Happy Birthday to me! As my gift to you, please have another preview.
Shadow looks up with awe. Surrounding the elegant stone shrine are seven tall pillars, each one supporting a Chaos Emerald, most of which are pulsating with an odd pattern of light. At their center, atop the shrine, is the Master Emerald.
“Here they are.”
Shadow looks to the ground in front of him, where Tikal indicates. Circled around him at a distance, and staring at him curiously, are a group of young Chao.
“Don’t worry,” she bends down to tell them. “This one is a friend.”
Most of the Chao keep their distance. But one starts to waddle up towards Shadow’s feet. It stops and looks right up into his face. “Chao?” Shadow looks to Tikal questioningly.
She nods and smiles. “Go ahead.”
Hesitantly, Shadow reaches a hand down towards the little creature, and places it on its head. He starts to pet it gently. It closes its eyes and smiles contently, as the bubble above its head forms into the shape of a heart. All of the other Chao start to approach closer to him.
Tikal seems very pleased. “Look, they like you.”
Shadow takes his hand back, and turns back to Tikal. The Chao gives him a very confused look, unsure why he stopped. “I’m grateful to have seen this place, but why have you taken me here?”
Tikal sighs and looks to her feet, perhaps with shame. “This place…it is their sacred home. They can live here in peace, because there is a spirit who protects and watches over them.” While she speaks, the Chao all give up on Shadow, turn to face the shrine, and start to sing with little rhythm or structure. Tikal continues, “But my father…he wishes to destroy this place, and use the power of the Emeralds to help us win the war. If another battle comes…he will. His heart is closed off to the plight of these poor creatures, and even to me. I’ve asked the spirit to take the Chao and leave this place, but he is bound to the shrine somehow. I can only hope that we can all finally understand each other…before it’s too late.”
Shadow nods in understanding. “And if your father comes…you’ll be forced to choose between loyalty to your tribe, and justice for the Chao.”
She nods in return. “You understand, then.”
“So…what will you do?”
She thinks a while longer. “I love my father, truly I do. But I can’t allow his selfishness to destroy these creatures’ lives. I will do everything in my power to stop him.”
Shadow gives a very slow nod. “I see.”
“But whatever choice you make…I’m sure that you’ll be fine, as long as you follow your heart.”
A voice which Shadow has learned to instinctively flinch at shouts, “That’s the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard in my life! I love it!” Sunlight leans casually back against the Master Emerald.