|Sonic Universe #15|
- "Journey into the East - Part Three": The epic "Journey to the East" story arc continues! Sonic the Hedgehog and Tails must confront Fiona Fox and the Destructix - but whose side are these rogue mercenaries really on? The action heats up in an all-out assault on the Raiju Clan of Lynx Ninja and the return of a character pivotal to Sonic's success!
Journey To The East Part Three: No Love in a Conquering Storm
Sonic, Sally Acorn, Monkey Khan, and Tails are shocked to encounter Fiona Fox and the Destructix in the Dragon Kingdom. Fiona states that now they have their attention, she like to discuss something. Sonic and Tails attack instead, saying they have more than their attention. Sally tells Ken to take down Sgt. Simian, but he hesitates for a moment before agreeing, noting to himself that he has never seen her so eager for a fight. Fiona calls off the fight after a few minutes saying she only wishes to talk. When asked why they're in the area, Fiona says they came to cause trouble and wanted to invite the team along. While Sally comments how word travels fast, Sonic asks Fiona how she came to be here.
Fiona explains that it had nothing to do with Sonic and co. and first and offers to start at the beginning, with her escape from Freedom HQ after the Freedom Fighters and Suppression Squad teamed up against her then-boyfriend, Scourge the Hedgehog; while everyone fought in the HQ's lab, she took the opportunity to slip out the window. She vaguely states that she had her own plans afterwards, and sought out some extra muscle to help, going to the Bottom of the Barrel Bar 'n' Grill near Mammoth Mogul's casino. She hoped to find the Destructix and instead found the "miserable remains" of the team; Sleuth Dog, Sergeant Simian, Predator Hawk and Flying Frog, the latter three moping with their drinks. She told Sleuth that she wanted the Destructix; he replied that she could have them, saying derisively that Drago Wolf had gone back to the Eggman Empire and that Lightning Lynx had left saying something about having his honor restored. He pointed out that the remaining three haven't been the same since. Fiona flatly said that work is work and asked how much money he wanted, but Sleuth replied that he was done with it all; he said that he had saved up some money and was getting out to "preserve his hide." He left the bar, saying that Fiona wouldn't be seeing him again.
Sally shows some doubt at the claim that the Destructix just fell under Fiona's control; the fox breezily replies that she had to promise to first get Lightning back on the team. Sonic blandly asks the Destructix since when did they care so much about their teammates, but the group shows a surprising amount of devotion, with Predator pointing out that Lightning was one of the original four and Simian adding that leaders come and go, but Lightning is a comrade; they believe the lynx is being used. Sonic smirks and says that he's surprised to see so much loyalty being thrown around in the presence of Fiona, who snorts. Then she turns to Tails, smiling, and asks him to talk some sense into his teammates, catching the young fox by surprise. Fiona croons that he knows her better than anyone, and says that he knows she's good on the inside; she sweetly starts to say how much it would mean to her for him to help, but is suddenly cut off when Sally punches her in the stomach, much to the shock of everyone around. As Fiona doubles over, Sally coldly states that she's toyed with Tails enough already, and that if she wants to make a deal, then to do it. Simian states that they just want Lightning returned while Khan says they want his clan, the Raiju, to break away from the Iron Dominion. The agree upon the terms. Khan begins to tell Sonic that he understands that they're working with enemies, but Sonic replies that he's flexible; however, he points out that Lightning may not want to leave the clan in the first place, as well as the fact that there's a whole clan of ninja between them and their goal. Recovering from the punch, Fiona announces that this is why she's in charge; she has a plan.
The group heads to the Iron Fortress; Fiona explains that it's heavily protected with meter-thick walls and two heavy doors that can generally only be opened from the inside. Monkey Khan dryly says that the doors will simply have to go while Sonic comments that the place is uglier than he remembers. They enact Fiona's plan; she and Sally are flown over the wall by Tails, Predator and Flying Frog, who engage the first group of ninja while the girls head for the door mechanism. While working on the inner gate, Fiona comments, amused, that it's just like when she was a Freedom Fighter; Sally, however, coldly informs the fox that while she may have been on the team, she was never a Freedom Fighter.
Meanwhile, Simian, Monkey Khan and Sonic destroy the outer gate; Simian throws a massive punch while Sonic launches into a spin-dash powered by Monkey Khan's Atom-Bat. Everyone regroups inside and Fiona leads the way to the throne room, where they find a number of armed ninja, Lightning Lynx, and their leader, the Bride of Conquering Storm. Conquering Storm observes that the "King of the Free People" seems to have recruited a small army but adds that that's fine by her, stating that only fools would attempt war against the Raiju. Khan objects, saying they've only come to talk. Storm asks if they planned to do so by invading the fortress entrusted to her by the Dominion&mash;though she nearly slips, calling the fortress her own. Khan replies that if they had arrived stating they only wanted to talk, the clan wouldn't have listened, to which Storm bluntly concedes; she tells them to state their case.
Khan asks the Raiju Clan to break its ties to the Iron Dominion, saying that as King of the Free People, upon his word of honor, he'll recognize their rights and lands. He adds that he'd let them keep the Iron Fortress as well, which amuses Storm; she says that the Raiju cannot be bought like the "lowly" Yagyu Clan. She declares that one only earns anything through strength and action. Smirking, Khan proposes a wager on a duel of honor, stating the terms; if the champion for the Raiju wins, they will all become prisoners of the Iron Queen, but should their champion win, the Raiju must renounce its ties to the Dominion. Storm mutters, "Either way, I win" before ordering Lightning to fight on behalf of the clan and to "prove his continued worth." Somewhat surprised, Lightning quickly accepts and thanks the Bride. Khan, meanwhile, formerly addresses Sonic as his champion; Sonic teasingly matches the formality, but accepts. Lightning is shocked to find himself facing Sonic rather than Monkey Khan, but he quickly recovers and launches into an angry, desperate attack. As he strikes Sonic, he cries out that he won't have things ruined, that Storm finally took him back, that after years he's home again, and that he won't let anyone take that from him. Reeling from the hits, Sonic admits that he didn't know that it meant so much to the lynx, but says that he has a city to save. He launches a volley of spin-dashes at the lynx; as Lightning topples to the floor, Sonic regretfully says that his friends and family have to come first. He adds, "...I'm sorry."
Storm falls heavily into the throne, angry, calling the battle pathetic. She flatly declares that Lightning is "henceforth Raiju no more. Again." The battled lynx crawls before her, begging, saying that he can still be of use; she bluntly replies that he can't. His pleads escalate as he says "Don't! Please! I love--" Storm glares down at him, telling him to stop embarrassing himself and adding that it's what got him banished the first time. Lightning stares up in desperation only to get a cold look in return; he bows his head, defeated. As he staggers off, ashamed, Sonic angrily tells Fiona that this wasn't what he agreed to, but she smugly replies that it was; he simply didn't know it. Sgt. Simian, Predator Hawk and Flying Frog approach the lynx, telling him that his place is with them and that they will never reject him as the Raiju did. As Lightning's eyes fill with bitter tears, Fiona tells him that he's running with her now, and that with what she's got planned, everyone will get what's coming to them. "All of them"? he asks, to which she confirms; he says "...Good. Let's go."
Storm bitterly announces that Raiju lost, and as per the agreement, will break its ties to the Iron Dominion. However, she adds, this does not make them allies; she bluntly demands that they leave. Sonic, Tails, Monkey Khan and Sally head out, the latter two somewhat pleased that they succeeded while the former two are somewhat uneasy over the recent turn of events. As they leave, a ninja approaches Storm and asks her what will happen should the Iron Dominion learn of their betrayal and retaliate; Storm smugly replies that they won't. She explains that the Clan of the Four houses is about to collapse, leaving the Dominion only with the Dark Egg Legion. She believes that the heroes of the West will take care of the Dominion for them, leaving her to take over the Dragon Kingdom.
Outside the fortress, Tails notes that Fiona and the others seem to have already left, with Sonic sarcastically adding it's a pity they didn't stick around. Somewhat bashful, Tails turns to Sally and thanks her for stepping in during Fiona's manipulative taunting. Surprised, Sally replies that he was welcome, adding that with Tails growing up, she felt she was overstepping her bounds a little but adding that she couldn't stand to watch her hurt him further. Tails says it's okay. Sally then admits that she felt a bit brutish striking Fiona, saying that she's not a thug, but Sonic and Monkey Khan are actually admirable of her action; Tails agrees, saying that Sally should hit Fiona again. Sally dryly mutters that she's drowning in testosterone.
Sonic asks what's next, and Khan replies the Shinobi Clan but admits he has no idea where they can be found, saying they're known for their secrecy. Sonic suggests finding Knuckles, as he's able to spot camouflaged chameleons, but Sally points out that that's not practical. Tails wonders how they'll ever find invisible people who don't want to be found; they're all shocked when someone replies "You'll need a guide... and a friend you can trust." Espio the Chameleon fades into view before the group.