Part 32: Chapter 27Activity in the city was beginning to pick back up as they left the sewers. In the arcade, where there was just Thomas and a man Lucas didn't really know, several others had jumped in and started playing on the machines.
There was a large crowd gathering just north of the arcade, as groups of people clumped together in areas, excited over something, trying to push their way to the upper level of the city. A lot of them were murmuring to themselves about whatever event was going to occur, although he was having trouble pinpointing any one conversation to get any information from. They were all forming over the escalator going up, and over the path going to the wooden area below the Porky statue.
"Excuse me," he managed to say over the others, catching one man's attention. "What's going on? Why is it all so busy?"
The man looked down at him, his eyes widening. "Seriously, kid? You haven't heard the big news?" Lucas shook his head, totally in the dark.
Most of us never had a chance to hear 'em at Titiboo, and now everyone's going wild to see them here!"
He and Kumatora turned around, looking at Duster, asking their unspoken question. He shrugged his shoulders, just as surprised as they were. "We were planning a gig in 'the big city' before I left, but, I'm not a part of the Desperado Crash Mambo Combo anymore. I thought they would have cancelled it."
"Wait!" the man said, getting up close to Duster. He squinted his eyes, taking in every detail about Duster's face. "Are...are you Lucky? The bassist?"
He opened his mouth to reply, to answer that he wasn't any longer, but someone else overheard the claim and eagerly turned around. The moment the rabid fan laid her eyes on Duster, she gave an excited shriek, getting everyone else's attention. "It's Lucky!" she shouted, quickly running up to him and pulling out her overpriced poster of the DCMC. "It's Lucky! He's finally come back! He's here!"
Before they could reason with the fans, or defend themselves, or even run away, they were swarmed from all sides, with the fans rushing up to Duster all at once and trying everything they could to get his attention, or his autograph, or a personally serenade, or something. The four of them were caught in the middle of a fierce mob, with everybody pushing and shoving past everyone else to get to Duster and maybe get a piece of his shirt, or a strand of his hair, for their extensive collections.
Lucas was lost underneath a sea of grabbing hands and stampeding feet. He was half the size of most of the people in the crowd, and he was easily ignored under their rabid desires to get something from Duster. He was still with Boney, but they had been separated from the other two, trying to find them again through the sea of brightly coloured pants and loud, giddy screams.
After taking an unintentional knee to the face, Lucas felt someone grab tightly onto his wrist, pulling him through the crowd sharply as they weaved between the legs of the adults and out of the bustling crowd on the other side. He thought of shouting out, so that someone would hear his cries and come to his rescue, but between the roar of the crowd and his dizziness from the blow to the face, he didn't think of it.
After one final pull, he and Boney were freed from the crowd, still rowdy and trying to pile themselves around Duster on the inside. Once his focus came back to him, he saw Kumatora still holding onto his hand, pulling him further away from the crowd and letting go once they were completely safe. "Never thought that would happen a third time," she said, looking towards the others.
"Where's Duster?" he asked, looking back into the crowd. "We have to help him!"
"I'm right here," he heard a voice say behind him. He whirled around on the spot, and there was Duster, looking just fine, outside of the group of fans still swarming over...something.
Duster sighed, looking over the people still fighting over him when he had managed to slip by in their own confusion. "Don't ever be a musician, Lucas," he sighed, rubbing his cheek. "This is three times too many, now."
"How did you-"
"I'm not Tazmily's second best thief for nothing, eh?" he laughed. "How good would I be at stealing if I wasn't any good at stealing myself, right from under their noses?" He continued to rub his face soothingly. "Still, it wasn't perfect. One of them got some of my moustache."
Kumatora was keeping her eyes on the crowd, keeping some of her PSI ready just in case they realized Duster had given them the slip and they needed to make a quick getaway. She found something moving, just out from the corner of her eye and through the disgusting grass, and looked towards it. "Oh, hey, Duster," she said, relaxing a bit, "take a look over there!"
Duster looked to her, then followed her eyes, into the grass just next to the crowd. His trained eyes quickly picked up on something moving and slithering through the grass, and immediately, his heart began to race.
How the rope snake made it across the ocean and into New Pork City didn't even cross his mind. Wary of the crowd still fighting over his presence, he didn't want to get too close, but he needed to get its attention. He knew it couldn't hear him, having no ears, but he knew it could sense vibration really well, so he stomped his foot as hard as he could. Compared to the panicked beats of the crowd, he knew it would be just a drop in the pond, but the rope snake still noticed it, miraculously.
It 'stood up' as tall as it could, looking around the area, its tongue flicking out occasionally to taste the air. Right away, it tasted something very familiar, twisting and coiling around on the spot, trying to find where the scent was coming from. Its eyesight wasn't spectacular, but eventually it found Duster during its spinning, and, like a dog finding its home after being lost for days, it slithered up to him quickly and excitedly, happy to have found its human once again.
He was just as happy to have found it, as well. He knelt down, extending his palm towards it, and it didn't waste another second, shooting up his hand, under his shirt, across his arm, and looping itself securely around his torso like he had taught it in Club Titiboo, across his shoulder and down to his hip. It squeezed securely and affectionately, not wanting to ever let Duster go again. "I missed you too, buddy," he said, stroking the snake's flat head as it rested on his shoulder.
"Aw," Kumatora smiled, watching the happy reunion between the snake and the human. "Watch out, Lucas, they might just have you beat for 'World's Cutest Interspecies Couple'."
"Laugh all you like," Duster replied, not caring what she had to say. He and his pet snake had only been separated for a little less than a day, but compared to the three years together they had spent, that was far too long. "I'm just glad he's back."
The Empire Porky Building was surprisingly quiet and empty, given the rousing crowds outside. Inside, Mayor Pusher of Tazmily and his wife and son were showing themselves around, doing their best to get used to how they no longer have much power over a community. Not that they really did to begin with.
Ollie didn't look so enthusiastic about being there, though. "Oh, hello again, Mister Lucas!" the receptionist waved, drawing them back to the front desk. "How has your tour of the greatest city on the planet? Has it lived up to your expectations?"
He thought about it. The buildings were fake. The amusement park rides weren't operable. The food was grossly overpriced and its only restaurant was run by hideous robots. The arcade was shoddy and the theatre had an odour problem. There was litter and pollution as far as he could see, to the point where the normally clear water had been turned to purple sludge. "Absolutely," he replied.
"Terrific! I'm sure our great king Porky will be delighted to hear it! And in fact," she smiled, turning towards the west room, "you've come at just the time. The elevator repairs have finally been completed.
"Perfect!" Kumatora announced, pushing Lucas along to the elevator. She did her best to hide her enthusiasm over meeting Porky and exchanging a few words with him. "No time to waste, now! Can't keep the King waitin' an' all that!"
"Hold on," Duster asked, resisting Kumatora's pushes and facing the receptionist again. "What's this I hear about the DCMC playing a show here?"
"You're not in the know?" the receptionist asked, cocking her head to the side. Duster shook his own in response. "They say that the DCMC has gotten back together again! They've come here to put on a show, in appreciation to our great king Porky and all his efforts."
"Where will the show be held?"
"On the twenty-fourth floor of this very building, which holds the concert hall. If you're quick, you might be able to catch them!"
Duster nodded his thanks and caught up with the other three, waiting just outside the elevator's doors. "We're not gonna see them," Kumatora said coldly and finally. "We gotta play-date with 'our great king' Chubby on the top floor." Lucas had already called the elevator - he thought - by pressing the one glass button near its door, pointing straight up.
"Come on, please?" he begged. "It's on the way up. I just need to talk to my buddies for just a minute, come on."
"Don't'cha think that the world means more than shootin' the breeze with the guys?" she asked seriously.
He stuttered a bit. "Well, yeah," he conceded, "but come on, how would you feel if we just casually skipped over one of the Magypsies? You wouldn't think that'd be too cool, would you?"
"That's treadin' the line, Duster," she warned, glaring holes through him. "Parents, even adoptive ones, trump a couple'a friends, if you ask me. And we wouldn't know what to do with the Needles without seein' 'em anyway, so."
Duster knew she was right, and that stopping Porky came before having a chat with his band buddies, but he still really wanted to speak with them again. "Come on, Lucas, help me out here," he pleaded, putting Lucas on the spot. He didn't want to cross Kumatora, and he agreed with her on which was more important, but he couldn't just turn down Duster like that. He was friends with them both.
A man standing behind them cleared his throat, thankfully interrupting them before Lucas had to make a decision.
"An' we'll keep on bein' in the way, if we feel like it," she answered. "Unless you're, like, the prince of New Pork City, you can just deal with it."
"Actually, I'm the engineer that fixed this elevator," the man said, letting Kumatora's remarks slide. "The wires kept grinding to a halt whenever the elevator tried to move beyond the twenty-third floor, so I got it working again."
Duster looked back at the man. "So, it'll go until the twenty-fourth floor, now?"
"Will it go to the one-hundredth floor?" she asked before the man could answer.
"Why? Are you thinking about going to see our great king Porky?"
"Yeah, we got things to talk about."
"Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but
So, I'd ask that you please, please just take it to the twenty-fourth floor." His sudden change in demeanour was kind of startling; he went from calm and collected to asking them to not go beyond the twenty-fourth floor. "It would really be for the best."
"Porky put you up to this, didn't he?" Kumatora accused, deadpan.
"Just please take it to the twenty-fourth floor, that's all I ask."
She sighed irritably, waving her hand for the others to get into the elevator. "Whatever," she spat. "Savin' the world's not that big of a deal anyway."
Awkwardly, they piled into the elevator, and the engineer pressed one of the one-hundred glass buttons available, marked '24'. The door to the elevator closed, and suddenly, they were jerked upward, as the elevator rushed up the tower to its destination.
They were silent on the ride up, with Kumatora's stigma against visiting the DCMC putting a bit of a damper on their conversation. After a moment, however, the man behind the group began to slowly inch his way over to Duster, trying his best to keep his footsteps quiet as he made his way over to the man.
Kumatora heard him first, turning around to see what the guy was up to, causing Lucas and Duster to notice as well. "Aren't you...?" the engineer asked, getting a closer look at Duster, trying to piece names to faces. "Aren't you Lucky, the bass player for the DCMC?"
Nervous, her looked to the other two before answering the fan. "You're not going to tackle me, are you?" His face still stung from his missing moustache hairs.
"I might just ask you for an autograph later," he laughed, smiling wide. "But it's you!
The band's music just hasn't been the same without your skills!" The engineer was overjoyed, hopping on the spot and pumping his fists in the air. "I can't wait to hear you again! Let's go, Mister Lucky! This will be awesome!"
The elevator stopped soon enough, and the wide doors opened up, leading the group onto the twenty-fourth floor of the building. It looked much like the lobby, with only one real 'path' to go, hooking to the east from the elevator. The engineer rushed out, eager to get to the concert hall and listen to the band's return performance.
Kumatora was still bitter about the whole thing, but she kept up. The Empire Porky Building housed some odd guests, from the average DCMC fan to Pigmask mega-fans, to moles.
The enormous Pigmask turned to his right, looking over Lucas and his group. Lucas felt a chill run down his spine, at seeing the enormous guy again, after the incident at Thunder Tower. But the Pigmask just relaxed and leaned back in his lounger. "It's you guys," he said, snorting over the group. "It's been a while, huh?"
Lucas couldn't help but feel so intimidated by the bulging mountain of muscles right in front of him. "Uh, yeah," he replied meekly, unable to look up at the Pigmask.
"Hey, calm 'er down," he said lightly, patting down towards the ground. "The past is the past, and me and my boys are off-duty. We're just fellow DCMC fans right now."
He didn't know how to reply or to react to the enormous Pigmask's claims. He remembered the man being very excitable when it came to the DCMC, and being scarily mellow when he heard that the band had disbanded. "Really?" he asked shyly, not allowing himself to lower his frightened guard. He didn't really know what he was worried about : after the Barrier Trio and Fassad, he doubted the larger Pigmask would really be a challenge, but he just felt so tiny whenever he looked at the guy.
"Yeah!" he encouraged, reaching over and gently patting Lucas on the pack - knocking the wind out of him. "Matter of fact, you brought Lucky with you! The DCMC is back together again, if only for tonight, and I can't thank you enough for it!" He sounded sincere, at the very least.
Give us the best finale you got, Lucky!" the Pigmask encouraged. "And I'll buy out the live recordings of it myself!"
"Count on it!" Duster replied, giving the Pigmask a thumbs-up, and aggravating Kumatora further.
"'Count on it'?!" she echoed, furious, once they left the Pigmasks' earshot. "I thought we were just poppin' in to say hi!"
"Better to tell him what he wanted to hear, I thought," he answered, pushing the double doors to the concert hall open.
A tall, blonde man in a pink shirt stood alone in the empty hall, looking over the set to make sure everything was in place. The hall was adorned with a number of tables, all with unlit candles, facing a large stage at the back that had been prepped with a microphone and some stereos, and a drum set and an electric piano, but nothing else yet. The tiling carpet reminded them all strongly of Titiboo's flooring, and its similar design. "OJ!" Duster called, getting the man's attention quickly.
OJ turned around, towards the door to the concert hall, and immediately leapt back in surprise. "Lucky?!" he called, seeing their bassist for the first time in...well, only a few days, but it felt quite a bit longer than that.
"Lucky is here?!" another voice from behind the set yelled, and soon, the other three members of the DCMC came running full-tilt down the hall, towards their long-lost bassist. The pianist Shimmy Zmizz ran right up to him and gave him a great, big hug, right there on the spot. "Lucky, where have you been, man?!" he asked excitedly, patting him roughly on the back, and Duster seamlessly returned the affection. "We've been having some pretty okay concerts since you left us," Shimmy went on, releasing their bassist after a moment, "but with you here, it's gonna be like..." He fumbled over his own tongue, trying to find the right word for it, but he settled with "Wow!"
Magic, their guitarist if Lucas recalled correctly, was next to get on the love-train over Duster's fantastic return to their band.
How have you been? You're looking a little thin, there, pal."
Duster rubbed his stomach. Had he lost a few pounds? "I'm doing just fine, you guys," he answered happily. "I think I might have lost a little weight, yeah, but I've been having an absolute blast with my buddies here. You remember Lucas and Kumatora, right? It hasn't been that long, right?"
"Of course!" OJ answered, stepping forward to shake Lucas's hand. "How could I forget the champion of the world at stone-sheet-clippers?" Lucas smiled nostalgically, warmly accepting OJ's friendly handshake. "And I couldn't forget Titiboo's firebrand waitress. Violet! How are you? You been treating our pal Lucky right?"
Kumatora grunted loudly at her alter-ego name, accepting his handshake with much less gusto. "He's doing fine," she said lowly, releasing OJ's hand after half a pump.
"Oh, what's this? You're not as happy to see us as we are to see you?"
She hummed, looking away from OJ. "That's not totally true," she answered. "I love you guys, too, and it's awesome to see you again. But thinkin' about the DCMC reminds me of bein' Violet, and I hated bein' Violet. The unreasonable demands from customers; the way I always had'ta walk a certain way and giggle and wink every two seconds; the perverts always treatin' me like a piece'a meat, ugh. I was glad to finally move on."
"Oh, is that why?" Duster asked. "And not because we need to get to Porky?"
"Half n' half."
"Ah, what's this about the big P upstairs?" Shimmy interrupted, getting between the two. "They're saying that King P has gathered all living things on the islands, to here, in New Pork City.
Normally-silent Baccio picked up for Shimmy. "We can see through this Porky guy's shallow-brained plans like they're nothing at all," he boasted. "And you're thinking, 'why is that, Baccio'? It's because we're so drunk on our own music that he can't fool us with his nonsensical crap! The guy talks nonsense, and you'd have to have no sense to see through it all yourself."
"I dunno who he is, precisely," said Magic, getting in on the group love,
Well, if I think about it really hard, then maybe I can think of something that might scare us," he continued. That was Magic for them; he kept on talking a sentence or two after he should have stopped. "But no, nothing can scare us now!"
"So, what's the plan?" OJ asked. "Is this just a personal visit? Just dropping in for a bit? Or are we going to rock New Pork City like he rocked Titiboo for three long years?"
"Well..." Duster looked to Kumatora, silently asking for permission. He felt ridiculous about it; she was maybe half his age, and she was calling the shots. "I'd love to, but, we do kind of have something to do."
"Oh yeah," remembered Magic, "that whole 'saving the world' thing."
"Right. And we kind of need to get to Porky as quickly as we can, so, I don't know if we can spare the time."
OJ nodded in understanding, but he wasn't about to let their bassist slip by that easily. "You want to know what I think?" he asked.
The elevator isn't working that great anyway, so I hear. It was tough enough to get ourselves all the way up here, and we're the performers! You might as well just stick around and play a couple while they get it working, right?"
Lucas looked up to Kumatora, pitching in his own voice. "I kind of want to hear them play again," he said. "I only heard their encore that one time, and I really liked it...I want to hear the whole thing."
She sighed, rolling her eyes. She didn't admit it, but as much as they really needed to get to that Needle, she wanted to hear them once more, too. They weren't the very best for nothing. "Oh, fine," she said dejectedly. "But only one or two. We really gotta get up there, quick."
OJ smiled when she said it was alright, reaching into his vest pocket for something. "Awesome!" he said, withdrawing a small, fluffy, brown piece of cloth from his inside pocket.
We brought your bass, too! We shined and polished it every day; it's as good as the day you left!"
Duster was elated that they had thought of everything, and proud that he had never left their thoughts since he left. Bending over, he picked up the afro carefully, recognizing it from its looks and its weight, and how some strands of it were still missing and how some of the wires had snapped. It was really the exact same afro, and with it,
Lucky was born again.
"Your buddies got themselves some backstage passes, natch," Shimmy said, pointing to a door just beside the stage. "You guys must be hungry, and we've been to that restaurant down in the city. Eighteen-hundred Dragon Points for a burger?!" He actually sounded outraged at the price; a rare time any of them heard Shimmy raise his voice over anything.
"But we got all the food you could ask for just backstage," said Magic. "It won't cost you a dime. Eat what you like and enjoy the show!"
Their stomachs growled loudly at the promise of some food; that hotdog they had all shared at entirely lost their weight with them. "Thank you!" Lucas could barely say as they made for the door.
In no time at all, the concert hall was packed to the brim with DCMC fans, all hooting and hollering for their favourite band to start. They had all heard the rumour that their legendary bassist had rejoined the band, and were excited to hear the group jam through another set of golden hits, just like they had for years before. Lucas, Boney and Kumatora were backstage, happily gorging themselves on some fresh-cut sandwiches, watching several Happy Boxes that broadcast the stage live from the warm, secluded comforts from behind the door. Lucky had eaten a quick snack before the performance to keep his strength up, but between the delicious food and the entertainment on the screen, they were having trouble remembering to leave him some more food for later.
The band individually played a few rhythm-less sounds on their instruments, tuning them to perfection. Lucky hadn't played the bass in what felt like such a long time, but every sound and movement came to him perfectly naturally. The crowd began to chant his name, welcoming him home on the stage, after his forlorn absence.
Slowly, a single spotlight came shining down from above, resting on OJ and illuminating him for everyone in the crowd to see. "Alright, everyone," he said calmly into the microphone, and his amplified voice boomed over the crowd and bounced off the walls. Duster was glad to be a part of Lucas's group in saving the world, but, without a doubt, he had missed being Lucky.
And, this may be the last time the DCMC ever gets to perform." The crowd quickly erupted into boos and wails, disagreeing with OJ. "I know, I know, it hurts me too," he apologized, "but hey. If it really, truly is, then we're going to make it the best concert the DCMC has ever performed. Nothing will ever top this, ever!" That managed to get the crowd's spirit back up, and they began to thump and call for them to begin.
You are our greatest happiness of all!" OJ raised his hand high, balling it into a fist dramatically. "Tonda Gossa!" he yelled.
"Tonda Gossa!" the crowd yelled back.
"We're gonna rock until you drop!" he continued, getting his fingers ready on his saxophone, to play the greatest hits the band had ever made. "No, no way! We're gonna rock until everybody drops!" He turned to face his band-mates in the dark. "We're gonna do this thing nonstop!
Let's hit it!"
Lucky looked to his bass, noting the power chord still plugged into it. He played a few more strokes, just to make sure that the power really had been cut, and he hadn't missed a cue anywhere. He looked to the others, and they played a few notes similarly, checking to see it wasn't their imaginations. But, it looked as though the power really had been cut.
Just as the displeased roar of the crowd began to escalate, they heard four chiming dings sound through the walls, just barely managing to sound over the yells of the furious concert-goers. The power had been totally cut backstage as well, and Lucas found himself stumbling through the dark just as he was reaching for another Nut Cookie. Regardless of the blackout, the chimes still came into their room crystal clear.
The voice on the other side of the PA system sounded very old, with a rickety, scratchy voice, but it carried a kind of obnoxious, high-pitched tone a spoiled child would use when talking down to someone else. "The final game has begun," the voice continued. It made Lucas uncomfortable just listening to that voice, like he was being made fun of, whether or not it was speaking to him directly. "Please gather up what puny wisdom and pathetic courage you have and meet your super-awesome and handsome ruler on the one-hundredth floor." The voice began to snort and giggle at its own aggrandizement.
I'll be waiting! Don't let me down!"
"The concert got stopped, but we ain't glum," Shimmy said to the others. The concert hall had been cleared of the audience, and only their litter and several Pigmasks acting as janitors and stagehands remained. Lucas, Kumatora and Boney had emerged from backstage, joining with the DCMC in the hall. "We got luck on our side, after all. We've always had dumb luck on our side! Tonda Gossa!" He was particularly chipper about it: although they only played one-and-a-half songs, they still managed to get a decent jam out with the complete band back together again.
Lucas and his friends, including Duster, weren't so thrilled about it, though. Porky had just called them out personally. He invited them to challenge him one the one-hundredth floor. And he practically guaranteed them it wasn't going to be an easy climb. "Do you think the concert might not have stopped if we played Porky's lullaby song or something instead?"
"No," Duster said quickly. He wasn't too thrilled about the development - because it had stopped him and the DCMC from playing. "He's not that kind of guy, I can tell, and I wouldn't give him the satisfaction anyway."
"So, hey," Baccio called, getting Lucas's attention.
Oh, wait! I mean Duster! His name is Duster now, right?"
"Only when the wig is off," Duster answered with a chuckle.
Without you, we're without a bass. You're irreplaceable, Duster." OJ opened his arms wide, expecting Duster to give him a hug, knowing that this was probably the last time they would ever see each other. Duster walked forward and embraced the band leader, and quickly, the others joined in, sharing their last moment as the DCMC together in a group hug. "Now you get up there," OJ instructed, "and show Porky what it means to interrupt a DCMC jam session."
"Count on it," he answered, and they all broke away, letting him and his friends head up the tower to confront the great king Porky.
The large Pigmask just in the lobby was fuming mad, thumping his fists onto the badly-caved coffee table in front of him in anger. He was screaming obscenities the whole time, absolutely livid about his concert being cancelled because of some silly blackout. He had waited for so long to hear his favourite band, together again in a triumphant return, to play one last rocking concert before they split up again for good, and all he got was a lousy song-and-a-half!
Lucas was too nervous to say anything to try and get the man to calm down, not that he would have listened. Besides, he was specifically there to stop Porky and defeat him before he could reach the last Needle himself, so it was probably him and his friends that were intruding. But...he had been invited specifically. Porky had sent him a limousine to ride in. Was there someone else?
Although the power was out, the elevator was working just fine. The crowds had been ushered away from the concert hall almost immediately after the blackout; they had been promised a very hefty, but not complete, refund for the service the DCMC had failed to provide, so the hallways were cleared quickly. Lucas reached forward and pressed the glass up arrow next to the elevator, and once the door opened, he mimicked what the engineer did earlier and pressed another of them inside, marked '100' in big, black numbers.
Again, the elevator thrust them quickly upwards, higher and higher. There was a small dial just above the door the pointed to which floor they were passing as they continued to climb ever higher, quickly scrolling past the thirty, forty, and fifty marks in a matter of moments. Just as the arrow pointed to the eighty, a small ring sounded in the elevator, followed by a warm, feminine voice that said "next stop, one-hundredth floor."
The elevator began to slow once the elevator approached the one-hundred number, and they both stopped, exactly on the one-hundredth floor. The big double-doors in front of them opened up, showing them to...not what any of them had expected.
Was this the one-hundredth floor? The room was very cool and humid; the floor was covered in what felt like real grass, and a portion of the floor and been sunk and submerged underwater. A number of hippos with oddly hairy backs were swimming around in the drink, happily enjoying themselves in the artificial stream. There were no other doors or walkways through the room, but the pool of water connected the room they were in with the one just adjacent to them; if they needed to keep going, they had to get wet.
"Hey, guy," Kumatora called, getting the only other man's attention in the room. He turned around, answering her calls. "Where's that fatty Porky?"
The man looked bewildered by her question, raising an eyebrow questioningly. "Our great king Porky? Why, he's on the one-hundredth floor. Everyone knows that."
"Yeah, and, this is the one-hundredth floor, ain't it? So where is he?"
"You must be confused," he responded, turning back to the hippos in the water. Lucas hadn't seen hippos in person before, but he had heard that they were normally extremely aggressive and easy to anger. These ones looked playful, like dogs and cats. Were the stories wrong? "This is only the thirtieth floor. You're still seventy floors away from our fantastic leader."
Lucas sputtered in surprise at the claim. "Thirtieth?" he asked. They had been in that elevator for a while, and they were moving pretty fast. They really only climbed six floors?!
"Yep. Here is just the Hippo Pool." The man gave a contented sigh as he watched the hippos peacefully splash around in the stream.
You can even fight them, if you want! They never turn down a challenge! But they're pretty tough, so I wouldn't."
The door to the elevator had shut behind them. Once they were told that they had only climbed six floors, Duster spun around and pressed the glass up arrow, to summon the ride again, but no matter how many times he pressed and no matter how long he waited, the elevator didn't come back. They were stuck in the Hippo Pool.
"Nuts to that," Kumatora spat. "'Onwards and upwards', as Aeolia used to say. I never really got it 'till just now." Bravely, she stepped forward, into the pool with the hippos, and expected her friends to follow her in. Without the elevator and with no other ways through the room, they did, although without quite as much eagerness as Kumatora.
The very moment they all stepped into the water,
the hippos stopped looking so friendly.
The two in the pool were ferocious fighters: with their weights and their 'modifications', and with them being locked in the water as they were, it was a difficult fight to handle. They could take a beating and, when they were feeling weak, they would unload an amazing amount of missiles from seemingly nowhere all at once, erupting the water in their explosions repeatedly. But with Lucas's and Kumatora's PSI, they managed to come out victorious, and actually not that hurt (though Lucas came out very exhausted).
The opening in the stream to the next room was just a stone's throw away, but it never looked so far in his life.
The last room of the stream ended with one last Hippo Launcher, but thankfully it was out of the water. And it was accompanied by one of Porky's scientist, a female that was talking loving nothings to it while she scratched and washed all over its body. The hippo looked content and relaxed, so, he hoped, it wouldn't attack them with her keeping its attention. They weren't hurting that badly, but with every fight, Lucas found himself more and more drained of his PSI.
"It appears that you guys appear to be suspicious guys," the girl scientist said darkly, keeping up her scrubbing on the hippo's tough hide once they stepped out of the water. Boney hadn't even had a chance to shake-dry his fur, and already Lucas felt like he was under attack again. The girl, though, didn't sound very courageous with her own words.
She slapped the hippo on its rear hard, and suddenly, the hippo's relaxed and calm expression turned ugly in an instant. The first thing it saw was Lucas and his friends, and he could see the fire in its eyes from where he was standing. "Go, go get 'em, my Hippo Launcher!" the scientist encouraged, and with a low bellow, the Hippo Launcher charged forward towards them.
Although it wasn't any different from the other Hippo Launchers. In fact, out of the water, it was considerably easier to battle.
Kumatora opened her mouth to say something sarcastic and witty, when the girl came barging back through the metal door to curse them out further. "Stupid-heads!" she labelled them, before vanishing behind the steel once again.
Following the woman through the steel door led them to yet another section of the Hippo Pool, but at the far end of the wall was another steel door that was not surrounded by grass or growing weeds. It looked like, wherever it led, it was the way out. But of course, the water was surrounded by a steel barbed fence, to prevent the hippos from getting any wild ideas, so they had to walk around to a fifth area before they could continue.
There was another man in the next room, although the girl was nowhere to be seen.
They would have preferred to find the girl.
The hippos continued to be aggressive, and they continued to only be nuisances, but with every time they needed Lucas to rely on his PSI to heal their wounds after a fight against their heavy feet and their huge, blunt teeth, he was getting more and more exhausted. He kind of wished there was a hot spring somewhere nearby.
Inside the water was some food that the scientists had tossed to the hippos. They were still perfectly good, if a little soggy (and he made sure that they weren't something else entirely), and the hippos didn't seem to want them that much.
They had just eaten at the concert, but Lucas still had a few bites. It really helped to keep his strength up.
They began to slog their way through the water towards the steel door just beyond the pool. The hippos had all been tamed; it was just a few paces away, and then they could continue making their way to the one-hundredth floor. Knowing that Porky was sabotaging the elevators, they had no idea just how far away their goal was.
Just as they neared the door, the familiar chimes of the PA system rang, and the same old, high-pitched, scratchy voice spoke mockingly through its grills. "We interrupt your busy lives with this breaking news alert," he said, disguising his voice to sound more mature, like he was one of those people that told the news and the weather on the Happy Boxes.
Kumatora and Duster looked around the room. How did he know that? She didn't see any cameras or anything on the walls anywhere. Just where did Porky have eyes? Porky laughed crudely through the PA system, looking down on his visitors. "I'm talking about you guys!" he laughed. Lucas could imagine him standing on the grassy shore and pointing a finger at them, just laughing up a storm. "Getting all covered in mud so you can fight for your lives...it's all so ridiculous!"
Kumatora was grunting in disgust the more Porky continued to laugh at them. She wanted to find out how Porky was watching them so she could freeze it solid. "Alright then, get on the next elevator. I promise it'll take you straight to me.
He began to chortle some more. "Come on! Don't give up! The ending is right there!" He began to laugh loudly once more, and then the PA suddenly cut him off halfway through.
They waded through the water, getting to the large steel doors at the end of the Hippo Pool. "Man, I can't wait to get to him," Kumatora said lowly as they shook themselves as dry as they could from the water. They all agreed - Lucas wasn't too sure what he would do once he they got to Porky, but, whatever they did, he would make sure they were the ones to pull the Needle.
There was a glass button with an arrow pointing up just next to the steel doors, but, for some reason, no button going back down. It was all exactly like they had done the first time: when the elevator finally arrived, they all stepped in, and Lucas reached for a large button marked with a bold, black '100' among the selection of others. The arrow readout above the door listed all one-hundred floors, and was resting on the thirtieth.
They watched the arrow at the top closely, as it crawled its way past the fiftieth floor and the sixtieth. The elevator moved just as quickly as the other, but the arrow was climbing slowly. Maybe they were really going to the one-hundredth floor that time.
Just as the arrow made its way past eighty-five, they heard the same chimes, and the same warm, feminine voice came on to say "next stop, one-hundredth floor." Lucas was sceptical - it was all too identical.
As the door opened up, they were greeted to a very suave area dressed in purples and pinks, with ribbons hanging from the ceiling and exotic plants - or, well, just one - lining the corners of the room.
It looked more like how a person like Porky would keep his personal room, so...maybe they were on the one-hundredth floor?
The next room was very extravagant: it had a massive throw-rug in its centre, taking up most of the space, with a very fancy and elegant design. The room's corners were bunched up with gifts of many different shapes and sizes, and wrapped in a plethora of different colours, along with innumerable different candies and chocolates hidden in between. A massive, flat bed was resting near the back wall, and crawling all over it were curvy, long-haired women, all dressed in exceedingly little, giggling and murmuring to themselves. One of them was carrying a massive tree leaf, and was calmly, casually fanning the others with it.
Among the girls was a peculiar creature, with the body of a horse and the torso of a man. Lucas had never seen anything like that before, but he recognized the 'man'-half of the creature right away.
"Um, no thank you," Lucas said, remembering exactly how he was going to get it. The man-horse looked rather disappointed by his answer.
Can you put your hands to your chest, and say from the bottom of your heart, 'I love you, Master Porky'?" The woman's eyes were totally lit up as she spoke, believing every word she said. She was absolutely enamoured with Porky and she absolutely loved her job.
"I think you're nuts," Kumatora said, looking over the girls. "Don't you have any shame? Put some damn clothes on!"
The closest woman smiled, clicking her tongue at Kumatora. "My, my," she said, stepping closer and getting a better look at her. "Such a pretty young thing...a nice, cute face like yours would go a long way." The woman in the bikini stepped around Kumatora, judging her form. From the look on Kumatora's face, Lucas wisely kept his distance. "We'll have to do something about your messy hair, and we'll have to work on your curves...but you'd make a perfect addition to Master Porky's...'fans'."
Kumatora offered no reply: instead, she punched the woman in her right eye. Lucas and Duster were several metres away, and they still flinched from the huge blow. She had put a lot into that swing. But the woman didn't cry out in pain, and she barely even recoiled from the hit: instead, she just laughed some more, rubbing her new black eye appreciatively. "That's good," she said. "Master Porky likes it rough."
"Okay, time to leave," Kumatora said loudly to the others, marching straight through the room for the other door. Lucas was eager to leave as well - any longer and they might not be able to hold her back from what she would do to Porky's fans.
Just as they approached the door to leave, the PA system beeped back on. Kumatora was fuming mad as it was; she didn't want to stop and listening to him boast over his little system. But the doors locked themselves when the PA came on; they were forced to stay and listen. Lucas and Duster felt less and less safe with Kumatora as she was.
"Oh, shut up," she said to herself.
"The detestable Lucas and his chums appear to have gotten lost in Master Porky's fan room. I don't know how they managed to get confused in a straight line, but there you go." He backed away from his microphone, giggling to himself over his sting. "Attention, Lucas and friends! Attention, Lucas and friends!" he laughed loudly, straining the speaker's limits with his loudness,
Again, he laughed as loudly as he could, and again, the PA system cut him off halfway through. With a loud shunt, the bolts on the doors were undone, and Kumatora practically knocked them off their hinges, marching to get as far away from the harlots that suggested she could join them as she could.
The next room was very dull in comparison to the grandness of the fan-room. More exotic plants and draperies going with the colour scheme, but more importantly, another pair of steel doors, protecting an elevator shaft, although they had a different colour and a different cut to match the decor.
Another glass button, another arrow pointing up, and when they stepped in, the arrow above the door was pointed squarely at floor forty-three.
Routinely, the elevator lifted them straight up, going at the same speed as both of the others, but the arrow on top of the door moved even slower. It sluggishly made its way up the counter, muscling past the eighty and ninety marks, and when it passed the ninety-five floor marker, the PA came back on, and the same woman calmly said, "next stop, one-hundredth floor." Kumatora scoffed.
Once the arrow laid to rest on the number one-hundred marker of the dial, the elevator came to a stop, and its doors opened up again to usher them onto a new floor of the Empire Porky Building. And, surprising none of them, Porky wasn't there, and it looked nothing like they had expected the final floor to look like.
"I hate this guy," Kumatora spat, already beginning to make her way down the corridor and run through whatever maze Porky had thought up for them next, but Lucas saw the capsule just beside the elevator.
"Hold on," he called, getting them to stop. "We...can we use this? It'll just be a second."
Kumatora knew she was too frustrated to give a fair answer, so she let Duster ask for her. "Why? What is it?"
"It's a..." Lucas closed one eye, thinking about it. There was one exactly like this one in the factory just below Club Titiboo. What did they call it again? "It's called an 'immediate rejuvenation machine', I think. Something like that. Just five seconds in there, and it'll be like we slept a day."
Duster wasn't sure, looking over the machine. "Are you positive? Have you used one before?"
"Yeah, in the Clayman factory, just before I went to Club Titiboo. They really work, honest!" He was still feeling really tired from having used his PSI so much, so he was keen on getting them to try it. "It won't take a minute, I promise."
Kumatora still said nothing, so Duster waved for him to go ahead. Delighted, Lucas popped the door to the machine open and stepped inside. There was a small leather seat inside the machine for him to sit on, and when the door snapped shut behind him, he instantly felt revitalized, after just a few seconds.
Seeing how quick it was, the others decided to take the break as well. It only took them a few seconds each: it even made Kumatora less grumpy about what had happened a few floors below.
The next corridor had very little in the way of furnishings or anything that could possibly trip them up. There were no plants or fancy draperies or missile launchers disguised as hippos roaming about. It was a very simple corridor with a very simple gimmick.
They looked at the five rooms laid in front of them. There was no other exit to the hallway; the only other way out led them back to the elevator. "Is he serious?" Duster asked, looking over each of the doors. They were exactly identical, as far as he could tell, though he stepped right up to one cautiously, looking over its knob and hinges closely for any kind of trap. "He really put in the effort for a maze of bathrooms? I guess I can't fault him for his imagination, but..."
Lucas stepped up to the rightmost door. He didn't know what to expect was behind it: was it a trap that waited to be sprung? Was there another room, containing who-knows-what? Did it simply lead out of the Empire Porky Building, heading down a forty-three-storey (at the least) drop?
Knowing that every moment Lucas hesitated was another taunt in his face, he twisted the knob on the door, preparing himself for whatever waited for him behind it. But, surprisingly, the door was locked.
Well...he hadn't expected that. But with his nerve still collected, he went right to the next door and flung it open.
He hadn't expected that either. And neither did the Pigmask.
He knew with the first door that it was improper to go into a woman's washroom when he was not a woman, but Kumatora didn't seem to mind going into a man's washroom, and it was so they could find their way forward, so he forced himself to set aside his inhibitions for the moment.
He was surprised. Were women's washrooms always this neat and clean? He tried to avoid public restrooms, even in Tazmily, because they were usually disgusting hives for grime.
The next restroom was also occupied.
Why would anyone even be on this floor to begin with? There wasn't anything to do, as far as he could see: it was just washrooms.
The final room, as he had hoped, offered a distinctly different prize.
He didn't need to meet Porky to know that he wasn't especially fond of him, but...the maze of bathrooms reminded him of some of the mazes in the Sunshine Forest that he loved to run through whenever they had passed through to get to his grandfather's. Maybe it would be fun to find their way through.
The rightmost room contained another surprised Pigmask, accompanied by one of those steel-plated cockroaches that had made their berth in the city's sewers.
Lucas remembered a conversation between two or three Pigmasks some time ago about taking off their helmets before using the washroom. It must have been a unique thing to those two or three.
The next washroom, for girls, was thankfully empty.
The third room was-
Before they could check the fourth room, Lucas saw something just out of the corner of his eye. He paused, looking towards the fifth room, for whatever he had seen, but nothing was there. Just as he turned towards the fourth door again, he saw the same something just wriggle out of his vision, but when he looked back again, it decided to reveal its disguise.
"This is bonkers," Kumatora said. She had never expected to prep her PSI to use against a sign for the men's room.
Although when it pulled out another shocking surprise,
they dealt with the sapient piece of plastic quickly. PK Starstorm was becoming an increasingly frequent weapon. Who, or what else did Locria teach it to?
The room was charred and beaten from that one blast of PK Starstorm, and a sizeable chunk of the wall was missing from an errant blast of the attack. They hadn't walked away from it completely unscathed, but thanks to the machine before the maze, Lucas was happy to use some more Lifeup. With that done, they entered the fourth room, and were rewarded with progress.
Only four rooms this time. Between Pigmasks hiding behind the unlocked doors to signs suddenly coming to life and using remarkably destructive PSI techniques right off the bat, Lucas gulped as he pulled open the rightmost door, trying to ready himself for whatever was behind it.
What was behind it was a simple toilet, although...he had never seen anything like it before. It was long and horizontal, and laid flush with the floor. There was no place to sit. There wasn't any water in the bowl. How was it supposed to work?
They left that room before it could confuse them any farther. The next room had a slightly more contemporary toilet, but with an amusing design decision placed on the front of the rim.
Lucas found the next room amusing.
And the last one offered them their way forward, continuing into the 'maze'.
The next section contained five more doors, although one of them was decidedly out-of-order.
They didn't waste any time investigating the path through the maze of washrooms. They weren't a trouble at all to navigate, and even though the last section was at least a little amusing, they were getting perturbed with the way the maze continued on and on. Was the entire floor just nothing but washrooms? With the way how there could only have been one path at a time, all it really did was slow them down and get them tense - probably just like how Porky planned it.
The leftmost room wasn't locked, but it was occupied. Luckily the person inside it was decent.
Do you people normally go to the washroom in a group?" the man asked irritably. Lucas didn't think about that implication; rather than reply, he just blushed, whimpered out an apology, and left the room. He didn't realize until after he shut the door that not answering would just raise more questions.
The next room through the three of them for a loop.
Duster was shocked the most to see them all there. "What are you all doing here?" he asked. He didn't know any of the ghosts personally, but he was, at the least, acquainted with them all.
"We were..." one of them began, when it began to recognize Duster as well. "You...you're that guy! From a long time ago! You came into the castle and got the thing and then the other thing happened!"
"That is how I remember it," he chuckled. "It's been a few while, guys, but what are you all doing here? In New Pork City? In the Empire Porky Building? Fifty-odd storey's up? In a women's bathroom?"
"Your guess is as good as ours, man," the ghost replied, barely even acknowledging Lucas and Kumatora. "One day we were just doing our usual thing, haunting the castle, minding our own business.
"Well, that's weird," Duster offered, his eyebrows furrowing as he thought. "What would the Pigmasks want with a bunch of ghosts from an old castle?"
"Well, like I said," the ghost replied, but not finishing its sentence. "We're not complaining too much; it's just a change of scenery for us, really. Whether it's a big tower or a whole castle or just a washroom, we're pretty cool with haunting whatever."
They turned to leave the room, clearly convinced that the way forward was not behind the ghosts. "Well," he finished, being the last one to leave the room, "I'll just leave the door open, in case you change your minds."
"Thanks a bunch!"
Just as they left the haunted washroom, heading towards the third door, its sign rattled off its hook and chased them down, too.
Though they were a pain to fight, Lucas thought it appropriate that a living sign was right next to a room full of ghosts. To add insult to injury, though, the men's room sign was guarding just another Pigmask, and even more of those steel cockroaches.
The final room (before the one that was out of commission) offered them the way forward. They hoped that the end of this 'maze' was soon; all the sections were starting to meld together.
The repetition was beginning to get cumbersome. Five more rooms, exactly like all the other sections to explore. Just as they took a step forward to renew their search again, a helpful, if a little pushy, group of three people rushed in from behind them and cheerfully narrowed down their selection.
Knowing that the building's only bathrooms were halfway up the entire building must have been stressful. With only two doors left to check, they went for the second from the left, when they suddenly heard an old man shout "outta the way, outta the way, outta the way!"
With four of the five rooms taken, they just hoped the last door was the way forward. Lucas was confident that it was: knowing what he knew about Porky and how much he actually wanted them to make it to the top floor, he was probably just using the people to mess with their heads.
Whether he was right or they were just lucky didn't really matter.
The next section contained five more rooms: four for males and only one for a female. The moment they came in to the new area to redo the whole thing over again, another person came dashing through the room, although not quite in a way they had expected.
While that was sort of weird to see, they didn't dawdle about it. They entered the leftmost room, working their way forward.
The first room wasn't unoccupied, although the man was facing away and diligently scrubbing away at the bowl.
They doubted that the next room, being the one the man just came from, was their path forward, but it was worth a look anyway.
Knowing just where the man had gone to enjoy his lunch, they skipped the third and went straight to the fourth.
The progressive hallways were all beginning to lose their meaning the more they crossed it, but it was a hopeful sight all the same. And, fortuitously, it seemed as though that was the last one: the final hallway opened up to another door leading to another washroom. The door's frame was golden and frilly, promising that something different was just a twist of the doorknob away.
And beyond it was...yet another washroom. But it was very extravagant, with a massive walkway between two streams of water leading up to a solid-gold toilet. Statues of Porky were placed in the streams, standing in what Porky probably assumed was 'cute' or 'artsy', but it just looked undignified to the others.
Reassuringly, there was a pair of large steel doors just behind the toilet, with a glass button with a single black arrow pointing straight up. They picked up the pace - the maze of washrooms wasn't physically trying and it was certainly unique, but its gimmick overstayed its welcome, and they were ready to continue on. Just as they stepped up the stairs towards the throne, the same familiar chime sounded through the walls, and once again, Porky's rickety, scratchy voice came back on.
Did you enjoy my special 'all-you-can-pee' toilet dungeon?" he snickered. As annoying as it was, Lucas couldn't help but respect its creativity, at least. Kumatora, on the other hand, displayed her annoyance by casting PK Freeze on the nearest statue, ceasing its water flow.
"Hey, now, that wasn't very nice!" Porky reprimanded over the PA. "It's okay to be jealous of my good looks and natural gifts, but you don't need to be so mean about it! You big meanie!" Kumatora just scoffed. She hated Porky and she wanted to get to him quickly, but she knew the next elevator wasn't going to bring them to him. She was getting antsy and annoyed.
"Well, then, I've got some bad news for you!" he laughed some more, mocking them over the grills of the unseen speakers. They hadn't found a single one, or a single camera, anywhere in the building yet.
"I would never have guessed," Duster sighed. Porky just continued to laugh mockingly at them.
But that's okay! I have to make sure my toys are all working properly, now, or else I might just get bored with them. So allow me to invite you to the real one-hundredth floor!" His snickering began to wear down, and his breath was getting more and more ragged the more he guffawed. "Board the elevator just ahead," he instructed, and, on cue, the steel doors opened up, showing them to the exact same elevator they had seen four times before. "I promise - cross my heart - that it'll take you straight to me."
Lucas didn't believe a word that he said, but they had to take it anyway. They were like rats in one of those miniature mazes. Porky had them completely at his mercy; at any time, he could simply seal the elevators, or force another blackout or something, and they'd be stuck since there weren't any stairs. They were moving along at his pace, and it just made them more and more tense.
The inside of the elevator was exactly the same as the others. Lucas reached up and pressed the same glass button marked with a large, bold '100'. Knowing that it wasn't going to take them there, though, he wondered why he made the effort to reach so high up when probably any of the other buttons would have worked.
The arrow above the door had pointed to the number sixty-four before they left for the upper reaches of the Empire Porky Building. Again, the elevator moved at the same speed; again, the arrow was climbing even slower than before; again, the chime came on when they neared the one-hundredth floor, and a woman came on the system to say "next stop, one-hundredth floor"; and again, they didn't believe any of it.
Once they got off on the one-hundredth floor for the fifth time, they were shown to another small room with only one exit to the east. The decor of the small room was quite a bit different than all the others, though:
Like it was trying to emulate a beach, or perhaps a bald hill of some kind. "Well," said Duster, walking into the next room, "let's see what fantastic surprise Porky has in store for us this time."
He meant that ironically, of course, but what they found in the next room was considerably fantastical.
They were all dumbstruck at the sight of the large, pink conch shell sitting there, high up in the sky, inside another building, supported by only a few planks of concrete over a pond of clear water. Boxes lined the room's edges, nailed carefully and securely shut. The wallpaper had been painted in such a way that it resembled roiling dunes of sand, like in a desert, and the walkways everywhere were completely covered in sand. Maybe Locria's house was originally in a desert?
Kumatora wasn't interested in the room around the conch shell at all. At the sight of the Magypsy house, a wry, devious grin spread on her face, and she brought her right fist to her left palm, cracking her knuckles satisfyingly. "Finally," she said, only loud enough for the others to hear. "Locria's here. This is going to be so satisfying."
"Aren't the Magypsies your parents?" asked Duster before Kumatora could push the door open, PSI swinging everywhere. "Don't you want to speak to Locria first?"
"The other six, sure. I've never seen Locria in my life, not once." She sounded a little giddy; she could not wait to get in there and give the Magypsy traitor what was coming to it. "They talked about Locria a lot, but I never actually met her. An' that's good, 'cause I might regret what I'm about to do if I did."
Without wasting any more time and with a PK Starstorm already dancing on her fingertips, she kicked the front door to the conch shell wide open, ready to fire it at the first thing she saw.
But Locria wasn't there.
The scent of ripe, healthy bananas permeated the room, going with the banana peels that were littered all over the place. It was as sparsely decorated as the other six: a simple, though highly fancy and fluffy, bed in the exact same position, along with two chairs in the sitting next to a coffee table. The colour of Locria's choice was a light blue, contrast to the yellows of the bananas and the red-orange's of the sand just outside.
There was evidence that Locria was there recently, however. Familiar clothing - a thin, light-brown hat with a dress on its back, and what appeared to be some kind of vest - rested on the bed's quilts. A brown razor and brown lipstick, both of the same brands as the other Magypsies, were lying on the floor just before the coffee table. And on the table itself were a pair of trumpets.
Kumatora was struck hard by the realization. She didn't want to believe it - she felt absolutely disgusted by the truth that was right in front of her, completely irrefutable and undeniable. Lucas felt just as sick by the very thought that the person, that the thing, that the monster, that had hounded him and ruined his home and torn his family apart and made everyone's lives miserable and chased them to the very ends of the earth, was a Magypsy. "No way," Kumatora whispered, looking at the clothes on the bed. "No, that's," she denied, turning back to the coffee table and lifting the brass trumpets with both her hands, her earlier Starstorm totally forgotten. "It's not...Fassad can't be! He couldn't have been! He couldn't!"
Duster wasn't as dumbstruck about the revelation as the other two, and tried to think about it rationally. He was there when they confronted Fassad on Thunder Tower, and he fought along his friends when they encountered Fassad at the Needle and just a few hours ago in the sewers. "I've always wondered how Fassad survived that fall off of Thunder Tower," Duster remarked, looking into the open boxes of bananas.
"No!" she continued to loudly deny, taking a few angry steps towards Duster. "Fassad was not Locria! Fassad was not a Magypsy! He was a filthy, screwed up bastard that got his jollies by torturing animals and ruining lives! There was no way a monster like him could ever have been a Magypsy, not even if he was a traitor!"
"But it all makes perfect sense," Duster replied, knowing Kumatora wouldn't try to hurt him, no matter how badly she was handling the truth. "When we ran into him in the volcano, weren't you the least bit curious on how he managed to survive a drop straight off a seven-hundred-foot tower?"
"No!" she answered angrily, then stuttered to think up of a decent response. "Maybe! What does that matter?!"
"If I understood Phrygia, Mixolydia, and Ionia correctly, a Magypsy can't die unnaturally until its Needle is pulled, right?" Kumatora didn't answer. "He fell off a tall tower and we beat him to a bloody pulp in the volcano, and we beat him even worse in the sewers, but he kept on going. It wasn't his time yet. He's probably still alive now, buried under layers of muck in that filthy water."
Kumatora remained silent, trying to rationalize everything she had learnt and everything Duster had said. It did make sense, but she didn't want it to. She thought of the Magypsies as parents, and knowing that Fassad was a Magypsy made her stomach turn over.
"But why," Lucas asked softly, "did he sell us out? Why did he...betray everything?"
Duster gave it some thought. "If I had to guess, it was because he didn't think like the other six Magypsies. They were all ready and willing to see their Needles gone, even knowing that it would be the end of them. but Fassad wasn't. He didn't want to die, so he cut a deal with Porky to not have his own Needle pulled. Or, at least, have his pulled last."
Just then, the familiar four-tone chime of the PA sounded through the walls, getting their attention, and once again, Porky's obnoxious, scratchy voice filled the air. "You guys have no tact whatsoever, do you?" he asked, all sense of humour gone. Filled with a renewed vigour to get to Porky and 'stop' him coursed through Kumatora's veins, and at the sound of the PA coming on and that nails-on-a-chalkboard voice coming through the air, she rushed outside with the others, towards the next elevator, to get to the king and give him a royal beating, no matter how many one-hundredth floors they had to go through to do it.
She had had enough of his smarmy taunting. "Let's go." Lucas agreed; he was pretty shocked by Fassad's secret as well, and with Porky watching their every move and making fun of them every step of the way, he was ready to shut him up himself.
The next room had the familiar double-steel doors with the glass button, but unexpectedly, it also had a tiny, fluffy mouse hiding in the corner. Kumatora went ahead and called the elevator for them, while Lucas went to the mouse. It didn't retreat when he approached, so it was probably used to humans, and it was very talkative, in its own mouse-like way.
It looked kind of sad, in a way, although he couldn't begin to guess why. He knew better than to try and pick it up to take with them the rest of the way up the tower, though, and when the elevator arrived, he had to put the little mouse behind him. They had a king to dethrone.
We're nearly there!
Okay, going to open with the usual montage of awesomeness.
Right at the beginning, you can find the rope snake in the grass if you take the upper route around the city and down the ladder. You can't take him with you unlike what I wrote into the update (I have a reason for that ), but he does offer you some cryptic flavour text.
The only references we've had to New Year's is an item with a crappy success rate that can lower all enemy's HP to 1. It is now time to purchase this item.
Anyone familiar with Super Smash Brothers Brawl will have noticed a striking similarity between the Porky statue and a certain string of events in the videogame. The statue's trophy also mentioned that you can do battle with this statue, but that it's hopeless because its stats are absolutely ridiculous, including having over a hundred million HP. Investigate the statue once, and you shouldn't get any additional messages.
Investigate it again, and,
A third time,
If you answer yes,
Now, there are two ways to fight this thing. You can use the New Year's Eve bomb, which will drop the King Statue's HP to 1. Then, just sneeze on it, and you'll be the victor.
In Brawl, some people will remember Ness coming to Lucas's rescue, and obliterating the statue in one hit with a PK Flash. In both Earthbound and Mother 3, PK Flash has a small chance of one-hit-KO'ing any non-boss it hits. The King Statue is not considered a boss, so PK Flash will work (assuming it lands), as I demonstrate in the video. And no, Porky is not hiding in the statue.
Talk to the man just beside the statue for a reward.
Moving on to the DCMC concert, if you liked the song Samba de Cambo but were disappointed when the plot cut the song short, fear not! The Tindeck download I've put up has the full version of the song, courtesy of the sound test. It has a bit of Monkey Delivery Service in there, and I know how much some of you like that song, so give it a listen.
After the concert, we find the romantic conclusion to our lovebird side-story.
Further in, we find a man obsessed with
[I want to make Hippo Launchers
among other things.]
Some people have talked about the Thud Charm, which is a rare drop for the Hippo Launcher, and how some people absolutely grinded to hell and back for it. I didn't "grind" exactly; I just hit load-state over and over (before the battle actually begun. I was learning!) while holding L and turbo.
I forget exactly which bathrooms I skipped in the toilet dungeon, but here are some of the spoils you can find in there.
And, of course, there's this.
In the very rightmost room of the very last segment, the door won't be locked, but you won't enter it right away. Knock once, and you'll hear a familiar chime. Knock twice, and the Ultimate Chimera will knock back. Knock three times, and here you are.
I kind of wanted to write him into the update, but the tiolet dungeon was just ugh so boring and dreadful to write that near the end of the dungeon I was all about it and let it go. Not that that's the only reason: with the way I had the characters moving, they would have found the way forward before they found the Ultimate Chimera, so there was no real fluid way I could just have someone say "nah, let's check this last door first".
Anywho, once you intrude on the Ultimate Chimera's private time, high-tail it out of there and into another room, just like you rehearsed in the Chimera Lab. You'll hear a crash and a roar; dare to go back to find this:
While it's distracted, run into the room it was just in, and recieve your spoils.
This will likely be defensively weaker than whatever you have on Lucas at the time, but it offers +30 to PP if you think that's a fair trade.
And I believe that's that! Only two ish more story updates left!
Blackray Jack posted:
I'm surprised you didn't go back to where the limo dropped you off for some additional story detail. There you'll find a researcher with an ostrelephant and a dogfish. He'll explain about how some of the chimeras are becoming curious and even friendly toward humans, and you can even 'talk' to the two creatures I believe.
I didn't even know this was there, to be honest (the only things the chimeras say are "they appear to be tame"). There are some other characters that show up there, but they still show up later in the story, so I can get them then.