The rain that had so relentlessly pelted us before quickly dissipated, the warm morning sun cutting through the dark clouds that once thickly shrouded the sky.
Our group of four; one green-hoodied creeper girl, one purple cycloptic robot, one black vest-wearing.. guy, and an extremely uninteresting generic boy with a sword that he really shouldn’t have been trusted with, (I have a rather realistic self-image) separated and set out towards a new objective; finding Slenda, who seemed to have teleported away to some unknown location.
It was a good idea for her to do it at the time.. but it wasn’t very convenient for the rest of us, especially given the fact that we had absolutely no idea where she went.
“Hey, robot guy!” San called, TF turning his head towards her, “Can you like, do some scans or something that can tell us where Slenda is?”
TF glared at San with his glowing green eye. “You assume that I am capable of performing complicated scanning procedures simply because I am a robot?”
San paused for a second. “Um.. Yes.” She answered, a proud grin on her face.
TF let out sigh, his synthesized breath clouded with metallic interference. “It is true, I can do no less; I will begin analyzing any residue left by the insecure female’s previous teleportation.”
San brought her hand up in a salute, which TF simply stared at before walking towards the crater where Slenda had last been, LV following close behind.
San then turned to me. “Alright, while they’re doing the sciencey-type stuff, you and me are gonna start looking for Slenda on-foot.” She said, a confident look in her eyes.
“But.. TF’s already scanning and stuff to try to find her,” I argued, “Isn’t it a bit redundant for us to also be looking for her?”
San gave me her usual smirk, “It won’t be redundant if we find her first.”
I shrugged, “Okay.. it’ll give me something to do, I guess.”
“That’s the spirit!” she commended, giving me a hearty pat on the back. Though the fight with the giant had left us all physically and emotionally drained, San seemed ready to carry on as if nothing had happened, taking to the green jungle canopy to attempt to get a better vantage point.
With San leaping from treetop to treetop and I on the ground, slashing through the thick jungle brush with my dulled iron sword, (that only continued to become duller as it sliced through the leaves) we began our search, determined to find Slenda.
Time passed. In fact, too much time passed.
Steadily, each patch of leaves that I cut through seemed to blend together, each swipe of the blade becoming part of a monotonous automatic trance, and it wasn’t doing any good for my arms either.
“San, can I stop and rest for a while?” I requested, my sword-arm beginning to feel sore.
I heard San let out a disappointed sigh. “Already?” She asked, her voice echoing down from the treetops, seemingly having lost no energy since the start of our expedition.
“I just need to sit down for a bit,” I responded, “Shouldn’t be too long.”
“Just keep an eye out for Slenda, ‘kay?” San requested, her voice sounding a bit uneasy.
“I will.” I assured.
San quickly went back to searching for Slenda, the crunching of her footfalls on the tops of the trees growing fainter with every second.
Exhaling tiredly, I looked around for a place to sit, which I soon found in a small tree stump that poked out from the bushes.
Sitting down on the stump, I stretched out my tired legs and crossed my arms behind my head, leaning back onto the surprisingly soft block of leaves behind me.
As per San’s recommendation, I kept an eye out, thoroughly examining my environment; as one would expect, there was a thick layer of leafy bushes surrounding the bases of even thicker trees, all planted on a flat, grassy dirt floor.
The only thing that seemed out of place was a single orange cube, sat down next to me in the nearby bush. I hadn’t realized it was there when I had first sat down, but when it finally got my attention, I leaned in towards it.
Upon closer inspection, I could see that the orange cube had distinct ridges in it, and seemed to have a stem that rose out of the top. That and the rough, bumpy texture led me to believe that it was a pumpkin.. in the middle of a jungle. It’s not like I knew where pumpkins usually grow, (honestly, I don’t know what I’d do with the information anyway) but it certainly seemed a bit odd that there was one just planted in the middle of a bush in a jungle.
I pulled my legs and crossed them, turning towards the pumpkin, feeling a bit curious.
However, that curiousness disappeared when the pumpkin, still sitting in the bush, spun around, a glowing jack-o-lantern face left to gaze into me.
“Hey” It greeted me, it’s voice dry and rough.
It is then that I decided to do the only sensible thing one would do in a situation where they are greeted by a fruit with a face; I let out a short, sharp shriek of terror, and kicked it in its smug candle-lit face. Which, judging by its quickly-following guttural moan, it didn’t like.
“SWEET UNMERCIFUL NOTCH!! IS THIS HOW YOU GREET PEOPLE? BY KICKING THEM IN THE FACE?!”
The pumpkin questioned as it reeled back and stood up from the bush, its hands clasping its obviously sore face.
The pumpkin was merely the head to a body; the body was tall and its limbs lanky, but most noticeably, he, she, it, (I honestly wasn’t sure) was wearing a white business suit with a red lapel, which, might I add, looked quite snazzy.
The pumpkin-headed man, after letting out an irritated groan, pulled his hands away from his carved-out face. He let out a disheartened exhale before straightening his posture and staring into me with the two amber gems that sat where the jack-o-lantern’s eyes would be.
“I had an introduction planned out and everything, you know. It was gonna be awesome.” He grumbled as he reached into a nearby bush, pulling out a long cane with a round crystal on the end. “But then you decided the best course of action when meeting a whimsical talking thing is to kick it in the face. You’re just brilliant kid, you know that?”
“Look who’s talking,” I protested, “In a world where 75% of the things that move are trying to kill you, you think it’s a good idea to sneak up on somebody!”
“I didn’t ’sneak up’ on anybody!” He corrected, “We looked right at each other, I kindly greeted you, and you slammed your foot into my head!!”
“Looked right at each other?” I questioned, “You did a freaky head-spinney thing!!”
He gave me an unenthused look. “What head-spinney thing? Oh~ You mean this head-spinney thing?” He taunted, his head beginning to spin around on his neck, sending an unnerving chill up my spine.
“Stop it!!” I demanded, beginning to feel slightly sick.
The speed of the spinning only increased.
“Stop what~?” He asked playfully as he leaned his head towards me, its rotation becoming faster with every second.
“Cut it out, Jack,” A familiar, yet strangely unenthused voice, called down from the jungle canopy. San, her hood pulled down over her face, swiftly leapt down from the treetop, ignoring the cracking sound her feet made as they collided with the ground, holding a sword to the man’s orange, bumpy neck.
“Or I’ll cut it off.” She finished.
‘Jack’ stepped back, putting his hands up in front of him.
“Now, now, San.. would it really be in good taste to decapitate an old friend?”
“I dunno,” San said with a smirk, “Could make some nice pumpkin pie.”
He stepped back further.
I looked back and forth between the two, attempting to establish a connection between the two vastly different characters in my mind.
“How do you two know each other, exactly?” I asked, willing to accept an answer from either of them.
Jack was the first to answer; “Well, the would-be creeper here stole some of my property, and I’ve been trying to get it back from her for ages now.”
“1; It hasn’t been ages, it’s been a few months at most, and 2; SHE’S NOT YOUR PROPERTY!!” San snapped, her hand’s grip more firmly tightening around her sword.
“Touchy, aren’t you?” Jack teased, spiritedly tapping the round end of his cane with his bony orange fingers as San gritted her teeth, letting out a sound that could most accurately be described as a growl.
Jack continued, “How about we let out some of that animalistic rage with a little competit--”
San held up her sword and started towards Jack just as he tapped his cane on the ground, leaving San to slash through a cloud of formless purple dust.
He reappeared on a nearby treetop, looking down on her with an amused grin.
“Competition.” He finished, straightening his stance and loosening up his neck.
San exhaled sharply, seemingly giving in. “Depends, what kinda ‘competition’?”
“Shouldn’t it be obvious?” He asked, his jagged mouth forming a wide, toothy grin, “We’ve both lost something that we very dearly wish to have back, and are willing to fight for it..” The eyes of the creeper face on San's hood was fixed upon jack, her eyes, though covered by her hood, no-doubt flaring with anger.
“And I do believe that we’ve both lost the same thing.”
“It’s a race, isn’t it?” San asked. Jack’s long, jagged smile stretched from ear to non-existent ear.
“Somewhat like a race, yes; a race to see who can find the girl first!” Jack proudly proclaimed.
San sheathed her sword, the creeper face on her hoodie looking blankly up at Jack.
“Ready..?” Jack asked, a bit of excitement welling up beneath his voice.
With two taps of his jewel-tipped cane, Jack vanished, leaving San to hastily sprint away, her visage quickly becoming lost in the trees.
With both Jack and San racing towards an invisible goal, I decided to run back and retrieve TF and LV, because not only was it the only thing I could really do at the time, but if San wasn’t able to find Slenda fast enough, I would have a robot who could help locate her.
After backtracking my way through the path that I had carved through the jungle brush, I found my way back to the grassy clearing where I found a purple robot hunched over a hole in the ground, a black vest-wearing boy curiously hunched over the robot. The latter of the two noticed me first, and attempted to greet me.
“Hey, doesn’thaveanameyet guy! You find Sle—”
“No time,” I interrupted, pushing him out of the way, “TF, you find a way to track Slenda yet?”
“No, not yet.” TF responded emotionlessly
“What do you mean, ‘Not Yet’?!” I questioned impatiently.
“What are you playing at?” He questioned back, a condescending tone added to his voice, “I said that I was not done yet, and that, however abstract a concept for you, means that I am not yet done.”
“Well, when will you be done?” I questioned further, my mind beginning to run through images of San being devastated in battle by Jack’s teleportation abilities.
“I cannot be sure.” TF responded calmly, “I must analyze every solitary particle of the teleportation residue, and then cross-reference it with any particulate molecules in the surrounding atmosphere. I have never done this process before, and it could very well take hours, days, or even— done.”
“Huh?” I asked.
“The process is over—finished. I have already evaluated the insecure female’s exact location.” He responded, standing up, his lone eye immediately fixing itself upon a specific, unseen location.
“Coordinates are; X: -48343 Y: 63 Z: 63472” TF stated, pointing a rectangular metal finger towards the thick wall of jungle brush.
Unsure of whether San had found Slenda or not, I hurriedly pulled myself into a sprint, bolting in the direction TF had pointed. Behind me, I could hear TF’s loud footfalls and the exasperated “WAAIT UP!!”’s of LV behind him.
The farther I ran into the jungle, doing my best to jump over (or trip over, in repeated cases) any patches of leaves or low trees in my way, I could hear a sound growing louder. It was a repetitious, sharp, piercing sound; it was the sound of metal clashing.
I quickened my pace.
The sound of the wrathful iron grew louder and louder until I found myself in another clearing, a clearing that, at its center, prominently featured San, her hood down, bearing her teeth and thoroughly dulled iron sword against Jack, who was struggling to hold back the blade with his jewel-tipped cane. Both seemed to be giving it their all, and nothing, it seemed, would stop them from claiming their prize; the prize of course being the girl dressed all in black laying on the ground unconscious, her clothes torn, her broken glasses on the ground next to her.
San pulled her sword away from Jack and slashed at him again, Jack simply blocking the attack with the length of his cane, the sound of metal on metal fiercely crying out.
San looked in our direction, her gritted teeth fighting to form a smirk.
“H- hey, glad y- you could—MAKE IT!” San struggled to say as she sliced at Jack once again, Jack catching the blow with his cane.
San then looked directly to me. “HEY! Sir Squillington—WRAAGH!!!” She struck out at Jack again, “—Esquire the twenty-second?" She continued, trying to act as casual as possible whilst dueling against a pumpkin-headed man in a suit. "Would you kindly—FRAAAAARGH!! –get Slenda? She’s right over—TERIAAAAAAAAHAHH!!!!! …there.”
San gestured to the side with her head, pointing out Slenda’s body, which I quickly began running towards.
“Ah-ah-ah, that’s -- RNGH --cheating.” Jack mocked.
“Like you ever play– URK –fair!!” San protested.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as Jack ducked under one of San’s swipes and tapped his cane on the ground, teleporting himself behind San, who he then bashed over the head with the jewel on the end of his cane.
“You’re right,” Jack said, his voice sounding its most smug, “I don’t.”
As I neared Slenda, her motionless body mere blocks away, I heard the tip of his cane tap against the soft grass.
Suddenly, I collided with a solid body; a solid body in a white suit.
With a hearty laugh and a broad swing of his arm, Jack quickly knocked me to the side, sending me into a nearby pile of leaves. I could only watch as LV ran at him, and TF attempted to get a good shot on Jack’s head, which only became more difficult after LV jumped on him, (which seemed to be his only plan of attack).
Without a care, Jack’s long, bony fingers reached down and picked up Slenda, easily throwing her over his shoulder.
“Well, my good friends,” Jack began, his wide, sharp mouth forming a confident grin, “I really do have things I must be getting to.”
Jack took a bow, and with two taps of his cane, he, along with the girl in black draped over his shoulder, vanished, leaving only a confused LV to fall to the ground where Jack once stood.
LV, looking around at everyone confusedly, seemed as if he was about to say something, to make some kind of comment on the transpired events, but he was interrupted by something.
It was San. She simply sat there, seemingly just recovering from Jack’s cheap headshot, her eyes red and wet from tears, which she was still struggling to wipe away with the sleeves of her hoodie.
“WHY COULDN’T I SAVE HER?!” She screamed, speaking only to herself, but loudly enough for the whole world to hear, “ALL I HAD TO DO WAS BEAT ONE. STUPID. FRUIT!!! HOW COULD ANYONE MESS THAT UP?!” San began beating the ground angrily with her fists, harder and harder. “HOW DID I GET BEAT UP BY AN UGLY PORCH DECORATION IN A SUIT?!!!” She pulled her hands away from the ground and clasped her head from both sides before beginning to beat herself in the head.
LV and I could only watch as she punished herself for her loss, only becoming more wrathful to herself as time passed.
But then, as another fist was about to come down on her head, something stopped it. TF had grabbed her arm.
She gazed up at him angrily through a haze of tears, breathing heavily and angrily.
TF glared at her, his firm grip on her arm resisting any attempts she may have made to escape.
“WHAT CHANCE DO SLENDA AND THE BOY HAVE IF YOU ACT LIKE THIS? TELL ME!” TF demanded, the volume of his voice seeming exponentially louder.
San looked down disheartenedly, her rage seemingly replaced by disappointment.
“But.. what if I can’t.. protect them…?”
“You will. I have seen your capabilities; at full strength, you have no less than power beyond measure, the power to take down giants on a whim! Do not doubt your strength.” TF responded, his voice now as calm and quiet as it had always been.
San’s limp hands balled up into fists. “Then why couldn’t I beat Jack?!” She questioned angrily.
“I don’t know,” TF responded, “But I assume it has something to do with the fact that you have just battled a giant, ran and jumped across the tops of trees, and whatever else you may have done before without any slowing or stopping. Frankly, I’m surprised that you haven’t broken down from exhaustion.”
“Well.. I am a bit hungry…” San admitted, TF releasing his grip on her arm.
“From what I have seen of you, your confidence is, well and truly, your greatest strength, but from what I have seen today, it also appears to be your tragic flaw.”
San, her arms and legs seeming shaky, began to get to her feet.
“You’re right.” San commended as she hugged him.
“I know,” He responded, “But for now, I suggest we begin moving towards our next location.”
“Whaddaya mean?” San asked, cocking her head.
“What I mean is that Jack and Slenda teleported exactly 568 blocks East and 27 blocks
South of our current location.” TF stated, his green eye pointed towards a specific location in the distance.
“Wait, you actually did find a way to scan for Slenda?” San asked, her eyes shining brightly.
“That I did.” TF responded.
“Well then,” LV began enthusiastically as he sprung up from the ground, “Shall we begin the next leg of our adventure?”
TF’s eye confidently glinted as he looked towards Slenda’s location. “Indeed. It’s about time we weren’t here.”
Though I still had no idea who, (or what, for that matter) Jack was, or what his past with San and Slenda was, there were more pressing matters at hand; there was a Slenda that needed saving, and we were going to do it.
Besides, I could get my answers on the way there.
--To Be Continued--