The Apple Pie
„So I swear on The Star of Origin, which smiles upon us from its distant cradle – you take another step and you will have a brand new set of ventilation holes in your lungs!” shouted an upset man standing tall with an oversized spear in his hands.
„Alright, alright. Geez. Don’t need to yell, dood” shrugged the weird-looking, blue penguin standing right before him on two wooden legs.
„As a matter of fact, I do. You lot seem to ignore me if I don’t. Didn’t I tell you to scram, like, a half an hour ago?”
He was not as much upset as annoyed. After all, it’s not the first party this day to snake up on him mischievously. He was rather used to it by now. This bunch, however, was quite persistent.
The blue penguin standing before him had a small brown pouch on his white belly strapped around his waist with a brown string. Small bat-like wings were twitching on his back. Four exact copies of the same specimen were standing right behind him pretending not to care about the man before them. They were virtually indistinguishable from each other. Even their voices sounded more or less the same.
Well… one of them had a broken beak. That counts as an unique feature. He probably broke it by himself, just out of need to be non-conformist. One could think so, but alas, his beak was simply not hard enough to withstand the man’s fist.
„Look. I’m telling you, we take few apples and go. That’s all we came here for, dood” bargained one of them.
„Well then, my friend, you will be disappointed, ‘cause you’re not getting a single one unless you take it by force.”
Penguins exchanged frightened looks. Seems like they were weighting whether their mistress’s wrath for not finishing their mission would be worse than what this man is offering, or not. They sighed in unison knowing that most likely it would be the former rather than the latter.
„Stfupid tfree! Wfat’s sfo spfecial abfout it anyfway?” mumbled someone from the back carefully tending to his half-smashed beak.
„I’m glad, you asked!” the man smiled apparently eager to elaborate. He rest his spear near his leg and presented the tree behind him with exaggerated gesture of his hand „The tree you are standing before, is the Saggessphaur. The sprout of the cosmic seed emerging from the Star Of Origin. This mighty tree never withers, needs no sun and grows fruits regardless of the season. It is the essence and the soul of my planet and I will protect it with all my strength” he ended with a forceful stare.
Bearing more than two meters in height and adequately muscular chest, this frightening man is Prank, guardian of the Horizon.
Strapped with light shirt, just barely hiding his muscles, and oversized pants for freedom of movement. His outfit looks like its two sizes too large, which is impressive considering his posture.
Tends to overuse his strength in spite of repeated warnings that „when in doubt, stomp” is not exactly the right tactic. In more than one way, really.
Unfortunately, words fail him more often than not, and he does not like being flustered. Hence the violence. It is clear he shouldn’t be needlessly annoyed.
He smashed my tail with his stupid stick when I asked him why he’s carrying it around.
And it was only the 25th question I asked during our five minute talk. I was going to end it at 26th, too. Honestly, what’s got into his head? My poor tail…
And it’s not like the question was stupid by itself! He does not really need it! His hands are enough to smack sense into anyone anyway, so what’s the stick for?
Alright, alright… I have to give him some credit. He’s not as brutal as I tend to describe him. And it’s not like I don’t like him at all. He has his good side.
Except, it’s damn hard to find.
— Gibian’s logbook. Character entry: Prank.
One thing’s for sure, the tree that grew behind Prank was unique. It wasn’t as high as you’d expect from such important tree, but there were in fact several apples on its twigs despite the absence of leafs. As the man explained earlier, the leafs fell down because of the shaking the planet endured last time it fell down some stairs.
„Wait, what?” someone actually noticed that some screws in this story are missing (and oddly enough, he wasn’t referring to the stairs) „What planet are you talking about, dood?”
„This!” he knocked the ground with his spear like he was stating the obvious. The earth shook in response. Not much; nothing too fancy, but still impressive „The one you are about to be stranded on if you don’t make your leave quickly enough” Prank was getting impatient.
„Whuh?” asked the other one eloquently.
„Look. I know you’d love to hear all the details, but there isn’t much time left” the man tried to suppress his anger toward the ignorant fools as there were more important matters to consider „I’m serious. You stay here, and you’re leaving with us on a trip. And I assure you, it won’t be a pleasant one.”
He looked serious. They considered briefly whether Prank so badly want them gone that he babbles whatever thought his mind feeds him, or he’s just insane. Then, not being able to come to a conclusion, they came up with a short retort.
„Curse you, greedy fools! No!”
„We wasted ton of Hell on provisions and fairs to get here, dood! Our mistress will blow us up if we return without apples. Literally, blow us up, dood! We’re exhausted and haven’t eaten in two days! We are NOT going back without a single apple! We’re staying!… dood!”
Suddenly, the man’s face twitched like he was about to cry. Not that he was surprised by this bold statement or the weird speech of the half-meter-tall penguin but because he knew damn well how people with such spirit behave. They will not falter. Not because they’re so brave but because they see no reason they shouldn’t make their stand. In that case, he must show them one, right?
He slowly turned around; his back to the visitors. Admiring the beauty of the apple tree, he raised his hands to the tree.
„Tell them something. There’s no time left!”
„What can I say?” answered the tree with a surprisingly calm, soothing voice of a girl „They won’t listen anyway.”
„Fine!” he turned around quickly pointing his spear at them „Then I’ll drive them away by force!”
Suddenly the notion of telling their opponent that they are weak and weary from their trip didn’t seem like a good idea.
„Ummm… maybe you should reconsider, dood?” asked the leader.
„Hyaaa!” shout the man ignoring his plea.
He hit the penguin’s head with the blunt side of the spearhead, leaving the leader out for the count with a single blow. To his left, the one sending curses through his broken beak took out two short knives from his pouch while another one took out some kind of a bomb and started vigorously waving it in front of himself. Another one took out his own set of knives. The last one stood still, thinking.
The broken-beaked one rushed in, quickly changing the direction of his momentum to the opposite side, as he met the foot of the man before him. The man they were dealing with was not to be underestimated. Just one kick was enough for him to send the penguin flying. Then again, these were kid-sized opponents without any mass to begin with. A girl could kick them over the forest without putting up a sweat.
The one in the back was awkwardly trying to ignite his bomb, but decided not to, seeing as the defense that stood before him somehow left the combat zone (in a hurry, at that). He smiled sheepishly at the approaching man, who greet him with a smile of his own. He then poked the penguin in the head slightly not-so-gently.
The penguin fell down unconscious. The round, black bomb rolled somewhere away not caring too much about the result of the battle. The penguin with the daggers and his beak intact (ah, so they can be distinguished from each other after all) started furiously slashing through the air before him in what looked like a futile attempt to intimidate his opponent. Feeling somewhat intimidated, as in ‘sure, why not’ way, Prank cut his brown belt with the pointy end of his spear.
„Heeee!” the penguin dropped his knives to the ground stretching his arms (or arm…things) up to the sky. „T-That’s sharp, dood!” he stated the obvious as the brown pouch fell to his legs.
„Hold on a minute” paused the last one „I’ll give you… thousand Hell for this apple!”
„Hell? You have a thousand hells under your command?” Prank raised an eyebrow retracing his weapon. Not that he was pondering the proposition. He considered the ‘combat’ to be over, that’s all.
„N-no, dood. Not hells. Hell. Money. You can trade it for gold if you want, dood.”
„And what would I do with that? Plant it in the garden?”
The penguin was dumbfounded. His best attempt to barter with the man failed so miserably, that he wasn’t even able to rise his first offer. So far he had never met a person who would not know what to do with money. This situation was clearly too much for him to handle.
„Alright, alright! I give up!” he made few steps back „You’ve beaten us fair and square, dood. Geez. We’ve never knew someone so strong was guarding this tree.”
„You, on the other hand, seem like the bunch of others I’ve beaten up before” noticed the man „They come in a bunch of five or six. Ten of them at most. All friggin’ penguins with wood instead of legs. What gives?”
„We’ve been ordered to get some apples by our mistress, dood.”
„Oh” the man raised an eyebrow „Where is she, then? I should pay her a visit” he stroke his short beard considering this option „Next time, that is. It’s too late now.”
„Um… does this supposed to happen?” asked penguin resting somewhat away from the battlefield, amidst the shaking ground.
„But of course!” answered the man swiftly „After all, we’re leaving” he sighed. „Grab onto something” he thrust his spear deep into the ground and stood holding onto it.
„Hold?! Onto what?! The tree?” asked one of them desperately, seeing as nothing around him was tall enough to grab onto. Rhe forest surrounding the tree was at least several meters away.
„Nice try, but no. There’s plenty of grass around. Try that.”
He fell on the ground in fear as the shaking increased in strength. Having nothing to hold to, he flattened to the ground, like he was playing dead. Too bad the earth wasn’t fooled.
He, as well as the rest of his party, jumped up and painfully fell down at least five times before everything calmed down. Though strangely enough, even that wasn’t enough to wake up the bomb-wielding penguin, who was still counting stars.
„Just my friggin’ luck” the man summarized his position „Now I have to deal with your sorry asses until our next stop. And that’s only if I’m lucky enough to get rid of you there! Damn it!”
He turned his back on them, cursing. Resting his spear on his arm, he went away somewhere not willing to spend another minute in their presence.
„Okay… yeah… sure, dood… We’re alright if you ask” whispered one if the penguins.
HE calmed his breath trying to sort things out in his head. His wing was now crooked from the fall. He tried moving it back and forth; a painful expression on his face. He made few wobbling steps and helped bomb-wielder and broken-beak stand up. The latter, in turn, raised their leader from the ground.
„Could anyone care to explain what in the world is happening here?” asked the penguin who recently parted with his bomb when his eyes could finally focus on the surrounding.
„Apparently, we’ve departed.”
„Departed… to where, dood? How? On what?”
„So many questions…” sighed broken-beak giving up on understanding any of it.
„Well… Let’s start from the fact that you are on a planet named Horizon, and we have, in fact, departed from your world.”
The voice was rather pleasant to hear, and though it seemed like it originated somewhere near the tree, it did not sound like a tree at all. I mean, not as the rustling of the leafs, which it had none, or creaking of the twigs, which weren’t moving at all. It was just… the sound was there, somewhere before them, and that’s all.
„What the hell do you mean we departed from our world, dood? Are we… dead?”
„Oh, my, no. You’re just taking a trip with us. Involuntarily. No going back, I’m afraid.”
The penguin dropped his arms exasperated.
„B-But.. but.. we were just going to get some friggin’ apples!”
„Funny how it works, isn’t it? We show up one minute, the next one there is always a bunch of guys dying to meet us. Well… some of them are literally dying. Others tend to run away. Few, however, take too long to do so like yourself” pointed the voice in a somewhat accusing fashion „Fear not, though. We do have measures to deal with such situations” the voice announced somewhat passionately.
„Measures? I don’t like the sound of this word, dood” bomb-wielder sounded worried.
„We’ll send you to the moon, so you’ll not bother us too much.”
„You what??” five of them asked in unison.
Just about the moment things really started to look more and more bizarre, the man returned, from wherever he went, dangling some huge log of wood on his arm. Actually, it was a wooden construction of some sort. A contraption which purpose was puzzling enough to shift the center of penguins’ attention. They didn’t have to worry about it for too long though as the purpose was easy to explain after the man arranged the tool on the ground.
„The f ? Dood! You aren’t serious, are you?” the penguin with a crooked wing bite his tongue (which was especially hard, having a beak instead of teeth and all).
He had reason for asking. The construction looked, as he noticed ever-so-keenly, like a catapult.
„I’m always serious” answered the man.
„W-Wait! Let’s talk, dood! We really changed our mind. We don’t want this apple anymore!”
„That’s hardly the point now, is it?” asked the man, deadpan.
„Well, now wfe’re fwhroughly wffffwfffuu…” someone tried to comment on the situation but it wasn’t easy with his broken beak.
The rest considered a change of plans. Namely, a tactical retreat.
„No point in running” pointed out the voice from the tree „you’ll just tire yourselves more than you already have.”
„Heeeeeeeelp!” the other one immediately turned to the next logical course of action, which was an utter despair.
„Don’t worry. You’ll survive. I won’t be as clique as to comfort you saying it won’t hurt, though” the man finished setting up the device.
Against tree’s suggestion, they used their short, wooden legs the best way they knew how. The man raised an eyebrow as they jumped into the forest and disappeared out of his sight.
He looked up to the sky. After the brief pause, he decided to lie down for a bit. The sky was dimming as the planet was leaving further and further away from the sun.
„How long are you giving them?” he asked the air.
„With their speed and determination, I’d say two or three hours.”
„Such an odd beings from an odd world…”
„They see us the same way, you know. After all, how often do you meet a planet floating across the space and jumping right into your world?”
„Should’ve left us alone.”
„You know that they couldn’t.”
That was true. One of the strangest things about the tree growing behind him, which was innocently waving his twigs on the calm wind, was its force of attraction. There were many worlds Prank visited on this planet, but he was not able to leave a single one without meeting someone curious about the tree. Be it greedy fools, like these five dolts, lone travelers or a peculiar someone who lost her way in the dense forest that suddenly popped up around her. An incident which ended with the planet departing with a hitchhiker onboard. That, however, is another story.
Not every one of these encounters was as annoying as this one. After all, meeting people from many unique worlds is quite interesting. Most of the time.
„Prank, do you hate them?” asked the voice calmly.
„No, not really. They are annoying, though” confirmed the man.
„I mean, our travels together.”
Prank cocked his head to grasp the top of the tree into his view. That was an odd question to hear from his companion.
„You know me. I have my share of good days and bad ones. This one is not too great but otherwise… can’t say I don’t enjoy it” he skillfully avoided saying what she wanted to hear. „And to top it off, these creatures are the first things we met just after exiting The Great Void. Couldn’t we land somewhere more peaceful?”
„It’s true that from time to time we hit an oddity like this… But then again, it could have been worse.”
„Yeah… we could have stayed in the void with only the rare light of the brightest of stars to look at for several years to come” Prank’s thoughts drifted to not so distant memories „Yeah. You’re right. They might be annoying, but their visit is still better than the void.”
„That’s what I wanted to hear” the voice chirped happily.
„Although… you know… if you stay by my side I could deal with a few more years inside The Great Void.”
The person behind the voice near the tree blushed ever-so-lightly. Sadly, there were no one to observe it as even Prank closed his eyes to rest for a while.
She, of course, felt the same way as he did. With him by her side, even void didn’t seem so empty.
„Alright, dimwits! So here is the full-sized explanation” shouted the man to the five penguins sitting in front of him calmly and obediently like sheep. After all, he did warned them he will punch them if they didn’t. „If you don’t get it, then you won’t. Some of it will make sense though and you’ll have plenty of time to figure out the rest.”
They nodded on accord. And if you ask how they came to be in the perimeter of this man again, it’s because while they were running, they never thought about changing their direction. And the planet is small enough for them to make a full circle even when they stopped running and started walking after an hour or so.
Still, one has to praise them for their stamina.
So, like the voice from the tree predicted, a bit more than three hours later they found their way through the woods to the clearing with the tree. Of course when they realized they’re back where they started, they considered running away. Again. But they were too exhausted to do so. And here they are now, sitting and listening like good penguins.
„It’s funny this stupid tree wasn’t tall enough to tip us off that we’re going towards it…” murmured the leader.
„And you would think, dood, that the horizon of such small planet would indicate its size…” murmured the other one.
„Well, the first one is self-explanatory” answered the helpful voice floating around in the air „The tree really isn’t higher than any of those in the forest. The other one, well, that’s an optical illusion. Because this planet has more than three dimensions you perceive the earth to be flat while in fact it is round.”
„Well… damn…” commented the broken-beaked one who managed to steady his beak enough for him to speak without further hurting himself.
Prank hushed him with a stare. „It’s true” he added „Since this planet has four dimensions, being a three-dimensional beings as you are, you don’t quite perceive it perfectly. And it does answer one other question you might have. We managed to merge with a small part of your world because we are traveling across the four dimensions.”
„D-Dood?” stuttered one of them.
„As I said, you’ll have time to figure it out. Needless to say, from the point of view of your world it looked like we popped up into existence out of the thin air, then disappeared as miraculously as we appeared. This corresponds to us traveling very close to your world and getting further away as we pass it by.”
He focused his eyes on them searching for the slightest sign of understanding; to no avail.
„Just picture your world as a tavern near a road. You guys were sitting in front of this tavern, or lying in the gutter, as we were walking down the road. That’s how we’ve met. Were you sitting inside, drinking, you wouldn’t even notice we were there.”
He was eager to find more insulting comparisons, but instead focused on something behind them. The earth turned darker and darker with every second. The moon started to slowly crawl its way up.
The moon of this planet was like nothing else what they’ve seen in their own world. It was half the size of the planet itself, circling dangerously close to its ground. Close enough that the tree was able to help it sustain its own atmosphere. Given that, it should really be treated like a second planet. Although in Prank’s mind it does not qualify as a planet, as it does not have its own tree to be one. Out of convenience, they call it moon as it’s the most familiar term that could describe it.
When it crawled out of the horizon, it covered more than half of the sky. There are number of tricks to its movement, though; it’s path is not exactly easy to describe. It moves on a set of ellipses around the tiny planet. One time, like right now, it is close enough to see every single detail of its surface, while the other time it drifts so far away that it disappears from the sight. Literally, since it does not reflect too much light. Were it to stay far away from the planet, it would lose the tree’s protection and fell off on its own voyage (presumably killing anyone on its face, unless they can make do without air). Fortunately, that is not likely to happen. The moon sticks firmly to the planet and is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Like if the ellipses weren’t enough to describe its path, it also depends on the density of environment in which both the planet and the moon are moving. After all, the void that they are traveling through, isn’t uniform at all. All of this makes the path of the moon quite hard to predict.
„…but there are several key rules to its movement, so let’s stick to that. We know, that from time to time it will be as close to the Horizon as it is now. If we want to, we can drag you back here when this happens” Prank concluded this overly long explanation.
As the five of them was trying to figure out why Prank was suddenly so obsessed with the moon, with his last sentence they immediately remembered the reason they started running in the first place. Suddenly the note about possible death in case the moon drifted too far away seemed far more important than a minute before. They were almost ready to repeat the marathon they ran not so long ago.
„Now. Would you care to go voluntarily or involuntarily?”
„Why don’t you leave us here, dood?! We won’t do anything!” tried the penguin with a crooked wing.
„For one, I don’t trust your word. Two, you’re annoying” answered Prank without batting an eye.
„But we won’t survive the trip, dood!”
„Oh, come on! You’re a penguin or a pussy? A few bruises here and there means nothing. You’ll heal right up!”
„I’m serious, dood! We’ll ”
„Quit whining! You’ll like it there! After all, the moon is far more interesting than this planet; shifts its position much faster and rolls around and around…”
„No buts! You’re going and that’s final.”
He was now clearly on a verge of sticking to the ‘involuntary’ way of getting them on the moon. They sighed, once more in perfect unison. Looks like they were rehearsing it many times back in their own world.
„I kind of wonder how the low gravity feels like, dood…” the other one already resigned to his fate.
„Mmmm… nah. It spins faster. The gravity isn’t that much lower” Prank crushed his dreams „But you’re a bit right. After all, when the moon is this close, the gravity is somewhat lighter” he grabbed some stray rock and threw it above their heads and above the forest behind them, presenting his point. Not very convincing as it seemed like he was able to do it without the help of the moon „I was talking about other exciting things though. The moon is quite funny, you know? You never expect when the earth cracks below you or when the sandstorm sweeps you off your feet.”
„That’s it! I’m not going, dood!” opposed one of them.
„So involuntarily then?” sighed Prank.
„B-But… we’ll survive there, won’t we?” asked the leader resigning to his fate.
„Sure! Probably… I mean, you’ll have to work for it, but sure!” Prank tried to sound enthusiastic.
„We are never going back are we, dood?”
„If you like it there, you can stay as long as you want. Although I cannot promise we will stick to this moon forever. It is kind of big. A smaller one would be better.”
Now they were sure they were being mentally tortured. After all, he couldn’t be coming up with worse and worse things to say every second, could he? He was doing it on purpose! He was bluffing half of the time, right? …right?
„Well… time to get going” noticed Prank seeing as it became almost completely dark „The moon is already halfway there.”
„Don’t you worry you’ll miss in this darkness, dood?”
Prank looked at him in amusement. „Yeah… like I would ever consider such problems.”
„Alright! Who’s first?” he shouted in an energetic voice to encourage potential volunteers.
„Let’s get this over with” the leader stood up from the ground „I stopped caring whether I die or not.”
„Sweet! You have one point for your bravery, kid!” ignoring his gloomy remark Prank hit his arm hard enough to throw him off-balance. „Stand there” he pointed at the other end of the catapult.
Not that there was, at any point in time, a moment where this plan did not look insane but seeing it being put to life was simply terrifying. The leader of the group took his designated place and looked up at the gray surface of his destination. Meanwhile, Prank lifted a giant, wooden hammer, that came with the catapult as a joint package, and was readying himself to hit the other end of the device.
„Ummm… may I have my last words?”
„You don’t truly consider dying?” asked Prank „That would ruin my reputation, you know. After all, so far I have fifty-fifty ratio with this thing. Don’t want to drop it below that!”
Yup. The words „mental torture” came to mind once more.
„You know what? Just hit it, dood” the penguin resigned sitting himself comfortably on the wooden arm.
Prank smiled and readied the hammer. „Glass! Could you lighten up our target?”
„Sure” the voice, whose name was finally revealed, answered.
A pillar of light engulfed the leader of the penguins. As he looked above him, he couldn’t see where the other end pointed at as the cone of light was curved, obstructing his sight. He stretched his head outside of it, only to see that the pillar went right up to the moon’s surface.
The pillar showed the expected trajectory of his flight and was the final word that confirmed this is not a joke. And if it is, it went horribly, horribly too far. The light was, however, a bit calming. After all, the pillar did point at the moon, not away from it.
„Have a nice trip!” was the last words he heard before his flight.
The giant hammer, brimming with a glow not dissimilar from the one of the pillar of light, hit the other end of the device on which the penguin was sitting; a blissful calm on his face. A face of a man who was ready to face his destiny.
You’ll have to ask him when you meet him if he enjoyed the trip. The other ones can say this much at least: they heard his scream far longer than they expected. He screamed all the way, to the last second before reaching his destination. He screamed and screamed…
And then, he exploded.
„Huh… that wasn’t supposed to happen” pondered Prank when the thud of the explosion he saw finally reached his ears. Rest of the penguins clutched together in one huge blue-white, jittering ball.
„Oh…” gasped Glass „I knew their way of speaking and their strange shape was familiar. I think I’ve heard about these creatures before…”
„Let’s see.” Prank took out his cell phone from the pocket and dialed a number. Few short beeps and the voice in the phone answered.
„Hyperdimensional helpline! I am Cheryl. How may I be of service?” a cheerful girl answered the phone.
„Hi Cheryl. Prank here. What can you tell me about blue penguins with wooden legs, small wings, some brown pouch and them exploding spontaneously without a reason?”
„…that… they are weird creatures?”
„Ha, ha! I’ll get back to you in a zip, Prank. Cheerio!” the call ended.
„Damn…” cussed Prank.
„W-What wrong, dood?” the penguins managed to calm a bit.
„Nothing of your concern” he dismissed them angrily „…I just realized I fell below fifty-fifty mark.”
…and they just realized that, as he pointed out not so long ago, he truly was serious about everything he said. One of the penguins fainted.
After a short, awkward pause, Prank’s phone rang. He hit ‘receive’ key and put the phone away from his face. Above the phone, a holographic picture showed up along with the description. He checked that the picture matches the penguins before him, and started reading; his face twisting with dismay after each paragraph he read.
Souls of humans who died with a mortal sin. They repay their sins during afterlife in one of the many Netherworlds they inhabit, by collecting Hell (official currency of the Netherworlds) in their pouch. They use this money to pay for cleansing their souls. The amount needed varies depending on the sins committed during life, but is always huge enough to warrant a long stay in the Netherworld.
Lowest life forms of the Netherworld. Slaves of the higher demons and Overlords. To shorten their stay in the Netherworld Prinnies accept any job they are given.
Favorite food: grilled fish.
Blow up when hitting an obstacle with a great force.
— Hyperdimensional Helpline Database
Thanks for your continuous support!
„Blow up when hitting an obstacle? Really?” Prank was ready to smash the phone to bits.
The description was much longer and contained number of links to further one’s understanding of the aforementioned Prinnies but he was in no mood to check any of them out. He hit redial button.
„Hyperdimensional helpline! I am Cheryl. How may I be of service?” a familiar voice answered.
„Hi Cheryl. It’s Prank again. It looks like I accidentally blew up a Prinny. Can you help me out?” he asked trying to keep his cool.
„It’s alright, Prank. I did my research and it turns out this happens to a lot of people. A bit too often then it should, too, e-he-he…” she tried to comfort him with a warm giggle. Hi didn’t found the joke funny „You don’t have to trouble yourself with that. Souls of Prinnies who die on duty are returned to the Netherworld from which they belong. They get a nice, new body of a Prinny and continue their work.”
„So he’s back home?”
„Yup! See? Nothing to worry about!”
„That’s great news!”
„Well.. not quite. Death is, in fact, a bit troublesome to the Prinnies.”
„And why is that?”
„They kinda lose all the money they gathered in their pouch.”
Prank exhaled into the speaker loudly.
„You know, it’s bound to happen, since they keep it by themselves all the time…”
He exhaled once more.
„Well… I’m sure he stow some of it somewhere safe. After all, they are in constant life-threatening danger, right?” Cheryl tried to cheer him up.
He exhaled three more times before he finally put his thoughts together. „You’re right” Prank answered calmly „Considering an explosive material is nearby, it’s stupid to keep money in the pouch.”
„It is, isn’t it?”
„Thank you Cheryl. We’ll be in touch.”
„No problem at all! Cheerio!”
Prank turned off the phone and put it back into his pocket. He froze rethinking the situation.
The whole calling, waiting, calling and thinking routine took enough time for the moon to make its trip around the planet and emerge halfway above the horizon again. It was slightly further away this time, though.
„Well…” Prank finally broke the silence „Turns out you have one more option to consider! You can be back home in no time at all! What do you say, guys? I’ll send you there and everyone will be happy, right?”
One of the Prinnies gulped loudly. „Actually, dood, we’d prefer the moon.”
„And why is that?” Prank marked him with a stern look.
„Y-You know, dood. Losing Hell aside, our mistress will never forgive us for failing this job, dood.”
„So what? She’ll make your life a living hell for a while… but look! You’re living in a hell to begin with, right? Ha, ha! Then there’s no problem!!”
Prank twisted his face in a forced smile with his eyes wide open and teeth bared. He threw his hands to the sides like he just proposed an ultimate solution to all of the troubles of mankind. Mankind and Prinnies, of course. This pose, however, instead of a sign of triumph, was more of a sign that he’s going insane. A warning, that he’s going to lose it if he were to stay in the presence of Prinnies for more than the next five minutes.
„D-Dood!…” one of the penguins gasped desperately „We… we’ll just leave you alone and won’t bother you anymore, okay? Dood?”
„Not a chance” answered Prank calmly; his pose unchanged; his face unmoved „Get into the elevator.”
He pointed at the base of the catapult. Fitting name. Describes the machine quite well. It does ‘elevate’ people, doesn’t it? There’s nothing in the name ‘elevator’ that would imply people will be able to get back to the place from which they departed, right? Or that they won’t blow up when they reach their destination. That’s just unreasonable thinking, I’d say.
„Dood!! Don’t do it to us! We really–”
„Calm down” Prank dropped his exaggerated expression returning to his previous, composed self „I’m not going to kill you. I’ll ask Glass to prepare you a soft landing.”
„Y-You… what?… dood?” they were clearly in shock faced with this sudden change.
„I’d have done it from the start if I knew you’d blow up. Do you think I wanted to kill him like that?” he sounded a bit irritated.
„B-But… then… why didn’t you do it, dood?!” the Prinny with a crooked wing was so bewildered he didn’t even realize he was shouting.
„It’s not like I want to do it, you know? The soft landing, I mean. It’s not exactly a feature I would ever consider under normal circumstances. You get me?”
The Prinny, still in shock, nodded affirmatively. Somehow he had no more questions. Maybe because his mind just broke. And with that, he left the group hug of the four Prinnies, which they kept so far, and absent-mindedly stepped onto the catapult. The beam of light showed up and this time, there was a rectangular plane shining on the surface of the moon, where the light pointed. The light was kind of obsolete though, as Prank was not concerned to look at it.
Prank, without a word, raised his hammer and swiftly dropped it on the other end of the catapult. The Prinny flew along the beam looking almost as if he was blissfully enjoying his flight. Seemed like Prank gave the blow too much force and penguin went off-course. Fortunately for him, the rectangular light moved to accommodate for this offset and managed to catch him before he landed. We can assume so, as no ‘thud’ could be heard nor any explosion could be seen.
It must have been a soft landing. Or at least softer. Or ‘soft enough’… Let’s just say that the result was different then the first one, okay? Let’s leave it at that.
„Next” shouted Prank without any emotion. He didn’t even consider looking up to see what happened to the previous user of the elevator. He didn’t even lift his head. Just stared blankly into the distance.
Although the flight of their comrade raised several objections among the rest of the Prinnies, considering mostly the accuracy issues, the procedure repeated three times with broken-beaked penguin being the last to be sent to meet his friends. Between every round Prank had to wait a couple of seconds giving time for the moon to move a bit away so that the next penguin does not land on top of the previous one. Not that he wanted to wait. He was kindly asked to by the Prinnies and was nice enough to oblige.
Minutes later, the moon cleared away from the sky and the slightly brighter nighttime sky returned showering the planet with a dim light of a distant sun.
„You know?” Glass’s voice broke the silence „When you think about it, it’s like we are allowing them to experience a whole new story! And they probably are thrilled too! I read the description. Turns out they pray to the moon when they are about to be cleansed from their sins! A bit reddish one, but still. I think they should be grateful to us, really.”
„Who cares about their gratefulness?” mumbled Prank carelessly falling onto the grass „I just wanted to finally get rid of the buggers, that’s all.”
„Don’t you worry they won’t handle themselves well out there?”
„Again – who cares?”
„Oh, you can be so cruel sometimes” sighed Glass.
A radiant light appeared below one of the tree branches near them. One of the apples started to glow. Prank jerked himself off the ground and focused his eyes on the fruit. The apple slowly broke off its branch and started to fall in an unnaturally slow motion.
The light wasn’t too intense, but was quite blinding in contrast to the surrounding darkness. The apple rotated in a majestic movement, giving off different kind of light with every rotation.
Watching its fall was simply marveling.
When it finally reached the earth it bounced off slightly, gently returning back to lie on the grass. It looked like even the gravity of the planet gave it a special treatment.
The light slowly started to dissipate. Prank crouched near the apple and surrounded his hand with a light-blue glow. He dug a hole in the earth with two swift movements of his large hands. Then he carefully put the apple into the hole. He covered the still glowing apple with earth.
The earth shined with the apple’s glow for a moment, then the rainbow-like light traveled along the surface slowly diminishing with the distance until it finally disappeared somewhere away from the tree. The fruit will give the earth all of its energy, sustaining the life of the planet.
Every apple of the great Saggessphaur was of immense value. It was inconceivable to come to this planet and try to steal one. Not going to happen! Not as long as Prank is protecting the tree.And he never intends to leave it unprotected. Not because of duty but of his own will. That’s why the tree is safer than the one protected by sheer obligation. It’s thanks to him that Saggessphaur was larger and more beautiful than any other sprout of the Star Of Origin.
„Say… what should we do about them?” asked Prank after lying down to rest again. „They’re harmless. They can stay on the moon how long they want for all I care but it won’t earn them any money.”
„That is a problem” confirmed Glass „Hold on, let me check one thing.”
The air around the tree turned a bit grayish; stirred and formed a small loop just next to Prank. From this wind a body of a girl was formed. Moments later, the form gained colors and the wind, however gentle it was, stopped. The girl landed her feet on the ground.
The girl was tall, with a thin body. Her gray hair, curled at its ends, rested at her arms. She was wearing a one-piece short-sleeved dress tinted blue. She tied it around her waist with a belt. She had long, slender legs and was standing barefoot; her pale skin mixing with the deep green of the grass. She smiled gently looking at the man with her blue and green eyes.
These two colors were twirling ever-so-slowly inside each of her pupils. Just like the movement of a rotating planet.
It seemed as if each of her eyes held a world of its own. I imagined it was exactly like that.
Her beauty was stunning. So much, I couldn’t force myself to look away. Her name was Glass. It couldn’t be less accurate than what she really was. The fragile body she showed was only a visage she made for herself. She was not without her own strength. She would show it whenever the need arose, but only then.
I learned very little about her, other than the fact she and Prank share a common past. Whenever we’ve met, I felt like she wanted me to leave her alone. I think it’s not just me. She is warm and cheerful yet at the same time she feels very far away.
I couldn’t dare to ask her the questions I really wanted to ask. She would gladly answer them, I’m sure of it, I just never ask them. Somehow I fear I can break the thin glass with the words alone; the glass being not her, but the faint bond between us.
I would never forgive myself If I were to distant her from myself with my own words. Even my curiosity shared this fear. That’s why I never asked.
— Gibian’s logbook. Character entry: Glass.
She crafted an item out of the air and grabbed it firmly. It was the map of the stars with so many waypoints and different paths marked on them it was hard to even look at. On top of that, it was three-dimensional; the third being the depth of the thick, fussy glass in which the map was drawn.
It seemed impossible to use as normally one could only manage to see the outer layer of the glass. The rest of the picture vanished in the depth of the almost fully opaque glass. And yet, she handled it perfectly, tracing a curve with her fingers acting as a compass. Her fingers were going through the glass, changing their depth as she traced their path. She checked her bearing with the stars, turned around few times to face other parts of the sky and to trace another arc on the map.
„Just as I thought” she announced after a while.
Her voice sounded much more real now and thus was a bit quiet. Not having the wind-like softness from before, she sounded a bit more coarse as well.
It felt this way probably because of the difference between how she sounded before and now. It was, however, enough for Prank to notice. He noticed it every single time he have heard her real voice. If one could call it ‘real’, that is.
„What did you find out?”
„If we stay on this path, we’ll eventually come close to the other Netherworld that’s around this region. I’ve read the info Cheryl sent us. It listed several locations. It mentioned that they all have a common currency. They can earn their repentance on any of them.”
„I see” he closed his eyes. It was as good time as any to go to sleep.
He might as well, he thought, as no one will bother him for a while.
„You know what this means?” she turned around. She made two steps and leaned just above his head. Sensing her closing in, he opened one eye. „This means we will actually help them” she answered her own question happily „We’ll free them from their mistress. They won’t have to pay for their failure.”
„Ah… so they will have a real reason to be thankful then.”
„And you think I was joking when I said it before?” she seemed hurt by his comment.
He looked into rotating pupils of her eyes and smiled. She smiled back at him dropping her knees to the grass beside him. She rest her hands and head on his chest curling up her legs closer. He embraced her sharing his warmth with her.
„Kind of makes you sorry for the one that was sent back to his home, don’t you think?” she asked sounding half-asleep.
„His fault. He volunteered, remember?”
„Right” Glass giggled faintly at this remark.
„Not everyone share the same fortune. He was simply unlucky.”
„Can’t argue with that” she smiled once more.
„You know? We can always change the path and go elsewhere, so the others would be just as unlucky as the first one. Yeah. We should do it like that.”
„Mmmm…” she grunted looking dismayed „…you’re not really that cruel, are you?”
„I can be.”
She stroked his arm with her small hand. He rested his hand on her head. There will be time when they will be forced to head other way. There may be time when they do it on a whim if they wish so. Their journey isn’t bound by the rules as to where should they go and where they should not, so it’s okay for the Horizon to stay along this path a bit longer. If it makes someone even a little bit happier than before… then why not.
With that thought, Prank fell asleep as the moon made his third rotation. This time looking almost half its size than it was before, getting smaller and smaller with every second. It was flying further away from the Horizon only to return later on; closing in from the other side of the planet.
Next time they come near a sun there will be other world on which their planet may land on. It’s hard to say who’ll they meet then. Hopefully someone, who will not explode. Or spontaneously combust. Or die on their own from any other cause.
One can only hope so.
I thought about starting a diary but writing a diary is so childish… so I started a logbook! Sounds more… scientific! Important! Right?
Right! So here goes.
First world that Horizon landed on after exiting The Great Void turned out to be a hell. Literally. A hell. Netherworld, to be precise. Crowded with demons and, to contrast them, cute little blue penguins. Tons of them! Really! And some of them came to visit us! I saw at least twenty while sitting on my tree-house. They talk funny, repeating „dood” on and on. Have I mentioned they are cute? No? They are. Their world, however, is not.
I wasn’t able to gather much information but I learned some bits and pieces. Their ruler is a young, powerful overlord Laharl. He took over the throne after the tragic death of his father. Chocked on a dumpling, or so I’ve heard. Poor kid. Only one thousand three hundred and thirteen years old and already lost his father.
But he’s only half of the trouble. His right hand, the nefarious girl named Etna, is far more dangerous than her master. She tortures these cute little penguins as she pleases, forcing the strangest jobs on them. She even sent them to Horizon to gather some apples! Can you imagine, logbook? Not only she requested a fruit with the Seeds of the Origin, but more than one! How greedy!
‘Looks tasty. Go grab some and make me an apple pie’ was apparently what she shouted at them. You hear that? An apple pie! And she even wouldn’t make it herself! I bet she couldn’t, that’s why. I went ahead and told her she should do it herself! She laughed me off, though. Something about me being two thousand years too young to even dare giving her orders.
She treated me like a small kid, see? And she looks like a kid herself! How dare she! I’m head taller than her! I may be more than a thousand years younger, but I’m not a little girl either!
I hate her. I’ll never get back to this world. Ever. I did marked its position… but I’ll never come back. It’s too hot in there anyway. And it’s inhabitants look so frightful and unfriendly… Oh, well, they can’t help it. They are mostly demons, after all.
The penguins are cute, though.
They call them Prinnies. Sad creatures. There really isn’t anyone who would help them out with all the work they have to do in order to atone for their sins. You know, at first I thought their overlord was cruel, since he treats them like slaves, but he does pay them for their job. In a way he furthers their goals. Unlike Etna. She simply abuses them for fun.
I may make more than one entry about this world seeing as four of the Prinnies are temporarily enjoying their stay on our moon. It’s strange that they choose to stay the moon instead of the Horizon. Oh, well, maybe they like it better out there? I’ll probably visit them with some questions later.
Though I’ll have to start with apology in the name of Prank, who blow one of them up. Such an odd feature they inhibit, these Prinnies. No wonder that Etna sometimes blows bunch of them just to marvel at this strange phenomena. I must admit I had an urge to try it out myself… though I resisted. I wouldn’t bear to harm any of those cuties.
I never saw Laharl trying it either. When compared to Etna, the overlord of this Netherworld could be called a kind one. A kind ruler. At least that’s what one of his friends, a fallen angel Flonne, told me. She was kind too. I guess there are few people worth visiting once more in this world. I’ll have to rethink it sometime later.
I wonder when our next stop will be? We’ve spend such a long time in The Great Void that I would really like our next encounter to come quicker. I’ve accumulated so much energy I’d burst into flame if I don’t spend it all!
Gotta find something to do! Gotta find something to do!
I know! I’ll talk to Glass. We’ll compose the list of best paths to take from our next crossroad. It’ll be fun.
I always enjoy swimming in the sea of possibilities.
Until next time, then!
Gibian’s logbook. First entry.
World: Netherworld from Disgaea
(Makai Senki Disgaea universe, Nippon Ichi Software. Prinnie picture courtesy of Disgaea wiki: http://disgaea.wikia.com/wiki/Prinny)
Residents: Prinnies, demons, overlord Laharl, demon lord Etna, fallen angel Flonne.
Horizon visited by Prinnies. Sustained minor damage to the surface of the moon.
No influence on Horizon.
No influence on Horizon’s path.
Horizon’s spectrum: slight shift to the blue side. Still missing huge spectrum of green and blue. Still oversaturated with red.
World threat: 2/10. Hostile but harmless. Handful inhabitants pose any threat.
Encounter threat: 0/10. Prinnies are harmless.
3/10 when encountering Flonne.
6/10 when encountering Laharl or Etna.
Horizon’s hyperlink — Gibian Fringe