When the curtains opened, Hao appeared once more on the center stage. "Now for some recaps…"
"Thumberena was born into the world courtesy of a neon pink lotus that the Fairy sold the old woman. A talking, walking, cursing English frog fell in love with her and kidnapped her, but for some reason, the frog changed his mind and fled away from Thumberena in horror. Next, a crossbred cockroach and beetle found her and decided to make her his wife, but she didn't pass the initial screening of the beetle's friends. The beetle ended up throwing poor Thumberena to the nearest garbage incinerator and this is where our third act will start."
Chapter 9: Thumberena Part III
Hao pointed to the new stage that the propsmen, Horo and Chocolove just laid; a giant garbage can, where Ren was seated, face buried in his palms. His shoulders were shaking in inconsolable grief.
The onmyouji began to speak. "Just then, he felt someone touch his shoulders. The lass opened his eyes and, alas! A big, black mouse stood in front of her, looking at her curiously."
Faust, wearing a pair of big black mousy ears and an apron, was kneeling in front of him, smiling. "Dear, you look so sad and hungry that you're starting to suspiciously look like you're going to get that piece of quarter pounder beside you."
Ren blinked, and indeed, beside him, a giant Wcdonald's burger wrapper is beside him. How ever did Horo and Chocolove manage to produce those props in such a short notice was a mystery for the Tao.
"That's my lunch, mind you," said Faust, playing with the whiskers on his face. "But if you want, I have some food back in my house…they're not as good as the food here though."
Ren started to look nervous, and before he could talk, Faust the Mouse pulled him along, nearly making him trip over the hem of his skirt.
Hao began his narration once more. "Soon they arrived in the rat's domicile…"
The stage backdrop changed into a palace-like mansion that suspiciously looked like the White House.
Ren's jaw dropped. He seriously doubted if this was the original script he knew Pirika wrote.
"This is where I live," said the mouse cheerfully.
"W-Wha…" The Tao nearly screamed when he saw that Eliza was hovering beside Faust, dressed in a maid's uniform that reminded him of those he sees in the VCD covers of the hentai pics in Horo Horo's collection.
In the backstage, Horo was proudly drumming his fist on his chest. "How do you like my personal fashion design? I had Tamao make that some days ago!"
Ren was astounded as to how the spirit was able to wear it. When he looked at the playing innocent whistling onmyouji, he immediately understood that wondering about it had been a waste of time.
"My personal maid," introduced Faust cheerfully. Eliza bowed politely. She was wearing a wig with ridiculously long bangs, and her legs were covered with fishnet stockings so no one would be able to guess that she was a spirit. "Eliza, serve our guest some dinner please."
To Ren's shock, Ryu, wearing a butler costume, pushed a rolling tray of food towards the grand dining table. It was piled high with the finest-looking food, which, no doubt, was Hao's doing. He had learned to grow wary of how Hao could shame the borderline of impossible and possible.
"W-What are you doing in the garbage incinerator when you have a house this big?" Thumberena couldn't help but ask.
"The food I want is not here," said the Field Mouse. "I want a week old quarter pounder with spoiled cheese, but my cook cannot provide me that. Life here is hell."
Hao then continued his narration. "Thumberena then started to tell the mouse with purple make-up her circumstances, and the dear rat had no choice but to believe her. Then, the mouse suddenly had an idea…"
"Why don't you just stay here in my house for the winter? I will then help you find yourself a more comfortable place to settle in when summer comes," said Faust.
"Oh thank you!" said Ren, bowing.
"Thumberena curtsied," snickered Hao. "CURTSIED." He was shot a lethal glare by the Tao, but the latter did it anyway. Satisfied, the onmyouji proceeded with the rest of the story. "Winter came, and Thumberena and Mrs. Mouse stayed indoors all the time and knitted. Soon enough though, they grew bored of manipulating threads so Mrs. Mouse suggested out of the blue that they play Vingt-et-un with real bets. Bored to death, naïve Thumberena nodded."
"What's vingt-et-un?" asked a man from the grown-up audience.
Hao smiled. "It's a game of cards played with a full pack, the object being to draw cards on which the aggregate number of spots should reach as near as possible but not exceed."
To this, one of the kids slash disciples of Hao raised a hand up inquiringly, "In short, black jack?"
Everyone sweatdropped as Hao chuckled.
The scene showed Ren and Faust sitting on the floor, cross-legged. They were both concentrating on their cards. Moments later, Ren grinned triumphantly. "20."
Faust smiled sweetly as he showed his cards. "21. You lose."
Hao grinned as well. "And the punishment of their game is to take off one article of clothing."
Ren looked at him incredulously, but the onmyouji merely smiled languidly. He looked down at himself, then took off his slippers.
To his dismay, in his next round, he lost again. He took off his ribbon. His only article of clothing left was his gown.
And he lost again.
He could feel the expectant gazes of everyone at him as he unbuttoned his collar. He didn't know whom he wanted to kill first- Faust who heartlessly defeated him or Hao who heartlessly planned this stupid script.
He untied the ribbon of his bodice, his chest about to show when Hao suddenly talked. "Just then, a guest appeared."
Horo, dressed in an old man's coat and tie, complete with eyeglasses and walking cane, came into the scene. "Dear me, what obscenity!" cried Horo.
"And who are you supposed to be?" snapped Ren, who forgot his role momentarily.
Hao chuckled. "Temper, temper, Thumberena. His name is supposedly Mr. Mole, and according to the script, he would marry you, so be nice to the old man."
Ren's hair stood on its end, vibrating in annoyance. "I don't wanna marry him!"
Horo Horo rolled his eyes. "The feeling is mutual, actually. I mean, hello? I'm in love with Tamao."
The simple four-lettered word suddenly made Ren Tao freeze, for he was suddenly overwhelmed by unexplainable sadness.
The audience blinked as the actors on the stage seemed to forget the situation.
Hao walked over to him, holding his script up. "Alright, children, break it up. We still have to finish this play-"
Ren suddenly took his wig off and threw it onto the floor in fury. "That's it!!! I had it with this utterly weird and bizarre play! I'm sick of all of you!"
The whole auditorium was silenced.
"Everything is going rottenly!" He glared at Hao, eyes burning. "Pirika worked really hard on this production and yet look at what you did! You made the whole play into a carnival! I don't think I can ever have the heart to tell her afterwards what happened to her pet idea…it will break her heart, I'm sure of that." He strode towards the curtain. "Let's just end this-"
"Wait!" one of the kids stood up, eyes welling up with tears. "Don't pull the curtains down yet…I still wanna know what happens to Thumberena."
Another kid stood up. "That's right. You can't end the play without telling us what will happen in the end."
A couple more kids stood up, nodding furiously. "We want more Thumberena! It's really good!"
Soon, all of the little kids, and even some of the more grown-up audiences were standing up too, pleading for them to continue. Ren could only watch in fascination.
Horo nudged him. "Hey, they're asking for it. Let's just give it to them, ok?"
Hao chuckled. "You know what they say: the voice of the people is the voice of God."
The chair of the board of judges stood up, smiling. "I really think you should continue it too. It's quite entertaining."
Hao smiled. "Besides, you might just lose the chance of a lifetime…dancing with the other half of your heart."
Ren blinked when he saw Pirika by the backstage, waving.
"Wha…what is my sister doing here?" asked Horo Horo in shock.
"Opacho fetched me, and gave me the best medicine for my food poisoning." She smiled ruefully. "Gomen, Ren Tao. I shouldn't have allowed the cast to party before the play so you wouldn't have to feel upset now."
Hao laughed, then raised a thumbs-up to Chocolove, who was manning the sounds system. The waltz of the flower dance began. Over the soft music, Hao began yet again his narration. " We had a little trouble awhile ago when Thumberena discovered that she was just a character from a story, and because of that, she wanted to leave our play today with no ending! And because, you, the gracious audience protested, Thumberena reconsidered. Furthermore, just when we thought that we'll lose ourselves one of the best-loved fairy tale characters in our books, true love came to Thumberena all of a sudden to convince our character that the magic hasn't disappeared yet. There is still a chance to keep the magic forever." The onmyouji was speaking in volumes, and Ren knew that. It was some kind of signal to encourage him to do what was on his mind.
There is still a chance.
Pirika reached at the back pocket of her pants and placed the paper crown on her head. "I am the Prince of the Flowers, and it will be my happiness if you become my queen."
He smiled slowly, almost bashfully. "What will I be if I'm not yours?" And he took her in his arms, leading her to the waltz, hugging her close to his heart, where he knew she belonged right from the start.
One kid looked confused. "Wait, where did the prince come from, King Hao?"
The onmyouji smilingly shrugged. "From the mountains of the Ainu…he was late because he suffered from food poisoning."
"H-How did it happen? I mean, how did Prince fall in love of Thumberena all of a sudden?"
Hao looked at the dancing couple. "There are just things that we cannot explain. We don't know where it came from, how it came, why it came. It just happens. It's called destiny."
"What's destiny?" another child asked.
"It's something that happens while we're busy making plans." He watched the couple sway in blissful ignorance, then noticed the grim Horo Horo. He decided to come to the Romeo and Juliet's rescue. "Mr. Mole, who according to the script, wanted to marry Thumberena, was displeased that she found herself a husband aside from him, so he proceeded to use his ice power- something that he learned from Captain Planet's Academy on one of his cruise vacations to US."
True enough, Horo was about to attack Ren when Hao stuck his foot out, tripping the Ainu.
"King Hao to the rescue!" cheered the children. Hao, on the other hand, winked at Tamao in the audience and gestured for her to take Horo away. The prophetess quickly understood his intention and stood up to get Horo Horo.
"Damn you, Hao!!!" yelled Horo as Tamao approached him. "That asshole is touching my sister! I don't' want to have a brother-in-law like him!"
"Who are we to argue against destiny?" said Hao, smiling back. He turned back to the couple. The music had long stopped, but the waltz for the two had just begun.
"Ren," whispered Pirika tentatively. "Are you mad at me?"
"Why should I be?" he asked huskily. Holding her this close to him was pure bliss.
"J-Just asking…" Her eyes clouded. "I know you can never forgive me for what I did back in Patch Village…that was stupid…t-then I made you Thumberena…I have this feeling that Hao humiliated you awhile ago. I don't really know because Opacho and I arrived late. What did I miss in the play?"
"Pirika, shut up," he ordered as his face heated. No use embarrassing himself further. Hao managed to make him feel worse than a rape victim in front of Pirika right now. "Let's not talk…let's dance."
"Thanks for pulling the play together," she said after the brief silence. "After this, I promise to stay away from you. I won't provoke you into anger anymore."
"Damn, you talk too much." Ren sealed her mouth with his silencing mouth, just as Hao, who was pulling down the curtains, concluded, "By some bizarre events, Thumberena found the other half of his heart, and although how everything came to this would forever be a puzzle to us who witnessed the play, it is just one proof that fate has hands that work magic in our lives too. There are just things that, no matter how improbable or unlikely they seem, are just simply meant to be. The end."
They were given the standing ovation just as Yoh, dressed in a sparrow costume, appeared on stage, rubbing his eyes. "Guys, I fell asleep. Gomen. Is it my turn yet?"
In the audience, Anna was smiling smugly as she talked in the cellphone. "Yes, Master Mikihisa, my Yoh was the best actor in the play! In fact, he was given the standing ovation TWICE!"
Horo Horo suddenly paled in the middle of their group vow. "W-Wait…" It was as if it was only now that hit him what he just said onstage awhile ago. He looked at Tamao on the sideline, who was smiling at him.
"I…I said it, didn't I?" he asked, voice barely above a whisper.
The prophetess understood it though. She mouthed to him, "Yes, you did, but please don't worry about it anymore." Horo Horo though was inconsolable.
"Aaaarggh!! NO!!! She knows already how much I worship the ground she walks on!! Gah!!!!!" Horo wailed as Manta tried to calm him.
And in the backstage, a traumatized Lyserg was the first person Hao met. He smiled. "Hey, Diethyl-san, we need all of the cast to do the group bow." He chuckled when he saw the deadly glare the dowser gave him. "Come on, Lyserg, don't be a spoilsport. The kids are looking for you."
What a subtle blackmail. Typical Hao Asakura. Lyserg had no choice but to put his costume back and face the audience.
Despite himself, his eyes went to the certain section of the audience. His heart skipped a beat. Jeanne was applauding him! Well, technically, she was applauding all of them, but for a moment, he swore she smiled his way…
Pirika took off her crown and placed her headband back. She was the only one left in the dressing room because everyone else headed for Yoh's house to celebrate. She, on the other hand, stayed in the auditorium for the last-minute briefing her teacher gave because they would have a re-run of the play next week, since Thumberena was a phenomenal success.
She opened the door to leave and instead found Ren standing by the wall, arms crossed. She was surprised. "Ren?"
He straightened. "Let's go."
"Ne, you didn't have to wait up for me," she said softly.
"We have something to talk about," he said simply.
"Er…" She blinked when Ren faced her suddenly, a pink blossoming rose on his hand.
"Let's try it again," he said quietly. He started to pluck the petal of the rose one by one. "She loves me, she loves me not. She loves me, she loves me not. She loves me…"
"…she loves me not, she loves me. She loves me not…" His voice shook as he picked his last petal. "Well, it doesn't matter. She loved me once upon a time, then I'll just fight to get her to love me again."
Pirika bent down and picked the last petal that fell on the pavement. She handed it to him. "She still loves you, with all her heart and soul, Ren Tao. Then and now…it was only you."
His heart leaped. "P-Pirika…"
"Only you," she repeated with all her heart's conviction.
Ren's forehead creased, and for awhile, Pirika thought he was turned off by her outspokenness.
Then he groaned. "I want to kiss you, but do I have to tiptoe?" His costume awhile ago had him wearing a stiletto, so he had no problem awhile ago.
Hao, watching the two from the treetop, chuckled. "All's well that ends well, eh, Opacho?"
The servant nodded. "Master Hao, your brother is expecting us there."
The onmyouji shrugged. "Yoh will understand if I won't be there anymore. Froggie-san, Cockroach-san, Thumberena-san…they won't want me there…and Anna Kyouyama-san too." He waved encouragingly at Ren, who was still contemplating how to kiss Pirika without tiptoeing.
"Do you want me to kneel?" asked Pirika teasingly.
"Shut up!" His face burned.
"Don't worry, someday, when you grow up, you can kiss me the way you want to already."
"I'll be back. I'll just borrow Thumberena's heels." He paused. "Or on second thought…" He pulled Pirika along with him. After all, the dressing room was more private than Yoh's house anyway.The end