Author’s note: Named after how long you’ve all been waiting for this…^__^;;; Gomen, minna-san! (Sorry, everyone!)
“This is a very interesting situation indeed,” Naga hissed at the baddie kneeling before him. “Both the traitors and the rebels are converging on the lair, you say?”
The baddie nodded.
“And Nemesis is with the rebels?”
The baddie nodded once more.
Naga drummed his claws on the arm of his throne, his pupiless yellow eyes fixed on the baddie. Finally he hissed “You mentioned that you had a plan?”
“Yes, Master Naga,” the baddie replied, a sinister grin growing beneath its snow-white beard. “I believe that I can take the rebels and Nemesis off your hands…especially if what they say about them is true.”
“About how often do ya wander through a forest?” I asked.
“Usually,” Suezo replied. “It’s weird not seeing any trees around.”
I looked around at the bleak stone of the mountains, broken here and there by tufts of determined plant life, then shivered as a chill breeze passed over us. I turned back to Suezo and nodded in agreement.
“According to my calculations, Naga isn’t just going to let us approach the lair unopposed,” Hare said out of nowhere. “We’re due to be attacked any minute now…”
“GAAH!” Hare leapt straight up into the air from shock, revealing a chuckling Santa Claus (Wracky/????) behind him, carrying a small brown sack swung over his shoulder.
“What did ya do that for?” I asked, automatically summoning an umbrella to my hand. After my last encounter with Wrackies, I didn’t want to take any chances. “It isn’t even Christmas.”
“Oh, yes, it is,” Santa Claus argued. “It’s Christmas every day when I’m around!”
“We don’t have time for this,” Tiger snarled, turning away.
“Wait, Tiger,” Genki said. “Maybe he can help us.”
“Oh yeah? How?”
“Like this!” Santa Claus enthusiastically chimed in, pulling a Mystery Disk out of his sack. He handed it to Mocchi with a grand flourish. “Merry Christmas, little one!”
A smile broke out on Mocchi’s face. “Thank you, chi!” he chirped happily.
“Well, I must be going!” Santa Claus exclaimed, already starting off down the path. “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
“Why are ya saying that when it isn’t even night? Or Christmas, for that matter?” I asked, even though he was well out of earshot already. I turned back to the others, only to find them crowded around Mocchi, each scrutinizing the Mystery Disk he had received.
“I’ve never seen a Mystery Disk like this before…” Holly said. The disk was darker than the normal tan, and shot through with flecks of black and gold. It seemed to shimmer slightly as Mocchi held it in his…would hands really be the right word?
“Could it be the Phoenix?” Golem asked.
Holly smiled up at him. “It would be great if it was, Golem.”
“Let’s unlock it, chi!”
“Yeah, Mocchi!” Genki shouted. “Let’s go!”
“But how are ya going to find a shrine around here?” I asked. “Are ya psychic or something?”
Genki smiled. “Golem?”
Golem nodded, and gently grabbed Suezo. The eyeball monster immediately started protesting.
“C’mon, guys!” he shouted, looking very nervous. “Can’t you get somebody else to be the lookout?!”
Golem lifted Suezo, then slowly drew his hand back.
“Why is it always…”
With a grunt, Golem launched Suezo into the air.
Suezo became a mere speck in the sky, and I assumed that he was scouting out the area, looking for a shrine. Just as he began to plummet, he stuck out his tongue and shouted, “THAT WAY!”
Everyone turned to look, trying to catch a glimpse of the shrine. I kept my eyes on Suezo as he continued to fall. After a moment, I glanced at the others again. Despite all the screaming he was doing, they seemed to have forgotten about Suezo as he rushed closer and closer to the ground.
“Um…guys? Shouldn’t ya be trying to catch him?”
They turned blankly towards me as Suezo was moments away from crashing behind them.
Hastily I threw…something…beneath the falling eyeball.
“Phew!” Suezo sighed as he landed softly on a net of green light. But something was wrong. The net had begun to stretch downwards when Suezo hit it…
As I watched, the net bounced upward like a trampoline, launching Suezo into the air again.
“Whoops…” I said, rubbing the back of my neck with what I was sure was a huge sweatdrop. “Didn’t expect that to happen…”
Before Suezo hit again, I quickly tried to correct the problem. This time he bounced a bit, going no higher than a few feet, but then settled down. The green light faded, and he fell the last few inches to the ground.
“Um…sorry, Suezo…” I said, not quite sure how he’d react.
“Well, at least you caught me, not like some people.” Suezo glared at Golem, who mumbled an apology.
“C’mon, gang!” Genki shouted, seemingly oblivious to what had just happened. “Let’s get to that shrine!”
Before he had finished his sentence, he was off, leaving the rest of us to hurry after him.
At the shrine…
I watched, fascinated, as the pillar of light grew brighter and brighter, rainbow-colored streaks running up its sides. I had never seen a Mystery Disk unlocked before…or at least, if I had, I couldn’t remember it. I glanced at the others’ faces, their features sharply outlined in the glow from the Mystery Disk. They all looked expectant, hopeful… Genki, standing at the unlocking button, was grinning from ear to ear, but also looked determined. I turned back to the pillar of light as it seemed to reach its brightest.
With a blinding flash the pillar coalesced into a tiny ball, which slowly descended to the shrine floor. It bounced twice, ever so slightly, then faded to reveal the form of a baby monster.
“WAHOO!” it shouted, leaping up and dashing around in circles before I could see what it was. Suddenly it sprang towards us, landing on Suezo and clinging to the eyeball’s head.
It was a Hopper/Bajarl, an Emerald Eye. Hmm…wasn’t there something I was supposed to remember about Emerald Eyes…?
“Get it offa me!” Suezo shouted, hopping madly about the shrine, retracing the Hopper’s path from before. “Get it off! Get it off!”
Emerald Eye giggled and clung tighter, thoroughly enjoying the ride he was getting. This continued for quite some time, while the rest of us stared at the spectacle. I, for one, wasn’t sure whether to laugh or try and help Suezo, so I ended up doing neither.
Finally Holly came to Suezo’s rescue, seizing the Emerald Eye and prying him off Suezo’s head. She then cradled him in her arms, calming him down…I hoped.
“What is it?” Genki asked.
“It’s Emerald Eye,” Holly answered, tickling the baby. “He’s a cute little fellow, isn’t he?”
The little Hopper laughed, his eyes upturned in delight. Then he spotted the magic stone.
“Yum!” he cried, biting at it so that the whole stone ended up inside his mouth. The whole group stared, aghast. Suezo was the first to recover.
“Hey!” he shouted. He whacked Emerald Eye on the side of the head with his tongue, causing the baby to spit out the stone. “Holly’s magic stone is not a chew toy!”
The Hopper’s eyes grew large and cute, filling up with tears. He sniffed once, twice, then threw back his head and…
I clapped my hands over my ears in an attempt to shut out his wailing. It was no use. I heard him anyway.
“There, there, it’s okay, Emerald Eye,” Holly cooed, rocking the tiny monster back and forth.
Holly looked down at the baby, then up at Suezo. “Suezo, I think it wants you to apologize.”
“No way! I’m not apologizing to that!” Suezo turned away.
“Alright, alright already, I’m sorry!”
Emerald Eye abruptly stopped crying, and slowly turned to look at Suezo. Then it grinned.
Suezo began hopping frantically as Emerald Eye hitched a ride on his head once more.
Much, much, later…
“I’m tired, Holly, can we please rest a bit?” Suezo whined.
Holly spoke quietly so as not to wake the Emerald Eye, who was slumbering in her arms. “We only left the shrine a little while ago.”
“Yeah! C’mon, Suezo, you can’t be tired already! We’ve all got plenty of energy!” Genki shouted.
Emerald Eye made a slight sound and stirred in his sleep. Everyone froze and watched him nervously. After a few tense moments he settled down again, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief.
“Do ya want to go running after Suezo again?” I asked quietly.
“That’s why I’m so tired,” Suezo groaned. “Most of the time you guys were resting, I was trying to get him offa me.”
“There’s a town somewhere around here,” I said. “Well, I don’t know if the town still is…but the wall should be.”
Everyone turned to stare at me, and I blinked.
“Do ya have any idea how weird it is to say things and then not remember anything else about them?” I asked.
“About as weird as it is to have someone say something out of nowhere and then not remember anything else about it?” Suezo countered.
“Hmm,” Hare said, scratching his chin. Then he nodded. “I think I know what she’s talking about.”
“Hare, sometimes you don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Tiger retorted.
Hare marched up to Tiger angrily, getting right in his face. “You wanna say that again?!”
Mocchi shoved himself between them. “Quiet, chi!” he pleaded. “Emerald Eye is sleeping!”
Tiger turned away, and Hare backed off, neither of them wanting to wake the hyperactive Hopper.
“As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted…” Here Hare turned to glare at Tiger. “…I’ve heard of a town not far from here, a place with an immense wall built around it. The townspeople say it’s been there since the beginning of time, and been strengthened by each generation afterward. I heard that Naga had laid siege to it…but I have no idea whether or not he succeeded.”
“We may as well go there,” Holly said. “Even if it is deserted, it will still be a good place to rest.”
“Alright,” Genki said. “LET’S- ”
Four pairs of hands and one tongue immediately clapped over Genki’s mouth, and everyone looked nervously at Emerald Eye, still slumbering peacefully in Holly’s arms.
“Wahoo…” he muttered sleepily, then turned and tried to burrow into Holly.
Suezo, Golem, Hare, Mocchi, and I released Genki, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Genki dropped his voice to a whisper. “Okay, gang. Let’s go.”
It was approaching sunset when we reached the town. We weren’t even able to see the actual town – the wall made sure of that. It was built from a myriad of different stones, all plastered together, but somehow their haphazard arrangement seemed to be a pattern in itself. It was also unbelievably high, stretching skywards so far that I couldn’t see the top of it. No matter how many times I saw it, I would never get over how huge it was. Wait…just how many times had I seen it? I stopped myself the moment I thought it. If I tried to remember, I’d just end up getting frustrated when I couldn’t.
Two human guards stood at the gates, and I thought I heard them shift nervously in their armor as we approached. I suppose we did look a little imposing…or at least Golem and Tiger did. Seeing those two approach would make just about anyone nervous…especially if you happened to live near Naga’s lair.
By the time we reached the gates, however, the two had regained their composure. They were serious, stone-faced guards, the exact opposites of the ones I had met in the past. ~Again?~ I thought to myself. All these flashes of memories, without anything tangible… If this kept up, it could get really annoying…and it looked like it was going to.
“Halt! State your name and business!” the first guard barked.
There was a moment of strained silence as the eight of us nervously watched to see if Emerald Eye would awaken. Fortunately for everyone, the little Hopper stayed asleep. I looked up just in time to see the two guards sweating before they once more became expressionless.
“I’m Holly,” Holly answered. “And these are my friends.” She introduced each of us in turn. “We’re travelers, on a very important journey, and…”
Here, Genki interrupted. “Yeah, we’re gonna find the Phoenix and defeat Moo!”
After another period of uneasy quiet, during which the Emerald Eye continued to sleep, Holly finished. “…we were hoping we could spend the night.”
The two guards turned to each other, holding a whispered conference. I only heard bits and pieces.
“…think they have a chance against Moo?”
“…find the Phoenix…”
“…not wearing crests……..let them in.”
The guards nodded to each other, then turned to the wall. They cupped their hands over their mouths and shouted.
“OPEN THE GATES!”
Slowly, the ancient gates began to rumble and slide open…
In a flash, the Emerald Eye awakened, sprang out of Holly’s arms, and scampered off into the town.
“Emerald Eye! Wait!” Holly shouted, running after him.
~Not again…~ I thought as the others took off as well. I sighed. “Wait for me!”
“Eek! Stop it, you little – ouch!”
I rounded a corner and ran smack into Golem, who had stopped suddenly along with the others. As soon as I managed to recover from crashing into solid rock, I saw why.
“Get off of me! Let go, let go, you horrible scamp!”
Emerald Eye had his teeth clamped onto a dignified-looking woman’s finger. She was one of the many merchants displaying her wares in the market square we had come to. She had a small table set up, displaying a variety of expensive-looking jewelry.
Finally the woman succeeded in prying Emerald Eye off, and roughly deposited him on the floor.
“Now scat!” she shouted.
This did not discourage the little monster in the least.
Emerald Eye swiftly sprang onto the table and began stuffing gobfuls and gobfuls of jewelry into his mouth. As we watched, astonished, he noisily chewed a few times, then gulped the jewelry down.
“Yum!” he cried with a broad smile and happily upturned eyes.
Oh. That’s what I was supposed to remember about Emerald Eyes…they loved eating jewelry.
“Shoo! Shoo, you…you…argh!” The woman swiped at him with her handbag. Emerald Eye dodged, quickly scampering off the table to hide behind Holly.
Seeing this, the woman rounded on her. “Does that rapscallion belong to you?” she demanded.
Holly nodded. “I’m terribly sorry for what happened, he just ran off…”
“I don’t want to hear your excuses, girl,” the woman snapped, cutting her off. “You’d better have enough money to pay for what your friend there ate!”
“Oh, yes,” Holly said. She quickly took out the bag she used to hold money in, opened it, and looked inside. Then she made one of the funniest expressions I have ever seen. “Ahh!”
Emerald Eye, lying contentedly on his back at the bottom of the otherwise empty sack, burped.
Holly looked nervously at the woman, who was already taking a deep breath. “Please, miss, I’m sure we can – ”
Whatever Holly was going to say was cut off by the woman’s scream. “GUARDS!”
There was a great deal of discordant clanking as about a score of heavily armored figures charged into the market square, clustering around the woman and around us, as well.
The woman pointed dramatically at us. “They stole all of my wares! And that Hopper of theirs *ate* them!”
The guards immediately surrounded us, holding their weapons menacingly. Tiger and a few of the others tensed, ready for a fight.
“Why,” I asked, “do ya always feel inclined to believe the person who sets themselves up as the victim? How do ya know she didn’t eat them?”
“Why would she want to eat her own wares?” countered one of the guards. “You don’t make any sense, girl.”
“I never said she did, I just said that ya wouldn’t have known if she had.”
Holly stepped in. “Sirs, this has all been a terrible accident. Emerald Eye’s just a baby – he didn’t mean any harm, he just didn’t know any better. We’re more than willing to pay for it, but…” She held up the empty sack of coins.
“Be that as it may,” said what seemed to be the captain of the guard. “You are still under arrest. You’ve destroyed her wares, and have no coin to pay for them. Whether or not that was your intention makes no difference. Come with me.”
He turned and marched off, the metallic clank-clank of his armor resounding through the market square. Several swords, uncomfortably close to our sides and backs, made certain the nine of us followed.
“In here,” said the captain of the guard. We had been led to a squat, ancient, and lonely looking building toward the very back of town, then marched down to the basement, which looked as though it hadn’t been used since I’d last visited…
I gave an exasperated sigh. It looked like I had been right…this was starting to get annoying. I knew I had been here before; I kept having these stray thoughts referring to the fact. So why couldn’t I remember what had happened then?
I flinched and clapped my hands over my ears at the sudden protest of the rusty metal bars as they were dragged forcibly over the stone floor. The guards ushered us into the cell they had wrenched open, then forced it closed and turned the key.
Holly tried reasoning with them once more. “Please, this is all a mistake…”
Her voice was drowned out by the raucous clanking of their armor as the guards marched back off the way we had come.
I looked around. Everyone was quiet – Emerald Eye must’ve fallen asleep in Holly’s bag. Genki looked angry, Holly resigned…the others’ faces were a mixture of the two.
“Why are dungeons always so dark?” I asked. “And if they aren’t dark, they’re dreary?”
“Well, dungeons weren’t exactly designed to be cheerful,” Adrian answered. He was sitting against the wall, like we all were, and twirling his quarter stave in his palms.
“Hmm…” I grinned at him, then started working on the back wall with my umbrella.
“Surprised they left us with our weapons,” said Cecilia, her hand resting on Soulfire’s hilt. “Stupid peasants should’ve known better.”
The four of them then turned slowly toward me as my umbrella made an especially loud scraping sound.
“Nemesis?” Adrian asked. “What are you doing?”
“Drawing a smiley face,” I replied, continuing my work on the wall.
There was a bit of silence, during which the only sounds came from Adrian’s struggle not to laugh.
“Well, that’s our Nemesis for you,” Zel commented. “We get captured, and she starts drawing a smiley face.” He stood up from where he had been sitting against the wall. “Continue with your smiley face, Nemesis. We’ll find the way out while you’re playing.”
“Ya took too long talking about it,” I said. “I’m finished.” I took a moment to regard my work. Then I noticed something odd in the stone beneath it, a slight depression that could almost have been a handle… “Hey, what’s this?”
I shook my head to clear it, then turned to find Holly looking at me. It suddenly struck me that she had called me five times already.
“Oh, sorry, Holly…I was just…I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Holly said. “I just saw you start staring off into space like that…”
“Smiley face, chi!”
We all turned to stare at Mocchi, who had wandered over to the back of the cell.
“What did you find, Mocchi?” Genki asked.
We all clustered around him.
“It’s my smiley face!” I exclaimed. So it was still there…faded, but still there.
Everyone turned to stare at me. I grinned.
“I was here, before, during the Ancient War,” I explained. “I just felt like drawing a smiley face…just to brighten up the place a little. I thought it needed a little cheer. But there was something weird about the stone underneath the one I drew on…”
Genki kneeled down to examine it. “Hey, you’re right, Thorn. It looks like there’s a handle here…” He reached out, put his fingers in the depression, and pulled.
With barely a sound, the stone slid about an inch outwards from the wall.
The entire back wall swung open, dragging Genki with it. With a resounding bang, it crashed into a wall to one side. The impact jarred Genki loose, shocking him into releasing the handle.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!”
I winced in sympathy as Genki tumbled down what sounded like a very long flight of stairs.
Holly ran up to the head of the stairs, and, cupping her hands by the sides of her mouth, shouted “Genki! Are you okay?”
“I’m alright…” Genki’s voice drifted up to us. “Hey, there’s a huge spotlight down here! Come on, gang, I think there’s a way out!”
As we started down the stairs, something suddenly occurred to me.
“Where’s Emerald Eye?” I asked. “After all that, don’t ya think he would wake up?”
“Yeah, you’re right.” Holly took a look in her bag, and made that same funny expression again. “He’s gone!”
“Good riddance, if you ask me,” Suezo muttered.
“Suezo!” Holly scolded. Her expression then softened. “I hope he’s okay…”
Emerald Eye hopped through the corridors of the building. No one had noticed him when he had slipped through the bars and run off; they had all been too busy watching Genki.
“There you are,” said a voice as sinister as it was jovial.
With a surprised squeak, Emerald Eye turned to see Santa Claus, his beard parted to reveal the symbol of Moo. The little Hopper’s eyes grew even wider than they already were, and he began fearfully backing away. All too soon, he found himself backed against a wall.
Santa Claus took his time advancing on the baby monster. Soon the baddie stood right in front of him, and Emerald Eye had nowhere to run. The Wracky extended a hand toward the Hopper, and grinned.
“You’ve served your purpose.”
There was a bright flash of light, then Santa Claus put a strange-looking Mystery Disk in his sack and walked away.
“Why would ya want a spotlight down here?” I asked.
We had reached the bottom of the stairs, and were all staring at the huge spotlight that Genki had found. It was an old metal thing, half-cloaked in shadows and smothered in cobwebs.
“Don’t you remember?” Golem asked.
I shook my head. “Nope. All I remembered was the smiley face, and noticing that handle thing…nothing beyond that.”
“Well, whatever it is, it has nothing to do with us,” Tiger said, already beginning to walk away.
“Perhaps, Tiger, but it might give us some clue as to what lies ahead,” Hare put in. “Now, let me see…”
“C’mon, Hare, let’s just go!” Genki said, following after Tiger. “The best way to find out what’s ahead is to go there.”
“Genki’s right, chi,” Mocchi said, following the boy.
“Is there anything Genki says that ya don’t agree with?” I asked. Mocchi, though, seemed to be too far off to hear me…
“Hey! Wait for me!” yelled Suezo as he hopped after them.
Holly sighed. “We’d better follow them…”
“Gol,” agreed Golem.
As they began to walk off, Hare shook his head sadly. “They never listen…”
“Do ya always expect them to?”
Hare looked up at me. “What kind of question is that?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. But don’t worry if they don’t listen to ya. I mean…even if they don’t…ya still know what ya were going to say…ya still…I don’t know. Some people just won’t listen sometimes – it’s part of who they are.” I shrugged again, then looked off down the corridor where the others had gone. “We’d better hurry…”
Hare nodded, and we began heading off. “Say, you wouldn’t mind listening to a few of my theories, would you…?”
In another part of the sub-levels of the building, Santa Claus set down his sack and reached inside. The upper half of his body disappeared for a moment, then he seemed to get a firm grip on something and slowly began to back out. First his shoulders emerged, then his head, then the very tip of his hat. Then a huge bundle of pink, white, and peach fur squeezed out after him. By the time he was finished, a full-sized Pong-pong (Jill/Pixie) stood before him.
A huge rumbling filled the hall, and the Pong-pong rubbed its ample stomach. “I’m hungry!” it wailed.
“I was counting on that.” Santa Claus said with a grin. “And I have some very yummy morsels running around down here…”
“More hallways,” Suezo said in disgust. “Does this ever end?”
“Don’t worry, Suezo,” Holly said. “I’m sure we’ll find the way out soon.”
Hare and I had finally caught up to the others, Hare talking incessantly the whole way. I couldn’t exactly complain, though…he was actually happy to hear my stupid questions. It gave him an excuse to talk about his theories even more.
“Mocchi is hungry, chi.”
“Come on, Mocchi, we have to get out of here first,” said Genki. “Then we can eat.”
“You’re forgetting that Emerald Eye ate all our gold,” Hare pointed out. “We still have some supplies left, but we’re not going to be able to buy food anywhere until we can earn some money.”
“Hare, all you think about is money,” Tiger commented.
Before Hare could come up with a retort, Golem stepped between them. “No fighting.”
“I wonder where Emerald Eye is, anyway…” Holly said.
“That Hopper was nothing but trouble, Holly,” Tiger replied. “He probably abandoned us as soon as he realized there was trouble.”
“But still, Tiger, he’s just a baby,” Holly argued. “It wasn’t his fault…”
A trap door abruptly opened up in the floor, and a huge, peach hand reached out of it and grabbed Mocchi by the ankle, attempting to drag the little monster down with it.
“Mocchi!” Genki and Holly cried in unison, quickly latching on to him and trying to wrest him away from the hand. All they succeeded in doing was getting dragged along with him.
The hand let go of Mocchi as it was singed by Tiger’s attack, then quickly retreated back into the trap door.
“C’mon, Mocchi, run!” Holly shouted, and before I even realized what was happening I was running along with the rest of them.
Behind the group, the hand emerged again, followed by another. Pong-pong’s relatively small head then emerged from the opening.
“Wait! Come back!” he cried. “All I want is a snack!”
He struggled to pull the rest of his body up, but got stuck midway through. He heaved and heaved until he turned red in the face, then collapsed, panting, having only gotten more stuck.
“This is gonna take a while…”
“Dead end, chi!” Mocchi exclaimed, abruptly coming to a halt. The rest of us promptly slammed into each other, trying to avoid doing the same to Mocchi and failing miserably.
“Hey, it’s another spotlight,” Genki said from somewhere in the middle of the pile we had all ended up in.
There was a lot of groaning, exclaiming, and stepping on each other as we all tried to extricate ourselves from the heap. Finally, though, we managed.
“Hmm…” Hare mused, scratching his chin. “I wonder what all these spotlights are doing down here? Genki, do you think you could turn it on?”
“We don’t have time to be fooling around, Hare,” Tiger remarked dourly. “If that thing comes after us…”
“Relax, Tiger,” Suezo said, hopping forward. “If that thing was gonna come after us, it would’ve done it already. Now, let me see…” He leaned over and peered into the spotlight. Unfortunately, Genki chose that moment to turn it on. “AAAH!”
Suezo fell over backwards, a huge spiral in his eye. Holly ran to his side, and Genki quickly switched the spotlight off.
“Suezo, are you all right?” asked Holly.
Suezo groaned, then hoisted himself upright, careful not to look into the spotlight again. With a huge vein standing out on his head, he loomed over Genki.
“WHAT’RE YOU TRYING TO DO, BLIND ME?!”
Genki only stared at him. No, not at him…behind him…
“HEY! I’M TALKING TO YOU HERE! WHY ARE YOU LOOKING…” Something suddenly seemed to dawn on Suezo, and he slowly began to turn around. “…behind…me?”
Suezo found himself staring at the Pong-pong’s enormous stomach. He slowly raised his head to look up at its face.
“HUNGRY!” Pong-pong roared, then scooped up Suezo and opened his mouth wide.
“Hey, that’s cold!” Pong-pong exclaimed as Tiger’s attack hit him. “Stop that!” He used his free hand to smack Tiger away, and the lupine monster hit the wall of the corridor hard. Tiger started to get up, but it looked like it was going be a few moments before he could attack again…
“CHERRY BLOSSOM BLIZZARD!”
“Hahahaha, heeheeheehee, ahahahahahaha!” Pong-pong laughed helplessly as Golem and Mocchi’s attacks hit him, apparently doing no damage at all. “That tickles! Stop, stop!” He swiped them away as easily as he had Tiger. “Now, time to eat!”
Suezo screamed even louder than he had been, and struggled wildly, but the Pong-pong held on.
“Suezo!” Holly shouted.
I had to do something…there was a flash of green light, and an umbrella clattered to the floor. Well, I guess it was something…but it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.
“I’M IN THE ZONE!” Genki planted his roller-blades in the Pong-pong’s stomach…and bounced right off, slamming into the wall behind the spotlight.
Hare tensed, then glanced at Genki. “That’s it!” I heard him say to himself. The he shouted “Genki, turn the spotlight on, quick!”
Genki hastily got to his feet and obeyed, switching on the spotlight just as Pong-pong was bringing Suezo to his mouth.
The Pong-pong yelped in surprise and dropped Suezo, bringing up his hands to cover his eyes. “Hey, shut that off, I wanna eat you!”
“Let’s go!” Tiger shouted, and we ran past the blinded Jill, Golem scooping up the dazed Suezo.
“Come back! Please! I’m starving – OUCH!”
I glanced back as Pong-pong, still unable to see, ran into a wall.
“Could it be the way out?” Golem asked.
“I hope so,” Holly said, glancing behind her.
We had been running for quite some time, the Pong-pong following us, occasionally running into a wall. He seemed to have gotten his vision back though; he had started gaining on us a short time ago. The only reason he hadn’t caught up to us yet was that he seemed terribly out of shape. Every so often he needed to stop and pant, just to catch his breath.
But now as he saw we were about to escape, he put on a burst of speed. “I’m gonna eat you this time!”
“Do ya realize you’re the third person who’s threatened to eat me recently?” I asked, running up the stairs after the others. “Can’t ya come up with something more original?”
“But I’m hungry!” Pong-pong wailed back at me.
“But why do ya have to eat us?” I reached the top of the stairs, where a potion of the wall had swung open. The others had simply jumped out, but Golem was just standing there, waiting.
“Well, you’re closest…and besides, why not?” He had stopped for a moment, resting. “Gotta, keep, going…” he panted to himself.
“Um…wouldn’t ya feel the least bit guilty about it?” The opening was a square about Mocchi’s height. I could fit through, but Golem…
“Well…no,” Pong-pong answered. He had regained his breath and started running. He was almost at the stairs.
“Thorn,” Golem said quietly. “You go.”
“No way.” I shook my head. “Ya go first.” And with that I pushed him through the wall.
How I managed to push a huge, stone, monster is beyond me. All I know is, the second I touched him he started glowing green, and fell straight through the wall without leaving a mark, like he was a ghost or something.
I jumped through the opening after him just as Pong-pong was thundering up the stairs. I landed rather…ungracefully.
“Thorn, are you alright?” Holly asked.
I spat out a mouthful of dirt and got up, brushing myself off on the way. “I’m okay…” I spat again, making a disgusted face. “Dirt doesn’t taste very good.”
When Holly didn’t reply, I turned to look at the others, who were helping Golem off a squashed Suezo.
“Why…is it always…me?” Suezo groaned.
“Sorry, Suezo,” I said. Maybe I should have checked what was below before I pushed Golem… “My fault.”
Whatever Suezo might have muttered in reply was cut off by a shout from above.
“I’m hungry…!” The Pong-pong’s head stuck out from the opening, and he attempted to squeeze the rest of his body through as well. “Yeowch! I’m stuck!”
Genki, having made sure both Suezo and Golem were…sort of…alright, ignored the Pong-pong and turned to Holly.
“So, Holly, where’s the stone say to go next?”
“So much for resting…” Suezo muttered as Holly took out her magic stone.
“Or eating, chi…” added Mocchi.
After a moment Holly looked up. “The Phoenix lies in that direction!”
As we began walking off, I heard Pong-pong calling after us.
“Wait! You can’t just leave me here! I’ll starve! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”
I almost felt sorry for him…I did feel sorry for him. But someone would come along and get him down sooner or later…right?
I sighed. Lilim was right about me…
In a flash of green light, the Pong-pong was shoved out of the opening and back into the basement.
…I always was too forgiving.
When Santa Claus found the Pong-pong, he was sitting with his back against the wall, a strange expression on his face.
“Did you eat them?” Santa Claus asked.
“Did you at least eat Nemesis?”
“I can’t eat her…she helped me. I got stuck, and she helped me out…please don’t make me eat her!”
“You’re useless,” Santa Claus snarled. “It’s too late, now, anyway.”
There was a flash, then Santa Claus put another strange Mystery Disk in his sack and walked away.