Level: 5 (42 -> 45 (-3) -> 42/50) | 4 (34 -> 37/40) | 2 (17 -> 20/20) LEVEL UP! ---> 3 (0/30) | 7 (40 -> 43/70)
Location: Land of Adventure - Spiral Mountain
Word Count: 3372 (+3 EXP)
(Level up pending…)
Banjo and Kazooie were slow to follow on Geralt’s order after he had detrophyfied them, still reeling from the experience and in need of a second to wake themselves back up. Hat Kid was even slower still, slowly returning to consciousness just as exhausted as when she went out. The animal pair were better able to handle injury--even individually--than the child, therefore able to quickly recollect themselves. They jogged over to the tower entrance with the Kid a few steps behind them, mentally prepared to re-engage, only to find their foe pacified by the green-clad ranger woman of their group. Banjo halted his advance at the first notice of this, exercising equal parts restraint and caution as he observed from a manageable distance (door to bridge).
“I’m guessing we won?” he asked, having come to the obvious conclusion, but wanting to be doubly sure.
“We did?” Linkle called back. There had certainly been sounds of quick and dirty violence, so she popped her head up over the ice wall to be sure, but all she saw when she looked for the people that had taken out Tora were Jak, Gaige-Tron, the giant bug, and the Courier’s pet bug hanging around a pair of spirits that she presumed to be the Other Micheal and the lady with the big crossbow. If they needed any more confirmation of the area's safety, one only had to look up at Bowser bossing everyone around from the tower without a care in the world save for what they might have to face next. Linkle did some quick and simple math, then turned and gave the bear a thumbs up.
Banjo returned Linkle’s gesture with a nod, which told Kazooie she could cease swivelling her head about to watch for danger. Hat Kid sighed with relief at the news, propped herself lazily against the wall, and popped the cork on her half-empty bottle of Lon Lon Milk like the cap of a flask she would have no business carrying to finish the second, and last, serving of it. Had she considered it, and not needed the healing and nutrition as much as she did, the Heroine of Hyrule might have appreciated the familiar flavor. Banjo exited the tower to approach the Hylians and two hunters, but hadn’t cleared the green to the bridge when a swift silhouette passed over them. Fox bounded high above, the contrast of the sun darkening his shape at the crest of his leap before he aggressively descended on Link’s position with a forceful heel aimed for the weakened hero.
Linkle looked up over her shoulder when the shadow fell over them, only having a second to register downward strike. She turned to face the descending foe, standing in front of Link and crossing her arms in front of her to block the blow. In that moment she was able to register who the attacker was, and her confusion over why the flying fox was attacking now was swept away by the sunset red of his eyes. Right, Ryu had had this problem.
The heel threw her back against bridge railing, eliciting a pained groan from Link as she slightly crushed him. “Heart the Fox or he’ll never stop!” She shouted to everyone around her.
Fox pushed off of Linkle’s guard, drawing his sidearm on Link the instant his feet rickety lumber. Balance proved little issue for him, as it seldom did, but his aim shifted about still as he tried to get sights on Link around his stubborn protector. Alas, he could find no opening in the second spent looking, so he instead zipped past the woman in a phantasmic blur, turning with a reverse roundhouse at the end of his dash and ready to follow it with his firearm.
Linkle, luckily, knew what the fox must have been after. Even if he suddenly zipped past her faster than her eye could track she still had a pretty good idea of where he was going to end up. So, not even wasting the time to look, she extended one leg out and spun with a kick that would fly right over Links head and right into anybody standing over him. Both kicks collided at their ends, cancelling them out, but continuing Fox’s rotation. In that moment, the gears of Galeem’s influence turned in his head, occupied by multiple subseries of synaptic responses that amounted to a simple overriding shift in priorities. His mind--absent of his true self--interpreted the retaliatory defense as aggression, and just like that, Linkle was now an enemy in his eyes. He chased his deflected strike with his blaster hand, spinning to face the ranger woman, aimed at her chest, and squeezed off a short, rapid burst of point-blank laser fire.
Linkle yelped as a burst of fire hot agony exploded in her chest. There was no push to it, it just hurt, so she lashed out with her foot to try and kick that dangerous thing out of his hands. The toe of her boot forcibly bumped the pommel of the gun’s grip in a disarming strike that sent Fox’s gun flying in a steep arc that he followed with his eyes. In a single fluid turn, he faced his back to his opponent as he threw out a webster kick to her chin that simultaneously served as a jump to get him over the side of the bridge. He extended both arms out to each side--one to catch his gun, the other to find purchase on the ropes--then slung himself back around, tucked to fit through the gaps, and threw himself feet-first at Linkle. His rebounding strike met Linkle’s torso, knocking her back across some length of the bridge, and with the impact, he followed through into a retreating back tuck and resumed fire--before and after he landed.
Linkle slid back across the bridge, already feeling the hot stings of the fox's cool gun as she did. One in the thigh, another buried in her shoulder, one flying right across her cheek. She rolled backwards, pulling her shield off her back and holding it in front of her to absorb the shots, the lasers leaving smoking holes burned into the woodwork wherever they hit. She didn’t think the shield would last very long at all with the rate he was putting those shots out, but at the very least he wasn’t putting them into Link. She had his undivided attention by this point. Actually, that was probably perfect.
“Somebody?” She called out over the rapid fire PEW PEW PEW of the blaster barrage. “Come on, while I’ve got him on the ropes. Make a friend!” At that moment she felt resistance as a single hard impact met with her shield that threatened to force her back, but little else. Fox rushed the girl down and applied further pressure with a straightforward assault of seven additional kicks to her shield, the last of which had him flipping overhead with the rising adjustment in her guard, drawing the sword he took for the first time with two rotary, vertical follow-up slashes. Before he touched down again, he wreathed himself in flame, slowing his fall to a near stop with what was clearly a preparatory build-up for some kind of attack. Unique to his condition, hints and sparks of multicolor flickered beneath the burning red, further betraying the cause of his rationality deficit. Just as he was about to fire himself forward (at the potential risk of burning down the bridge), he was taken by surprise when he felt himself knocked aside by something that he could tell was heavier than him.
Ignoring the obvious physical threat posed by the cloak of fire, Banjo decided to heed the Hylian girl’s call and threw himself bodily at Fox in a wrapping tackle, taking him out of the air, and both of them (including Kazooie) over the edge of the bridge. There was little he could do in time to direct their fall besides keeping a tight clinch on the suddenly adversarial vulpine to make sure he came with them, and they fell like a weight into the moat, audibly slapping face-first into the water’s surface. This made for the duo’s third, and most painful dip today. They resurfaced a couple of seconds later, Banjo dragging Fox from out to lay him limply onto dry land and giving him a firm slap on the back to help him cough the water from his lungs. He was still alive, if barely, and by all accounts tapped out. He would sooner fall unconscious than get up after anyone else in his current state. Even as he tried sluggishly to lift his gun, Kazooie needed only to wing slap it away from him to render it virtually harmless.
“You okay, Miss?” Banjo called up to the girl in inquiry, gesturing a more interrogative thumbs up this time.
“Uhhhhhhh…” Linkle said, standing up and walking to the edge to look at them. Curiously she took a finger and put it to where the fox had shot her in the chest. It passed through the hole it had burned in her shirt and into the small divot that had been burned into her skin. She flinched and yanked the finger away. “Nothing that Blazermate can’t take care of!” She called back, forming some ice in her right hand and pressing the clump to where one of the shots had grazed along her cheek. “Do you guys know how to make him cool?”
“We got it from here, Fangirl.” Kazooie retorted in confirmation, cracking at Linkle’s established fascination with her world’s heroic legends.
“Yeah…” Banjo quietly said to himself, nodding. “Yeah…” He sat moatside for a prolonged moment longer in contemplation of the ‘make traitors cool’ process, long enough for the lingering silence to wear out its welcome.
“Yeah… erm… I… don’t actually know what to do,” he admitted, rubbing the back of his head in slight embarrassment. Though a demonstration took place just moments ago, he had reappeared just in time to miss it.
“Hm…” Kazooie thought aloud, probing her own memory bank in search of a communicable example to work from. “Okay. So, remember when we fought that tree, back in the Dead Zone, and whatshisface threw a heart at Nero?”
“A heart? You mean, like…” He started, wondering if there was some other morbid occurrence in that place that he had somehow missed.
“No,” she preemptively corrected before her partner could enter a fallacious line of inquiry, “It’s much friendlier than that.” If beating a potential ally candidate into submission to be conscripted or liberated passed for ‘friendly’, then she wouldn’t be entirely wrong.
“Ooh. Okay,” he answered with a nod. “So… do we have to find them, or…”
“Just summon them, I think.”
“How do I do that?”
“Try touching yourself… O-on the heart, I mean,” she quickly corrected in a subdued fluster, the occasional innuendo they were once used to getting away with slipping into her dialogue. To test this, Banjo hovered a hand over his heart, where a pink, diffusing glow penetrated his palm on both sides. He pulled his hand away by a few inches to see a soft stream of rose-colored energy follow, and both of them admired it for a moment before he gently beat his chest to manifest a Friend Heart for the first time.
“Like that?” Banjo held the Heart aloft floating above his hand, presenting it before them and smiling as he beheld it.
“Yep. That’s it.”
“Al-right! Guess I’ll just…” By the time he returned his attention to their downed rogue teammate to administer ‘friendlification’, they found that the behatted child had already beat them to it. Fox’s color started returning to him, and with it, his memory…
On the cusp of dusk, they--an unprecedented gathering of heroes, villains, and everything in-between--stood at what may as well have been the world’s precipice, between it, and it’s self-appointed new ruler. At the front of all of them… was Fox, with an assemblage of legends at his back, Heaven and its army before them, and him quite literally pointing a gun at the new closest thing he’s ever met to ‘God’. Though he would never admit to knowing it, he was in over his head, but that never stopped him before. This wasn’t exactly a first for him, or a number of those with him. To those for whom it applied, they had been here before, at the very same cliff overlooking the sea, peering out into the horizon at the shining blank spot left in the world by the destruction of the Isle of Ancients that preceded Tabuu’s defeat. Back then it acted as a symbolic beacon of a brighter future to follow. Little did any of them know that the light of new dawn would eventually herald their darkest day. And now, they stood again once more… at Ground Zero...
Fox’s eyes, now clear of hostile red, opened on the New World for what seemed like the first time; as if waking from a coma. His most prominent memory rushed back through his head, overlapping with that of most recent events. He weakly pushed himself up and began examining his surroundings, trying as he could to make sense of them while he took the moment to readjust. The next thing he knew, a purple-clad child in a top hat was handing him a steel broadsword that she was obviously too small to wield, the logical conclusion being that it wasn’t hers.
“You dropped this,” she clarified, ironically further confusing him ever so slightly. He eyed the weapon for a moment with an expression of puzzlement before simply accepting it.
“Thanks,” he replied, reclaiming the sword and propping himself against it. The child then strolled over to the next curious item she spotted laying at the moat’s edge: Fox’s blaster. The realization hit him as she started playing with it like it wasn’t a dangerous tool that could cause her serious harm if mishandled, knowing fully well that it could (as she understood with swords). This prompted Fox to check his holster to find it atypically empty. “Hey,” he addressed her once more to get her attention. “That’s mine too,” he calmly beckoned, politely demanding she relinquish to him his own firearm, as she did without a fuss. She already picked one up back at the canyon earlier, so there was no need to rob anyone of theirs. She tossed Fox his pistol back and nonchalantly made her way back up the mountain.
Banjo and Kazooie, meanwhile, were pondering a few choice implications about the situation amongst themselves.
“Huh…” uttered Banjo, slightly dumbfounded by the unexpected interruption.
“Well, that was a little disappointing. I guess we built that up for nothing,” Kazooie complained, having unreasonably felt cheated out of a moment of exaggerated importance.
“At least she saved us some XP…” he added, suddenly sure of how the Heart system worked, and then less so. “So… what should I do with this now?” He thought for a moment about what one influenced party member could mean for the rest of them. “You think there’s anyone else we might have missed?”
“I don’t know, but I’m wondering how we failed to notice until now. We’ve been travelling with it the whole time.”
“Right. I’m just saying... I’d hate to waste this.”
“I don’t think it matters.” Around that time they noticed Fox had returned to consciousness. “Oh, look. He’s awake,” Kazooie noted with little enthusiasm.
“Heyyy, erm…” Banjo started awkwardly, “Sorry about that. Are you okay?”
“About what?” replied Fox, genuinely unsure as to the nature of the apology offered, exhaustion still present in his voice. As he looked around, a slightly better question came to mind for him. “Where are we?”
“We must’ve hit him too hard,” Kazooie mockingly inferred at his expense.
“Home,” Banjo answered. “Well… we’re home. At our home. Everyone else is just passing through.”
“Everyone else?” The very mention piqued Fox’s interest, for he couldn’t help being curious as to who all else was left.
“They’re up there.” he said, pointing to the top of Spiral Mountain. “We should probably be getting back to them now.”
“Yeah…” Fox concurred, and began hauling himself somewhat shakily to his feet.
“Need a hand?” Banjo offered to the clearly injured vulpine.
“Thanks,” he started as he stubbornly stood back up, “but I’ll be fine.” While he wasn’t wrong in that he could make the short trek up on his own, Banjo would have outpaced him just by walking at his present rate.
“Here,” Banjo insisted, throwing a supportive arm around their revived ally’s shoulders. “It’s the least we could do to make up for earlier.” That part still didn’t make much sense to Fox at the moment, but he couldn’t be bothered then to spare the mental energy questioning it. He conceded to the offer to help, resting his own arm around the generous ursine as a voluntary crutch, and they began hiking up the mountain trail at a relaxed pace.
“I’m Banjo, by the way, and my pal here’s Kazooie.” Save for the formal introduction, Fox was already somewhat familiar with the pair. Although he had never met them until now, he still knew them by name and reputation. What’s more is that he remembered the call to action against Galeem not reaching them in time. Not that it would have made much of a difference, he thought.
“My name’s Fox.” He replied.
“Fox, eh? Your parents must’ve had QUITE the imagination,” Kazooie remarked sarcastically about his obvious namesake.
“I wouldn’t know,” he retorted tersely, letting the somber implication of his reply speak for itself. After about a minute they rounded the mountain’s peak, where the others were no doubt waiting.
“Medic!” Kazooie called out, expressing not the sense of urgency that usually went with the command. Banjo immediately sought out Blazermate, for lack of knowing any other healers in their group, and dropped off Fox next to the tower while he went to ask for her help. They found her already at work healing Link, the queen bee, and others. Poor girl was liable to be swamped with requests. “It hurts right here, Doc,” Kazooie began on approach, specifying no part of her despite the emphasis. “Think you could patch me up, please?” Banjo gave her a nudge of reminder for trying to cut in on the waitlist. “Oh, right. And him, too,” she added with a gesture to Fox.
“I know you’re busy, but would you mind taking care of him when you get a chance? He needs it worse than we do,” Banjo clarified, making sure to thank her in advance after putting in his request. Kazooie had a point in that they needed care as well, but they could sooner wait than the three besides them who were hit the hardest. Though, the fact that Kazooie asked nicely did stand out to him, even if her politeness was accidental (and undercut). Before he forgot, he held the Friend Heart he was still carrying aloft in presentation and asked, “Does anybody need one of these? I’d hate for anyone else to go rogue on us,” he declared aloud to anyone who was listening.
While he waited for (or received) medical aid, Fox took stock of those around him. Among them, he only knew four: Bowser, Jr, Peach and Link, and to say that he ‘recognized’ them would be generous, to say the least. Link’s was the only face out of them that remained familiar. The other three had undergone some… changes. Was he having some kind of feverish dream, or was he seeing prospect symptoms of a nightmarish new reality. One thing was for certain, he would have to get acquainted with it, and likely soon. The umbral boundary that lay just beyond drew his eye and reminded him of a past evil that they had once faced. If Bowser’s educated guess at what waited for them ahead proved to be correct, the lair of Banjo and Kazooie’s nemesis wouldn’t at all resemble its former self from when they first set foot in it. Whatever it promised would almost certainly be far worse.