Pixie felt hot tears on her shoulder, and knew at once her prediction had turned out the exact way she had envisioned. She could not make sense of one thing, though. Why did Holly run to her?
The girl had almost knocked her over; she had entered her arms with such force. The purebred Pixie tried to quiet her, but by then her sobs were loud, long, and had produced a crowd consisting of the entire camp, minus the two she knew were responsible for Holly’s tears.
“Holly, what’s wrong?” she asked concernedly, rubbing the girl’s back, hoping to calm her down. She was hysterical, however, and her cries intensified when Pixie mentioned that something was the matter.
Sighing semi-disgustedly, Pixie glared grouchily at the monsters that had congregated, although they were only concerned about the poor girl. They took the hint, however, and soon most had filtered themselves away. Only Ember and the girl’s father remained.
“Holly, sweetheart, you have to tell us what happened,” her father pleaded, trying to pull her from Pixie’s arms into his. Holly was not about to back down, though. She clung to Pixie and cried her eyes out.
“Let Pixie talk to her,” Ember suggested politely, “I’m sure she’s just a little confused right now, and most likely another female figure will help her sort out her emotions.” He looked in Pixie’s direction knowingly, and Holly’s father took one long, sad look at his daughter and turned to leave. Ember helped Pixie usher Holly, who was still in a very disheveled state, into the clearing she had woken up inside.
The Pixie set the girl down on the bed of leaves gently, and turned her to look in her cloudy brown eyes. Behind the mess of wet tears, she could see clouds of anger and sorrow intermixing violently.
“Holly, please…” she started, placing a hand on the girl’s shoulder, still heaving from the heavy sobs. Before she could continue, however, a male figure burst into the clearing. He stopped cold in his tracks when he saw Holly sitting awkwardly, a confused looking Pixie staring up at him.
“I need to talk to her,” he stated bluntly, motioning for Pixie to abandon her post. A wild growl rose from Holly’s throat, however, and she narrowed her eyes.
“I don’t want to talk to you, not now, not ever!” she hissed, gouging her eyes deep into his knees, where her eye-level was.
“Holly, c’mon, just let me explain, please?” he said, a little too high-pitched. She interpreted it as a whine.
“No. Leave me alone. Everyone just leave me alone!” she yelled, her words stinging Pixie’s sensitive ears. Holly pulled away from the human-like monster, drew her arms around her knees, and closed her eyes.
Pixie was astonished, but also somewhat amused. She had never seen Holly act so childish before. Even when she had first met the girl eight long years ago she had always acted as the voice of reason in their rag-tag group. If anything she expected that Genki would be the one sulking and whining, not a mature girl like Holly.
“Pixie, please leave us alone,” Genki whispered, “I need to tell her something I should have said a long time ago.” Pixie just nodded her head, and sighing another deep sigh, she left the thicket.
As she left all the only thing that crossed her mind was the image of Genki stroking Lexy’s hair when they had first reunited. He’s made a big mistake, she said to herself, and now he is truly regretting it. All I can hope is that he finds a way to fix it fast, she thought, or he’s going to be out of luck. Again.
Genki looked at Holly. She was acting so immature, but then again, hadn’t he been when he had fooled around with Lexy? He had just been so afraid of his feelings for Holly, feelings that he didn’t know were there, and he had wanted to forget about them. Now he saw that this was the exact opposite of what he should have done. She sat almost completely still, her only movement being the slight rock she had pushed herself into. She swayed back and forth slowly, and he could hear her humming in a whisper to herself, her eyes screwed shut and unwilling to open, even for him. Especially for him. What was he supposed to do when she was acting like this? How could he tell her what he had so effortlessly blurted out to Lexy? How could he ever say he loved her, when it was obvious she didn’t feel the same way?
But she had to feel the same way, he reasoned as he stared at her back. Why else would she react like this when she saw Lexy and I kissing? She had to have been jealous. But then again, he had never known Holly to be the jealous type. No, that was more Lexy’s territory.
“What do you have a hearing problem now too,” she hissed, “Get out of here! I don’t wanna talk about it!” She looked up at him briefly, her face mottled with red splotches from her salty tears.
“Holly, I have to tell you something I’ve wanted to say for almost eight years now. I’ve regretted leaving this world ever since the day I went back to mine, and you weren’t there…”
“Oh cut the crap Genki,” she sighed, staring intently at him, “I saw you. I saw you and that little blonde! Don’t you think you’ve tortured me enough without stammering out this stupid soliloquy about how much you missed me?” Her ribbon had come untied and lay at her feet in a blue heap.
“But I did miss you Holly, every second I was gone,” he said cautiously, stupefied by her harsh reply.
“Well it couldn’t have been too bad, you never once tried to come back!” she yelled, her voice elevating as she continued, “Professor Sakeuro gave you the code! All you had to do was punch it in to that contraption of yours anytime and you would have been transported here!”
“…I…I must have forgot,” he stuttered, looking down and away from her piercing eyes.
“Then I guess any blonde bimbo with an hourglass figure can push me right straight to the back of your mind, huh?” She was screaming now. Genki prayed that no one outside could hear them, though he knew very well that the entire camp had probably stopped in their tracks to listen to the heated conversation.
“Holly, you know that’s not true…”
“But it must be Genki,” she snarled, “Or we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place, now would we!”
“Holly, please,” he whispered, motioning for her to quiet down, “Everyone can hear us.”
“No! I will not lower my voice!” she screamed, her voice screechy and held at a childish pitch, “I want the entire world to hear. I loved you Genki, I was sure I did, but now, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to look you in the eye again!”
Genki’s mouth hung open, and he looked at her in shock. Her glare softened slightly, knowing that her secret had been the most piercing and unexpected thing she had uttered yet. The truth had stupefied him into silence.
Finally, after several minutes of just looking at each other, thoughts running through their heads a mile a minute, feelings of confusion vanishing and being replaced by those of ecstasy, Genki came to a conclusion.
She did not just say what he thought she did, did she? In all the years he had pined for her secretly, there was never a moment where he had imagined that she actually loved him so much she was willing to risk the entire encampment knowing. But then again, when you were in love, weren’t you supposed to want to shout it out to the world? Genki looked down and away from Holly’s harsh, accusing gaze. It was now or never.
“Holly, you have to listen to me…” he started, sighing deeply.
“Why should I,” she screamed. Her soft brown eyes were cold and impenetrable. She was about to screech out another harsh comment when he grabbed her arm fiercely.
“Stop it Holly,” he yelled, “Now we can be adults about this, or we can act like little kids. Please, just let me say what I have to say, and after, if you want me to, I’ll walk out of your life forever.” The girl’s eyes had cooled slightly, and she pursed her lips grouchily, showing Genki that she thought whatever it was that he was going to say would not make much of a difference. Only Genki knew it would make all the difference in the world.
Slowly, stammering at first, but gaining strength and feeling as he continued, he told her what he had wanted to for so long.
“Holly, I’ve loved you as long as I can remember, even eight years ago when I was still just a child. I couldn’t tell you because I was afraid you didn’t feel the same way back, and I didn’t want you to laugh at me.”
“I wouldn’t have laughed,” she interrupted sullenly. Her brown eyes were still stormy, but he could see something Pixie had not. A glimmer of hope.
“Ever since I left I’ve regretted never telling you, because bottling up those feelings inside just hurt too much. And then all this business with Lexy…I was just so confused!” He didn’t notice the single tear slide down her red cheek, or the crack in her voice when she spoke, but the words that she poured out would stick in his mind forever.
“I was confused too, Genki,” she said, laughing lightly and swiping the tears off her face, “But I guess that’s what love is supposed to do. It makes you cry yourself to sleep every night…Makes your heart ache so badly you want to die…”
“But what if the person loves you back?” he interjected, looking up into her eyes, now soft and gentle again like he had always known them to be. She smiled and sighed.
“Then every pain, every minute suffering, was absolutely without a doubt, utterly, truly, and completely…worth it. Genki, I…” she started, her head swinging down so he couldn’t see her expression. She never would finish her sentence, though. He lifted her up, encircling her back with his arms and pulling her close. She looked up nervously, her movements shaky and inexperienced, her cheeks flushed slightly with her anxiousness. Gently Genki brushed stray strands of her auburn hair away from her face, and brought the back of his hand down across her red-stained cheek.
“I love you Holly,” he whispered tenderly in her ear .
“I love you too,” she murmured, bringing her face closer to his. She cocked her head to the side, her eyes closed lightly, and her lips brushed his daintily, as if they would break were they to touch any harder. Genki just smiled and laughed, then to Holly’s surprise, scooped her up so he was holding her baby-style.
“You can kiss me a little more passionately, you know,” he joked.
“Believe me,” she whispered, smiling cutely, “I was just getting started.” Both hearts leapt with joy when Holly, always true to her word, wrapped her arms around Genki’s neck and gave him the kiss he had been waiting for.
Holly’s father’s mouth dropped open when he saw his daughter kiss Genki so zealously it appeared she almost knocked him over. Mystique was giggling uncontrollably, and Allegra had an extremely large grin on her Pixie face. Tiger and Greywolf’s reactions were similar to her father’s: most of the monsters that had gathered to peek through the cactuses into the clearing were speechless.
“I didn’t think she had it in her,” laughed Pixie, smirking as they watched the new couple break apart to breathe, and then immediately go for another long craved kiss. Suezo just rolled his eye, his jealous streak taking a turn for the worse.
“Well apparently she does,” he muttered, low in his throat. Hare heard him, however, and decided to comment on it.
“Oh, is poor Suezo just a teensy weensy bit jealous?” he teased, pouting his lips mockingly. If looks could kill, Hare would have been dead. The look he shot at the rabbit-like monster astonished the others. Tiger just snickered as Suezo stalked off, earning a similar look from Hare.
“Personally I think it’s great,” said Ember, piping up from the back of the pack, “Your friends here were always mentioning to me how awfully lonely your poor daughter seemed after Genki left.”
“I suppose I didn’t want to notice it, she was so young then,” Holly’s father reasoned, “But now…I…I guess I’m alright with it.”
“What if he wants to return to his world, though, and take Miss Holly with him?” asked a rough voice quietly from the side. Everyone that was eavesdropping turned to see the Stone-Dragon looking at Holly’s father inquisitively. “Will you be alright with it then?”
Steele’s comment had struck a nerve. The monsters all looked to the girl’s father, waiting for his reply. Suddenly a damper had been thrown on the entire mission. The reason they had even attempted fighting Pharaoh with their small numbers had been to get Holly back to stay: not for some guy to come along and whisk her away to another world. Glances back and forth to each other confessing their insecurities on the matter were exchanged throughout the silence that followed.
“She wouldn’t go,” he finally concluded, with a sigh, breaking the deep quiet that had overcome the group. “I’m sure she would never abandon her post as Guardian of Monsters, she cares for you all so deeply.”
“Not as much as she loves Genki,” Greywolf said knowingly, shaking his silver head doubtfully “There’s no telling what she’ll do, now that she finally has what she wants.”
“Speaking of going home, no offense to y’all or anything, but I’m just about ready,” yawned Yama, as he ran his fingers through his spiky blond hair, “It’s been a blast and all, but I don’t think I’m quite ready for action like this everyday.” He smiled apologetically, and the others just nodded in reply.
“That’s quite alright,” laughed Ember, stretching out his fiery wings and refolding them against his side, “But speaking of departing for the other dimension, where is that Lexy girl that Genki had to dispose of?” No one really had noticed she had not returned to the camp after what they assumed was a heated breakup, and no one had really cared. Their happiness over Genki and Holly had made the sassy blonde girl with the sharp eyes and the sharper temper slip their minds, and no one ever could have imagined what little Miss Alexia Grenichwood would do next.
“Come on, we’ve done enough eavesdropping for one day,” Ember said eventually, when it was dark enough that all they could distinguish from the thicket were hushed whispers and the silhouettes of the two humans against the background of black. Most of the monsters had already spread out in bunches across the clearing, but the three Pixies, the Oscerot, and Mocchi had lagged behind along with Holly’s father.
“One can never be too nosy,” chuckled Pixie as she stretched out her wings and took off for the other side of the clearing. Allegra and Mystique followed with several flaps of their own limbs, and Ember retired to his makeshift nest that the Pixie trio had helped put together for him.
“Mocchi wants to see Genki and Holly,” said the little pink duck-billed monster, climbing into Holly’s father’s lap. He grinned at the young monster’s selfishness.
“You have to stay out here for now Mocchi. Genki and Holly need some time alone to talk.”
“Why are they so close, chi?” he questioned curiously, peering back into the thicket, where they could see the boy and girl leaning against the trunk of a palm tree, wrapped in each other’s arms comfortably.
“Because they love one another so much,” he said, a solitary tear sliding down his cheek. He turned to face Genki’s companion, and knew he would no longer be the boy’s best friend. That was Holly’s job now.
“I just hope they know what they are doing,” he sighed to himself, then looked back in at the scene in the thicket. I just hope he doesn’t take my little girl away from me.
It was pitch black in the clearing, but a pair of cat-like emerald eyes were easily distinguished from the fireflies and the stars as the creature made it’s way to the thicket at the far corner. A large congregation of monsters were curled up, stretched out, or huddled together in clumps all throughout the expanse of sandy grass, and it could clearly see the Cinder-Bird’s sparkling feathers emitting a soft light from a large nest-like structure in the center.
“Guess they didn’t miss me much,” it muttered, glaring around. Slowly and stealthily, it slunk between the groups, avoiding lighting its foot on any paw, wing, nose, or tail that was lying in the chosen path.
When it stopped at the thicket’s entrance, a low growl escaped it’s throat at the sight of two humans, a man and a woman, cuddled close together on a blanket of leaves. Placing it’s hand over it’s mouth, the creature stifled another, loud snarl, and set about what it was there for.
Creeping over to the pile of leather satchels and sacks, the creature milled around until finally, after emptying almost all of the contents out onto the ground, it found what it had been after. Taking the silky sheer dress, the ribbons, the pearls, and anything else it deemed important, it opened it’s own pack and shoved the contents in. Praising itself with it’s snoop, and it’s findings, the creature turned to leave. Then it remembered a very important piece of the puzzle that was still missing.
Hesitating, it decided it was all or nothing and it crawled over quietly to the sleeping couple. Wrinkling its nose in disgust at the sight of the young woman wrapped securely in the young man’s arms, it slid it’s tan hand down into the front of the man’s shirt, grasping something smooth-surfaced and cool to the touch. When it pulled it’s hand back out, it untied the string that the glowing stone was strung on, and smiled satisfactorily.
Rising and turning to leave, the moonlight caught the magic stone as the creature fastened the trinket around it’s neck. A sly smile appeared on its mouth, and turning back to the couple, it whispered a threat that would hang over their heads for what it hoped was eternity.
“I’ll get you Genki, and your little princess, too.” With that said, and nothing more to say, the creature snickered lowly, and with a flash of it’s emerald eyes, loped off into the brush, vowing never to return again.
The Crimson-Eyed and the Antores shivered as their master glared at them viciously, his white cloak stained with his own blood and his image badly damaged.
“You fools let her escape!” he roared, spitting out a mouthful of blood from the bite on his tongue that had been inflicted by none other than girl he was talking about, “That little fox got away again! And this time with the magic stone!”
“Pleasssssse forgive ussssss masssssster Pharaoh,” hissed the Crimson-Eyed, “The other Preisssssst was in the temple. We had no idea that thosssssse foolssssss would attempt to resssssscue the princessssss.”
“It was our mistake that she was taken back, and for that punish us as you will,” said the Antores sadly, “But it was not our fault that the magic stone was retrieved by the others.” He averted his red beady eyes quickly, to avoid confronting the Pharaoh’s own, which were at this minute boiling blood red with rage.
“I hate to say it, but that is the truth, and you will be punished for it,” growled Pharaoh, pacing back and forth in front of his throne that had been set out on the pavilion alongside with another of the same proportions for his would be bride. He was furious that the girl had attempted escape and this time accomplished it. He had had so many fantasies of he and her ruling the monster world together, but now that she was back in the rebel’s hands, the probability of them ever coming true was slim to none.
The half-human monster was about to dismiss his generals with orders to leave him alone with his thoughts, when the Antores put his hand up to his eyes and peered out into the black, as if he could see something approaching.
“Master, it’s…it’s her,” he stuttered, pointing at a faint white glimmer in the distance. Whatever it was sauntered at an incredible pace, and the white spot became brighter and larger as it ate up the ground.
“Impossible,” he uttered, squinting his eyes and zeroing in on what he assumed to be an illusion. When he focused on the white mass, however, he saw what the Antores had seen.
Striding towards them confidently was a young woman, clothed in a silky dress, hair braided back to reveal a tan face. But something was wrong. Holly’s eyes were a soft brown, not even comparing to the stunning, cat-like green of this girl.
As she approached, he could see she was not Holly, but a smaller, shorter girl with blond hair, one he had never noticed before on any of his surveyings of the monster world. Her lips were curled in a crafty smile, and at once he assumed the worst.
“Attack her,” he yelled at the Antores desperately, “It’s a trap! They are trying to trick us, but I can see straight through their stupid disguise. The girl doesn’t resemble Holly at all!”
Suddenly, before the Antores could leap off the platform, however, the girl stopped in her tracks close enough to them so she could yell a message across the sandy abyss they stood on.
“Greetings,” she called, her voice crystalline and sharp, like her uncanny eyes. Pharaoh couldn’t help staring at the mysterious visitor, but he also couldn’t help his suspicions.
“Attack Scythe,” he told the Antores quickly, waving the stalled monster forward once more. The girl cocked her head inquisitively, making the moonlight reflect off the many pearl strands in her hair.
“Oh mighty Pharaoh, do you not have any manners? Surely you do not order a weary traveler to be attacked. And I must say, my journey has been a long one. From another world, if you will.”
Pharaoh’s mind snapped, and his eyes narrowed. This girl was one of that retched boy Genki’s kind, one of the real world where every technology had been discovered and every advancement possible had been made. He might have use for such a girl, especially if she had knowledge of such things.
“Let me proceed great Pharaoh, and I’ll give you an offer you can’t refuse,” she said coyly, sashaying forward a few steps. The Gali/human curled his lips in a smile, tired of being the seducer himself and amused with this girl’s attempts at making him the seduced.
“I’m listening,” he said, stroking his metallic beard, and sitting back down in his golden throne. The girl stepped up onto the Pavilion, forcing the Antores and the Crimson-Eyed to scamper out of her way as she strode confidently toward Pharaoh.
“I’ll give you all the knowledge of my world, plus a little token of my esteem, for only one thing in return,” she whispered, sliding delicately into his lap and wrapping her arms around his neck. Reaching up to touch her neck, he brushed his fingers over the turquoise stone that he had thought he had lost forever.
“What must I do?” he asked, watching her carefully as she reached back, untying the string from around her tan neck and dropping the magic stone into his open palm.
“Oh it’s nothing really difficult, but something I think you’ll enjoy just as much as I will. Something…evil.”
“I like the sound of it already,” he snickered, smiling again, “But what could possibly be as satisfactory as getting my hands on that fox and her little lover boy?”
The girl just cackled evilly, throwing her head back as she laughed. This is going to be so easy, she thought as she brought her eyes down to stare deep into the darkness brewing within the monster’s. Taking a deep breath, and giggling flirtatiously, Lexy bent over and whispered her reply in Pharaoh’s golden ear.
“Well it’s about time,” laughed Big Blue as Pixie casually told him the news about Genki and Holly the next morning. Neither of the two lovebirds had emerged from their little nest, and most of the monsters and their companions were packed up and ready to move out, none wanting to remain in the scorching desert any longer than they had to. Soon enough someone would have to be volunteered to venture in and wake them up, though no one wanted to interfere.
“But should you really have been eavesdropping?” he asked concernedly when he learned how his friend had obtained the gossip.
“No, I guess not, but it was no big deal. All they did was slobber all over each other for awhile, then they sat down and whispered and giggled back and forth,” she said, sighing, her nose wrinkled up in disgust over the making out part.
“Probably because they knew everyone was out there watching and listening,” the blue and white rock monster laughed as he lowered a hand down to the ground. The purebred Pixie stepped on daintily and was hoisted up to her usual spot on Big Blue’s shoulder.
“I’m ready!” announced Mystique joyfully, gliding to a stop in front of Allegra, who was at the moment preoccupied with listening to Ember rattle on about why someone had to get Genki and Holly moving.
“We can’t waste any more time,” he said gruffly, stretching out his wings and shaking them, sending several fiery feathers floating down to stick in the sandy ground, “We’ve left them alone long enough. Allegra, you go and wake them up.”
“No way,” she snorted, shaking her head, her blue hair swishing along her shoulders, “Why don’t you?”
“I’ll go,” said Mystique, raising her hand and smiling. Neither monster, however, heard a word she said.
“Because, it…it’s not my place,” he stammered, throwing his head into the air, “Besides, I can’t fit in the thicket.” He let out a low snicker, causing Allegra to throw up her hands in disgust.
“What are you arguing about?” asked Greywolf, his eyebrows raised as he sauntered over to his two bickering companions.
“About who is going to go get Holly and Genki up,” growled Allegra, crossing her arms. Suddenly a sly look crossed her face.
“Greywolf, I left something in the thicket. Would you mind going and getting it for me?” she asked, smiling cutely, her bushy tail swishing back and forth.
“I don’t think so Allegra, use that ploy on someone else,” chuckled the white wolf, raising his eyebrows again.
“I already said I’d go,” piped up Mystique again, “It’s really no big deal…”
“Well what about you Tiger?” Ember called to the blue and white striped wolf as he trotted by to join his brother.
“What about what?” he asked. Suddenly Greywolf leaned over and whispered something in his ear.
“Just say no? Okay…No.” he said bluntly, as he shrugged his shoulders and smiled a toothy grin. Greywolf laughed and they took off in a run to the other side of the clearing. Allegra scrunched up her nose grouchily and stomped her bare foot on the ground. Suddenly she saw Yama striding towards them, his pack on his back and a concerned look on his face.
“Hey, guys, not to be rude or anythin’, but do yah think we can get this show on the road? I mean, we’ve been waiting here for a long time, and…”
“Yama, Yama, Yama,” said Allegra clasping her hands together, “Just the person I’ve been looking for…” she smiled a cute smile again, and beckoned him to come closer. “You see, we have a teeny tiny little problem with moving just yet.”
“Really. What?” he asked, running his fingers through his spiky blond hair.
“Well you see, Genki and Holly aren’t up yet, so we need someone to go in and…”
“Ohhh no,” he said interrupting the Pixie sub-breed before she could even finish her proposition, “There is no possible way. I’ll see you three later,” he laughed, “If you ever find someone to do it.”
“Well I never…” squawked Ember, shaking his head.
“Guys: can you hear me?” asked Mystique, putting her hands on her hips, “I said I would go!” Allegra just kept gazing around the clearing for potential suckers, and Ember was silent as well.
“Apparently not,” she said, rolling her eyes, “Helloooooo?”
“Ooo, there’s Suezo,” shrieked Allegra, “He’ll go.”
“I highly doubt that. By the way he reacted last night, I think he’d like to stay as far away from Holly and Genki as he possibly can when they are together,” sighed Ember, fluffing his feathers compulsively again.
“What about Hare? Maybe we could bribe him,” he asked after spotting the purebred Hare and the Prince Hare walking around together.
“It’s worth a shot,” Allegra said hopefully, then put her hand up to her mouth, “Oh Hare!!!! Can you come here for just a second?” The rabbit swung his head over his shoulder, and slowly turned around and walked towards them.
“Would you by any chance be willing to, for say, a small reward, go wake Genki and Holly up?” Ember asked, smiling graciously. Hare shook his head, however, and Allegra looked as if steam was about to shoot out of her ears.
“I’m not that greedy,” he chuckled, putting his arm around Ember’s shoulder, “I’ll have to pass this one up!” Smiling again, he walked away.
“Urghhhhhhh! Why won’t anyone just be polite and do what the nice Mint asks them before she loses her temper and decides very irrationally to blow them all away!!!” hissed Allegra through her clenched teeth, elevating her voice so that all the monsters could hear. Her face was beat red, but the Unico standing by her side was ready to give her a run for her money.
“I’ll do it!!!” yelled Mystique at the top of her lungs, clenching her fists at her side, “I told you five million times, I will go in and wake them up!” She took a step and got right in Allegra’s face.
“It’s noooo biggg, deallll!!!” she screamed, stopping her hooves empathetically as she hissed out the words. Shortly, though, she had regained her composure, and was the same image of a sweet-dispositioned Unico she had been seconds ago. Monsters all around the clearing were staring, wondering what to make of this sudden and unexpected outburst.
Allegra looked at her a little cautiously, never knowing that the monster she has assumed was just a sad excuse for an airhead could be so aggressive. Stepping to the side, out of Mystique’s way, she mumbled some sort of apology and turned her face away.
“Geez, I thought I’d never get my point across,” she giggled as she headed towards the thicket, brown tail swishing satisfactorily.
Brushing aside a stray palm leaf, Mystique ducked into the thicket without hesitation. She knew that Genki and Holly were probably just cuddling, or even already awake. If not, though, waking them up would be no problem. Her lungs did not expand that much just to tell people off.
Upon entering, the Unico had to stop and smile. Her theory had been correct. Genki was sitting on the ground, his back square against the trunk of a palm tree, Holly’s red head resting comfortably on his chest, her arms encircling his waist; his arms wrapped snuggly around hers. How cute, she thought to herself as she tiptoed closer, they look so good together. Leaning over, she shook Holly’s shoulder gently.
The girl’s eyes fluttered open slowly, awakening from a pleasant sleep. Curling her lips in a smile, she was about to whisper something to Genki when she turned her head and saw he was still fast asleep. Looking up quickly, her eyes met with Mystique’s, and she smiled sheepishly.
“Ummmm…hi…uh, were we by any chance…holding you guys up?” she asked, releasing the boy from her hold and stretching her arms high in the air. She gently uncoupled Genki’s arms from around her midriff, and held out her hand.
“Just a little bit,” laughed the Unico, helping Holly to a standing position. Suddenly Genki began to stir, feeling the absence of Holly’s body next to his. Yawning loudly, he opened his eyes to see two big brown pairs staring curiously into his.
“Hey…Mystique…” he said confusedly, standing up.
“We’re kind of stalling everything Genki,” Holly said, a sad smile on her face, “We’d better get moving.”
“Oh yeah, right, right,” he said loudly, his eyes wandering nervously all around the thicket, readying himself for anymore unexpected visitors.
“Just give us a sec, okay Mystique?” Holly asked pleadingly, “We promise we won’t take too long!” Mystique just smiled back politely and trotted out beyond the bushes that skirted the thicket.
Holly darted her eyes over to Genki, and he met her gaze halfway.
“I guess we overslept a little, huh?” she asked quietly, bending over to retrieve her clothes satchel from the ground.
“Yeah…” he sighed, reaching to pick up his own bundle.
“Genki?” Holly whispered. He swung his head up to stare into her deep brown eyes.
“What is it?” he asked, stuffing some more paraphernalia into his already overloaded backpack. She averted her gaze momentarily, then looked back at him intently, tears forming at the corners of her eyes.
“It wasn’t all just a dream was it?” she sighed, swiping at the tears in her eyes furiously.
“No, no,” he laughed, dropping his knapsack to the sandy ground with a thud. He stepped toward her and hugged her closely.
“Of course not,” Genki said, shaking his head as Holly smiled, more tears sliding forbidden down her ruddy cheeks, “Of course not.” Taking her head in his hands, he kissed her softly on the forehead, then on the nose, then on her lips, making her laugh.
“Guys, lets get a move on!” Mystique’s high voice floated to them from outside their sanctuary. Regretfully, the new couple detached themselves from each other, gathered up their belongings, and emerged from the shade of the thicket into the already scorching desert sun.
“Well it’s been a blast,” laughed Falcon, his deep raspy Dragon’s voice ringing out in the night air, “But I’d say it’s about time my crew and I headed back to our posts. Good luck you two,” he called as he took to the air, aiming his comment in Genki and Holly’s direction. Both received the compliment exactly the same: in a matter of seconds their faces were a perfectly matched shade of red.
It had taken them about a week in the muggy heat to reach Ember’s cave, and most of the army had already departed for wherever it was they had came from. Not to mention most of the army had already managed some way or another to congratulate the new couple, whether privately or in public, either way causing both to blush uncontrollably. Holly’s father swore to Ember as the dwindling crowd watched Falcon and his dragons depart that he had never seen Holly happier, or redder for that matter, in his life.
“Well young love truly is a wonderful thing,” sighed the Cinder Bird as Genki’s arm crept up to rest casually around Holly’s shoulders. Holly’s father looked at him skeptically.
“And how would you know?” he asked, eyebrow arched.
“Back in my day I used to be quite the charmer…or atleast that’s what all the ladies said,” laughed Ember, his beak in the air and his eyes closed dreamily. Holly’s father chuckled back.
“I believe you, I guess.”
“All who plan to continue their journeys home in the morning are welcome to spend the night in my humble abode,” called Ember to the group as they made their way back to where he and Holly’s father had been standing.
Quietly they all herded into the cave that Ember called home, those who hadn’t been their before ooing and awing at the sight of the stalactites, stalagmites, and the sheer beauty of it all.
“It may be damp and dreary during the rainy season,” laughed Ember, spreading his wing in front of him as he ushered the stragglers into the dark cavern, “But when it’s hot outside, you can always expect to be high, dry, and cool as a cucumber in here.” This comment sent giggles off throughout the congregation as they explored the surface.
Soon groups of monsters were settled throughout the cavern, huddling together to converse or share some of the delicious soup that Holly had been prodded into cooking with endless compliments about her abilities. After everyone enjoyed the meal, however, Ember insisted that they celebrate their victory in style. In no time a makeshift band of monsters had been formed, and the entire cave was alive with dancing, singing, and the beat of the music.
Holly may have seemed reluctant to leave the festivities, but inside she had been dying to escape. After the seclusion she had endured at the temple for the past two weeks, readjusting to the hustle and bustle of life with her father and their menagerie of monsters wouldn’t be easy. So when Genki beckoned to her from the shadows of the cave entrance, she graciously excused herself.
“Genki?” she called softly, peeking out into the dark that pressed heavily in on the cave. Cautiously, she took a step forward, then another, eyes darting from side to side, expecting any moment to be attacked by a familiar boy intent on having a little fun.
“Genki?” she said again, this time with a firmer tone, “I’m not really up to jumping ten feet in the air right now, so please, just come out…” She stopped abruptly, the hair on the back of her neck rising with the sense that there was someone standing behind her.
She felt the presence of his hands near her shoulders long before they settled there gently. She could feel his hot breath on her neck as he slowly turned her around to face him.
“You scared me,” she gasped, finally inhaling after several seconds of holding her breath in anticipation of a shout, a jolt, something. Although his features weren’t clear, she could sense the smile on his face.
“I just thought it was getting a little too wild in there for you,” he laughed, taking her arm and guiding her into the darkness away from the mouth of the cave. As they made their way up a small slope the air cooled and the stars brightened. Millions and millions of tiny balls of light dotted the sky, so many that Holly felt lost just looking at them.
“Wow,” she exclaimed, regaining her bearings, “It’s beautiful.”
“Yeah, you sure don’t see stars like this at home,” he sighed, his head fixed skyward.
“It must be a shame,” she said quietly, dreading the mention of Genki’s home, “A world lacking such beauty must not be a very likeable one…” Why did he have to go and ruin the moment, she thought grouchily, sighing.
“Oh there is a lot of beauty,” he said, “in the flowers, the landscape, and the sky, where you can see it, that is. Except I know there is one beautiful thing that I can only find here,” he said sweetly, drawing her to him in a comfortable embrace.
“And what is that?” Holly asked coyly, already knowing and cherishing the answer.
“You.” The moment recaptured, Holly let Genki envelop her in affection under the dark cloak of night and the watch of the distant stars.
It had been too long since Holly had seen her little cabin on the hill. Despite attempts to restrain her with sentiments of “Congratulations” and “Thank God you are alright”, she broke through the crowd that had assembled to celebrate her return and ran wildly through the village, across the small meadow sitting in front of the knoll, and up the small dirt path right to the door, where she proceeded to beam ecstatically and wait for her companions arrival.
“What is she absorbing energy from you now, too?” asked Suezo semi-disgustedly, shaking his head at Genki, “She’s acting practically as nutty as you used to.”
“She hasn’t been home in almost a month Suezo,” Genki replied grouchily, “Do you think that has anything to do with it?”
“She was always perfectly fine when we were off gallivanting before…” the eyeball monster shot back, causing Genki to release a growl low in his throat.
“Probably because she didn’t have a home to hurry back to…” muttered Genki under his breath, just loud enough for Suezo to hear.
“Cut it out you two,” Hare laughed, “You’re beginning to sound too much like Tiger and me. Isn’t that right, ole buddy, ole pal?” Hare continued to laugh until a sharp glance from both Tiger and Greywolf shut him up for the remainder of the walk through the village.
What they didn’t know, however, was that Holly wasn’t happy at all. Seeing Professor Sakeuro’s small laboratory looming in the center of the village, she had taken off to avoid anyone seeing her unshed tears, a very large, fake smile on her face. As she ran through the meadow and up the hill to her front door, she had to do everything in her power to hold those tears back. But after a small time standing in the doorway, the same overly done smile on her face, Holly couldn’t hold on any longer. Praying no one could see the truth behind the mask, she hurried inside the cabin, shutting the door swiftly behind her.
A last minute decision had brought Pixie, Big Blue, Ember, Greywolf, Allegra, and Mystique the remainder of the way to Holly and her father’s village, and now they lagged slightly behind the original five and Genki as they started on the gently sloped hill that housed the cabin. Holly had given up waiting long before, and let herself inside, closing the door behind her.
“Golem, Big Blue, Ember, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait outdoors, this cabin isn’t exactly the Taj Mahal,” laughed Holly’s father, “We’ll probably head down to the village in a little while to send Yama home…wasn’t there another human?” he asked suddenly, scratching his head. Several monsters exchanged confused glances, while Hare twirled his furry finger in the air beside his head.
“Oh my God,” said Yama, hitting himself in the forehead, “I can’t believe we forgot about Lexy!!!” He suddenly went into a pacing fit, walking back and forth wringing his hands, “How could yah let this happen?!” he exclaimed, eyes widened in Genki’s direction.
“Me!?” he said, taken aback, “You were the one who told me to go after Holly…”
“Yeah, but I didn’t say to lose Lexy in the desert in the process! Oh my God, what if she’s dead!?” Yama squealed, almost ripping out his blond hair by the roots in his alarm at the thought.
“I’m sure she’s perfectly alright…” Genki started, with a roll of his eyes.
“Easy for you to say, you’re not the one that’s gonna get tried for her murder back in the Real World,” the other boy yelled, not caring or attempting to hide the fear in his eyes or his voice, “I can make up excuses for awhile, but then again how will I explain you missing too?”
“Who said I was staying?” Genki asked nonchalantly.
Suddenly a feeling of déjà vu came over him. An escaped cry followed his statement, and he knew he had done it again. Quickly he whirled around to find Holly standing in the doorway of the cabin, mottled cheeks giving away the crying spell she had been trying to hide. Now the effort was all in vain as a snarl rose in her throat and the tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Leave! Leave now!” she screamed, her grip on the doorknob tightening as she spoke, “I don’t care if I ever see you again!” She was gathering up strength and was about to slam the door as hard as she could when Genki caught her arm forcefully.
“Stop it Holly!” he yelled, “You and I both knew this time would come, and I want you to go with me! I love you, and…” Suddenly the young woman jerked her arm away forcefully, and grabbed Genki violently by the shirt collar.
“No, you stop it Genki,” she growled, “If you truly loved me, you would understand that I could never leave this place, not again,” her voice had broken, and the sobs that followed racked her body so that Genki almost pulled her to him. Almost.
“So please,” she continued, “Just leave. Just leave me, and return to your life. Go back to your world, and I’ll go back to mine.” She just stood there, hand still clenched at Genki’s throat. Slowly, she released her grip, as if releasing him from his commitment forever.
Without a word, but with tears in his eyes, Genki looked around the world that he loved for what he was sure would be the last time. Then, motioning to Yama, he adjusted his pack on his shoulders, and started back down the slope he had just journeyed up.
And Holly didn’t move. She didn’t cry out for him to wait, tell him it was all a mistake, apologize for her jealous behavior. She just stood there, her cheeks wet, her arms at her side with her fists clenched, and an indescribable look in her eyes of so many emotions intermixing that no one could conceive any words to comfort her. She was letting him go, and everyone could see that neither party would back down in this case.
So one by one the monsters turned and followed the two young men down the hill, back to the village. Not even Holly’s father stayed to see if he could help in any way, because he knew deep down that nothing he could do or say would change her mind. Secretly, however, he was relieved that his daughter had reacted the way she did. Now he would never have to worry about losing his little girl, or so he thought. He just gave her one long, last look and followed the others to send Genki and Yama back where they had come from.
“So are yah sure you can find Lexy in a few days? That would mean some serious flying, or whatever…” Yama asked Ember, who had promised to send out a search party immediately the next morning.
“It shouldn’t be a problem,” the Cinder-Bird cooed, “After all, she’s only a human. How far could she get?”
“Well thanks a lot,” laughed Genki, trying to act as if he had brightened up since the confrontation between him and Holly only a half an hour before. His eyes were still bloodshot however, though no one dared point it out, as he was about to leave.
“Don’t worry, we’ll locate her and retrieve just in time for you two not to be thrown in jail,” joked Hare, crossing his arms.
“That makes me feel a whole lot better,” sighed Yama sarcastically.
“Well I guess this is it,” said Genki, smiling weakly despite his efforts to conceal his grief, “I would say goodbye to all of you individually, but there are so many…” His voice caught, and he struggled to regain it as he scanned the crowd set to watch him go. “Just don’t forget me, okay?” he asked, swiping at a tear that had dislodged from the corner of his eye and dared to slide down his cheek.
“We won’t,” said Pixie, a solitary tear trail glinting in the sun. She stepped forward and hugged him tightly, then quickly headed to the back of the pack as if she was afraid everyone would think she had gotten soft. Genki smiled and watched her part the crowd and head straight for Big Blue’s arms. Suddenly he felt pressure on his chest, and looked down to see Tiger’s paws planted there. “Take care of yourself Genki,” he laughed, jumping back down after a quick lick that he prayed no one noticed. Genki just smiled at the friendly gesture, surprised that Tiger had got up enough courage.
“You’d just better not forget us,” chimed in Mocchi, as he leapt into Genki’s arms. The boy squeezed his monster tightly, then gently let him fall onto his feet to the ground.
“That’s not going to be a problem,” he said sadly, feeling his eyes fill up again.
“Genki, Yama, you’d better be getting in here…this portal is kind of antsy, and you may not get another chance for awhile…” called Professor Sakeuro from inside the lab. Yama nodded to Holly’s father and Ember, then went in the door. Genki was about to go inside, however, when an unmistakable sound drifted to his ear, so faint that he could barely make it out.
He frowned, and strained his ears more. The sound was the worst thing he had ever heard. Sobs, muffled against something, but so heart-wrenching that he could somehow feel the pain of the person who was crying them, somehow hear them over the birds, the monsters, and the people.
Greywolf cocked his head as he saw Genki stop suddenly in front of the doorway, as if he had heard something. He, too, tried to listen above the crowds, but could not make out anything.
“Genki, is something the matter?” he asked, drawing everyone’s attention back to the boy.
“Oh it’s nothing, I guess. Probably just the wind…” He sighed heavily, and took one long last look around the tiny village. And then, just like that, he vanished into the lab, Holly’s cries still echoing in his ears.
The night was cold, freezing to be exact, and the windowpanes clattered softly with the force of the wind. She could here the pieces of the aluminum chimes that hung at her window clang together in an inconstant melody, and sighing, got up and crossed to the floor. Putting a hand over the metal shards to stifle them, she gazes out of the panes onto the moonlight village that rested at the bottom of the little hill. Letting the chimes go forcefully, she tiptoed to the doorway and peeked into her father’s room. He was snoring peacefully, and she didn’t really want to wake him up. Carefully she climbed down the ladder from the loft into the large lower room of the log cabin and opened the front door to let a cold breeze swirl a few dead leaves in. She shivered, wrapped her nightgown tighter around her, and stepped outside.
She almost headed for the shelter that was hidden behind the large cabin, where the monsters slept, but after a few steps she hesitated. They’re not going to want to hear my problems, she thought, turning back towards the house. They would just say I had my chance and I blew it.
You did blow it you idiot, her conscience retorted angrily, you did the worst thing you could have done, and that was to let him walk away. The only boy you have ever loved just went back to his own world, and there is nothing you can do about it!
“Arghhhhh!” she screamed, putting her hands over her ears, as if the action could have silenced the voice inside her own head. She grouchily stomped back into the house and slammed the door behind her, not caring now if she woke anybody up.
As quickly as she had lost her temper, however, her irate mood changed to that of complete despair. She felt the tears begin to slide down her face again, and this time she didn’t do anything to stop them. She just cried.
She let go, let all the emotions of the past month come pouring out in heavy sobs and giant tears. She cried like a little baby, or a child that had lost something unimaginably dear to them. And she didn’t stop until the stars had started to fade and the sky lighten, warning her of the coming sunrise.
Quickly she reached to the end of her bed to grab a blanket or something to wipe her eyes with, and her groping produced a lump of cloth that seemed adequate enough. After a few minutes she held the article back, only to widen her eyes severely.
“Lexy’s sweatshirt,” she whispered unbelievingly. She quickly rummaged through her covers some more a produced the camisole and the shorts, exactly where she had left them since her stubborn fit that afternoon.
All of a sudden, she started to laugh with the outright absurdity of it all. Here was her chance. Now all she had to do was take it. Rising from the bed, she ran to her desk and pulled out a fancy piece of stationery and a felt-tip pen. Writing like mad, she scribbled a short note, then placed it under the crack of her father’s door. Scrambling, she rapidly shed her nightgown and adorned Lexy’s clothes, then grabbed a satchel from under her desk. After checking to make sure all her necessities were in there, she threw it over her shoulder, and for the first time in awhile tried to keep the noise at a minimum as she descended the ladder. Whispering goodbye to her father, and softly shutting the door behind her, Holly set her sights on Professor Sakeuro’s laboratory, and never once looked back.
A loud “What!!!!”, erupting from inside the cabin was enough to wake Suezo in seconds. He hadn’t gotten much sleep, worrying about Holly and all, but nevertheless he had managed to start to doze off just as the sun had begun to climb in the sky and apparently as Holly’s father woke up.
“It never fails,” he growled, pushing himself up with his tongue and hopping out of the shelter, not bothering to avoid any tails, wings, or noses that were in his way.
“Owww! Damn it Suezo…” growled Hare, rubbing his ear.
“You’d better watch it, eyeball…” yelled Allegra after him, her outspread wing now mottled with several dents.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he muttered, exiting the barn and going thorough the back door of the house. Holly’s father stood at the table, a piece of paper in his hand, and a dumbstruck look on his face.
“What’s wrong with you, get another bill?” asked Suezo, rolling his eye. The older man’s expression did not change however. Curious, he hopped over and gently took the paper from Holly’s father. Blinking, he focused his eye on the large, rushed print, and began to read.
I’m so sorry to do this to you now, now that you just got me back, but I can’t let my heart ache like this anymore. You know where I’m going, so you know I’ll be safe. I swear to God I’ll come back, I just need some time to, you know, smooth things over. You have to trust me daddy, and Genki too, because I love him, and he loves me. I love you too, so very much, and please tell Suezo and everyone else for me. Tell them not to worry. Everything will be all right in the end…
Suezo stuttered to a stop, never finishing the last syllable in his mistress’s name. He could not believe what he had just read. Holly had never done anything so un-thought out, so spontaneous, or so very stupid.
“I’m confused,” he said sullenly, shaking his head.
“I’m not,” came the reply, after a horribly long silence, “You’ve never been in love Suezo. You’ll never get it.” Holly’s father took the piece of paper back and set it on the table. He went to the stove, lit it, and prepared to make breakfast, as if Holly would bound down the ladder any second, ready to help him just like always. Suezo blinked back a tear, and headed out the back door, taking the letter so the others could read what he wished he could understand for themselves.
"I can't believe that you actually went out and bought another one of those stupid things when we haven't even filed a report about the stolen one!" The burly young man watched as his fraternity brother rapidly destroyed the packaging that surrounded a brand new PlayStation.
"And I can't believe you don't play video games," the other boy snapped back sarcastically, "I mean, how can you go your whole life without ever experiencing the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat…" The PlayStation guy looked so serious that the jock had to laugh.
"Uh…okay. Now I know why they refer to us as frat freaks."
"Oh come on, you have to see this new game I picked up. It's supposed to be really cool." He quickly hooked the console to the TV and then plugged the controllers in.
"Uh huh, sure, whatever," the jock laughed, but seeing as he had nothing else to do, decided to see why this new game was so highly praised.
The PlayStation guy ripped off the plastic cover and flung open the case, causing the disc to crash to the floor.
"Smart one. What are you in such a hurry for? It's not like who ever took it is waiting just outside the window so they can make off with this one too…"
"Shut up. I just want to hurry up and get started before Damian gets back. He's going to be pissed, but if I'm on it, there's nothing he can do about it!" Popping the cover, he place the disc in the slot and hit the power button hastily, almost forgetting to close the cover in the process.
"If you don't slow down you're going to break that one before you even get to use it," laughed the jock. The PlayStation guy did not reply, however, seemingly hypnotized by the white screen that preceded the opening credits of the game. The jock just sighed, and turned his attention to the TV.
Suddenly the front door of the frat house opened, banging into a table and almost knocking it over. In strode another young man, tall and thin, with ebony black hair and tantalizing blue eyes that he was famous around the campus for. He did not bother to close the door as he spotted his two fraternity brothers in front of the TV.
"Well, well, well, what have we here?" he asked, walking casually over to stand at the side of the couch, "Did you find the missing PlayStation?"
"Not exactly," snickered the jock. The boy with the controls turned around and smiled sheepishly.
"Oh come on Damian," he joked, "you know how addicted to this thing I am. I mean like, a day without video games for me is like a day without girls for you."
"Yeah Damian, go easy on 'im," the jock interjected, knowing that the older boy did not like it when he was disobeyed.
Damian narrowed his eyes, and slowly walked over to where the PlayStation guy sat. Without warning he grabbed the other boy by the collar and violently jerked him into a standing position, arm poised for a blow to the face.
"You'd better swear to God that the money you used was yours or I'll…."
"It was mine, I swear, I swear it was mine," he shrieked, frantically trying to hold his head back, one eye screwed shut, the other open wide as if he could stare down Damian's fist and cause it not to strike.
"Because if you're lying to me, you know the consequences," growled Damian, his teeth clenched menacingly.
"What the…." came the astonished voice from the jock, who had until then been watching Damian's every move. The screen on the TV was glowing so brightly that he had to shield his eyes and look away.
"I don't think that's part of the game," whispered the boy that Damian had by the throat. He too had to shade his eyes, in the process, letting the boy's shirt go.
The light continued to brighten, almost to a blinding point, when suddenly they could hear a scream, getting louder and louder every second. And then, out of nowhere, a dark figure flew at them out of the TV screen, crashing into Damian and knocking him onto the floor.
As the light faded, the black blob started to take a shape. It was a human girl, pale skinned, with a long, thin frame, and a cascade of auburn hair. Slowly, she opened one eye, then the other. She looked from the PlayStation guy to the jock, then, looking down, blushed uncontrollably when she discovered where and on what she had landed. Scrambling up, and stuttering out what they assumed was some sort of apology to Damian, who had obviously from the look on his face not minded her entrance at all, she proceeded to escape the confines of the frat house's living room.
"Wait! Come back!" yelled Damian, managing to leap up and catch up with her as she was about to bolt out the door. He grabbed her arm, causing her to gasp, her soft chocolate brown eyes wide with fear as she turned to look at him. He stood there, speechless, then finally managed to spit out a question.
"What's you're name sweetheart?" he asked, his suave qualities reemerging as if he had not witnessed this very same girl flying out of a TV screen.
"H…H…Holly," she said quietly, brown eyes still locked with his blue ones. He gently released her arm, expecting her to ask him for his name. She broke the gaze, however, and in a few seconds, she was out the open door and across the lawn, vanishing into the black of the night.
"Damn!" Damian swore, wishing then that he had held on to her a little longer.
"I think I need to lie down," said the jock from behind him.
"Me too," said the PlayStation boy. As they were about to tiptoe around the corner towards the stairs, Damian whipped around.
"Not so fast boys…" he sneered, crossing his arms at his chest, "Do you have any idea who that was?"
"Umm, I don't mean to make you sound stupid, but that girl just came out of the TV…." said the jock, his eyes wide with disbelief, "Or did you not see that part?"
"I saw it you idiot," he growled, "but I touched her. She was real, not just some figment of our imaginations."
"More like wildest fantasies," snickered the PlayStation boy. Damian raised his fist again, and he wisely stepped behind the jock.
"Whatever. I don't give a damn if she came from Oz. I want to know who she is, and that, my friends, is your job," Damian smiled suavely, "You start first thing tomorrow. And you better not screw up." He smiled again, and after slamming the door shut, he ascended the stairs. In a few minutes they heard his bedroom door slam, finally rendering him out of earshot.
"You just had to buy that stupid PlayStation," the jock whined, he too ready to smack the other boy upside the head.
"Well at least if we do what he says, we'll be out of his hair for awhile…"
"We! WE!? I didn't do nothin'! This is all your fault!"
"Oh sure, you were watching me!"
"It's still all your fault…" They both started upstairs, still bickering about the incident, the buzz of the static on the black screen of the TV in the background.
This is it, thought Genki as he stuffed the last of his clothes into his suitcase, I can't believe I'm getting my own apartment! He carefully zipped the bag up, making sure he didn't catch any sleeves or pant legs in the process. He still could not believe all the things that had happened in the past few hours.
Luckily, he and Yama had materialized in their dorm room, thanks to Professor Sakeuro's accurate calculations. When they had gotten back, however, they had discovered that their other two roommates were gone, and that it had been only a day and a half since they had been sucked into the monster world.
Then, out of nowhere, Yama had opened his mail and discovered that his application for an apartment on the other side of the campus had been accepted. Of course, he had immediately asked Genki to go with him, if he wanted, and of course Genki said yes.
Maybe I can start over, he thought as he wrapped up his desk lamp in tissue then placed it in its box. Maybe, just maybe, he could forget about what happened. But he knew he would never ever forget about Holly.
Flinging himself onto his bed, he rolled over and fixed his gaze on the ceiling. The temper tantrum she had had that day may have seemed like the end of everything, but he knew deep down that the only reason she had told him to go so violently was that she couldn't have stood it if they had said goodbye privately.
And we could have been so happy, he thought absently, a smile spreading across his face as he visualized he and Holly out on dates, getting married, and having kids. Woah, slow down buddy, his conscience scolded, you're only 19 for Godsakes. It's not like you should even have to think about that stuff right now.
He pushed himself up off the bed and resumed packing. Picking up a left-over tee-shirt, he was about place it in his other backpack when something fell from within the folds of fabric, catching his eye. He bent down to pick it up, and stopped.
Lying on the thin blue carpet, contrasting terribly, was a dark red ribbon, slightly torn and faded around the edges. He could not believe his eyes. It looked exactly like the one Holly had worn when she was younger, only a little less vibrant.
"How could it have gotten with my clothes?" he asked, not caring that he was talking to himself outloud. He delicately pinched an end between his fingers and brought it up to eye level. All of a sudden, he remembered.
"Here…" Holly had said, approaching him timidly after he was about to be sent home 8 years ago, "I want you to have this. So you won't forget me." She had smiled as he had taken the ribbon, then turned around and ran, not once looking back. At that moment he felt a tear slipping down his cheek, identical to the one he had shed that very day. He had placed the ribbon in his pocket in sadness that day and tried to block it from his mind since. Until now.
Carefully folding up the ribbon, he set it in a box with miscellaneous photographs and things he had kept since early childhood, being the packrat that he was. His fingers lingered on the creases, and it hit him with such a jolt that he felt he had been struck like lightning.
(Nowhere to run. All alone. Afraid of stepping into the light, but scared of staying in the darkness. Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Stalked. Afraid.)
Genki shook himself violently as if to shake off the feelings he had just experienced. They nagged at his mind relentlessly in the seconds that followed, curled up in the bottom of his soul as if to plague him forever.
Then all of a sudden, he looked down. He was still touching Holly's ribbon. Quickly he jerked his hand back, and as awkwardly as the emotions had surfaced, they disappeared, all except for one. And instantly Genki knew that the ribbon he had received as a child had been the missing link to Holly he had craved all along.
He could feel her fear.
"What!? She what!?" squawked Ember as he frantically paced the packed dirt floor underneath the shade of the wooden shelter Holly and her father had built for the monsters, "I just don't believe it."
"Well neither did I," growled Tiger, ruffling his blue and white mane, "but Greywolf and I searched every crack and crevice in this damn area, and there's no sign of her anywhere."
"And Allegra, Pixie, Jewel, Steele, and I checked within the ten mile radius. She's nowhere to be found," said Mystique meekly, shrugging her tan shoulders.
"Does anyone know where she could have gone?" asked Monarch, who until now had not been able to get a single word in. All he received in return for his well thought out question, however, were several sharp looks from the other monsters.
"You idiot! Where else would she be but in Genki's world. You saw how she reacted yesterday. I knew from the start it was just a cover-up," snarled Pixie, crossing her arms grouchily, "I swear she never acted this naïve before."
"This is all Genki's fault," said Suezo, rolling his eye, "if he hadn't of came back here…"
"…we never would have been able to retrieve Miss Holly," finished Steele, shoving his grey head in between Allegra's and Mystique's, "I'm guessing that you owe that boy a lot…you just don't want to admit it." Suezo just mumbled something under his breath, and then stalked back to the house, his reaction causing a period of silence that lasted a few minutes. Finally, Ember looked up quizzically and spoke.
"I have an idea. I don't know if it will work, but we'd might as well try it."
"Yeah…" said Pixie, waving her hand for him to go on.
"It's going to involve a lot of traveling…" the Cinder-Bird started slowly, eyeing everyone in the group individually.
"Nuh uh. Don't even think about asking me and Tiger," said Greywolf, shaking his silver head, "Even Mocchi's not that stupid."
"Hey!" shouted Mocchi, his pink face scrunched up in a scowl.
"Well I think I have just the three girls for it, but they might need some assistance," laughed Ember heartily, "After all Pixie sub-breeds are the closest looking to real humans."
"OH goody goody gosh!" squealed Mystique, "We get to go to the human world!" She jumped up from her cross-legged position and began dancing around insanely, her humming, the clapping of her hands and the tapping of her hooves meshing together to form an unbearable racket.
"Will you SHUT UP!" snapped Pixie," No no no no no! I don't think so! You're never gonna get me anywhere near that stupid portal thing!"
"Actually, it wasn't you three I was talking about," said Ember nonchalantly, shrugging off Pixie's exaggerated reaction, "I have four other monsters that should do nicely."
"Hey what do they got that we ain't got," yelped out Tiger suddenly, to Greywolf's astonishment, "I wouldn't mind seeing Genki again, after all."
"I seriously doubt they have anything on any of you," Ember said in his as-a-matter-of-fact voice, "I just figured that after the past month's fiascoes that you'd like some time off."
"Well I want to go!" said Allegra determinedly; "It shouldn't be that hard, and anyways, from the way Genki and Yama talked, it sounded like a lifelong vacation!"
"Yeah," agreed Mystique, eyes pleading for permission, "Come on Ember. Pleeeeassssseeeee? The other's can still come too."
"I…suppose," he said finally, after what seemed like minutes of consideration to the anxious Pixies, "ON one condition. Pixie and Tiger go too."
"Huh?" Pixie asked, eyebrow arched skeptically, "I did my part back in the stupid sandbox. Besides, you need me here."
"Oh is someone chicken?" asked Hare mockingly, puckering up his lips in a pout, "Oh poor little Pixie is afraid to go through a hole in the…" The purebred Hare was cut short, however, by a strangle hold on his throat provided by Pixie.
"Help me…" he squeaked in a nearly inaudible voice.
"Pixie," Big Blue warned sternly, and reluctantly she loosened her grip.
"Fine. I'll go…" she started, her voice immediately drowned out by cheers from the entire group, "…but on one condition."
"What's that?" asked Ember impatiently.
"I don't want crap from you two," she said, pointing at Allegra and Mystique, "or you," she growled, eyeing Tiger.
"Then it's settled. Now all we have to do is arrange for the transportation. Oh, and the wardrobe."
"Excuse me?" said Pixie suddenly, once more interrupting him, "what exactly do you mean by wardrobe?"
"I mean…" he growled, "Clothing. You'll need to look like humans, and you can't very well do that with a tail and wings sticking out everywhere."
"Where would you get that kind of stuff?" asked Golem curiously from the back.
"Don't think Genki is the only human to ever visit the Monster World," laughed Ember. He spread his giant wings and took off, leaving the rest of the monsters to ponder his statement as the sun ascended it's path in the robin's egg blue sky.
Hurricane's finely tuned ears and eyes made it easier for him to spot or hear his prey, but he was not always able to stealthily approach whatever it was that he hunted because of his bulk. This time, however, he took no risks in pouncing or the element of surprise. He would wait, and watch, and when it was time he would make his move. For now the girl's antics were enough entertainment to keep him occupied for hours.
Lexy had immediately, after her arrival at the temple, proceeded to act as if she owned it. The Naga sub-breed had guessed correctly when he had figured he would find the selfish, cocky teenager here, where she assumed she would get the royal treatment she was used to. Her plan had backfired somewhat, however. The Angels that Pharaoh had sent to attend the girl hated her with a vengeance.
"Mmmm…No. I do not like this one either. Don't you have any more?" she asked harshly, looking disgustedly at the group of Angels surrounding her with arms heaped full of gowns fit for a Queen. Obviously, by the way she was acting, Lexy thought she was a God.
"Grrrrrrr," he heard one of the Pixies growl as they moved out of Lexy's earshot, "Even watching Master Pharaoh toy with that dark-haired girl was better than this. Atleast the other one didn't order us around."
"Yeah," agreed a second, and then a third.
"Helloooo? What's the hold up?" Lexy called, her tone excruciatingly similar to that of his old master's, before he had been destroyed.
Hurricane shook his head as if to dislodge the memories of his slave days, then made a promise to himself before he settled back to spying on Lexy.
"If I ever get a chance to kill you again…" he vowed, voice raspy and deep, "I'm not going to pass it up this time."
For the past two hours, Holly had made no progress whatsoever in her search for Genki. Besides the fact that everything about this world scared her to death, every time she turned around the corner she'd either have to dodge what seemed like a very overweight fire-breathing Dragon, that had just made several humans a tasty meal, outrun a mangy looking Tiger breed with a row or two of sharp teeth, or apologize for ramming into someone that just happened to have the misfortune of stepping in her blind pathway.
"I'm getting nowhere awfully fast," she muttered to herself as she managed to actually maneuver around a crowd of people outside a shop without bumping into anyone. All she could see ahead of her were more crowded stores and Dragons patrolling the streets. Summoning up all her courage, she timidly tapped a girl that looked to be about her age that was standing at the corner, her hand raised in the air.
"Excuse me…" she started, but the look on the girl's face caused her to stutter to a halt.
"Who are you? Look, I ain't got any money, so why don't you people just leave me alone." Her tone was cold, but her stare chilled Holly right to the bone.
"I…I…don't want any money…I was just wondering…if you could help me find someone…" she said hopefully.
"Wait a minute…" the girl said, narrowing her eyes, "I recognize those shorts…and that sweater-those were the clothes that Lexy was wearing the night she disappeared! What did you do to her!" she screamed, grabbing Holly's arm threateningly.
"Nothing! Nothing I swear! She lent me these clothes. I'm…uh…her cousin!" Holly spit out, before she could stop herself, "Her cousin Holly. She's…at my house. She went to visit me, but I had to meet my…my…my boyfriend here tonight."
"In this neighborhood," said the girl sarcastically, her eyebrow cocked, "Honey, you can't be serious." She gestured to the crowd of people behind them. Holly hadn't been paying attention before, but now that she looked closer their clothes looked ratty and torn.
"Well not here exactly…he said to meet him someplace large, and bright, with lots of people," she ventured, hoping there was actually such a place in this world.
"Yeah, yeah, that's it! Can you tell me how to get there?"
"What a coincidence," laughed the girl, "I was just headed there to meet the rest of my pack…Hey maybe one of us knows him…what's his name?"
"Umm…it's Genki, Genki Sakura." Holly hoped that Lexy had not mentioned her interest in him to this girl, whoever she was, or she was likely to throw a punch or two.
"…Hmmm…sounds slightly familiar…does he go to college here?"
"Yeah, I can't remember where, though…" Holly admitted sheepishly.
"That's okay. The mall's a great place to look for people. After all, it's a Friday night. Most people have nothing better to do then hang there or party. Oh yeah, my name's Aiko."
"Oh…pleased to meet you Aiko," Holly said, bowing slightly, then standing back up straight as she noticed several people giving her funny looks.
"Okaaayyy, well, let's get going!" The raven-haired girl stuck her hand high in the air and started to wave it frantically. This time it was Holly's turn to portray the confused countenance.
"Do you know someone over there?" she asked curiously, standing on her tiptoes to see if she could see who or what Aiko was gesturing to. The girl just ignored her, however, and kept waving. Suddenly, a bright yellow Dragon started to crawl menacing towards them.
"Oh no!" Holly cried, stepping back from the curb as the Dragon screeched to a halt beside it.
"What's the matter, they don’t have cars where you live?" Aiko laughed, grabbing her by the hand and yanking her into the interior of the cab.
So this is a car, Holly thought to herself, looking up at the driver nervously. Genki talked about wanting one so much, she remembered, but I'd much rather walk any day.
"So…Holly…ever been to a mall before?"
"Well…no…but I have been to some really big cities."
"You're in for a treat then. My pack and I, we could get around that mall when it's pitch black with blind folds on. If we can't find your honey, no one can." Aiko smiled, and Holly nervously returned a smile of her own. The Dragon, or car rather, lurched forward and then sped up, zooming off in the direction of the mall.
"Voila- you all look terrific," cackled Ember good-naturedly as he surveyed the three Pixies standing before him in their human clothes.
"Umm, Ember, are you sure this is the right look for us to be going to Genki's world- I mean geez, aren't we supposed to look like teenagers- not middle-aged women?" asked Allegra skeptically, eyeing her frumpy long flowered dress and black pumps.
"Yeah- you don’t have any clothes like Lexy's?" asked Mystique, a disappointed look on her face, "I think something like that would make us blend in better."
"Sorry girls, but this stuff is all I have. And we can't waste any time looking around for a better disguise. It should only take you a few hours to find her and bring her back- you don't have to blend in that well…anyways, put on your things. It's about time you get going." Ember unfurled his fiery wings and took off to give the Pixies some privacy.
"Well, this should be a blast," muttered Pixie, "He's not even giving us any time to look around!"
"Pixie!" exclaimed Allegra, "I'm shocked! You care more about sight seeing than rescuing Miss Holly?"
"Who said she needed rescuing in the first place? Pharaoh doesn't have a time machine does he?"
"I think you mean teleport…" muttered Mystique as she tried vainly to stuff her bushy horse's tail into her jeans.
"Whatever," Pixie snarled back, "I just think that while we're there, we should be able to enjoy ourselves a little." Grouchily yanking on her own dress, adorned with bright pink roses the size of softballs, her clawed wings sliced through the moth-eaten material in the back.
"Great!" she yelled, "Now I have nothing to wear!"
"Why don't you guys just mug some people when you get there?" asked Greywolf, coming into the shelter with Tiger, "I mean, then you might actually look normal…"
"Ugh…I think we should just wait and find clothes when we get there," groaned Allegra, her wings too ripping easily out of the back of her dress, "We need loose fitting stuff.
"Hey…why don't you guys just pretend you're going to a costume party or something. Then you wouldn't even have to change," suggested Hare, popping out of nowhere.
"Costume party?" asked Mystique excitedly, overly curious as usual.
"Yeah. I've read that they had them all the time in the old days. It's when you dress up as something you're not for fun. You look enough like humans. It'd be believable."
"What about me?" asked Tiger, eyeing his own blue and white fur.
"Oh don't worry silly," laughed Allegra, "No one will pay any attention to you when they see us coming." She batted her eyelashes mischievously. All the pixies agreed that staying the way they were would be the best solution to their clothing problem, and set off immediately to Professor Sakeuro's lab.
"This is incredible Yama," said Genki, looking in awe around the new apartment. It was a flat: the whole third story of a building, and although it needed a little paint and some decent furniture, it wasn't anything they couldn't fix in a couple of hours.
"Where'd you scare up the money to afford all this?" he asked, turning to his friend, who was looking for a can of bright red paint he had bought for the walls earlier that day.
"Oh, I've been saving for my own apartment since my Freshman year. And now that I can finally afford one that isn't cockroach infested, I'm already a senior," he laughed good-naturedly.
"Thanks for asking me to take the second bedroom. It was getting pretty cramped in that suite back on campus. I swear to God there were more people in there all the time that didn't live there than ones that did."
"Well don't be surprised if the same thing happens here," muttered Yama, "Words already gotten out about this place. I'm "throwing" a house warming party tonight, if that’s what you wanna call it.
"In other words, people pretty much invited themselves," laughed Genki.
"Pretty much. Well, then, if we have to have a party, we might as well do it in style. Grab a roller, and let's get this place looking good." Complying with a nod of his head, Genki gladly took a roller and got started painting the walls the shocking lipstick red. As he laid on the paint, however, he couldn't help thinking of something else the same red color. Blood.
Pharaoh curled his shiny golden lips into a satisfied smile as his new minion, an Odium (Joker/Bajarl), made his way towards the throne. Next to Gali sub-breeds, Jokers were the most powerful and attractive, and Juren had already proven his worth years ago before Pharaoh's former self had been destroyed. Already almost 12 years old, Juren was not needed for battle, but for something much more important.
"Welcome, Juren. I am pleased that you have come to join me at my temple, my old friend."
"The pleasure is all mine, Pharaoh."
"Please, come and sit and let us talk of something we have both wanted for a long time."
"Ah, yes, but you must know, almighty Pharaoh, that what we want is within our reach, but still unobtainable until the Guardian of the Monsters is put into her rightful place."
"Yes. I'm afraid I made a mistake trying to keep her here that long. I should have had the Priests marry us that very night and dealt with her loyalties, and her friends, later." Pharaoh shook his head, "Next time, I won't fail."
"A next time may never come, Pharaoh," said Juren solemnly.
"What do you mean, old friend?" asked the Gali/Human cross warily. He did not like the tone of Juren's voice. It sounded too much as if their plan would never be attainable.
"She is gone." Juren's statement was simple, but Pharaoh's thoughts immediately burst with millions of complicated explanations.
"Gone?" he shrieked, "But wherever did she go? I would be able to see her if she was here, and the last time I looked into my mind she was at home…" He quickly closed his eyes, visualizing the map of the monster world he had inscribed in his thoughts, zeroing in on her town, her hill, her house. But she was not there, exactly as Juren has said. He frantically looked around town, in the fields, in the forests nearby. She was not the only one missing, however. The boy, that retched lover of hers, was nowhere to be found as well.
"They returned to his world together," Juren said, smiling slightly, finding the disheveled look on his former master's face amusing.
"How can that be?" asked Pharaoh, jostled from his thoughts back to their conversation. "The key to the world was her, and now everything is lost."
"My dear Pharaoh, you give up too easily," laughed Juren outright, slashing his scythe through the air rapidly in a figure eight. "Getting her back will not be a problem, when we give her something to come back for…"
Pharaoh grinned, despite his despair a few seconds before. "I love the way your mind works Juren…but how, pray tell, will we accomplish that?"
"Telepathy techniques are just for battle, my friend, " smiled Juren slyly, "However, some help pinpointing her is required."
"Oh. Alexia will surely be glad to be of service." Pharaoh snapped his fingers, and immediately an Angel glided over from behind a pillar where she had been waiting.
"Yes, Pharaoh?" she asked, bowing slightly.
"Go immediately to the girl's chambers and request she come to the thrown room to meet an acquaintance of mine. Tell her she had ten minutes to make herself presentable."
"Yes, master," the Pixie said obediently, and bowing lower, she exited on wing.
"This Alexia is an enemy of the Guardian's, Pharaoh?" Juren inquired after the Angel's departure.
"Oh yes. I can feel the girl's hatred for her in the depths of my soul."
"Then she will be of much use," laughed the Odium, doing another skillful figure eight with his scythe. The Joker sub-breed floated to a space between two columns and looked out over the desert. Pharaoh just smiled. Finally he would have his bride, and best of all, the entire Monster World at his fingertips. Cackling evilly, he settled back into his golden thrown to wait for the girl, his golden lips curled in the same sneer as when Juren had come in.