The morning came and went peacefully for the young couple of Tails and Cosmo, who had spent the majority of it gliding through the cool waters of the spring which Tails had discovered on one of his ventures. After tiring of swimming the two climbed onto the soft bank beneath the draping branches of the weeping willow, cuddling each other close as they began to grow drowsy. Turning his head he gazed at his sleepy-eyed flower, casting a loving smile at her as she lie comfortably upon his chest tuff. Raising a hand he gently brushed aside her leafy bangs, causing her to look back at him with an equally affectionate smile. "We should head home," he said in a soft whisper, "you're tired."
"No…" Cosmo cooed, "I want to lay here with you all day."
Tails laughed quietly at this notion. Naturally he would like nothing more than to continue lying here with Cosmo, holding her close to his body and feeling the touch of her smooth skin; enjoying the intoxicating scent of her roses. If any progress were to be made, however, they would need to get moving. Slowly the fox rose into a sitting position, with Cosmo clinging to him stubbornly as her head slid down into his lap. "Come on, baby. Let's head back to the house." He gently urged, "We'll take a nap before heading out again."
"Again?" Cosmo asked, raising her head in surprise, "We're going somewhere else?"
"Heck yeah!" Tails exclaimed jumping to his feet enthusiastically, "We've still got a whole day ahead of us! I've got something planned tonight that will blow your mind!"
"Oh? Can I have a hint?" Cosmo asked cutely.
"Nope, you'll have to wait and see!" Tails laughed taking her hand gently, "You ready?"
"Yes," she giggled, allowing Tails to scoop her up into his arms as he once again took to the sky, with the intention of returning to their special place sometime in the near future.
As the pair traversed across the cloudscape once again, with the sun on their left as it lowered toward the western horizon, Cosmo began to ponder on Tails' motivation for treating her to such an eventful day. "Why is he doing all of this?" She wondered to herself, "What would set today apart from any other?" Clearly something immense was being planned by the fox, showing through the twinkle in his eye and the smile on his face. Once again, Cosmo attempted to subtly probe Tails' mind, seeking the reason behind this special treatment. A powerful resistance obstructed her efforts, however. Clearly a conscious effort on the part of her boyfriend. Her attempted telepathic intrusion did not go unnoticed, as Miles looked down at her queerly letting out a bemused chuckle at her efforts. For whatever reason she found this unsettling. If what Tails was planning was as good as he claimed it to be, why was he so vigorously protecting it? Unless, of course, it was not…
Cosmo's mind began to race. While she had never truly doubted Tails, the circumstances of the situation were causing her paranoia to get the better of her. What if Tails was not being completely honest with her? Perhaps there was more to this than a simple display of affection. What if his interest in her was beginning to wain, and he was only doing this to soften what would be an inevitably painful blow? He was, after all, a fox. Perhaps one of his own species, a pretty vixen maybe, had caught his attention and he was using this as a means to distract her. Maybe she had done something wrong to make him regret choosing her. She had heard stories from Rouge about exes who showered their lovers in gifts and affection, only for the sake of removing the guilt they felt when the inevitable reared its ugly head. What if this were just that? Was Tails preparing to tell her goodbye?
As they passed through the pillowy masses of water vapor again, Tails looked down to notice Cosmo's distraught expression. Feeling the need to inquire on this, the fox spoke in his typically scratchy, yet gentle voice. "Honey, what's the matter?" Asked he, "You look upset."
"Hm? Oh! Nothing!" Cosmo fibbed, twiddling her thumbs, "It's just- have I done something wrong?"
"What?" Tails said shocked, his namesakes seizing momentarily, causing them to drop in altitude. After regaining his control he looked back down at Cosmo, casting her a confused expression. "Honey, what makes you think you did anything wrong? Did I say something?"
"No, it's just- you're being so nice to me today. It's really, really flattering; but... I'm worried that maybe I've done something to upset you," she partially admitted, turning her head away, "and you're doing this so when I find out, it won't hurt as much..."
"Wh-huh?" Replied he, befuddled. "Honey, that makes no sense!"
Slowly the fox began to decent, reducing the rotation of his tails so as to ride the air currents downward. Gently touching down in his front yard he continued to cradle Cosmo in his arms, looking at her lovingly as she waited for him to continue speaking.
"Cosmo, I love you. I do this because I love you. I don't keep secrets from you. I couldn't lie to you like that. I just want today to be something you'll remember. Simple as that!"
Cosmo was silent, looking up at her love who held her ever so protectively. She found herself feeling quite ashamed now for the line of thought she had pursued. How could she think Tails had anything less than the most noble intent? Lowering her head the Seedrian spoke in a soft voice. "I feel so... stupid!" She said placing her hand on her head, "Of course you wouldn't! I'm sorry, Tails. I know that must have sounded ridiculous."
"Nah, I think we're both too paranoid for our own good!" Tails chuckled, "I'm probably the worst between us!"
"Well, I wasn't going to say anything..." Cosmo teased, batting her eyelashes.
Slowly the fox set his flower upon her feet, stealing one last kiss before speaking again. "Why don't you head upstairs? I have to do something really quick."
"Alright, dear." Cosmo agreed, not bothering to inquire on his repeated visits to his workshop again, "I think I'll draw a bath so I won't have to rush when we get ready to go out again."
"Good idea!" He said, "Go relax, take a bath. I'll be up there in ten, okay?"
Cosmo nodded, walking up the front steps of their porch and up to the door. Opening it she turned back around, giving a slight wave before entering the house. Tails chuckled to himself as he waved back, loving to see his potential fiancé enjoying herself. The fox stood there for a moment waving, making sure that Cosmo was inside their home and out of sight. Once he was certain of this, he broke into a sudden sprint toward his lab as a sudden realization came to him.
"The park! Why didn't Jaran meet me at the park!? He promised! I hope he got that reservation! Please say he got that reservation!"
Descending the lift into the bowls of his massive workshop, Tails entered his monitoring station and approached one of the many consoles in the room. Pulling up the call number for the emergency channel on Kai's wrist-link, the kitsune opened a direct channel to his device. He recalled the human saying that the emergency channel was strictly for dire circumstances, but at the moment he did not care to regard those stipulations. Seeing that the channel was open he spoke hurriedly, not wanting Cosmo to walk in and discover his plans prematurely.
"Jaran? JARAN?" Tails snapped, "You had better answer or I swear-"
"What!?" Kai answered in a panic, "What's wrong!? Is it Eggman!? Is anyone hurt!?"
"Did you get the reservations!?" Tails barked loudly, "Please tell me you got them!"
"Wait, what!?" The sage asked, now sounding aggravated, "Tails, you scared the hell out of me! This line is for emergencies only! You do understand that?"
"Yeah, whatever! Did you get them?" Tails asked again, disregarding Kai.
"Tails..." Kai groaned hesitantly, "no, not exactly."
"Hey, hey, relax!" Kai spoke sternly, "There were some funky transitions that have to be taken care of first. I'm going to talk to the people who already have it and convince them to come in earlier. If I can manage that, we'll have a guaranteed spot."
"This is cutting it too close for me..." Tails growled.
"Hey, you don't have to tell me." Kai replied, "I'll get it done, okay? Trust me, Tails."
The fox let out a low moan, placing his head in his hands as he muttered out a tense reply. "Fine... but if you can't get those reservations I'll never be able to propose to Cosmo!"
"Tails, shut the hell up." Kai replied nonchalantly, "You will. You don't need a lavish restaurant to ask Cosmo to marry you. I know you want this to go perfect, but if Cosmo genuinely feels the same as you do she'll say yes, whether it be in a lavish restaurant or a Chick-fil-A."
"I know, I know," Tails said raising his head, "I just want it to be really special."
"Oh, trust me, it will be." Kai chuckled over the speakers, "Now you had better get off this channel before your girl finds out."
"Right," Tails agreed, "thanks for trying. Keep me posted."
With that the fox closed the audio channel, breathing a frustrated sigh as he paced back over to the elevator and ascended to the topmost level. Exiting his shed he walked back to his house, entering through the front door and marching quietly up the stairs. Reaching the top of the stairwell he noticed that the door to his room was cracked. Assuming Cosmo had finished her bath he proceeded to approach the door, giving it a light push open only to be met with a shocking, and highly embarrassing sight.
Standing with her back to him was Cosmo, clad in only her two-piece, white, lacy underwear. The fox's face flushed a deep crimson as he stared mesmerized, feeling that he should leave the room but was held captive by the form of his beautiful flower. Every inch, every curve of her shapely, thin figure left him awestruck. If he could compose a definition of perfection it would most definitely be her. Yet, even exposed as she was, his mind did not drift to any form of carnal thought, nor any lustful desires enter his heart. All he could think about was how pure she was, and how much he should, and would, treasure that.
While seconds felt like an eternity for the young fox, his trance was suddenly broken as the plant girl reached for her nightgown. Casting a look over her shoulder her eyes widened as she became aware of her watcher, letting out a yelp as she snatched up her garment and held it in front of herself.
"T-Tails!" Cosmo stuttered in embarrassment, "How long have you been standing there!?"
"J-just a few seconds, I swear!" Tails said defensively, holding up his hands, "I'm s-so sorry! G-God... you're... s-so... beautiful."
"A-ah, thank you..." Cosmo said blushing a deeper shade than Tails, were that possible, "W-would you mind stepping out though... so I can get dressed?"
"Huh?" Tails asked, momentarily distracted before finally realizing what she was saying, "OH, YEAH! S-sorry!" He stuttered, taking several backward steps out the door, banging his elbow on the frame clumsily. "Ouch…"
Cosmo stifled a giggle as she proceeded to don her silk nightgown, slipping it over her head and walking out into the hall where Tails was standing against the wall with his head in his hands. Cosmo could not help but find his embarrassment amusing as she cleared her throat to get his attention. The kitsune's head shot up quickly, looking at Cosmo with a guilt ridden face which he unsuccessfully tried to conceal. Before he could open his mouth, Cosmo placed a finger to his lips, silencing him as she spoke in a comforting voice.
"It's okay, honey..." She said with a gentle smile, "I know, it was an accident. Besides, if there's anyone I trust with seeing me like that, it's you."
"Y-yeah..." Tails said feeling a bead of sweat drip down his forehead, "S-sorry about that, again. I saw the door open and though- You know, you're figure- amazingly beautiful..."
The little Seedrian giggled at her boyfriend's bashfulness, always admiring how respectful he was of her. Taking his hand she led him back into their room where they both laid down on the bed and climbed under the covers. Kicking off his sneakers and setting aside his gloves, Tails set an alarm on his wrist computer so that the two would not miss their reservation, given that Kai could successfully acquire it. As the two settled in Cosmo pulled herself close to his body, resting her head on his chest fur as she always did. Feeling faint from the tranquilizing scent emanated by her flower buds, Tails eyes began to grow heavy as they both began to drift off. Before falling asleep, Cosmo gently whispered into one of his large, fuzzy ears.
"I love you, Miles Prower."
"I love you too..." Tails said through a half-awake haze, "Cosmo Prower."
The Seedrian's eyes blinked open, surprised at Tails' application of his last name to hers. Brushing it off as his tired mind speaking, she let out a slight giggle as she closed her eyes once again, drifting off to a restful sleep, unaware of how much truth was in those spoken words…
Silence. Deathly silence. For weeks this had been the state of Eggman's base. Nary a sound, save the unnerving drone of the ventilation system was heart throughout the cold grey corridors. During that time the halls had remained empty, and any sentry robots had been powered off for unknown reasons. Ever since the demonic shadow had passed through the halls everything had been still, as if frozen in a perpetual sleep. Yet, emanating from a single room within the base was a trickle of warm air, alluring to any life were any present. Within the room could be found two still active robots, having been spared from shutting down due to their cowardice. Hovering around a medical bed the two attended to a sickly looking human, clad in a dirty red jumpsuit and black pants. The human in question was completely motionless as the two droids attended to his needs, with an IV drip in his arm and a pillow under his head. This is how he had been for almost three weeks, staring blankly up at the ceiling, conscious, but un-reacting. The once heavyset man had been reduced to a thin, sickly looking figure, with his formerly bright orange handlebar mustache showing signs of grey. With only his robots to keep him, the Eggman lay in this lonely state. So very, very lonely...
"He's been like this for weeks," spoke the tall metal drone in an electronically produced voice. "When do you think he'll wake up?"
"What if he never wakes up!?" The stout, aluminum tinted drone panicked, "Who's going to do our maintenance!? He can't just leave us behind like this! He's got to get better!"
"OPEN YOUR OPTIC SENSORS, BOCOE!" Yelled the tall robot, "He's been getting worse and worse every day! We can't keep him alive on our own! We need help!"
"Oh yeah, that's a good idea!" Bocoe retorted sarcastically, "Who exactly would help us? Sonic? Tails? Cosmo? All of those guys hate us! Besides, none of them know anything about what that Xe-moose guy did to Doctor Eggman-sama! The only one who could help is that Kai guy, and he already said he wouldn't save Eggman! We're doomed! DOOMED!"
"Can it!" Decoe snapped harshly, giving his shorter companion's head dome a whack, "We can at least try! Go find the human and get him here!"
"Why do I have to find him?" Argued Bocoe, "What makes you think you're in charge!?"
"Because I'm taller and the boss gave me a gold finish!" The droid replied proudly, "Until he's back on his feet I'm in charge, and I say go find the human!"
"But… how? We've never been anywhere without the boss!" Pointed out the little tin man, "I'm not good with directions! That was always the Eggman's job!"
"I don't know how! Figure it out!" The robot snapped back, struggling to find a valid argument, "Why do I have to think of everything?"
"Well if neither of us know how, then what do we do?" Asked the shorter robot sourly, crossing his arms in frustration.
"I don't know! Geez... This would have been a good job for Bokkun. He was always good at this sort of thing."
"Yeah…" The littler droid moaned, lowering his gaze slightly, "With how mean we were to him, I never thought we'd need his help. I wish he was here now..."
"Well, we don't have Bokkun anymore," replied the golden robot. "We're going to have to figure out how to do this by ourselves. Hey, maybe we could bring the communications array up and call Tails!"
"Yeah!" Exclaimed the smaller robot hopefully, leaping into the air a few inches before clanging back to the floor, "Wait, do you know how to power on the array?"
"Um, n-no…" Decoe replied slowly, "but it can't be that hard! There's probably an 'on' button somewhere on the console!"
"An 'on' button?" Said Bocoe flatly, "You really think Eggman would make ANYTHING as simple as an 'on' button?"
"Well, why don't we find out?" Snapped the gold drone back, "You going to help me or not?"
The steel drone let out a groan as he following the taller bot down the hallway, speaking shortly as his voice carried down the empty corridors. "Fine, but if your plan doesn't work, we'll do my plan!"
"Your plan?" Scoffed the skinny drone, "You don't have a plan!"
"I'LL MAKE ONE UP!" Snapped Bocoe as the two turned a corner, falling out of earshot of the room and leaving Eggman once again, alone. In silence he sat staring open-eyed at the ceiling; and for a moment, a tiny, pathetic whimper left his lips…
Within the bowels of the Darkship the ancient shade, Xemus, emerged from his meditation chamber once again. This time he, surprisingly, did not exit empty handed. Clutched in his right hand was a fist sized translucent pyramid structure, with archaic looking carvings along its sides. The pyramid emanated a burning red light from within, and the air around it chilled several degrees. As the door slid shut behind him he slipped his way down the hall, silent and graceful. As he rounded a corner he was met with one of his decaying servants, who approached him quickly with an urgent look on his hideous face.
"M-message from your task force..." The humanoid choked, "They've found Kai."
The robed shade picked up his pace as he made his way to the bridge, entering the massive structure and walking toward the holographic projector on the center platform. Without turning the lord hissed out an order to the communications officer. "Open a channel."
Immediately the platform illuminated as a holographic image began to take shape, resolving into the form of a masked servant of Xemus. Speaking quickly as if pressed for time, the dark lord launched into an inevitable questionnaire on their progress.
"Who is he with?" Xemus asked initially.
The acolyte replied in a series of hisses, growls, and murmurs; remnants of an ancient and most likely dead language that only made sense to Xemus himself. The shadowy lord nodded his hooded visage as he continuing to speak to his slave.
"How long have you been following him? I need his precise location."
Again, an incoherent response from his servant.
"I knew you were down there... Now I know exactly where you are. Keep your distance, watch his movements, find out where the girl is. She's the weakest link in the chain for him. I feel it."
With that the console flashed off as the lord looked down at the pyramid in his hands, turning it over before finally setting it down on the holographic console. Staring intently at the pyramid Xemus muttered something to himself. "Ancient alchemy and genetic engineering secrets from the lords of old. Now we're getting somewhere…"
What's he doing?
If only my sights stretched that far, Galaxina. His mind is black as night. I cannot pierce his thoughts.
Hertia, he's after our daughter...
That is the single thing I am certain of, Lucas. I do not know what he will do with her.
And you still trust that her animal will keep her safe? That no harm will come to my baby girl?
It would be unrealistic to believe that Cosmo would never come to harm, father. I do trust Miles though; and when all is said and done, I believe he will be there when she needs him most.
I never understood why she would leave this place. No harm, no sadness, no danger would ever befall her here. Why did she not stay?
She took those risks willingly, my love, for one more chance with him. Just as I did with you.
Then I will watch. Animal, my opinion of you aside, I send a blessing of fortitude your way. Should thou use it to protect my youngest child, then I will place aside my hatred of your kind for this instance. Do not fail me…
"You're sure this is the right place?" Shadow mumbled in a low voice, crouching within the well trimmed hedgerow of a nearby mansion house. The home itself was tall and lavishly decorated, possessing two stories of polished glass and cut marble windows. Clearly, the residence of a family of upperclass individuals. Next to the onyx hedgehog was Jaran Kai, lying on his stomach as he plucked from his hair several leaves and branches clinging to it. The sage let out an aggravated grunt as he propped himself up on his elbows, looking back at Shadow with a cross glair.
"This was the address he gave us; so unless you have some new information, yes!"
"How do we play this, then?" Inquired shadow, stroking his chin, "Perhaps we could pose as salespeople?"
"Selling what?" Snapped back the sage, "How would that have anything to do with their reservations?"
"Calm down! It was just an idea..." Growled the black hedgehog, "I assume you have a better one?"
"We pose as managers from the restaurant." Kai answered lowly, "With a little negotiation, we can probably manipulate the times around as needed."
"What about your perception filter?" Asked Shadow, gesturing to Kai's wrist device, "It almost failed on you last time."
"I know," the human replied, tweaking his device, "it's still in prototype. I haven't figured out how to stabilize the perception matrix with a Mobian model type, yet. It uses a shitload of power, too. I'll probably get two, maybe three more uses out of it before it dies."
"Better make them count, then." Shadow remarked, "We don't want anyone noticing a furless gorilla running around Mobius."
"Yeah, ha-ha!" Kai snorted sarcastically, "Anytime you want to contribute, feel free!"
"Well, what do you want me to do!?" Argued Shadow back.
"Just look official." Kai replied, "That shouldn't be too hard for you. You always look pissed off."
"Fine..." The doppelgänger growled, "You owe me a drink after this."
"Whatever," said Jaran brushing him off, tapping on the touchscreen of his omni-tool. His image briefly warped as a static, blue light covered him. In less than a second his image resolved into the same wolf guise he had used at the restaurant. Looking at Shadow he nodded his head, speaking in an exaggeratedly urgent voice, "Let's go..."
The two quickly hobbled their way out of the bushes, dusting themselves off so as to look somewhat presentable. Loosening his trench coat, Wolf-Kai shrugged it off of his shoulders where it dematerialized into nothing, leaving him in his dress shirt, black pants, and loafers. Somewhat more formal, he though. The two marched up to the front doors of the mansion as Shadow placed a series of knocks on the doorframe. Tapping his foot the disguised human waited for the door to be answered, wishing this to be over as quickly as possible.
After almost a minute of waiting they heard the sound of footsteps, as the door clicked open to reveal a well dressed male cat. The cat greeted them with a pleasant smile, speaking in a cordial manner.
"Good afternoon! May I help you, sirs?" The formalistic house cat asked them.
The two hesitated for a moment, seeming uncertain of what to say before Kai broke the silence, speaking with equivalent articulacy and friendliness as the feline. "Greetings, sir! I apologize for the informal manner of this visit. My name is Jaran Kai, and this is my associate, Mister Nicolas Parlouzer."
"I hate you..." Shadow whispered, receiving a firm nudge from Kai.
"We represent Divino Ristorante's managerial staff." He lied, maintaining perfect composure as he continued, "There was a slight error with booking your reservation this evening and we wish to renegotiate your time."
"Oh, dear me," the cat replied frowning as he spoke, "what's the problem, then?"
"My associate here made the mistake of double-booking your reservation with someone else." Shadow interrupted, casting a snide grin at Kai, "He's quite new to our staff and is still attempting to figure out our booking system."
"Oh, so you're his superior, then?" Asked the male feline, looking at Kai with slight irritation, "Well, I suppose I can forgive a slight discrepancy given his inexperience."
"Fuck you..." The human spat from the corner of his mouth at Shadow, to which the hedgehog chuckled, "We were thinking of moving your reservation an hour ahead of schedule. We have a proposal dinner party scheduled at the same time."
"Well, I certainly don't want to ruin anyone's marriage plans," the cat sympathized, "but this is a yearly family event and it would be incredibly difficult to rearrange the time this late. I am sincerely sorry, sir, but I must decline."
"Ah, perhaps we could move you to a standard table?" Kai insisted, becoming a bit nervous, "We could rearrange the seating to make room."
"Now you insult me, sir!" The cat said tapping his foot, clearly aggravated, "Our party is very large. A standard table placement would be impractical!"
"Would coming an hour earlier really make that much of a difference!?" Shadow snapped, growing irate, "This is a couple's future we're talking about!"
"This conversation is over." The cat stated, pulling the door as he prepared to walk back inside, "I really am sorry, but I simply cannot."
Just as the feline prepared to return inside, Jaran raised his digitally imaged paw, waving it swiftly as he spoke in a monotonous voice. "You will move your reservations to an earlier time…"
The cat immediately froze, seeming to zone out as he looked back at Wolf-Kai, repeating his command word for word as if they were being forced from his mouth. "I will move my reservations to an earlier time…"
"You will call your relatives, and tell them of the time change..." Kai continued to drone on, "They will not be upset..."
"I will call my relatives and tell them of the time change… They won't be upset…" The cat repeated.
"Thank you, sir!" Jaran said reaching out and shaking the cat's paw, "Your cooperation is much appreciated! I hope this will not deter you from joining us for dinner again!"
"Huh?" The cat said, momentarily confused as his trance dropped, "Oh-of course not! It was a simple mistake! Thank you for taking your time from your work to inform us! Have a good day, gentleman!"
"And you as well!" Kai said waving back at him, as he and Shadow walked down the walkway with the feline reentering his house.
The hedgehog and the sage both breathed a sigh of relief, pacing slowly down the walkway of the mansion and turning onto the main roadway. After the house was out of sight, Shadow turned to Kai, casting another glair at him. "You could use your power on him, but couldn't save us time and just use it on the first guy!?"
"Like I said, he might have lost his job due to my lack of foresight." He reminded the black hedgehog, "A certain amount of tact must be used when manipulating minds, lest disastrous consequences occur."
"Fine, fine! Waste time if you want!" Shadow grumbled, "I would have just threatened him."
"Yeah, bad idea," Kai replied sourly, turning and facing Shadow with crossed arms, "and why did I have to be the employee!? What makes you think you're boss material?"
"Problem?" Shadow snorted, flashing a cocky grin.
"You're such a troll!" Kai spat back, "Okay, so I have to go finalize the reservations and- GOD DAMMIT!"
"What's the problem?" Shadow asked, turning to Jaran, "We got what we needed, right?"
"No! I still need to get Tails' tuxedo!" Kai panicked, looking down at his wrist-link, "Shit, and I have a whole hour-and-a-half to do it, too!"
"And you wasted all this time trying to be careful!" Shadow snarled, "I told you-"
"If you say 'I told you so', I swear I'll rip your fucking brains out!" Kai snapped back, "Okay, okay, I need your help on this one. Go to Tails' house, tell him I sent you. Make sure he knows the reservations are in place. Do NOT tell him I don't have his tux! I'll be there as soon as possible, okay?"
"You had better pick it up, Jaran," Shadow warned, clicking the heels of his hover skates together, activating them, "or else you're going to have one disappointed fox, and a very sad little Seedrian."
"Yeah… I know..." Kai moaned, watching as Shadow shot into the distance leaving behind a sonic boom which shook the air around him.
Suddenly a low trilling sound was heard by the sage, as he looked down at his wrist-link to see a flashing red LED light on the display. Kai muttered a curse under his breath as he tapped the screen, disabling his disguise and returning him to his humanoid appearance.
"Brilliant! Almost out of charge!" He mumbled to himself moving into the shadow of a row of trees so he would not be spotted, "Nothing's ever simple."
Staying to the shadows the sage continued on, albeit at a more cautious pace. As he proceeded, he found himself getting that unnerving tingling sensation in the back of his skull, again. By now he had ruled out the idea that it was merely his paranoia playing on him. He was being followed…
The sage quickly spun on his heel, shifting into a defensive posture as he stared out behind him, shouting out defiantly. "I know you're out there!" He said raising his fist, "Acolytes, scouts, assassins of Xemus, I don't care! You- won't- touch them!"
No response came to the lone human as he continued to stare into space, expecting some form of assault against him. None came, however, and he began to relax. Glaring out into the open he whispered one final word of warning to the unseen force stalking him.
"I know you can here me, Xemus... Follow me as much as you like, but you leave them alone; lest you call down the wrath of the Last of the Guardians!"
With that he turned, marching off into the nearby woods which he could traverse without fear of being seen. As he swerved between trees and vines making his way to his destination, he heard a barley audible voice carry on the wind which sent shivers down his back.
"Challenge accepted, Master Kai…"
Cosmo sighed softly as she shifted in her bed, burying her face deep into the crook of Tails' neck, smiling in her sleep, obviously involved in a pleasant dream. Occasional tiny whimpers escaped her lips as the night progressed. In her minds eye, Cosmo found herself in a vast, empty field, covered in light green grass and pale yellow flowers. A light breeze caressed her cheek, urging her forward as she began to explore the length and breadth of the plain. Despite the beauty of the place in which she found herself, she could not help but feel a distinctly uneasy feeling about it. The fact that Tails was not at her side only served to increased her feelings of isolation.
As she continued to skip across the field, she spotted a figure far in the distance. Hoping to find someone else in this beautiful, albeit lonely place, she broke into a sprint making for the unknown character. Drawing closer she noticed that the plant life in the area had died in an oddly circular pattern around the figure. The closer she got the more unsettled she became. While as tall as a human, the figure bore a distinct presence that felt anything but human. Slowly she drew to a halt less than three feet from the entity, who did not move nor react to her presence in any way, facing in the opposite direction. After a moments hesitation, Cosmo chose to address the figure, her voice quivering slightly.
"E-excuse me?" She spoke softly, "Could you tell me where my boyfriend is? I think I'm lost."
No response came from the towering figure, with his back still to Cosmo. Slowly the figure rotated, pivoting until Cosmo could make out two luminescent eyes from underneath a black hood. The Seedrian gasped as she stepped back, recognizing the entity from a description she had heard Kai speak of.
"No, Cosmo the Seedrian, you are very much found," the entity hissed, "but you will wish it had been by another."
The Seedrian began to run backward, managing to trip in her panic and landed on her rear. The dark sage seemed to glide over the ground toward her, coming to a stop as he looked down on her with a contemptuous gaze.
"You think you can evade me just because your dog thing is protecting you?" Xemus growled horridly, "You have no idea what I can do to you, do you?"
"J-Jaran has told me..." Cosmo spoke, trying her best to sound brave, "I can fight! I have a s-strong will!"
"That's only what he's told you!" Xemus laughed at her mockingly, "The reality is much more abominable. What you should be asking is whether your fox will stay with you after all of this comes to pass? Will he still love you?"
"OF COURSE HE WILL!" Cosmo yelled, now sounding very determined, "TAILS WOULD NEVER STOP LOVING ME!"
"You didn't seem so confident of that only a few hours ago!" Xemus chuckled, causing Cosmo to shrink back again, "I promise, when I've finished with you, you will be unlovable in his eyes. I will make you so disgusting to him, he won't be able to look at you!"
"Y-you don't know him..." Cosmo whimpered, "I do. He loves me! That won't change! J-just watch!"
"Believe what you will, child. You will be broken, and his love along with you..." Xemus spoke in a low, monotonous voice.
As Cosmo cowered in front of this demon, a newfound courage, as though another mind were bolstering her own will, seemed to enter into her consciousness. With sudden force she felt her link reestablish with Tails. In his sleep he had felt Cosmo's distress, and unconsciously connected to her mind to force out the nightmare plaguing. Blinking her eyes, Xemus seemed to vanish, replaced by the apparition of her two-tailed fox lover. Cosmo smiled as she approached him, forgetting all that had just happened in her dream world as she locked him in a close hug. The field seemed to brighten, and the flowers gained in color. The two danced off into the distance of Cosmo's dream enjoying the rest of the night in peace, with no memory of the nightmare they had faced, and no knowledge of the imminent nightmare on the horizon…