"What exactly did you need me for, Riki?" asked Melia.
She had been worried and confused when the Nopon came bouncing up to her in the middle of the night, long after most of the population of Colony 9 had gone to sleep, yelling her name and demanding that she follow her. At first she thought he might have spotted something about to attack the town, except that he was uninterested in alerting the rest of the party, even going out of his way to avoid them. Instead of running to the watchtower or the front gate, he had dragged her into the Commercial District, where a bleary-eyed Gem Man had clearly been woken up against his will, probably by a Nopon bouncing up and down on his head and yelling at him. He was starting up the Ether Furnace and glaring at the two of them. Now she was just confused.
"Riki can't reach handle!" Riki informed the Gem Man. The shopkeeper sighed and went off to fetch a crate for the Nopon to stand on. Riki turned to Melia and started bouncing up and down again, "Melly help Riki make gems! Hurry!"
"Um, you do remember that Sharla is your Ether Furnace partner, don't you?"
"No tell Sharla!" he whispered sharply, putting a finger to his lips, "No tell Reyn either! Reyn might tell Sharla! Although, Riki wish Reyn was here to be nice big stepladder..."
"Well, I'll try, but I'm not really that good at..." Melia stopped, then an amused smile spread across her face, "Oh, I know what this is about! Are we making a present for Sharla?"
"No tell! Promise!" his bouncing became more frantic.
"I promise, but you need to be thoughtful about what gifts you choose for Sharla! Something has been troubling her a lot lately, and while she needs cheering up, you must do so tactfully!"
"Riki already found out what present to give!"
"... What do you mean, 'found out'?" She asked, but the Gem Man had already returned with the crate.
"Riki can't reach top of crate!" he complained.
The Gem Man rolled his eyes, "How can you not reach it, bouncing that high? Can't you Nopon fly anyway?"
"It's okay, Riki, I'll give you a hand!" said Melia, gently scooping the Nopon into her arms and lifting him up so he could make the jump onto the crate.
"… and being hugged by Melly was best part of Riki's day!" he confessed to the unseen figure as he sat on the shore of the Ether lake with his fishing rod. He wasn't sure if he could fish in an Ether lake but he wasn't about to give up yet. If any fish lived here, they would be the most delicious fish on the Bionis!
"I'm glad it worked out okay," came the reply, "Sorry I couldn't be of that much use. I'm not so good with these new-fangled Ether contraptions. Give me a good old fashioned hammer and anvil any day! I could teach you how to build a weapon if you like..."
"No thank you, Riki got weapon already. Found it on Mechon who didn't need any more after Riki rip head off."
"Good work. Those Mechon bastards all need to die," he said, "Could you do me a favour? Could you say hi to Desiree for me?"
"On second thoughts, just say hi. Don't mention my name. That just makes life more complicated, and I don't deserve to be part of her life any more."
"... And the pretty yellow one gives Sharla more shiny Ether, and..." Riki's arms waved up and down as he pointed to each gem down the side of the gun's barrel in order, explaining what they were for in an excited high-pitched voice.
"Thank you, Riki, but I've already said I'm not going to use any other gun," she told him with a deep sigh. She was barely holding her patience, and only because it was Riki, and you didn't upset Riki if you ever wanted to hear the last of it.
"But Riki already said this gun has everything Sharla needs! It better design, and has right gems for Sharla! Riki work hard on it!"
"It isn't about how good a gun it is, Riki. How do I explain it? If your Wifeypon made you a home-made dinner, and you saw some nicer food on a stall, and you didn't feel hungry enough for both, which would you eat?"
"Not hungry enough for both? Why? Riki dying?" the Nopon looked genuinely scared. Sharla shook her head.
"This used to be Gadolt's gun. I have to keep it forever, and I have to avenge him with a bullet from the same gun through the head of the Mechon that killed him, or I'll dishonour his memory. That's why I won't ever use another gun, no matter how many better weapons I find along the way. Even if it was some kind of Monado-gun!"
"But that gun not go through Mechon skull, it not got enough power, and Sharla not survive if she not get new weapons," said Riki, "Gadolt very sad if anything happen to Sharla!"
"Don't pull that kind of trick on me, you little furball, Reyn doesn't get away with it and neither will..." she began, then stopped, "Wait... how do you know so much about guns all of a sudden? You can't stand the Ether Furnace! Reyn made you do this, didn't he? Tell me the truth and you'll get off lightly!"
"Riki never do stupid thing for Reyn!" Suddenly finding himself dangling in mid-air, Sharla's grip firmly around his head-wings, the Nopon wriggled and kicked to free himself from the uncomfortable position. His wings weren't supposed to hold his weight for long and they felt as though they were about to be wrenched off, "You want to punish Reyn, go pull Reyn's ears, not Riki's!"
"Then who put you up to this? No standing on the ground until you confess!"
"But he said not to tell!" Riki squeaked, his voice rising an octave, "Riki sort out messes for them and they not even own up when they get Riki in trouble! Riki have half a mind to tell them all to shut up! You hear me? SHUT UP!"
"Riki, who are you talking to?" Sharla watched the Nopon's animated argument with the empty air just above his head. His sharp teeth were bared and she was a little worried that her hand – the closest thing to him – would get bitten. She quickly released her grip on his wings.
"Gadolt can get own gun back!" he declared, throwing the weapon he had won and upgraded for Sharla at her feet before hovering away.
She quickly pulled him back by his ears and grabbed him in a tight embrace, "Thank you, Riki. Tell him I got his message, and it's okay. And find out what Reyn is up to. It worries me when there's trouble and he isn't involved."
"... and I got TWO hugs from ladies! This is happiest day in Riki's life!" declared Riki, "Have you got any ladies you want Riki to hug?"
"You can hug Dunban for me if you want. Make sure you wear the Ledios armour, though, and sharpen the spikes first."
"Riki think he pass on that one," Riki didn't like the man's mocking, predatory voice. He was beginning to wish he hadn't started speaking to him, but it would be incredibly rude to break off a conversation without warning, especially with ghosts, who rarely had any chances to talk with visitors at all.
"Oh... could you at least tell him that he's an arrogant, conceited jerk who isn't half the hero he thinks he is? You're free to tell him who the message is from."
"Riki not sure Dunban want to hear message like that."
"Oh, go on. I'm sure he'd be very happy to hear from his old friend."