"Wait! Just one more!" Amy's swing went low, her gilded hammer bouncing off the base of Hastur's flashy palm. Four floating eyeballs comprised of crackling green energy burst skywards before the main eye slipped closed.
"I'm sorry!" Reason panted, clinging desperately to the larger hedgehog's free hand, struggling to keep her tails spinning fast enough to even control their descent.
"It's fine, we'll get it next time!" Amy thrashed her hammer once more, battering the creature's elongated tongue aside as it thrust towards them.
Reason nodded, staring up at the now battered monstrosity. Knuckles and Sonic had already dealt with the other side, and were now pummelling against the lower regions of the creature, evoking fleshy purple bruises and hairline cracks on its exposed ribcage. Miles flew high above the monster's head, retorting against optical lasers with sparkling rainbow slashes that left burning wounds wherever they landed. He looked like a supremely unorthodox knight of the round table as he switched between attacking Hastur's face and its laser eye whenever it dared open, flying with perfect precision between attacks that now unfailingly targeted him and him alone in the monster's growing desperation to be rid of him.
He should have needed to land three times by now.
That realisation somehow filled Reason's heart with more disquiet than the monster they faced. The fox she'd spent so many lifetimes watching over, whose every quirk she knew better than she knew her own oft-changing self… was now unfamiliar. Taller, less hesitant, more powerful… He had gained so much since she'd seen him last, and she had lost so much. Was there still room in his life for something like her? Did he still...
Reason shook the thought from her head as her feet touched the ground. She pushed off the moment her aching tails reset, raising the massive cannon he'd given her to loose a rapidfire spray of green sparks across Hastur's muscular chest while gaining altitude. Time enough to think about such things after they won. Only after his world was safe could she have a place in it.
They arrived just as the eye reopened. Amy didn't hesitate, and with a final fleshy squelch, her hammer crushed into it, dislodging an orb taller than the two mobian's combined from a socket with more teeth than Reason would have liked. Rather than fall, the dislodged eye ascended, joining the other damaged eye to orbit the Moon Lord's head.
"Yeah! That's two dow- Ah! Look out!" Amy snatched her feet up as the now vacant socket "mouth" snapped at her boots.
Reason pulled away, turning her cannon to the creature's forehead eye. Without the power of the Chaos Emeralds the cosmic giant simply wasn't fast enough to handle the five of them at once. It's energy bolts and eye spawn simply weren't designed with something as small and as mobile as a mobian, while every time it tried to use its eye laser it simply made itself vulnerable to Miles' constant harassment. It was only a matter of time before their combined assault-
"Aren't you forgetting someone, Sonic?" A loudspeaker's crackle rang out from the sky behind them.
Reason froze in momentary surprise, turning just in time to see Robotnik, long nose turned crooked since the last she'd seen him, let out a mad chuckle that prefaced twin missiles roaring from his airship, accelerating towards their target with unerring accuracy.
Except they weren't fired at any of them. Reason dimly heard Miles calling Sonic's name from above, but the hedgehog was already moving, charging at a dead sprint to save their true target, the Master Emerald where it floated, nestled by the entrance of the Hidden Palace. Both hedgehog and projectiles accelerated, and Reason tracked them with her eyes, calculating. Even with his increased speed the missiles just had too much of a head start.. He wasn't going to make it.
"Sonic! Stop!" She cried out uselessly. He was travelling six times faster than her warning words.
But he realised it too, a moment later, dust spraying from his shoes as he tried to stop. Too late, his enhanced speed carried him into the blast radius just as the missiles hit.
"Sonic!" Amy practically screamed. His smoking body bounced off the dirt, shards of green crystal raining down around him.
She tore her hand from Reason's own, scrambling towards him the moment her feet hit the ground all to a backdrop of Robotnik's mad laughter. Knocklues overtook her a moment later. Only Miles stayed still, face unreadable at this distance.
Reason gritted her teeth. She understood already. He was the Moon Lord's target; if he moved all the attacks and energy blasts currently directed at him would only endanger the person he wanted to save.
"Well isn't this a nice surprise? Get a load of this, rodent!"
Two more missiles roared forth, this time heading for the injured Sonic as he struggled weakly to get to his feet..
Reason raised her cannon, hovering perfectly still as she took aim and fired. Green rays filled the air between them like chaff. A missile exploded in midair, but the second slipped through. She squeezed her eyes shut with a grimace.
"What?! I don't believe this!"
There was no explosion. Reason opened her eyes to see the missile spiralling up into the sky, its vapour trail passing straight over Sonic's head. Just as suddenly, the doctor let out a pained howl, flailing his hands around wildly, and his airship followed suit. "Shoo! Get away you buzzing menaces! Argh! By doze!"
It was then Reason saw beyond the dust of the first missile strike, a tall green figure with a single horn standing with her hand outstretched. The bucking airship stabilised, energy crackling across its surface as it accelerated towards the Moon Lord. Robotnik hurled himself clear, bouncing into the undergrowth with a pained howl moments before it exploded into the giant's face, blasting the top of its skull clean off. Chunks of alien flesh rained down around Reason but she barely noticed, too busy staring at the two figures beside the horned woman, heavily armoured but clearly mobian, their long ears trailing from their helmets.
"How?" She half whispered, blinking rapidly.
Her hand rose unthinkingly, as though to reach across the distance between them even as fingers coiled around her chest. Reason barely had time to scream as razor sharp teeth clamped into her sternum, the radiant flesh of the Moon Lord shining around her as the dormant Chaos Emeralds in its chest returned to life.
"A futile attempt."
Miles' own lips whispered the rebuke as he descended, three beams of blinding radiance tearing through the sky after him from the three eyes orbiting the shattered skull of the voice's owner.
"So you can speak." Miles muttered numbly, fingers dragging across the creature's bloodstained skin as he kept close to its body. The inside of his armour felt like a kiln from sheer proximity to the beams he was dodging. "I was wondering if you were some kind of evil mime... octopus. Thing."
"Your trickery has come to naught, Harbinger. The veil has been pierced and all that awaits is the endless feast. Yet still you struggle."
Below, Sonic lay cradled in Amy's arms, shuddering uncontrollably as his overclocked body worked against itself, held in place only by the universe itself trying to put him back together. Reason dangled limply from the creature's oversized fist, blood trailing from between its fingers. And the Master Emerald lay scattered across half the zone, a good afternoon's work for its guardian to repair. His plan was at this point quite literally in pieces.
"Well, I crack jokes, too." Miles muttered drily as he flew, tips of his tails slicing uselessly across its indestructible flesh, heat evaporating the moisture from his eyes.
There it was again. That single question that none of these timeless, primordial beings could comprehend. He had failed. Everything he had tried to prevent had come to pass over and over again. He had lost so much, come so close to losing even more, even himself so many times. He could do almost nothing as his friends suffered, as he suffered, but still here he was, still struggling, still fighting.
And Miles smiled.
"Because I'm alive."
To live was to suffer, was to fight to survive and to keep on doing so day after day with the absolute knowledge that one day you would fail, but to keep going anyway. To try and hold onto a little fraction of the eternity these creatures took for granted, to hold out for those precious moments however rare or unlikely they might seem.
"Then let us free you from that affliction."
"Yeah, I don't think so." Miles' smile turned grim as he hovered before the creature's core, the glittering red Chaos Emerald resting beneath his fingertips. "See, you might not be vulnerable anymore, but you were. And for someone like me?"
Miles' eye shimmered a crystalline pink.
"That's all that matters."
His hand plunged into the creature's once supple flesh, tearing the Chaos Emerald free in one swift movement. Green blood sprayed out, the monster's shriek of agony remained unheeded as Miles' body burned from within.
But... it hadn't always been burning.
And since he was changing something already, what was one more thing?
So Miles swung again, tearing free another emerald and reverting burning flesh all at once. Not perfectly. Not completely. How could he hold all of him inside only a part of him, after all? But enough. Enough to fight. And to fight. And to keep fighting until he had gone back long before understanding why he was fighting, only seeing the enemy before him and reacting accordingly until there were no more stones to remove, until there was no flesh left to tear, and no more acceptable losses he could sacrifice, only alien flesh burning away blinding bright to leave nothing but pale bone beneath. Miles stared at the phenomenon in bemused curiosity as he breathed out a fine white powder he didn't recognise and tumbled from the sky, the world fading even faster than the ground rose up to meet him.
Once again something slammed into him midfall. Hands tore of his helmet, hard glass pressing to his lips and sickening sweetness pouring down what remained of his throat. Consciousness was painfully forced back into him as two brown eyes stared into his own, ears flapping frantically to dump him unceremoniously to the ground only slightly more gently than freefall.
"Good... job, Sept." Miles smiled weakly, pressing his hand to ruffle the rabbit's fur.
"Guess again, Mister Tails." Cream smirked as he quickly pulled his hand away with an ashen cough,
"Well... Good job anyway, Bunny." He dropped his head back to the floor with a pained grin. In one direction he could see Sonic standing once more, looking nauseous but intact thanks to the Creams' well-timed first aid. In the other, a bloodied Reason clung to Sept, tails limp and bloody where a single dose hadn't been enough, but alert enough to wave weakly in his direction when she saw him looking.
And below him the earth warped and writhed as the signs of their confrontation began to fade, untouched grass sprouting rapidly from once-scorched soil.
They were still here.
Miles groaned into a sitting position, feeling a little like Swiss cheese where the potion simply had nothing left to work with in his paradox riddled flesh and bone.
"Hey, Cream. Help me over to your Mama? There's still one thing left to do."
The rabbit stiffened, glancing over to where Sept was trying to foist a second potion on a grim-faced Reason.
"Yeah." Miles nodded. "I won't keep her long. I bet you have plenty to talk about."
He stood, wobbling slightly as he turned away from Sonic, Amy & Knuckles coming towards him. He wouldn't have the strength to do what came next if he faced them now.
He barely had the strength to do it as it was.
"Hey." Reason smiled shyly up at him as he came close. "Sorry I don't get up, but…"
"Don't worry, you'll get used to it." Miles winked. "Thanks, by the way."
"For the portal. It was yours, right?"
Reason's smile brightened. "I was wondering how you got back!"
"Do you still have it?"
Her smile fell. "Is it necessary?"
He nodded. She slipped it from her Hammerspace, placing the damaged machine into his palm.
"You… remember your promise, right?" Reason stared up at him, Sept echoed her almost fearful expression from her lap.
Miles nodded. "Thank you for... everything. And… I'm sorry again."
Miles twisted away from Cream, away from Reason's hurt look. Towards, if only incidentally, his other friends, faces bright with triumph as they approached.
Miles turned away once more, raising his hand to the pile of enormous bones that was all that remained of the creature, pulling free a sack he'd known was there before pushing his hand inside without hesitation. There was an unpleasant crawling beneath his flesh as yet another thing crept into his Hammerspace unbidden.
"You're still here, aren't you?" He called into the hollow of the giant's skull.
There was no reply. Miles sighed.
"Silent treatment, huh?" He tossed the sack aside, crawling into the giant eye socket. "But you're still listening, I'm guessing. Isn't that right, Ulnah?"
The world greyed and skewed outside the skull, coming to a halt as the fairy winked into being before him. Long, silvery tentacles protruded from her skeletal face, a glowing green eye tracking his movements from within its socket. Spores burst from the walls and the ground outside, drifting around with a rhythm all their own, unaffected by the timelessness that surrounded them.
"Thought so." Miles gazed grimly up at the fragments that each outsider had left in him. "But you're not going to want to be here for much longer, are you?"
Because the outsiders fed on chaos. Breaking through from their alien layer of existence into the nice, chaos-saturated environments created as he unwittingly spread false chaos emeralds across the multiverse time and time again, and now with Madworld's pressure gone, such a thin place existed on Mobius only here, where the Chaos Emeralds nestled within his Hammerspace.
And this feeding process needed roots. Roots laid down from the beginning of their initial invasions and then burrowed ever deeper into the world by the Chosen fighting to preserve what remained of their doomed existence. The very act of seeking more and more power to oppose the outsiders was exactly the same process that allowed their influence to bleed deeper into the world.
And once they had feasted, they moved on, breaking through to the next world Miles had prepared for them.
Except he hadn't.
For so many lifetimes, Miles had been trapped in Happy Days instead, not continuing the cycle, not providing them with their next meal, until their last meal was all but spent, and they found their way to Mobius instead, the infinitely alluring Chaos Emeralds promising them an end to the cycle as a source of endless sustenance.
But thanks to Sonic stopping their initial invasion, thanks to the purifier cleansing the corruption before it had a chance to truly take hold, and thanks to the Master Emerald allowing them to stop this last invader, and being scant hours away from suppressing the Chaos Emeralds once more, these roots still hadn't been placed. Physics was still breaking down, the corruption might still be spreading deep within the earth where his purifier couldn't reach, the world was still in the middle of an apocalypse, but it was a slow one, one that left the outsiders hungry, and promised to keep them hungry for the foreseeable future.
Which meant that they were now looking for their next feeding ground.
To save the world, he just had to sacrifice another one. One more necessary sacrifice in an endless chain.
He just had to become a suitable beacon for them once more.
Miles breathed a shuddering sigh as his ravaged body entered the chaos state, smoke spilling from the cracks of his armour as the absence of rings forced the Chaos Emeralds to consume another source of fuel, the same fuel, over and over again as he used the power they gave him to rewind the damage they caused him, like two tails, each pushing the other up so neither hit the ground.
In his hand the portal generator became unused. He pulled a panel free, absently swapping cables as he drew ever more power from the emeralds, his fur turning from yellow to blinding white, until he could no longer undo the full extent of the combined damage fast enough. His body lifted off the ground even as emeralds tumbled from his Hammerspace to the floor, their light gone dim.
"Tasty enough for you?" Miles glared up at the fluttering fairy, its tentacles now straining to reach him.
He pulled himself straight, raising the portal generator in a trembling hand, powering it with his own body as he prepared himself for one final betrayal. The shimmering portal expanded across the interior of the skull.
And he hesitated, glancing out at his frozen friends. The ones he'd struggled so hard to save, protect, come home to. That he'd tried so desperately to please, had told so many lies and so many secrets. Unable to save or condemn him here, in this tiny space outside of the curves.
"I love you all." He smiled, wiping a hand across his cheeks. "And I'm so, so sorry for what I'm about to do."
Miles stepped into the Twilight Cage.
"You have done well, Miles Prower."
The voice penetrated the all encompassing nothingness, warm and melodic. A pleasant fragrance that punctuated the void that was his eternal penance. Lightless, touchless, thoughtless…
Except for the voice.
How could it praise him? Didn't it know what he'd done?
"You saved the world, Miles Prower." The voice came once more, years, centuries, eons later.
He'd damned many more. All the worlds within the Twilight Cage were now open to the outsiders, including the last of the Echnidna tribes. Having lived his entire life as an oddity, a singularity, he'd damned one of his closest friends to the same fate.
"You have bound them, Miles Prower." The voice came once more when it had long since been forgotten.
True at least. Even divorced from time as much as they were, they needed time to feed. And at four thousand years to a single day, even with their sixtyfold time dilation every day here would be a lifetime outside. The Twilight Cage had imprisoned things far greater than its creators could have envisioned.
And trapped Miles along with them. His everything worn away in their endless nothingness until he was nothing too. Until his very being was stripped away, leaving only emptiness behind. Even his memories were fading, thoughts coming undone and feelings drifting away. Until even the reason he was here, even the reason he deserved to be here had been worn away.
An eternal peace.
Except for the voice.
"I cannot help you, Miles Prower."
A gentle hand pressed against a cheek he no longer realised he had. Alien lips smiled in the dark as they whispered in his ear.
"But I can prolong your suffering."
A golden ring pressed into his hand, and when Miles looked through it, he saw all the world on the other side. With golden rings spinning in the air, shining in the light of the afternoon sun.
And Miles cried.
Though he didn't know why.
It was a beautiful day, sunlight forming miniature rainbows off the mountain's snowy slopes.
Shaggy yetis prowled through the snow, bleating back and forth to one another as they burrowed into deep drifts with their foreclaws, searching for morsels frozen in the endless chill.
One yeti, only a cub, let out a curious snort as it revealed a fresh, if inedible, oddity. A golden ring so like those that spun overhead, but long forgotten beneath the snow, and darkness filled its centre.
An orange furred hand thrust from the black, sending the yeti fleeing with a terrified wail for its parent before even the rest on an arm could emerge from within. A second hand out came before a small furry figure squeezed out onto the snow, his thick fur bristling against the cold as two fluffy fox tails followed the rest of him out of the narrow portal.
"Until next time, then, my dear Miles Prower."
"Huh?" The fox turned in surprise, but the portal had gone, leaving only snow within the forgotten ring. "What was…?"
A sound from overhead interrupted the fox's fading thoughts and he looked up instead, squinting against the sun to see a blue and yellow plane buzzing high above, and a tiny speck tumbling down from it. Doubling in size, then doubling again. The little fox tilted his head, stepping backwards only for the speck to change direction and crash on top of him all the same. A vixen in a black and white dress grinned down at him, snow dusting her fluffy face.
"Wha-... who are you?"
"You don't remember?" The girl blinked at him in surprise.
"... Nothing at all." The fox shrugged.
"Don't worry." Her smile returned as she pressed a gloved hand into his, pulling him up with her as she stood.
"We'll tell you everything you need to remember."
The plane landed nearby, achingly familiar strangers leaping out and running towards him, shouting and waving. The girl's smile somehow turned even more radiant.
"All you need to know right now is that your name is Miles Prower, and you saved the world."
Thank you for reading this alternative look at Tails the Fox and the world of Terraria.
It's been a long final chapter so I'll keep this one brief, but as most folks following along should know this will be my last story for Eternal Tails for the foreseeable future. I'll be updating the Story Bible before I go, so if you've any questions or things you're curious about for the story please let me know in a review or private message since I'll probably have forgotten any previous requests, and please also feel free to say anything you did or didn't like in the story or series as a whole.
As always, I sincerely hope you've enjoyed reading.