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Fantendo: Onward is a story by YE, centered around the as-of-yet non-canon exploits of Unten following the cataclysmic events of Fantendo Smash Bros. Shattered. It is YE's final project made for/on Fantendo.
Onward begins immediately after the events of Shattered, presumably on Unten's birthday (whether this is his in-universe birthday or his "wiki birthday" is unclear, albeit treated with equal validity), with Unten washed up on an unknown beach with only a vague recollection of what preceded. The only thing Unten can note in his vicinity is a large, disheveled looking structure on the horizon. After a brief, aimless walk down the shore, Unten comes upon a message in a bottle from "the folks on the ocean", saying that they have "[his] friend" and that she says to come get her, along with a birthday cake in a plastic bag. Resolving to "just go with it", Unten sets sail for the distant structure, hoping to find his friend. Reaching the shore after an evening of sailing and existential inner musings, Unten finds that the structure is a colossal dwelling place built up from the sand on towers of garbage and other such refuse. Upon finding the entrance and giving a knock, he is met with a meek reptilian creature clad in a shoddy seashell garment, who motions him to come inside. Following the creature, Unten is exposed to the vast inside of the garbage structure, made of many levels supported by winding ramps and platforms, which is revealed to be the home of many lazy creatures, and is littered with small multicolored snail shells, many of which have been repurposed and stuck together to make furniture such as throne-like chairs. On one such throne in the middle of the room Unten enters sits Zerita, who is revealed to have sent Unten his message/cake, and who the denizens of the garbage structure view as a sort of "queen".
Unten inquires Zerita about her new robotic arm, which she explains she gained after losing her organic arm during the "crash" following the Shattering, and then Zerita leads Unten and a few of her creature cohorts up several levels of ramps and into a room containing a goblet in the center. Upon stirring the goblet's blue water, Unten and company's reflections change into that of the reader, and Unten and Zerita have a brief dialogue with users in the comments section. During this conversation, Zerita reveals that more of their friends reside in the structure, and Vulcan flies into the room and lands on Zerita's arm akin to a domesticated bird as the party leaves the room. Zerita leads Unten to the "game room", a larger room complete with a makeshift gaming/television set, where Sinless Devil and Gorge Fungi are hanging out. Unten greets the pair, and Sinless explains that he and a few others found themselves washed up on the shore surrounding the garbage structure, which Gorge affectionately dubs the "Junkscraper", and that its denizens welcomed them with open arms. Sinless explains that, while not everyone had been found yet, he believes they are still somewhere in whatever world they exist in right now, and Unten laments not searching for them more thoroughly on his initial shore, but Sinless assures him that the beach had already been combed. Unten asks where the others are, and Sinless says that they should be downstairs, but explains to Unten that that particular group distances themselves from the rest of the Junkscraper intentionally because of trauma from the Shattering, and cautions him to be delicate with them because of this.
The balcony of the game room leads to a spiral staircase down a tower and onto the shore, where Leah, Strafe, Rachel, and YE (who is a stranger to Unten at this point). Upon seeing Unten, Leah slaps him across the face for reasons uncertain, and voices her concern and deep unsettled-ness with their existence here. Since Leah (to her knowledge) was the only old-Fantendoverse denizen allowed to keep her memories after the Shattering into the new universe, she is confused as to why everyone else retains their memories as well, if only vague recollections, and she is puzzled as to why everyone materialized looking "half-different" as well. Leah also explains that the denizens of the Junkscraper are plagued by a monster they reportedly see gliding over the ocean and into the structure at random times, recounting an instance where she saw the monster looming over her and staring her down with "four yellow eyes" before disappearing. Convinced there is a conspiracy afoot and upset with Unten's percieved complacency toward the situation, Leah storms off. Unten then approaches Strafe, who has fallen into a deep depression following the loss of Ella Metals, who he fears is gone forever because, in his eyes, the transfer to the new universe "didn't work", and they are all that's left. In spite of Unten's attempt to dispel these theories and console him, Strafe turns away, remarking that he feels guilty and paranoid because he is apparently starting to "forget" Ella's existence altogether. Unten approaches Rachel, only to find that she appears to be flickering in and out of existence/versions of herself, one such version appearing to have strange tattoos, and Unten finds he cannot hold a conversation with her in this strange state.
Finding brief solace in YE's newfound companionship (though he quickly learns their conversations are rather one-sided), Unten goes in search of Leah in an attempt to make up with her, only to be confronted one-on-one by an enigmatic female figure, who reveals herself to be the current form of Chaos/The Mysterious Mr. ? (calling herself "The Mysterious Ms. ?", "for the time being"). Unten, shaken by the negative affects the Shattering has had on some of his friends and trying to navigate it himself, demands answers from Chaos, if she has any. Chaos explains that Unten and company currently exist in a purgatorial universe between the old and new Fantendoverses after the Shattering, comparing them all to "fragments that have yet to be swept under the rug". Chaos tells Unten that this is the reason why they only have "half-memories" and only look "half-different", why the world is so desolate, and why the Junkscraper is made out of garbage ("This is all just trash yet to be taken out. That goes for all of you, as well - you're merely filthy stragglers clinging to abandoned surfaces; the rest have already been dealt with."). Unten asks if there is something they can do to complete the transition into the new universe, and Chaos replies that she's not sure; if she was, she claims she would have ushered the transition herself. Chaos explains that something must be holding the universe back from transitioning. Unten thanks Chaos for her help and comes up with several hypotheses for what might be stalling the transition, which include Ella Metals not being present, and even the group's post-Shattering emotional baggage/lack of closure. Ultimately, Unten decides that the Junkscraper's monster must be the culprit, and resumes his search for Leah in order to console her and enlist her help in finding the monster.
Unten comes upon Leah standing alone on a different end of the shore, gazing (uncharacteristically, Unten notes) wistfully into the ocean. The narration describes the guilt Leah still feels regarding her poor treatment of X-Ray, and how the failure to transition into the new universe has left her "haunted by ghosts she was so achingly close to relinquishing to her memories and not her scarred skin, not forgotten, but at the very least quelled and soothed, left easier to face in quiet nights." Overcome with emotion, Leah puts her feelings into words by singing. After finishing, she turns around and notices Unten watching her from behind a garbage pile. Enraged at his spying ("Were you watching me the whole time?! I can't believe you saw me being so lame!"), she attempts to slap him again, but Unten recoils and explains his encounter with Chaos and shares his information. Convinced that the key to their new universe lies with the monster ("Something about the stupid way it looked at me made me sure it had something I didn't."), Leah and Unten resolve to have Zerita use her "weird fake power over these people" to enlist a large search party for the monster. Unten and Leah explain the situation to Zerita and the others, and the entire population of the Junkscraper begins to look for the monster. Several small boats full of Junkscraper denizen search parties go out in search of beaches beyond the Junkscraper, but they quickly learn through their antics that land in the halfway-universe only exists when a living being exists on it, and otherwise is made to disappear akin to a video game's terrain generation. Since the monster is known to hover above the water, Unten and company realizing tracking the monster may be more difficult than they thought. But soon after this realization, the monster strikes by flying through and effectively cutting into the Junkscraper at a blinding speed, toppling a large tower that contained the game room. Zerita sends Vulcan to follow the monster's flight path, and Sinless and Gorge, enraged at the game room's ruin, follow Vulcan via boat. Leah is not optimistic ("Welp, we're doomed. Guess we'd better just wait here for it to kill us or whatever it actually wants."), but Unten urges her not to give up hope and adopt his new mentality ("Just go with it, Leah. Let's just see how this pans out.").
Unten then talks to the others about their feelings toward going into the new universe. Zerita and Unten reminisce privately about the Shattering and their days on Zeon, and she heartwarmingly comments that they have undoubtedly faced worse foes together. Zerita is mostly eager to fight the monster, but she says that she'll tell Unten why she's excited about the new universe later; Strafe is still despondent, but perks up when Unten brings up the possibility of Ella existing again somehow in the new universe ("I mean, you two could just happen all over again; it wouldn't be the most random coincidence I've ever heard of."); Gorge, who returned with Sinless shortly after their boat capsized and they lost Vulcan's trail, is nervous that the transition will fail again, but Unten urges him to remain optimistic; Sinless hopes that there will be a chance for him to regain his angelic form in the new universe ("Even if things pan out the same the next time around, its good to know that I'll be myself again, even if its only for a little while."); and YE merely responds with a thumbs-up and enthusiastic "Yup!", which "called to mind some phantom nostalgia in Unten that he nonchalantly discarded moments later". By the time Unten is finished talking with everyone, night has fallen, and the party goes to sleep on shell beds.
During the night, the still metaphysically flickering Rachel wakes up suddenly and screams in the voices of several of her incarnations. Unten rushes to her aid before Vulcan enters through the hole in the Junkscraper the ruined game room left. Vulcan holds a broken bottle, and a nearly illegible note inside reads that the monster wants to challenge Unten and friends to a battle the following day so that they may "settle this before it begins". Confused but ultimately relieved that finding the monster proved to be simple after all, Unten resolves to tell everyone of the note in the morning and goes back to sleep nearer to Rachel in an attempt to soothe her for the rest of the night, surprised that her scream did not wake anyone. Unten falls asleep feeling "a vague sense of fondness for the girl from a place without origin", referencing (retroactively foreshadowing?) his future love for her in the new universe.
However, Unten is woken again by the sound of the monster destroying another part of the Junkscraper, he and his friends having to scramble to get themselves and the other Junkscraper residents out of harm's way before it completely collapses. Among the floating ruins of the Junkscraper, the monster lands, a barely humanoid, seemingly half-formed purple monstrosity flickering in and out of existence much like Rachel. The party questions its sudden assault (Zerita quips "What the heck, yo? We were gonna find you!"), to which the monster replies in an anguished, rage-filled voice that it is the half-universe's equivalent of The Threat. Detailing The Threat's origins and intentions, the monster explains that though The Threat exists separate, it is "a representation of all her vengeance and fury", sent to stop the new Fantendoverse from forming before it can fully. The monster insists it has "the cold might of Vindozz herself", which noticeably shakes Unten and company, having never encountered The Threat or anything associated with her before and therefore not knowing her power. However, Ms. ? intervenes by handing Unten and Zerita a peculiar fruit she claims to have fetched out of the wreckage ("They've been growing these in a room out back ever since you got here. Bet your loyal subjects never showed you that, did that, little queen kitten?"). Chaos instructs Unten and Zerita to each take a bite of the fruit; upon asking her what that would to, Chaos mocks Unten by echoing "just go with it". Unten also asks Chaos why she chose to intervene, to which she replies "This big baby would just be holding us all back by keeping us in the same old rubbish universe till it picked us off. But if we pass on, the future from there on out is completely uncertain; there's nothing more chaotic than that."
With a pair of nervous chuckles, Unten and Zerita follow Ms. ?'s instructions and each take a bite out of the fruit (Zerita remarks that they've done stranger things together, which summons a chuckle and a blush from Unten). Their bodies glow, and they fuse into a singular being, Zerunten. As Zerunten fights the monster, they sing, and the monster is defeated, though it promises that its defeat means nothing because the struggle between them and The Threat is inevitable in the new universe. Zerunten and friends help fetch some wreckage and floating Junkscraper denizens out of the water to build some semblance of a shelter, and then unfuses. The party asks Ms. ?, who had been floating and watching the battle from the beginning, what to do now, and she replies "Now we wait, I suppose."
Time passes and the sun is beginning to set. The group makes a pseudo-campfire out of the wreckage, and Unten re-ignites the conversation about everyone's hopes for the future in the new universe. Strafe appears more optimistic concerning the prospect of not only Ella existing again, but finding happiness regardless; though Strafe says little, the narration implies he has started to follow Unten's example of "going with the flow", purely because he hasn't found any other useful solution. Leah is uncharacteristically excited ("C'mon, universe, we did the thing! Let's get this freakshow on the road!"), so much so that she finds it hard to contain. She leads the group in song as the sun sets.
Unten asks Zerita if she would like to go out on his boat with him for a while so they could finally discuss her reason for excitement, and Zerita presumes that it couldn't hurt. They sail together in the dark, and Zerita divulges, albiet hesitantly, that she is excited to transition into the new universe because everyone will have a chance to start over ("I dunno; how could it not be exciting? I mean, how many times do you get a chance to legitimately start over? Even if we don't remember, even if everything's just doomed to repeat itself, isn't it nice to know that we've done it once already and lived to tell the tale? Isn't it nice to know that its possible?"). Unten hugs Zerita, and though she is shocked at first, she hugs back; then, she remarks that she and Unten will have a chance to start over just like everyone else, and perhaps that will be good for them ("God knows we have enough baggage as it is. Ready to do it all over again?", "Heh, I think I am. Might as well be.").
They let go of each other, and as Unten draws his face back, he sees something on the floor of his boat: a tiny snail, with a shell identical to those scattered around and used as furniture in the Junkscraper. Unten begins to tell Zerita about the snail, but she accidentally steps on it ("Oh, gross."); moments later, a horrifying roar is heard deep beneath the ocean, and Unten and Zerita lean over the edge of the boat to see rainbow colored lights flash leagues under the water. The sea begins to bubble, and the pair quickly paddle backward as the gargantual shelled carcass of Snaily Joe floats to the surface. From the distance, Ms. ? looks at the carcass and says "Hm, I guess old Vindi wasn't the only thing holding us back." Stunned and confused, Zerita can only remark "Oops."
The pair paddle back to the wreckage of the Junkscraper, surrounded by friends, hopeful for an uncertain future. From where the sun set shortly before, a blinding blue light begins to bloom, and a single song is heard.
The high tide swept splinters of faded pale wood onto the shore. There was an invasive and bitter breeze that one could taste, which whistled through the wreckage of a small boat. The tiny vessel was upturned, its front nose buried in the sand, jutting from the ground like a crooked gravestone. A gray flag waved from the other end, painted with some unknown emblem. Also on the shore was a little communicator device of some sort, its green screen made inactive by water damage. The boat rocked slightly, and a figure spilled over itself and onto the sand, as if the ocean breeze ejected it from its seat. Previously unconscious, the figure took some time to compose itself, get its footing, and dust some sand off its body. It faced the tiny boat, still firmly planted in the mud, and then faced seaward. Somewhere on the horizon, barely obscured by fog, was a megalith structure rising from the sea and sluggishly stretching toward the clouds that circled above its tallest haphazard towers. Its dilapidation was clear from any distance; many parts of it looked near to ruin and collapse. The figure, taking care in its observations, turned his back to the tide, a look like starting over sparkling in his eyes.
We have your friend.
She says come get her.
the folks on the ocean
P.S. She also says Happy Birthday.”
Unten looked at the oceanic structure again. He had to assume the message came from there; where else? As he fixed his eyes on the horizon once more, he felt something heavy wash up onto the shore and press against his feet. At first thinking it was something alive, Unten instantly recoiled backward and almost fell onto the sand. When he looked down, he found it wasn't alive at all. A white cake half-inside a plastic shopping bag was on the sand below him, soggy and falling apart in places due to the seawater; Unten was surprised it made the trip from its launching point still recognizable.
Unten ran a hand over his face and adjusted the remnant of his scarf, immediately resigned to the fact that he had a very long day ahead of him. He looked down at the cake, hesitated, and finally picked it up, slightly disgusted; it was impossibly heavy and retained the water inside of it like a sponge, and drops of white saturated with frosting rained from its flat bottom like a cloud. It began to fall apart in Unten's hands as he walked upshore, and at last he decided to drop it at his feet where he stood and resume his business. He walked down to the water again and washed his hands of the gooey frosting. Then, Unten eyed the communicator, which he had neglected for quite some time, and picked it up; he chuckled at the unlikely notion that the behemoth island would have some new batteries.
Then it was time to set sail. Unten, confronted with his very vertical boat, began to push it over. The nose of the vessel began to dig itself out of the sand as it fell onto its base again. Unten was surprised to discover that there was minimal damage to the boat, and nothing that would cause it to sink in the water. He tossed the device into the boat and ran around to the back to push it into the ocean, which proved to be relatively simple due to the calm waters. When he was about waist deep, Unten jumped into the boat. Though without oar or sail, the vessel seemed to drift slowly on toward its destination by itself. Its small gray flag waved valiantly in the breeze, as if a gesture of goodbye.
It took Unten the whole night to reach his destination, and the evening's physically peaceful journey only served to remind him of how inexhaustibly lonely he was in the world. Unten's life had been relatively brief, though time as a concept had even begun to become lost on him, the years blending into one another with only one reason to keep count, which only confused him further. And in that night that had been proportionally miniscule compared to the rest of his life before it, he contemplated how messed up everything had gotten. He knew exactly when and how his universe had been created, and had come face to face with the gods that made it so; he had seen and traversed through time and space itself, surpassing impossible odds and experiencing countless realities. Every conflict he had risked his life for, every place he had visited, every hour he had spent, each moment so fleeting and meaningless on its own, every ounce of tragedy and triumph and horror and ambivalence he had experienced, every person he had saved and cared for and loved... Just one short life is packed with raw adventure and gravity and emotion, Unten considered, and so are the lives of every living thing that has ever existed and ever will exist. The mere, nigh-inconceivable notion exhausted Unten; his life was so impossibly cluttered and crowded, and so were the lives of everyone he had ever met and could hope to meet. His mind was racing, facing something that had hung over him his entire life but that he was never able to articulate, and was still unable to put into words as there was nobody to try and tell them to. Something in the stars spoke to Unten that night, as he bounced on the rippling surface of the ocean, so terribly alone and microscopic, cradled in his boat and weighing the insurmountable implications of existing for no reason at all. The planets high above pulsated, as if themselves alive and asking Unten these same impossible questions. And then, somehow, he was able to fall asleep, becoming even more internally exhausted in consideration of the irony as he closed his eyes.
Unten awoke to invasive sunlight and the sound of the distant tide, as if the millions of stars from the night before had been usurped by the sun, and the ocean was their blood. He sat up and saw that he was close to the shore now, nearly at the point where waves would form and he would have to brace his humble vessel to dock. But something towering high, high above Unten attracted his immediate attention instead. Almost entirely vertical, towers upon towers of what looked from Unten's distance like scraps and garbage stood above him proudly, though looking near to breaking down, like skyscrapers in a junkyard. It was rickety to the point that Unten suspected it to crumble and fall apart at the slightest breeze. Piles of spare parts and ruin, stacked haphazardly and to excess, with sickly arms grasping toward the sun in desperation. What sparse clouds there were circled around its highest peaks, as if the structure had its own gravity. There appeared to be cavities and flat pockets where someone or something could dwell, albeit uncomfortably, but Unten didn't observe a soul from his distance. He could only take in the scope of the massive neglected vertical island and let the tide slowly let him on.
Fifteen minutes later, the nose of Unten's boat hit the shore. There was a narrow ring of sand around the structure, wide enough to get comfortable on but less than one would expect, that gradually darkened and inclined until it became the junk of the towers. The beach was like the shockwave blast of a vertical explosion. Unten mounted his vessel on the sand, gathered his supplies and composure, and began to walk toward the structure. He could find no opening directly in front of him, so he began to circle around counter-clockwise. Nothing there, and nothing on the clockwise hemisphere either; it was also too steep to climb. But a second observation of the perimeter revealed a pale, flat slab of metal that was vaguely door-like, and, not quite knowing what else to do, Unten gave the platform a cautious knock.
After a pause, the barrier slowly lifted, seemingly on its own. On the other side was a scrawny, vaguely reptilian creature, clad in shoddy makeshift garments crafted from seashells. Looking slightly unprepared, it looked Unten up and down in quick but cautious inspection, and then motioned Unten to follow him inside. As Unten stepped into the dark opening, the metal door shut behind him; the bang made Unten jump.
Unten followed his guide down a long rectangular corridor that seemed to be carved into the sand underneath the structure. It was damp and cold and Unten feared it would collapse due to his feet noticeably pressing into the malleable wet sand beneath him. Unten's reptilian escort looked back at him frequently, concerned he would somehow become misguided in the one-way passage.
At last, some semblance of light faded into view as they turned a corner, and the vein of the structure opened up into a vast inner bowel, where the outward discord of debris was visible. Networks of thin bridges and walkways made of garbage and waste stretched far upward, and on them walked denizens of all shapes, sizes, and species; makeshift shacks, booths, and benches littered the ground around him, for what purpose he did not know. Unten got the impression that this had to be just a small portion of the structure's interior, as none of what he saw seemed to connect to its wavering towers visible even from the beach. Before Unten had an opportunity to observe all the activity, his guide walked ahead of him and over to thick and therefore slightly raised circular platform, on which sat something strange and lumpy, surrounded by a few other reptilian and crustacean beings. Unten's escort bent down to grab hold of a rod connected to and jutting out from the rounded platform, which he began to push away from him, grunting. With strength and effort, the little creature was turning the platform around like a wheel as Unten walked over to face it. The lumpy mass, as it rotated and as Unten was close enough to observe its detail, was a throne of sorts that appeared to be constructed from glittering snail shells, stuck together awkwardly and, as Unten assumed, rather uncomfortably. And as the throne made its entire revolution, silent creatures still sprawled out on the platform surrounding it as if honoring royalty, Unten was met with a familiar face. She sat on her throne looking dreadfully bored, but her orange ears perked up and eyes undilated as they met his.
“Sup, dork. Guess you got my message,” said Zerita.
Unten was justifiably puzzled as his dear friend casually hopped off her grotesque throne, the eyes of the surrounding lethargic creatures following her as she approached him. The next shock hit when he looked at Zerita's left arm, which had a pale robotic replacement attached to a ragged stump just above the elbow where bone and tissue had been severed.
“Oh gosh, what happened...?” Unten gasped.
Zerita stared at him blankly for a moment, as if she had no idea what he was referring to. Then, with her hand, she patted the forearm of her mechanical prosthetic with two hard clangs.
“Oh, this clunky thing? Well, y'know, after all that I-”
Zerita stopped herself from being flippant about the arm; Unten's worry and confusion was thoroughly present in the atmosphere, and she picked up on it almost immediately.
“I, uh, lost it when I crashed,” she said matter-of-factly, “Are you OK? You look like a weirdo.”
“I just had a strange night, sorry,” said Unten, visibly shaken by his friend's injury. The reality dawned on him for the first time that if Zerita was here, others might have made “landing” somehow as well, and they might be hurt too. The cataclysms and losses Unten had witnessed seemed so distant now, and he nearly forgot them altogether, likely due to some trauma amongst countless other traumas pushing it temporarily out of his mind. That seemed to happen to him a lot.
“At least you didn't lose a limb... yet!” Zerita chuckled crassly and socked Unten's shoulder. Unten laughed nervously in reply, placing a hand on the spot of impact, which he was sure was going to bruise.
“How'd you even get here?” asked Zerita, “I didn't think the cake would be anything but a shot in the dark and an opportunity to have a bunch of little guys make a cake for no reason.”
“I don't remember,” replied Unten, “I just woke up in a boat in the middle of the ocean, and then a day or two later I woke up on the shore. I got your message a while after that.”
“What did you even do for all that time?” Zerita inquired, “I'd have been bored to tears.”
“I just kind of went with it,” Unten remarked with a shrug, “I'm trying to just go with it.”
“Hey, I like it!” Zerita encouraged, “Just go with it, man.”
She motioned toward Unten with her metal arm, then inclusively waved it in an arc around the creatures surrounding the throne.
“And you clowns just go with me, over here, or whatever,”continued Zerita, attempting to be clever. She started walking toward one of the ramp-esque inclinations in which the structure began to spin upward, and Unten and the creatures followed.
“Yeah, this place is pretty cool,” said Zerita, guiding her band of familiars as if to give them a grand tour, “Kinda gross and dirty, but rad once you get used to it.”
They began to scale one of many wide spiraling staircases that ran up the sides of the structure. There were rickety platforms where they ended, and where the platforms ended another staircase began. Several platforms also ran into long bridges that stretched to other platforms and even other bridges in varying directions across from them, creating a messy lattice pattern from far away. It looked like it was designed by a three year-old, if it was even formally designed to begin with; Unten was afraid he'd see one of the commuting creatures above fall right through the flimsy floors and feeble bridges, or that he'd break through himself. But he continued to “just go with it”, pressing on and trying desperately not to look down as they got higher and higher.
“Where are we going, exactly?” asked Unten, “I feel like this place is easy to get lost in.”
“Uhhh,” muttered Zerita, as if unsure herself, “Oh, there!” She pointed up and across from her in the distance, where Unten could make out a dark opening slightly larger than the others and with something resembling a door frame made from seashells around its perimeter. “That's the cool room.”
“These guys made me their queen or something, basically,” continued Zerita, leading the pack, “Although I honestly don't know if that's what they were going for; I've seen at least five more of those thrones around here, and more stuff too. Seashell.”
Unten looked toward Zerita, puzzled, until he felt something crush beneath his foot. Fragments threatened to dig into his sole, and he cried out, startled. He nearly lost his footing and toppled off the edge of the staircase. Unten composed himself and looked down at his obstacle: pieces of a shattered seashell, much like the ones Zerita's throne was crafted from.
“Seashell, I said,” Zerita repeated, stopping with her posse to look back at the nearly-felled hero, “They're all over the place. These guys are crazy about 'em.”
Zerita and her crew pressed on, and Unten speed-walked to return to his original position behind her. Walking onto a platform and up another staircase, a crustacean wearing a backwards baseball cap held out a crimson claw at Zerita, and Zerita high-fived him with a kick in her step; neither said a word.
After a few minutes more of climbing, they had arrived at their destination.
“The cool room?” Unten presumed.
“It's pretty cool,” responded Zerita, “C'mon, birthday nerd.”
Zerita walked into the dark opening. Unten and her associates followed.
The room was fairly small in spite of its wide opening. There was a stout and crusty elderly reptilian creature sitting on a chair made from snail shells near the corner of the room, and Zerita flashed him a peace sign. He raised a hand in response, as to acknowledge their entrance, and Zerita turned toward a peculiar chalice of sorts that rose thinly from the center of the room and blossomed into a bowl full of faintly glowing blue water, which lit the room around them. Zerita, Unten, and a few of her cautious associates approached the goblet. They gathered in a half-circle and peered into the water at their reflections, standing silent for a moment.
“So, what's the goal here?” asked Unten.
“Check it out,” said Zerita.
She dipped a claw into the water below, and suddenly their reflections began shifting, ultimately fading out entirely in favor of something entirely new.
“Weird, right?” exclaimed Zerita, “Say hello.”
Zerita snapped her fingers, and with the echoing click of her claws, a green blur shot through the doorway. It zipped around the room with an elegant, almost metallic wisp, and attracted the eyes of everyone in its path. Then, with a splash that flushed away the illusions within, it touched down into the blue water of the bowl.
"Remember Vulcan?" asked Zerita, "Vulcan's pretty cool."
The vibrant green bird Vulcan stood proudly in his new bird bath, shaking beads of water off his sharp neon feathers effortlessly, and afterward giving Unten a striking look of acknowledgement.
"Oh," Unten remarked, a bit startled, "Nice to see you again, Vulcan."
There was a small pause, during which a stout creature of Zerita's pack with a patch over one of its eyes cleared its throat awkwardly.
"C'mon," said Zerita, outstretching her bionic arm as Vulcan instinctively dove to perch on her forearm, "Let's go see the others."
Zerita, with Vulcan now latched onto her shoulder, led Unten out of the room and onto the vast network of stairs and walkways. Zerita's lackeys had stayed behind, instead seeming to prefer to balloon to the ground lethargically around the raised bowl. The smaller, stout creature with the bandage on its eye had chosen to climb onto the lap of the elderly creature of a vaguely similar genus, though they had barely even seen one another before, and the old one accepted it as the little one fell asleep there.
Zerita, Unten, and Vulcan made their way up a few more levels and passed some peculiar commuters until Zerita turned a sharp corner into a decently sized doorway that housed an actual matching door, made out of a light, sandy wood. Zerita stood in front of it.
"This is the game room," she stated plainly.
She pushed the door open, with some effort as the wood turned out to be heavier than Unten had hypothesized. Uncovered was a large room miraculously carved into the garbage inner crust of the structure. There was what appeared to be a wide couch made entirely out of those familiar seashells, and some meters in front of it were two massive glass plates stacked on top of one another, stuck to the wall, and in the middle of them both was a thin, flowing layer of the blue reflective water from the room before, this time projecting computer-generated images that Unten gathered must have been coming from a strange and half-broken mechanical box that lay on the floor below it, hooked up to the water of the screen through a series of cords. The room opened into what appeared to be a balcony in the back, through drapes of what Unten could only assume was seaweed. Sitting on the couch, holding video game controllers, were two old friends. A bulbous green head and a lean crimson partner turned to meet Unten's confused expression.
"Unten, you made it!" blurted Sinless Devil, dropping his controller and standing upright.
Sinless rushed himself toward Unten, but his couch partner Gorge Fungi sat still. He flashed a peace sign at Unten and said "Yo." with formidable zen.
More to come...