she attempted to read him. She was usually so cheerful. He didn’t know why he seemed to bring out the worst in her.
Perhaps, he could chalk it up to simple inexperience. She was the first mobian to treat him as more than a tool, and he’d never had much reason to learn people's complicated social game before her. It didn’t help that his only other resource on the subject was Shadow who was severely lacking in that particular area. He’d been content with his small circle of loyal companions and only ever seemed to venture beyond that as Sonic or Amy’s behest.
“You’re staring. It's rude when you’re not a sentient rock,” she remarked dryly.
Red tilted his head in slight confusion. One of the things he’d picked up from Shadow’s memories was that eye contact was extremely important. Had he been misinformed?
“ I thought it was rude to look away,” he countered, taking careful note of her reaction. She’d definitely gotten huffy when he’d been distracted by their new simulated environment.
Every ounce of suspicion directed his way vanished, replaced by a startled look. She uncurled completely, sitting up to face him. Her face scrunched up in concentration, considering his words.
“It depends. You’re really not good at this people thing, huh?” she asked, searching his eyes. He kept his expression neutral as his ears flicked back and forth, wondering if he’d given too much away.
“There are some gaps in my knowledge,” he admitted, deciding she’d reacted favorably enough to the truth before. He’d like to see something other than fear in her eyes for a change.
Amy nodded, reaching for the stone that binds them together out of habit. She stopped short, thinking better of it. He didn’t want to scare her away, and yet, he couldn’t help but growl in frustration. Why were they drifting further and further apart the longer they were together?
Strangely enough, the growling didn’t seem to phase her. If anything, the sound spurred her into action, and she deliberately grabbed the ruby. A curiously familiar large blue behemoth with sharp fangs and piercing green eyes briefly flashed in his mind, and he had his answer.
Take a deep breath, Amy commanded silently, directly channeling his mind.
Her calm demeanor instantly infected him, and he obeyed without question, sucking unneeded air into his lungs and exhaling when the pressure became too much for his mobian body to bear.
Starting to decompress, he reluctantly sat down next to her when she gestured for him to join her, deciding to leave thoughts of their training session behind him for now.
Again, she insisted, grabbing his hand and squeezing it tightly in her own.
Completely focused on her, he did as he was told, taking a deep breath in and out, surprised, when the tension in his muscles disappeared completely. He hadn’t thought that was possible. There was never a moment when Shadow’s mind wasn’t on alert, and he had assumed the added stress to his body was normal for the creature he was possessing, but no, it was a simple side effect of his upbringing. Shadow rarely felt safe and had to actively work to keep himself in a calm state. What a tragic creature, he almost felt sorry for taking advantage of its one weakness.
He watched the Rose in question, drinking in the determined look on her face. An expression they were both fond of for much the same reason. Her tenacity had tied their fates together, and this quintessential part of her nature made her a force to be reckoned with. Apparently, the real Shadow missed riling her up during training sessions and had been disappointed when she’d ultimately rejected their offer to join Team Dark.
One more time, she demanded, squeezing his hand again.
After a simple inhale, exhale, images of decadent ice cream, beautiful clear skies, and a pristine city of white by the sea followed in quick succession. Personal memories of things she’d seen and would like to experience again. He made note of the locale for when they were free of Eggman, and no longer had to stick to his territory.
Red, she called out.
His ears perked up, primed for a command. He shook his head, catching himself. It was far too easy to slip into a subservient mindset when in this body, especially when he trusted the person he was with. The grip she had on his soul wasn’t helping anything either.
And yet, he couldn’t say he minded. The problem was their link was tenuous at best, and if she discovered how completely at her mercy he was before he could bind them together for good, he was likely to lose her to one of the servers of Chaos.
Amy was an empathetic creature and a few heartfelt words from either of them could easily sway her to their side if he wasn’t careful. He needed to remain in control for the time being.
Did you see any of that? She asked, aggressively pressing against his mind without really meaning to. He stifled a laugh, amused by her boundless energy.
Yes, a city in Spagonia you visited once, he answered back, more than pleased that she was willingly sharing parts of herself with him. He’d grown accustomed to learning things about her passively as they came to the forefront of her mind, but this felt different, more significant. It left him curious.
Why these memories?
The silly dear didn’t realize he’d been speaking rhetorically and answered him. The blue behemoth entered his thoughts again. His giant paw held by her tiny delicate hands as if she cared not a bit that his razor sharp claws could easily rip her to shreds. He resisted the urge to laugh when he figured out who he was looking at. Of course, most roads lead back to Sonic in one way or another when one was dealing with Amy Rose.
“Is there anything else you’d like to know?” she asked, releasing her hold on the Phantom Ruby for the time being. Satisfied, she’d calmed him down.
There was really only one question he wanted answered, the root of his frustrations, made all the worse now that he knew that there was nothing Sonic could be that would ever drive her away. Even now, she did not hate him, despite his best efforts to poison her against him.
“Why are you still afraid of me?”
Amy frowned, letting go of his hand as she narrowed her eyes at him, suspicion returning ten fold. He didn’t understand why until she finally spoke.
“Still?” She let the question linger, daring him to answer it.
Aware the truth would likely send her on another murderous rampage, he changed tactics, asking a question that was likely best left unanswered but was simply too intriguing to ignore.
“You’ve trained with Shadow before. He’s not one to hold back, but you’re comfortable training with him. Am I correct in my assessment?” He asked, seeking clarification.
Her hand automatically went to her neck as she stared back at him with unspeakable dread, Red flinched, hating that she was directing her fear at the wrong target.
“What did I do that was so wrong?” he asked, genuinely curious. He hadn’t expected such a visceral reaction from her when he took advantage of the opening. The Shadow that had mentored her had put her through far worse, having been a very trial by fire kind of teacher.
Practically burning holes into him, she answered him frankly, full of contempt. His body locked up again, anticipating a battle. He desperately hoped not. Red did not like it when those fiery eyes turned against him, greatly preferring for them to remain in sync. Something that was proving exceedingly difficult, thanks to the users of Chaos.
“After everything he’s been through, Shadow would never inflict unnecessary pain onto anyone he considers a friend. I trust him. What you did was a deliberate show of force designed to instill fear in me and it worked, only you were hoping I’d end up fearing the real Shadow instead of you. Am I wrong in my assessment?”
Red couldn’t deny it, but he hadn’t meant to be cruel. He was only preparing her for the reality of her situation if she chose to release Shadow from his voluntary prison. She was far too merciful for her own good, and it would cost her dearly if he didn’t stop her from sabotaging herself.
“You’re not wrong, but neither was I. He won’t take kindly to what you did, dear. Let him live in his lotus eater machine for all eternity if he so desires.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he knew he shouldn’t have said them. He’d barely reintroduced himself, and it had been the wrong time to suggest it.
Her eyes flashed red as she tapped into his power, creating a new hammer for herself. This one matched her new aesthetic and had large spikes decorating each side of the mallet’s head. He teleported out of her reach, expecting another onslaught of wild uncalculated fury. She made no move to follow him, shutting her eyes and gripping her new hammer tightly. Confusion soon morphed into understanding as Chaos energy pooled around her new creation, and the meter embedded on the mallet’s head turned green.
Silently using Chaos Control, he appeared behind her, hoping to disarm her before her new weapon became a problem. Familiar with Shadow’s tactics, she easily predicted the move and slammed her hammer into his stomach. Red and the Hammer both glitched at the same time, briefly appearing pixelated before the chaos energy surrounding them kept either from disintegrating into nothing. The force of the blow knocked him into the ground, and he cursed, slightly annoyed she’d used his own trick against him. She smirked, pressing the flat face of her hammer to his muzzle.
“I’m not leaving him in there. Understood?”
Red let out an exasperated sigh but relented, giving her a curt nod. There was still plenty of time to change her mind. She helped him up, smiling brightly as if she hadn’t tried to end him moments ago.
“Good, friends don’t let friends live a lie,” she said without a hint of self awareness.
Red raised an eyebrow at that. The view was stunning, and the environment was perfectly serviceable for training but that clearly wasn’t the reason she’d brought the copy here. She’d been in the middle of a date when he rudely interrupted them whether she realized it or not.
“Are you sure Sonic is the one you like?” he asked, in a disbelieving tone. She certainly seemed receptive enough when he wasn’t the one in possession of the body. He ignored the flicker of flame that settled in his stomach, ready to grow into an inferno at a moment's notice. Acting like a ticking time bomb wasn’t going to get him anywhere.
“I like all my friends, except you maybe,” she shot back easily, teasing him, in a much better mood now that she had access to a hammer again.
Red rolled his eyes and decided it was better not to argue. Her actions spoke volumes, and the copy was obviously worming his way into her heart. He was more interested in the peculiar environment she’d concocted for their little get together. She always came up with the most interesting things.
“You’ve really outdone yourself, dear,” Red said, experimentally stepping on the multicolored tiles, delighted when they changed color.
“Shame, we don’t really have time to play,” he said, lifting her up bridal style.
Apparently, her little display of power hadn’t been enough to put him in his place. She hated the way they scooped her up so casually as if it was a given that Amy Rose wanted to be carried around like a princess.
“H-hey, could you both please stop doing that?” she said, growing red.
Just because she let Sonic carry her around, it didn’t mean she wanted every hedgehog on Mobius thinking they could. He hmphed, seeming to have picked up at least a few of Shadow’s mannerisms.
“If you insist,” he said, jumping into the void and letting her go.
Amy let out a tiny eep, forgetting about the antigravity for a moment. The familiar weightless feeling flooded her senses, and she scrambled to hold onto something as she became disoriented. A gloved hand reached out to her and she latched onto it. With little effort, he shifted them into a standing position.
Then, using the antigravity field to his advantage, he twirled her around a few times. Still in a daze, she admired the stars above and embraced the weightless feeling. Heart pumping hard, she took one look at her impromptu dance partner and realized exactly what this looked like. Blushing madly, she scolded herself for inadvertently creating a romantic scenario and pulled herself free.
“We should probably get back to training,” she said, off handedly. Attempting to put some distance between them and avoid becoming the antigravity’s play thing again, but she found herself flailing after a few steps.
His booming laughter made her face burn harder as he lazily drifted over to her.
“Did you forget you can fly dear?”
Amy scowled, refusing to answer. Instead, she closed her eyes and thought of a pleasant memory. No longer stuck in a colorless void, she breathed easy, happily admiring the clear sky above. A butterfly passed her line of vision, and she shifted her gaze, following its journey until the precious thing landed on a nearby wild flower. Clasping her hands together, she smiled fondly at the creature. A familiar voice broke her concentration.
“Hey Amy, looks like springtime’s come early.” Her hero and his little protege, perfectly safe and sound, finally ready to take a breather. She happily skipped over to him as he plopped down onto the grass. For once, her timing was perfect.
Another voice, once comforting but now more often than not, distressing, broke the illusion.
“You’re glowing gold again, interesting.”
Her eyes snapped open, and she saw the gold fade as the customary red and purple aura took over. Amy stepped onto the platform, mourning the loss of the gentle light as she was once again surrounded by darkness. She avoided his fierce gaze, worried he would sense her sorrow and judge her harshly for it.
“What about him makes you so happy? I wonder if-” he paused, and Amy turned to face him as her curiosity betrayed her better judgment.
In his hands were a set of tarot cards, he picked one and flipped the card for her to see, Destiny. Her heart leapt to her throat, unsure of what to make of the Phantom Ruby’s choice. Was it a threat? Was it a sign that her original destiny was not beyond her yet? Or was he only toying with her?
“It really is destiny or if the cards led you to him simply because he just so happened to be the first person who could actually help you get the adventure you craved.” He sighed, clearly believing the latter.
“I suppose we’re stuck with him,” he said with a dismissive wave.
Amy felt herself relax. Glad, the ruby seemed to recognize that she and Sonic were a package deal. Whatever that might mean at this point.
“So, I best prepare you for his inevitable temper tantrum. Once you have a proper grip on your powers, he won’t be able to punch his way into a resolution that benefits him. You can decide your own destiny,” he said, conjuring enemies for her to face.
Amy nodded, automatically turning her attention to the battle at hand. Nothing too complicated, only a few Eggman robots. She summoned her new hammer, avoiding enemies as she charged it up with the free floating Chaos energy surrounding her. She easily dispatched them all with one wild swing of her hammer. She grinned maniacally, happy her new weapon did not break apart from the force of her swing as it would have without the added energy boost. Her knowledge of Chaos was coming in handy.
“ That’s cheating, not to mention impractical. You’re not going to have access to Chaos energy when you face Sonic. Try focusing your anger into a projectile the ruby can manifest,” he suggested.
Unfortunately, her initial anger at his presence had long since morphed into a general mistrust.
“What anger? I don’t feel- Gah.”
An Eggman Pawn managed to blast her, but thankfully, she only felt a slight sting. He wasn’t letting her face fully powered enemies just yet. He’d taken her complaint about his extreme methods to heart.
“What about Sonic?” he asked with a look that said he didn’t have much hope for this particular conversation but still felt the need to bring it up.
Instantly, an image of Sonic looking up at her as if he were a kicked puppy sprang to mind. She really couldn’t bring herself to be mad at him after their last encounter, not when she’d left him looking like that.
“Why would I be angry at Sonic?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.
They’d actually been on pretty good terms before this whole Phantom Ruby thing. The poor guy probably had no clue what had come over her. Amy was a little ashamed that she’d let her old resentments and frustration take control of her like that.
“He constantly leaves you,” he said, attempting to tear into her old insecurities.
Amy shook her head and sighed. The nature of the chase had changed over the years. She simply didn’t have the same drive to track him down to the ends of the earth as she had when she was a high energy little girl with a dream and a deck of tarot cards. He’d noticed, and instead of questioning why that might be, he’d started leaving her hints on where she could find him next and occasionally offered her what he thought she wanted: a wink here, a trip to the chilli dog stand there, a subtle play on words that could maybe count as flirting if Amy read between the lines.
Anything to string her along a little longer, because the fact of the matter was that the chase had always been enough for him, but she needed so much more.
“That hasn’t been the case for a while,” she said with a shrug.
Amy had grown up, and Sonic simply hadn’t. She’d never had the heart to tell him.
Now that she had the ruby, she could change the game to something that could keep both their interests. Amy would just have to convince Sonic that this new game could be just as fun as the chase that had come before.
“He literally left you in a tornado once,” he said, eye twitching.
“He apologized eventually. Why are you on his case anyway?” Amy said, narrowing her eyes and crossing her arms.
“I’m starting to think you have a hidden agenda. If you’re not going to play nice, I want Shadow back. I don’t trust you,” she said, stomping her foot.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, he shook his head. “Forget I said anything, dear. Anger obviously isn’t the right approach for you. Is there something you want to protect?”
“My darling Sonic, obviously” Amy said, grinning wickedly as she got the reaction she was looking for.
The dark aura around this impostor Shadow intensified and his eyetwich became more pronounced.
“Of course, I don’t know what I expected,” he said, clenching his fist.
Her amusement was short lived as she noticed telltale signs of a Chaos Blast in progress, the chaos energy building up in his body making him radiate a vibrant red.
“And Shadow, I don’t want him to die, but the cards keep telling me he will,” she blurted out in a panic, strategically backing away as she prepared her shield.
The Chaos Blast leveled half the platform, but she’d become adept at creating forcefields after being subjected to one too many Chaos Spears, and the area she was standing on was perfectly intact. When the dust cleared, he approached her, conjuring tarot cards and picking one at random.
He offered her the card. Hesitantly, she turned the card over, hoping against all hope that something had indeed changed. She dropped the card. Death, death still followed her.
“Am I still not strong enough?” she wondered aloud. Hands shaking as the tears fell down her face in earnest. He wiped away her tears, expression serious.
“You will be.”
The previous batch of Eggman robots disappeared with a wave, and one heartbreakingly familiar robot took its place, sporting all of the doctor’s favorite colors. He was less bulky than Omega, but no less powerful. Her mind did not dwell on that long, fixated on the hexagonal capsule on his chest. Would there be a little virtual bird there?
“Gamma? Why is he-”
Shiny unfeeling green bulbs stared back at her as he raised his blaster. She flinched, and in her shock, the training that had been drilled into her was forgotten. Amy started shaking as she realized what she was being asked to do. Red took one look at her and shook his head, raising his hand to call off this new Gamma’s attack. Calmly, he took her by the shoulders and held her close. Her trembling got worse as he leaned in and whispered in her ear.
“You’re not going to be facing off against enemies, Amy. You’re going to be facing off against people you consider friends.”
Her mind flashed to Sonic and that crestfallen look in his eyes that she couldn’t seem to escape. She wrestled free from his grip, ignoring the disapproving burst of heat coming from the ruby.
“No, I won’t- I won’t hurt him,” she cried, reduced to pitiful sobs at the mere thought of destroying the robot she’d saved all those years ago. The first friend she’d ever lost.
Even in this soulless state, she couldn’t do it.
His eyes hardened as he signaled for Gamma to continue. With absolutely no hesitation, he pointed his weapon at her. She froze even as her mind screamed for her to move.
“Then, suffer the consequences,” he growled, escaping the blast via Chaos Control. He did not offer her the same courtesy.There was no one to save her this time.
Amy took the full brunt of the blast, an agonizing fire engulfing her. She crumpled to the ground in excruciating pain. Panicking, she attempted to curl up into a ball but was in far too much pain to actually pull it off. Defeated, she settled for pulling her knees as close to her chest as she could, wishing for the impossible. No blue blur came. She sniffed, ears bent back as Gamma advanced.
“Why are you doing this? I’m your friend,” she screamed, knowing it was useless.
Red clearly hadn’t bothered to program him with any sort of personality. And yet, the robot paused tilting his flat square head down to look at her.
“New data acquired. Friendship acknowledged. Training will commence again in three, two-”
Hope rekindled, the defensive maneuvers her last Shadow taught her kicked in, and she instinctively used Chaos Control to get out of Gamma’s reach.
“One,” he finished, obliterating most of the platform immediately in front of him. He scanned the abyss below for signs of her and found nothing.
“Friend eliminated. Unwanted result, commence retrieval procedures and perform first aid.”
Beginning a more thorough scan, he discovered something contradictory to what he was seeing. The abyss below him did not exist. He lowered his weapon, processing the new information.
“Environment is not what it seems. Friend still alive, hiding,” he deduced, about to continue his analysis when his new friend appeared before him. No longer showing obvious signs of stress.
Her heartbeat had returned to its normal level, and she was no longer shaking as if not put together properly. Friend was also only slightly singed despite taking a direct hit.
“First aid not required, training can continue as scheduled,” Gamma decided, powering up his weapon. He canceled the directive when his pink friend placed herself in the line of fire.
“Gamma, stand down,” she commanded, tightly holding onto the barrel of his blaster, convinced he would not shoot. The robot could see only one reason for this and double checked his data.
Assessing his servers, he found another listed as his primary master, a being named Red; the hedgehog standing atop the tower of the bridge on which they were currently located.
“Negative, friend does not have that authority.”
She scowled, roughly pushing his weapon away from her before turning to face his master.
“Are you betraying me? Is this some sick game you're playing with my heart before you go running back to Eggman and his jackal boy?” she spat, accumulating a strange violet energy around her body.
Red laughed, teleporting to her side using a different energy signature, as powerful as hers but less volatile. The strange violet energy appeared to be siphoning it from another source in the jungle, a living being. He tapped against the glass of his energy source, debating whether or not to store the information.
“No darling, but you can’t hesitate,” he insisted, catching his friend’s fist before it could make contact with his flesh. His victory was short lived as pink friend was stronger than she looked and quickly began to overpower him. He silently asked for Gamma’s assistance, beckoning him with his other hand.
Can’t hesitate, Gamma reiterated to itself, storing the information to analyze on its own some other time. He fired a warning shot, forcing his friend to flee. His master continued to talk, undeterred by her sudden disappearance.
“ If you do, your friends will incapacitate you and separate you from the ruby. And, we both know what will happen to Shadow then.” He flexed his fingers, pooling the stolen energy into the palm of his hand. He launched energy spears into the abyss, and Gamma provided artillery support.
Pink friend’s camouflage ability was compromised as a few of the master's energy spears hit, and she was further stunned by his barrage of bullets. The energy surrounding master’s form abandoned him and encircled his friend, healing her injuries automatically without her prompting. Gamma made note of her regenerative abilities, and the energy’s odd behavior.
“I won’t let anything happen to Shadow, but I’m not planning to blindly attack my friends either. Why do you always have to go to such extremes? Maybe, I would be better off without you,” she shouted, rapidly propelling herself forward, reaching speeds on par with their main adversary’s capabilities.
Taking advantage of her built up momentum, she swung her fist, attempting a right hook. The punch never landed. Instead, Red vanished and reappeared behind her, teleporting her to his location.
“Oh, is that so? Let’s see you get out of this mess without me,” he said sweetly, releasing her.
Realizing the trap she’d fallen into, she scrambled to stop herself from hurting Gamma but was too inexperienced to effectively break in time. The robot readied his weapon and fired, more than willing to face destruction.
“Chaos Control,” she shrieked.
Gamma did not know the meaning of these words; only that one second she was in front of him and the next, she’d grabbed him from behind. An illogical change in tactics that he did not comprehend and was proving ineffective in restraining him. He extracted her from his back, and lifted her so her eyes were level with his optic sensors.
“Gamma please, I know you’re a good person. I don’t want to destroy you,” she begged.
The robot was further puzzled by this response. He was not alive and by definition incapable of being a person. He had no distinct knowledge of right or wrong, only a simple objective. Fight until the pink hedgehog before him finally fought back. Gamma already knew that she did not wish to harm him but didn’t understand why. He was an enemy combatant.
“Why will you not fight back?” Gamma asked.
She smiled, exerting great effort to reach the hexagonal container that allowed him to function, pressing her hand against the glass. A photograph of three birds happily gathered together flashed across his screen. It served no function, but he saved the image and added it to his rapidly growing collection.
“Because you’re my friend, silly, and you have a heart, even if you don’t realize it yet,” she said brightly. He copied her action, gently pressing his hand against hers, processing her statement.
“Do friends not fight friends?” he inquired, trying to solve the reason for their conflicting objectives. She nodded, tears in her eyes. He turned to face his current master.
“Permission to cease fighting. Objective cannot be completed under these conditions. We are friends. Friends do not fight,” he reasoned.
Red scowled, arms crossed as he scrutinized pink friend who simply smiled wider.
“Yeah Red, can he? Or are you going to be a big meanie?” she asked, lowering the bottom of her eyelid with her finger and sticking out her tongue.
He shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Temporary cease fire granted,” he grumbled reluctantly. Gamma nodded in the affirmative, coding the command into his system as he gently put her down.
The robot then added a new secondary objective, continue friendship with pink friend.
“You’re annoyingly good at getting people on your side, Amy Rose,“ he hissed.
Gamma made note of pink friend’s official title, amending his objective.
New objective: continue friendship with Amy Rose.
Miss Amy skipped over to him, no longer hostile.
“Wow, I must have really made you angry. You never say my name,” she said, pinching Red’s cheek in a clear display of dominance. Gamma did not understand why master chose not to retaliate. He looked down, breaking eye contact, another sign she outranked him.
Gamma gathered the evidence for later analysis. If current master obeyed Amy Rose, all logic stated Gamma should as well. He simply needed to collect sufficient data to confirm his hypothesis before officially updating his records.
“Don’t get used to it, dear,” he muttered.
“Ah, training ended up being kind of a bust, but you did drop this bombshell on me,”Amy said with a sigh, gesturing to Gamma. She’d been so focused on not getting hit that she hadn’t even tried making projectiles using the ruby’s power.
More than a little frustrated, he glared at her, grinding his teeth, fangs more pronounced than usual. She rolled her eyes, getting irritated. He was acting like she was the one that had put him through needless emotional turmoil.
“Don’t give me that look. If you stopped trying to emotionally manipulate me for once- ” she argued only for Red to cut her off
“Forget about the mission, you’re not ready to face, Sonic. I’m sending Shadow on his own to collect the ruby.”
“What? That’s ridiculous. I’m just as fast as he is now. I can go toe to toe with him, no problem.”
Red scoffed, looking at her like she was delusional. The piercing gaze made her fur stand on end, and Amy hated how she instantly second guessed herself because it was Shadow’s face looking back at her. Her friend, her mentor . . . her tragic destiny, she clenched her fist, trying to focus on the anger she felt and not the hopelessness of the situation at hand.
“Without control, your new speed is useless. You’re also no closer to mastering your powers, and you wouldn’t even destroy a soulless robot that looked like your friend. Sonic would overwhelm you in seconds,” he argued matter-of- factly. Amy didn’t find herself disagreeing with his assessment. She sighed, summoning her tarot cards and picking one at random.
“I can’t let Sonic win. I need this power if I’m going to keep everyone safe, especially-” she stopped abruptly when she saw what card she held in her hand. Death again.
It wasn’t a surprise, and yet, her hand trembled as she stared at the thin piece of cardboard in her hands. The more certain she became of the outcome, the less sure she became of everything else. Sensing her weakness, Red ensnared her in his arms and whispered exactly what she wanted to hear.
“That’s right. That silly egotistical blue hedgehog thinks he’s the only one who can be the hero.”
The words were straight from her own head, just a passing thought she’d had ages ago on one of the many occasions Sonic’s abundant self confidence had rubbed her the wrong way. She latched onto the idea, using it to fuel her anger.
Experimentally, Amy extended her hand, creating a huge title wave made entirely of red cubes. Red countered by recreating a copy of her favorite little spy, a dirty trick to test her resolve. His eyes were wide with panic, and she could hear him silently mouth the word Rosy. She didn’t hesitate.
“I’m going to prove him wrong,” she finished as the wave crashed into the young hedgehog, snuffing out his code in an instant.
“Even if that makes me the villain in his eyes,” she said, lowering her hand.
As the gravity of what she’d done finally hit her, she fell to her knees, holding back a broken sob. He hadn’t even tried to run, and for someone like Sonic, that spoke volumes.
Amy shook her head. This couldn’t be happening. Is this really what she wanted?
Red had the nerve to laugh as he bent down to meet her. She let out a low growl as he came closer. He paid her no mind, trapping her in his embrace without a second thought. She stiffened, feeling his warm breath on her neck. The ruby flooded her with the same unwanted warmth, and she shivered.
He’s fine, precious. Still out there doing his job with that little fox friend of yours. That was just another copy of a copy, replaceable. Can you say the same of your dear Shadow?
The unspoken words echoed in her head, more stifling in their silence.
No, none of her friends were replaceable. It was better for them all in the long run if she was the one who held the Phantom Ruby’s power, not some sociopathic jackal waiting in the wings.
Do you still want me to go away?
This made her pause. It wasn’t an honest question. He already knew what her answer would be. Or he wouldn’t have dared asked such a thing.
You’re a necessary evil. If my friend wasn’t in danger, you’d be more trouble than you’re worth, she stated reasonably. She expected him to lash out, but he only hummed thoughtfully.
Oh, and what do you call people who don’t give you everything you want? He remarked dryly.
Darling, she shot back, trying to get a rise out of him if only so he’d stop messing with her head. It somewhat worked.The heat was less pleasant than before, almost painful. A warning.
Red withdrew his hands and stepped away from her, silently sulking. Good, the entity inhabiting the ruby had put her through absolute hell today and she wanted him to understand in no uncertain terms that her loyalties hadn’t changed in the slightest. He huffed, speaking out loud as if their internal conversation hadn’t happened at all.
“ After that ruthless display, I don’t doubt your willingness to follow through with our plans, even if your loyalties are questionable at best,” he said, glancing at Gamma who had been silently observing them the entire time. She rubbed her arms nervously, wondering what the robot thought of her now.
“I’ll allow you to face Sonic on the condition you take your training seriously.”
“As if you could stop me,” she countered, daring him to argue the point. He didn’t try.
Red simply waited because he already knew what her answer would be. He always knew what her answer would be. The Phantom Ruby was simply granting her the illusion of choice. She felt the small fire of rebellion sitting in her belly extinguish. The only thing left was her frayed nerves.
“But I’ll do as you ask, darling,” she amended, lowering her eyes.
He’d won the moment she literally snuffed Sonic out of her life.
“If you leave Gamma out of it,” she finished.
Amy might have locked herself in a gilded cage, but she knew how to play her captor.
Stars lighting up his eyes once more, he grinned maniacally, relishing his victory. Eating up the feigned affection, he literally started to shine, turning a brilliant silver as he took the hidden Chaos Emerald from his quills. Amy winced, resisting the urge to amass the wild Chaos energy floating around her. She couldn’t keep relying on Shadow’s strength.
“Gamma, you’re dismissed for today,” he said with a disinterested wave.
“Affirmative, goodbye Amy Rose.”
It was simple and to the point, and yet, there was something final in that farewell that squeezed painfully in her chest. The robot left without looking back.
“Hello Illusion,” she muttered to herself.
“Shall we get started?” he asked, thousands of little spears already hovering in the air.
Amy gulped, sensing a hard battle ahead of her. There would be many more after.
Powering up, she found the only one she was really angry at right now was herself. Crimson eyes met each other. Her heart skipped a beat but not for the reasons the Phantom Ruby would have liked. He was another mirror, and again, she didn’t like what she saw reflected back at her.
Even so, if she was going to defy fate, it was a part of her that she could no longer deny. She rose like a phoenix from the flame, ready to burn anything that stood in her way.
“Take your best shot, you glorified monkey’s paw.”
When he laughed instead of immediately casting her into oblivion, she added “a sucker for literary references” to his list of weaknesses.
Song Picks/General Music Vibes for the chapter:
Amy's POV: Trouble is a friend
Phantom Ruby's POV: A mix between these two: As the world falls down & Phantom
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