"Are we there yet?" Mocchi asked, plodding along behind the others.
"Not yet," Holly replied.
"No, sorry, Mocchi," she repeated patiently.
"NO!" Suezo screamed, swinging around to glare at the little pink monster. Mocchi stared up at him, then burst into tears.
Genki glared back at Suezo from his normal position at the head of the group. "Will you be quiet, Suezo?" he asked. "Nobody wants to listen to your complaining."
"My complaining? Sweetcake here’s been going on for the past few miles! Why don’t you get mad at him?"
"Shut up," Tiger of the Wind growled, glaring at the eyeball with glittering golden eyes. Suezo took one look at the expression on the blue wolf’s face and closed his mouth. Holly rolled her eyes and sighed to herself.
"Please don’t start," she begged them. Golem nodded in agreement.
"Friends should not fight," he rumbled slowly.
"Well, what do you expect?" Hare piped up from beside Mocchi. "Poor Tiger can’t help being warlike, what with his–"
"With my WHAT?" Tiger demanded, whirling on him. Golem instantly stepped between the two, warning Tiger off. Hare shot a smug look over at the blue wolf and pulled on his eyelid, and the wolf growled.
"Save your energy for when we have to fight, Tiger," he scolded. "It’s not like the baddies will let you catch your breath during a fight."
"That’s right-chi!" Mocchi echoed, and Tiger glared at the pink monster as well. Growling to himself, he turned back to the road before them, keeping an eye out for Moo’s warriors. Out of the corner of his eye, he continued to glare at Hare, who was grinning to himself and fiddling with his kerchief. Tiger could see the Phoenix’s Tear glittering underneath the red fabric.
Suddenly a thought struck Tiger. (It hurt.) Still, he began to grin to himself, and he glanced over at Hare again.
"So, Hare," he began, his voice almost playful, "Tell me something. How come you’ve never really used the Phoenix’s Tear during a fight before, if you can control it?"
"Huh?" Hare stared at him. "What do you mean?"
"If the pendant’s so damned powerful, then why haven’t you used it before?" Tiger repeated, his eyes glinting. "I thought you said you could control it."
"I can," Hare said, shifting uncomfortably under Tiger’s gaze, painfully aware that the others had stopped and were looking at him. "I just…didn’t want to before."
"Why?" Tiger demanded.
"Because…I didn’t know how you guys would react. I figured that you’d see me as a…"
"…A freak?" Tiger supplied. Hare winced, and the blue wolf knew that he’d hit a nerve. "You are a freak, you know that?"
"Tiger…" Holly warned, glaring at him, but Tiger refused to stop.
"You know I’m right! You’re just a little freak! What kind of rabbit can use those type of powers, huh?"
"Ryo-Ohki can turn into a ship," Genki offered. Everyone stared at him, and he coughed. "Never mind…"
Tiger spun back on Hare. "What kind of monster uses powers like that, huh? Tell me! Or can’t you answer, you little freak?"
Hare stared down at the ground, trembling. Suddenly he glared up at Tiger, and everyone could see the angry tears forming in his eyes. Grinning, the blue wolf continued to taunt him, despite the others’ protests.
"What a little freak," he taunted, his tail wagging slightly. "No wonder Naga thought you were funny."
At the sound of Naga’s name, Hare gasped and began to tremble even more. His paws balled into fists, and he glared at Tiger.
"You think that’s funny?" he asked, furious tears rolling down his cheeks. Glaring at Tiger and the others, he screamed, "I wish you knew how it feels to be so different!"
The Phoenix’s Tear suddenly flashed a violent red, blinding Hare, and he stumbled backwards. The light died down after a moment, and he found himself staring into Tiger’s face again. The blue wolf had a look of complete confusion on his face, and Hare felt his rage begin to boil again.
"Stop staring at me, Tiger!" he yelled.
Tiger of the Wind cocked his head and gave Hare a startled look.
"Huh-chi?" he asked in a high-pitched voice.
Now it was Hare’s turn to look confused. "What?" he asked, staring at the blue wolf, not certain he had heard right.
"HARE!" an enraged voice called, and suddenly something small and pink slammed into the rabbit’s chest. Mocchi glared at him and demanded in a deep, angry voice, "What the #$%& did you do, you little jerk?!"
"Hey, Mocchi, watch your language!" Genki called out in a shocked and very feminine voice. He instantly shut his mouth and gave the others a strange look. The second his eyes rested on Holly, they doubled in size, and his mouth dropped open.
Holly returned Genki’s wide-eyed stare. "Uh…what the…" she finally asked, then started to babble wildly. "What in the…how did you…what happened…how the heck…"
"Calm down, calm down," Genki said, motioning for Holly to shut up. Meanwhile, Golem was still rubbing his eyes from the flash.
"He-eyyy, wait a sec," he suddenly rumbled. "How can I be rubbing my…eyes?" He looked around, then down at Suezo, and started screaming.
Suezo finally found his voice. "What exactly is happening here?" he asked, his voice unusually deep. He stared up at Golem, and his jaw went slack. "Huh?"
"What’s going on?" Golem demanded, panicking. Suezo stared back up at him, stunned speechless.
Hare was laughing so hard that he nearly collapsed. Mocchi glared daggers at him.
"What the #$%& did you do to us?" he demanded.
"I’m sorry…I’m sorry…" Hare managed to choke out between laughing fits. "I guess…I think that I just got my wish."
Everyone stared at him and went, "Huh?"
"I said…remember I said that I wished Tiger knew what it felt like to be so different?" Hare asked. As the others nodded, he said, "Well, I think that triggered a reaction in the Phoenix’s Tear. Somehow it switched your minds and bodies around."
"WHAT?" Everyone else shrieked, staring at him. Then they took another look at each other, and tipped over. Hare burst out laughing again.
"You…you mean that you somehow transferred my mind to Genki’s body?" Genki asked in that same strange voice. When Hare nodded, he glanced over at Holly and added, "And Genki’s mind is in my…"
"I guess I’m in your body," Holly answered, crossing her arms as she looked over at him. Suddenly she got an even stranger look on her face, and glanced down at her chest. A puzzled expression flickered over her features, and she hastily uncrossed her arms, then recrossed them. A second later she moved her arms again.
"What are you DOING?" Genki asked, a horrified look on his face. Holly shot him an apologetic look.
"Sorry…I just can’t get used to these things," she explained.
"Things? Things?" Genki shrieked, slapping Holly across the face.
Tiger of the Wind looked over at Hare with wide, innocent gold eyes. "I’m Tiger-chi?" he asked, his voice squeaking a little. "And Tiger is me?"
"I AM NOT A FREAKING LITTLE BABY!" Mocchi shrieked. "CHANGE ME BACK RIGHT NOW, HARE!"
"I…don’t know how," Hare admitted, shrugging. "I wasn’t even aware that I could do this. It may take a while for me to find a way to change you back."
"WHAT?" Mocchi began to pace around, muttering, "I am NOT a whiny little BABY like freaking MOCCHI is…"
"I’m not a baby…" Tiger whined, and tears formed in his wide golden eyes.
"YES YOU ARE!" Mocchi yelled, whirling on him. Tiger stared at the little pink monster and began to cry. "Don’t you dare cry, you’re not a baby! Well, YOU are, but I’M not, and I’m not going to have you ruin MY reputation because you’re a little SWEETCAKE!"
"You’re the one that looks like a sweetcake now," Hare commented. Mocchi glared at him.
"DON’T PUSH ME!" he warned at the top of his lungs, trying to growl. It came out sounding more like a squeak, though, and Hare laughed even harder. Mocchi glared at him and started cursing loudly, which caused Genki to start scolding him while Holly looked on, rubbing her sore cheek with a confused look on her face.
Golem looked down at Suezo. "I guess that means that you’re Golem in there?" he asked. Suezo gazed back up at him and nodded solemnly.
"It would appear that way," he said, gazing back at his friends. "I don’t see how we’ll be getting out of this mess anytime soon."
Golem looked down at Suezo, and a slow grin spread across his face. "Oh Suezo…" he trilled in a singsong voice, "what say we have a look around?"
"Huh?" Suezo stared up at Golem blankly. The huge rock monster reached down and plucked the startled eyeball off the ground. He brought his arm back, and Suezo came him a horrified look.
"You wouldn’t…" he breathed.
Golem just grinned, and with a flick of his wrist sent Suezo soaring into the air.
"Oh? What was that?" Golem asked. Still grinning like a demon, he looked off into the distance as if he had just spotted something.
"Suezo!" Golem made a mock-horrified face. "Oh, I’m so sorry! Here, let me try it again…"
"Oh no, that’s okay," Suezo stammered, but Golem had already lifted him up out of the crater he had formed upon hitting the ground.
"AAAAAIIIIIEEEEEeeeeeiiiiiaaaaa…CATCH ME THIS TIME…"
Golem didn’t reply; the rock monster was gazing at a pretty flower he had just noticed.
"Oops, I did it again!" Golem cried. "Well, third time’s a charm…"
"Heheh…" Golem snickered.
"I AM NOT A BABY!" Tiger sobbed.
"YES YOU ARE!" Mocchi screamed. Hare nearly doubled over from laughing, and Mocchi whirled on him. "WHAT?"
"You just called yourself a baby!" Hare told him. Mocchi’s face turned bright red with outrage, and the rabbit fell over with laughter.
"I AM NOT A BABY! MOCCHI IS!"
"But that means you are a baby, because you are Mocchi right now!"
"I AM NOT!"
"Yes you are!"
"Just one more time, Suezo…"
"STOP CALLING ME A BABY! I AM NOT A BABY! WAHHHHH!"
Holly and Genki stared at the others.
"That’s just sad," Genki commented.
"Yeah," Holly agreed. "Hey, Hare, when can we change back to normal, huh?"
"Are…huh?" Hare stared over at them. "Oh…well, I could try to figure out how to reverse the spell if sweetcake here would stop pestering me!"
"WHAT DID YOU JUST CALL ME?"
"Hey, you were up there for a lot longer that time! I wonder how long I can get you to stay up there?" Golem grinned at Suezo, as he picked him up yet again.
"How long are you going to keep that up?" Genki asked, giving Golem an annoyed look.
"I dunno." Golem grinned. Genki threw up his hands in disgust.
"Now, let’s see," Hare mused. "I was standing right here…and Tiger was saying all those nasty things…"
"Hurry up, hurry up," Mocchi demanded.
"Simmer down, sweetcake," Hare told him, smiling mischievously.
"Oh, THAT is IT!" Mocchi tackled Hare, and the two little monsters started rolling around on the ground, punching and kicking. Holly reached into the skirmish and pulled them apart.
"Hey now, don’t start you two," she scolded. "Hare, keep working on that reversal spell."
"You know, I may never get tired of this," Golem commented as he sent Suezo flying into the air yet again. Genki rolled his eyes.
"Now, how did I trigger that again? Let’s see…"
"Don’t rush me! Sweetcake!"
"! You little…"
"Golem, I want you to quit it. Right now." Genki glared up at the rock monster and crossed his arms.
"Aww, but…" Golem whined.
"It’s way too noisy for me to concentrate on this spell," Hare announced. "I think I’ll head to the other side of the clearing."
"Who gives a #$%&? Just cure the #$%&^@ spell!"
"Mocchi! Watch your language!" Genki yelled.
"What did I say? What did I say?" Tiger cried.
"Not you!" Genki glared at Mocchi.
"Yeah, she wasn’t talking to you, baby!"
"SHUT UP OVER THERE, I CAN’T CONCENTRATE!"
"Wow, this may be a new record for me," Golem said.
"SHUT UP! YOU’RE MAKING ME LOOK BAD!"
"DON’T YELL AT HIM!" Holly demanded.
"Please, everyone, calm down!" Genki said, waving his arms.
"Umm, you guys? We have a problem," Hare said.
"WHAT? Can’t you figure out the spell?" Mocchi growled.
"It’s not that," Hare said. Everyone looked over at him. The tiny monster was being held above the ground by his ears. The one holding him was a triumphantly grinning Zuum, which wore an odd helmet and an all too familiar insignia, the same one that glittered on the collars worn by the waves of Zuums standing behind him.
"Oh," Genki murmured.
"That’s a problem all right," Holly said.
THUD. Suezo landed right in front of the rebels.
"So you are the ones causing all this trouble for Master Moo?" the helmeted Zuum asked, snickering. "You hardly seem to be that powerful."
"Well, we’re not exactly ourselves right now," Holly replied. The other rebels glanced at one another and sweatdropped.
"As if I care," the Zuum leader said. Ignoring the fact that Hare was kicking the side of his face and his neck, he turned to his troops and ordered, "Kill them." His warriors swarmed forward, eager to oblige.
"Uh oh…" Genki said, stepping backward.
"Hey, could I have…" Holly suddenly asked him, pointing at his skates. Genki looked at her strangely for a moment, then smiled and nodded.
"Golem, Suezo, Tiger, Mocchi, cover me," Holly ordered.
"I’ve fallen and I can’t get up," Suezo moaned, still lying in his crater.
"I can’t fight, Holly," Golem whined. "I’m not that str…wait a minute, what am I saying? With this body, I can take them on!" Grinning, he moved toward the advancing troops.
"How do you use Lightning-chi?" Tiger whispered to Mocchi. Mocchi rolled his eyes.
"Just concentrate," he muttered as he stepped forward. "And be sure to fight well: I have a reputation to protect."
Tiger gulped and nodded in reply.
Holly finished pulling on Genki’s rollerblades and stood up. "I am Ge…Holly, the wielder of the Magic Stone! I won’t let you baddies win! In the name of the Phoenix, I will defeat you!"
Behind her, Genki sweatdropped and rolled his eyes. "Oh, for crying out loud," he groaned.
"Down with Moo, goodies rule!" Holly hollered, and suddenly darted toward the Zuum who was holding Hare. The Zuum troops surged forward to tear her to shreds, but Tiger and Mocchi raced forward to intercept them.
"BANZAI!" Golem yelled, and he slammed a massive fist right into the center of the Zuum hordes. The dinosaurs went flying in every direction, and the rock monster let out a whoop of excitement. "This rocks!" he cheered.
Genki, who was helping Suezo out of the hole, rolled his eyes again and sweatdropped.
"Lightning! Lightning! Lightning! Lightning!" Tiger repeated over and over again, sending electric blasts every which way. The Zuums scattered.
"Hey!" Mocchi protested as a streak of lightning flashed by mere inches away from hitting him. "Watch where you’re aiming!"
"Sorry," Tiger apologized with a sob. "I didn’t mean to…"
"SHUT UP AND FIGHT!"
"What the heck is going on?" the Zuum leader asked, staring in utter astonishment at the brave Tiger of the Wind as the blue wolf burst into tears. The little pink Mocchi who was yelling at him cursed loudly at that.
Something flashed by the distracted Zuum, and he felt something yank the rabbit out of his hands. He whirled around in time to see Holly skid to a stop a short distance away from him, holding Hare. The girl turned and grinned at him, throwing him a wink as she set Hare down on his feet.
"I’m in the zone!" she called as she sped toward the commander in a bum rush. The Zuum dodged out of the way of her kick, only to be knocked back as Hare’s fist connected with his jaw.
"Retreat!" he yelled, and took off as fast as his legs could carry him. The surviving members of his troop scrambled after him as the rebels cheered.
"Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" Holly cheered, waving her arms and skating circles around the group. Tiger leaped and bounded after her, his tail wagging furiously. Mocchi groaned and buried his face in his hands, muttering curses. Genki smiled nervously at him and kept trying to revive Suezo. Golem kept cheering and jumping into the air.
"Guys, it’s not over yet," Hare suddenly interrupted. He pointed over the hill where the Zuums had retreated. "See?"
"Huh?" Golem stopped dancing around and squinted toward the hill. His eyes widened, and he yelled, "They’re coming back!"
"WHAT?" The other rebels turned and stared as the Zuums came racing toward them in a herd.
"They just fell back to regroup!" Hare yelled, taking a step backward.
"They’re going to run us over!" Genki screamed.
"Uh…oh…" Holly said, sweatdropping.
"Get ready, here they come!" Mocchi warned, bracing for another fight.
The Zuum horde raced toward the rebels, gaining speed as they drew closer. The rebels tensed and assumed battle positions. Holly gritted her teeth and got ready to attack the moment the baddies drew close enough…
Something flashed past the rebels and streaked into the Zuum horde. The warriors screamed as a fireball engulfed them. Out of the corner of her eye, Holly saw a slender pink figure land nearby, and she cried out in shock.
Pixie barely glanced at the girl, instead watching the fire to make certain that none of the Zuums could escape. None did. As the blaze died down, she allowed herself a grin. Suddenly she gasped, as Holly raced up and tackled her around the waist.
"Pixie! I knew you would come back!" Holly cheered. Pixie stared down at her in shock.
"Glad to see you again, Pixie," Genki said, bowing politely. Suezo stood beside the boy and mimicked the movement as best he could.
"Pixie-chi!" Tiger of the Wind cheered.
"How ya doing?" Golem asked with a wide grin.
Mocchi just snorted and looked away.
Pixie stared at the rebels, then threw a confused look up at Big Blue. Hare coughed, and the two started staring at him.
"You’re smaller than I remember," Pixie finally stammered. Hare smiled nervously at her.
"Let me explain…" he said, and quickly summarized how he had accidentally switched the minds and bodies of his friends. He showed the two monsters the Phoenix’s Tear as he spoke, and Pixie stared at it.
"The Tear?" she asked, looking at him. "Does that mean that you are…?" Hare glanced away and nodded, ever so slightly. To his shock, Pixie laughed aloud. The others were startled by her giggling as well, and they all stared at her.
"I should have guessed," she said as she finished laughing. "You should have seen how furious Naga was when you escaped."
"I’m sure," Hare whispered, and Pixie recognized his fear. Shaking her head, she reassured him that she wouldn’t tell anyone.
"Uh…Hare? Can we switch back now?" Genki begged.
Hare stared at the others, a little chastened. "Sorry…I forgot."
The rebels tipped over, while Pixie quickly stifled her laughter.
Hare wrapped his paws around the Phoenix’s Tear and closed his eyes. The rabbit began to chant quietly, and the crystal’s glow grew brighter and expanded to the others. A bright flash of crimson blinded everyone, then faded away. Hare looked at his friends expectantly.
"Whoa!" Holly cried as she lost her balance and fell. She looked up at Genki with a lopsided grin. "How do you keep these things steady?"
Grinning, Genki helped her to her feet. Hare breathed a sigh of relief and looked at the other monsters.
"Mocchi Mocchi again!" Mocchi cheered, bouncing around.
"Thank God that’s over," Tiger of the Wind growled, glaring at Hare. The rabbit ignored the look.
"Yeah," Golem rumbled in agreement.
"Ow…my aching everything," Suezo groaned. Holly threw a disgusted look at him.
"Serves you right," she scolded. Suezo rolled his eye and moaned again.
"All right! Everything’s back to normal!" Genki cheered. Turning to look at Pixie and Big Blue, he said, "Thank you for your help back there. Are you going to join us now?"
"Heh. Don’t get any ideas, Genki. We still work alone."
Genki stared at the two, completely confused. "Uh…"
"Let’s go," Big Blue commanded his voice sultry. The massive golem pivoted on his heel and began to stomp off.
"Yes, Master," Pixie chimed, following behind.
The rebels stared at the two departing monsters, stunned.
"Uh…oops," Hare whispered.