An Appoplexian woman was lying on her side and being fed grape-like fruit native to a world she once conquered. The Plumbers officially freed the world, but that was all a front generated by the Appoplexian woman, the former Queen of Appoplexia, Phury. The slave that fed her then produced another fruit and showed it to her. “Peel that thing and bring it back quickly,” she commanded. The slave dashed off to obey. She then looked up. “Sunlight, that’s what a Queen needs,” she mused as her other slaves fanned her. She clapped her hands twice and the roof opened, letting in the rays of the sun. She purred happily. “Sunlight: the answer to an Appoplexian’s troubles,” she sighed. One of her Appoplexian guardsmen then entered the chamber.
“ALL HAIL THE POWERFUL AND CUNNING QUEEN PHURY OF APPOPLEXIA!” shouted the guardsman. “MAY HER REIGN BE ETERNAL AND…!”
“That’s enough!” interrupted Phury. The first slave then came back with the peeled fruit. She took it and waved the slave off. “Tell me, Angarr,” commanded Phury, “what brings you to my chambers?”
“PART OF THE DOSSIERS ARE GONE!” roared the guardsman, Angarr.
“Probably the losers’,” mused Phury.
“…I didn’t think of that,” muttered Angarr in embarrassment.
“You’re a male, it’s not in your genes to think,” dismissed Phury. “Are there any threats still remaining?”
“BUNCHO AND BOLT BOY!” replied Angarr, his usual volume returning. “WITH ANY LUCK…!”
“Luck?” asked Phury. “Come here.” Angarr obeyed. “Kneel.” Angarr knelt. Phury then held her claw under his chin. “Let me tell you something, General Angarr of the 39th Appoplexian Conquest Army,” whispered Phury as Angarr started sweating, “a reliance on luck is what cost us the Appoplexian Empire in the first place. We don’t rely on fortune! We don’t play the odds! We do what it takes to win! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!”
“Yes, Dread Phury!” squeaked Angarr. “Sorry, Dread Phury!” Phury then removed her claw from his chin.
“The second round will begin soon,” she mused. “There are still a few we can’t deal with normally. I refuse to face defeat again! Victory is so close; I can taste it!”
“There IS one that concerns me,” muttered Angarr.
“Who is it?” groaned Phury, feeling like she was going to hear a useless worry.
“Megumi,” answered Angarr. “It says she faced someone called Vortech.” Phury, after taking a sip from her drink, spat out the liquid in surprise.
“WHO FACED VORTECH?!” she demanded. “GIVE ME THAT DOSSIER!” Angarr produced the dossier and Phury snatched it from him, giving it her full attention. “She didn’t just face Vortech, she BEAT him! She trapped him in a Rift Loop and it collapsed, killing him!”
“How bad can this Vortech guy be?” asked Angarr.
“He obliterated three whole universes!” explained Phury. “He wanted to unite all universes into an orderly version of reality! Even I wouldn’t be so stupid as to go up against him!” She then made a decision. “Gather the men! It’s time to run some drills!”
“Yes, Dread Phury!” called Angarr as he saluted. Phury looked to the heavens as Angarr left.
“Enjoy the 3V2R while you can!” she snarled. “This time, Phury will not be leaving without First Place prize!”
“Who did you say you hired to fix our house?” Megumi asked Richard.
“They called themselves Hamm, Mer, and Chizel,” replied Richard. “I only talked to them over the phone when I got their card. I got their insurance and people up and down the neighborhood swear that they’re expert repairmen.”
“Good to know,” mused Megumi. “How much was it?”
“They estimated 5,000 studs before tax,” answered Richard. Megumi whistled.
“Thank goodness we have a savings account to pay in full,” she prayed. “Did you get any pictures of them?”
“Dell’s figuring that out now,” answered Richard.
“Hey! Y’all!” called Dell as he pelted down the Promenade. “You gotta get those repairmen to stop!”
“What?” quizzed Richard.
“Why?” asked Megumi.
“Here are their mugshots,” panted Dell. Megumi and Richard looked them over, then their faces blanched in horror.
“I think I just made things worse!” whispered Richard.
“Hamm”, “Mer”, and “Chizel” were looking at the size of the job. Their real names were Howard, Fine, and Howard, as in Moe, Larry, and Curly, the Three Stooges! “Some fight!” mused Larry.
“You ain’t kidding,” agreed Moe. “We’re gonna need the tools.”
“What tools?” asked Curly.
“The tools we’ve been using for the last ten years!” snapped Moe.
“Oh, THOSE tools!” realized Curly. Moe then thought some more.
“Let’s see…hey, Porcupine!” Larry came up. “Where did he say he wanted the window?”
“On the right,” replied Larry.
“Okay, get that window all set up,” ordered Moe. Larry then picked up the window and went in one direction. “HEY!” shouted Moe. Larry stopped. “I thought you said he wanted the window on the right!”
“He did,” confirmed Larry.
“So, put it on the right!” snapped Moe. Larry went down his original direction. “Why you!” snarled Moe. He grabbed Larry and pulled him aside. “He wanted the window on the right!” Moe pointed to his right.
“Right!” answered Larry as he pointed to HIS right.
“…What’s this?” asked Moe as he showed his palm.
“A hand,” replied Larry. Moe then slapped him on his exposed scalp.
“Right or left?” asked Moe. Larry then thought about it. “Oh, ignorant, eh?” Moe slapped Larry’s cheeks, then turned to Curly. “Hey, Onion-head!” he called. Curly came over. “Help me learn him left and right,” he ordered. “Now, when I say ‘go’, we all point to the right. Go!” The Stooges all pointed to their right. Moe realized the different directions his friends were pointing at, then laughed. “Just a little fun, right?” he chuckled.
“Right,” laughed Larry.
“Or is it left?” giggled Curly. Moe then grabbed their heads and bashed them together.
“Get away!” he snarled. “Come on, we’ll deal with the window once we get the door set up! Get going!” He yanked his friends by the ear over to a workbench with wood and an electric saw. Moe got onto the bench and stood up, using his hands to frame the door and where it was going to go. “Get me a board!” he called.
“Get me a board!” Larry told Curly.
“Get me a…low man again!” grumbled Curly as he found no one behind him. He got the board and laid it onto the bench.
“Make it six inches!” called Moe.
“Make it six inches!” Larry repeated.
“Make it six inches!” finished Curly as he turned around to show which pocket he stored the ruler. Larry took the ruler and held it in the air while drawing where the six inch mark would be. Curly then took the saw and turned it on, cutting the board down the line. He soon got the clean cut.
“Give it to me!” called Moe. He got it, all right! Curly had cut through the bench as well as the board. The bench collapsed and Moe landed on his side. He got up later and stood up straight.
“What happened?” asked Curly.
“Nothing,” answered Moe. He then slapped his friends and grabbed the board. “I’LL FIX YOU!” he shouted. Larry and Curly ran through the new door, but Moe was stopped as he had the board flat and it was too wide for the door. “SHUT THAT DOOR!” he ordered. Curly slammed it and it fell on him! “HELP! MURDER!” screamed Moe. “GET ME OUT!”
“I can’t!” replied Curly as he pulled on the knob. “It’s locked! I ain’t got a key!”
“GET A SAW!” shouted Moe.
“We’ll get new repairmen once the Stooges are finished,” assured Megumi. “In the meantime, I need to do some scouting.”
“Is that even allowed?” asked Richard.
“I’m not scouting the contestants,” replied Megumi. “I’m checking out their homes. If they give themselves home-turf advantage, I want to be ready. Besides, this isn’t done without the other contestant’s permission. I think I want to see Arsha’s home.”
“Arsha’s home,” reminded Richard, “is made of three sub-dimensions that overlap each other. Which one are you talking about?”
“I mean Arsha’s exact home of Largandra,” explained Megumi. “The Mid-realm’s capital. I’ve never seen Optimus’ or Arsha’s universes, I want a taste of what they offer. Maybe I’ll visit the other two Realms later, but I want to see what Arsha’s birthplace is like.
“Good luck,” bid Dell. “I’ll just get back to work on a Chronicle Driver compatible Ascendant.”
“You know, that reminds me,” mused Richard, “none of us have tested our Ascendants. I think I’ll do that while you’re away.”
“Okay, but be careful, My Lord,” requested Megumi.
“You too, My Lady,” reciprocated Richard. They kissed and Megumi headed to the Gateway. When she arrived, POmega and Arsha were waiting for her.
“Ah, good,” praised Megumi. “I could use a guide. POmega, fire up the Gateway and lock on to Arsha’s home of Largandra.”
“Use the ship-sized portal,” interjected Arsha. Megumi was confused.
“The ship-sized one?” she asked.
“The Endeavor needs some supplies that can only be manufactured in Largandra,” explained Arsha. “Besides, I don’t think you’ve set foot on my ship. It’s only fair since I set foot on yours when we toppled Mordor.”
“Fair point,” conceded Megumi. She then turned to POmega. “The ship-sized one.”
“Right away,” replied POmega.
“Arsha to Endeavor,” Arsha called on her comms, “two arrivals to teleport directly the bridge.”
“Understood,” replied Thangred. Magic then enveloped the two ladies and whisked them both to the Endeavor’s bridge. Megumi was in awe.
“Captain on the bridge,” rumbled Oak. Everyone stood at attention.
“As you were,” answered Arsha. She then took her seat. Megumi headed to behind the Captain’s Chair before Arsha chided herself. “Okay, Royana, that’s rude. Computer, activate guest chair. She needs to sit.”
“Guest chair online,” droned the computer. A chair popped up just behind and to the right of Arsha’s chair.
“Thank you,” bid Megumi as she took her seat. She then noticed how comfy it was. “What kind of ship did you say this was?” asked Megumi.
“It’s a Dauntless-class diplomatic vessel,” explained Arsha. “Built for speed, it’s heavily armed with…”
“Armed?” repeated Megumi.
“Well, if we’re carrying precious cargo,” replied Arsha, “or transporting a valuable person, we’d rather NOT have said cargo or person harmed in any way.”
“Okay, that makes sense,” mused Megumi.
“The rift’s open for us,” reported Nazay.
“Nice and easy,” directed Arsha.
“Aye, Captain, nice and easy,” confirmed Nazay. The Endeavor then moved into the portal and traveled through the rift.
“I must say, this is quite the thrilling experience,” chuckled Arsha as she saw the rift on screen.
“The excitement tends to wear off when you’ve been doing this for five years,” sighed Megumi. “Still, it’s nice to see another universe.”
“Approaching the end of the rift,” reported Nazay. The portal then opened up to reveal sky and the city of Largandra below. “We’re home,” called Nazay.
“Set course for the shipyards,” directed Arsha. “Megumi, if you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to the landing ramp and give you a personal tour of Largandra.”
“Trust me,” called Dalengor, “you want her as your guide, not Nazay.”
“I told you, I navigate better when I’m in the air!” snapped Nazay.
“Er, what?” asked Megumi.
“Nazay’s sense of direction is terrible when he’s on the ground,” explained Arsha.
“Ah,” replied Megumi. The ship was guided to a berth and it lowered its landing struts. Maintenance crews then approached the landing ramp as it lowered. Megumi was in awe at what she saw. “Subarashi!” (Wonderful!) she breathed.
“Impressed?” chuckled Arsha. “That was my exact reaction when I first saw it as a little girl of 100.”
“…100?” repeated Megumi.
“Yep,” confirmed Arsha. “…Wait, why are you confused?”
“Don’t only Elves live that long?” asked Megumi. “I mean, average human life-span, at least for my home of Japan, is 87 years, roughly.”
“…That short?!” yelped Arsha. “You look to be about my age of 300!”
“No, I’m 24,” replied Megumi. “A young adult by any country’s standards.”
“THAT’S a young adult?!” squeaked Arsha. “That’s just a young child here!”
“What’s the average life expectancy here?” asked Megumi.
“It varies from species to species,” replied Arsha. “The lowest belong to the Arties classification, where our artificial life-forms come in. That would be our Chimeras with 10,000 and the Golems all Splitter branches use living only 5,000.”
“And…the longest life-spans?” asked Megumi, really intrigued.
“Not counting biological immortals like the Divine Ones, Fae, Tweeners, or Elves,” mused Arsha, “50,000.”
“50,000 YEARS?!” yelped Megumi. “HOW DO PEOPLE LIVE THAT LONG?!”
“Magic goes into our medicine,” replied Arsha. “It’s pretty common place. Most witches go into the medical fields.”
“So, most of the doctors are women?” asked Megumi.
“No,” replied Arsha, “boys tend to learn about the body more. Must speak to something primal. Still, it’s enough of an even split in terms of gender, so I’m not too worried.”
“So wizards can be doctors too?” quizzed Megumi.
“…Wait, what do wizards and witches mean to you?” asked Arsha as she had a suspicion in her head.
“Witches are female magic users, wizards are male ones,” replied Megumi.
“Since when?!” asked Arsha.
“Since always,” answered Megumi. “Are you telling me that the term ‘Witch’ is a professional title here?”
“Yes,” confirmed Arsha. “Marshii’s dad was a witch.”
“Could you explain the magic professions to me?” asked Megumi.
“All right,” resolved Arsha. “Witches are magic doctors, wizards are magic researchers, artificers are magic engineers, alchemists are magic chemists, and sorcerers are magic online presences.”
“What about warlocks?” asked Megumi. Arsha took a deep breath.
“One of my teachers in Realmfleet Academy called them magic sugar babies,” she finally answered. “Don’t tell her I said that aloud.”
“I see,” mused Megumi. Arsha then began the tour with her favorite tavern, The Hidden Drum. It was a typical tavern, rowdy people talking and drinking, a couple of busty waitresses, an old bartender wiping the glasses, a singer, a few dancers, a piano player making music, and a pair of hulking men trying to show off their strength. One of the waitresses, a Troll roughly Malak’s size, saw the two and waved them in.
“Welcome back, Arsha!” she greeted.
“Hello, Glantem!” returned Arsha.
“I never thought we’d see you again during your five years!” declared Glantem. She then noticed Megumi. “And who is she?”
“I’m Megumi Hishikawa,” introduced Megumi.
“She’s from another universe entirely,” explained Arsha. “I can explain everything once we get some food.”
“Let me just get you to your table,” directed Glantem. She led the pair to a table near the window. “There we are,” declared Glantem. “Will it be the usual today?”
“If it’s available,” replied Arsha. “Actually, would two be possible?”
“Two steaks with mashed potatoes and two salads, coming up!” answered Glantem. “Will you be interested in dessert as well?”
“Make it two usual desserts,” ordered Arsha.
“That’s two Chocolate Lava cakes for dessert,” confirmed Glantem. “We’ll have your order ready in…” she was interrupted by a scream outside.
“That’s never a good sign,” muttered Megumi. Both she and Arsha dashed outside to see an Elf woman wailing over another Elf woman’s body. A crowd had gathered by the time Arsha and Megumi knelt near the body. Arsha rolled the body over to see that the Elf woman’s body had one large, creepy grin on her face. Her skin was also chalk white with blood-red lips. “Oh no,” groaned Megumi as she pulled out her communicator. “POmega, get Batman here. I think we have a Smylex case.”