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Level: 5 (42 -> 45 (-3) -> 42/50) | 4 (34 -> 37/40) | 2 (17 -> 20/20) LEVEL UP! ---> 3 (0/30) | 7 (40 -> 43/70)
Location: Land of Adventure - Spiral Mountain
Word Count: 3372 (+3 EXP)

(Level up pending…)

Banjo and Kazooie were slow to follow on Geralt’s order after he had detrophyfied them, still reeling from the experience and in need of a second to wake themselves back up. Hat Kid was even slower still, slowly returning to consciousness just as exhausted as when she went out. The animal pair were better able to handle injury--even individually--than the child, therefore able to quickly recollect themselves. They jogged over to the tower entrance with the Kid a few steps behind them, mentally prepared to re-engage, only to find their foe pacified by the green-clad ranger woman of their group. Banjo halted his advance at the first notice of this, exercising equal parts restraint and caution as he observed from a manageable distance (door to bridge).

“I’m guessing we won?” he asked, having come to the obvious conclusion, but wanting to be doubly sure.

“We did?” Linkle called back. There had certainly been sounds of quick and dirty violence, so she popped her head up over the ice wall to be sure, but all she saw when she looked for the people that had taken out Tora were Jak, Gaige-Tron, the giant bug, and the Courier’s pet bug hanging around a pair of spirits that she presumed to be the Other Micheal and the lady with the big crossbow. If they needed any more confirmation of the area's safety, one only had to look up at Bowser bossing everyone around from the tower without a care in the world save for what they might have to face next. Linkle did some quick and simple math, then turned and gave the bear a thumbs up.

Banjo returned Linkle’s gesture with a nod, which told Kazooie she could cease swivelling her head about to watch for danger. Hat Kid sighed with relief at the news, propped herself lazily against the wall, and popped the cork on her half-empty bottle of Lon Lon Milk like the cap of a flask she would have no business carrying to finish the second, and last, serving of it. Had she considered it, and not needed the healing and nutrition as much as she did, the Heroine of Hyrule might have appreciated the familiar flavor. Banjo exited the tower to approach the Hylians and two hunters, but hadn’t cleared the green to the bridge when a swift silhouette passed over them. Fox bounded high above, the contrast of the sun darkening his shape at the crest of his leap before he aggressively descended on Link’s position with a forceful heel aimed for the weakened hero.

Linkle looked up over her shoulder when the shadow fell over them, only having a second to register downward strike. She turned to face the descending foe, standing in front of Link and crossing her arms in front of her to block the blow. In that moment she was able to register who the attacker was, and her confusion over why the flying fox was attacking now was swept away by the sunset red of his eyes. Right, Ryu had had this problem.

The heel threw her back against bridge railing, eliciting a pained groan from Link as she slightly crushed him. “Heart the Fox or he’ll never stop!” She shouted to everyone around her.

Fox pushed off of Linkle’s guard, drawing his sidearm on Link the instant his feet rickety lumber. Balance proved little issue for him, as it seldom did, but his aim shifted about still as he tried to get sights on Link around his stubborn protector. Alas, he could find no opening in the second spent looking, so he instead zipped past the woman in a phantasmic blur, turning with a reverse roundhouse at the end of his dash and ready to follow it with his firearm.

Linkle, luckily, knew what the fox must have been after. Even if he suddenly zipped past her faster than her eye could track she still had a pretty good idea of where he was going to end up. So, not even wasting the time to look, she extended one leg out and spun with a kick that would fly right over Links head and right into anybody standing over him. Both kicks collided at their ends, cancelling them out, but continuing Fox’s rotation. In that moment, the gears of Galeem’s influence turned in his head, occupied by multiple subseries of synaptic responses that amounted to a simple overriding shift in priorities. His mind--absent of his true self--interpreted the retaliatory defense as aggression, and just like that, Linkle was now an enemy in his eyes. He chased his deflected strike with his blaster hand, spinning to face the ranger woman, aimed at her chest, and squeezed off a short, rapid burst of point-blank laser fire.

Linkle yelped as a burst of fire hot agony exploded in her chest. There was no push to it, it just hurt, so she lashed out with her foot to try and kick that dangerous thing out of his hands. The toe of her boot forcibly bumped the pommel of the gun’s grip in a disarming strike that sent Fox’s gun flying in a steep arc that he followed with his eyes. In a single fluid turn, he faced his back to his opponent as he threw out a webster kick to her chin that simultaneously served as a jump to get him over the side of the bridge. He extended both arms out to each side--one to catch his gun, the other to find purchase on the ropes--then slung himself back around, tucked to fit through the gaps, and threw himself feet-first at Linkle. His rebounding strike met Linkle’s torso, knocking her back across some length of the bridge, and with the impact, he followed through into a retreating back tuck and resumed fire--before and after he landed.

Linkle slid back across the bridge, already feeling the hot stings of the fox's cool gun as she did. One in the thigh, another buried in her shoulder, one flying right across her cheek. She rolled backwards, pulling her shield off her back and holding it in front of her to absorb the shots, the lasers leaving smoking holes burned into the woodwork wherever they hit. She didn’t think the shield would last very long at all with the rate he was putting those shots out, but at the very least he wasn’t putting them into Link. She had his undivided attention by this point. Actually, that was probably perfect.

“Somebody?” She called out over the rapid fire PEW PEW PEW of the blaster barrage. “Come on, while I’ve got him on the ropes. Make a friend!” At that moment she felt resistance as a single hard impact met with her shield that threatened to force her back, but little else. Fox rushed the girl down and applied further pressure with a straightforward assault of seven additional kicks to her shield, the last of which had him flipping overhead with the rising adjustment in her guard, drawing the sword he took for the first time with two rotary, vertical follow-up slashes. Before he touched down again, he wreathed himself in flame, slowing his fall to a near stop with what was clearly a preparatory build-up for some kind of attack. Unique to his condition, hints and sparks of multicolor flickered beneath the burning red, further betraying the cause of his rationality deficit. Just as he was about to fire himself forward (at the potential risk of burning down the bridge), he was taken by surprise when he felt himself knocked aside by something that he could tell was heavier than him.

Ignoring the obvious physical threat posed by the cloak of fire, Banjo decided to heed the Hylian girl’s call and threw himself bodily at Fox in a wrapping tackle, taking him out of the air, and both of them (including Kazooie) over the edge of the bridge. There was little he could do in time to direct their fall besides keeping a tight clinch on the suddenly adversarial vulpine to make sure he came with them, and they fell like a weight into the moat, audibly slapping face-first into the water’s surface. This made for the duo’s third, and most painful dip today. They resurfaced a couple of seconds later, Banjo dragging Fox from out to lay him limply onto dry land and giving him a firm slap on the back to help him cough the water from his lungs. He was still alive, if barely, and by all accounts tapped out. He would sooner fall unconscious than get up after anyone else in his current state. Even as he tried sluggishly to lift his gun, Kazooie needed only to wing slap it away from him to render it virtually harmless.

“You okay, Miss?” Banjo called up to the girl in inquiry, gesturing a more interrogative thumbs up this time.

“Uhhhhhhh…” Linkle said, standing up and walking to the edge to look at them. Curiously she took a finger and put it to where the fox had shot her in the chest. It passed through the hole it had burned in her shirt and into the small divot that had been burned into her skin. She flinched and yanked the finger away. “Nothing that Blazermate can’t take care of!” She called back, forming some ice in her right hand and pressing the clump to where one of the shots had grazed along her cheek. “Do you guys know how to make him cool?”

“We got it from here, Fangirl.” Kazooie retorted in confirmation, cracking at Linkle’s established fascination with her world’s heroic legends.

“Yeah…” Banjo quietly said to himself, nodding. “Yeah…” He sat moatside for a prolonged moment longer in contemplation of the ‘make traitors cool’ process, long enough for the lingering silence to wear out its welcome.



“Yeah… erm… I… don’t actually know what to do,” he admitted, rubbing the back of his head in slight embarrassment. Though a demonstration took place just moments ago, he had reappeared just in time to miss it.

“Hm…” Kazooie thought aloud, probing her own memory bank in search of a communicable example to work from. “Okay. So, remember when we fought that tree, back in the Dead Zone, and whatshisface threw a heart at Nero?”

“A heart? You mean, like…” He started, wondering if there was some other morbid occurrence in that place that he had somehow missed.

“No,” she preemptively corrected before her partner could enter a fallacious line of inquiry, “It’s much friendlier than that.” If beating a potential ally candidate into submission to be conscripted or liberated passed for ‘friendly’, then she wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

“Ooh. Okay,” he answered with a nod. “So… do we have to find them, or…”

“Just summon them, I think.”

“How do I do that?”

“Try touching yourself… O-on the heart, I mean,” she quickly corrected in a subdued fluster, the occasional innuendo they were once used to getting away with slipping into her dialogue. To test this, Banjo hovered a hand over his heart, where a pink, diffusing glow penetrated his palm on both sides. He pulled his hand away by a few inches to see a soft stream of rose-colored energy follow, and both of them admired it for a moment before he gently beat his chest to manifest a Friend Heart for the first time.

“Like that?” Banjo held the Heart aloft floating above his hand, presenting it before them and smiling as he beheld it.

“Yep. That’s it.”

“Al-right! Guess I’ll just…” By the time he returned his attention to their downed rogue teammate to administer ‘friendlification’, they found that the behatted child had already beat them to it. Fox’s color started returning to him, and with it, his memory…

On the cusp of dusk, they--an unprecedented gathering of heroes, villains, and everything in-between--stood at what may as well have been the world’s precipice, between it, and it’s self-appointed new ruler. At the front of all of them… was Fox, with an assemblage of legends at his back, Heaven and its army before them, and him quite literally pointing a gun at the new closest thing he’s ever met to ‘God’. Though he would never admit to knowing it, he was in over his head, but that never stopped him before. This wasn’t exactly a first for him, or a number of those with him. To those for whom it applied, they had been here before, at the very same cliff overlooking the sea, peering out into the horizon at the shining blank spot left in the world by the destruction of the Isle of Ancients that preceded Tabuu’s defeat. Back then it acted as a symbolic beacon of a brighter future to follow. Little did any of them know that the light of new dawn would eventually herald their darkest day. And now, they stood again once more… at Ground Zero...

Fox’s eyes, now clear of hostile red, opened on the New World for what seemed like the first time; as if waking from a coma. His most prominent memory rushed back through his head, overlapping with that of most recent events. He weakly pushed himself up and began examining his surroundings, trying as he could to make sense of them while he took the moment to readjust. The next thing he knew, a purple-clad child in a top hat was handing him a steel broadsword that she was obviously too small to wield, the logical conclusion being that it wasn’t hers.

“You dropped this,” she clarified, ironically further confusing him ever so slightly. He eyed the weapon for a moment with an expression of puzzlement before simply accepting it.

“Thanks,” he replied, reclaiming the sword and propping himself against it. The child then strolled over to the next curious item she spotted laying at the moat’s edge: Fox’s blaster. The realization hit him as she started playing with it like it wasn’t a dangerous tool that could cause her serious harm if mishandled, knowing fully well that it could (as she understood with swords). This prompted Fox to check his holster to find it atypically empty. “Hey,” he addressed her once more to get her attention. “That’s mine too,” he calmly beckoned, politely demanding she relinquish to him his own firearm, as she did without a fuss. She already picked one up back at the canyon earlier, so there was no need to rob anyone of theirs. She tossed Fox his pistol back and nonchalantly made her way back up the mountain.

Banjo and Kazooie, meanwhile, were pondering a few choice implications about the situation amongst themselves.

“Huh…” uttered Banjo, slightly dumbfounded by the unexpected interruption.

“Well, that was a little disappointing. I guess we built that up for nothing,” Kazooie complained, having unreasonably felt cheated out of a moment of exaggerated importance.

“At least she saved us some XP…” he added, suddenly sure of how the Heart system worked, and then less so. “So… what should I do with this now?” He thought for a moment about what one influenced party member could mean for the rest of them. “You think there’s anyone else we might have missed?”

“I don’t know, but I’m wondering how we failed to notice until now. We’ve been travelling with it the whole time.”

“Right. I’m just saying... I’d hate to waste this.”

“I don’t think it matters.” Around that time they noticed Fox had returned to consciousness. “Oh, look. He’s awake,” Kazooie noted with little enthusiasm.

“Heyyy, erm…” Banjo started awkwardly, “Sorry about that. Are you okay?”

“About what?” replied Fox, genuinely unsure as to the nature of the apology offered, exhaustion still present in his voice. As he looked around, a slightly better question came to mind for him. “Where are we?”

“We must’ve hit him too hard,” Kazooie mockingly inferred at his expense.

“Home,” Banjo answered. “Well… we’re home. At our home. Everyone else is just passing through.”

“Everyone else?” The very mention piqued Fox’s interest, for he couldn’t help being curious as to who all else was left.

“They’re up there.” he said, pointing to the top of Spiral Mountain. “We should probably be getting back to them now.”

“Yeah…” Fox concurred, and began hauling himself somewhat shakily to his feet.

“Need a hand?” Banjo offered to the clearly injured vulpine.

“Thanks,” he started as he stubbornly stood back up, “but I’ll be fine.” While he wasn’t wrong in that he could make the short trek up on his own, Banjo would have outpaced him just by walking at his present rate.

“Here,” Banjo insisted, throwing a supportive arm around their revived ally’s shoulders. “It’s the least we could do to make up for earlier.” That part still didn’t make much sense to Fox at the moment, but he couldn’t be bothered then to spare the mental energy questioning it. He conceded to the offer to help, resting his own arm around the generous ursine as a voluntary crutch, and they began hiking up the mountain trail at a relaxed pace.

“I’m Banjo, by the way, and my pal here’s Kazooie.” Save for the formal introduction, Fox was already somewhat familiar with the pair. Although he had never met them until now, he still knew them by name and reputation. What’s more is that he remembered the call to action against Galeem not reaching them in time. Not that it would have made much of a difference, he thought.

“My name’s Fox.” He replied.

Fox, eh? Your parents must’ve had QUITE the imagination,” Kazooie remarked sarcastically about his obvious namesake.

“I wouldn’t know,” he retorted tersely, letting the somber implication of his reply speak for itself. After about a minute they rounded the mountain’s peak, where the others were no doubt waiting.

“Medic!” Kazooie called out, expressing not the sense of urgency that usually went with the command. Banjo immediately sought out Blazermate, for lack of knowing any other healers in their group, and dropped off Fox next to the tower while he went to ask for her help. They found her already at work healing Link, the queen bee, and others. Poor girl was liable to be swamped with requests. “It hurts right here, Doc,” Kazooie began on approach, specifying no part of her despite the emphasis. “Think you could patch me up, please?” Banjo gave her a nudge of reminder for trying to cut in on the waitlist. “Oh, right. And him, too,” she added with a gesture to Fox.

“I know you’re busy, but would you mind taking care of him when you get a chance? He needs it worse than we do,” Banjo clarified, making sure to thank her in advance after putting in his request. Kazooie had a point in that they needed care as well, but they could sooner wait than the three besides them who were hit the hardest. Though, the fact that Kazooie asked nicely did stand out to him, even if her politeness was accidental (and undercut). Before he forgot, he held the Friend Heart he was still carrying aloft in presentation and asked, “Does anybody need one of these? I’d hate for anyone else to go rogue on us,” he declared aloud to anyone who was listening.

While he waited for (or received) medical aid, Fox took stock of those around him. Among them, he only knew four: Bowser, Jr, Peach and Link, and to say that he ‘recognized’ them would be generous, to say the least. Link’s was the only face out of them that remained familiar. The other three had undergone some… changes. Was he having some kind of feverish dream, or was he seeing prospect symptoms of a nightmarish new reality. One thing was for certain, he would have to get acquainted with it, and likely soon. The umbral boundary that lay just beyond drew his eye and reminded him of a past evil that they had once faced. If Bowser’s educated guess at what waited for them ahead proved to be correct, the lair of Banjo and Kazooie’s nemesis wouldn’t at all resemble its former self from when they first set foot in it. Whatever it promised would almost certainly be far worse.


Tora & Poppi/GM


Geralt of Rivia




Level: 2 (14 -> 17/20) | 6 (54 -> 57/60) | 5 (49 -> 52/50) | 5 (5 -> 8/50) | 7 (42 -> 45 (-5) -> 40/70)
Location: Land of Adventure - Spiral Mountain
Word Count: 2118 (+3 EXP)

Geralt managed to recover from his desperate leap away from Link’s whirling attack, not trusting Quen to manage to block such a flurry of blows. As the Hylian approached, Geralt narrowed his eyes and shifted his stance slightly, ready to parry the incoming blows. Steel rang against steel as Link’s slashes rained down, Geralt expertly diverting the blows as the two danced around, Link being careful to try and keep the Witcher between him and at least one of the other adventurers at any given time. While he could keep Link from hitting him, Geralt was frustrated to realize that the boy wasn’t giving him any real openings.

Making his way around from behind Geralt in rapid steps, Fox came dashing in at Link’s left with a running sweep into a double aerial roundhouse. The boy, despite being preoccupied with another swordsman, was quick on the defense, and out of four hits, only the second from Fox’s tail managed to tag Link. All the same, he now had another foe on each side to deal with yet again. He focused his defense primarily on the Witcher, given blades were immediately deadlier than feet, while balancing offense evenly between the two. The manageable, but stressful trade went on for the better part of a moment until Link decided to do something about it, throwing out a swift, heavy diagonal swing in a semi-spin--a divided modification to his Spin Attack (and down smash)--to each side with the lethal intent to drive his attackers off. Geralt stepped back as Link’s sword spun around him, the attack telegraphed ever so slightly. Once the blade sailed past him, the Witcher stepped in, thrusting his blade towards the Hylian’s center of mass. Having dealt with the same earlier, Fox anticipated the strike from the split-second wind-up and evasively corkscrewed over the attack, then stepped back in to punish the Hylian with a signature backflip kick to his chin.

Link let out a pained grunt as he snapped backward head first through the air, piercing razor steel running the length of his back as he left the ground. Minus the sustained damage, this happened to work out for him better than expected as far as his positioning. He righted himself while airborne, holding his Slate forth commandingly to detonate the cubic bomb he left at his opponents’ feet without their prior noticing. Fox caught sight of the blinking explosive almost a second too late to skip back away from it and flash his Reflector to nullify the damage, but still being launched by the blast force. Geralt, however, was not as lucky, and found himself launched into the wall of the tower, groaning in pain.

In near unison with the first detonation, Link triggered a second below him at just the right distance to harmlessly propel himself higher. At the near peak of his cheated altitude increase he drew his bow once more with the intent to arrow-blitz the remaining half of his opposition as he had done just moments ago. By this time, however, Fox’s shield was down, and they were at level with one another when he started up his illusory dash. In the temporal dilation that was Link’s perception, Fox was the only other one moving at a rate worth considering, rushing through the air straight for the Hylian with a trail of faint blue wind drawing the line behind him. They made contact the instant before Link completed his first draw as Fox bodily rammed into him with a reckless forearm tackle with enough forward momentum to carry them all the way outside through the gaping hole in the tower over the entrance.

The two locked fighters clipped part of the remaining brickwork on their way out, sending them tumbling over the bridge, onto the left guardrope, and bouncing over the side. Link booted Fox overhead while Fox wrested the bow from Link’s grasp--thanks in part to Link releasing it for a handhold on the bridge--blindly flinging it away anywhere into the field as he continued to fall. The air in his lungs audibly, forcibly, painfully vacated them with uncontrolled impact onto a chunk of demolished rubble at ground-level, and he haplessly rolled the rest of the way down the destructed mound until he fell prone in the dirt, raspilly groaning as he tried to recover his breath.

He successfully relieved his enemy of an advantage, but took an unduly hard, potentially costly hit in doing so, even if all it cost him was a bit of time out of his ongoing role in the battle. That much would likely hinge on whether or not the hero followed him down in pursuit or opted to deal with him last. At this point, it hardly mattered. Either way, neither of them could relent until the other fell, for in their wrong minds, greater judgement would not avail them.

Geralt moaned as he shakily stood, watching through half-closed eyes as Fox and Link jumped out of the tower. Rolling his shoulders to make sure he wasn’t too badly hurt, the Witcher ran over to the others that had been turned into trophies and quickly started touching the bases of their trophies, not stopping to check until he had hit the last base. “Come on, they went out the hole in the tower.” Again not stopping to check if he was being followed, Geralt raced out of the tower, looking to find some sign of the two.

The hero of Hyrule pulled himself up onto the bridge, his muscles screaming. He stood and breathed heavily, watching the tower entrance for any sign of his next opponent. He doubted that they would give him time to recover.

Unfortunately for Link, his next opponent didn’t come from the tower. The sound of boots on stone sounded out behind him, three hard footfalls. If he turned it would be just in time to see a girl in a green cloak pitching something pink and glowing right at him. On instinct he raised his right arm to block, only to remember he no longer had a shield. Instead he pivoted, trying to intercept the incoming projectile with his sword.

Linkle growled as the sword hit the friend heart, popping it like a soap bubble, but didn’t stop running. Honestly, what kind of Hylian had that reaction to a heart? With Link’s sword outstretched to parry the heart she took the opportunity to slip inside his guard, bumping his sword arm with her shoulder to push it even further afield and bringing up a knee to strike at his gut in an attempt to knock the breath out of him.

Tired and wounded as he was, Link fell prey to Linkle’s strategy and gasped, almost faltering. He dug deep to clench his teeth and bring his sword around in a rather slow horizontal slash. Linkle ducked under the sluggish blow, bringing her hand up and thumping her chest to make another friend heart as she did. Popping back up she reached out and grabbed Link’s sword arm around the wrist, pressing herself forward to force it against his chest with her whole body while raising the heart like a dagger. “Just take it, they’re good for you!” She shouted, bringing it down toward his face. The pink shape slipped right in, and Linkle ended up palming her hero in the forehead. In the next few seconds she got a front-row viewing as the power of the bizarre heart surged through Link, scrubbing the streaks of ash from his skin and washing the sunset from his eyes. His tense and weary muscles, struggling against Linkle’s grip, finally relaxed, and he gradually went limp. As Link’s struggle ceased and his condition caught up with him, the harrowed look evaporated from his face, and he slipped into unconsciousness in the girl’s arms.

“Ha!” Linkle laughed, then started struggling as the hero went limp. She half carried half dragged him over to the side of the bridge, laying him gingerly against the railing and looking him over. Even through the wounds it was clear that this is the one that had shown up in her dreams. It was sheer luck, or at least skill on his part, that he wasn’t dead. From the look of it her friends had seriously put the boots to him.

She stood up, looking down to where she’d seen the Fox fall when they’d flown out of the tower. He was lying in a painful looking heap, which in this world was a relief. She’d half-expected to see nothing but a spirit down there.

Charging out of the tower, Geralt saw the two Links fighting just long enough to see Linkle force the Friend Heart into the male hero. Letting out a sigh and a nod, Geralt approached the girl. “Linkle. Good work,” He called out. “Now we just have a few more.”

She looked up as The Witcher approached, smiling before an uncomfortable look came over her. She glanced nervously from him, to Link, and back again before asking, “He didn’t kill anyone, did he?”

Geralt shook his head. “No. Just turned the lot of them into trophies, but they should be fine now. I hit the bases.”

She let out a relieved breath before smacking both her cheeks in an effort to psych herself up. “All right!” She said. “The giant looks pinned down from out here, so that just leaves the two that fell off the tower.” She pointed off to the area beside the tower, near the waterfalls. “The last time I saw the crossbow lady she was over there. The other one fell into the water, but they could be anywhere by now.”

“Linky-Linky!” Tora sang as he bounded out of the Tower, with Poppi following behind. Following his partner’s revival he’d stopped to make sure she was okay, and now both appeared to back up their allies against Link. The only hylian they found, however, was one with long, strawberry-blonde hair and matching rabbit ears. As Tora approached the bridge wobbled, so Poppi took to the air just to be safe. Up above, a couple more allies were trading blows with Gough, but the Nopon didn’t see anyone else up there. “Something happen? Where others?”

Reasoning that anyone at the top of the tower would be otherwise engaged, Poppi scanned the ground. She didn’t get far before a black arrow careened into Tora from nowhere, trophifying him and sending him off the bridge in one golden burst. “Masterpon!” Poppi dove after him, leaving the others to deal with the attacker. Judging by the path of the shot, the sniper in question hid somewhere near the riverbank, either by the tree or in the field.

“Poppi!” Linkle shouted as the Blade dived over the side. By the time she heard the splash she’d dived to, sliding up to the railings to take a little cover. She placed her hand down on top of it, her hair flashing blue as ice began to grow up from it to cut Geralt, Link, and her off from the sniper’s line of sight.

Geralt grunted in shock, ducking behind the barrier Linkle produced. “Damn, can’t even get a moment. We’ll have to hunt ‘em down now. I hate it when they hide…” The Witcher grumbled.

Having regained himself in the brief moment following his fall, Fox picked himself back up at a dignified pace that betrayed not his condition and drew sights to the bridge on Link’s last known position. His need for medical attention would neither compel him to seek it as needed, nor deter him from stubbornly resuming battle. For him, the fight wasn’t over yet, but as it turned out, it wasn’t for anyone else either. He had forgotten all about the remaining snipers until an afield black arrow streaked overhead past the tower’s base at the mountain’s peak, prompting him to pivot into cover behind the stone debris. He didn’t have time to get a clear bead on Link beforehand, and by the time he glanced back up, an inexplicably formed wall of ice on the guardropes of the bridge impeded his view. Even if he started from the top of the mound, Fire wouldn’t carry him high enough and was too slow to start, which would leave him vulnerable, so he would have to make his way back up on foot. When he saw the giant atop the tower begin to fall, he took that as his chance to book it for the mountain’s base, Illusion zipping over the moat just out of the giant’s fall path, opposite the fielded sniper’s view, to cover his first rounding up the mountain path.

Level: 5 (37 -> 39/50) | 4 (29 -> 31/40) | 2 (9 -> 11/20)
Location: Land of Adventure - Spiral Mountain
Word Count: 970 (+2 EXP)

Fox, Hat Kid, and the duo all three successfully made it onto the mountain, but two of the three had yet to breach the tower that sat atop its peak. A skewed wall run cut the child in midway up the mountainside, whereupon she miscalculated a second run up a taller wall that had her fall one or two of her heights short of the bridge. She would have to make the rest of the way up fairly, just as the developer ’nature’ intended, and keep her eyes up along the way. As she came around the mountain’s front side at the top quarter, the bowwoman above began raining down black arrows aimed for her and the duo on the bottom level directly below.

“WOAH!” she exclaimed in surprise, eyes wide, springing backwards to miss the first arrow by the brim of her hat (were she wearing it at the moment). She skipped back, flipped, jumped from the ledge, tumbled with her midair jump, and dove back to the ledge in a series of nimble, evasive acrobatics, then hopped back to her feet to dodge one more shot and sped off up the mountainside with her Sprint Cap on. Her being a closer target and acting unintentionally as a bullet magnet bought Banjo and Kazooie a slim opening to ascend to the point where she left off, where they then ended up drawing the bulk of the bowwoman’s fire--likely none too happy about failing to tag them the first time around. Though they were looking out for it more, they didn’t match the child’s grace or luck in advancing unscathed… or at all really.

Banjo rolled out of the way of the first couple of shots, managed to spotdodge another, and sidestepped a couple more. Try as they might to escape her line, however, the shooter methodically led her shots to pin down the grounded, less agile ursine, driving him to the edge where he lost his footing. Banjo caught a hold of the ledge with one hand, but as he reached with the other, an additional discouraging shot from Imani forced him to swivel out of its way instead. From their unfavorable position, the two were almost certainly doomed. What saved them (if anything) was Bowser’s spectacular gambit followed by Mimikyu’s retaliation, both of which would provide Banjo an ample window to pull himself back onto solid ground and continue upward. The Koopa King’s move failed, sadly, and his trophy glanced off the side of the tower and over Banjo’s head.

Banjo reflexively (read accidentally) reached to catch the trophy over the cliffside while moving, the weight and momentum causing him to tilt and sway dangerously. Upon regaining his footing, he might have hazarded using the trophy as a shield while carrying it with him, had he not caught it by its base. Reanimating light coalesced around the Koopa’s still form, and in a confused, unsteady panic, Banjo swung the reviving cargo overhead, the weight and loss of balance dragging him into a leaning spin over the ledge. Unsure what else to do with it, he haphazardly let go of the trophy on the upswing to let it fly/fall wherever; to let it be someone else’s problem. With his back to open air, anchored to the cliff by only his toes, he entered an imbalanced state of comical windmill arm flailing in a desperate attempt to recover, with Kazooie rapidly beating her wings trying to assist. Alas, the shock of Tora and Poppi’s forced entry through the tower walls tipped them into freefall.

“Yuh-oh! WOOOOAA-” His familiar throe would be cut off by their second dip in the moat today, happening within moments of each other. All the while, they were left open to any unoccupied snipers that saw fit to capitalize on their momentary vulnerability, provided they could make the shot in spite of the Blade and Driver’s disruptive stunt. Whether or not the duo would still be animate by the time they hit the water would depend largely on that. Assuming their survival, however, they would swim their way back to the crossing where they started before and try again, but this time employing corner cutting Spring Jumps at the back of the mountain (where fewer shooters now were) to bypass the zombie horde that were now slowly scaling it.

Hat Kid skid to a halt at the entrance as she turned sharply to enter seconds behind Fox. He spared a momentary glance around and upward before moving for the central elevator, stopping a step short when the foundations began to tremble. He directed his attention to the source of the disturbance in time to dive out of the way of what burst through the wall. Kid more fell than jumped aside in avoidance, but avoided the crashing drill all the same. It was then that she noticed the Pokemon tagalong for the first time as Mimikyu drifted gently back onto her head.

“OoOoh…” she squeaked with curious delight, eyes aimed to the top of her sockets at the unexpected passenger, and a smile to accompany her gaze. On the other end of the room, Fox rolled to a kneel, instinctively drawing iron sights on the two abrupt entrants before realizing who they were, then lowering his aim. As soon as they regained their bearings, he motioned for Tora and Poppi to move onto the elevator before activating it. The child then scrambled to her feet and lept for the rising platform to catch it on the way up, pulling herself and Mimi up onto it so they wouldn’t miss the first trip and be forced to wait. The entire way up--until reaching a point where Fire could carry him the rest of the way--Fox kept a ready eye out for whoever may see them coming.

Level: 5 (35 -> 37/50) | 4 (27 -> 29/40) | 2 (7 -> 9/20)
Location: Land of Adventure - Spiral Mountain
Word Count: 860 (+2 EXP)

Level Up: Illusion

Banjo and Kazooie’s gambit fell just short of success, but their move was not a complete bust. They survived long enough to get closer, more than once cutting it too close to manage it, and that was the first necessary step to achieving victory in this engagement. As per their fallback plan, they dove for the moat to save themselves rather than committing to a hit that otherwise may have not been worth the price. An Ancient Arrow, hot on the breegull’s tail feathers, was stayed only by a combination of physics and luck as it broke against the water’s surface, its detonation permeating them with a refracted, vibrant hue.

Being submerged in a natural sound dampener did not deprive them notice of the destructive activity going on around them--specifically the rupture of Grunty’s Lair. Banjo walked the moat floor with his hands for two pushes to duck into the cove as rubble fell crashing from the sundered monument, tremoring the earth above them with impact. They waited out for a moment to survey what they could of the action from where they were for long enough to be potentially (if only temporarily) forgotten about by the hunters. They came up under the bridge connecting the mainland to the mountain islet, where they could remain momentarily concealed/covered, to spot something most peculiar to them: a moped, seemingly unmanned, gently coasting downhill in neutral toward the same said bridge--almost as if it was being guided there…

Because it was.

During the chaos of the tower’s sustained bombardment, the Lair being part way leveled, and everything else going on in general, Hat Kid realized she had gone unnoticed, and saw it as her opportunity to get under the tower while hopefully keeping free of notice. She crawled slowly to the edge of the grass next to her scooter, just outside of arm’s reach of it, and as soon as she could confirm that no eyes were on her, she rolled out from the patch to the vehicle’s left side, facing AWAY from the tower. She stayed low to the ground, hanging from the vehicle’s off side with her Skull Cap on to condense her already small profile, attempting to stay out of sight while she softly nudged her scooter into motion by pushing against the ground with her foot (much like taking off on a skateboard). The idea was to provide herself with mobile cover to make her advance whilst ideally dissuading any hostile onlookers from firing on her. This, of course, counted on her movements being careful and calculated enough to give the convincing impression of accidental motion so as to remain inconspicuous.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the valley, Fox took the first opening made available to him by the shooters’ divided attention to pivot out of cover in a low, dead sprint for the mountain. With the first step he took past the outermost of the giant stumps that could shield him, he went from zero to Mach faster than most could blink in a straight, blurry line of translucent blue afterimages with a sudden burst of speed that would get him behind the nearest (normal-sized) tree to the mountain. He took two running steps up the tree, into its canopy, and sped out through it in the exact same manner toward the islet to put himself at the halfway point leading up. He kicked off of the mountain wall at speed, sending himself into a twisting layout for the hanging bridge. He aimed to grab a hold by one of the closer planks, carrying his momentum through to swing under, launch himself overhead, and zoom once more to hit the tower’s entrance at the mountain’s peak where the corkscrew ramp ended.

Undoubtedly, Fox’s approach was characteristically bolder, thus incurring greater risk, but if he made it, he stood to beat everyone else to the tower, as many corners as he cut to get there. Hat Kid wouldn’t be too far behind him. She stepped from her scooter, letting it continue to roll on without her as she deftly bounded over the moat crossing, foot scaling the wall upon contact. With another wall run she would be at the top, so long as she was careful to hug the walls and stay under the line of fire. The duo opted to pace themselves more diligently, in the sense that they wouldn’t be skipping most of the path unless they had to. Banjo pulled them up onto the wooden platform and broke into a hiking jog up the spiral path, keeping as close as he could to the inside as they made their ascent. Circling the mountain by its natural trail allowed them to look outward and get a read on the activity surrounding them as well as above them. And of course, despite their exercise in care, they wouldn’t be slogging their way to the top, and both would take care to keep an eye up and their legs and wings ready for anything they might have to evade--whether it be a shot from on high, or even another ally bombardment (in whatever form that may take).

Level: 5 (27 -> 32 -> 35/50) | 4 (19 -> 24 -> 27/40) | 1 (9 -> 14/10) LEVEL UP! ---> 2 (4 -> 7/20)
Location: Land of Adventure - No-man’s Land -> Spiral Mountain
Word Count: 2330 (+3 EXP)

Item: Ray Gun, Iote’s Shield, Bytan Ball (x4), Primid Hat -> Red Feathers (x2), Chicken Thigh, Monster Eye, Trowlon-lon Milk (x1 -> 0.8), -> Steel Sword

(Level up pending…)

Banjo took aim with his spirit-loaded partner at the depleting horde of the Subspace Army, but Kazooie momentarily ‘misfired’, her shot delayed with a hiccup before spitting out a sword tip-first on a straight flight into an unfortunate Primid’s back. The feat was closer to a comically violent circus stunt yielding a meager, incidental result than the work of creative tactic. Banjo winced upon seeing this at the realization of what he accidentally subjected his partner to.

“S-Sorry about that. You alright, Kazooie?”

*cough, cou-*Yeah… I’m fine,” she replied dryly, but otherwise no worse off; probably needing little more than a drink of water. Banjo put her away to give her a breather, and seeing as the conflict was dying down anyway, there wasn’t much need left for either of them to engage.

The skewered puppet-being spent its last moment staring agonizingly at the blade tip protruding from its chest before Fox came rolling over its back, gripping the sword by its hilt and fluidly drawing it from the dying Primid in a full vertical swing. He added his other sword arm to the draw, slicing both the fell shadow puppet and another approaching one in the same move and finishing them with a reverse stab and forward thrust from an arm each. He examined the Beam Sword as it began to flicker, suggesting that its utility had just about run its course, so he casually threw the broken weapon aside without looking, splitting a random Primid’s head vertically down the middle before the blade’s light faded out completely. With his now empty hand he drew his blaster and let off a few rapid volleys of potshots at the few enemies that remained while Peach spoke. She needn’t tell him twice, as he had been dispatching them with extreme prejudice already. To boot, they had shared past experience in dealing with the Subspace Army, so they both knew what was at stake (perhaps her more than him).

When they were clear of the last of their opposition, Fox holstered his gun and ‘sheathed’ the steel sword at his back as he made his way into the canyon pass at the front of the line, helping the other leaders set the pace. Hat Kid slung her new shield around her back, stowed away her new sidearm (which now put her a step closer to having a real gun [and edge]), hopped aboard her recovered scooter, and followed suit behind the party leaders. The animal duo fell in with the group on foot in short order.

The intrepid party pressed on tirelessly (except Kid, being the only one left with ‘tires’) for close to half an hour through the barren one-way corridor of cliff faces until, eventually, a light at the end of their path came into view. Odd, that, considering what they were heading for; the great, aberrant sphere of darkness contrasted by the luminous end marker. Adding to the disconcerting oddity of their path’s final stretch was the growing presence of fresh Summer greenery, after travelling through miles of bare, sunless wasteland to get where they were going. The group pushed on for just a minute more until they crossed the tunnelled threshold into open daylight, to a sight most familiar to only two of them.

What they came upon left the duo floored. They took all of their first moment after arriving to reassure themselves that they in fact were where they believed themselves to be.

“Banjo? Are we really...?”

“Yep. We’re home, Kazooie.”

Indeed, they were, as hard as it might have been to believe. Sadly, the feeling it left them with wasn’t that of a warm welcome home, but rather one more sinister and foreboding. Perhaps the void’s edge resting just behind Gruntilda’s Lair wasn’t a sight one would exactly consider ‘inviting’. Even still, that wasn’t all that struck them as ‘out of place’...

“A starting area in the land of starting areas. I should be less surprised, but…”

“Let me guess, you’ve got a bad feeling about this?”


“Is it the graphical update?”

“Sort of, but no. I mean the place looks better than we left it.” She was referring, of course, to the fact that the terrain had not yet been partially destroyed, as per the events of their second adventure. It was as if time itself saw fit to remake the valley anew. The sole exception seemed to be the bore hole in the mountainside that they arrived from.

“Oh yeah, I noticed that too,” he said, having only just noticed. Gazing back at the lair and their ominous destination that lay just beyond it prompted an obvious thought from him. “So… you think ol’ Winky has anything to do with this?” He asked his partner, referring to their nemesis by her last name in jest.

“If she does, I can’t imagine her doing it alone, or having a lot of input. Handiwork’s too competent for that.”

“Hmm. Makes sense,” Banjo added, cupping his chin and nodding his head. “In any case, I wonder who-” Banjo stopped shy of finishing his thought to direct his attention upward to the movement over the mountain, him and Kazooie shielding their eyes from the sunburst to behold the spectral entity that emerged from it. As one might expect from the literal right hand of the Lord of Light, the Master Hand addressed the heroes in condescending word of ill omen before instantly summoning a stone tower with six marksmen upon it atop Spiral Mountain with but a simple gesture. He then issued the conditions of the challenge he set before them and summarily vanished. On his departing command, the Illuminated* warriors under him took their vantaged positions, marked their chosen targets, and let fly.

Fox, Hat Kid, and the duo were quick to heed Peach’s call to take cover, with Fox being the knowledgeably quickest to do so. Though the Kid, bear and bird didn’t share the same battlefield experience in dealing with long-distance assaults, they knew a gun when they saw one, and they weren’t keen on being openly available targets for them. Especially considering what they were capable of in this special case, of which Euden was made a terrifying example when a beaming black arrow pierced through him and left him inanimately petrified where he fell. The eyes of the platformers went wide at the sight, stirring them on into higher gear to find their way out of sight.

Fox swiftly rounded the nearest corner on the clearing of oversized tree stumps where he hugged the canyon wall with his back, Hat Kid ramped the stream crossing while diving from her scooter into a tall patch of dry, golden grass where she would lay prone, and the duo decided that the quickest route to safety was directly up, Spring Jumping up onto one of the cliffs overhead and scurrying their way behind one among the several rising rock formations where they would take care to keep their heads down. The latter of the three (or technically four) knew the terrain best by default, but the feeling they got was that they wouldn’t easily be able to take advantage of it with a stark distance and firepower disadvantage. They wouldn’t have long to deliberate on their next course of action, so they made a rushed mental reassessment of the situation and their options. The conclusion they came to was that they would have to act boldly if they expected to make any headway in this challenge, and Kazooie had a simple--and possibly bad--idea for how to get started.

She handed Banjo the bottle of redish-pink knockoff from their latest loot roundup and trusted him to know what to do next. He hesitantly examined its contents while he glossed over the label, then pulled the cork and downed the first of five servings. Him turning away with a mild reaction of disgust might have indicated just how pleasant it was. The flavor and consistency were closest to that of rice water… if the ‘rice’ in question was an artificial substitute. The results, however, as far as the intended effect, were much more satisfying--if at first startling.

The ursine turned head over foot with a surprised, helpless yell as he starting rising, but Kazooie was able to catch and stabilize the both of them at the zenith of their concoction assisted ascent, unfurling in a spiral as she emerged in full flight. Though they were already capable of flight, it made sense for them to cheat their height as much as they could without exhausting their precious feather supply, but would spare a couple--or another drink--if they needed the extra boost. On that note, Banjo grabbed and plucked the feathers from the two hats they received and discarded the remains, aimlessly casting aside what they couldn’t use of them.

By this point they were likely to be fired upon by any number of the nested shooters, so they would be doing their best as far as keeping dynamic in their evasive and advancing movements. Thankfully, the ever impatient and headstrong Koopa family were already making their own advances on the tower, which would almost certainly help take some of the heat off of them. They banked, twisted, dipped, climbed, stalled, etcetera in every attempt to stay clear of the trophifying shots that came their way as they tried to close in on the leftmost shooters. Although it would be difficult to manage a successful hit while dodging, Kazooie unloaded their entire collection of Bytan Balls at the heads of their assailants; two for the frontward human bowman, one each for the rifleman and tri-bow wielder on the left. If her aim and their luck held true, the rubberized shots could serve to disrupt enemy fire, possibly striking multiple times/enemies per shot, with some bouncing back into Banjo’s hands to restock--or maybe they just miss and none of that happens. Either way, it was worth every shot they could take to try.

Assuming their chance bought with their distraction, the bear and bird tucked their arms and wings to their sides in order to gain speed--as much as they could short of relearning Beak Bomb--as they closed in on the two shooters head-on. They did their best to line them up to prevent one from shooting past the other as the duo recklessly charged toward both with every intention of knocking them from the tower. For contingency’s sake, they readied themselves for the case that the frontmost shooter acted to get off a point blank shot on them, for which they would swerve around them in a bullet spiral to check their teammate over the ledge. While their gambit was undoubtedly risky, they stood to gain substantially, should they succeed. This, of course, was the best case. The worst case was that they get hit with a statue ray and accomplish nothing whatsoever. Most likely, they would have to take a plunge to clear themselves of the line of fire, whether they took anyone with them or not.

Grounding one shooter over the gambled two would be better than none, but if it came down to it, none would be preferable if it meant staying alive without being imprisoned in one’s own form. In any case, they couldn’t keep up avoiding fire at their going rate, so they would aim for the moat as they fell. Directly below the tower out of the line of sight was as good a place as any to avoid fire from those atop it. The pair knew they could duck into the underwater alcove under the mountain if necessary to buy themselves some time, and they had the collective lung capacity between them to manage. They would/could only wait out long enough for the enemies to momentarily forget about them, however. At which point they would begin their tactful ascent up the mountain and through the tower.

While Fox picked arguably the best spot on ground level for interchangeable cover, where he could exit from any point, he knew he wouldn’t be able to get any closer to their enemy without them first being sufficiently occupied. There was one among them that he could guess at the capabilities of: the blue clad archer that fronted all of them. If he had recognized him, Fox would have remembered him as an ally; a friend perhaps. As they were, now, he saw him only as another foe, no more friend to him than those at his side; the other side; the enemy's. He had his mark, but would have to wait for his opportunity to make a dead rush for the tower’s base, ducking between the trunks for cover if any shot should be aimed for him.

Hat Kid made what could very well have been the riskiest, most impulsive maneuver of them. Her chances were dependent on not being seen entering the grassy plot, and her scooter rolling to a stop just off the trail adjacent to her hiding spot may not have helped those chances. The good thing about it was that she wasn’t readily visible to be picked off, which reduced the odds of her taking a hit. The bad part was that she couldn’t freely, carelessly move through it while any of the hunters were looking, lest she disturb the brush enough for them to notice, so she dared not do so if she fell under immediate suspicion. She would have to keep a vigilant eye out for that at all times to be sure.

From where she lay she had two options for escape: the waterfall’s basin, which could cover and lead her downstream into the moat, or back on her scooter to make a speedy getaway. Her timing for either would have to be as careful and precise as she could make it. She readied herself to don her Sprint Cap at the drop of a hat to make haste for her chosen route.

Level: 5 (24 -> 27/50) | 4 (16 -> 19/40) | 1 (3 -> 6 -> 9/10)
Location: Lumbridge, Guild Hall -> Peach’s Castle - Hat Kid’s Ship/Great Ton Pu Inn -> Lumbridge Stockyard -> Land of Adventure; en route to The End
Word Count: 3924 (+3 EXP)

Item: Time Piece (3 -> 1/4/40-56*)

So… now what? Hat Kid had hopped from her barstool, stood to attention and saluted Peach along with Linkle and the Cadet, playing along as she liked to do. Though, she wasn’t one hundred percent clear on what they were all doing. The Princess had a point; there were too many things being discussed at once, and she was hardly paying attention to begin with until it was loudly demanded. No sooner than everyone could focus enough to lay out their tasks more clearly did they begin dispersing to tend to them, which still didn’t leave the child much of her own to do. Mention of teleporting back to the castle, however, stood out to her, for she was due for a return trip.

She patiently idled in wait for the Magikoopa’s return, performing tossing/balancing tricks with her umbrella until he arrived. She didn't wait for anything he had to say after "done" to break her self-pacified composure in a sudden rush for the teleporter. When she reappeared on the other side, she made straight for her waterbound ship, wherein she deposited all but one of her Time Pieces, restoring more of the ship's power and… wow. She knew she had left the place a mess, but having the lights on really put it in perspective for her. She had a lot of work to do here… aaannd a whole lot of nothing else to do with the still young day. Yeah, this seemed like a (near) perfect opportunity to tidy up, since she had the rest of the day until close to dusk to do it.

A short cleaning montage later, everything on the floor (that shouldn’t have been) had been picked up and put away or discarded, the furniture and relic displays rearranged and put back in their proper places, and everything was good as new. Well… good as normal anyway; back to the way she had it before. The engine room still needed repairs she couldn’t afford right now, unopened envelopes were left to pile up and circulate in a whirlwind in the mail room, a PBJ tower taller than her was clumsily stacked on a plate in the kitchen (meaning she purposely either picked it up and reassembled the previous one, or built a new one from scratch with salvaged ingredients). So… yeah, not exactly pristine, but it at least home away from looked and felt more like itself now. The hardest part was periodically rerouting the limited power supply to each room individually to access and tend to them one at a time. Her chores were an otherwise smooth and oddly therapeutic affair. It always felt good to get something accomplished, no matter how basic the task, instead of leaving them to pile up; to focus on something in the moment rather than leaving it to dwell on later.

Her productive time killing exercise concluded, she checked the time and realized she had been at it for… less than an hour?! Man, she was fast! Too fast for her own good. She still had a few hours left before departure, and not nearly enough activity to fill the remaining hours with. She could have gone shopping to restock her overly expensive milk or browse for something else useful, but she had to go and do the honorable thing by splitting the monetary reward from two quests ago. Now she had no money. That’s what she gets for doing the right thing. Well, this was sure to be a boring intermission, but she couldn’t sit and think about it for much longer. Who knew when the wizard would move the teleporter again. Maybe… she could just have the satisfaction of planting a proverbial flag at their rendezvous area and call "first!"

Kid rushed through the teleporter back to Lumbridge well ahead of Kamek and made her way to where she last remembered Brother Grimm being parked… only to not find it there. This prompted a quick, hat assisted search for the titanic, already hard to miss vehicle, which she would find at the stackyard ready to depart… along with half a dozen adventurers in waiting. So much for beating everyone there…

Among the gathered was the anthropomorphic vulpine from the meeting, sitting arms crossed with his feet up in the front passenger's seat, patiently waiting to set off. While Fox could competently operate just about any vehicle if given a minute to learn it, he was content to leave the driving to someone else this time. Besides, it was a converted personnel carrier, and he was generally more accustomed to light one-man craft.

The child, having left her scooter in the truck bed, seated herself upon it and calmly watched the sunset for the duration of the intermission. A serene view was a simple pleasure she could never get tired of, and assuming whatever darkness (ironically light-borne) they were due face, it would surely do her nerves (and anyone else’s) some good to set their eyes and minds on anything of beauty the world had to offer; to remind themselves what they were fighting for.

What little daylight was left crept through the crack in the curtains at a gentler, more horizontal angle, warmer now in color as the day neared its end. Kazooie woke to it first, having somehow slept through the sound of Brother Grimm’s engine, and leaned in slightly out of her bag space to draw them open. After realizing the time, and that they were about to be late for a mission they missed the meeting for, she attempted to wake her partner, who remained sound asleep snoring away. She tried first with words, then nudging pecks, but Banjo dismissively waved off her prodding and rolled over to face away from the light.

Annoyed by her partner's reluctance, she tugged on the sheets and blanket to relieve the lazy ursine of them, but overextended in her attempt, causing her to fall frantically cawing and flapping to the floor as she failed to stabilize herself. She pulled the sheets with her on the way down, yanking them off of and out from under Banjo hard enough to turn him onto his other side. Alerted, he tried and failed to catch the covers and stop himself from rolling over off of the bed, landing on his backpack (and Kazooie) in such a way that the straps ended up contrivedly slung around his shoulders. He leaned up groaning in protest as to how Kazooie knew about the quest without attending the meeting for it, despite realizing himself that it was what he was being woken up for. She exercised cheater’s brevity in her response, telling him that they could “just read back through it later.” To that, and in general, he conceded and made his way to the stockyard in half a hurry (on his own feet instead of Kazooie’s faster pair).

They arrived just ahead of Peach’s address, behind most of the party that had been trickling in. “Sorry we’re late.” They weren’t. “We, erm… had a lot of stuff to take care of.” Kazooie simply shook her head disappointedly at Banjo’s shamefully obvious fib.

Expectedly, the first half of their drive was marked by a period of uninterrupted peace for the intrepid troupe spent taking in the scenic landscape, seemingly untouched anything else. The abundance of plain greenery and pockets of mountain ranges had the bear and bird offhandedly wondering if they wouldn’t stumble into (part of) their home on their way to… wherever it was they were going to conquer and banish some nameless, faceless, nebulous evil that waited for them at what was supposedly one of the edges of the world. Signs for it started to show the farther they went as the lush and verdant gave way to lands most twisted, malicious, and unnatural. It wasn’t until this point that any of the heroes (or villains) had to raise their guard, for no sooner or later than crossing this threshold for environmental transition did its inhabitant monster-kind begin to descend upon them.

Fox and Hat Kid lent what they could to the repulsing efforts with disparately sized laser fire from both of them, with Kid moving about the bed’s perimeter to cover each side as needed, and Fox leaning out to hang from the monster truck’s passenger side doorway for a better angle to pick off any of the smaller enemies that assailed them from the right. Banjo and Kazooie were sadly unable to lend their assistance in providing suppressive fire, but they were bone dry on ammo with which to do so. The most they could do in the moment was keep their eyes up, heads down, balance steady, and grip tight to keep themselves aboard amidst the chaos and turbulence.

When the vehicle came to a halt, all three stopped what they were doing for a second and directed their attention forward at the ravine ahead of them. Euden assured them they would be unable to make it back across short of flying, which left the duo in particular less to worry about. Fox and Kid resumed fire on a few stranglers that were catching up as the prince and Peach deliberated for a word on a potential return method before she put Grimm back in gear. On her word, she stomped the gas pedal to the floor, and everyone else prepared in their own ways to make the jump.

Hat Kid mounted her scooter, which had been riding idle in the back with them the entire time, believing it would better her odds with the impending landing on the other side. Fox, rather than cabbing up for safety, continued to hang from the vehicle’s side in anticipation to bail off after they went airborne. The duo simply did as they were already doing, only tighter, and with considerably greater difficulty.

All four tires left the ground at top speed as the truck soared over the canyon. The sudden backlift on the jump catapulted the child from the truck bed overhead to figure out her own landing wherever she may, but would be able to manage it unharmed thanks to having her own set of tires on a familiar vehicle under her. The duo were tossed from the truck with the bounce of impact, sending Banjo flailing overhead to run two clumsy steps across the roof before going aerial again. Kazooie started flapping to ease them both down, bringing Banjo to a rolling stop that left him momentarily prone. Fox did much of the same, but on purpose, more gracefully, and with fewer steps. He simply lept from the truck just before it hit the ground and landed firmly in front of it after it stopped. He had fallen harder from greater heights before, so it posed no issue for him.

Before the adventurers, between them and the great umbral sphere that marked their destination, masses of dark matter coalesced to form hollow, dead-eyed facsimiles of living things; enemies familiar to less than a handful of the present party: the Subspace Army. In acknowledgement of this, Bowser dictated the obvious to Peach and Fox (conveniently failing to recall the part he played in those past events), but Fox did not verbally return the Koopa King’s address. He kept whatever thoughts he had to himself as he calmly drew his sidearm and held it at his side in preparation for the coming engagement. They couldn’t stop him and his allies before, and that wouldn’t change today. At his silent command, his eyepiece unfolded, whereupon activating, and he went straight to work.

Fox dove clear of the incoming cannon fire, deftly, lightly hitting the ground on his toes seamlessly into a dead sprint for the enemy line whilst rapidly firing on them. He drove the flat of a flying heel into the chest of the nearest Primid before spinning to follow it with the other foot to its chin, surfing the downed shadowling for a few feet deeper into the thick of its kind. With an applied, forceful aerial, the Primid beneath his feet was thrown forward headways at more of its own, and Fox was beset on an impacted pair before their backs could hit the ground, carrying them and himself upward with an ascending flurry of spinning kicks that he followed with a drill drop onto the survivor of them. The next closest foe to him was lifted from its feet with a rising tornado kicked and caught by the chest with a turning mule kick directed into a toss with a front flip to carry it over Fox’s head. Still airborne, he then caught the hapless minion above him with both hands while turning around, throwing it to ground onto another and riddling them with a spray of blaster fire.

Banjo and Kazooie were busy fending off an encirclement of Primids little by little as they encroached on the pair, employing a series of punches, kicks, wing slices, and other less conventional attacks as ceaseless as the enemy onslaught to meet it in kind. A trio of Feyesh swarmed them with tentacles lashing out, the first two of which Banjo narrowly ducked back, but the third he caught a hold of, much to his own detriment. The electrified tendrils sent a surge through him that caused the pained throes of his voice to rattle and his muscles to spasm, preventing him from releasing his regretted grasp. He was lucky to have Kazooie (as always) to lend her beak to the creature’s eye to force it away. Having learned his lesson, Banjo changed his approach to put Kazooie up for damage duty, starting by bounding at the repelled Feyesh with a Rata-Rap. With a second jump, he faced his back to the next one for Kazooie to hit it with the same attack, and with a third jump, he whipped her out of his pack to repeatedly jab at the last one as he fell.

Suddenly, he found himself having to dodge backwards (re-sheathing Kazooie as he did) to avoid being dropped on by a Ticken from out of nowhere. Another like it came charging in from behind its brethren in a bull rush at the duo, knocking the ursine back some ways with force to surprise. He landed skidding on his bare feet, digging them further in as he braced to grapple the armored avian-like on the latter end of its charge. At which point he picked up on it just enough to gain advantageous leverage as he forced it back in a run, intent on ramming the two Ticken into one another. When they collided, the duo drove into them even further with a Beak Barge and a follow through right hook to bust through the frontmost set of armor, forcing a defenceless round yellow bird to vacate its metal husk. This caught the pair off-guard for a second, which was just enough of an opening to cost them a hit of stray grenade fire from a distant Primid. Luckily, they were able to shield themselves behind the other Ticken to mitigate some of the blast damage, but it was still enough for the concussive force to knock them off.

While dispatching an Armight with a leaping step off its downswung blades into a signature backflip kick, Fox saw to the grenadier problem second it made the mistake of firing on him while he was exposed in midair--or at all, for that matter. With a single swift motion, he unclipped and drew forth a hexagonal device from his belt and threw it out in front of him, where it held suspended as it produced a translucent shield of cyan energy to redirect the hostile artillery back toward its source, dealing slight collateral as a bonus. He deactivated and slung the reflector back onto his belt just as quickly as he used it and dropped back down to ground level to re-engage the enemy. Relentless in his assault, his carelessness started to show a little when he got caught in a crowd of Primids passing him to and fro for a moment with their undisciplined strikes, but it was nothing he couldn’t correct just as quickly with a few broken arms, dislocated knees, quick, stunning jabs, chained kicks, and rapid bursts of laser fire for good measure.

He charged bodily into yet another Primid, grabbing it by the shoulder, shoving the muzzle of his blaster into its gut, and shooting repeatedly into--and shortly, through--it as he ran carrying it forward toward a Scope Primid for use as a human shield. The puppet’s thrown carcass slammed into a Sword Primid, knocking it down and clearing the way for Fox to tackle the Scope wielder to the ground with the flat of his flying knee. Stubbornly, the shooter held onto his weapon only to be jerked halfway back to its feet by the vulpine who used the shadowlings own weapon against its kin. He managed to shoot down one or two runners and fliers before being assailed by another sword wielder, prompting him to reflexively block its sword arm with the shaft of the borrowed Super Scope. In the same move, he turned around in such a manner that he was able to manipulatively leverage its arm with the gun’s grips to bring its blade down into the knelt gunner’s clavicle whilst also thrusting the ‘hot’ end of the firearm into the swordsman’s torso. He then released the shot he had charged during the maneuver as he let the weapon go, leaving it at the mercy of recoil to send it rocketing into the head of its already fallen (now overkilled) wielder. As well as respectively knocking and blasting away the gunner and swordsman, the diverting impacts loosed the embedded Beam Sword for Fox to grab twirling from the air and turn around to bisect another charging swordsman with in one heavy swing.

An errant lot of Borboras danced onto the battlefield, positioning themselves at various points to project disrupting howls of repelling wind, possibly intent on blowing the combatants from the cliff. The gusts threw Fox from his feet toward Brother Grimm, where a failed attempt to grab a hold of the door resulted in him having to stab into its side with the blade he just picked up, dragging a hideous gash partway across the truck’s body like a ripped sail. Banjo being heavier meant that he fared better, but was still being made to move despite his on-foot resistance. Kazooie couldn’t hazard emerging from her backpack to try aiding him, lest she be blown loose from it. This forced him to compensate by driving the angelic lance into the ground behind him at an angle to brake himself against. Though his reverse movement ceased, he could move no closer until the horn-headed Sub-borne relented.

Enter Hat Kid, flying in on her scooter to bounce off of one Borboras’ head and hooking another by its ‘snout’ with the handle of her umbrella, resultantly dragging its head around in a circle as she swung and redirecting its still blowing horn at the surrounding horde. This included, of course, other Borbora, creating somewhat of a small chain reaction of disruptive, randomly directed tunnel winds that chaotically ragdolled a modest number of hapless minions that were caught in the miniature maelstrom. When she completed a full lap around the wind thrower's head, sounding off with a sickening crack of its vertebrae, she leapt from her vehicle to let it crash tire- or undercarriage-first on top of whatever unfortunate mooks happened to be in its flight path while she started swiping, homing, diving, and even kicking into any light enemies that were in the air with her. Even minus her stunt, there were already flying foes a plenty for her to keep herself suspended.

Free of the forceful gails that pushed him back, Banjo withdrew the lance from the earth and started charging forward back into the thick of the action, jousting through a gaggle of multiplied Bytans, two Primids and a Ticken (bird and all) before hurling the spear-like implement skyward in an arc to pierce a Feyesh and come down tip-first onto the back of a Trowlon. The serpentine being, pinned beneath a pillar of it skewered comrades that prevented it from ascending as it was supposed to, desperately writhed in a vain struggle to free itself in the two seconds it had to do so before Banjo weightily brought his foot down onto what best resembled the creature’s head. He then fell back on Kazooie for a Spring Jump, boosting him high enough to catch an unsuspecting Armight into a bombing suplex straight down onto what was otherwise the smart end of the lance, ramming the pommel through its helmeted crown and collecting all of the spirits from the grounded polearm in one fell swoop.

After the weapon landed (before Banjo dropped an Armight on it), Kid executed three horizontal, centrifugal swings from its hilt to rebuild and keep her momentum going. She shot from the improvised lache bar feet forward fast enough to take a Primid off its feet, followed by a snap hat switch to a light Burn Knuckle. The lesser minion ended up ran through on an Armight’s sword and subsequently used as a footstool for the child to hurdle over and behind the cephalopodic knight. “Rokkyu!” (Rock you!) she shouted as she threw out an aerial Power Wave, then chasing it with, in order: a Homing Attack, a flurry of spinning umbrella strikes, and a modified heavy Burn ‘Brella that wreathed the parasol in the same empowering flame. “Burn!” (Burn!) she vocalized yet again--with no amount of toughness or intimidation factor in her voice to be taken seriously--as she lunged at the creature to finish it off with a fiery jab. Her feet hit the dirt again for the first time since they first arrived, and she turned, smiling gleefully, to fire a sustained first stage (blue) laser blast into the enemy crowd, imbuing it with Power as well.

Momentarily clear of any threats in her immediate proximity, the child took the moment she had to catch her breath--a need most atypical of her that she suddenly found herself having. She had a fairly good idea as to the reason too. It turns out the overuse of borrowed foreign power exceeding one’s natural limits that they’re as of yet ill-acclimated to is its own kind of counterintuitively taxing, and no amount of arbitrarily fashion-based psychometrics in the world could make up for a noticeable physical disparity in such a case. With this in mind, she now thought the better of over-relying the Power Cap, and decided she was going to have to get slightly more creative if she was going to survive the enemy waves that followed. As a start, she took the Primid and Armight spirits in a hand each to crush them for an additional (if potentially meager) item or weapon. Banjo did much of the same with the armful of spirits he had, but took the method an experimental step further by feeding a fistful of them to Kazooie midway through itemizing, loading her like a gun and ‘chambering’ what t/he/y hoped would be new rounds of viable ammunition. Fox, unaware of this process or its nature, forewent it for simplicity’s sake. After disembarking Brother Grimm for the second time, he quickly flourished the Beam Sword and rushed onward back into the fray, ready to take on anything and everything that met him there.

Level: 5 (6 -> 21 -> 24/50) | 4 (13 -> 16/40) | 1 (0 -> 3/10)
Location: Devil’s Casino, Inkwell Isle -> Lumbridge, Guild Hall
Word Count: 2089 (+3 EXP)

Item: Time Piece (4/40-56*)

*(Wasn’t sure/forgot which number we were using…)

Well, that was easy enough. It seemed the dealer might be willing to give her what she wanted, and all she had to do was ask nicely for it. Maybe she should try doing that more often, she considered. A shame the Lumbridge Brigade and an added party of extras had to go and wreck it for her by coming to their rescue. Sure, it was pretty obvious that they were probably going to have to fight him at some point, but she was at least hoping to get her reward out of him early before then; now she had to fight for it, as usual. Kid lept from the edge of the table into formation with the others, brandishing her parasol as she mentally prepared herself to do battle with the gambler and his puppet minions. She took on a more serious, determined expression, her grip tightened on her weapon, and on Gneidxick’s call, their showdown… was cancelled?

It was hard to tell what happened, but it wasn’t an attack… probably. Whatever it was, it was trippy; dizzying even. The result was like that of a miniature tornado spawning in the middle of the room, scattering the casino’s occupants and contents about, and restoring everyone to their normal sizes (if tornadoes did such a thing). Hat Kid came to her senses in time to tilt her hat’s visor out of her eyes and witness Gneidxick depart behind another hooded, cloaked figure through a darkened rift. She could barely catch the latter half of their conversation, but even hearing it all wouldn’t have made any more sense of their situation. If anything, it only raised further questions. It was all rather… confusing to say the least. A little context would go a long way with something like this…

One thing was clear to the child, and it was that she never got her prize. Lame! It’s one thing for the fight to be interrupted and brought to an abrupt anticlimax, but to use that as an excuse to not hand over her rightful reward just seemed too convenient. (Or, more likely, it just didn’t cross his mind at all.) Couldn’t he have at least waited until after fulfilling his end as the dealer to betray them?! Keep up the deception just long enough for her to get what she wanted? It’s not like she hasn’t dealt with exactly that before at-Oooh! That’s what he meant; by ‘letting her “have it.” That made more sense.

It took her long enough to figure out internally that he was never going to reward her (and that ‘betrayal’ would suggest that they were ever on good terms to begin with), and in all likelihood, he wasn’t even aware of what she was after. Given his character, it was probably for the best that she didn’t specify as much. Good news was that she knew where to look and had no one around to stop her. While the Houndmaster--the appointed sheriff of Lumbridge--was busy overextending his jurisdiction by way of an annexation loophole they could literally fit a giant through (as they were trying to do), Hat Kid switched back to her tophat and made her way over to the claw machine, to which both hat and Compass Badge pointed. She wasn’t leaving without getting what she was owed first.

She approached the cabinet, umbrella in hand, and knocked the hilt against the glass until it broke. It was then that she remembered once having a more suitable weapon for such a task, half lamenting its absence (as well as that of most of her things), but able to make do without an issue. Any of it beat playing the (likely rigged) machine fairly

Speaking of her cheating to win, she couldn’t help noticing Mr. Chimes, whom she had subverted and defeated not but a few minutes ago, still lying lifelessly within the toy stash, and briefly considered the absurdity of having been in there with him from her now more dominant perspective. She hoisted the wooden primate up by one of his legs, gave his ragdoll prodding shake to make sure he was still out, and stuck her tongue out at him in an expression of mockery before tossing him limply back into the cabinet. She then dug out what she was really after, the Time Piece, looking upon it triumphantly while she tossed it in her hand before safely tucking it away out of sight.

Meanwhile, Fox promptly began conducting a brief headcount to make sure everyone was well and accounted for, nodding to and politely waving off the Cadet assuringly.

“Is everyone alright?” He asked aloud to no one in particular. Based on the responses (and in a way, the lack thereof), he could make a fairly safe assumption that no one had been seriously hurt, or worse. As unlikely as it was in such a short-lived and uneventful scenario, it was hard to predict anymore just what could go wrong or how quickly, so it did no harm to maintain a habit of routinely or periodically checking on the people at your back. Even if he wasn’t necessarily responsible for them, it wouldn’t do to lose anyone under his watch.

Banjo and Kazooie had been splayed out on the grass lounging in the sun outside of the town’s entrance to relax and decompress after escaping the Dead Zone before being called into the Guild Hall on an emergency. Fresh out of one predicament, and right into another. It didn’t seem as though they would catch a break until the culprit, their prospect foe, had been escorted by an apparent cohort off to who knows where. The events and exchanges that followed left Banjo rubbing his head--both in aching dizziness and confusion.

“Uhh… what just happened?”

“Looks like we just got out of what was supposed to be an epic and memorable boss fight. I was kinda looking forward to it, actually.”

“Don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll get an honest chance at it later. I don’t think they’d set something like that up without having it in mind,” Banjo conjectured, citing familiar video game narrative structure as precedent. “I still don’t get why that happened though… or what, really…”

“I don’t know, but it probably involves some kind of intricate, layered, convoluted subplot with a bunch of inscrutable, esoteric jargon.”

“Is that a backhanded reference to something I should know?”

“Just making my best guess.”

“That’s a weirdly specific guess…” Banjo looked about and noticed a few people gathered around a craps table to interrogate a miniature cartoon character--one of the attendants being such a character himself. The red one of the two drink-topped characters that elected to stay gave off the unmistakable impression of being from the same setting as the establishment’s runaway manager, complete with bouncy, expressive animation, stylism of a bygone medium, and a voice like it should be (or was?) filtered through a CRT speaker. If the matter held his attention, it was worth paying a little for anyone curious. “Let’s see if they know anything about it,” Banjo suggested as he made his way over to the table.

Though the duo hadn’t their own line of questioning to add to the interrogation, there wasn’t much need for them to. Most of the bases had been covered by the others already, so a simple eavesdrop sufficed for the bear and bird to have any inquiries they would have otherwise had answered. Sadly, the answers they received left much to be desired as far as comprehending any of it.

“Called it,” Kazooie commented upon hearing ‘convoluted’ from someone else; her “guess” confirmed.

“That’s… not a lot to work with… or is it too much?” Banjo was scratching his head at everything he had just heard, somehow expected to make complete sense of it. “Honestly, I’m even more confused now.” One couldn’t blame him. It was a lot to take in all at once, and it could only be assumed that there was a great deal more to come. The mere sampling of exposition here was already making Banjo’s head hurt.

“Maybe we should sleep on it,” the breegull suggested, taking into account their considerably extensive uptime, and that they’d effectively been active through four different provinces (counting the new one they were in) since sunrise. “We’ve been up for a full day at this point.”

“Huh… we have, haven’t we?” the ursine nodded contemplatively. Their adventures were typically over within a day, and they spent the entirety of one running almost non-stop to barely make a dent in this one. Their work was surely cut out for them. “I guess some shut-eye couldn’t hurt. Let’s head back and see about finding us a room.”

And so, the duo headed over to the hole in the roof higher than the roof itself with escape ropes dangling from it. Hat Kid had already sauntered over to the rift next to the Cadet and the two criminals and hookshot herself to the top back into the Guild Hall. She didn’t know or intend it, but given the nature of the exchange between them that she ignored, she was basically showing off and unintentionally rubbing their faces in it. When the Koopa obstruction was cleared, Kazooie sprang the duo upward onto one of the ropes and left it to Banjo to climb the rest of the way. Fox lingered behind most of the rest to make sure everyone else had cleared out of the casino before leaving the Houndmaster and whoever he was in charge of to their duties as he followed suit.

Considering that it was still morning, the child was already feeling pretty good about her accomplishments for the day. She took a seat at the bar (where she was probably considered too young to be allowed), popped the cork on her jar of Lon Lon Milk, drank down the first half, and cutely let out a contented sigh of relief as she delighted in the period of respite she had been granted.

The bear and bird, meanwhile, looked around for whoever they had to talk to about finding lodging for the day. After which came the issue of payment, but didn’t see much issue with that. If they needed funds badly enough, they could simply pawn anywhere between one or all of the four gold rings they got off of an angel earlier.

Fox wasn’t as quick to concern himself with finding a place to sleep, even if he probably should have been. He wasn’t presently in his means to pay for it if anyhow, as the check for the rescue operation in the Dead Zone wasn’t likely to clear in a hurry from… whoever was supposed to be sending it. Besides, he wanted to stick around in case anyone called on him for anything else, or if there was something else that needed to be done in general. He seated himself in an unoccupied booth for a short rest and started thinking back on his day.

The exhausting affairs of the previous and current day started to show on him as he boredly, tiredly laid his head back in the moments of reflective idling. He had some experience with other worlds, even going on missions in some of them, but none before were so collectively awful as those conglomerated in the Dead Zone. Someone must have thought he was fit for the job to have sent him alone into a ruinous hellscape of hostile angels, demons and the undead--all things he had minimal exposure to or knowhow in dealing with. Luckily, he ended up encountering others like him from different walks at the RCPD, and with their combined efforts, they managed to escape with the survivors holed up there.

That was the least surprising part to him, as he’d been down that road once before. Since then, nothing and no one could be considered ‘out of place’ to him anymore; not when seemingly nothing was restricted to any one place. On that note, he suddenly realized he couldn’t remember who sent out the call for that; whether it was a distress call or a blatant suicide mission mass distributed by a third party. They had won the day either way, so he wouldn’t dwell on it too much in either case. Though, that didn’t stop him from trying to better recall the events leading up to it, reaching farther back into his memory for some kind of answer...

How did he end up there anyway?




Level: 5 (3 -> 6/50)
Location: Hell’s Devil’s Gneidxick’s Casino, Inkwell Isle; Vs Mr. Chimes
Word Count (Player/Total): 1360/1774 (+3 EXP)

Foregoing all ceremony or introduction, the raucous chimp went hostile in a hurry, wasting no time making its first move. Hat Kid released her hookshot on her upswing to sail over an incoming note, dropping gracefully between the top two into an offensive bullet dive onto the exposed back of her suddenly inactive foe, only to bounce off of the toy monkey ineffectually (complete with rubber squeak). Distracted by the attack and prompted to act, her focus had been drawn away from the wall of cards long enough to prevent her from memorizing their faces, their backs now facing her. The good news was that she had a wide open window to try her first round of guesswork on card flips while Chimes was ‘busy’ doing his best impression of an old screensaver graphic. She started with the top corner card on the far end of the machine, flipping it over with a roundhouse kick on her turnaround as she hooked and swung back the way she came. To follow, she passed underneath Chimes to hit the bottom card on the second column, quickly detaching and reattaching her hook to gain air and reorient herself. Should she fail on her guesses, she would be sure to keep a mental note of what each one revealed.

The first card flipped by the child span around to reveal two cups with faces, their straws and noses red, one facing up and the other down. Unfortunately, her second attempt turned up a mismatched card, this one having a quartered shield with a letter in each section. A moment after the second card came up, they both flipped back around, and Mr Chimes ceased his movement a moment to shake worryingly. After that he accelerated, continuing on the same aimless path but a bit faster.

With the dormant primate’s fifty percent increase in speed, it became that much harder to stay out of his way. Kid still managed to pass over him unharmed, but only narrowly this time, slipping between the joints of the claw that held the boss aloft. Falling in a calculated arc, she tumbled and struck two diagonally adjacent cards--the middle third and bottom corner forth--in quick succession. These two revealed the rose-bedded likeness of their captor and a lettered logo of a game piece; yet another mismatch that further stirred on the idle toy chimp, his tether violently rattling from the disturbance, but the child dwelled not on the setback. She hooked on to the claw’s railing to zip to the other side, realizing too late that she was on a collision course with Chimes, who was moving twice his original speed at this point. The best she could do was brace for the hit, directing her momentum upward to roll over him the same way one would if hit by a speeding car, and while it didn’t exactly mitigate any of the damage, it did put her within reach of the top first column card. She flipped it to reveal a familiar image from earlier--one of two red-accented cups--and recalled where to go from there. She pushed off the card, latched onto the ceiling, swung to wrap around the claw cable and slingshot into the top corner opposite, bonking the card to show a matching pair.

For the first time since the start of the encounter, Mr. Chimes woke in uproarious fashion to resume clapping his cymbals, returning to his base movement speed. The manageable frequency at which he sent out musical projectiles made dodging them a fairly trivial issue for the prodigally acrobatic child, maneuvering her way around the toy simian’s attacks in an impeccable display of evasive trapeze artistry to close the gap between them. She met Chimes at the bottom of her swing, driving into him with both feet forward, and with her power Cap still on, she followed through with a quick back tuck to Burn Knuckle. The attack, while evidently damaging, did little to stall the chimp’s movement or break his sustained pattern of slapping out harmful musical notes, but it did carry her forward into the window and out of their range. With her feet planted against the glass as well as friction would allow for she turned to fire a first-level umbrella beam at Chimes to get one more hit in before he went limp once more and the cards laid out again.

The child rolled her eyes and let out a grumbling sigh of frustration at the delay before taking to the air. Whether the fight was padding itself out, or just wanted to remain consistent with its gimmick, Hat Kid saw it as an inefficient and unsustainable exercise in protraction, one she hadn’t the patience to entertain. Rather than striking a single card at a time and gradually narrowing down her task one round at a time, she saw fit to run along the wall of cards systematically flipping over each and every one in brazen defiance of the stage’s rules. She didn’t care if they reset themselves and agitated her foe. If he wasn’t actually chasing her, she could make room for herself to keep up her shenanigan until one (or both) of them got tired of it.

Impetuous as ever, Hat Kid tested the design of the game she found herself in and found it wanting. She could move faster than the cards could flip, and since each mismatch could only be undone after Mr. Chimes finished shaking and sped up, she quickly started flipping the other halves of mismatched cards before the originals turned away again. The process took a moment to get going, but once it did Hat Kid’s progress spiraled out of control until the entire array was revealed.

Score one for ingenuity! The game had been won, but the battle wasn’t quite over. Having all the matches made in quick succession sparked something unusual inside Mr. Chimes. After clashing his symbols he began to scream incessantly, sending out wave after wave of musical notes. In mere moments the air inside the game machine became crowded. With his head up the mechanical monkey seemed fully vulnerable, but surviving the torrent of projectiles long enough to take him down was the aim of the game now.

A familiar angry aura, one Kid had come to recognize as the start of a new phase in the fight, emanated from Chimes, or at least it appeared that way to the child. From the first round to the next, the attack complexity went from baby’s first rail shooter halfway to diet bullet hell as the aggravated chimp clapped and rattled his cymbals at a rate that produced a veritable Saturnian ring cluster of notes for Hat Kid to figure out how to get around. She managed… with variable success. She managed to bounce and footstool off of a few of them, but the congestion of harmful energy proved too much for her to navigate unscathed as she soon collided into one, then another, then one more. She recovered from the hitstun by spending her second jump and Power Dunking at the chimp only for her hit to fall short, placing her directly between the open cymbals. She might not have narrowly avoided being smashed if not for her descending angular momentum, which she used to gainer tuck beneath them and onto Chimes’ foot.

The already frantic toy monkey went into a fit of disruptive bucking, thrashing, and continued clapping in an attempt to fling the child away. For a moment, she held on for as long as she was able before letting go in time with a hard swing of Chimes' leg to get her airborne, where she then hooked onto the claw's main joint for use as a pivot point to swing laps around the chimp while his agitated attacks missed in a trail behind her. Once just above eye level with him, Kid whipped her hook line like a rein, sending a Power Wave to run down through the line, into the claw, and at Chimes. She then took full advantage of the momentary opening she bought herself, winding her Homing Attack up for half a second longer than usual to imbue it with added power before zipping headlong into Chimes. ('Power Bonk!')

The superpowered tyke smacked Chimes right between the eyes. He shrieked, but dully, and after a moment his eyes rolled back in his head and he drooped down to hang limply from his hook once more. A second later he slipped from its grasp and plummeted down to the pile of toys below, where he lay sprawled out.

But the defeated monkey was hardly the most interesting item down there. Among all the various objects heaped up at the bottom of the giant crane game, Hat Kid recognized one instantly: an hourglass. She’d been drawn to it unknowingly, maybe even pulled in the direction of this fight in particular by it, and now it lay firmly within her reach.

That said, the hourglass was huge. If she were her normal size there would be nothing wrong, but whatever jinx Gneidxick worked to make his challengers tabletop-sized meant Hat Kid’s treasure was bigger than her at the moment.

Somehow, she hadn’t noticed the gigantified Time Piece amidst the toys during the battle, but it was nothing short of appropriate that she discovered her unforseen reward following her victory. She rappelled down and grabbed hold of the hourglass by one of its columns in a knowingly vain attempt to haul it back up to the portal with her. Alas, the surprising strength to carry an elder walrus to safety in one hand wouldn’t suffice this time, for her coveted reward was large enough to provide her with a platform in a pit of playthings. This was evidenced by the fact that she was now standing on it visibly pondering what to do next as far as getting it out of there.

After glancing around the ‘room’ and back at the portal above, memory of her circumstance returned to her with a realization of what she might try next. She zipped back up through the opening, flying through it at ramming speed to hit the pink die and bouncing off in a forward layout, landing atop the rim of the table to meet the casino’s dealer face-to-face. Beckoning Gneidxick over, she spoke to him in hush (covered mouth whisper), quietly, but civilly voicing her demand to him under the rationale of having rightfully won it. She added that the fight took place inside of a prize machine, so it only made sense she had her pick of the prizes within it.

Level: 5 (1 -> 3/50) | 4 (12 -> 13/40)
Location: Guild Hall -> Inkwell Island, Hell’s(?)/Devil’s(?)/Gneidxick’s(?) Casino | Sundered Market Avenue (Center Path) -> Argent Tower
Word Count: 994 (+2 EXP) | 718 (+1 EXP)

Power (Equip): Hookshot Badge

Even after knowing about them for three days now, Hat Kid still wasn’t quite sure what to expect from her first use of Spirits, but the surprise factor was part of the fun for her… as fun as haphazardly smashing the ephemeral remnants of dead peoples’ life essences for material gains could be considered. While the Guildmaster was acting strangely salty about their success in completing the task that he assigned them, Kid was pinning the lens to her hat like a badge and inspecting then absentmindedly juggling/balancing her other two rewards, only half listening to the adults talk while she waited for them to finish. She stopped what she was doing when he addressed the party present, her attention seized by the mention of losing a bet, followed by the ominously broadcasted intent to “play a little game first.” The next thing she knew, the table she was standing on tilted halfway into a conjured circular abyss as her and her compatriots were perilously dropped into the darkness of whatever awaited them at the bottom. Surely, none of the other guild patrons saw this happen…

Her landing was far less graceful than one might have hoped for or expected from the child, faceplanting hard onto the gigantic felt table after failing to open her umbrella in time to slow herself. In contrast to this, she held a blind hand up to catch the still floating parasol as well the two items she was playing with on top of each other, performing a perfect balancing act with them without sparing the necessary effort; feat of natural agility to follow a less characteristic display of unflattering clumsiness. She sat up to put her weapon and items away and take stock of the escalated situation. The Guildmaster--now revealed--emerged from the commanded dark to present the heroes (and villains… and in-between) the terms of his impromptu “game”. Now he definitely had her attention.

So, he wanted to throw them into a gauntlet because he lost a bet? If the nonsensically named high roller knew much of anything about any one of them--even individually--he probably would have known better than to bet against their success (well… maybe except in their case). Hat Kid was simply thinking that he ‘needs-ick’ to let them go before he ends up losing again, unless of course he lived for the rush of risk that came with the territory of gambling, an enthusiasm for which the child did not share. She wasn’t terribly big on losing, especially in high-stakes affairs she didn’t ask to be a part of, and even less was she keen on having her own stakes unilaterally upped on her behalf.

Though admirable was the cowboy’s attempt at hustling the house, ”permission” to reap the party wasn’t his to give, and was objectionable on that principle alo-oh, good! He’s been drinking too, this early in the morning, so he’s certainly in his right mind to be gambling everyone’s souls away. Bowser had a slightly better idea, but failed to amend the prior one in presenting it. Clearly, no one else here seemed to have Hat Kid’s experience when it came to boss rushes. They were hard enough already without putting your soul on the line (which she did, despite having lost it previously), or taking on more than one at a time (which she ALSO did). They didn’t have time for this! There was an entire world/s that needed saving, and they couldn’t afford to risk it for: at worst, a cheap thrill; at best, a chance to tug on a gloriously overloaded plot thread they’d rather not unravel (not that they had the slightest clue about that).

Thankfully, the dealer was smarter than to call either of them on their bets, declining in decisive fashion by sweeping the Courier away into an arena portal at random. His message was clear in that they didn’t have much of a choice in the matter beyond who they each chose to fight first. Less clear were his true intentions, because Kid didn’t buy that he was simply out to punish (rather than kill) them. What would the lesson be--don’t fulfill your mission? Well… given that their mission was essentially the liberation of the multiverse, that would actually make sense in this case. Perhaps, he aimed simply to test them, but admitting his own force to be inadequate probably wasn’t the best strategy. From a gambler, one would expect a more convincing bluff… or was that part of the real bluff; some next level bluff? Either way, if he “played to win”, Kid was prepared to disappoint him (again).

The others had not so much decided on their match-ups as they did simply confidently enter at random (forcibly, in 6’s case). Hat Kid was a little more discerning with her battle selection, though with admittedly little in the way of a basis. With the four occupied arenas fully stocked, she wasn’t left with much of a choice beyond going it alone, which she didn’t at all mind. When looking through the blurry haze of the remaining portals, she figured she could take a toy cymbal-monkey in a fight. She was sure of that with all of them really, but ultimately she decided to start there. Without further delay, she lept forth into the rift free of hesitation, the floor giving way to the deep, toy-laden chasm of a gigantic claw machine. Preferring to not find out what would happen if she dove into it, she didn’t let her graceful forward fall last for more than a second before shooting her hookshot to the ceiling to find purchase on the claw rail where she could remain suspended, same as her foe. Luck seemed to favor her for being alone on this one, for she was either uniquely qualified for this fight, or among the only ones around equipped for it. She would find out soon enough, once the battle began...

With their choice of path separating them from the threat on the ground, and their other capable allies clearing the skies, Banjo and Kazooie were relieved of the need to do much else besides continue pressing on at full speed. Being dry on ammo and low on feathers made it more worthwhile to conserve what little they had left than spending any of it to potentially be in the way, what with all the gunfire being directed upward. They otherwise would have lent their own hands and wings to the effort, but they trusted this time that it would be well enough handled without them. The best they could do was beat them to the tower, as they were set to do, and deal with whatever threat may lay ahead of them. The localized Hell-sky circling overhead and the growing concentration of corpse-litter made for an almost deceptive prelude to what awaited them when they arrived.

The duo slid to a halt before they could quite make it to the tower’s towering doors, splashes of gory crimson staining Kazooie’s talons, followed by Banjo’s feet as they swapped positions. No one who arrived shortly behind them could blame them for what gave them pause, for they would immediately understand why. The lone figure to step forth from the hellborne megastructure exuded a palpable aura of raging menace that even demons would fear (so the legends that surround him say), and context lent further credence to the largely intuited sensation of dread. The sizable heroic force had a hard enough time fighting through this deathly hellscape together. To believe that all the death that surrounded them was solely the doing of this one ‘man’, alone, who showed no sign or intention of stopping what he was doing… Yeah, who wouldn’t stop dead in their tracks when faced with THAT?! It was difficult to tell initially what they should be more worried about: the pursuing horde, or him? It felt almost as if facing the former would honestly be preferable.

Luckily for the party (for the horde, not so much), they wouldn’t have to decide one way or the other. The hulking, olive-clad warrior made that decision for them as he strode forward past the heroes and survivors, caring too little to even pass a glance to any of them. Everyone else, on the other hand, more than acknowledged his direction, and made damn sure to step well out of his way without having to be told to. Willfully unaccompanied, he cut, shot, and bulled headlong through the tide of horrors and monstrosities, pushing them back with brutal might to (out)match their numbers, sustained in his merciless onslaught by nothing more than the furious carnage he wrought. Almost as much as they were astounded by the display, the group was safely assured that they were bought a plentiful opening to do whatever they needed to.

Once everyone was safely inside, the duo took one last reassuring look around outside before shutting the doors behind them. The bear and bird hung back with the rest of the heroes while the civilians exited a little at a time through the teleporter into (literally) greener pastures… where they would be quarantined by understaffed personnel technologically ill-equipped for such a task. Well, it was at least a step or several up from where they just came from. A short delay of inconvenience wouldn’t trouble them by comparison.

While waiting, the duo couldn’t help overhearing Fortune’s stubborn plea to Nero about her reason for being there, and why she refused to depart in spite of her current inability to continue. The bear and breegull looked to each other thoughtfully while recording every detail, promising quietly to themselves to search for this ‘Skull Heart’ on her behalf. They didn’t have much past a name and their best guess as far as what it looked like, but a heading and a proper name was usually all they needed. In the meantime, they were left with the decision of where to go and what to do from here. Were they to join the exodus for respite, even if only for a moment, have a look around where they were to see what they could find, or just… wait to see what happens next?
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