Sakura EXP Total: 26/90 (pending)
Raz EXP Total: 56/50 (Rank Up!)
Raz found himself in abackyard
. The sky was a warm sunset, with clouds painted orange and purple. Birds squawked overhead. There was a dog in a doghouse, a family garden with some plants, and on the overhang in front of the second storey of the house in front of him, a mattress.
The sliding glass door was open, and inside a boy, maybe a little older than Raz, was playing video games, and was very, very into it. Delicious smells of seafood came from the kitchen inside the house. Orange light spilled from the open door of the house, and the two windows on the second floor were glowing pink and yellow respectively.
While it did seem to be surrounded by neighborhood, it wasn’t a practical one, of course. There was a large highway overpass, near enough to almost cast a shadow on the house, though the honking of all the cars going overhead didn’t seem to reach the peaceful home. There were a few houses nearby, too. But the fence stopped Raz from seeing more from ground level.
The dog barked playfully at him from his dog house, but seemed too lazy to actually move out of it and do anything. The little boy paid him no mind at all, absorbed in his game.
Raz took his surroundings in, looking this way and that with the semi-trained eye of a semi-Psychonaut. Things seemed normal, but he knew how quickly things might get dicey. First order of business: ingratiate with the mental denizens.
He moved to the doghouse. ”Hey there boy, how’s it going?”
He stooped down, scritching the pet’s head. ”You have a name?”
The little white dog stayed with his chin on his crossed paws as Raz scratched him. He was pleased, his tail wagging slowly. On its red collar was a tag, and on that tag was a name written in Japanese. The boy inside made a noise of intense focus as the video game ratcheted up the difficulty, the colors of the TV brightening considerably.
Well, it wasn’t like he could read Japanese. ”We’ll… put a pin in that.”
He gave the mystery pup another scratch behind an ear before standing back up, heading for the house. Since the door was open Raz decided to simply walk inside, stopping beside the younger boy and watching him play for a second. Then he said, ”Hey there! I’m looking for Sakura. Know where I can find her?”
It was some kind of fighting game- two strong looking martial artists were battling it out, and it seemed like the boy was winning. He didn’t respond for a few moments. When it seemed like he might not have heard the question at all, he shouted:
“Mooom! Some goldfish-headed kid is looking for Sakura!”
“Be nice, Tsukushi-kun!” Called a voice from the kitchen. Knives hit wood, noodles splashed into boiling water, bowls clattered into sinks and hungry hands swept takeaway boxes from a window. The kitchen was a busy place.
Now that he was inside, Raz could tell this was a representation of Sakura’s family home. There were pictures of her and the family on the wall. The boy, a tall, handsome businessman of a father, and a plump, jovial housewife of a mother, and Sakura herself. Though they were all moving a little bit, like mini-films, with a lot of depth. Vacations, portraits- though Sakura did have a couple of her fighting. There was also a single picture of a Japanese student around Sakura’s age. She had long, straight black hair topped with a green headband. A very beat up, grinning Sakura was with her in the photo, dragging the poor girl’s mouth up into a smile with her index finger, though there was a twinkle of amusement in the girl’s eye. In the back of the living room there was a stairway that no doubt led to the second floor.
“Sakura’s either up in her room or overseas!” The mother called again, with a laugh. “Not sure… Kei might know! Did you tell him to find Kei-chan?” She asked.
The door opened, and the handsome businessman walked in. “Honey, I’m home! And we have a guest!” He said, looking at Raz.
“He’s looking for Sakura!” The mother called from the kitchen.
“Well, she’s either in her room, or overseas.” He said, though there was a note of melancholy in his laugh. He went about setting down his briefcase and removing his jacket.
“If she’s not down here with us, or out with Kei. Are you one of her…fighting friends? She has a lot of those these days. Always smacking each other around- the whole thing drives me nuts sometimes.” He said with a sigh. He took a big bundle of money from his back pocket and dropped it into a small box labeled ‘Dreams!’. ”I guess you could call me a fighting friend. Though I never fought her before, just alongside.”
It was rare to see a mental world be so… normal. Was it due to Sakura’s straightforwardness? Hmmmm. ”What’s in that box?”
He asked the father, pointing at the ‘Dreams!’ box.
“Oh, this?” He said. “One day, I’m going to reopen the Kasugano family restaurant. Sakura’s mother and I are exceptional cooks- we just need to get the place off the ground again.” He said. The mother flung a takeaway box out of the window and someone caught it.
Raz nodded. ”I hope that worked out for you. Anyways, it was nice meeting you all! If it’s no trouble I’m going to go look upstairs, see if Sakura is there.”
He took the stairs two at a time, trying not to make too much noise - he was still a guest in a nice family’s house after all.
Upstairs was a hallway with three rooms. Two on the left, one on the right. One was clearly just a bathroom, the other was Tsukushi’s room, and the final one was clearly Sakura’s room. It said ‘Sakura’s Room’ in plain English on the front, though there was some text underneath it that was most likely the same thing but in Japanese. Cherry blossoms were in front of the door frame and drifted out into the hallway from the room.
Inside was a messed up bed, an open window with orange light streaming through. The light was hard to see through, but the dim shadows of buildings almost seemed to waver, shift, and move, affecting the rays of light that poured through.
There was some clothes scattered about, and a desk with a huge, insurmountably large stack of homework that pushed the ceiling upward. Underneath the bed was a dim, pulsing pink light.
There were lots of posters on the wall. A blonde man in a red gi gave a thumbs up to the camera. An imposing green man with orange hair shook the frame with electricity, a woman in blue kicked fast as lightning. A guy with a blonde flat top looked very, very serious. Them and many more.
A small TV sat on a desk… next to it, there was a large pile of VHS tapes. A match of some kind was playing on the TV. It looked like the man with the flattop and the man in the gi were fighting.
Suddenly, someone in the room almost shouted into Raz’s ear. “Sonic Boom!” The flattop guy in the poster shouted suddenly, firing a spinning blade projectile across the way to the man in the red gi. It whizzed right overhead with a mighty crack of sound waves.
“Ow, hey! Guile! Alright, fine, let’s turn up the heat!” The man in red said, before pulling himself out of the poster and sprinting across the room. He seemed more 2D than he did 3D.
“Tatsumaki!” With a spinning flame kick he pushed Guile into the poster, nearly missing Raz.
“RAINBOW!” A mighty feminine voice scream. A wrestler launched herself butt-first into the quick kicking woman’s poster, nearly knocking it off the wall.
“I’m the strongest woman in the world!” She replied, the two joining the scrap. In all the sudden mayhem, the big pile of homework tipped, and threatened to fall on Raz.
Ducking, diving, and rolling out of the way of the living posters, Raz hunkered down beside the desk to avoid the fights. ”Whoa! Guessing you’re some of her ‘fighting friends’, right?”
His impromptu hiding space was threatened by the stack of homework topping down onto him. He, unfortunately, wasn’t able to dodge out of the way in time, and got knocked to the floor by the tide of overdue worksheets. ”Gyahh!”
The papers scattered and filled the space, kicking up another cloud of cherry blossoms. Most of them were shredded by the oblivious poster fighters. The TV continued to play. Fortunately for Raz, it was just a bunch of loose paper, so it didn’t really hurt. The cherry blossoms drifted, picked up by the wind, past the glowing pink underside of the bed, and out the orange window.
“Would you keep it down up there, please!” The mother called out.”Sorry, miss!”
Raz picked himself up, grumbling under his breath about papers and the laying of fault, and crossed the room - avoiding the fighting poster people - to the bed, where he got on his hands and knees and took a peek under.
All the chaos paused for a moment as Raz peeked under Sakura’s bed. Under the bed was a hot spring pool. About ten feet down was a warm sunny day and a pool surrounded by stones. Inside, a stoic yet amiable looking man with short, black hair and a headband sat in the water, shirtless. He had his eyes closed and head down, relaxed. “Ah, Sakura-Chan.” He began. “So you have returned. Please, join me in the Special Fighter Spring for Cool Fighters.”
He looked up at Raz and opened his eyes, before blinking in surprise. “You’re not Sakura-chan.”
Raz, immediately, pulled his head back out from under the bed. ”Nope, not going in there.”
Well, he already looked in one conspicuous glowy part. What’s the harm in another? Raz crawled across the floor as another gi-wearing fighter spun through the air, over to the window, raising his eyes over the sill to look into the orange light.
The outside was a big, big place, full of many moving parts. The overpass highway was just ahead and to the right, with children running around behind it in the midday sun, even though Raz was currently being bathed in the light of a cozy dusk. Right beneath him bicyclers bustled underneath, carrying the fresh take-out food Sakura’s mouth had just made. Everyone was happy, busy, and friendly. And fighting.
This little island home and the surrounding neighborhood was actually only a small island, among many moving landmasses. Windswept rivers moved the islands on a big ocean. Some islands had landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower, or a section of the Great Wall of China, others were cramped towns and layed cities varying in size and recognizability. They all seemed to have different times of day, too. Some weren’t ‘places’ at all, but landmasses that contained swirling masses of energy similar to what Sakura throws out in her fights. The rivers themselves weren’t inactive, either- some had boats. Work boats or party boats- lots of fight boats, too. There was a pier on the end of this Homeland Island that extended out with some fishing boats anchored against the quick moving tides.
The cherry blossom breeze led down, out the window, and to the ever quaint street below.
Down there a much more three dimensional version of the man in the red gi was eating fresh noodles and chatting with a girl with long black hair with a pink headband on top- the same girl that appeared in a photo with Sakura but didn’t seem to be a part of the family. Biological family, anyway.
“Can you please
take the street fights elsewhere? This island is supposed to be safe and quiet!”
“Alright, alright, I’m sorry! The Kasugano Residence just has such a perfect backyard for it.” The man replied, noodles half in his mouth. “I’ll be more careful in the future, Kei-chan. But if you ask me, you’re fighting a losing battle.”
Kei sighed, rubbing her temples. “Maybe you’re right…it’s hardly the biggest problem I have on my plate at the moment.”
There was a certain atmosphere that mental worlds such as this had, a sort’ve chaotic blend that the World on the outside didn’t replicate. Raz might’ve journeyed up a frozen mountain, traversed a cat-themed metro in a giant pumpkin, and jumped over a herd of roving trucks in the desert, but it still felt cohesive. Everything had a place that it fit into the world, like a puzzle made perfectly out of pieces from entirely different boxes.
There’d be time to wax poetic later, though. The conversation on the wind caught his attention. ”’Keychain’?... Oh, Kei-chan!”
Raz hopped clear out of the window, forming his Levball to hover in the air, floating down along the breeze’s path to the street beside Kei and the red-gi guy.
He took a couple steps when he touched down to get his balance, then strode up to the pair. ”Excuse me! Are you Miss Kei? I’m looking for your friend, Sakura. Or, maybe, something she’s scared of? I’m not too sure…”
Kei turned around, raising an eyebrow. “That’s me. Uh, hello.” She says, then considers his words. “Err…yes. Yes, that’s it. To be honest, you probably won’t find Sakura. She’s off doing who knows what. I do
know there’s a big mess happening at one of the newly created islands to the South. I could help you get there, if you help us out with it.” Kei said.
The guy in the red kept eating his noodles. “I’ve been down there once or twice. It’s bad news- really brings the whole mood of the World Islands down. This place is supposed to be fun, y’know?””I’m pretty familiar with big messes on weird islands, so I’d be happy to help. My name’s Raz, by the way. I’m a friend of Sakura’s!”
“That’s great, because we’re stuck.” Kei said with a bow. “Thank you, Raz-kun. I’m Kei. Sakura’s been my friend for longer than I can remember, and recently I’ve been a little worried about her. Follow me, please.”
She guided Raz through the neighborhood. Once he was in the middle of it, he couldn’t see the chaotic islands outside and everything was peaceful and quiet. They passed by Sakura’s noodle-serving house and went to the other side of the island, where it was dawn instead of dusk. Past a drainage canal and under the overpass where children ran and played and drew on the concrete.
Kei took Raz to the pier and pointed across the river to an island on the other side. “I’d recommend not falling into the river. It’s not dangerous. In fact, it’s actually pretty fun- but you could wash up anywhere.”
Raz looked over the edge of the pier into the water lapping against the concrete walls. In the small waves a set of lumps formed, small rivets of the water that rose higher into the air than the waves, like fingers of a grasping hand trying to break the surface. Raz took a small step back and the lumps disappeared.
It had been a while since he got close to a body of water, yet the dread was present as ever. Still, across this mental sea was the heart of Sakura’s problems, and he wasn’t going to let some silly curse get the better of him.”You don’t have to warn me,”
Raz said, ”I won’t be falling in anytime soon.”
Stones stuck out of the rapids and heavy crates of wood floated steadily down the river. There were empty boats and micro-islands with palm trees sticking out. Occasionally fish would jump out of the water, or even dolphins.
“And the Ki islands aren’t as dangerous as they look, but they can be pretty disorienting. If you see any fighters along the way, they should be able to help you out.” Kei said. “Just keep going South. You’ll know the problem when you see it. Best of luck, Raz-kun. Thanks again.”
A strong breeze was at Raz’s back, and it was even stronger on the river. He could probably sense that this breeze was actually strong enough to carry him through the air at some points over the river.
He turned to wave goodbye to Kei. ”Don’t worry, I’ll make sure Sakura gets back to her usual self.”
With that, he was off.
The trek across the water wasn’t much to worry about, not for an experienced(-ish) mental traverser like him. He leapt from the pier to a passing crate, hitching a ride as it floated lazily further out, this way and that, pulled by unseen currents. As it passed by one of the raised stone he used it as a springboard to catch a gust of wind, hovering with it until it deposited him on a small dilapidated dock near the next island.
The next island was desert-like and hot, with a blazing sun overhead. But there was a crispness to the air and a returning cool sea breeze. There were elephants, giraffes, zebras, and people chasing each other around in jeeps and on horse-back. It was a straight shot to the other side, with few visual obstacles in his path to get to the next island south. He could even see other islands to the east and west, all busy with their own features. All he had to do was watch out for alligators and stampedes, though there might be something unpredictable about this place like the house.
A tall, beautiful woman with dark skin and white hair was flipping, kicking, and dance-fighting with a small group of warriors with wooden training weapons, laughing all the while.
Raz didn’t want to linger too long in here if he could help it. It wasn’t like the two were in a very safe spot in the real world after all. Rather than trying to run through the unknown of this island, he instead approached the tall woman. ”Hi! Hello? I was told that some ‘fighters’ could help me get further south, would you be one of them by any chance?”
She ceased her spin kick and stopped in a one-handed handstand, looking at Raz and grinned big. “Jambo! Of course! I can show you a little secret, just between you and me, if you are fun-loving enough to handle it.”
Graceful, she did a few cartwheels over to a crack in the ground. She waited for a few moments and a big gust of steam emitted from it, that blew her short hair back and up. With a giggle, she indicated beyond it to another distant crack. A few moments, it blew up steam as well. Beyond that, another one.
“The steam will let you fly up to the breeze above. The alligators are friendly if you feed them, but, if you want to go fast, that’s the best way!” She pointed up to the sky where the familiar cherry blossom breeze moved above.
Raz could hop from steam blast to steam blast. If he stepped in, would launch him up, hot, but not painful. The last steam blast would be enough to carry him up into the clouds, and up here the breeze was solid enough to walk on!”Thank you!”
Raz rushed for the steam vent as it went off a second time, sending him hurtling through the air to the next, and the next, and the next, a series of air-rocketed jumps into the breeze above. He sailed through it like a surfer, minus the board, onwards.
The next island was a tightly packed cluster of buildings, full to bursting. There was barely even a beach to land on- chances were he would land on a rooftop air conditioner and find the metal surprisingly bouncy. This place had muffled, loud music, thick cloud cover, and the sky was purple like it was night.
There were searchlights painting the clouds pink and blue from a mini-version of a large stadium building with no roof. There was a blast of violent purple energy from within that split the sky. A short moment later a man in a military uniform yelled as he was flung right out of the stadium and crashed into a nearby car. The roof dented and then expanded, bouncing up and out through a window. He groaned and shuffled away, defeated.
Raz leapt down off of his breeze onto a slanted metal rooftop, which was as springy as everything else, sending him careening across the buildings. Seemed the whole place was made out of rubber, from the seeming metal structures to even parts of the concrete below, like a giant bounce house. ”Whoa, this place is fun! I guess Sakura doesn’t want the people she fights to get hurt too badly.”
There was time for playing around later (assuming Sakura let him take another peek around), he was on a mission! As fun as the stadium seemed, this stretch of the journey felt like a cakewalk, so Raz simply bounced and sprung his way across to the other side of the island.
The next island was far away, and the rivers seemed to quiet. Disconcertingly, there were trails of black oil on the still waters surface, flowing much slower than before. It didn’t seem like it would whisk him away to some far off place to no doubt have some wacky adventure, but rather get him stuck in and flounder until he found his way back to shore. That is, if he didn’t already have his own problems with the water that was bountiful in the place. The breeze that had guided him so far seemed to falter and sputter out as it went over this portion.
It was poorly lit, with only faint moonlight illuminating shadows. From this distance, it seemed to be a forest surrounding a field, with an old-looking house that was lit up with flickering firelight on the inside. The way across wasn’t apparent. It seemed impossible to get there without some kind of transport or vehicle.
Another person went flying from the stadium, curling up into a ball and yelling with frustration. He flew, flew, and flew, until he landed on an entirely separate island from the one Raz was on, and the one Raz wanted to go to. The crowd cheered again.
So the way forward was a no-go for him, and the stadium just behind him was spouting out fighters like a slingshot. It was easy for him to put two and two together. He doubled back, using a rubbery chimney to launch forward, towards the stadium itself. Rather than take the entrance like any normal mental manifestation, Raz opted for the quicker route: he used some stray thoughts as a bridge, pulling himself up and over the stadium, before falling straight down through the open ceiling.
Raz landed on the rafters around the edge of the gap, rattling one of the spotlights. From above, he could look down into the stadium. A blonde, bulky, shortstack of a woman with long blonde hair in two ponytails in a blue wrestling outfit was currently tearing up a wrestling ring at the center of the crowd’s attention. She threw up a finger to the night sky and came down with a DDT on a nefarious looking soldier. It almost seemed like these were actual bad guys trying to attack her, but she was making a show out of it. She threw her entire body, rear first, into another villain and sent him sprawling. “I’LL KICK YOUR ASS!” She shouted, her light yet scratchy voice carrying over the crowd.
“Mika! Mika! Mika!” They cheered her name. Grinning wildly, she held up her arms as another bad guy tried to get her from behind. ”Alright, now to safely get down from up here, and…”
Raz trailed off as, in the middle of creeping along one of the rafters, the metal underneath creaked. Then buckled. Then gave out altogether. Seemingly not constructed to hold the weight of an entire stadium’s roof and
a ten-year-old child, the rafter snapped, dropping Raz down to the wrestling ring below. Luckily for him, his landing was cushioned by one of Mika’s opponents, thrown to the mat by Raz’s fall. He looked up, dazed by the bright lights, and looked around the audience. ”Uhm… hi there,”
he offered, sheepish over interrupting the fight.
Rainbow Mika turned around to see Raz on top of one of her opponents. “Woah! Hell of an entrance! Are you trying to upstage me or something?!” She said, her surprise turning back into a grin. She ‘offered’ a strong hand down to help him up, but it was more like her just picking him up by the arm and setting him on his feet.
Raz took the offered hand and gave another wave to the crowd. ”Sorry, didn’t mean to intrude here or anything, I’m just passing through. Trying to get to the next big island down South, only there’s no way over. Think you could, you know.”
He gestured to the open sky above them. ”Do that thing that launched all those other guys out of this stadium, for me?”
“Are you seriously askin’ me to throw you as hard as I can?! That takes guts! I like it! Alright, kid, I’ll do it, but only if you say you signed a disclosure agreement beforehand!” She said.
Then she looked to the sky, licked her finger and held it up to the air, and did a brief mental calculation. “Yeah, no problem! I promise I’ll totally make this look cool!” Then she dropped into a squat. “Here we go! Don’t hold on, I’ll let you go when the time is right!” She commanded, then went to grab Raz by the ankles.
She picked him up, her grin forming into a serious pout, and began to spin Raz. Round and round and round until she let him go and flung him into the ropes! They bent, bent, bent, carrying all of his weight, until they rubber banded with a loud snap, sending him flying!
“Badass!!” He heard Rainbow Mika shout as he was launched to his next destination. Up, up, and away, out over the dark sea and to the final island! He soared for what must have been nearly half a minute.
Immediately, things were much quieter. The spotlights of Rainbow Mika’s arena were distant and dim, the noise of the crowd not carrying over the waters as they might have in real life.
The forest was devoid of night life, the stars weren’t visible. The house light flickered and a figure moved inside.
Inside was a man Raz recognized, though he looked different, his countenance much more severe. It was the short haired man from underneath Sakura’s bed, though now he had a beard and was wearing a tattered if functional karate outfit and wooden sandals. Quietly, he meditated in front of a small shrine. He could be seen through the open door. But as Raz approached, he stood and quickly made to leave through the other side. ”Hey wait!”
Raz hurried after the man, brushing past trees and bushes trying to keep up with him.
The man led Raz down a path, through the treeline and out to the other side’s beach.
There, he saw it. The Maw. A truly enormous monstrosity of a ship. It was pitch black, and easier to spot by where it blotted out the night cloud cover and ocean. It was as large as a skyscraper. Where it crashed onto the shore, black oil spilled from a jagged wound of rent steel that was wide enough to act as an entryway.
On the shore, the man was engaged in a battle. A tall, animal skull faced creature with horns, draped in skulls and aberrated light. It flung skulls at the man, but he blasted through them with a familiar “Hadoken!”
The creature that Raz would recognize as a Panic Attack teleported to the street fighter and swiped at it with claws, but he parried the blow with his bare forearm. He delivered swift and simple retribution, finishing with a kick that sent the Panic Attack flying. It bounced off the metal hull of the ship and went right back towards the fighter. “Shoryuken!” He did a rising uppercut into the creature's body where it scattered into smoke and dust.
He landed and sighed, considering the huge ship before him.
As the dust of the battle settled, Raz approached slowly, his attention split between the bearded guy and the great metal monstrosity out at sea. Eventually, Raz broke the silence.”Hey… pretty good job fighting that monster, there.”
He walked closer, standing beside him as they both watched the Maw float in the water. ”You seem worried about that thing. Guessing it’s not supposed to be leaking oil all over?”
Crossing his arms, he turned over his shoulder and noticed Raz, then nodded. “Yes. It appeared recently, and it has people concerned. This island is stuck, and no longer moves, and the oil spreads slowly but surely. I also can’t go inside.” He said. “None of us can.””What do you mean? You can’t reach it, or you can’t literally get into it?”
“I can’t go in.” He says. “I could go wade through the water and jump inside, but I can’t do it. I think the forces that govern this world do not want me, or any denizen, inside. From that look in your eye, and the fact that you came this far, gives me the sense that you can. Am I wrong?”
Raz looked back out over the oil-tainted water at the Maw, the very sight of it bringing a strange sense of dread to his stomach. Still, he turned back to the fighter, and said, ”yeah, I think I am. Only, uh, do you have a way across the water? I… can’t swim.”
The fighter looked at Raz and then considered the beach in front of him. “The water is shallow. But it would be too deep and thick for you to manage without being able to swim. I can get you there, but you’ll have to stand on my shoulders.” He said, dropping into a kneel.
Raz nodded, using the man’s outfit to hoist himself up. ”Don’t worry, I’m used to standing on shoulders.”
Feet firmly planted on his muscular shoulders, Raz focused on maintaining his balance. ”All set up here!”
Serious so far, the man chuckled quietly. “Then let us begin.” He began to wade forward, taking powerful strides through the murk and oil. In less than a minute the bow of the Maw was a huge wall in front of them, but the leaking gash was within arms reach for Raz.
When Raz was inside, the fighter called out to him. When the fighter looked into the palm of his hand, he found a brown, oval seed. “Wait!” He called out. “Before you go in. I think you need this.” He flicked the seed up to Raz.
“Farewell.” He began to back up, but kept his eyes on the gash and on Raz until the psychonaut disappeared from his view.
The Maw was a confusing, disconcerting place. It was dark, with steel corridors that twisted up and around. The light was provided by angry fireplaces that had been screwed into the walls themselves. Tendrils of oil lazily lashed out at Raz if he got too close, trying to entrap him if he got too close. The whole place seemed to be closing in, corridors shuddered and grew smaller over time. Everything was sharp jagged metal and rusted corners.
“Over here…I’m stuck…help me…” A distorted, metallic voice said quietly. Partly emerging from the wall was some type of goo-covered, melting robot with a boxy face, a single flickering light for an eye. “What’s your problem..? Just help me already…” It moaned, its voice fading into a crackling stew of static. It outstretched its arm.
For a moment Raz considered helping, but hesitated just long enough for his mind to change. ”Iiiii’m not really sure if melting robots is an issue Sakura would need dealt with. Probably better to leave that one for later, when she can tell me herself.”
He hurried past the bot, shouting over his shoulder, ”hang in there!”
Raz came into a large central chamber, with several floors surrounding it. Mysterious, bloated shapes moved within distant, far off kitchens. The only natural source of light was a single moon beam from the ceiling. There was some kind of large skylight that had been shut with three, large, thick, rusted iron latches. The blocked skylight was above a central mound of patchy brown grass and dead plant life, and some kind of ruined, decrepit shrine that was similar to the one within the house. There was a pool of water that was clogged with algae. At the top of the mound of dirt was a small square of wooden fence posts and patch of wet dirt.
There were a few Panic Attacks crawling about on the walls and floor of this large chamber. But they hadn’t noticed Raz yet.”Okay,”
Raz whispered to himself as he assumed stealth mode, using the dim lighting to his advantage, since he didn’t have the means to fight these Panic Attacks head-on. ”All my Psychonauts training tells me that this seed I have probably has to go into that mound of dirt.”
He crept to the center of the room, to the wet patch of dirt, cramming the seed down in as gently as one could cram something. He then looked around to get his bearings. ”Pretty sure I have to open the skylight and clear that water, too, and those’ll make some noise… Ah screw it.”
Raz looked upwards, readying himself for a Psi-blast, directing three bolts squarely on the hinges. He then booked it for the drain, hoping to reach there before the Panic Attacks got to him.
The hinges creaked, groaned, and snapped under Raz’s attack, the skylight looking like it was going to break. The Panic Attacks moved in from their different positions, but were distracted by all the noise coming from above that they didn’t understand where the original source came from. Moonlight came in through the narrow gap like water threatening to spill over the edge of a cup. But the last hinge, the third and final one Raz had shot before running, was more stubborn than the others. As the Panic Attacks began to circle towards the dilapidated shrine…”Oh, come on!”
Raz stopped in the middle of running-and-hiding, too exasperated at the sturdy piece of metal. Of course, this only served to draw the Panic Attacks’ attention his way again. ”Oops.”
No time left to lose, Raz rapidly burst the remaining hinge with a flurry of Psi-blasts, hoping at least one would hit so he could finally book it to safety!
With the final latch broken, the skylight fell away, groaning on its hinges. Moonlight, far brighter than what it had been before, bathed the entire chamber in a cool light. The chefs of the distant kitchens cowered and fled, packing up their things and throwing themselves through the steel wall just to get away. The black oil burned away. The clogging, swampy algae turned into lily pads and lichen, flowers bloomed and the pond began to babble and run again. The broken shrine bloomed with new life as vines crept up around it and flowered.
The cherry blossom breeze surged within, traveling to the central shrine. It swirled around and from the seed a tree began to blossom and sprout. Decades passed in mere moments, and the loose blossoms attached themselves to its growing branches and settled there. The leftover wind blew the terrible creatures away, sending them scattering for places to hide if it did not crush them against the walls with retributive gusts.
The Maw both seemed more open, and yet, smaller. The room Raz was in was suddenly no more than a single floor, the cherry tree almost reaching out of the skylight entirely. The shrine now made up a majority of the place, though there were still dark corridors on either side, moonlight came in from above.
Raz took a moment to appreciate the calm space, the claustrophobic, suffocating feeling of the old space gone like a held breath. ”Well, it’s a good start,”
he said, looking up at the cherry blossom. The Maw was still here, of course, but it should be more manageable for Sakura to handle. His help given, Raz shuffled inside of his knapsack and pulled out his smelling salts. ”I’m kinda hoping the Psych-OSF has a better way of leaving minds than these.”
And with a waft under his nose, Raz was gone, back to the real world.
The psycho-portal popped open again as Raz’s projection was pulled back into his body. He returned to his senses with a start. ”Alright! Everything felt like it went smoothly. How are you feeling now, Sakura?”
He asked, pulling his goggles back onto his head and stowing the portal away.