Part 24: Belch Harder
Part 22: Belch Harder
With our massive companion, we trudged through the desert toward the swamp that would lead us to the Deep Darkness. Just as the shore came into view, however, we ran into trouble.
: "I can't move. Well...I guess that's okay. Ness, you guys are going to have to get the submarine out from here."
Fortunately we were nearby a small canal where we could set the submarine in the water and drive through the swamp. Together, we hauled the submarine out of the dungeon and splashed it into the water. We climbed in, and Jeff began to pilot the submarine through the murky water.
Soon, we couldn't see out of the portholes. The water had quickly turned thick and darkened to a deep brownish-black color. The submarine slowed to a crawl as it sloshed through the swamp.
: "Jeez...good thing we didn't try to swim across this or anything."
Jeff was silent. He seemed extremely focused on controlling the sub. I started to feel kinda bad about Jeff. Being the only one who knew anything about machinery or electronics, he always got roped into doing things like piloting helicopters and flying saucers, not to mention fixing everything in sight. Then we all put ourselves in whatever he had fixed or was piloting and just assumed it would be fine. He must be under a lot of pressure, with our lives being in his hands more or less constantly.
Finally, after a very tense half-hour or so, we felt the bottom of the sub scrape along the floor of the swamp. We surfaced, opened the hatch, and peered outside. The air was thick and humid, and a stagnant odor wafted across the swamp, which was shrouded in darkness. Monkeys scampered here and there, swinging through the trees or traipsing through the overgrown weeds.
: "Amazing. This place is absolutely primeval. I can only ponder what kinds of life forms we'll encounter in a place like this."
: "I doubt you'll have to ponder for very long. We're probably going to be fighting them off in droves..."
We began to wade in the thick swampy waters as we pressed into the Deep Darkness. Before long, we were sloshing almost waist-deep in the thick muck, and it was so dark we couldn't see a foot in front of us.
: "Ness, this is crazy! We can't get through the swamp like this."
She was right. I took the hawk eye out of my backpack, wondering how this was supposed to work. The hieroglyph had said that one with the hawk eye could pierce the darkness...I was starting to wonder if it was just a metaphor, when the hawk eye began to glow.
It quickly escalated into a blinding beacon of bright light. The last of the shadows receded, and we could see the swamp laid out before us. The light from the hawk eye faded and I stowed it back in my backpack.
The light helped a bit, but it didn't change the fact that most of the Deep Darkness was deep, nearly impassible muck. We trudged through, making very little headway and getting filthy in the process. As we sloshed through I noticed slight ripples and movements in the water around us. We were not alone.
: "Something's in here with us..."
: "...I don't see anything...YAAAAHH!"
Paula suddenly yelled out in pain and jerked backwards, nearly falling over in the sludge. I grabbed her quickly and noticed she was shaking.
: "What happened?! Are you alright?!"
: "S-something shocked me...I'm alright, it just freaked me out."
We found the culprits, a pair of beady-eyed eels crackling with electricity. We had to dispatch them with psychic attacks, as the muck slowed us down way too much to dodge them or attack with our weapons.
Moving on, we found a bit of dry land at last. Here, huge, colorful plants had blossomed among the overgrown tangle of plants at the base of the thick trees. We were sitting for a moment, resting and eating some of the bean croquettes from earlier, when one of the plants sprung to life and whipped at us threateningly with its vines.
Of course, it was just a flower after all, and we beat into submission rather quickly.
We hadn't bothered cleaning the sludge off our feet and legs, because immediately we were back to wading in the thick swamp.
Suddenly, we caught a glimpse of something yellow and shiny in the distance up ahead. We trudged our way up to it, and realized what it was.
: "...It's Monotoli's helicopter."
: "So that means..."
: "Pokey has been here."
: "It looks like he crashed...D'you think he's...?"
: "No, there's nobody in here. If he was hurt, he wasn't hurt bad enough to keep him going. I don't see any footprints, either."
: "The helicopter's scrap, though...the motor is missing."
: "So what...He crashed his helicopter and then stripped the motor?"
: "Looks like it. I doubt there's anyone he could sell it to around here, either...so who knows what he's thinking."
: "It can't be anything good for us, that's for sure."
We managed to stay on dry land for a little bit longer, fighting off a few more carnivorous plants amid the bright greenery along the way. At this point, we had been trudging through the swamp for hours, and we were all pretty tired. We were also a little worried about getting stuck in the swamp overnight. It was starting to get dark already.
Gradually, we became aware of the swamp getting thicker, the muck at the bottom getting stickier, and our feet took a little longer to pry up each time we set them down. Our feet were now making thick sucking sounds as they rose up out of the gooey floor below.
: "Ugh, it's getting really nasty..."
: "The smell's getting worse, too. It's weird, it smells kinda familiar."
Eventually we were slowed to a crawl as we laboriously yanked our feet out of the muck and inched forward. Soon after that, we were completely stuck.
: "I...I can't move."
: "Me either. What now?"
And then, bubbles began to erupt up from the water a few feet in front of us. A horrible odor, the worst one so far, started to rise from the water. A low, rumbling laugh started echoing from somewhere. Then the water broke, and the laughter burst out loud and clear. Rising slowly from the murky waters, laughing mockingly at us, was Master Belch.
: "Wa ha ha ha ha! I knew you wouldn't forget me, Ness...Buuuuuuuuurp! I'm the return of Belch! After my defeat, I came to this swamp to train for a rematch. This swamp is the origin of all slime on this planet! Ba ha ha ha ha! Also...You can call me "Barf" now...I have become more powerful than you can imagine! Barf! vomit! barf, barf! chuck! chuck! Drown to death in puke! Don't you think that's an incredibly masculine taunt to throw at you?"
I went to lunge at him, but my feet were still held in place in the muck and I nearly fell over.
: "Hyorg, hyorg, hyorg! Oh yes, you might have noticed how hard it is to walk around here...I have spread my puke out through the entire swamp to trap you...Now, I'll smother you in vomit!"
I felt the goo locking my feet in place start to rise. It was approaching my knees. Belch grinned maliciously. If he thought we were going down this easily, he was very mistaken.
: "You're not the only one who's gotten stronger..."
I fired a burst of psychic energy at him. It buffeted him around but his gelatinous shape reformed. Paula did the same, and even as a blast of psychic fire caused his gooey hide to bubble and sizzle, he was laughing at us. Jeff's explosives met with similar failure. He absorbed the bursts into his body and seemingly wasn't hurt at all. Things were looking really bad, considering the muck was now up to our stomachs and still rising.
Suddenly a shape appeared overhead. A figure dropped down from the sky and landed with a splash beside us. It was Poo!
: "Poo! Look out, don't get your feet stuck, or you'll get dragged under!"
: "It doesn't matter how many of you there are...Gyarg! You'll find your final resting place here in this swamp!"
: "I don't think so, monster. Taste the power of the Starstorm!"
Poo's voice echoed as he unleashed his new ability on Belch. It was an amazing spectacle as dozens of blinding stars shot from Poo's outstretched hands and bombarded Belch with amazing force. His laughter quickly turned to howls of agony as he was blasted apart, bit by bit, by the exploding starstorm.
Boss Battle: Master Barf
When all of the shimmering stars had popped and fizzled out, Belch was obliterated, and our feet were free again. We all ran to Poo and threw our arms around him in joy.
: "Poo! That was amazing! You saved our butts, big time!"
: "I am only sorry I did not arrive sooner. My training was rigorous indeed, but under the guidance of the Star Master, I have finally learned the way of the starstorm. I am honored to return to you."
: "Great! Good to have you back, buddy!"
: "Oh yes! I remembered something. While in Dalaam for my training, I think I found the answer to that strange key we discovered in the big city some time ago."
: "Oh, you mean that carrot-shaped key?"
: "Yes. There is a cave in my country, a very sacred place, and it's being blocked by statues of rabbits. I think the carrot key is the way to get past them."
: "I...guess that makes sense. Um, before we go back, though, we should really try to find a place to rest. I really don't want to teleport back here and have to navigate the entire swamp again. Let's find our way out of here first."
And so, reunited with Poo, we continued our journey through the swamp.
Belch must have been waiting for us at the tail end of the swamp, because we only had to walk for about an hour or so to reach solid ground, where a dark cave was waiting in the cool gray rock wall.
Inside, we saw dozens of...people? They were small, green beings, with little thin arms and small, wide eyes that seemed to dart around reluctant to meet ours.
All of the little beings seemed to blush and scatter throughout the cave, hiding behind various objects, only to peek out at us a moment later.
: "Poor little things...Come on, we won't hurt you. Come out and say hello!"
The little guys weren't moving. We walked up to one and could just barely hear it mutter under its breath...
Stepping further into the cave we could see the little green people had a whole village set up in the cave, even a hot spring.
: "Do you mind if we use the hot spring here? We're covered in muck from the swamp..."
The little people simply averted their gaze and kind of shuffled their feet on the ground a little. I decided to take that as a 'no', and so we washed our feet and legs off in the refreshing hot spring waters.
Exploring their cavernous village, we were approached by one of the little guys who didn't seem to have a problem with talking to us.
: "Hey, you guys. Welcome to the Tenda Village. You know there's only one Tenda who's not shy. It's me, bubby!"
: "Well, pleased to meet you. I'm Ness."
: "You know, we don't usually get visitors out here. That's why the Tenda moved to this remote location...to avoid people. They're that shy!"
: "Yeah, I guess not many people travel all the way through the swamp, huh?"
: "Nope, you're the first ones so far that I've seen. Hey, you wanna know something cool? Underground, there's a big cave. Past the cave, there's a whole other world inside, full of dinosaurs and a weird, talking rock!"
: "It's the Lost Underworld!"
: "You've gotta show us how to get there!"
: "Whoa, settle down there, champ! Yeah, we were all scared of the dinosaurs, so we put a huge rock over the entrance. The only problem is, the only Tenda strong enough to move the rock is way too shy to do it. Why you guys wanna go down there anyway?"
: "It's kind of a long story, but we're trying to save the world."
: "Well...I guess that's pretty important. Anyway, you'll have to find some way to overcome his shyness, because he's the only one who can move the rock."
Dejected, we thanked the talkative Tenda and stepped outside. We were about to teleport away when the receiver phone rang.
: "Hey, Apple Kid, what's up?"
: "Hey Ness, not much. I'm at Dr. Andonuts' lab in Winters right now, I was wondering if you'd seen the good doctor recently?"
: "Um, no, not for a while."
: "He doesn't seem to be around here anywhere...Oh well, I'll just work on my Eraser eraser machine until he gets back...Hey! Oh no! What...what are you doing to me?!"
: "What's wrong? Who's there?"
: "Who are you?!"
Suddenly the line went dead.
: "What now?"
: "I think Apple Kid is in trouble! He was at your dad's lab in Winters, but your dad wasn't there. Then someone came in and attacked him!"
: "My dad...? He never leaves his lab, why wouldn't he be there?"
Before I could respond, the phone rang again.
: "Hey, Ness, I haven't talked to you in ages! This is Orange Kid."
: "Who? Oh, Orange Kid...Look, now's not really..."
: "Apple Kid seems to be missing. He left Twoson saying he was going to see Dr. Andonuts in Winters. He was supposed to lend me the book "Overcoming Shyness" before he left, but he just disappeared! Have you seen him?"
Not bothering to respond, I hung up.
: "We've got to get to Winters!"
Next time: Ness storms the Stonehenge base! Don't miss it!