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Legends: A Story of Lies [Star vs. The Forces of Evil, Gravity Falls, Big Bad Beetleborgs]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by The Ero-Sennin, Jan 2, 2021.

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  1. Threadmarks: Snake in the Angel's Shadow
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

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    Skullduggery, fiends, and monsters! Los Angeles is full of such interesting times!

    = - = 27 = - =

    |Snake in the Angel’s Shadow|

    Down the road at Zoom Comics, Dipper sat at a table tucked close to a corner near the shelves of the comic shop, scrolling through Mabel’s phone. He didn’t like using the internet. People put their whole lives on or lived them through the web, leaving behind a trail for anyone with ill-intent to follow along every detail. But it was those qualities, and the ubiquity of smartphones and their cameras, that worked in his favor.

    Bringing a hand up to rub his eyes, he sighed. How can people stare at these things at every given opportunity?

    He glanced up from his phone and across the shop, Mabel and Misao were sitting in the Manga section, reading manga about handsome boys and letting out perverse giggles. Looking back at the screen, he considered asking Mabel for help because for all of his searching, there didn’t look like anything that could be Magnavore activity.

    The possibility that they could’ve been that badly hurt in the last fight didn’t escape him, but he’d seen Typhus regenerate from the damage he’d taken, too. At the very least he could be up to something, and that could be anything.

    As he mulled over what villainous plot or scheme the Magnavores could come up with, Heather walked over and set a cup of iced tea beside him. “Large cup, no sugar, right? Or were you just trying to be cool, last time?”

    Dipper looked up at her and smiled. “Thanks.”

    “Don’t worry about paying for it either, it’s on me.” She pulled out a chair and sat down. “I heard what happened at lunch Monday, and that sucks.”

    Dipper shrugged his shoulders. “Not as bad as it did for Lars. You weren’t there?”

    “No, I eat in the Second Lunch period. We had to eat in the gymnasium after Lars got clobbered, bee-tee-dubs.”

    “Sorry for that.”

    “Like I said, don’t worry about it. I usually eat lunch in my car, anyway.”

    Dipper perked up. “You have a car?”

    Heather nodded. “I got it for my sixteenth birthday. Though I can basically only drive it between home and school.”

    For the briefest moment, Dipper considered the possibility of having access to another vehicle besides Shermie’s. It was a fleeting thought, downed by Heather’s strict guidelines. “Your parents are really strict about how you can use it, huh?”

    She giggled. “Yeah, real strict. My family barely lets me do anything, I can’t even drive it to work.”

    “Why even get it for you?”

    “Who knows?” With another gentle laugh, she looked at the empty desk in front of him, save for the phone and the tea. “So, you bought a few comics last time you were here, how’d you like them?”

    “All right, I like the Beetleborgs comics the best, though. I really couldn’t put them down.”

    Heather smirked a little. “You could grab some more…”

    Dipper raised an eyebrow. “Do they give a commission for book sales here?”

    “Nope!” She pointed a finger to the ceiling. “I’m just a giant comic nerd and I want everyone else to be comic nerds, too!”

    She brought her hand down and patted it. “You’re sitting here, surrounded by pop culture’s greatest contribution to mankind, and you’re staring at your phone!” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “It’s a crying shame.”

    Dipper wondered why Drew and this girl weren’t dating already. “I’d love to sit down and start reading, but I’m working on a personal project. You know, related to my Mystery Shack days.”

    Heather rested an elbow on the table and stared intently. “I’ll forgive you for not picking up a comic book, if you’ll tell me you found something stranger than Star Butterfly.”

    “That’s the thing, I haven’t. I’m checking social media and news reports. I’ve even been listening to my Grandpa’s police scanner at home at night, and nothing really stands out.”

    “Well, you’re forgiven anyway.” Heather hummed. “Well, did you hear about what happened on Rodeo Drive yesterday?”

    “No, what happened?”

    “Power went out for like two hours on the whole street. It was on lockdown for the entire day, because power doesn’t go out at one of the most expensive places in Beverly Hills for no reason.”

    An expensive shopping district didn’t seem like something the Magnavores would knock over. “That seems more like a job for an electrician than a paranormal investigator. Unless it’s ghosts that are messing with the power.”

    Heather brought her hand to her chin. “What if it was?”

    “Then it would be a case of… Haunt Couture,” Mabel said as she and Misao arrived at the table.

    Dipper stared at his sister. “Ha.”

    Mabel responded with a big laugh at her brother’s reaction to her foul wordsmithery.

    Heather giggled as well, before she had another idea. “Oh, did you hear about the snakes?”

    Dipper was interested. “Snakes?”

    “It was trending like Wednesday morning. People in Beverly Hills, Burbank, and even near here were seeing these giant snakes slithering around. The police and animal control looked all over for them, but didn’t find any sign of a snake.”

    Dipper looked at the phone, and entered “snake” in the search bar of Twitter. Sure enough he found a whole slew of hashtags pertaining to a giant snake in different parts of Los Angeles. “Wow, a lot of people saw these snakes…”

    “Did anyone get any pictures?” Misao asked.

    Dipper looked at each tweet. “No one was able to. By the time anyone got their phone out to look, it was gone…”

    Heather nodded. “It’s weird, right? As usual the internet is full of opinions about what it was. A prank, hallucination, an actual snake…”

    Mabel shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe it’s camera shy?”

    It would have to know what a camera is to be shy about it, could it be a Magnavore thing? Dipper thought.

    “Maybe that’s the kind of thing you could look for?” Heather suggested, before the door chimed. “Oops, back to work.”

    As she got up, she looked towards the door and lit up to see Drew, Jo, and Roland walk in, with Marco following behind them. “Oh, hey guys!”

    Drew smiled. “Hey Heather.”

    Roland headed to the counter. “How’s the store been?”

    Heather jogged around the counter to her spot. “Good, actually. Your Dad went off to go grab some pizzas for when you got back from the dojo. How was your first lesson?”

    Drew was quick to answer ahead of Roland as he joined him by Heather. “We’re starting with the basics. You know, breathing, how to move in a fight.”

    Jo took Heather’s spot at the table. “Except for Sensei being a jerk, it was fine.”

    Marco looked down at her. “I said it’s fine.”

    “What happened?” Dipper asked.

    “Sensei wants me to be his Assistant Instructor, but I can’t do that until I’ve become a red belt,” Marco explained.

    “Is that hard?” Dipper asked.

    Marco shook his head. “Not for me, no.”

    “That’s not all,” Jo said. “Sensei said he was going to just let him become his Assistant, then turned around like five minutes later and said he needed to be a Red Belt first.”

    Mabel gave a start. “Whaaaa? That’s messed up.”

    “He just got ahead of himself,” Marco replied. “He’s not perfect.”

    Heather got behind the counter and rested her arms on it. “That is kind of messed up, though. Like if Nano offered me a key to the store, then turned around and said I need to do something else for it.”

    Drew and Roland looked at each other, and nodded in agreement.

    “It doesn’t matter if I have to become a red belt,” Marco said. “I can do that by Monday morning.”

    Dipper sided with Marco. “Then there isn’t a problem.”

    Jo let out a frustrated grunt. “Whatever.”

    Mabel raised her hands in a placating gesture. “Hey now, no need for bad vibes. We’re gonna have pizza, soon!”

    Marco pulled out his phone. “I’d love to stay, but I gotta get ready for my Red Belt test.” He said as he brought it up to his ear. “Hey Star, are you busy? Class is done… I’m at Zoom Comics, yeah.”

    Seconds later, a portal opened in the middle of the store, and Star emerged partly from it. “Hey Marco, your Mom’s making that meatloaf stuff again… but this time there’s cheese inside it.” She noticed the others and smiled big. “Hi guys!”

    Heather stared at the magical portal, her head tilting to the side.

    “Hey Star~!” Mabel and Misao chimed together, before the former continued. “We’re still good for tomorrow, right?”

    “A duh~” Star said. “I can’t wait for tomorrow, I have such a huge surprise for you. It’s gonna be the best one week anniversary ever!” She waved. “See you tomorrow!”

    She vanished back into the portal, Marco stepped in to follow and looked back between the table and the counter. “Next class is tomorrow, and we’re going to go into how movement works. See you.”

    “Yeah, bye,” Jo muttered.

    “Later Marco,” Drew said.

    “See you tomorrow bruh,” Roland added.

    Marco gave a small wave to Dipper, Mabel, and Misao, before he passed through it and it disappeared. Heather let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding, soon as it closed. “That’s… wow.”

    Drew turned back to her. “You get used to it.”

    Heather raised her hands and shook her head. “I don’t think I want to.”

    Misao looked at Jo. “You can do nothing but be unpleasant, can you?”

    Jo glared back. “Marco’s being way too forgiving of how he’s treated there.”

    Mabel clapped her hands together. “Girls, girls.” When the glowering girls looked at her, she smiled. “This is no place for bitter arguing and name-calling, this is a comic book shop.”

    She gestured to Jo, while looking at the others. “Jo’s concerned about Marco, if in her own unpleasant way.”

    Misao frowned, and copped to that. “Very unpleasant.”

    Mabel turned to Jo. “You gotta work on that.”

    “Hey, a guy literally walked out of there after that, so I wasn’t the only one who thought it’s crap. Besides, I think it was more than just the Sensei getting ahead of himself.”

    “Well, do you have proof?” Dipper asked.

    Jo frowned. “No, just a hunch… I think that little troll in Marco’s class, Jeremy Birnbaum, did something and made Sensei change his mind.”

    Dipper stopped. “The eight year old?”

    Mabel remembered what Marco had said about Jeremy. “The eight year old Marco says is as bad as the Vanderhoffs?”

    Dipper remembered. “Oh. Oh.”

    If it was that kind of problem, then Misao as well could see why Jo was in such a foul mood. “Hmph.”

    “So why don’t we talk to Sensei tomorrow?” Roland asked.

    “And keep an eye on Jeremy too, while we’re at it,” Drew added.

    “See? Proactive decision making and assertive planning, let’s do that instead of getting all salty and ill-tempered.” She looked back and forth between the two girls. “Now then, where’s our pizza?”

    The door chimed and a mustachioed African American man in his early 40s walked in, carrying four boxes of large pizzas. Seeing the teens gathered in his shop, Aaron Williams smiled and called over to Roland. “Hey Roland, can you grab napkins from behind the counter?” He looked to the others. “And you guys are welcome to drinks, on the house.”

    Heather held up her tip jar. “But don’t forget to tip, you know?”

    Mabel shot up. “Pizza time! Thanks Uncle Aaron, and dibs on the pineapple pizza!”

    Jo grimaced. “Pineapple, really?”

    Misao shared Jo’s expression, and it deepened with the knowledge that she agreed with Jo on something else today. “I will just have the meat lovers pizza please.”

    Jo looked at Misao and sighed. “Ugh, so you do have some taste.”

    Dipper looked at Jo. “What’s wrong with Pineapple on pizza?”

    Jo was devastated.

    With slices distributed among the gang, Dipper took Mabel’s phone and toasted slices of pineapple with her as he began writing out a text to the group chat.

    Mabel said:
    I’ve had no luck searching the net for any signs of the Magnavores, but Heather gave me a heads up on something weird going on.

    Jo checked her phone, and typed her own message back with a pout.

    Jo said:
    Is it a bunch of people suddenly liking pineapple on their pizza?! :(

    Roland, who was sitting behind the counter with his father, checked his phone and snickered.

    Roland said:
    lol

    Aaron looked over at his son. “Oh, some kind of funny meme?”

    Roland shook his head. “Nah, Jo’s just having a fit that a guy she likes has trash taste.”

    Drew, who had sat down to read some comics with his pizza, glanced over at Dipper then pulled out his phone.

    Drew said:
    What’s going on?

    Mabel said:
    Heather said that people have been seeing a giant snake lurking around Los Angeles. Is there anything in the comics about a snake?

    Marco said:
    What’s wrong with pineapple on pizza?

    Jo said:
    GO EAT UR MEATLOAF.

    Drew looked at his stack of books, and the latest Beetleborgs issue on top of it. His brow furrowed, as he examined the giant snake looming over Reddle and G-Stag. Opening the book, he saw the freakish form of Typhus’ pet creation Snake Head and began swiping.

    Drew said:
    The newest comic has Snake Head. The magnavores could summon scabs from the comic do you think they summoned this guy 2???

    Mabel said:
    I don’t have a doubt in my mind. First thing tomorrow, Mabel and I will go looking for it.

    Mabel leaned over and saw her screen. “Uh, bro-bro? Misao and I are going over to Star’s. She wants to show us something.”

    Her phone chimed again, and the twins looked at it.

    Janna Banana said:
    Dude, the giant snake might be a Magnavore?! I’ve been hunting it since it first showed up!!!

    Mabel said:
    Really?

    Janna Banana said:
    Duh I want to make it my familiar. If its a bad guy we can blast it too.

    Mabel said:
    Meet up with me at Zoom Comics tomorrow and we’ll go look for it then. Bring everything that you have on it.

    Janna said:
    :Ok_hand: See you then.

    Marco said:
    Class is only three hours on the weekend, we’ll be out by noon and catch up with you.

    Mabel said:
    Thanks.

    Drew said:
    Thnx

    Roland said:
    Ty

    Jo said:
    Cool.

    Mabel said:
    It’s settled, then. Like Mabel said, let’s be Proactive and assert ourselves.

    Handing Mabel’s phone back to her, Dipper took another bite out of his pizza and thought about their situation. If it’s a Magnavore then at least they’re not going around attacking people, but on the other hand… this now raises the question of what they’re up to. Whatever the case may be, we have a plan now, and we’ll be the ones going on the offensive this time.

    As he ruminated on these things, Mabel noticed Jo watching him with a pathetic–almost stricken look. “Have you ever even tried pineapple on pizza?”

    “Yes?” Jo asked.

    Drew called from his table. “No she hasn’t, she hates it because everyone says it's gross.”

    Jo whipped her head to shout back at him. “I do not!”

    Mabel huffed, then set down a slice of pineapple and pepperoni pizza in front of Jo. “Well then, eat it and I’ll give you ten bucks.”

    Jo looked at the pizza, then at Mabel. Picking it up she took her first bite and paused. She chewed a moment, then looked down at the pizza slice again. She swallowed.

    “Huh. This is the best ten dollars I’ve ever made.”

    “Ha!” Drew and Roland shouted at the same time. Misao, who didn’t like pineapple on pizza because she did try it, snickered and enjoyed her slice.

    = - = 27 = - =

    The hunt... is on.
     
  2. EvaUnit01

    EvaUnit01 The man who stands at the top of AAWWEESSOOOMEEE

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    It's always nice to see things end on a positive note. Feels like the team is slowly coming together...
     
  3. Delta/Soul

    Delta/Soul Know what you're doing yet?

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    I don’t know how else to say this, so here is goes:
    May we get a separate nsfw thread for omake chapters for this story be a bit much?

    I mean this is QQ

    Yay or nay?
     
    TricksterPriest likes this.
  4. Threadmarks: Karate Kids
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

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    Yeah, these kids can't be at each other's throats all the time.
    I'm on the fence about it, honestly.


    = - = 28 = - =


    |Karate Kids|

    The next morning at the Williams home, Roland made his way downstairs to the dining room of their suburban home, not too far up the street from the cul de sac Drew and Jo lived in. He was greeted by his parents, Aaron and Abbie Williams, having breakfast with his grandmother Nano.

    “Morning Dad,” he said to his father–who was hiding behind the tablet he was using as a shield from his mother and wife’s conversation.

    “Mmhm,” Aaron greeted back, knowing better than to remind them he was here.

    “Nano, please, have you for a moment thought about your health and well-being? You’re almost 70.” Abbie said to her mother-in-law, who was cutting up a steak she was having with her eggs.

    “I done told y’all enough. You are only as old as you feel and girl I am eternally 18.”

    “Have you had your cholesterol checked? Your blood pressure? You’re at high risk…”

    Nano huffed. “All of that’s fine. You know I run for five miles before any of you even thinkin’ of gettin’ out of bed.” She noticed Roland. “Mornin’ baby, come on over and grab you somethin’ to eat before you go out and do your karate.”

    Roland nodded and sat at the table, he grabbed a tortilla, a steak, and began slicing the latter. “So, what’s going on?”

    Abbie looked from her son to Nano. “Your grandmother’s getting lax on her health.”

    “Girl I have the strength of a bear with the strength of ten gorillas!”

    Abbie looked back at Roland. “She’s been skipping out on appointments with our new family physician.” She looks back at Nano. “Saying you’re going up there and then riding off on that motorcycle to do whatever.”

    “I’m saving you the money! Hmph!”

    Abbie turned to her husband. “Aaron, talk to your mother.”

    Aaron wondered why he thought his tablet would protect him. It never worked before. “Mom, please go in for one checkup?”

    “No,” Nano replied.

    Aaron shrugged his shoulders. “I tried.”

    Abbie’s glare could burn through Jara’s cloak. Roland scooped eggs onto his tortilla and began slicing up his steak to go with it. “I think Nano’s doing fine.”

    “Thanks, baby,” Nano cooed to her grandson.

    Abbie let out a frustrated sigh. “Fine, Mom, you win. Do whatever you want, eat whatever you like. It’s not like you have to worry about what happens when it all catches up to you.”

    “Nobody’s gotta worry about anything,” Nano said, quite satisfied with her victory.

    Turning to her son, Abbie frowned when she saw all the steak and eggs he was going to roll up into that burrito. “You should start thinking about your diet too, young man.”

    Roland pointed to himself. “Moi?”

    “He’s a growing boy. Besides, he’s got karate class today.” Nano gestured to him. “Don’t you?”

    “That’s right,” Roland said as he threw on some salsa and carefully rolled his burrito up. “And on that note, I’m taking this to go. I want to get to the dojo early.”

    Getting up, Roland gave his father a light punch on the shoulder, then a fist bump when Aaron raised his fist for him. He got up and went over to his mother, giving her a one-armed hug as he held his burrito out of her reach. “I’ll be back this evening.”

    “Be safe, sweetie,” Abbie said with much more warmth after the hug.

    “Remember, ‘wax on, wax off,’” Aaron advised him.

    “Hai, sensei,” Roland said with a quick bow.

    Rather than let him come to her, Nano got up and strode over to him, the purple track suit-wearing older woman grabbing her grandson in a big across the shoulder hug. “I’ll walk you out. I gotta do my tai chi down at the park anyway.”

    Abbie did a double take, and saw that Nano had cleaned her plate. “Wait, when did you…?!”

    The two were already out the door, and Aaron breathed a sigh of relief.

    Out on the porch of Aaron and Abbie’s middle-class dream home, Roland chuckled. “Mom’s been on you a lot, lately.”

    Nano turned her nose up. “It’s how she loves, always worryin’ about everyone. It don’t bother me.” She smiled. “In fact, I might just sneak over to the doctor and get that checkup so she can sleep better.”

    “She’ll appreciate that,” Roland said before looking for any sign of Jo and Drew, he could already see their garage door opening. “Oh, by the way… when I went to the dojo, the Sensei said it was ‘an honor’ to meet me when he realized I was your grandson. Do you know him?”

    “Hm?” Nano thought about it. “Huh, you’re going to that dojo over at Trank Plaza?” When Roland nodded she laughed. “Brantley’s Dojo? Lord have mercy.”

    “Brantley?” Roland repeated.

    “I’m surprised that place is still open…” she murmured, before she smiled at Roland. “Well tell him ol’ Nano sends her love, and go easy on ‘im, kay baby?”

    Roland threw a playful fake punch with his free hand. “No promises.”

    “Morning, Nano!” Drew called as he and Jo rode up on their bikes.

    “Hey Nano,” Jo said as she bunny-hopped her bike from the street to the curb. She looked at Roland. “You ready to go?”

    “Yeah.” Roland gave Nano another hug, then headed for his bike, chained up next to their house’s attached garage. “Let’s get going.”

    @@@@@

    With Nano waving farewell, the three were on their way. The ride to Hill-Trank Plaza was just long enough for Roland to ride his bike with no hands and eat his burrito, and the morning was early enough that no cars had the opportunity to splatter him all over the pavement for his hubris. By the time they got there, Marco was already stepping out of another dimensional portal, and saying goodbye to Star for the day.

    “Remember to keep your portable mirror on you. If something happens we’ll need you,” Marco reminded Star.

    “Relax,” Star said, “I’ll have my ringer super loud. It’s not like I’m going anywhere I won’t hear it, just the Bounce Lounge.”

    Marco smiled. “Have fun, okay?”

    The faintest blush covered the tops of Star’s cheeks as she smiled back. “Yeah, fun! Later!”

    She retreated into the portal, which closed to reveal Drew, Jo, and Roland tying their bikes up to a rack.

    “Hey Marco,” Drew said.

    “‘Sup man?” Roland asked.

    Marco nodded back to them. “Doing great, you guys ready to get some real training?”

    “Born ready,” Jo said, Drew and Roland nodding with her.

    Marco opened the door. “All right guys, today we’re going to get a lot done, but I need to talk to Sensei.”

    He stepped through the doorway, the others following him to find Sensei sitting with his legs crossed and his hands on his knees. The school’s master was in silent meditation, his eyes shut but relaxed, breathing deeply through his nose, and exhaling through his mouth.
    a
    Jo looked around the room as Marco went over to the matts and sat seiza in front of Sensei on the very edge of them. No other students had arrived yet. “So the little imp isn’t here.”

    Drew looked at Roland. “So soon as Marco’s done, we can start asking questions.”

    “Yeah, leave it to me,” Roland assured them.

    Out on the mats Marco sat in silence, watching his teacher’s meditation with intense focus. Sensei continued his steady breathing for several moments, making no other movements, giving nothing away. After a few moments more, Marco wondered if he was meditating at all and not-

    “Mr. Diaz.”

    Oh, he’s awake. Marco thought.

    “The time is eight-twenty seven and twenty-three seconds. Twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six…” Marco checked his watch, while Drew, Jo, and Roland went to their phones. He was right on the dot. “You have come early to the dojo. What is it that you seek?”

    Marco answered. “I wish to advance, to take the next step on my journey. It’s time for me to level up, and become a Red Belt.”

    Sensei took a deep breath. “I see. Five years and you believe you are ready?”

    “That’s right.” Marco clenched and unclenched his hands. “I want to move up so I can challenge myself further, and achieve greater heights. I don’t think I can do that as a Green Belt anymore.”

    Sensei nodded. “So you are finding yourself bored as a Green Belt then, Mr. Diaz?”

    “Not bored… I just feel like I have learned everything there is at my level.”

    “I see.” Sensei’s eyes opened. “Well then, I hope you are ready for a grueling process. The Red Belt is the deep red of sunset, the last bit of light before you venture into the uncertain dark of true mastery. I will push you to your every limit to see that you are ready to reach this level.”

    Jo rolled her eyes. “How much anime does this guy watch?”

    “Yes,”
    Roland answered.

    “I dunno, this is kinda cool,” Drew admitted.

    “Do you think you can handle it? This trial has broken many a student.” Sensei asked Marco.

    Marco nodded. “Yes, Sensei.”

    Sensei closed his eyes and breathed deeply. “Very well, stand!” He shot to his feet, Marco springing to his in the same instant. “Bow to your sensei!” Marco placed his hands together and bowed to Sensei. “Now prepare yourself! Your training begins… NOOOOOOOW!”

    With his bellowing kiai Sensei crossed the mat at speed that caught not only Marco, but the Beetleborg kids completely off guard. Turning he lifted his right leg to bring his heel down on Marco in an axe kick.

    “Whoa!” Marco raised his hands to block but Sensei was faster, his heel actually stopping short of his face. “… Huh?”

    Sensei pointed his foot at Marco’s face. “Clip the toenail.”

    Marco lowered his hands. “Huh?”

    Drew, Jo, and Roland stared at the scene, expressions blank. “Huh?”

    “Clip the toenail.” Sensei repeated, wiggling his toes for emphasis.

    Marco looked at his toes, then back at his face. “… Seriously?”

    “Clip the toenail, Mr. Diaz!” Sensei bellowed, and without fail Marco pulled out a pair of toenail clippers and snipped the edge off Sensei’s big toenail.

    “Ack! It got in my eye!”

    Drew and Roland winced, while Jo’s brow furrowed. “Okay, this is dumb.”

    Marco wildly brushed at his eyes, then looked up at his Sensei. “What the heck?!”

    Sensei narrowed his eyes. “If you are not ready for grueling minutiae, then how can I be sure you are prepared to wear the burden of the red belt, nay, the burden of being an instructor? A master? The arts is not merely chopping wooden planks and kicking butts, it is patience, diligence, and focus! To better yourself not physically, but mentally, and metaphysically–straight down to the soul!”

    Comprehension lit up Marco’s face. “Oh, I see…!”

    “Well then, continue to clip the toenail, Mr. Diaz, and prepare yourself. This is only the beginning of your Red Belt Trial.”

    Fire lit up in Marco’s eyes. He was not going to let his sensei down. “Yes, Sensei!” He clipped another toenail. “Ow! Again?!”

    Sensei was correct, this was only the beginning. After clipping his toenails, Marco mopped then waxed the floors, plunged the toilets, scrubbed the showers, itemized the school’s budget and washed the windows. All while Drew, Jo, and Roland watched from the bleachers as students filtered in and out, finding no classes to be taught while Sensei ran Marco through his Belt Trial.

    “This is so dumb…” Jo groaned. “We’ve been here literally all morning watching Marco do chores.”

    Drew was reading comics off his phone. “I’m with Jo on this one, we should’ve gone with Dipper and Janna, if this was what we’re gonna be doing all morning.”

    Jo gave him the side-eye. “Oh, what happened to this being kinda cool?”

    Drew checked his phone’s time. “Three hours and ten minutes elapsed.”

    Sensei was standing at the base of a ladder, watching Marco scrub the rafters of the dojo. “Those cross-beams need to be shining, Diaz!”

    “Yes sensei!” Marco shouted before some soapy, dirty water fell into his eye. “AHHH!”

    Roland hummed in agreement. “I suppose so. If you guys wanna sneak out ahead, you can. I’m going to stick around here.”

    Drew got up and looked back at his best friend. “You sure?”

    “Yeah, I still need to talk to Sensei, after all,” Roland said.

    Jo let out a huff. “Good luck getting a word in edgewise.” She looked at her phone. “Janna says they’re at the scrapyard, let’s go.”

    The two jogged down the bleachers and headed for the door. Drew looked up at Marco. “Hey, Marco! Me and Jo are going to let you finish your trial, later!”

    Looking down, Marco was surprised. “Wait, you’re leaving?”

    Jo was already at the door. “We’ve been here for hours. We’re going to meet up with Dipper.” She disappeared out the door, Drew behind her.

    “Yeah, sorry,” he called as he followed his sister out.

    Marco swore under his breath. “W-wait…!”

    “Mr. Diaz, you still have scrubbing to do!” Sensei reminded him.

    Groaning, Marco went back to scrubbing. “Can’t believe I wasted the whole morning…” Another droplet of soapy water landed in his eyes. “Dang it!”

    “Is your failure at hand, Mr. Diaz?”

    “No, Sensei!”

    Sensei nodded. “Good. After this, we’re going to close up shop and take your trial to the streets. There is still much you have to endure.”

    “Yes, Sensei!”

    Roland waved his hand. “Hey, Sensei, can we talk for a sec?”

    Sensei looked over to Roland. “Of course!” He turned back to Marco. “Keep up the scrubbing!”

    “Yes, Sensei!” Marco called back.

    Roland got up and walked down the bleachers, gesturing for Sensei to come over a little further away from Marco. Following him, Sensei folded his arms and nodded. “Is something the matter, Mr. Williams?”

    “There’s nothing wrong,” Roland glanced at Marco, then back to Sensei. “Yesterday you said you knew my Grandma. What’s up with that?”

    Sensei lit up. “Your Grandmother, yes. Look around this dojo, Roland, without a chance encounter with Nano many years ago… none of this would exist.”

    “Really?”

    Sensei nodded. “Honestly. Many years ago-” He stopped. “But not too many, when I was like your age, I was a young thug going down the wrong path. Gangs, violence, drugs, I grew up surrounded by it… and for much of my teen years, I thought that was all my life was going to be.”

    His dark eyes drew off to his right, narrowing as he recalled himself on the mean streets of East LA, a young man who wore a hoodie and a skull-cap in 95 degree heat, throwing up gang signs, spray-painting tags, robbing drug dealers, and running from the cops. “I was so young, and already on a downward spiral–it was only a matter of time before I was dead or in jail.”

    He swept his gaze back to Roland, and raised a clenched fist. “Then one day, I was at the end of my rope. I was cornered by a rival set right on the banks of the LA river, nothing but hot concrete between myself and a certain death at the hands of the eight biggest, baddest bangers East LA ever knew.”

    Roland hummed, imagining the young Sensei faced off against eight men armed with everything from baseball bats to handguns, surrounding him.

    “Then, I heard the rev of an engine. And in a flash my life was saved.” The young Sensei had only an instant to react, before a motorcycle straight from the fantasies of every Motorcycle aficionado roared through the air over his head and landed in a long sideways slide, bowling over the gangbangers as its rider threw her foot down and carved a trench in the concrete to stop it.

    The young Sensei looked up, in shock of the carnage, and then in awe at Nano–one hand on the handlebars of her motorcycle, and the other extended out to him.

    “‘Come with me, if you want to live’, she said, like straight out of Terminator 2 or something. It was so awesome,” Sensei continued.

    Roland thought about it. “Yeah, Nano loves that movie. She’d definitely do something like that.”

    “From that day forward, she took me under her wing, training me in the path of not just the honorable warrior, but the path of a man. From her I learned not to fight, but how to live, and I have been proud to show others that path since.”

    That also sounded like his grandmother. “Nano had a big impact on you, huh?”

    “I owe her everything. She is my most revered Master.” Sensei placed his fist in his palm. “That is why it is an honor to train her grandson. Don’t think that this means you’ll get any preferential treatment, though. I am a strict teacher, and I cut not slack for anyone.”

    Roland hummed. “Yeah, about that. Why did you let Jeremy get away with running his mouth-”

    Sensei held up his hand. “Hold that thought, Mr. Williams.” He turned and headed over towards Marco, who was climbing down from the ladder. “Excellent work Mr. Diaz! I can almost see my reflection in the rafters. Which is pretty impressive, since wood isn’t like reflective, and junk.”

    “Thank you, Sensei!” Marco said as he made his way down the ladder.

    “It’s almost noon,” Sensei continued. “So I will lock up the shop and we’ll be on our way.”

    Stepping off the ladder, Marco set the bucket on the floor. “So what’s next? How are we taking things to the streets?”

    “There is much to be done, Mr. Diaz. First, let’s grab some tacos over at Britta’s, then we’ll head to the next training ground.”

    “Sounds good to me,” Marco said before Roland walked over and held up his phone. “Uh?”

    Roland nodded to the door. “I don’t think we can do that, Marco. We were going to hang out with the others after class, remember?”

    Marco winced. “I know, but…”

    Sensei looked from Roland to Marco. “If you want to go hang out with your friends, you may. We can resume your trial in the morning tomorrow. You look like you need a break–and maybe get your eyes looked at.”

    Roland agreed, they were looking pretty red from all the stuff that kept getting into them.

    Marco looked half-ready to agree, but stopped himself. “Hang on. If I complete your trial today, can I get certified for the Red Belt tomorrow?”

    Sensei recoiled at the request. “Oh no, Mr. Diaz, there’s no way that you can complete this trial in one day. There is much to be done far too much.”

    Come on, Marco. Roland thought. “You can come back tomorrow man, we might be needed, you know?”

    Marco looked down, then at Roland. “The faster this is out of the way, the faster I can become a red belt and teach you properly. It’ll all be worth it, but if you need me… just call my phone. I’ll have my ringer super loud.”

    Roland wore a slight frown. “Are you sure?”

    “It’s fine,” Marco said before resting a hand on Roland’s shoulder. “Right now, I need to do this.”

    Roland flicked his gaze to Sensei then back. Closing his eyes, he nodded. “You do you, man. But if we need you, you gotta pick up.”

    “I will drop everything and head right over.” Marco said. “I promise.”

    Nodding, Roland gave both of them casual salute to both. “Good luck to the training, I’m gonna catch up with Drew and Jo.”

    Both Marco and Sensei placed their hands together and bowed to Roland, who remembered that he was a student of the dojo and returned the bow. Heading out to his bike, he unlocked it while looking back at the dojo.

    Kind of reminds me of Drew, when he gets locked in on something. He thought. Something was bothering Marco, and the Red Belt sounded like the answer to his problems. Remembering what happened at the dojo yesterday, he hummed.

    Gonna have to talk to him about that. He thought as he hopped on his bike and headed for the scrapyard.

    = - = 28 = - =

    Come on Marco.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2021
    Xicree, TechVest, Noxious and 4 others like this.
  5. TricksterPriest

    TricksterPriest 大六天魔王

    Joined:
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    CC: Here we go again. :3 And this time with some additional commentators.

    Trollouche: It is good to be back. :cool:

    Kallen: Kick out the jams, motherfuckers.

    CC: I see nothing wrong here.

    Trollouche: Yes, because your regular pizza diet is so healthy. :rolleyes:

    Kallen: It goes straight to her ass anyway.

    CC: Hmph. Nano is only 70, there are people who are still active duty military at that age. And after running 5 miles? Anyone would be hungry enough to want a steak.

    Milly: Smart guy. :)

    Marianne: My father had similar arguments with my mother about her diet. He was just as effective as Aaron Williams here. x3

    CC: Interesting. Someone has a connection.

    Marianne: It would hardly surprise me if she was an old master. You and her would probably get along, Algae head. :D

    Trollouche: That's impressive. Somebody has a superb sense of timing. He's not all talk then. :sneaky:

    CC: I could have told you that. :rolleyes:

    CC: Seems reasonable so far.

    Kallen: This is reasonable?? ¬_¬

    CC: Please. I put Mari through much worse than this. It is the sensei's privilege to abuse and crush the student under their heel to make sure they're ready. :D

    Trollouche: Just asking, but how many people have you trained over the years? :confused:

    CC: Enough to know what I'm talking about. You'd be surprised what can be made into training exercises. :sneaky:

    CC: Still not seeing a problem.

    Trollouche: Yeah, the kids are whining too much. If this were the Shaolin temple for example, he'd be dealing with worse. :rolleyes:

    Kallen: *clocks both their heads together* This is a fucking McDojo, not the god damn Shaolin Temple! And it's not a battlefield in medieval Europe or the Sengoku Jidai! :mad:

    Kallen: Both of you idiots have ridiculous standards!

    Nunnally: This is so cool! :D

    Milly: I can't help but wonder if this is actually what happened.

    Nunnally: Why would he lie? o_O

    Milly: I dunno, maybe he's not lying. Guy feels kinda flakey.

    Milly: I smell a rat. Also you can use wood polish to make wood somewhat reflective.

    Nunnally: I think he did it by hand scrubbing. :eek:

    CC: *facepalms* He's clearly doing something wrong if he's getting this many things in his eyes. >_<

    Kallen: I'm beginning to think something's wrong here. He's not giving him any kind of real timeline. ¬_¬

    CC: Fine, fine. This might be a wild goose chase, happy? :rolleyes:

    Marianne: The obvious solution then is to defeat the master and overthrow his school! :D

    Trollouche: Mother, no. :confused:

    Marianne: Mother yes. Listen to Mommy, Lulu. Sometimes you simply need to hike up your skirts, break someone's legs, grind them under your heel, and let them know what their place in the world really is. :sneaky:

    Nunnally: I apologize to everyone for having to put up with our mother's insanity. >_<

    So far so good senpai.
     
  6. Threadmarks: Scrap Yard Dogs
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

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    Time for the next chapter.


    = - = 29 = - =


    |Scrap Yard Dogs|

    The high pitched whine of dirt bikes broke through the city ambiance of late morning Echo Creek. Running up and down the hills of a large makeshift motocross circuit, several riders took to the air with dramatic leaps, their riders performing dizzying tricks atop their seats and handlebars before landing again. The circuit was nestled within a large scrapyard in the north of Echo Creek, not too far off from the winding road that led to Hillhurst. Atop one of the tall heaps of scrap overlooking the track, Dipper and Janna watched the leaping motorcyclists.

    “So,” Janna said as she balanced on the hood of a 70s station wagon, “Thursday morning here at this scrap yard, someone saw a giant snake around here near the track.”

    Dipper looked towards the direction indicated. “They couldn’t take a picture in time?”

    “Just like everyone else,” Janna replied.

    The buzzing of a dirt bike revving up even louder drew their attention to one of the bikers–wearing a blue and pink jersey splashed with neon green, in the middle of a huge air jump. Looking their way, the rider floated off their bike with one hand on the handlebars, pointed a finger gun at them and faked pulling the trigger at the top of their jump, and swung back on their bike to land in front of another similarly dressed rider filming the stunt with a camcorder.

    Dipper whistled. “That was pretty cool.”

    Janna tilted her head. “I guess. Those guys are kind of tools, though.”

    He looked over to her. “Huh?”

    She hopped off the hood of the car, onto the belly of an overturned coupe. She then jumped and landed on the dirt path between the piles of wrecked cars. “That track was made for BMX kids years ago. Then like last year some dudes on actual motorbikes took it over and it started a huge beef.”

    Dipper followed her down with a little more care. “BMX vs. Motocross, huh? Who won?”

    Janna gestured out at the tracks. “You see any bikes down there?”

    He frowned when he saw that indeed there were no regular bicycles to be seen. “That’s kind of messed up. They couldn’t share it?”

    “They didn’t even try, but when you figure out who was in charge of the whole takeover? It makes sense.”

    Dipper frowned. “One of the Vanderhoffs?”

    “Got it in one, it was Van who did it. Even worse? When he finished taking over this place, he got bored with his motorbike and quit.”

    Dipper grit his teeth. Asking what was wrong with those two would be rhetorical at this point, so he just opted to punch one of them if he saw them in person. “Slimy bastard.”

    “Don’t besmirch sliminess. He’s a dry bastard, complete with chafing.”

    It took a second for Dipper to process that, and he gave Janna a sidelong look. “Okay, that one was outside of the box. Also, ew.”

    Janna glanced back at him and smirked, before she walked on ahead of him and the two fell out of sight of the track. The mountains of old and broken down cars were piled high, some several stories. Cars, trucks, other mechanical equipment, from the 1930s to today, rusting under the hot Southern California sun in anticipation of some far off recycling.

    The sheer size of the scrapyard stuck out to Dipper, as he looked down one lane between compacted coupes and convertibles. “This place is huge. Is this where all of South Cali’s cars go to die, or something?”

    “Pretty much, but I think this place is weirder than you think. I’ve literally seen places here that aren’t the next time I visit.” When Dipper turned back to face her, interested, she continued. “Like the Monster Truck Graveyard.”

    “Monster Truck Graveyard?” That sounded amazing.

    “A whole corner of the scrap yard that’s just Monster Trucks. I’ve only been there twice, and if I didn’t pull pieces off them to add to my collection at home, I never would’ve believed it was real.”

    If they weren’t already on the hunt for something else, Dipper would be begging Janna to take him there to see it for himself. “Give me a week and we’ll figure this out. This is my kind of mystery.”

    “I’m here every Saturday. We can invite Marco next time, make a date of it.”

    Dipper blushed, and tugged his lumberjack hat down slightly over his eyes. Janna smirked in good-natured amusement.

    He looked at her from under the edge of his hat. “So how long have you known him?”

    “Since kindergarten. Though I can’t say we were on speaking terms until like Freshman Year, before that we were just background characters for each other.”

    Dipper hummed. “So how well do you actually know him?”

    “I know everything about him. Full name, address, social security number, account passwords, medical history-”

    Okay, that was weird. “I mean, as a person.”

    Janna stopped to think about it. “Well, we hung out starting in High School, but we weren’t friends then. I just mostly hung out with the exchange student his family was hosting then. After Akil left, we just kinda drifted together and we’ve been cool since.”

    Dipper raised an eyebrow. “Cool enough for you to know all of his personal information?”

    “Well,” she said as she shrugged her shoulders, “A guy like him needs to stay humble.”

    “That’s not ominous.” Janna was a mystery unto herself, from which many more mysteries sprang.

    “Don’t worry your handsome face, I’m not out to get him.” She clicked her teeth. “He’s not my type.”

    “What is your type? Mysterious? Dark? Dangerous? Dead?”

    Janna barked a laugh. “Careful with that sass, Lumberjack, or I’ll add tall and charming to that list.”

    Both laughed, and walked only a little further forward before they stopped and realized they were standing amidst tall mounds of scrapped vehicles, equipment, and other metal materials. It was quiet too, the nearby sounds from the motocross track absent, leaving just a still and off-putting ambience of metal creaking and straining under its own weight.

    Dipper felt a sense that things weren’t right. “Huh, that’s weird.”

    “You noticed it too, huh?” Janna asked as she turned to look up the path they came down. “We’re in one of the weird parts. You can’t hear the machinery, the road, or anything.”

    Dipper reached into his book bag and pulled out his journal. Opening it, he reached a blank page and began writing. “That’s a good way to know if we’re in an anomaly.” He looked back at Janna. “Check your phone, is it working?”

    Janna pulled it out and looked. “Looks like it.”

    “Send a text to make sure.”

    Janna did so, sending out a message to the group chat that she and Dipper were at the scrap yard. To her surprise, it was sent without issue. “Yep, we’re still connected.”

    “Maybe it’s because we’re still close to where we entered… is there anything else that happens when you go into an anomaly?”

    Janna gestured over to their left. “The scrap looks different.”

    He looked up one of the piles at Janna’s indication. Unlike the neater, more organized mounds in the main part of the scrap yard, the jagged and twisted piles looked too dangerous to climb. “I wish I had a drone or something. We could fly it up there and get a view of the surrounding area.”

    He looked down the path ahead. The sheer volume of scrap and metal was so much that it was impossible to tell how far it actually went, or if it ever stopped. With a small grimace, he imagined how easy it’d be to get lost here–or worse, to hide.

    “The Magnavores would love this place.”

    Janna had a worrying thought. “If the Snake is a Magnavore, it might have found its way here.”

    “So it’s going to be like finding a snake in a haystack, great.” Dipper looked up the path. “We may as well go back up and wait for the others, then. That’s how we get out of here, right?”

    Janna nodded. “Oh yeah, I’ve never had a problem finding my way back. It doesn’t even take that long.”

    “Really?”

    “Yep, no matter how far you go in, you can just turn around and take a few steps back…” Dipper followed her lead, and suddenly the sound of the nearby machinery and motorbikes returned. “… And you’ll be back in the real world.”

    Dipper looked around, surprised. Everything indeed looked normal again. “What other secrets does this town have…?” He asked before the motorbike sounds grew louder and closer. “Huh?”

    From around a corner of compacted cars, a motorbike emerged. The same bike and rider that had pointed at Dipper when they were watching from atop the piles.

    Janna lifted an eyebrow, and looked at Dipper. He shared her confusion as he looked back, putting his journal away. “Uh, hey? Are you lost?”

    The biker didn’t answer, he revved his bike, as two more riders pulled up. One held a metal bar in his left hand, and was slapping it against the side of his bike. The other pulled out the camcorder they’d seen before and pointed it at Dipper and Janna.

    “Oh crap…” Janna growled through her teeth. “… We need to go…”

    Soon as she said that lead rider charged, riding up into a wheelie at Dipper. Shoving Janna clear, he jumped back the other way, and into the path of the second rider swinging the metal bar he carried for his head.

    Grabbing his hat, Dipper ducked down and under the swing and looked back to see both motorbikes spin out to face him again, the riders looking straight at him. He glanced at Janna, who was climbing up one of the normal looking stacks of scrap, then back at the riders.

    Wait, they’re after me! He realized as they charged him again. The first rider barreled for Dipper, then spun out again, kicking up the dirt and gravel on the path at him.

    As Dipper shielded his face with his arms, he felt a hard, sharp impact across his stomach, just across his lower ribs from the second rider’s metal bar. The pain made him stumble, before he felt the first rider’s boot slam into the side of his head, the kick knocking him to the ground.

    Prone, Dipper ignored the pain and scrambled up to his feet, running ahead blindly. Just behind him, the bar-armed rider rode up against the side of the scrap pile behind him. Brushing his face, he looked at the three riders, the two revving their bikes again and looking at him–their helmets and goggles obscuring their faces, hiding their intentions. The third held the camcorder pointed right at him, to catch every moment.

    Before they could attack again, a broken rear view mirror bounced off the shoulder of the lead rider, and both looked up to see Janna hoisting a car bumper to throw it down at them. “Hey! Up here!”

    She threw it down and the riders scattered from being struck. In their moment of distraction, Dipper reached into his bag and pulled out something he didn’t think he’d need but was glad Mabel packed it in here–her trusty grappling hook gun.

    “Thank you Mabel…!” He said under his breath before he aimed and fired it, the hook shooting up past Janna to catch on the top of her scrap pile. The rope grew taut and Dipper was yanked off the ground and out of the reach of the riders. Slamming his feet into the side of the pile, he ran up it, pulled all the way to the top where he joined Janna.

    “Dude, are you okay?” Janna asked as she helped him up over the edge.

    Dipper reclaimed the hook. “I’m fine… I just… what the heck?”

    Janna pointed down. “I don’t know, but we should be running.”

    He saw why, the pile of scrap they stood on wasn’t a perfect tower, just to his right he could see where shorter piles next to it created a staircase of sorts, perfect for a determined pursuer to get up. This didn’t escape their two attackers, who already circled around and began climbing their way up towards them, while the third watched at the bottom with the camera.

    “Why are they filming it?” Dipper asked aloud before Janna tugged on his sleeve.

    “This way!” She said as she bolted the other way, running across the tops of the piles. Dipper didn’t hesitate to follow, the long climb the motorbikers needed gave them a head start.

    The two clumsily fled over the uneven and warped terrain of compacted vehicles, jumping over the narrow gaps between the stacks in their flight back towards the entrance of the scrapyard. Dipper looked back, in time to see the first rider come up over the top and begin slowly gaining on them, the second close behind.

    “Crap…!” Janna shouted. He stopped with her, and saw the wide gap between them and the next stack.

    Looking up, he saw the arm of the scrap yard’s crane overhead, then looked back at the riders. He aimed the grappling hook. “Grab onto me, Janna!”

    Janna didn’t hesitate, clinging to him as he fired the hook, catching the crane and jumping to swing across the wide gap between the stacks. At the end of the swing, Dipper dropped onto the top of the stack and set Janna down.

    Looking up at the grappling line, the gap they crossed, and their pursuers across it, she let out a laugh. “That was so cool.”

    Dippers shook out his arm after he recalled the grappling hook. “How does Mabel do that without hurting herself…?”

    The two riders stopped and stared at both of them, but neither Dipper nor Janna spared them a second look as they headed down towards the mound of scrap to the ground level.

    Hopping down the scrap piles, Dipper shook his head. “Are the Motocross guys that messed up?”

    “I know, right?” Janna asked.

    Both heard the bikes moving, fast, and set aside their questions for later. Running hard, they reached the main row of the scrap yard and kept going towards the entrance, Dipper lagging behind Janna. “Go! Go! Go!”

    Just behind them, the camera wielding rider came around a corner, followed by the other two, who quickly shot past him and closed in with the metal bar-armed one taking the lead and brandishing it to swing for Dipper’s back. At the last second Dipper snapped around with the Grappling Hook gun and fired it. “You got too close!”

    The hook smashed into the rider’s helmet faceplate and knocked him off his bike. The sudden violence of the counterattack caused the other two riders to stop in their tracks.

    Yanking his arm back, Dipper retracted the hook and it locked into the barrel of the gun. The first rider who attacked rolled up to his fallen partner, who was clutching their face plate and letting out muffled screams.

    The rider looked from his friend to Dipper, who aimed the grappling hook at him. “Don’t try it!”

    The rider revved his bike, and charged Dipper. Lining up the shot, Dipper fired the grappling hook, but the rider yanked his bike into a wheelie, deflecting the hook upward.

    “Damn it!” Dipper shouted before the rider swerved into a slide and kicked Dipper in the chest, knocking him onto his back.

    Janna stopped and looked back. “Ah, Lumberjack!”

    Doing a full donut as Dipper hit the ground, the rider reared his machine up again, and came up on Dipper to bring the front tire down on his stomach.

    “Crap, crap, crap…!” Janna pulled out her phone to send a warning, when a much louder engine all but deafened her and a black and pink blur blew past her left.

    The rider on the motorbike looked up from his standing wheelie, then dropped it–barely missing Dipper as he rolled out of the way. Another motorcycle, a big heavy chopper, passed by Dipper–its rider snatching the motocrosser off his bike with a strong-armed lariat.

    Turning sharply, the chopper rider threw the motocrosser onto the wounded one and came to a stop between Dipper and his attackers.

    Dipper slowly got up, and looked in surprise at the motorcycle. He recognized it, and it’s rider on the spot. “Wait… huh?”

    On the chopper, a red scarf trailing in the disturbed air behind her, Nano Williams glared at the two Motocrossers getting up, while the third lowered their camera in a panic. “You must be out your goddamn minds! On everything I love, I swear to God, if I catch you messin’ with my babies again, YOU WILL CATCH THESE HANDS! ALL OF Y’ALL!”

    The menace that the motocross riders had suddenly evaporated. They fell over each other, hand over foot trying to get onto their feet. The one Nano snatched off his bike attempted to grab it, when the one Dipper hit grabbed and pulled him away, the one filming it all had already turned and raced off. As they scrambled, Nano brought her hands to her mouth and shouted after them.

    “AND DON’T THINK I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE! I KNOW ALL YO’ MAMAS AND DADDIES! YOU BEST GET ON HOME BEFORE I BEAT Y’ALL THERE AND JOIN IN WHUPPIN’ YO BEHINDS!”

    Under her verbal assault, the two remaining riders abandoned their bikes altogether and fled into the scrapyard, hobbling as fast as they could.

    Dipper wiped his face and checked his palm–that first kick to the head had made him bleed. His eyes narrowed and he clenched his hand into a fist as Nano dismounted from her bike and joined him. Janna came back over to him, finishing her text to the group chat.

    “Oh Dipper, honey, what did they do to you?” Nano asked as she took off her scarf and pressed it to the wound.

    “Jumped us,” he replied.

    Nano, all that anger replaced with matronly worry, shook her head. “Why, baby?”

    “I don’t know… but it’s the second time in a week I’ve been attacked for no reason.” He had a good idea what was going on now, and it made his blood boil.

    Nano saw the look in Dipper’s eyes, and she gave him a slow nod. “Call your Grandpa to pick you up.”

    Dipper looked back up the path. “What about those guys?”

    “They need to learn them a painful lesson. I’m gonna have some words with the manager of this scrap yard about their little track out here. We’ll see if they’ll be actin’ like fools after today.”

    As Nano went over to her bike, Dipper took her scarf in hand to press it against his wound, and looked at Janna. “Can I use your phone?”

    Janna handed it to him. “Are you okay?”

    “I’ll be fine,” he said, dialing Shermie’s number. “You’d be surprised at the kind of abuse I’ve taken.”

    “You dish it out as well as you can take it, too, and better than they can. Did you see that one kid you clocked with the Grappling Hook? He’s gonna be eating through a straw for the rest of the year.”

    “Good,” Dipper snapped, making her eyebrows rise. “I hope he swallowed some of his teeth.”

    Janna’s face relaxed to her usual laid back expression, then she bit the corner of her lower lip.

    As Shermie picked up the phone and Dipper began to explain the situation, he, Janna, and Nano were being watched. From within the fresher heaps of scrap the very snake they had been looking for flicked its tongue.

    Danger. Power. Incredible power. Not what it sought, and even more dangerous than what it tasted before. Nothing for it here, it would move elsewhere, closer to that vexing place of power that it could not go near.

    It would find its prey.

    = - = 29 = - =

    It's just not Dipper's time in Echo Creek.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021
  7. Threadmarks: Red Tape
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

    Joined:
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    But then again, everyone's having a bad day today.

    = - = 30 = - =

    |Red Tape|

    Janna Banana said:
    Dipper and I got jumped @ the scrapyard

    Jo said:
    WHAT

    Mabel said:
    OMG R U OK??

    Janna Banana said:
    Dipper got beat up but hes good. Nano helped us out.

    Jo said:
    WTF WHO DID IT?

    Janna Banana said:
    Sum dbags from the bike track. They chased us around the scrapyard, but they were after him.

    Jo said:
    Drew said that its the Vanderhoffs!

    Janna Banana said:
    Where r u guys?

    Jo said:
    We r almost @ junkyard. 5 minutes.

    Janna Banana said:
    We r going back 2 Dipper’s place. His grandpa will pick u up 2. Is Marco with you?

    Jo said:
    No, Marco’s still at the dojo.

    Janna Banana said:
    Y?

    Roland said:
    Getting his red belt.

    Jo said:
    Is he not reading his messages?!

    Roland said:
    I’m gonna call him.

    Roland said:
    Straight 2 voicemail. Im gonna go back 2 the dojo and let him know. Well catch up.

    Mabel said:
    Sry for long response! We r leaving Bounce Lounge right now! Meet u @ Sherpa’s!

    Marco had not answered his phone because it was in his backpack at the dojo, and he was a few blocks away at Sensei’s home. When Sensei said they were taking their training out onto the street, it was actually out to here–and since their arrival he’d finished mowing the front lawn of the house, sweeping the driveway, and now he was washing the windows.

    He wasn’t kidding about this being tough. He thought as he scrubbed at a particularly stubborn wad of grime with a soapy sponge.

    “Remember: sponge on, squeegee off. Let the two work in harmony, like yin and yang, and the balance will do the rest.”

    Marco looked down at Sensei then back at the window. “There’s a lot of gunk up here… like someone hasn’t cleaned these for a while.”

    The yard was the same way too, at least the lawnmower was in good shape to tackle it.

    “You can give up any time if it’s too hard, Mr. Diaz.”

    Marco scrubbed harder. “No, Sensei!” He scowled into his reflection in the glass. “I’m getting that belt.”

    Sensei brought a hand to his chin, rubbing his goatee. “Hmm… when you’re done with the windows, next you’ll have to clean my–guest room. I just hosted an AirBnB and it is grody.”

    “Yes, Sensei!” Marco shouted back, as Roland came riding down the street. Spotting them, he pulled a turn and rolled up into Sensei’s driveway.

    Sensei saw him, and nodded in greeting. “Mr. Williams.”

    Roland gave him only the briefest nod back, before calling up to Marco from the seat of his bike. “Hey, Marco! Where’s your phone, bruh?”

    Marco stopped and looked back. “Roland? What’s going on?”

    “Dipper and Janna got jumped at the scrapyard.”

    Marco dropped the sponge and squeegee into the bucket and leaped down from the ladder, landing in front of Roland. “When? Are they okay?”

    “Dipper got beat up a bit, but otherwise they’re all right. We’re all meeting at his place.” He leaned closer. “The guys that did it went straight for him for no reason, just like Lars did Monday.”

    It wasn’t some great mystery that needed Sherlock’s intellect to solve. “… Trip and Van.”

    Roland nodded. “… Yeah…”

    Marco turned to Sensei. “I have to stop for today, Sensei.”

    Sensei folded his arms. “If you do now, then you will have to begin the trial all over again.”

    “That’s fine, one of my friends got beat up and I need to make sure he’s all right.” Marco stopped. “Wait, start over? Can’t we pick up where we left off?”

    “No can do, Mr. Diaz, the trial requires discipline and the determination to follow through with a difficult task. Just like in real life, you cannot merely press the pause button and pick up later at your own convenience. It is a disgrace to the art and to the journey.”

    Roland spoke up. “Uh, that’s not what you said at the dojo.”

    Sensei looked at him. “Come again?”

    “You offered Marco to take the rest of the day off and said that he could pick it up tomorrow,” he pointed out.

    Marco looked at Roland, then at Sensei. “Yeah. What’s up with that?”

    “Uh… well you see, that was before you truly immersed yourself in the trial. You have already taken care of the difficult tasks such as the lawn, the front windows.”

    Roland turned to Marco. “Dude’s been having you do his housework? Cleaning the dojo is one thing, but belt tests can’t be all of this.”

    Marco took a moment for Roland’s point to sink in. “Hey… Sensei, what’s going on?”

    Sensei recoiled, his eyes darting left and right as his mind raced. “Well… you see, that is…”

    A car pulled up into the driveway at that moment, and the color drained from Sensei’s face when the boys turned and saw a small old woman emerge from the car and walk over to them. She was looking, impressed, at the well mowed lawn.

    “Oh my goodness, Brantley! The lawn looks lovely.” She looked up at the front of the house, specifically the windows. “And you finally got to the windows too.”

    She turned her attention to Marco and Roland. “Oh, your little friends from the dojo came to help? That’s so sweet of you boys-” She did a double take. “You’re Nano’s grandson, aren’t you dear?”

    Roland nodded. “Uh… yeah…”

    “I was wondering if you were ever going to start going to his school. I’ve suggested it to Nano so many times over at the salon.” She flashed the boys a warm smile. “You all sit tight, I’ll make you up some sandwiches for all your hard work.”

    The old woman walked up to the house and unlocked the door. Marco’s gaze moved from the woman to Sensei. “Uh… your Mom lives with you?”

    “N-no, she has her own house. She just visits, because she worries about me.”

    At that moment, his mother called out. “I hope that while you’re on this roll, you’ll get your room cleaned, Brantley. I’m having some guests over Sunday and I’d like to have the house spotless.”

    Sensei looked back to his students, and he withered under their stares. “All right… the truth is… yes, this is my Mom’s house, and I am indeed… having you do my chores that I’ve been behind on.”

    Marco closed his eyes, and took a long deep breath in through his nose and out through his mouth. “Why…?”

    “Because… the truth is, Mr. Diaz…” Brantley hung his head. “… I am a green belt, too.”

    “I don’t understand,” Marco said, the tone of his voice detached.

    Roland’s reaction was much stronger than Marco’s. “What?!”

    Sensei gestured for them to follow. “Allow me to explain… the terrible truth.”

    Roland looked at Marco, then back at Sensei as he walked away. He palmed his face and got off his bike. “I cannot believe this…”

    Marco was at a loss for words, but centered himself and went after Sensei. “Come on.”

    They followed Sensei upstairs to his room. Like his mother suggested, the room was in dire need of a cleaning, and to Marco’s chagrin it looked every bit as disorganized and sloppy as his wasn’t. Sensei sat down on the floor beside his unmade bed, and pulled out a dusty cardboard box full of old VHS tapes.

    “You see, after I had finished my training under Nano… I dedicated myself to teaching the martial arts. So I picked up these tapes in order to teach students.”

    “You can’t teach Karate by video tape,” Roland began.

    “Sure you can, they’re like lesson plans,” Sensei pointed out. “What courses to teach for each level, from yellow to black belt and junk. Unfortunately… I have not been able to watch past the green belt video.”

    “… Why?” Marco asked, after another noticeable deep breath.

    He gestured across the room. Both looked, and found an old VCR/DVD player combo holding up a broken leg of the table. Sticking partially out of it was a VHS tape labeled “How to Karate: Red Belt Test and Training Guide.”

    “The tape got stuck in the VCR, and I’ve been unable to remove it. I tried to watch another tape to learn how to unstick it, but… that got stuck, too.” The VCR and stuck tape in question were supporting the computer table’s other leg.

    “That’s literally it?” Roland pinched the bridge of his nose, and let out a groan. “YouTube, bruh… YouTube…”

    Sensei looked up from his knees. “You think I haven’t scraped the internet high and low for it online? I searched so deep into the web that I had to throw my last two hard drives into the LA river to get rid of that web history.”

    “No, I mean to unstick…” Roland shook his head. “You know what? Forget it.” He looked at Marco. “Can we go?”

    Marco took a third deep breath. “Sensei, I need to get my phone and clothes from the dojo.”

    Sensei, cowed by Roland’s exasperation and Marco’s disappointment, nodded and rose to his feet. “Very well, we shall depart at once.”

    @@@@@

    Roland walked his bike alongside Marco, his expression flat as the two trailed behind Sensei, who was slowly pedaling his own BMX style bicycle up the shop-lined road towards the strip mall. Marco was using Roland’s phone, explaining to the others via the group chat that they were going to be late to the meeting.

    “Hey man,” Roland said in a hushed voice.

    Marco glanced from the screen at him. “Hm?”

    “Sensei is kind of a mess.” Roland remembered Nano’s shocked reaction to Brantley’s dojo still being open.

    Marco looked down at the sidewalk ahead of them. He clenched his hands into fists, and took another deep breath. “Kind of, yeah.”

    In front of them, Sensei glanced over his shoulder at the two, looking like he’d just seen someone punt a sack of puppies into a river. Both noticed the look, and all averted their gazes.

    Roland rested a hand on Marco’s shoulder. “Listen, nobody’s perfect… and even though Sensei’s a tool, at least he came clean about it.”

    “Yeah,” Marco sighed. “I wish we could get that tape working.”

    “Jo could take that VCR apart blindfolded, but… if it’s been like that for years? It’s probably ruined.” It still bothered Roland that Sensei just gave up on something so minor.

    Marco cast his gaze downward. “It’d be nice if we could get another tape or find it online… huh.”

    The two strolled to a stop in front of the giant VHS mockup standing on the sidewalk, advertising rare video tapes. They looked up at the store it stood in front of, proudly advertising itself “VHS Depot.”

    Marco tilted his head. “You don’t think they’d have it, do you?”

    Roland shook his head. “I’d rather we meet up with the guys.”

    “I know but,” Marco looked at Sensei, then back to Roland. “Let’s just look?”

    Before Roland could protest, Marco called over to Sensei. “Uh, Sensei! Can you hold on a second?”

    Sensei looked back. “What is it, Mr. Diaz?”

    “Roland and I are going to check out this store real quick, we’ll meet you at the dojo.”

    Sensei nodded. “Do what you must, I’ll get the door unlocked.”

    He continued on his way, and Marco headed inside the store. “Trust me, this will be real quick.”

    Roland shook his head again and followed. “My man, what…”

    Right away they were greeted with shelves and shelves of VHS tapes, video game cartridge boxes, and banks of CDs–relics of an era before their time, as alien and mysterious to early 21st century teenagers as the ruins of ancient Egypt to the first archaeologists to witness them.

    “Whoa, wholly old media, Batman,” Roland muttered, “This place is a museum.”

    Marco was a bit distracted from the age of the material, by its quality. “Yeah, but the film selection…”

    He picked up a VHS tape box, a display model, and gasped. “Oh wow, a VHS copy of The Rock, starring Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery. This is one of the greatest movies ever made.”

    Roland looked at it. “Really, dude? By the Explosions guy?”

    “He used to be good,” Marco said with a bit of defensiveness. He looked at the price. “And it’s only 65 dollars. I can afford that.”

    He looked at the shelf and gasped. “Is that a copy of Con-Air?!”

    Before Roland could question Marco’s taste further, someone else did. “Ah, I see that you are a man of culture as well.”

    Marco and Roland both looked towards the cash register of the VHS Depot, where a short, messy-haired and round-faced man sat with his hands folded on the counter top. More importantly, on the shelf just behind him was a familiar VHS cassette box–the “How to Karate: Red Belt Test and Training Guide.”

    The cashier chuckled and snorted. “Yes, the 90s were Nicholas Cage’s finest era. Con-Air, Face/Off, and I see you’re already interested in The Rock.”

    “Face/Off was good too, while not a prisoner movie, I can’t say no to a John Woo film,” Marco said as he walked over, his eyes on the Red Belt Tape.

    The cashier snorted and laughed again. “I could tell you a thing or two about his older works. Face/Off is nothing compared to-”

    Marco rested his arm on the countertop. “A Better Tomorrow? The Killer?”

    This threw the Cashier off. “Ohohoho… someone who knows what they’re talking about, if you’ve come here to make a bargain then you’re off on the right foot.”

    “As a matter of fact, I am.” Marco gestured to his gi. “As you can see, I’m big on karate, and it just so happens that you have something over your shoulder there that I’d like to get my hands on.”

    “Huh,” Roland said, not expecting Marco to be familiar with movies that weren’t garbage.

    The cashier looked back. “Ah yes, the How to Karate Series Red Belt test. You’d be surprised how rare this actually is. Apparently only a hundred copies were ever sold, before the FBI confiscated the unsold inventory.”

    Marco recoiled a bit. “Wait, there’s nothing illegal on it, is there?”

    “Oh no, nothing of the sort. It’s more a sordid tale involving the school the tapes teach from. The tapes are all clean, and very rare.”

    He picked up the tape and set it down in front of Marco. “This copy has only been viewed once, and tightly rewound back to the beginning. If you want it, for an aficionado like yourself? I’ll ask for twenty-four hundred.”

    Marco looked at the tape, then at the cashier. “Wait, dollars? You’re joking, right?”

    The cashier sniffed loudly through his pig-like nose, tilting it up to speak down it at Marco. “It’s one of only a dozen copies known to exist, maybe even less than that.”

    The cashier tapped on the glass countertop next to the tape. “You can’t even find it online. Well you might, but you don’t want to go looking for it.”

    He looked aside. “I had to destroy two hard drives…”

    Marco didn’t want to know where people were looking for their karate videos. “All right, say I don’t have twenty-four hundred on me. Is there another way we can do this?”

    The cashier brightened. “Of course. Fight me for it. Win, and it’s yours.”

    Roland’s face fell. “What.”

    Seeing the short, overweight cashier in front of him, Marco calculated his odds. “Yeah, I think I can do that.”

    “Uh, Marco?” Roland knew they didn’t have time for beating up some store clerk. Especially over a VHS tape.

    “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” Marco said back to him. “I just have to go one on one with-”

    He stopped when the cashier rose to his full standing height. What Marco mistook for fat shoulders and arms were, to his chagrin, bulging rippled muscles tightly attached to a 220cm tall frame built for speed and striking power, like the man had trained his entire life in Muay Thai and Kickboxing.

    Roland did a double-take. “… What.”

    Peering down at Marco from on high, the cashier grinned and chuckled. “Changed your mind?”

    Marco recalculated his odds and assumed a fighting stance. “… I’ve fought worse.”

    Roland moved between the two, as the cashier raised his arm to chop through his own counter and attack. “Okay! Time out, time right the eff out! We don’t have time for fighting deathmatches over a tape.”

    He looked over at the cashier. “And what’s your problem, challenging people to fights for tapes?! Are you film snobs all that psychotic?”

    Marco gave him a flat look. “I’ve seen Armando and Ferguson get into literal fist fights at Zoom, Roland.”

    “Zoom?” The Cashier repeated in recognition. “Roland?”

    “That’s different,” Roland argued. “Armando does Versus Debates IRL and Ferguson thinks walking up to anyone wearing a Batman shirt and telling them The Long Halloween was bad will provoke thoughtful discourse.”

    “I don’t know what that is,” Marco said.

    “Look, that’s not the point. You need to set your priorities, man, why is this belt so important that we’re here and not over with the guys?”

    Marco hesitated, before he stopped and looked down at his feet. “Because…”

    He trailed off again, hesitating a little longer. “… I first started taking lessons at the dojo when I was nine. I saw Sensei demonstrating in the park, and it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I thought if I could learn karate, I’d be stronger and I could impress you know… people I wanted to impress… but the thing I wanted the most was to be like him.”

    Marco lowered his shoulders. “When Sensei just asked me if I wanted to be his assistant I was so excited because I thought that this was another step towards me being closer to that.”

    He looked to his left. “And… I admit it, being an assistant teacher would mean I’d get to rub it in Jeremy’s face and I was really looking forward to that, too. Now, though…? After seeing how he is? I want to help Sensei rank up, too.”

    Roland paused. “Oh.”

    The cashier picked up the tape and offered it.

    “Take it.”

    Roland and Marco stared at the tape. Their eyes slowly trailed up to the cashier’s face.

    “Huh?”

    The cashier nodded solemnly. “It’s yours.”

    Marco brightened. “My story of seeking to strengthen the bond with my Sensei moved your martial artist’s spirit, and you’re giving the tape to see it through?”

    “What? No.” The cashier said as he offered the tape to Roland specifically. “I owe Nano a lot for helping me keep my business afloat. So take the tape as a token of appreciation.”

    Marco and Roland cycled between gawking at the cashier, to searching one another for some kind of explanation. After several loops, they stared at each other.

    “All right, how does your Grandmother have so much clout in this town?”

    Roland shrugged his shoulders. “Man, I don’t know.” He takes the tape and gives it to Marco. “But you know what, man? I think we’re almost done here.”

    Marco took the tape. “Almost?”

    Roland smiled and looked to the cashier. “Hey man, you got a VCR we can borrow?”

    “New or used?” The cashier asked.

    @@@@@

    Ten minutes later, Sensei opened the door to the VHS Depot and stepped in with caution. “Hello? Mr. Diaz I got your text, did something happen? Did the store get robbed?”

    He stopped when he found Marco standing in front of a tall cart with an old CRT television and VCR combo sitting on it. On the television, the “How to Karate: Red Belt Test and Training Guide” was paused on the title screen. Roland and the cashier stood off to the side, waiting patiently for Sensei’s arrival as Marco was.

    Sensei stepped towards Marco and the TV, his eyes wide and shining. “No way…”

    “That’s right, Sensei. The wait is over, we have a copy of the Red Belt video, and it works.”

    Sensei lit up. “Marco, dude! This is awesome, how’d you pull this off?!”

    “Turns out, with a little bit of help from my friends.” Marco nodded to Roland, who threw a salute back to him. “Now we can take the Red Belt test and level up, together.”

    Sensei was practically beaming. “Marco, you are truly epic!”

    “And when we complete the test, I can become your assistant and we can make the school better, together.”

    The light left Sensei all at once. “… Oh.”

    It didn’t escape Marco’s notice. “… Uh, Sensei?”

    Sensei’s shoulders slumped, and he turned away. “Mr. Diaz… I’m afraid there’s something we must discuss.”

    Marco felt a cold anxiety building up. “What is it?”

    Roland didn’t like how the atmosphere changed either, and walked over. “Now what…”

    “Mr. Diaz… Marco…” Sensei took a deep breath. “… Even if you were to become a red belt, I literally cannot let you become my assistant instructor.”

    It felt like a punch to Marco’s stomach. “What? You literally can’t? Then why did you tell me that I needed to be a red belt first? Why did I go through all that work for the trial?”

    Sensei groaned and turned to face him. “Because I wanted you to quit, okay?”

    Marco went stock still, staring at his teacher. “… You what.”

    Sensei heaved a sigh, and sniffled. “I couldn’t just say that you’d never be my assistant after I said all that in class!” His eyes welled up with tears. “S-so I made up all that junk for you to do today because I hoped you’d get tired and forget about the Red Belt, but you’re like… super determined and junk! I was running out of things to make you do because you wouldn’t give up.”

    Marco remained unmoving. “You… what…”

    Roland was trying to fight the haze of red that was falling over his vision.

    “I can’t explain it right now, but you’re just not… er… I want you to be my assistant but I-”

    Marco cut him off. “You know what, Brantley? It’s okay.”

    He untied his green belt, opened his gi, and tossed it onto the floor at Brantley’s feet. His former teacher stared at the discarded gi, then looked up at Marco. The young man’s eyes were dark with anger and betrayal, but also wet with fiercely held back tears.

    “You wanted me to quit, so I quit,” he said in a dead calm, before he walked past Brantley and out of the VHS Depot.

    “Mr. Diaz!” Brantley called after him. “Marco, wait!”

    Roland snapped. “Yo, shut the fuck up!”

    Brantley turned around in surprise and backed up as Roland advanced on him, fire in his eyes and teeth bared like he was going to bite out his throat. “Who the fuck you think you is, draggin’ around my boy by the nose for the whole fucking day?! Our friends got jumped! One of them got beaten up!” He roared as he walked Brantley into a shelf of VHS, that the Karate instructor pressed himself back against.

    “We could’ve been anywhere else but playing this stupid fucking game with you, you dog-ass, manchild-ass, almost forty-ass, don’t even have a car-ass, no account having-ass BITCH NIGGA! You got the fucking balls to lie to your ‘best student’ straight to his face, and now you trying to act all sad that he straight up QUIT ON YOU?!”

    He stomped away from him, then turned around. “AND IF I CATCH YOU EVEN BREATHING MY NANO’S NAME I WILL BEAT YOUR MOTHERFUCKING ASS! DO NOT TEST ME.”

    Roland marched out of the store. Brantley, staring straight ahead, sank to the floor at the base of the shelf and looked down at his feet. Across the room, the cashier watched the door swing closed, then turned to the fallen teacher.

    “If you’re not going to buy anything,” he said with a stiff, threatening voice. “Get out.”

    Outside, Roland rode his bike down the street, catching up with Marco. “Ayo! Marco! Marco!”

    Marco kept walking, his eyes straight ahead. “We need to go meet with the others.”

    Roland dismounted from his bike and jogged alongside him. “Look, man, I’m sorry.”

    “You didn’t do anything, it’s fine.” He grit his teeth. “I was the idiot.”

    “No, you weren’t.”

    “Yes, I was. I should’ve realized something was up, sooner. I was so excited about becoming his assistant that I didn’t think he was leading me on.” He snorted. “I wanted to see the look on Jeremy’s face so bad…”

    Marco let out a bitter laugh. “I mean, yeah, I thought it was weird. But come on, he was the one who wanted me to be his assistant! Why wouldn’t I trust the guy who taught me karate since I was nine?!”

    He shook his head, tears beginning to fall from his eyes. “Who I guess thought so little of me that he figured I’d give up as easy as he did trying to get a stupid tape out of a VCR.”

    Reaching up he rubbed his face. “Wow… I’m so stupid.”

    Roland has been here before. “Marco, my man…”

    He draped an arm over his shoulder, stopping him, and pulled him in close. “This ain’t your fault, man. Stop blaming yourself, or calling yourself stupid, or any of that shit. You’re his student, you trusted him, and he betrayed that trust. That’s not on you, and never was.”

    Marco stood there, weighing on that, and he looked up from his feet at Roland. “That… you’re right.”

    Roland shrugged his shoulders. “Look man, I wish this was my first hoo-ride… but I’ve seen my fair share of shitty authority figures in my life, and what they do to the people near and dear to me.”

    He stepped back and patted Marco on the shoulders. “We gotta be better than that, and them.”

    “Nano seems pretty cool, though.” Marco pointed out.

    Roland looked to the side. “She’s an exception to the rule. But we can talk about that another time–we shouldn’t keep the others waiting any longer.”

    Marco agreed. “Yeah, we can get my phone and junk later.”

    As the two continued on down the street, Brantley left the VHS Depot with his head low. He looked down the street where Marco and Roland left, and his eyes welled up with more tears.

    Directly across the street, an expensive-looking black SUV left the curb and pulled a U-turn over the two-lane street to park in front of Brantley. The driver of the car, a balding man in a tuxedo, emerged and walked around the front to open the front passenger door and pull out a set of stairs. Then he opened the rear passenger doors and set them down–allowing Jeremy Birnbaum to step out and onto the sidewalk in front of Brantley.

    Jeremy, holding a small bucket of popcorn and conspicuously wearing a pair of binoculars around his neck, looked in the direction Marco went, then up at Brantley. “Wow, he actually quit. This went better than I thought.”

    Brantley looked down at Jeremy, and he took a deep, long breath as he glared at the boy with all his impotent fury.

    Jeremy looked up at his sensei, and popped another handful of popcorn in his mouth. “I don’t know why you’re looking at me like that. You’re the one keeping your dojo open.”

    Brantley’s glare vanished, replaced by a beaten, downcast look to the ground. Jeremy smiled, blithe and cherubic. “That’s right. Thanks for making this the best Saturday ever.”

    He tossed the half-full tub of popcorn at Branley’s legs, spilling the contents onto his feet, and turned around to climb back into the car. As his butler buckled him in, Jeremy looked over him to wave at Brantley. “See you Monday, Sensei.”

    The butler shut the door, walked back around and climbed into the vehicle. Soon the SUV pulled off, leaving Brantley standing alone on the curb.

    On the roof of the VHS Depot, the massive snake slipped its tongue into the air to taste it. Satisfied, it turned and slithered off.

    = - = 30 = - =

    Well, almost.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2021
    Xicree, Pulsor93, Noxious and 4 others like this.
  8. Pulsor93

    Pulsor93 I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    And now Joffrey Baratheon faces competition for top “child who’s beat down by teenagers and adults would be justified”.
     
    EvaUnit01 and TricksterPriest like this.
  9. Threadmarks: One Week
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

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    You'd be surprised how many kids are like than in Echo Creek.

    = - = 31 = - =

    |One Week|

    In the backyard of Shermie’s home, Dipper, Mabel, and Misao sat on one side of a white picnic table Shermie kept in the backyard for barbecues and other social events. On the other, Drew, Jo, and Star sat. Janna was standing at the end of the table between Drew and Dipper. Mabel, at her brother’s side, was putting the finishing touches on cleaning and dressing the cut on the side of Dipper’s head from the boot to it he received at the scrapyard, when the back patio door opened and Marco and Roland walked out to join them.

    Star looked back and sprang to her feet. “Marco!”

    She stopped when she saw the weary disappointment on his face, and looked between him and Roland. “What happened?”

    “We can talk about it later,” Marco said as he walked over to the other end of the table.

    Roland agreed with a nod as he joined Drew’s side and rested a hand on the tabletop. He took a second to look again and noticed that both Mabel and Misao looked like they’d been swimming in the last hour–their respective clothes and their makeup smudged and smeared. They, and Star, also appeared to be covered in bruises.

    “Jeez, did everyone have a messed up day today?” He asked.

    “We can talk about that later, too,” Misao seethed.

    Star looked contrite for such a manic girl. “I am so sorry, really! I didn’t expect that to happen.”

    Mabel finished wrapping Dipper’s crown with bandages. “It’s not your fault. There’s nothing we can do-”

    “But get gruesome revenge on that…” Misao trailed off into muttering in at least three different languages worth of foul words.

    His bandaging done, Dipper spoke. “So three kids on motorbikes jumped Janna and I at the scrapyard and knocked me around a bit. They came after us for no reason and without warning, but they were focused on hurting me–and filming it.”

    Jo spoke next. “Exactly the same way Lars just strolled in and stuffed Dipper at lunch.”

    “Once is happenstance, twice is a coincidence,” Janna said, “But Big Dippy Style’s face isn’t that punchable.”

    “Unless you’re Trip Vanderhoff,” Drew said.

    Marco remembered Trip’s screaming and hollering about payback. “Oh, it’s definitely him.”

    “So what are we doing about it, exactly?” Roland asked.

    “I’m going to be the better person, ignore the Vanderhoffs’ crap and strive to avoid further contact with them,” Dipper said sagely.

    Roland and Marco both stared at him with unconvinced expressions.

    “You got me. Next time I see either of them, I’m kicking their butts up and down the block.”

    “We are,” Mabel corrected him, and Dipper nodded in agreement.

    Jo out-stretched her arms onto the bench and slouched forward to rest her chin on the painted, polished wood. Her left hand came to rest over Dipper’s, and patted it as she closed her eyes and sighed. “We’re catching haters like a frog catches flies.”

    “And they’re already getting in the way of more important stuff,” Drew added. “We can’t be fighting off the Vanderhoffs on one side of things while dealing with the Magnavores on the other.”

    Especially if someone going after Dipper could ambush him without any warning or notice. That could make for an awkward or even dangerous situation for them if they decided to spring on him while they were after a Magnavore. The security of the Beetleborgs’ identity was at risk too, with that thought in mind.

    Weighing on those thoughts, Roland spoke. “We need to avoid situations where Dipper can get jumped, and I don’t know… maybe try to deter that?”

    “This is America, is it not?” Misao asked. “Why not get a gun?”

    “Because the first thing I need is to pull a gun on obnoxiously rich people and give them an excuse to call their police dogs on me.”

    Misao winced, while Janna slid off the table’s edge and turned around to face everyone. “I have an idea.”

    She gestured to Dipper, then over to Marco. “Why don’t you two start hanging out more?”

    Mabel brightened. “Yeah! Marco can be like… Dipper’s bodyguard!”

    “Whoa, bodyguard? Me?” Marco asked.

    Star bounced in place. “Yeah, and those guys are pretty scared of me! If both of us are around Dipper, then they won’t mess with him!”

    “And if anyone thinks they can do it for them, they’ll be in for a bad time,” Janna finished.

    Dipper turned his head and looked at Marco, who was certainly thinking about the idea, too. Jo, on the other hand, was skeptical.

    “It’d be easier if they went to class together, but they don’t,” she pointed out.

    Janna smirked. “Come now, Jojo, you can guard his body, too.”

    Jo broke into a small, triumphant smile. “I see nothing wrong with this strategy.”

    Dipper slowly moved his hand from under Jo’s. “Thinking about it, though. There’s another good reason for why I should hang out with Star and Marco more. At least in public.” He looked at Drew, Jo, and Roland. “And why we all need to be seen less with you.”

    Jo sat up. “What? Why?”

    Drew got it in an instant. “Protecting our secret identities.”

    Roland agreed. “Yeah, if people keep seeing Star and Marco with us, then seeing Star and Marco with the Beetleborgs, it won’t take much to put it together.”

    “Actually rolling as a group in public has to stop,” Dipper began.

    Mabel held up her phone. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t stay in touch! Or hang out here, or at Hillhurst!”

    Jo pouted, but accepted the wisdom of the move. “We can still hang out incidentally, right? And I’ll watch your back in class?”

    “Of course,” Dipper said.

    “Then once again I see nothing wrong with this strategy.” Jo stopped. “Wait, what about going to the dojo? Both Marco and I will be there…”

    Roland grimaced, but Marco took over. “No we won’t.” When everyone looked at him, he dropped the news. “I quit the dojo today.”

    Star gasped. “What happened?!”

    Marco glanced at Jo, before he spoke. “Brantley didn’t want me to become his assistant, but he didn’t have the nerve to just say it. He put me through all that crap this morning so I’d give up on the red belt.”

    Jo slammed her fist on the table, thankfully not breaking it. “Fuck that son of a bitch!”

    “… Oh my God,” Drew muttered. “That’s… unsettlingly familiar…” He trailed off.

    Marco sighed. “On the bright side, I can teach you guys whatever anytime. I definitely know more than what a Green Belt is supposed to–oof!”

    Star’s hug knocked the breath out of him, and its tightness made it almost difficult to get it back. She leaned into him, and rested the side of her head against his. “… Karate meant so much to you, I’m so sorry that happened…”

    Marco returned the hug, and rested his chin on her shoulder. “Thanks, Star.”

    “I can go find him and avenge you, if you want,” she suggested.

    “No.” Marco shook his head. “He’s not worth it.”

    Mabel joined in the hug, Misao coming around the other side and hugging him, too. As he found himself trapped between three different girls, he looked back and forth between each–from down at Misao to up at Mabel. “No offense but you’re all kind of… damp?”

    “The sprinklers at the Bounce Lounge went off,” Mabel said.

    Misao growled. “Because an idiot started himself on fire.”

    “Geez… I’m sorry,” he murmured back.

    Dipper drummed his fingers on the table. “To think it’s only our first week here.”

    “Our first week all knowing each other,” Roland said.

    “The first week as superheroes,” Jo added as she brushed her fingers against Dipper’s.

    Drew looked at the girls hugging Marco, Jo trying to get in contact with Dipper, then Janna smiling at it all like it was part of some grand plan–and realized that it was. “So what? It’s not going to get easier, but we are going to get better… and we’re not alone for this fight.”

    Dipper perked up. “… Yeah.”

    The other girls all looked back at the table, but Star remained embracing Marco. “That’s right,” Mabel agreed. “We’re all in this together!”

    Misao nodded. “Even if we all can’t fight, we can do something… and the very least is be there for each other to lean on.”

    “And to stick up for,” Roland added.

    “And protect, too.” Marco spoke.

    “It’s because of that, that I think we’ll win.” Drew said. “Not just against the Magnavores but against anyone else who messes with us. Even as sloppy and new we are at this, we don’t give up… and when we’re together we’re unstoppable.”

    Janna gave Drew a light punch in the arm. “Well said, Sad Kid.”

    “Yeah,” Jo agreed, “Way to remember that the Blue Stingerborg makes all the good speeches.”

    Drew let out a small laugh and rubbed the back of his head. “I just thought it’d be nice to say, you know?”

    Mabel decided then it was time to do one better. “You know what we should do while we’re all here? A… party!”

    Misao agreed. “Ja, anything to wash the taste of the Bounce Lounge out of my mouth!”

    Star gasped and pulled back from Marco. “That’d be fine, right?”

    Marco’s smile was small, but it was there. “Yeah, let’s end today on a high note.”

    Dipper got up. “I’ll go talk to Shermie about getting some food. We all had Pizza yesterday…”

    “How about barbecue? I know a place,” Roland said.

    Marco’s smile slipped into a smirk. “Do you think we can get a discount if we mention that we know Nano’s grandson?”

    Roland laughed. “Bruh…”

    It took a while, but the long disastrous day was left behind. By the end of the evening at the home of Shermie Pines, there was nothing but loud music and laughter as the teens brought together by happenstance and fate took comfort in their bonds. The bonds that would help them for the trouble that was soon to arrive.

    @@@@@

    In the hills on the northern edge of Echo Creek, were the mansions of town’s wealthier residents. Here lived the likes of Jeremy Birnbaum, Brittney Wong, and of course the Vanderhoff brothers, who were comfortably hanging out by their in-ground pool, a pit fire burning between them. Van played video games on a hologram projection television, while Trip sat on the edge of the pool, dipping his big toe into the water idly. Like most days, the boys were on their own at the house with the help–their father was out of the state, maybe even the country, and neither had seen their mothers since the last divorce.

    “Say, have you heard anything from those old friends of yours?” Trip asked as he dipped his toe in the water and held it there.

    Van could not tear his attention from the game. “What, you mean Topher and those guys? Nah, I didn’t hear anything since they said they saw Pine Tree by the track with that creepy witch chick.”

    “You think they got him?” Trip removed his toe from the water.

    “Topher said he’d film it. I told them to mess him up as hard as they could, even if they put him in the hospital, so we’re gonna get some good shots.”

    Trip chuckled. “Paying people to get mad for us. Why didn’t I think of doing this sooner? As long as they sign the contract and take the money, we can hire whoever we want to bully Pine Tree for us, and we can just watch and laugh.” He dipped his whole foot in the water. “Even better, that idiot probably has no idea why people are after him. He must be so scared and confused.”

    “If he’s even conscious right now. Topher said he was gonna do a burnout on his nuts.”

    Trip burst into full-on laughter. “Oh man, I hope they filmed that!”

    Van pumped his fist as the game he played ended with his victory. “After this, wanna hire someone to go after McCormick?”

    “Andrew? Oh yeah. Maybe we could hire a guy to steal his bike and throw it into the river.”

    Van hummed. “Maybe someone to break into his house and steal his comics.”

    Trip had it. “I know. Hire a girl to pretend to be interested in him, and then lead him someplace we can beat him up.”

    Van thought about that. “I think I know some girls who’d be down for that.” He pulled out his phone and looked at it. “I’ve been posting around on Insta for people who wanna jump in on the fun, and there’ve been a lot of hits.”

    Dudley shuffled his way over and cleared his throat. Trip looked over at him, with mild irritation. “What Demetrius?”

    “Dudley, sir,” the butler corrected. “A Mister Topher, and a Mister Caleb are here to see you, sirs.”

    Van hopped up onto his feet, excited. “Sweet, they’re here.”

    Trip got up from the pool edge and Dudley skedaddled out of the way, as two young men still wearing their motocross gear, marched out of the house and over to the poolside. The boy who led the attack on Dipper–Topher–had dark brown hair with matching eyes, and his face was twisted in anger as he marched up to Van and shoved him back hard.

    “You set us up, you piece of garbage!” He yelled at Van as the larger of the Vanderhoffs stumbled back.

    Van recoiled, and when Topher attempted to push him again, he pushed back harder. “Huh? No I didn’t!”

    “Blaine’s in the hospital missing like half his teeth because you said Pine Tree was a joke!” Topher yelled. “And now the track is freakin’ gone, too!”

    Van tried to process that. “What do you mean it’s gone?!”

    “Because Pine Tree’s friends with Nano, you tool! You didn’t tell us that either! She told the manager to bury the track and they did! They chased us all out of there and knocked like fifty tons of cars onto it!”

    “What was Nano even doing there?” Van asked.

    “I don’t know! She came out of nowhere and snatched me off my bike!”

    The other motocrosser, a lighter haired, brown eyed boy named Caleb, spoke up. “She’s gonna tell our parents, man! If I go home, I’m dead!”

    Trip grunted in annoyance. “That freakin’ old bag needs to mind her own business.” On that note. “So what do you two want?”

    “For you to pay up now!” Topher yelled at him. “My parents won’t wreck my face if I can at least show them some money.”

    Trip rolled his eyes. “Sure, whatever. Dolby, cut ‘em a check.”

    “As you wish,” Dudley said, pulling out a checkbook.

    Trip glowered at Topher and Caleb. “You at least did it, right?”

    Topher turned to face him fully. “What? Did you not hear what I said? Pine Tree shot Blaine in the face with a harpoon gun or something, then Nano showed up and wouldn’t let us near him!”

    Anger flashed in Trip’s eyes. “Droopy, burn that check.”

    Ripping off the check, Dudley tossed it into a fire pit.

    Topher exploded. “WHAT THE HELL?!”

    “I don’t pay people for doing nothing,” Trip said in a flat voice. “If you can’t do something as easy as beat up a stupid nerd, then you should be paying me for the time you wasted.”

    Topher growled and lunged to grab Trip, only for Van to step in and shove him to the ground at Caleb’s feet. The motocross boy got up and pulled a knife from his boot.

    Both Trip and Van recoiled at the sight of the glinting steel. Caleb himself raised his hands in fright. “Whoa, wait!”

    Topher ignored him and brandished the knife and began stomping towards the brothers. “You think you’re gonna screw us over, you jackass?! Screw you!”

    CLACK!

    The sound of wood hitting stone stopped everyone.

    CLACK!

    Both Vanderhoffs and the Motocross boys looked around, then saw the source of the sound.

    CLACK!

    Sitting on an empty lawn chair by the pool was an african american teenager wearing a white t-shirt, a pair of blue jeans, dark colored hiking boots, and a cream-colored bucket hat whose brim fell over his eyes. He was beating against the ground a long wooden sword coated in a black lacquer. At the end of its hilt a pink string was bound tightly around it, and at the end of the strings dangled miniature figures of a wolf and an imp.

    Topher lowered the knife and stared at him. “Who the heck are you?”

    Trip and Van looked at each other, then the former turned to Dudley. “Did you let this guy in here?”

    Dudley shrugged his shoulders.

    “Hey,” the new arrival spoke in a droning baritone as he struck the tip of the wooden sword against the ground. “You’re paying five stacks to mess with a dude, right?”

    Trip nodded. “Yeah.”

    Using the sword to push himself up to his feet, the newcomer pointed it at Topher. “I’ll kick his ass for fifty bucks.”

    Topher faced him. “What?”

    “Do it!” Trip shouted.

    The newcomer took the wooden sword in both hands. “Bet.”

    Before Topher could speak or move, the newcomer sprinted at him and swung the bokken into his stomach. The blow folded the motorbiker in half right over the wooden blade, knocking the wind, spit, and taste out of his mouth. His assailant lifted his blade and swung it and Topher around to throw at Caleb’s feet, the other biker jumping back in fright.

    “Uhhhhngh…!” Topher groaned and began coughing heavily as he clutched his stomach. Trip and his brother stared in silence–both slow to register the feat of speed and strength that laid him out.

    The newcomer rested the wooden sword on his shoulder with one hand, as he reached out with his free hand–gesturing to Trip. “Pay me.”

    Trip snapped out of his confusion, and barked at Dudley. “Well… pay him!”

    Dudley reached into his jacket, and pulled out a billfold. Producing a crisp fifty dollar bill, the old chauffeur placed it in the newcomer’s hand.

    “Aight.” He folded the bill between two fingers and walked over to Topher. Who was clutching his sides. “Hey, is this Pine Tree kid tough, or what?”

    “Screw you… ahh… you broke my ribs!” Topher whimpered.

    He looked up from him to Caleb. “Well?”

    “He had like a harpoon gun. Don’t listen to whatever those idiots say!” Caleb pointed at Trip and Van. “That kid won’t go down easy.”

    “Swag.” He pointed the wooden sword at Caleb. “Now get the fuck out of here.”

    Caleb didn’t need to be told twice. He helped Topher up and walked him into the house, Dudley following to make sure they left. After they fell out of sight, the newcomer turned to face Trip and Van.

    “So, I’m Gabe and I’ll kick Pine Tree’s ass for a hundred thousand.”

    Trip stopped. “What?”

    “Yo, one hundred thousand or I’m just gonna leave.” Gabe pointed to the wall that surrounded the house, the way he got in.

    Trip and Van looked at each other again, and Trip answered again. “That’s way too much!”

    Gabe lowered his sword, resting the tip on the ground. He shrugged his shoulders. “Aight, then I’m gonna go.”

    Turning around, he walked over to the wall–then stopped and looked back. “But if you change yo mind, catch me on Insta at GHaleyRobbinThem. That’s two Bs, no G, nigga.”

    He haphazardly threw the sword up over the wall, and with a quick run up, scrambled up to the top and vaulted over. From the other side of the wall he called out. “And a capital T! Don’t forget that!”

    Trip walked back over to the pool and sat down, dropping both his feet into the water. “The heck was that?”

    “I don’t know,” Van replied before he pulled out his phone and began checking his social media. “GHaley…” He stared at the phone, and gave a quick glance at the wall. “… Okay?”

    He walked over to Trip and sat down beside him. “Hey, check this out.”

    He showed his brother the phone, and Trip stared at it. The smaller Vanderhoff’s expression cycled through surprise to confusion. “… Huh. Yeah, there’s no way I’m paying him a hundred grand to beat up Pine Tree.”

    With a petulant sniff, Trip leaned back on his hands and looked at the darkening sky, the sun all but below the distant horizon. “It’s only been a week. He’s not worth that much.”

    He kicked his feet in the water. “There are plenty of chumps who’ll do it for less.”

    @@@@@

    His regenerative abilities gave Typhus an advantage over Jara and Noxic, who were still recovering and repairing from their injuries after Monday’s battle. While they sat in hiding he was free to move around their new domain, do reconnaissance, and even attack his foes alone if he wanted to… if he wanted to. The truth was, Typhus didn’t do much by himself, he often refused to outright.

    “Baby, this is so boring,” he grumbled as he sat hiding atop a building overlooking the expensive Rodeo Drive.

    It was well within his power to go and just tear things up, but what was causing mayhem and chaos without his best friends there to cheer him on and for him to hype up? At least he only had a few more days before Jara was on her feet, and once Noxic finished remaking the parts he lost, they’d be the three amigos of anarchy once again.

    The power went out on the entire block below. The street lights and the exterior lights of the super expensive shops flickered back on, before they all shut down, plunging the street and Typhus himself into darkness. “Huh.”

    “Dangerous ones… powerful ones… ssss… this is an interesting world, Master.” Snake Head said as his bulky form emerged from the shadows of an air conditioning unit behind him.

    “All right!” Typhus cheered, upon seeing Snake Head. “What’s up, Snake Head. You got anything for the Big T?”

    The snake head dangling off Snake Head’s right side hissed aloud. “The humans are dangerous. Some more than others. Clever, strong, powerful. Some are unaware, some hide it, but all hold the potential. Be very careful Master, do not cross the wrong human carelessly.”

    Typhus snorted. “I’ve already seen plenty of that, baby. What else you got?”

    “I have already found one of the prey… tomorrow I will capture and use it to lure out the others.”

    Typhus pumped his fists. “All right, I knew I could count on you. Let me know when you’re going that way, I’ll ride witcha.”

    “It would be an honor, Master.” Snake Head fell silent for a moment, then hissed again. “Tell me, Master. How is it that you have come to the service of Vexor?”

    The question perked Typhus up. “Well, you know. The Magnavores ain’t the strongest tribe in the Nightmare Realm, but they ain’t the dumbest. If you ain’t a world eatin’ God, you gotta be smart enough to stay outta sight, baby.”

    “But… ssss… Vexor?”

    Typhus waved his creation off. “He thinks too much of himself, but he ain’t no fool. If it wasn’t for him, I woulda been chopped up into pieces by Nukus.”

    Snake Head staggered back. “Ssss… Nukus?!”

    “Yeah, your Master had a bad day, crossed paths with the Lord of Nightmares himself. Vexor got me out of that jam quick, baby. I’ve been riding with him, since.”

    Snake Head fell silent after that, and turned away from Typhus “… Ssss…”

    His creation’s odd mood didn’t escape Typhus. “What is it?”

    “Be wary of Vexor, Master. Do not let him hold too great a power over you.”

    “C’mon, who do you think you’re talkin’ to? I’m Bio Lord Typhus, I ain’t afraid of no space crab with a built in Pope Hat!”

    Snake Head’s hisses came out sounding like laughter. “Bio Lord?”

    “Yeah, that’s what they call me in the funny pages, baby!”

    Snake Head turned to face him, with a burst of energy. “It suits you, Master! Let us go hunt, and strike terror into the enemies of Bio Lord Typhus!”

    Typhus laughed and folded his arms. With a nod, both monsters vanished into flame as the sound of many, many police sirens began to fill the air, converging on Rodeo Drive.

    = - = 31 = - =

    How many crimes are Trip and Van going to commit just to harass one kid? And will they get away with them?
     
  10. EvaUnit01

    EvaUnit01 The man who stands at the top of AAWWEESSOOOMEEE

    Joined:
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    Arguably a better question: why are all the Magnavore villains SO DAMN COOL?!

    I love it.
     
    The Ero-Sennin likes this.
  11. anonguy11

    anonguy11 why do you look like Yoshikage Kira now?

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    Because Metal Heroes is the fucking shit and it's a goddamn shame it's dead right now.
     
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  12. Threadmarks: You are the Prey
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

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    Yeah I'm leaning far in to Juukou B-Fighter stuff rather than just running simply on the Beetleborgs lore alone. It's helped.

    = - = 32 = - =

    |You are the Prey|

    It was another morning at the Williams home, and Roland came downstairs to find his father and grandmother eating breakfast at the table, while his mother was standing in the archway between the dining room and the living room. Abbie Williams had her hands on her hips, and was shaking her head.

    “Morning,” Roland called.

    “Hey son,” Aaron greeted.

    “Morning, baby,” Nano said as she stirred around her bowl of granola cereal and fruit.

    Roland saw the breakfast his grandma was eating and gave her a knowing look, before he peered over at the television. The news was showing an aerial shot of some expensive looking shops, and the reporter was talking about LA’s long history of high-profile robberies.

    “What’s going on?” He asked.

    “Someone robbed a jewelry store on Rodeo,” Nano said. “Stole forty million dollars in jewelry just last night.”

    Roland whistled as he grabbed a pitcher of orange juice and poured himself a glass. “Dang, I hope they have insurance.”

    “Mmm… they won’t after this,” Abbie said, before she walked over and kissed Roland on the cheek. “Morning, sweetie. You going to sit down and eat with us?”

    “Nah, I’m going over to the park to train with Marco so I’m gonna keep it light.” To that effect, he grabbed a waffle and spread some jam over it.

    Abbie frowned. “What about the dojo?”

    Roland paused. “Uh… well, Marco quit yesterday and since we were only going there to train with him, we all followed.”

    Nano let out a hum, then got up from her seat. “I’ll see you out the door, baby.”

    With a nod to Nano, Roland bid farewell to his parents and walked with her out onto the porch. Soon as the door shut, Nano turned to her grandson with a concerned look. “What did Brantley do?”

    Roland was impressed. “You just knew, huh? He yanked Marco around over his Red Belt, and that’s why he quit.”

    Nano palmed her forehead. “Lord have mercy on that boy, he’s a mess. Been a mess since he was in high school, still a mess now if he’s acting like he in high school.”

    That reminded him. “Hey, Nano, did you save Brantley’s life or something when he was a kid?”

    Nano stared at her Grandson, uncomprehending, before something clicked on in her head. “Oh, oh! He told you about how we met?”

    “Yeah, he said he was a gangbanger who got in too much trouble until you saved him.”

    Nano hummed and shook her head. “I don’t remember it happenin’ like that. The Brantley I knew was a shy boy who liked to buy anime tapes from my old video store back in the 90s. One day he got picked on by some other kids down by the river, so I told them to knock it off and took him home to his Mama.”

    Roland slumped his shoulders. “Ugh, I knew it. A loser and a liar.”

    “Don’t be so hard on him,” Nano said, “Frankly? For as much of a child that man is, he’s kept his dojo goin’ all these years and he genuinely loves what he does. That’s why I was surprised when you said you were goin’ there.”

    To that, Roland laughed. “The man gives up when he can’t get a tape out of a VCR? Or afraid to tell his number one student that he can’t promote him to assistant? How can he take the pressure of running a business?” As soon as he asked that question, he stopped. “… Wait, how does he do that?”

    Nano hummed. “Askin’ the real questions, baby. Why don’t you go an’ train with your friend, ol’ Nano is going to go see how Brantley’s doing and maybe give him some advice.”

    There were worse things to wish upon someone, but getting a firm talking to from Nano was still up there. Roland, however, was fine to resign Brantley to that fate. Bidding his Nano farewell, he climbed on his bike and headed off.

    @@@@@

    Under a tree in Echo Creek Park, Marco adjusted the gray belt of his karate gi’s top, checked the sleeves, and dusted the shoulders off. Today was his first day going solo, and he wasn’t about to start off on the wrong foot. “All right Marco,” he whispered to himself, “Today you are no longer the student, you are the Sensei. Teach them well, better than you were taught. You can do this.”

    Space Unicorn~! Soaring through the Stars~!

    Marco grabbed his phone and answered it. “Huh? Star? What is it?”

    “Hey Marco,” Star said with her usual outpouring of energy. “You weren’t here when I woke up, are you okay?”

    “I’m fine, I just came to the park to do some training.”

    “Oh! Oh… okay! I was just wondering if you were okay, have fun training.”

    Marco smiled. “Thanks.”

    “Bye!” She ended the call, and Marco looked at his phone with a bemused smile.

    Space Unicorn~! Soaring through the Stars!

    Marco answered it again. “Star?”

    “Did you eat breakfast?” She asked.

    “I got some from Britta’s on my way here…” Marco replied.

    “Right, okay! I’ll just um... have breakfast and go hang out with the girls then, bye!” She ended the call again.

    Marco stared at the phone, in full confusion.

    Space Unicorn~! Soaring through the Stars!

    He answered it yet again. “Is something going on?”

    “Oh… I um… was just wondering if you had some time to talk, but if you’re busy training we can talk later, bye!” Star ended the call abruptly.

    He watched his phone, waiting for it to ring again, but this time it didn’t. He rolled his eyes and was just about to call her back, when a man dressed as a butler stepped around the tree and pointed a smartphone of his own at him. He stared at the man, who stood there and said nothing otherwise.

    Marco saw the red recording light on and put away his phone. “Can I help you?”

    “You sure can,” Jeremy said as he followed his butler out from behind the tree, but kept said butler between him and Marco. “Tell me, Marco, how does it feel to finally overcome your stubbornness and admit to being a loser?”

    Marco rolled his eyes and turned away from Jeremy. “Go away, Jeremy.”

    Jeremy smiled, a rich condescending expression as he walked around him and into the camera shot. “Come on, the world wants to know. Seven years at the dojo, five of them as a green belt, what made it all worth throwing away?”

    “None of your business,” Marco toned back. He had half a mind to leave if he wasn’t waiting for Drew, Jo, and Roland. “Who even told you that I quit?”

    “Ap-ap-ap-ap… this is your interview, not mine.” Jeremy said. “Come on, give us something, Marco. What was it like to realize just how lame you are, and that everything you do is for nothing because you’re a giant dork who can’t even beat an eight year old?”

    Jeremy turned and looked at the camera. “By the way, ladies? He’s got no girlfriend. No game to get one, either.”

    Marco’s expression darkened, and he faced the child with the same calm glower he stared down Jara with when she threatened to kill Star. “It’s not can’t. I won’t beat up an eight year old.”

    Jeremy paused. “What?”

    “You’re eight, Jeremy. I’m not allowed to hit you because you’re half my age. If I hit you even once I’d kill you.”

    Jeremy Birnbaum recoiled from Marco, the words swinging into him like a hammer straight into the bell of his young ego. “Wh-what? No! I can beat you up, I have beaten you up!”

    “Every time we fought I held back.” Marco looked at his phone, still opened on Star in his contact list. “And honestly? Now that I’m not at the school anymore, I don’t have to do that, or care what you think or do.”

    The complete lack of a response threw Jeremy completely off. Marco was supposed to be yelling at him, grinding his teeth, flailing to get him to go away and leave him alone. “H-hey. You’re the one who quit the school, you’re a quitter… doesn’t that mean anything? How are you going to be anything if you quit, huh?”

    Marco stared at Jeremy, the kid looked angry that he wasn’t taking the bait. “Buzz off, kid.”

    Jeremy seethed and assumed a fighting stance. “Fight me, Marco! I’ll show you!”

    Marco spun around in place and swung a kick into the tree beside him, hitting it so hard that the trunk visibly shook and the tree’s leaves loudly rustled overhead. Jeremy hopped back, his eyes wide at the sight of the deep crack Marco’s shin left in the side of the trunk. Pulling his leg free of the cracked and splintered wood, Marco turned to Jeremy and glared down at him.

    “That’s how hard I will hit you, if you don’t leave me alone.”

    Internally Marco screamed because of how much it stung, but he had to maintain his glare.

    Jeremy looked at the crack in the tree, then at Marco. His left eyelid spasmed, as his mind tried to grasp how hard the older boy would’ve had to hit the tree to do that. When Marco faked a lunge towards Jeremy, the eight year old yelped in fear and stumbled back, falling against his butler’s leg. To his merit, the butler didn’t seem affected in the slightest.

    “Now, if you don’t have anything else to say…” Marco trailed off, as the head of a giant snake descended from the tree directly above the heads of Jeremy and his Butler. First staring down at the two below it, the snake’s tongue slithered from its mouth to taste the air, before rising up to point at Marco.

    That’s a giant snake. Marco thought.

    Its eyes gleamed.

    That’s the giant snake! Marco thought, with much greater alarm as the gleam turned into a glow.

    Both Jeremy and his butler noticed Marco’s attention drift upward, and looked up together to see the giant snake looming just over them. Jeremy’s eyes grew wide and sparkly at the sight of the biggest reptile he’d ever seen, while his Butler had a more reasonable reaction, shrieking like a hysterical woman and running for his life.

    Marco jumped hard to his left, away from the tree and out of the path of the two solid beams of light that fired from the snake’s eyes and scorched the grass for a meters long line.

    The snake dropped down from the tree in front of Jeremy, the kid watching in amazement as it slithered after Marco at high speed, its long body undulating behind it. Mouth opening and long venomous fangs bared, the snake lunged for Marco, who once again sidestepped to avoid it by the barest margin.

    “Whoa!” Marco turned around and jumped into a backflip to avoid the snake’s fangs as it came around. Landing on the other side of its body, he ducked down when the tail came up and lashed for his chest. “Ah!”

    The snake came for him fangs first as he crouched, but he sprang high, stepping on the snake’s head and leaping off it to somersault through the air and land facing the snake.

    Marco looked up at the snake as it reared its head and hissed loudly. “Okay… found the giant snake…”

    “Ssss… I’ve found you… prey…” The snake hissed back.

    Jeremy’s eyes were glimmering like diamonds. “IT TALKS?!”

    Marco looked at Jeremy. “You need to leave!”

    The snake attacked again, biting at him. He dipped clear of it, but rather than follow through the snake pulled back to bite at him again. Marco kept rolling and juking, staying a margin away from the snake that thinned with every bite.

    “Yeah! Get him! Bite his arm off!” Jeremy yelled before Marco punished one more failed bite with a powerful vertical chop that drove the snake’s head into the ground. “Aw!”

    The snake’s undulating body thrashed as it brought its head out of the ground, one of its coils slamming into Marco and pushing him back. He only just regained his footing when the snake fired its eye lasers again, and Marco dove out of the way into a roll.

    The boy pointed and laughed. “Aw, is Marco afraid of a widdle snake?!”

    “Jeremy, it’s trying to kill me!” Marco shouted back as he avoided another bite.

    He laughed harder. “Then you’d better dodge it, if you think you’re so good!”

    Marco vaulted over the snake and landed in the first of three backflips away from the monster, opening the distance before landing in a low fighting stance. The snake brought its head up, then lowered it to the ground, tongue slipping out to taste the air.

    Drew, Jo, and Roland should be on their way. He thought. I need to hold out until they get here!

    “Fast,” the snake said, “But you are not fast enough.”

    “Then why don’t you show me how fast you are?” Marco asked.

    The snake’s entire body flickered, before it crossed the distance between them in the blink of an eye and headbutted Marco in the stomach, launching him into the air.

    I don’t know what I was expecting…! Marco thought over the internal howl of pain from taking a body shot like that. Looking down, his eyes widened when he saw the snake coming up at him, mouth wide open to bite into him. In the next instant his world was spinning as something slammed into him hard and he was brought to the ground.

    Huh… didn’t feel a thing. He thought with his eyes tightly shut.

    “Marco! Marco, you still with me?”

    That was a familiar voice. “Huh… wha…?”

    “Mr. Diaz, snap out of it!”

    Marco’s eye shot open, and he realized he was being held by Brantley. “Sens… Brantley?”

    He got up, and placed a hand on his stomach. “Nngh… what are you doing here?”

    “I came to, like, apologize for yesterday… but you’re fighting a giant snake.” Brantley said. “Is this something like the monster-arm thing, again?”

    Marco shook his head. “I wish, we need to get out of here. That thing’s got laser eyes and it’s fast.”

    “Yeah, I just saved you from that,” Brantley said.

    The snake tasted the air and hissed. “Before I tasted power… now I taste the same power and nothing more… ssss… move aside, or become prey, too!”

    “And I say to you, continue your reckless hunt…” Brantley assumed a fighting stance. “And you will become the hunted.”

    Marco got ready to fight as well. “I’m serious, Brantley, this thing is no joke!”

    The snake flickered again, but as it did Brantley struck Marco in the shoulder–shoving him out of the way of the snake’s fangs. Marco fell away from him and the snake’s passing body. Recovering, Marco landed on his feet and hopped back.

    “Your right, Mr. Diaz!” Brantley shouted.

    Years of being Brantley’s student kicked in by reflex, and Marco jumped left, dodging the snake as it appeared to bite his right arm. Marco stared at the snake, and his eyes rolled towards Brantley in disbelief.

    … What?

    The snake slammed into the ground and slithered along it before coiling up to face them both again. It watched Marco, and flicked its tongue again to taste the air. Over by the tree, Jeremy’s shoulders slumped in disappointment. “Aw!”

    Brantley looked between Marco and the snake. “Mr. Diaz, do exactly as I say!”

    Marco glanced at Brantley again. “Wha-?”

    “Duck, now!”

    Marco ducked, and watched as the Snake’s flickering afterimage passed over his head.

    “Now roll to the right!”

    Doing as told, Marco dove and rolled, and the snake’s open mouth ate the dirt where he’d been crouching.

    “Forward! Double time!” Brantley shouted.

    Marco obeyed, leaping forward and running to avoid the snake’s thrashing body. From under its own coils, the snake’s head emerged and it flickered as it pursued Marco.

    “Jump up and back!”

    When he did, Marco went up and over the snake’s head attacking his back and did a handspring off its body to land behind it.

    The snake let out a very angry hiss, as its eyes lit up.

    “Backflip, Mr. Diaz!” Marco did it, and escaped the twin beams of death from the snake. “Cartwheel, left!” Once more Brantley’s instructions paid off, and Marco evaded the barely visible snake.

    Where is it…?! Marco thought.

    “Now, with your right hand and left knee!” Brantley shouted.

    Marco felt a killing intent behind him, but before anything else, he listened.

    “Turn around…” Brantley ordered. “… and Clip the toenail!”

    Marco spun in place and raised his knee while bringing his knee up to catch the chin of the snake as his fist came down into the top of its head. The two blows closed the snake’s jaws with such speed and force that its fangs had no time to close properly–and they tore through the snake’s lower jaw, barely missing Marco’s attacking knee as they punched through.

    Marco watched with wide eyes as the snake jerked away from him and began to thrash about, a green and red ichor spraying from its wounds. The snake fell onto its back and rolled around in dying, agonized spasms. Jeremy sagged even lower, his mouth hanging open.

    Turning to face his teacher, Marco just shook his head. “Wh-what was that? How did you do that?”

    Brantley crossed his arms. “Once you have achieved oneness with the universe and know its precise timing… you can see everything unfold before you.”

    It was all Greek to Marco. “What are you talking about?”

    “Nevermind,” Brantley said. “Why was that giant snake after you?”

    Marco sighed. “It’s a long story-”

    “Here’s the short version: you’re doomed, baby!” Typhus called out, and both Marco and Brantley turned to see the Magnavore standing atop a nearby hill, brandishing his whalebone sword and surrounded by a squad of Scabs.

    “OH MY GOSH!” Jeremy yelled.

    Brantley did a double-take. “Whoa, sick cosplay.”

    “Revised short version: That’s not cosplay, he’s here to kill me, and he’ll kill you too if we don’t get out of here!” Marco warned as Typhus pointed his sword ahead and the Scabs broke into a run down the hill at them–brandishing their flame-shaped swords.

    Rather than run, Brantley assumed a fighting stance. “Don’t show them your back, Mr. Diaz, show them your fists!”

    Marco looked from Brantley to the Scabs. “… Right.”

    The first Scab reached Brantley and jumped to swing its sword down at him. The slash missed wide, and Brantley snap-kicked the Scab in the chest and head, sending it flailing. He weaved around a stab from a second Scab and used the momentum to back fist it in the side of the head, before punching it in the dead-center of its face with his other hand as he let out a powerful kiai, snapping its head back.

    Marco danced on his feet, backing up from the wild slashes of two Scabs, before he retaliated with a jumping crescent kick that spun them around onto the faces into the grass. A third leaped to fall upon him from above with a stab, and Marco rolled from under it and swept the Scab off its feet when it landed.

    Another Scab jumped at Brantley to tackle him, and ate two punches to its torso then an uppercut that made it crumple to the ground. “Haaa!” He performed a chop to stop the swing of another Scab, grabbed it by the arm and neck and threw it hard to the ground onto the one Marco swept.

    He ducked, and Marco soared over him to drill a flying kick into the face of another Scab. Rebounding off it, he stood back to back with Brantley and the two circled in place to face the Scabs surrounding them.

    “So these are like the Scabs in the comic?” Brantley asked. “You destroy ‘em with head shots, right?”

    “Yeah, I haven’t been able to do that yet,” Marco said.

    Brantley looked over to the side, and glared at Typhus as he reached the bottom of the hill and walked over to the Snake’s body. Marco looked over with him, and clicked his teeth.

    “Yo, Snake Head. Stop playing dead, baby.”

    The injured Snake stopped thrashing, and rose up, a large glowing slit appeared down the middle of its belly. In a spray of its ichor, its humanoid body emerged and stood, hoisting aloft the snake across where its head and shoulders should be.

    “IT’S SNAKE HEAD! FROM THE COMIC!” Jeremy shouted.

    “Hey, nothin’ for the big man, Bio Lord Typhus?” Typhus asked Jeremy.

    “I like Noxic better!” Jeremy called back.

    Typhus shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, he is pretty cool.” He then gestured to two Scabs. “By the way, grab the kid, too.”

    Two of the Scabs leaped over to Jeremy, who recoiled and assumed a fighting stance. “Ha! If you think that loser was tough, I’m a black belt!”

    “Jeremy! You’re eight!” Marco yelled.

    Brantley called over. “Run away, you toolbag!”

    Rather than listen, Jeremy unleashed a karate chop. “HEEYAH!”

    The Scab grabbed him by his arm and hoisted him in the air. Surprised at first, Jeremy began to thrash and scream, kicking in vain at the Scab, which was smart enough to hold him at arm’s length. “Hey, let me go! Let me go!”

    “Ssss… prey captured…” Snake Head said with pride. “Plus more.”

    “Great, hostages!” Typhus said as the two Scabs dragged Jeremy over to his side and pointed their blades at his throat. Seeing the gleaming edges of the weapons, Jeremy squeaked and went still. Both Marco and Brantley lowered their guards with grimaces.

    Typhus chuckled and walked over to the circle of Scabs. “All right, time for the real hunt to begin. Grab up your phone and call the Butterfly and the Beetles to come over and save the day.”

    Marco glared at Typhus. “I won’t.”

    Typhus broke through the circle and grabbed Brantley by his gi, hoisting him off the ground. “Do it, or I start taking chunks off your battle bro here, baby.”

    “Sensei!” Marco blurted out.

    Brantley stared Typhus in his eyes and called out to Marco. “No matter what he does to me, Mr. Diaz, don’t give him what he wants.”

    Tightening his grip on Brantley’s gi, Typhus chuckled and drew his red arm back, its muscles bulging causing its spikes to lengthen and sharpen. “Pretty brave of ya, but it’s gonna hurt.”

    Brantley smirked. “Do your worst.”

    Just as Typhus was about to do just that, an Input Magnum bolt struck him in the side of the head and he dropped Brantley. More bolts shot across the park, perforating the heads of the Scabs surrounding Marco and standing over Jeremy. Even more bolts pounded into Snake Head, knocking him backward and to the ground.

    Jeremy sat up as the Scabs disintegrated around him, and he gawked in silence at the very sight of the Big Bad Beetleborgs themselves standing on the preferred end of the avalanche of fire they unleashed onto the Magnavores–their armor gleaming in the morning sun.

    Marco sighed in relief and helped Brantley up as Drew, Jo, and Roland lowered their weapons.

    Brantley looked at them, and looked about ready to cry. “Dude. This is like the most nerdgasmic day of my life.”

    Typhus got up, and faced the Beetleborgs. “Just the bugs I wanted to squash, baby!”

    Drew glanced at Jo. “Get ‘em.”

    “I’mma get ‘em!” Jo shouted as she charged Typhus, who met her charge in kind, the red spreading across his body as he bulked up and out.

    “PAYBACK TIME, BABY!” Typhus roared, swinging his punch.

    Jo met his fist with hers, and on contact the shockwave blew Jeremy, Marco and Brantley away from the battlefield, sending them tumbling across the grass. The force of the impact sent both Drew and Roland stumbling back, but they managed to stay on their feet.

    Typhus and Jo both recoiled back from the explosion of their fists meeting. The more experienced former was the first to recover, and swung his sword across Jo’s chest in a downward slash, then swung straight across, sparks flying from her armor with each hit.

    Drew came in fast, shooting Typhus repeatedly with the Input Magnum. After taking several shots, he swung his sword to deflect two more bolts and fired back, Drew rolling out of the way of the fire. Getting back up to a knee, he fired several more shots, hitting Typhus in the side and the shoulder.

    “Grr…!” Typhus shrugged off the bolts, but Jo’s rising uppercut was a tougher no-sell, lifting him into the air like a rocket.

    As Typhus sailed in a ballistic arc towards the park’s lake, Marco and Brantley both got up. Jeremy was a little slower to get up, groaning as he rubbed his head.

    “So, you’re friends with the Big Bad Beetleborgs–who are real,” Brantley said.

    Marco looked at Brantley. “They’re not my friends, we just happen to share common interests.”

    “What, fighting the freakin’ Magnavores?” Brantley asked. “With the karate I taught you? Marco, do you have any idea how cool that is? I’m freaking out right now!”

    Roland opened fire on Snake Head, the monster taking several shots, and staggering back. Raising its head, it fired a burst of beams from its eyes that danced off Roland’s armor without doing too much damage but causing him to stagger. With the opening Snake Head vanished from where he stood and appeared in front of Roland, lashing at him with the snake’s tail.

    “Gah!” Roland grunted before the snake’s head came up and fired its beams point blank, knocking him down.

    Drew and Jo aimed their Input Magnums and fired, and Snake Head vanished–appearing behind Jo to kick her in the head while it used the snake to fire beams at Drew. Both Beetleborgs went spilling to the ground, but Jo turned over and fired at Snake Head, the monster fading away from sight as the beams went through it.

    “It’s fast!” Jo shouted before she was grabbed around the neck by the snake tail and swung into Drew. “Oof!”

    Marco took off towards the fight. “Sensei, stay with Jeremy!”

    Brantley was about to shout affirmative, when he stopped. “… I’m your Sensei again?”

    Waving Jo around with its tail, Snake Head fired its beams at Drew and then Roland, forcing them both to roll for some kind of cover. In a full sprint, Marco jumped, twisted himself through the air, and came down with a diving kick that caught Snake Head between its shoulder blades. Snake Head crashed into the ground, releasing Jo.

    “You bastard!” Jo growled in retaliation, aiming her Input Magnum at the prone monster together with Roland and Drew and firing.

    The much faster monster vanished, and the beam shots only kicked up dirt and grass.

    “Above you! Move back!” Brantley shouted.

    Marco jumped backward, the Beetleborgs following his lead to avoid the shower of beams that Snake Head fired as it fell onto them.

    Roland raised his Input Magnum. “Don’t let him hit the ground!” He hit the keys on his Input Magnum. “9-6-7! Anti-Gravity Magnum!”

    He opened fire, the solid beam striking Snake Head. The beam’s effect did not damage, but rather than continue falling, the monster levitated above the ground, and began to struggle.

    “… Ssss?! What is this?!” Snake Head yelled as he tried to get some kind of purchase.

    “Stingerborg!” Jo shouted. “Use me as a springboard!”

    Drew summoned the Stinger blade. “Got it!”

    Running at Jo, Drew jumped and landed on Jo’s back as she doubled over. Standing upright, she shot her brother towards Snake Head as the Stinger Blade spun up and wrapped itself in power.

    “Beetle… Break!” Drew yelled, slashing through Snake Head’s snake and bisecting it. The force of the impact sent the monster floating higher into the air before the Anti-Gravity effect wore off and it crashed to the ground.

    Drew landed next to Jo and turned to her. “Good teamwork.” As Roland joined them, he turned to him. “And good idea with the Anti-Gravity.”

    “Yeah, but this isn’t over yet,” Roland warned.

    Marco joined them. “It’s not?”

    Roland shook his head and turned towards Snake Head’s snake… which now lay on the ground in two pieces. “That was Heavyznake, half of Snake Head’s body.”

    Jo nodded. “The other half is…”

    Snake Head got up, revealing that underneath the snake it wore on its shoulders was another, more tightly curled red viper, its head resting comfortably between the coils draped on its shoulders. Snake Head’s tongue flicked out, as its eyes shone a glowing crimson.

    “What a glorious hunt… ssss…” Snake Head said as Typhus appeared again at the top of the hill.

    “Snake Head! The cavalry is here, baby!” He shouted.

    When Marco and the Beetleborgs looked up towards the Magnavore, they stopped when another crested the hill to join him, gliding effortlessly across the ground to reach his side.

    Drew, Roland, and Marco all tensed up in silence, while Jo said exactly what they were thinking.

    “… Oh shit.”

    Vexor stood calmly beside Typhus, looking down at the scene and taking count of the belligerents.

    “The Butterfly isn’t here,” he murmured.

    “I tried to get ‘im to call her… but he didn’t wanna cooperate,” Typhus explained.

    Vexor hummed. “It will have to do.”

    He held forth his right hand and opened it, revealing a blue gem set into the center of his palm. “Open forth, Gaohm Zone!”

    “What?” Roland asked before there was a flash of light and suddenly he, Drew, Marco, and Jo felt the ground fall away from beneath them, and they were hurtling through a swirling tunnel of colors and lights.

    “A dimensional tunnel?!” Marco yelled as they plummeted.

    “This is bad!” Drew shouted before Roland vanished from his sight. “Roland!”

    He disappeared next, leaving Marco and Jo. Marco reached for her. “We gotta stay together-!” Jo vanished. “Crap-!”

    There was another flash of light, and Marco landed hard–falling into the middle of… the Hill-Trank Plaza dojo. Standing up on the cushioned mat, Marco looked around in confusion. It wasn’t just the dojo, across the back walls were shelves of VHS tapes, and even the cash register from the VHS Depot.

    He turned around in place, his guard raised. “… Okay…?”

    He heard a low hiss, and turned around again, on his guard. “Is that you, Snake Head?”

    Heavy, building shaking footsteps filled the room, and Marco turned around. He didn’t find Snake Head. Instead, a man with the hulking figure of the VHS Depot cashier and wearing Brantley’s gi loomed over him with his arms crossed. Looking higher, Marco’s took a step back as he saw the giant of a man had Jeremy’s head.

    “Hey Loser…” Jeremy said with a chuckle. “… Let’s settle this once and for all.”

    = - = 32 = - =

    The grudge match begins.
     
  13. Threadmarks: We are the Hunters
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

    Joined:
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    And now our shocking conclusion.

    = - = 33 = - =

    |We are the Hunters|

    Spiraling out of the tunnel of colored lights, Roland crashed into a slope not covered in, but made of bones. He skipped down the slope twice, before he managed to land and turn his tumble into a slide down the massive hill. He looked to his left mid-descent, and saw many more bone hills ruled the landscape, lit by a pale orange moon in a black sky devoid of stars.

    “What the heck…?” He said as he reached the bottom of the hill, skipping off a short ledge and landing in thick, knee deep sludge. Standing upright quickly, Roland looked around at the uncountable bones surrounding him, and realized that they were almost all rat-like.

    “Where am I?” He murmured before he heard a hiss.

    Beams of energy shot from the dark, blasting Roland in the chest, shoulders, and head. Snake Head–sans Heavyznake–kicked Roland in the back, then bicycle kicked him forward. Spin-kicking twice to end the chain of blows, he fired his eye lasers–which propelled Roland into the side of another mound.

    Snake Head landed in the sludge, and folded his arm as the liquid rippled with the stirring of serpents around his feet.

    “Welcome to my trophy room,” he hissed at the Green Hunterborg as Roland got back up.

    Back at Echo Creek Park, Brantley looked at the scorched ground where Marco and the Beetleborgs had been standing, then looked up the hill at Typhus and Vexor. Typhus was scratching the side of his mutant head, puzzling over what just happened.

    “So are we just gonna wait for Snake Head to finish, or what…?” He asked.

    Vexor hummed and shrugged his shoulders, moving his whole upper body with the effort. “We could always watch and see what happens.”

    “Hey!” Brantley yelled out, and they both noticed the karate teacher walking up the hill towards them.

    Vexor stared at Brantley and spoke aside to Typhus. “Who’s this?”

    “Just some guy,” Typhus said.

    Brantley took offense to that. “My name is Brantley, and I’m the teacher of that kid you zapped. Where is he, damn it?!”

    Vexor called forth a scrying circle, forming it in the air above him and Typhus. “Would you like to see?”

    Brantley looked up at the circular viewing screen into another world, and saw the Blue Stingerborg on it. “… Whoa…”

    Drew scanned his surroundings. He appeared to be in the middle of Echo Creek’s scrap yard surrounded by its piles of stacked up compacted cars. The path he stood in was much wider than normal, almost as big as a two-lane highway. Okay, another new ability, this time from Vexor.

    The buzzing of motorcycle engines pulled his attention upward, and he saw four Scabs on motorbikes riding down towards him, brandishing their swords. Without delay he pulled and fired the Input Magnum at his attackers, the beams bouncing off the front and handlebars of the bikes as their Scab riders reached him. Two passed closest to him, slashing him with their swords, while the two on the flanks of the formation peeled off in separate directions.

    Grunting from the hits, Drew faced the rider to his left that peeled off. Coming back around, the rider did a wheelie and three more motorbikes with scabs on it appeared with it. The riders opened their formation and attacked one by one, slashing at Drew with their blades as they passed him.

    “Argh!” Drew tried to turn back to shoot the retreating riders, when more came from the other direction, three slashing him with their swords while the last one did a wheelie and drove its bike up Drew’s front.

    Sent reeling, fell to the ground and the Scabs closest to him leaped off their bikes and fell upon him in a heap.

    Brantley gasped, as the Scabs swarmed Drew. “Oh no.”

    Vexor was pleased, though it was hard to tell. “Not as extravagant as Jara’s but still clever. Where’s the other one?”

    The scrying circle changed to the shopping district of Rodeo Drive in the middle of the night, where Jo stood on the famous pedestrian street lined with staggeringly expensive shops. Looking at the shops, Jo grew indignant.

    “I better not be here because I’m a girl!” She yelled before an expensively dressed woman walked past her. “Huh?”

    Another passed her in the other direction. Despite it being the middle of the night, the walkway was populated like it was the middle of the day–and there were sales going on. Looking more closely at the women, Jo saw they were mannequins with their faces drawn on by someone who had to do it in a hurry.

    “… This is weird…” She muttered, before one of the mannequins walking up to her from behind pulled out a knife and slashed her across the back. The hit was immense, tearing off pieces of Jo’s armor. “Urk!”

    She stumbled into another slash, this time from the front, and went backward in a shower of sparks–only to be slashed again, and again. As the mannequins walked by her they kept cutting, giving her no time to recover, let alone counterattack.

    “Ack! Hey! Quit it!” She shouted with each hit.

    Vexor watched, wondering what to make of this. “Snake Head isn’t the most creative of your works, is he?”

    Typhus shrugged his shoulders. “I made him to do two things, baby: Hunt, and go fast.”

    “He does it well,” Vexor changed the image of the scry, and Roland was in trouble as well.

    Firing the Input Magnum in Crashing Mode from atop a bone mound, he sprayed beams at a high rate of fire, shooting at Snake Head. The monster moved like a blur, weaving in between each bolt and closing the distance. Behind his mask, Roland grit his teeth. He’s so fast!

    Snake Head punched him in the head, making him stagger to the side, then kicked him off the mound.

    As the Green Hunterborg fell Snake Head struck him from above, sending him into a spin, then came up from below in a rising kick to his stomach, folding him in half. The blow knocked the wind out of him. Felt that through the armor…!

    Snake Head grabbed him by one of his helmet’s horns and threw into the sludge. Lying in it, he looked up to see several Heavyznake’s rear their heads from the liquid and glower down at him. “Crap…!”

    They fired their eye beams in succession, each hit pushing Roland towards another mound. Just as he reached it, Snake Head came down on him from above, punching him in the gut where he’d kicked him before.

    “Ngh…” Roland grunted from the pain and looked up at the monster. Snake Head slammed its foot–armored with a pointed greave–into his face and shoved his head under the muck.

    “Ssss… a paltry hunt.” Snake Head said.

    The Hunter Claw shot from the sludge opening to clamp on his waist. Snake Head vanished, and Roland stumbled forward through where he’d stood.

    Snake Head appeared and spin-kicked him in the head. “I have hunted monsters…” Appearing behind him he clubbed Roland on the back of the head. “… Demons…” Snake Head grabbed his shoulders and kneed him in the stomach, then elbowed him into the muck. “… Even Gods.”

    A Heavyznake shot up from below Roland grabbing him in its jaws and lifting him above the sludge. With a whip of its head, it threw him high into the air, below the orange moon–framing as a perfect target for dozens of Heavyznakes and their laser vision. The Green Hunterborg was juggled by the beams, bouncing to and fro, spinning and flipping, before he finally fell free of the assault and crashed–trailing smoke–before the skeleton of a much larger rat-like creature.

    Panting, Roland slowly pushed himself up to his knees and looked up at the skeleton of the rat-like creature, different from the countless others besides its size with the massive, curling horns that sprung from its skull. He looked up higher, and found Snake Head standing on the broken end of one of the horns, framed by the moon above and behind him.

    “Ssss… this has been a much needed vacation,” Snake Head admitted.

    Roland got up, the sludge dripping from his damaged armor, and he ignored the pain he was in from all the impacts to point his Input Magnum at Snake Head. “What did you… just say…?”

    “Hmph… ssss… my Master, Bio Lord Typhus, has told me all that you are capable of.” Heavyznakes burst from the sludge, two grabbing his arms and two grabbing his legs, holding him in place.

    “And I can taste your power. Great, but untapped. Dangerous, but ignorant.” Snake Head stuck his tongue out for emphasis. “That is why as prey your only worth is to capture more prey.”

    Outside, Brantley looked away from the scrying circle to scowl at Vexor. “Whatever you’ve got planned, you won’t get away with it!”

    “Are you volunteering to stop me, or are you going to continue to stand there like a pissant?” Vexor asked.

    Brantley’s shoulders slumped. “Well, no, because I’ve, like, read your comic and I know you’re super strong and you’d splatter me all over this park in a second.”

    A long, awkward silence passed, and Vexor tilted his head to him.

    “Well met.”

    “But…” Brantley added. “… I also know that I don’t need to do anything. Because you’ve already screwed up–you took my best student with you into your weird dimension.”

    Vexor hummed. “Oh, that warrior boy. Let’s see how he’s faring.”

    The scry changed, to Marco rolling along the tatami mats of the dojo to stay ahead of Jeremy, whose powerful stomps smashed holes in the floor as he tried to crush Marco with them. He got onto his hands and feet and sprang away from a heel drop that carved through one of the VHS shelves, and landed a short distance away.

    Marco assumed a fighting stance, as Jeremy chuckled and turned to face him. “Hahaha! So what happened to all that talk, Marco?”

    Brantley recoiled. “Jeremy?! Wait…” He looked around, and saw no sign of his troubled other student. He looked back at the scry. “Oh no.”

    Grabbing the destroyed shelf, Jeremy lifted and threw the shelf at him, but Marco flipped out of the way. “You’re so big, bad, and strong, come on! Take me out like you said!”

    Marco landed. “I’m not going to kill you.”

    Jeremy snorted and jumped across the room, flying like Superman to punch Marco down. Instead of evading, Marco parried the blow and circled around Jeremy’s back. Jeremy turned and blocked Marco’s chop with his raised forearm. Then spun in place, lashing out with his arms in a whirling strike that Marco slipped under.

    Turning to face him, Jeremy punched and kicked with his newfound reach and power, forcing Marco back one step with each attack. “Yeah, because you can’t!”

    Marco crossed his arms to block a straight kick from Jeremy, and grimaced. He hits so hard!

    His massive opponent capitalized, grabbing Marco by the shoulders and throwing him across the VHS Store/Slash dojo. “WAAAAAAHHH!”

    He crashed into the bleacher, and winced when he felt something break under him. Fortunately, he found only the wood splintered and cracked, and rolled out of the way before Jeremy’s hammer blow smashed the bleachers in two. The benches being wrenched down at the middle and up at the ends flung Marco into the air, but he caught himself on a rafter and held on.

    Jeremy emerged from the broken bleachers and looked up to see Marco swing and throw himself off them to perform a flying roundhouse kick that connected with his jaw. Turning away into a spin, Marco back-kicked Jeremy, but only got his foot caught in a massive hand.

    “Seven years, Marco. You’ve been doing karate almost as long as I’ve been…” He swung Marco around and threw him into the cashier’s counter. “… ALIVE!”

    Coughing, Marco sat up and looked up at Jeremy. “You’ve been a Green Belt for over half my life!” He grabbed Marco by the throat and lifted him off his feet. “And I shot past you like the nothing you are!”

    “Humans have such delusions,” Vexor noted to Typhus.

    Typhus shrugged his shoulders. “Snake Head said to not sleep on ‘em, boss.”

    Vexor sighed. “Well, I’m getting rather bored.”

    Jeremy leaned close to Marco’s face, huffing loudly through his nose, high off adrenaline and conquest. “You will never come close to me, and you’re gonna die wishing that you could.”

    Brantley shuddered. “Mr. Birnbaum, what the heck dude?”

    Marco struggling against his grip to keep his airway open, spoke. “I’m not gonna kill you… because… you’re not worth it…”

    Jeremy stopped. “Huh?”

    “Why would I kill someone… as pathetic as you?” Marco asked.

    He gripped Jeremy’s massive fingers and laughed. “You’re eight years old. You bought your belt and private lessons, but bully other kids at a McDojo just to feel better than them. You have no friends, no one likes you, and I bet your own Mom lets you do whatever because she gave up on you. Killing you would be doing you… a favor…!”

    Jeremy stared at Marco with a blank expression, and he raised his fist. “You’re talking mad smack for someone about to lose all their teeth, Diaz.”

    Space Unicorn~! Soaring through the Stars~! Delivering the Rainbows all around the Wooooooorld~!

    Vexor and Typhus both stopped, and looked at the Scry as Marco’s ringtone went off. Jeremy stopped too, surprised by the sound.

    On Rodeo Drive, the women stabbing and slashing Jo all stopped their motions and looked upward. Staggering against a wall, Jo shook her head and caught her breath. “… What?”

    In the scrapyard, Drew was pinned underneath a motorbike of a Scab doing a burnout on his face–when the bike’s rear tire stopped and the rider and the Scabs pinning him down looked up at the sky.

    Far within the bone mounds, Snake Head stopped… but he looked down. “His phone? But how?”

    Marco grabbed his phone from his gi pocket and hit the talk button. “Star…!”

    Jeremy snatched the phone from him with his free hand. “Hello, are you Marco’s girlfriend~?”

    “No,” Dipper replied. “This is a courtesy call.”

    Jeremy pulled the phone back from his face. “Huh?”

    “Marco!” Dipper shouted. “That’s not the real Jeremy! None of what you’re in is real!”

    On Rodeo Drive, Jo could hear Dipper’s voice. “Huh?”

    Drew as well. “It’s not…!”

    Marco began to smile. “It’s not… real?”

    “I’m the real Jeremy!” Jeremy shouted.

    “No you’re not… we’ve got him right here!” Dipper yelled back.

    Vexor grew alert and looked towards the tree Snake Head ambushed Marco at, Typhus and Brantley following. Dipper was standing under the tree, holding Star’s compact magic mirror in his hand. Next to the tree, Mabel and Janna held a squirming Jeremy still with their hands over his mouth.

    “Thanks for distracting them, by the way,” Dipper said to Brantley with a nod in greeting.

    “I did not sense them… are they normal humans…?” Vexor asked, before he felt like he’d been buried alive in molten lava, and liquid metal was being poured into his eyes and ears.

    He felt… power…

    Incredible power.

    Power that turned the morning sky dark from the intensity of its shine behind him.

    Both he and Typhus turned around and came face to face with Star, who stood by the edge of Echo Creek Lake, her cheek marks and eyes both glowing as the air around her rippled with power. She was looking at the scrying circle over their heads, showing Marco struggling to get free of the fake Jeremy’s grip.

    “Uh oh…” Typhus said as the ground shook in waves under his feet and a wind picked up from the direction of the girl, catching his and Vexor’s capes and the leaves of the tree.

    For Vexor, it was like staring directly at the sun, from five feet away.

    “… The… The Butterfly…!” He gasped, his voice filled with the awe and wonder of a man beholding the cosmos for the first time.

    Star raised the wand and pointed it at the two Magnavores. Red lines of light drew towards the face of the wand, before several pink rings appeared in front of it and collapsed towards the center. The darkness in the sky grew, before it became almost black. In a voice that echoed with power and shook the air, she spoke.

    “Let. Him. Go.”

    Then it was the brightest day Echo Creek ever saw as a colossal beam of light enveloped the top of the hill and everything on it. The jet-like howl of the beam set off car alarms, sent dogs barking, and people who’d already been chased away from the park by the sounds of lasers and explosions ducking for cover.

    Inside of the Gaohm Zone, the space flickered and warped, as immense power surged through it. The fake Jeremy flinched as the surge affected him, too. “What’s… happening…?!”

    Marco forced Jeremy’s hand open, and dropped to the floor, pulling Jeremy’s arm and hyperextending it. Dragging him in, he swung Jeremy around and away from him. The hulking Jeremy caught himself against the broken cashier counter, and turned around, growling.

    His back to him, Marco walked to the center of the training mats. “This isn’t real,” he said. “Ohohohohoho… Jeremy, you have no idea what kind of a relief that is.”

    On Rodeo Drive, the power surge caused the sky to grow lighter, and the mannequins turned their attention back to Jo. She was cracking her knuckles, and behind her mask she was grinning with malicious glee.

    Letting out a dark laugh she pushed off from the store front and launched herself at the group. Reaching the nearest of the mannequins, Jo jumped, flipped, and dove towards the center of the crowd–punching the ground.

    The force of her impact created a gigantic plume of concrete, glass, metal, and mannequin-like women as she destroyed the entire shopping district with that one punch.

    Marco clapped his hands together. “Because now? Now… ohohoho! I can get me some catharsis!”

    The bike pinning Drew exploded, and the Scabs that held him down were slashed through their heads and torsos by the Stinger Blade. Drawing the Input Magnum, Drew hit a new set of keys. “2-8-9! Magnet Magnum!”

    As the other Motorbike Riding Scabs tried to attack, Drew turned and fired at the piles of cars around him, magnetizing them with such power that the motorbikes and the Scabs on them were yanked off the ground and crashed into them at high speed, crushing them against the piles of magnetized scrap.

    The Gaohm Zone Jeremy chuckled. “So what… you’re gonna stop holding back…?!” He ran at Marco with outstretched arms, huffing and panting like a galloping draft horse, to drag him to the floor and pummel him to death. “YOU’RE GONNA KILL ME IN ONE SHOT?!”

    Turning in place, Marco performed a sharp, crisp high kick and struck Jeremy square in his chin. Its force wrenched the fake Jeremy’s head up with a sickening crunch and the rest of his instantly lifeless body followed it, his corpse smashing through the rafters until it was stuck into it from the hips, his legs dangling below him.

    Marco lowered his leg as he stared up at the dead fake. “Yeah.”

    Pounding his fist into his palm, he closed his eyes and bowed to his defeated opponent.

    The realization that the Beetleborgs and Marco had overcome the traps his Gaohm Zone had laid out for him struck Snake Head with disbelief. “Ssss… impossible…”

    He heard laughter behind him, and faced Roland, still held taut by the Heavyznakes. Underneath the mask, Roland smiled big as he watched the monster struggle with the sudden turn around.

    “What did you say this was? A vacation?” He asked as he pulled against the Heavyznakes. “Bruh, this was over the moment you decided what we’re worth.”

    Snake Head hissed and the muck around him began to light up. One by one, more Heavyznakes reared up, their eyes shining as they charged with their potent lasers.

    “Whatever you think you know about us, here’s something that you’d better not forget for as long as you have left to live: We may be sloppy and new at this, but we’ll never give up… and when we work together? We’re unstoppable!”

    Snake Head let out a dismissive hiss as his own eyes lit up. “Courageous last words. Prey that holds its head up high… is still just prey.”

    All at once, Snake Head and the Heavyznakes fired, the beams raining upon Roland and enveloping him in a volley so large and concentrated that after enveloping him it went on to bore a massive hole into and through the bone mound behind him, vaporizing everything in its path. After several seconds of continuous fire the barrage came to an end and the beams faded, leaving nothing but a gaping tunnel that stood for several seconds before it collapsed under its own weight to seal it.

    As bones tumbled down into the sludge at his feet, Snake Head flicked his tongue into the rancid air and tasted death, decay, and power.

    He let out a hiss of satisfaction. “Prey slain, the hunt continues.”

    Roland’s hand caught the extended tongue, and held it in his grip. “Nah bruh, this one’s far from done.”

    Snake Head’s pupils dilated in his eyes with the shock. “Ssss…?!”

    The Green Hunterborg pressed the Input Magnum against Snake Head’s left eye and pulled the trigger, shooting him with a wad of birdlime and sending the monster reeling in pain–his hand groping at the sticky, caustic substance to claw it off.

    “… You… how…?!” He snarled.

    Twirling the Input Magnum in hand, Roland set it to Beam Mode and aimed it at Snake Head. “I already told you once, don’t make me repeat myself!”

    Snake Head yanked his hand from his wounded eye and entered a fighting stance. “I will slay you in the name of Bio Lord Typhus, stubborn prey!”

    Roland fired the Input Magnum, but to Snake Head the yellow beam crawled out of the barrel of the weapon and began a slow, leisurely flight through the air towards him. Letting out a hiss, Snake Head stepped out of the muck and onto its surface to walk towards Roland, each footstep leaving a frozen ripple on its surface.

    He stormed past the beam, now fully left the Input Magnum, and up to Roland. “You will not escape me this time!”

    With all his might Snake Head lashed out with a front kick at Roland’s stomach, to kick him into the collapsing bone pile behind him and bury him in it. It didn’t connect, passing through Roland’s afterimage as so many attacks had passed through his own.

    Snake Head hissed with disbelief, before he was shot in the back with rapid fire bolts from the Input Magnum’s Crashing Mode.

    “What…?!” He turned back and only saw a smear of green disappear into his new blind spot on his left. He was struck with more Crashing Mode bolts, on his right, hitting his hip, side, and shoulder. “Ssss!”

    Snake Head leaped away, jumping onto a bone mound to his right. He landed hard, the bones kicked up into the air by the speed of his landing coming to a standstill around him. “When did the prey gain this speed?”

    Roland appeared in front of him, swinging the Hunter Claw hard and wide and scattering the bones. Snake Head ducked under it counterattacked with a punch that Roland deflected with his free hand. The claw came back around and Snake Head rolled under it to get behind him and kick him in the back, but Roland blocked the kick, turned and clobbered him in the snout with a punch before kicking him in the chest.

    “You’re too slow, bruh.”

    Wheeling backward, Snake Head avoided two more of Roland’s sloppy swings with the Hunter Claw, then ducked under a third to spear him in the gut. Roland was shoved by the hit but didn’t go down, and instead picked up Snake Head and swung him around to throw him to the ground.

    On his back, Snake Head flared his eyes with power and fired, burning through the bird lime to lash out at Roland with two deadly rays of light.

    Roland vanished before the beams could touch him, and Crashing Magnum beams rained down on Snake Head from above. Rolling onto his feet as bolts struck his body, the monster looked up to see Roland jumping from suspended bone to suspended bone, using them like floating stepping stones to get a new angle to shoot him from. Hissing, Snake Head fired another blast at Roland and swept it through the air, disintegrating the bones.

    “Power… rot… death… nothing has changed!” Snake Head seethed before he was shot in the chest, left shoulder, back, and right arm by the Input Magnum. The shots spun him around, to face Roland and the open Hunter Claw he plunged into his mouth and clamped down on his head.

    “That’s right nothing’s changed, you’ve been looking at me the entire time!”

    Snake Head’s eyes dilated from its slit to nearly occupying the entire space of it. He remembered his own warning to Typhus, and his own condescending towards Roland just moments ago. The hunter’s folly… I underestimated my prey!

    It was a revelation that came an instant before Roland charged down the bone mound and drove his body into the slope. At tremendous speeds, the bones tore at his durable hide, some impaled his shoulders and the coils wrapped there, a large sharpened bone tore off his left arm at the rib, another sheared off his left leg, before he was lifted from the mound and thrown towards the sludge below.

    The Green Hunterborg appeared in front of him, showing him his back, and the world slowed down for Snake Head in a way it hadn’t before. Everything was dark, the bone mounds were gone, the sludge they rose from, and the rot and decay that he tasted with them had vanished as well. There was nothing else except for the Green Hunterborg standing there, radiating the tremendous power that he’d tasted all along.

    Only Power. And Death.

    “What are you?” Snake Head asked.

    Roland reached back and touched the end of Snake Head’s snout, stopping his fall. “The Hunter.”

    A brilliant, blinding light filled half of Snake Head’s vision, and the monster realized that another Input Magnum shot was only centimeters from his head. The Beam Mode shot that Roland had first fired after gumming his eye up with the Bird Lime–he had brought Snake Head back here to put him in its path.

    What a fine Hunter you are. With his last comforting thought, the beam punched through Snake Head’s skull at normal velocity, and the monster fell dead at Roland’s feet.

    “And that’s that, bruh,” Roland said as he started his walk away from the smoking corpse. “So… how do I get out of here?”

    He got his answer when Snake Head’s body exploded–the blast shattering the world of bones and rot like it were glass. With a disoriented yell, Roland found himself falling, entering the tunnel of light and color that brought him here.

    @@@@@

    The light from Star’s spell curved off and into the sky, dispersing several clouds before fading away harmlessly. On the ground, Dipper opened his eyes and found he was behind the tree with Mabel, Misao, and Jeremy. Brantley had dragged him there, and was looking towards the battlefield.

    “Oh good,” Dipper said, seeing him in one piece. “I thought she would’ve gotten you.”

    Brantley looked back at him. “I have seen enough anime to know… that you do not want to be standing in the sight-line of an angry magical girl.”

    It was wisdom to live by. The top of the hill was gone, shaved completely off at the top by about three meters by Star’s attack. Standing on the new edge of the hill, Vexor stood with both hands held forth, and a crumbling shell of magic falling in front of him and Typhus.

    The Magnavore’s pristine white attire was scorched black in places, and his white chitin was cracked and split, revealing a purple and yellow glow beneath it. Behind him, Typhus’ body was fully red and badly scorched, regenerating slowly from the tremendous damage that the spell had inflicted on him.

    In front of them, Star lowered the wand, and panted heavily. While the glow had left her eyes, her pupils were still shining, as were her cheek marks.

    “In… incredible…” Vexor whispered, as glowing orange fluid dribbled from his mouth. “… The power of Mewni… undiminished by the ages…”

    “I have so much left in the tank, too.” Star said as she raised her wand. “Now let my friends go!”

    Soon as she made her demand, the sky opened up above her head, and Drew, Jo, Roland, and Marco all came spilling out of it. With a yelp, she dodged and weaved to not be crushed under the armored warriors, but with even greater reflexes she caught Marco before he had a bad encounter with the ground.

    “Marco!” She gasped, hugging him tight.

    Marco smiled and returned the hug. “Hey Sta-aaahhow!” And regretted it when she squeezed him tighter. “Ow! OW! Ribs! Ribs! Back! Everything!”

    Gasping, Star pulled back. “OhmygoshI’msorry!”

    Typhus saw the perfect opportunity and grabbed Vexor by the arm. “We’re outta here, baby!”

    “W-wait…!” Vexor gasped, clawing at the air towards Star. “… The Butterfly…!”

    Ignoring him, Typhus nodded and the two disappeared.

    Star saw the burst of flames. “Shoot!” She almost dropped Marco, then remembered the state he was in. “Ahh… is anything broken? Do you need to go to the hospital?!”

    Marco shook his head and pulled away, but not too far. “Nothing’s broken, I’m just kinda banged up from that fight. All I need to do is lie down some.”

    “That sounds great right now,” Roland said.

    Marco was more than relieved to see the Beetleborgs were back in the real world, too. “Hey, you made it out.”

    “Yep,” Jo called back.

    Drew sat up. “Hey, did all of you end up in some weird place fighting something strange?”

    “Uh huh,” Roland said. “I ended up fighting Snake Head in some kind of weird place filled with rat bones. What about you?”

    “I got the scrapyard,” Drew said. “And fought guys on motorbikes like Dipper did.”

    Jo seethed. “What? You got to have all that and I fought a bunch of mannequins with knives on Rodeo Drive?! Screw him, I’m gonna mess him up like I rocked that whole block!”

    “You don’t need to worry about that, he’s already gone,” Roland assured her.

    Jo got up and faced Roland. “Did you beat him?”

    Roland got up slowly, his whole body felt like he’d just run a marathon, after he’d already run an entirely separate marathon. “Sure did, my only regret is that you weren’t there to see it.”

    Drew pumped his fist. “Good going, man.”

    When he patted Roland on the shoulder, he flinched. “Ow! Ow! Ow! Please… I feel like tenderized meat in this tin can suit thanks to that fight. My whole body aches.”

    “Yay, me too. We can be pain bros,” Marco said.

    Roland gave him a thumb’s up. “Yeaaah… pain bros.” He laughed weakly, before he remembered. “Oh yeah, I found my special power, too.”

    Jo brightened. “What, really?!”

    Drew was just as stoked to hear it. “What is it, man?”

    Roland fully stood up. “Super Speed, like… really super speed.”

    The McCormicks looked at each other, then Drew spoke. “So Super Strength from Jo, Roland has Super Speed.”

    Jo nudged her brother. “I wonder what you’ll get?”

    “Who knows, but I can’t wait to find out,” Drew admitted.

    Dipper, Mabel, and Misao walked over to the group, and looked around at the burning, scorched, and vaporized portions of the park. “So as usual we need to get going. Flabber won’t be able to clean this one up for us.”

    “Yeah, good idea,” Marco agreed.

    Jo looked around. “I can’t wait to watch the news report on this.”

    Star handed Dipper the Dimensional Scissors, and he quickly cut open a portal that would take them to Shermie’s back yard. Drew looked at the portal, then at Dipper, Mabel, and Misao, then at Sensei Brantley–who was carrying a squirming Jeremy under his arm, with his other hand over his mouth.

    “Well then…” He said to his non-suited friends. “… If everything is in order, we’re gonna be on our way.”

    Jo butted in. “And let this be a lesson to you civilians to stay out of ours. The Magnavores are way above your pay-grade.”

    Dipper scowled at her, but nodded. “You’re welcome, I guess.”

    “Let’s go, I hear sirens,” Misao warned them before she hopped through the portal.

    Dipper nodded to the Beetleborgs again, and stepped through the portal himself, with Mabel right behind him. Star was about to bring Marco across the threshold, when Brantley called out to him.

    “Mr. Diaz!”

    Marco looked back. Brantley, still carrying Jeremy, walked up to him.

    “You don’t have to but… like… come to the dojo Monday? I promise it’s nothing bad, or me jerking you around. I have a lot to say, and I wanna do it without having to worry about cops asking me a bunch of questions.”

    Marco nodded. “I will. You be safe getting out of here, Sensei.”

    Sensei Brantley tried to not tear up, but he was bad at it. “Now go! I need to find Jeremy’s butler and then soak my hand in like… a gallon of sanitizer.”

    Jeremy glared up at Sensei Brantley, then delivered a harsher glare at Marco as he and Star stepped across the threshold and the portal disappeared.

    With their friends gone, Drew looked to Roland. “You good?”

    Roland nodded. “My body hurts, but I can still move.”

    Jo flexed. “I feel great. If you want, I can carry both of you schlubs.”

    “I’ll pass. Besides…” Roland snapped his fingers and the world became a blur for Jo. When it stopped five seconds later she wasn’t in the park. She was in the alley behind Zoom Comics.

    “Huh? Wait?” She looked around before Roland appeared, setting down an equally disoriented Drew. “What?!”

    “Back Blast,” Roland said, and his armor vanished. “I told you, I have super speed.”

    Drew transformed back, and Jo followed suit. The elder McCormick was alight with excitement, grinning from ear to ear at Roland. “That is so cool! You’re like the Flash, but like the Wally West version!”

    “So the only one that matters,” Jo added.

    Roland slumped against a wall, exhausted. “And now I think I’m gonna need to lie down for six hundred years after that.”

    Drew gave a thumb’s up. “Dipper will be here soon. We’ll chill at his place for the rest of the day, we earned it.”

    Looking over at her brother, and then at Roland, Jo smiled. “I’ll say! This is our third fight we’ve won against the Magnavores, guys!”

    “Yeah, and did you see?” Drew asked. “Star hit Vexor hard.”

    “I doubt Vexor will try to come after us directly like that again, though,” Roland noted.

    “No, but if we can find out where he is? It won’t matter.”

    Jo agreed. “That’s right.”

    Vexor wasn’t invincible, and for all of their experience and abilities the Magnavores could be beaten in a fight. They were by no means experts at it, but when they combined their determination with the powers they had and the people with them who were experts at fighting monsters, they were able to win.

    “For now though,” Drew finished as Dipper opened a portal in the alley for them, “Let’s just hope we can enjoy this victory… and get some rest.”

    = - = 33 = - =

    That had to be satisfying for someone.
     
  14. Threadmarks: King Jeremy the Wicked
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

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    To quote the Lion formerly known as Taka.

    = - = 34 = - =

    |King Jeremy the Wicked|

    On Monday afternoon, Sensei Brantley’s Dojo was livelier than usual, with its students gathered around the Bleachers to all get a first hand account of the chaotic scene that descended upon Echo Creek Park yesterday morning. It was the talk of the town, indeed the entire city of LA was talking about the supposed fight between monsters and armored warriors that ended in a bright flash that rattled the neighborhood and could be seen for kilometers.

    “… Despite Sensei’s best efforts to keep him from getting beat up, he and Marco were suddenly surrounded on all sides by Scabs. Typhus and Snake Head had them dead to rights, and that would’ve been the end of it, if they hadn’t made one fatal mistake.” Jeremy explained to the crowd of students surrounding him. Brantley had gone next door to get smoothies, and the class was awaiting his return.

    “What happened?” A girl close to his age asked.

    Jeremy tightened his black belt and smirked. “They thought I was a pushover.” He struck a fighting stance. “The moment the Scabs got within reach, I wrecked one with an uppercut and took down the other with a flying axe kick.” In a flash he performed the moves described. “The other Scabs forgot all about Sensei and Marco, and came right for me.”

    The same girl gasped. “Weren’t you scared?!”

    “Nope!” Jeremy oozed smug from every pore as he tilted his nose up. “I’m a black belt after all, it wasn’t a big deal.”

    Another of the students, Hunter, rolled his eyes. “Bull. Marco could probably take on all those Scabs by himself, but you? Nah.”

    Jeremy turned to face the other student. “Nuh uh! Marco spent like five minutes being chased around by the snake, I told you that! Sensei had to actually save him from it!”

    He shot Hunter a dirty look, and turned back to his younger peers. “So, you know, I’m styling all over the Scabs because I’m so small and quick, right? But then Typhus grabs Sensei and says he’s gonna kill him if I don’t stop beating up his dudes. Marco just kinda breaks down and says ‘please, don’t kill my sensei!’ and he’s about to cry like this big stupid baby, when all of a sudden the Beetleborgs–the real Beetleborgs–show up out of nowhere and they just start blasting!”

    “The Beetleborgs aren’t real,” Hunter chimed in.

    “Yeah they are!” Jeremy shouted.

    Another younger boy spoke up. “My Uncle was walking his dog at the park, and he saw the Beetleborgs there, too. He thought it was costumes but they started shooting stuff and he ran away.”

    “See? I told you!” Jeremy turned his nose up. “Sensei will tell you what happened when he gets here.”

    He wore his nasty little smile. As soon as Sensei got here, he’s gonna to make sure our stories lined up nice and tight if he knew what was good for his dojo.

    “So anyway, the Beetleborgs show up and they are just so cool shooting the Magnavores and stuff. Reddle and I even teamed up against Typhus and sent him flying into the lake!”

    The child who spoke up for him gasped. “Cool!”

    Hunter sighed. “You’re gonna look so weak when Marco gets here.”

    Jeremy grinned and turned to face Hunter. “Yeah right. Marco quit.”

    Hunter looked down at Jeremy. “No he didn’t.”

    “He totally did, Saturday.” Jeremy let out a cocksure laugh. “So that loser won’t be showing up around here ever again.”

    “Marco… quit?” The tone of the girl who’d been so wowed by his story poured cold tap water on Jeremy’s fire. Looking around at the other kids, he could only see disappointed or distressed faces.

    “So? It’s just Marco. He wasn’t even good.”

    The same boy who argued for the Beetleborgs being at the park shook his head. “What? Marco was the best.”

    “Yeah,” another of the kids gathered to hear Jeremy’s story said. “He’s like the strongest of the big kids.”

    “He’s been a Green Belt longer than most of us have been here,” another kid pointed out.

    Jeremy gestured to his belt. “So? Hello~! I’m a black belt? I’m better than him.”

    Hunter’s laugh was sharp and biting. “No you’re not.”

    “What about the times where I beat him?”

    “Marco’s not going to go all out on a little kid.”

    “Yeah, and you cheat.” Another student said.

    Jeremy gasped, like his good name had been sullied. “Well, what about the time he had that Monster Arm he almost killed me with?!”

    “Well, you’ve been using brass knuckles in your gloves way before that,” Hunter said.

    Jeremy’s face flushed red with anger. “Nuh uh!”

    Hunter turned away and snickered. “I mean, you couldn’t win any other way against Marco.”

    Jeremy stomped up the bleachers and grabbed him by his gi–yanking him around to face him. “You really think that loser is better than me?!”

    Hunter slapped Jeremy’s hand away. “I’m better than you. Because you’re eight, and I’m fifteen.” He got up. “But if Marco’s really gone, then I’m gone. I came here to learn karate, not babysit a spoiled rich kid.”

    Jeremy recoiled as Hunter began walking down the bleachers. Seething, he shouted after him. “Go ahead and quit! You should be happy you got to train under the same roof as me!”

    He looked at the kids closer to his age, and found they were all now glaring at him. “The heck are you looking at?”

    The door opened and Sensei Brantley walked in, carrying trays of drinks. “Students! I have come bearing smoothies!”

    He stopped when he saw Hunter heading towards the door. “Mr. Rodriguez, is something the matter?”

    Hunter nodded. “Yeah, did Marco really quit?”

    Sensei Brantley opened his mouth to respond, when Marco slipped in behind him. “Sensei and I just had a disagreement.” He looked up at his teacher. “We’re good, now.”

    Sensei Brantley nodded, and handed Hunter his drink. “Who said Marco quit?”

    Everyone in the dojo pointed at Jeremy, now wide-eyed with fury and shock at the sight of Marco and the red belt around his waist. “Wh-what are you doing here?! Where’d you get that?!”

    “Good question Mr. Birnbaum. Everyone, gather around.” Sensei Brantley said as he and Marco moved in to set down the drinks on a table. Behind them, Drew, Jo, and Roland entered and joined the other students, already dressed in their gis.

    “You might have heard some stuff but trust your Sensei,” Sensei Brantley began when everyone gathered. “Marco hasn’t quit the school, in fact… he has ascended–like a great Super Saiyan–to the next level in his journey.”

    As soon as the drinks were set down, he gestured to Marco’s red belt. “Mr. Marco Diaz is now a red belt, and you will regard him with the respect befitting of his skill and experience.”

    “Now.” He and Marco both placed their fists into their palms. “Bow to your Sensei, and your new Assistant Sensei.”

    In unison, every student did as commanded–with one exception. Jeremy stormed down the bleachers and marched right up to Sensei Brantley.

    “What are you doing? You can’t make him your assistant!” Jeremy hollered, stomping his foot and pointing at Marco’s face.

    Sensei Brantley turned to Jeremy. “Mr. Birnbaum!” His shout made the child stop mid tantrum. “Marco has demonstrated not only that he meets the requirements to be a red belt, but has shown courage, sick skills, and the mad wisdom to be my assistant.”

    He looked back at Marco with an affirming nod. “There’s no one else in this humble dojo I would be prouder to have helping me guide you on the path, and you will treat him with the respect he’s earned.”

    Marco nodded to Brantley. “Thank you, Sensei.”

    Hunter spoke up. “Heck yeah, I’m gonna tell Pete you were legit. He’s gonna be so stoked.”

    Jeremy pulled out his phone. “We had a deal, Brantley! My Mom told you not to make him your assistant!”

    The other students looked up at Jeremy, who gripped the phone and held it up into Sensei’s face.

    “She pays the rent for this dojo, which means I own you!” Jeremy screeched. “All she has to do is stop giving you your stupid money and then what? No more dojo! You’ll just be a forty year old loser living with your Mom!”

    The other students were all looking at Sensei Brantley.

    “Is that true, Sensei?” One of the students asked.

    Sensei Brantley looked to his students. “Class, Jeremy was right. The reason he’s always had preferential treatment and junk is because his Mom gave mad funds to the school, so I can keep it open.” He slumped his shoulders a little. “I’m not good at business, so I take what I can get.”

    “I mean, it’s so obvious…” Hunter muttered.

    Some of the other students murmured in agreement.

    “It definitely explains everything,” Jo said to Drew and Roland.

    Roland nodded. “Mmhm.”

    “Seriously, he’s a mini-Trip,” Drew whispered.

    Jeremy folded his arms. “So what are you waiting for, tell him he can’t be your assistant!” He turned his head away from Marco and gestured to the door. “Better yet… throw Marco out of this dojo right now, I don’t want to see his stupid face anymore.”

    “No.”

    Jeremy stopped, turned his head, and glared at Brantley for even daring to say that word. “… No?”

    “You remember when I showed up at the park yesterday, right? I wanted to apologize to Marco because Roland’s grandma came over to my house and threw me out of my own bedroom window.” Brantley explained.

    Drew and Jo looked over at Roland, who shrugged his shoulders. All agreed that it was something that Nano would do though.

    Sensei Brantley turned to the other students. “She did it because I had actually made up that junk about Marco needing to be a red belt to be my assistant.” Brantley lowered his head in shame as his students gasped. “And I made that junk up because Jeremy told his Mom to threaten to pull money from the school if I made Marco my assistant, and I couldn’t just tell him that because… you know… I was afraid of hurting his feelings after I had been so stoked before.”

    He stopped and realized what he said. “By the way, guys? Don’t do that. Lying to your friends and not being up front with them will only totally backfire and blow up in your face later.”

    All eyes in the dojo fell again on Jeremy.

    “Wow, Jeremy, wow,” Hunter said.

    “You cried to your Mommy to mess with Marco?! You jerk!” One of the girls yelled at him.

    “You always sucked but dude, that’s pathetic!” Another boy called out.

    “The word you’re looking for is ‘psychopathic,’” Drew suggested.

    “That too!”

    Jeremy backed away from the angry kids and held up his phone. “Yeah! So what?! I can call my Mom right now and she’ll have this whole dojo shut down in a second. Then none of you will have your stupid karate!”

    Jo called from the back. “Why would you even do that?!”

    The frustration of all these kids taking shots at him boiled over. “Because I’m better than you! That’s why!”

    “Jeremy, stop,” Brantley said.

    Jeremy turned to face him. “You don’t tell me what to do! I still own you!”

    “No you don’t,” Brantley said. “Well, not anymore.”

    Jeremy’s mouth fell open. “Huh?”

    The door opened and Dipper stuck his head in. “Hey, Sensei Brantley? We’re here.”

    Brantley brightened and waved to him. “Oh, right on time. Come on in.” He turned to his students. “I’ve got great news for all of you, you’re gonna love this.”

    The door opened again and Dipper walked in followed by Mabel, Misao, Shermie, Nano Williams herself, and the Cashier from the VHS Depot–the towering martial artist making even the tall Pines twins seem short by comparison.

    “I’m super bad at business,” Brantley admitted. “But Nano’s not and she got me in touch with a few local folks who’d be happy to cover the rent so I didn’t have to give preferential treatment to one bratty student.” He looked to his class. “So from now on, guys, the rules that I kinda sorta let Jeremy break now apply to him, too.”

    Marco looked over at Jeremy and smiled with all his satisfied malice. “And you can’t get your way by extorting Sensei.”

    As the class broke into celebration. Nano counted the number of students and hummed. “My, my, Brantley. You’ve got a bigger school than I thought. This could be a good investment for me, and you.”

    “Well, yeah. I may be super bad at numbers, but you know what I am good at?”

    He struck a fighting pose. “Teaching how to kick butt!”

    “I’ll say!” Marco testified.

    Nano hummed. “How have you kept this place open, though?”

    Brantley gestured to Marco. “He’s been balancing my budget for the last three years.”

    “It’s true,” Marco said.

    The VHS Depot cashier perked up. “Can you do taxes?”

    Marco cracked his knuckles. “Can John Woo choreograph a gunfight?”

    Jeremy Birnbaum froze in place, his mind trying to comprehend what was happening. From his earliest memory, the one thing he knew was that he was special, and that he could have anything he wanted. All he had to do was ask and his Mother would give it to him. If asking didn’t work, he could yell. If yelling didn’t work, he could scream. If he screamed long enough, nothing would be denied him. That was the guiding logic of his young life, whatever he wanted was his. People existed only to get him what he wanted, and no one could defy him.

    He began to hyperventilate, his face colored first a red and then almost turned purple. He glared at Marco as tears began to fill his eyes. “No…”

    With a mighty stomp of his feet, Jeremy looked wildly across the adults gathered and shrieked. “NO! I’M GONNA TELL MY MOM AND IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU DO! YOU’RE ALL GONNA PAY FOR THINKING YOU CAN TELL ME WHAT TO DO! SO SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”

    Nano winced. “Lord have mercy, the lungs on that child.”

    Shermie dug his finger into one ear. “Oy gevalt, you can hear this putz all the way back in the old country…”

    The VHS Depot cashier hummed. “This is what I imagine r/movies sounds like in Real Life.”

    “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”

    Misao looked at Marco. “How can one boy be so spoiled?!”

    “He’s an only child!” Drew shouted back.

    Marco clapped his hands over his ears. “I’m an only child too, how did he turn out this bad?”

    “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”

    “I know, right?!” Roland called out over the shrieking, while Jo covered her ears before they bled.

    “What?!” Marco yelled back as Jeremy only got louder.

    “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP-!”

    Jeremy’s temper tantrum ended when he was grabbed from behind and yanked off the ground by Mabel–who muffled him with her hand clamped tightly over his mouth. Next to her, Dipper stood with his arms akimbo, shaking his head in disappointment.

    “Man,” he said, “I expected a little brat, but this? This kid’s a full Gideon Gleeful.”

    “And you know what we do with Lil’ Gideons, right, bro-bro?” Mabel asked.

    Dipper nodded, and walked over to the door to open it for her. “After you.”

    As everyone watched, Mabel carried the thrashing child out of the Dojo and over to a garbage can that sat between the dojo and the yogurt shop next door. Seeing the garbage can, Jeremy’s struggles intensified, and when Dipper lifted the lid off the garbage can, he began kicking at Mabel in vain.

    When she let go of Jeremy’s mouth to hoist him above his head, Jeremy shrieked. “LET GO! I’M GOING TO TELL MY MOM! PUT ME DOWN PUT ME DOWN! AHHHHHH!!”

    Ignoring his cries, Mabel slammed Jeremy into the half-full garbage can and when she pulled back Dipper grabbed his still kicking legs and shoved him further into the mostly yogurt and paper cup filth that filled the bottom.

    “AHHH! IT’S GROSS! LET ME OUT! AHHHH! AHHHHH!” Jeremy screamed as he struggled.

    Dipper scanned the lot, and noticed a man dressed like a butler watching the scene with a dispassionate expression. He pointed at the can. “Hey, does this trash belong to you?”

    When the butler nodded, Dipper tipped the can over onto its side, and Mabel kicked it hard as she could, sending it rolling over towards the Butler, to Jeremy’s further distress. “PPPBBT! EEW IT GOT IN MY MOUTH!”

    Walking around in front of the rolling barrel, the Butler stopped it with his foot and put on a pair of rubber gloves, before extracting the blubbering and sobbing Jeremy out of it and into the back seat of the car. He turned to the Pines Twins, as Brantley and Marco came out to watch the scene.

    “I will inform the Mistress that young Jeremy will be out of martial arts classes for several days.” The butler said, before he walked around to the driver’s side of the car–with a skip in his step.

    As Jeremy’s car backed out and pulled away, Marco looked at Dipper and Mabel. “You know what? If I had half the nerve you two do? I would’ve done that to Jeremy a lo-o-ong time ago.”

    “Yeah, and Jeremy’s Mom would’ve sued my Mom’s pants off.” Brantley looked at Dipper and Mabel. “You guys got a good lawyer?”

    “Oh please,” Mabel said. “What would she sue us for?”

    Dipper nodded. “Escorting her son out of the dojo so his butler can take him home?”

    Marco lit up in recognition. “Yeah, that’s all that happened here.” He looked at Brantley. “Right?”
    Brantley stared at Marco, uncomprehending–before it clicked. “Oh–ohhh! Yeah, that’s totally all that happened.” He peeked back into the dojo. “Right guys?”

    The consensus inside the dojo, from students to its new sponsors, was unanimous that nothing happened.

    Brantley led the group back in. “Well then, how about we kick off our lesson for the day. All right guys, get your smoothies in you and prepare yourselves. For today, two mighty dragons soar over this dojo…” He looked aside to Marco and raised his fist. “… And they are as strict masters as they are fearsome warriors!”

    Looking back and forth between his Sensei’s fist and his face, Marco smiled and returned the fist bump. “That’s right!”

    With burning enthusiasm, the class–its newest students included–chorused together. “Yes, Sensei!”

    As the class got under way, Dipper, Mabel, and Misao sat down on the bleachers with the dojo’s other new sponsors to watch. To their surprise, they found Star sitting at the end, having slipped in via Dimensional Scissors.

    “Huh, you came to watch Marco train?” Misao asked.

    “Well, yeah!” Star replied. “Marco loves karate, and he’s made up with his teacher! I’m not gonna miss that for the world!” She stood up and waved. “Hi Marco! Don’t forget to show them your cool karate chops!”

    “I won’t, Star,” Marco called back.

    “Marco-sensei, is that your girlfriend?” One of the Jeremy-aged students asked.

    “W-what?! P-Pay attention! Eyes forward!”

    “Yes, Sensei~!” The kids replied before they began chanting. “Marco’s got a girlfriend!” to his embarrassment.

    Star blushed, feeling a little caught out herself, and looked off to the side. “Hee…”

    After Dipper and Mabel shared a laugh with Misao, their small roommate hummed. “You know, since this all worked out so well… it’s given me an idea.”

    The other three turned to her. “About?” Dipper asked.

    “About dealing with those vomit block boys,” Misao elaborated.

    Dipper, Mabel, and Star all leaned in close, with him asking. “… What did you have in mind?”

    Misao looked around with a conspiratorial glint in her eye, and replied.

    “… How much money do you suppose the Vanderhoffs pay to do as they please?”

    Dipper hummed. “Well, the Principal said they pay for the school’s extracurriculars.”

    Star nodded. “Yeah, they were able to get the football field cleaned up on like two days after what I did to that. Probably not cheap.”

    Misao pulled out her phone and opened her contact screen. “Well, I just thought that we’d do as we did here… and outbid them.”

    Dipper and Mabel both looked at Misao with concern. “Is that a good idea?” Mabel asked. “It might draw attention to you.”

    Misao scrolled through her contacts, and her thumb came to rest on a contact listed “Mother.”

    “In spite of the risk? I would rather act if I have the power to, rather than let this kind of terribleness continue just for my own sake.” She looked at Star, then Mabel, and finally at Dipper, her gray eyes steeled with determination.

    “Especially for my friends.”

    = - = 34 = - =

    Long live the king.
     
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  15. Threadmarks: To
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

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    And now for a special coda. May be a bit before we get back to the next chapters.

    = - = 35 = - =

    |To|

    It wasn’t until after eleven that Marco and Star came home, entering the living room via a Dimensional Scissors portal they’d taken from the dojo, where Marco had reclaimed his belongings he left behind. The entire downstairs was dark and quiet, his parents having gone to bed knowing that they’d be home later than usual, and the Laser Puppies were all asleep in a pile on the couch.

    “Finally home,” Marco said as the portal closed. “Man, what a day.”

    “I know,” Star agreed. “But it wasn’t all bad, the party was fun, right?”

    “It was, but I’m still drained from Brantley’s crap.” Star’s pleased smile faded with his reply, and she looked down at the floor.

    “… Oh.”

    He headed for the kitchen .“I wanna just lie down and sleep it all off so I can train the guys tomorrow Night, and… thanks for helping me get my stuff.”

    “Good night, Marco,” she replied, more to the floor than to him.

    After he grabbed a glass from the cupboard, Marco looked back. Star was still standing in the archway, looking down at her wand held loosely in her right hand. There was confliction in her eyes, betraying a struggle going on underneath. He set the glass on the island countertop, and turned to her.

    “Star, are you okay?”

    Star looked up at him. “Huh? Oh, I’m fine! Just thinking about stuff… and… stuff. You know…” Her gaze cast downward again. “… Stuff?”

    A moment of almost smothering silence passed, before Marco replied. “Yeah… stuff.”

    Star turned her back to the archway and leaned against it, her hands resting on her locked knees. “You know… crummy stuff, like how your Sensei treated you. And how you really, really like Karate and it sucks that you can’t do it at that cool dojo place anymore because of that.”

    There was Star, being a lot more open than she normally was. “Normally you don’t really care too much about my dojo stuff.”

    Star raised her head to look at him. “I totally care!”

    “Sorry, I mean more that you never really paid attention to how much I cared about Karate or if I was doing anything important in it. Remember the Banagic Incident?”

    His point struck home and rendered Star without words for a moment. “Oh… well… I care now–I mean, I always cared! I just… you know… didn’t think it was that big a deal…” She grimaced as the words ground out of her. “… Until today…”

    Marco frowned, and opened his mouth to reply to that.

    “And I’m sorry,” Star cut him off before he said something they’d regret. “You don’t deserve to be treated like that. Not by your teacher, or by me, or anyone!” She looked off to the side, her eyes narrowed thinking about Jo’s attitude in particular. “You’re a great guy who deserves better than that, and I want to try…” Star trailed to a stop as it hit her how that sounded.

    “What?” Marco asked, his own mind starting to race with what Star was saying.

    “I want to try being…” Star tripped over her own racing thoughts, struggling for a word that didn’t make this more awkward than it suddenly felt. “… Better…” She clamped onto it. “A better friend, a better best friend!”

    Star wanted to take her declaration and run away so she’d not have to talk about this again. She stayed stuck to the archway, however, like she’d been glued to it.

    Marco’s expression softened, and he smiled.

    “You already have,” he said, stopping her from enacting her cut and run. “Lately, you’ve been talking to me differently, like you’ve started being more, I dunno, real?”

    Star’s face fell. “I’ve always been real with you!”

    Marco backpedaled. “Okay, that’s not what I meant. On Monday, you really opened up about how you feel about being underestimated, and with how things are with your Mom. You never mentioned anything like that before.”

    He walked around the island counter, leaving nothing standing between him and Star. “I like when we can talk like that… kind of like right now. It’s not about adventure, or magic, or fighting monsters… when you tell me how you really feel about stuff, it’s like you’re trusting me with something I’ve never heard you talk about to anyone.”

    Star began to respond, but stopped short. She looked down at her wand, she was wringing it in her hands as feelings bubbled up into her chest from the pit of her stomach, her guts making strange noises as they seemed to twist themselves in knots. “You’re not mad that I haven’t done that until now… are you?”

    “I said I like it,” Marco reassured her.

    She looked up at him and met his gaze as he continued. “Besides, sometimes it takes big changes to help you see things you couldn’t before. Everything already felt different after the whole thing with Toffee… and getting into the kind of fights we’ve been in now… it feels really different.”

    Star averted her eyes. “Yeah… really, really different… and stuff.”

    Silence fell in the kitchen again. Star kept looking out into the living room and towards the stairs, wringing her wand harder as her face colored. Marco watched her, his grip on the counter’s edge tightening as he felt his own insides tie themselves around each other.

    Just say it. Star told herself.

    Say it. Marco thought.

    Star looked everywhere but at Marco, and he turned his head away from her. They waited for something to happen, for Marco’s phone to ring, the laser puppies to wake up, one of his parents to come downstairs. Something somewhere to explode. They waited for a moment… then a minute. The silence stretched on into what felt for hours into the night.

    Respite wasn’t coming, and Star didn’t want to just walk away. She didn’t feel like it. Marco deserved better than that. “L-Look…”

    He looked at her again, and she was looking right back. “Yeah?”

    She paused, one final hope that something would happen. It didn’t.

    With a deep breath, she dipped down and did it. “After the fight Monday, I… well…” She brought her wand up to her chest. “… When you were ready to kill Jara to protect me, that… oh man, that messed me up. You messed me up, I’m totally messed up, and…”

    She brought her wand up higher and hit herself in the forehead with it. “Ow! I’m trying to say that I’m falling in love with you, Marco!”

    There, she said it. Now she could finally die of embarrassment.

    Marco’s shoulders dropped, and his smile grew warmer. “Yeah, I um… kinda figured that out…?”

    Star’s face went white. “What.”

    “I mean, there’s a way you look at things when you like them? It’s different with how intense it is.” He explained. “But um… the way you looked at me when we talked after we got home… it’s the same look you’ve been giving me now.”

    He let go of the counter and walked up to Star. She stood straighter as he reached her, and stopped breathing when he rested his hands on her shoulders.

    “Star…” He said quietly.

    She stared into his eyes, and blurted it out all at once. “You’re going to tell me that even though I’m falling in love with you, you’ve still got strong feelings for Jackie and you’re not going to just throw those away easily, aren’t you?”

    Star gasped for air then slapped her free hand over her mouth.

    Marco tilted his head to the left as he processed Star’s rambling. He closed his eyes and let out a small laugh. “I really do like Jackie and have a crush on her, but, well…” He slipped his arms around Star and pulled her into a hug. “An amazing girl I’d kill for came along, and here we are.”

    Filled with warmth, Star slowly returned Marco’s hug and nuzzled her cheek to his. She let out a happy squeak when he tightened his embrace. “So…”

    Marco asked as the two began to rock back and forth. “Yeah?”

    “… Does this mean… you know… that we’re…?”

    “Do you want to?”

    The two pulled back to face one another, a much more comfortable silence falling between them.

    “Yes,” she whispered back.

    Marco nodded. “Then, yeah. Let’s do it.”

    Both smiled, before Marco shuffled closer and Star was comfortably caught between him and the wall. She brought her hand up to his cheek and caressed it, beckoning him closer. Marco took the invitation, closing the distance and meeting her lips with his in their first kiss.

    They pulled away, and Marco spoke. “By let’s do it, I mean let’s be a couple. I don’t mean-”

    “Marco, shush,” Star said, “Don’t ruin the moment. Kiss me.”

    “Sorry.” He resumed kissing her.

    At the bottom stairs just around the corner, Angie Diaz clamped her hands over her mouth to silence her squeal of joy, while Rafael turned to her and pantomimed shushing her. When their cover wasn’t blown, the two shared warm smiles to one another and looked back. They’d let the new couple have a little more time to themselves, then step in as good parents should to keep them from getting too carried away with their new feelings.

    Outside the Diaz Home, the wind picked up, rustling the autumn leaves of the trees in the neighborhood and creating a haunting, dry rattling sound that carried down the street as they swayed in the dark. The tree next to Shermie Pines’ home, still in full leaf, rocked and bent in the wind, one of its branches knocking against the side of the house at the second floor. After several blows, like a giant knocking on the side of the house, Dipper stirred from his sleep.

    “Hngh…?” His eyes fluttered for a second. “What’s that noise…?”

    Sitting up, Dipper opened his eyes and grew still. A faint red glow bathed the entire upstairs. “Huh?”

    All but leaping from his bed, Dipper stumbled from his, Mabel, and Misao’s shared bedroom space and walked into the sitting room, where the red light was shining in through the picture windows of Shermie’s custom-built home. Walking up to the nearest window, he looked outside.

    His face paled, and his left eye twitched as he watched the clear, cloudless night sky. “… What… what the heck…?”

    The night sky above Echo Creek was painted red, by the light of a crescent Moon the color of blood.

    = - = 35 = - =


    Well, that die is cast. I'm sure there won't be any too dramatic repercussions.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2021
  16. EvaUnit01

    EvaUnit01 The man who stands at the top of AAWWEESSOOOMEEE

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    Aw, that's sweet.

    ....and ominous.
     
    The Ero-Sennin likes this.
  17. Delta/Soul

    Delta/Soul Know what you're doing yet?

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    Honestly, I’m getting sick of Starco.

    Give me MarcoXJackieXHekapooXKellyXEclipsa any day of the week.
     
    The Ero-Sennin likes this.
  18. The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

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    Real talk? I'm sick of the opposite. And everyone dunking on Star.
     
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  19. Pulsor93

    Pulsor93 I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    As I never finished watching the show past Season 1 - just got distracted by other stuff and never properly caught up, I’m okay with this.
     
  20. EvaUnit01

    EvaUnit01 The man who stands at the top of AAWWEESSOOOMEEE

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    I've basically just seen the first three episodes, so I have no idea wtf is going on besides what comes up in the fic or tangential discussions elsewhere and thus don't really have too much in the way of opinions on one ship for that series as opposed to another.

    DREW/HEATHER FTW ALL DAY, EVERYDAY
     
  21. Delta/Soul

    Delta/Soul Know what you're doing yet?

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    Does anyone know if there is a idea thread for SVTFOE on QQ?
     
  22. Threadmarks: Princesses of the Disco
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

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    Not that I can think of.

    And we're back, and continuing flashback shenanigans. Warning, Butterfly OC en route.

    = - = 36 = - =

    |Princesses of the Disco|

    Misao had been to plenty of discos and nightclubs back in Switzerland and Germany, but none had prepared her for a place like the Bounce Lounge: A nightclub in the literal clouds, where people of different species, from different worlds, and entirely different universes danced, drank, and mingled across the sprawling complex of clouds topped with a dance floor, bean bag seats, and various concessions ranging from an innocuous photobooth to a fully stocked bar.

    “Wow… a nightclub in another dimension!” Mabel said as she and Misao followed Star through the portal from her bedroom and to the edge of the multicolored dance floor.

    “Yep, this is The Bounce Lounge,” Star said. “If I ever wanna chill, I come here. And since you’re my new friends, I’m going to share my favorite chill spot with you!”

    Mabel brought a hand to her sweater-protected heart. “Aw! This is such a great surprise.”

    Misao looked out onto the dance floor, where robot DJs were dropping technological beats that the most fervent European EDM mixers could only dream of. “I am already liking it! If I could only bring my party supplies from Berlin…”

    Star looked back over at her smaller new friend. “I don’t know where Berlin is, but if you want to use my scissors to hop back over there and get them, you can.”

    Misao quickly waved her hands. “Oh, no, no, no… maybe another time. For now, we can have a good clean party, ja?”

    Star beamed. “Sure! Anyway, this isn’t even the surprise~!”

    “There’s more?” Both Mabel and Misao asked as they followed Star around the corner of the dance floor and towards a rowdy party of girls in pretty dresses at one of the tables.

    Star gave an enthusiastic nod. “Well, duh. What’s a party without-” She walked into an outstretched hand and stopped. The hand, orange and clawed like an eagle’s, belonged to a tall and heavily built man with the upper body and head of a bald eagle who made Arm Day every day. He wore the pelt of a fearsome-looking rat creature, purple shorts, matching sandals, and a pair of sweet Aviator shades.

    “VIP section, members only!” The eagle-like creature commanded with a loud and aggressive voice.

    “Oof, birdman bouncer,” Misao said.

    Mabel cupped her cheeks, painted with a blush. “I want him to be my spirit animal.”

    “I’m Talon Raventalon, and Talon Raventalon is NO ONE’S spirit animal!” The bouncer yelled at the girls. “Except for Talon Raventalon!”

    “Okay, Talon Raventalon,” Star said. “But can we get in? Our friends are waiting for us in the VIP.”

    “If you’re not on the list, you don’t get to RIDE!” Talon Raventalon yelled.

    “Hey, let them in, bird brain! They’re with me!” Another voice called over, and Princess Lilacia Ponyhead flew in and stopped between the bouncer and Star, a trail of magical glitter trailing behind her. She turned to Star and lit up. “Hey, B-Fly!”

    “Pony!” Star greeted back, before hugging the disembodied Unicorn. “Hugs~!”

    Mabel, still enthralled by Talon Raventalon despite his rudeness, swooned at the sight of Pony Head. “This place is like the time I overdosed on Smile Dip… but without the terrible crash.”

    Misao was knocked out of her enchantment and looked at Mabel in horror. “I’m sorry, you did what? On what?!”

    “Well, this isn’t any candy hallucination, this is my best friend in the entire multiverse, Princess Pony Head.” Star introduced, before looking at Pony Head and gesturing to her companions. “These are my friends I told you about, Mabel and Misao.”

    “It is nice to meet you,” Misao said, “And you are gorgeous.”

    “I’m gorgeous? Okay obviously I am, thank you so much.” Pony Head said as she circled around Misao and checked out her glorious dyed hair. “But have you seen your hair? Oh my goodness! I need to steal your stylist, who are they and do they do manes? I need to kidnap them like yesterday.”

    “Are you kidding? I practiced on manes,” Mabel said. “If you have a few hours and a hundred dollars, I’ll turn you from a Princess to a Goddess.”

    Pony Head whipped around and floated up to Mabel’s eye level. “I got all the time in the world and all the money, too. You’re gonna mess me up!”

    Star fought against her every instinct to squeal with joy from seeing her friends getting along, as Pony turned to Talon Raventalon. “Well? Let them in, I said they’re with me.”

    Talon Raventalon followed the order without fuss, unhooking the velvet rope to allow the girls access. As they walked past, he lifted his sunglasses and eyed all three of the newcomers and brought a smartphone to his ear.

    “Tango Delta Lima Actual, this is Tango RomeoTango.” He declared with no consideration for the ears of whomever was on the other end. Indeed, he was loud enough that Misao looked back in his direction, agitated by his yelling. “Sierra Bravo has entered the AO, the HVT is nowhere to be seen and the LZ is clear. You can bring it on in.”

    There was a pause, before a distorted, whispering voice replied. “… What?”

    In a mercifully quieter voice, Talon reiterated. “Uh, Star Butterfly? She’s here at the Bounce Lounge?”

    There was another pause. “Oh? Oh! Right, right… we’ll be right there. Uh… Tango Delta Lima Actual, out?”

    Star cartwheeled to catch up with Pony Head and walked alongside her. “So, Pony! Why the Bounce Lounge? I thought St. O’s was the biggest party in the multiverse.”

    “Yeah, it’s great and I love it? But the Bounce Lounge got something that St. O’s don’t,” Pony said as she led them to the table.

    “What?” Star, Mabel, and Misao asked together.

    Pony Head whipped her mane around and pointed off the VIP cloud towards the dance floor, and the juice bar to its side where a group of boys from various worlds and dimensions stood–ranging from handsome humanoids and brooding beastmen to stylish slimes and magnificent masculine machines.

    “Boys, duh! I don’t know about you, B-Fly, but I can’t live on anarchy and freedom alone. I need to find a hot guy to make bad decisions with.”

    Star stared at the hot guys. “Ooh, I like freedom and anarchy.”

    Mabel leaned in over Star’s right shoulder to gaze with gleaming eyes and drooling mouth at the hunky young men by the dance floor. “And I like boys.”

    Misao squeezed her head under Star’s left arm to ogle them as well with her own big grin. “And I like making bad decisions with them!”

    Pony Head stared at the two girls, then turned to Star. “Okay, I know I said that I’m cool with Earth Turd, but these new friends are like ten times better than him already. I was gonna act out if you brought two more squares to party with us–but they’re not so it’s okay.”

    Star laughed. “Puh-leeze, Pony. What kind of girl do you take me for? I’ve only got the best friends.”

    “Well duh, I am your bestie!” Pony Head turned to the table she came from. “All right girls, I want you to meet… the Princess Squad.”

    Mabel and Misao looked over at the table. Seated around the low, pillow-surrounded table were five Princesses–a humanoid with long curly blonde hair and four arm, a humanoid who looked like one of her parents was a cactus, a relatively human-looking humanoid with brown skin, short violet and a stylish beret, a large princess with two separate horned heads, and a very large cross between an ogre and an elephant.

    “These are Princess Arms, Cactus Princess, Princess Gwendolyn, Two-Head Princess, and Princess Smooshy.” Pony Head introduced. “Don’t worry, they don’t bite, but Smooshy might steal your face so watch out for that, mmhm?”

    Mabel didn’t hear that part. She was still stuck on “hanging out with the Princess Squad” and envisioning all the sweaters she would make for her new friends for life. Misao hopped up to wave a hand in front of Mabel’s face, confirming she was in a trance.

    “I will make sure our faces go unstolen,” she said as she got behind Mabel and pushed her towards the Princess VIP table.

    “Yeah, uh huh! Go mingle with the girls.” Pony Head swept around behind Star and began to push her away. “I gotta have some bestie time with my bestie. It’s been like a million years since I saw her so we’re going to go over there and talk.”

    As Pony Head and Star left the group, Mabel stared at the Princesses at the table, who returned her gaze. Misao peered around Mabel and waved. “Hallo und guten nacht!”

    They were met with a frosty silence, the Princesses–all representatives of their own kingdoms and royal lineages–unsure of what to make of the two shockingly mundane girls presented to them. After a moment Princess Arms raised an eyebrow and spoke. “… So you’re friends of Star’s, right?”

    “Ja!” Misao said. “I’m Misao and-”

    Mabel suddenly snapped out of her haze and stomped forward, her single step all but shaking the cloud. “I am Mabel, and I will make CUTE SWEATERS FOR ALL OF YOU!”

    The Princess Squad once again stared in silence at the two girls, then looked at each other.

    Star let herself be pushed along, reaching the edge of the VIP cloud and out of earshot from even the most astute audibly inclined. Pony Head circled around her. “So… what’s going on with you and Marco? Are you gonna tell him? Did you tell him yet?” She gasped. “Are you two already-?”

    “Pony!” Star hissed, silencing her. “I haven’t said anything to anyone except for you.”

    “Mmm… I didn’t tell anyone,” Pony Head assured her. “Well, at least nobody who cares. And I mean, who even knows who Marco is at St. O’s?”

    Star blanched. “Everyone knows who Marco is!”

    “Uh no? They know Princess Turdina, they don’t know Marco Turdino.” At Star’s fiery look, Pony Head recoiled. “Oh come on, I’m just joking! I didn’t tell anyone, honest!”

    Star’s glare cooled, but she still gave her the side-eye as she turned away. Undaunted by it, Pony Head circled around her. “So come on, spill! What’s up?”

    “Nothing-” Star stopped and backtracked. “Well, not nothing? I don’t know… Marco’s just been really… dotey on me since the fight.”

    Pony Head raised an eyebrow. “… Dotey?”

    “You know, he’s been taking care of me and making sure I’m okay… but not like in that smothering, desperate way Tom was?” She wrung the shaft of her wand and looked aside, her face warm. “Like… in that really sweet way where he knows exactly what I want when I need it, even if I don’t know what it is.”

    Pony Head tilted her long pointed horn to her right. “And it’s not creepy?”

    “No, I mean he’s been sticking closer to me, but not like… too close.” She sighed. “It’s like…

    She hugged herself and smiled, thinking about the last few days. “He makes me feel… safe, like I can just let my guard down with him.”

    Pony Head stared at Star, the yellow stars in her eyes growing bigger as she gasped. “Oh my goodness, you got it so bad for him!”

    Star threw her head back and groaned out loud. “I know! I’m the one who has these feelings!” She palmed her face with both hands and sighed. “I am such a mess. I’ve been a mess all week!”

    Pony Head didn’t see the problem here. “So you like Earth Turd, okay? Just go out with him.”

    Lowering her hands, Star let out a dramatic sigh. “I can’t just go out with him! There’s a girl that he likes! He’s been crushing on her for like… since kindergarten and they just started talking to each other and he’s got a shot at her and.” Star stopped, and her left eye twitched. “And oh my gosh that’s not even talking about all the other drama.”

    Because Star Butterfly may be many things, but unobservant wasn’t one of them.

    “What, you mean Tom? The guy you broke up with and won’t stop blowing up your phone? Because if you’ve had other stuff going down you are going to tell me.” Pony Head got up in Star’s face. “You know you can’t be leaving me in the cold!”

    Pony Head’s energy brought her to laugh. “I promise I will.”

    Pony Head was going to hold her to that. “Yeah, anyways. I normally wouldn’t do this because you’re my bestie and I think you can do better, but I’m going to be absolutely real with you because you’re my bestie and I want you to be happy.” Pony Head paused for dramatic effect. “Tell him that you like him, girl!”

    Star pouted. “Pony…”

    Pony Head pulled back. “I’m serious, B-Fly. Let him know you like him now, and not later. You don’t want him to hook up with some other girl, get all jealous and junk, and blow up his whole spot by telling him you like him then, do you?”

    Star thought about it and concluded that would suck. “All right, fine. I mean, the most that’ll happen is that Marco will just say that even though I’m falling in love with him, he’s still got strong feelings for Jackie and he’s not just going to throw those away easily.”

    “Yeah, but he was ready to kill someone for you.” Pony Head pointed out. “That doesn't come from nothing.”

    It didn’t, and Pony Head’s astute observation brought Star’s blush back.

    “So what are you going to do?”

    Star sighed and gave up the ghost. “Tell Marco how I feel about him, at least so he knows?”

    “Mmm… no, you’re going to stop moping around and party with me.” At Star’s glare, Pony Head rolled her eyes. “And yeah, talk to the Earth Turd or whatever.”

    Star’s glare evaporated with her laugh. “Thanks for inviting me out here, I needed this.”

    “No thank you! You being into somebody means I get to winggirl all the hot guys off you for myself!” Pony Head began twisting and rocking in place. “This Pony’s goin’ for a ride tonight~”

    Star placed a hand on her cheek, giggling. “Wow, Pony to think you go to Miss Heinous’ school.”

    Pony Head gasped. “Oh yeah! You just totally reminded me. We finally chased Miss Heinous out of the school. She ain’t there no more.”

    “No way!”

    “No Heinous, no rules, so we’re in da club to let the whole multiverse know–and you know, bring some boys back to the school for some of the other girls.”

    Laughing again, Star almost felt a little bad for any guy that got taken home by a Princess tonight. “That’s an after party I’m gonna have to miss.”

    “No duh, you got your own after party tonight, riiiight~?” Pony Head teased. Star’s blush erupted across her face as she laughed with Pony Head.

    “Seriously though, thank you… I’ve been freaking out about this.” Star hugged her tight. “Well, and all the other stuff that’s been happening.”

    Pony Head snuggled into Star’s embrace, then pulled back. “Yeah, what are you going to do if your Mom finds out you’re fighting like an evil monster army?”

    Star groaned. “Ugh… get dragged back home probably. I’m probably on super thin ice after what happened with Toffee–even after I blew him up.”

    “That’s messed up. You’re like, fighting them though, right? Like fighting fighting them? Your Mom fought like an entire war so she’s one to talk.”

    “Yeah!” Star agreed, before she turned towards the VIP. “Wait, she did what?”

    The VIP table was completely empty, Mabel, Misao, and The Princess Squad were gone, their absence derailing the conversation. Star gawked at the empty table. “… Huh? Where did…?”

    “PRINCESS MABEL! PRINCESS MABEL! PRINCESS MABEL! PRINCESS MABEL!”

    Star and Pony Head looked over at the dance floor, where Mabel stood at the center of the dance floor with her chin held up and her arms raised like some villainous pro wrestler. Two-Headed Princess stood behind her, bestowing one of their two crowns upon Mabel’s head while the other princesses and Misao stood in a circle around her–clapping their hands and chanting her name.

    Lowering her hands and rolling her shoulders, causing the crown to tilt back, Mabel addressed the. “My first decree as honorary Princess of the Dance Floor…”

    She shot out her right hand, presenting Misao with her upturned palm. “Is to crown Misao as my honorary co-princess!”

    “Long live Princess Misao!” The other princesses cheered as Misao bounced over to Mabel’s side. Two-Headed Princess took their other crown off and bestowed it upon Misao’s head as she laughed.

    Mabel made a sweeping gesture across the dance floor. “And for my second decree! I hereby declare the mighty fine ladies of the St. Olga’s School for Wild and Free Princesses of the Disco to seize this dance floor for the glory of Princess Turdina!”

    Star grinned from ear to ear as the other girls cheered, and forgot all about whatever wars her Mom may have fought. “WOO-HOO! LONG LIVE PRINCESS MABEL AND PRINCESS MISAO!”

    “GLORY TO THE PRINCESSES OF THE DISCO!” Misao called out.

    “ALL HAIL THE PRINCESSES OF THE DISCO!” The Princesses cheered.

    Pony Head flew up and joined Mabel’s side. “You heard the Princess! Let’s get down, ladies!”

    “DJ!” Mabel shouted. “I want that music to make me lose control!”

    On the edge of the stage, the two robot DJs, snapped their fingers and pointed their fingers at Mabel and dropped a techno beat that had the spread out clouds of the Bounce Lounge shaking from the base and flashing with the flashing light tiles of the dance floor. As commanded, the Princesses and all the other guests within sight of the dance floor of the Bounce Lounge got down and dirty.

    Star wrapped an arm around Mabel’s waist and side-hugged her. “You hit it off fast with them!”

    Mabel laughed and returned the hug. “Oh yeah, we’re all Princess Friends Forever, now!”

    “I will freakin’ die for you, Mabel!” Princess Arms said as she walked like an Egyptian past her.

    “And I’ll kill for you, babe! Say the word~!” Mabel said as she took Star’s hands and swung her out to face and dance with her properly.

    Misao laughed as she popped and locked while Pony Head twisted and bobbed herself next to her. “I do not know how she does it, isn’t she amazing~?”

    “Everyone loves cute sweaters!” Mabel cheered.

    Star poked Mabel’s chest. “You’re gonna make me one, right?”

    “You’ll get one first!” Mabel cheered just before the dance floor began to shake, but not in a good way. “Huh?”

    The strange tremor was the only warning the club goers had before the center of the dance floor split open, sending almost everyone who had been on it scrambling for safety.

    Star grabbed Mabel’s hand and jumped back, and Misao leaped into the arms of Arm Princess, as the fissure widened and a torrent of wailing souls came pouring from the chasm.

    “Was ist das?!” Misao cried out.

    Amidst the storm of souls, a winged demon wearing a loincloth ascended from the fissure, the yoke around his neck connected to chains hauling a wheeless carriage up through the fissure. Soon as the keel of the carriage was clear of the gap, it slowly closed to the mournful wailing of the departed trapped beneath it.

    Seeing the carriage and the demon hoisting it, Star’s face fell into a morose grimace.

    Pony Head saw Star’s expression. “Oh this is bad…”

    Mabel and Misao looked at Pony Head and Star.

    “What’s going on?” Misao asked. “Who is that?”

    “Who is behind this evil energy?” Mabel asked. “Is it a demonic warlord? A necromancer that hates ponies? A goblin incel?!”

    Star sighed. “It’s…”

    The demon holding the carriage up, despite panting from the labor, cleared his voice and spoke in a loud and commanding manner. “Presenting: Prince Thomas Draconius Lucitor, and his companion, Lady Amirana Butterfly, the Duchess of Septarsis.”

    Stepping from the carriage came a young man with lilac-colored skin, salmon-colored hair with two horns, and three eyes red as fresh blood–the third set in his forehead centered above the other two. He was dressed in a nice but casual black suit, along with a violet tie, and black leather shoes.

    He was accompanied by an attractive young woman who stood just below him in height, with fair skin with long violet hair that cascaded in gentle curls down to her hips and was styled in sweeping bangs that stopped above her turquoise-colored eyes. She wore a simple black evening gown that stopped above her knees, and high heels that she appeared awkward just standing in.

    As her name implied, and both Misao and Mabel noticed, she had purple magnet-shaped marks on her cheeks.

    Star slapped her hand to her face as she focused on the young man. “… My ex.”

    = - = 36 = - =
    Oh it's Tom. Hey Tom!
     
  23. TricksterPriest

    TricksterPriest 大六天魔王

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    Trollouche: Maestro, if you please? ;)

    Milly: *stars in her eyes*

    Nina: Uh oh.

    Nunnally: Oh dear.

    Rivalz: Batten down the hatches, folks. x3

    Milly: I HAVE FOUND MY PERSONAL HEAVEN, AND I AM NEVER LEAVING! :D *Scrooge McDuck dives into a cloud*

    Trollouche: *grimaces* Ugh, EDM.

    Milly: Don't be a stick in the mud, Lulu. :rolleyes:

    Trollouche: If I'm going to go clubbing, it will be a place with decent music, not this shit. ¬_¬

    Rivalz: What did she mean by 'party supplies' ? :confused:

    Trollouche: Probably drugs etc. Which honestly? You kinda need. Because nobody who likes Electronic music listens to it sober most of the time.

    Milly: *is totally sober and getting down on the dance floor*

    Kallen: Looks like he skipped leg day. x3

    Trollouche: I want to fight him. :sneaky:

    CC: Rather exotic specimen.

    Milly: No! Bad Lulu! No fighting the bouncer! :mad:

    Kallen: What the fuck is Smile Dip? :confused:

    Trollouche: Sounds like a bad trip waiting to happen. :V

    Millly: Is that a magical pony head girl?! Eeeee!! n_n

    Milly: And she's a fashionista! I have found a new friend!

    Trollouche: *hitting his head against a wall* OP SEC MOTHERFUCKER! DO YOU SPEAK IT?! :mad:

    Nunnally: Why is Big Brother getting angry? :confused:

    CC: Because someone is yelling coded information out loud using military shorthand that is well known. :rolleyes:

    Kallen: Wait. So they went to this club just to pick up guys?

    Milly: Kallen...do you not go to clubs? o_O

    Kallen: Not really. It never interested me. Why?

    Milly: *whistles, causing Lulu, CC and Rivalz to jump on her and hogtie her*

    Milly: Magnificent Milly Minions! Sally forth! We go to that most noblest of causes, teaching this girl how to club hop and boogie! :D

    Kallen: What the fuck, Milly?! Untie me! :mad:

    Milly: Not happening! TALLY HO! :cool:

    Leloucia: I wonder how open minded the guys at this club are. :sneaky:

    Milly: I'm sure some of them would hit on you regardless. :p

    Leloucia: What the fuck am I looking at?? o_O

    CC: Did she just say 'stealing faces' ? *raised eyebrow*

    Milly: *points at Mabel* Her! I am declaring her my new awesome friend! Because I sense kindred spirit energy! :D

    Leloucia: So he's genderfluid?

    Milly: I..don't think so? :confused:

    CC: Ah, young love. :3

    Alice: Yes! Gossip! *taking notes*

    Nunnally: Alice! -_-

    Alice: C'mon Nunna! This is great stuff! :p

    Milly: So...what's the problem again?

    Rivalz: Beats me. *shrugs*

    Milly: Just grab both of them, duh. :p It worked for Lulu when she grabbed Suzaku and Euphie. :3

    Kaguya: There is something primal and enticing about someone declaring they'd kill for you, fu fu fu fu fu. :sneaky:

    CC: How does that even...? She's just a head, right? :confused:

    Leloucia: Ask not for forbidden knowledge, lest ye be damned. -_-

    Kallen: So, there's an orgy happening at the boarding school afterwards? Are we sure Milly isn't there? :rolleyes:

    Milly: No, because there would totally be fucking at the club if I was! :p

    Leloucia: Any guy invited back to the after party should count himself lucky to experience the privilege.

    Euphemia: This hardly feels proper...

    Milly: That's why it's so awesome! C'mon Euphie, it's party time! :D

    Euphie: Oh very well. :D

    *record scratch*

    Leloucia: Wait what?

    Kallen: Her mom was a warrior??

    Leloucia: I wasn't aware Star came from fighting stock. Interesting.

    Milly: *maniacal cackling* I am one with the universe, and the universe is one with me! I! AM! IN! MY! ELEMENT!! :sneaky:

    Euphemia: Is she alright? :confused:

    Leloucia: She's just getting high off the club energy. Don't worry about it. :p

    Milly: DISCO PRINCESS INFERNO!!! :D

    Kallen: *struggling in her ropes* I'll get you for this Milly! :mad:

    Leloucia: Wait, is that Not!Daft Punk?? :confused:

    Milly: Could be.

    Leloucia: It's not bad. This just isn't my scene though. :rolleyes:

    Kallen: Is anyone going to fucking untie me?! :mad:

    Alice: Too loud, too blinding. Pass. -_-

    Nunnally: *covering her ears* >_<

    Leloucia: *holds Milly in a full Nelson* No, Milly, no. :rolleyes:

    Milly: *hands outstretched, making grasping motions* But she's my spirit twin!

    Milly: I want a cute sweater tooooo! x3

    Leloucia: And to motorboat her and Misao? :3

    Milly: Duh. Have you seen those tits? :p

    Leloucia; Holy shit, this guy knows how to make an entrance! :D

    Kallen: Kinda surprised there isn't death metal playing with it. :rolleyes:

    Euphemia: Star seems rather upset. :confused:

    Milly: Incels? Ewww. >_<

    Leloucia: *hungry smile* Oh. Him I like. :sneaky:

    Milly: *cackling* Get em, girl!

    CC: His companion is rather fetching too. I do fear that Tom Lucitor would not be prepared for the shitstorm that is Leloucia.

    Milly: Is she worse than Star? :3

    CC: Hmm. Good point. I think they'd end up killing each other. :D

    Euphemia: Oh dear, relationship drama is the last thing anyone wants while trying to relax.

    Euphemia: Well, perhaps he's moved on to greener pastures. :D

    Alice: I'm not taking that bet. ¬_¬

    Alice: I don't like the look of this guy.

    Nunnally: Alice Hargreaves, just because he has three eyes and salmon skin is no reason to discriminate. :mad:

    Alice: No, not that! It's cause he feels like a creep. -_-

    Nunnally: Let's wait and see before judging. :rolleyes:
     
    The Ero-Sennin likes this.
  24. Threadmarks: Party Hotter
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

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    Much thanks to the C&G Crew for their commentary. The next chapter is now.

    = - = 37 = - =

    |Party Hotter|

    Misao’s shoulders slumped, the energy that illuminated the club’s eternal night died with Star’s lament and birthed tension in its place. Pony Head rolled her eyes and shook herself, her lips turned down into a hard scowl. Star folded her arms tight and stared at the emerged couple, her brows furrowed.

    Mabel didn’t want to open her mouth and say something insensitive, like that Star had good taste in ex-boyfriends.

    Tom Lucitor looked around at the crowd, then looked back at his carriage. “Oh…! Oh no!” He turned to look back at everyone. “I am so sorry! Hang on, just a second!”

    He turned to look up at the demon hauling the carriage. “Hey, you came up through the dance floor! You have to go!”

    The hovering demon looked down at Tom. “Sorry, master…”

    As the demon began to descend, Tom called. “And remember, no fire! This place has a hair-trigger sprinkler system.”

    The woman beside him, Amirana, looked at Tom with concern as the demon began to descend into the fissure he emerged from. She moved closer to him, whispering. “Wait, he’s leaving? How are we going to get back?”

    Tom turned to her. “Don’t worry, we’ll be back before intermission is over. I just really wanted to go somewhere more relaxed than the lobby of an Opera House, you know?”

    She fidgeted, looking at the crowd surrounding them. “This is more relaxed? There are so many people…”

    Tom brought his hand around her back, and hovered it just off her shoulder to guide her away from the center of attention “It’ll be okay.”

    Once they stepped off the dance floor, the fissure sealed up and it was good as new–to the relief of the Bounce Lounge guests. Tom raised his hand in a hesitant wave. “Sorry about that! Don’t let me stop the party!”

    His self-effacing awkwardness was well received, the music starting up and the party beginning again like it’d never stopped. Turning back to his companion, he smiled. “See? This is a great place with nice people…”

    As he reassured her, Amirana glanced ahead, then did a double-take with raised brows. Following her gaze, Tom’s three eyes widened as well when he saw Star standing in front of him, with Pony Head floating over her left shoulder, and both Mabel and Misao standing to her right.

    “Star? Oh, hey! W-what are you doing here?”

    Star blew out an exasperated breath. “I was having a good time with my friends. What are you doing here?”

    Tom recoiled from her tone. “Whoa, sensing some hostility. I just came here to have a quick drink with my date.”

    Tom gestured to Amirana, Star’s gaze following. “You remember Amirana, right? The Duchess of Septarsis?”

    Star glanced back and forth between them, her brow furrowing as she tried to recollect the face, before the memory of a family gathering years ago flashed through her mind and recognition dawned. “… Cousin Rana?”

    Amirana flinched at the nickname. In a gentle, cultured voice that reminded Star almost a little too much of her mother, she spoke. “Hello, Star. It’s… been a long time.”

    “Yeah it has! I haven’t seen you since the family reunion, what… three years ago?” She asked.

    Amirana’s face twisted into a mild grimace. “Yes… it’s been that long…”

    Star looked back and forth between them again. “Wait, wait, you’re going out with Tom?”

    Before Amirana could reply, Tom cut in. “After the Blood Moon Ball your Aunt Felicity proposed an engagement between Amirana and I to my parents, and we’ve been going out to see how we fit together.”

    He looked at Amirana and gave her a kind smile. “On the whole, it’s been nice.”

    The pale duchess’s face relaxed and grew a light shade of pink at his smile. Averting her eyes, she brought her left hand up to cover her cheek and conceal the blush.

    Star felt hairs on the back of her neck bristle, a red flag pitched at the end of every follicle, as she remembered feeling exactly how Amirana looked at that moment. In a burst of movement, she muscled her way between her and Tom, separating them, and swept behind her.

    “You probably want to get something to drink now, right? Let me show you the juice bar!” She said.

    “Actually I would rather-”

    “Nononono, we are going to have some drinks.”

    Amirana heaved a sigh as she was led off.

    “Uh, Star?” Tom called after her. He started to follow, when Pony Head flew in front of him, stopping him in his tracks.

    “Mmmm uh huh, yeah… you might be hot and junk but you are not cute, Tom.” She seethed, her nose crinkled.

    Tom drew back, all three of his eyes narrowing. “I don’t know what you're talking about.”

    Pony Head got in his face. “Every dimension you could go to and you just happen to come to the Bounce Lounge. Where Star just happens to be. Mmmhm, that’s just a coincidence.”

    Tom frowned. “You got me. I totally planned to go to see Hotel Hazbin with Amirana a week in advance in the slim chance that I happened to hear that Star was at the Bounce Lounge, so I could show her that I was happy and spending time with someone who is not her. Yes, my diabolical plan to let her know I won’t pester her anymore was foolproof until you foiled it.”

    Pony Head let out a hard snort. “I’m not playing. If I find out you’re messing with B-Fly? You’re getting the horn, and you won’t like where it’ll go.”

    Tom rolled his eyes and brushed Pony Head aside. “Save it for a guy who’s into that kind of thing, Pony. I’m gonna stop Star from scaring my date.”

    As Tom walked off, Mabel and Misao joined Pony Head’s side.

    “He’s up to something,” Pony Head said.

    “Mmmhm!” Both girls agreed.

    One cloud adjacent to the dance floor, Star observed her cousin as they stood in front of a juice bar. Amirana sipped from a glass of water while Star waited for the bartender to finish a drink that could be best described as sugar with water and fruit. Even she could see that the young woman was struggling to keep her energy up in such a loud and crowded place.

    Why would he bring her here? Star wondered, before speaking to her cousin. “Are you doing okay?”

    Amirana lowered her glass from her lips, and tilted her head at a slight angle. “What?”

    Star pouted. “Why are you surprised? I didn’t forget the last time we saw each other.”

    “Oh.” Amirana looked down at the counter, her face coloring. “Well, I am managing. That we’re not going to be here long helps.”

    Star looked over towards the dance floor, and could see that Tom was looking around for them. She turned back to Amirana. “So how has it really been going with him?”

    Amirana perked up somewhat and raised her gaze back to Star. “With Tom? It’s been pleasant. We first met almost a month ago when my mother and Uncle Heartrude brought me to the Lucitor palace to discuss the arrangement.”

    She brought her glass to her lips. “He and I have been going on various outings every week since.”

    “And it’s been okay? He hasn’t blown up or lost his temper? Or said anything about me?”

    Amirana finished her sip and shook her head. “Nothing like that. Though he did warn me that you two broke up because of his anger issues, and that he was working very hard because of them.”

    Star tightened her lips and hummed. “Just be careful with him.” She pointed her wand at the bar top and fired a quick spell that left a pink pamphlet. She handed it to Amirana. “Read this.”

    “‘So he’s a Demon… a dating guide’, thank you’, Star…” She set it down. “But I’ve already read it and numerous other books and guides on demons and their nature. I am prepared if he loses his temper, but he really has been nothing but charming.”

    Star hummed again as she received her drink, but her cousin’s firm testimony raised questions. “Hmm…”

    Climbing up some cloud steps towards them, Tom stopped when he saw Star and Amirana talking. Star’s confused and self-doubting expression lit hope in all three of Tom’s eyes.

    Tom’s expectant eavesdropping was in turn eyed through the zoom function of Princess Smooshy’s phone camera. Mabel, holding the phone and perched on the ogre-like Princess’s shoulders, eyed him then turned to the waiting members of The Princess Squad below.

    “He’s just sitting back and watching. But he likes what he sees.” Mabel slipped off Smooshy’s shoulders and landed among the Misao, Pony Head, and the others “Thanks Smooshy.”

    Princess Smooshy took her phone back. “It ain’t no thing for another thick chick.” She held up her camera in front of herself and Mabel. “Camera phone.”

    As Smooshy snapped pictures of herself and Mabel making duck faces, Misao faced Pony Head, who watched Tom with narrowed eyes. “So what do we do?”

    “We need to blow up his spot, oooh I just know he is trying to mess with her!”

    Princess Gwendolyn spoke up. “Or maybe he’s trying very hard to bury the hatchet?”

    “Trying too hard,” Misao muttered.

    Princess Arms turned to Pony Head. “You know Star better than all of us, what’s the deal with her and Tom?”

    “Tom is a huge control freak, like you don’t even know, and if he didn’t get his way he would lose his mind!” She explained. “That’s why he and B-Fly broke up–but you didn’t hear that from me.”

    Mabel grimaced. “Oh… he was that kind of guy, yikes.”

    The Two-Headed Princess’s right head pursed her lips before speaking. “He was, but it might not be some nefarious plot, girls.”

    Her left head rolled her eyes. “Oh my gosh, please do not start simping here in front of everyone.”

    The very thought disgusted Two-Headed Princess’s right head. “I am not a simp!”

    “STG you get like this for every hot boy with a swimmer bod.”

    Right head Princess turned to Gwendolyn. “Back me up!”

    Princess Gwendolyn agreed. “I think you’re being paranoid, Pony, and it’s killing the vibe.”

    Cactus Princess nodded in agreement with the dissenting Princesses.

    “That is so weak!” Princess Arms shouted. “Here we are getting our night ruined by ex-boyfriend drama, and you’re going to side with him?!”

    Princess Smooshy, seemingly not paying attention, remarked. “He do got that booty tho.” She held the phone up to get herself and Misao in the shot, Misao looking up and smiling. “Camera phone.”

    When Smooshy finished snapping her selfies, something occurred to Misao and she let out a hum.

    “Thank you!” Princess right head yelled, drawing rebuke from the left, and prompting fiery debate among the Princesses.

    “Princesses of the realms, wait!” Mabel pleaded before the arguing could break into regional war. “This is not the way for a Princess to live, turning on each other in times of crisis. We must remember why we are here, together, and what is at stake if we let the drama win.”

    The Princesses stopped, and looked back towards all the handsome guys hanging around. The quarrel quelled, there was too much to risk losing now.

    “I think I have proof that Tom is up to something.”

    Everyone turned to Misao, and she explained. “When we first got here, I heard that loudmouth bird person saying something strange into his phone. He was speaking in the phonetic alphabet.”

    Pony Head cocked her horn to the left tilting her head. “Phoenician wha?”

    Mabel knew what it was. “It’s army talk in my world. My brother uses it sometimes when he’s being extra dweeby.”

    “I thought he was just reporting bouncer talk to the club manager or something, but now thinking about it. He said some very specific things, ja? Sierra Bravo arriving in the AO.”

    “What’s that mean?” Cactus Princess asked.

    Misao knew. “Fancy army talk for Area of Operation.”

    “Wouldn’t it be AOO?”

    “The ‘of’ is silent,” Mabel corrected, before continuing Misao’s thought. “Sierra Bravo, that would be SB in normal person talk.”

    Pony Head gasped. “Star Butterfly!”

    “He called himself Tango RomeoTango,” Misao said.

    “Talon Raventalon!” Mabel said, impersonating his gruff and aggressive yell.

    Misao nodded. “And he was specifically speaking to a Tango Delta Lima Actual.”

    “TDL, right?” Princess Arms asked.

    No one there missed the introduction the demon gave upon its arrival, and Pony Head seethed. “Oh. MG.”

    “That’s right,” Mabel said, “Thomas Draconius Lucitor.”

    “The perfect edgy name for a hot edgy demon boy,” Misao lamented.

    “W-what about the Actual?” Princess Right Head asked, in vain hope that it was maybe someone else.

    “Actual designates the commander of the unit or asset identified by the remainder of the call sign. Since Tom is a Prince, he’d go by that, or somethin’.”

    Everyone stared in silence at Princess Smooshy, who took another selfie.

    “Camera phone.”

    Misao turned in the direction of the VIP section, where Talon Raventalon idled, messing with his phone. “I am a betting girl, and I am betting that if we had a look at Tango RomeoTango’s phone, we would get an idea of Tango Delta Lima’s intentions, ja?”

    @@@@@

    “… And then last week, we didn’t go anywhere. He came to Septarsis and helped me catalog books in the library.” Amirana explained as she ran her fingers on the rim of her glass of water. “… He even helped me fight off a bookworm without using any fire.”

    She smiled down at the counter, looking anywhere else besides Star was difficult. “He gave me tickets to the Opera before he left, tucked in a copy of the Liber AL vel Legis.”

    Star was struck by Amirana’s account of her and Tom’s outings since their first meeting. “You’ve been really enjoying yourself with him, haven’t you?”

    She nodded. “He’s been the best company I’ve had in Septarsis, and he’s respected my boundaries.” She stopped and tapped her finger on the glass. “… At least until today. I am just doing terribly here.”

    Star could tell. “… Do you want more water? Maybe something stronger? You’re sixteen, right?”

    Amirana raised her head a little. “I turned seventeen months ago, but I don’t want a strong drink. I just want to go somewhere quiet with as few people as possible…”

    “How did you survive going to the opera?”

    Amirana’s gaze dropped down again. “Tom got us balcony seats, up and away from everyone else.”

    Star smiled. “Yeah, that’s the sort of thing Tom would do. It can be very sweet, all the effort he puts into impressing you…”

    She took a sip of her drink as Amirana peeked at her again. “If there was something I liked about Tom, it’s that when we were dating he was always doing his best to make sure I was having fun. He took me out on nice dates, he got me gifts, he would even call me up and talk with me for hours if he heard I was feeling sad.”

    Amirana watched Star carefully, as the Princess looked up and remembered those days fondly. “He was such a great guy.”

    Midway down the steps leading to the juice bar cloud, Tom smiled as he listened..

    Star inhaled deep and let out a long sigh. “But Stump help you if even one tiny thing goes wrong, because then he goes ballistic!”

    Tom’s smile fled.

    Down by the VIP table Talon Raventalon was playing a game on his phone, and enjoying himself. “Flappy Bird? More like Flappy Eagle. Heh, yeah… I am owning this game!”

    “Hey Birdie-Birdie Man.” Princess Smooshy called out. He looked up to find the Princess Squad assembled in front of him, Smooshy front and center. “I want your phone.”

    Talon Raventalon stared at Smooshy, uncomprehending, before Pony Head floated around the large princess, and Mabel and Misao stepped from behind her.

    Pony Head cut straight to the point. “You’re working for Tom, ain’t you?”

    Talon Raventalon’s eyes shot wide behind his aviators. “Talon Raventalon has no idea what you’re talking about.”

    Misao huffed in derision. “Mike Papa, this is Mike Delta. I have a visual on the Tango RomeoTango, over.”

    Beads of sweat formed on Talon Raventalon’s feathered head and beak as Mabel replied. “Copy on that visual, Mike Delta.”

    Talon Raventalon’s mother raised no fool. With the jig up, Talon Raventalon drew a pair of Dimensional Scissors to cut his way out of reality to escape. A beam of glitter from Pony Head’s horn struck him between the eyes and blinded him before he could open the tool.

    “Get him!” Mabel yelled, and the entire Princess Squad fell on him like he was the last chocolate cupcake on a cheat day.

    Back at the juice bar Amirana’s eyebrows rose at Star’s outburst. Behind them, Tom was cringing away, struck by the frustration in her tone.

    “He wasn’t that bad, was he?” The introverted Duchess asked.

    Star shook her head. “I liked Tom–I really did–but he was such a control freak. Whenever he took me out or got me gifts, there was a plan, and every step of that plan had to be followed, and if anything happened–even if it was something totally random that he couldn’t expect? Boom, red eyes and fire.”

    Amirana visibly flinched, sympathetic. “Oh, oh dear…”

    She sighed. “He was just so… ugh! He couldn’t live in the moment, be spontaneous, or see the bright side of something going wrong, he couldn’t even try! It didn’t bother me at first because, you know, he was hot and sweet, but after a while…” She shrugged her shoulders. “Well, we’re not together anymore.”

    Amirana mulled over Star’s lament, tapping her finger on the rim of her glass. “Well, I understand why you two would fall out. You are very spontaneous and energetic… and you don’t really stop to listen. He is, on the other hand, very organized and likes to approach things with a plan.”

    Star winced, then laughed nervously. “Well, you know…”

    “And I like that part about him.”

    Star stopped. “Eh?”

    Tom grew concerned. “What?”

    “I’m a perfectionist myself.” She sighed. “Though why wouldn’t I? I live in a library that has not been sorted properly in almost twenty years and probably won’t be for another twenty. Sometimes knowing where a book is supposed to go is better than the book itself for me.”

    Star brightened, then laughed. “Oh my goodness, That’s exactly the kind of thing Tom would care about!”

    “He certainly did when he helped in the library,” Amirana said with a slight grin. “And he has been excellent about his anger. He was so calm and diligent when we worked. Even when we couldn’t tell where books went.”

    Star pondered that. “Maybe you and Tom are a good match. He’s getting better at his anger, you’re a very calm person… you have good energy together!”

    Amirana’s blush returned. “Do you suppose…?”

    “Yeah!”

    Tom’s salmon pink skin grew a shade lighter. “Wait, no!”

    He jogged up to the juice bar and practically spilled between the two of them. “H-hey, girls! Getting along?”

    Star answered Tom with furrowed brows. “Yeah? She’s my cousin?”

    Amirana let out a relieved sigh. “Thank goodness. As stimulating as this has been–and pleasant to actually see you again, Star–I want to leave.”

    Star pouted. “Aw!”

    Tom quickly tried to speak. “I’ll call the carriage and-!”

    Star continued over him, while flashing Amirana an incandescent smile. “I understand though, this place is just the worst if you’re introverted.”

    Amirana nodded. “Thank you for sitting with me and helping me through it, and I am sorry if our being here disturbed your evening.”

    “Yeah, this was a total mistake and-” Tom rambled.

    “Are you kidding?! I got to see the one cousin on Mom’s side of our family who isn’t a complete hoity-toity snob.” Star gasped. “Actually! You should totally come visit me on Earth?”

    Dread flashed in Tom’s eyes. “Wait-!”

    Amirana recoiled. “Earth? Is that how it’s pronounced?”

    Star gave her a wry look. “Let me guess: been calling it E-Arth?”

    Amirana nodded, her face pink.

    “I was doing it for days until Mom said she’d send me to St. O’s anyway if I kept doing it.”

    The Duchess of Septarsis filed that away. “But yes, I would not be against meeting again. Especially if it’s someplace quiet.”

    Tom suppressed his grimace as Star all but exploded with eagerness. “Oh you bet! Earth has all kinds of great places that are quiet! Like the park, movies, school, Marco’s room when he’s trying to do his homework-”

    The mere mention of that name sent a nasty twitch through the left side of Tom’s face, but he fought it down as he pulled out a small demonic hammer and bell. “Okay, calling the carriage now.”

    At that very moment, Pony Head flew in and got up in Tom’s face. “Oh hey, Tom! Were you just about to bounce? How about no?

    Star and Amirana both gasped when they saw Pony Head looked to be covered in bruises and scrapes, like she’d just been in the mother of all beatdowns and the only reason she wasn’t on the receiving end was that she was still conscious.

    “Pony, what happened?!” Star gasped.

    Mabel sat down on Amirana’s other side. “Oh man. You can’t hear it because of the beat, but the Princess Squad is laying the smackdown on the bouncer right now.”

    Tom went pale again, and his head turned a full 180 to look back towards the VIP–where the St. O’s Princesses were gathered over him, stomping on him like he was repping the wrong set in the wrong hood.

    “Stomp him!” Princess Arms shouted of the cacophony of feet to flesh.

    “Switch feet!” Princess Qwendolyn commanded.

    “Stomp him!” Princess Arms said once more.

    “Switch again!” As the others obeyed her, Princess Smoosh leaped in, slapping her elbow at the top of her jump.

    “Elbow drop!” Smooshy yelled, as it came down on Talon Raventalon’s gut, and the bouncer let out a chicken-like “BUCKAWW!”

    “Oh no,” Tom whispered.

    “Oh yes,” Misao said, and Tom’s head turned a few more degrees to follow her as she walked around him, and sat herself on Mabel’s lap. Like her and Pony Head, she was covered in the scars of battle, and was holding her prize from it–Talon Raventalon’s phone. She studiously tapped her fingers repeatedly on the screen lock, in an effort to crack it.

    “What?” Star asked.

    Misao held up her hand. “One moment, cracking this lock.” She smiled as the screen popped open. “Ah, gut.”

    Star and Amirana looked from her to Tom and back, completely lost. “Duchess Amirana, ja? On what days did Tom spend time with you?”

    “Every weekend, why?” Amirana asked.

    “Weird how other dimensions line up like that, right?” Mabel asked before Misao finished browsing Talon Raventalon’s call and message logs.

    “Ja, it is confirmed. Herr Lucitor has been in contact with the Bounce Loungue’s bouncer every weekend for the last three weeks.”

    Star and Amirana both turned to look at Tom, the former’s brows furrowing, while the latter’s mouth fell open. “You’ve been what?”

    “Telling his stool pigeon to squawk if he saw you.” Pony Head seethed.

    “So he could come show off his brand new date, and make you jealous!” Mabel had seen enough sitcoms to know how this worked.

    Star gasped and erupted at Tom. “Really?!”

    Tom raised his hands. “No, it’s not like that!”

    Amirana shot to her feet, her expression a mix between disbelief, anger, and nauseous. “Is that why you insisted we come here?!”

    Tom turned to Amirana. “It really isn’t, I swear!”

    Misao looked at the texts between Talon Raventalon and Tom. “He even had instructions for if Marco had come along. Mostly to keep him distracted.”

    Tom looked at Misao, face flashing in anger. “He saved those?!”

    Misao peered over the phone at Tom, a sinister twinkle in her gray eyes. “Nein, he did not.”

    The young man’s lilac skin turned an interesting shade of gray.

    Star threw her hands up. “You are unbelievable!”

    Tom quailed from her. “Starship, wait. It’s really not-!”

    Amirana stepped up to him on his left, her fists clenched, her body shaking. “Your insisting that we come, even when I didn’t want to be here!”

    As Tom sputtered, Star stepped up to him from his right. “I was actually about to ship you with her!”

    Tom stepped back from Star, only to face Amirana. “You brought me here just to make my cousin jealous?!”

    Tom stopped withdrawing, red filling his eyes as a vein on his neck popped. “Can you please just let me explain mysel-f?!”

    “Why can’t you just get it through your head that we are over, Tom?!” Star demanded.

    “Forget the opera, I want to go back to Septarsis!” Amirana shouted at him.

    Tom’s eyes flashed fully red, and he stomped forward, flames bursting from his back, shoulders and head as he yelled back at both. “WILL YOU SHUT UP AND GIVE ME A CHANCE TO TALK?!”

    He stopped as he watched his own flames pass in front of him. All three of his eyes shot wide and the color retreated from his skin, leaving him a paler pink than Mabel’s headband. Murmuring an “oh no”, he looked up at the clouds above them. They were growing and spreading across the star-filled sky, a dull rumble echoing from them.

    Pony Head looked up at the clouds. “Uh oh.”

    Mabel looked up, then at Pony Head. “Wait, what’s going on?”

    Tom’s fire, his swiftness to shut it off, and the overwhelming regret on his face? Misao understood. “Fire suppression system.”

    Mabel turned to her. “Wait, sprinklers?”

    “Mmm-mm, not sprinklers…” Pony Head said as a wind kicked up and made the air very chilly, very fast.

    The sound of spreading thunder stopped the music and drew everyone’s eyes upward, as the endless stars and moonlight that lit the lounge disappeared, blocked by the dense overcast. A flash of lightning near blinded everyone, before the most torrential downpour any of them remembered cut loose, near horizontal, wind-driven rains drenching the Bounce Lounge and everyone in it.

    “Oh no!” Mabel cried out as she rose to her feet. “Of course a cloud dimension would use rain to put out a fire!”

    Over the groans of the guests, one of the Robot DJs called out. “The Bounce Lounge is now closed. You do not need to go home, but you are denied shelter here.”

    Tom, looking like a wet three-eyed, horned cat, stared at Star and Amirana. His expression slumped in contrition he looked down at the floor and shook his head. Star tossed her head back and blew out a huff.

    “Unbelievable,” she repeated.

    Amirana turned to Star. “Do you have a way of getting out of here?”

    Star pulled out the Dimensional Scissors and handed them to her. “Here.”

    The sight of the red-handled scissors made Amirana draw back slightly. “These are… how…?” She stopped and shook her head. “Nevermind.”

    Opening a portal, she handed the scissors back to her. “Thank you, Star.” With a final glare at Tom, she stormed off through it and it disappeared with her.

    Tom raised his head, but meeting gazes with Star dropped his eyes back to his feet. “I’m… gonna go.”

    “Please do,” Star hissed.

    As Tom turned and walked away. Mabel’s phone, Misao’s, and Star’s Compact Mirror all chimed at once. Grabbing hers, Mabel looked at the message and her face fell. “Dipper and Janna were attacked over at the scrapyard… ?!”

    Misao threw her hands up in defeat. “Oh ja! And let this not be the worst thing that happened today!”

    Then she was struck in the forehead by a quarter-sized hailstone. “Scheiße!”

    More hailstones battered Star, Mabel, Pony Head, as the disappointed cacophony of the other guests turned into cries of pain.

    “Oh no! The hail started early!” Pony Head cried out. “Yo, B-Fly! We gotta go!”

    “I know, I know!” Star called back.

    Shielding Misao from the brunt of the hail, Mabel called out as Star carved open a portal. “Princess Squad! Retreat!”

    Pony Head was first through the portal, with Mabel hauling Misao out after. As the St. Olga’s Princesses scrambled to flee through the portal–Princess Smooshy claiming Talon Raventalon’s Aviators as her own–Star endured the pelting and glowered down at Tom. He had walked down to the dance floor, and was ringing his little bell to await the return of his carriage.

    As the dance floor opened again he looked up at her, only briefly, before he averted his eyes.

    Arm over her eyes to keep the hail from hitting her face, Star turned away and walked into the portal, the last one out.

    @@@@@

    “And that’s what happened to us on Saturday.”

    Marco shook his head with a grimace after hearing Star’s account of the disaster at the Bounce Lounge. He and Star were sitting together on the bus near the back, for the short ride to Echo Creek Academy. Star had taken the window and was staring out it with an annoyed look on her face. “So that’s why no one wanted to talk about it.”

    “Mmhm.” Even thinking about it aggravated her.

    “How’s your cousin doing?” He asked.

    “I don’t know. I don’t have her info, and I don’t want to bug Mom about it.” She huffed. “Not that we actually talk, or really even know each other. We hung out once at our family reunion three years ago. We didn’t even really get along.”

    Marco could see that. “You two have very different personalities from what it sounds like.” He nudged her shoulder. “But hey, you sounded like you were getting somewhere.”

    Star had her doubts. “Yeah, anyway, it sucked.”

    “Well, on the bright side. At least you know that Mabel and Misao getting along with Pony Head will end in something being set on fire.”

    Star snickered, then broke into a smile. “Oh yeah, and we’re all banned from the Bounce Lounge for a month. Pony Head’s super excited about it.”

    “It’s hard to get banned from there, huh?”

    “Only five people ever have before, including my Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandma Festivia.” Star spoke in a hush, mystic tone. “Some say she partied too hard for even the Bounce Lounge, so she had to leave…”

    Marco leaned closer to her. “See? It wasn’t even all bad. You’ll look back on it one day and laugh.”

    He kissed her cheek, and her face flared into a blush. “You don’t have to now, though. It’s okay to be upset about it.”

    If Star could remember what she was upset about, then she would. “Marco!” She gasped with her hand on her cheek in an expression of mock disbelief. “I thought we agreed on no PDA!”

    Marco gave her a small, sneaky smile. “I wanted to cheer you up, besides… no one saw.”

    Both had their own reasons for not wanting to be public about their relationship status, not least of all the news getting back to her parents and making a huge deal out of it. Or worse, making it very official with a bunch of pomp and circumstance Star didn’t want or need.

    Convincing Marco’s parents to not blab about it was hard. It was a rare thing indeed to see Star trying to get someone to calm the eff down.

    Even harder, though, was trying to keep their hands to themselves in spite of their own rules.

    “Anyway,” he said over her giggling as the bus pulled up in front of the school, “You should get in touch with your cousin and make sure she’s all right.”

    Star bit down on the wing of her wand, and nibbled on it as she eyed Marco’s lips. “If you say so, I’ll call Mom after school for her number~”

    As Marco rose to follow the other students off, Star took his arm and yanked him back towards her, down out of sight of students distracted with getting off the bus. A few seconds later he stumbled out into the aisle, his face bright red with a pleased smile on his face.

    “No one saw~” Star purred as she squeezed past him, headed for the front of the bus.

    Wiping his mouth, Marco took a deep breath to try to calm his elation. Star’s wild and untamed energy was why he thought she was great to begin with, but being the object of her affections on top of that made her… breathtaking.

    I can’t believe she’s my girlfriend. He thought, wrapped up in that warmth in his chest, before he sensed someone behind him.

    “Ah… ahh…

    “Wh-wh…”

    Two someones. He turned around, and there were his two friends Alfonso Doolittle and Ferguson O’Durguson, staring at him slack-jawed as they held themselves back from shouting out loud.

    “Dude!”

    In vain.

    = - = 37 = - =

    Not even three whole days.
     
    Xicree, Noxious, The Lazy One and 2 others like this.
  25. anonguy11

    anonguy11 why do you look like Yoshikage Kira now?

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    Oops.
     
    EvaUnit01 and The Ero-Sennin like this.
  26. Threadmarks: Repercussions
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

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    Today's a whole day's worth of oops.

    = - = 37 = - =

    |Repercussions|

    Out in front of the school as usual before the first bell, many students were gathered on the school’s front lawn and the steps leading to the door. There was a lot of energy in the air this morning and for good reason: the school’s Homecoming dance was this weekend and it was the topic of almost every discussion from last minute outfit ideas to dance moves to after party plans.

    Among them was a girl with wavy blonde hair sporting a single cyan streak down the left side through her bangs, vibrant mint-green eyes, and a line of freckles just under them. With a light blue, yellow-wheeled skateboard tucked under her arm, she walked up the steps to the end of the right side’s wall, where Janna sat playing a game on her phone.

    “Hey, Janna,” she greeted, and Janna looked back at her with her usual carefree wry expression.

    “Oh, sup Jackie,” she replied without looking up from her game.

    Smiling and paying Janna’s preoccupation no mind, Jackie Lynn Thomas sat down next to her on the wall, leaning against her back. Out of the corner of her eye, Janna looked back at her. “So what brings you inside of my personal space–not unwelcome?”

    Jackie returned the gaze, likewise out the corner of her eye. “Just wondering if you changed your mind about going to the dance.”

    Janna beat the level she was on. “There are many places I won’t hesitate to go with you, Jackie Lynn Thomas, but a school-administered and chaperoned function is not one of them.”

    Jackie’s cheek rested against Janna’s. “I was going stag with Hope and Leah, but they suddenly got dates. I picked out a cute outfit too.”

    “You say that as if you have a problem finding a guy for Miss Skullnick to separate you from on the dance floor.” Janna nuzzled back into her. “Just say the word and every boy in front of the school will line up around the block to ask you out… or fight each other to the death for the opportunity. That’d be cool to watch.”

    Closing her eyes, Jackie drew back from Janna’s, but remained leaned against her. “I don’t really want to go on a date, you know? I just want to have fun, dance to some music, and maybe go home with a story to tell.”

    Janna put away her phone and leaned back into Jackie, resting the back of her hat-covered head against the side of hers. “Janna Banana abides.”

    As Jackie let out another laugh, Van Vanderhoff walked up the steps towards them with one hand behind his back. Jackie noticed him first, and pulled away from Janna. Annoyed by the loss of casual body contact, Janna regarded the bigger Vanderhoff brother with a disinterested expression people more perceptive of her mental operation would recognize as a hateful glower.

    “Hey Jackie,” Van greeted, ignoring Janna’s existence entirely. “Word’s going around that it’s five days out from Homecoming and you don’t have a date.”

    Jackie turned to face Van. “Yeah, I’m going for the fun of it, I just wanna dance, you know?”

    Van smirked and pulled from behind his back a small bouquet of gold-foil-wrapped roses, and presented them to her. “What would it take for you to change your mind on that?”

    Looking at the quality of the roses, the gold dust glittering the paper, and the suspicious rigidity of the foil encasing them? Janna could see that no small sum was dropped on the gift. It made Jackie shaking her head no all the more impressive.

    “That’s sweet, but no thanks.”

    The smile born from his confidence in his gift fled, and Van heaved a sigh. “Really?”

    “Sorry, dude."

    Van’s shoulders dropped. He opened his mouth to speak, before something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. His lips twisting into a grimace, he turned and walked away. “Whatever then, bye.”

    Janna watched him leave through narrowed eyes. As far as taking no for an answer was concerned, she had to give credit where credit was due, Van was almost less of a twat than his little brother. It paled in comparison to the props she owed Jackie, though.

    “Masterfully handled,” Janna congratulated her.

    Jackie turned and flashed her a smile. “Well, people have been chatting me up about the dance for the last week and some change, so I’m used to it.”

    Janna laughed. “As expected of the hottest girl in school.” As Jackie rolled her eyes and laughed, she continued. “For the best though. Even though he had no chance of landing a hit, you were wise to dodge that bullet.”

    “Oh?” Jackie asked.

    “Yeah, him and Trip are still beefing with the new kid who flattened him at Zoom, and Star and Marco are wrapped up in it, too.” To say less of Janna herself, but she didn’t want to distress the unstressable.

    Jackie perked right up. “Whoa… Marco’s actually involved in some beef… how bad boy of him.”

    Janna’s eyes lit at Jackie’s interest. “He’s growing up so fast.”

    “Hey Janna~” Star sang with a voice like she had just floated from the heavens. Seeing Jackie as she pranced over to them, she brightened even more. “And Jackie, too! Hi~!”

    Jackie lit up. “Hey, Star.”

    Janna turned to face her. “Yo.”

    “Was that Van guy bothering you?” Star asked as she watched Van head towards the far corner of the school, towards the school’s outdoor lockers.

    Jackie gave her a slight shake of her head no. “Nah, he just wanted me to go to Homecoming with him. I said no.”

    Star looked again where Van went, surprised that he took no for an answer. Then again, she knew he saw her coming, and choosing to leave was a fantastic decision on his part.

    Jackie gave Star an appraising look. “Say, are you going to the Homecoming Dance?”

    Star gasped. “Of course! I was going with Mabel and Misao.”

    “The new girls? Awesome. I wanna party with Mabel, you know? She’s always super fun in class.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a folded up piece of paper, a drawing of herself as a cross between a cute kitten and a mermaid. “I still got her Caticature of me.”

    Janna looked between Star and Jackie, smirking. “Well, that solves your problem. Why not go with the Party Girl Posse?”

    Star gasped. “You don’t have a date?!”

    “Didn’t want one,” Jackie replied before she stood up. “But I’d love to go stag with you girls.”

    Star pointed the face of her wand up at her devil-horn hair-band. “Well I hope you have a good pair of…” She fired a spell, turning the headband into a pair of tiny moose antlers in a flash. “… Antlers.”

    Jackie giggled and held her hands to the sides of her head, fanning them out to pose as antlers. “Will these do?”

    As Star and Jackie both laughed, Janna turned her head and saw Brittney marching towards them, the fire in her eyes and the sneer of anticipation on her lips aimed straight at Star. “Uh oh.”

    “Oh hey, Star,” Brittney called to her in a saccharine voice. “Did I hear you say that you were going to Homecoming?”

    Star’s jumped in excitement. “Yes I did~! I even have a dress planned!” She looked back at Jackie. “It’s so cute, just wait until you see it.”

    “What can’t you rock well?” Jackie asked.

    Brittney’s acidic laughter interrupted them. When Star turned back, the young woman whipped her hair with a sharp shake of her head. “Well let me ruin your weekend now and not Saturday, Star Butterface. You’re banned from all Spirit Week 2 events.” She got up in her face, and pointed at her for emphasis. “Including and especially the Homecoming Dance, got it?!”

    Star gasped. “Banned? For what?!”

    Brittney dramatically placed one hand on her hip and curled her fist under her chin, speaking saccharine again. “Oh gee, I wonder!”

    She lanced Star with her glare as she dropped her hands and got into her face. “How about interrupting our practice, talking crap about my cheer routine, insulting Chantal’s booty, wrecking the football field, getting me eaten by a dragon caterpillar thing, and questioning my leadership!”

    Brittney pulled away and huffed. “And a whole bunch of other things that I wish I could use to get you banned, you dumb magical hick! If me or any of the teachers or the security I hired catch you at my dance, you will be ejected.”

    She looked at Jackie and Janna. “And so will anybody you try to sneak in with.”

    “I wasn’t even going to your dumb dance, but thanks for validating my decision,” Janna said.

    Brittney scowled at Janna. “Hmph, good. I don’t want losers like you there anyway.” She turned to Star. “Do you understand now that there are repercussions for the stupid things you do, Moo-girl? Or do I need to say it slower so you can keep up because of what a dumb cow you are?”

    Star had drawn back from Brittney, her cheeks turning a dark red in anger. Brittney met the girl’s startled expression with the full force of her glare. Before the Mewman Princess could begin to form a retort, Brittney snapped at her. “That’s what I thought.”

    With a fick of her hair that made a sound like a whip crack, Brittney turned and walked away, leaving Star where she stood with her mouth agape. “Have a nice weekend, loser.”

    As Brittney left earshot, Jackie stepped closer to Star, the normally laid back girl had a low-temperature glare aimed at the head cheerleader’s back. “Jeez, exactly who does she think she is?”

    “The head cheerleader whose billionaire Daddy poured enough money on this school to get whatever she wants?” Janna asked. “You know, like the other rich tool bags at this school?”

    Star struggled with the depth Brittney’s words cut into her. Clutching her wand, she had more than half a mind to take aim and turn her hair blonde, or purple, or on fire.

    “Forget her,” Jackie said, derailing Star from seizing upon her destructive impulse. “Brittney’s been jealous of you since you showed up, and hating on you since you made her birthday party actually fun.”

    Star bit on the bell of her wand, and drew in a sharp breath through her teeth, making a hiss sound. “I’m still going to the dance.”

    Janna got up. “You know what? I was fine writing off the dance, but knowing that I’m not wanted makes me want to be there more than anything else in my life right now.”

    Jackie’s mood brightened way up. “All right, girl. Let’s make this dance poppin’.”

    @@@@@

    With Ferguson and Alfonzo right behind him, Marco stepped off the bus. His two best friends were beside themselves with excitement, and short on vocabulary.

    “Dude!” Ferguson shouted.

    “Marco!” Alfonzo cheered.

    “Dude!” Ferguson repeated.

    “Marco!” Alfonzo likewise said again.

    Ferguson grabbed Marco’s right arm, and sobbed. “Duuuuude!”

    Alfonzo embraced him from his other side, likewise crying. “Marcooooo!”

    Marco heaved a sigh, placed his hands on the faces of his friends, and firmly pushed them to arm’s length. “Thanks guys, for being happy for me. But can you please-”

    “How can we just be happy for you?!” Alfonzo asked in his high pitched, rough voice. “This is the greatest thing ever!”

    “Please don’t tell anyone-” Marco tried again.

    Ferguson shoved Marco’s hand from his face. “Yeah! You and Star are-!”

    Marco cleared his throat hard, interrupting them. “Guys? Bro code.”

    Alfonzo ceased his hysterics on the spot, and spoke in a deep, down-pitched voice and a stoic expression. “I will take this revelation with me to my glorious death.”

    Ferguson likewise changed, his jaw set, his eyes clear, a wind blowing through his mop of red hair. He too, spoke like the man he was yet to grow into. “I pledge the same, none shall know the truth from my lips, lest they seek to join me in oblivion.”

    Marco liked his friends. As goofy and weird as they were, he could rely on them.

    Ferguson looked around, making sure no one was particularly listening and drew closer to Marco. “Why keep it a secret, though?” He asked, his voice normal again. “Everyone knows you and Star are already cohabitating, and you’re always hanging out together.”

    “Even StarFan13 ships you!” Alfonzo cut in.

    All three looked over at a bespectacled girl with short brown hair with a hand-made horned headband, braces, and painted on cheek mark sighing in deep, obsessive admiration as she watched Star walk over towards Janna and Jackie by the front of the school.

    Ferguson rubbed the back of his neck, sucking the air in through his teeth. “Yeah, I always thought she’d go all yandere on you.”

    “Everyone did!” Alfonzo said.

    Marco raised his hands, quelling both. “Me and Star don’t want everyone talking about it, okay? It doesn’t need to be a big deal.”

    “Yeah, that’s fair,” Ferguson agreed.

    “We already swore to take it with us… to the death!” Alfonzo added.

    “Buuuut since we already know… you’re gonna tell us everything, right?”

    Marco raised an eyebrow. “Everything? Like what?”

    Alfonzo and Ferguson both had the same knowing look. “Oh you know!”

    Marco’s expression went flat. “I’m not telling either of you about any of that stuff.”

    Both recoiled from him, and spoke in unison once more. “DUDE!”

    Blanching, Marco gesticulated wildly with both hands. “Whoa, whoa! We didn’t do any of that stuff to begin with!”

    “Says the man running to first base on the bus, Marco you dog,” Ferguson teased as he lightly elbowed him.

    Palming his face, Marco walked past them both. Ferguson laughed and followed and Alfonzo loped along after him. “Dude, I’m just funnin’!”

    “Can we talk about anything else?” Marco asked, before he looked at Alfonzo.

    Ferguson knew just what to ask. “So are you and Star going to the dance?”

    “Whuh?” No! No…” Marco crossed his arms and swept them out for emphasis. “I’m not going to the dance. I was going to hang out with Janna and the new guy.”

    At Hillhurst, more specifically the Beetle Battle Base. Waiting for the Magnavores to attack wasn’t something they could just do, so Dipper was organizing shifts at the Beetle Battle Base to keep watch for them. With just about everyone else going to the dance, he, Dipper, and Janna were going to make sure the beacon stayed lit. Jo would be there too, but the less he mentioned connection to her? The better.

    “Mabel’s brother, right?” Ferguson asked. He let out a sigh. “Man, she’s so cool.”

    Marco relished the opportunity to turn the conversation away from his social life. “Ask her out to the dance, she’s single.”

    “I got a date with the refreshment table. Did you know Brittney got catering from like… the best restaurant in Hollywood for the dance. She’s going in hard on making sure this is perfect.”

    “Good for her,” Marco replied.

    Alfonzo beamed. “Besides, me and Ferguson are going to be part of Roland’s Dance Prank!”

    Ferguson whirled upon Alfonzo, shocked. “Dude, no!”

    Marco did a double-take. “Dance prank? Roland Williams is doing a dance prank?!”

    Ferguson clapped a hand onto Marco’s shoulder, and gripped it as he spoke in the voice of a man again. “We swore an oath to you; reciprocate the vow, old friend.”

    When Marco spoke, it was a low and smooth voice, like that of a rebellious hero who’d spent decades fighting through time and space. “Heh, guess it can’t be helped. My lips are sealed.”

    Ferguson looked at Alfonzo harshly. “Dude, you can’t go and blab it like that! Brittney’s watching this whole thing like a hawk!”

    Alfonzo recoiled, and quickly nodded.

    I’ll needle Roland about it later. Marco thought before he asked Alfonzo. “Speaking of being watched like a hawk, how's married life treating you?”

    Alfonzo smiled big at Marco’s question. “I have been having fun! The Pixie Empress likes my brutal and dramatic methods of crushing unrest and striking fear into her enemies!”

    Marco gave him another flat look. “You’re the tyrannical despot of Pixtopia.”

    “Yuh-huh!” A proud Alfonzo replied. “It helps that Pixies are already cruel and merciless!”

    Pausing, Marco thought about it. “Yeah, you would run it like you do games of Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons.”

    Ferguson shuddered. “My poor Orc Archer… oh Flog Gnaw, that Natural 1 took you too soon.”

    Just as they were about to turn and walk up the steps of the school–towards the escalating confrontation between Star and Brittney–Marco, Alfonzo and Ferguson were approached by a familiar old man in a chauffeur’s suit. Dudley, looking as tired and done with his job as he ever could, raised his hand in greeting.

    “Ahem, Mr. Diaz,” he greeted.

    Marco stopped and gave a quick glance around for any sign of the Vanderhoff brothers. They were nowhere to be seen. “Huh? What do you want?”

    Dudley gave Marco a neutral look, at his warranted hostility and suspicion, and took it in stride. “Master Trip has requested a meeting with you. It is to be held during the lunch hour, at Britta’s Tacos.”

    Marco crossed and uncrossed arms. “No thank you. If Trip wants to chat, he can come talk to me.”

    “It is a meeting he is willing to make worth your time,” Dudley replied, giving Marco pause.

    Worth my while? What does he want? He thought. Could he be looking to buy me out? Would he be dumb enough to try that?

    The fact that Trip was willing to throw money his way was enough to give Marco cause for concern. Getting ahead of whatever he’s planning is probably better in the long term.

    “You know what? Tell Trip I’ll be there, and if this is some kind of prank?” He punched his fist into his palm. “He’s getting all he can eat at the knuckle sandwich buffet.”

    Dudley nodded. “Thank you very much, Mr. Diaz.” He nodded to Alfonzo and Ferguson. “Mr. Doolittle, Mr. O’Durguson.”

    With that the old man shuffled away, and Marco turned to look back and forth between his friends.

    “The heck does the rich boy want with you?” Ferguson asked.

    Marco plunged his hands into the pockets of his hoodie as the bell rang and the other students began making their way inside. “I’m gonna find out.”

    = - = 37 = - =

    Star: "Ah yes, the consequences of my actions."
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2021 at 11:13 AM
  27. anonguy11

    anonguy11 why do you look like Yoshikage Kira now?

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    >banning a literal superhero from an event, something almost guaranteed to be attacked by the nature of being in a world with a literal fucking superhero

    Revenge is often a short sighted endeavor.
     
  28. Delta/Soul

    Delta/Soul Know what you're doing yet?

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    Will there be NSFW omakes on a separate thread by any chance?
     
  29. EvaUnit01

    EvaUnit01 The man who stands at the top of AAWWEESSOOOMEEE

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    Eh, Star isn't the only superhero in the cast, so it’s fine as long as she can get some character development out of it.
     
  30. Threadmarks: Cutting Edge
    The Ero-Sennin

    The Ero-Sennin Professional Shitposter

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    A dish that is best served cold, but who'd expect a girl like Brittney Wong to have ever served people?

    = - = 38 = - =

    |Cutting Edge|

    After taking Star Butterfly’s spirited interpretation of Starlight Breaker straight to his face, Vexor had retired to the large sarcophagus in the center of his crypt hideout, and there hadn’t been a word or peep from him since. Typhus, who needed only a day and a lot of food to recover from the beating he received, was already back on his feet and in a bad mood.

    Snake Head hadn’t come back. Before Vexor locked himself away in his tomb, he muttered something about “The Zone Collapsing” but didn’t elaborate before the lid on the sarcophagus shut and he was incommunicado. Typhus didn’t need the explanation, with no Beetleborgs presented to him like a cat presenting a mouse he killed, it didn’t take a genius to figure it out. The Beetleborgs somehow killed him or worse, he was lost when the zone collapsed.

    Once more he was by himself, something he hated more than anything, and he was in no mood to do anything other than brood about it. “Man… this sucks.”

    He heard some tapping on the sarcophagus behind him. “What sucks? And where’s Vexor? Is he in here?”

    Typhus shot up to his feet and turned around to face Noxic, who looked good as he hovered over the sarcophagus, tapping on it. “Noxic, you’re back!”

    Noxic looked up from the coffin to his biological best buddy. “And cooler than ever! What the heck happened, did you and Vexor beat those Beetle bums or what?”

    “No way, baby! Those kids were tougher than ever. That magic girl even blasted Vexor, he blocked her shot but he still got torn up!”

    “What?!” Noxic recoiled, then looked back at the sarcophagus. He turned back to Typhus and sidled close to him. “Hey, does that mean he’s, yannow, D-E-D?”

    Typhus shrugged his stiff shoulders. “You’re the one with the scouter.”

    “I was. The other morning there was this huge power surge and it blew it out. I don’t have it anymore!”

    “Wait, was it the day before yesterday?”

    “Yeah, early in the morning!”

    “That was that magic girl, baby.”

    Noxic threw up his hands. “Geez louise! Maybe Vexor is a goner.” He brought two fingers to his mechanical chin and stroked it. “Hey… you think human girls like gift-baskets or flowers? Eh, I’ll just grab her a ‘Thank You’ card.”

    Typhus burst into laughter. “Oh man, I’m glad you’re back! I was going out of my mind sitting around here, baby.”

    “Huh? What about Snake Head?”

    Typhus’ laughter stopped, and he bared his teeth. “I think he was beaten by the Beetleborgs, I don’t know because Vexor won’t tell me what happened with that… I can’t remember, you know that weird place!”

    “Well, RIP snakeyboi,” Noxic said before Jara entered in a burst of flame..

    “It’s gone? Good riddance, that monster was disgusting,” she said as she strode up to both of them.

    Jara too looked good as new, the burns and scorches that covered her skin gone like she’d never experienced them, her uniform spotless and gleaming in the ambient candle light of the crypt. She tilted her head as she looked down upon Typhus and Noxic. “Where is Vexor?”

    “Hey, don’t ‘where’s Vexor’ me! Apologize for talking crap about Snake Head, he was a heck of a guy!” Typhus snapped at her.

    Jara clicked her teeth and shrugged her shoulders. “I’m sorry one of your creations got blown up, but you don’t hear Noxic complaining when one of his gets destroyed.”

    Noxic shrugged his shoulders. “Oh, that’s because most of my creations hate me. Typhus’ guys? They love him, and why wouldn’t they?” He slapped Typhus on his. “He’s the coolest guy I know!”

    After a week of recovery, Jara almost missed the headache her best friends gave her. “Enough about how great he is. What happened with Snake Head, and where’s Vexor?”

    “Oh, Vexor’s dead,” Noxic replied.

    “We don’t know that!” Typhus argued.

    Jara palmed her mask. “You two…”

    Typhus placed a clawed hand over Noxic’s mouth. “Snake Head found the prey, and we went after ‘im, right? Well, everything was going great, and Vexor even managed to send ‘em to the G-Spot or whatever-”

    Jara grabbed him by the lips of his upper mouth and leaned in to look him dead in his eyes, her laser whip blade held to his almost non-existent neck.

    “Never. Call it that. Again.”

    Typhus nodded, and Jara let him go to continue. “Anyway, he sent him to that pocket dimension place he cooked up, and everything was going great until the magic girl showed up.”

    Jara nodded. “And then what happened?”

    “Did you see a big flash of light the other morning?” Typhus asked.

    Now that he mentioned it, a painfully bright light did wake her up from her alcohol and meat-fueled recovery process. She hated it with all of her life. “… Yes…?”

    “That was the magic girl blasting Vexor in the face.”

    Now she hated it even more.

    As a red aura manifested around Jara’s body, Noxic raised his hands in supplication. “Whoa, whoa, hey! Look on the bright side! The bright side!” He pleaded. “Vexor’s gone, so we can do whatever we want without his snooty Space Pope nose sticking into our business.”

    The sound of stone shifting behind them made them all stop. All three looked back at the sarcophagus, which had raised up just enough for them to see a single glowing inhuman yellow and black eye glaring out at them from the darkness.

    “Rest assured, or do not, for I am very far from dead,” Vexor informed them, before the sarcophagus closed.

    Typhus leaned forward, hanging his head, Jara’s shoulders slumped, and Noxic began beating himself atop his head with both fists. “Aw man, I just HAD to go and jinx it, didn’t I?!”

    “It’s obvious that none of us can have nice things in this world,” Jara lamented.

    “Yeah, baby,” Typhus agreed.

    The sarcophagus cracked open again. “I’m sure the three of you can do something more productive with your time besides hoping for me to come out and beat you with this sarcophagus lid.” A Beetleborgs comic slid out of the sarcophagus and fell to Jara’s feet. “Make use of this to defeat and capture them for me… and do not bother me again until I am fully healed.”

    The lid closed again.

    Noxic and Typhus looked at each other.

    “Forget that, wanna go see how many tacos you can eat in one sitting?” Noxic asked.

    Typhus clenched his fists and pumped them. “Heck yeah, baby! I heard there’s a place that gives a prize if you eat fifty of ‘em.”

    Noxic gave pause. “All at once?”

    They both looked over at Jara, who had turned away from them and was reading the comic book. “Hey, you wanna grab some tacos?”

    Jara ignored them. Her shoulders were hiked, and a dark menacing laugh rumbled from under her mask. The atmosphere darkened as she held up the comic, power cracking from it as it levitated from her hands. On the spot, both realized what was going on.

    “Oh snap! She’s summoning something!” Noxic said, jumping up and down. “Oh man! It might be one of her Mercenary guys!”

    “Aw man, those guys are so cool, baby!” Typhus said as he got up.

    Laughing, Jara brought her hand up to her mask, its yellow eyes glowing as power emanated from the comic.

    “Hahaha… veteran of ten thousand battles, slayer of a hundred thousand warriors!” She said before she whipped her hand and struck a pose. “Awaken in this world, my master of blades… SABERIZER!”

    Flames shot from the comic and splashed against the ceiling of the crypt. As Typhus and Noxic watched, the flames spread across it in a growing circle, before numerous blades–from simple daggers to long swords and even giant weapons meant for slaying horses, showered from the fire and crashed into the floor around her, Noxic and Typhus.

    As the last blades fell and impacted the stone floor, a figure dropped from the ceiling. A male humanoid, clad in a black bodysuit and black and red boots. On his upper body and arms, over the bodysuit he wore silver armor painted with red lines. His bald, badly scarred face was covered half with a helmet that was secured with screws that were driven into his skull, and wrapped around it several times was a long black scarf.

    The Mercenary Warrior Saberizer drew from his back a long, single bladed sword with a cross-shaped hilt from his back, a falchion, and knelt before Jara. “Sworn to serve the Red Capes, I Saberizer stand before you, General Jara!”

    Noxic looked at Typhus. “Oh man, how come your summoning wasn’t that cool?”

    Typhus, indignant, agreed. “Yeah, Jara! What’d you do?”

    Jara turned back to look at her friends. “Neither of you two have appreciation for the dramatic.”

    She turned back to face Saberizer. “On your feet, Saberizer. Today we are declaring war on this world, and you will be leading my army.”

    “As you command, General,” Saberizer replied.

    “An army?!” Noxic shouted. “Jara, what’re you plannin’?!”

    Typhus stepped forward towards her. “And how can we get in on it, baby?”

    Saberizer gave a start at the sight of Noxic and Typhus. “The two of you…?!” He turned to Jara. “General, what are you doing with the likes of these two dishonorable-”

    Jara shot her hand up, silencing him. “Do not concern yourself. Those who were once my enemies are now my trusted comrades. Respect them as my equals.”
    Without another word of complaint, Saberizer nodded. “Understood, General.”

    Jara turned to face those two friends again. “Come along with me, and I will show you something.”

    Likewise without complaint, Noxic and Typhus got up and all four Magnavores vanished, leaving behind Vexor, who’d been peeking out of the sarcophagus the moment Jara had summoned Saberizer. That she was up to something was not unusual, a warrior of her caliber was always plotting, always calculating. It was what Vexor liked most about her… and also what made him wary.

    “What discoveries shall you reveal to me?” He asked as he began to summon a small scrying circle.

    @@@@@

    In the wilderness of the Los Angeles Mountains, among the scorched dead trees of an old burn, the Magnavores appeared, Jara walking out ahead of Noxic and Typhus with Saberizer right beside her. In her hands, she held the comic she summoned Saberizer from, as she turned to face her comrades. She held up the comic.

    “While I was convalescing, I thought that in order to make use of myself while I was incapacitated, I would at the very least summon my mercenaries into this world,” she explained. “That is when I learned something unfortunate.”

    “Aw man, bad news?” Typhus asked.

    “Bad, but not terrible,” Jara reassured him. “I found that while Snake Head was active in this world I was unable to bring anything stronger than a Scab into the world.”

    Noxic stroked his chin. “Wait a minute, you’re saying that we can only summon one guy at a time?!”

    “That is correct, and I have found that I can at the very most summon only fifty Scabs at one time,” she revealed.

    “Fifty?!” Noxic asked. “That’s still a heck of a lot, but not enough if we’re taking over the world!”

    “No it is not,” Jara said. “But it is more than enough for defeating the Beetleborgs, and capturing not only that Butterfly…” She trailed off and seethed. “… But also claiming that strange house where you sensed that tremendous power. With them in our possession, taking over the world should not be difficult at all.”

    Typhus hummed. “So, you’re sayin’ that our limit’s one big guy and fifty Scabs. Is there anything else that we might be able to get out of this?”

    “I am glad you asked that, for I have a theory.” She threw the comic at Typhus. “Summon as many Scabs as you can, put all your power into it. Then give the book to Noxic.”

    Typhus caught the book clumsily, and held it up. “All right, Scabs! C’mon out!”

    At his command, fifty flames shot from the book, raining down around Jara and Saberizer to become twitching and shuddering Scabs armed and ready to fight. Seeing the Scabs, Saberizer clapped his gauntlet-encased hands together to rub them. “Interesting… I’ve slain many of these swarm machines and they were formidable. To have them serve beneath my command will be a great experience.”

    “Yeah, with how fast these guys go down? You won’t be impressed,” Noxic said.

    That piqued Saberizer’s interest. It was enhanced further when Jara spoke up. “The enemies we face are literal children in armor with abysmal fighting ability. They make up for it by having weapons that are absurd in power, and unarmored friends who are less incompetent. That is why as much as numbers we need speed and firepower to overwhelm them before they can improvise in battle.”

    Jara looked over at Noxic. “Turn to page seventeen of that book.”

    Noxic took the comic from Typhus and flipped through it. Stopping on the indicated page, he looked back and forth between it and Jara. “Wait… you want me to try summoning these?”

    “As many as you can,” Jara instructed.

    With a shrug of his shoulders, Noxic threw the book to the ground. “If you say so, but these things are a little beefier than a basic Scab.”

    He threw his hands forward. “All right you mooks! Take off!”

    Typhus, Jara, and Saberizer all watched as the comic sat there on the ground. A moment passed, and nothing happened.

    Noxic repeated the gesture. “I said get goin’!”

    Nothing happened.

    Saberizer let out a hum and folded his arms.

    Typhus turned to Jara. “Guess it’s outta juice-”

    A bright flash from the comic cut him off, as eight jets of flame shot to the sky, climbed, and kept climbing. The Magnavores followed the flames’ skyward flight, spreading out into two formations of four that materialized into black and yellow craft with a strange shape.

    With a wasp-like profile, their main fuselage trailed behind them ending in a large stinger-like appendage, while their wings–if they could be called those, were curved like a set of large golden horns. The craft bore under the wings each a pair of laser cannons, and had no visible cockpit. Despite their aerodynamically impossible shape, the craft had no problem cutting through the sky like actual fighter jets.

    On the ground below, Jara threw her head back and laughed. “HAHAHAHAHA! YES! IT WORKED!” She began dancing in celebration, shaking her hips with her hands raising the figurative roof. “Go Jara! Go Jara! Go Jara! Go Jara!”

    Typhus and Noxic turned to each other and nodded. Saberizer on the other hand, looked about ready to break down weeping.

    “General…” He spoke, his voice cracking. “… Have you truly found happiness again?”

    Jara stopped dancing, and lowered her arms. “No, I have not.”

    She looked at him, then down at the ground. “I will not be happy, until I have laid that Butterfly girl at my feet and mounted the heads of those obnoxious armored brats as trophies!”

    She clenched her hands into fists, that red aura manifesting again. “Now then, what are all of you going to do to help improve my mood?!”

    Typhus was the first to answer. “What we do best, baby!”

    Noxic clapped his hands and threw a fist into the air. “Go out into battle and wreck stuff!”

    Saberizer drew his falchion and knelt down before Jara, driving the tip into the ground. “And in battle I shall defeat our enemies and restore your honor, General!”

    Jara looked up and laughed. “That is what I like to hear!”

    She grabbed her shoulder pauldrons and threw both it and her cape from her body, the heavy equipment crashing to the ground behind her and the gathered gang of monsters to create a dramatic explosion of dust and dirt.

    “Magnavore Tribe! We begin our offensive now!”

    = - = 38 = - =

    An escalation.
     
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