The Let's Play Archive

Mother 3

by Maple Leaf

Part 25: Chapter 20

Guys I'm going to abandon this LP now.

Admit it, I totally had you going.

Just outside the Chimera Lab, Salsa's monkey friend - judging by the bow in its hair, he could only guess it was a girl - took the lead and began chirping at them to follow.

She went east, back towards the little pond separating the Chimera Lab from the ropeway. Salsa jumped ahead, grabbing Lucas by the wrist and insisting on following his friend. He wasn't sure which way the Needle was, but as long as the Pigmasks didn't have Salsa and his friend, they couldn't get to it themselves, so that was something of a victory.

She travelled north once they got to the lake, and Salsa dragged Lucas along behind her, until they got to a large stone wall. A gray wall, separated into two air-tight pieces sitting snugly between a pair of hills, blocked their path to whatever was guarding it. It was dressed with a number of symbols all across it, of a person dancing and contorting itself into a number of positions, like a dance.

Lucas recalled seeing something like this out of the corner of his memory, but he didn't remember where or when. Salsa, apparently, remembered it very clearly, and immediately burst into a flurry of chirps and clicks at the wall, jumping excitedly in front of it, trying to push him and Boney away to give himself some room.

Salsa stood in front of the wall for a moment as all the eyes were on him. He looked at it sternly - it had been a long time since he had performed the same dance, and he allowed himself a minute to study the drawings and recall the exact movements and patterns. When he was ready, he stood up straight, and, much to Lucas's amusement, started dancing.

Lucas had no idea what the motivation was behind the dance, but, unexpectedly, the wall dropped into the ground, allowing them to pass. The dance was the key to opening it. He turned to his dog, bewildered that Salsa even knew that would work to begin with.

Just beyond the wall was an open clearing, protected on all sides by mossy hills. The grass was fairly well trimmed compared to the unruly grass of just behind the door, and sitting in the back of the clearing was another large conch shell, with windows on its sides and a large door on its front, just like the one Aeolia had. In front of the 'house' were too enormous pits, framing the path from the wall to the house. The one on the right was bone dry and totally featureless except for a simple ladder chiselled out of the dirt; the one on the left was otherwise a completely ordinary pool of water...

...with a single light shining below its surface. He didn't know what could have been giving off such a radiant glow, but he knew whoever was living in the shell would.

He approached the door, knocking on it twice before showing himself in. Inside, the decor was largely purple and barren. It had a bed on the right, a table on the left, and a doormat - nothing else. No curtains for the windows, or rugs, or anything. Whoever lived there was very minimalistic.

Standing at the back wall was who he had expected to be there - another Magypsy, although unlike Ionia and Aeolia, there were very little feminine features to this one. It was very round and bulky, wearing overalls with no shirt and a small, flat hat with fashionable sunglasses. Its red hair was braided, and it wore the same ruby-red lipstick as the others, though; and it was as unshaven as its friends.

He had no expected the person with the Magypsy to be there, though, although he was certainly happy to see her.

"Kumatora!" he yelped, surprised and elated to see her, and without a scratch on her. Without thinking about it, he quickly leapt forward, embracing Kumatora affectionately to show how relieved he was to see her alright.

"Hey, there, kid, calm down," she laughed, returning the hug. "I'm happy to see you too, but c'mon, I'm no good at the mushy stuff, alright?" Lucas giggled, releasing her and stepping back. That sure sounded like the Kumatora he knew. Once he let go, she spotted something in the corner of her eye, and turned to face the two monkeys that had followed him in.

I didn't even know you were alive! It's a relief to see you're up an' at 'em!" Salsa chirped, happy to see her as much as she was to him. "And I finally get to meet your love-bug, too!" she laughed, stepping in front of Salsa's girlfriend and bending at the knees to meet her, reaching out with a calm hand. "Hey there, beautiful."

The girl monkey wasn't used to humans and could barely put up with Lucas himself - she had been in the Pigmask's captivity for the past three years, and her experience was not a friendly one. Once Kumatora got too close, she immediately ducked and took shelter behind Salsa.

"Oh my!" the Magypsy said. Unlike Ionia and Aeolia, who mostly spoke practically in falsetto, this larger one spoke many octaves lower than Bronson. It was the deepest, most manly voice he ever heard. "What adorable visitors! Kumatora, you're the popular one; introduce me to your cute-as-a-button friends, would you?" It finished its sentence by brushing its hand over its braid elegantly; glitter practically showered down from its fingers as it swished the braid over its shoulder.

She turned to the monkeys first. "This is Salsa and his 'Love Monkey'," she explained. "We met three years ago, when some screw-up called Fassad introduced his sorry-self to Tazmily. I dunno the girl-monkey's story past her being kidnapped, but Salsa had to put up with Fassad and his abuse for the entire time until we set him free." She furrowed her brow at Salsa. "He ran off once we rescued him, before we had a chance to help him with his girl problems. I hadn't seen him since then. Just a fool in love, I guess."

She turned to Lucas. "The blonde-haired pretty-boy's name is Lucas. It was thanks to him and his pet Drago that we even managed to rescue Salsa in the first place. He can use PSI, just like me. We stayed in touch for a little bit, but I had to disappear when I heard some rumours about Club Titiboo. We only got all caught up the day before yesterday."

She turned towards Boney, to finish her introductions. "And the dog's name is..." She stuttered, suddenly put on the spot. She remembered Duster calling the dog something just before they were all separated, but before that...nobody had called him anything for her to know what his name was. "Uh..." She quickly stepped up to Lucas, whispering in his ear for a moment, and he whispered back before she continued.

"Boney the dog!" she finished. "Boney's his name, yes-siree. Won't find a dog more loyal than Boney, nope. He'd follow Lucas to the ends of the islands, that Boney, he's such a character!"

The Magypsy stepped forward, its wide frame practically splitting the air around it as it walked, approaching Lucas. "You say he can use PSI?" it asked, leaning down to get a better look at him. He knew the Magypsies were friends, but he couldn't help but feel apprehensive. This one was just so huge.

My name is Doria, sugar," it said, extending a large, kind (though a little sweaty) hand. Lucas shook it warmly, trying to hide his near-reflexive apprehension. "And Ionia's filled me in on the whole situation. So I know you're here to pull my Needle."

Lucas looked away. He was essentially here to end Doria's life, for the greater good, or so he was told, and the reminder about it was pretty glum. "Yeah."

"Don't look so glum!" it chastised, walking past him and Boney briskly. "Come with me, and I'll show you where it is. There's no problem, really! I'm looking forward to it!"

Kumatora waited for Doria to leave before she asked Lucas her question. "What was that, Lucas? Doria mentioned the Needle an' suddenly you look like you just drank some bad milk."

Lucas looked to the door, to make sure Doria was away, before answering. "Pulling the Needle means...killing the Magypsy guarding it," he said softly. "If I do this, Doria will disappear."

Rather than reel back in shock or surprise like he had expected, Kumatora simply hummed in thought. "Why do you hafta pull it? Has one been pulled already?"

"Yeah. Aeolia's Needle was pulled earlier this afternoon. It's a big, long story about...dragons and fates and destinies, and good versus evil, and, you know."

That caused her to react. "Aeolia's gone?" she asked, sounding hurt for the first time since Lucas knew her. "You're not pullin' my leg?"

He thought she would want him to expand on the reasons behind the Needles, not who was guarding them, so he was caught a little off-guard. "No. We were just as surprised when it happened."

She lowered her head, resting her forehead in her right palm for a moment, saying nothing. "Man, Aeolia..." she sighed. "She taught me all I know about PSI. She was the closest to Osohe and she'd visit me a lot when I was a kid. It''s a bummer to hear she's gone." Lucas said nothing while Kumatora offered her silent respects. With no sniffles or quick breaths, Lucas assumed she wasn't crying - a tomboy to the end. "Well, speakin' of fates an' all that," she said, collecting herself again, "Doria was the one that rescued me from Thunder Tower after Fassad blew it up.

He said a pretty woman dressed in red came to him in one of his dreams, saying that I'd fall into his pool at this date at this hour, yadda yadda. Just in case you were curious." Without giving him an opportunity to ask anything more, she left the conch shell, joining Doria outside. Salsa's girlfriend soon followed, almost eagerly - like it wanted to console Kumatora, realizing that something was wrong. Lucas, Boney and Salsa, with nothing left to do in the shell, soon followed.

"Well, you took your sweet time!" Doria called light-heartedly once Lucas finally came out of its house. "Get over here and look at this little pond, here." Lucas obeyed, stepping up beside Doria as they looked over the pit filled with water just in front of its house.

I made it so my Needle would be a bit tougher to pull out," it giggled. "Just in case I didn't like who was doing the pulling. But you don't have to worry about that, Lucas, you're a-okay in my book." They all turned to the empty pit just beside the pool. "But still, it's hard to believe a little sweety-pie like you has the power to pull the Needles. Not that I'm saying you're weak, of course! I was just expecting someone older, and bigger, and..." Doria hummed decadently. "Burlier, with a big, bushy beard...and a very woodsy smell...and the biggest-"

"Doria," Kumatora snapped. "Focus."

"Oh, right!" it squealed meekly. "I'm sorry, I got a little carried away! But you're right. Lucas, darling, before you can even pull the Needle,

"And how do we do that?" he asked to Doria.

"I dunno!" it laughed, shrugging its shoulders. "I didn't design my awesome defence system with the thought that I'd ever need to undo it, to be honest."

Lucas couldn't help but laugh with Doria a little. "How about I just...swim down and pull it underwater?"

"Oh, no no!" Doria cried seriously. "No, you can't do that! When you pull the Needle, Lucas, you'll feel this huge amount of power try to push you down, into the hole the Needle just opened. If you're under the water when that happens, you won't be able to get back up! You'll drown!"

Lucas looked to the pool on the left. He would have done it, if Doria hadn't warned him. "But not all hope is lost!" it continued.

I'm sure it's got something that can help us move the water here. They're a fancy, big, science-y building, so they're bound to have something, right?"

He groaned; he wasn't exactly looking forward to going back to the Chimera Lab so soon. "Do I...have to? Go back there, I mean?" Salsa understood what they were saying, and he chirped and mumbled in his monkey talk, making his own objections known.

"I'm afraid there's not really a choice, cutie. We have to move the water somehow, right?"

"I...guess so." He could probably find something in Tazmily, but it was a long way back and there probably wasn't anything large enough to move entire pools of water like that. The memories of the Ultimate Chimera still fresh (and the spit it roared into his hair), he reluctantly began walking back to the Chimera Lab. Hopefully, he'd just be in and out.

The small pond just in front of the stone door protecting Doria's place was alive with another imaginative chimera cross between dogs and fish, with apparently some rooster thrown in. Although he doubted anything could come close to matching the horse/tarantula breed in sheer craziness.

The Chimera Lab looked no less unassuming the second time than the first - aside from a large hole in the building's west wing. A bald-headed man wearing a lab coat was standing just outside its front door, walking briskly away from it and towards Lucas. "Hey there, lad," Doctor Andonuts called. "You forget something in there?"

"What happened to the place?" Lucas responded, looking right at the damage past Andonuts - and noting another Pigmask body lying helplessly in front of it.

"Don't mind the soldier, lad, he's just being dramatic." Unlike the other ones in the laboratory, this one's suit wasn't ripped and its helmet hasn't been punctured, although it still looked like a far-cry from good health. "There's no problem. The Ultimate Chimera certainly hasn't escaped and torn right through the wire fence. Whatever gave you that ghastly idea?"

Lucas looked at Andonuts quickly, then back to the surrounding forest. It had escaped?! The Ultimate Chimera was running wild out there somewhere?! "No need to worry, my boy," Andonuts said lightly. "The damage was simply caused by a pipeline bursting in the foundation. Just a little plumbing error, nothing to get a riled up over."

Lucas didn't believe him for a moment. "A broken pipe did all this?!"

"That's what I've been told to say. So, what brings you back here? Must have been pretty important." Aside from the broken fence and the massive wall going into the building, Lucas didn't see any signs of the Ultimate Chimera anywhere - no footsteps or torn trees or loud roars off in the distance. He wasn't too certain what to believe with Andonuts, but then again, who would turn the Ultimate Chimera back on?

"Well, um," Lucas started. Now his nerves were all shot. "I need something that can move a lot of water really fast, and I was hoping the Chimera Lab might have something to help."

What on earth could possess you to need something like that?"

Lucas wasn't totally sure how he could have worded it correctly. "It's...important, is all I can really say. Very important."

Andonuts leaned forward, looking hard into Lucas's eyes. "I believe myself to be a good judge of character," he announced, "and your eyes tell me that you're trustworthy, if a little secretive.

I've learned a very valuable life lesson about helping others in need many years ago. From a boy maybe a year older than you or so, actually." He stood back up, turning back to the lab. "I need to get away from this place as quickly as I can, but I can still pull enough strings to get you what you need. I'll be right back." Andonuts dashed back into the Chimera Lab, intent on getting what he was getting as quickly as possible, leaving Lucas outside.

Lucas looked around the forest surrounding the Chimera Lab while he waited, his dog Boney and his old friend Salsa keeping him company. The local wildlife - as 'local' as it was - wasn't aggressive at a distance, apparently content with Lucas being out of their territory. But every time he glanced at an ostrelephant or a batgutang just a stone's throw away, he was reminded of how the Ultimate Chimera could have been anywhere out there, just waiting, stalking.

He was about to head back to Doria's place, to at least get Kumatora to wait with him so he could calm himself a little, when Andonuts re-emerged from the Chimera Lab, with a number of incredible animals following behind him. Somehow, almost magically, they all managed to fit through the front door, when two of them were nearly as large as the building itself.

I've brought several of the chimeras I've been developing in secret," he told, looking over his 'collection'. A massive, bluish-purplish elephant thing with a grilled nose and small, leathery wings; two small human-like boys that looked absolutely identical; and a larger, yellow-and-red-striped giraffe with a massive nose and a puffy mane on its head. "Take whichever you think is most useful to you," he offered.

The elephant-thing and the giraffe-like were a little imposing for their size, but they might have been able to get the job done faster. "What do they even do?" Lucas asked.

"I'm glad you asked, my boy!" the scientist replied happily, gleeful that he could demonstrate his genius for the first time. "Take a look at this first one. I called it a 'Dryguy'.

It can dry anything in mere moments! Long hair, afros, underwear, Asian beauties, you name it! It'll be drier than your grandpa's complexion."

It sounded like just the thing Lucas was looking for, but he had just one question. "What's an 'Asian'?"

"That's a story for another time," Andonuts dodged. "You want to give the Dryguy a shot?"

He looked over the massive beast again, looking into its grilled nose. The grills were actually flesh, not steel, even though it apparently ran with a jet engine. Even if it couldn't dry up the pool, it might be able to simply blow it away. "Sure, I'll try it."

"Excellent!" Andonuts seemed just so pleased that he had finally gotten his secret experiments to work for the first time. "Lead the way, lad! I'll stay here to look after my babies."

Thankfully, it wasn't a very long walk, since the Dryguy waddled and lumbered very laboriously. It took a moment, but they managed to walk it just around the pond and to Doria's without much trouble. Doria in particular seemed absolutely thrilled to see it.

Lucas approached the Dryguy sensitively, placing a hand on its snout and pointing it at the water. "Dryguy," he said, talking and acting as he was instructed. "Dry this pond, please."

It followed its instruction seamlessly, following Lucas's finger to the large pool of water beside it and immediately went to work, digging its tail into the ground for stability.

Doria was practically enchanted with the Dryguy and how it diligently went away at simply blowing hot air at the water's surface. Kumatora was sceptical, however - and after fifteen minutes with no visible change to the water level (besides a constant ripple), Lucas was beginning to have his doubts.

"Just let him work a moment longer!" Doria insisted. "Things of beauty take time. I should know!" They relented at first, but after another ten minutes, Kumatora began to get impatient.

"Take it back, Lucas," she said. "Try somethin' different." Lucas was normally fairly patient himself, but he agreed. There just wasn't anything happening for them to get to the Needle. He approached it and calmed it down just like Andonuts had instructed, and uneventfully walked it back to the Chimera Lab. The Dryguy seemed depressed, constantly glancing back at the pool as they left Doria's, reluctant to be beaten by the first thing it couldn't dry.

Andonuts hadn't moved from his spot, though his nose was buried in a notebook, scribbling in it a mile a minute. He only looked up when he heard the thunderous footsteps of the heavy Dryguy approaching. "Ah, lad!" he called, ringing the pencil through the notebook's spine and placing it in his coat pocket. "How was it? I trust it was a success?"

Lucas shook his head. "Not even close." Andonuts' shoulders immediately slumped at the news, bewildered: he was certain it would work.

He walked the Dryguy back to its spot, looking over the three remaining chimeras. Two of them were identical human-like boys - one of them looked courageous and determined, but the other one constantly hid in its shadow, too shy to step forward. "What are these ones?"

"Those are the Bucket Brothers.

They work as hard as any Clayman you've seen, and they're just as human as...well, a human! If the Dryguy didn't get it done, then I'm positive these boys will have it done with gusto."

Lucas wasn't sure. If they worked as hard as any other Clayman, then they would probably get it done - it was just their size that was holding him back. He wasn't fully-grown, himself, and they only stood up to his chest. "I guess I'll give them a shot."

"And trust me, boy, you won't regret it!" answered Andonuts. "Derry and Ryder!" Immediately, both the Bucket Brothers looked up and towards their 'father'. "Follow this boy, and do whatever he needs you to do! It shouldn't be too hard."

They both warmed up to Lucas once they were given their instructions, much like how he knew Claymen operated. Another brisk walk to Doria's property, and the Bucket Brothers went to work.

Doria was just as enthusiastic about them as it was for the Dryguy, occasionally cheering them on and letting them know that they were doing good work. But after twenty minutes of them just going back and forth, taking cupfuls of water with each swig, there was no real change to the water level in either pit. All of the water thrown into the empty one just seeped into the dirt and disappeared.

Lucas stopped them after a while longer, and like the Dryguy, they seemed confused and disheartened when they were brought back to the Chimera Lab with the job only half done.

"I don't know what to tell you, lad," Andonuts said solemnly, looking over his three prized creations. "Those were the best bets I had to offer. If they couldn't do it, then...well, jeez, I don't know what will."

"How about this last one?" Lucas offered, standing in front of the giraffe. After two failed attempts already, he wasn't especially optimistic, but getting to the Needle was a priority, and anything that could be done would help.

Andonuts, however, winced when Lucas offered to try the last chimera. "That one, huh.

It's an extraordinarily ordinary creature that's really only useful when you need to transfer something from someplace to another place immediately nearby. Like..." He sputtered. "I don't know. Pond water into a ditch or something?"

"You sound so bored about your own chimera," Lucas remarked.

"Yeah, it's just, I don't know what I was thinking when I made this thing. It's just so uninteresting, and it has too specific a purpose, you know?" Andonuts sighed, looking up at the creature. It apparently didn't take offense. "I can't really promise anything if you try this one, but if you really want, I'll lend it to you."

Lucas didn't know if he was actually making any jokes or not, but he played along. "I guess. We tried everything else."

Although Andonuts seemed sincerely concerned over the success of the pump chimera, Lucas made the walk from the laboratory to Doria's place once more with the long-necked beast in tow. Doria seemed easy to please; it was just as enthusiastic about the pump chimera as it was the other two.

With a careful bit of prodding and the chimera watching where it placed its own four feet, it turned sideways and went to work, stuffing its long snout into the water and greedily sucking the water down its long neck.

And, grossly, out the other end. Unlike the other three chimeras, the results from this one going to work were immediate and drastic: after the first two or three pumps, the water level began to visibly drain and empty through the creature's body and out its tail, gushing it all into the second pit. "More! Do more!" Doria cheered, getting girlishly excited at seeing the chimera accomplish its job so well.

"Hey, Doria," Kumatora interrupted. "Calm yourself a little, huh? You're dancin' an' prancin' like you just won the lottery or somethin'."

"Oh, my dear, you don't understand!" insisted Doria, resuming its happy dancing and squealing. "I haven't seen my Needle in so many years. This is such a big deal for me! After so many years of waiting, someone is finally going to pull my Needle!"

"Lucas says that pullin' Needles means makin' Magypsies disappear. An' you're okay with that?" Lucas was watching the pump chimera work with rapt attention, but he had overheard Kumatora's question, and his shoulders immediately slumped.

Doria stopped its dancing at once, eyeing Kumatora with a bit more understanding. "Oh, is this about me and vanishing, sugar? Are you going to miss me when I'm gone?"

"I miss Aeolia," she answered without missing a beat.

"Oh, my dear girl," Doria began, almost apologetically. "Aeolia was a good friend of mine. We're all pretty close, really. And we always knew this time would come - we just didn't know when, so we made every meeting like it was our last one. If it's any consolation, Kumatora, then I promise you, Aeolia left with no regrets at all. I know I won't."

Kumatora wasn't good at showing her sensitive side, and felt awkward in their conversation. "I don't think I woulda left Osohe if I knew Aeolia was gonna just...up an' disappear like that. I didn't even get to say my farewells."

"Hey, now, don't talk like that," responded Doria, getting stern. "Aeolia would have wanted you to make new friends, see the world, and help cutie-pie Lucas save it. We've waited for generations for a person that can pull the Needles and rescue the world from whatever danger is threatening it, and if Lucas didn't get to Aeolia's Needle, then it's definitely in danger. Aeolia may be gone, but she needs you now more than ever, sugar, and you can get a lot more done if you're not busy regretting your what-ifs."

They were cut off by the sound of the water trickling down into the new pit, and the confident stomps of the pump chimera swaggering away. The water had been transferred successfully. "Thanks for the pep talk, I guess," said Kumatora, though she didn't face Doria. "I guess you might be right."

"Don't mention it, darling." Doria turned away and looked into the newly opened pit: the glimmering Needle protruding from its floor, emitting a dazzling light everywhere as it sat spiked into the earth. "We only exist to protect the Needles until 'the time' has come. And when 'the time' comes, they no longer need protecting, so we no longer need existing. We Magypsies have lived our lives so we can happily accept that fate when the time comes, so none of us have any regrets about our fates."

"And you cheer up too, Lucas," it commanded, resting a hand on his shoulder. "Come on! With this, we'll be tied with the bad guys! This is an awesome moment right here! We don't need to make it so depressing, do we?"

Lucas looked down the pit and to the Needle. It looked more like so kind of weird sword with no hilt, but two handles on its bottom to grip. Just like the other pit, there was a convenient ladder chiselled into the dirt for him to climb, though it had eroded more than a little bit with all the time it spent in the water. "I guess I'll...pull it now," he stuttered. Ever since three years ago, it was difficult to imagine any death at all, even with Doria's obvious acceptance with it.

"Hey, now, mister," Doria said, stopping Lucas before he could, and kneeling down to meet him. "You're not going anywhere until I see a smile on that face of yours. Got it?"

He hadn't known Doria for very long, but the way it, and all the Magypsies for that matter, were always so upbeat even in the face of their own personal oblivion, was something of a pick-me-up. He put on his best smile. "That's more like it. Now go get it, tiger."

With that out of the way, Lucas carefully climbed himself down the dirt ladder, into the soggy, soft mud of the pit below. The 'rungs' of the ladder all melded into his fingers and sank with his pressure, and immediately upon standing on the bottom, he sank up to his calves.

The light the Needle emanated shone in his eyes, giving off a bright illumination to the surrounding walls. He felt nothing coming from the object - he anticipated that he could feel some kind of incredible energy or something, akin to what he normally felt whenever he got a new PSI trick, or something - but he felt nothing. At least, not yet.

Doria joined Lucas down in the pit, eagerly awaiting Lucas, the boy chosen to pull them for their places (or, at least one of the boys), to pull its own, and Boney and the monkeys gathered around the pit's rim, patiently watching the scene unfold below them. "To tell the honest truth," it sighed, "I'm not totally positive if I should be happy, or terrified."

Lucas looked away from the Needle. "Do you not want me to?"

"Of course I want you to. I'm sorry, I meant, whether I should be happy or terrified for everybody else. I'm not the least bit afraid to see it gone for myself, but for the planet at large." Unexpectedly, Doria began to dance on the spot giddily once again. "But on the other, it's finally time! I've waited soooooo long!

Kumatora followed after Doria, landing in the pit and immediately dirtying her dress as she sank into the mud nearly a foot. If whatever this thing was important enough for Aeolia to actually want it gone it regardless of the consequences, she wanted to see it up close.

Lucas looked into the Needle as best as he could through its shimmering light. He stepped forward, looking over the hilt of the Needle, and, with a deep breath, he gently gripped it by the two wings it had at its top.

He expected it to pull back and resist his tugs, but when he had a firm grip on both the wings, it seemed to practically fly out on its own.

It was all exactly as he remembered it at Aeolia's. The flashing lights; the loud rumbling; the deep, constant heartbeat; and, most spectacularly, the enormous white flash at the very end. He hadn't expected the huge cloud of smoke to burst from the ground the way it had, and at the very end, he felt an enormous force try to push him down. It was as though someone had brought their hands to his upper back and roughly shoved him to the ground, forcing him to his knees, into the mud and into the new hole he had just opened below.

He struggled and winced, trying to stand himself back up underneath the invisible pressure. Boney barked; the monkeys began to chirp worriedly, already excited from the whole display; and Kumatora reached out - she didn't feel anything, and suddenly it looked as though Lucas was in pain. She wanted to help him stand back up, but Doria, already beginning to fade from existence, grabbed her by the wrist and stopped her.

It lasted a moment longer than Lucas would have liked. He was losing the battle, and his face was inches away from the mud, when it suddenly backed off, lifting from his back completely. With the sudden weight gone, he felt an incredible surge of something from within him: a familiar power that was resting in his heart all his life, finally emerging and enveloping him once more.

"This really is the beginning of the end," Doria remarked, looking past Lucas and into the new hole created by the Needle. "'The time' has finally arrived, after so long." After sounding so glum, it immediately burst into an excited squeal. It couldn't help but swish its braided hair over its shoulder again, swishing it in the air elegantly.

"So, this is exactly what happened to Aeolia?" Kumatora asked, watching Doria's body just barely cling to existence.

"Absolutely. Disappearing young and beautiful." Doria sighed, running its fingers across its cheeks as its expression nearly lit up at the thought. "In one sense, it's total bliss.

"Now, Kumatora," it began, facing the girl, putting on a more serious tone. "It's you and Lucas versus them, and we need to be absolutely sure that Lucas wins. See it all through with him to the end, would you?"

"Of course," she replied, sounding nearly curt about it.

"That'a girl." It looked up at the sky, taking a deep breath. "For the first time...I'm about to disappear forever.

It reached into one of the pockets on the sides of its overalls, withdrawing both a single bar of lipstick and an electric razor in one try. They were both the same brand as Aeolia's, but the lipstick was a much darker shade of red. He accepted them graciously; with the Needle gone, they were the last remaining proof that Doria ever existed.

"The rest is up to you," Doria said. And with a smile, it vanished into thin air.

Lucas and Kumatora said nothing to each other. They both simply stared at the hole in the mud from its feet for a moment, lamenting in their own personal ways, before Kumatora finally made the first move by climbing out of the pit. "Let's get cleaned up," she said quietly over her shoulder. Lucas said nothing; he followed her out of the hole once she was totally out, without looking back to the Needle's last resting place.

They sat at the edge of the second pit once they were both out, cleaning their socks, shoes, and clothes from all the mud that clung to them. Lucas didn't know what to say to Kumatora - he had never seen her get so upset over anything. He knew what it was like to lose someone you loved very much, and he knew how much she was hurting, but he didn't know what he could say to console her.

"Say, Lucas," she said once they were clean. She sounded a little distant, but not nearly as bad as she was probably feeling. "You mentioned something about dragons, fates, and good versus evil a little bit ago, right?"


She hummed to herself at his answer. "Ionia told me something a long time ago.

all life n' time'll be reborn. That sound about right to you?"

Ionia made it sound a bit more important than the way she was putting it. "That's right."

Kumatora mustered up the courage to face him, looking at his deep blue eyes, and then to Boney, and his happy, loyal brown ones. She took a deep breath, before continuing.

I'd like to come along with you, Lucas. I...want to." Surely, confident, outgoing Kumatora sounded nervous and dodgy, as if she was afraid he'd say no. "It was a blast up 'till now, and I have some debts I need to repay."

He looked up at her, and smiled. "Kumatora...we're friends. Best friends." He extended his hand, palm facing up, not for her to shake, but rather, for her to hold. "I would have asked you if you didn't ask me."

She smiled back, sincerely glad for his answer - and then slapped his hand, giving him a low-five. "Let's go find Duster," she said, her familiar boldness fully restored. "Come on!"

They turned to leave the clearing and begin their next journey, to find Duster and the Egg of Light, when they heard a pair of familiar chirps from just behind them. Salsa and his girlfriend walked along close behind them, ready to see them off, but Salsa looked so slumped and sad. His head hung low and his eyes trailed up across the ground to her, nearly pleading with her to stay.

but it looks like this is goodbye again."

Salsa gave a series of quiet clicks and squeals in response. She walked forward and knelt down, running her fingers playfully through the fur on his head.

Don't look so bummed! You got yourself an awesome deal, you know!" She stood up, looking over the sheltered clearing. "I'm sure Doria won't mind the least little bit if you look after her house from now on. You have all the running space you'll ever need; there're lots of nuts and bugs and things to eat; you even have your own house and your own pool! This is awesome! You just take good care of Love Monkey and everything'll come up roses for you."

Salsa looked back up, trying to put on his best look for her, but still, he wasn't ready to see her leave just yet. He had been looking forward to seeing her again for the last three years, and now...

"Let's get going, Lucas," Kumatora called, turning back around for the gray stone wall. "Let's go find Duster and the next Needle!" Lucas and Boney nodded and walked ahead, but just before Kumatora could make it herself, she felt a tug on her dress.

Salsa reached underneath his worn, tussled blue collar, and withdrew a nut from between it and his fur. His paw clenched into a tight fist to make sure he didn't drop his precious gift, he grabbed her left hand, and gently placed it into her open palm.

She looked at the small nut, feeling it roll around on her skin before resting in the centre of her hand. "A nut?" she asked, bringing it closer to her face. "For me?"

Salsa looked away shyly. He knew it wasn't an awesome gift - he had tasted the thing humans called 'beef jerky' before, and it tasted absolutely heavenly. It didn't hold a candle to his little nut, and they probably ate those things three times a day. "Thanks, Salsa!" she said, leaning forward and giving the monkey a quick hug. "This really means a lot to me. I'll be sure to bring you something back when we visit!"

Elated that Kumatora accepted his lame gift, Salsa did one final trick for her, to see her off properly. He remembered that the humans liked watching him perform tricks from three years ago, and he still had at least one left in him.

Before she could let Salsa get another opportunity to stop her - not that she minded, but they really needed to leave - she turned around without another word, and ran to catch up with Lucas.

Bifauxnen posted:

No way for Lucas perhaps, but isn't there an NPC that pulls it off?

This whole update, I've been trying to get up the ropeway and to Club Titiboo to see if there was an NPC there that might mention if he made the climb, but no such luck. The game was very determined to make sure I didn't leave until I had pulled the Needle. I'll check very soon.

My original plan for this update was to make it  onto the mountain peak  and cutting off the moment I got there. But this is a much more perfect location to stop, and damn, 16 pages and 6,000 words for 6 minutes of game-time

There is actually one more thing you can do in the Chimera Lab before you leave its property forever, but it can't actually be accessed until after you pull the Needle, so that'll be for the next update's post-update. As for this one, there's not a whole lot to talk about, but of very special mention is this thing:

The Top Dogfish, the pink one, is a rare encounter that took me about 20 minutes to run into. It offers over 2000 experience and 869 DP, but the real prize is the Meteotite that it will always, always, always, 100% of the time drop. The Meteotite is worth its weight in one-and-one-quarter Bright Smiles (exactly 2500 DP), so if you're hard-up for cash and got time to kill, try hunting this thing down.

Also, Salsa is now awesome.

I don't know if this is a bug in the script that was fixed with the 1.01 patch or if this is totally intentional, but either way, Salsa going all Blue Mage on us and learning super-strong spells just by getting hit by them is totally radical.