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Level: 4 (8 -> 10/40) | 2 (18 -> 19/20)
Location: Land of Adventure - Forest Temple? | Dead Zone - Redgraccoon City
Word Count: 952 (+2 EXP) | 673 (+1 EXP)

Item: Cricket Bat
Power: Breegull Blaster

Although not the most expeditious, Hat Kid’s ride south went smoothly, the gradual change in the landscape challenging her too little to affect that for her. The closest she came to a hiccup in her trip was when she found herself having to steer well wide of an enormous, scary-looking gorilla about as big as Bowser (when he wanted to be), but beside the occasional fauna, she spotted no other signs of life along the way. As far as she could tell, she was completely alone; she almost always was, so it was fine with her. It was good to have as little competition as possible, as thus far appeared to be the case.

After a while, her marker led her to a forest clearing at the southwestern edge of the province that bore no defined path inward but nonetheless formed an entrance that would be hard to mistake for accidental. The trail ended some ways in at an aged man-made entrance draped with overgrowth and tucked away amidst a couple of bare trees beneath a stone ceiling, which suggested something about its construction while raising questions about how anything grew there. For whatever reason, the door was left cracked by whoever went through it last, but it may not have been because they were leaving in a hurry. Her hat’s waypoint pointed inside still, with her Compass Badge attesting to the same, meaning whoever (or at least whatever) she was looking for lay further in. With her heading confirmed, she proceeded through, cracking the door once more and leaving her moped parked on the steps.

The interior of the first room was even more dense with un/natural growth, which made even less sense. The trees that closed the space in were thick enough to leave virtually no space between them. Even a bite-sized adolescent like herself would be hard-pressed to hazard fitting through the cracks, a gamble she might honestly prefer to sharing vine space with the giant spider that occupied it. It appeared to have hollowed out the decaying corpse of its last victim that now played host to it; something a child could have gone without seeing in person. Unless she felt like dealing with a parasitic arachnid (which she didn’t), taking where the stairs used to be was out.

She instead ascended the right totem and jumped to the adjacent tree fungus that made for an oddly serviceable foothold. Unfortunately, the distance from there to the next door was just too far for her to clear without coming dangerously close to the spider, but while she was there, she decided to check the pots around her for anything useful, only to end up accidentally nudging one from its perch. She nervously winced at her error when the sound of the brittle clay receptacle shattering against the floor rang out through the chamber at the risk of drawing the creature’s attention; this did give her an idea, however. If the spider approached, she would hang back in the shadow of the tree and wait for it to inspect the broken pottery before tossing another from cover to the closer corner of the back wall to draw it farther away. Failing that, if it made her position before she could properly hide herself, she would simply drop the pot she was holding (or whatever was in it) on the spider’s head and make a run for it while it was disoriented. In the former case, she would carefully circumnavigate the room by platforming across the totems and other mushrooms, leaping and diving to the trunktop on the other side. In the latter case, she would have to don her Spring Hat and outrun the spider in a beeline for the door, ramping up the tallest root to scale the trunk in wall run.

She aimed to be out of that room and into the next as quickly as possible, but found a second of momentary pause at the door when she failed budge it initially. Then with a firm push, the round, runic slab slid into place and all but wheeled itself out of the way, allowing the child ingress into the next chamber. Her eyes were drawn almost immediately to the center by the revolving glow of chromatic fire, and between them, her objective. The girl she was sent to find lay unconscious within the walls of flames that formed from the sconces and stood between her and the relatively easy fulfillment of her verbal contract… or so it would seem.

The child attempted to bound over flaming barrier, but as if possessing its own will to impede her, the fires rose to repel her “Ow!” She exclaimed as the phantasmal blaze knocked her away. More annoyed than hurt, she patted the embers off her clothes and stood back up to take a closer look at everything around her. It was then she noticed that torchlight shone on the nearest corresponding corridor, clueing her in on how to solve the problem before her. Though, there was presently no clear deduction she could make as far as what the colors might represent or what order to do them in, but it did bear a haunting similarity to the Fire Spirits in Subcon Forest (except the walls there didn’t hurt). If they were at all the same, they would each require a relatively simple condition be satisfied (that probably involved paintings, but there was no reason to assume that). All that was left was for her to decide which one to do first, and with little else to base her decision on, she drew from her last experience with this to make her choice… by starting with the orange one.

Neither of them really knew what to expect from itemizing the Smoker spirit, but the duo were nonetheless surprised, if unmoved by the result. From the destroyed soulmass a worn cricket bat materialized in Banjo’s hand, which alone took up the entire handle, so using it wouldn’t extend his reach by much. At any rate, melee weapons were largely foreign to the two of them, having never felt much of a need for them, but there was a chance that it might prove useful to them later. It was no multi-level, self-igniting greatsword outfitted with a combustion engine or anything...

With nothing left around for them to test their new bat on, Banjo tucked it away into his pack for later. Looking around at the now near empty scene that was but just seconds ago crawling with undead (and a pinch of hellspawn), there must not have been many heroes in the area. If there was, it would otherwise be hard to believe that they just left so many of these creatures alive (relatively speaking), given how quickly their small team was able to change that. Maybe all the other heroes were just busy… or in a hurry. The present heroes soon had that much in common as the demon hunter ushered them onward to aid the ‘boy band’ from before, who were currently in the middle of battling a heavier, stronger, muscular variant of zombie. Nero drew its attention off of the four boys the moment it entered his line of fire, outreaching that of Blazermate’s turret until she saw fit to drive it closer.

With Blazer in the driver’s seat, Banjo and Kazooie rode shotgun in their own vehicle while they moved up the street. This freed them to join in helping the others lay down fire on the massive Infected. Taking a seat at the rightmost edge of the Trolley, Banjo drew Kazooie from his backpack, brandishing her like a firearm, mimed the pump action of a shotgun, and let loose a six round volley of accelerated blue orbs, erm... eggs, to pile on to the damage the creature was already sustaining. The closer the kart got to the massive zombie with the turret and seat gunner/s going to work on it, the more they drew its ire, and the clearer it became that they were doing little more than further aggravating it as it charged them head-on like a gorilla, undeterred. Thankfully, the Koopa Prince, who warped in unexpectedly while no one was looking, picked this as a good time to warp back before anyone had to explain anything to his dad.

Seeing that they weren’t going to give the roided beast any pause or stop it from ramming them, Banjo tucked and rolled out over the rail of the Trolley, forcefully thrusting both feet like a spring at the vehicle’s side in an attempt to knock it and himself out of the way. He wouldn’t move the kart by much, but perhaps it might tip enough to help Blazer and her machines avoid a direct hit, for a hit was guaranteed and their current speed and distance. The vehicle was sent flying, and with it, its occupants, and Banjo managed to quickly put Kazooie away before hitting the ground in a log roll. The two recovered prone, looking up to see the others picking up the slack to keep pressure on the Tank from on high and up close. From their grounded position, Banjo leapt forward on all fours (yes, like a bear) with Kazooie poking out of the backpack to spit their two remaining fire eggs at the brutish zombie. By this time, Nero had finished making his move against it, so the duo were unfortunately unaware of him having planted a bomb on it that was liable to explode in the faces of any one of their allies that were hacking or pummeling away at the monster if any of the flames were to touch it. So much for watching their friendly fire...

Level: 4 (6 -> 8/40)
Location: Land of Adventure - Lumbridge -> Malo Mart
Word Count: 857 (+2 EXP)

What started as mere splotches and patches of green to enliven the otherwise barren terrain around it gradually gave way to lush, life-rich lands the further south the convoy traveled until it stretched out toward the horizon as far as they could see. They got an even better look at what awaited them in these plains of beginnings when Peach and gang decided to stop on top of a hill with a good view of it all. There was something inexplicably wondrous and uplifting about this place that brought a relieved smile out of Hat Kid. Then again, she was almost always smiling, but there was a better reason for it this time that couldn't be chalked up simply to her generally cheerful disposition. The sense of elation she felt just from being here was further elevated when receiving a signal she had been hoping for all day: her objective marker lit up, indicating something nearby, and it was on their way! Like that, she cut her sightseeing session short, started her scooter back up, and took off downhill forthwith in the direction of the town alongside the other more eager members of their party.

They were met at the gate by three who were assigned to keeping it: a teenage swordsman who’s coincidentally similar fashion sense Kid admired, a small mage about her size who acted as the trio’s mouthpiece, and a young mute swordsman barely older than her (if that). Linkle seemed ecstatic to meet the latter of the three, stumbling over her words and making everyone involved a little uncomfortable. Poor girl, only a day into their journey, and she was already starting to lose it. Who knew how much longer she would last at this rate. At least it didn’t hurt their chances as far as being approved for entry into town, and they were all soon cleared to do so on condition that they leave their vehicles parked outside the main entrance.

Hat Kid broke off from the group at the nearest opportunity to follow her hat’s waypoint into a general store. From the moment she pushed one of the doors open and took her first steps inside, her eyes were widely, wantingly affixed to one item in particular that sat (or rather floated) at the top shelf; something that had business being there, up for trade; a Time Piece. This made the first of several she would have to find again, and she was clearly happy to see its familiar aura and glow again, though it be diminished. She ceased her gawking when addressed by the remarkably diminutive shopkeeper, who was barely tall enough to see over the counter, nudging her to make a purchase. It was then when she finally took a cursory glance at the other items that she noticed the exclusion of a price tag on the only one she was truly interested in. A “quest reward,” he called it, instructing her to either hit the guild hall, or simply inquire him about the details. She, of course, opted for the second option, preferring to save herself a trip and cut out the middle man.

Her assignment: a missing persons case involving another client, apparently. Though, said client’s importance in the quest giver’s eyes may have been overstated slightly, with finding them being more or less relegated to being the optional objective. Stressed instead were the unspoken contents of her satchel, making it more retrieval than rescue mission. Sure enough, she should have little issue finding and recovering a valued key item; she was rather good at that. What bothered her, however, was the two professional criminals of their pack (or anyone, for that matter) taking up the same quest at the risk of cutting in on her much sought after reward.

It would have been unreasonable and uncharacteristic of her to openly object or complain about their prospect involvement, and thus refrained from doing so. She couldn’t fault them for not knowing better, after all, but she wasn’t exactly in a hurry to have to explain to them what they would be dealing with and why they shouldn’t, lest she further incentivize them. The best should could hope for was to beat them and whoever else may have accepted the mission ahead of her to it, which meant she didn’t have time to waste. She paused just short of stepping out of the door, shot a suspicious, determined glare halfway over her left shoulder toward the two men (without actually turning to look at them), and hurried outside before the store’s music drove her to insanity.

She hastened her trip back to the main gate with cap-assisted sprint and a few tumbling maneuvers with utterly cheerful disregard for any socially accepted conventions of public conduct, even leaping over the heads of a gruff-looking white-bearded mercenary and his fan club. She jumped to her scooter as soon as it came into view, started it up, switched hats, and headed south without hesitation toward her mission destination, where her new objective marker now guided her. With her compass still active, she would continue to periodically consult that as well.

feat. @Archmage MC


Level: 2 (15 -> 18/20) | Lvl 5 0 ->3/50
Location: Dead Zone - Redgraccoon City
Word Count: 2459 (+3 EXP)

Learned Crafting/Engineering

(B-K level up pending…)

While the duo idly waited for the others to gather, they noticed--as it would be difficult not to--the builder bot setting up contraptions in the bed of their kart. The question of what the first one was answered itself with the help of a lesser Rabbid popping out of it… repeatedly, whereas the second was largely self-explanatory, obviously being an automated gun of some kind. The latter would no doubt come in handy to save them some of the work having to fight off whatever they run into while they drive, even if it did impede their frontal view somewhat. As she looked to lay down her third machine, she decided to strike up conversation with them for the first time since encountering one another, having not been formally introduced up to that point.

“Nice to meet you, Blazermate,” Banjo offered, returning her greeting. “I guess we’re doing okay. Thanks for helping us out back there, by the way.” Banjo had mostly forgotten about the events at the castle and their indirect involvement in them, and as Blazer had observed, they haven’t taken much of a hit since then. Thus, they’ve not needed her services and were otherwise unaware of what they were. To accompany her question to them about their reasons for diverging, she casually talked of “parts” and “upgrades” being her own.

“Why not do that here, then?” Kazooie suggested bluntly, referring to the fact that she was a machine about to leave a machine shop in search of practical self-improvement. “Wouldn’t that make more sense for you?”

“Oh hello Banjo.” Blazermate said at Banjo’s friendly greeting as she found a spot for her dispenser. As it built, she replied to Kazooie. “I’m a Medabot. Parts for me are a bit different than normal robots. For starters, nothing they had here was compatible with my medal, so it wouldn’t work.” Blazermate pointed to Din, who was heading off to the Land of Adventure “These spirits are compatible though! Heck, they’re even better than Medabot parts, as they let me fill slots that aren’t my arms, feet, or head. Not that I’d ever wanna give up such a cute face.” She said, striking a cute pose, which admittedly, was lessened because of her engineering overalls.

Kazooie did get Blazermate thinking, with the engineer soul inside her and her knowledge of being a medabot, why couldn’t she make her own upgrades? Even if they were only weapons she could hold, she had everything at her disposal in the form of scrap metal and a dispenser to craft things. And she hadn’t really given it a try, so she decided she would see what she could do when the dispenser was fully upgraded.

“How about you two? Are you looking forward to all the things spirits can do for you?” Blazermate said, her dispenser fully erected. All that was left for her to do now was upgrade it all the way, so she started hammering away at it with her fist, trying to keep the noise down so she could hear what everyone was saying.

“Y’know, I haven’t thought about it much, really,” Banjo replied. “This whole ‘spirits’ thing is kinda new to us. We didn’t even know about it until today.” Although they’ve been witness to plentiful demonstration of spiritual fusion within a matter of hours, they had yet to encounter any spirits that they could call dibs on that they would be okay with using, let alone one that would be suitable for them. That being said, it was hard to deny the apparent utility and appeal of them. Kazooie--envious of Din--would certainly agree.

“Hmm… Come to think of it, we too could use some ‘upgrades’ of our own,” Kazooie admitted. “Plus, it’d be nice to learn some new moves on top of our old ones… after we learn those again.” A tinge of frustration from her came out at the last part. Having to trek their way through a new, more perilous world with a fraction (or less) of their overall moveset carried over was certainly less than ideal, and they weren’t likely to run into someone who could ‘teach’ new techniques to them.

“As long we don’t have to steal them,” Banjo conceded. “I don’t wanna assimilate anyone who isn’t okay with it.” He was unsure how to work around the moral complications of the act, but understood the need to at the very least keep an open enough mind to entertain the idea, in recognition of their limitations. Time wouldn’t allow him to dwell on it before the new party were given their orders from the two leading them onward, setting off posthaste. The pair could put off contemplating the moral/philosophical implications of ‘spirit upgrades’ until such time as it became relevant or necessary for them to do so.

It didn’t take long for them to receive their first ominous sign that they were on the right track. A sheet of murky, unnatural cloud cover obscured the sun and sky the closer to the dead city they got, blanketing it under a false cover of night. Some ways down the road, after crossing over into the city limits, pre-mission discussion briefly resumed.

“So what is that you’re building, anyway?” Banjo inquired of the medabot, who had spent the entire drive working away diligently on her contraptions.

Blazermate listened to the pair talk as they drove, hammering away at her dispenser. The pair seemed to be at odds about what they wanted out of the spirits. Kazooie was right alongside Blazermate at getting upgrades, Banjo however was apprehensive. Seeing this, Blazermate said. “I’m glad I didn’t lose too many Medabot upgrades coming here. Only thing I’m missing right now is my heavy armored jet form. And to be honest, I rarely used that anyway. Don’t worry too much about the spirits Banjo. You only collect them from defeated enemies.”

Finishing upgrading her dispenser, Blazermate continued. “As for this, it’s a dispenser. It dispenses ammo and you can use it to craft stuff. It also heals anyone next to it. And as you guessed, the gun shoots things, and the teleporter… teleports people. Speaking of shooting people… Do you guys hear something up ahead?”

Ahead, zombies were outside the entrance to Redgraccoon City. As the cars whizzed past them, Blazermate’s Sentry beeped thrice in quick succession, before locking onto whatever zombie was near the automated gun and mowed it down with a barrage of bullets and rockets. Seeing as how these were standard zombies, the sentry made quick work of each one it could as the trolley drove by. “Haha, Man this thing is showing its worth, huh?” Blazermate said as she saw the devastation her automated gun did to the hordes of zombies. Due to the high volume of fire, Blazermate had to hit her sentry from time to time to reload its ammo, having the sentry run out of ammo in the middle of the zombie hordes would be a really bad thing.

All the while, Banjo tried to stay behind the van as it bulldozed its way through the clusters of lesser undead that got in it its way to avoid inadvertently using any of them as a speed bump himself, which, even without the distractions, proved a challenge on its own on account of the woman’s reckless driving (to put it mildly). The Trolley rocked on its wheels with every turn in its driver’s desperate attempt to keep up without rolling over. Luckily, Blazer’s sentry took some of the pressure off by making meat of those that even so much as looked their way--and then some. It couldn’t look everywhere at once, however, so there were a few stragglers that managed to wander uncomfortably close to Banjo. In the case that any made it onto the kart or within arm’s reach, Kazooie would pop out and jab at them with her beak to knock them off, if not to pieces.

It wasn’t long before they started spotting fiercer-looking creatures, the first couple of which the man riding shotgun in the van made effortless work of with astonishing ease and efficiency (with a hint of style). The party shortly arrived at a four-way intersection replete with abandoned vehicles and the shambolic remains of an attempted roadblock where more zombies and demons alike awaited them in greater numbers. They all rolled to a stop in the middle of everything, not terribly far behind the black quartet on their trail, and the white-haired man stepped out of the van, brought out a pristine, impressive looking greatsword, and called dibs on the demons that were previously minding their own business. The more trigger happy of their pack didn’t like that idea, so they opened fire indiscriminately into the crowd in spite of the demon hunter’s order. Regardless, everyone got to work.

Blazermate’s Sentry, being in a target rich environment, never stopped firing while Banjo navigated the trolley through the town as they followed the van. Even when they stopped at the crossroads, seeing as it still had targets in its range, it bombarded whatever was closest to it with its rapid fire miniguns and its quad rocket launcher which kept the group relatively safe within the sentry’s range. “I almost feel bad for the zombies… almost.” Blazermate said as she kept the sentry gun stocked up, but mostly just watched the carnage it caused alongside watching her ‘allies’ in the van doing what they were doing. Why that man with the sword wanted to get into melee range of slow moving zombies that looked frankly disgusting was beyond her. Leaning over to Kazooie, Blazermate said. ”500 zenny says he comes out a disgusting mess. Dunno why anyone would get close to these things.”

”Then you probably don’t want to look over here,” Kazooie quipped at Blazermate’s protest to an up close approach, knowing full well that her and Banjo would have to do exactly that. Being all but dry on ammo to join the firing squad or supply to do anything else, the duo were left to take care of the horde that crept up on the team from their flanks. Banjo leapt from the seat of the Trolley, and Kazooie opened with her Rat-a-tat Rap before Banjo’s feet hit the ground to knock off the first couple of zombies. Then, she tucked her wings around him as he dove forward into a rolling attack to bowl through the next few in a crooked line. He fluidly rose to his feet, already grabbing for the straps of his backpack while slipping it off to swing it around him in a whole spin and a half as a clumsy bludgeoning weapon--with Kazooie’s marginal weight addition increasing the force--to repel or dispatch the surrounding undead that were closing in on them. In the same motion, he threw his pack back on and kept going, front kicking one zombie away only for another to catch him by surprise when it grappled at him. He caught it just in time to enter it and himself in a clinch, but even for a burly specimen like Banjo, this simple fiend had a surprising amount of might behind it for its size and condition; perhaps more than most normal people could handle.

Even though Banjo likely boasted more than enough strength to force off his attacker on his own, Kazooie decided to chime in with two pecks to the creature’s face, granting her partner a clear opening to drive his shoulder into its abdomen (what was left of it) and force it into his grasp. He then proceeded to attempt using the living carcass as a battering ram as he continued charging forward through as many of the still standing horde as he could before having to discard his unwilling weapon. At that point, he would spin, grabbing the shouldered corpse by the ankles and slinging it at a row of its own to try and take them out. Regardless of the quality of his good work, the ursine wasn’t spared a second to dust his hands off before he felt himself suddenly being jerked back by a constricting tether tightening around his thick neck. He stumbled into a forced turnaround to get a look at its source--a different, special type of zombie--whilst instinctively grasping at the loops of tongue that strangled him and pulling away to stop himself being drawn in, but to no avail. His feet slowly slid along the asphalt despite his resistance until he stopped at a concrete barrier that he could plant one foot on, which unfortunately served to worsen the constriction.

Sensing that her partner was in trouble, Kazooie emerged and began jabbing at the monster’s tongue to force it to let go, or at the very least loosen its grip. In either case, Banjo would start grabbing extra lengths and wrapping them by segments at a time around his arms, shoulders, and torso to try pulling it to him until he had enough leverage to yank the Smoker off its feet. If he succeeded, he would let it fly past him to unravel himself while Kazooie grabbed a hold of the end of its tongue to try sending it into elastic rebound. He would then punch it away repeatedly with every return (possibly into other zombies), like a balloon tied to a rubber band, before smacking it down into the concrete with an overhead swing on the final hit and finishing it off with a Breegull Bash. Smoke would begin rapidly rising from the creature's remains, swelling into a vile green haze that the duo moved to find themselves out of as quickly as possible. Banjo stepped from the gaseous fog, coughing, with a fading spirit in his hand that him and Kazooie eyed curiously for a second before closing his fist around it to see if he couldn’t crush it into something useful… hopefully.

Blazermate could only roll her eyes at seeing the bear and bird combo running off into the frey. ”Of course. Welp, I’ll wait til my sentry cleans up more zombies before I do anything.” When the pair got pulled, She did notice that fact and went on a bit more of a defensive stance. She would need some way to make her sentry shoot the tongue of whatever thing pulled the pair. Thankfully a few moments later the pair emerged from where they were pulled. As they got in range of Blazermate’s healing beam, she put it on them, putting herself between her sentry and dispenser and using them both as cover as her sentry kept firing. They were mildly injured, but something told her things were going to get a bit tougher with all the noise that was being made.

Level: 4 (4 -> 6/40) | 2 (13 -> 15/20)
Location: Hammerhead/Grillby’s -> Northbound to Dead Zone -> Southbound to Land of Adventure
Word Count: 1236 (+2 EXP)

(B-K level up TBD)

With the help of their fellow ally, the quarrel between the hunter and the party of four seemingly arrived at a peaceful, if disagreeable resolution. The regal quartet diving off in spite of the irritated young man’s advisory was as good a sign as any for the bear and bird that their help wasn’t needed, or wanted, so they elected not to hang around the scene any longer than they had to. However, with one conflict prevented, another greater one was taking place while they weren’t looking. Their attention was drawn to the sound of violent commotion coming from the garage, prompting them to investigate, but by the time they made their way to the door the fighting was over, their allies a little worse for wear, but otherwise okay. The duo could only observe the aftermath of the battle with a mechanical avian that lay center punched and lifeless against the wall, the ashes of its dead form already starting to scatter. With the known roles and personalities of the apparent combatants, it was hard to believe--and thus easy to rule out--that they would have simply picked a fight with it. The explanatory expression of regret from the kindly ranger, as well as Princess’s apologies to the owners served to all but ensure as much.

On that note, in similar fashion to Peach from earlier in the day, the dancer gently drew forth the fallen reploid’s spirit, examined it sympathetically for a brief moment, took it into herself, and began to change, merging aspects of the spirit with herself. This made the second demonstration of spirit-based transformation the duo had witnessed today, and that it came with a fancy set of retractable wings made her a tad jealous as she looked at her own, reminding her that they weren’t good for much as they currently were. A trilling, disappointed “Aww…” escaped her as she lowered her head ruefully at the realization that even flight was beyond her for the time being. Banjo, with a hand held to his chin, simply beheld the phenomenon with curious fascination, but he wouldn’t have time to think much harder about it. By then, the assertive mediator from earlier, having reached an accord with the punkish amputee (one “Nero”, apparently), approached the group with a proposal: a “spooky” detour to the Dead Zone to defeat a bizarre, demonic entity with what was a possibly Gothic name that Banjo would most likely misspell.

“Hmm… that sure does sound spooky,” Banjo visibly pondered. “I can’t imagine why we’d make a special trip to go there,” he further suggested, as if to decline; whether at a loss of nerve or out of abject laziness was anyone’s guess. Then came enthusiastically competitive talk of demon killing...

That would be why,” Kazooie answered dryly in reference to the conversation in question.

“Because they’ll need our help?” Banjo inquired, pinching his forehead in slight, but obvious exasperation.

“Yyyy-yes, because we can’t let them go alone,” Kazooie falsely clarified, doing a bad job of hiding the other half of her intentions that involved getting in on that “contest”.

“*Sigh.* I’ll go bring the kart around.” Banjo resigned himself to the unplanned change of course, figuring that it couldn’t be much worse than where they were going before, even if it very obviously sounded like it. Come to think of it, he didn’t have a good answer to his own question. No matter which way him and Kazooie went, neither of them had a clear reason of their own for going there, nor for tagging along with a party, considering that the two of them usually just adventured on their own. As far as the duo were concerned, wherever they could help was where they needed to be, and this was the closest thing to a definite sign of that they’d gotten thus far. Hopefully, no one from the majority party would mind a few of them splitting off for the time being to go take care of something else. They would eventually have to come back around to it anyways, so a little sequence breaking couldn’t hurt.

Banjo made a point of informing Princess Peach--if no one else--of the party split as a polite courtesy to the generous curator of their journey, rather than running out on their new friends so soon without saying anything, but it didn’t stop him from apologizing for it still. Afterwards, he went to top off the Trolley before pulling up behind the van to await their imminent departure, offering the cargo space to any willing/needy passengers of their company who could fit and didn’t mind not having an actual seat to themselves. Though it wouldn’t be much, refueling gave the bear and bird a minute discuss the trip amongst themselves…

“Sooo… demons, zombies, undead… You think there’ll be any witches there too?”

“*Shudder* I sure hope not. I’m not looking forward to a reunion right now.”

After taking a couple of sizable drinks from the half full pitcher of lukewarm, iceless water she was hastily handed by the apprehensive pyroid, Hat Kid matched His Highness Bowser’s order (minus one) while making a few creative modifications to it. She requested medium rare with candied bacon and a sunny side fried egg on a toasted bun, with a side of nacho-loaded fries and a banana shake (un-spiked) to chase it all down with. While the barkeep was marking down every individual patrons’ tabs, Kid tried to see if she couldn’t negotiate hers by offering an alternative option of favor in return for food--like taking care of some of his chores or running an errand for him. If he accepted those terms, she would set to fulfilling them as soon as he called them in, or volunteer to settle it then and now if time permitted.

Whatever the owner’s request, assuming it was within reason, shouldn’t take her longer than her crew spent at the station to fulfill, as she had done worse favors for less savory characters in roughly the same amount of time in the past. Before that could be followed up on, however, the Koopa King, outraged over the prices being charged, paid out for him and all of his “minions” with a clawful of confettied gold buttons from his coat and angrily stormed out. The child stopped chewing for a moment in minor disbelief after seeing this and shrugged to the bartender, bearing a look of confusion as to whether her would still be expecting anything of her. Otherwise, she would spend the remainder of her time there watching, intrigued, as the Courier cleared out the Poker table, as promised. After Six walked out with his winnings, Kid would finish her meal and shortly follow.

Their business seemingly satisfied, the convoy soon got back on the road heading south. Hat Kid noted a conspicuous downsizing of their crew once again, but didn’t concern herself too much with the fact or the reason. The business of the outgoing party members was theirs, and she had her own to take care of. Speaking of which, she would be keeping her senses sharp, her compass active, and her top hat on and checked throughout the trip, until such time as the situation called for a change of hats. If her findings were potentially substantial enough to warrant briefly making her own break from the group to seek them out--even momentarily--so be it.

Level: 4 (2 -> 4/40) | 2 (11 -> 13/20)
Location: Paved Wilderness -> Hammerhead
Word Count: 1166 (+2 EXP)

Power (Equip): Compass Badge

(B-K level up TBD)

Hat Kid’s search turned up nothing; nothing that she was interested in, anyways. She wasn’t likely to find anything in the open, empty, unremarkable stretch of off-road wasteland, but she had to be sure. She would have to be sure everywhere she went. That routine was sure to become tedious in a hurry. If only she had a better way of finding… wait! She paused and squinted quizzically mid-thought and decided to check substantially reduced inventory for the relevant key item that she could have sworn wasn’t there before. To her surprise, however, she found it--another one of her badges. Strange… she couldn’t recall having it with her when she left the castle, and she certainly never got the opportunity to repurchase it. So how did it end up in her pockets again? Well, no matter. How it came back into her possession didn’t matter to her if it could help take most of the guesswork out of future exploration. She shrugged in acceptance, pinned the badge to her hat, and set off to tail the rest of the moving convoy.

Banjo and Kazooie wouldn’t be far behind, but Banjo saw fit to make himself useful to the salvaging process. Though, they were limited in ways in which they could help without having any experience in automotive repair--or rather having plausibly deniable experience… maybe. They’d been driving around in what may or may not have been their own handiwork, but the important part was that it was eighty percent cargo bed. They had the benefit of taking with them what they couldn’t fix on the spot, which pretty much amounted to the bunny-eared ranger’s motorcycle and not much else on account of the bed’s size. While Banjo did the heavy lifting to get the crumpled remains of the Master Cycle into the Trolley, Kazooie couldn’t help overhearing and getting annoyed with the sentient rodent boasting about their twosome while putting a meta, capitalistic spin on his ramble.

“Get a load of Weasel Boy over there, stealing our bit…”

“You think he knows that most of these guys have their own games, like us?”

“Or that they’re penniless hasbeens like us? Probably not.”

“*sigh* Yeah… Good thing we live in the country.”

After loading the bulk of the bike and the bigger pieces missing from it, Banjo would call for Linkle’s attention. “Excuse me, Miss. This is your bike, isn’t it?” he inquired rhetorically with a gesturing thumb. “If you need a ride, you’re welcomed to hop in the bed. Sorry there’s not much room, but I figure you’d prefer it to walking. Also, sorry about what happened to you’re bike,” he finished while rubbing the back of his head, topping off his polite offer with an added layer of empathy. Whether she accepted it or not, him and Kazooie would finish up and be off after the others in short order.

The convoy arrived at an active service depot, their company effectively more than doubling their clientele on what already looked to be a decently busy day for them. They were received warmly by an elderly man who was clearly the owner of the place and his kin who helped him run it. Curiously, the red glint in their eyes showed lingering signs of Galeem’s influence, so it was strange to be regarded cordially rather than threateningly. Whether the same could be said for all of the station’s patrons and attendants remained to be seen, but for now, the change was more than welcomed (even if it meant they would still have to somehow release them later).

Kid didn’t need her scooter serviced, so she parked right outside the diner and headed inside while the others talked shop and took care of whatever business they had. While the establishment’s exterior gave the impression of belonging somewhere… colder, the quaint aesthetic and inviting atmosphere indoors made it an almost perfect fit anywhere. Business was oddly slow for the time of day, which may have had to do with being located at a pit stop in the middle of nowhere. They probably didn’t get a lot of regulars; just passersby like herself and her party. The relative vacancy of the joint left the child with her pick of seating, so she picked an empty barstool at random and planted herself on it. As a bonus, they were SPINNING barstools. Nice!

Kid loved sitting, especially in fresh new locales. The only thing missing from the scene was a majestic view, but that made it no less picturesque. After her seat slowed to a stop midway through its third rotation, she relaxedly kicked her feet while taking in the setting and its strange offerings. Most notable was the full table of various breeds of dogs playing a game of cards. The player dog with the extra-dimensional neck stood out even among them. He certainly had a bold strategy going. He could see the hands of his opponents, but not his own; a move that mixed classic and unconventional. Whether that made him a cheater or an innovator perhaps depended on the type of game, player consensus, and the dealer’s ruling. Whatever the case, the Courier--who had just joined the table with a declared aim of claiming the pot--might have his work cut out for him.

Redirecting her attention to the bar, Kid scanned the shelves and menu for whatever they would be legally allowed to serve her, which excluded most of everything behind the bartender. Speaking of which, it was surprising--and probably ill-advised--that a license to handle alcohol would be granted to someone with a flaming head and hands, not that she would be ordering any. It was a miracle in itself that he could handle cleaning supplies and water, the latter of which she would start with to wash out the dryness in her mouth from spending all morning driving through the barrens. While she was working on her first glass, she would be figuring out what food and drink to get to follow it with… and how she was going to pay for it.

Back at the garage, Banjo dropped off the motorcycle with the more mechanically inclined to leave in their much needed care. Before the bear and bird could catch up with their fellow party members in the diner, they caught a dispute going on between a black-clad quartet that could easily be mistaken for a boy band and a young handicapped swordsman calling their ability into question. At the polite distance Banjo kept, it was difficult to make out the nature of their argument, but it was clear that it was due to escalate if left alone to play out. Luckily, the human(?) brawler of their group intervened and attempted to diffuse the situation before a fight broke out, and judging by the white-haired man’s apparent withdrawal, it seemed to work out…

“Whew… I thought we were gonna have to step in for a minute there…”

“Honestly, I was hoping we’d get to place bets.”

Level: 3 (18 -> 30/30) LEVEL UP! ---> 4 (0 -> 2/40) | 1 (4 -> 19/10) LEVEL UP! ---> 2 (9 -> 11/20)
Location: Paved Wilderness
Word Count: 758 (+2 EXP)

(Level ups TBD)

Banjo’s stunting gambit proved successful. With a momentous step, he forcefully swung an arm wide into Grimm, knocking him from his feet to tumble to the ground with the duo. The combatants rolled to their feet to face each other, but Banjo and Kazooie were spared no chance by the reaper to make another move against him. Grimm mimed a ripping motion, and with it, the two stumbled forward as two spectral masses were forcibly drawn from their form--one a gentle blue, the other a soft red. They clung to consciousness as they lingered within a state of being between life and death while Grimm momentarily considered them. After a few seconds of quick consideration, he sent the two spirits spiraling back, coalescing into one as they made contact with their proper vessels and sent them tumbling a few dozen yards across the landscape at speeds just over what their own vehicle could reach. After Banjo eventually slid to a stop on his front, he then picked his head up to shake off the dizziness and assess what had just transpired.

“What just happened?” Banjo began with a groan.

“I could tell you, but you might wish I didn’t,” Kazooie suggested, expecting the spare her partner the disturbing reality of their experience.

“It feels like we just had our souls stolen and thrown back at us.”

“Er… yeah. That’s basically what happened.”

“Aren’t things like that a bit dark for us?”

“Yeah, I can’t say I’m liking the implications here.”

As well she shouldn’t. While such happenings were principally little different from those that kicked off their previous adventure--Bottles’ death, Jingaling’s zombification, and their nemesis Grunty’s plan to literally steal the life force of others to restore herself (which resulted in the latter)--they had yet to witness just how much deeper it went than they realized. They were lucky enough to survive what they had just underwent. Whether there was something somehow keeping their spirits anchored to their being (i.e. will, vitality), the biker had some better reason for letting them go, or if they were thrown back at them just to prove a point would remain a mystery to them. They could see in the near distance that Grimm was finished; overkilled really. A few of their allies were gathered around the reaping biker as his last words and signs of life escaped him, followed by an upward explosion of scattering spirits.

Doing their best to keep track, Banjo and Kazooie were able to closely estimate somewhere between eighty-three and ninety-one spirits, but would otherwise need a third opinion to narrow it down. Hat Kid counted exactly eighty-seven. Though, aside from their explorative instincts, none of them were sure why their minds chose to record such information as if they would be able to do anything with it; the spirits were surely well out of their reach. Shortly after the last of the freed souls disappeared, the duo’s attention was drawn to the prismatic flare that erupted where Peach stood, prompting them to hurry back to see what was going on. When the glow dissipated, the Princess emerged, transformed, bearing uncomfortably familiar features that weren’t previously her own.

“Your Highness?” Banjo started, squinting as if that would somehow sharpen his visual comprehension. “Is that you?” She affirmed that she was indeed herself whilst summarizing her new abilities, which the bear and bird had already experienced firsthand. Putting two and two together from the debriefing about ‘Spirits’ from less than an hour ago, they came to the obvious conclusion as to how Peach received her upgrade. While this news came with its own set of concerns, all the same, it was a relief to know that she wasn’t corrupted by her changes.

“Just promise you won’t do what he did. I’m already having traumatic flashbacks,” Kazooie added in dramatized reference to their incident from earlier. Besides a hard tumble, they managed to come out of it physically unscathed, but it stood the chance of leaving them scarred in other ways.

In the meantime, with the cessation of activity, Hat Kid was free to comb the field as she pleased, and resumed doing so once the spirit fountain ran empty. She would keep a sharp eye out and her top hat on and active while riding another lap or two around the battlefield before regrouping with the others. Provided it wasn’t carrying anything that she might want, she would leave the sole remaining raider vehicle alone and allow it to flee without pursuing it.

Level: 3 (17 -> 18/30) | 1 (3 -> 4/10)
Location: Paved Wilderness
Word Count: 639 (+1 EXP)

Hat Kid’s test run of her new cap produced a bigger result than expected, but with less control than she intended. Instead of sending forth a crawling ripple of energy, an angular well of it roughly her height erupted beneath the right side of the oncoming murdermobile, where she meant to hit it. At least her aim wasn’t off, but it seemed clear that she would need more practice with her new ability. Still, her plan to tilt Sweet Tooth worked, causing the lifted wheels to near miss her head by about a foot as the vehicle coasted over her. It was for naught, however, for instead of crashing, the ice cream truck recovered by transforming into a mecha and going airborne to lay down fire on the others. The child didn’t give herself time she didn’t have to linger and be amazed before hopping back onto her moped and taking off, leaving the battle with Mecha Tooth to those already engaged in it. There was less she could do about that than them anyways, so she broke off to survey the field while the remaining enemies were occupied.

Elsewhere on the battlefield, Banjo and Kazooie continued tagging along with the bigger vehicles of their convoy, keeping them between themselves and Mr. Grimm. Though it came at the cost of a few of their karts (thankfully with no adjoining fatalities), it wouldn’t be long before their teammates’ collective efforts against the colossal monster truck reduced its tire count to one and engine count to less, leaving it sitting inoperable on one corner of its back bumper. The next thing they knew, the driver was standing atop the roof of his wrecked machine firing ghostly masses skyward to home in on their allies until his wheel gun ran empty (however that worked). The beckoning call for a direct challenge that followed suggested, given his current predicament, either the overconfidence of a madman who couldn’t see themselves of the precipice of defeat, or the pride of a warrior who could and just wasn’t ready to count himself out until he officially was. Either way, Kazooie felt the need to oblige him.

“You heard the man. Let’s give him what he asks for,” she urged Banjo, who simply nodded in concurrence with her before pulling around to the lowered back end of Brother Grimm and flooring it. They weren’t exactly going to be hitting record landspeeds in their kart or anything, but perhaps it could pick up enough speed and momentum to catapult Banjo onto the considerably tall chassis after Grimm. Whether it worked or not, Banjo was going to try it anyways. He sped forward (for what that was worth in the Trolley) until getting just close enough to the bumper as he could manage without hitting it and yanking on the e-brake to force his back tires off the ground and launching himself from his seat with it. He all but sailed Grimm, his foot touching the cab once in a propulsive step to keep him moving as he dove after the reaper in an attempted clothesline tackle aimed to knock him from the roof to the dirt. The man and the ursine would likely separate as soon as they hit the ground--maybe even sooner than that--so Banjo would try to roll to recovery to more quickly get back to his feet as well as reducing whatever fall damage he might sustain. Granted this move works for them, they will have robbed Grimm of his high ground, putting him at level with (or, for some, lower than) everyone else. Though, not knowing what he was capable of out of the driver’s seat, the duo weren’t exactly sure just yet what to do next. They just knew they would have to be ready for his next move, whatever that may be.

Level: 3 (14 -> 17/30) | 1 (0 -> 3/10)
Location: Peach’s Castle - Gardens -> Kitchen -> Kid’s Spaceship -> Exterior -> 1-1; Eastbound to the Land of Adventure
Word Count: 4128 (+3 EXP)

Some time after the cages fell and a cleansing wave of translucent darkness washed over the castle, the last vivid memory of home returned in broad strokes to a pair of the freshly emancipated captives. They recalled it being a fairly uneventful day at first, much like most had long since been for them. The main exception to this was when they would annually receive a letter with an iconic seal either declining or inviting them, with the former every time being the case up to this point. After a while, they grew accustomed to the disappointment of being denied year after year, but it never quite stopped them from getting their hopes up. Having received such a letter this day, they kept their expectations in check as one of them broke the seal, but they wouldn’t get the chance to read its verdict before an infinitely more critical and alarming matter took precedence. Their only warning came in the form of a golden glow etching a gradient in the skyline only seconds before harshly overbright streams of destructive light began to pierce the mountainous cliff walls of their home land, instantly evaporating every bit of terrain and whatever else they passed through. They instinctively took to the skies in a blind effort to either approach and combat the light at its source or flee from it entirely, but were afforded a fair chance at neither. They managed in futility to evade the onslaught to a meager extent before being callously swept away with the rest of their world… and into the next.

Once they finished mentally repeating the last moments of their prior life, Banjo and Kazooie finally started to come to in full. The bear and bird had led themselves (and two others) away to sit out the battle with MegaDragonBowser, having been in no condition to participate on account of the injuries sustained during whatever events led up to their capture, and thus had no recollection of any of it. Even if the one healer (and a half) could be troubled to spare them the needed attention to restore them to fighting health, chances are they wouldn’t have been of much use in the fight in their regressed state. Just as well the company managed well enough to defeat the boss without their help, minus a couple of unfortunate and probably preventable casualties; not that they were at all aware of that. Either way, there would be little lamentation of their inaction from them. The best they could do now was to move forward with the promise that they would do better. Of course, what exactly it was they would be moving forward with they had yet to find out.

The duo used the period of recess to leisurely tour part of the castle for the next hour before dinner to better come to grips with their surroundings. They knew this place to be the famous Mushroom Kingdom, despite never having been there before, but aside from the obvious, they couldn’t figure out exactly how they arrived there. There remained a hazy (at best) blank spot in their memory much akin to the inscrutable onset of a dream that made it nigh impossible for them to ascertain their point of origin initial actions that led them here. They would soon get a better idea of what ‘here’ was when their aimless wandering brought them through the castle gardens where they found themselves mere yards from stepping off into the cosmos that stretched its way into the edge of princess’s backyard. That alone told them as much as they presently needed to know about the world they had been dropped in, and they quietly counted themselves somewhat lucky (their overall situation notwithstanding) to have some not inconsiderable measure of experience with finding their way around a disparately amalgamated world replete with exotic, colorful locales--having lived in such a world and all. Indeed, they were set for what would surely be another veritable sightseeing tour of an adventure, but would hold off on contemplating it further to discuss it over dinner as planned.

The two headed back inside so they wouldn’t be late, kicking over a few ammo nests on their walk back and collecting their contents to prevent anyone making the possible mistake of serving them. Banjo--being something of a decent cook himself--would have probably lent his own hands to the process if not for the kitchen becoming so quickly overstaffed with volunteers, so they instead kept clear and let the others do their work. The results, needless to say, were superb. One could practically taste every dish with their eyes alone, but little time was wasted by anyone grabbing their meals of choice and tasting them the right way.

During the feast/meeting, Banjo alternated between eating, drinking, and talking, keeping fresh rib steaks in one hand and a stein of some of the sweeter cask contents in the other until he finished the ribs and moved on to forking out chunks of honey-glazed fish saute by the mouthful. Kazooie helped herself to the pork katsu while also pecking bites out of a paella, and next to them was a glass filled with similarly rich contents of a different variety to what Banjo was drinking, complete with an extended straw to save her having to lift it from the table with her lack of prehensile digits (even if she provably could). Hat Kid eventually made her late arrival midway through dinner service, taking a double serving of crispy skewers, proceeded to clean the bone of a sizable tenderloin shank, and finished with a helping of cake for dessert--not bothering until the latter dish to finally pick up a fork. She quietly gushed to herself in her head about how delicious she found the confection to be upon taking her first bite of it, and took her sweet time to savor the ones that followed. If Princess Peach had any hand in making it (as she likely did), the child would have been among the privileged few in all of the multiverse to have tasted what is tacitly believed to be among a caliber of delicacies just a few steps shy of legendary, whether knew it or not.

As for the dinner discussion, planning was in order for what everyone’s next move would be, by which point everyone who needed to be had been sufficiently filled in on the grand scheme and established amongst themselves a common goal of defeating Galeem. A magically enlarged map of what was unmistakably the world was presented to all at the table with the intent of collectively setting their course/s. Naturally, Banjo and Kazooie objected to the proposed suggestion to divide their forces into halves to send up the eastern and westen sides of the map, speaking mainly for themselves on the matter. They had no qualms about whatever the others might have decided to do, should their ideas differ. More than anything else, they were just clarifying that they, specifically, wouldn’t be splitting up. Similarly, they declined to take part in the excursion to the Scrapyards to salvage vehicles on the basis of their inexperience with automotive technology, engineering, repairs or maintenance. The forced transition into the New World coupled left a few blank spots in their memory that made even them unsure as to whether or not that was entirely true. With a shared sense of deja vu, the bear and bird exchanged a curious glance once eyes were off of them.

As the evening’s proceedings were beginning to draw to a close, the group gradually dispersed to take care of whatever last minute business they had before turning in for the night. Some, like Banjo and Kazooie, simply went straight to bed, taking the first vacant one-bed room they could get. There, Banjo hung his backpack from the coat rack adjoining the bed, which would make for Kazooie’s resting place, and put on the bottom half of the provided sleepwear so he could leave his shorts with the housekeeping staff to be laundered. The duo conversed in brief about what was to come shortly before Banjo slid under the still tucked blankets and nodded off in a matter of seconds. Kazooie gently receded back into the confined of the pack and made herself comfortable, and she wouldn’t be far behind.

Hat Kid, meanwhile, had other plans concerning sleeping arrangements. Rather than palleting down in one of the guest rooms, she would see if she couldn’t get back into her own room on her ship. Considering it might be some time before she can board or even see it again, it only made sense for her to spend the last night that she would have with it for what could be a while. It may not have been fully-functional and in serious need of tidying up, but for her, it was home; the closest thing to it at least. She made it outside to the front door of her ship in time to see the kart salvaging crew, having apparently finished their night’s work, pull up in front of the castle bridge in reckless fashion. Whether it was an overstimulated test of the vehicles’ functionality or lapses in the operational skills of an underage driver was a matter of question, but it did remind her--on the subject of underage drivers--that she had a vehicle of her own somewhere...

Once inside, she messed around with a few console commands to reroute the reserve power from the kitchen to her room, only to find upon approaching the first doors leading to it still shut. She tapped one lightly to see if they would budge; then she pounded on them; then tried pushing them open; then pulling one; then attempted to force them open by wedging the tip of her umbrella between them like a crowbar, which only resulted in her getting flung head first into one by an overbent parasol. She stood back up after her last failed attempt and started to knock her forehead against the stubborn hatch in frustration, surprised suddenly to find no purchase after about the fourth or fifth knock and falling flat on her face. The hall entrance finally cooperated and gave way, and she hopped back up with a relieved smile painting her features as if there was no issue to begin with.

As luck would have it, the next set of doors were trying and failing to close around an obstructing object, which just happened to be her scooter. Dislodging the contraption was as simple as hopping on and pulling forward, after which she had the opposite problem from earlier with one of the doors not shutting all the way. Thankfully, it required less headache (in more than one sense) to fix; putting her back bumper and boot heel into it sufficed. Kid parked the moped next to her desk and headed straight for her hidden fort, swimming down into it through the pool of pillows that concealed it. She normally would have jumped from the diving board, if not for the pool being a little more shallow from having been scattered by turbulence, but she neither fussed nor thought anything of it. Of all the cleanup she had waiting for her, this would be much more easily corrected when she got around to it.

Once she was within the cozy, warmly lit, tent-like confines of her hideout, she sat down cross-legged on her pillow seat, opened her diary, dipped the quill, and penned in her daily entry...

Day 1...

So… I got chased by this scary light, and the next thing I know my ship gets shot down by some big, mean, stupid dragon ‘king’. Now I’m stranded (again) on a planet even weirder than the last. Me and my new friends kicked his butt, but all my timepieces are lost… AGAIN! And after all that work I had to do to get them back! Here we go again, I guess…

With the last item on her day’s agenda taken care of, she ascended back into the bedroom proper, set her hat on the nightstand, climbed into bed, pulled the covers over herself, and settled in. The lights gradually dimmed themselves off as they were set to, and Kid shut her eyes and drifted off into blissful dreamsleep.

Hat Kid practically ejected from her bed at the sight and sound of her morning alarm system, her landing knocked her hat from where it sat to float down perfectly onto her head. She stood up stretching and yawning the sleep from her body and brain, the sleepiness still visibly apparent in her eyes. She was hit with an odd sense of deja vu by starting her day like this, but then she remembered in her semi-groggy state that this was just part of her daily routine. She promptly restored the pep in her step, packed the saddle bag on her scooter with whatever she couldn’t fit on her, and wheeled it out the door.

In similar, but calmer fashion, the sunshine woke Kazooie, and Kazooie woke Banjo. It took her about a minute to get her partner’s attention, him being a heavy sleeper, but she was able to get him up and out of bed with little trouble. He slipped on and buckled his freshly washed shorts, slung his backpack on, and headed to the dining hall where a few were already gathered. Breakfast consisted of surprisingly standard fair for a royal house, in contrast to the exquisite and varied meal from last night--not that it was by any means an issue. No one was too good for a warm, fluffy, steaming stack of pancakes and a hearty measure of bacon, which Banjo had a reasonable helping of (sometimes in the same bite), supplanting syrup with honey to better suit his tastes. Kazooie went lighter, pecking away at an assortment of fruits and berries, and chasing them with the lightly stuffed crepes they sat on top of.

Everyone was soon called out front for Peach’s address, which started off with notice of a team reduction on account of those who chose to stay, for whatever reasons they decided to, while also welcoming the new additions to the party. When called upon by name, Banjo gave a bow while Kazooie simply waved to her new teammates. Hat Kid, however, offered no gesture beyond maintaining her default smile and continuing to watch and listen intently. The Princess then introduced a young man who lectured them with a demonstrative explanation of what ‘Pokemon’ are, at which the child’s mouth and eyes went wide with gleeful excitement. While she didn’t know why, she came down with the overwhelming sense that this was just the sort of thing children like her dreamed of, and she didn’t know she needed it in her life until now. Without demanding a specific number past one--not wishing to be greedy with her request--she happily held a hand out to Mr. Stone to receive a sampling of however many of the ‘pokeballs’ he could afford her.

Before anyone could get too excited and run off to dabble in this amazing new practice, Peach kept the group’s attention for a little longer. The brief talk of ‘Spirits’ dipped a tad into existentially morbid territory, but it was good that they all know about it in case those who have yet to deal with it ever have to. She segued into a demonstration ‘loot boxes’ that involved her feeding it some form of unrecognizable foreign currency to produce a gear drop. Banjo and Kazooie, being from an earlier era, had an expected share of misgivings regarding what struck them as a ‘pay-to-win’ system that they’d heard so much about over the years.

“Remember when you actually had to earn your upgrades... and couldn’t just BUY them?” Kazooie snidely remarked, seemingly unaware that--even back in her day--her assertion wasn’t entirely true for everyone.

“I don’t know about that,” added Banjo, “but paying for something before knowing what it is doesn’t seem like such a good idea. It’s kind of like gambling,” he commented none too subtly on a particular element of controversy that has surrounded the idea since its inception. He said this much despite the fact that him and Kazooie started their game gambling at cards (in which Kazooie, of course, cheated). Hat Kid had no such complaints. She simply picked up the hat from the loot drop, vanished it into her inventory, and proceeded towards the easternmost yard of the castle alongside Peach, who had just declared her participation in the upcoming adventure.

The eager rookie Pokemon trainers of the group broke off to get their first taste of catching them as soon as they could; Kid even spotted a few of them herself in the waters and lusher patches of greenery on her way to the parked vehicles on the far side of the castle. However, none of the present specimen really stood out to her, so she decided to hold out for when she might later happen upon some that really catch her interest. For now, all that was left for her to do was wait patiently next to her scooter for everyone else to finish their last minute affairs.

“These all look… interesting.” Banjo observed during his walkaround of the various automobiles, unsure of what to make of most of them, or who had claim on which ones. “This is what they were working on last night?”

“They could’ve worked a little harder on some of them,” Kazooie critiqued while glancing at the Koopa Troop’s rides, sensing favoritism in their workmanship and inherent quality compared to the rest, “but they’re not bad, I guess.” She took the initiative to halfway correct herself before Banjo could remind her of her manners and to express a little more gratitude.

“I’m sure they worked with what they could.” Banjo added, entertaining the honest possibility that the disparity couldn’t be helped.

“Which of these do you think is ours anyway?” They would have their answer shortly, and neither of them would be too chuffed about it. They rounded the back corner of one of the larger karts to find… it, closer to the very back of the fleet. The duo looked on in awe and disbelief at what they would previously write off as the product of false memories and recurring nightmares, now sitting right before them as real as everything else. It had an inflatable placeholder dummy in their likenesses saving their seat for them, so the intention as far as ownership was clear. Was it perhaps--however implausibly--ripped from an alternate timeline to implement in a divine jape at their expense, or did they by some chance have actual history with this contraption? Whatever the case may be, they had precious little else in the way of already dwindling options.

“Please tell me we have something better than this dinkey trolley to get around with.” Kazooie proposed desperately while shielding her eyes. Banjo removed his hand from his forehead to look around at the remaining karts being quickly assumed by other drivers.

“Erm… unless you can still fly…” he replied rhetorically, knowing full well the regressive effects of their forced reincarnation that made it go without saying.

“Alright,” conceded the breegull with a disappointed sigh, “but you’re driving.” She ended on that condition as if the alternative was possible before receding into her bagspace to settle in for the ride. Soon the call for departure went out, and everyone present mounted up on the Centurion’s order, to which Hat Kid gestured a valiant salute. (Poor Koopa King just wasn’t getting the respect he so rightfully deserved.) Without further delay, they were off.

The first several minutes of the drive passed without any setbacks whatsoever--the biggest obstacles thus far being a growing stretch of rough terrain and a mildly demanding gap jump. Thankfully, the Trolley was outfitted with a more powerful engine and off-road tires, and Kid was agile enough even on her scooter to compensate for its light build. Both vehicles carefully tailed the rest of the convoy so as to not inhale the clouds of dust being kicked up by the rest of it. The partial benefit Kid’s scooter not being bound to her Sprint Hat (the drawback being that she couldn’t pocket it) afforded her the luxury of being able to wear and utilize any of her hats while drove, which was exactly what she would do with her top hat, checking it periodically for anything of (specific) interest along the way.

The safer, more leisurely portion of their drive came swiftly to an end when the party was beset by an apparent pack of marauders, their approach given away by the cacophonous blaring of poorly produced music that preceded the galvanizing report of gatling guns. Kid slid under the Bowser Mobile for cover where she more than fit comfortably on her scooter, while Banjo--who couldn’t say the same--yanked on the brakes to come to a hard stop some single-digit yards behind them. The momentum of the kart’s halt threw the duo prone into the cargo bed (i.e. most of the vehicle) where they remained momentarily ducked down in what was effectively half cover while gunfire whizzed by closely over their heads, puncturing and deflating the decoy that popped up in their place. They were saved having to keep their heads down for too long, as their allies better equipped/suited for a mobile skirmish made good on reducing the opposition to a pair of bare buggies forced into retreat. Though, this was merely a prelude to what would undoubtedly be a bigger firefight.

The second round opening with a literal BANG as a laughing, red-hot, clown-headed balloon detonated in frightening, if not devastating proximity to the Bowser Mobile. The bear and bird peaked up from half cover just long enough to see the enemy reinforcements start rolling in. Reflexively, they ducked back down to shoot a flaming egg at the patchy stretch of black oil with intentions of setting it afire before simultaneously bailing out of their kart, tipping it over lengthwise, and hunkering behind its practically non-existent undercarriage for full cover. What they didn't realize was that they actually tried to light was in fact ink, not oil, so it was unlikely to ignite.

With the amount of ridiculous manpower dedicated solely to stopping the monster truck--unmoved from its collision course with the Bowser Mobile--Kamek and crew wisely drove out of the way, forcing Hat Kid to do the same. She made haste in pulling out from underneath the Koopa muscle car to avoid being flattened by either of the titanic machines, and as the duo notice their automotive fortifications driving away, Banjo hurried to sling the Trolley back onto its wheels to hop on and follow suit. By this time, most of the enemy vehicles were occupied with targeting others, but they would continue to stick close to their larger allies while on the move lest they hang temptingly defenseless out in the open.

After conducting a brief, cursory assessment of the battlefield, Kid decided that there was somewhere she could possibly help out, and took a considerably riskier approach. While her nor any of her weapons were strong enough on their own to even make the assailing cars budge, she wondered what would happen if she were to combine them. With this in mind, she equipped her new cap and made a long roundabout to intercept the ice cream truck head-on. Although she had yet to use her new hat’s ability, let alone be proficient with it, she innately understood its function well enough to formulate an idea for how she might use it.

Once she got a manageable distance (a few hundred yards or so) in front of the ice cream truck, accounting for its speed and trajectory to make her estimate, she would veer her scooter to the left and jump from it to place herself where Sweet Tooth’s right tires would be, dropping to ground-level for aim stability. She then drew her umbrella back in more exaggerated motion than before, charged its beam up to second or third level (whichever time and distance would allow), imbuing it with a different kind of power, and stabbed the tip toward the ground at a forty-five degree angle to fire off a rolling wave of heavy energy at the killer clown’s right wheels. At most, the wave would probably only come up to her hip in height, but maybe it could generate just enough power to force him onto two wheels to where the truck might lose control and crash helplessly onto its side. Should that fail, Kid would have to act especially fast to dodge out of the way to avoid being run over. In either case, she would rush to dive after her scooter, mount up, and get moving again.

Level 3 - (11 -> 14/30)
Location: Hat Kid’s Spaceship -> Peach’s Castle - Exterior


@Gentlemanvaultboy, @Genon


Level 3 - (27/30) + 3 - 1

Location: Peach's Castle, Moatside.


Level 1 - (5/10) + 3

Location: Peach's Castle, Bridge

Total Word Count: 4121 (+3 EXP)

Well… that’s disappointing, but it was to be expected. After all of her hard work to recollect them, Hat Kid found only two of her Time Pieces left on the vault floor where there should be an entire hoard of them. It was almost insulting; as if she was being mocked by her own bad luck. It might have felt that way, anyways, if not for her being lucky enough to find more than zero, in pleasant defiance of her expectations. The fact that they didn’t all fly out during the crash--despite the vault door being cracked ajar when she found it--was in itself miraculous, but it also invited an alarming new possibility that she couldn’t safely rule out. Come to think of it, if they did fly out during her descent, wouldn’t she have noticed? Wouldn’t someone have? She wouldn’t have made it this far otherwise! It was entirely likely (moreso even) that someone broke onto her ship during all the fighting and stole what they could carry before the conflict ended, exploiting the ship’s condition and the telltale nature of its arrival in the hopes of their theft being ruled out as incidental. Yes, she really is paranoid enough to suspect that, and for good reason. Assuming her suspicions were correct, this wouldn’t make the first time this has happened under her watch, minus the surmised attempt towards subtlety.

Regardless of how it happened, the result was all the same to Kid. It appeared that she would have another long adventure ahead of her, with the difficulty substantially dialed up. Taking into account that she wouldn’t be able to navigate the world near as easily without her ship in working order, nor would it be as easy to return to it if and when needed, she would have to carefully consider whatever options she had--like whether or not to take either of the Time Pieces with her on her journey. On one hand, it would be undeniably advantageous to have such a powerful insurance policy in her back pocket. On the other, it was also a dangerous amount of power to carry around, and could horrendously backfire in the absolute worst case if she wasn’t careful. She held one of the two leftover hourglasses in her hand and gazed at it pensively for several minutes while she silently deliberated on her course of action. It was a lot for the child to mull over for the no doubt little amount of time she would have to do so. Being spontaneously dropped headlong into a new world where many other worlds incompatibly ran together in spatial and existential disarray was already its own brand of profoundly frustrating--and even upsetting, for some--without being burdened with a repeat of her previous incident on top of it, which effectively made her indirectly responsible for exacerbating the dangers of the New World by inviting another to it. In a world like this, pseudo-magical trinkets with time altering capabilities were just asking to have their power abused if picked up by anyone else, so the onus fell on her to see to it that it would never come to that. The only question that remained for her at the moment was how she intended to go about doing that.

After coming to her decision, she walked out of the vault, making doubly sure to secure it shut behind her, and made her way into the only other room she could get into on minimal/auxiliary power; the kitchen. It was in even worse shape than the living room after the wreck. Almost none of what she left in the cabinets and drawers or on the countertops was still there. Various condiments, cookware, utensils, cutlery, (mostly) broken dishes, and one appliance (the microwave) littered just about every square foot of the kitchen floor, as well as a portion of the walls and ceiling--to which a few of the sharper objects and the splattered remains of unidentifiable fruits and vegetables were stuck. The fridge hung wide open with all of its visible contents ejected, a series of smears and stains betraying signs of steak, eggs, a partially eaten hock of what was probably ham, and a miniature cosmic horror on a bun making a round trip around the room before coming to a stop in pieces wherever they ended up.

Kid picked up a condensating carton of milk extracted from abducted cows, half empty from spilling, and downed what was left of it as she made her way over to the fridge. It was a little on the warmer side, but thankfully unspoiled (somehow). She tossed aside the now empty carton and pulled the fridge drawer fully open, stashing away the only unbroken bottle of what looked like (and very well could be) wine--a drink she DEFINITELY wasn’t old enough to have--and honed in on what she was actually in there for. She felt equal parts mild satisfaction and disappointment at finding but a single remaining day-old chocolate chip cookie sitting lonely on a plate where a small batch of them would otherwise be. She would take what she could get for now, but was grateful to get anything at all since she hadn’t had one in a long minute. Having now found everything she came back for (for the time being anyways), she shut the fridge behind her and jauntily made for the exit.

She climbed out onto the top of her ship (again, shutting the door behind her) when her attention went to the ranger girl--looking slightly shorter and… ‘ear-ier’ than before--at the edge of the ruined bridge calling to her. “Oh, hi there!” she returned, waving back at her. The girl complimented Kid on her diving skills (having apparently witnessed them) before inquiring as to the success of her search, to which she simply nodded in affirmation. Kid placed the cookie in her mouth to free both her hands, sprinted to the edge of the ship closest to the bridge, jumped to it in a long arc, dove, jumped again to correct her momentum, and ran up onto the ledge to take a seat next to the green clad huntress. She withdrew the cookie from her mouth and stared out into the distance of the Mushroom Kingdom sky in the midst of its transition into twilight and took a moment to savor this one period of respite she’d been granted since first she arrived.

After a few quiet seconds had passed, she prepared to bite into her well-earned treat, but hesitated as her eyes darted over to the ranger, who was the first person Hat Kid had met in this world, as well as the first to help her out in any way. Maybe it was the few too many wrongful (if understandable) accusations of selfishness subconsciously poking at her, or just the realization that some were simply more deserving of favor than others--specifically on account of their moral fiber. Either way, it felt more befitting of her to share what little she could than having it all to herself, so she snapped the slightly aged confection almost perfectly down the middle and handed one of the two halves to her new comrade.

Linkle was surprised that the girl had gone as far as to dive off the castle for the single cookie she was now content to give up half of. The absurdity of her acrobatic prowess she'd displayed to get it mixed together with the willingness to give half the prize away mixed together and elicited a giggle from the farm girls lips. Then again, a dive like that might not have been such a big deal for someone who could leap off of bare air like the Kid seemingly could. Linkle opened her mouth to tell her that she'd earned that, to go ahead and enjoy the whole thing, but before any words could come out a deep rumble from her gut cut her off completely. She hadn't had anything to eat all day, the only sustenance in her belly being the moat water that she'd swallowed when she'd been soaked, and her stomach strongly protested any more deprivation than it was already being put through.

With a hint of embarrassment she reached out and took half of the cookie. "Thanks. Cheers!" She tapped her half against the Kids and eagerly tossed it whole into her own mouth. It was a little stale, but still good and sweet and Linkle had always appreciated a little extra crunch in her food. She signed contently and leaned back against the railing. "That sure hit the spot. I hadn't even realized I was hungry. It's been a busy day, huh?" She said, staring out at the setting sun. "Oh." She said, quickly turning back. "I'm Linkle, Hero of Hyrule. Nice to meet ya for real. We didn't really have the time earlier, what with the dragon and everything."

The child was utterly oblivious to the idea of how strange her spent efforts must have looked from Linkle’s perspective, along with the fact that she was having milk and cookie in the sinfully wrong order, or that dinner was being served in the castle (which she had forgotten all about) where dessert (that might include better versions of those things) would likely follow the main courses. Though, unlike her treat, she didn’t feel at all obliged or compelled to share with the Hylian the actual nature of her investigation--one that was technically ongoing, as of now. It wasn’t as if she thought her untrustworthy; quite the opposite, really. In her mind, it was merely a case of ‘the fewer who know, the better,’ and in the case of Linkle, it was probably best to spare her any burden. Being a “Hero” is hard enough as is.

Her default expression of joyous contentment betrayed no such musings as she joined in a cookie toast (hehe) and bit halfway into her portion. Per usual, she didn’t bother divulging her real name (or any name, for that matter) when Linkle introduced herself proper. She simply returned the greeting with a nodding tip of her hat after she finished chewing her first bite. Just as she was about to take her next, she paused when Bowser Jr. excitedly burst through the castle doors issuing orders to the two girls and a gaggle of inattentive, over-equipped rabbit creatures to assist him with a task undoubtedly better suited for a qualified mechanic (no less than two of which he could find inside) than anyone he was attempting to commandeer. He clearly suffered some delusions regarding the chain of command, because last Kid had checked, she didn’t “work for” anyone; not since Subcon anyways. Besides, what would she know about automotive mechanics or engineering? She’s only ever built her own comfortably livable spaceship.

Linkle also watched with interest as Bowser in miniature sprinted past them. “Junior.” The word Bowser had asked in confusion at the appearance of his giant doppelganger. There was no mistake about who that kids dad was. “Cuter than I expected. I was thinking more spikes and fire.” She said to the Kid, pushing herself off the wall and starting to amble on after him. She would have even if he hadn’t demanded it. Stopping someone from going out there had been the whole reason she’d come out of the castle in the first place. “Head on back inside, I smelled dinner cooking. I’m gonna go make sure he doesn't get creamed out there. The rabbits are pretty safe, but there was this spooky robot.”

Linkle hadn’t even taken two steps before her rabbit ears perked up and she stopped short. “Wait.” she said, closing her eyes. That was weird. Was that...clangs of metal...smashing stone? Was someone in a fight? She cupped her hands around her real ears, leaning them toward the junkyard to listen intently, but rather than come in sharper they became more muffled. Was that not a battle happening out there? But then the only explanation was...

Her fears were confirmed as an unearthly wail rolled up over her, causing her to clamp her hands down over her ears in a vain attempt to keep the noise out. Hat Kid, while being similarly disoriented, was significantly less affected by the sudden sensory overload. Linkle didn’t even think to clamp the rabbit ears, the real source of her trouble that was absorbing every decibel. In so noticing this, Kid attempted to improvise by materializing her top hat and stuffing it on the ranger’s head to surround her bunny ears for use as a sound dampener. They then spun around to face back toward the moat. Something like that was impossible not to pinpoint.

There was another bridge over that way, poking up just behind the Kids ship. You could see it if you were trying to look over the ship, and upon it she could just vaughly make out two black figures locked in mortal combat. This is what Linkle’d been afraid of, what if Poppi had taken her walk right into that? She looked at them, then spun back to watch Junior moving further into the junk yard. She stomped her foot in frustration.

No, calm down. Think about what to do. What would Minako say if you ran around without thinking again. This was simple. You had someone marching, and a fighter in need of rescue. Those two might be shadows, but that just meant they were a heart away from being allies. Junior wasn’t likely to meet resistance soon and he had his own troops??? with him to support his march. So the answer was…

“We need to break up that fight.” She said urgently, turning back to the Kid. She might have been a Kid, but this Kid had fought dragon Bowser. “Who knows, the loser could be a ally waiting to happen and we’d never know ‘cause they’d be gone.” She quickly tapped her chest with her hands, cradling her heart, and from it pulled a bight pink heart to make her intentions clear.

As obvious as it already was, the vibrant heart Linkle summoned clued Kid in on what she was about to do. She recognized this power from earlier when the Courier used it to restore Ratchet, and prior to that when Tora did the same for her. Without further delay or protest, she nodded in agreement, threw the last bite of her cookie in her mouth, and took off posthaste alongside Linkle toward the Eastern bridge, utilizing her Sprint when/if necessary to keep pace with her. Even at top speed, it would take the larger part of a full minute to arrive at the scene; by which time the more feral, monstrous combatant will have taken his leave of the affair, disappearing over the side of the bridge. Kid peered over the side just to be sure, confirming the gangly ghoul’s retreat.

Linkle skidded to a halt right beside her, looking down into the clear water for any sign of the monster. But there was nothing, not even a splash or a ripple. “You think it’s under the bridge?” she asked, suddenly feeling very vulnerable with just the heart to defend herself. That needed to be gotten rid of. “Shout if you see something.” She said to the Kid as she made her way to the fallen warrior. The water’s visibility level made it readily apparent that he wasn’t hiding in it, so the child dove in and resurfaced under the bridge for further inspection to rule out their only blind spot.

The fallen warrior reminded Linkle of Agoston slightly with his heavy armor, but his was much more elaborate and glowed with magical energy. She threw the heart right at his exposed chin, hoping that the thing had at least some of the healing properties of the ones she was familiar with, before quickly drawing both bows and standing protectively over the man in case the monster came back. She could hear the Kid splashing around down there, but there hadn’t been a scream or a gnashing of teeth. At least not yet, so that had to be a good sign. ”All clear!” the child confirmed seconds later with conclusively negative findings.

Linkle let herself relax at that, but only a little. If it wasn’t clinging under the bridge then where in the world had it gone? “Okay, come on back up.” She said, letting out a relieved little laugh. “I can’t believe you went looking for it.” Not that she had much of an idea of what she was looking for at the risk of leaving herself helplessly waterborne against, but considering what she had dealt with today, coupled with her general demeanor, she was hardly afraid of it.

Donnie’s vision swam after that hit. His armor was, while powerful, still weakened, and his skull could only take so much trauma even with his chi to mitigate the damage. He was knocked flat on his rear from that attack, clutching his head. He had barely enough time to get to his feet when he was taken off-guard by a fast-moving purple object hitting him straight in the jaw.
He immediately got into a fighting stance before he noticed that the object didn’t seem to have done any damage. He couldn’t detect any obvious magical effect from it, but...come to think of it, where the hell was he? And why on Azeroth wasn’t he still on the Vindicaar? The last thing he remembered from before all this was Sargeras stabbing the planet with a humongous sword (the effects on the planet would probably keep him awake at night for several years) and the Vindicaar rapidly descending to Azeroth with Sargeras hauled off by the other Titans. Via some kind of magical tractor beam. And then some kind of bright light...

Dear gods, things had really escalated lately, hadn’t they?

In any event, he took stock of his surroundings and sheathed his handblades, only to see a young girl standing protectively next to him. He also heard a child shouting from under the bridge. “Hello there. You wouldn’t happen to know where I am, would you?” he asked.

“Hey.” Linkle said, lowering her weapons even more to placate someone that was obviously out of their depth for now. She’d never had to explain this before. That could be fun. “I’m Linkle. My friend down there is...huh, kid never gave me her name… well, that’s not important right now. Welcome to the war effort, brave hero!”

She pointed over to the light shining like a sun in the sky. “If you’re anything like us, the last thing you remember should be a bright light. That light came from the thing I’m pointing at, a monster called Galeem that tore up all our homes and stuck them together like this. He brainwashed you, me, everybody into working for him except for one small pink guy named Kirby. He used his power to free a bunch of us, and we’ve been moving forward all day fighting and freeing other people Galeem got his light in.”

Hat Kid returned dripping wet to the conversation just in time to hear Linkle’s abridged explanation of events, wringing out the sleeves and corners of her sweater while she listened. It was obvious that her comprehension and recollection might have been slightly short of complete, but all of the essential aspects of the story came through. It was the only explanation she had received since the beginning, and as concise of one as she could have asked for. Still, it did little to make the whole situation any less perplexing in its utterly divine randomness. She would have to inquire further amongst the others later if she cared to know more.

Linkle waved her arm out toward the big castle. “Long story short, we ended up freeing this entire castle and taking the opportunity to rest. Me and the Kid were outside and heard your fight, so we came over to free you with one of these.” Linkle pounded her and pulled out another friend heart to demonstrate the process. “But the guy you were fighting got away, so we weren't able to help him. Did I miss anything that happened inside?” she asked, turning back to the Kid.

The question prompted the child to search her memory for clarification as to what she meant. It suddenly occurred to her that Linkle wasn’t actually present for the boss battle, but the reason for the huntress’s preoccupation eluded her. Regardless, Kid filled her in on what took place, recapping in larger steps the same way Linkle had with the story of their abduction into the world. She explained that the team had fought a hard, somewhat lengthy battle with MegaDragonBowser, and in the process, freeing several captives, losing two of their comrades (who she didn’t know), and seizing the draconic tyrant’s spirit, which went to the Centurion. Beyond that, there wasn’t much more she could add, as she had incidentally made herself scarce during the final round (a fact she was sure to conveniently omit).

...Well then. It seemed Donnie had his work cut out for him this time. First Garrosh Hellscream, then Argus, and now this? It just kept escalating every ten minutes these days!

This Galeem had the power to stitch together different realities to form some kind of bizarre patchwork, and end entire universes in an instant. None of the gods that Azeroth had known had this kind of power. Oh, sure, they could create and destroy worlds, but manufacturing an entire reality out of the broken scraps of the multiverse--which they had just torn apart? This was something else.

“...I see.” Donnie said, after he had internalized all of this information. “At least our worlds are intact, somewhat. That means we might be able to put it back together. I suppose we should head back to the castle now.”

“I would, but I’ve got to make sure a little kid doesn't get himself hurt digging through piles of scrap metal over thataway.” Linkle said, indicating the farther bridge they had come from. “I don’t think I could face his dad if I let him get eaten by that weird monster you were fighting. I was gonna run back over there, but you two could head in. There’s a feast.”

“Sure thing,” the monk responded. Donnie snapped his fingers, and a strange carry-on backpack appeared out of nowhere. He stuck his entire arm into it and pulled out some kind of strange, clearly magical object...and with a poof of smoke, Donnie was now inside...a weird steampunk flying machine parked on the bridge? It was some sort of cross between a two-engined biplane and a helicopter.

“Hop in and we’ll head straight there!” Donnie said to Hat Kid. The engine wasn’t running yet, so he didn’t have to yell. How he managed to spontaneously materialize an airborne vehicle as he did was beyond her. Though with the right equipment, she can do (and has done) the exact same with a moped, so it wasn’t really for her to question. Although it did seem hilariously unnecessary to summon such a contraption to expedite what was, at most, a five minute walk (or a demonstrably shorter run) to the castle’s front door. Still, she couldn’t complain; it was still a free ride, and she was glad to take it. She hopped up into the passenger’s seat, gently lifted her hat from Linkle’s head, placed it back on her own, and lightly tapped on the side of the chassis to signal the pilot that he was clear for take-off.

Donnie ascended with the rotor and then pushed the throttle forward. The vehicle spun up and took off near-instantly, making its way to the castle in a matter of seconds. In hindsight, busting out the Dwarven Flying Machine was probably unnecessary when he could’ve just walked, but walking was for people who hadn’t just gotten back from liberating the entire universe from a demonic Titan’s grip only to find out that said universe had been made part of some cosmic asshat’s multiversal quilt. Yes, that technically put Hat Kid in the same category, but shut up.

The craft landed outside Peach’s Castle as Donnie unsummoned it and placed its orb back in the luggage, before dismissing the luggage itself. “Right, here we are. Now that everyone in the castle heard the noise, let’s go crash the feast,” Donnie said, striding towards the front door. He was always down for feasting. Living with Pandaren for ten years will do that to you. Hopefully they had some choice wines from the royal cellar too.

Level 3 - (8 -> 11/30)
Location: Peach's Castle
Word Count: 1601 (+3 EXP)

Also featuring:
Bowser Jr @DracoLunaris
Level 1 EXP: ////////// (5/10)

After about five to ten minutes of combing the princess’s quarters, Hat Kid’s search, somewhat unsurprisingly, yielded nothing of note or use. Admittedly, the last thirty seconds or so were spent playing with a few of the peculiar figurines out of the assortment she had found. Why the princess kept a collection of board game scale statuettes modeled after real people, including herself, was particularly odd, but who would she be to question the royal’s hobby (assuming that’s what it was) while she was busy indulging in it herself. She even specifically picked out the figures of the only four she had met, smashing the Koopa King and the ape into each other in a crude depiction of battle before having the red clad plumber jump in while they were locked to boot them aside like overtaken chess pieces, followed by a similarly crude representation of romance between him and the princess that mostly involved smacking their faces together to make them ‘kiss’. All the while she was doing comically poor impressions of all of them, channeling her best Mafia into a higher-pitched caricature of itself for the plumber. Of course, she was mostly unfamiliar with these characters and their relationships to one another, so her portrayal of them and any accuracy therein was entirely coincidental.

Her moment of play was cut short by the abrupt emergence of a masked toddler, roughly her height, wielding a deadly paintbrush, the vandal’s wand. Startled (at first), the human alien child quickly tossed aside the toys--in part to avoid the self-consciously perceived embarrassment of being caught playing with them--and brandished her umbrella, holding forth at the (other) intruder in similar fashion to a saber. Then, she took a closer look at the junior assailant as he pulled down his masking bib, and recognized him to bear an unmistakable resemblance to Bowser. Though, however obvious it was, she didn’t want to make assumptions about kinship based simply on appearances. Otherwise, she would have done that with most of the people she encountered on her last adventure; the Mafia, the Owls, the Penguins, the Nomads, pretty much everyone. Not that she was so ignorant as to conflate homogeneity with familial likelihood for the sake of argument either. It was just better to know for sure than think oneself certain, but it hardly mattered.

The reptilian runt seemed harmless enough at the moment for her to lower her guard almost as soon as she had raised it. Plus, it was probably better to not chance harming what could likely be your biggest guy’s son… or grandson… or nephew… or whatever. Kid was slow to act innocent by gently pushing the bottom drawer closed with her foot--only for the one above to fall open wider--when called out for pilfery, but having misinterpreted her actions, he promptly expressed an eagerness to join in on them before she could deny or correct him. Her eyes darted back and forth between the drawers and him two or three times before shrugging her shoulders and flashing a wide, airy grin; as good a signal as any for the rascal to do as he pleased.

”Yeah!” the miniature menace cheered before getting in on the action, that action seemingly being to make an considerably bigger mess than her own search had produced. Paint, cloths and random hobbyist tools rapidly found their way to the floor. The boy’s own ransacking produced nothing of worth.

While the Koopaling occupied himself with that, Hat Kid’s attention went elsewhere. Her forced smile was replaced with a look of curiosity when a previously overlooked detail attracted her sight, with her presence short to follow. It seemed she preoccupied herself so much with looking for something hidden that she almost skipped over what wasn’t. She strolled over to the desk and stood up in the chair to get a better look at what lay atop it, which looked to be a largely uncharted world map with its entire center blank and most of the minor areas--besides the one they were in--unnamed. It wasn’t like her to (near) miss something as obvious and crucial as this, but it wasn’t a point of pride for her that could be hurt. All the same, she was glad to have found something of such great use during her random search, having conducted it with minimal expectation.

The small turtle dragon’s head popped out of a closet that he was investigating to finally introduce himself “I’m Bowser Jr by the way... Also what were you even looking for?” he asked, the initial rush of rule breaking adrenalin having seemingly worn off rather quickly. Kid’s eyes remained studiously affixed to the parchment as she tried to learn as much as she could from it, not intending to ignore Jr.’s question in her concentration. She lamented the fact that she didn’t have her Camera Badge on her anymore so she could simply save her own “digital” copy of it rather than having to rely on the fragile, primitive material that made it up. ”Hay. I’m talking to you!” said jr, a rather annoyed at being unintentionally ignored, as he climbed up beside her. She gestured with her head for him to come take a look, hoping he may have some insight to offer, this being his home and all. “What. Was it this map you were looking for?” he squinted at it a bit “Either they rebuilt the entire mushroom kingdom or this map is terrible.” he said at last, his tone indicating that the first option was just as possible as the latter.

Then, it hit her. How much help was a map going to be if it wasn’t accurate. One didn’t learn what they needed to from a map simply by staring at it. This could just as easily be a map of the Old World, as far as she knew, and at present, she could see only one way of confirming one or the other. She directed her gaze to the window while she processed this thought before taking off towards it in a light run, flinging the panes open, and jumping up out of it, leaving the map on the desk for lack having anywhere on her person to safely keep it.

“Wait, where are you going? Hello? Guess I’ll just keep the map then, how do you like that huh? Hello.” came the shouts of Bowser Jr from the window followed by a soft disappointed “aw” before he disappeared from view. The girl single-mindedly continued her ascent, jumping, climbing, and wall running until she reached the highest point on the tallest spire that she could gain a foothold on. Once there, she would scan the horizon as far into it as she was able to get some visual confirmation on the surrounding world and see how it lined up in accordance with what she memorized from the map. Specifically, she was interested in the blank space that lay at the center of the continent. What lied in that direction that the map somehow couldn’t tell her about.

All her effort turned out wasted--she couldn’t possibly miss what lay before her. Behind Peach’s Castle, beyond the elaborate gardens just behind -or more accurately, cutting them off at about the eight percent mark- was absolutely nothing. It wasn’t like a natural cliff overlooking a valley or basin; it was like the world simply ceased to exist, and beyond that, there lay only space. Nothing could be seen across the vast gulf of the opposite side, or of the bottom, though Hat Kid’s position didn’t allow a straight view downward. To say that only murky blackness filled the void, though, would be dishonest. From her vantage point, the child could see a number of floating objects, from what could only be asteroids to what appeared to be pieces of spacefaring vessels to miniature cosmic bodies, like stars and planets. It was as though a handful of the celestial beyond had been plucked from the heavens and laid to rest in the continent’s center.

In other directions, Hat Kid could spot various landmarks confirming the map’s veracity. To the southwest lay a great forest, dark but vibrant and alive. Mountains stood to the west, and where they didn’t block her view, glimpses of a glittering blue ocean could be caught. In the east loomed cities of gray, black, brown, and green, and beyond them still a huge, sandy wasteland with spires, cliffs, and plateaus reaching high into the sky. Toward the northwest, snowy peaks stood tall. A brave new world stretched out before her.

Kid looked on in every direction with great awe at what she beheld. While she didn’t have the best view of the world one could ask for, there was still an appreciable level of majesty on display from where she stood. As unnatural as it was, there was something breathtakingly surreal about having so many biomes and subworlds--which included the cosmos itself--all within reach of one another. To think that one could travel on foot for a full day (less by other means) and make it to space (part of it anyways), the sea, or anywhere else. However, the beauty of this geographical phenomenon didn’t detract from the reality of it; that it was but a patchwork of stolen worlds Frankensteined together by some faceless god that unilaterally, arbitrarily decided they were all better off being its divine plaything. Which reminded her, she still didn’t have much of a clear grasp of what was going on or why. She still needed to get some answers from the Master, but she had some other things she wanted to check on first.

She climbed back down to the open window she had left out of only to look inside and find Jr. and the map gone. No matter. This wouldn’t set her back any, and she knew where to look if she needed to find them again. She peered down at the moat where her ship lay--likely unoperational--and remembered something important, besides the fact that she’ll need it to function again later. She picked out a jumping off point and opted for the quickest way down, diving off the rooftops into waters that held her vessel afloat. After a second, she resurfaced to swim over to the ship’s door she had left open and pulled herself inside, sparing no bother to dry off after she entered. To say the least, it was disheartening to set her ship in such sorry condition and disarray… compared to its usual self at least. The relics were strewn in pieces around the room, the tv was smashed in from when it came unplugged and made it to the opposite wall, and Rumbi, having miraculously survived the crash, was still hard at work bumping into all of it to keep the floors clean, like any good slave vacuum would do. After making a guesstimated mental checklist of all the extra work she would have to do later, she set to searching the ship for anything of use or value that she might have left on it… starting with the vault.
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