Hey everybody, Zelzainia here.

I know I have a lot to answer to, it's been about 5 years since I updated this story with it's conclusion, and honestly I am finding it difficult to explain myself.

I started the original Light and Love back when I was about 12-13 years old. That story is what lead me to discover my passion for story-telling, specifically in the written form. I started this story in response to all the love and support I received from readers like you, and gave all a young teenager could. I loved it, but of course, people grow up.

My updates became less consistent, and I found writing for this story difficult because - to put it simply - I had grown out of it. For five years I did not touch this fic with a ten foot pole, but I had felt guilty to see it was left unfinished. When I started up my most recent project, a passion project in the form of a Legend of Zelda fic, I felt bad because I had left you all behind. That story is coming to end soon, I am almost done with it's final chapter and planning to start working on my own creative pieces in hopes of becoming a published author. I am a 21 ( soon to be 22 ) year old college student who accidentally discovered her dream via Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction, but never gave it the ending it deserved.

My best friend and fellow author SunnyAirisu222 implored me to try and finish this fic as a form of therapy. I finish this chapter of my life and bid you all the proper farewell you deserved.

But I couldn't do it.

I physically could not write this final chapter. I started, got a scene finished, and then couldn't continue. As an artist, nothing is more difficult than working on a project you had no heart for. It was dull, uninspiring, and almost insulting - you guys don't deserve that. I kept putting it off, until I was contacted by an individual who asked to remain anonymous. They offered to ghostwrite the chapter you see here. They were avid fans of both stories, and kept in contact with me throughout the process to make sure it was up to my standard. Sadly, since it has been so any years, I had forgotten my plans for the conclusion. As a child I never thought to write outlines or keep notes, I literally made chapters up as I went along, so anything they wrote was good enough. I read what they had written, and was amazed. It's a lot to take in, and I apologize if it is not the ending you wanted but it is all I can give.

Thank you to everyone who gave this story a chance, thank you to the people who reviewed since day 1 and inspired me to pursue what I love now. Thank you to the critics and the fans, to the kids who are now adults. You mean the world to me, and I will never forget you or the impact this story had on me. This was my childhood, and it will always have that special spot in my heart barbecue of it, but it's time that this author grows up. I love you all, be safe out there, and thanks for the memories.

...It's been more than four thousand years since the great battle between the power hungry dark mage, Hecate, and the protectors of light. Once the warrior and healer of Light won the dangerous battle, the mage, Princess Amy Rose of Alfieri, and her warrior, Prince Sonic of Ferias, were wed, and all lived happily in their new developing land of Mobius.

Yet after many years, the people of Mobius began to doubt the tale's truthfulness until it became simple folklore. But even the bedtime story soon faded away with time, until it became no more than a distant memory that only the oldest of books vaguely sustain in their decaying pages...

He was my best friend.

The thought echoed through his hollow mind like voices in a prison, every word dancing through the cobwebs and corpses of memories he had left to rot. Western Alfieri was a place most common folk avoided, especially at night. As the city of wisdom waged war upon the Ferias pigs and the scum of their kingdom, their once-halcyon streets became splattered with shadows. Danger festered near the west, like maggots eating away at the earth. There was a lake here, a lake where people disappeared – and a bookshop that linked the quiet marketplace to the dark slums.

Behind the caring arms of rose bushes which lined the shopfront, a mother tried her hardest to shield her son from the darkness outside, blinding his eyes with watercolor fairytales upon weathered pages. "...And they lived happily ever after." She smiled, closing the story and smiling sweetly, lavender pink locks framing her warm face.

"That's it?" His question was inevitable. "Why didn't she marry the pauper?"

"Because the princess always marries the prince."

She kissed her son's forehead before whispering the candle into oblivion. She lingered in the doorway, the sadness in her eyes not quite outweighing her love for him. No matter how hard she tried, she knew she could not protect him forever. The darkness, it would creep in, silently. He would see the world for its true self, a world without light or love. There was nothing she could do to stop it. But for now, she would hide her son amongst the pages of stories that told of a better life than he ever would have. Click.

He shot up from his bed to tumble through the dark room. Sprawled out on all fours, he reached under his bed to finger the binds of a leather book far older than himself. Resting it upon his bed, he snapped his fingers together and mumbled under his breath until a faint white light glowed from his hand. The soft glow illuminated his quills, redder than the roses outside his home – his eyes, more silver than steel, glistened with uncultivated curiosity.

"How to perfect barrier spells..." He read aloud, soaking up the words and their knowledge like a sponge. Most children of Alfieri would say he was a strange boy, not easy to play with nor fun to be around. He was too mature for their tastes, spent too much time within his own head to learn their little games. He wasn't important to them. He really wanted friends, very very badly actually, and he tried hard to emulate them and play along, but he just wasn't good at playing. "...A strong soul creates a strong barrier." What he lacked in physical capabilities, he made up for in mental strength. If the Academy of Magic wasn't so expensive, he would have been at the top of his class - but that never stopped him from learning through his own means.

"And a strong barrier…"

He leapt from his skin as a ferocious crash echoed through their paper walls. He slid the pilfered book beneath his mattress, his ears stinging with drunken blasphemy and his mother's pleas for silence. Another crash, delicate and sweet like glass, and he could hear his mother's body hit the wall. He could feel her ragged breaths as she stifled her scream, as she summoned her composure for the sake of her son's innocence. He could feel the sacrifices she made for him every night, running through the dusty planks of their home. He could see his father's shadow crawling beneath the door. Every night, he would stand in his room, fists balled, ready to fight if his father walked in – but he never did. His mother tried her hardest to shield him from the darkness outside, but their darkness was so much closer, deep inside their rose-covered home.

But morning would always come, bathing his room in gold honey. He was envious of the other children, as they skipped off to the Academy in the summer sunlight. He would watch them, every day. His longing for their life, for their privilege, was a sore ache inside his gut. His nails dug holes into the cover of the book he clutched to his chest, disdain only melting into fear after one student turned to look back at him. Their eyes met, an eclipse of dreams and nightmares. He leapt away from the window, his breaths tattered and hasty.

He was my best friend.

Amy was choked by the irony in the air.

When she had first read the fairytale of Light and Love, she remembered the final chapter vividly. In the end, the healer had married the warrior, and they lived happily ever after. The hedgehog with her same face… she looked so stunning, in her gown of white roses and gold lace. She was so happy, because all fairytales get a happy ending, and the princess always marries the prince.


The cathedral seemed endless, as if there were a mile of pews between her and the extravagant altar. The marble floor was as callous and unforgiving as Hecate's arms. Her footsteps were delicate but empty, the edges of her heels echoing with every step towards her inevitable doom. The scent of freshly cut roses pricked her nostrils, wafting over her with the same intoxicatingly floral aroma of a funeral. Death loomed over her, like the red moon crawling across the paper white sky. Her heart shook against her ribcage like a feral animal in a cage – or was that her two Items of Light, warring within her chest?

Yes, Amy was the splitting image of her predecessor – she was imprisoned in her wedding gown of the purest ivory, embellished with a thousand fabric roses that meandered around her body. Her corset dug into her skin like thorns, tied so tight that her wedding ring could have fit around her waist. Sleeves of intricate lace constrained her arms like a straitjacket, arranging her wrists in the perfect position to gracefully hold her bouquet of blood red rosebuds. But the Amy of the past had looked so radiant in her veil of gold lace – no, she had none of that. The blackest threads were woven over her face, matching the onyx crystals which were scattered over her gown. They were like blood in the snow, as if wolves had hunted their prey all over her body. Coldness crept up her spine. Her entire back was exposed, for the world to marvel at her sweet pink skin. Her flesh leaked untainted innocence.

"Sarah." She had murmured after the girl had dressed her, her voice hardly a whisper. Her corset held her breath hostage. The maid lingered in the hall, curious eyes uncertain. They both knew this would be the last time they would see each other, no matter the outcome of this matrimony. Amy's eyes were green. Green with compassion, but green with envy for her youth. "Never lose yourself. Not now, not ever, not again."

He was my best…

"Hecate, please come here." His mother's voice ricocheted off the blue papered walls, lifting her kind eyes off the pages of her book. He had been watching the dust dance in the noonday sunlight – every particle so alive, so free. As he tore himself away from his reveries, he hopped over to sit at her feet. Quietly, she caressed his quills. "Do you know how much I love you?"

He looked up at her in surprise. "Of course, Mother."

She smiled sweetly, and rubbed the back of her hand against his face. "You're such a smart boy...And I know how badly you wanted to start the Academy this year… but we're –"

"Poor," He gave a half smile, "It's okay, Mother, I understand."

There was a tense silence in the room. He could feel her regret and sadness – it reflected in her eyes and broke his heart. He had enough books to learn magic here at home, and he was fine with that. His mother, however, could see that a proper education was what separated him from the other young boys in Alfieri. Trying to break the awkwardness, he tried to tell his mother a very silly joke, and to his amusement, she gave a small giggle before criticizing how long his quills had gotten.

"You look like a bum." She chuckled, and he in turn whipped his head about. As their laughter faded into the warmth of the midday sun, the silence was so welcomed compared to the noise inside their hearts. His mother pursed her lips, and a soft melody blossomed within her throat – a melody that warmed her son from within.

The loud slamming of the front door marked his arms with goosebumps. His mother stood abruptly, her eyes caught in a stare with his stumbling father. The man regurgitated in his mouth, before staggering forward with a pointed finger.

"Hecate, go outside and play," She commanded sweetly, but Hecate gripped tightly onto her skirts, his eyes full of loathing as his father fumbled with the books on the shelf. On the second row of the shelf, closest to them, was a little blue book that held their family savings within its pages, and that was what he was looking for. More money, for more rum. His mother made sure he never found it.

With a roar of rage, the drunkard swung his arm at the bookcase, and a cascade of books crashed upon the carpet like a colossal avalanche. The dust in the air no longer danced – it was like a thick mist, cloaking the rage that dripped down his father's expression like the sweat from his brow. "Go." She urged, and as she pried his fingers off her skirt, Hecate slipped through the door.

His feet took him to his favorite spot down by the lake. The water shimmered so clear that morning, like a sea of diamonds, mesmerizingly beautiful with the ships sailing by peacefully. One could hardly imagine the skeletons beneath the water's surface, all the disappeared souls that bubbled inside the lake's embrace. Did people come here to vanish? Or to forget? No one would notice if a poor boy drowned. He could melt into thin air – it didn't matter. He was chained back only by the thought of his mother's tears.

Out of breath, he dropped down onto the shore, looking back with anxiety. He feared his father and his drunken outbursts. Out of paranoia, he'd always keep their shop in the corner of his eye. Would the windows be covered in blood? Would the roses be shrouded in flames?

Pushing away those unhealthy thoughts, he focused on his hands, his small hands. Yes, concentrating on his hands, he imagined a massive orb, one that could eclipse all the negativity in his mind.

"A barrier..." He intoned, under his breath. A faint red bubble appeared in his palm, coagulating into existence. There was a small smile pinching the corners of his muzzle, and recalling his book, he followed its instructions.

"C'mon, get bigger." He whispered, plastering his eyes shut and imagining himself within a large bubble of his own. He could feel it, the sudden ripple of magic passing through him like a summer breeze! Excitement bubbled within his very core, he was doing it, he was actually doing-

"That's so cool!" A sharp voice broke his concentration, and Hecate shot his eyes open as the barrier shattered with his confidence. The walls of red cascaded down, like melting butter slowly drenching the grass as it faded into nothingness.

"No, no, no!" He cried, scurrying to try and pick up the crumbling magic. With daggers as eyes, he glared up at the assailant of his tranquil thoughts.

It was a boy his age, same height, same build, and quills as red as his own. Had he cast a mirror spell by accident? Some form of astral protection? But the eyes… the eyes were familiar. They sent a chill up his spine, the same way they did once before – a deep brown, so contrary to his own steely grey. This boy's quills lay long and free, unlike his tousled cut.

"I'm sorry," The boy frowned, "I didn't mean to scare you."

Hecate blinked, the trees swaying in trepidation.

"Can I sit here?"

Hesitantly, he nodded.

The boy smiled and heaved down, extending his hand out warmly. "Hi, I'm Siegfried."

"Hecate," He reluctantly took the boy's palm into his own, still eyeing him oddly. "What are you doing here?"

Siegfried shrugged, "I like how the water looks...I haven't seen you at the Academy, you're really good at magic!"

"Thanks, but I'm not enrolled in the Academy. By your statement, I assume you are… So why aren't you in class?"

There was an awkward pause - Siegfried looked away and scratched his head with a nervous laugh. There was so much light in his eyes – it frightened Hecate. "Yeah, about that...My mother signed me up for it. You see I come from a family of great magic-users, so I'm expected to be this grand wizard but honestly...I don't like it."

"Why not," Hecate asked, slightly perturbed by the idea of this privileged boy taking this great opportunity for granted. He wanted to study magic so badly – he would kill for it.

"It's just not for me...So I ditch a lot, and today I wanted to see the lake." Siegfried grinned.

"Won't your family find out?"


Another silence fell between the two, though not specifically awkward - it was profound and filled with thought. They looked at each other, cogs slowly turning to produce an idea so crazy that only two young boys could think was an excellent plan. Siegfried beamed, and Hecate gave his own shy version of an ecstatic grin.

"Say," Siegfried beamed, "I have an idea. You want to learn magic, but can't get into the Academy. I just want a few minutes of peace from my family, but they expect me to be in class." Siegfried put his arm beside Hecate's, "Look at us, basically twins! Just clean up your hair and we're the same guy!"

Hecate's heart soared; would he finally get the education he deserved? His smile receded as quickly as it came, like waves on the shore. "But you're forgetting something, your eyes are so brown they look black! Mine are silver..."

Siegfried paused, his grin falling into a contained smirk. He leaned in, so close that Hecate felt his breath catch in the corners of his throat. "Trust me. Everything will work out in the end." Hecate's lungs ached, Siegfried tracing his parted lips with a cryptic gaze. There was a darkness between them, a magnetism that tugged at their identical faces, a man melting into a mirror. Then it was gone, the tension – and Siegfried grinned cheerfully once more. "Tomorrow at noon, I'll meet you at the Academy doors!"

And that was how it began. Every morning Hecate would attend the Academy under the facade of Siegfried, and in return, Siegfried would bring him food – easily convincing his mother that every day he would leave for errands. Their effortless plan unfolded, week after week, month after month – soon, it would be year after year. Together, they learned about the legend of Light and Love; the bearer of the Items of Light would be the strongest mage who ever lived. Hecate learned that Siegfried's mother owned one of these items, and his eyes slowly became glossed with shadows that would creep into his heart, like his father's shadow beneath his door. And then, he would discover that Siegfried was a prince – and that they would never be the same, no matter how neatly he brushed his quills. Siegfried's life was the same as the fairytales Hecate's mother fed him all of these years; full of light, full of love, but so faraway, out of reach. Hecate and Siegfried. All the moments they shared would unfold like the hands of a clock, spinning and spinning until it could only end in—

He was my…

Amy traipsed beneath the marble arch, dripping with calla lilies painted black. There was no orchestra, no music, no joy. The items battling within her chest mixed with the drumbeat of her heart, every footsteps adhering to an invisible rhythm. Raw fingers plucked a silver harp. In her desolate mind, she heard the melody she had learned, over and over again, all of these horrifying days. Like a music box out of tune, it mocked her.

Birdsong. She entered the furthermost section of the cathedral, and beady eyes followed her every move. The walls were lined with dozens of ivory birdcages, their prisoners squawking at her every movement. The crows cursed her existence, and the doves prayed for her salvation. She was like them, caged in this palace, caged by this life, caged by this destiny. Was she a dove, just waiting to be set free? Or a crow, searching for prey beyond her confines? Heat smacked her face, sweat gathering beneath the black crystals of her choker. Tears swelled up behind her eyelids, but she held them back – a bride had to be composed. She had to be beautiful. She had to stay strong.

Every shard of stained glass from the enormous windows painted her skin in multifarious colors. It was as if the heavens had crushed the Chaos Emeralds between their divine fingers, and placed them upon the walls of the Phantom Castle for all to enjoy. The colored, broken pieces all told different stories, different tales… Everything from a legend of secret rings, to a violet cat who could wield flames. A beast known as Perfect Chaos, and a Seedrain who sacrificed her life. Some of the images contained representations of herself and her friends, and it only choked her with more emotions. It was like experiencing a series of memories from another life – a reminder that this was just another legend in a long cycle of canons. Hope was becoming difficult to cling to… but her hero had to come, wouldn't he? After years of chasing him, it was finally his turn.

Faces turned to gasp at her haunting beauty, faces with fate in their eyes. They were the witnesses to the wedding – but in this lighting, she recognized them only as fellow hostages. Blitzaria, with her serene gaze like a pure blue fire – Shadow, with his ebony fur that stood on edge as she walked past. Devon seemed contaminated by his own nerves, kneading his knees with his sweaty fingers – if only his attire wasn't so tightly fitted, the white collar of his black shirt practically asphyxiating him. Sayo stood, dipping his chin in reticence as he took her bouquet, his eyes full of secrecy… but also full of knowing. It was a judgmental sort of stare, one that rattled her bones beneath her façade of grace. Amy lifted her eyes, focusing upon the pallid face of LL – who stood at the altar, handsome in his threaded robes.

Her stomach churned, tumbling over and over – waves in an empty ocean. Kiya… Sonic… they were missing. Something was wrong, Something had gone terribly wrong. She silently pleaded with LL for answers, her inner fear only visible as a pinprick within her emerald gaze.

"I will return to the cage."

It was the night before. Amy turned to glance at LL, her nightgown hanging off her body like gossamer in the morningtime. She was framed by the tall, arched window – with its curtains of cerise satin that glowed against the cobalt expanse of night. The blood red moon loomed over her head, like a halo in a biblical painting. There was confusion in her eyes, innocence still clinging to the edges of her lips as they quivered, "But why?"

"Hecate will come to see me, and I must be there when he arrives." The advisor's kittenish tone never deserted his voice, his timbre rumbling with nonchalance as he uncorked the emerald decanter and poured himself a drink. There was a paleness to his eyes, a celestial distance which told her that his thoughts were elsewhere. He held the glass to his lips seductively, licking a single droplet that had trickled down the rim.

Amy knitted her brows, her nightgown following her as she stumbled towards him desperately. "Don't go back, LL – you've tasted freedom, now you must fight for it—"

"I have been asked to be your officiant." LL interrupted, and his teeth glinted wolfishly in the candlelight. "It was arranged quite some time ago, and your 'betrooooothed' will indubitably pay me a visit to discuss the details. But I have a plan, dearest Amy! Do listen!" Flamboyantly, the blonde man flourished his hands, taking her fingers into his own. He pulled her to the center of the room, arranging their arms together as if he was teaching her how to ballroom dance. Amy let him draw near, near enough so she could taste the alcohol on his breath as he whispered ever so quietly…

"I will arrange for all of the others to attend your 'wedding'."

With a gasp, Amy pushed him away, staggering a few steps backwards with a horrified expression. She couldn't contain the misery boiling within her as she scolded, "You can't just do that! You will be prey in a trap."

"Yes, exactly." LL chuckled, spreading his arms and continuing to dance all by himself. He looked so happy, beneath the veil of the candlelight. Angelic… almost. "It's the only way they can get in. If they try to crash the wedding, the battle will be over before it has ever begun…"

He gritted his teeth, so tightly it nearly sounded sinister. "So, we must play the role of the hunted, just long enough to become hunters ourselves."

Amy glared at Leonardo as if he were a madman, but with every moment that passed, her expression grew softer and more understanding. She watched him down the remains of his drink, before he slowly unbuttoned the front of his shirt. Her heartbeat chased the blood in her veins, her fingers digging into her palms as she watched his exposed chest. The golden fur which clung to his lean muscles… the mysterious scar that stretched across his sternum. And then! He plunged his fist inside, a blindingly glow encasing his hands as his agonizingly pulled something from his breast. LL staggered forward, the booze in his throat the only quell to the tempest of pain now electrocuting his body. With fingertips dripping with blood, he held out a trinket that blazed with a thousand suns yet to come. Captured Northern lights formed the illusion of cogs around the object. Barbs of gold like the hands of a clock were seduced around grains of untouched sand. The Item of Future.

"We trust you, Amy." LL proclaimed, and her fingers hesitantly reached forward, the Items of Light and Darkness eager to meet their relative. He smiled, but she did not. And for a moment, if only a moment, it was as if the sun had been born between them, and their silhouettes were the only two in the world.

He was…

"Listen, Hecate. Shh, don't be scared…" His mother's ragged voice was mostly breath, her tousled hair like vines upon the blossoming bruises all over her body. He could see the marks of black and blue, between the rips in her dress. She was weak, fever igniting her body like a match – she could barely stand, only crawl across the carpet to shield his eyes from the horrors unfolding. His father's roar pounded against his eardrums, and he fought the urge to crawl into a ball, to tuck his head between his knees and cover his ears. But the fairytales were over – the darkness had arrived, and she could protect him no longer.

"Let me in, woman!" With every pound against the bedroom door, Hecate felt his grip slipping, further and further away from reality.

"Let us sing! Your favorite song…" His mother whispered, pulling him into her embrace and rocking him back and forth as she drowned the noise with her humming – and he wanted to join in, he wanted to sing with her so badly, but the lump forming in his throat kept him silent. He wasn't this boy, this wasn't his life. It didn't have to be, did it?

The door was flung open, the lock shattering as it was finally strained past its limit. Strong, dirty arms began to ravage the room – sounds of shattering filled the bookstore with cacophony. Expletives and profanity exploded from the man's throat – the sheets ripped into shreds, the curtains cloaking the ground in red as he shattered the windows so all could hear this moment of reckoning. "This is… the end…" He slurred, his fist preparing itself to come down like a gavel.

It was the end… for him. There was a broken bottle, just a crawl away, with edges so sharp and beautiful. So free. Hecate would hold it, with no hesitation, and he would bring his father's words to fruition, as his mother's scream pierced his ears. "Hecate!"

"Why don't you ever paint me?"

There was an unmistakable insolence to the question, unfiltered irritation adding husk to his already-deep voice. Hecate bit the dirt beneath his thumbnail, his steely eyes roaming the humble walls of the rented studio. There were nails in every space between every brick, and from each nail, hung a plethora of masterpieces. The hedgehog felt his stomach twist, his gaze assaulted by the paintings of pale, feminine flesh. All these women, with their clothing of satin and elegantly displayed breasts, seemed to judge him for not being half as graceful. Siegfried only ever cared about ideals – he knew nothing of truths.

"Because you are not beautiful, nor virtuous." Siegfried mumbled carefully, his eyes absorbed in his work as he added the finishing touches to yet another perfectly-shaped areola. He seemed enamored with the woman upon the canvas – the softness of her jawline, the paleness of her blue eyes that spoke of innocence and purity. With every brushstroke, he made love to her fictitious body – but such was the way of Siegfried. He was enthralled by everything; he was in love with life.

"Or… cooperative." Siegfried added, throwing an ivory grin towards his glowering doppelganger. Hecate's expression was enough to tug him away from his acrylic muse, if only for a moment. Swirling his paintbrush in the goblet of thinner, he let the sweet water become tainted with black. "Now, now, don't be so grumpy, Hecate. You know I'm only joking!"

Hecate kept his jaw set, the shadows of the evening only further intensifying his brooding glare. He was pleased that the candlelight hid the pain in his eyes – there was weight to Siegfried's words, and although he surely didn't mean it in that way, they cut deeply into his soul with their truth. He would never be good enough – only a secondhand imitation, like medicine from a charlatan. The silence was a better friend than Siegfried, so he turned his eyes to the ravenous fireplace and allowed his thoughts to become consumed by the bewitching flames.

"If you'd like…" Siegfried tapped his brush rather obnoxiously to grasp his friend's attention, though Hecate flinched only once. His eyes betrayed the reflex, but his body remained still, stoic, statuesque – a living painting, amongst all of the nude nymphs. Siegfried had played this game many times, however, and he allowed himself to weave through the room, meandering closer and closer to Hecate, like a tamer and his lion. "I can paint you tomorrow."

Flintlock eyes slid to the side, two orbs of quicksilver venom. Hecate could've sneered in that moment, Siegfried standing over him. He was sitting in a chair of rotting wood, at the mercy of the painter who loomed overhead, basking in the glow of the fire, as radiant as a God who had descended upon a prophet. Who would've thought that a Prince would've enjoyed painting? But he was a man of many talents. He always had the chance to try new things, his life abundant with free time after Hecate had taken his place at the Academy. Siegfried had become rather worldly.

"We could go down to the lake, and I'll paint you there. We haven't been there in a while! And if you don't like the painting, you can just tie me up and drown me right then and there." Siegfried leaned over the chair, his hands on the armrest, fingers lingering just inches away from Hecate's. The joke, although macabre, was enough to force those steely eyes to meet his. "Would you like that?"

"Because you like how the water looks?" There was a bite to his words, a viper ready to strike.

"Because I like how you look." Siegfried squinted at him, as if trying to dissect Hecate with his eyes – disassembling his subject and then putting him back together. Brazenly, he brought the paintbrush across Hecate's cheek, leaving a long blotch of murky pigment. "Or, I could paint you right now. Just like this."

Their gazes didn't break, a war of wills – an eclipse of dreams and nightmares. Siegfried continued his work, enjoying the mystified expression of his doppelganger. Stroke after stroke, he slowly applied shadows to the curve of his jawline, until he nearly looked chiseled from stone. All the while, his fingers inched closer and closer along the armrest, until they traced the cracked skin of Hecate's knuckles—

With an abrupt grasp, Hecate latched upon Siegfried's wrist, ceasing his painting as his hand trembled from the sheer force. It felt like his blood was constricted to his fingers alone, his veins being crushed beneath Hecate's touch – there was nothing he could do, he was totally compromised. Hecate could've snapped his arm in half in that very moment. But that wasn't what he wanted.

Siegfried was what he wanted.

Like the flames licking at the firewood, Hecate rose from his seat to overpower Siegfried, their lips joined in a hungry game where no one could emerge as a champion. They ravaged each other's kiss, both fighting for dominance as their tongues warred deeper and deeper, exploring every crevice of warmth between their teeth. Their lungs respirated from one another – living and breathing only thanks to the oxygen shared between their starving mouths. They pushed and pulled, Hecate's fingers crawling up Siegfried's spine as he worshipped every muscle now veiled by velvet sweat. Their hips ground together – the earth could've split in that moment, every touch as molten as the core of the universe. Siegfried buried his face in Hecate's neck, panting with ecstasy as he plunged deep within him. Every thrust brought them closer to the stars in the sky – they were merely cosmic matter, searching for love in a world without light. Was it narcissism – was that why they were drawn to each other, two men with the same face? Or was this truly a moment of eclipse, an inevitable force of nature? Siegfried bit into Hecate's chin, licking at the blood before they sealed the distance between them once more, a moan of bliss dying between them in the sweltering heat as they drowned within one another. Drowning, drowning, drowning…




Hecate whirled around, his expression shaken as if he had been followed by a phantom. That voice… it couldn't have been Siegfried, could it have? The musk of paint thinner and delicious sweat was thick in his nostrils, burning his throat with the same decadence as scorched wood in autumn rain. But all he could smell, truly, was roses. Amy stood before him, her expression composed yet… inquiring. What right did she have to question him?

"Leonardo, begin, you fool." Hecate snarled, raking his nails against Amy's wrist and dragging her until she stood inches away from him at the crown of the altar. His eyes squinted, and the caged crows squawked like a clamorous audience, scrutinizing her every move. He roughly grabbed her jaw, and spat between her puckered lips— "Your predecessor wore it better. Four thousand years in the making, and you still can't get it right."

Her eyes glinted with memory of her older self, just another reminder that she was failing fate compared to the pristine deity who was the original 'Amy'. She wrenched her face out of his grasp, praying that her companions stayed calm long enough for the others to arrive. Sonic, where are you?

"Stand straight." Hecate commanded, and she simply stared at him with that same, questioning glare. What did she expect to find? There was nothing but steel beneath the gleam of his irises, the passion of a bygone era just as drowned and dead as Siegfried himself. Hecate leaned in, his teeth sparkling like the tip of a crescent moon. "The princess always marries the prince."

Amy fought the disgust that flooded her mouth with bile – she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of shattering her composure, not yet. She glanced at LL with a furrowed brow, and Hecate vocalized her inner thoughts almost immediately. "Goddammit LL, get on with it, or I will rip your heart right from your cold dead chest!"

"R-right… Exactly…" LL droned, barely clinging to consciousness. His brow was draped in a flood of sweat, droplets falling off his eyelashes and weighing down his beautiful sky eyes. All color had drained from his skin, redness blooming in every crack upon his lips. LL was practically peaked.

"On this day, within the hallowed halls of the Phantom Castle…" His very hands trembled, holding tightly onto a terrarium in the shape of a Chaos Emerald, which held their rings within its midst. Amy forced herself not to look at them – she would not, she refused to. This was not her wedding, and those were not her rings to wear. It was an unbearable thought; to her, they were simply circles of scrap metal, nothing more, nothing less.

"I had them made just for you." Hecate whispered in her ear, leaning in just enough so she could catch a whiff of his intoxicating cologne. "I thought you'd like them." She couldn't tell what nauseated her more – the scent of him, or the fact that she actually felt guilty. There was a vulnerability to his voice, an unspoken implore for validation… but she couldn't give in. They were simply scrap metal.

"We are gathered here today…" LL struggled through the proclamations, his voice frail. She wasn't sure if he was buying them time, or truly withering right before her eyes – it wouldn't be long before Hecate chastised him again, but for the moment, the lethargic pace gave her tremendous relief.

"R-repeat after me." The blonde hedgehog shut his eyes – and for a moment, Amy thought he would tip over, right then and there. She heard him swallow, and something slid back down his throat. It was as if his heart was ready to burst from his mouth at any moment, and the Item of Future banged against her chest ferociously, begging to be reunited with him. LL's voice filled her head, as he intoned the vows that Hecate should take, and she held his face in her eyes for just a moment.

Hecate. He watched her with hungry eyes, his face twitching with impatience. The Items created palpitations within her chest, perturbed by the implications his eyes gave forth. She remembered that one moment she stumbled into his room… there was more to him than she could ever see, would ever know. Amy could tell he wasn't always this way, and that made her feel sorry for him - just barely. But he scarcely knew her, and as she once declared, she was stronger than he thought.

"I, Hecate The Hedgehog, take you Amy Rose, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward… for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health… to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death—"

A droplet of blood fell from the heavens.

It lay upon her breast, trickling down her pink skin, the Items growing silent within her. Amy's eyes rose to the ceiling, its origin, the genesis of the horror that would overflow from her eyes and send a magnetic ripple through the measly congregation below. Blood trickled down open palms as a graceful silhouette had been nailed to a colossal ring – a ring which was suspended upon the cathedral's glass ceiling, perfectly aligned with the forthcoming eclipse. And this ring, this horrifically gorgeous ring, was draped in the finest flowers, like a garden unearthed; every bloom was so freshly cut, their stems still leaked heavenly droplets of nectar. Kumiko Kiya hung in all her glory, her luscious locks woven with the finest red asters, little flowers that resembled stars. Luminosity dazzled all over her body, for she was playing the role of a deity too pure for this world, dying for our sins. When the light of the eclipse would bathe them all in holy judgment, there would be three heavenly bodies at work – the red moon, the black sun, and her. "I needed a sacrifice, you see, and my darling 'niece' seemed like the perfect choice. Don't you think?" Hecate's words came, but they came from the distance – from another world, for Amy. Her senses no longer belonged to her mind, they belonged to the horror in her heart. Kiya was draped in sweat, her transparent gowns grasping at her tired muscles, every strand of azure hair drippling off her silhouette like a waterfall on a cliffside. Her ruby eyes were mere crescent moons, clinging to consciousness as her body bled and her soul wandered. Kiya had been crucified.

The entire world revolved upon its axis – Amy felt her hair stand on end, trapped in an intergalactic daze as her eyes clouded with stars and her throat closed in on itself, tighter and tighter. She was sure she had met Kiya's gaze, some sort of secret shared between their eyes – but all of her senses had melted into doubt, and her ears could hear nothing. She watched as Blitz rose from her seat with a ferocious roar, one that shook the earth to its very core. Time was liquid as Shadow rushed towards Hecate with an unsheathed dagger, and every moment trickled forward like falling honey, like nectar dripping from the mutilated flowers upon the reimagined crucifix. Amy wanted to move, but she couldn't. The breath in her lungs felt like feathers, like a mother's whisper during a lullaby.



His voice – oh, his halcyon voice! It came flooding down the aisle, echoing with the same fearsomeness as a marching battalion, waltzing off the stained windows and nearly shattering them. But something did shatter, deep within her; and for a moment of bliss, everything returned to its order. Everything was as it should be. There was peace, and calm, and hope.

Projectile blood splattered all over her breast. LL released a bestial groan, his guts practically flowing out of his mouth as scarlet stained his pastoral robes. He tumbled to the cold marble floor, the terrarium clattering along with his fragile body – the rings rolling down to settle at her toes. The glint caught her eye, and she couldn't tear her stare away. They were magnificent, cast of exotic alloys, twisted and weft until they were perfect circles in the shape of rose vines. She didn't like them. She didn't like them at all.

This was a nightmare, she had to wake up! But there was no escape, she knew it in her heart as the Items clattered against her sternum, as she held on to Sonic's tattered screams that still lingered sweetly on her ears. Where was he? Why couldn't she see him? The voice had come from the other side of the cathedral, so far, so out of sight. She heard nothing, as the statues which lined the room suddenly blazed to life. The Karrocks – their porcelain armor clouded with four thousands years of grime and shadows, their eyes aglow with vermillion murder. She heard nothing, as Blitz and Devon leapt into action, their weapons readied and muscles rippling. She heard nothing, as Kiya's palms bled upon the audience below, as Hecate lured Shadow deeper and deeper into the labyrinth's bowels.

She heard nothing, as the Karrocks chased her down the wedding aisle, as one clawed her down onto the ground, as it lifted its armored claws and prepared to embed itself deep within her eyes.

She heard nothing, only the sweet screams of her beloved Sonic.

"You failed to protect her, just like the other wretch you loved – even though you vowed so vehemently to do so! You promised with your life, Shadow." Hecate's snickers shriveled up against the ground, inching closer and closer as he bathed beneath the soft red lights of the nearby library. The candles, within their cages of Murano glass, cast an unsettling gleam of crimson over everything – as if the room itself was floating beneath a bloody veil, a battle unfolding within a garnet crystal. He was truly at home, amidst the vellichor and dusty bookcases – he watched in joy, as each particle danced beneath the hellish light of the red moon. His grin cracked, like moonlight between jagged clouds, the steel in his eyes seeking out his nemesis. "You disgust me."

"Monster." The growl that seeped from Shadow's maw was feral, rabid. It came from deep within his gullet, rumbling as savagely as a pack of infected wolves, and he crawled through the umbrae of the library, his blade ready to become soaked. There was madness within his hellfire orbs, it was unmistakable. He was falling into an abyss, and he intended to drag Hecate down with him.

"Hypocrite." Hecate noted with a raised finger, imploring him to wait a moment before passing such strong judgements. He flourished his arms, a true Ringmaster beneath his spotlight of his obsidian chandeliers – taking his ever-so-delicate time, he revealed an elegant rapier, his tongue carrying itself over the embellished hilt. And oh, what a hilt – the entire handle was intertwined with the body of a red dragon, every metallic scale glittering in the unholy moonlight. With a generous gesture, he indicated an identical weapon, framed upon the wallpaper behind his opponent. The rapier's twin – this one adorned with a dragon of blue. Distrust in his eyes, Shadow hesitantly sheathed his dagger, lifting the weapon from its perch. He was tensed for any traps – it felt like fool's gold.

"I have been waiting for this moment for quite some time, you see. I knew it would come." Hecate exposed, undoing the top buttons of his lapel and allowing his corsage to flutter to the ground, where he proceeded to crush it beneath his heel. "My sweet… soft niece… she is so beautiful, don't you think? You'd know all about her beauty, wouldn't you?"

He was provoking, prodding, bringing the hedgehog's rage to a boil as they circled each other in their coliseum of books. The vellichor reminded him of his mother's screams, of broken glass and burning roses. Hecate could see Kiya's face at the core of Shadow's mind, and he would do everything in his power to taint any tenderness left in their romance. "She was… positively… absolutely… perfect, for pulling each of her petals away from her stem until she was bare and desolate, a rose no more." A tingle against his cheek became malformed into a smirk, the implications behind his words strangling the air with the stench of blood.

"Animal!" Shadow shouted, and their war of two commenced.

Blade to blade, dragon to dragon, shadow to shadow. They shredded the fabric of the night, fireflies born every time their blades collided. A slice, a pull, a block, a parry. It was a duel of two beasts, both too absorbed in their own madness to care about losing limbs or spilling blood. There was a feral, starving wildness to every movement they shared – neither would be satisfied until the other was ripped to fleshy shreds. Hecate held the sword against his own face as Shadow hazardously slashed, practically taunting him to gouge out an eye.

"We are quite alike, I would say." Hecate surmised aloud, his voice decadent and nonchalant as Shadow grunted and groaned, sweat trickling down the tones of his muscles. "The same, even."

"There… are worlds… and galaxies between us. I will never be like you." Shadow's breaths were supple like cherrywood, his nostrils flaring as he licked the salty sweat from his lips. Unleashing an untamed roar, he thrust his sword forward effortlessly, intent to skewer Hecate's brains. The blade caught only wind, the other man tipping backwards upon his heels. It was a terrible sound, as if his own bones were breaking for the sake of dodging, but he only laughed – Hecate's blade slashed at leather bindings, and a thousand butterflies assaulted Shadow as innocent pages were ripped from their confines.

"We could've been friends." Hecate continued, crossing his arms behind his back and gracefully weaving past every stab Shadow desperately flung his way. He paused, allowing himself to become vulnerable to a fatal blow – the perfect move, for Shadow hesitated at the sheer ease of the potential kill. "Yes, we could've been friends…"

"…If you were not such a babbling fool." It was a glint of scarlet lightning, and Shadow's yell pierced through the canvas of the night sky, the rapier embedded deep within the curvature of his shoulder. A single movement, and his entire arm could be neatly sliced off his body, and served at the reception dinner. A delicious thought, as his blood trickled down the ligaments like cherries from a pie, as his handsome jaw clenched in clarified agony. Hecate loomed over him, before stepping back to descend into maddening applause. His voice was cold, without feeling – only the emotion of victory. "Heroism does not befit you."

Shadow staggered backwards, his head crowned with an empty gold photo frame as he slouched against the wall. Barrages of flames crept up his arm, the eyes he shared with Kiya now clouded with tears as he struggled against the excruciating pain. From this angle, he was nothing more than another one of Siegfried's paintings – a beautiful model, with no substance to him at all. He couldn't have that. Hecate, would've given up. Sonic, even, would've given up. But not him. He was different – he was different than all of them.

With a caterwaul that left his throat naked and raw, his triumphant shout bloomed in the same moment as a thousand gardens, the metallic taste of blood tasting as delicious as chocolate at the roof of his throat. The blade left his shoulder, cleanly sliding out of the flesh like a knife spread through butter, and he let his arm hang limply to the side, a meaty extension of his body. He smelt of seduction. The buttons of his shirt spread to expose his heaving chest, drenched in his own buttery sweat that trickled down the paradisal curves of his abdomen. His perfectly curved hips were like twin guillotines, ready to sever any hands that dared touch his skin. And so, Shadow held the two swords within his hands, and as the streams of red trickled down his muscular forearm, he summoned all the feeling that remained in his hands to the tips of his fingers, and tightened his grasp. The red dragon, reunited with the blue dragon, joined in union by his holy body just waiting to be worshipped. He would wield the two swords – the amber flames that made love in his eyes wouldn't have it any other way.

For Kiya.

"A strong soul creates a strong barrier." Hecate grinned, a single drop of translucent red rising from his fingertips and encasing his figure in an orb of impermeable crimson. His joy bounced off the self-imposed prison with mounting insanity, the room spinning and spinning, as their unbreakable stares warred far more brutally than their bodies ever could.

A streak of luminosity shot from Amy's chest – her emerald eyes flung open as she was encased in a golden aurora. The Item of Future hovered over her abdomen, freezing the Karrock in place as he reached for her throat. Carefully, the hand of a clock formed before her eyes – long, thin, copper, sharp. Her chapped lips parted, a single whisper dancing off her tongue, a prayer for peace, before—

It shot through the Karrock's midsection, obviating the statue to nothing more than dust. With an electrified gasp, the Item returned to her lungs, and she clutched her aching ribs with tired fingers. Amy curled up in a ball upon the marble floor, tears blurring her eyes as she watched Blitz and Devon battle their assailants. Every bone in her body ached, the gifts of Light were fighting their own battle within the paradise of her soul.

Blitz and Devon were like two swans, weaving in and out of the horde of Karrocks as finessed as acrobats upon strings. With every slash, every delicate movement, they exuded an unmistakable grace that ended only in fatal blows for the emotionless army. Each second ticked past, their bodies in synchronicity, their smiles meeting for a moment of bliss as their sweat lingered in the air. This was how it was always meant to be – both of them, fighting together for a common cause. They felt at home in the heat of battle, nothing better than the thrill of the kill.

Pausing in the center of the aisle, the entire cathedral melted away before Blitzaria's eyes. Concentrate, she commanded herself, a memory fresh in her mind like a raw wound. The Karrock, he had blocked Hecate's sword that day – he had protected her. They were Nightfall soldiers, they were her birthright. She had to have some inkling of control over them, deep within her soul. Her breaths came out steady and contained, her hands placed forth in a defensive stance as she played the role of beast tamer. In her mind's eye, there was night all around her, a brilliant canvas of cerulean that swallowed her skin in crisp breeze and a haven of starlight. A Karrock was heading towards her, his weapon outstretched, his statuesque lips bared in a scowl, but she knew that she could control him, she knew it! The trees closed in on her, the Nightfall garden singing to her with a melody that could only grow louder and more intense—

Her body clattered to the floor, the glass ceiling of the cathedral burning her eyes with white sunlight. The Karrock wrestled upon her, his weapon tensed for her throat, and for a moment, Blitz loosened her resolve. Defeat prickled her muscles, and her ruby eyes stared at Kiya's body, glorious upon the ceiling in all her beautiful martyrdom. They would have similar fates, wouldn't they? There was no avoiding it… Blitz severed the Karrock's arm with ease, impaling him with his own sculpted fist. He fell to the side, crumbling into nothing more than dust and debris. Give up, my ass.

"Then you are weak." Shadow barked, his timbre rich and without hesitation. He threw the blades to the side, no use for pieces of scrap metal. No, he would need his bare hands for this – he wanted to feel Hecate's flesh pulsing against his fingertips as the light drained from his eyes. Pouncing forward, a lynx on the prowl, Shadow crashed upon Hecate's barrier, his fingers effortlessly puncturing the jelly material as he parted the red walls with ease. He peeled a void into the orb, ripping and pulling as if undressing a lover in the throes of passion. He crawled into the barrier, the world still spinning – it was all liquid inside, and his black quills floated sinuously around his body as he contorted around Hecate. His fingers closed upon the crimson hedgehog's neck, and for a moment of reprieve, they stared into each other's eyes, the space between them sacred and untouched.

It was like a caress, but a caress to end all. With a tremendous heave, Shadow shoved Hecate with all his might, smashing him against the wall and shattering the barrier that held them in limbo. It cascaded down in an ocean of vermillion, and it was Hecate's turn to be crowned with the golden picture frame. Who was a vacuous painting now? Madness gripped Shadow's expression, his fingertips digging deeper and deeper in Hecate's throat as he choked the man against the wall, both hands wrapped around his neck like a boa constrictor. His hips ground between Hecate's thighs. Hecate's vulnerable body was pressed up against a small end-table, his jawline clenched in an agonized wince. There was nothing he could do, but gasp for his final inhalations.

She heard as every bone in his neck was shattered with a deafening sequence of cracks, his eyes held open in eternal shock.

But it was not Hecate.

Everything stood still as Blitzaria's eyes widened in disbelief, Devon falling lifelessly from a Karrock's chokehold. His expression was perpetually petrified, his irises only pinpricks in a sea of matte white. His lips remained closed – he didn't even have a chance to take his final breath, it was trapped within his lungs forevermore. The Karrocks raged around her, but she had no will left within her, her fingers falling into fists. There were no tears that could come up to her eyes to wash away the guilt of unsaid words, no despair great enough to convey the pain that swung up her insides like demons pouring out the pits of hell. They left her lips as a banshee's scream, her lungs now breathing for the both of them. "DEVON!"

The Karrocks froze in place, an uncontrollable flame consuming the center of her eyes. A terrible wind surrounded Blitz's body, her mind plunging deeper and deeper into the night. Nightfall. A true, true nightfall. A ripple spread through the chamber, the Karrocks shedding their shells of grimy shadows and suddenly restored to ivory glory. Their eyes, once a hellish cerise, now glowed with the brightest cyan of a million skies. They gathered around her in a moment of peace, their loyalty pledged to their new Nightfall Queen. With a battle cry that pierced the heavens, the battalion of Karrocks rushed into battle versus their dark counterparts – ivory against ebony, red against blue, chess pieces amidst a terrible game of madness.

"I heard all about your lousy wish you made to the Spring! Save her sight, but you can't even save her soul?!" Hecate squirmed against Shadow's fingers, wasting his last reserves of oxygen on futile words. Shadow could've snapped his throat at any moment, he could've crushed it and allowed it to collapse upon itself – but he took his ever-loving time with strangling the man, giving him a chance to feel the rage sparking off his fingertips, the pain oozing from his expression, the ache in his touch as his heart was splitting into two halves. His teeth were bared carnally, Shadow was more beautiful than he had ever been in his life, and Hecate was at his mercy. Hecate's eyes of steel dripped downwards, his vision clouding as he stared at his killer, the lights of the room flickering as a violent wind shook the flames from their wicks—

Hecate forced out a whisper, accompanied by a malicious laugh. "Haven't you ever heard… love is blind?"

A dirty slash, and Shadow's grasp dissolved. His body clunked to the ground, an oasis of crimson gathering beneath his concealed face. Ebony locks spread all around him, laid to rest like a funerary wreath. His lifeless body was chiseled by the shadows, still sturdy and immoveable, an iron idol. Hecate's shoes appeared in the puddle of scarlet tears, glistening maliciously – his sigh was an erotic release, as he cleaned the stains off his gloves. A letter opener, with a hilt of ivory roses, clattered to the ground. Pilfered from the table he had been held against, it was discarded as trash, nothing more than an instrument of demise. The ivory roses became painted red, red, red.

Just as roses should be.

"Who's the monster now?" Hecate's echoes followed him down the hallway, his throat searing with bruises, but altogether fine. "Weakling."

Only the ghosts of Phantom Castle could hear his malevolent laughter.

Silence gripped the indigo gloom. Twisted trees and ashen grass malformed together to create a sanctuary in the heart of a nightmare, the weeping willows clothing the enclosure in a curtain of darkness. Strong legs waded through the stagnant waters of the Spring of Nightmares, and as he knelt in the waters to pray, Sayo cradled LL's weak body, awaiting baptism. In his arms, the hedgehog had been carried, and he now rested peacefully – blonde quills surrounded him like a liquesced crown, and his celeste eyes were weak but full of hope. Sayo held his body like an offering to the gods, supporting the man's head and legs with the strong crooks of his elbows. And, as he lifted a hesitant thumb to brush a wet strand from LL's cheek, the blackness of his eyes softened with heartache.

"If only we had a moment of peace!" LL chortled weakly, laughter ripping through his fragile ribcage and sending ripples through the waters. Sayo supported his spine with his upper thighs, embracing him as they floated in eternal limbo. LL allowed his voice to descend into fragmented chuckles, before continuing with his humor – "I had not expected to bequeath such a flamboyant wedding gift to Lady Amy, but it's quite fitting to such an unmatched matrimony." His eyes glittered casually, making light of his bloody gurgitation upon Amy's dress. Sayo cracked a smile, but it was bittersweet, at best.

"We will never have peace, Leo." The rabbit mumbled distantly, raising his eyes to the waning dusk. He held onto the warmth of the advisor's skin, wishing for that warmth to never leave, but the Spring did not heed its keeper's calls. He wished for LL to keep clinging to life. He wished for LL to stay with him, even for just a little while longer—

But these wishes were selfish. The Spring would never grant a selfish request.

"Now, now," LL chastised, lifting his thumb numbly and tracing the divot of Sayo's chin, coaxing his attention once more. "Where's your hope, hmm?"

A sharp shard of lightning pierced Sayo's eyes, a disguised anger that was only fleetingly visible around his pupil. He tore his gaze away from LL again – his eyes would betray him, they would tell LL the bitter truth beneath all of the sweet nothings. No, he couldn't look at Leonardo in the eyes, he didn't want to tear away the fantasy of a happy ending. Not yet. The willows began to drip with dew. They sparkled and cascaded like pillars of dawn, rippling through the springwater in circular rings of light. The forest was crying. "What happened to you, Leo? Why is this happening?" No matter how much he deepened his voice, he couldn't disguise the way it cracked with sorrow.

Another laugh, this one brewed with melancholy. "Ah, ha ha… much like Kumiko Kiya, I too was born with an incurable flaw, though mine was far more fatal." He removed Sayo's fingers from cradling his hip, and laid his touch upon the center of his chest, delicately heaving. His heartbeats were growing stiller and stiller with every passing second. "There was a hole in my heart… a hole that could not be sewed shut… and I would've died within hours of being born, had the Item of Future not lodged itself in my chest for the last two decades. The Item of Future, you say? I have no idea where it gets its namesake from… but it truly did gift me with a future that I would've never been able to live."

Fingers tightened upon LL's chest, Sayo's face contorted with misery. He wanted to reach in and tear out LL's heart himself, to repair it and reinsert it, to make amends for all the moments they had yet to share together. He snarled out with disdain, "You knew this would happen when you gave her your Item."

"Yes," LL chuckled, furrowing his brows in humorous confusion. "And I had to hold on to this pitiable life all night long, just to make it to the ceremony already half-ghost! A man like me deserves applause."

Against his own nature, Sayo raised his hands, and released a series of claps – LL's laughter growing more and more raucous with each ricochet. They laughed together, even though their worlds were falling apart, a sweet moment amongst all of the darkness. His breath spent on joy, LL gasped painfully. His inhalations did nothing to fill his empty lungs. "LL…" Sayo growled, his body shivering as the cold waters of the Spring told him it was almost time to go. He could hear their melody, calling LL to the Spirit World, but he had to hold on, just a little while longer.

"Don't call me LL!" The hedgehog reprimanded, attempting to rise from Sayo's arms before sinking back into the corrupted waters with an agonized wince. He tilted his head backwards in relaxation, his forehead cooled by the wetness against his scalp. "I like it when you call me Leo. Say it again. Hurry up, do it."


A peaceful smile placed itself upon his dehydrated lips, and for a moment, Leonardo almost appeared restored to his glamorous glory. Sayo soaked in all of his details – the sharpness of his jaw, the kindness of his eyes, the smoothness of his neck. Had the hands of time been less cruel, he could've been an actor – with his face like an angel, LL truly was a handsome devil. There was only cheerfulness in his eyes, and then wistfulness, as he watched Sayo's face for the last time. His expression melted to something much more inquisitive, and as Sayo attempted to hastily glance away, he pulled his face closer with a dying hand. "If you cannot tell me how you truly feel… at least tell me the truth."

Sayo cracked, choking on his emotions as he stared upon LL's pristine face, as he fought the salty urge in his throat that begged him to cry. He exhaled, and together, they watched the endless blue night arching far above the heavens. The stars almost swallowed them up, consuming the tainted words that left Sayo's lips. "History repeats itself. Four thousand years ago, there was a betrayal. Hecate." His whispers snared amongst the branches, and the Spring hushed his lightless prophecy. A red star, and a belt of four others, glittered, far, far above. Death's Belt watched them. "And now, at the end of it all, there will be another. But this time, the betrayal will be by…"

Flames consumed the curtains of the cathedral, the ashy fabric falling in loose shreds of incendiary debris. It was a war on the face of the moon, the halls of Phantom Castle transformed into an otherworldly stasis. Nothing survived here, only the heat of battle. The Karrocks battled relentlessly, every blow matched with an identical slice or jab – Hecate's forces against Blitz's, an undulation of soldiers where neither could rise nor fall. The Nightfall Queen herself fought valiantly, wildness holding tightly onto her soul as she descended further and further into her personal twilight. Her waves of blonde had been released into the air, and she leapt from victim to victim, effortlessly executing the possessed statues. A dagger into an eye, a slash against a throat, a kick to the crotch. With every kill, she grew closer and closer to avenging her fallen partner – an unattainable task, she knew in her heart.

The candles of the church had been scattered on the floor, and the sparks were quick to swallow the decorations, rendering them to a blackened crisp. The flowers shriveled, the birdcages charred, the wedding rings melted into an igneous mess – it was as if a fantastic forest had been set aflame, mercilessly devoured by the bestial fire until nothing remained but retribution. And she thrived off of it, her lungs never felt more alive than when they were inundated by smoke – soot marred her complexion until she was no longer identifiable, a hunter on the prowl and nothing more. The revenants of the Karrocks kept ascending from their graves, resurrecting with more and more ease as the darkness in her heart burgeoned. She could not stop – the battle would be endless, if she had a choice.

The ghosts all around her taunted her, swooning for her to fight harder – the spirits of those she had left behind in her world, four thousand years ago, and now, her beloveds in this world who were slowly being plucked one by one, like petals from a daisy. Blitz dragged her fingernails across her cheeks in misery, but her voice twisted into a terrible laughter, a terrible laughter befitting of the Mad Bat himself. Her squadron was gradually falling, her energy not enough to rebirth them from the ashes like their dark counterparts – one by one, her army was being picked off, like meat being cleaned off a bone. She watched as their porcelain faces were bashed, as their ceramic hands were twisted and thrusted through their centers. It was like witnessing some sort of cannibalism, Karrocks brutalizing other Karrocks.

And the carnage continued until there was barely any hope left, only her and a single Karrock in the center of the inferno. It was the Karrock she had met once before, who had protected her from Hecate's slash. His eyes glowed an unborn gold, and in some life, he might've been a hedgehog. His armor was not of porcelain, as his fellow statues, but it was silver. The finest silver she had ever seen, and in her heart, she would call him by that name. He warred for her, blocking the incoming horde with his excellent swordmanship and finessed poise. Far more animate that his fallen comrades, Blitz almost felt an attachment to him… it was as if there were unspoken emotions in the air. How I have fallen, she joked with herself, a chuckle escaping, even in these gravest times, I am romancing a statue.

She would fight, for seconds that felt like hours and minutes that felt like seconds. With every slash, with every triumph, with every subsequent defeat, she would grow closer and closer to her animalistic roots, until she had fallen upon her four limbs and crawled across the flaming floor. A creature, a creature of the night and the flames, with her teeth unsheathed and her lungs bursting as she released a fearsome roar—


A beacon, Amy lay at the foot of the aisle, her eyes shut and her body curled into a compact ball. A fetus in a womb, unbeknownst to the chaos unfolding around her, intentionally blinding herself in fear of the bleak, inevitable truth. But just the sight of her, just a tiny sliver of life to remind Blitz that there was still a point to humanity, was enough to jolt her from the beastly reverie. She knew what she had to do, a hero's will trumps all, and she would be triumphant if it was the last thing she ever did. Hoarse, but altogether herself, Blitz summoned her courage. "Amy."

The rose lifted her head, her face washed in relief at the sight of one of her friends, still alive. Amy lifted herself from her stupor, and began to run towards the flames, before she noticed—Floating between them, a majestic trinket. It took its time, almost like a sentient fae, a glorious sphere that was perfectly rounded. No single planet in the universe could be so precise, so beautiful; it overflowed with leaves and fauna and all of the wonders of their current timeline. It glowed with seven pinpoints upon a translucent atlas; just for a moment, revealing the hidden locations of the Chaos Emeralds, scattered across the world. And it was hers for the taking. "No," she squeaked out, knowing what it meant, knowing the price they had paid to get to this point.

"You have to take it." Blitz coaxed, her voice too proud to plead – the Item of Present continued its procession forth, patient and curious. Every inch further from Blitz, the light in her Karrock's eyes began to fade. His golden irises flickered, his movements growing lethargic, but he kept battling. Something within him was still alive, and even with Blitz's hold upon his soul dissolving, he now fought on his own volition. A soldier of Nightfall, as he was always meant to be. The dark Karrocks were releasing feral growls, hungry for her flesh to warm their frigid suits of armor. They circled her, tensed for the final supercut… A grin cracked across Blitz's muzzle, a much-needed moment of comic relief in the abyss of death. In the embrace of the fires, her fur glowed an ambrosial gold, holy and ascendant, like a goddess with followers who worshipped the very ground she stepped across. Her words were full of warmth, yet cool – lemonade on a summer's day. "A present of the present for the present."

"No…" Amy shook her head weakly, a violent pain gripping her eyes as she forced herself not to cry, her arms wrapping around her body as she cradled the fear in her heart. The other Items crashed against her insides, begging her to take this fourth gift, but she couldn't do it, she shouldn't do it! Blitz's eyes grew desperate, the Karrocks leapt – they all converged upon her in an electrifying moment of fate, her sapphire eyes held wide open in tensed suspense—

Clenching her eyes shut, Amy's fingers reached out, and the fingernail of her index finger just barely grazed the fierce Item of Present, a pinprick against a spindle. Almost immediately, Blitz lifted Phoenix, far above her head, far enough to reach heaven, and she brought her beloved weapon down with a howl. The knife plunged into the stone floor, a crack forming around her in a circle of flames. An earthquake shook the room, she was a Ringmaster and her circus was applauding her unmistakable heroism – The ground collapsed, taking Blitz and all the Karrocks with her.

Amy was thrown back from the sheer impact, the Item of Present entering her violently. Her body convulsed as it accommodated the fourth item, her ribs not wide enough to contain all this magic, her existence hardly comprehending what just transpired. She leapt into a crouch, crawling across the ravaged floor with desperate hands that now gripped the jagged lip of the crater! Down, down, down, she watched – piles and piles of rubble filled the crevasse, debris dancing with a thousand flames that still burned. She heaved with horror as she stared down into the endless abyss, only understanding the gravitas once her brain forced out a name written in gold… "Blitz!"

Her yell trapezed futilely through the darkness, no cure to be had for self-sacrificing heroes. She clung to the edge of the floor until the shattered stone made her palms bleed, and holding her bleeding hands in her lap, Amy wept. She wept for the friends she had lost, she wept for this nightmare she was living, she wept for the end which she now knew would be inevitable. And when her tears had run into empty numbness, she unhinged her jaw, opened her lips, and released a dry scream into the cathedral. It pierced the heavens, so raw that it ripped the consciousness from her mind.

Pale eyelashes opened to halcyon light that bathed her in paradise and guilt. They were like two sides of a scale, were they not? Constantly balancing, constantly fighting for dominance. Paradise and guilt. A familiar dreamland stretched before her, with skies pigmented in daytime azure and trees with jeweled emerald leaves just as lucid and chaste as Sonic's stare. Their bark was an unfettered ivory, and the grass crinkled beneath her feet in unmistakable health. The Alfieri Gardens stretched all around her, with their elegantly pruned mazes wrapped in ribbons of red, with their fountains of porcelain shaped into Mobius' idols. The roses were on display, in every color imaginable, but their thorns had been stripped from their stems – and it was in this moment, she was reminded exactly why she didn't belong here.

She never would, never could, and never wanted to.

The silver harp glimmered in her periphery, greeting her with calm reticence, and she traced its curve with disdain. "Save me," Amy begged, her voice unable to contain its waver. She turned desperately, her fingers knitted in prayer as she implored, deeply implored, her past self to pluck her from this hellish nightmare and restore the world to its natural order. The older Amy perched in all her composed tranquility, like a maestro's unfinished ballad, the idyllic protagonist of an eternally beloved fairytale. Her story had been completed, she had no worries for these worldly horrors. She said nothing, but her eyes were not aglow with pity – she only waited to be inevitably berated.

"Why didn't you teach me magic? You could've given me the chance to defend myself, to fight against all of this, to save my friends! 'Death isn't the only answer' you preached, but now they're dead! Now they're gone, and you have nothing to say! It's as good as your fault!" Amy paced around the grass, finding no humor in the steaming cups of tea or the in-progress game of chess. She grimaced, fighting the urge to smash the tea set and allow the painted roses to shatter to the ground.

"I vowed to only teach you the whitest magic, for there is darkness in your heart." Her predecessor spoke levelly, no perturbation to her tone, only peace. Her emerald eyes were so lucid, so full of light and revelation – why couldn't Amy have that same level of clarity! Amy cursed her own gaze, drowned in murkiness and all different levels of green – youth, envy, animosity. She snarled at the harp, before being gripped by a guilt that forced her to her knees. Possessed by a wave of vulnerability, she stared up at her ancient self, her eyes wide with pained uncertainty.

"Teach me how to use the song, tell me why it's important!" Her pleas fell upon relaxed ears, the woman taking her time to even consider offering an explanation.

"It can soothe the soul, and calm even the fiercest of tempers." The mature Amy elucidated, her voice robust and blooming with erudition. She did not hark the girl's flabbergasted expression, as she tumbled further and further into disbelief. "This song that we have learned together… and oh, how I have loved teaching it to you… it is important to Hecate, especially. It came into my knowledge, some time ago, that his mother would sing it to him in the darkest of times."

Amy let her jaw clatter to the ground. Her eyes brimmed like the intricately adorned saucers of the extravagant tea party spread. She could hardly utter a response to the words that burned her ears, burning deeper and deeper into her mind, like sugar and spice and everything nice. "A lullaby?"

Sweet, sweet nothings!

Amy of the past closed her eyelids in reserved contemplation, a smile at the tip of her lips as she reminisced on the heavenly day of her own wedding. "I believe good things happen to those who believe in light and love, my dear. But you cannot succumb to the darkness, you must have faith in the prophecy, and trust within your heart—"

Amy leapt to her feet, an indisputable rage trotting up her insides like steam released from a kettle. There was no consolation to the despair across her face, the consequence of all these moments wasted, all these lives spent. She interrupted with a shriek, for she could no longer contain her disbelief. "A lullaby!"

There was no immediate response, only more contemplative silence. Soak in the birdsong, enjoy the paradise. Don't feel guilty that you are here, and they are still there, in that hellhole. That was what her counterpart's eyes sang to her, poetic torture in her ancestor's green orbs. Every moment that passed, she realized more and more that between their two legends, one Amy had succeeded, and one Amy had failed. And her ancestor thought her to be the latter. She evangelized 'hope', but there was none left, was there? The women lifted a white chess piece from the board, holding it warmly in the palm of her lace glove. Amy squinted, her heartbeat growing rapid, the Items inside her causing her head to spin. Upon closer examination, the chess pieces were each minutely shaped Karrocks, and they were spread across the board in their respective positions. A sick, cruel game, toying with the strings of fate. Her disbelief turned to disgust, and their emerald gazes fought to the death, as her older self calmly stated, "History repeats itself."

"But it doesn't have to. Not if it's rewritten." Amy breathed with a sudden realization, an overwhelming clarity washing over her as she survived the bullets of her ancestor's judgement. She felt more herself than she ever had before, stomping over to the harp with footfalls confident and sure. She was so sure of herself. The silver instrument danced along her fingertips, every string glittering like a fold in the universe, and she lifted it into the heavenly air, before smashing it against the trees, over and over again, until it was nothing more than empty smithereens. Catharsis exalted through her veins as she shouted, as she cried for the truth, "I'm not you! I will never be you! I'm—"


Strong as soldiers breaking through barricades, Sonic's voice snatched her from the reverie, from a place where she promised to never set foot in again. His desperate cadence, caught somewhere between a declaration and a wail, had wrapped its arms around her waist and returned her to the realm of the living. Or the realm of the dead, depending on how you'd look at it. No more waiting, no more distractions, no more hell. It was time to reunite with her lover, with the only one she ever wanted and ever would want, there was nothing that could stand in her way. She would do everything in her power to see him again, and with the Items in her chest pulling her to rise from the ground, she tore through the cathedral with all her might. As she ran, the flowers became a blur. As she ran, the birds rattled their cages, and finally broke out. The doves and crows ascended, just waiting to be set free, but also searching for prey beyond their confines. They convened in an aviary war of their own, battling midair. A crow knocked a dove to the ground, plunging gnarled talons into a feathered chest and retrieving a bloody heart. But, to much surprise, a dove did the same – and the cycle repeated, over and over, the lines between light and dark now blurred together in a cacophony of loveless violence. As she ran, the red moon and the black sun inched closer and closer to their convergence, Kiya's lips smiling in wise despair. As she ran, snow fluttered through cracks in the ceiling, but her skin seared with heat. As she ran, nothing else mattered, only Sonic.

Her beloved Sonic, who she would be with at last.

She scampered down the stairs, and threw herself into his embrace, the entire universe melting away except for the collision of their lips. Hungrily, yet purely, they made love to the tongues of each other, the galaxies spiraling overhead and the milky way pouring starlight over their tired bodies. They found a sanctuary deep within the other, their souls united for a single moment of bliss, two matches lit upon a single wick. Amy tangled her fingers deep within the knots of his cobalt quills, and he cradled her cheeks with the softest touch that had ever graced her skin. Their existence danced together, the flavor of their shared saliva not sweet enough a memory to hold onto, for they kept returning for more and more tastes of honey. When their lips grew tired, they kissed other paradises of skin – the tip of her nose, the crease of his neck, the edges of their ears. There was not enough time, or love, in the world for them to possibly get enough of each other. They were starved of romance, connected deep within, as if their fates were intertwined only for this moment. Time spun around them, spinning, spinning, spinning, in the womb of space. Amy and Sonic. Sonic and Amy. They pressed their foreheads together, and breathing only each other's oxygen, they screamed out all the horror in their lungs. They screamed until their bodies felt strong enough to continue onward, until they inhaled enough courage to exhale their fears.

Amy held him close, scared to unravel her fingertips from his skin, never wanting to be ripped away from his embrace again. He dragged himself forward, his legs following limply behind, and her insides contorted with grotesque remorse. His feet had been damaged, crippled, beyond repair. He could never run again. "Look what I've done to you." She wept into his chest, staring into his eyes with tears that could do nothing but apologize. She ran her arms hastily over his shoulders, begging him to come back to his former glory. Her Sonic had to run! He would live a life of suffering without his indulgence of speed, how could he survive? "It's all my fault."

"You always chased me… but I would run to the ends of the Earth and further for you, Amy Rose. Don't regret being the kindest, most caring, most beautiful woman I know. Never apologize for being so perfect, I couldn't resist coming to save you." Sonic lifted her chin with a strong thumb, pulling her lower lip downwards so that he could gently fit his own lip in its place. He softly kissed her, and she drank all of the love he poured into her body. Never in her life had she imagined her heart would be so full, yet so empty.

"Sonic…" she quivered – as much as she touched his body, tracing his scars and finding beauty in the curves of his muscles, she couldn't swallow the guilt that consumed her like a ravaging demon. Her soul ached for him, and he kissed her jaw and her cheek and the crook of her neck, showing her that his soul ached for her, too.

""I, Sonic The Hedgehog, vow to you, Amy Rose. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…" His proclamations came between his hungry kisses, every breath sweeter than the previous, worshipping her body as she worshipped his. But before he could agree to love and to cherish, she coaxed him away from the decadence. Shutting her eyes with internal pain, she kissed both of his eyelids with tender passion.

"It's not enough, Sonic." Her insides shook, leaves in the autumn shedding their beauty until her insides were as barren as a winter's dawn. Her delightful face was marred with misfortune, each of her features lined with misery and agonized peace. Amy's fingers tightened against his quills, begging herself not to pull him closer into another liplock, doing everything in her power to fight against the magnet's pull. "For years – years! – I chased you. I would watch you, so beautiful as you ran, as you disappeared into the distance. So many years we could've been together, we could've been in love. But you always ran away, and you never wanted me. I wanted you, Sonic. I wanted you so badly."

Her confessions shot through his heart, round after round of loaded bullets leaving his arteries sore. He shook his head in defense, crushing his lips against hers, crying through his teeth as he testified, "I wanted to protect you! You don't think I wanted you? I wanted to keep you safe."

Amy tried to tear away, but her soul wouldn't let her. She danced within her bones, cherishing every enunciation that fled off of his vivid voice, and she pulled him closer and closer as she balanced his cheeks in her hands, unable to let go. She lifted her eyes to his, her gaze finally as lucid as her ancestor's, and their green utopias were merged in holy matrimony. In some universe, in some timeline, somewhere, they would live happily ever after. She knew it, in her heart. Cadence level, and without doubt, she clarified. "I can take care of myself, Sonic."

He wanted to tell her that he knew, that she had grown up, that it was all worth it afterall. But he couldn't find the words to express the joy in his heart, the gratitude for all she had done for him in his life. Amy was his life, he was beginning to realize – he would die for her at any given moment. "Tell me you love me," he begged, weeping with wanting.

Their foreheads kept together, she placed the sweetest kiss upon his lips. "I've always loved you, Sonic."

He placed the sweetest kiss upon hers, and proclaimed with all the strength in his heart. "I've always loved you, Amy."

Amy nodded, stepping back to watch all of the handsomeness in his face. He was truly the holy grail, wasn't he? With his narrow jaw and pointed chin, the full apples of his cheeks that spread with joy and bliss and just the slightest blush. The shapely tip of his nose, and the twinkle in his eyes that glittered only at the sight of her. His ears tingled at the sound of her happiness, his voice was already blossoming with a new joke to make her smile. He was perfect, her hero, her Sonic. Distance veiled her eyes, and her lips puckered as words fell from them in compelling whispers:

"But you weren't supposed to."

Redness burgeoned at his abdomen. She twisted the sword deep within him, until it emerged from the other side, beyond his spinal cords. Sonic released a fruitless sob, one which remained trapped in his throat and silenced any further expressions of pain. She wanted him to understand, she hoped he could understand, but he could not. He was petrified with shock, hardly a tremble racking through his skin. Then, she let him slide from the blade, his body deceived as he curled on his side, eyes open. She tossed the weapon to the side, and it returned to her chest in its original form as the Item of Present – a guiltless gift of Light, used for the greatest betrayal of their modern history.

History repeats itself. But it doesn't have to. Not if it's rewritten.

Dreams were scattered all around her, pages from mythology covering the world like discarded leaves. Seasons, and their cycles, repeating over and over again in the revolver of nature. She swam through the depths of a cognizance, peeling away intrusive thoughts with every breaststroke. She was like a nymph of the ocean, fluidly moving through space, emerging from the waters as her fingers grasped the white grass of the Spirit World. Ashore, her cerulean locks glimmered with luxurious moisture, and she squeezed the droplets of mind-juice from her hair with a nonchalant smile. Kumiko Kiya greeted the afterlife like an old friend – it was like another home, by now.

It was even more marvelous than she remembered; today, everything seemed chipped from stone. The trees, with their slender, twisted trunks of opal, swayed in greeting. Tourmaline leaves danced in a sugary breeze, veined with maroon that vaguely reminded her of the blood still trickling from her palms. The sky was an endless escapade of iridescence, and the sun was a single pearl in an ocean of seafoam. Its round curvatures glowed with a mesmerizing array of magenta and ultramarine, shockingly vivid compared to its candied ivory core. Kiya gamboled over the fields of white, catching sight of Tikal in the center of the breeze, as if every strand of wind was seduced by her very presence. Her garments of tribal white fabric swirled through the zephyrs, heaven herself shied away from the echidna's beauty. Violets and blooms of fuchsia crinkled underfoot, and a dreamscape version of Perfect Chaos manifested as two pearlescent dragons, roaming these planes of existence with peaceful intent.

Kiya raised her hand to wave to her spiritual companion – then, as if eclipsed herself, an obscured figure emerged from behind Tikal. He was the essence of shadows, romancing the umbrae as if it were a game. It seemed like all the darkness in the world was attracted to his aura, like moths to a flame, with their wings burning and their bodies at his mercy. He grew closer, and closer, and her heart rose up in her throat – with bliss! They ran across the alabaster moors, beneath the sky's generous gaze, until their arms could entwine in a necessary embrace. Shadow held Kiya's chest to his, their hearts beating in absolute synchronicity, all the planets in the universe ceasing for this moment of joyful reunion. He pressed his forehead to hers, his voice shattering into a million porcelain pieces. The chalcedony sky frowned, no mercy for his pitiable soul. There was nothing he could do but petition for her forgiveness, the crystals of tears clinging to his lower lashes. "I couldn't protect you." He lamented, the sins of his life eating away at his soul. "I failed."

"Shhh," Kiya demanded his silence, setting a delicate kiss upon his delightful forehead. With her lips, she undid the knots in his brow, forcing his frown into a reserved smile. She kept her eyes shut, her calmness of mind surrounding them both in a cocoon of serenity. "You are my protector, and I am yours."

And, in peace, they remained for several moments – their romance was collectively adored by all the spirits who passed them by, the dragons surrounding them with a blessing from the heavens and beyond. Despite the carnage their bodies had been through, their souls were unharmed, and free to roam the galaxies in harmony. But Kiya hadn't realized this. And, as her hands began to grip his with a hasty realization, her body trembled and her ruby eyes glowered with shock. Her lower lip shook, the ground beneath her feet no longer stable.

"Why are you here?" Her inquiry was simple, her voice still too lighthearted for the gravity that was settling into her bones. She didn't want to concern him, but as her vision rapidly grew spotty, panic held her hostage. "Tikal, why is he here?!" Kiya whipped around, searching for the comforting reassurance of a familiar friend, but indistinguishable blackness surrounded her every move. She panted, every breath coming out short and choppy. There was no reasonable explanation for this, why was Shadow here in the Spirit World! Their eyes met each other for a single instant of paradise, the ruby gaze they shared between each other – before that stare was the only light in an endless sea of darkness. He melted away, melted away in her very hands, and she tried to hold onto the sight of the realm around her, but it was futile. Everything collapsed in a cascade of alexandrite, and she was drowning all over again, falling deeper and deeper into the ocean of black.

Emerging from her journey through realms, Sophia removed her hood at long last, revealing her jagged cropped locks and aged features. Exhaustion was visible beneath her eyes, but she seemed so serene, so faithful to the constant will of ever-changing fate. There was a golden maturity to the way she carried herself, arms wide open to embrace destiny. Her selfishness had been the cause of all of this, and now, there was only one path to retribution. A path of selfless repentance, a ritual with only one element left to complete. She waded into the soul of the Spring of Dreams, her cloak spreading all around her – in another, parallel universe, Sayo stood in the heart of the Spring of Nightmares. LL's body had floated off into the Spirit World, weighed down into the deepest depths of the unholy waters and then lovingly pulled to the other side. There was nothing left to do, but embrace his own ending.

And so, they stood, the keeper of the Spring of Dreams, and the keeper of the Spring of Nightmares, in their own respective domains, on the brink of their intersecting identities. Written in the stars, their destinies were crossed, two sides to a single coin. Like north and south, separated by an invisible equator and a thousand dimensions of the universe, they lay at opposite ends of the planet. Sophia, in the breathtaking daylight of a thousand dreams, and Sayo, in the suffocating moonlight of a thousand nightmares. The Springs dripped, two sisters calling to each other through the intertwined threads of the cosmos, ends and beginnings all communicating at once. Sayo withdrew his sister's dagger, an amethyst blade of perfect darkness, and he slowly began to slide it against his unflinching throat. Sophia brandished her father's knife, and with both of her hands steady on the hilt, she pointed it towards her fearless heart. Their worlds would collide, pages of a book with the same binding, flipping past faster and faster until they lay written in ink within the same chapter—

"Why are you doing this?"

Hecate's enthralled whisper came from behind her, and Amy tore her eyes away from the writhing body of Sonic as he bled out on the intricate designs of the mosaic tiles. There was a numb distance to her movements, feathers replacing her blood as she struggled to stay afoot. She stared at Hecate with dazed eyes, and he would've lied if he told her that he wasn't utterly terrified in this moment. The corners of her eyelids squinted in deep thought, lips still wet from Sonic's kisses.

"Thousands of years ago, the lands were all at war. Their leaders were all power crazed and wanted The Light." Amy intoned the prophecy lifelessly, stumbling towards her nemesis as if drunken by the adrenaline of her kill. "Ever since I read the legend of Light and Love, I knew history would repeat again. I knew you would return, and terrible, dark things would happen. And we would all gather together, and we would defeat you again, but because of the prophecy, it would all be fated to happen again and again. Millennium after millennium, generation after generation."

Her fingers clenched into the palms of her hands, as she bawled out her justification, loud enough so it could pierce Sonic's ears as he could do nothing but listen to her reasoning for his downfall. "How many times does this need to happen? How many people have to die before enough is enough? The cycle will never end, not like this! The only way to end the cycle, is to end Light and Love."

At the beginning of this day, her flesh leaked untainted innocence. Untainted innocence, no more. There was an unrecognizable composure to Amy's glare, evergreen shadows waltzing around her pupils. She lifted her chin like the conductor of a symphony, her jaw perfectly set. Bitterness perfumed her skin, arms stiff yet statuesque. "That is the reason I remained here, trapped, all this time. That is why I convinced you to invite all of the others, to find all of the Items of Light, to summon them to a single place in a single point of time… so I could destroy them, once and for all. There's no other way. I was born as another 'Alice' from the legends – an Alice by any other name, is still an Alice. I was fated, to be reborn over and over again, as the scholar, as the healer. This world is wounded. I had to do it. I had to."

Her expression twisted, and she was all alone in her chains of circumstance, a helpless child convinced she was doing the right thing. "But it was never meant to happen like this. None of this… none of this was meant to happen!"

The Items pounded against her chest, he could see it, and Amy retched with agony as they clawed at her breastbone, simultaneously demanding freedom and mercy. Hecate splintered into mocking applause, his eyes of steel glowing with an all-time new level of darkness. He shook his head in disbelief, so surprised that he had been played as a fool – but he was not alone. The eyes of her fallen comrades stared up at Amy, he could see the way their ghosts were torturing her soul, peeling back her skin and leaving her naked. She had deceived them all. "So… you would betray each of your loyal confidantes, romancing their trust over a series of battles and helpless pleas, until you harvested their trust just enough to innocuously pluck their Items from their chests, only to destroy all the power you have toiled so thanklessly for? And, to top it off, you would impale your devoted lover, after he was brutally mutilated for the sake of not 'rescuing' you, and then you kill him for the sole reason of knowing that he would stand in the way of your grand scheme? All of this, for your own selfish intent! 'No matter how dark a person's soul is, there's good that's waiting to be free' – were you speaking to your own conscience when you told me that? You called me a disease, Amy Rose, but you are the one who is infectious, rotting away at everything you touch."

"I wanted to be a hero!" Amy shouted, attacked by the way he made it sound as if she had intentionally wrapped the entire world around her middle finger. But she had, hadn't she? She had used every single person who trusted her, until not even she could recognize her own reflection in their pools of blood. She had led them to their deaths. Who had she become? But even more, who was he to judge? Hecate was the epitome of evil, without him, she would've never been driven to this, he had no room to ridicule her—But as she whirled around, spinning like a debutante in her first waltz, she realized his expression was alive with pride. There was admiration in his eyes, more wondrous than the moon, and his smile genuinely revered her accomplishments. She paused, her logic out of breath and requiring a moment to catch up. This is who she had become.

And it was with no hesitation that she strode over to him, and sealed their destinies. The space between them closed, and her lips slotted into his during a moment of unadulterated understanding. They hungrily bit at each other, dessert. Her fingers lifted gracefully, life draining back into her limbs as she felt rejuvenated by his unholy breaths, and she traced the rotting flesh upon his cheek. It was a scar he had earned for her – another wound that was altogether her fault, but he wore it well. She intricately traced every encrusted flake of blood, every roughness of the skin, like a maggot thirsty for food. His kiss was bloodletting, his tongue was an exorcism. A dozen moths emerged from the floor planks, and they surrounded these ill-matched lovers, devouring the threads of their clothing as they devoured each other's breaths. Their terrible, dusty wings cast a kaleidoscope of shadows over their skin, flashing between light, and darkness, and light, and darkness.

Amy plunged her fingers against his chest, and through a malformed thicket of darkness, she withdrew the pale blue pearl that he had stolen scarcely a fortnight ago. The Item of Past shied away from her touch, but the attraction to her energy was unmistakable, and she enticed it deeply into her aortas. Her entire existence could've erupted into smithereens in that very moment, all five Items of Light now soaring within her in a discordant symphony of inevitability. They shattered forth from her body, cleaving through her chest, spiraling around their silhouettes as the seconds before the eclipse faded away. There was no love, or romance, or passion between them – only a neediness that was nigh-religious. "You taste like Siegfried," He murmured, in a break of breath, but she thought nothing of it. Their minds were on others – to him, she was his twin lover, a ghost created by his own hands, swallowing her sweetness with all the innocence of days past. And for her, she never broke her stare away from sweet, sweet Sonic, watching as all light and love drained from his eyes, forevermore.

In the womb of stasis, the living sacrifice watched this horror unfold, experiencing the coming end through the lenses of a muddled looking glass. Kiya parted the waters of her own doom, her fingers reaching through the ripples to hold onto the fabric of time which kept her tied between life and death. Darkness crept up the wet edges of her dress – soon, it would reach her neck, and then swallow her whole. There was nothing she could do to unwind the hands of the clock, to reverse the carnage and bloodshed that they had each sequentially experienced. She had no wisdom of the afterlife, still blinded by the ignorance of existence, and without Shadow's eyes, her sight would soon dissolve completely. There was no foreshadowing she could blame, no prophecies left unheeded. History repeated as it should, rewritten to an earlier point before light and love governed these journals of fate.

"Once, a long, long time ago… I told your mother it was not her time to die yet, and she returned to the land of the living."

Tikal's song flourished through her thoughts, rising and falling like waves upon an onyx shore. Kumiko Kiya turned, her biblical hair streaming over her shoulders, a final glance at her spiritual guide before her existence was plunged into perpetual darkness. Tikal smiled from her haven of light, but it was not with happiness, but melancholy. "This time, it's not that easy, my love."

One of her eyes overflowed with understanding, and one of her eyes overflowed with acceptance, as a single droplet of fate converged at her chin.

A droplet fell into the world below. A droplet fell as the blood moon intersected the black sun, all of the heavenly bodies aligning in this single moment of sempiternal convergence. A droplet of fell from the eclipse, holy light falling like illuminated nectar. A droplet fell as the blade left Sayo's neck, as Sophia plunged the knife into her breastbone, as they dramatically sacrificed themselves like holy creatures reborn. A droplet fell as Kiya raised her face to the heavens, and a droplet fell from her eyes as a final offering to the deathless Gods.

Two pillars of everlasting luminosity shot up from the earth, consuming the Springs as dreams and nightmares were demolished by the halcyon light of reality. And within the wrinkles of the universe, embracing itself tenfold until every parallel universe could heed the will of this single moment, The Light wove itself into the wedding dress of time, creating an intricate lace of cosmos and a veil of unending cycles. Vows against the weathers of time now resounded in the church of space, as the ebony sun glowed with a thousand particles of the blood red moon. They held hands, the sun and moon eloquently tying a spatial knot between the past and the future. Dust into dust, flames into flames, heaven into hell. Rings of radiance layered upon one another, a ceremonious union forevermore written in the stars. And as meteors slipped from the igneous liplock of the planets, orbiting around each other in constant revolution, Kiya bathed in the arch of the heavens, crucified as a heavenly body herself. Magnified through the lenses of a sinful wonderland, The Light travelled through every plane of existence, concentrating upon the last gift to man, the catalyst, her soul. She would die for our sins – not Amy's, not Hecate's, but ours. All the flowers bared their petals, and her lips curved into a smile worthy of a deity, as The Light shot through her very existence and blazed upon the world below in a column of cosmic radiance.

Baptizing Amy, it was a holy revelation, all the sins purified from her body and leaving her in a state of devout catharsis. Vivacity poured over her head like platinum milk, crowing her with a million galaxies. The Items had been born in this very manner, birthed by this very Light, and soon, they would return to the nothingness from whence they had come. They spiraled, spiraled, spiraled – orbiting around Amy and Hecate as thousands of years of cycles were undone, threads of mythology now hanging tattered and unraveled. Light. Darkness. Future. Present. Past. In every order that she had attained them, they now vanished from her sentience, leaving her forever – but not without a gift. Her heels lifted from the ground, her decaying gowns restored with the finest quicksilver—

A congregation of angels sang upon her flesh, as her pink fur cascaded away to reveal glowing skin of gold. Blessed by the matriarchs of nature and their everlasting forces, Amy was more splendorous than every sun in the infinite canvas of the stars, her fingers flourishing at her sides as the Gods raised their voices in holy hymns dedicated to her name. Her glittering eyelashes raised like a sheer curtain, and her irises were more crystalline than the Master Emerald itself. In those depths, she captured the essence of each of the Items, the strength and resilience of all her friends now ablaze in eyes that could see the truth of this everchanging world. The darkness, the nightmares, even the dreams – all of them would be washed away, but she would be immortalized as Super Amy, exalted by fate. Within her soul, there was light, there was love. There was hope.

Hecate held onto her lips, hazy as to what was happening until he could no longer break away, chained to her kiss and enslaved to her breath. He wanted to withdraw, to save his soul, but with every sacred lash of her tongue, she thieved more and more of his breath. His eyes widened, the steel of his stare like tinmetal against the reverence of her golden glory, and he was strangled with the image of Siegfried fresh in his mind. Asphyxia. He began to wither, the oxygen sucked from his lungs, his cells collapsing in on themselves as his skin, flesh, blood, and bones were all lost to a vortex, a divine verdict – ash into ash, he abdicated into specks of dust, floating away into null. Every particle danced in the sunlight, so alive, so free. She hoped he found peace.

All the luminosity around her began to flicker, the transformation was fading, and it was taking every ounce of fantasy with it. Her time was running thin, a melody upon a destroyed silver harp now assaulting her ears as she fought against the forces of her own guilt. In the final stained-glass window, she watched a familiar scene, one she had cherished in her heart all of these years. So beautiful, in her wedding dress of white roses and gold lace, Amy waltzed with Sonic beneath the setting sun. Their happy ending, a fairytale conclusion that she would never taste the sweetness of. They danced away, so happy in their oblivion of another timeline, one where good things always came to those who believed in Light and Love.

She had rewritten their prophecy, freed them from the cycle, so they may live happily ever after eternally. This world is wounded, but it had begun to heal, and she could do nothing more to save it, not in this life. In the painted iris of her mind's eye, she imagined all of her friends applauding her, forgiving her, understanding her. In a perfect world, Sonic still loved her, despite everything, for she did what she had to do in order to fulfill her destiny. But it was only an illusion, she knew, it was only her mind convincing her to sweeten the bitter guilt that ached in the abscess of her soul. Shutting her eyes, she released a scream of closure, and she brought down her fists upon the endless dream. A tremendous wave of golden luminosity crashed off her body as The Light was expunged, spreading outwards in an instant and taking everything in its path. The Springs, The Phantom Castle, the entire world that had been built up, word by word – all crumbled into nothingness.

Then, silence. Slow. Alone. Green Hill Zone stretched out as far as she could see in front of herself, with its endless fields of emerald and forever cobalt skies. She lifted herself from the grass, a sole pinprick of noise in a universe of quietude. She stripped away the tattered garments stained with red, like a rose shedding her petals, until she stood with nothing but her bare stem and thorns. And she continued to the edge of the zone, where she watched Mobius in all its glory, miles and miles of untold stories and futures yet to come.

So, this is where it ends. When this all began, I was a child, and I think you were, too. But through everything, I felt my childhood being ripped from my soul, word by word, until I was all grown up. We're all grown up now. Was this how it was all meant to turn out for us? We'll never know. There's no use in wondering about eventualities – we live the lives we are given.

Who was I, to you? A blank canvas for little girls to project themselves onto? To imagine yourself in a faraway world, a world where you belong, a world where you have a voice, a world where anything is possible. A world where everyone falls in love with exactly who they're meant to be with, and the one person you've wanted your entire life… just happens to love you back. A world where there is magic, and wonder, and hands far greater than our own, pulling at the strings of fate. A world where you can escape, where nothing bad can truly happen, because the heroes always win the battle in the end.

But we live in the real world now, a world that is etched with darkness. A world where not everyone falls in love, and not everyone loves you as much as you love them. A world where people don't get what they deserve, and they don't deserve what they get. A world where the beginnings are nondescript, and the endings are bittersweet, and some stories remain unfinished.

Who was I, to you? I was your friend. I will always be your friend, as we go out into the world and find our own way. I will remember you, just as you will remember me. Even in this world, we always have a choice. We can create our own paths, rewrite our own histories, author the stories of our own lives.

I still believe in a world where there is light, a world where there is love. Winter is almost over, and another spring is coming. A spring of new beginnings, and hope. A spring of dreams.

This is the end of Light and Love.

The sound of the phone's constant ringing jarred the pink hedgehog from her deep sleep. She groaned at the disturbance, and lifted the hot pink telephone from its holder, and placed it besides her ear and mumbled sleepily, "Hello?"