A/N: It is highly advised that you check out the manga and read the Black Lagoon omakes so you can have a better understanding of the format in which this story was written, otherwise this fanfic will seem much weirder than it already is.
Disclaimer: Black Lagoon and its characters © Rei Hiroe
"Hey, Rock! Wake up!"
The Japanese businessman slowly opened his eyes and grumbled, massaging his eyelids as he lifted the upper half of his body. What did Revy want? She soundly unusually upbeat...
... Wait a minute, how did Revy get into his hotel room?
He quickly opened his eyes and gasped. He was fully dressed in his business attire and no longer in the bed he distinctly remembered falling asleep in the night before, now lying on a white tiled floor in a room decorated in a fashion that reminded him of a party. But the thing that had shocked him was the woman standing in front of him. It was Revy, or some strange clone of the gunslinger, wearing a little, red, plastic cowgirl hat, a sparkling silver mini dress with matching boots and fingerless gloves, and a sash across her chest with the words "PARTY GIRL" written on it in bold letters. Her guns were in their holsters.
There were only three words that could aptly define the sight before Rock's eyes.
"What the hell?"
Revy cheerfully took a Beretta and held it at Rock's forehead.
The poor, confused salaryman screamed as he heard the "click" and "bang" that followed, flinching and covering his head. When he realized he was not mortally wounded, he looked up and saw confetti raining down. Revy was holding the business end of her gun towards the ceiling before she placed it back at her side in the holster.
"What'cha so scared of, Rock-baby? A little confetti ain't gonna kill ya!" The uncharacteristic cheerfulness in Revy's voice was almost as terrifying as the giant grin on her face. The "party girl" grabbed Rock by the collar and hoisted him to his feet. Before he could get a word out, Revy jammed a party horn into his mouth and blew on her own, the end of it unraveling and tickling Rock's nose. Rock's weakly blew into his party horn and generated a rather pathetic sound, before he took it out of his mouth and tossed it aside.
"Revy, what is going on? Why are you wearing that?" he asked, observing the odd cowgirl getup cautiously. The gunslinger smiled.
"I'm wearing this stuff 'cause I'm the Spirit of Holiday Cheer!"
"Spirit of Holiday Cheer?" Rock repeated in a mix of fear and bemusement. Revy nodded vigorously.
"Yes indeed! And I have been sent here to accompany you on a quest!" she said as she enthusiastically slung her arm around Rock's shoulders. "You've been so dreary lately, it seems you've forgotten to know how to have a good time! So I'm going to see to it that you go on a journey and meet the spirits who are in charge of watching over and organizing their special holidays!"
He understood now. He was having another one of those "alternate universe" experiences again. First the high school experience, then the "magical neko girl" scenario, then telling scary stories with the Romanian twins, then the embarrassing age time-warp, and now he was going on a quest to no doubt meet past acquaintances as the so-called "spirits" of random holidays. He hung his head down and sighed hopelessly. Sometimes, he felt like he was the victim of a mangaka that liked to put him in bizarre omakes for the entertainment of his readers.
... Oh well, at least he wasn't turned into a woman again.
"So, I'm going on a journey to meet the "Holiday Spirits," huh?" said Rock, doing his best to seem happy about his current situation. If this was anything like his past experiences, he would only have to meet a few characters and be well on his way back to reality. Revy, seemingly oblivious to the man's reluctance to go on his quest, grinned from ear to ear and took her Sword Cutlass out once more. She aimed towards the ground beneath Rock's feet and pulled the trigger.
There was a loud "BANG" and Rock soon found himself falling into a dark hole that had suddenly opened beneath him. He swiftly descended through a void of blackness and landed on top of a large hill. The land was whimsically covered in snow and flashing, bright lights of various hues and tones, elves clad in red and green and reindeer pulling sleds filled with carefully wrapped presents, amusing yet impractical houses made of gingerbread and sweets. A touching nativity scene lay underneath an enormous pine tree covered in lights and ornaments in the center of a town. With a rather unsettled expression, he stood up, ignoring the wondrous scenery. Rock assumed that Revy, or rather, "Spirit of Holiday Cheer" possessed magical bullets that could open portals to alternate realities. It was an outlandish and ridiculous thought, but that was the only explanation he could think of in regards to how he got to this frozen land. A chilling breeze passed over and Rock hugged himself in a futile attempt to keep warm.
"Oh look, a new guy," came a familiar voice dully. Rock turned around and beheld the sight of Benny holding a laptop... and he had pointed ears... and he was wearing a red and green outfit... and he had a pointed hat that was bent to the side... with a round bell at the end of the point...
"Benny is an elf..." Rock murmured in disbelief.
"So, what are you here for?" Benny asked with half-lidded eyes. He looked rather miserable. Rock gawked as a giant flurry of confetti formed beside Benny and Revy emerged from the party staple holding what looked to be an elf costume for a small child.
"Hey Benny!" Revy said happily, "I picked up your uniform for next week from the dry cleaners!" She handed the "costume" over to Benny. The disgruntled computer-technician-turned-elf held his dreadful uniform up and arched an eyebrow. Holiday Cheer Revy rubbed the back of her head.
"Yeah, uh... it kind of shrunk when it was getting cleaned. I know it's a bit small and probably tighter than what you're used to... So, I guess you're going to be a sexy Christmas elf next week." Revy said lamely. Benny sighed in sorrow and held the uniform low at his side.
"There's no such thing as a sexy Christmas elf."
"Um... Revy, is he the Christmas Spirit?" Rock asked uneasily, pointing at Benny.
"You're pointing towards the wrong man. I'm the Spirit of Christmas," came another familiar voice. Rock turned around again and beheld the sight of Dutch dressed in red and white, masquerading as Santa Claus. Instead of being endowed with the large belly and white beard of the traditional Saint Nick, the Vietnam Veteran's facial hair was groomed in its usual style and he had kept his muscular build. Rock's jaw dropped.
"Dutch is Santa?" Rock thought to himself. Then again, both men did deliver "cargo" all over the world, both men possessed vehicles needed to transport whatever they needed to deliver, both men did have a crew of sorts working underneath them to made the delivery run smoother...
Albeit, Dutch was not quite as discriminate when it came to making deliveries concerning the "Naughty List," but that was a detail that could be overlooked.
Rock did his best to shake a claymation parody of "A Very Special Roanapur Christmas" out of his head while Revy came to his side.
"What do ya think of Christmas Town, Rock?" she said as she playfully smacked him on the back.
"Um... Well... It seems very nice... Cold, but very nice..." Rock said, still hugging himself and doing his best to speak without make his teeth chatter.
"It's more pleasant when you wear a sweater," commented the unorthodox Santa Claus known as Dutch. Rock opened his mouth to ask if he had the warm article of clothing to give to him, but Revy quickly interjected.
"Well, we don't want Rock-baby here to turn into frozen goods! He's got to meet a few more spirits to regain his own sense of good will and cheer!" Rock slumped at hearing the words "good will" and "cheer" coming out of Revy's mouth while she pulled the trigger on her Cutlass and opened another portal beneath him.
The Japanese man fell through a dark void once again until he landed on a pleasantly soft surface. His form bounced lightly and he quickly observed his surroundings. He was lying on top of a large, silky water bed with soft blankets and comforters in various shades of pink. Heart shaped pillows pressed against his head and shoulders. The the room was dimly lit by scented candles on either side of the bed as the unmistakable voice of Barry White played in the background. Roses in several hues of red, pink and white adorned much of the area, their petals scattered throughout. It was a very romantic mood.
Which meant it was a very disturbing setting for Rock.
His awkwardness intensified as the easily identifiable voice of a certain nun from the Church of Violence reached his ears.
"Welcome to my home, oh valiant white knight. So nice of you to drop in." Rock gulped as he saw the door to the room open slightly, a slender hand placing itself on the edge of the frame.
"Lay back and let all the tension flow out of your body." That was a rather difficult thing for Rock to do as the door opened wider and the hand suggestively caressed the door frame. He couldn't see the entire form of the person who was speaking, but he had a very good guess as to who it was. He blushed as his mind disobediently wandered.
"Take in the scent of roses and allow yourself to be consumed by your desires, such is the manner of my holiday." Another hand placed itself on the edge of the open door and Rock's blush grew deeper. It was Eda. It had to be Eda.
"Do not be bashful or ashamed in my presence!" the voice commanded. "For I am the Spirit of Ardor!" Despite the order not to be bashful, Rock's blush deepened as a scantily clad leg in a near-transparent white stocking with a white high-heeled shoe appeared through the slim entrance of the slightly cracked door. Oh yes, Eda. It was most likely going to be Eda.
"And the Spirit of Passion!" A head sensuously poked itself into Rock's view. Yup, it was Eda. The blonde woman licked her lips seductively. Even with her pink sunglasses obscuring her eyes from view, her playful wink was quite prominent.
"Revel and embrace your smoldering fervor!" Rock displayed a rather goofy smile as he saw Eda's other foot come into his view. She was probably going come out wearing lingerie...
"For I am the Spirit of Valentine's Day!"
In one quick motion, Eda slammed the door wide open and displayed her full form.
She wasn't wearing lingerie.
Eda's golden hair cascaded over her shoulders and down her back as she proudly raised her arms in the air with her well endowed bust thrust out. The blonde's usual nun habit was replaced with a short white skirt and tight fitting button-up shirt of the same color. She wore a white lab coat over the attire and had a small, laminated tag clipped onto the area on the left side of her chest with the bold, white letters "M.D." placed on a red heart. There was a stethoscope around her neck.
Eda daintily grabbed the part of the stethoscope that would normally be placed against a person's chest and held it centimeters from her pouting pink lips, slightly tilting her head downwards.
"But you can call me Doctor Love."
"D-Doctor Love?" Rock stuttered. Eda was the Spirit of Valentine's Day?
"Don't be so tense, dear," Eda drawled as she winked. "This doctor doesn't bite."
Rock gulped and smiled uneasily. The image of Eda dressed in a doctor's attire was a very attractive, yet extremely disturbing sight.
The lustrous doctor sexily strode over to the Japanese man and straddled his waist, leaning over so her luscious pink lips were a mere breath's away from his. She stared deep into his eyes with her bright blue orbs full of sultry and passion, before they widened in horror.
"Oh no!" Eda shouted as she jerked herself away from Rock's face and hopped off of the bed. "Your heart! It's in terrible condition!"
"What?" Rock asked. Sure, he may have smoked and drank, but he thought his heart was doing very well so far.
"Your heart, your heart!" the Valentine's Day Spirit emphasized as she patted the spot on her chest where the vital organ was. "I looked into your soul, and you have by far one of the worst cases of unrequited love I have ever seen in my life!"
Rock arched an eyebrow at that. Looked into his soul and saw unrequited love? It was like something out of a cheap romance novel...
"You're in desperate need of an immediate examination!" Doctor Love Eda stated firmly as she put on a pair of latex gloves with an emphatic "SNAP!" Rock cringed and he looked around wildly as the romantic setting morphed into a rose-tinted examination room and the comfortable water bed turned into a pink OB/GYN table.
"Flora!" the Valentine's Day Spirit hollered, "I need your help! We have a very severe case on our hands!" Seconds later, the obese owner of the brothel above the Yellow Flag, better known as Flora, excitedly waltzed into the room in a revealing nurse outfit. Rock almost screamed.
"You called, Doctor Love?"
"Flora, get the emergency kit! He needs immediate attention!"
"What is going on?" Rock asked. He was met with a latex covered finger pressing itself against his lips.
"Ssh!" Eda hushed, "Your cooperation is needed in order for me to make a more thorough examination!"
"But there's nothing wrong with me," reasoned Rock, not wanting to experience what the Spirit of Valentine's Day had in mind for a "more thorough examination." Doctor Love Eda scoffed at that.
"Are you a doctor, sir?"
"Umm... well, no, but—"
"Then do not tell me what is and is not wrong with you! Do not question my methods! I'll have you know I am the best doctor, advocate and personification in all of Valentine's Day history! My knowledge in regards to love, romance, intimacy and matters of the heart is by far the most precise, accurate and infallible you shall ever encounter!" Rock nervously nodded at her tangent.
"I also give sex and relationship advice on a local radio station on Sundays," added the Valentine's Day Spirit. Rock arched his eyebrow. That was actually believable. He wouldn't be surprised if the regular-world Eda did that in her spare time...
"Now, open your mouth and stick out your tongue," the Valentine Spirit instructed. Rock cautiously did as he was told, somewhat relieved that the spirit only placed a flat stick against his tongue. After examining his mouth, Eda promptly threw the stick away and ripped his shirt open, popping a few buttons off of the clothing item. A very flustered Rock tried to speak, but his words were silenced by a gasp as he felt a cold, metallic substance against his chest.
"Exhale," Eda said as she used her stethoscope to listen to Rock's heartbeat. The Japanese man did as he was told. After checking his heartbeat, Eda went on to checking his blood pressure, examining his eyes and ears and testing his reflexes, all in a rather uncomfortable manner with rather inappropriate poking and prodding. The situation didn't get any better as Eda promptly shoved her hand down Rock's pants and gripped the more personal parts of his anatomy.
"Cough!" Doctor Love Eda commanded. A weak, pathetic sound a few decibels below a whimper escaped Rock's lips.
"That's not a cough," stated the Valentine Spirit obviously. Rock wanted to ask her to take her hand away, but the part of his brain that made him capable of speech had momentarily shut down. Eda just cocked her lips to the side before sighing and taking her hand out of Rock's pants. The salaryman was relieved as the Spirit of Valentine's Day took off the latex gloves and jotted down some notes on a clipboard.
"Hmm... Rapid heartbeat... hearing and reflexes acute, but strained... muscles are unusually tense... eyes seem weary... unable to cough... impotent..." Rock's eyes narrowed when he heard the last word mumbled from the Valentine Spirit's mouth. The tip of Eda's nose swiftly met his own.
"You're in an abusive relationship, aren't you?" The Japanese businessman failed to answer the unorthodox doctor's question, refusing to remember his past and relive every single moment a certain Chinese-American gunslinger punched, kicked, griped, yelled at and almost killed him. Abusive? No, it just involved a large dose of endured violence.
Not that he was in the unrequited romantic relationship that Doctor Love Eda kept hinting at or anything...
Eda pulled her face away from Rock's and shrugged.
"That's alright, you don't have to tell me," she said. "Love is blind, and it clouds all other senses and reason. It is the most passionate emotion and is all consuming. No matter what the situation, true love is everlasting and endures all, even in the most... unsavory events." Rock did his best not to roll his eyes. He wasn't heartless, but he wasn't exactly a seasoned romantic either. He was beginning to wish the regular world Eda was there instead of her Valentine counterpart.
"Don't worry, though. Your impotence is but a small detail of this exam." Rock opened his mouth to protest against Eda's comment, but it quickly closed as Flora shoved a heart shaped box full of small assorted chocolates in front of him.
"Go ahead. Take one," Eda advised. Not seeing the harm in sampling the sweet treat, Rock picked one at random and popped it into his mouth. He chewed on it for a second or two before his taste buds kicked in.
It tasted horrible. The chocolate's filling was like a cross between toothpaste and something found off the bottom of a person's shoe.
He quickly spat out the so called "treat" and did everything in his power to avoid experiencing reverse peristalsis.
"Let me guess, you got a bad flavor?" Eda asked. Rock nodded.
"Wanna try again?" Flora held the box of assorted chocolates out to the businessman again. He kindly refused the offer. He gambled with his life, not his food. Doctor Love Eda scoffed at his refusal.
"Oh, come on. I'm one of the few doctors that happily offers candy to her patients. It's a sign of my love. It's proven to trigger the release of endorphins. It'll make you feel good..."
"Um... Well, that's nice of you, but—"
"Hey, Doctor Love!" Rock perked up as he saw Revy enthusiastically charge through the closed door and rip it off of its hinges. Eda slumped in response to the sudden arrival. She was going to have to get it replaced...
"So, what's the diagnoses? Is he healthy?"asked the Spirit of Holiday Cheer as she playfully slung her arm around his shoulders. Eda adjusted her sunglasses and cleared her throat.
"Aside from a few issues regarding social and romantic relationships, his body checks out. He just needs to be told on occasion that the work he does is appreciated and that he's valued by his peers," the Valentine Spirit advised. "Though, I think I may need to prescribe something for his impo—"
"Hey, look! Chocolate!" Revy interrupted. She happily took a confectionery from the box Flora held and popped it into her mouth, before she spit it out and gagged.
"Eww... I got a nasty one," she complained. "You know Doctor Love, you should really get the boxes that have the flavors labeled so people know what they're getting."
"But it ruins the surprise," Eda countered.
"And something that tastes like expired fruit juice covered in chocolate ruins the romance," said Benny dully, coming into the room with Dutch following behind. Rock cocked an eyebrow. Revy brought the other spirits with her?
Eda huffed at Benny's words regarding mystery chocolates.
"Everyone rags on my holiday because of the candy..."
"Don't forget the conspiracy theory that Valentine's Day is nothing but a marketing scam that uses the idea of courtly romance to force people to buy stuff to prove that they love someone in a giant consumerist orgy," Revy added cheerfully. Eda pursed her lips to the side of her face, getting more and more agitated by the second.
"Hey, hey, hey, aren't you supposed to be the Spirit of Holiday Cheer? What's with the criticism? Why are you dumping on my holiday?"
Upon hearing those words, Rock shifted his eyes back and forth. He didn't care how utterly gleeful Holiday Cheer Revy was or how sickeningly romantic Doctor Love Eda acted. No matter what universe he was in, he personally did not want to be within the general vicinity if those two got into a fight.
"Aww, come on Doctor Love. Lighten up. It's all in good jest," said Revy.
"Fine, fine. I'll ignore the verbal jabs for now," said Doctor Love Eda, rolling her eyes. Rock sighed in relief. There was no fight. Good.
"Well, there's no use standing around here any longer!" Revy announced as she took out her Sword Cutlass. "Now that Rock is acquainted with the Spirit of Valentine's Day, we can move onto the next holiday! Brace yourself!"
With another loud "BANG!" a portal opened beneath Rock's feet.
Predictably, he fell and continued to descend rapidly until a fireworks stand broke his fall.
Rock's eyes contorted in pain. The tip of a firework was conveniently poking into his spine. He tried his best to be optimistic and told himself that although he was badly bruised, he was lucky he hadn't broken any bones upon landing. This was the worst fall he had taken so far.
He stiffly raised his torso off of the ground and observed his surroundings. It was nighttime, but the setting was by no means dark or had any feelings of emptiness. Rock noted that the architecture of the buildings were unmistakably Chinese in origin. The air was laced with the faint scent of gunpowder as dangling lanterns gave off a warm, comforting glow. Clever combinations of red and gold décor assaulted his vision.
The hair on the back of Rock's neck rose as he felt a moist breath against it, a low growl reaching his ears. He slowly turned his head and found himself staring into the eyes of a tiger.
He managed to somehow dodge the large feline's claws as it took a swipe at his head. Adrenaline pumping and making him forget about the sharp pain in his back, Rock began to run. Still fleeing for his life, he looked back. Realizing he was a rather long distance away from the predator, which was now lazily lying on its side and napping, the Japanese man briefly wondered why it had stayed put and refused to chase him. While Rock's attention was elsewhere, he neglected to look where he was going and bumped into a white ox, aggravating it. Rock fell backwards from the force.
Before the businessman's brain could process what he had done, the now agitated bovine creature uttered an intimidating bellow, swept its horns underneath Rock's body and flung him high into the air in a random direction. Rock wailed as he was airborne for a few seconds before his body landed and sunk into a large pile of hay. He poked out his head and spat out whatever traces of the crop had found its way into his mouth. A goat and a sheep came over and started eating the hay in Rock's hair.
Not wanting the horned animals to actually eat his hair by mistake, the salaryman got out of the itchy pile of crops and warily looked around. It seemed the ox he pissed off had flung him into a petting zoo. In addition to the goat and the sheep, there were also a few pigs, some hares, a monkey, a few rats scurrying about... and a rooster that decided Rock's head would make an impressive roost while it crowed. He batted the avian creature away in annoyance.
Feeling a sudden gust of breath that made Rock's hair shift, he turned around and was greeted with the sight of a black horse. The equine creature nuzzled Rock's cheek and the salaryman couldn't help but show a small smile.
"Oh, um... hello there." He cautiously placed his hand on the animal's forehead. Not disturbed in the slightest at the contact, the horse curiously sniffed and nuzzled Rock. His grin grew as he pet the animal tenderly. The horse was actually very friendly. For once, he was having a pleasant experience in another reality...
The horse continued to nuzzle Rock until it dipped its mouth into the pocket of his shirt and ate the hay within. After finishing the food crop, the horse sniffed around. It let out an aggressive blow and promptly ripped itself away. No longer interested in the businessman, the animal trotted over to the hay pile Rock had landed in. It was quite evident that the black beauty could have cared less about Rock and only wanted the food in his pocket. Rock couldn't help but feel a twang of sorrow.
He was used...
Unbeknownst to Rock, a slithery serpent had been attracted by the abundance of rats and hares within the area. The snake made its way into the petting zoo-like atmosphere and closed in on a rat nibbling on a seed. The limbless reptile's chance to strike was foiled as the large hoof of a horse stomped directly in front of it. Shocked and provoked, the snake instinctively coiled and struck out at the leg of the hoofed beast, puncturing its skin. The horse whinnied and lifted itself onto its back legs, frightened by the small serpent as it hissed.
The spooked horse galloped in panic and jumped over the pin that kept all the other animals inside. Poor Rock. Before he even realized what was going on, he felt a harsh tug at the bottom of his leg and was soon being dragged behind the scared beast. He hadn't noticed that his foot was tangled in a rope that was tied to the horse.
After having a rather unpleasant meeting with the pin, the man was scraped along the streets and thrown in various directions into random stands and kiosks as the horse ran wildly through the land. After getting tossed around to the point where he thought he was going to fall into unconsciousness, a miracle happened and the rope around his ankle was suddenly cut, as if done by a mystic force. In a grand finale of Rock's most unsavory moments, he flew off and crashed into another fireworks stand.
Rock groaned as the horse galloped off into the distance. He felt absolutely miserable, and the curious stray dog that had come over and started licking at his face wasn't making the situation much better for him either. Rather than try to stand up and look around, he stayed where he was an shut his eyes. He hoped that when he awakened... if he awakened, that he would be back in his hotel room and away from this alternate reality.
After quite some time, Rock woke up from his slumber. His vision was blurred and saw nothing but fuzzy bubbles and lines of red and gold. A voice spoke in a high-pitched, cordial tone as his eyes adjusted.
"Oh, you still alive? I think for sure you died!"
Rock groaned. He recognized that voice. His vision then became focused and he soon realized that he was staring into the eyes of a dragon.
He opened his mouth to scream, but he stopped as the gears in his mind turned. No, no. It did not matter which dimension or reality he was in. Dragons were not real. Horses and oxes and tigers, yes. But dragons? No, surely they didn't exist. He was probably just looking at some street performers in a costume or something...
He turned his head to the side and saw dancers in the street as they passed by, all of them doing the lion dance in perfect sync. Rock's eyes widened. If the dancers were in the street, then what was staring at him right now?
His mouth was agape in awe and fear. It was a dragon. It was a real dragon. It was a really big, really intimidating, really powerful looking real dragon.
The mythical beast huffed.
"It amazing. You escape tiger, get tossed by ox, and get dragged all over town by horse and you still breathing. Do not look like you break any bones, too. Only bloody and bruised. You very lucky man, yes?"
Rock blinked. Yes, he definitely knew that voice.
"Sh-Shenhua? Is that you?" Rock made eye contact with the massive creature. Was the Shenhua of this realm truly a dragon?
"Look higher, dumbass." Upon hearing the command, Rock did as he was told.
Reclining gracefully between the horns of the powerful dragon lay none other than Shenhua. She wore red, high-heeled stilettos, her ankles and wrists adorned with bands gold. The red cheongsam that clung to her slender, curvaceous form was not too different from what the regular world Shenhua wore, the only contrast being that the golden accents against the red fabric were much more elaborate and detailed. Her hairstyle had changed somewhat, the usual low ponytail now tied into a bun sitting on the upper-back area of her head, a golden flower ornament decorating it. Gold, chopstick-like ornaments with glittering strands at the points stuck out from the bun like rays (twelve in all, most likely representing the animals of the Chinese zodiac). Long obsidian strands trailed from the bun and flowed down her back, ending at the top of her hips. Rock thought she looked quite like an evil empress that would be in a martial arts film, or perhaps a character in a video game of the fighting/RPG genre...
"Let me guess," Rock said wearily, "You're the Spirit of... Chinese New Year?"
"Very clever," said the New Year's Shenhua, "Even after going through hell with animals, your head still good enough to make observation."
"You... You saw all of that?"
"Oh yes," Shenhua nodded vigorously, "I see everything since you fall out of sky. I can't believe you not notice you got your leg tangled in rope until the horse tug you..."
"Wait a minute. If you knew I was going to get pulled along, why didn't you cut the rope before the horse starting dragging me?"
"I was occupied."
"Occupied with what?"
"Laughing," Shenhua admitted, trying to hide her mischievous grin as she held her hand over her mouth. Rock shook his head in disbelief. It seemed that this reality's Shenhua was just as cruel as the one back in his reality.
"I could have died," Rock said.
"Stop whining, you big baby," Shenhua said. The dragon she rested upon huffed in agreement. "I eventually cut the rope once I catch my breath." She lifted up a kukri blade to prove her point.
"Though, if dying is what troubles you," started the Spirit of Chinese New Year as the dragon moved its head, and thus moved Shenhua, further away from Rock.
"I suggest you move now."
Rock would have asked her what she had meant by those words, but an enormous explosion interrupted him.
In a literal blaze of glory, fireworks in every color imaginable ignited and went off in all directions. Rock was flung outwards and landed on a hard patch of concrete in the middle of the street. His clothing was badly singed. He coughed out a little puff cloud of smoke and opened his eyes, miraculously still able to lift himself up. The man had just defied all the laws of physics. He was still alive and in one piece.
"Oh! Fireworks stand blow up right underneath you and you still alive! Flesh not even burned! You very lucky man!" Shenhua said as the dragon carried her over to Rock's side, astonished. "If your lungs not collapse from inhaling smoke, perhaps you like to play a round of bu bu gao sheng?"
"I don't think he'd be up for a game of Taiwanese 'big two' after all of that, Shenhua," commented Holiday Cheer Revy, appearing out of nowhere with two sparklers in hand.
"You saw all of that, too?" Rock asked exasperatedly.
"No, not all of it. We all just saw the part where the horse was dragging you everywhere and everything in the fireworks stand exploded," replied Christmas Elf Benny as he came to Revy's side. The Spirit of Christmas, better known as Dutch or Santa, shortly followed.
New Year's Shenhua hopped off of the dragon. The majestic creature took off into the sky and flew to the heavens as the Spirit of Chinese New Year strode over to the other spirits gathered around Rock. The Japanese businessman looked at the beauty clad in red and gold. The previous holidays he had "experienced" all either had Western origins or twists. He wondered if the Chinese New Year of this dimension also had a Western taste laced within its traditionally Eastern roots.
"Is there a baby anywhere?" Rock asked aloud. Shenhua looked at him quizzically.
"I think he's talking about Baby New Year, Shenhua," Revy said, aware of the Western New Year's symbol Rock was talking about. Shenhua scoffed and crossed her arms across her chest.
"I am the Spirit of Chinese New Year," Shenhua specified. "Not my responsibility to babysit little bastard." The singed salaryman nodded weakly, now feeling a painful throbbing in his skull. He rubbed his temple before he noticed something peculiar.
Obviously, Shenhua, the Spirit of Chinese New Year, was there. Revy, the Spirit of Holiday Cheer, was also present. Dutch, the Spirit of Christmas, was there, as was his assistant Christmas Elf Benny. But there was someone missing.
"What happened to Eda?" It was a moment too late that Rock realized he had made a horrible mistake of mentioning the Valentine Spirit's name when Shenhua glared and grit her teeth together in rage. The representative of Chinese New Year looked at Revy.
"You bring that bitch here?"
"Shenhua! It's a Holiday Quest!" Revy explained, her sunny disposition never wavering. "I had to bring her along."
"Yeah, listen to Miss Holiday Cheer. Don't be such a sourpuss," Doctor Love Eda said teasingly as she came up behind the woman in red and gold.
"Holiday Quest or not, I don't like seeing you, whore-doctor," said Shenhua. Every word was laced with poison. The blonde doctor smiled in amusement.
Rock began to sweat. He remembered the Revy of his reality telling him about the unpleasant situation between Eda and Shenhua back at that fiasco with the Indian counterfeiter. From the harsh looks of contempt the New Year's and Valentine Spirits gave each other, he guessed that the bitterness created from the ordeal with Jane carried itself over a few dimensions...
"What? You don't like seeing me just because my holiday celebrates love while yours circulates around some red packets and a few fireworks?" Eda taunted. Shenhua's glare intensified.
"Your holiday means nothing," Shenhua countered. "Your holiday celebrates love, my ass. It not about love. Your holiday about buying tacky red and pink junk. Shallow consumerist festival. Holiday for pimps and whores." Eda slumped and returned Shenhua's glare.
"My holiday has tradition," Shenhua continued. "It has history. It has mythology. It has customs. Your holiday? Claim to celebrate pleasant feeling and then turn around and tell people to express beauty of love by buying mass-produced crap."
"The so-called 'mass-produced crap' helps people show a complicated emotion in a simple and healthy manner," Eda said heatedly. Shenhua dismissed her words with a waving motion of her hand.
The Spirit of Valentine's Day breathed heavily in aggravation. She had taken enough insults towards her holiday. Everyone within the vicinity tensed and prepared for a catfight to break out, but they received a rather shocking surprise as Eda held out a heart shaped card to Shenhua. The red and gold clad beauty looked at it, puzzled.
"What in hell is that?"
"It's a gift from me to you," Eda said sharply. "Take it."
The New Year's Spirit cautiously took the card from her rival and silently read the words printed on the front.
'We have had our differences and have fought in the past
The words we've exchanged often bitter and crass
As time goes on, our hatred will grow
But there are a few things I want you to know:
In spite of hard feelings and in spite of our strife
I truly do think you'll find the love of your life
You have a good heart and a great deal of passion
And can lift dreary spirits in a jovial fashion
I can assure you that your life shall never be hollow...'
The words on the front had drifted off. Shenhua opened the card.
'So long as you never refuse to swallow.'
The New Year's Spirit smiled bitterly and tightly shook her head in irritation. Closing her eyes, she slowly, calmly ripped the card to shreds.
"That real funny, whore-doctor," said Shenhua. She tossed the remains of the rude Valentine card over her shoulder sharply. "I have present for you, too."
The Spirit of Chinese New Year held a rather lethal looking firework with a red envelope taped to it in one hand, a Zippo lighter in the other.
"Bend over so I can give to you," she said harshly. Doctor Love Eda held her hands up and moved them in a motion that could only be interpreted as: "Bring it on, bitch!"
Luckily for everyone within a 50 kilometer radius, Revy quickly interjected.
"We're not gonna get anywhere by blowin' each other to bits!" said the Spirit of Holiday Cheer. For the first time, relief washed over Rock when he saw her take out the Cutlass and aim at the ground beneath him.
"Rock still has a long way to go on his quest!"
The Japanese man slumped at hearing that it would be quite some time before this "quest" ended, not minding the portal that opened underneath him. He just hoped that the next landing would not be as cruel as the previous.
No different from his earlier falls, he descended until he landed on his back with a loud "thump."
Rock slowly raised the upper half of his body in a vertical position and rubbed the side of his head. The fall wasn't nearly as painful as the one he had taken when he met Chinese New Year Shenhua, but it wasn't as soft as the fall of when he had met Doctor Love Eda either. He stopped rubbing his head when he realized he was touching something other than his hair. He held his hand in front of his face and his eyes widened in horror.
Dirt and maggots.
He jumped up, now standing on his feet, trying his best to get the dirt and larvae out of his hair and off of his clothes. It was then that Rock realized that he was surrounded by four walls of soil, lined with roots and creatures of the creepy crawly kind. He looked further up and gasped. There was a crumbling tombstone above one of the walls. He was in a grave plot.
"Trick... or... Treat..."
Rock momentarily stopped breathing as he felt something hit the back of his head. He cautiously turned around and saw a toothy black grin and three triangles above it, strategically forming a face, painted on an orange surface. It looked like a pumpkin, but it was plastic and hollow. Rock also noted that the area surrounding where the stem should have been was missing, like it had been carved out to make a hole. There was a handle forming an arc, giving the plastic container a bucket-like feature. Rock's jaw tightened as he noted there was a pale fist gripping the handle. His eyes lifted and beheld the sight of the hand's owner.
Messy, jet black hair highlighted by the moonlight, two creepy blue eyes and blood red lips painted on a white face, a mischievous grin glowing in the dark. Rock stumbled backwards and screamed in horror. It was that chainsaw girl, Sawyer.
"No need to scream so loud. The dead in this place are awake already," said a voice laced with a Taiwanese accent. Rock softly gasped and jerked his head back as far as it would go. He saw the faces of Revy, Shenhua, Eda, Dutch and Benny gathered around the outline of the grave. They all looked very unamused.
Revy and Eda offered their hands to Rock and lifted him out of the plot. He looked around and saw that he was indeed in a cemetery. Aged tombstones with moss and vines as far as the eye could see, withering trees with bony hands gripping at the air as a haunting wind blew past, the occasional jack-o-lantern grinning brightly, as if to mock the gloom and sorrow associated with death. Rock did his best to regain his composure and haphazardly looked over at the chainsaw girl.
All in all, she didn't look too different from the regular-world version, except that the scar that should have been on her throat was replaced by actual stitches. Rock also noticed that the stitching continued all the way to the back of her neck, like her head was sewn on, as though she were a rag doll. There was a black Ultravoice strapped around her neck, like a choker, the speaker in the form a small skull. Her clothing was adorned with bold stitch work, sewn together from scraps. The long sleeves on her arms and stockings on her legs had orange and black stripes. Her somewhat scuffed black boots came to her knees. The chest area of the black short-sleeved shirt she wore over the striped long-sleeved shirt had white accents with three triangles and a toothy grin forming a face much like that of the plastic jack-o-lantern she held. The frilled skirt she wore was a wild, mismatched pattern of midnight black and dingy orange.
The creepy grin never left her face as she innocently swung her jack-o-lantern candy container back and forth.
"Wha... What Spirit are you supposed to be?" Revy and the other Holiday Spirits looked at Rock, dumbfounded. As if the graveyard setting and Sawyer's color scheme wasn't obvious enough... Sawyer's grin got wider and the Ultravoice around her stitched neck uttered an eerie chuckle.
"I am the Spirit... of two realms..." Sawyer said as slowly took a swinging step closer to Rock. Eda placed her palm against her forehead.
"Way to go, Mr. Japanese. You got her started." Sawyer ignored the Valentine Spirit's comment and went on.
"I am the Spirit... of the living and the dead..." She took another side-step closer to Rock. The businessman took a step back.
"I am the Spirit... of when the veil that separates... the ghost and the mortal worlds... is at its thinnest..." Another step closer induced another step back.
"I am the Spirit... of when the dead arise from their graves... and walk the earth once again..." More steps led to an increasingly more terrified Rock.
"I am the Spirit... of—"
"Stop being mean, Sawyer! Get to part about free candy already! Poor man is pissing himself!" Shenhua yelled out. Rock let out a sigh in relief, but it was short-lived as Sawyer's face suddenly appeared in front of his, her eyes full of mirth.
"I am the Spirit of Halloween."
Sawyer's right eye popped out of her head.
"Aah!" exclaimed Rock. The eyeball hung loosely by Sawyer's cheek as tiny insect larvae wiggled around in the empty socket. Sawyer continued to smile and pushed her eye back into her head.
"Maggots! Hahaha..." Rock wasn't sure how much more he could take of this. Revy put her hand on his shoulder and pulled him away from the Halloween Spirit.
"Don't mind her. She just gets hopped up on all the sugar in the free candy." Rock did not respond, still trying to get over the fact that the Sawyer of this universe was some odd, rag doll-like zombie with a sweet tooth. He snapped back to alternate reality as he felt something repeatedly bump into the side of his arm. He looked over and saw that Sawyer was nudging her candy container into him, her face now displaying a rather nonchalant expression. Rock was perplexed. What did she want?
"She wants her treat," Shenhua explained. "You better give candy to her or else she cut off your head and put jack-o-lantern on your shoulders. Not good thing." Rock tensed and began to fumble around in his pockets. The idea of Sawyer decapitating him and replacing his head with a decorative pumpkin was not a pleasant prospect by any means, but there was one small problem.
"Uh... Well, I'm sorry to say this... but... I don't have any candy..." said Rock nervously.
"You have... no candy?" Sawyer's body suddenly began to spasm and twitch while her eyes rolled to the back of her head, her arms lifting themselves up towards Rock limply as her hands made a grabbing motion.
"... Braaaaiiiinnnnssss..." Rock quickly backed away from her in terror. He didn't provide any candy and now the insidious zombie girl was going to eat him alive as a consequence!
Shenhua whacked the top of Sawyer's head with the flat side of her kukri.
"Sawyer, knock it off," she chastised. The gothic rag doll stopped with her act and her eyes went back to their appropriate positions.
"I was just... having fun..." Sawyer said as she smiled devilishly, rubbing the top of her head. Despite Sawyer's confession, Rock still trembled. Noticing this, the Halloween Spirit looked him in the eyes.
"Don't worry... I won't really... eat your brain," Sawyer assured, "Candy tastes better... than human flesh..." Rock squeamishly nodded in response, refusing to ask just how she had acquired that tidbit of culinary knowledge.
"But I still... want my treat," said Sawyer firmly. Rock could tell from the deadly look in her eyes that if he didn't provide something, anything, that would pique her interest, he was literally going to lose his head.
"Umm... All I have is a pen... and whatever is in my wallet," Rock said as he pulled out the bills.
"That will do," a satisfied Sawyer said. She quickly snatched the money out of Rock's hand and placed it inside of her plastic jack-o-lantern. Rock sighed. He didn't particularly enjoy having a mischievous spirit take all of his money, but it was a much better situation than getting his head severed from his neck.
Rock scanned his surroundings. Speaking of mischievous spirits, where were the twins? They were usually present during these types of events and the graveyard setting was just about perfect for their taste in scenery.
"What happened to Hansel and Gretel?" Rock asked aloud, aware that he may regret the words later on.
"Ah, you mean... my little helpers? They're playing around... in the haunted mansion... They're probably testing out... the new guillotine..." The Halloween Spirit smiled warmly at the thought, not noticing Rock's look of discomfort. The mere thought of the devious twins under Sawyer's tutelage was enough to make one's head spin.
"Hey, Rock, you ready to move along?" Revy asked, poking him in the side with her Cutlass.
"I'm ready to leave," said Rock, rushed. The sooner he got out, the better. He frankly didn't want not to share the same fate of the poor, unfortunate souls that hung around for too long in cemeteries in the horror movies.
Revy shrugged and casually shot a bullet between his feet.
Another open portal and another fall into a black abyss, thus leading to another uncomfortable landing. The only difference of this descent being that Rock landed squarely on his face as opposed to his back.
He lifted his head off of the ground and spat out the grass and soil that had gotten into his mouth on impact. His sour eyes changed to something more childlike in mood as he stood up and looked around.
It was a beautiful scene. There was not a cloud in sight as the sun shined proudly, its heavenly rays embracing the world below. The entire land flourished with trees in full bloom, fresh green grass and flowers of every kind, attacking the visual senses with an onslaught of colors that rivaled the vibrant rainbow that was painted across the clear blue sky. The gentle rush of a sparkling river reached Rock's ears as the water cascaded over the smooth stones, providing the numerous animals around with a refreshing drink and a moment's peaceful solace. Deer pranced, foxes frolicked, rabbits freely hopped around...
... and went about doing a ritual that was vital to the reproduction of their species...
"This is quite an unusual occurrence," said a light voice mysteriously, "In what event does this stranger present himself in my abode?"
Rock turned around to see the person who had spoken. His jaw dropped upon registry.
It was that oddball mercenary, Rotton the Wizard. He still had his stylish black pants and shoes, along with his powdery silver hair and dark sunglasses, but those were the only things about the man that had made him similar to the bounty hunter back in the regular world. Rotton's trademark trenchcoat was nowhere to be seen and he was completely shirtless, his well defined torso and toned muscles on display for the world to see. There was a black bow tie with a white collar around his neck. His arms were bare, but his wrists were adorned with cuff links. A small, white wicker basket full of painted eggs hung loosely around Rotton's forearm while his hand was placed on his hip.
All of this was disconcerting enough for the Japanese businessman, but the most outlandish and downright awkward feature about the alternate universe "Wizard" was that he had white rabbit ears sticking out the top of his head and a fluffy cotton tail.
"...Uh..." Rock was truly speechless.
"Your name, your identity," Rotton asked, "What is it and why have you come here?"
"Oh, that's just Rock! He's on a Holiday Quest!" Revy said as she skipped through the field and came to Rock's side, the other Holiday Spirits walking behind her.
"Revy..." Rock whispered quietly.
"Yeah?!" Rock cringed at her loud response. He was hoping that he could have a quiet exchange with the Spirit of Holiday Cheer.
"What is he supposed to be the Spirit of?" Rock whispered as he gestured to Rotton, hoping the silver haired man wouldn't hear him. "I wasn't aware there was a holiday for gigolos..."
Unfortunately, Rotton's sensitive sense of hearing picked up what Rock had said.
"I am not involved in male prostitution." Rotton's bunny ears meekly drooped forward, expressing his hurt at Rock's words. The salaryman jumped at seeing the action. He thought those ears were just a headband prop. He didn't think they were actually attached to the silver haired man.
Sawyer and Shenhua laughed heartily at discovering Rock's assumption.
"You funny man, Mr. Japanese," Shenhua said.
"He's not... a gigolo..." Sawyer said as she reached up and absentmindedly played with Rotton's bunny ears.
"He's the Easter Bunny."
"Easter Bunny?" Rock said disbelievingly. He remembered something about the giant rabbit being an icon that handed out candy and painted eggs for children to find on hunts, but the silver haired man did not emit such an aura. Frankly, Rotton looked more suited for serving cocktails and dancing lewdly while libidinous women shoved money down his pants.
Rotton quickly jerked his head away from the Halloween Spirit, fearing that she would get too carried away and try to rip his ears off. The adult-rated Easter Bunny placed his index finger on the center of his sunglasses.
"Indeed, the specter that stands in your wake is none other than the Spirit of Easter. An immortal and the very epitome of regeneration and rebirth; a symbol of renewal, revival—"
"And fertility." Sawyer playfully teased his white cotton tail.
Revy's eyes lit up.
"Oh yeah, he can also do a really cool trick! Rock-baby, you gotta see it!"
"There's no need for that," Rotton reasoned, pushing his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose.
"C'mon, bunny boy. One round for the new guy," Revy jested. Rock displayed a rather unsettled expression. He personally did not want to see a shirtless Rotton with bunny ears do a "trick" that made a woman get excited at the mere mention of him performing it. The Japanese businessman stayed quiet, but he swore he was going to search for the nearest exit if the risqué Easter Bunny pulled out a can of whipped cream and asked for a willing female participant.
"Please, I would prefer not to go through the actions needed for me to perform," Rotton said. Revy ignored his plea and aimed her Sword Cutlass at his forehead.
"Aww, come on. It'll be fun!" Revy pulled the trigger. A spray of blood, brain and skull matter exited through the back of Easter Spirit's head. He promptly fell backwards and hit the ground with a solid "thud." Rotton was dead.
Rock's eye twitched. What as that all about? He thought Rotton was going to perform a trick, not have a bullet placed between his eyes.
Suddenly, a fluffy white cloud formed in the sky. A shimmering ray of light emerged and the voices of angels harmonized as it struck Rotton's body. The gruesome hole in Rotton's head healing at a rapid pace, the blood and bodily carnage disappeared. His body was lifted to his feet, as if guided by an invisible force. When Rotton stood firmly on the ground, the beam of light faded and the heavenly vocals stopped. The Easter Bunny lifted up his hand and rubbed the area where the bullet wound had previously been, a light groan escaping his throat. Rotton was alive.
"See? What did I say? It's a cool trick, huh?" Revy asked, giddy. Rock was bemused. He had just witnessed a miracle.
"H-How did he...?"
"He's the Spirit of Easter!" Revy stated, "Easter's a holiday about resurrection. It's celebrated around Springtime, when things come back to life after being dead in the Winter. So naturally, the Spirit of Easter is gifted with the power of resurrection and regeneration. It doesn't matter how many times you kill him, 'cause he comes back to life every time!"
"It would be appreciated if you refrained from killing me for the sake of entertainment." Rotton adjusted his sunglasses and checked on the painted eggs inside of his wicker basket to make sure they were unbroken. Two spirits quickly came to his side.
"Don't shoot him again, bitch," Shenhua said grudgingly.
"Don't be so stupid... He might come back to life... but dying is still painful... it hurts him..." said Sawyer solemnly as she touched the area over Rotton's heart. Unaffected by their defensive words, Revy smiled.
"Aww, come on. It was all in good fun. Besides, so long as Mr. Easter over there keeps hoppin' along and hidin' those eggs, it's no big deal, right?"
"He doesn't just hide the eggs," Doctor Love Eda interjected bitterly. Rock looked over at her, perplexed. The Spirit of Valentine's Day went on.
"The Easter Bunny is a supplier," Eda informed, "He provides the eggs Miss Halloween uses to pelt people's houses when she doesn't get the treat she wants." Eda's eyes formed slits as she looked at the undead rag doll in black in orange. Sawyer returned the Valentine Spirit's dirty look.
"Nobody likes their Halloween candy... handed out to them... in a heart-shaped box."
"Well, I can understand the ever so "wonderful" tradition of you egging my house every single year, but you could at least return my mailbox," said a disgruntled Eda.
"Maybe when you hand out chocolate... that doesn't have a toothpaste filling... I'll consider giving your mailbox back." Eda huffed in frustration, taking the zombie's retort as a statement that she was never going to see her mailbox again. Shenhua snickered as the sight.
Rock ignored the exchange as an unsavory thought went through his head, remembering Eda's words.
"The Easter Bunny provides the eggs...?" he asked aloud. Rock remembered something about the European folklore of hares laying eggs around Springtime. The Easter Spirit noticed the salaryman's disconcerting gaze.
"Remove that vulgar image from your mind. I do not lay the eggs," Rotton confirmed. "They are harvested from chicken coups. The notion of a rabbit laying eggs... Truly, your mind must be wrought with vile perversions to conjure such a thought."
Rock's eyes narrowed. He didn't need to be a rocket scientist to see that Rotton had just eloquently called him a pervert.
"Though, I suppose that one cannot blame you," the Easter Spirit continued, "You seem weary and tired. I assume you have been through a great ordeal. Such experiences can warp the mind. You are in a severe state of stress, correct?" Rock sighed wryly and nodded. The Easter Spirit was right. After everything he's been through so far, he was stressed. Rock thought he would be out of this universe by now...
"Cocktail?" Rotton held out a silver platter with the alcoholic beverages balanced on the smooth surface. Rock kindly refused. Partially because he wasn't a cocktail kind of guy and also because he found slight discomfort in accepting an alcoholic drink from a half-naked Easter Bunny Rotton wearing a bow tie.
"Hey, Easter Bunny! Bring your tail over here. I could use a drink," Doctor Love Eda said. Much to Sawyer and Shenhua's chagrin, Rotton went over the Valentine's Day Spirit and offered her a drink. The doctor selected a Tom Collins and pulled out a few bills as payment. She then placed the money in the waistband of Rotton's pants and walked off.
Irritated and embarrassed at the action, the odd Easter Bunny held his head down before he took out the bills and placed them in the basket hanging from his forearm, still balancing the cocktails on the platter. Rock observed the scene lazily, indifferent.
"There's nothing more to see here," Revy said, getting Rock's attention. "You got one more holiday to go and your quest will be done!"
Rock smiled as he fell through the portal Revy opened. One more holiday, she had said... All he had to do was endure one more and he could go back home to Roanapur...
All the Holiday Spirits gathered around the giant hole in the floor.
"Hey Rotton, feel like going down the rabbit hole?" Revy said, laughing at her pun. The Easter Spirit look at her nonchalantly. He did not find that joke particularly amusing.
"There's no need for me to use a portal. You are aware of this fact," said Rotton.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. I was just joking," said Revy, "But before we all leave and see Rock-baby to the end of his journey... Say it." Rotton's ears twitched, knowing full well what the Spirit of Holiday Cheer was hinting at.
"No. I shall not say it."
"C'mon, it's funny!"
"I promise not to kill you for my amusement for one whole year!"
"... Five years."
"Two and a half."
"Three and a half."
"... Very well," Rotton sighed. He cleared his throat and spoke monotonously.
"I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date. No time to say 'Hello,' goodbye. I'm late, I'm late, I'm late..."
"Hahaha! I love it when you say that line! It never gets old." Revy wiped a tear from her eye.
"Yes yes, we know you like it when Easter Bunny play part of White Rabbit," said Shenhua, annoyed. "We see Japanese man now so we all get back to our own holidays soon, yes?"
"I agree with Shenhua," said Benny. "Dutch and I need to get back to Christmas Town and check our inventory."
"I have to give advice in relationship counseling."
"I need to arrange firework show with pyrotechnic."
"I still have to mark maps for Hansel and Gretel... and assign a route... so they know which houses to trick-or-treat... and vandalize..."
"Don't worry about it," Revy assured, "Everyone will be able to get back to doing their own thing soon, we just need to check up on Rock before he leaves. Let's move it." Completing the command, Revy disappeared in a flurry of colorful confetti. Dutch and Benny followed suit and their bodies disintegrated into a twister of snowflakes. Not to be outdone, Eda disappeared in a mist of red and pink hearts while Shenhua vanished in an outrageous display of red and gold fireworks. The piercing shriek of a woman was heard as Sawyer dispersed into a haze of bats and ghosts. Last but not least, Rotton dissipated into an irregular mix of bite-sized chocolate bunnies and dollar bills.
Bats and ghosts appeared out of thin air and shrieking was heard once more as Sawyer returned to Easter Land. She smiled deviously as she placed her candy container underneath the falling confectioneries and money.
"Best... holiday theme... ever..."
Once finished with collecting her vices, the Spirit of Halloween dispersed and a maiden's cry echoed throughout the Spring-themed land.
Meanwhile, Rock's rear end had an intimate meeting with a hard wooden bench that broke his fall.
"Ow..." he said as he rubbed his backside. The man was surprised his spine hadn't shot out the back of his neck upon impact.
His pain was momentarily forgotten as an overtly pleasant scent reached his nostrils. Becoming more aware of the environment, he realized he was outdoors and sitting at a large dining table that was garnished with appetizing dishes. A large banquet consisting of baked sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, cornbread, rice dumplings, green beans, asparagus, cranberry sauce, peas, carrots, bread rolls, five different kinds of salads, corn, buttermilk biscuits, pumpkin bread, celery sticks, turnips, yams, and seven different varieties of pie. The large roasted turkey and horn-shaped wicker basket filled with fruits and vegetables in the center were rather difficult to miss as well. It was a very different pallet from what Rock was used to eating in Roanapur and his native Japan, but he could not deny that it was very tantalizing all the same.
"Have you come to join us all for dinner?" came a cool, smooth voice. Rock turned to his right saw that it was Mr. Chang...
... dressed in stereotypical Native American garb...
Rock blinked twice to see if his vision was working correctly. Seeing the Chinese Triad boss adorned with a headdress and red stripes painted across his cheeks was a strange event indeed.
"Allow me to introduce myself. I am the Spirit of Thanksgiving," said Mr. Chang, "And thus, I am the final Spirit you were to meet on your quest. I'm sure you've become acquainted with the others already." Rock's attention was taken to all of the Holiday Spirits that had suddenly appeared out of thin air and were now sitting around the table.
"Thanksgiving?" Rock vaguely remembered the holiday being mentioned by a visiting businessman from America back when he was working for Asahi Industries.
"This is a special meal arranged in the hopes that you had found your own holiday spirit once your quest was finished," Chang explained. "Though their methods were unorthodox and peculiar, all the Spirits you see gathered here wanted to show you the importance and meaning of their holidays.
"Christmas," Chang gestured to Santa Claus Dutch and Assistant Elf Benny, "A holiday that celebrates that which is the gift of giving, the gift of charity, and the gift of selflessness. Something that is often forgotten and tossed aside in favor of greed." Dutch and Benny shifted their eyes nervously, hoping Thanksgiving Mr. Chang didn't know about their accepting of bribes with bad children to get their names off of the Naughty List.
"Valentine's Day," he looked to Doctor Love Eda, "A holiday that celebrates romance and love, one of the most primal of human emotions." Eda crassly smirked at Shenhua who rolled her eyes in irritation. Regardless of Mr. Chang's words, the New Year's Spirit still believed Valentine's Day was just a rose-scented consumerist fest.
"New Year's Day of all kinds," Chang hinted at Shenhua, "A holiday celebrating the occurrences and events of the past, and making way and looking forward to whatever may come in the future, with high hopes for good luck and prosperity." Shenhua smiled proudly at the Thanksgiving Spirit's statement.
"Halloween," Chang gestured to Sawyer, "A holiday that has undergone several transformations in the past, it celebrates the dead not with sorrow and melancholy, but with boldness and fervor, giving the deceased a chance to walk alongside living." Sawyer creepily grinned as she lightly traced her finger along the stitches on her neck.
"Easter," Mr. Chang signaled to Rotton, "A celebration of resurrection, life after death, not dwelling on gloom and dreariness of a timely passing, but rather, an acknowledgment and commemoration of revival and renewal." Rotton's face remained indifferent, but he was indeed pleased at the analysis.
"And Thanksgiving," Chang indicated for Rock's eyes to turn to him, "A holiday about people from all walks of life putting their differences aside, momentarily forgetting bitterness and grudges for the greater good and coming together for mutual peace and contentment. The Spirits before you are all indeed very different, but have come together to celebrate for the simple sake of true holiday spirit and cheer.
"You, however," Chang looked Rock in the eye, "have been so eager to leave that you completely neglected to acknowledge all of this." Rock held his head down. He couldn't help but feel a tad bit guilty. The Thanksgiving Spirit was right. Holiday Cheer Revy did originally say he was going on the Holiday Quest to regain his own sense of joy and spirit, but he had desired to leave so greatly, he failed to see the sole point of his journey.
"However, seeing as how everybody's already here..." said Mr. Chang, "I don't see any reason to go on with a lecture and a prayer. Let's all just enjoy the meal."
Rock sighed, looking at the Spirit of Thanksgiving expectantly. Well, that was pretty in-character...
"Oh no..." said Rotton suddenly. His bunny ears twitched.
"What is it?" asked Shenhua.
"I hear something..." Rotton inhaled sharply upon realizing what was approaching.
"Everybody take cover!! Balalaika is coming!" Everyone around the table groaned as they all stood up.
"Oh no, not that bitch again," Eda complained.
"Isn't that just lovely. Leave it to her to spoil my holiday," said Mr. Chang. Rock furrowed his eyebrows.
"I don't understand. What's going o—"
A giant explosion interrupted Rock's flow of words. As the smoke cleared, a dark silhouette appeared and made its presence known.
"Well, you threw yourself quite a quaint little party here, Chang..."
Rock looked up and beheld none other than Balalaika. She didn't seem any different from the regular-world version back in Roanapur, save for the black business suit and a white band around her upper left arm with a bright red diagonal line striking through the word "Holiday" surrounded by a bold, crimson circle.
"Now, now, Balalaika, no need to lose your temper just because you weren't invited," said Mr. Chang, calmly smoking a cigarette, "If you want to celebrate, feel free to join us. There's plenty of food to go around."
"I'm not interested in sharing." Balalaika smirked. She raised her right arm in the air and a hail of RPGs rained down from the sky.
"Come over here, Rock!" Revy yanked him away and dragged him over behind a thick log, where the other Holiday Spirits were hiding.
"I don't understand, what is going on? What is Balalaika supposed to be the Spirit of?" He didn't bother to ask why she was obliterating everything in sight. He strained to listen to the others speak as explosions and gunfire filled the air.
"She's the worst Spirit of all," Revy said as she looked at the ground, "She's the Spirit of Anti-Festivity."
"She's always spoiling our holidays and mercilessly destroys people's sense of holiday cheer," Eda explained.
"Yeah, she really bums me out," said Revy sadly.
"She's one hell of a holiday demon," started Dutch, "I remember one year where she shot the reindeer, totaled the sleigh and burned all of the gifts only minutes before I was supposed to make the deliveries. She ruined Christmas for a lot kids that year..."
"That's nothing!" said Eda, "I remember one year when she destroyed all of the Valentine's gifts and replaced them all with insulting gag-cards and hardcore pornography involving animals. So many couples broke up! It was Singles' Awareness Day all across an entire nation..."
"Oh please, whore-doctor, you cry over spilled milk," said Shenhua, "I remember year she alter order of zodiac animals and tamper with all the fireworks. Either they not go off at all or they blow up in your face. So many people die firework-related death that year! It took months to completely get rid of stains, there so much blood!"
"You think... your traditions were trampled upon?" said Sawyer, "I remember one year... She put a seal on the veil... that separates the spirit and mortal realms... It was like a bug zapper for spirits... They couldn't walk the earth... nearly a thousand years of tradition ruined... But it didn't stop there... She dug up all the graves... and cremated the bodies... so they couldn't come back as the undead... She performed an exorcism... and obliterated all the ghosts... She smashed all the pumpkins... before they could be carved... and she turned all of the candy... into dental floss and nutritional snacks..."
"At least you had something left to eat," said Rotton, "I still remember the year she ruined my holiday quite vividly. She burned and ravaged everything she could in an attempt to make sure anything and everything she touched would be dead and remain that way. Only I remained after that incident. It took an eternity to restore my home."
"And now, here she is trying to spoil Thanksgiving," said Mr. Chang casually.
Moving and taking refuge behind a conveniently placed boulder, Mr. Chang took out his signature Berettas and began to shoot. Though, this battle was not without its difficulties. It was worse than open season whenever he popped his head out.
"I could use a hand here!" Chang said. Seconds later, a dismembered hand smacked him in the forehead and limply fell to the ground. The Thanksgiving Spirit immediately recognized the severed body part and he rolled his eyes.
"Real mature, Sawyer." The zombie giggled as the pale hand moved of its own volition and crawled back over to the rag doll-like corpse. Taking out a needle and thread, Sawyer began to sew it back onto her wrist.
"Well, what are we going to do?" Holiday Cheer Revy asked as she joined Mr. Chang in fighting the Spirit of Anti-Festivity. "We only have two gunmen, a knife-wielder, a doctor, a zombie, a rabbit, a Bad Santa, an elf and Rock. How are we supposed to fight against Balalaika with that?" It was plain to see that Revy's jovial attitude was wading thin.
"Can't you just go to another universe?" Rock meekly asked.
"What?" asked Revy. The other Holiday Spirits looked at him.
"Well, you guys can all go to other dimensions, right? Why not leave this place and come back when Balalaika is not here..."
"That... actually sounds like a good idea," said Revy, not thinking of the option before. "What do you think, sir?"
"Hmm, we can all stay and fight and most likely receive massive injuries and endure bodily harm. Given if we don't die first..." said Chang. Benny face-palmed.
"Only Miss Halloween and Mr. Easter could survive with that decision."
"True, but I still have to endure the pain," said Rotton, "Sawyer, on the other hand..."
"It doesn't matter... I'm already dead," Sawyer stated. "If I touch a burning candle... I can feel no pain... You cut me with a knife... it's still the same... My heart stopped beating long ago... Yet the pain I feel... The only pain I feel... is emotional..." The undead rag doll looked down solemnly and pouted. Shenhua and Rotton gingerly placed their hands on her shoulders.
"So, that gives us the option of using spooky chick and bunny boy as shields," Revy said aloud. Sawyer and Rotton shot her looks that were accurately interpreted as "Don't you even dare."
"We have a second option," the Thanksgiving Spirit piqued, "Instead of staying and putting up a fight, we could do as Rock suggested: Leave this place and live to fight another day."
"I vote for option number two," said Benny. The other Holiday Spirits raised their hands in agreement.
"Then it's decided. We're leaving."
With that said, all of the Holiday Spirits disappeared. Only Rock and Revy remained with the Spirit of Anti-Festivity.
"Ah, what a shame," Revy sighed, "And we didn't even get to eat dinner either..." With a thunderous blast, Rock and Revy went flying.
"Balalaika is going to kill you if you don't get out of here soon!" Revy dragged herself over to Rock's body. The Japanese businessman struggled to sit up. Seeing this, Holiday Day Cheer Revy took a firm hold of Rock's jaw and pressed the business end of her gun between his eyes.
"W-wait, Revy, what are you doing?!" asked Rock frantically.
"Don't worry, Rock-baby! I know what I'm doing. This is for your own good!"
Without hesitation, she pulled the trigger.
- - -
Rock quickly sat up, breathing heavily and soaked in a cold sweat. He held his head in his hands for a good minute or two before he looked up.
He wasn't dead.
He looked around. He was in his hotel room in downtown Roanapur, and the clothes he was wearing... they weren't damaged at all. He didn't feel any painful throbbing in his skull or soreness in his muscles. He massaged his temple in confusion. Was all of that really just a dream? It had seemed so real...
"Hey, Rock! Wake up!" The Japanese man jumped as Revy forcefully kicked the door open and charged into the room, a bottle of rum in one hand and a small, wrapped present in the other. She was wearing her usual attire; a black top and and cut-off shorts.
"C'mon, get outta bed! We're gonna celebrate!" Rock's eyes widened in horror as he noticed that Revy had an additional accessory accompanying her normal clothing.
On her head, there was a little, red, plastic cowgirl hat.
"No!" Rock screamed in terror. He didn't want to go through this again.
"I REFUSE!! NO MORE, NO MORE!!" Pushing Revy aside, he bounded through the doorway and dashed down the hallway in his underwear. Revy looked puzzled, before she snarled and threw her present against the wall.
"Well, fuck you too, asshole!" She angrily dropped on his bed and began to drink the rum, ripping the cowgirl hat off of her head and tossing it aside.
"I wouldn't have even bothered if that stupid bitch Eda had stopped bugging me. Last goddamn time I try to celebrate your birthday, bastard..."
A/N: Yeah, I know a birthday doesn't count as a holiday, but I think it made a valid excuse for why the normal Revy would be wearing a red hat made out of plastic.
Geez, when I imagined the story in my head, I didn't think it was going to be this long. It was supposed to be an omake parody for goodness sake! This story came out more "detailed" than I thought it would be...
I went back and forth in my head whether I should have written this or not, since it seems rather outlandish, but then I remembered the "Magical Neko Maid" omake back in Vol. 2 and I decided to go for it.
I feel a little guilty for what I did to Rock in the Chinese New Year segment... and for that nasty poem.
I realized how utterly corny it had gotten half-way through the Thanksgiving scene, so I tossed Balalaika in there to stir things up a bit.
Rotton reciting the "I'm late, I'm late" line from Alice in Wonderland... It simply had to be done.
The idea to write this came from watching the introduction scene in "A Nightmare Before Christmas" with the trees marked with pictures that symbolized which holiday they represented.
The Tim Burton references are obvious with Sawyer. Heh.
Kudos to the people who immediately spotted the lyrics in "Tears to Shed."