Chapter 5: Around Smashville in more than eighty minutes
A/N: Time for some exploration! Finally we're going to explore the surroundings of the Smash Mansion! Yay!
Juliet: Around Smashville… eighty minutes… it sounds a lot like a crib to me!
Shinywolf: Yeah… reference, guys! Try to guess who I'm referencing! It's quite easy!
Juliet: Smashville… you couldn't think to a better name, could you?
Shinywolf: Err… was that a rhetorical question?
Juliet: Nope. You lack originality! Rack more your brains!
Shinywolf: Ah! I'll show you what I can do! Keep reading!
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any Nintendo or any other companies' characters, but I own my original characters and original places.
Juliet: Hey! I already told you! I don't belong to anyone!
Shinywolf: *rolls her eyes*
Emptiness. A vast stretch of emptiness was spreading out in front of the black being's eyes. The monster smiled at the sight, breathing huge amounts of antimatter air.
"HOME… I'M FINALLY AT HOME! AFTER SO MANY YEARS… I'M AT HOME!"
The being walked around the place, raising little clouds of cosmic dust with every step taken and looking all around him.
"THIS PLACE HASN'T CHANGED. EVEN IF I WAS ABSENT FOR SO LONG IT'S STILL THE SAME."
The monster then started floating and flew toward a seemingly random direction. There was still something that he had to do.
In another side of the immense nothingness two creatures were residing, surrounded by some transparent pillars and floating geometric solids. One of them was resting on a levitating cube, curled up into a ball and waving a long metallic tail, while the other was walking around the place, waving his paws all over some translucent spheres while releasing some strange silver liquid from them and singing.
"Lah, lah, lah… all so tidy, all so clean… lah, lah, lah…"
"Aaagh! Stop your stupid chant right now! And why are you even bothering to keep this place in order? As if our Milord is going to return…"
"Aww, don't be so pessimistic! I'm sure that Milord will return soon! He will return… I know he will!"
"You dream too much! Face the truth… countless years has passed since his imprisonment and he's still not here! How can you explain that?" asked the other, raising his head and looking at his companion.
"Eh…" the creature stopped his activity and put a paw over his mouth, thinking to an answer. "… mh… ehm… do you have an optional question?"
"Tsk, figures!" said the being, shaking his head and lowering it again. "Admit it! We're destined to stay here for all the eternity. There is no way we can see the outside again."
"Are you really sure about that, brother? Have you already checked the entire dimension?"
"Of course I have! I checked it thrice and couldn't find a single hole! We're trapped here for good!"
"If only we could still open portals…" replied the brother, lowering his gaze and sighing. Suddenly his eyes were caught by a far dark figure that was moving toward the duo at high speed. "Brother, look! Something is coming!"
"Say what?" replied the other, standing up and following his sibling's gaze. He narrowed his eyes to try to determine what was advancing toward them, but the shape was too distant for him and couldn't be identified. "Be careful, brother! If that thing has evil intentions you must be ready to retaliate!" said the being, spinning his tail and creating a little tornado.
"Got it!" responded his companion, creating various water whips between his paws.
The two creatures watched cautiously the approaching figure, tension filling the air and the attacks increasing in strength. The solids around the place started to become surrounded by an ominous dark aura until they became completely black with some red shades. Both the brothers noticed that and stopped their attacks.
"It can't be…"
"But it is!"
The twosome went toward the shape, observing attentively every single movement of the dark being. When he was only a few meters far they bowed in respect.
"M-Milord! You have returned!"
"Milord! You're here!" said the other, before turning to his brother and smirking. "I told you he would return! I told you!"
"It seems you were right… for once."
The sibling glared at the other, slightly indignant, but didn't reply. The black monster hovered in front of the duo and landed, showing his toothy grin.
"GREETINGS, MY LOYAL MINIONS. FINALLY WE MEET AGAIN, AFTER SO MANY YEARS."
"Yes, Milord. Welcome home. We have been waiting for you."
"Yeah! Always waiting for you, Milord!"
"I'M SO GLAD TO BE BACK!"
The black monster looked around him, seeing dark shapes floating around him, and smiled. "AND I SEE THAT YOU HAVE KEPT THIS PLACE IN ORDER."
"Of course! Such an important entity like you can't stay in a dirty and extremely chaotic dimension!"
The other follower rolled his eyes. "Right…" replied the being, crossing his arms. "Milord, may I ask you how you managed to escape from your dimensional prison? Not that I doubted you could, but I'd like to know how you did that."
"OH, THAT WAS EASY."
The black monster waved his hand and a series of cubes and prisms compounded a throne behind him. He then seated down and answered "EVEN IF I WAS RATHER LUCKY, TO BE HONEST. A REALITY PORTAL APPEARED IN THE PROXIMITY OF MY PRISON AND I DISRUPTED THE BALANCE OF THE TUNNEL BY LEAVING A LIVING BEING INSIDE IT. YOU KNOW THE REST."
"Oh. A sacrificial mortal. Very clever, Milord!"
"But what kind of being have you sacrificed, Milord?"
"NOTHING IMPORTANT, ONLY A MERE POWERLESS HUMAN. NOT A BIG DEAL."
"I see. So, Milord… what is our next move?"
"Yeah! Do you have something in mind? Do you want us to wreak some havoc among the mortals? Torture some mortals? Destroy some heroes? Steal tons of candies?"
The black monster and the other follower stared at the creature with an empty expression. "What? I love candies!"
"YOUR PROJECTS ARE REALLY AMBITIOUS, EXCEPT THE LAST ONE, BUT NO. MY PLAN IS SIMPLE YET EFFECTIVE."
"Really? What is it, Milord?"
"YOU HAVE TO GO TO THE VARIOUS WORLDS AND DIMENSIONS AND RECRUIT SOME MORTAL ALLIES. WE'RE GOING TO NEED THEM."
"Allies?" shouted the two brothers at the same time. They looked to each other for a moment, then again at their lord. "But Milord, you have a whole army at your disposal. Why do you want to rely on untrustworthy mortals?"
"Right. Not that I have something against your decision, Milord, but it's quite… strange?"
"I DON'T QUITE LIKE THE IDEA EITHER, BUT THINK ABOUT THAT… WHAT DO HAVE IN COMMON MORTALS LIKE BOWSER OR GANONDORF OR EVEN TABUU?"
"Oh, I know that, I know that!" shouted the being, flailing his arm. "They're... considered villains, right?"
"CORRECT. BUT THEY HAVE SOMETHING ELSE IN COMMON."
"Uh, really? … well, I have no idea."
"… maybe… the fact that they were all defeated by the ones called heroes or good guys?"
"EXACTLY! HEROES…" said venomously the black monster, gritting his fangs and scratching some cubes with his claws.
The three beings fell silent for a while, before one of them spoke. "But I still don't understand, Milord. Why rely on mortals?"
"DURING THE PERIOD IN WHICH I WAS IMPRISONED IN THAT ORRIBLE PRISON I WAS THINKING: WHY WE HAVE LOST AGAINST THOSE TWO HANDS? WE HAD THE POWER AND THE PHYSICAL STRENGHT TO SUCCEED, SO WHY WE HAVE LOST?"
The two subordinates looked at the dark being with quizzical looks, so the latter resumed. "THAT'S BECAUSE WE LACKED ALLIES. THEY RELIED ON THE HELP OF THE GODS AND SOME MORTAL HEROES WHILE WE WERE ALONE AGAINST THEM. AND SO WE HAVE LOST DUE TO NUMERICAL DISADVANTAGE."
"Ehm… correct me if I am wrong, Milord… but Tabuu gathered some enemies of the heroes from different worlds and still he has lost."
"TRUE, BUT THINK CAREFULLY… WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE OF A HERO?"
"Well… I think protecting his or her world from menaces."
"CORRECT. AND IF WE TRY TO ATTACK OR INVADE THEIR WORLDS THEY'LL SURELY RETALIATE. AND IN OUR ACTUAL CONDITION WE WON'T HAVE MUCH CHANCES OF SUCCESS."
"SO THAT'S WHERE THE ALLIES WILL COME IN HANDY. THEY'LL BASICALLY SERVE AS A BAIT, AND WHILE THE HEROES WILL BE OCCUPIED CONFRONTING THEM AND BEING WEAKENED BY THEIR ASSAULTS WE'LL GATHER THE POWER THAT THOSE HANDS STOLE ME. AND WHEN I'LL RECOVER ALL MY ENERGY THERE WON'T BE ANY BEING CAPABLE TO STOP OUR ADVANCE. WE'LL BE UNRELENTING! WAH HA HA HA!"
The siblings were astonished and looked at their master with admiration.
"Whoa, Milord… this… without doubt… sounds like a perfect plan!"
"Yes. And since nobody, except us, is capable to detect our presence or our dimension we won't have any trouble. Hit-and-run… quite easy strategy."
"YES… HOWEVER AS I ALREADY TOLD YOU MY POWER HAS BEEN TAKEN FROM ME AND SHATTERED IN LITTLE BITS, SCATTERED ALL AROUND THE VARIOUS UNIVERSES AND TIMES. I'M STILL NOT ABLE TO DETECT THEIR LOCATIONS, BUT WHEN MY DARK POWER WILL BEGIN SPREADING AROUND THE WORLDS I'LL BE ABLE TO LOCATE THEM. IN THE MEANTIME GATHER AS MANY ALLIES AS YOU CAN, POSSIBLY MORTALS THAT HATE THE SMASHERS' GUTS."
"We won't fail!"
"But first we need a little help. The Hands have blocked a good amount of our powers and we're not able to open portals or use our inner abilities."
"MH… I THINK I CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT…"
The black creature raised his hand and a faint reddish aura appeared around it. Soon after, a similar aura enveloped the siblings and they both felt their powers slowly returning to them. After a while, the aura vanished and the black being smirked.
"DONE! I MANAGED TO UNLOCK A FEW OF YOUR POWERS, INCLUDING THE ABILITY TO OPEN PORTALS. WHEN YOU'LL BRING ME SOME POWER SHARDS I'LL BE ABLE TO UNLOCK MORE SKILLS."
"Understood. Thanks for your gift, Milord."
"Your effort won't be in vain."
"… I'M GLAD TO HEAR THAT. NOW GO AND RETURN VICTORIOUS!"
"Yes, Milord!" said the siblings in unison, bowing to their lord. They then moved to another section of the dimension to let their boss rest peacefully.
"So, brother… do you know where to go?"
"Yes, I've already detected a mortal that could be useful to us. I only need to convince him."
"Oh, yeah, me too! And is going to be fantastic. Eh he he!"
They reached a point and looked at each other.
"Well… see you later, brother!" said the being, opening a purple and yellow portal.
"See you. Good luck, bro!" responded the other, opening an orange and blue portal.
"Good luck to you too!"
And with a last handshake they departed to their respective locations, determined to accomplish their missions.
Unaware of the evil plan concocted by the monster who had abducted her, Juliet walked around the Mansion's outside, enjoying the good weather and whistling.
"Ah, this is another perfect day here at the Smash Mansion. A high sun is illuminating all the area and there is no trace of rabid fan. How can this day be better than that?"
She grinned and looked up, seeing some weird birds flying around. She then looked in front of her and saw the Smash Kids playing hide-and-seek along with the Assist Kids and some Smash and Assist Teens. She considered the idea of joining them, but dismissed it, wanting to stay alone to ponder a little about herself. After sitting down on a bench, she inhaled a good amount of fresh and sweet-scented air and exhaled slowly, her mind filling with drowsiness.
Sheesh, I need some kind of distraction before I get bored and fall asleep. But what can I do?
The human moved her gaze back and forth before her eyes set on two running figures that were approaching her. She looked at them curiously.
Mh… maybe that's the kind of distraction I was looking for… let's see…
"One, two, three. One, two, three. Come on, Olimar! You can be faster than that!"
"Huff… huff… w-wait… wait up, Falcon! I… huff… I don't have long… huff… legs like you!"
"All excuses! You lack exercise! Keep going!"
The two captains were running on a rather bumpy road, full of pits and big rocks. The man in blue had no trouble with the uneven path, his steps agile and fast, but the little astronaut had to jump a lot to keep the other man's pace. His helmet was steamed for the heavy breathing and tried various times to remove the moisture from it, with little success. Five Pikmin were following him loyally, one of each color: red, blue, yellow, purple and white.
"P-please, Falcon! Only a five… huff… minutes break! Please!"
The taller Smasher stopped and looked behind him, waiting for the other fighter. Olimar reached him after a while, his steps shaky and unsteady, and his Pikmin came nearer to him, ready to help him if needed.
"Never… ever… run like that… again!" said the short man to himself, his hands on his knees.
"You need to increase your endurance, Olimar. And you know exactly why…"
The spatial Smasher raised his head and looked at the other with grimace. "Right… for THAT reason… but I'm just too tired to keep going…"
"Well, there is a bench over there. You can seat down and relax a bit if you want."
"D-definitely… I need some rest. Let's go."
The men walked toward the bench while Juliet followed them with her gaze. When they were a few meters far they recognized each other.
"Hey! Hello, Juliet!" greeted Captain Falcon, raising his hand and putting it on his front.
"Hi, Juliet!" saluted Olimar, waving his hand. The Pikmin behind him chirped joyously.
"Yoh! Captain Falcon, Captain Olimar!"
The Smashers came near to her and the astronaut asked "What are you doing here by yourself? Why you're not with the other kids?"
"Mh, I'm not in the right mood for playing. I needed some time to… think, about some things."
"Think? About what?" asked the beige man, sitting beside the girl. His Pikmin followed suit, along with the other captain.
"Well… about all what happened… but mainly about my actual emotional state. I'm feeling so… out of place."
"Oh, you're not the only person to feel out of place. I felt exactly the same when I arrived here at the mansion. It's only a matter of adapting and getting used to all the strangeness of this world. You'll see, in a few days you'll get accustomed to this place and to the residents."
"Are you really sure about that?"
"Of course I am. You don't have to worry. Remember that we're here to help you. If you need help just ask and we'll assist you."
Happy chirps came from the little plant creatures beside the little captain, as if they were confirming what the Smasher had said.
"Well said, Olimar! A Smasher must be ready to help any person in distress!"
"Indeed… as long as he doesn't do more harm than good!"
"What do you mean by that?"
"You know exactly what I mean!"
A heavy silence followed, before Captain Falcon spoke again. "Ah, right. That thing! But it was only an accident! I didn't mean to do that!"
"I know that, but it's better to remind you, just in case!"
Juliet looked at the duo with a puzzled look, not understanding what they were talking about.
"And… what happened exactly?"
Captain Falcon moved rapidly his hands in front of him. "Oh, nothing. Never mind. It's not important!"
Juliet raised an eyebrow, looking a bit skeptical. What was he hiding? Some kind of obscure secret?
"Anyway… do you have some kind of plan for the day?" asked Olimar.
"Nope. But I'd like some kind of distraction that doesn't involve violent activities or childish games."
"Then why don't you come with us? We've planned to go to Smashville for a good walk and we have room for another person."
"It's the name of the city around this mansion. It has all types of activities and shops, and is the place where people from the various worlds gather to exchange products and information."
"Mh… you roused my interest. When are we going?"
"But even now, if you want." responded Captain Falcon.
"Really? Then what are we waiting for? Let's go!" exclaimed Juliet excitedly.
"Eh he he! What enthusiasm! Follow me to the hangar."
And the group stood up and went to the designed place.
A few minutes later…
"So that's the hangar…"
"Yep. Here are guarded all the vehicles of the residents. Be careful to not touch anything or you risk to trigger some anti-theft."
"Ok, Olimar. I'll be careful."
The team was walking through a series of various means of transportation. The girl could see some go-karts, presumably belonging to Mario, Luigi and the Shy Guys; Samus's and Olimar's spaceships; Wario's bike; Fox's, Falco's and Wolf's Landmasters and Arwings; Excitebike's bikes and Infantry and Tanks' tanks (no pun intended); Meta Knight's Halberd; Kirby's Warp Star…
Wow, this space is so big… and how many vehicles! Will I get the chance to ride or even drive one of them someday?
Suddenly Captain Falcon stopped and the others halted behind him. "Here we are. This is one of my most precious treasures: the Blue Falcon 4P! It's similar to the other Blue Falcon, but is suited for more people."
Juliet looked intently at the machine, her eyes shining in amazement. The car-spaceship was glimmering among the other vehicles, its blue and yellow bodywork radiating speed and power and its glass gleaming and clear.
"Impressive, isn't it?" asked Falcon to his team.
"Really impressive, and to think that I'm not a fan of cars or similar!" replied Juliet, nodding.
"Get on board! We're departing immediately!"
"Yes, sir Falcon!"
The party approached the machine and the taller Smasher gestured Juliet to follow him. He opened the front seat, near the one destined to the driver, and motioned her to enter.
"Oh, thank you! What a gentleman!" said the teen, smiling at him. She then entered inside the vehicle and fastened her seatbelt. Olimar and his Pikmin went on the back seats and Captain Falcon seated on the driver's seat.
"So… are you ready to go?"
"You bet I am! Let's go!" answered Juliet, grinning and moving her fists in anticipation.
"But first, Falcon, remember to not go too fast! We're used to the high speed, but I don't think Juliet is physically prepared to withstand that!" advised Olimar, securing the seatbelts of his Pikmin and his own.
"Don't worry, Olimar! I'll go slowly! Promise!" responded the blue captain, giving to the astronaut a thumbs-up.
The Hocotatian (habitant of the planet Hocotate, Olimar's world, in case you didn't know that) nodded and turned to the young human. "Tell me, Juliet. Are you alright in there?"
"Yup, I'm ok!" responded the girl, giving a reassuring smile to her companions.
"Well, if everyone is ready we can go!" exclaimed the F-Zero pilot, starting the machine. The motor roared and the jet engine activated, with blue flames ejecting from it. "Falcon Drive!"
Juliet and Olimar sweatdropped and grew a little worried, while Captain Falcon grasped the steering wheel tightly and pressed on the accelerator.
Suddenly the vehicle sprinted forward and increased steadily in speed. The hangar door opened completely and in a while the car was traveling on a long straight road. The trees and the grass were almost a blur and some people ran away from the rapid machine.
"And that's what you mean for going slowly?" asked the small Smasher to the driver, holding his seatbelt firmly.
"Of course! I'm not even going beyond the 120 miles per hour! Stop worrying too much and enjoy the ride!" responded the driver, glancing for a second at the passengers and grinning.
Juliet gripped the seat, her heartbeat becoming faster and faster for every second passed and her body slightly squashed by the high speed. "Ungh… how… far… is the… city?"
"Mh… if we keep going at this speed we'll arrive in a minute or two."
And in fact, after a minute or two of traveling, some buildings could be seen in the distance. The young human focused her gaze on the faraway palaces, trying to determine their shapes. The vehicle passed a sign with written something, but all she could read was 'Mas Ree'.
"Here we are!" announced Captain Falcon, turning to his team. The passengers nodded slowly and the driver parked on a free slot, surrounded by some blue barriers. "So? That wasn't that bad, right?"
Juliet didn't answer. She kept looking straight, some curly locks covering partially her eyes and her hands clawing the seat. Olimar looked concerned for his Pikmin and after assuring that they were alright turned to the blue man, slightly annoyed.
"Captain Douglas Jay Falcon! That wasn't exactly what I meant for going slowly. You seemed a speed demon!"
"Aww, come on Olimar! I avoided all the pedestrians and stayed under the speed limit!"
"But you forgot that we're carrying delicate Pikmin. And an untrained teenager! You must be more cautious!"
The Smashers looked at the girl. She had still her gaze fixed ahead and rarely winked. The fighters grew a bit nervous… maybe the F-Zero pilot had really exceeded?
"Eh… he he he… he he ha ha ha ha…"
The captains blinked and looked at each other in confusion. Was she… laughing?
"Ah ha ha ha! That… that was… so AWESOME!" exclaimed the teen, raising her fists and grinning.
The Smashers were surprised by her behavior and she looked at them, showing a huge grin.
"Did… did you really enjoy that?" asked the Hocotatian, visibly baffled.
"Oh, yeah! I have already experienced this kind of thrill before. A friend of a friend of a friend of my brother owns a sports car and, even if he bragged a lot about that, he invited us for a drive with him. His car was fast, but it can't be compared with that! That's superfast! And I love that!"
Olimar sighed and crossed his arms, but after a while showed a tiny smile. "Well, I'm glad that you're ok! For a while I thought that you've been traumatized by Falcon's reckless driving…"
"Naah, I'm fine! But thanks for your interest!"
"Now that we got that clear what do you think if we get off that little gem and go to the city?" asked the pilot, glad to have gotten out of trouble.
"Oh, right! Let's go!"
Everybody unfastened their seatbelts and got off the car. They distanced themselves from the vehicle and a blue barrier enclosed the Blue Falcon in a protective cage.
"Mh… that seems like some kind of anti-theft…" said Juliet, readjusting her hair by passing the hands on her head a couple of times.
"Yes. Every single parking space has this type of security. It consists in creating a shield that analyzes the DNA and brain waves of the people that were in the vehicles. If the shield detects wrong DNA or evil intentions it seals completely the car until the original owner comes and unlock it. Only because there are powerful fighters at the mansion doesn't mean that thieveries are null." explained Falcon, checking his car one last time.
"Oh, I see…"
"Smashville!" "Let's go!" "Explore, explore!" cried the Pikmin from behind the teen, jumping and running in erratic ways. A whistle resounded and the plant beings gathered around the astronaut, ready to obey.
"Rosso, Azul, Gelb, Violine, Shiro! Don't scamper in that way! Remember that enemies are hidden everywhere and can come out and eat you if you're not careful!"
The legion of plant creatures looked apologetically and released some cries in understanding. They then started looking around cautiously while staying close to their leader.
"Wow! It's incredible how you managed to get on the ball in a flash!" said Juliet, impressed by the spatial man's performance.
"Thanks! If you can't keep them in control they can easily meet their ends! They're quite simple creatures and even if they are capable to recognize danger they're not too bright when they have to take a decision. But they are really loyal and obedient."
"Oh. And I see that you gave them names…"
"Yes. I grow very fond of these creatures and I tend to give them names. Rosso is the Red Pikmin, Azul is the Blue one, Gelb is the Yellow buddy, Violine is the Purple Pikmin and lastly Shiro is the White one."
"Very original names!"
The teen and the captain smiled at each other, before hearing Falcon calling them. They immediately rushed to his side and entered in the city.
Amazed brown eyes darted back and forth, gathering as much information as they could. Juliet and her team were walking on some kind of country path, with houses and vegetations coexisting in harmony. It resembled a lot the jogging path of Wii Fit, as in the distance she could also see some windmills and a tall clock tower. People of any kind and species could be seen there and among them she recognized some Miis walking with their Nintendogs or jogging, various different colored Koopas and Bob-ombs, several humans accompanied by Pokémon, presumably Pokémon Trainers, and a good number of two-dimensional NES characters, like the Balloon Fighters and the ducks from Duck Hunt. Her eyes then focused on a sign and she approached it.
"Yes. That's Smash Street, the main road of Smashville!"
The girl turned to Captain Falcon and he continued "It's connected to all the other roads of the city and it's the only road that lead to the Smash Mansion."
"Ah, interesting. And what kinds of attractions or activities are present here?"
"Well, there are parks, paths where you can walk and jog, various herbalists' shops, interplanetary restaurants and gyms and mini-games corners! But the main attraction is without doubt the Crossroads Clock Tower: it's said that if people from different places gather on the top of the tower when the last beam of sunlight hit the campanile's bell, their lives will be connected and they will be able to meet each other again someday, no matter the space or time."
"Wow, fascinating legend!
She looked at the far clock tower. Its bronze and crystal pillars were glimmering with different colors, illuminating the city with its light and towering above the built-up area. "If that's true, I want to climb that tower and try it out!"
"Ah, we won't stop you! But first you need to find someone special to you. I don't think you want to be connected with some guy like Wario or similar…"
"Heck, no!" replied the teen, looking at the tall man with horrified eyes. "Absolutely no! I have nothing against him, but connect… HIM…" she shuddered at the thought and rapidly shook her head. "Urgh! No thanks, no thanks!"
The two Smashers looked at the young human with amused gazes, mentally snickering after her reaction. "Ah ha ha ha! Relax, Juliet! I was only joking!"
"I thought so…" said the girl, rolling her eyes. "But yeah, I'll find someone to bond with. I just have to search, right?"
"Right!" responded Olimar, nodding at the teen.
After a while, the group reached a big round plaza with an immense fountain in the middle and various roads connected to it. There were various benches and vending machines, along with various baskets for separate refuse collecting. The majestic Crossroads Clock Tower seemed even more imposing up close. Juliet had to put her right hand on her front and partially cover her eyes in order to block a good amount of reflected light and try to see the top of the building.
Whoa… that's without doubt one of the most impressive towers I have ever seen! It's like a more extravagant version of the Big Ben.
"What are you going to show me, my guides? How are you going to impress me?" asked the girl to her teammates, averting her gaze from the lofty steeple.
"Beach!" "Sun!" "Sand!" squealed the Pikmin behind Olimar.
"I think they already gave you the answer!" responded the little astronaut, amused by his followers' enthusiasm.
"What? This city has a beach? Heck, why didn't you say that earlier? I love beach!" replied the teen, stamping her right foot happily.
"Really? Come on, then! Follow me!" said Falcon, before running away.
"H-hey, wait up!" shouted the Hocotatian, but the other captain seemed to not hear him. The astronaut sighed and gestured his Pikmin and the girl to follow him. The group started running after the man in blue and went through a sandy and rocky path, with palms and tropical plants placed on the sites of the road.
"Huff… always running away! Gosh, that man really can't live without… huff… racing!" muttered Olimar.
"Well… huff… he's a famous pilot in his world and… huff… he raced for almost all his life! I know that he is… huff… also a renowned bounty hunter, but I think that… huff… speed is his life!" replied Juliet.
"Yeah, maybe you're… huff… right! But he must understand that not all people… huff… love running and racing like him!"
"I only hope that… huff… the beach isn't too far…"
Some minutes of following later…
"Huff, huff, huff… gasp! I've never… huff, huff… run like that in my whole fifteen-year-old life! Gasp!"
"Y-yeah… huff, huff… and we lost sight of Falcon! Umpf!"
"What's the name of this… huff… place?"
"Uhm… that's the Choconut Beach, if I recall right…"
"Choco… nut… beach…"
The girl looked around the place, while constantly breathing great quantities of marine air. She saw various seagulls, water-flying Pokémon, jumping dolphins with goggles, Bloopers and several other marine creatures. She could also see Piantas, Tanookis, Sea Zoras and some Waddle Dees with their parasols. Most of them were playing some beach games like beach volley, marbles games and were even building sand castles, while some other were dancing the hula or strumming guitars and banjos and similar. On the distance she could also see various boats and ships moored to the dock, with a high lighthouse towering them.
"Ok… now, how are we going to find that impatient speed-lover?"
Olimar crossed his arms and thought for a while, before answering "Maybe I know where we can find him…"
The spatial Smasher restarted walking and the plant creatures and the teen went after him. Azul tried several times to enter in the water, but the beige man wouldn't let him. He feared for the little creature's safety and always kept an eye on him. The others didn't give him many problems, mainly because they couldn't swim.
After a couple of minutes, the group found the F-Zero pilot sitting nearby a bar, drinking some kind of transparent liquid and talking to a sort of red otter, who was wearing a scallop around his neck, a beige beanie hat and blue dungarees.
"Ah, here he is!" exclaimed Olimar, pointing toward his fellow Smasher.
"Oh, you found him!" replied the teen, looking a bit surprised. "How did you know that he was here?"
"Almost every time we come here at the beach we drink something at "Starsmash Café", so I thought we could find him here. And I was right!"
The blue man noticed the group and waved his arm, as for asking to approach him.
"We'd better go and hear what he has to say."
The Hocotatian whistled once to recall Azul and to gather all his little friends and walked toward his fellow Smasher. Juliet followed them closely, raising her head and letting the sea breeze caress her face and blow on her hair.
Too bad I didn't bring my swimsuit! I would have liked a good swim…
"Hey, you're finally here! Why did you take too long?"
"Falcon, not everybody here is as fast as you! Who did you think we were? Sonic?"
"Aww, don't be mad Olimar! At least you have got some exercise!"
The mentioned person shook his head exasperatedly. "Ahh, you never change, Falcon! You never change!"
Juliet listened attentively at the heroes' dialog and snickered. She found amusing seeing somebody as small as Olimar scolding someone as big as Falcon.
"Even during the Subspace Emissary Events you were always running and punching and kicking and everything! You should slow down once in a while to let more leisurely people follow you!"
"Maaan, the dude with the cosmic suit has a point. Even if you go as fast as lightning the world keeps going at its usual speed. It's pointless going fast when you can reach the goal by going slowly."
Everybody turned to the voice. The red otter was drinking a glass of sparkling water, while looking intently at the party.
"Always talking your illogical philosophy, Pascal?" inquired the blue captain.
"I'm only feeding knowledge. It's up to you to make it bloom and spread." Pascal then started polishing some seashells gathered during the day, whistling an "Animal-crossish" tune.
"Whatever…" the F-Zero hero turned to his companions. "Anyway, sorry if I didn't wait for you! To atone for my rash behavior, I'll offer you something to drink. What do you think?"
"Sounds fair to me. At least in that way we'll reintegrate some of the mineral salts lost during our run. What's your opinion, Olimar?" said the young human, smiling at the small astronaut.
"Mh, that's fine! At least is something…"
They both seated down and turned to the counter. The Pikmin surrounded their leader's chair and seated on the sand, raising little clouds of dust, before playing joyously with the gravel. The Pianta barman looked at the group and asked "What would you like to drink?"
"I'll take a Hoco-hoco Juice, please."
"For me a Virgin colada, s'il vous plaît."
"Ok, coming soon!" replied the plant-man, before gathering the utensils to prepare the drinks.
Juliet started looking around curiously, amazed by the amount of people from different planets and dimensions gathered in a single world and coexisting without any problem.
Wow, the Smash Kids were right. This place is like a sort of Babylonia! But I wonder… how can they communicate with each other so easily? Universal language? A gigantic translator? Incomprehensible "game logic"? ...maybe the last one!
"Here you are!" said the barman, handing the drinks.
"Oh, thank you!" responded Juliet, taking her frosty and frothy yellow liquid from the bar owner, while the beige man took his drink and thanked the barman. The Hoco-hoco Juice was a strange green and orange fluid, which smelled of tropical fruits.
"Sniff, sniff… hmmm, that drink seems good. Is that a specialty of your world?"
"Yup. Louie obtained it by mixing some fruits gathered during our trip in the Pikmin Planet. It's made of Cupid's Grenades, Disguised Delicacies, Seeds of Greed and a peculiar powder of my world. It became so popular that even people from other worlds wanted to taste it."
"Mh… so is basically made of cherries, kiwis, chestnuts and a strange powder, right?"
"Well… yes. But I suggest you to not try that. It can be poisonous for some species, especially for the oxygen-breathing ones."
"U-uh, I see… but how are you going to drink it with your helmet up?"
"I have my ways."
The Smasher extracted a strange round ring and applied it in front of his mouth. After that he picked up his drink, pulled the straw toward his mouth and the plastic tube magically went through the helmet's glass, without breaking it. The Hocotatian took a sip of his beverage and looked at the young lady. "See?"
"Oh, yeah! Wow, it's so cool! It's like a sort of portable hole!" replied the teen, looking at him with surprised eyes.
"Yep, more or less! It isolate the oxygen, which is toxic for me, from the atmosphere, allowing me to drink and eat without troubles. It's a vital thing for me."
"I guess…" responded the girl, drinking and savoring her nonalcoholic cocktail. It reminded her the moments she had with her little brother and her parents during a trip on a tropical island. She was very young and couldn't remind many details like the island's name or for how much time she stayed there, but remembered very well her first pineapple juice and the sweet mango's aroma which constantly tickled her smell. Ah, good times…
It's always good to remind the past, if it helps in shaping the future…
The teen started looking around frantically, trying to locate the source of the voice.
Again that creepy scary voice… what the heck is going on?
"Juliet? What is it? Is there something wrong?" asked Olimar, visibly puzzled.
"Mh? Oh, no! Everything is ok!"
"…are you sure?"
"Yup! No need to worry! I thought I heard someone, but it seems I was wrong!"
"Well, I didn't hear anything. Falcon?"
"Nope, neither I did!" replied the other captain.
"I was wrong then…" said Juliet, shrugging and drinking the last sip of her beverage.
But one day I'll discover what that voice is. I have the feeling that is very important!
"Aaanyway… what is the next stage of our tour?"
"Mh… I'd suggest the Shoso District. I think you're going to like it!"
"Oh, sure! And I'll take this chance to buy some things for my children and for Louie!"
"Shoso District? Ok, then! Let's go!"
She pointed her finger to the blue captain, before adding "Slower, this time!"
"Roger that!" replied the pilot, smiling. He took out some shining coins from his pocket, counted them and handed them to the barman, while Olimar gathered his Pikmin around him and ordered them to follow him. "Here you are, Perry: nine Smash Coins."
"Thank you so much! Hope to see you again!"
"Indeed! Goodbye, Perry! Goodbye, Pascal!"
"Bye bye, man! And you dudes, try to keep this man's temper under control." said the red otter, glancing briefly at the tall captain, before resuming his shells' polishing.
"Ahahah! Ok, we'll try our best!" responded Juliet, smirking at the blue captain. "Well, thanks for the drinks! See ya!"
"Yeah, thank you!" added Olimar.
"You're welcome! Bye!" saluted the Pianta, before turning to other customers.
The group resumed their tour (slower this time!), going through another sandy path, with several cocoa trees and coconut palms at the sides.
Now I see why it's called Choconut Beach…
The girl turned one last time toward the beach, enjoying the last breeze of fresh air, before following her team on a cemented track.
Crowd. Traffic. Noises. Lights. Shops. Boutiques. Ateliers. That essentially was the Shoso District. "The place where shopping and souvenirs are a must", as said on a sign.
Juliet felt a bit nervous staying among so many people, but the shop windows and what they were showing were enough to keep the girl's mind distracted. She was astonished by the variety of products sold in one single place, all of them coming from different worlds and times.
"Whoa! This district resembles a lot a metropolis!"
"Yeah! In the Shoso District is concentrated the majority of the businesses of the city. If you're looking for something, you can be sure to find whatever you're searching here."
"Oh… ok! But Falcon, how do you know all those info about the city?"
"I participated at every single tournament held in this world, along with Mario, Luigi, Link, Kirby, Fox, Samus, Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Ness, Donkey Kong and Yoshi, and we all saw this city lay the groundwork and grow big and important. It's like a second home for us Smashers."
"Mh, I didn't know you could be so poetic! You impress me!"
"I'm a man full of resources, you know!"
The teen laughed briefly and grinned at him. "Ah, really? Well, I'm not questioning that!"
She paused for a moment, before asking "Ehm… exactly, where are we going?"
"Well… what about the Banette's Toy Box? It's the nearer place and I'll take this chance to find some gifts for my kids!"
"Sounds good to me."
"But not to me! What will people think if they find me inside a toys' shop?"
"Maybe… that you have a soft side, Falcon?" replied the teen, smirking at the tall man.
"…I don't think so…"
"You're free to go around alone, if you want. Suit yourself! If you think that going in a toy shop isn't manly enough…"
"Agh, fine! I'll come! But hurry on, ok?"
"Ok!" responded his companions, smiling and nodding. Then the group went through an isolated street and found the shop immediately. The girl looked intently at the decorations: they had mostly dark colors and Jack-o'-lanterns with blue flames burning inside them, but the sight wasn't scary at all. The pumpkins had broad cheery smiles and the toys inside the shop seemed innocent enough.
"Weird way to decorate a shop… are we at Halloween, by chance?"
"Naah, it's only the owner that is a bit eccentric. But don't let her habits and aspect deceive you. She's a rather cool person."
Juliet just shrugged. "If you say so…"
The two Smashers and the Pikmin entered inside the store, with Juliet following them closely. The place was quite big, with baskets full of stuffed toys and various characters' trophies, board games and mechanical playthings placed on the shelves. The group came face to face with a young woman, who was wearing a large purple witch hat, a long black and purple dress and a necklace with a small crystal ball hung in it. She had brown eyes and hair, both of them with a faint shade of red, and some magenta sparkles floating around her.
Beside her stood a strange dark gray creature, with a big head equipped with a long zigzag ribbon hanging down from the rear and three spikes on the top. It had long arms and short legs, and a bushy yellow tail. Its eyes had an odd azure shade and its mouth resembled a lot a zipper. Around its neck had a little golden pendant with something written: Pinocchio. Was that its name?
Mh? Is that a… Banette? One of those Ghost-type Pokémon that are said to hunt their careless owners and lay powerful curses? What the heck is it doing in a shop for kids?
"Oh, hello dears! Welcome to my humble shop!" greeted the woman, showing her snow-white smile to the group, while the Banette waved its arms and looked at the party with joyous eyes. Juliet looked oddly at it, but after a while returned the greeting with a little smile.
"Good morning!" "Good day!" greeted back Olimar and Falcon, bowing slightly. The Pikmin squealed and jumped happily, with the ghost staring at them curiously.
"Please, go ahead! You're free to wander around my shop as long as you want!"
The captains led the way, while the Pikmin and the teen followed them.
"Treat all the toys here with respect… or else…"
The adolescent whirled around to meet the Pokémon's stare. "Did… you say something?"
"Nope. Have a nice stay, girl!" responded it, looking at the young human with an innocent gaze.
"Thanks…" responded Juliet, a bit of nervousness present in her voice. The lassie rapidly rejoined her companions and looked around her curiously.
Tons, tons, tons of toys! So many toys! They're making me feel younger! Eh he he!
"So, Olimar… what are you looking for?"
"Well… I don't know. I want to find something interesting and memorable. But I really have no idea of what to buy!"
"Do you want me to help you?"
"Oh, I'd really appreciate that!"
The young human smiled at the Smasher and started scrutinizing the toys. "Ok, let's see what we have here…"
Her gaze moved quickly over the items, trying to find something that Olimar would like. She glanced for a moment at the tall man behind her, seeing a very bored look in his features.
"Falcon, why don't you help us in finding some cool toys? The more the merrier!"
"I'm not much interested in those things. I have other issues in my mind."
"Nothing of your concern."
Juliet looked at the Smash Brother with a slightly annoyed look, but before she had a chance to say something Olimar tapped her leg, obtaining her attention.
"What do you think about this? Do you think is this the perfect gift for my daughter?"
The girl looked intently at the item in the astronaut's hands and her eyes widened slightly.
"Awww, that's so cuuute!" said the teen, her eyes sparkling and her hands joined together near her head.
What the fighter was holding was a Toon Link's stuffed doll with a string behind his back, which the girl thought allowed the toy to reproduce some prerecorded tracks. It was of high quality: it almost seemed to have life in it.
"It's so kawaii!"
"You believe so? Or maybe I should buy some other doll?"
She followed the Smasher's gaze and her eyes sparkled even more. There were dolls representing all the Smashers, the Assists, the Field Characters and even the Items.
She wanted to play the giddy goat and try to make some plush fights between the toys, but managed to maintain her self-control and push all her girly and childish thoughts deep into her mind. But how she wished to…
No, Juliet! Think clearly! What will they think if I act like a baby? Focus!
"Well, they are all good toys, all of them very well made!"
"Sigh! That's why I can't decide, they are all too good!"
"Ah, you're spoiled for choice, that's for sure!" replied the girl, grinning at the astronaut. "But maybe I know what you could buy…"
The teen approached the shelf and hummed to herself, before grabbing a pink box with two dolls of Peach and Zelda, accompanied by a crown with various holes and fake precious glimmering stones and jewelry.
If I recall right, Olimar's daughter loves jewelry. So…
"What do you think about this set? A lot of girls love princesses and gemstones (with me being one rare exception!). Maybe she might like this."
The astronaut took the package from the teen's hands and scrutinized it. He thought for a while, before nodding.
"That's perfect! My daughter really loves jewelry! Thanks, Juliet!"
"You're very welcome!" replied the girl, showing her white toothy smile.
Phew, I remembered right. Thank you so much, videogames makers!
"Now let's go and find some gift for my son!"
"And then we'll get out of here, right?" asked Falcon.
"Sure! We're not staying here all day, aren't we?"
"I hope not!"
Juliet laughed for a moment, before asking "What? Are you afraid to have your image destroyed by staying in a shop for kids?"
"Of course not!"
Ah, but I think that he's afraid of that! I can already imagine the title… the great Captain Falcon frequents a toy shop: from the racing cars to the radio-controlled machines. That's quite a feat!
Juliet giggled at her thought.
"Why are you laughing?"
"Oh, for nothing! You made remember a funny fact. It's not important! But now we'd better resume our tour, don't you think?"
"Right! Let's go!" replied Falcon, taking the lead. Juliet, Olimar and the Pikmin followed him. The group left the stuffed toys' aisle and went toward another zone. There were mostly sets of buildings blocks, electronic devices and items for the outdoor life.
"Here we are!" said Olimar, motioning his Pikmin to stay close to him.
"Ahh, great! Let's find that gift!" responded Juliet, slightly less enthusiastic and confident than before.
A gift for Olimar's son… that's great, I don't know anything about him! I only know that he really admires his father! Mh… what can I do? …let's see… if I were my bro, what would I pick?
Both the human and the hero were so focused on their search that they didn't notice Falcon moving to another side of the aisle. The man in blue has his gaze fixed on a little toy car displayed in a little rectangular glass case. It was mainly red and blue with white stripes and stars coursing through it.
The Smash Bro was staring the object, memories filling his mind and nostalgic thoughts swirling the little machine.
"Hey, Falcon! What are you looking at?"
The pilot gave a startled jump and turned to see the young girl, who was standing beside him and looking at him curiously.
"You're lying. Come on, you kept staring at it with a certain interest. What does it have so special?" replied Juliet, trying to give a sort of reassuring smile to the man and to obtain some interesting answer.
"Well, it's a long story… and weren't you helping Olimar, a while ago?"
"Yeah, I was. But eh, it seems that I'm not too good in choosing toys for boys. What can I say? Anyway, don't try to get rid of me! Tell me why that car interests you so much!"
"Uhm… it's not very important…"
"Then I see no reason to hide that information! Come on, please!"
She started to make puppy eyes, while tilting her head cutely and holding her hands together like in a prayer. Falcon tried to resist the hypnotic charm of the younger human, but at last he gave up.
"Ah, fine. I'll tell you if you stop doing that!"
Juliet smirked and reassumed her normal attitude. "Ok! Go ahead!"
The blue man sighed and turned his gaze to the toy. "You see… I wasn't always the fast competitor that you see in front of you. When I was younger I was one of the slowest people among my friends."
"Really?" asked Juliet, surprised by such news.
"Yes. Some guys would often pick on me because of my slowness, always calling me Slowglas, Captain Sluggish or similar. There was a point that I didn't want to go outside to not meet those bullies."
Falcon glanced at the teen beside him and saw that she was looking at him empathetically, before resuming "But then… I met it… the Great Eagle."
"Uh… that car?" enquired the brunette, pointing to the model car.
"Yeah, but not the toy. The real deal. It was so... amazing… and speedy… and shining…"
The captain nodded to himself, reminiscences returning in his mind. "…and the pilot… he became like an idol to me. I saw how he was admired and praised for his talent. That's why… I wanted to become a F-Zero racer."
"Oh, I see. You wanted to emulate him, and maybe become as famous as him."
"Yeah, that was my dream."
"Well, you accomplished it. How did you do that?"
"I started training. Hard. Very hard. In order to be a F-Zero racer you must have a great figure and resistance, and I wanted to be the very best. And after various months, my speed and strength increased considerably and nobody picked on me again. And later, I became a famous officer on the Internova Police Force and an admirable pilot."
"Oh, what a sweet story!" said Juliet, smiling sweetly at the Smasher. "That's the proof that by working hard you can obtain what you want."
"Since we're talking about the past, can you tell me something about that acc…"
"Forget it, I've already told you enough!" responded quickly the blue man.
"It was worth a shot…" replied the teen, rather disappointed.
Olimar approached the duo accompanied by his Pikmin and looked at the couple with a content look.
"So… have you socialized enough?"
The humans turned to the Hocotatian and Juliet smiled.
"I guess so. At least I discovered something about Falcon's backstory." responded the girl, glancing for a moment at the mentioned person, who simply nodded, before looking again at the little man. "And you? Have you found something for your son?"
"Yes. I found this ball that change color every time it's hit." said Olimar, showing a sort of transparent soccer ball with an internal sphere full of a strange blue liquid.
"Uh, really? Can I try it?" asked eagerly the teen, looking at him with a pleading gaze.
"Eh he he, sure! Just don't break it, ok?"
The adolescent grabbed the ball from Olimar's hand and started dribbling it with her hand. For every bounce on the floor the ball changed color: BONG, green… BONG, yellow… BONG, orange… BONG, red… BONG, pink… BONG, purple… BONG, black…
She then grabbed the ball with both hands, making it return to its original color, and gave back the item to the spatial man.
"Well, that's an amazing little item!"
"Yep, I think my boy is going to like it! He really loves sport!"
"Oh, yeah? Interesting…"
"That mean that we're going outside, right?"
"Yes, Falcon! I'm done!"
"Uff, finally! Let's go!"
And with that the group left the aisle behind and went toward the counter with the witch and the Banette.
"So? Have you found what you were looking for?" asked the purple woman, her smile as shining as the sun.
"Yep! Two fantastic presents for my children!"
"Wonderful! Please, can you pass me the products for a little while?"
Olimar nodded and gave the items to the woman. She passed the objects on a scanner and returned the toys to the astronaut.
"Jewel Kit plus Chameleon Ball… all together that comes to twenty Smash Coins."
Olimar nodded again and extracted the money from a pocket present in his suit. Juliet looked intently at the gleaming coins given to the shop owner, before turning to the F-Zero hero.
"Hey, Falcon! Stupid question: can you tell me how do you earn Smash Coins?"
"Well, we earn money mostly through our sponsors. They give to the fighters a little contribution for just attending the tournament and for the services and entertainment that we offer to their customers. And whenever we fight on a Brawl we receive a compensation depending of our results and our performance: the higher we get and the better our performance is, the more we earn."
"Interesting… and how much do you gain, more or less?"
"Depends. Usually Smashers gain twenty Smash Coins per week, the Assists fifteen and the Field Characters ten. I don't know how much money staff members like Brewster gain, but I heard that they are very well paid."
"Uh, surely this seems a good business."
"You bet it is. You have no idea how much money those sponsors gain thanks to us. Thousands and thousands of Smash Coins!"
"Gosh, really? I wonder why…" said the young lady with a bit of sarcasm in her tone.
"Ok, guys… let's go?"
The humans looked at the Hocotatian and nodded. The group greeted the shopkeeper and her Pokémon and exited the little shop.
"Now, I just need a gift for Louie…"
"Do you already know what to buy?" asked Juliet, glancing at the shop windows with amazed eyes.
"Yes, I have a clear head of what I want to buy."
"Good. So where are we heading?"
"We're going to the bookstore. It's at only a couple of meters from here."
And in fact, the party reached the shop in a few seconds. Olimar entered in the shop together with his Pikmin, while the pilot and the teenager preferred to stay outside. Juliet offered the astronaut to hold the presents for him and he gladly accepted.
"Mh, I wonder what Olimar is going to buy…"
"He said that he wants to buy a gift for Louie. So… maybe he's going to buy a cookbook."
"What makes you think so?"
"Well, if I recall right, Louie loves cooking. I think a cookbook is the most appropriate gift for him."
Falcon stared at the teen for a while, before saying "Umpf, it seems that Doctor Mario was right. You really have an incredible knowledge of all of us."
"Yeah… ungh, I'm starting to wonder if this is a good thing… I don't want to create enemies!" said the teen, looking a bit concerned.
"As long as you don't use your knowledge for dastardly plans, blackmail or personal profit I don't think that having a great knowledge is a bad thing. Just look at Zelda: she has an amazing knowledge and she doesn't abuse it. She use her wisdom only for good deeds and to give advices to the ones who need them."
"Glad to hear that…" responded Juliet, relieved by the man's words.
After a while Olimar exited from the shop with a book. To be exact, a cookbook.
"Hey, guys! What did I miss?"
"Oh, nothing interesting. We were talking about this and that. Out of curiosity, what did you buy?"
"Mh, "1000 and more recipes from all the cosmos". Louie really love cooking and with this he can experiment more and more recipes. I think he's going to like it!"
Juliet looked at the blue man with a "told you" look, leaving the hero slightly baffled.
"Well, if we are done shopping we can move to another part of the city. Were are we going now?" asked the teen, enthusiasm overflowing and feet stamping.
Olimar and Falcon looked at each other for a second, before looking again at the young human.
"I think I know where we can go…"
The brunette had ever mouth wide open, surprised by the scenario in front of her: there were high black skyscrapers covered by blue and white shining lines, so high that made the girl feel dizzy. She shook her head and kept her gaze to a even level, concentrating her look only on the shops present here. She saw several fast-foods and delicatessen stores, along with some bright electronic signs and entertainment areas. In the distance she could also see various penny arcades and some people dancing on the street (street dancing, perhaps?).
"Surprised, Juliet?" asked the beige Smasher, amused by the teen's expression.
"Yep, truly surprised! Wow, everything is so sparkling here! What's the name of this street?"
"Mh… Pork-O-Belly Road."
Juliet snorted, then giggled, then covered her mouth, then burst out laughing.
"P-Pork… O-Belly… Road? Ah ha ha, what kind of name is that?"
"Well, there is a reason of why is called that way. As you can see this road is full of shops that sell junk food and caloric stuff. And so they decided to attribute the name to the lifestyle present here."
"Mh, that kinda makes sense!"
She stopped laughing and looked around her. "This seems like an opposite to Smash Street. While this place is technological and focuses on unhealthy food and activities, the other place focuses more in harmony with nature and fitness. That's quite an interesting contrast!"
"Uhm, you're right!"
"And tell me… what else is possible to find here?"
"Well, here you can find also a cinema and a theater, although the latter is almost unused. But once in a while, they play wonderful musicals and shows." responded Falcon.
The group passed by various stores when they heard a male voice. "Hey, señores! Over here!"
The party turned to the voice and the two captains smiled and greeted back. Juliet looked at the interlocutor with interest. He was a character she had never seen before: he was a rather tall tan young boy with black hair and green eyes. He was wearing a poncho with a military pattern, a yellow bandanna with depicted a flame around his head and a golden necklace dangling from his, well, neck!
Who's that guy? I've never seen him before! And that look is quite odd! Who is he?
"Fuego Estallido! Nice to meet you, buddy!" saluted Falcon, putting his hand on his front.
"Nice to meet you too! What are you doing here? Are you looking for some weapons?"
"Oh, no! We're only accompanying this girl around the city. She's a foreigner and doesn't know almost anything about this world."
The strange character turned to the young lady, took her hand and kissed it like a gentleman. "Encantado de conocerla, señorita! (Pleased to meet you, milady!)"
Juliet blushed for a moment, surprised by his chivalry, before doing a little bow with her head. "It's a pleasure to meet you too!"
"What's your name?"
"Ehm… I'm Juliet."
"My name is Fuego, as you have already heard. I own this shop together with my father. We sell weapons and Power-ups."
"Yes. He's the one who provides all the weaponry at the Smash Mansion." said Falcon.
"Yup! I'm also a good mechanic and weapon builder and inventor." responded Fuego, proud of himself.
"So, guys, how is the life at the Mansion?"
"Bah, ever since Master Hand left everything is more chaotic and disorganized! Crazy keeps creating a mess while TEC has to always keep an eye on him. Luckily every time they broadcast that stupid soap opera about mushroomy people he becomes much quieter and we can truly relax!" responded Falcon.
"Ahah, Crazy is unique in his unique way! He's such a character!"
"Yeah, but if he had a bit more of self-control life would be much easier!"
"Come on, he doesn't seem that bad!"
"Juliet, you have only seen the tip of the iceberg! You have yet to see how Crazy truly is."
"Gulp! Now you're scaring me!"
"Don't worry, we won't let you in his clutches. We don't want you to get hurt. Only do as we say and you won't have any problem, ok?" said Olimar with a very reassuring voice, patting the girl's leg. She turned to him and smiled, glad to have some support.
"Ah, so you live at the Mansion… with the Smash Brothers. Man, you're such a lucky girl!"
"Yeah, I consider myself lucky in a sense."
"Tell me one thing, Fuego. How are things going with Lily?" asked the blue man.
The dark boy sighed and responded "Uff, all things are going bad! She doesn't even seem interested in me! To the contrary, she seems to avoid me!"
"Eh, Mercury and Venus Psyenergy Adepts can be very hard to deal with. They can be as moody as water and as firm as stones."
"Yeah! And since I can manipulate fire, electricity and wind like a Mars and Jupiter Adept she is repelled by me! Sigh, why is it so hard?"
Psyenergy? Wait… that's the type of magic present in Golden Sun! Wooh… so Lily seems a Golden Sun character. Mh, interesting…
"Ehm, well… plants and fire, land and wind, water and electricity… they don't go too well together! Maybe that's why is difficult for you."
"I know that, Juliet… but the heart wants what it wants."
"That's true. And the opposites attract. Well, that's… interesting. Maybe you have half a chance!"
"Anyway, don't worry too much! You're both still very young and maybe in the future she'll change perspective about you and your tribe. Just give her time!" said Olimar.
"I hope so…"
"Fuego! More working, less yapping! Time is money, ya know!" yelled a very annoyed voice.
The boy groaned and yelled back. "Yes, Papa! I'm working, I'm working!"
"He's still making you work hard without giving you a break, uh?" asked the blue captain.
Fuego snorted and responded "Ah, you have no idea! I know that weapons and Power-ups are a big business, but still…"
He huffed and crossed his arms, before resuming. "Well, we'd better stop chatting or Papa will give me a lecture later. Sorry, guys!"
"It's ok, Fuego! Remember to not give up! Sooner or later she'll notice you!"
"De acuerdo, Falcon! (Ok, Falcon!)"
"But don't oppress her or she'll back off even more!" advised Juliet in a very serious tone.
"I'll keep that in mind."
"And always be nice to her. Maybe in that way she'll become more willing to interact with you." added Olimar, smiling at the lad.
"Well, we'll leave you to your work. Goodbye, Fuego!" "Bye! It was a pleasure to meet ya!" "See you soon!"
"Bye bye! Thanks for the tips!"
And with that the group left the shop behind and continued the tour. Juliet kept looking everywhere, observing everything with genuine interest, when the captains and the Pikmin came to a halt. Juliet stopped just in time to avoid a collision with them.
"Err, Falcon, maybe is better to not go that way. You know what there is ahead…"
"Mh, right! We'd better take the other road. It's longer, but at least is safer."
"Why? What's ahead?"
Olimar looked at the girl. "Over here there is a very dangerous zone of the city: the Duskdawn Lane. It's a very perilous road full of darkness, thieves and night clubs. A paradise for the dark creatures like the Boos, but a very dangerous track for anyone else."
"So even this city has a dark side."
"Yes. I hope you don't want to go through it…"
"Of course not! I'm a little curious, but not reckless! I don't want to enter in the cage of the lions without a reason!"
She looked ahead and saw a sort of entrance shrouded by a dark energy, which resembled a huge wildfire. Even the light of the Crossroads Clock Tower couldn't dissipate that veil of darkness and coldness, that somehow made the girl shiver.
"Uh, l-let's take the other road, please! The only sight of the entrance of that road is creeping me out!"
The captains nodded and motioned her to follow them through another branch of Pork-O-Belly Road. The girl had a chance to see the cinema and the theater from the outside. She was strangely attracted by the latter, as if a mysterious force was trying to reach her, but before she had a chance to enter in the building her guides called her and she quickly rejoined them.
Whoa, that was weird. What happened?
"So, Juliet? Have you enjoyed the tour?"
She looked at the astronaut and nodded. "Oh, yeah! I really liked it! Eh! But I suppose that we haven't explored all the city, right?"
"Your supposition is correct. We explored the most attractive parts of the city, but there is still more to see."
"I can imagine, this place is really big! Is much, much bigger than my own town! I can't wait to explore the rest!"
Suddenly, the Pikmin stopped and looked around them, waving their leaves and buds in expectation. Their leader noticed that and immediately gasped.
"You'd better run while you can, Olimar! I think she's coming!"
"She?" asked Juliet, confused by this sudden turn of events.
The spatial man nodded and started running, but… a candid blur pounced the astronaut at blazingly fast speed, making both of them fall on the ground.
Juliet tensed in surprise and scrutinized the aggressor who was standing on the Smasher, trying to determine what was that, while Falcon, who was behind her, started snickering.
The short man was pinned to the ground by a hairy, white little creature. It has a yellow mane around the neck, orange bat wings and a sort of antenna on its head, equipped with a fluffy yellow pompom on the tip. It has also big catlike ears, a big pink nose and half-closed eyes.
What the… a Moogle?
"Oh, Olly! You're here, you're here, kupo!"
"Me… guri! Get off of me!"
"I missed you so much! Where were you, you mischievous rascal?"
"Err… at the Mansion, where else?"
"Really? But I couldn't find you anywhere yesterday!"
"And you wonder why?"
The Moogle smirked. "Oh, I see. You were playing hide-and-seek with me, kupo? Too bad I didn't find you…"
"Luckily you didn't find me…" muttered lowly the Smasher, low enough so that the Moogle couldn't hear him.
The white creature wrapped her paws around the Smasher's chest and squeezed him tightly. As a result Olimar began to squirm and wriggle to free himself, without success.
"Aaaah, let me go, let me go!"
"Olly! Kupo!" said the white creature with a sweet voice, while a little heart appeared over her head.
Juliet started giggling while Falcon was laughing very hard. Olimar looked at them with pleading eyes.
"Would you two… urgh… help me pull her away from me, please?"
"But why? You are so sweet together! I don't want to ruin such a wonderful moment!" retorted the taller man between his laughter.
Olimar glared at him. "Falcon!"
"Maybe we'd better help him, don't you think?" asked Juliet, barely choking her laughter.
"Yeah… too bad, is really fun!"
The brunette approached the duo of little characters and asked in a very friendly voice "Excuse me, would you leave my friend go, please?"
The Moggle looked up at the young human and raised her antenna high. "Hey, you seem new! Who are you?"
"Hi, Juliet! My name is Meguri, kupo! Nice to meet you!"
"Nice to meet you too! Now, will you please…" replied the teen, moving her hands back an forth to shoo her.
The Moogle pouted, but for some reason complied. The Final Fantasy character got off the Smasher, who gasped and breathed heavily, before glancing at him. "I'm not done with you yet. I'll wait, I'm very patient."
That remark made Olimar blanch. Meanwhile, the Pikmin gathered around the female creature, squealing in joy.
"Hello Rosso, Gelb, Azul, Violine and Shiro! How are you, sweeties?"
The plants squealed again and responded with a "Fine!" at the same time.
"See, Olly? Even the Pikmin think that we're made the one for the other. You must accept it!"
Olimar didn't reply, he just sighed in exasperation.
Juliet was observing the strange behavior of the Pikmin, finding odd that they stayed as close to Meguri as to Olimar.
Maybe they're gathering around her for the same reason that make them follow Olimar: for the antenna. Ah, that's a very amusing scene.
She could see with the corner of her eye Falcon approaching the group, still sniggering to himself.
The Moogle turned to the teen. "Ops, sorry if you ignored you earlier! Teh he he, how embarrassing… when I'm around these guys I forget about the rest, eh he he!"
"No problem, I think I understand… somehow…"
"Tell me, what is your profession? Are you a new merchant, a fighter or a simple tourist?"
"Mmm, I'm more a tourist."
"I see… and where are you from?"
"I'm from… Earth."
"… dunno. Earth!"
"What about you? What is your profession?"
"I run a herbalist's shop together with my partner, kupo. I'm an expert healer and sorceress, while my associate has full knowledge of potions and defensive magic."
"I'd like to tell you something more, but right now I remembered that I have still some errands to run for my associate! I'm sorry, kupo!"
"That's ok! Duty comes first, after all!"
Juliet swore to have seen Olimar smiling and waving his fists in content, before regaining his composure. She giggled at his expression.
"I'll see you next time, guys! Especially you, Olly!" said Meguri, turning to the astronaut and winking. The spatial Smasher sweatdropped, hoping that their next meeting was as far as possible.
"Ok, Meguri! We'll catch you later!" responded Juliet, smiling broadly.
"Give to your partner my regards!" said Falcon.
"Bye…" muttered Olimar with absolutely no enthusiasm. The Pikmin behind him chirped their goodbyes.
"Goodbye! See you soon, kupo!"
And with that the Moogle blew a little kiss and ran off, wanting to end her errands before it was too late. When the white creature left Olimar did a little victory dance together with his Pikmin, glad to have gotten rid of the invasive little creature. Juliet and Falcon looked at him with weird looks and so the Hocotatian immediately stopped, quite embarrassed.
"Weird gal, that Meguri…" said Juliet, glancing the way where the character left.
"You have no idea… the most rabid fan I've ever seen! She's such a stalker!" responded the astronaut, shaking his head in annoyance.
"Eh, but you got to admit that you have some traits in common."
"Trust me, they're much less than you think!"
"Well, team… what are we going to do now?" asked the blue man.
Olimar looked up at the sky. There were some menacing clouds gathering and fusing together to create a whole new cumulonimbus, crackling loudly and flashing various times bolts and lights.
"We'd better return at the Mansion! From the look of these clouds it seems that a storm is approaching."
Juliet gasped lowly and her eyes widened at the sight of the black electric masses of water vapor who were booming their mighty cries.
"Urgh, I don't want to soak myself! When my hair is wet it becomes impossible to brush!"
"Luckily the parking is near! Let's go!"
Minutes of running later, he group was riding on the Blue Falcon 4P at a moderate speed. Everybody was strangely quiet, even the always chirping Pikmin. Nobody knew what to say, for some reason. Until…
"I got to admit that the city is wonderful. I've never seen a metropolis in my whole life. And now I've seen one. I'm… happy."
The captains looked at the teen. She was observing the world outside the car with a certain interest, colorful scrubs passing rapidly in front of her eyes and the sky assuming a tangerine tint. The fighters smiled.
"Well, if you're happy, Juliet, we're happy too!" said Olimar to the young human.
She turned to them, bright brown eyes fixed on the heroes and a big smile present in her traits. "Thanks for the trip! It has been really fantastic! I simply loved that! Thanks!"
"Always at your service!" replied Falcon, giving her a thumbs-up.
"Yeah! That's what friends are for, right?" said the other Smasher to the girl, the Pikmin besides him chirping in agreement.
The girl nodded at her teammates, amazed by such altruism. "You're great, guys! You're really great!"
The group could see in the distance the huge mansion, that became bigger and bigger with every meter covered.
If the next days are going to be like that staying here is not going to be bad. Not at all.
In another world, in another universe, in another time, things weren't as cheery as in the Smash World. Trails of darkness and evil forces were slowly enveloping a planet, draining the energy from the plants and the terrain and transforming the affected areas in a dull and empty desert of solitude and emptiness. A giant white hand was observing this scenery in front of him, furious for not being able to do something to stop that calamity. The destruction was quite limited and involved only a little area, but he knew quite well that it wasn't going to be that way for long. He saw various worlds that were mostly inhabited, but there was one world that took his attention, especially for a special sacred area.
The hand sprinted toward the world at high speed, determined to stop the disaster before it was too late. It was time to meet… the Goddesses.
A/N: Wooh-oh, guys! That's the ending of chapter 5! I have the funny feeling that this chapter is a bit bulky. What do you think?
Juliet: I dunno. But there is one thing that I know.
Shinywolf: And what it is?
Juliet: Shiny, you have broken two records!
Shinywolf: I did?
Juliet: Yep. Longest chapter to date and longest time taken for it.
Shinywolf: Ops, you're right! Ahahah! That's incredible! But there is one thing that I must say: quality is more important than time. I don't want to fret myself, and if I try to stay in the time limit the chapter is going to be cruddy and rushed. Patience is gold, my dear readers!
Juliet: Ok! Can you at least tell them what are you going to write next time?
Shinywolf: Oh, right! Next time we're going to have a different point of view. I guess you're tired to always look what Juliet does, uh?
Shinywolf: Don't worry, you won't vanish! You'll simply be downgraded as cameo! After that chapter you'll regain your role as main character.
Juliet: Of course you'll do that! I'm the star!
Shinywolf: Sure, sure … anyway, I hope to see you soon! Bye bye!
Juliet: Yeah! Arrivederci!