Actions

Work Header

Second Braid

Chapter Text

This is the story of how I–wait a minute.

Ok, by this point you already know who I am as well as who my best friend is. Chances are you are familiar with our story. If not, I’d advise that you go right back to the first one because if you continue on, then everything will be spoiled and it will be all your fault for not listening to me.

Anyway...

So, you’d think that at the end of our last adventure, it was happily ever after for everyone–good triumphed over evil, Harold lost his powers and that long rainbow hair he had, but he got to reunite with his mom and sister, I got my name cleared and I got to reunite with mom and dad as a reward for helping to bring Harold back home, and the kids of Piqua didn’t have a bunch of adults being really harsh or too mean on them.

Well, unfortunately not quite. Because for one thing, a certain spell that I helped get casted on a certain child hating jerk still hadn’t been lifted. He’s still mad at me for that in case you were wondering. Yeah, no big surprise there.

As for another thing... well... Our troubles weren’t exactly over. Some were looming on the horizon or were starting up when neither of us were realizing it. There was one trouble in particular that began before either of us were born and it was going to rear its ugly head when neither of us were prepared for it. If I knew what was going to happen beforehand, then there would have been some things that would have been done a lot differently.

But before we get into that story, I need to tell you this story.

****Somewhere in the Kingdom of Piqua (nearly one entire decade ago...)****

Inside the castle chambers in the dead of night, a woman was carefully caressing the petals of a flower that was planted in a pot. This was no ordinary flower, for it had petals comprised of seven different colors, and as the woman hummed, it began to give off a strange glow.

“Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine,” She sang, causing the glow to brighten up and as she continued to sing she noticed that the small age spots on her hands were fading away. She stared in awe at her hand after she finished singing, but then shook her head. “As tempting as it is, I cannot allow myself a moment of selfishness.” She reached out for the flower when all of a sudden there was a loud ‘BANG!’ that forced her to turn around to see an intruder.

“You can’t do this!” The teenaged intruder threw the hood of her cloak back to reveal her short, vibrant green hair. “That flower has been sought after for centuries, and you’re going to waste it all on some dying queen who wants to hog it all to herself?!”

“Sarah?” The older woman was surprised, but then sighed. “Of course one of my own would try to stop me.”

“You’re a hypocrite!” Sarah snapped. “You told us the flower should be used to help others! That it would be a waste if it’s used up on one person! We should use it–we could do more with our powers if we use it to live longer! The world will no longer see us as threats to mankind!”

“The powers of both healing and creation are not meant for those of selfish hearts!” The woman snapped back.

“And not for us?! Not for your own apprentices?!” Sarah snarled as she readied her hands and flames of green magic came out. She sent out a trail of magical energy in the shape of a rope towards the flower, but the older woman was quick and summoned out a blade that sparkled with purple energy, which she used to sever the magical rope before sending a blast of magic at the apprentice, causing her to fall back with a scream.

“I warned you not to stop me.” The woman told Sarah as she scrambled up and held a hand to her face. “I know your true intentions. You are going to go down the same path as others did ages ago. I’ve seen it in your eyes and in your words. I’ve seen it in the ugliness of men’s hearts. You intend to abuse those powers for your own.”

“YOU STUPID HAG!” Sarah screamed as she made to lunge at the woman, but she quickly threw her hands out and the girl found herself falling though a dark abyss surrounded by a ring of purple energy. The woman quickly clapped her hands together and made the portal vanish as her apprentice’s screams faded out of existence.

“I’ll deal with you later.” The disappointed woman calmly went back to the flower. A bowl and some ingredients were waiting close by–she would need to make the potion that would heal the queen very soon. She tried to shake off what her apprentice said, but something was bothering her and she shut her eyes. “Only those who are good of heart should have these powers.” She reminded herself. “I can’t let them fall into the wrong hands.”

Ok, now we can get to how that day came back to haunt the queen. It started out normal enough for me and Harold.

****Present Day****

It was a surprisingly normal, peaceful day in the kingdom of Piqua–specifically the main town where the castle was also located. Summer was slowly approaching and while many of the children in town were still in school by this point, most of the adults went about their day to enjoy their time of child free peace.

That of course was only seen from a distance. Two children were roaming free out and about town on the back of a horse that was charging its way down the streets.

“LOOK OUT!”

A few townsfolk looked back and in a panic they dodged out of the way as a huge black and white draft horse crashed through some boxes without stopping. Others could see its two riders–one child with a dark complexion and a stripped neck tie as part of his clothes held onto the horse’s mane, and another with a wild blonde mess of hair who was holding onto the first boy’s sides for dear life.

“Sorry!” The blonde yelled an apology to the residents.

“YOU LITTLE TWERPS!” One of the castle guards tried to run after the horse. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD’S HORSE?!”

“Whoops!” The first boy heard this and kicked at the horse. “Come on, faster! Don’t let them catch us!”

Wherever the horse went, people watched on in confusion or else hurried out of the way (sometimes screaming their heads off in the process) before they could get run over. At one point, the horse raced towards a cart and, without stopping, leapt onto it before leaping off and nearly knocking her riders off.

“I can’t believe how easy it was to get her out of the stable!” The blonde laughed as he tightened his grip on his friend.

“Yeah, but now we got to get her back in! Hang on!” The first boy tugged at the horse’s mane to make her go in one direction, but she refused. “No, go the other way!” But the horse didn’t listen and galloped towards a ledge of one part of the street. Down below and next to the ledge was the roof of one house and the boys already knew what she would try to do.

“GEORGE STOP HER!”

“I CAN’T HAROLD! SHE’S GOING TO–!” But it was too late and the horse leapt off the ledge and right onto the roof. Miraculously she didn’t fall through, but she charged across the roof (knocking shingles off in the process) before leaping right off the house and into the street below as the boys screamed in horror.

Fortunately the boys survived and were able to stay on the horse when she landed, but they found themselves trembling on the rest of the ride back to the castle.

*****

Finally the horse skidded to a stop in the stables by some piles of hay, causing the boys to fall off and land into them.

“That was awesome!” Harold laughed as he sprang up from the hay and sent it flying everywhere. “We got to do that again!”

“Oh man I thought I’d never be this happy for hay!” George moaned as he slowly sat up.

“But you thought that was awesome, right?” Harold asked as he turned to George. “Her running around and leaping off roofs?!”

“You thought jumping from a window from a really high tower with a bed sheet for a parachute is a great idea... but yeah, that was awesome!” He admitted.

“What else haven’t we done yet today?”

“Well, you probably have some places we could mess around in the castle.” George grinned as he got up and Harold followed suit. As they did, they both noticed a sign on the stable walls that said ‘Remember to clean up stalls for the horses.’ “But first things first!”

Moments later, the two were laughing their heads off and left behind a sign that now said ‘I see a horse poop.’

As they hurried their way towards the castle, the two were watched by a girl about their age who was hiding in the shadows with her arms crossed in front of her chest. She chuckled and shook her head before starting to follow after them.

Within the next hour, there was a series of interesting events that occurred around the castle. First was that a huge snake got into the guards’ meeting room. A number of them ran out and screamed their heads off to the point that they didn’t hear the laughter of George and Harold as they watched them get the heck out of the building as fast as they could.

Next, a couple of maids who were passing down a hall with sheets in their arms were quick to realize that something was off and they yelped when they saw that all the suits of armor somehow had cloth underwear on them either around the waist, on their helmets, or even on both parts. They both hid their blushing faces into the sheets and ran off as the boys chuckled from around a corner.

Finally, a teacher who was taking a small group of children around the castle’s art gallery nearly had a heart attack when what she thought was an important painting behind a curtain turned out to have a huge piece of paper over it depicting a crude picture of a silly looking dragon with a ridiculous feathered hat on its head while barfing onto a bunch of knights and horses. The only ones who enjoyed the picture were the group of young five and six year olds who starting laughing and giggling.

“WE’RE KINGS OF THE WORLD!” George yelled in delight some time later as he and Harold stood at the topmost tower of the castle where they can see as much of the kingdom as far as the eyes could see, from the main town, the section of the town across the lake, the forests, and even mountains in the far distance.

“WHOO!” Harold hollered as he threw his fists into the air and joined George.

Neither of them saw the large dark figure hiding down below them in the shadows.

*****

“Careful, we don’t want to have too much! It won’t taste good!”

In the kitchens, the queen’s youngest child was carefully scooping up flour from a bag and adding it into a cup while a woman held the bag of flour to keep it from falling out. “Is this enough?” The girl of about six asked as she looked up and showed the cup that she held. Like her brother, she too had hair as yellow as a sunflower (though not as wild) which was currently held back with a band.

“Hmm,” The woman thoughtfully looked at the cup as the princess waited. In the girl’s opinion, the woman who had looked out for her brother for most of his life was really pretty, with freckles and the bluest eyes she had ever seen, and she too had her hair held back for the current task at hand. “I think that looks good enough to me.” She smiled. “You’re good at this, Heidi.”

Heidi beamed before dumping the flour into the bowl and watched as a cloud of it puffed up into the air. “This is fun! No one let me do this before!”

The woman chuckled as she handed a wooden spoon to Heidi. “Ready?” She asked.

“Yes Miss Edith!” The girl confirmed as she took the spoon.

“Oh sweetie, you know you can just call me Edith, remember?” She smiled as she held the bowl. “No one is around to tell you otherwise.”

“Oh yeah!” Heidi laughed as she began to stir as the adult held the bowl for her. After a few seconds, she looked at Edith when a thought struck her.

*****

“I guess being a queen and a mother isn’t easy.” A woman looked up from her book as she glanced to the kingdom’s ruler. “There’s more than just your own children to look after.”

“I try to balance everything out.” Queen Grace replied with a small smile. “It’s not easy–I’d imagine it would be like running a school and handling all the subjects at once.”

The woman laughed. “Thank god I can only handle teaching a few subjects and a handful of students who are interested in getting an education myself.”

“Speaking of which, Barbra.” Grace began. “I was trying to debate on whether my children should have a private tutor or be taught at the local school.”

“If your son is anything like George, I doubt a tutor would be willing to put up with him for too long.” Barbra admitted. “They both seem rather active and like to get into adventures–even if they cause some grief to your staff and subjects. There’s one–what’s his name again? He doesn’t seem to be too fond of them.”

Grace rolled her eyes. “Honestly, I don’t care about what he thinks. I want Harold to get to explore his true home and I want him to be happy.” She sighed as she stared out a window. “As long as I have both my children with me, there’s nothing more that I’d ask for. I made so many mistakes–” She stopped herself for a moment and shook her head free of thoughts she would never want to discuss with Barbra. She almost committed a serious wrongdoing against the woman that she wanted to forget about. “I want to do things right this time. If your son is happy being friends with my son, than I welcome whatever excitement is going to come down upon us. You just never know what to expect from those two.”

*****

George and Harold looked down at the long set of stairs with a huge red carpet that rolled down in the middle of them. They both held onto a circular shield that was large enough to hold them both. “This is going to be great!” George grinned. “We’ll make it so that walking down the steps will be a breeze!”

“I know! Walking is so boring sometimes!” Harold added. Once again, neither of them saw the girl watching them in amusement from the staircase above them.

“Ready?” George asked as he set the shield down on the ground.

“Yes!” Harold sat down on the shield and George followed suit. Pretty soon both boys pushed at the shield and down it went as it took them down the staircase.

Now let’s pause the story for a second reader, for you see the girl who observed them noticed the first few mistakes that the boys made. One was that they used the wrong kind of shield. Second was that they failed to test to see how fast this shield would go first, which was pretty fast. Third, they failed to make sure no one would walk right in the pathway of the shield.

The last mistake the girl was soon going to find out was this–they failed to check and be absolutely, certainly and very positively sure that the person who would get in their way was not the queen’s Captain of the Guard, who also had many, many, many reasons to despise the two, and not just because of their mischievous behavior.

“AHH!” George and Harold screamed in delight, while failing to see a certain adult in uniform–who was also rather large, overweight, and had a very fake looking mess of black hair on top of his head come walking into view. He only had one second to look up and let out a terrified scream of his own before the two boys crashed into him and sent him flying into the suit of armor that just so happened to be right behind him.

Seconds later, the boys struggled to get up off the floor while their unfortunate victim was still in the pile of the fallen and completely destroyed armor parts. “You know,” George began. “I’d say it worked, but we could have planned it better.”

“Yeah, that shield worked too well.” Harold admitted. “Also, we should have checked to see if someone was coming our way.”

“But hey, at least it worked!” George grinned. “What was the worst that could of happened?”

All of a sudden, there was a horrible sound, like a large, angry animal growling into metal. The boys turned their heads in alarm to see that the person they crashed into had a helmet stuck on their head and was making the sound. While it wasn’t alarming enough, it was when the very enraged adult slammed the visor up to reveal teeth bared in a huge scowl that almost took up most of his face, eyebrows angrily narrowed to the point that they could have been just one, and dark eyes that might as well of had fire in them as they burned at the sight of the two pranksters, that the two realized what horrible mistake they just made.

“Uh oh,” Harold gulped as he nervously stared back in horror.

“Oh hi!” George forced himself to smile despite the feeling of dread overwhelming him. “Sorry we didn’t see you there Krupp–!”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!” The adult pretty much bellowed into their faces to the point that the two felt like they were going to fall over and it was loud enough that it was as if the entire castle could hear it.

It was what broke the silence when Edith and Heidi were putting the bread into one of many ovens and caused them to look up in alarm.

It was what was heard in the room Barbra and Grace occupied, though only Grace remained calm as she knew it was not something too concerning.

It was what was heard all the way in the stables as a stablehand tried to help the draft horse back into their stall while another laughed their head off at the changed sign. It was what was heard when the guards by the entrance to the castle doors let out a collective sigh together. “It was the boys again, wasn’t it?” One of them asked his friend.

“Judging by the volume and how much my throat is hurting just thinking about it, it’s got to be.” She replied.

“Oh shoot, run away!” George and Harold scampered up the stairs as the adult struggled to tear the helmet off of him.

“It’s ok, I got an idea!” Harold went to the nearest window and opened it. “And now–!” He made to reach behind him, only to grab nothing but the empty air.

“Oh dang, that’s right.” Harold sighed in dismay. “I don’t have all that hair anymore.” Within seconds, both boys found themselves getting yanked into the air by a pair of large hands.

Not even a minute later, the boys found themselves being carried under the arms of the angry adult to Harold’s room. The moment they were all inside, he dropped them right onto the floor without a second thought.

“It’s thanks to you two that I have to deal with a lot of the things you pulled off today! Including stealing my horse and causing havoc in the town!” He snapped at them as they got up. “And then you almost killed me with that stupid stunt!”

“No we didn’t.” George scoffed.

“Look we admit we made a mistake.” Harold added. “It isn’t our fault that we need to find ways to entertain ourselves sometimes.”

“I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO HAVE TWO TROUBLEMAKERS TO MAKE MY LIFE THIS HARD! IT WAS BAD ENOUGH WHEN IT WAS JUST ONE OF YOU! NOW I HAVE TO CONSTANTLY STRESS OUT EVERY DAY KNOWING YOU BOTH LIVE HERE!”

“Thank you for that by the way.” Harold merely smiled at Krupp.

“DON’T ‘THANK YOU,’ AT ME!” Krupp snapped at the boy. “And give me that!” He snatched an all too familiar looking satchel away from George (who let out a protesting “Hey!”) “I’m confiscating this and I better not see that you left this room or hear a word about a new stupid prank you clearly pulled off before I finish taking care of the damage that you did that I shouldn’t have take care of!” His voice increased in volume until he hurried out of the room and slammed the door shut.

Both boys sighed. “Aw man, he took the good stuff that we hadn’t used yet!” George moped as he looked around the room. The bedroom in question had light reddish brown walls and the curtains and bedding were varying shades of bright green. The bookshelf was filled with books, in addition to certain trinkets and memorable objects that Harold had collected upon his return back to his true home. The main part of the room was the round table where the two friends would draw and plan out stories together while their supplies were tucked away in a corner of the room. The room was normal enough, but there were indeed certain objects hidden away that were perfect for pranking or else needed to be away from the eyes of an adult.

“Yeah, he even took the slingshot I wanted to try out.” Harold grumbled. “I got one hiding somewhere, but it’s not in here. We need to go outside for it.”

“I bet he really regrets bringing you back to your mom.” George gave Harold a knowing smile. “You think he wishes that he let us run away when we didn’t know who you were?”

“Probably.” Harold laughed. “Besides, it wasn’t him that brought us back, remember? That was Ca–”

“Hi guys!”

The boys screamed at the sound of the new voice and turned around to see a girl standing by one of the windows, which was currently opened. She was around their age, yet she was noticeably taller than them, which was especially thanks to the curly dark hair that was pulled back with some help with a purple headband. “By the way, watching you guys was a lot of fun. Even if you made a few rookie mistakes here and there.”

“Erica?!” George gapped. “How did you–?!”

“This.” Erica moved her arm to reveal a crossbow with lots of rope and a hook on the end in her possession. “Sure, undergoing training under the guards wasn’t exactly sunshine and rainbows, what with most of them being too condescending towards a kid and all. But hey, whatever experience I can get in this world as the queen’s youngest honorary member of the guards helps and that includes knowing where to find the best tools around the castle.”

“Hey I had something like that before!” George gapped at the crossbow as Harold gave Erica a curious look. “But wouldn’t that make you a squire?” He asked.

“For one of those luggs?” Erica scoffed. “No way. Anyway,” She went over to the boys and handed the crossbow to George. “Here, you can have it.”

“Whoa!” Harold and George stared in amazement at the crossbow. “There’s enough rope to sneak out of here!” Harold realized. “We can still get the slingshot!”

“So much for keeping us shut in here!” George laughed. “We’d work on our stories, but since our creativity is at a low point today we need some inspiration! We can’t get it here!”

“Thanks Erica!” Harold turned to thank the girl, but to his great surprise, the girl had vanished. “Huh?” He looked around the room, as did George. “Where did she go?”

I don’t know.” George shrugged. “But I’m getting out of here!” He hurried over to the window where Erica came from.

*****

“Your Majesty?” One of the guards came into the room. “There’s a letter for you. Also, there’s someone who just came by. They said that they wanted to see you about something.”

“What?” Grace asked as she went over to take the purple envelope that contained the letter in question. She only briefly saw the seal before the guard added “What should I do about the visitor? She said that it was urgent.”

Grace stared at the seal which Barbra could barely see from where she stood. A suspicious frown crossed her face before looking at the guard. “I’ll see her.”

****

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t schedule a meeting with anyone around this time.” Grace faced the odd arrival from the seat of her throne.

“No offense, but I would say this meeting is long overdue.” The woman began as Grace tried to figure her out. She seemed normal enough, but there was a scar on one side of her face as if she had been burnt on one cheek. “I’ve been meaning to have a word with you about something important.”

“Such as?” Grace asked. “You came at the exact same time a letter bearing a certain seal came into my possession. I’m not going to open it until I know for sure that–”

“Oh that’s not from me. What I wanted to talk about was... Well... how about the fact that you had no clue what losses you caused in consuming the flower of creation all those years ago?”

The atmosphere in the room suddenly drew still. Barbra, and even a few guards shot a look of confusion at the woman as Grace tensed up in her throne–her nails digging into the arm rests. “I’m sorry, what?” Grace dropped her confusion as a quiet annoyance flooded her.

“Your illness lead to finding the flower, yet you were so selfish and wanted it to yourself. You ate all of it and you denied the magic folk access to powers beyond your understanding. We could of helped guide your kingdom to prosperity, and yet your lack of foresight ruined what you still have yet to grasp!” The woman’s voice grew to annoyance. “You denied the power of immortality and healing from us!”

“The only loss that was caused was the loss of my son!” Grace furiously stood up and growled at the woman. “I have no clue who you are or what you are trying to do, but how dare you accuse me of loss and selfishness when you know full well what I already suffered from!”

“Oh, I’m not here to accuse, Your Majesty.” The woman snarled as her hair slowly changed from brown to green. “I–Sarah–am here to claim what rightfully belongs to me and the others in exchange. I want what’s left of the flower inside of your child.”

*****

“See? I told you I had one hiding somewhere.” Harold grinned at George as he lifted a few stones out of the way and lifted up a tarp covered with dirt to reveal a hole in the earth hidden underneath. Within the hole lay a slingshot which was resting upon a bright red cloth with black dots upon it, among some other trinkets that were perfect for pranking.

“That’s a neat hiding spot.” George grinned back. “I thought it would be hard to find some good hiding spots around the castle, but I keep getting surprised.”

“Well, mom likes to garden a lot and I did a lot of it myself back at the tower.” Harold admitted as he looked around the small courtyard that had a water fountain smack dab in the center of it. There was mostly flowers and herbs, but there was some fruit that still had a ways to go before they could be picked. “Its a nice way to get to know her more, you know? And its a lot better being outside and getting to walk in the dirt.”

“You really don’t miss it now, do you?” George worried. “Being in the tower?”

“No way,” Harold shook his head. “I mean, it takes awhile to get used to how big the inside of this place is, and having more room to run around, but–”

“What are you doing?”

Both boys nearly screamed and Harold let go of the tarp as they turned around to see Heidi looking at them with a curious expression.

“Nothing!” George quickly denied.

“Nothing you’d be into!” Harold added.

“You’re hiding something.” Heidi made to move over to the tarp, but Harold shot up and blocked her way.

“Look, it’s just some pranking stuff, ok?” Harold told her. “Nothing special. Why are you here?”

“I wanted to try to make a flower crown for Edith.” Heidi admitted, which made Harold think.

“Well get the ones that mom can’t easily see, like the ones in the back of the bushes, ok? And try to make sure the stems are really long, but don’t pick too many. Also she likes all kinds of flowers, so you can choose any of them.”

Heidi’s eyes lit up and she smiled. “That sounds great! I’ll keep that in mind!” She waved and headed over to a bush tucked away in one corner of the small courtyard. George and Harold sighed in relief. “We need to make this quick.” George told Harold, who nodded and started to reach for the slingshot. There was some things they didn’t want anyone–not even the princess–to see that would lead to questions that they were not ready to answer. One of those things just so happened to be the red cloth with the black dots.

None of them saw the huge dark figure tucked away on the rooftops of the castle. It eyed one child in particular.

*****

“ARREST HER!” Grace snapped at the guards as she pointed to the woman. “Figures you’d go mama bear on me.” Sarah rolled her eyes as the guards scrambled to get their weapons out.

“I ALREADY LOST HAROLD! I’M NOT LOSING HIM AGAIN!”

“Ah, wait a minute!” Sarah held up her finger. “Now I do know he had the powers of the flower–!”

“NO! I AM THOUGH WITH THE HEARTACHE! HE IS NO LONGER A PART OF THIS ANYMORE!” Grace shot as her guards began to surround Sarah.

“GOD, WOULD YOU LET ME FINISH, WOMAN?! I DIDN’T SAY WHICH CHILD I WANTED YET!”

Grace’s fury momentarily turned into confusion. “What?”

*****

“Got enough stones?” Harold asked as George filled his pockets with just the right amount of rocks.

“Yup!” George gave Harold a thumb’s up. The blonde grinned as he grabbed the pocket of the slingshot and stretched it out and aimed for the sky. “Now all we got to do is–!”

“YOU!”

Harold almost dropped the slingshot in shock when he and George quickly turned around to see the last adult that they wanted to see glaring at them from the entrance. “I KNEW YOU’D TRY TO ESCAPE!” Krupp yelled and jabbed a finger them.

“How did he find us that fast?!” George gapped as Heidi stopped what she was doing and got up to watch the outburst while her hands still held a bunch of flowers.

“YOU KNOW WHAT?! THIS TIME I’LL PUT YOU SOMEWHERE WHERE I KNOW YOU CAN’T ESCAPE!” The angry adult stormed towards the two.

“No wait, don’t put them in a cell!” Heidi protested as she ran over in an attempt to stop the adult. At that exact moment, the thing in the shadows went over to quickly descend down towards the courtyard.

At the same moment, Harold turned his head in time to see a huge creature quickly approaching the little princess who was too distracted to realize what was about to happen to her. “HEIDI LOOK OUT!” Harold screamed as he ran towards Heidi.

“Huh?” Heidi turned her head in time to see the huge dark green figure that was blocking everything in her sight.

It all happened so fast that all the humor swiftly turned to horror as the air became filled with the terrified screaming of a child at the second the predator snatched up its tiny prey.

*****

The screams could be heard from inside the throne room.

“Well, looks like you can say that both your children had been kidnapped at some point in their lives!” Sarah laughed as Grace listened to the screams in horror.

Grace turned to Sarah, but it was too late as the witch was engulfed in a puff of green smoke, causing the guards to move away as fast as possible.

“No,” Grace shook her head. “No, no, no–no!” She grabbed her hair. No it couldn’t happen again! Not to another one of her own children! She couldn’t do this again!

“FIND HEIDI!” She screamed at her guards. “FIND WHERE THAT WITCH TOOK HER AND GET HER BACK TO ME!”

*****

“HELP!” Heidi screamed as what appeared to be a giant green bird took her up into the sky as the flowers she once held fell down to the ground.

Both of George and Harold were horrified for various reasons at what just happened. Even Krupp stopped his angry outburst and nearly had a heart attack over what just happened as he began to ask “WHAT THE HECK JUST–?!”

SNAP!

The brother of the kidnapped child had quickly turned around and snapped his fingers as a determined glare rose in his eyes. He already knew there was only one way to go after the bird and he didn’t have time to plan anything else in the moment his mother’s Captain of the Guard’s expression changed from horrified confusion into gleeful excitement as his eyes shone and a huge grin so bright that it would put the sun to shame graced his features.

*****

“Oh god, what do I do, what do I do?!” Grace panicked as she rocked back and forth in her throne as Barbra tried to comfort her. “They won’t get her in time!” She grabbed at her hair. “It’s going to happen all over again! I can’t live though this again! I can’t–what if it’s permanent this time?!”

Another sound broke though the chaos of her panic as her guards hurried outside. It was a familiar voice that reached through to her and responded to her concerns with a jubilant sounding–

“TRA-LA-LAA!”

Barbra shot her head up in surprise as Grace let go of her hair. In that moment, it felt as if a weight was gradually lifting off of her, even as the fear still gripped her heart. She knew instantly who it was that let that cry out.

*****

Heidi cried in fear as the giant bird flew her away from the castle. She was so high up in the air that she almost felt sick to her stomach and couldn’t bear to see how small the trees and water below her were. She was doing all that she could to hold on tight around the bird’s talons that were closed around her. She had wanted to be flown away from the castle for a long time, but not like this!

“What’s happening?!” She cried as she shut her eyes. She was scared out of her mind! She wanted someone to save her! She wanted this to all be a bad dream! She wanted her brother with her again! She wanted–!

“HEIDI!”

She opened her eyes at the unexpected sound of her brother’s voice and looked back.

She saw Harold frantically waving at her while George was beside him. Holding them both while flying through the air was a very familiar looking adult with no hair on his head and who only wore a bright red cape with black dots and a huge pair of underpants that reached so far up him that it covered up his navel.

“HI!” The adult happily called out to the little princess.

“CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS!” Heidi cried out in happy relief and waved at him.

“Ammo!” Harold demanded to George, who quickly took a rock out of his pocket and handed it over. He put the rock in the pouch of the slingshot and took aim as Captain Underpants moved increasingly closer towards the bird. He let go of the pouch and the rock soared, but unfortunately it missed.

“Come on, give me another one!” Harold tried again and though he managed to hit one of the bird’s wings, it looked back and noticed that it was being chased down.

“Wow you’re right, that is a giant bird!” Captain Underpants exclaimed as the creature narrowed its eyes at them. Without warning, it made a sharp left turn, causing its prey to cry out in alarm.

“DON’T LOSE IT!” George yelled at Captain Underpants, who obeyed the command.

“Come on, you stupid thing!” Harold was about to shoot another rock when all of a sudden the bird turned around and made to charge its sharp beak into the trio.

“NEVER MIND, DUCK!” George screamed at Captain Underpants.

“That doesn’t look like a duck to me!” Captain Underpants quickly observed. “I thought ducks were smaller–!”

“DUCK MEANS DODGE!”

“Oh!” The adult realized and did just that before the bird could harm him or the two boys.

“KEEP FOLLOWING IT!” Harold screamed as he readied his slingshot again. He had no clue what was going on, but he wasn’t going to let that thing take his sister away after only getting to know her for a short time!

Unfortunately the bird was now determined to attack Captain Underpants and after performing another sharp move towards a different direction, it let out a cry as it sped towards him.

“KEEP MOVING!” George yelled.

“NO, I GOT TO SHOOT IT!” Harold yelled.

“WE CAN STILL CHASE AFTER IT!”

“IT HAS MY SISTER!”

“Uh, guys, what do I do?!” Asked Captain Underpants. “I can’t fight it while I’m holding you!”

Harold let out a scream of frustration before taking aim. “JUST LET ME GET ONE HIT!” He took a deep breath as the bird came closer and closer to them.

He realized he knew where to hit to slow it down. He aimed for the eye–

–And released just when it got close enough.

The bird let out a terrible cry and would have dropped Heidi in the process if she wan’t already clutching at it for dear life. It did however get close enough to Captain Underpants to knock him away.

“AGH!” The boys screamed as the adult holding them began to plummet towards the ground. In the meantime the bird managed to get away and used its good eye to get away from the area and head towards its mistress as fast as possible.

“WHOAH!” Captain Underpants yelled in a panic as he held the two boys closer to him and was ready to absorb the full force of whatever he’d hit. Fortunately he regained his senses in time to come to a complete stop before he could even reach being around fifty feet from the ground.

“Oh man, oh man!” George panted as he tightened his grip on the adult’s arm. Harold looked up to see the bird flying away towards the mountains in the north. “We have to get her back!” Harold turned to George. “There’s no telling what’s going to happen to her!”

******

Up in the mountains was an old manor that was falling apart. It already lost much of its roofing and it was too dangerous to be renovated as the wood holding it up was rotting away in certain places. Inside the main room at the top of the staircase was the woman who had the princess abducted as well as the princess herself.

“Sorry kiddo, but this is all your mom’s fault.” Sarah told Heidi as she examined a clear, almost diamond like crystal in a strange device shaped like a crossbow. Meanwhile, the girl had a rope tied up around her so that her arms were pinned to her sides. The adult turned around to face Heidi, but the child was giving her a dark glare. If the circumstances were not in favor for the child’s safety, the expression would have been seen as adorable.

“You did a stupid thing.” Heidi flatly told her. “They’ll come to get me and you’ll regret it.”

“Who? Those idiots that are supposed to be protecting the kingdom?” Sarah scoffed. “Or are you talking about that lame excuse for a hero with the dumb sense of fashion? Look, you got to learn that in the end that not everything will end happily for everyone, and I can’t guarantee that this’ll be safe for you.” She waved the device for emphasis.

“You can’t scare me! I know they’re coming for me! My brother is going to come get me!” Heidi insisted. “Him, George, and especially–!”

There was a loud crash as something broke though the roofing and landed on the first floor near the old entrance door, causing the two to look in that direction.

“I made it!” Captain Underpants yelled out when the dust settled before letting go of George and Harold. “Your house must have a really nice view of the outside! You mind if I check it out later?!”

“I told you!” Heidi smirked at Sarah who could only stare at the bizarre arrival before her. “You’re going to be in a lot of trouble now!”

“Give Heidi back now!” Harold yelled at the woman.

“Well, it looks like I finally get to meet the brat that absorbed the flower’s magic while he was inside the queen.” Sarah smirked at Harold. “How’s life after being away from her for all of your childhood?”

“Look, just give Heidi back before we kick your butt!” George demanded.

“Well first off, I just need to get something out of her before I do that.” Sarah rested the crossbow on her shoulder. “A little something that you had up until now.”

“Wait a sec, what?” Harold was now confused, but then the woman let out a whistle and the giant bird from before came charging out through a wall.

“NOT AGAIN!” George shrieked before Captain Underpants shoved him and Harold out of the way in the nick of time.

“NO!” Heidi made to run towards them, but Sarah grabbed the ropes around her. “Oh no kid, you’re coming with me!”

“You stop the bird, we’ll get Heidi!” Harold commanded to Captain Underpants before he and George ran towards the stairs.

“But what do I do–WHOAH!” The adult was forced to go after the bird when it made to go after the boys. He was able to quickly fly up and grab it by one of its legs before he tried pulling it away in mid air.

“Let her go!” Harold yelled at Sarah as she kept pulling Heidi away at the same time the bird turned its head around and tried to peck at Captain Underpants. Heidi panicked before a thought struck her. She turned around to her captor, readied herself–

–And spat as hard as she could at her.

“What the–?!” Sarah freaked out and flinched at the moment the spit landed on her and she was grossed out enough to accidentally let go of the princess, who ran to the two boys.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get out of here soon!” Harold promised Heidi as he raced towards her.

“We just need to stop these guys first!” George promised at the exact moment the bird started to fling Captain Underpants back and forth by his cape, causing him to let out cries of protest.

“Oh no you don’t!” Sarah snapped her fingers. At the exact moment, a wall of green fire bursted forth and separated the pranksters from the princess.

“No!” Harold and George came to a stop as did Heidi before they could get burned.

The angry adult stormed up to Heidi before she could run away and roughly grabbed her by the ropes again before practically dragging her back to her intended destination, causing the child to cry out in protest, which only made her brother angrier.

“We got to do something, we can’t get past that fire!” Harold growled in frustration. George quickly turned around to try to find something that they could use before seeing that the giant bird was now pecking its peak into Captain Underpants’ head. “Ow! Hey! Cut it out!” The adult laying on the ground protested as he grabbed his head and winced with each hit.

“We’ll need Captain Underpants, but we got to get rid of the bird first!” George told Harold. “Hit it while its distracted!”

Harold nodded and quickly took the slingshot and a rock out. “Please work,” He pleaded before sending the rock flying.

The first rock managed to hit the bird in the neck. The second one struck it in the beak hard enough to knock it back and let Captain Underpants escape.

“Get us over the fire!” George frantically waved at him.

Before the bird could even react fast enough to recover, the hero was able to quickly speed off, scoop up the two boys in his arms, fly over the fire, and right through the doorway that Sarah and taken Heidi through.

“Phew, thanks guys!” Captain Underpants sighed in relief when he finally rested himself on the ground in the hallway they found themselves in.

“Uh, Captain Underpants?” George noticed something and his eyes widened in horror.

“Really, I thought that I was going to be that bird’s–!”

“You’re on fire!” Harold yelped and pointed to the cape that was indeed burning up with green flames at the bottom of it.

“Yeah, I’m on fire–! I’M ON FIRE!” Captain Underpants screamed in realization as he let go of the boys and tried to frantically waved as his cape. “I’M ON FIRE! I’M ON FIRE!” He grabbed a nearby ruined painting off the wall and tried fanning the flame with it, but it only made it worse. “MAKE IT STOP!” He let go of the painting, fell over, and began rolling around.

******

“Please don’t do this!” Heidi cried as Sarah readied the device. The princess’ ropes were hanging her up in the air by a candelabra and they were hurting her.

“Sorry kid, but I got to.” Sarah grinned as she aimed the device at the princess. The crystal in it began to turn white when she pressed the trigger on the device. “If anything else happens to you–well that’s too bad.”

She pressed a button and a beam of white light shot out at Heidi, causing her to scream.

*****

The boys’ blood froze when they heard the scream and even the hero–who finally got the fire out–was horrified by it.

“No,” Harold shook his head. “No, no, no–!”

There was a shriek from behind them and they all were forced so hurry away as the giant bird tried to poke its head through the doorway.

“COME ON!” George grabbed Harold’s hand and made a run for it while Captain Underpants found himself getting grabbed by his cape once again by the bird. The adult cried out when the bird tried to hurl him against the wall, but then a huge metal shield that just so happened to be conveniently hanging above the doorway finally fell over and knocked the creature hard on the head. It was enough to make it let go of Captain Underpants when it got completely knocked out.

*****

Heidi panted and her heart was beating wildly in her chest as she stared at the crossbow.

Sarah’s grin of triumph turned into a puzzled frown. “Wait a minute.” She looked at the device and examined the crystal. “Why isn’t it–?” She tapped the crystal but nothing happened. She aimed the crossbow at the princess, but still nothing happened. “I don’t understand! It worked the last time I saw you!” She glared at the princess. “It was reacting and everything! How is this possible?!”

“Wh-what is?!” Heidi stammered as Harold and George ran into the room.

“You were supposed to have the last of the flower’s magic inside of you!” Sarah angrily yelled at the girl, causing the two boys to come to a stop. “There’s another person in Piqua besides your brother who has it! Why isn’t it you?!”

“What?”

Sarah turned her head to see two very confused boys. Harold in particular was rather surprised. “There’s another who has–?”

“–The flower’s magic inside of them?” George finished.

“You!” Sarah growled at Harold. “You know who it is, don’t you?! Does your mother know?! This crystal went off on your sister–I thought it was supposed to be her!” She held the crossbow up for Harold to see the crystal within it. “And now it’s as if she’s just some boring, average child!”

“Hey!” George snapped in anger at the adult.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Harold shook his head. “This is all new to me!”

“You little liar!” Sarah held her hand up and readied her magic to create a green fireball, causing the boys to tense up and get ready to run for it. “I’ve been locked away for nearly a decade, so something must of happened when your mother had that potion and lived to have you! I’ll ask this one last time–who is the flower of creation’s last living container–?!”

Without warning a huge shield came spinning at Sarah and it crashed into her, knocking her across the room and into a wall while the crossbow fell to the ground with a crash and the crystal within it shattered into fragments.

“I didn’t know you could use a sled like that!” Captain Underpants entered the room as he dusted his hands off before hurrying over to Heidi.

“Oh thank gosh!” George sighed in relief and so did Harold while the adult carefully held Heidi in his grasp while snapping the ropes off of her before she was freed from them as well as the candelabra.

“You came!” Heidi gave a huge delighted smile to Captain Underpants before she threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. “I knew you’d save me if something ever happened to me some day!”

Captain Underpants smiled and hugged the child back. “I would no matter what.” He reassured her. “It’s a good thing your brother let me know what happened in the nick of time.”

“Heidi!” Harold raced to the two as George followed him. Captain Underpants walked over to the two and carefully set Heidi on the ground before the girl could rush over and crash into her brother, who hugged her tightly.

“You came to rescue me too!” Heidi cried out in happiness and hugged Harold.

“Well you’re my sister, of course I had to come for you!” Harold told her as he smiled and hugged her back. He didn’t want to tell her how scared he actually was–afraid that he was going to lose someone very important to him all over again to forces beyond his control. Now it was due to something he thought was long behind him.

He was almost too caught up in his thoughts to hear George yell his name and within a few seconds, he found them all getting picked up by a huge pair of arms before getting flown across the room.

“I DON’T THINK SO!”

Captain Underpants was forced to come to a stop as a net of flames went over him and all three children in his grasp and formed a perfect dome around them. He looked around in panic, but there was no escape.

“I’m not letting the queen have her kids back until I get my answers!” Sarah angrily demanded as she stumbled towards the dome. There wasn’t enough space for the hero to fly through, but they could still see her through the gaps. “Hand them over!”

“No way!” Captain Underpants protested as he held the kids closer to him. In his grasp, George was hugging onto Harold, who was hugging Heidi, and all three kids were scared.

“Do you have any more rocks?” Harold asked George, who checked his pockets and shook his head. He also checked his pockets, but to his dismay they were all gone. There was no way to escape this time.

“They know who I’m looking for and I promise you’ll get really hurt if you don’t give them to me!” The dome slowly inched farther towards the hero.

“NO!” Captain Underpants’ hold on the kids tightened as he dropped to his knees in an attempt to get away from the fire which was inching closer towards them. “JUST LEAVE THEM ALONE ALREADY!” He demanded as Heidi whimpered and tightened her hold around Harold. No matter what would happen–even if it were to kill him–he’d never let any harm fall upon an innocent child! Especially the ones he cared about the most!

“LISTEN YOU STUPID FREAK! IF YOU DON’T LET GO, I’M GOING TO BURN YOU!” The woman yelled as the hero kept his hold on the scared children while trying to kneel away from the fire, but he could already feel the heat coming closer to the point that it was making his skin burn up from the hot air alone. He could only grit his teeth and tightly shut his eyes as he waited for the inevitable. “SO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE–!”

“THAT IS ENOUGH!” Without warning, there was a flash of purple and Sarah let out a scream as something came after her. Whatever happened, it was enough to stop the spell and make the dome of flames vanish as the caster let out a storm of cursing at the owner of the unknown voice.“THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I HAD TO SEND YOU AWAY THE FIRST TIME!”

There was a bright, intense flash of purple magic that was enough to make them all shut their eyes.

Moments past before anyone could dare open their eyes to see that the former spell caster was gone. In her place was a figure who was in a magenta robe that covered them up to the point that you couldn’t make out who they were.

They let out a feminine sigh–revealing their identity to be a woman–and held her face in her hands. “I’m so sorry. I wouldn’t advise telling the queen about what almost happened here.” She slightly turned her head towards the small group. “If that device my former student created–” She stopped and shook her head. “Tell her that I locked her away in the old place. She’ll know what I mean.”

“Wait a second!” George and Harold recovered the quickest as the former shook his head. “Who are you?! Who was that?! And what did you mean by ‘student?!’”

The woman paused before she let out a sigh. “I would ignore whatever she told you and keep it to yourself. For everyone’s safety.”

“Hang on a sec, what’s going on?!” Harold demanded, but then the person vanished away in an explosion of purple sparks. When they faded away, it was as if she had never been there to begin with.

There was a long silence.

“Hey, that weird, mysterious person just exploded into a bunch of sparkles!” Captain Underpants excitedly pointed out as he let go of the kids.

“Yeah she did.” George let out a nervous laughter. “She did.” He repeated as Harold noticed the shattered crystal on the ground. “Hey Harold?” He asked as the boy walked up to the remains and grabbed as much as he could. “Hey we need to start heading back!” He ran up to him and tugged at his sleeve.

“Did you hear what she said earlier?” Harold whispered to George. “The woman who kidnapped Heidi–you don’t think–?”

“Let’s worry about it another time!” George whispered back to Harold. “Come on, I want to get out of here!” He didn’t feel reassured until Harold put the shards in his pocket and started heading back. Though the boys both had the same thing on their minds.

What was going on? Who was the woman who kidnapped Heidi? Who was that woman that saved them? Why would she tell them to keep what Heidi’s kidnapper told them to themselves?

*****

It was getting close to sunset and there was a peaceful, welcoming calm about that moment.

On one of the castle balconies, Grace sighed in relief as Captain Underpants carefully handed her daughter back to her while Harold and George stood beside him. All of her worries (even the ones caused by the letter from earlier) vanished from her mind upon the reunion.

“Mama!” Heidi cried with joy as she reached out and hugged Grace.

“Oh thank god!” Grace sighed as she kissed Heidi’s forehead as long as she could as she hugged her youngest child back. “Thank you so much.” She eventually smiled at the strange hero. “If you weren’t around, I don’t know what I’d do. I can’t lose another child again.” She tightened her hold on her daughter.

“Hey I was at the right place at the right time!” Captain Underpants grinned and shrugged. “These two were the ones who filled me in!” He gestured to George and Harold.

“Yeah, we all were there when it happened!” George admitted.

“We acted fast and we got him to help just like that!” Harold gave his mother a secretive grin as he snapped his fingers.

“I see.” Grace caught on and chuckled.

“I hope you see you again soon, Captain Underpants!” Heidi smiled and waved farewell at the hero.

“Same here!” Captain Underpants waved back with a huge smile of his own while unaware that someone was peering out of a window and down at him.

Edith smiled at the cute exchange between the adult and the child while feeling relieved that everyone came back safely. As she rested her chin in one hand and looked at the hero, she felt a pleasant warmth inside of her.

“Ok, we better get him going!” George tugged at Captain Underpants’ cape. “Come on, let’s go!”

*****

Harold stared at the crystal shards in his hand as George played with the surface of the water in the fountain back in the small courtyard. “You don’t think it could be true, could it?” he asked. “What that woman meant about another who has the flower’s magic?”

“Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised after everything we’ve gone through, but hey–don’t worry about it today.” George reassured Harold. “Let’s save it for tomorrow.”

“But if there really is someone out there who’s like me, they could be in trouble.” Harold pointed out. “I thought we put this behind us when Ribble was gone. You and I both know what happens when a bad person wants that magic that badly and it almost happened again! I don’t want to risk losing you or Heidi or anyone else–!”

“That’s not going to happen.” George faced Harold and grabbed his shoulders while giving him a determined look. “If you have to get caught up in this, then I’m coming in with you. You won’t be alone in it anymore. Best friends look out for each other, and I’ll never stop helping you whether you like it or not.”

Harold laughed and put the crystal shards back in his pocket. “You’re right. Thanks George.”

“Uh, guys? Why did you make me put this back on?” They turned around to see Captain Underpants back in Krupp’s uniform, though it was very disheveled and unorganized looking and even the toupee on his head was crooked. “Is it really that necessary?” He whined.

Both boys looked at each other and shared a smile as they prepared themselves to run. “See you next time, Captain!” George grinned before slapping the water in the fountain as hard as he could, causing it to splash out at the hero who was hit in the face with it.

“GAH!” The man yelled and flinched upon getting water to the face so hard that it actually made the toupee fly up a few inches and land perfectly on the top of his head. “WHAT ARE YOU–?!” He turned his confused head towards the two boys who shared the same mischievous grin.

“Sorry but we had to barrow Captain Underpants!” George quickly confessed.

“Yeah my sister’s safe and everything, so all is good!” Harold waved and grabbed George by the wrist before they ran away as fast as they could. The adult’s expression changed from confusion and back into a familiar angry scowl.

“GET BACK HERE, I’M NOT THROUGH WITH YOU TWO!” Krupp roared as he chased after the boys who laughed their heads off and embraced the usual routine in order to forget about the past events with much enthusiasm.

Chapter Text

Harold and George stared at the crystal shards on Harold’s table from the device that was used on Heidi (but thankfully didn’t work) in his room.

“So let’s recap.” George began. “That green haired lady is one of the magic folk. She was after the last of the flower’s magic and assumed Heidi had it because her weird contraption reacted to her.”

“She thought Heidi was the last owner of the flower’s magic after I lost it all.” Harold added. “But apparently she was wrong and it’s not my sister.” He looked up. “Ok, so let’s review–I only got those powers because my mom had to drink the potion made by the flower. I ended up with rainbow hair and I only lost those powers when it was cut. The only way I could use the powers was if I was singing or thinking creative thoughts.”

“And the lady thought Heidi had the magic because you both have the same mom.” George thought. “But Heidi doesn’t have rainbow hair and she never mentioned having any powers before.”

“Unless she did and mom had it cut. But mom never said anything about it when I told her about myself.” Harold struggled to think. “So in other words, if someone did have the same powers, they’d also have rainbow hair. No one in the castle has that kind of hair–”

“–Unless they were hiding it or they were just passing by at the time.” George realized. “Hang on a minute. Your hair lit up when you sang, right?”

“Yeah?”

“So we start singing the song around the castle to narrow down our options!”

“Well it’s worth a try. Better than trying to do all this studying that we keep having to do.” Harold and George shuddered when they saw the currently neglected books and papers that they were expected to do.

*****

“Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine.” Harold tried singing to his mom, but her hair didn’t glow.

“Make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine.” George sang as he looked around the kitchens and the staff inside.

“Heal what has been hurt,” Harold sang while hiding in the training area where the guards were.

“Change the fate’s design.” George secretly sang to Heidi just to be on the safe side, but nothing happened.

“Save what has been lost.” Harold sang into the stables.

“Bring back what once was mine.” George sang at some maids.

“What once was–” Both boys sung together and then quickly stopped when they realized Krupp was staring down at them with his arms crossed together and had a very confused expression on his face.

They took one look at the top of his head, realized what they were doing, and immediately walked away.

*****

“Well, we narrowed it down.” George wrote some things down on paper. “We know for sure who isn’t the living container.” He frowned. “We need to come up with a better name for them.”

“Double rainbow?” Harold asked. “Other rainbow haired person?”

“Maybe something that won’t make people think we’re up to something.” He thought for a moment before laughing. “Actually that reminds me–one of the teachers I had spoke German. He taught us a few words and one way you could say rainbow was ‘regenbogen.’”

“Regenbogen would be an awesome name for a character.” Harold admitted before looking at the crystal shards and shook his head. “Anyway, if we can’t find the person, maybe there’s another way. She showed that crystal to us, right? We could find someone who knows what it is or could get it fixed.”

“We can’t ask any of the adults, they’ll–wait a minute.”

*****

“It’s just some crystal.” Erica told them as she looked at the shards. “Magic folk use them for certain spells.”

“But this crystal was used for finding someone in particular.” Harold told her as he and George stood with her in the castle’s impressively large library. “We need to get it fixed as soon as possible!”

“Well do you know some magic folk who can fix it?”

“Yeah, but we either don’t know where they live or we’ll have to wait until summer.” George admitted.

“Well, I guess you’ll have to find someone else, like an alchemist or an inventor.” Erica told them.

“But we–hang on.” George pulled a face. “You don’t actually mean Melvin, do you?”

“Who?” Harold asked.

“Remember that kid that wanted to keep Heidi away from us during the festival? That’s him.”

“Maybe I should come with you two.” Erica decided as she handed the shards back to Harold. “He’ll be less moody if I’m around.”

*****

A slight distance from the castle was a modest three story sized house, though you could see what appeared to be a huge telescope poking out on one side.

George and Harold looked around a large room that was filled with all sorts of contraptions and devices beyond their imaginations as Erica waited off to the side.

“Whoa!” Harold’s eyes widened in amazement. “These are amazing!”

“Pah! These are nothing!”

Both boys turned their heads to see a boy with short red hair, freckles, glasses, and dressed in an apron with strange googles around his neck and some gloves as part of his attire. “These are all just prototypes that we’ll reuse again. We don’t keep our best work out for the public to see.” He smugly grinned, but that quickly faded when he saw the two boys. “Oh, it’s you.” He glared at George.

“Hey Melvin!” The boy sighed and waved.

“And of course I knew I’d see you sooner or later.” Melvin looked at Harold, who couldn’t help but glare back as he remembered what happened the last time they interacted with each other. “You honestly weren’t what I was expecting when they said the lost prince came back.”

“What were you expecting?” Harold asked.

“Someone not like him.” Melvin stared at George. “But considering your still adjusting to your new life and its perks, I’ll let it slide this time.”

“Did you make all of this?” Harold asked as he looked around the room again.

“Impressed are you?” Melvin smirked. “Like I said, these are prototypes my parents and I worked on. All the greatest inventions in Piqua is thanks to the Sneedly family–”

“You made chamber paper?!” George grinned.

“–What?”

“Behold the chamber paper!” George pulled out something from his satchel and revealed it as what appeared to be a large scroll of white paper. “With this, going to the bathroom becomes a lot more easier and less gross! It helps when you have to camp outdoors and don’t want to look for leaves, and you can even use it for–!”

“That’s enough!” Melvin snapped. “No we did not make that! Stop wasting my valuable time and tell me why you’re here!”

“They’re here for you to check something out.” Erica finally stepped in. “Guys, why don’t you show it to him?”

Almost instantly the sourness of the boy vanished and he began to stammer upon seeing the girl. “Erica?! What are you doing with these two?!”

“Here.” Harold took the shards out and showed them to Melvin. “The lady said that she was using this to locate someone.”

Melvin turned back to look at the crystal and frowned. “That’s just a bunch of shards–”

“It might be a crystal that magic folk use.” Erica cut in. “We need to repair it. That shouldn’t be a problem, right?”

“A crystal the magic folk use?!” Melvin gapped. “You mean actual magic?! I–!”

“And hey, maybe I’ll join you for a bit. I’m a bit curious about it myself.”

“Uh–” The boy blushed a little at the thought of it. “Well I–I mean I can try!”

“Oh nice!” Harold sighed in relief as George smiled. “We can–!”

“You two aren’t coming with me!” Melvin snapped at the boys. “I don’t trust you! Things like science and alchemy aren’t things to mess around with by people who aren’t passionate or careful enough! Unlike you two I actually trust Erica, so she’s the only one coming with me!”

“I promise I’ll fill you in.” Erica held her hand out for the shards. “This is why you need me.” She whispered to them.

The boys let out groans and sighs, but Harold reluctantly surrendered the shards to Erica. “See you in a bit!” She smiled and began to head towards the other end of the room.

“Don’t follow us and don’t touch anything!” Melvin warned the boys. “A lot of the stuff here at home is highly dangerous!” He then followed Erica and began leading her out through a hallway.

George sighed. “Well, I guess we can trust Erica. I still don’t feel comfortable about letting Melvin near our search.” He then smirked. “By the way, you remember that bow I used to get into your tower?”

“The one with the arrow and rope?”

“I ‘borrowed’ it from this place.” George confessed. “He tattled on some kids, so I took one of his things as payback.”

“Nice.” Harold grinned as he looked around the room at the contraptions. “What are these things anyway?” He looked at a pair of boots with what looked like metal on their bottom parts nearby. “Anti-gravity boots?” He read a message that was next to it.

“Anti-gravity gun?” George also read a message as he picked up a strange blue and black contraption with a large gray sphere on one end. He saw a piece of paper under it and read it. “‘Lasts for fifteen minutes or until the trigger is pressed again. Only use it indoors.’ I heard that word ‘gravity’ somewhere before. What’s it for again?”

“I think that’s what makes things fall to the ground.” Harold recalled. “It was in one of the books back in the tower.”

“Then what happens when it’s anti–?!” George accidentally pressed a switch, causing a blue light to shoot out of the spherical tip and out through an open window where the light kept heading towards the castle.

*****

“‘Here you will be rewarded for all you have suffered in the past. Your every wish will be granted. Only try to find me out, no matter how I may be disguised or hidden, as I love you dearly.’”

Edith was quietly reading a book at her desk in a small study. She didn’t see the light come zipping into her room through an opened window, but she heard the loud popping sound, which made her jump out out of her chair in alarm. “What the–?!” Then to her amazement, all the sofas, tables, the bookshelf, and potted plants rose up and crashed up against the ceiling.

“What?!” She could only asked before a weird feeling overcame her as if she was floating in water.

All of a sudden she found herself rising rapidly into the air. She cried out in alarm and was able to press her hands up against the ceiling before she could hit her head against it.

“Help!” She cried out. She tried to push herself away from the ceiling, but instead she floated back towards it. “HELP!” She cried out in a panic this time.

*****

“Whoops.” George let out a nervous laugh and set the contraption back down.

“Oh what’s that?!” Harold ran over to another contraption. “It looks like a woodblock press!”

“A what?” George asked as Harold pulled out a wooden block with a small mouse carved onto it’s surface.

“You carve a drawing onto a block and you get ink on it!” Harold saw some ink out and put it onto the surface of the block. “Then you put it right here–you get paper–” He explained as he did just that “You turn the crank and then it presses down on the paper and–”

But to the boys’ shock, instead of a copy of a drawing of a mouse, it was revealed to be an actual mouse when Harold turned the crank the other way to move the block away from the paper.

“What the–?”

“COOL! Well, not as cool as when you made things come alive.”

The mouse scampered away and the boys continued on their way.

*****

“CAN SOMEONE HEAR ME?! HELP!” Poor Edith was almost in near tears as she was still stuck in the air and trapped against the ceiling with her legs kicking at the empty air. “HELP!” She cried as the door suddenly swung wide open as Krupp bursted into the room.

“EDITH ARE YOU–?!” His frantic concern after hearing her from a floor below turned into utter bemusement at the sight of everything stuck to the ceiling, including the woman herself. “–Uh.... I’m not going to ask.”

“Benjamin!” Edith cried out in relief. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on, but I can’t get down!”

“Uh–” He couldn’t stop staring at the sight before he saw something. “Hang on!” He rushed towards the curtains (while making sure that his eyes were staring firmly down on the ground upon noticing that she was wearing a dress) and tried to tear the rope off of them. When he succeeded, he raced back and hurried back to her, but he slammed his hand over his eyes. “Try to catch it, ok?!” He tossed one end at her, but he missed.

“Try again!” Edith pleaded. The second time it wasn’t long enough for her to reach it. “Can’t you look up?!”

“I can’t!” Krupp protested as he felt his face get warm as he knew full well what he’d see if he did.

“Why not?!”

“Because otherwise I’ll see–never mind, ok?!” The poor man’s face was growing pink as he tried not to think about it.

*****

“I don’t get it, the kids at The Crusty Sandbox would like this stuff.” Harold put his hands on a blue box that changed into different colors wherever he touched it. “What could be better than this?”

“What’s this?!” George ran up to what looked like a mirror. “‘Multi Dimensional Time Travel–’ argh, too much words!” He gave up and read the next part. “‘Note: very dangerous–must confiscate to keep unwanted out. Also note: only works if you say ‘pudding.’ What–”

Suddenly the mirror turned dark and it revealed a different scene as if looking into a window.

“Look, according to the historical facts, toilet paper wasn’t invented for another hundred years or so.” Someone out of sight spoke to a bored looking male and female. “You can’t put that in the fan fic–the history nuts will hate it.”

“Uh, you do remember what the fan fic is for, right?” The male replied.

“Plus his underwear is late twentieth century underwear which is what most readers will imagine anyway.” The female smirked.

“Wait, you actually looked it up?” The male shot the female a surprised look.

“Oh I did.” The female chuckled. “And for a guy who’s large bodied, they do not that comf–”

The mirror flickered and the image faded before revealing the boys on its surface again.

“What was that all about?” Harold was confused.

“I don’t know, but something tells me that we really shouldn’t look into it.” George shrugged before noticing something else.

“What’s this?” George lifted up a lid to a nearby bowl to reveal some strange objects that looked like small, brown candies. He took one out as he Harold read the nearby message that was partly covered up by a paper that was half stuck onto it. “‘May cause vomiting and severe intestinal pain.’” He began to pull at the paper to read the first part of the message.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”

The boys almost jumped out of their skins as they turned around to face an annoyed Melvin while Erica stood by him. “You better not be touching that stuff.”

“Nope!” George shook his head as he unintentionally pocketed the candy while Harold added “Absolutely not!”

“It’s going to take Melvin awhile to figure those crystals out.” Erica told them as she handed over the ones that he wasn’t using back to them. “And besides, your mom is going to have guests over tonight and wants you to come, remember?”

“Oh yeah,” Harold nervously gulped. “Some noble family. Heidi told me it wouldn’t be fun.”

“Come on, let’s go.” Erica started heading towards the exit of the room. “Thanks for your help Melvin–sorry for the trouble.”

“Oh it’s not if it’s from you.” Melvin sighed with a huge smile as the boys followed the girl.

Had the two looked back, they would have seen the rest of the message that Harold was trying to read. It said ‘Can give life to any liquid to liquid-solid based forms. Do not let a living thing consume it.’

*****

“I’m too far up!” Edith protested after the tenth time Krupp tried to toss her the rope.

“Look, I’ll have to try something else if you’ll let me do it!”

“What else–?! Oh,” Krupp sighed as she realized what she meant. “Ok fine.” He braced himself as Edith shot him an apologetic look and snapped her fingers.

SNAP!

“Where am I this time?” Captain Underpants let go of the rope and scratched his head.

“Captain!”

“Huh? Oh Edith!” The moment the hero saw Edith, a happy smile grew on his face. “Hey how are you on the ceiling? Can you fly too?!” He grew excited at the thought.

“No I can’t, I don’t even know how this happened!” Edith answered. “Could you please help me get down?!”

“Absolutely!” He grinned and shot into the air. The moment he was at level with Edith, he carefully wrapped his arms around her waist before dropping back down. “There you go!” He carefully set her back on the ground and let go of her.

Edith only had one second of standing on the ground before she shot off of it and yelped in alarm as she found herself crashing against the ceiling again.

“Oh... oops.” Captain Underpants scratched his head.

Edith sighed in disappointment. “Could you maybe tie me up with some rope and get me to some water?”

*****

“Well so much for that.” Harold sighed as he stared at the shards in his hand.

“We still got a few options.” George pointed out.

“Boys?”

“Mom?” Harold looked up and quickly pocketed the shards as Grace came up to them.

“I just wanted to remind you about tonight’s dinner. We have guests coming and I know you’ve probably never had to eat with a lot of people before, but I want to give you some quick advice. After that you won’t have to worry about this for quite awhile.” Grace gave them an apologetic smile. “After all–”

It was at this point that the boys had completely zoned out because they were distracted by something that was behind the queen. If she had turned around to look, she would have seen Captain Underpants (still dressed in Krupp’s outfit) carrying Edith around with a rope around her. At one point his grip slipped and he accidentally let go of her–causing her to float up a few feet before he yelped and grabbed the rope to pull her down.

“Uh,” George voiced the confusion he and Harold shared as the hero succeeded in pulling Edith back into his arms and then hurried away with her as she kept her arms around his neck.

“–So don’t worry.” Grace smiled. “This family is among those who help protect our borders. Try to make them feel welcome, alright?”

“Uh, yeah.” Harold nodded as George nodded with a “Sure.”

*****

“Alright, now what?” Captain Underpants asked after he took Edith into her room and let her float against the ceiling again. She unscrewed the cap off the bottle before upturning the water within onto the hero, causing some to splash onto his head.

“AGH!” Krupp repeatedly whacked his head the moment he felt the water and shook it off.

“It didn’t work.” He looked up to see Edith still stuck on the ceiling as she let out a sigh. “I guess I can’t stay on the ground for too long, can I?”

“Oh... Uh, is that what happens when I–I mean when he flies?”

There was a loud crashing sound from outside the room before she could answer him.

“Why did that sound like a bunch of furniture getting destroyed?!” Krupp asked the moment Edith began to feel strange. Then she realized she was starting to drop.

“Wait, I think I–!” She cut herself off with a yelp as she felt herself completely plummet down towards the ground. Fortunately it was enough to alert Krupp who, in his panic, quickly hurried over and held his arms out. She ended up landing perfectly in his arms and almost forced him to the ground in the process, but he was able to keep his balance and hold on tight as she quickly wrapped her arms around his neck.

Edith sighed in relief as her savior straightened back up. “Oh thank goodness, I guess it wore off.” She let out a small laugh and looked at him. “Thanks for helping me.” She smiled sweetly.

“You’re–” He began when he realized what was going on. He was holding her in a bridal style and she had her arms around him. She was so close to him that she could almost be face to face with him.

Seconds passed before she herself realized what was happening and a blush began to creep into her face.

“You’re–” He tried again as he felt his heart racing a little. This all caught him off guard, but it felt nice in a way he didn’t know how to explain.

“Uh, here.” He gently set her back on the ground and kept a steady hold on her until she was able to stand on her own. “Y–you’re welcome.” He stammered as he nervously backed away from her, looked away, and scratched his head. “I, uh–am–am I in your room?” He realized. “It looks... uh... roomy.” It was about as spacious as any bedroom belonging to a member of the royal family, but it was a lot more modest, pleasant, and comfortable than he was expecting.

“Uh, yeah I guess it is.” Edith admitted with a small chuckle. “It’s bigger than any room I’ve had before.”

“I probably should leave then.” He nervously laughed and began heading out. “I know it was an emergency and it wasn’t me that asked for permission to be in here and–I mean it’s nice, but I–ACK!” He accidentally hit his shoulder very hard against the door frame after opening the door and trying to leave. He was embarrassed enough that he made a mad dash out the hallway.

“Wait!” Edith held a hand out in protest, but he was already gone and she let out a sigh, though she couldn’t help but smile.

*****

“I’m curious to know why your sister said some dinner wouldn’t be fun.” George began. “Sure there’s probably going to be boring, rich people, but at least you get food.”

“She said she doesn’t care for the daughter of the family who’s coming. There was something about only caring more about herself than actually playing with Heidi the last time she stopped by.” Harold admitted. “But as long as we get it out of the way, we can go back to focusing on–”

“WE’RE FINALLY HERE!” A loud girl’s voice rang out nearby. It was so unexpected that the boys had to check it out.

“Ugh, that was such a long ride over!” They heard the voice complain and when they came to the entry hall, they saw a small group and the voice question belonged to a girl dressed in pink who was flanked by two other girls. “I’m so not looking forward to the ride back!” She whined before noticing the two boys. “Oh? Who are you two?” She asked, not realizing that the boys were gapping at her for a very specific reason. “Are you, like, the staff member’s kids or something?”

“Harold,” George began. “Is it my imagination or is that girl’s hair–?”

“It is.” Harold stared in shock. The girl’s dark brown hair was almost three times her size, thanks to the fact that some of it seemed to poof up above her head.

“Uh, hello?” The girl impatiently asked.

“Oh!” The boys snapped out of it before looking back at her when Harold began. “Uh, well I’m Harold and–”

“Wait, you’re the prince that finally came home after all these years?!” The girl was excited and even the other two girls were impressed. “I totally thought you were just some myth, but here you are! You know, now I feel silly for mistaking you for just some regular kid, but you aren’t dressed up all fancy like I thought you’d be. Anyway, my name is Jessica of the Gordon family–we’re friends of the Queen. Oh and these two are just Sophie One–” She pointed to the short girl dressed in blue who smiled and waved “–and I just call her Other Sophie.” She pointed to the tall red-headed girl with glasses. She opened her mouth to say something, but Jessica cut in with “Anyway, I–”

“How is it that I’ve never seen you out of all the kids in Piqua?” George cut in. “You live here, right?”

“Oh we go to a special boarding school for wealthy kids like myself.” Jessica smirked.

“What’s with your hair?” Harold finally asked. This caused the girl to light up in delight.

“Oh so you were looking at my har?!”

“Your what?” George asked.

“My har!”

“You mean hair.” Harold stated.

“No, ‘har.’”

“Har?”

“Hhhhhhhhaaaaaaaarrrrr.” The girl chuckled. “Anyway, it’s my pride and joy–oh my gosh!” She slapped her cheeks as a well dressed man came towards the girls. “I was in that carriage for so long, and I was sitting against that seat–I need to get it fixed!” She cried in alarm as she hurried away. “Come on we need to fix my har!” She snapped at the two girls, causing them to shrug and follow after her.”

“Ah, you’ll have to forgive my niece.” The boys turned to the man who gave them an apologetic smile. “She values her hair above anything else. It’s probably the longest any child her age has.”

“No it’s not.” Harold muttered under his breath. The long rainbow hair that used to be a part of him was possibly twice as long as the girl’s was (not to mention he was able to do more with it than just obsessing over the need for it to be perfect like Jessica was doing). Yet George’s eyes widened and he turned Harold around, who protested with a “Hey, what the–?”

“Harold, she might be Regenbogen!” George hissed into Harold’s ear. “No sane parent would let a kid’s hair grow that long without a reason!”

“What–oh!” Harold realized what he meant. “But her hair’s brown.” He pointed out.

“It could be dyed. All you have to do is sing at her and we’ll know for sure!” George advised as Edith began heading their way.

“Alright, it shouldn’t happen again, Edith.” Edith muttered to herself as she stared at the ground. “Just stay indoors and if it does happen, just say you ate something on accident.”

“Anyway,” The boys turned to Jessica’s uncle. “So about Jessica.” Harold began. “Is her hair really that–?”

“Well hello there!” The man noticed Edith and grinned before walking over towards the woman while interrupting the boys. “You’re certainly new around here.”

“Huh?” Edith looked up in confusion at the man who came up to her.

“You must be a guest for tonight too for someone so well dressed and so pretty as you.” He smiled. “I highly doubt you’re a servant around here.”

“Wha–?” Edith had no clue how to react. “No, I’m a friend of the family–I mean I’m a family member–but not quite!” She stammered.

“Well I’m Joffrey Gordon, but you can just call me Joffrey. Or ‘Lord Joffrey’ if you’d prefer.” He grinned, not knowing that the queen’s Captain of the Guard was about ready to enter the room (after recovering from his moment of being flustered), but he froze up when he saw the interaction between the two. “And you are–?”

“Uh, Edith? Just Edith.”

“Well ‘just Edith,’ it’s a pleasure to meet someone as pretty as you.” He continued, not noticing how Edith winced at his take on her name. “I take it you’re going to be at the dinner tonight.”

“Well yes.” Edith backed away from the man.

“Well, I need to take a rest–long trip and all, you know how those go–but I look forward to seeing and learning more about you later.” He then waved and walked away as the woman sighed and turned to the boys with a relived smile.

“So boys?” Edith began. “It’s probably not possible but you didn’t set off any... uh, spells did you? That could make someone float?” This made both boys turn pale as they remembered what she meant.

“Oh hey, it’s you again.” Joffrey then noticed Krupp who was standing in the hall and just staring at him. “Still trying to make life so tough for everyone that they have to stay stuck indoors? Nah I’m just kidding, I’m sure your job’s already hard enough as is.” He laughed and waved as he walked away, though he didn’t see the older man’s face contort into an angry grimace and clench his teeth.

He meet the guy before and never cared for him. Yet just as he was trying to recover from the excitement of rescuing Edith, he suddenly saw the man talking to her and–he had not clue why, but something about it made him return back to the familiar anger that was almost welcoming. Except something about it was different this time and it certainly wasn’t welcoming. It was something he didn’t feel too often, but it made him hate specific people like him–especially moreso than usual this time around.

There was a name for it and he didn’t dare use it since he felt like it would make him be below others, but he was feeling it the moment he saw that man flirting with Edith like it came easily to him.

*****

By the time dinner came around, the boys still hadn’t heard word from Melvin about the shards, nor could they get close enough to Jessica to see if she secretly had rainbow hair. As you can imagine, being stuck in that great dinning hall, at the very long table, gathered with everyone who was closer to their age while the adults were by the queen, knowing full well that waiting around for the food while having to endure painfully long conversations they weren’t part of nor had any interest in, and unable to accomplish what you wanted to do was not going to be fun.

“Like, weren’t you up to my waist the last time I saw you?!” Jessica excitedly asked Heidi, who was sitting next to Harold who was sitting next to George.

“No,” Heidi shook her head as she tried to hide her discomfort. “But I didn’t expect you’d bring friends along.” She looked at the girls who were dubbed Sophie One and Other Sophie, who were staring at the princess with adoration and she gave them a shy wave.

“Oh they managed to stay in my good graces all year–though you had a few slip ups Other Sophie, but you managed to fix them–so I had them come over here with me like I promised!”

“Look guys, just endure it for a few hours and then I’ll take you back to Melvin, I promise.” Erica whispered as she stood behind the boys.

“How come you aren’t sitting down with us?” George asked.

“The Royal Family always has a guard or two around if a certain amount of people are going to eat with them.” She explained. “It’s just a safety precaution in case something happens.” She then backed away and stood a few feet behind them.

“We’re right in front of her.” Harold quietly moaned to George as Jessica continued talking to Heidi. “I could quietly sing–”

“If she’s Regenbogen, they’ll see her hair glowing too.” George whispered back.

“Well then we got to get her out of here somehow.”

“Uh, you do realize who’s giving us a suspicious look like he’s onto us right now, right?”

The boys looked to see that the other person who was forced to stand right by the adult side of the table was Krupp. He was already miserable because not only was he forced to do this, but he was also forced to stand behind Edith who ended up with Jessica’s uncle sitting beside her. He was able to easily see the boys and was already on alert when he realized that they were whispering to each other.

“I didn’t realize you would be coming.” Grace spoke to Joffrey from her spot at the end of the table which was by Edith. “Where on Earth is Jessica’s–?”

“Too busy, so I volunteered to take over and pass the word if you had anything important to share.” Joffrey waved it off. “You know how it is, keeping an eye on things and making sure no one suspicious crosses into the kingdom. I thought you would have built some sort of extra security measure after what happened all those years ago.”

“I think there are more important things to address within my kingdom right now, like making sure everyone is provided enough.”

“By the way, what careers do you two have?” Joffrey asked Barbra and Moses, who were sitting on the other side. “I’ve never seen or heard of you two before.”

“I just work with machinery, but my wife is a scholar.” Moses smiled with pride at his wife as she drank from her glass. “She taught at a university where we used to live and was offered a job in Piqua. Though we fell on some hard times a few years ago and it made it hard to get our old jobs back after looking everywhere for our son. We’re thankful for Her Majesty providing us a place to stay by the castle, but we–”

“Really, a woman teaching at a university?” Joffrey raised his eyebrows at Barbara. “That’s... unheard of. Most women in our town aren’t really expected to have a man’s job and the women at Jessica’s school don’t go beyond teaching at the children’s age level. Next you’ll tell me they’ll all be doctors and lawyers.” He laughed as both Moses and Barbara grew uncomfortable at this. “She made more than you, right?”

Do you know that person who, they may or may not intend to be insulting, but they still are most of the time to the point you wonder if they have any common sense (and probably have the guts to assume they’re decent people)? This was the case with Queen Grace’s guest.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there already are women who have those careers.” Edith tried to cut in to help support Barbara. “I mean, I think that’s inspiring.”

“Oh that reminds me.” Joffrey then turned to Edith with a smile. “I asked the maids and apparently you have more traditional hobbies?”

“Uh, I–I really like cooking and the kids mean a lot to me?” Edith didn’t want to be put on the spot as she shrunk back into her chair. “It’s not as impressive as Gr–I mean Her Majesty’s job or even Barbra’s–” She panicked at the mistake and tried to correct herself.

“Well it would make you less intimidating for others, ‘Just Edith.’ Also, I do hope you at least get the chance to leave the castle once in awhile. Are there any places around the town that you’re fond of?” He continued asking, unaware that the man standing right behind him was clenching his teeth and tightening his hands into fists.

“Yes, but I’m a little busy right now.”

“Do you need to sit down?” Barbara asked Krupp. “You don’t look ok.”

“I’m fine.” The man barely hissed through his teeth. He knew full well this was going to happen–that the beautiful, sweet natured woman was going to catch the attention of other men one way or another. He just hated seeing it happen before his eyes and especially with this annoying, mouthy, painfully perfect in looks little–

“By the way, the soup and salad will come first.” One of the castle cooks popped in though the doorway while holding a dark colored bottle. “Does anyone need a refill of–?”

“Ah, no salad, just the soup please!” Joffrey quickly threw out.

George and Harold moaned as Jessica still continued to ramble on about things that they didn’t care about. (And which I will not write down to spare the reader from boredom).

“We need some way to get out of here for a few minutes.” Harold told George. “I can’t handle all this talking and waiting for the first course. I’m bored and I want to eat.”

“Me too.” George agreed as he went though his pockets until he felt something. Puzzled, he looked to see a brown candy. “What–oh yeah, whoops.” He realized it was one of the candies that supposedly made someone vomit.

“So like, did they ever catch that overgrown baby yet?” Jessica asked Heidi.

“What?” Harold was confused.

“Oh you know–the one that flies around and stuff that all the adults hate!” Jessica waved a hand.

“What are–uh...” Harold realized who she was actually talking about and to the horror of both boys, Krupp’s attention was now directed towards them and they could tell that what she said was increasing just how irritated he was.

“Anyway, why don’t you tell us about your hair!” George nervously laughed as he quickly pocketed the candy. “I’m sure that’s more interesting than–!”

“Well aren’t you someone of good taste!” Jessica grinned as Heidi shot the boy a horrified look. “Well you see, ever since I saw those ladies at my first ball several years back–”

Both boys realized they just made a huge mistake and if Jessica’s all too eager excitement wasn’t a warning for what was to come, it was poor Heidi crossing her arms on the table and smacking her head into them. “She’s never going to stop.” She moaned. “Why did you get her started?”

“Are you sure you don’t want to sit down?” Moses also noticed Krupp acting strange and this made Edith turn around. “You look like you need to sit down and besides, you’d get a free meal out of this.”

“He said he’s fine and he looks like he doesn’t need to eat anytime soon.” Joffrey waved it off before turning to Grace as Edith gave Krupp a concerned look before turning back. “Anyway, speaking of borders, I thought you had some trouble with New Swissland awhile back.”

“I–” Grace stopped her drink and lowered her glass. “Well, we’ve been keeping an eye on things, but a lot has happened and there’s been distractions. It’s been an on and off thing, really. Well, I mean, I think it might not be an on and off thing anymore.” She admitted. “You see, I think it’s because–”

Now again, Krupp was getting increasingly mad and it was taking his all to keep it in. He wasn’t even caring about what his employer had to say so his eyes were looking down for one moment, but it was enough to see something that was going to make him finally unleash what was building up inside of him.

As Edith was listening to Grace and holding a glass of water in her hands, the guest that she was forced to sit next to was slowly inching his hand under the table and it was about ready to hover over her knee.

“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!” He finally moved up to the man and pretty much yelled right into his ear.

Because Edith was not expecting it, she yelped and jumped in her seat, causing the unwanted hand to rise up and get crushed between her knee and the bottom of the very hard table, while her hand holding the glass jolted hard enough to throw the water into Krupp’s face.

“AAAAGGHH!” Joffrey yelled in pain and bent over while clutching his hand. All startled eyes were now on the unexpected scene and Edith gasped and clutched a hand to her mouth when she saw that Krupp had flinched away and his face, toupee, and outfit were drenched.

“Oh my gosh, Benjamin I’m so sorry!” Edith panicked and shook her head. “I didn’t mean to do that!”

“Alright, let’s just take this and go!” George grabbed Harold and pulled him away. Meanwhile Jessica chortled at Krupp’s misfortune, while the other girls had no clue how to react. Heidi on the other hand had no clue why, but something about seeing her mother’s Captain of the Guard in such a state made her feel sorry for him as well as Edith who was repeatedly trying to apologize.

“What the heck just happened back there?” George couldn’t help but ask when the two were outside in the hallway.

“I don’t know, but we don’t have a lot of time.” Harold confessed. “We could go to Melvin now and say that we got scared by what happened back there. He’s got to have it fixed by now.”

“Just as long as he doesn’t see this.” George held out the brown candy for Harold to see. Unfortunately, that was also the moment that Krupp chose to barge out through the other door in his attempt to get away to try to cool down and figure out what to do before he’d get further humiliated. When he saw that the two were also outside and that one of them was holding up a suspicious object, he made some very fast realizations. “Wait,” Harold recognized the object. “Isn’t that the candy that makes someone vomit or need to use the bathroom really badly?”

“Yeah, but I–ACK!” George was cut off when he found both himself and Harold getting pulled up into the air by their shirt collars and was stuck with deja vu when they came face to face with an angry Krupp.

“The last thing I need right now,” Krupp growled. “Is for you two to be up to something. I’m already in a bad mood and I’m more than willing to take it all out on you.”

“We don’t want to be in there!” Harold protested.

“Yeah, and that wasn’t our fault, whatever happened in there!” George added.

“No it wasn’t your fault, but your misery would help me feel a lot better.” The adult hissed. “So whatever your prank is with that thing in your hand is–”

“It isn’t your fault, it was an accident.” They could hear Grace trying to reassure Edith.

“But he didn’t deserve it, I shouldn’t have–!” The woman was still distraught.

“No he did, he scared both of us!” A certain annoyed guest cut her off. “Honestly we didn’t do anything to provoke that!”

Hearing that denial once again made Krupp mad. This however made the boys afraid as they realized the man was tightening his trembling hold on their collars as they watched him tightly clench his teeth together. “Uh, Krupp?” George asked. “Please don’t cut off our air supply. You can’t be that mad at us!”

That was when a thought struck Krupp.

A thought that was both wildly out of character and yet very well in character for him.

The boys knew something was wrong the moment an all too familiar wicked smile crossed the man’s face which made them very afraid.

“Boys,” He began in a voice that sounded too excited in a happy way for the boys’ liking. “I’ll let you go this time around, if you do me one favor. Which you will not say a word about to anyone and you will take it to your graves or else I’ll make you pay for it!” He hissed as he held the boys closer to him until he was almost face to face with them (which was rather uncomfortable for them). “Got that?”

*****

“Oh finally!” Jessica sighed as the soups and salads were brought out. “I was so starving!”

George and Harold stared at the table at their own food with the look of someone who went though a bizarre, world changing experience, but had no clue if it was a good thing or a bad thing.

“Did Krupp want us to do a–?” George quietly whispered.

“He did.” Harold looked at Joffrey, the only one who was given a single bowl of soup on his plate instead of soup with salad on the side.

Not much happened for awhile as everyone ate. Of course only two people weren’t–the first was Erica (who had been quiet for most of this time) who was giving the boys her own suspicious look. The other one was Krupp and he was trying to suppress a completely different emotion this time around as he glanced at the adult guest who was eating up his soup while Edith had opted to sit on the other side with Moses and Barbara and was trying to avoid looking at everyone.

Of course, Joffrey didn’t suspect that the soup had an extra ingredient that was chopped up to the point that it might as well have been grains.

The boys almost held their breaths while they waited for something to happen.

After two minutes of nothing happening, something finally happened.

“Oh,” Joffrey pulled a face and held his stomach. “Ugh...”

“Is everything alright?” Grace noticed this and frowned. “My, you’re looking ill.”

“Ah it’s nothing!” The man tried to laugh it off as he increasingly turned white. “It’s just–ugh.” He gulped before grabbing his mouth. “I– excuse me!” He shot out of his chair and ran out as fast as he could.

“Uncle?!” Jessica asked as George and Harold shot each other knowing looks and tried to suppress their laughs (with George biting into is cloth napkin and Harold covering his mouth with his hands).

As one could probably guess, Krupp was trying his hardest to not laugh at the guest’s misery while feeling as if the holiday seasons came early for him. Or in other words, if there was a time paying evil onto evil felt especially good for him, this was more than pure, delightful enjoyment over it. One could only imagine the evil laughter that was going through his head over it all and it would have rung out like it was echoing around you and would have nearly chilled your soul if you could have heard it.

“Oh, that’s unfortunate.” Moses couldn’t help but say as Barbara let out a relieved smile.

“Excuse me, Your Majesty?” Melvin of all people bursted through the doors.

“Oh Melvin!” Grace smiled. “Is your family going to join us too?”

“Mother’s busy at home and dad won’t come back for another day.” He looked at George and Harold. “Can I see your son and his friend for a moment?”

*****

“We were waiting to talk to you!” Harold began as he and George stood before Melvin in the hallway.

“First off, the crystals you gave to me.” Melvin began. “The magic folk use them to detect magic. Usually it’s a specific kind that they want to look for. The kingdom used to use them to catch criminals who used magic until the queen was forced to make them illegal to use among her guards. But the one you gave me is completely useless because it’s broken, so now they’re useless rocks. I used everything I had to reactivate whatever was left, but it was just a waste of time.”

“Dang it!” George groaned as Harold moaned in dismay.

“Also the other thing–I told you to not mess with my stuff, yet you took an animate bon-bon with you!” Melvin snapped.

“A what now?” Harold asked.

“Those weren’t candies in that bowl you opened up! Trust me, I saw the giveaway signs, so don’t lie!”

“They just make people vomit and use the chamber pot, we know.” George nodded.

“They turn any liquid or solid-liquid substances into a living, barely intelligent creature that probably doesn’t count as a creature and triples it’s size!” Melvin grabbed his hair in frustration. “The reason why you saw that warning was because it can do the same to any body wastes and that includes vomit, saliva, and mucus! And it has a high risk of killing something from the inside and I am not going to share how I know that!”

“So what your saying,” The horror began to dawn upon Harold. “Is that if someone were to eat one of those on accident and vomited it up–”

“–The vomit turns into a living thing.” George felt his heart freeze up.

“Yes.” Melvin admitted as he held a hand out. “So I hope you two had enough sense to not eat it or even use it in one of your pranks yet.”

The boys shared a nervous glance. “Uh,” George began. “About that–”

“We–and I mean just us, no one else was in on it–” Harold cut in, but Melvin groaned and slapped his face.

“You complete nitwits.”

*****

Joffrey continued to barf down into the chamberpot that was in the bathroom until he was finished and moaned as he moved away and sat on a nearby stool. “Oh man, I should have stuck with the salad instead.” He moaned. “They told me I’ve been eating too much salt lately.”

Moments later the chamberpot began to start rattling and moving around. Joffrey was too deep in recovery to notice it at first, but when something dark and ominous shot out of the chamberpot that was somehow twice his size, he reacted appropriately by shooting off the stool and screamed at a very high pitch.

*****

Both the boys and Melvin soon heard the sounds of screaming, followed by some sort of strange garbled, moaning, roaring sound.

“Oh God, what the heck is that odor?!” A maid screamed as she ran down the hallway. “I’m going to be–!” She then pulled a face and the kids watched as she ran to the nearest, priceless vase that was on display and proceeded to hurl right into it.

Melvin pinched the bridge of this nose. “I’m going to get something to stop this, you two deal with it in the mean time.” He then hurried back towards his family’s home.

“Hey!” Harold protested.

“You started this, so you get the worst of it!”

“Oh God it smelled so awful!” The maid moaned as others were screaming and hurrying away. “Why did it look it a pile of–ugh!” She bent over and clutched her stomach as the boys winced upon realizing what horrible fate was before them in order to fix their mistake.

Meanwhile in the dinning room, everyone could hear the screams from outside. “What on–?!” Grace began.

“YOUR MAJESTY THERE’S SOME SORT OF MONSTER THAT GOT INTO THE CASTLE AND IT’S HEADING OUR WAY!” One of the cooks bursted through the door with a terrified look on his face.

“WHAT?!” Jessica shrieked as she shot out of her chair at the moment George and Harold bursted through the room and at the exact same time they snapped their fingers.

SNAP!

SNAP!

“I’m out of here!” Jessica screamed as she made a mad dash to the door closest to her, with both Sophie One and Other Sophie close behind.

“Wait, we don’t exactly know what’s going on!” Erica protested as she grabbed Heidi by the hand and hurried out of the room.

“Hey, where’s everyone running off to?!” Captain Underpants asked with a curious smile as he saw the other adults hurry after the kids. “Wow, that is one really long table!” He noticed the previously used table in question as George and Harold ran up to him.

“Change! Now!” George demanded as Harold pulled out a cape that was secretly hidden underneath the seat of the chair his mother sat in before tossing it to the adult.

“More than happy to!” Captain Underpants saluted and in a near record amount of time, he was once again wearing his usual minimal amount of attire. “So what’s happening this time?”

“We accidentally created a vomit monster together and now it’s rampaging in the castle!” George frantically informed him.

“It was totally just us!” Harold added. “And not someone also involved who wanted us to take that secret to our graves!”

There was that loud moaning sound that was getting closer and closer.

“Well, let’s see how bad it can be!” Captain Underpants hurried out of the room and the boys followed suit to see a couple of nervous guards ready their weapons.

“Why couldn’t it have just been an invading army from another country?!” One of the guards moaned as one more person tried to run away, yet the scent was so bad for them that they ducked around the nearest curtain and proceeded to vomit behind it.

“It’s getting all over the walls and floor!” Another complained. “I can almost smell it!”

“Don’t worry I’m here to help!” Captain Underpants walked past them and grinned with his hands on his hips as the boys stood nervously beside him. “I’m sure we can get this over with as fast as possible!”

The moaning and moaning got louder, and a very terrible odor began to seep through to them, until, bursting around one corridor and into the hallway came–

*****

The mere thought of trying to come up with the appearance of the vomit monster was enough to make the writer ill to the point that she barfed into the nearby trash bin by the desk.

“Ugh–NGH!” The writer pulled a face and barfed everything out of her mouth into the trash bin once more for about ten seconds. Then she moaned as she crossed her arms around the top of the bin.

“I’m not going to be able to do it... If I can’t do it, I don’t think the reader could handle it.” She panted. “I’m going to have to actually skip this fight.”

Err... well... to skip to the ending... I guess?

*****

“Alright, time to get thrown away!” Melvin snarled though a special breathing mask when he hurried outside. He flipped a switch to a nozzle attached to a huge container filled with a blue liquid that was strapped to his back. He took aim at the monster and a huge jet of blue liquid shot right at it. He held on for as long as he could until the creature finally exploded, sending chunks of vomit flying everywhere and wherever it landed, it immediately dried up into gray sand.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!” If you looked in time, you could see a large grown man in a cape and underwear holding onto two terrified children, and he was plummeting down towards a large fountain. There was a huge crash and water was sent flying up into the air a few seconds later.

“Ah!” Harold rolled off the adult, along with George. They were very shaken (and rather ill) from the events of the day, but otherwise they were fine. However the adult quickly shot up as soon as he came to his senses when he realized he was laying in water and that his back suddenly hurt a lot.

“GAH!” Krupp screamed as he scrambled to get out of the fountain while splashing up lots of water in the process. He fell back into the water at one point before scrambling to get up again, crawled over the ledge, and his entire body fell onto the ground below. He sputtered out a lot of awkward noises and curses as the boys watched him crawl and then run his way out of the courtyard like some cat that really hated getting put into a large body of water.

“He got the better deal out of this.” George admitted. “At least he’s not the one that got sick and vomited like three different times.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me.” Harold shuddered and put a hand over his mouth.

Both boys finally crawled out of the fountain and they headed back towards the castle, but not before a certain red head came to stop them.

“This is why I don’t want you messing around in my house!” Melvin spat as he took the mask off. “Science is just as dangerous as magic, if not worse!”

“Yeah, we learned our lesson now.” George sighed as he squeezed water out of his shirt while Harold squeezed water out of his hair.

“Oh no you haven’t, not yet!” Melvin scowled. “This is the lesson–the next time you want my help, I’m going to remember this and you’ll owe me big time!”

“Well maybe you shouldn’t have left all at stuff out or at least labeled it better!” Harold threw his hands out. “How we’re we supposed to know?!”

Melvin let out a “Hmph” and walked away.

“Ugh, I really hope we won’t need his help again.” George scowled.

“Oh shoot, that reminds me!” Harold slapped his face. “Jessica! We need to make sure she’s Regenbogen before she leaves!”

*****

“Urgh!” Jessica threw her hands up in the air as the other girls sat in the guest room with her. “Like, I was hoping for a nice, relaxing evening! And then I could go around the town without worrying about my beautiful har deflating on me! Now there’s a monster running around the castle and everything smells! What’s next?! A dragon?!”

The door suddenly flung open, causing Jessica to yelp.

“I’m sorry, but it’s now or never!” Harold stepped forward with much determination as George watched from the doorframe. “Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine, make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine!”

“Argh!” Jessica growled as she grabbed the nearest pillow and threw it at Harold’s face. “Like, get out of my room! I thought princes were supposed to be all sweet and gentleman like!” She yelled as Harold ran outside and closed the door behind him.

Harold took a deep breath as he and George moved away from the door. “Well, I did it. I sang the song.”

“She’s not Regenborgen.” George confirmed. “Her hair didn’t glow.”

“Thank goodness!” Harold sighed in relief. “I was actually hoping she wouldn’t be. Could you imagine how frustrating things would have been if she was?”

“Yeah!” George laughed. “Oh wait, what about that uncle of hers?”

“Honestly? I guess he must have gotten out, but I don’t really care.” Harold shrugged. “I was getting a bad feeling about him.”

*****

Back in the Sneedly home, Melvin studied the crystal shards that he still had (that he didn’t return to George and Harold) at his desk. He moved away from them and began to write in his journal.

“While there was no more magic in the crystals, it raises the possibility that I can still acquire some that are still intact.” He began. “Understandably, not all magic folk are trustworthy of normal humans, so I’m going to need to be extra careful. If I were to possess even a bit of their magic, the possibilities of new inventions could be endless. In fact, some of my own could be amplified to three times their potential.” He looked at something that was hidden in the shadows and grinned. “I just either need to go out on my own or advance carefully if I want to get my hands on a crystal or even something far more powerful, like–”

“Melvin dear?” The door to the boy’s room opened and a woman with short red hair and glasses smiled at him. “Would you like to take a break and have a snack with me?”

“Uh, sure mother.” Melvin stopped writing in the notebook and smiled at his mom. “Coming!” He hopped of his chair and walked towards Lady Sneedly.

Chapter Text

It had been about five days since the unfortunate vomit monster incident and word had it that the carpets had to be removed and thrown out because they were beyond saving. George and Harold had spent much of that time trying to find Regenbogen, but by this point their luck had run dry.

“Ugh, this is going to bug me!” Harold threw his hands in the air as George wrote one of his stories down. “I wish someone could just tell us that the other person with the flower magic doesn’t exist and then we don’t have to worry about this anymore!”

“Tell me about it.” George sighed as a knock came at the door. “Yes?!” He asked.

“Me again.” Erica answered as she opened the door while holding some books in hand. She took one look at the abandoned books and paperwork on the table before dropping the books on it in dismay. “Again?! That’s the eighth time I saw your work unfinished!”

“Look, I get it they want us to catch up on school work and put me back into school and put Harold into the school.” George moaned in annoyance. “I haven’t been there for a year and he’s never done it at all. School was torture enough and now I have to go back?!”

“How come you don’t go to school?” Harold asked Erica. “I thought the other kids went around this time.”

“I finished early.” Erica shrugged. “The work was too easy once you got the hang of it. They tried to hold me back, but I kept getting bored, so they had no choice but to let me finish early. Then they tried to have me do an apprenticeship, but I opted to train here instead.”

“And how did that happen?!” George demanded. “The guards hate kids! No kid has wanted to be part of the Royal Guard for ages! Any teen who ends up getting in becomes lame and no fun anymore!”

“Oh trust me, I know. They told me I was foolish, but I made them eat their words with each obstacle they threw at me.” She smirked. “Not to mention...”

*****

Erica glared up at Kipper as he laughed at her while the two held wooden staffs in their hands. “Some kid like you thinks that they have a chance here?!” He slapped his hand over his eyes. “What a load of–!”

Erica promptly swung the flat of her staff into Kipper’s stomach and the moment he let out a startled gasp, she thrusted the point into his gut as hard as she could before swinging it at his knees, causing him to topple over to the shock of many adults.

“More of a chance than you.” Erica nonchalantly twirled the staff in her hands.

****

Some time later, Erica took the boys to the training area where she showed them the spot of victory in question. “I have my eyes on bigger things, gentlemen. I could even become an ambassador if I keep things up. If I don’t know how to protect myself and anyone else, I might as well be as useless as one of those ladies who are expected to sit around and do chores for their husbands all day.”

“But I don’t want to go back!” George protested.

“And do what? Try to train to be part of the guard like me?”

“Well it sounds easier–”

“They both hate your guts and they’ll make it really hard for you.” Erica bluntly reminded them.

“Well... ok, sure but–”

“And Krupp will enjoy it the entire time.”

Both boys winced and shuddered at the all too easy to picture scenario. “Never mind.” Harold shook his head.

“Too bad Sir Ree wasn’t still around, or else I wouldn’t have dissuaded you that fast.” Erica chuckled.

“Who?” George asked.

“Ree was the previous Captain of the Guard. Word had it that he was the best that Piqua had ever seen because he had brawn and brain and had a knack for mechanics–supposedly he worked with the magic folk too. All the kids liked him.”

“What happened?” Harold asked.

“He retired early. No one knew why.” Erica shrugged. “He left before he could recommend who should replace him so the queen had to make the choice on her own. Anyway I’m getting off topic, but think about it–aren’t you guys bored staying here all day? Plus, you guys might have a better chance of staying together at a school.”

“What does that mean?” Harold asked.

“Well, maybe the Headmistress will be able to explain it better. Though of course you’ll need someone to escort you–”

“Ok, let’s just get it out of the way–” George began.

“Uh no. I’m going to be busy in a bit–I got stuff to do for my job. But I know someone who can.”

*****

“OH COME ON!” Harold threw his hands out as he and George stared up at Krupp.

“Yeah, nice to hang out with you too, pal!” Krupp scowled right back. “Don’t forget that I still remember what happened the last time you two were off on your own in town! Now let’s get this over with! The last thing I want is to get pranked on another escort job again! Especially considering that it was you that did it!” He glared at George.

“What do you–oh wait.” George grinned. “You don’t mean the one that involved that French lady, right?”

*****Two and a half years ago*****

“Ugh,” One guard on horseback moaned to another as they both rode on each side of a carriage through a part of the forest. “How much longer? We’ve been at this for hours and I still can’t see a town!”

“Ah shut your trap, we’re almost there!” The other guard snapped back as the unfortunate driver who was stuck in the middle sighed in annoyance. Though his luck was about to run short when he saw that several bushes had somehow been uprooted and planted smack in the middle of the road. “What the–?!” He made the horses come to a stop.

“The heck?!” The other two guards came to a stop. “When did those start growing out of the ground?!” Had any of them looked up, they would have seen a small boy grinning down at them from the branches of a tree as he played with a roll of white paper in his hands.

“WHY DID WE STOP?!” Krupp yelled as he swung a window open from the carriage to yell at them all. “WE’RE LOW ON TIME AND I’M SICK OF SITTING IN HERE AND BEING SHUFFLED AROUND!”

“Well tell that to the bushes that got here!” The first guard jabbed a finger at the bushes.

“THEN EITHER TEAR THEM OUT OR GET US AROUND THEM! DON’T JUST STOP AND DO NOTHING AND MAKE MADAME YEWH BORED OUT OF HER MIND!” Their captain went back in and slammed the window shut.

“God, I’m surprised the magic folk haven’t done anything to him yet.” The driver shook his head. “They’d do us a huge favor.”

“So!” Krupp tried to quickly compose himself as he faced the other occupant inside the carriage. She was a very well dressed noblewoman who also happened to look rather pretty, though she looked incredibly bored out of her mind as she stared out her window. “Just a bit of a delay, but I promise we’ll get to the castle in no time!” He felt himself getting a bit flustered being in her presence. “We can get out and you’ll get to move around again real soon!” He threw his hands out as he moved a little too close towards the woman for her liking.

Yewh only let out a sigh.

“So... uh... Piqua’s probably not nice as France is, but we’ll make sure your time here will be better than the long ride you had to endure.” He let out a nervous laugh as he felt himself sweat. “In fact, I could show you around myself! I know some good places outside of the castle!”

“Oh mon dieu, je serais heureux n’importe ou tantque c’est loin de cet œuf idiot.” She grumbled at last.

“I don’t know what you just said, but I agree with you! Anyway–” Krupp was interrupted by a shrill scream that made him jump out of his seat and finally snap the woman awake. “What the–?!” He was interrupted by another scream. He finally opened the door and went out. To his complete shock, the guards and the driver were covered in a combination of chamber paper and something sticky that looked like honey.

“WHAT THE–?!” Without warning, he found himself getting covered by the same materials that dropped from the sky. It caused him to scream and try to tear it off, and that was when Yewh came out.

“MONSTERE!” She screamed and made to run for it–only for her to get covered in the same stuff too, causing her to freak out even more.

“And now for the grand finale!” George grinned as he made to grab another rope to drop as much trash collected from the city as he could upon Krupp. “A little something for the worst person in the whole world!” He made to pull the rope, but as he tugged it, Krupp accidentally moved out of the way and Yewh appeared in view instead. He could only watch in horror as it all began to fall down towards the woman–

Without warning someone pushed himself through and shoved the woman out of the way in the nick of time, but not without getting covered in some of the trash himself.

“Don’t worry ma’am, we’ll get you out of this!” The man with the brown hair that was slightly greying tore off the honey and chamber paper trap off of Yewh. The woman shook her head and gasped for air upon being set free. “Here, let’s get you away from these men.” He took her hand. “I know a good resting place close by.” He reassured her as he lead her away while she stared at him in awe, despite the fact that he was still covered in some of the trash.

“GET IT OFF–!” Krupp finally ripped the mess off of his face. He was able to see his men running around like crazy while covered in the similar mess. He then looked to see that Yewh was being lead away by a stranger whose back was facing him.

“What the–hey where are you going?!”

“Somewhere away from this ridiculousness!” Yewh turned her head to snap back at it. “I’m only going to come back for my things!”

“But–!” Krupp let out in protest. “You can’t just–!” He then accidentally tripped on some of the trash laying on the ground and slammed down hard upon the ground. He let out a scream of frustration as George silently snickered to himself and began to move away before the adult could spot him.

*****

Harold laughed and George grinned as he recalled what had happened. Krupp was just mad.

“Come on, let’s get this over with! NOW!” He snapped as he stormed off while the boys trailed behind him and continued to laugh.

*****

“Your Majesty?” Erica asked as she approached the queen in her study. The woman was holding a purple colored letter in her hands as she waited for the child.

“Read this.” Grace handed the letter to Erica. “This came on the day Heidi was kidnapped. I refuse to believe it was a coincidence.”

“‘Just because your eldest child has returned, it doesn’t mean I will stray from what I swore to do. I will get my revenge you and your people, you foolish woman.’” Erica read before raising an eyebrow in confusion at the sender’s identity. “It says it’s from–”

“They’ve been watching us.” Grace told her. “I feel it–something is going to happen at any time. It could even be during the Summer Ball for all we know. Someone in this kingdom has been spying on us–we need to stop them before they give away something that they will take advantage of. I want you to find out who it is.”

“Me?” Erica was surprised. “Why?”

“Well, not only are you among the smartest of my staff, you are also the least likely to draw attention.” Grace smiled. “And as many adults in my kingdom have learned the hard way, one must never underestimate a child.”

*****

A woman was humming a song in her native tongue as she looked over some paperwork. There was a knock on her door and she looked up to see her secretary. “Yes?”

“The Captain of the Guard came in with two boys who want to see you.” The man answered, causing the woman to let out a moan.“Que quiere ese tonto? Let them in.” The secretary did so and the woman was surprised to see not just George, but also Harold.

“Ah, it’s you!” She got up from her seat and went around towards them. “The queen said I might be seeing you both.” She smiled at the duo. “I’m known to the students as Headmistress Esmé or just Madame Esmé.” She finally noticed the larger figure that entered the room as well as the look in his eyes that said ‘I want to be anywhere but here.’ “And to most adults.” Her voice momentarily became guarded as she glared at Krupp before smiling at the boys again.

“My mom spoke to you about us?” Harold asked as the Headmistress went back to her desk and began to pull out an envelope in one of the drawers.

“About a week or two after you returned to her.” Esmé admitted as she opened the envelope and took out two sets of papers. “She was very much interested in both your educational backgrounds–you both can sit down if you want.” She gestured to the chairs in front of the desk, which the boys cautiously sat in.

“Now my understanding is that George here used to attend this school, but never came back last Fall as was expected.” Esmé took one paper and gave it a quick read through. “Your efforts towards your schoolwork was fair, but I understand that you tended to pull a lot of pranks on the teachers and staff.”

George had to fight the urge to smile.

“Unfortunately, in certain circumstances, you’d be expected to start the year you should have taken by this point in the upcoming Fall.” Esmé frowned at George. “And if the wanted posters and your reputation is accurate, I take it you weren’t continuing your education outside of school, correct?”

“That’s because–!” George had to fight the urge to tell the truth, especially when he felt Krupp’s glare on the back of his head. “Well, no.” He admitted.

“And Harold.” Esmé turned to Harold and looked at another file. “You’ve never attended a school before, but you did receive the equivalent to being home schooled. Normally a child of nobility or royalty would get a private tutor or go to a private school by this point in your age.”

“And?” Harold asked. “That wouldn’t be bad, right?”

“Well your mother wants to give you more chances to reenter society and she feels that this is the best way since you already have a friend of your own age. Do you two know why you’ve been expected to do school related work at the castle?”

“To catch up on school work?” George asked.

“Yes, but there’s another reason. You see, in order to attend this school at the grade level you both should be at for your age, I’m supposed to assign a test to you in less than two weeks. It covers everything you’ve learned up to this point and if you both pass, you both can attend this school together within the same classroom.”

“You mean we can stay together if we go here?” Harold felt his spirits raise at this.

“Well I take it you don’t want to be sent away to a private school away from George and the other children and–”

“Yeah, good luck with that.” Esmé glared at her interrupter who was still standing in the room with the boys as far away from them as he could to the point that his back was against the wall.

“With what exactly?” Esmé demanded. “That I can be able to get these boys to attend this school together as they probably want to?”

“Do you have any idea how many complaints I got from that kid, let alone how much trouble he gets into outside of this place?” Krupp jabbed a thumb at George. “You’re just asking for more trouble.”

“Well that’s likely because there were too many adults like you in this place before I took over.” Esmé retorted. “From what I’ve read of their progress, they are bright and capable, but they just need a little more time and care. Maybe even some adjustments based on their work ethic, which I’ve been open to doing.”

“Sure, I’ll believe it when I see it. Like that’ll happen any time soon.”

“Oh Dios mio, espero que hay unos pajaros afuera para hacer caca en tu cabeza de huevo gigante.” Esmé pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. “Children respond to different things Krupp and these are not normal children. I at least have faith that they can do well if they care enough and that they have the right guidance–which doesn’t involve false assumptions or needless nastiness. Besides, you do understand that if they attend this school, they won’t have to be stuck at the castle doing Lord knows whatever it is that’s been making life hard for you?”

Krupp was about to report back, but the realization of what Esmé said hit him like a ton of bricks.

If George and Harold were stuck at this school, he wouldn’t have to worry about them at the castle or out on the streets as much as he had to nowadays.

“I see you realize now how this benefits you too.” Esmé smirked at Krupp before glancing back at the boys. “Like I said. Study up for the test in the upcoming two weeks and I promise your experience here will be an improvement over how it used to be. Also,” She added with a smile. “It’s ok if you need to take a break now and then, but try to spend at least a few hours a day preparing for this. The confidence that’ll come with it will come in handy.”

*****

“Well that can’t be too bad!” Harold felt confident when they were all outside in the town. “We just need to keep studying and all will be good right?”

“Have you even taken a test before?” George asked.

“Uh, not really?”

George nervously gulped. “Oh boy.” He dreaded to think about how it would turn out if that were the case. On one hand, he envied Harold for never knowing that sort of stress, but on the other he worried the test itself would scare the boy senseless to the point he wouldn’t even bother with the first question.

“Hey, we’ve faced a lot together up to this point! What’s one more thing?” Harold smiled at George.

“Uh... sure.” George smiled back before looking around. “Harold, look!” George noticed something and tugged on the other boy’s sleeve and when he caught his attention, he pointed out to what he saw. There was a man in the distance and he appeared to be selling toys at a small wagon, but it wasn’t just any toys.

“He’s selling prank stuff!” George hissed to Harold.

“Nice!” Harold’s eyes shone in delight. “We have to check it out!”

“Not with Krupp around!” George looked at the adult who was staring off at something in particular on the other side of the street. “We got to get him distracted!”

“Yeah, but with what?!”

The thing that distracted Krupp at the moment? It was none other than seeing Edith walking out and about with a basket in one arm and Heidi holding her free hand as she lead her along several feet away.

“Isn’t that the woman that took care of the lost prince?” He overheard one woman gossip to her friend.

“That’s her?! She’s a lot younger and prettier than I thought she’d be!” The friend replied back.

“I heard the queen accepted her into the Royal Family!”

“Then wouldn’t that make her a princess? Or a duchess?”

That was something that never occurred to him before. If Edith was part of his employer’s family, did that make her a princess in a way? if it was, it felt right for her.

Yet something about it made her seem higher above him than ever–even farther out of his league than she had been when he first truly hung out with her. He still had a hard time accepting just how accepting she was of him after how he first treated her, as if he was a friend of hers.

It was nice to think of her as a friend... yet it felt incomplete at the same time. Like there was something more to it and he was scared of revisiting it. Because being with her and thinking of her was still doing things to him that he didn’t think he’d ever feel for a long time.

At that moment, Harold spot Edith too as an idea struck him. “I got it!” He grinned and looked at Krupp as he snapped his fingers.

SNAP!

“Huh?!” Captain Underpants snapped awake. “What–oh I’m back in town!” He grinned.

“Hey Captain!” He turned around to see the boys smiling up at him. “There’s Edith if you want to say hi to her!” Harold pointed at the woman who was starting to walk out of sight. The hero saw her in the nick of time and his grin widened.

“EDITH!” He exclaimed and ran towards her.

“Ok, let’s go!” George grabbed Harold by the hand and they raced to the other end of the street.

“EDITH!” Edith looked up in alarm to see a very familiar face rushing towards her and she knew by the voice and smile that it wasn’t Krupp who was running around town on his own right now.

“Oh no.” She gulped as a few onlookers turned to watch who they assumed to be the Captain of the Guard running up to her.

“HI EDITH! IT’S NICE TO–!” Captain Underpants didn’t look as he collided into a pedestrian and he found himself tripping and falling right into the ground. “I’M OK!” He quickly bounced back up seconds later and continued on his way before stopping in front of Edith and a very confused Heidi. “It’s nice to see you again!”

“Captain–?!” Edith stopped herself before she could give away his alternate identity in front of Heidi. “Uh... what are you doing on your own?”

“Oh I just found myself here and the boys pointed me to you!”

“Ah,” Edith then realized it. George and Harold must have triggered the switch on purpose for some reason. She took a look around Captain Underpants, but there was no sign of the boys.

“So what are you up to?” He asked.

“Uh, I’m just shopping with Heidi.” She nervously smiled. Confused, Captain Underpants looked down and when he saw his friend, his smile widened and he waved at her. “Heidi, it’s good to see you too!”

“Uh... good to see you too?” Heidi was unable to recognize her friend under the clothing and toupee and instead she nervously hid behind Edith while under the assumption that her mother’s Captain of the Guard was suddenly acting too friendly for her liking. Captain Underpants didn’t pick up on this as his attention went to Edith. “So is it ok if I join you–?”

“To the fountain?!” Edith forced a smile as she blurted it out. “Of course!”

*****

“Cool!” Harold’s eyes grew in excitement as he and George approached the wagon.

“Look at all of them!”

“Yeah!” George grinned as he grabbed a noise maker. “We could get loads of pranking stuff here!”

“Who told you it was for pranks?!” The boys looked up to see the panicky vendor.

“These are just toys! I can’t sell pranks and trick stuff here!”

“So this just makes a lame sound maker that rattles?” George raised an eyebrow at the man as he pulled a string on the noise maker, which emitted a sound that sounded an awful lot like a burp. “And those are just regular eggs that aren’t filled with jam or something else?” He pointed at the egg shaped objects on a shelf. “And these don’t have exploding nuts stashed in them.” He pointed to an innocent looking container.

“And those flowers don’t have a thing to squirt water out of them.” Harold pointed to the innocent looking silk flowers in a container.

The man was about to protest again, but then stared at the two in amazement before shaking his head. “You got me.” He smiled in defeat. “Yeah, most of these are secretly for pranks and playing tricks on friends and enemies. You two must be naturals.”

“Yup!” George smiled with pride.

“Do you have anything better?” Harold asked.

“Well, I do have these.” The man opened up a door to reveal more objects. To the trained eye, you could see secret stink bombs, boxes that actually contained rubber spiders, bugs, and snakes, wood sculpted and painted to look like animal dung, fake crooked teeth, telescopes that were bound to give you a black eye or say a silly message, finger traps–the list went on and on.

“We made it to heaven.” George almost felt like he was about to cry.

“If we haven’t, then we found it here on earth.” Harold almost felt like crying tears of joy himself.

“Anything in particular you’re looking for?” The man asked. “Choose wisely–I don’t come around that often.”

“Where would we begin?!” George grinned, but at that moment, Harold let out a huge “Ah dang it, we can’t buy anything! Krupp’ll probably find out sooner or later and the guards will get suspicious if we come home with something!”

“Oh,” George’s face fell in dismay.

The man hummed in thought. “Tell you what. How about I come around the next time they let a delivery person into the castle? Just write down what you want and I’ll bring it to you. Though there’ll be a delivery fee too.”

“You mean it?!” Harold asked. “Yes! Yes we want you to come!”

“Alright.” The man smiled. “Now what did you have in mind?!”

As the boys rattled off what they wanted, neither of them noticed that Erica was quietly watching from around the corner of a building. She watched the man in particular.

*****

“Oh we’re at the fountain again?!” Captain Underpants smiled at the familiar landmark while Edith quickly dipped her hand into the water. “Sure, it’s alright, but–ack!” Edith had poked the back of his head with one wet finger and it was enough to revert him back to normal as a confused Heidi watched on.

“Oh god, not again–!” Krupp grabbed his head as he began to freak out, but then he realized his toupee was still intact and when he quickly looked down to see that he was still clothed, he let out a sigh of relief. “Oh thank god!”

“Yes, but you better leave the talking to the boys to me.” He looked to see Edith giving him a concerned look.

“What–no.” It hit him. “Did they just–?!” He felt his anger rise.

“I said leave the talking to me, Benjamin!” Edith repeated herself as she gave him a stern look. “They’ll listen to me better than you.” She watched as he tried to hold in what was bound to be a huge outburst and he looked as if he were about to ignore her and go after the boys. She then thought back and frowned. “By the way, I’m sorry about what happened at that dinner.”

This finally calmed him down as he shot her a confused “What?”

“You know, where I splashed you with water and–I know you hate that and I didn’t mean to!” She stammered as she lowered her eyes to the ground. “I wasn’t expecting it and I made a show out of it–”

“Hey that wasn’t your fault!” He quickly protested in alarm. “I was the one–that guy was going to–never mind, that’s–!”

“Going to what?”

“You won’t believe me.”

“Then why did you move so close towards us and snapped?”

He was about to say it, but when he realized Heidi was listening. He groaned before he forced himself to move closer towards Edith and whisper in a low tone near her ear “He was about to put a hand on your leg.”

This startled the woman. “What?! He actually–?! No, I can see that happening.” She let out a nervous laugh. “That... that answers a lot. To be honest, he was making me really uncomfortable. I was actually happy when he got sick and ran out.”

This made him feel relief, but in more ways than he was expecting. He was relieved that she was alright, but to know that he got rid of an actual unwanted admirer–he was concerned for her, of course, and if that guy had done anything more–

Edith gave him an odd look. “Come to think of it, you and the boys were gone a long time before you came back. The timing of the whole thing seems way too convenient.” She smiled. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you let them get away with a prank on purpose.”

“Wh–what?!” He turned pale and freaked out as he quickly protested “No! Why would I do that?!” He nervously laughed. “I wouldn’t have let them do that, even if I wanted to! No, that’s totally ridiculous!”

“But only if someone was bothering Edith, right?” Heidi couldn’t help but give the man a smirk. This caused Krupp to let out a rather amusing high pitched sound of fright before he shuddered and, after making some odd shaking gestures with his hands, he ran away.

*****

“Ok, that’s it then.” The man stuffed the order forms in his pants’ pocket. “In about a week and a half, I’ll come on by.”

“Thanks mister!” George replied as he and Harold smiled.

“Just call me Rio.” The man laughed and waved. “Don’t make me feel like an old guy–”

“GEORGE! HAROLD!”

“Whelp, there’s our old guy.” Harold laughed as he grabbed George by the hand and pulled him away. “See you later, Rio!”

“See you!” Rio waved and watched as the two boys dashed towards the Captain of the Guard, who looked like he was going to lose it. He sighed as he turned around and ran a hand over his face.

“That was easier than I thought. Those kids were too easy to fool.” He glanced back. “As long as no one recognizes me.... All this for some stupid war that he wants.”

He still didn’t notice Erica watching him from the distance. Though she had been too far away to hear his words, she was already suspicious of him.

*****

The following two weeks was agonizing for the boys. Everyday was spent with a certain amount of time devoted to studying and working on school related work in preparation for a test that they were dreading.

Every time they tried to sneak away, it seemed that there was always a staff member waiting to send them right back–especially if it seemed the two were about to get into trouble. Apparently the staff became aware that they would no longer have to deal with the boys as often if they got into the school together, and the number of times the boys found someone forcing them back to study was alarmingly frequent. Half the time they were pulled by the hand or hoisted up into the air by their shirt collars before tossed back to the dreaded workload, along with the person in question yelling something in particular.

“GO BACK AND STUDY SO WE DON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH YOU ANY MORE!” A guard might yell.

“For God’s sake, please no more!” A gardener who got pranked cried in frustration.

“Ya’ little ankle biters, I’m in the middle of an important dress for the Ball!” The seamstress might scowl.

*****

“Come on guys, you want to stay together, right?” Erica asked as she tried to explain a series of math problems to the boys who acted as if it were the plague.

“Ugh,” George rolled his head and smacked it on the table.

“By the way, you guys didn’t order anything to be brought to the castle next week, did you?”

“What, no we didn’t!” Harold protested as George shot his head up with a fast “NO!” But as Erica gave them a pointed look, he sighed and confessed “Look, we did order some prank stuff, but we couldn’t just buy it and have them confiscated later on the same day!”

“Hey, it’s no big deal.” Erica held her hands up. “I won’t tell. As long as you finish those problems up in the next fifteen minutes.”

The boys groaned as Erica gave them a concerned frown.

*****

“Close, but not quite.” Edith admitted as she looked up from the paper. “That was an adjective, not a verb.”

“Aw man.” Harold grabbed his hair and tugged at it while George looked at the paper. “I never had to care about these things in the tower!”

“Isn’t there a better way to do this?” George asked. “Can’t you change the sentences? Like make it something interesting like ‘the dragon shook his flabby head?’”

This made Harold laugh and even Edith couldn’t help but snort. “I suppose we could change it up. That is if you are ready to use regular adjectives, nouns, and verbs after awhile.”

“Anything to make this fun!” Harold pleaded.

*****

Finally the long awaited and dreaded day came and while the boys were a little confident that they would pass the tests that Headmistress Esme would provide, they were still a bit scared.

“Oh man, I hate to say it, but I wish we had more time.” George nervously looked at the books. “We got until one.” He glanced at the clock.

“I don’t want to think about it!” Harold moaned. “My head hurts enough as is trying to keep all that information in!”

“Hey, on the bright side, we just got to remember every trick we’ve learned, and the one-on-one studying wasn’t all that bad. Better than being taught along with the others at the same time. Besides, a few hours of a stupid test is all that will take to spend a few years in school with you and there’s so much I want to teach you!” George grinned.

“Think of all the potential readers for our stories! Think of all the kids we can hang out with!”

“True.” Harold admitted. “But I’d rather hang out with kids that want to be my friend for real and not because I’m some prince.”

“Harold?” Heidi came into the room and glanced in. “Oh, are you both ready for the test today? I know you’ll do alright–you both are smarter than most adults here.”

“We are now.” Harold said with a smile as he went up to Heidi. “And thanks for the vote of confidence.” He playfully ruffled her hair, causing her to laugh.

“Anyway, did you both ask for something from the town? There’s a merchant here to see you.”

“Merchant? What merchant?” George was confused. “But we didn’t buy–oh yeah!” He grinned. “Harold, it’s the prank stuff!”

“The what?” Heidi was now interested.

“Just some stuff we couldn’t immediately get!” Harold quickly shushed her. “Don’t tell anyone, ok? You think we have enough time to check them out?” He asked George.

“Well, we have enough time to hide them.” George admitted as he began to race towards the door. “Hurry up!”

*****

The boys hurried to the courtyard and sure enough, Rio came by with a small wagon that he carried around that also had innocent looking boxes. For some reason he wore a long coat in addition to a satchel of his own, despite that summer was quickly approaching.

“As promised.” Rio smiled as the boys approached the cart and opened one of the boxes.

“Oh neat!” Harold grinned at the prank supplies inside.

“Yeah, this’ll be awesome!” George tugged a toy snake out and smiled at it.

“Too bad we don’t have enough time to check these out!” Harold gave the supplies a longing look. “Argh, I just got to!”

“Come on, resist! The chance to get bored in class each day together is far greater!” George laughed as he waved the snake around a bit.

Rio gave them a small, regretful smile. He then grabbed something within his coat and aimed it at the snake in George’s hands. Then he pressed the button.

“What the–?!” To George’s shock, the snake suddenly turned purple and its eyes flashed red, causing him to drop the snake. “Did that snake just–?!”

Then before either Harold or George could do anything, the snake suddenly turned gigantic before their eyes until it became as large as a house.

The boys yelped in surprise as everyone within the courtyard–from the guards to the gardeners–were startled or yelped at the sudden monstrosity.

“NOT AGAIN!” A guard shrieked as one of the gardeners started to run away.

The snake set its eyes on George and Harold and then it started wiggling wildly out of control. The boys yelled and hurried to get out of the way, but to their horror, the snake started following after them.

“WHAT DID YOU DO?!” Harold asked George as they ran towards the inner courtyards.

“I DON’T KNOW!” George cried out in alarm.

Amidst the chaos, Rio watched as everyone hurried away from the snake or else tried going after it to protect the prince and his friend, only to get smacked away by its tail. He silently started heading towards the inside of the castle. Even though he felt regretful upon hearing the boys’ screams for help, he knew he had a job to do and silently put on a half black and half white bear shaped mask.

*****

“Uh Krupp?!” One of the guards swung the door open, only to find Krupp snoring at his desk while taking a nap. “There’s a snake chasing after the prince and his friend!”

Krupp ceased snoring and opened one eye at the guard. “And let me guess–you dolts are getting pranked in some stupid attempt at amusement for them, right?” He shut his eye. “That’s your problem right now.”

“No it’s some giant thing that looks like a wooden snake and it’s going after them!”

“Just let it chase them down! I’m sure they got it attached to them by a string–!”A shriek ensued along with a sound of something getting broken down–like a wall getting smashed to pieces outside the castle.

Krupp didn’t know what was worse at that moment–the dread that apparently it wasn’t a prank or the sudden concern for the boys safety which gave him intense discomfort when he realized it.

“I’ll deal with it in a minute.” He groaned as he realized what needed to be done. Great, it was down to that again, wasn’t it?

“But it’s–!”

“I’LL DEAL WITH IT IN A MINUTE!” He roared at the guard, who let out a scared squeak and closed the door behind him. He got up to lock the door, glanced at the window, then grumbled to himself as he jolted something down on a piece of paper. “I should not be doing this for them. Why do I have to do this again?” He groaned as he clenched the paper in his hand when he was done before snapping his fingers.

SNAP!

“Oh!” Captain Underpants shook his head and smiled. “Hey, where–?” He noticed the crumbled up paper in his hands and he read the message after opening it up.

‘Snake chasing after the boys outside. You deal with it.’

“Oh no!” Captain Underpants panicked. He dropped the letter and began to rip the outfit he was wearing off as fast as possible.

*****

“AGH!” George and Harold screamed as the giant toy snake continued to chase after them and destroyed parts of the courtyards in the process.

“How do we ditch it?!” Harold demanded.

“I don’t know, lead it into the lake?!” George threw back.

“But what if we accidentally send it to the town?!”

“I don’t know! We’d have to break it, but we don’t have the means to–!” at that moment the snake managed to catch up to the boys and it swung its head into them, sending them flying into the bushes, causing them to tumble before rolling into the nearest stone wall.

George moaned as he felt his side hurt. He looked up to see that the snake was coming towards them and he began to frantically shake Harold. “HAROLD!”

“Ouch!” Harold grabbed his arm and winced. The sleeve of his shirt had torn and it looked like a bruise was already forming on his arm.

“Oh no!” George turned to the snake, who was coming towards them. “NO!” He grabbed Harold and tried to force him on his feet. “NO DON’T–!”

Without warning, the snake was suddenly pulled away from the two. They watched in surprise as the snake was pulled away by its tail by none other than Captain Underpants who was flying in the air.

“Oh no, you don’t!” The hero told the snake as he raised his arms up and made the snake go completely into the air. “Take this!” He swung downward, hitting the snake against the ground. The boys watched as he continuously bashed the overgrown toy into the ground–causing the earth to tremble and shake–without stopping.

It wasn’t until the wooden snake’s head finally snapped off that it could finally cease moving. It was still wiggling when Captain Underpants quickly scooped up the boys and took them into the air and they watched and waited until it finally ceased moving all together.

“Phew, that was a close one!” Captain Underpants sighed and smiled. The smile quickly turned into a small ‘o’ shape when he found the boys hugging him.

“Thanks for coming to save us!” George thanked.

“Yeah, thanks!” Harold added. They didn’t voice it, but they knew that there was no way it could have been a coincidence that the hero came right when they would have needed his aid.

“You’re welcome!” Captain Underpants smiled as he hugged the boys back.

“But I don’t get it.” George moved away from Captain Underpants to look at Harold. “Why did that snake suddenly become gigantic? Rio never told us it could do that.”

“Yeah, that’s weird.” Harold admitted before a horrible thought struck him. “Wait... why would he sell us something that would go after us like that?!”

“Oh no.” George paled. “What if... what if he meant for it to happen? In fact, he had no problem selling that stuff to us!”

“Why would he do that–oh no.” Harold realized. “He wanted to get into the castle!”

*****

Rio quietly walked around the inside of the castle and observed everything he could about its layout. When the commotion ended a little too soon for his liking, he scowled as it meant it was only a matter of time until–

“HEY YOU!”

Rio turned his head to see Erica with a sword in each hand. “You seemed to know exactly how to get on those boys’ good side.” She began. “You even had all that stuff ready for them in town, like you were anticipating it.”

“You’re reading into things too much, child.” Rio warned the child.

“Yeah, well the book is wide open if that prank snake suddenly grew large and went on a destructive rampage without warning.” Erica began to walk towards the man and readied her swords. “Only magic can–”

“Not magic, science.” Rio began to rummage through this pockets. “The kind you’d only dream about that goes beyond everyone’s comprehension.” He raised an eyebrow at Erica. “Wait, you’re the sole child of the guard, aren’t you? Those idiots were willing to take on a child–?”

“Erica, what’s going on?!” Melvin suddenly ran into the hallway. “There was this giant snake and everything!”

“NOT NOW MELVIN!” Erica snapped at the boy, causing him to flinch in alarm as Rio took his chance. He grabbed a fake egg out of his pockets and threw it on the ground, causing a huge white smoke to erupt.

“WHAT THE–UGH!” Not only did both kids have a hard time seeing through the thick substance, but apparently it smelled like rotten eggs. “IT SMELLS LIKE HUMAN GAS!” Melvin yelled as he held his nose.

“That’s it!” Erica snarled as she bursted through the cloud. In the nick of time she saw Rio running towards the stairs. Without hesitating, she ran after him.

Rio panted as he hurried on his way, but when he heard a loud “HEY!” He turned around to see Erica ripping a spear out of a suit of armor’s grasp before hurling it right at the man. He yelped and dodged before it could hit him, but when he saw that the child was coming towards him, he grabbed the spear and quickly blocked the girl’s attacks from her swords. Because she had both swords, it meant twice the effort, but the speed and nimbleness that she was going on shocked him in addition to the fact that she also tried aiming for his legs instead of somewhere high above like any child would try.

“There’s no way you learned from those guards!” Rio gasped as he blocked her.

“They’d never teach you how to take advantage of your height!”

“Maybe I’ll tell you in prison!” Erica panted. “Now who are you really working for?!”

Before Rio could say anything, there was a crash and both of them turned to see that Captain Underpants had flown through a window with his back facing it while covering up George and Harold as best as he could with his arms. It didn’t stop both boys from quickly shaking themselves free of any possible shards of glass as he turned around to face Rio and Erica.

“Hey is one of you the same person that made that snake grow big?!” Captain Underpants demanded without losing his smile while George and Harold looked from Erica to the man in the mask.

“Oh thank god, you two are alright!” Rio sighed in relief.

“HIM!” George pointed at Rio upon recognizing his voice.

“Oh come on!” Rio growled in frustration before making a run for it once more.

“Oh no you don’t!” Erica protested as she made to go after Rio, but the flying hero zoomed past her.

Rio let out a string of curses as he grabbed a few things from inside his coat as Captain Underpants yelled out “Hey, that wasn’t very nice what you did back there! You almost hurt my friends!”

Rio threw himself out of the nearest window (shattering it into pieces) and as he fell, he quickly took out a small purple gun along with a pink inflated object shaped like a balloon. With a quick press of the trigger on the gun and an aim at the pink object, the latter grew in size and Rio grabbed onto it just before it could hit the ground.

The end result was not expected, for when he and the object hit the ground, it made a sound that was pretty much a very loud fart noise.

Rio hurled himself off the pink cushion with the gun still in his hands and ran towards the town as fast as he could. Meanwhile, the boys and Captain Underpants were flying after him–

“Wait a minute, drop onto the pink cushion!” George commanded.

Captain Underpants did as he was commanded and the cushion let out another loud noise that sounded similar to a fart, except this one was even louder than the last one.

George and Harold bursted out laughing. “I’m sorry, we couldn’t resist!” George told Captain Underpants through his giggling.

“Yeah, you can keep going!” Harold laughed.

Rio raced through the courtyard and managed to burst his way through the opened gates and out into the city by this point. He ran as fast as he could, past the many civilians and many buildings, and was about to enter the main part of the town when–

“We’re still coming after you!” Rio turned around to see that Captain Underpants was flying towards him with a fist outstretched in front of him while the boys were riding on him and everyone else was looking on in confusion.

Rio grunted in frustration before taking something out of his pocket. Right when the strange hero got close enough, Rio whipped out the object and a strange round object attached to a cord wrapped itself around Captain Underpants’ wrist and before the latter realized what was happening, Rio moved and yanked the other end of the cord as hard as he could. It not only sent Captain Underpants flying, but it caused George and Harold to fall off of him and tumble onto the streets.

“AH!” Captain Underpants yelled as Rio pulled at the cord another way and sent the hero flying right into a set of crates.

“Captain Underpants!” Harold cried out in alarm as he and George scrambled to get up.

“What’s your deal, man?!” George yelled at Rio. “Pranks shouldn’t be for hurting others!” The man made no attempt to respond and hurried along his way.

“It’s ok, I got him!” Captain Underpants exclaimed in a dazed state as he tried to get up and ran after the man. However, Rio caught onto this and threw a combination of a fog and stink bomb at the hero, which engulfed him in a white, foul smelling cloud.

Unfortunately, Captain Underpants was not the only one to suffer this horrible fate, which made him sick upon breathing it in.

“OH GOD, WHY?!” One of the unlucky citizens ran out of the cloud as she coughed and tried to breath in fresher air.

“WHY DOES IT SMELL LIKE COW MANURE?!” A man yelled as he too raced out of the cloud.

“I THOUGHT I WASHED MY CHAMBER POT THIS MORNING!”

“WHAT’S THAT MADE OUT OF?! ROTTEN MEAT?!”

“We got to do something!” Harold told George as they covered their noses with their hands. “We can’t let him get away with this! He was planning on doing something–!” He yelped when he saw the town clock tower in the distance and saw that it was forty five minutes until one. “AND WE GOT TO DO IT FAST BEFORE IT’S ONE! HOW COULD WE FORGET ABOUT THAT?!”

George gritted his teeth as he tried to think. “No matter what happens, he’s always got something planned up his sleeve. He can’t let him get to his pranking supplies!”He then noticed something. “Wait, is that–?”

On the very same street they were on, there was a store that sold chamber paper across from another store that sold honey, jam, and other sticky condiments.

“I got it!” George grinned at the insanely lucky coincidence that was before his eyes.

*****

Rio continued to run, though he felt like he was running out of breath. He knew he’d need to steal a horse very soon as he began to pass the school where the kids were currently in class. “Just a bit more!” He panted. “Soon I can leave all this craziness behind me!”

He didn’t see Captain Underpants flying above with the boys riding on him–but this time the hero was carrying a certain something in his hands.

Rio hopped the wooden fence and entered the school grounds. Just as he began to race across the grass, Captain Underpants dropped a huge wad of chamber paper and honey and jam mixed together right onto Rio.

To the boys’ delight, the mixture landed perfectly onto Rio and managed to knock him right to the ground.

“FINALLY!” George cried out in glee as Harold cheered. “NO ONE OUT-PRANKS US AND GETS AWAY WITH IT!”

Inside the school, the children whose classrooms faced a certain direction turned towards the windows. To their amazement, they saw two boys holding onto their beloved hero as he flew down onto the grounds. Some of the children recognized all three from their times at The Crusty Sandbox.

“Captain Underpants!” Rose yelled in delight as she and the others raced to the windows, to the dismay of their teacher.

“NO WAY!” Ravi hollered as he and his classmates spotted the group outside. “HE JUST CAUGHT A BAD GUY AT OUR SCHOOL!”

Rio was cursing as he tried to peel away the sticky-papery-trap. Unfortunately it made his hands messy and hard to grab onto things.

“Well about time!” Captain Underpants reached over to tear off enough to reveal the masked head of his recent antagonist. “That was quite a struggle you gave us!”

“Thanks!” George thanked the hero as he and Harold rushed over to Rio and tore his mask off. “Now why did you send that snake to attack us?!”

“Yeah, how’d you even do that?!” Harold asked. “Magic?!”

“And make this fast because we don’t have a lot of time right now!” George nervously looked back at the school.

“Look, I really didn’t want either of you to get harmed.” Rio sighed in frustration. “But that was just a distraction from what I needed to do.”

“What?” Harold asked.

“Kid, you really shouldn’t have come back home so soon.” Rio looked at Harold. “Do you have any idea what kind of enemies Piqua has? I hate to say it, but they made one out of my employer. And he’s not going to be happy until Piqua answers to their mistake.”

This confused both boys. “What a sec, what kind of enemy?” George demanded.

“Let’s just say... Piqua turned him into a complete joke.”

“A what now?” Captain Underpants asked as he drew closer. “How can you make a joke out of an enemy? That doesn’t make sense.”

Rio rolled his eyes before bursting a hand through the chamber paper and revealed one more contraption hidden within his grasp, but before the boys could see it, something squirted out of it and landed right into Captain Underpants’ face causing him to yelp and move away before tripping on his own feet and land onto the ground.

“Later!” Rio yelled as he got up and began to run away while struggling to tear off the rest of his sticky binds.

“Hey we’re not done yet!” Harold yelled as he made to run after Rio.

“Wait, why are we back at the school?!” Both boys’ felt their hearts stop and they turned around to see that the hero’s facial expression changed into complete confusion when he sat up as water dripped off his face.

“Oh no.” George realized that the object was none other than a trick flower. “No, not right now!” He tried snapping his fingers at Krupp–but nothing happened.

“Wait–why isn’t it working?!” George snapped his fingers again, but then he realized it. “He’s still wet!” He yelled at Harold.

At that moment the bell rang and the doors bursted open. From those doors came forth a bunch of excited children eager to see their hero and to meet up with the boys again.

“Oh no!” Harold looked both ways and was forced to choose–chase after Rio who almost had all of the sticky paper off and was moments away from hopping the fence, or dry off Krupp and revert him back into Captain Underpants before the kids would learn the ugly truth.

“DANG IT!” Harold yelled as he raced towards Krupp. Before the adult could say anything, the boy grabbed the cape and furiously rubbed it over his face.

“HEY CUT THAT OUT!” Krupp angrily yelled, but Harold didn’t listen as George repeatedly snapped his fingers as the kids got closer and closer until–

SNAP!

“Whoa, who turned out the lights?!” Captain Underpants exclaimed as he hopped up and moved away from Harold before finally getting the cape off of his face.

“CAPTAIN!” The hero turned his head in time to see Rose throw herself at him. “WE MISSED YOU!” She hugged him as many other kids ran toward him and crashed into him with their hugs until he fell over from the force.

“No,” George shook his head in dismay as he and Harold watched Rio leap over the fence. “We could still get Captain–”

“Too late, Rio could use that water flower again and get us killed.” Harold sighed. “It was either stop a bad guy or hide the truth from the other kids. Just like you told me.”

They both looked back to see the kids laughing in delight as they eagerly asked Captain Underpants questions and expressed how much they had looked forward to seeing him. The hero managed to sit up, but he was more than happy to talk to them. The way the kids’ faces lit up as he talked to them–not as a mean hearted adult with little time for them, but as someone who was a kid at heart–was a little sweet and wonderful to behold.

“Maybe we’ll regret it later.” George admitted. “But it was better not to risk them finding out.”

Moments later, the doors opened again to reveal Headmistress Esmé. “The kids were right all along.” She stared at Captain Underpants in amazement before noticing Harold and George. “Oh boys, you came in the nick of time!” She smiled and waved. “I can give you time to study if you want before we start!”

Upon seeing the Headmistress and being reminded of what was so important for them that day, the boys let out a collective groan.

“Hey is everything alright?!” Captain Underpants finally looked up when he heard the boys.

“Oh we just have to take some test so that we can be in this school together!” George admitted to the hero. “If we pass we can be in the same class!”

“Oh!” Captain Underpants smiled in understanding. “Well I wish you the best of luck!” He waved. “I know you’ll pass!”

“Thanks!” Harold laughed as he waved back at the hero. “Well, we better get going!”

“Yeah, thanks!” George added. “And hey, make sure you get some water or something when you’re done here ok? We’ll let you know when we need help next time!”

“OK!” The hero waved and promised as he watched the boys head towards the Headmistress.

*****

A few hours later, the boys were trying to mentally recover from the long and not-so-fun test. After seeing so many words and numbers, they just waned to wipe their memories clean of it all and do something else. It was to the point that they completely forgot what Rio had warned them about before he ran away.

“I hope we don’t have to retake that stupid test.” George moaned as he grabbed his head. “My head’s hurting.”

“Me too.” Harold added as they headed up the steps. “And the funny thing was that I forgot to look around to see if any of the kids were Regenbogen while we were there.”

“And of course they weren’t because we didn’t see any rainbow hair.” George sighed as they turned down the hallway. As they did, he let out a confused “Huh?” when he saw Edith standing by Harold’s door.

“Need a bit of sugar to perk you up?” Edith smiled as she held a plate of cookies out for them.

Instantly the boys’ eyes lit up in delight. “Yes!” George hollered as he and Harold raced towards the woman. They opened the door and allowed her into Harold’s room. “Just a little something I made as a way to celebrate.” Edith set the plate down on the table. “It’s nice to get it over with, isn’t it?”

“If it wasn’t for that snake and that guy that we had to chase down, we could of had a bit more time to study.” Harold admitted as he grabbed one of the cookies.

“Yeah, you should have seen it! He made this toy snake grow big and that’s why the courtyards got destroyed!” George added.

“It almost got us, but Captain Underpants managed to get to us in time!”

“I heard about that.” Edith admitted. “I hope you didn’t catch Benjamin at a bad–”

“But that’s the thing!” George threw out. “We didn’t snap our fingers and we never saw him for most of the day until we got cornered!” He thought about this again. “You know, I wonder if Krupp actually triggered the switch on his own again. Captain Underpants was there to save us right when we needed him.”

“Yeah that would be nice to imagine.” Harold agreed. “But I don’t think he would have been happy about it.”

As the boys continued to recount the day’s events, Edith gave them a thoughtful look. She knew the reasons why Benjamin wasn’t overly fond of the boys and that he made no attempt to hide it. Yet...

Yet she felt that she could believe it was possible that he did trigger the change on his own to save the boys. She glanced down at her hands and recalled that horrible time in the thorn bush. She recalled how his counterpart stopped at nothing to get her out and how he continued to help her even after he changed back to his normal self and was already badly hurt. She recalled what George told her when he was briefly imprisoned at the castle and what lead to him being set free in the first place.

Meanwhile, in another location of the castle, Grace stared at the destruction of her courtyards as Moses stood beside her.

“Hey, it can be easily fixable.” He reassured her. “I think I know some old pals of mine around town who can help patch things up.”

“That would be nice.” Grace gave the man a small smile as she clenched the purple letter in her hands.

Whoever was helping the man who had his eyes set on Piqua’s destruction had targeted both Harold and George for this. She knew she had to keep an eye on what was soon to happen now. If only she and her people had been more cautious as to what they had done those few years ago.

*****

Erica sighed as she kicked at a rock on her way back home before stuffing her hands in her pockets. Great, all that observing and she failed her mission. The only good thing out of all of this was that she was able to report everything back to the queen.

“Hey kiddo, why are you so glum?” A voice from the shadows asked. “You did a good job and know they know Piqua’s onto them.”

Erica looked to see a small shadowed alleyway between two houses and a figure hiding in the middle of it. She recognized the voice instantly. “Yeah, but that guy snooped around long enough to get a basic layout of the castle. I didn’t think he’d have all those tools on him and that he’d use them to escape that easily. Apparently not even

George and Harold or the Captain was able to get him.”

“Well don’t worry too much. The joke’s on them because I was able to sneak into their kingdom and do a bit of snooping around myself not that long ago. They’d never suspect a simple handyman.” He finally stepped out to reveal himself to the child–a slightly short man with a bit of gray in his light brown hair, with eyes filed with a guarded alertness. “Sure, my wife was against it at first, but the wait paid off. But it’s nice to see that my student is being a huge help to Piqua."

Erica smiled. “So, when will you actually come to help Her Majesty, Sir Ree?”

“Oh, I’ll show up when I know for sure I’ll be needed.” Ree smiled back. “It’s going to happen whether I’m wanted or not.”

Chapter Text

“Ta dah!” George held up a new storybook about Captain Underpants (really a bunch of papers bound together by strings) as he and Harold stood on the stage. “Our new, exciting story!”

The children at The Crusty Sandbox cheered in delight. “Yay a new one!” One little boy grinned.

“Make sure to take turns, ok guys?!” George reminded them as he set the homemade book on the table before he and Harold hopped off the stage.

Summer had finally arrived and with it came children who were free to roam around whenever they wanted. Without the usual number of guards and a noticeable absence of the usual curfews placed upon them around this time by the guards, the kids had more reasons to finally enjoy their time of freedom. This also meant more kids to hang around with for the boys, who were happy to have more playmates around as well as more reasons to be out of the castle and not get bored.

“It’s been almost two weeks since we took that stupid test!” Harold laughed as he and George watched the kids check out their story.

“Ugh, don’t remind me!” George grimaced. “I want to enjoy summer and forget about that for as long as I can!”

“Are you going to go to that summer ball they always do?” Ravi asked as he and Marco approached the boys.

“The what now?” Harold asked.

“You don’t know about the summer ball the queen holds at the castle yet?!” Sugar asked as she turned around in amazement. “It always happens around early summer! Nearly everyone is allowed to participate if they get lucky to be invited, no mater what class you are! And a lot of the nobility wear pretty outfits and there’s a lot of dancing and music! Oh and fireworks!”

“Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.” Ravi added as he translated for Marco while the deaf child carefully watched his hands. “Since it’s in honor of the day Piqua officially became a kingdom and all.”

“That does sound like fun.” Harold admitted as George began to think. “Now that I think about it, I think I heard about something like that somewhere else.”

“Hey out of curiosity, have you guys heard word about Billy and Lisa yet?” George asked. “We were told that they’d come back when summer started.”

“No.” Sugar shook her head as Ravi shrugged.

“Oh,” George frowned as Harold recalled something.

“Actually that reminds me–have you guys ever saw anyone who might have looked like me?” The blonde asked as he tugged at his hair. “You know, when I had the rainbow hair? And possibly as long or even longer? Maybe they might of had magic?”

“Uh, no?” One nearby child spoke out. “Hey have you guys ever seen anyone like Harold before?!” He yelled to the others.

“No!”

“Nope!”

“I think I saw a girl with pink hair one time!”

“I think he’s the only one!”

“Sorry.” Ravi shrugged as Harold let out a sigh of disappointment. “I guess not. And there’s no one around who has magic that we know of who lives close by.”

“Bo might know!”

“Huh?” George and Harold turned to face a small dark haired boy around their age who wore glasses. “His family has connections to the magic folk! You could ask him!”

“Wait, you mean that tall kid who sculpts a lot and makes the figurines?!” George asked. “That kid?!”

“Yeah, they say he’s part giant on his dad’s side!” Rose added. “Well, maybe not, but you could ask him!”

“Worth a shot.” Harold shrugged before turning to the boy in glasses. “Thanks–uh–?”

“Friends call me Gooch!” The boy grinned. “And tell him we said ‘hi’ when you meet him!”

*****

The boys found themselves at the part of town on the other side of the bridge that lead to the main part of the city. “Remember when we stole the cabbages and radishes?” George snickered to Harold as they headed towards a particular building.

“Yeah, good times.” Harold nodded as they came to a stop in front of the building. The sign displayed a set of pots and the words ‘Hweemuth’s Pottery and Ceramics.’ “Never seen this place before.” Harold commented as they entered through.

Inside were numerous pots of all sorts as well as ceramic pitchers, plates, cups, vases, and even figurines of all shapes and sizes. It impressed both boys who took a moment to take everything in.

“Hey aren’t you Beard?” Startled by the voice, the boys turned around to face a boy a year or two older than them who was sitting behind the counter. He wore an apron over his clothing and his knitted orange hat forced his brown bangs down so it was hard to see his eyes. “And aren’t you the prince?” He asked in amazement when he looked at Harold.

“Yup, but you can call us George and Harold!” George grinned as he stood by Harold. “Gooch told us to come to you. He said you might know some magic folk.” Bo smiled at this. “It’s too bad I couldn’t hang out with him today. I have to work today, but someone will take over in a few minutes. Then I can talk with you.”

*****

“You made all these?!” Harold stared at the set of figurines in one corner of the family studio behind the store. They weren’t as detailed or perfect as the other figurines in the store, but they were still impressive considering that age of their maker.

“Wait, is that–?” George picked up a small figurine of Captain Underpants. “That’s amazing!” He grinned at it. “Why haven’t I heard more about you and why haven’t you been at The Crusty Sandbox more often?!”

“I’ve gone over there a few times, I just don’t have a lot of time.” Bo admitted as he gently played with a paint brush in his hands. “Plus, with all the adults that don’t like kids having fun–well, you know.”

“Hey what’s that?” Harold noticed a strange yellow crystal in a glass container on a shelf. The container itself was half covered with a cloth.

“Uh, that’s not important, it’s just a crystal that I might melt down for the bottom of a bowl.”

“So it’s going to have a crystal butt?” George giggled at this and Bo couldn’t help but crack a chuckle at this. “No, if you melt glass in a bowl, it gives the bottom this nice glass surface.”

“That’s amazing!” Harold was even more amazed. “But anyway, we wanted to ask–you really have connections to the magic folk?”

“Well before you ask, yes I have a bit of Giant in my ancestry.”

“We want to know if there’s anyone who might of had really long rainbow hair that has magic.” George began. “Like anyone who might of been in contact with the magic flower that healed the queen years ago and got their powers as a result.”

Bo hummed in thought as he sat in a chair. “I don’t know about someone with rainbow hair, but I’m familiar with stories about the flower. Or the flower of creation as they like to call it.” He continued when the boys sat down on a nearby bench. “See according to my grandpa, while the flower of creation does heal and inspire creativity in others, he also said that it could do much more. For example, it can extend your life and make you young again. But if you wanted to, you could make almost anything into a reality–”

“Like if you made illusions that didn’t really exist?” Harold cut in.

“I guess? But I mean it could supposedly grant you magic beyond your wildest dreams. Some think that the magic is powerful enough to take over a kingdom on your own in mere minutes, but no one knows for sure if that can actually happen and no one knows how the magic can be used. That’s why a lot of magic folk were against the queen eating it in the first place.”

“But anything else?” Harold asked. “What if you ate it?”

“I don’t know.” Bo shrugged. “All I know is that it healed your mom, but nothing else happened to her. Anyway, my grandpa heard a rumor that someone tried to steal the flower from the sorceress who made the potion for the queen, but he doesn’t know what happened to them after that. Maybe it was them that you guys were wondering about?”

This detail immediately caught the boys’ attention.

“Anyway, that’s all I have.” Bo smiled. “Hey you want to hang out for a bit longer? I still have some free time!”

An hour later, the boys waved farewell to Bo as they left and ended their day with a new friend.

“Thanks for showing us your figurines and thanks for giving us one!” Harold smiled at Bo as he carefully held a figurine of Captain Underpants.

“Thanks for the drawing!” Bo smiled as he held up a drawing of the hero that Harold made for him. “I hope to see you again sometime! I’m actually going to stop by the castle tomorrow if you want to hang out again!”

*****

“So there was someone who came in contact with the flower!” Harold reflected as he drew on some paper while a quiet George sat beside him. “We might still find Regenbogen!”

“Can I ask you something?” George finally cut in. “All those things Bo mentioned about the flower’s magic... that was the real reason Ribble kept you around, right?”

Harold stopped drawing.

“Harold?” George worriedly asked.

Harold sighed as he turned to look at the window. “I think... I think she was using me to stay young and live longer. I just don’t know why she was so against my using my hair to create illusions. But why didn’t she eat the flower herself if she wanted to stay young forever? Why didn’t she use the magic to take over the kingdom if it really was that powerful? If Bo was right about the flower practically granting you magic–why? She wouldn’t of had to kidnap me.”

“But your mom would of died and you might not have lived.” George pointed out. “I don’t know. Maybe she would have lost the ability to stay young. There’s no telling what the flower was capable of. But you got the best of it’s abilities, right?”

Harold was quiet for a moment before he finally replied “I guess. But now I’m worried... what if the person we are looking for... what if they’re a bad person? What if they used the powers for bad things?”

George thought again. “That lady who kidnapped your sister clearly wanted to use it for bad reasons. But that couldn’t have been–well, I mean we should ask your mom.”

“Yeah, but that strange woman who saved us told us to not tell mom.” Harold thought for a moment. “We could snoop around in mom’s private chambers.”

“Yeah, let’s give it a shot!” George agreed and both boys shot up and hurried out.

Yet the moment they finally reached the door to Grace’s study, they could hear that she was already in there talking with someone and a closer listen revealed it to be George’s father.

“–I guess if they were bidding their time, you should be getting the guards ready just in case.” Moses said.

Inside, Grace thought for a moment before her eyes noticed something–the map of Piqua with all the surrounding countries around it. She then looked at Moses and thought about his son and a question she had been avoiding as long as possible out of respect.

“Can I ask–that is, if it’s alright–how long did it take for you to try to find George on your own?”

Moses thought about this. “To be honest... we never really stopped.”

Behind the door, George leaned in closer to listen better.

“We looked around town as long as we could out in the streets and we tried to contact the guards, but we couldn’t find him, nor did anyone want to help us out. We tracked down the family Barbra left him with and when they told us what he said about being sent back to his grandmother, we tried to head back. And... well, we were on a long chase.” Moses shut his eyes. “Nearly five years and too many miles and sleepless nights to count.”

“You never gave up.” Grace understood all too well. She smiled a slight, bitter smile. “At least you believed and kept looking, unlike my husband who didn’t even bother to stay in his own daughter’s life.”

“Hey, what’s past is past!” Moses smiled. “We’re all trying to spend more time with our kids and give them back the childhood they deserve?”

“I know.” Grace nodded. “It’s just...” She stared out her window. “I’m worried this happiness is starting to become too good to be true.”

George and Harold shot each other worried looks before moving away.

*****

The next afternoon, Edith had allowed Heidi to tag along with her once more as she explored the town to pick up some items. “I take it you will be starting school after summer too?” Edith smiled at Heidi as she looked at some potted plants outside a florist’s shop.

“Yeah, mama’s never let me yet.” Heidi admitted as she admired some small flowers from one pot. “Hey, if you were with Harold for most of his life, how come you don’t hang out with him as much now?”

“Oh sweetie, I still enjoy spending time with him.” Edith told the child. “It’s just that he needs to meet other people and it’s best that he hangs out with others his own age, like George.”

“Is there anyone you like to hang out with too?” Heidi asked. “Anyone special?”

Edith thought for a moment but before she answered, she heard a loud gasp that made her turn her head. She saw a small child with her grandmother–still young enough to have brown amongst her gray hairs–but the woman stared in shock at Edith.

“E–Edith?!”

It took a moment for Edith to recognize the woman and when she did, she was amazed. “Lady Hilda?!”

“It really is you!” The old woman let out a laugh. She pulled her grand daughter along before she went over to Edith. “I thought I’d never see you again!”

“I didn’t think I’d see you either!” Edith smiled as the woman held her arms out and the two hugged.

“Who’s this?” Heidi asked in curiosity.

“Oh, she’s an old friend of my parents!” Edith explained after parting away from Hilda.

*****

Far across the bridge, on the side of the town by the woods, Edith found herself in the house of an old family friend.

As Heidi played with Hannah (the small four year old child) in the living room, Hilda came out with a box in her arms and sat before Edith at the table. “I can’t believe it’s been so long.” The woman mused. “It’s been nearly twelve years since I saw you and it’s almost like you barely aged a day. I wondered where you were for all those years and then I heard the rumors.” She smiled as she set the box down on the table. “Your sisters told me you ran away, but I didn’t believe it for a moment.”

“Maybe I should have.” Edith found herself remembering those dark times but then she shook her head. “But I wouldn’t have been there for Harold when he would have needed me.”

Hilda smiled and placed a hand on the box. “I knew I was right in not letting them find out about this. They never appreciated something for what it truly was like you did. I was holding onto this for your father for your parents’ anniversary but he never was able to get it back in time.” She frowned before opening the box up. “It’s only fitting that you have it.” She carefully took the object out and handed it to Edith who looked at it in amazement.

“Is this–?” In her hands was a small blue box the color of a sapphire, with what appeared to be golden trimming around the mouth and pretty light blue flowers painted on top of it. When Hilda handed her the key, Edith carefully placed it into the opening on the back before opening the lid. A light, sweet melody that was almost waltz-like began to play out and it was enough to make the children stop and listen to it in awe.

A wave of memories began to sweep through Edith’s mind as she listened to it–memories of her childhood, of her parents, of the times she was happy, free, and naive.

“Edith?” Hilda asked in concern as she saw the younger woman’s eyes get misty. “Is everything alright?”

Edith took a deep breath and forced a smile. “It is.” She nodded. “It’s just... it’s been so long.”

“They would have wanted you to be happy.” Hilda reassured her. “If any of us knew, we would have taken you away from that house.” Edith carefully closed the lid as the woman continued. “You know, you’re always welcome to come visit. In fact, I want a chance to catch up with you for a bit. There’s so much you must want to know about, like this little one.” She turned to Hannah, who shyly waved at Edith.

“That would be nice.” Edith smiled.

*****

Meanwhile, at the Sneedly family residence, Melvin smiled as Bo came up to him with a satchel. “You have it?”

Bo sighed as he reached into his satchel and pulled out a glass container with a yellow crystal. Melvin grinned and snatched the container from the taller boy’s hands as he let out a protest of “Hey careful!”

“Finally!” Melvin carefully examined the crystal over. “An actual crystal from the magic folk! I can continue on with my invention!”

“Your what?”

“You see Hweemuth, the people who we put our trust into to defend our lands aren’t the shiniest spoons in the drawer.” Melvin went over to a huge thing that was covered with a tarp. “If an army came and attacked us, they’d not only be outnumbered, but they have so little experience that they wouldn’t be able to do much. Not even the flying man would be able to last against the ever developing weapons of our time.” With a dramatic flourish, he pulled the tarp away to reveal what was underneath. “Behold!”

To the young sculptor’s surprise, there was a huge metal contraption that looked like a large knight, but a door to the inside of his chest was open and revealed a set of pulleys, levers, and a place to sit in. Your head would be able to peer out through the knight’s helmet if you were to sit in it.

“I call it the Nightmare Knight!” Melvin exclaimed as he threw a hand out to the suit of armor. “With this, the user will be twice as protected and twice as powerful as any other common soldier in battle! All I need is a source of energy powerful enough for it to easily move for whoever uses it!”

Melvin walked up to the suit of armor and looked at a small compartment on the inside. It was large enough that the crystal could easily fit into it. “And with a little magic on my side, it’s bound to work! If it does, gunpowder and fire will have nothing on this!”

“Uh, wait a minute!” Bo threw his hand out. “I warned you that sort of crystal is dangerous if used incorrectly! It causes a lot of magic to backfire on those who haven’t mastered magic!”

“Relax, I’m not using it for magic, I’m using it for science.” Melvin rolled his eyes as he took the lid off and took out the crystal.

“I mean it! I don’t think you should use it unless you can find someone who knows how to use magic! Why not give it back to me until then?”

Melvin turned to face Bo and frowned. Then again, I need someone to test this out for me. And I don’t want to be the first one to go.

“Ok, if you want it, then take it.” Melvin put the crystal into the compartment.

“Oh come on!” Bo threw his hands up in the air before he went over to get the crystal out. Yet right as he was leaning more than halfway into the armor, Melvin shoved him all the way in and, before Bo realized what was happening, Melvin slammed the chest door shut.

“What did you–?! Hey let me out!” Bo cried out in alarm. “Let–uh, what is that–?!” Without warning there was a flash of yellow that bursted though the cracks of the armor, which startled Melvin. Then to his further amazement, the armor suddenly rattled and stood up on its own while there was a faint yellow glow coming out of it.

“What’s happening?!” Bo panicked. “Melvin what are you doing?!”

“It’s working!” Melvin grinned as his eyes shone in delight. “It’s working!” He cheered. “It’s–wait, are you even at the controls?”

“NO I’M NOT! IT’S–!”

Without warning, the suit of armor almost literally spun around and punched a hole through the wall behind it.

Melvin screamed and nearly jumped out of his skin as the armor continued to punch at the wall while the boy trapped inside was crying out in alarm. As it continued, yellow markings, like stripes began to form across its body.

Finally it managed to break a hole large enough for it to force its body against it and the armor escaped the room in a display of broken bricks and layers of paint.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” Melvin screamed as the suit of amour proceeded to walk through and into the outside world. “GET BACK HERE!” He ran after it and tired to shove into its side, but all it did was cause him to fall over into the ground. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!” He demanded.

*****

“Anything?” Harold asked as he and George went through the drawers of the queen’s desk in her study.

“Nope!” George shook his head. Harold sighed and smacked the side of the desk, but to the surprise of both boys, this made one side of the desk with flowers carved on it pop a square shaped object a few inches out of it.

“What the–?!” Harold gapped.

“Uh, ok that was convenient.” George admitted as Harold opened the drawer. Inside were a handful of letters–one purple and one white.

“I wonder what these are.” Harold grabbed the white letter and opened it up. ”‘Dearest Grace,’” He began,

“‘I had no idea that Sarah had broken out of Oberon’s Cage. I have recently relocated her back there after what she had almost attempted in kidnapping your daughter. However, I would advise that you make sure you contact me if anything happens and if she comes back again. She was under the belief that the princess possessed the magic of the flower of creation and thank God that this was not the case for the child. She almost took the flower away from me when I made that potion for you, as you might recall.”

“Wait a minute, so that woman was the person who tried to take away the flower?!” Harold stopped himself. “But she’s not Regenbogen! She’s after Regenbogen too! But does this mean... is this the sorceress that Bo mentioned?”

“Wait a minute,” George noticed something and took over. “‘I refuse to reveal any more about this matter. I fear it will endanger more than one life, including that of the one she was trying to seek out–the one who does possess the last of the flower of creation’s magic.’”

There was a silence.

“So it’s not just a huge ‘what if?’” Harold raised his head up after looking at the letter. “Regenbogen actually exists?” He looked over the letter again as George noticed the other letter. “It doesn’t say who it is or who this is from.” He frowned. “That’s not going to help us out.” He grimaced and put the letter away as George picked up the other letter.

“Uh, Harold? I think your mom is hiding one more secret.” George told Harold. He took the letter and read “‘Just because your eldest child has returned, it doesn’t mean I will stray from what I swore to do. I will get my revenge you and your people, you foolish woman.’”

“What?” Harold was now confused as George began to read “‘Sincerely, but not really, from your soon to be enemy–’”

“YOUR MAJESTY!” Melvin screamed as he bursted swung the door open, causing the boys to scream in fright. “I NEED YOUR HELP, THERE’S–! Oh it’s you two.” He instantly calmed down and scowled at the two.

*****

“So this musician is already playing out in the streets and annoying us.” The shopkeeper told the Captain of the Guard, who was already bored out of his mind along with his fellow guardsman. “And I said ‘Hey quit playing, you musician! You’re annoying everyone!’”

“Remind me why we’re doing this again.” Meaner quietly asked Krupp, who was pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Because ever since that giant snake fiasco, the queen wants us to keep an eye on anyone suspicious.” Krupp quietly told him back. “She’s not telling me much beyond that.”

“And then without any warning, she sneezes and all of a sudden a barrel explodes!” The shopkeeper pointed to a barrel that was indeed torn into pieces.

“What?!” Meaner laughed. “She just sneezed and a barrel exploded?!”

“Yeah! And then moments later, she sneezes and that pot explodes!” The shopkeeper pointed to a spot where there were many pot fragments and dirt thrown about. “Then she sneezes and that window explodes!” He pointed to a shattered window. “Then she sneezes and that chicken explodes!”

The other two followed where the shopkeeper pointed his finger at and expected the worst, but instead it was only a chicken that somehow lost all its feathers and was practically walking around naked.

“I tell you, she’s one of the magic folk!” The shopkeeper continued and brought back their attention. He raised his hand and readied his fingers as he continued “One more sneeze and then–”

“WAIT!” A panicky Krupp managed in the nick of time to stop the man from making the much dreaded sound, but it startled both the shopkeeper and Meaner. “I–err–” Krupp tried to cover himself. “I mean... why not bring her out so that we can tell?!” He let out a nervous laugh. “I already got it at the first few examples!”

“Get out, get out!” There was yelling next door and they watched as another man roughly pulled a teenager by her arm out of the other store.

“That’s her!” The shopkeeper pointed at the teen. “That’s the one making things explode!”

“I just need medicine for my cold!” The teenager angrily protested with a voice that sounded as if she was indeed a bit stuffed up as she waved a musical instrument case in another hand. “Can’t you morons give me a break?” She turned her head, sending black and white hair flying around her as she shot angry amber eyes at the adults–only for her anger to momentarily fade the moment she locked eyes with Krupp, who instantly recognized her.

“YOU?!” Krupp freaked out.

“Ah fud–” The girl stopped mid curse as she struggled to speak it out. “Fu–fu–fudge– AHCHOO!” She violently let out a huge sneeze.

A barrel nearby suddenly bursted apart and parts of it shot everywhere, scaring everyone close by including the angry adults to near death.

“I TOLD YOU!” The shopkeeper pointed at the teen as Krupp could only resume staring in disbelief. “SHE’S ONE OF THE MAGIC FOLK! SHE’S HERE TO CAUSE TROUBLE!”

“I’M HERE TO DELIVER A MESSAGE AT THE CASTLE, YOU DOLTS!” The girl yelled. “AND I CAN’T WITHOUT GETTING THE MEDICINE THAT YOU’RE DENYING ME FROM!”

“Oh god, not her. Any kid but that one.” Krupp shook his head in horror. He knew full well that the girl was indeed one of the magic folk.

“Yeah, like we’d let one of your kind into the castle!” Meaner snorted and shook his head. “At this point, you’re the most trouble we’ve seen today!”

“WHAT IS THAT THING?!”

Everyone turned around in time to hear people panicking with the sound of something like shoes made out of metal loudly stomping upon the ground.

Moments later they saw it–a giant suit of armor with glowing yellow markings charging its way across the town, not paying any mind to any of the pedestrians in its path. They were forced to run aside or jump out of its way and at one point it walked straight into a wagon and stomped across it–breaking it in the process–without even stopping.

“Uh... what?” Was the question Meaner asked that was on everyone’s mind. “Hey, what should we do about that?” He turned to Krupp as the girl sneezed (and caused another window to shatter to pieces).

“Uh... I... don’t know yet.” Krupp admitted as a part of him was ready to accept the inevitable.

Meanwhile, George and Harold were running after the armor as the less athletic Melvin struggled to catch up. “You sure Bo’s in there?!” Harold yelled at Melvin.

“Yes!” Melvin yelled. “You can try to get him out, but I want that armor to stay safe!”

“HEY!” One of the guards yelled at the suit of armor and tried to run in front of it. “STOP IN THE NAME OF THE LAW!” He waved a sword at it.

The armor stopped and its head looked down at the guard.

“Good! Now tell me who you–!”

The armor suddenly bent down and with one mighty swing of its hand, it knocked the guard into the wall of the nearest building.

The surrounding townsfolk screamed as the armor decided to turn in another direction and kept walking. Had they listened closely, they could have heard a boy crying out for help inside the armor.

“What just happened?!” George turned to Melvin.

“It’s supposed to sense any surrounding hostility when the person controlling it can’t!” Melvin yelled back. “So any means of attacking it makes this harder for us!”

“Great!” Harold sighed in annoyance. He turned around but then he noticed someone in particular. “Actually, hang on a second!” He grabbed George by the hand and pulled him along as he ran towards the person in question.

“What do we do?!” Meaner yelled at Krupp.

“I don’t know, get the others to stop it!” Krupp yelled back.

“OK fine!” Meaner turned and ran back to the castle. At the same time, the boys began to rapidly approach Krupp and the girl, who turned in time to see the two boys.

“Wait, is that Daemyra?!” George recognized the girl as Harold readied his fingers.

SNAP!

Captain Underpants snapped awake. “Whoa, guess I’m needed again!” He smiled before turning to Daemyra. “Hey have you seen two boys–?”

George and Harold crashed into Captain Underpants, sending him into the store as an amused Daemyra watched on.

“Come on, we need you!” George told Captain Underpants as they all lay on the wooden floor of the store. He quickly whipped out a familiar red cape with black dots from his bag that he handed over to the adult.

*****

Moments later, the huge armor was still walking its way through town, not caring about whatever got in it’s way.

“HEY BIG GUY, STOP IT!” Another guard came up and tried hitting the armor, but the armor only replied by smacking him away and into the streets, causing many to scream and run away.

“Hey stop hurting those guys and let our friend go!”

The armor turned around in time to see two boys standing in front of a middle aged man in nothing but a cape and underwear. “Bo if you’re in there, we promise we’ll get you out!” Harold yelled up at the armor.

“HAROLD?!” They heard a familiar voice. “GEORGE?! ARE YOU GUYS THERE?!”

“Look, just bust that thing wide open, get the kid trapped inside out, and stop it!” George turned to Captain Underpants.

“OK!” The hero grinned and saluted before flying up to the armor with one fist ready–

–Only for the armor to grab his fist and hurl him onto the ground.

“I’M OK!” The hero managed to bounce back and try again.

The armor proceeded to hurl the hero against the wall the moment he grabbed him again.

“I’M STILL OK!”

“No he’s not.” George winced as Harold grimaced.

Before Captain Underpants knew it, he was thrown against another wall, but this time he crashed through it, causing the person inside the room who also happened to be taking a bath scream in terror and dunk farther into the water in the tub.

“SORRY!” He apologized as the person kept screaming.

“Oh I don’t know if I can watch this!” Harold covered his eyes and moaned as both boys had to hear the sounds of their adult friend getting continuously thrown against walls or the ground or just spun him around and around.

Eventually the armor wound up its arm really fast like it was ready to toss a ball, except the ball was a screaming man. Finally it released its grip and Captain Underpants went soaring clear across town and started flying over the long bridge that connected the main town to the part of town that was by the forest to the shock of the boys.

“AAAAAAAAAAAaaaaahhhh.....” Captain Underpants scream gradually faded the farther the soared away.

*****

Inside a small house like building, there was a ring of people cheering around a wooden platform as a set of fighters were engaged in combat.

“IS THAT ALL YE GOT MISSY?!” One of the fighters spat as he held his fists up despite that he could barely stand on his feet, but the only answer he got was a punch of the face by a teenager of eighteen years. This caused the crowd to cheer.

“I WILL AVENGE YOU!” The other fighter’s partner snarled as he leapt onto the stage, but the girl only chuckled.

“Wait until after you try to land a hit on my brother!” She laughed as she moved out of the way to reveal her twin brother, though unlike her, he wore a special masks styled after the Aztec Quetzalcotal.

“Thanks for letting me have a go, Dora!” The young man smiled before readying his fists, causing his opponent to laugh.

“What are you supposed to be, some kind of feathered lizard?!” The opponent rudely asked. “I’ll show you what a real bird looks like when I’m done with–!”

At that point, something red and white crashed through the roof, causing boards and roofing to go flying everywhere, and right on top of the insensitive fighter who was quickly knocked out by the unexpected arrival while others around the stage either gasped, screamed, or quickly moved away.

“DIOS MIO!” Dora screamed as she backed away. “LUCA ARE YOU OK?!” She asked her brother who managed to back away in time.

“Uh...” Luca stared down in amazement at the fallen figure of Captain Underpants, who had knocked his opponent out to the point that the man was unconscious.

*****

The suit of armor began walking in the direction it threw Captain Underpants in while Melvin ran up to the boys.

“Don’t destroy it!” Melvin snarled at the boys. “You have no idea what thing of value is inside it!”

“Yeah, it has Bo!” George threw out in anger. “And now it’s going to go after anyone who tries to stop it! That thing’s going to kill someone!”

“No it won’t! It didn’t kill your friend just now!”

“That’s because he’s–!”

“ACHOO!” A flower pot exploded, scaring the boys half to death. Upon turning around, they saw Daemyra who now had strange liquid snot that seemed to sparkle coming out of her nose.

“Oh that’s not good.” Daemyra grumbled before blowing the mess into her handkerchief.

“Daemyra!” She looked up to see George wave at her. “Harold, that’s the girl that helped me free the kids that one day last year!” George quickly introduced Harold to the teen. The boy smiled at her before he noticed her hair and stared at it in wonder. “Hey, maybe you could help us! We need to stop that thing without it noticing us!”

“Sorry, but I can’t do jack with this cold.” The girl whined. “All it lets me do is make things explode!”

“Oh... that’s unfortunate.” George frowned. “Well come on!” He grabbed Harold by the wrist and pulled him away. “Let’s go help Captain Underpants!”

“HEY WAIT!” Melvin screamed as he ran after the boys. Daemyra looked around before shrugging and followed them.

“Hey what if she’s Regenbogen?!” Harold asked George as they hurried as fast as they could.

“She doesn’t have your kind of magic! I don’t think she’s even human!” George admitted. “We got to hurry before that thing tries destroying more of Piqua! There’s no telling if Captain Underpants survived that throw or not!”

*****

“Oh my gosh, I can’t tell how much of an honor it is to meet you!” Luca eagerly shook Captain Underpants’ hand. “You’re like, amazing!” He was almost squealing with glee.

“Well you’re welcome, citizen.” Captain Underpants smiled back. “Hey are you a hero too? You have quite an impressive outfit!”

“DID YOU HEAR THAT?!” Luca cried out to Dora as he pointed at the older man. “SOMEONE LIKES IT! I TOLD YOU IT WOULDN’T BE SILLY!”

“Alright, alright, calmese!” Dora chuckled as she did a waving motion with her hands before looking at Captain Underpants. “Hey, out of curiosity, what made you crash through the roof?”

“Oh I was just thrown through the sky by a huge suit of armor!” Captain Underpants nonchalantly told them, causing the twins to raise their eyebrows. “It should be somewhere back in town with my–OH NO I FORGOT GEORGE AND HAROLD ARE STILL BACK THERE!” He freaked out as he grabbed his head. Before either twin knew it, the hero shot upward, creating another hole in the roof.

*****

While Melvin’s lack of exercise forced him to stop on the first half of the bridge, the boys continued to run after Daemyra, who, upon sneezing, made something in the water explode, causing water to shoot up. The suit of armor was still way ahead of them and was rapidly approaching the other part of town across the bridge.

“You two may need way more than one man to do this!” Daemyra told them. “Can’t you think of a distraction?!”

“We’re trying!” George replied just as the armor made it’s first step into the other part of town and caused many to run away and scream.

“Well you–you–you should–ACHOO!”

This time the sneeze caused a rock under the armor to shot up and knock the armor right onto the ground, causing a huge dent in the ground.

“Hey you actually got him!” Harold told Daemyra.

Then the armor got up as fast as it could. This time it turned around and when it saw the boys and the teen, it began to head straight towards them.

“AND NOW IT’S HEADING TOWARDS US!” George screamed as he grabbed Harold by the wrist and the two began to hurry back.

Yet just as the armor made it five steps across the bridge, Captain Underpants swooped in and grabbed it by its head. “IT’S OK, I GOT IT!” He yelled as he tried to pull its head off and made the boys turn around.

The armor merely pulled the adult off and hurled him into the nearest house, causing him to crash through the roof and cause yet another inhabitant to scream in a panic.

The armor then headed back into town, scaring away more inhabitants. It went to a log pile, stomped though a wooden fence in the process, and took the biggest log that it could grab.

“Oh that’s not good!” Harold grabbed his hair as he and George ran into the town.

“HEY!” The boys turned to see the twins run up to him. “Does he need help?!” Luca asked.

“Because we can help if you need it!” Dora added in as Captain Underpants flew out of the house, but created another hole in the roof, which made the owner scream out in anger at him. Unfortunately, this alerted the armor, which began to swing the log around in its grasp as it headed towards Captain Underpants.

“YIKES!” The hero panicked and sped away as the armor swung the log at him. While the hero was faster than it, the armor gave him no chance to get anywhere closer to it.

“If you get too close, it’ll attack you!” George warned the twins.

“Yeah, well this isn’t exactly a tag team sort of fight.” Dora told them. “You picked up anything about that giant metal head?”

“Well it didn’t notice Captain Underpants when it went after us–!” It hit Harold. “That’s it, I think I got it!”

Meanwhile the armor was still swinging the log at the hero who was unable to dodge. “Oh come on, just give me one chance to hit you!” Captain Underpants complained before he was forced to dodge another swing that ended up destroying a wagon in the process.

“HEY WATCH IT BUDDY!” A townsfolk screamed up at Captain Underpants as the armor hurried after him.

“What do I do, what do I do?!” Captain Underpants panicked as he looked around to try to find the boys for a hint as to how to stop this bad guy.

“HEY METAL HEAD!”

Captain Underpants and the armor looked to see Luca glaring in determination at the latter. “La cara fea de tu madre se come mi polvo para desayunar!” She yelled as she waved her hands at it.

Luca then bursted forward and jumped onto the armor’s legs.

The armor immediately realized something was latching onto it and it tried to kick the teenager off, but he held fast and let out a crazed laughter.

“CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS!” Harold yelled at the hero, causing him to turn around to see him and George. “PULL ITS HEAD OFF!”

The hero didn’t need to be told twice. He flew at the head and began to tug at it. The armor realized too late what was about to happen and this time Luca’s twin leapt upon the hand that held the log. “OH NO YOU DON’T!” She yelled.

The armor now had three problems to deal with–a crazy man in underwear pulling at its head, a crazy teenager in costume grabbing onto it’s leg, and a crazy teenager who was completely normal grabbing onto its hand. It had no clue what to do as it tried to kick one person off and wave its hand around like crazy to get the other off, and all the while it was swinging the log at anything without caring what it was hitting while stomping its way towards a small field and began to stomp upon the summer crops all around it. It tossed the log aside and the log itself went soaring into the distance before crashing through the cloth of the nearby windmill and ripped it up.

The moment the armor tried to reach for Captain Underpants with its free hand was when George and Harold finally came in. George had the nearest pot he could find in his possession and the moment the armor was about to grab the hero, he hurled the pot into its arm, causing it to be alerted to two more distractions.

Just as the armor was about to make up its mind and go after the boys, Captain Underpants finally ripped its head off and flew off with it. “GOT IT!” He cheered out in triumph.

The now blinded contraption now could do nothing but throw its arms around like crazy and stomp around the area without realizing the further damage it was causing. It was enough to make the twins let go and hurry away before they could get seriously injured. Gradually the yellow markings upon the armor’s body began to fade away until there was nothing left and the armor could do nothing but collapse to its knees and fall to the ground.

“Did we get it?” George wondered.

“Is Bo ok?” Harold asked. “Oh no–BO!” He yelled and hurried over to the armor.

“Well that takes care of that!” Captain Underpants smiled before hurling the head of the armor as hard as he could into the distance.

*****

Somewhere on a hill overlooking Piqua, a young woman was singing.

“To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbearable fight.” She sang as she ran her fingers through long hair strands made of seven different colors as if they made up a rainbow. “To bear with unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not–” She stopped and raised her eyebrow in confusion as an oddly shaped metal object flew across the sky. “Oh jeez, this kingdom gets weird every time I visit it.” She stopped what she was doing and threw the green hood of her cloak over her head.

*****

“BO!” Harold cried out as he managed to pull the larger boy out through the hole where the armor’s head used to be. The poor boy was visibly shaken and stumbled to the ground when he was finally able to stand.

“Bo are you ok?!” George asked as he and Harold surrounded the taller boy.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Bo shakily nodded his head and gulped. “But I don’t want to see another suit of armor ever again.”

“You really didn’t control that thing like Melvin wanted?” George asked.

“No! It was like it came to life on its own!” Bo recalled. “I warned him not to, but I didn’t realize just how dangerous using that–!”

“So you were the person trapped inside that metal thing!” The boys turned around to see Captain Underpants smiling at Bo, despite how horribly bruised up he was on various parts of his body after settling back down on the ground. “It’s good to see that you’re safe!”

Upon seeing the famous hero, the boy temporarily forgot about what he was going to tell George and Harold. “Thanks for getting me out of there, Captain!” Bo gave the hero a huge grin. “I owe you one!”

“Oh no, you don’t have to!” The hero waved. “You being safe is good enough for me! And besides, I didn’t do it alone–I got some very much needed help!”

“Oh yeah!” Bo laughed as he looked at George and Harold. “Thanks guys!”

“You’re welcome.” Harold smiled back.

“HEY MORON!”

The boys and Captain Underpants turned around to see a set of angry townsfolk, including those who were working around the farmland. “YOU BROUGHT THE FIGHT TO OUR TOWN! AGAIN! LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE DONE!”

George and Harold looked around and to their horror they saw just how much damage was done. More than a few houses had holes in them, wagons and fences were destroyed, the the stone ground had cracked in several places, much of the crops were ruined, and the windmill was destroyed among things.

“Oh no,” Bo nervously turned to the boys. “Get him out of here! Now!”

“Huh?” Harold asked as he and George made to look at Bo, but Bo quickly ran away as fast as he could without explaining, but the boys were about to find out very fast.

“WE TOLD YOU WE DIDN’T WANT YOU HERE!” One of the men yelled at Captain Underpants.

“But I stopped the bad guy, didn’t I?!” Captain Underpants pointed out.

“YOU CAUSED A GOOD CHUNK OF THE TOWN TO GET TRASHED!” A woman screamed at him.

“It wasn’t his fault though!” Luca angrily snapped back at her as Dora shot the townsfolk a glare. “He wasn’t responsible for that thing coming to life!”

“HE’S THE REASON IT CAME TO US!” She snapped. “WHY ARE YOU DEFENDING HIM?!”

“BECAUSE HE WAS TRYING TO PROTECT PEOPLE!” Dora snarled.

“YOU CALL THAT PROTECTING?!” Another man screamed and gestured back to the town. “PUTTING OUR LIVES AT RISK AND DESTROYING OUR HOMES?!”

“IN ADDITION TO GETTING TO CLOSE TO OUR CHILDREN?!”

“Come on, just take us back.” George suddenly had a bad feeling as he turned to Captain Underpants. “Please?!” He begged.

Not happy with the people angry with him, but still more concerned for the boys, the hero turned to the two and made to walk towards them with his arms outstretched to pick up George and Harold–

“WE TOLD YOU TO LEAVE THE KIDS ALONE, YOU FREAK!” One of the townsfolk flung a stone as hard as he could at Captain Underpants.

Before they realized what was happening, the boys could only watch as the hero was stuck right in the side of his head to the point that he stopped and cried out as he grabbed his head.

As if the action sparked a fire, many other people started to hurl things at Captain Underpants.

“GET OUT OF HERE!”

“NO ONE WANT’S YOU AROUND!”

“GO AWAY, YOU SICKO!”

“NO STOP!” Luca screamed as he and his sister tried to throw themselves at the townsfolk, but it was all for nothing as they were shoved out of the way and more townsfolk appeared to try to hit the hero with rocks and other objects. It was happening all too fast for either the horrified George or Harold to process but they both knew one thing–

This was not right.

This was very, very wrong.

Captain Underpants didn’t even try to fight back or fly away. Instead he quickly shielded the boys and held them close to him as he was forced to endure getting rock after rock hurled at him. Some missed him, but others managed to hit their target as he tried to hurry away from the angry townsfolk. No matter how many insults or rocks got thrown his way, he opted to use his own body to shield the boys and not risk getting them struck along with him.

It was at this moment Edith finally reached that part of the town. She heard the previous commotion back at Hilda’s home and knew what was going on, but when she went to check on things to make sure the boys and the hero were safe, she was not expecting the sight that made her stop in her tracks and make her blood freeze.

“YOU’RE GOING TO REGRET SETTING FOOT IN PIQUA!” One person yelled and threw a rock hard enough that it struck the hero in the head once more, disorienting him enough to cause him to trip over his feet and land in the ground on top of the boys.

“WE DON’T WANT FREAKS LIKE YOU AROUND!”

“NO ONE ASKED FOR YOU TO BE HERE!” Another yelled.

The boys could feel the suffering the hero had to endure–every object that successfully made contact made his entire body flinch and even cause him to tighten his hold a few times as he cried out in pain. They were unable to see his reactions as he struggled to get up and scramble away into the woods, but they already knew how he was feeling.

“NO ONE LIKES YOU!” Another townsfolk yelled as they attempted to throw one more rock at the innocent man. “NO CHILD SHOULD BE AROUND YOU AT ALL! YOU SHOULD BE LOCKED AWAY WITH THE OTHER NUTCASES!”

While no one was looking, Melvin managed to quietly sneak up towards the robot. With a set of gloves, he carefully took the crystal out of its insides and moved away. “Finally.” He let out a sigh. “Now I just need to get away from these simpletons and–”

The armor suddenly exploded into several pieces, scaring off the angry townsfolk from trying to go after Captain Underpants while some ended up getting hit by some of the pieces. Melvin himself had let out a scream and ducked before he too could get hit.

“Ugh, finally!” Daemyra sniffed from the sidelines as more glittery snot ran down her nose. “My cold did something good for a change.” She took out her handkerchief to blow her nose.

*****

Meanwhile, the boys were finally set down upon the ground as soon as Captain Underpants got them far away. As soon as they could face him, neither one were unable to contain their gasps.

While he had already been badly bruised from the fight with the armor, there were now several cuts, and smaller bruise marks to join them, but most noticeably was a huge gash near the top of his head and it was already badly bleeding.

“Are you ok?!” Harold asked, even though he knew it wasn’t ok.

“It’s ok, I’m fine!” The hero tried to laugh it off. “Are you ok?! That’s more important right now!”

“Who cares about us!” George yelled in frustration. “What happened back there–that wasn’t ok! That was–!”

“Oh thank god!” The boys turned around and were surprised to see Edith as she hurried towards them with a bag in hand. Yet upon seeing Captain Underpants’ awful condition, she clutched a hand over her mouth in shock. “Oh no.”

“We got to get him away from here!” George told Edith. “They could come after him!”

Edith tried to think for a moment. “You boys need to get to the house owned by Lady Hilda.” She tried to think clearly, despite how much her own anger was slowly rising. “Heidi is with her. She’ll take you all back to the castle. I don’t think he should fly... or turn back.” She then knew without a doubt how Benjamin’s real self was going to react if he found out about this.

“But–!” Harold protested.

“Just go! I promise I’ll stay with him!” Edith pleaded as she went over to Captain Underpants.

The boys had no choice nor was there much they could do. They turned around and forced themselves to walk back to that part of town as Edith carefully placed a hand against Captain Underpants’ back and lead him farther away into the forest.

*****

“Interesting.” Melvin looked at the yellow crystal in its jar. “So it can make an inanimate object come to life and give it thought.” He was impressed by what he had witnessed. Apparently magic could be of more use to him than he realized.

“Of course I’ll still need to experiment with it.” He admitted as he set the jar aside and walked out of the room. “Maybe on something smaller.” He began to head out and into the dining room where his mother was preparing a meal while his father was reading some papers and checked on a couple of vials filled with pink liquid behind him.

“You seem to be in a good mood!” Doctor Sneedly noticed the smug look in his son’s face. “Did an experiment go exactly how you wanted it to?”

“Oh it did!” Melvin grinned as he sat by his dad. “And I got some ideas on how to improve upon it!”

“Well that’s good to hear!” Doctor Sneedly grinned back. “Are you willing to share them?”

“Oh, I want to keep it a secret for now.” Melvin replied. “But you’ll both be impressed when I’m ready.”

“I look forward to it!” Melvin’s father chuckled. “Hey, you want to help test those out with me after dinner?” He pointed to the vials behind him.

The boy’s grinned widened. “Do I?!”

*****

“Here, told still.” Edith carefully pressed a cloth onto Captain Underpants’ head to apply the medicine and to stop the bleeding as they sat on a log together. He winced at the touch, but didn’t move away. “How often does that happen to you?” She asked, as much as it pained her to relive what happened earlier.

“Uh, not that often, I usually move too fast for them to actually hit me!” He tried to laugh it off once more and forced a smile. “I just avoid them and help out those who actually do need help!”

“That’s not fair!” Edith protested as she moved away. “You haven’t done anything wrong! They’re the ones who–!” She cut herself off.

He really didn’t do anything wrong–he didn’t create this identity or the eccentric qualities that came with it. He probably didn’t want that thing to come after him into the town, nor was he likely the reason it was around in the first place. None of those people understood what was going on. None of them were seeing him the way the children or the others did–the way she saw him. Yet she had no clue how to express that part to him right then and there.

“You deserve so much better than that.” She finally let out. “They can’t see just how much you actually care and want to give it your all. Unlike some people.”

“No really it’s fine!” He protested. “As long as they don’t hurt anyone else, there’s nothing they can do to hurt me!”

Edith gave him a small smile. “I can’t see Benjamin taking this was well as you are. He’d get mad and throw a fit at those people.” She then put the cloth away. She made to get the small flask of water, but this made Captain Underpants panic when for once he began to pick up what was about to happen. “Don’t worry, I’ll come up with–”

“No wait!” He frantically grabbed her hand to stop her. “Not yet, please not yet!” He pleaded. “I don’t–!” He stopped as he noticed what he was doing.

He was holding her hand.

Edith looked down to see what he was doing before taking in the panic in his eyes.

“I–” He nervously gulped as he relaxed his hold.

It felt right. Her hand was smaller than his, but it felt right. It felt comforting.

“I just–please not yet.” He quietly continued. “I don’t want to–I don’t want to leave just yet. Let me with–I mean can I stay around just a little longer?” He gave her a pleading smile.

A smile that broke her heart all over again.

This never occurred to her–he was aware of his other half, but she didn’t think he’d resist changing back for any reason.

She knew she had to change him back–for Benjamin’s sake, because it was the right thing to do. Because this was not him and he would want to be back in control again, and if he knew she didn’t change him back when she promised....

And yet she couldn’t bring herself to do it this time. Not after that reaction–after looking so scared and desperate in a way that was familiar and yet not quite, especially within those normally happy eyes.

“Alright.” She gently, reassuringly squeezed his hand. “I won’t change you back just yet. But only until you take me back to the castle after the sun sets, alright?”

He looked away from her and towards the sun, which was still a few inches from setting over the mountains. “Alright.” He hesitantly let go of her hand. It was not enough time for him, but it was better than nothing.

“You–” Edith realized. “You actually want to be able to spend time with us. Not just when we need you, but when we go about our normal lives.”

“Well I always need to be ready when trouble comes.” He nervously laughed and scratched the back of his head. “But uh... yeah, it would be nice.” He admitted. “It’d be nice to just hang out with George and Harold, and with the other kids, and with Heidi, and with you more. But whatever amount of time I can have is good enough.”

Edith thought for a moment before she turned to her bag and carefully took out the music box. She twisted the key and opened the lid, allowing the gentle music to play out.

“Oh, what’s that?” Captain Underpants’ curiosity was now raised.

“It’s the music box my father was going to give to my mother on their anniversary before they died.” Edith recollected as the melody played. “She always sang the song to me when I was a child and it always made me feel better when I was down.”

The melody was winding down and she had to twist the key again in order for it to keep playing. They sat there together, listening to the tune.

“You miss your parents a lot, don’t you?” He quietly asked.

“I do.” Edith admitted. “I’ll always miss them but it’s not as bad as it used to be. I don’t feel as alone anymore.” She smiled. “My world’s changed so much ever since my feet were able to touch the ground again after all these years. It’s like too much has changed, and I wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t have you all.”

She hummed to the melody and closed her eyes while gently swaying to it–unaware that her companion’s eyes were fully on her and his own mind became completely calm. All the excitable energy that was always within him was able to ease down and he could just quietly listen to her. Listen to her humming to the melody... to observe the small, sweet smile on her face and how her eyes were closed in contentment.

He wasn’t sure why he was feeling the way he was, he just wanted to be in the moment with her. Something about being with her felt right in a way he couldn’t place a finger on. He hadn’t seen her as often as he would have liked, but it felt as if he knew her longer than that. There was a familiarity that felt right somehow.

Edith sighed as she carefully wrapped the music box closer to her and then–to Captain Underpants’ complete surprise–she gently rested herself against his side.

He felt his heart beat faster than usual and a pleasant, welcoming warmth began to fill up inside of him.

He looked down in surprise and in that instant, he had no desire to move away because this felt comforting to him. He never experienced whatever this was before in his living memory that much. In fact, he found himself torn between leaving her be or wrapping an arm around her to draw her closer to him.

When he moved his arm, she sank deeper into him (causing his heart to beat even more) and just as he was about to put his hand on her arm, he hesitated before resting it on her shoulder in a more friendly manner.

As he looked at her, he knew that he would have to take her back soon. If that happened, he knew that the world around him would change again and he’d lose the time that he wished he could have spent on other things. But a part him wanted to be selfish and just have this one moment a little longer.

A small, selfish part of him wished that he was the one that had the freedom to spend more time with everyone and didn’t have to be at the mercy of water changing him into something he didn’t want to be. He wanted to be with the others for longer than a few minutes to an hour or two or without some trouble involved. He wanted to be the one who had more time because he knew that he wouldn’t be spending it alone and miserable and waste it away on making everyone’s lives so hard.

He wanted this one moment with her and whatever this wonderful feeling was for as long as it could last.

Just... maybe just until she woke up.

*****

Benjamin stood before the mirror, dressed in normal clothing. He held the toupee up just enough to uncover the injury on the side of his head that was already scabbing over and was originally barely half hidden by the black strands of fake hair.

He wasn’t completely mad at the exact cause of it. But something about it made him feel uneasy. He knew it was a matter of time until something like this would happen... but it still had an effect on him as if it was indeed directed at him instead of the other one.

So even as the other one he was that much hated by others. How did anyone who knew the truth put up with him if it was to that extent?

He let out a deep sigh and let the toupee fall back into place.

Outside his house, George and Harold stared at the window where they assumed would lead to the room he was in. While most of the signs around his house were gone, some still remained and the house still looked less inviting on the outside.

“I should have known better.” George’s eyes fell to the ground as he spoke in deep regret. “I knew not all the adults liked him, but I didn’t think they’d do that do him.”

“That was awful.” Harold agreed as he tried not to relieve that memory all over again, for there was a painful familiarity about it. “It’s not pleasant when they call you names and get that mean. I didn’t think it could get worse when they start throwing things at you.”

“I’m really wishing I never had that spell casted.” George continued. “I thought it would be funny, but now I wish I didn’t have to make him go through stuff like that. Captain Underpants didn’t deserve it.”

Both boys remained silent.

“Hey guys!”

George and Harold screamed and nearly jumped out of their skins before turning around to face Daemyra, who looked a little better than last time. “Sorry I wasn’t enough help back there yesterday. I’m still recovering so my magic is still a little random right now.”

“No it’s fine!” Harold protested as George took a deep breath to recover. “At least you tried to help along with those two yesterday!”

“Yeah...” Daemyra sighed. “If I had my powers sooner, those idiots would have paid for–well anyway,” She shook her head and smiled. “I was actually wanting to see you guys! Remember what I promised about telling you guys when Lisa and Billy would come back?”

“Yeah?” George asked.

“Well good news!” She clapped her hands together. “They finally came back to Piqua!”

Now what neither George or Harold realized was that a few moments ago Krupp had opened the door to his house, but managed to catch what the teenager had told the boys in time. He instantly recognized the names that were mentioned and stopped as he listened in.

“Really?!” Harold beamed as he turned to George. “Hey we can visit them again!”

“And we can talk to them about you-know-who and the you-know-what!” George grinned.

“I’d take you straight over there myself, but I haven’t recovered enough.” Daemyra admitted. “But they are at that willow tree house that they stayed in last time. The same one on the other side of the bridge near that field.”

“This is great!” Harold laughed. Yet behind him and George, Krupp was letting everything sink in.

They were talking about the ones who cursed him. The ones who refused to tell him how to undo it, who openly taunted him with the truth in front of his men.

They were here.

And now he knew right where they were.

“Come on let’s get ready!” George grabbed Harold’s hand and they ran towards the castle. “Thank you!” He yelled at the teen.

“Anything for a friend!” Daemyra waved before she went on her way in the same direction before turning a corner to head the other way, not realizing who had listened in.

As Krupp’s anger rose, the bitterness that was normally so much a part of him began to rise, allowing his nastier self to slowly come out. With an angry grimace so tight to the point that his teeth were clenched and could have shattered from more pressure, he waited until the boys were ahead before he could go ahead to get ready.

This time he was not going to let those two deny him from getting his life back to normal and to stop being the complete joke to all of Piqua. He was not going to let the boys get to those two first. He was going to make them undo what they did.

And if the brats had to pay the price for it, then so be it.

Chapter Text

On the outskirts of the town across the bridge, beyond the fields and by the lake, tucked hidden away in the woods, was a willow tree with a small house built in it. Once again two children took up residence inside it–one was a girl in a yellow dress who played a tune on her viola while the boy was reading some books.

“I’m glad we came back.” Billy smiled. “I missed everyone. I hope we get to see them all again–especially Harold. We never got to know him enough last time.”

“Well, its nice to know we helped the prince out.” Lisa stopped playing and smiled. “I’m glad he was able to get back to his real home.”

“Yeah, but what do you think would of happened if we had actually let the Captain of the Guard capture him and George?”

Lisa thought about this and laughed. “That big oaf would have been in for a real surprise! Imagine him actually capturing the two and presenting them to the queen–”

“–Only for her to recognize her son and instantly forgive George since Harold would have meant more to her than the crown!” Billy laughed. “I almost wish we let that happen, just for a glimpse of his reaction on that face of his!”

A split second later, there was a knock at the door.

The two looked at each other in confusion. “Were we expecting someone?” Lisa asked.

“No I don’t think so.” Billy admitted as he made to get up. The knock resumed once more as he walked over to the door and right before he opened the door, the knock turned into rude, furious banging. Now highly suspicious as to who was outside, Billy grabbed a stool to stand on before the door and once he was able to do so, he peered though the peep hole.

“I KNOW YOU TWO ARE IN THERE!” The all too familiar owner of the incredibly angry, not to mention downright scary face that was right outside the door demanded. Billy let out yelp as he stumbled to the floor and landed on his rear as Lisa gasped in shock. “I’VE HAD THIS SPELL ON ME FOR OVER A YEAR THANKS TO YOU AND I WANT IT GONE NOW!”

“How did he find us?!” Lisa frantically asked as Billy quickly backed away from the door. “In fact, how did he know that we were here?!”

“Uh, we don’t know what you are talking about!” Billy let out a panicky protest to the door. “We don’t accept anything from creepy wandering merchants with poisoned goods!”

“What the–?!” Outside the door Krupp was taken by surprise by this odd denial, but then he resumed his anger and pounded on the door again. “DON’T PLAY DUMB, YOU KNOW WHO I AM! OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW IF YOU TWO KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU!”

“Should we bolt it and leave out the back?!” Billy asked as he approached Lisa who tried to look through a spell book for something to get rid of the man.

“I SAID–!” Krupp tightened his fist and pulled it back as far as he could– “OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT–!”

When he made to pound the door, he instead accidentally and quite literally punched the door off its hinges, not only causing the residents within to scream, but he ended up falling forward with a terrified yell and smacked right into the now destroyed door on the ground.

“Why do we keep forgetting that he’s got a bit of Captain Underpants’ powers too?!” Billy wailed as Lisa tried to think.

With a moan, the large adult struggled to get up and when he saw the two kids, he was able to pull an angry scowl as he finally stood on his feet and walked towards them. “You two are hiding something–I know you know how to undo it!” He snarled at them as Billy stumbled towards Lisa and hid behind her. “So if you lie to me one more time–!”

Lisa merely pointed her finger at the adult and magical red sparks shot out of her fingers.

Seconds later, Krupp was running out of the house screaming and covering his head with his arms as a huge swarm of glowing red bees proceeded to try to attack his upper body and head.

The two watched him leave as the bees followed after him. “Those aren’t fatal are they?” Billy asked Lisa.

“Nah, it should be like getting poked by a needle.” Lisa shrugged. “Which would be better if he happened to be allergic to actual bees.”

******

“I got to admit, its nice to get away from the castle and come back into the woods.” Harold admitted to George as he held onto his own satchel. “I got a lot of good memories here.”

“Yeah, it can be nice when the weather is good.” George admitted. “You never know what’ll happen next.” He frowned. “But I really hope Lisa and Billy can tell us how to lift that spell. I never really asked them about that before and they said that it was forbidden for a reason.”

“I’m sure they will.” Harold reassured him before he thought for a minute. “Wait a minute. You told me Krupp made it his personal mission to get you when he found out what you did to him, right? How exactly did he even find out about it in the first place?”

“Well...”

******

“No really it’s totally fine, I don’t need any help!” George ran across the fallen autumn leaves of red, orange, and yellow as Captain Underpants hurried after him.

“But those kids say there’s mean people after you and I want to help out!” Captain Underpants explained.

“Yeah one of them is closer than you think!” George uttered under his breath as he took out a canteen and got it ready just as he began to pass a certain wagon while the owner had to take a bathroom break nearby.

“Aw come on! I promise I–!”

“I SAID I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP!” George angrily yelled as he tossed the water out of the canteen as hard as he could until it splashed right into the hero’s face and triggered the reason why the boy couldn’t accept his help.

“ARGH!” Krupp shrieked as he flinched and came to a halt right by the side of the wagon. “What the–?! Why does this keep happening to me?!” He screamed as George made to run before the boy noticed something.

Of all the things that were being sold on that wagon, which happened to be on display on their side was a series of mirrors–most of which were able to grant one full view of themselves, especially if all the mirrors were grouped together in a specific way.

There was no time to switch him out with the other personality due to how wet he was, or enough time to rip off the cape that would give him a pretty noticeable clue.

The moment George saw the adult notice the mirrors–specifically what was being reflected back at him–he knew it was too late. The boy winced and ran as fast as he could as Krupp stared at them and took in what exactly he was wearing–or what little of.

As George ran for his life, he heard Krupp let out a very loud “WHAT THE–?!”

*******

“Wow, talk about a bad case of a coincidence!” Harold winced as the two boys began to pass a young woman wearing a green cape that covered most of her body as well as a hood that was thrown over her head.

“Oh, hey!” The young woman noticed the two boys and waved. “Do you two know where the river is?”

“It’s down that way!” George pointed the way.

“Great thanks!” She made to go in that specific direction.

“So as I was saying, that must have been a bad case of a coincidence.” Harold continued to George as the young woman continued on her way while humming a song to herself. When her back was turned to the two, she briefly scratched her head and almost revealed the rainbow colored strands of hair underneath her hood, but they were too into their conversation to notice.

“Yeah. Well anyway, they got to let us know.” George continued. “Once they know what’s been going on, maybe they’ll try to lift it. I don’t want Krupp getting mad at us each day we don’t get this fixed and I don’t want Captain Underpants to have to get hurt like he did yesterday ever again.”

“Well, we are almost there and nothing is going to stop us.” Harold smiled. “What could possibly go wrong?”

“STOP IT, CUT IT OUT!” Krupp screamed as he frantically tried swatting away the magical bees that were still attacking him non-stop. He had no exact clue where he was heading as he was too focused on trying to protect himself while running away as fast as he could.

Though he had no idea who he was about to cross paths with.

“Wait a minute.” George and Harold looked in the direction of where they heard the familiar screaming as the former spoke. “Is–?” The screaming was getting louder and louder. “Is that K–?!”

“AAAAAAGGGGGHHH!” The large adult bursted through the bushes while still chased down by the bees, and before George and Harold had time to react, Krupp crashed into them, not only sending all three falling to the ground, but also off the pathway, through another set of bushes, down a slope, and into a large bush.

After that moment the bees finally bursted into a shower of red sparks and faded into nothingness.

“Ugh,” Harold groaned from where he lay half on the ground and half up against the adult. “Ge... George?” He turned to the boy who was in a similar predicament. “You alright?”

“Yeah.” The boy recovered and nodded his head. “But I could of sworn I saw Krupp running out of the bushes screaming his head off while being chased by something before he crashed into us–” his voice trailed off when he turned his head to see that both of them were resting up against the still dazed out of his mind adult whose toupee had slid almost completely over his face.

“Whoa, talk about deja vu.” Harold couldn’t help but comment.

Krupp moaned as he automatically readjusted the black toupee back into its proper place before he was able to sit up–causing the boys to fall off of him as he held his head. It took him a few seconds before he looked around in alarm, but upon seeing the bees were gone, he let out a sigh of relief. “Oh thank god, it’s over with!”

“What’s over with?” George asked as he looked up at Krupp.

“GAH!” The adult screamed when he saw the two and shot up to his feet before backing away. “W–wh–what are you doing here?!” He demanded with a stammer as he pointed a finger at them.

“What are you doing here?!” Harold demanded as he pointed back.

“Yeah, weren’t you back at your house?” George asked.

“That’s none of your business!” Krupp snapped.

“Well ok, it’s none of your business what we’re doing out here.” George shrugged as he and Harold got up. “Come on, let’s get the heck out of here.” He whispered into Harold’s ear before pulling him away from the adult by the hand as fast as he could.

It was at that moment Krupp remembered what the boys had intended to do when he overheard them on accident earlier that day overheard–they were going to go to those two.

He couldn’t afford to lose another chance, even though he really hated that he was going to need to rely on those two.

“Ah, wait a second!” he practically lunged over to them and clamped a hand down on Harold’s shoulder, causing the two to look at him. “Uh... uh...” He honestly had no clue how to get on their good side. “Uh, you are seeing some... uh, friends aren’t you?” He tried as he looked at the individual satchels both boys had. “That’s quite a lot for one day, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, we’re going to the place all the other kids hang out.” George quickly, easily lied, knowing full well that something was off about Krupp being out by himself. “You know–that place you really hate?”

“Yeah and I don’t think the kids would take it too well if they saw you again!” Harold nervously laughed as he pulled free from Krupp’s grasp. “So, we’ll just make it fast and be back at the usual time!” He and George began to walk ahead once more, causing the adult to panic.

“Wait a minute, are you sure you–uh–want to be walking out on your own out here?!” Krupp was getting a bit more desperate and accidentally made it a little evident in his voice in the process. “Don’t you need someone to follow you for a bit?!”

This made both boys turn their heads in surprise. That sounded a little too out of character for Krupp.

“Since when did you–?!” Harold stopped himself when George grabbed his hand.

“Dude, run for it.” He quickly whispered.

And so they did–they ran before the adult could even attempt to start walking towards them.

***About two minutes later***

Harold finally turned around and sent an acorn flying out of his slingshot, which struck the adult (who, as you already guessed, was following them) right in the throat.

While it was not enough to damage his throat, it still hit Krupp in a specific spot that made him clutch his throat and gasp for air.

“Oh, oops.” Harold winced as he put the slingshot away.

“Why are you still following us?! We aren’t aren’t going to do any pranks today!” George angrily demanded as the adult was still clutching his throat and trying to breath for air. “We know you’re up to something!”

“I KNOW YOU’RE GOING TO SEE THOSE TWO KIDS IN THAT TREE!” Krupp yelled in a slightly strained voice as he shot a furious look at them.

“Uh...no... no we aren’t?” Harold nervously lied.

“OH DON’T PLAY STUPID, I OVERHEARD EVERYTHING!”

It then clicked for the boys.

“Oh, right.” Harold groaned as he slapped his face as Krupp finally stormed up to them. “We were literally outside his house when we found out.”

“AND YOU’RE GOING TO MAKE THEM FIX THIS MESS YOU CAUSED ON ME!” Krupp snapped at George as he jabbed a finger at him. “BECAUSE THEY SURE AS HECK WON’T LISTEN TO ME!”

“You tried to talk to them before we got there, did you?” George merely asked. “Because those didn’t look like regular bees that were attacking you.”

“Looks like it didn’t go well.” Harold added. “Did you demand them like you’re demanding us right now?”

They could tell that was exactly what went down, even before Krupp’s increasing frustration made it evident in his tightened up face and his hands which looked like they were trying to strangle the empty air.

“If you don’t want me to make your lives harder than they already are,” He began though clenched teeth. “You will get them to fix this. If you don’t I promise your time back home and your time at school from now until the rest of your days will be a lot harder–”

“You can’t because your on my mom’s bad side and you aren’t in charge at the school.” Harold threw out.

“Oh man, imagine if he was in charge of the school!” George snickered. “Surrounded by a bunch of kids? He wouldn’t last a day–”

“I WANT MY LIFE BACK THE WAY IT WAS, SO IF YOU DON’T FIX IT I SWEAR I’LL RUIN BOTH OF YOURS!” Krupp was practically in George and Harold’s faces when he yelled that and his voice was so loud and forceful that it nearly knocked the boys off their feet.

It took a couple of moments for both boys to recover as the now red faced adult panted for air.

“Well, the thing is, we were going to ask them if they could undo it–but not because you want us to.” Harold began.

“But we can try.” George added. “I don’t know if they’ll be willing to do it or not.”

******

“Are you kidding me?! No way!” Lisa angrily yelled as Billy stood beside her in the willow tree house.

“Oh no.” George plugged his ears and prepared himself for the worst as he and Harold waited for the chaos to ensue.

“WHAT AREN’T YOU UNDERSTANDING ABOUT THIS?!” Krupp yelled back at the girl. “I WANT TO GET MY LIFE BACK TO NORMAL!”

“You terrorize kids and look down on adults who’re trying to be nice to us!” Lisa furiously protested. “You try to put curfews on kids, close down places like the library–what’s the point in all of it?!”

“SO THAT THERE’S SANITY AROUND HERE AND THAT YOU DON’T MAKE MY LIFE MISERABLE LIKE THOSE TWO!” Krupp pointed at the boys who nonchalantly shrugged.

“Yeah, you’re doing a real good job proving you don’t deserve it.” Billy rolled his eyes. “I bet you forced them to come on down with you and–”

“Actually we do need to get it lifted.” Harold admitted. “It’s starting to get out of hand.”

The other two kids stared in shock at the boys. “Wait, you’re seriously sliding with him?!” Lisa demanded.

“Well for one thing, he is getting on our cases about it!” George admitted. “And the other reason is because yesterday the adults actually hurt–!”

“And let things go back to the way they were?!” Lisa demanded. “Let him practically run the whole place and get away with everything?! Place unfair curfews and rules on all the kids and discouraging all of us from doing what we love?! Heck, he should be thankful we didn’t do anything worse to him!”

“DO I LOOK LIKE I’M THANKFUL, YOU LITTLE NITWIT?!” Krupp roared as he jabbed a finger at himself.

“I should probably get the door fixed before anyone else outside hears him.” Billy quietly got up as the adult continued to rant and he made to move to the broken door, but not before stopping at the boys and turning to Harold. “Hey, if we don’t get the chance today, I hope we do get to hang out.” He told him. “We want to know how you guys have been and how life has been with your mom and sister.”

“That would be nice.” Harold smiled. Billy smiled back and made towards the door (or what was left of it) as the yelling match continued.

“–AND I’M GOING TO MAKE YOUR LIVES MISERABLE TOO IF YOU DON’T LIFT THIS! YOU THINK I LIKE BEING OUT AND AROUND OTHERS KNOWING THAT ONE FINGER SNAP IS ALL IT TAKES TO LOSE CONTROL AND NOT KNOW WHAT SITUATION I’LL WAKE UP TO?! DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY TIMES I ALMOST DIED THANKS TO THIS?!”

“You don’t deserve to have it lifted!” Lisa threw out. “It’s like I told you–Captain Underpants is far more loved than you could ever be! What has an awful person like you ever done that was a genuine act of kindness?!”

“DO YOU THINK I LIKE HEARING THAT TOO?! THAT EVERYONE LIKES A COMPLETE IDIOTIC VERSION OF MYSELF?!”

“Have you ever thought that maybe it was a sign about who you are as a person?!”

At that point, Billy was standing outside and had his hand ready to cast the spell to put the door back together when he realized something was wrong. Like there was a presence behind him, but it wasn’t human. He slowly turned his head in time to see the trees and the rocks and the bushes–and something that was never there before. It blended into the background due to its dark coloring, but he saw the faintest movement.

Whatever it was, it was alive.

It was large.

“Uh, actually!” George tried to cut in back inside the house. “A couple of days after Harold met you guys–see I got arrested–it’s a long story–but–”

There was a loud, deep roaring sound combined with Billy screaming as he quickly ran into the house and only leapt out of the way to the side in the nick of time as a large black thing bursted though the wall, causing it to break into several pieces, before it nearly crashed into the other wall.

No one in the room saw it coming and nearly everyone let out some variation of a scream–though none were able to compare to Krupp’s who nearly shrieked up into a falsetto as he fell over onto the ground. Billy himself continued to scream as a large black, winged creature scrambled to get back up and shot a glare at the kids.

“QUICK!” Lisa grabbed George and Harold’s arms and pulled them to the side as Billy ran after them as the thing made to lunge after them. She lead them down a corridor and swung open a small door before forcing the two inside and only went in and closed the door when Billy was able to dart through the door.

All four kids were trapped in near total darkness with only a sliver of light coming from out of the ceiling from the outside. They yelped when they felt the building shake when the creature struck a wall and they heard it let out another angry roar.

“What just happened?!” George demanded in a hushed whisper as Harold clung to him. “What was that?!”

“Lisa...” Billy nervously yet quietly turned to the girl. “I think... I think that was a dragon.”

“I think you’re right.” Lisa nervously nodded. “In fact–”

“Really?!” Harold’s eyes shone with delight as George grinned. “Cool!”

“No, not cool!” Billy cut him off as they heard the creature let out another growl. They heard a loud banging sound and felt another slight shake in the building. “Dragons don’t go where there’s lots of people nearby!”

“And it’s not just any dragon!” Lisa told them. “It’s–” She gulped. “It’s one of the rarest dragons to exist! You’re lucky if you even see it once in your life and legends say that only one human with a good enough heart was able to tame one to the point of being allowed to ride it!”

“It’s known as a Night Fury.” Billy added.

Both George and Harold were in instant awe.

“Wait a minute,” George looked around. “Did we leave Krupp alone with that thing?”

*****

“Why did this have to happen?!” An incredibly terrified Krupp asked himself in a whisper as he hid under a table while the Night Fury angrily threw his body against the walls of the building in an attempt to get to the kids several feet. “I’m going to die thanks those kids and whatever that thing is!”

The Night Fury let out a confused sound and when he approached the table, he smacked it away (nearly breaking it in the process) to see who else was in the building.

Krupp let out a terrified, hilariously loud yell and in a desperate attempt to get away, he ran to the nearest window and leapt though it, causing the glass to shatter into several pieces.

*****

“Eh, he’ll be fine as long as he doesn’t provoke it.” George shrugged.

“Yeah, I don’t think he’s that dumb.” Harold had to agree.

“But something doesn’t make sense.” Billy admitted. “No Night Fury has ever been in Piqua and they wouldn’t attack a human without a good reason.”

“But why would it go after you?” Lisa asked Billy. “We couldn’t have done anything to provoke it!”

Before the boy could answer, the banging noises suddenly stopped and they could hear the creature walk away.

“Wait... is it leaving?” Harold asked.

The kids waited with baited breath and frantically beating hearts for several seconds.

Seconds passed.

More seconds passed.

“Maybe it got bored?” George quietly asked.

The ceiling suddenly bursted apart, flooding the small hiding area with light and causing all four children to scream as the Night Fury glanced down upon them with eyes that had pupils that were thin to the point of being barely visible within its red retinas.

Before anyone realized what was happening, the dragon lunged forward and grabbed the child he was originally after with his teeth and pulled him out.

“BILLY!” Lisa screamed as the boy was pulled out by the front of his shirt.

“LISA, HELP!” Billy screamed as the Night Fury pulled him outside before shooting up into the sky.

Moments later, the remaining three kids raced out of the house and looked in time to see the black creature fly into the sky.

Lisa could only stare in open mouthed shock.

“WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!” George demanded as he and Harold stared up in a similar open mouthed shock.

“Oh God, please tell me that thing’s gone!”

All three kids looked down to see that Krupp had taken to hiding behind the nearest tree he could find (Though since he was far wider in size than the tree in question, it was completely pointless). “Oh good!” He let out a relieved, breathless laugh when he saw it was leaving. “I thought that–!”

SNAP! Lisa glared at the adult as she created the fateful sound with her fingers, causing his other self to awaken.

“TRA-LA–!”

“GET YOUR CLOTHES OFF AND START HELPING OUT, BUB!” She demanded.

“WILL DO!” Captain Underpants saluted the child before he did as he was told.

“You still want to lift the spell off him?!” Lisa sharply asked the boys. “He literally did nothing to help us out!”

*****

“As much as I like pretending to be a horse, I don’t think this thing will stay up in the air without me!” Captain Underpants told the kids. While he was flying though the sky in mid-air, he was indeed pulling a small chariot across the sky that all three kids were standing upon.

“It’s ok, I got this thing covered!” Lisa patted the side of the chariot, causing red sparks of magic to fly out of it. “You can’t carry all of us, so if you need to, you can be able to let go and we’ll be fine!”

“I hope you’re right!” Harold nervously clutched onto it.

“What if we don’t get him back in time?!” George asked.

“We will!” Lisa told him. “Besides, something is wrong about that Night Fury–!”

“So its evil?!”

“No, something–when I looked into its eyes, I had this feeling! But I can’t put my finger on it!”

“So what am I going after again?!” Captain Underpants asked.

“It’s called a Night Fury!” Harold told him.

“Night Fury?! That sounds like a good name for a coffee drink!”

“It’s not coffee! It’s a dragon!”

*****

“LET ME GO!” Billy screamed as the Night Fury continued to fly across the skies. On one side, he could see gray clouds slowly reaching over, but on the other he could see that they were edging closer to the outskirts of Piqua’s region as a kingdom. He looked up so that he could see the Night Fury’s angry red eyes and he looked at the pupils–they were so narrow, it was as if they were barely there. They were more reptilian than dragon.

“Aren’t your eyes supposed to be more oval shaped?” He couldn’t help but ask, but the dragon did not hear him.

He began to think fast–he had an idea, but it was going to be stupid.

He placed his hands in front of him and sent a huge burst of blue sparks out. The dragon let out a terrified roar and let go of the child who began plummeting downward towards the ground hundreds of feet below.

In his panicked mind, he wanted any object that could help him.

There was another flash of blue and as the dragon was trying to shake his head to regain his sight, Billy zipped away from him across the sky as fast as he could.

“YES!” He let out a delighted laugh. “I’M SAVED! THANK YOU–!”

The object he was riding upon was a flying, glowing blue chamber pot with a lid on top which he was sitting upon.

“–Giant flying chamber pot.” He realized out loud with little amusement in his voice. “I’m riding a giant flying chamber pot.” He nervously looked at it again. “Please don’t let there be anything in there.”

*****

“Well, if we need to, we can get Captain Underpants to fight it–!” Harold began.

“No! Bad idea!” Lisa panicked. “We need to get Billy and leave! If the Night Fury decides to attack and breathe out fire, they’ll be goners!”

“It’s not the first time he got caught on fire!” George tried to reason.

“That’s right! I almost got burned!” Captain Underpants recalled.

“It’s instant death if it tries to burn you at full power! That’s how deadly Night Furies can be!”

Both boys grimaced with horror as they nervously looked at the hero, who most likely would try to go after the dragon and attack it.

That was when Harold noticed something in the distance. “Hey wait! Is that–?!”

“LISA!” Billy screamed as he continued to zoom away from the Night Fury who was steadily chasing after him. “HELP!”

“Hey is this where I should come in?!” Captain Underpants asked the other kids.

“Yes, but don’t let the dragon try to burn any of us!” Lisa told him.

“OK!” Captain Underpants saluted right as Billy accidentally flew past them, along with the dragon. He let go of the chariot (which still hovered in mid air) and flew after the boys.

Now, you’d think what would happen next would be an epic chase scene across the sky involving a dragon, correct? Like something out of a blood pounding, thrill inducing, stay up in the dead of night even though its midnight and you need to go to school or work the next day sort of fantasy novel? The kind worth telling for generations to come?

Well the fact that said chase scene involved a terrified child zooming across the sky on a chamber pot, with a dragon in hot pursuit being pursued by a flying grown man in his underwear was probably not what would have come into mind when I just said those words.

Which was what the person (the same person George and Harold encountered earlier) down below saw when she looked up from her map. She pulled away her green hood to reveal the rainbow colored hair underneath it to get a better look at the strange scene.

“I need to stop visiting taverns in the middle of the day.” She sighed as she shook her head and continued to walk her on her way.

The boys and Lisa watched as Billy was screaming on the chamber pot while trying to get away from a very angry Night Fury that was chasing after him, while Captain Underpants chased after the creature, thus creating an almost amusing zig zag of flight movements across the sky.

“I got to admit, I thought that if I ever saw a dragon, it would look a lot cooler than this.” Harold admitted.

“What’s Billy riding?” George asked. “It looks like a chamber pot.”

“Yup, it is.” Lisa realized and pulled a disgusted face.

“Imagine if you had to go to the bathroom in mid-air.” Harold couldn’t help but laugh.

“You’d whizz by the birds!” George couldn’t help but also laugh.

“Hopefully all that flying wouldn’t get you pooped out!”

“Better to have flying be number one than number two!”

“Uh, guys?! Seriously?!” Lisa angrily demanded. “That’s my friend that’s getting chased down!”

“Oh,” George grimaced as he and Harold cut it out.

“But I admit I got a few myself when this is all over.”

“AHHHH!” Billy screamed as the Night Fury got closer and closer–

“TAG YOU’RE IT!” Captain Underpants gleefully yelled as he practically tackle hugged the Night Fury from up above.

The Night Fury let out a confused roar and stopped pursuing Billy to try to throw the unwanted rider off. Captain Underpants let out a series of yelling as the creature tried to get rid of him while Billy quickly flew back to the chariot as fast as possible.

“Lisa!” Billy stopped before the chariot and turned to the others. “Lisa, something is wrong with that dragon’s eyes! The pupils are too narrow to be a Night Fury’s eyes! Remember how they were supposed to look in that image our teacher showed us?!”

“That sounds familiar.” Lisa admitted as she struggled to think. “She told us... where exactly did that...?”

George and Harold continued to watch in terror as Captain Underpants struggled to fight the Night Fury (which on one hand did sound impressive for one reason or another) and keep his hold on him while the creature continually tried to throw him off and contorted its body in several ways upon doing so. The moment he finally succeeded and began to move towards the kids again made their hearts stop, but the hero quickly recovered and grabbed the dragon once more, pulling him away with all of his might.

“Oh no, what if this does get him killed?!” Harold freaked out and grabbed his hair.

“I don’t know!” George panicked. “We only wanted to try to lift the spell so that he didn’t have to become a different person or get hurt anymore and instead we got this!”

The words struck a bell in Lisa’s mind.

“That’s it!” Lisa cried out in joy. “It’s being controlled by someone or something! If we break the connection, we could stop it!”

“And you didn’t want to do that with Krupp?!” George frantically demanded in frustration as Harold shot the girl an annoyed look.

“There’s a huge difference between that and what’s wrong with this dragon! I know a fast way to stop it, but I’ll need my viola to–!”

“Oh hey, its mouth is glowing!” Captain Underpants noted as the Night Fury turned his head at the man with his mouth wide open as an ominous glow rose in his throat.

“CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, GET AWAY!” Harold screamed in panic as George yelled “FLY AWAY!”

Billy thought fast. He forced his hands upon the chamber pot, making its glow intensify, and when he leapt off of it, it rocketed straight towards the Night Fury.

“BILLY!” Lisa screamed as the boy began to fall downward. Before the dragon could unleash a fatal blast of fire, he was struck hard in the side by the chamber pot, causing him to get knocked away and lose his focus on Captain Underpants who fell off of him. However the chamber pot bounced off the dragon hard enough to go shooting right back towards the chariot that the kids were on and when it struck the chariot, the chariot broke and caused the kids to fall out while the chamber pot continued on its way across the sky.

“AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!” They all screamed out.

“AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!” Harold screamed as he fell all the way down. Yet to his surprise, he found himself falling into something soft and cushiony to stop his descent mid-flight a few seconds later.

“Oh thank gosh!” Billy sighed in relief as Harold scrambled to get up upon the thick, feathery flying blanket.

“AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!” George also screamed as he fell when suddenly he felt a small pair of hands grab under him and he was pulled against someone.

“Hang on, hang on!” Lisa pleaded as a glowing silhouette of what appeared to be butterfly wings attached to her back slowed their descent.

“Uh,” Harold looked around himself at the blanket that broke his fall in amazement before turning to Billy. “Thanks, I thought I was a goner back there!” He grinned at the boy.

“Ah, you’re welcome!” Billy laughed and smiled back. “Anything for a friend!”

“So is that chamber pot still going to go across the sky, or will it stop?!” George asked Lisa as they watched the object continue to shot across the sky.

****MEANWHILE (or about an hour from now in the future)****

A sinister laugh rang out as someone stared down at his mechanical creations outside a huge fort-like structure that doubled as his home and place of work. “Finally! They are done! Now we need some test subjects and soon we can overtake Piqua!”

“What do you think General?!” He asked as he turned to a rather tall woman of almost six feet. “Does this please you?! Can you use them in war?!”

“Ja, Herr Professor.” She nodded with little emotion in her voice. “We can turn those lazy dummkofes into piles of nothingness with them. I am looking forward to seeing them out on the field.”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure you will be more than pleased with the results!” He gleefully reassured her as he rubbed his hands together before looking back at the contraptions. “Soon all of Piqua will be under our metaphorical feet! We will be insulted for the last time! I will be laughed at for the last time! Once it becomes part of our country and must obey our rules, all of the world will know our might! All will know not to humiliate me and I will do whatever it takes or my name isn’t–!”

At that moment a certain blue glowing chamber pot went shooting across the sky, stoping the man mid-rant as he and the General stared at it in confusion.

“Was... is it me or... did I just see a giant flying chamber pot?” He asked in confusion.

“Nein, Herr Professor. I saw it too.” The General was equally stunned.

*****Back to the present (or one hour before that incident)****

Moments later, all four children landed safely in the gorge down below where a river that would eventually lead into a certain dam a few miles away came through.

“That was close.” Lisa sighed as the wings on her back faded away until they vanished completely.

“You could have done that too?” George asked as he pointed at Lisa.

“All magic has limitations.” She admitted with a shrug. “Now as for my viola, if I can summon it out really fast–”

“Wait a minute.” Harold looked around as he and Billy approached the other two.

“Where exactly did–?”

“Hi guys!” All kids turned to see Captain Underpants wave as he walked towards them. He was a little beaten up, but he was still fine. “Sorry I couldn’t get to you in time! But I’m glad you all are ok!”

“It’s totally fine!” Harold reassured him. “You were able to help Billy escape and give us time to figure out how to stop that dragon!”

“But if that dragon’s mouth is glowing like its going to spit out fire, you need to get out of there!” George reminded him.

“Ok, that I certainly will!” Captain Underpants promised. “The next time I see that thing, I will be ready to–!”

The Night Fury suddenly came flying out of nowhere, right behind Captain Underpants.

The kids screamed as the adult looked back in confusion, but the Night Fury–enraged at the man for halting him–smacked him with his tail as hard as he could.

“WHOAH!” Captain Underpants flailed his arms and ended up crashing to the ground with the upper half of his body landing right in the water of the river before the dragon could turn his attention on the kids who were already running away as fast as they could.

“ACK!” Upon instantly reverting back to his normal state of mind, Krupp quickly scrambled to sit back up and looked around in confusion and nearly panicked when he saw the Night Fury was still around and still going after the kids.

“Hurry!” Harold pleaded to Lisa as she made to summon her instrument in a burst of sparks.

“Got it!” Lisa cheered as the viola and bow appeared in her hands. “Now I just got to play the song–!”

“DEAD END!” Billy screamed and pointed ahead. Sure enough, there was a series of large boulders that just happened to be placed right in front of the kids.

“Oh no, that’s not going to give us enough time!” George realized as they all skidded to a halt before they could hit the boulders. The kids turned to see that the Night Fury was rushing towards them with his mouth stretched open, ready to take a child away with him once more.

“NO GET BACK!” Billy yelled as he readied a spell and Lisa was about to do the same.

All of the sudden, the dragon let out the closet thing to a yelp as he could get and the kids watched as he was being quickly dragged away from them.

“What the–?!” Lisa asked as they all tried to look around the dragon to see what was happening, only to be in for quite a surprise.

“Wait–KRUPP?!” Harold yelled in surprise.

Of all the people they knew who would even try to grab onto the tail of the Night Fury in an attempt to pull him away from the kids with as much force as possible to the point of actually succeeding in dragging him away–they were not expecting it to be the infamous child-hating adult.

“LOOK IF YOU’RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING, DO IT BEFORE I START REGRETTING THIS!” A very clearly terrified out of his mind Krupp frantically demanded as the angry Night Fury struggled to get away from him and get back to his intended targets. Unfortunately for the dragon, the human adult’s enhanced strength and endurance was more than enough to greatly slow his progress.

“Uh–yeah!” Lisa was shocked, but she quickly rested the viola under her chin and readied her bow.

“Hurry!” George begged the girl as he and Harold watched the Night Fury narrow his eyes with full intent to annihilate his captor and a certain glow began to emerge from his mouth.

Lisa shut her eyes and began to play a melody upon the viola which began to glow with her magic.

The moment the notes reached the Night Fury’s ears, he ceased producing the fire from his mouth and stared in confusion at the girl. Even the boys watched her play as the serene melody filled the air.

The melody was sweet and almost dreamlike. It was as if a wave of calm could overcome you the more you listened to it and nothing else would matter.

It made you feel as if you could fly if you wished.

The Night Fury let out a moan of protest and shook his head. The boys watched as the red in his eyes were overtaken by a blueberry color and his pupils were gradually widening. The moment he stopped struggling against his captor, he was yanked back a few feet, but didn’t try to retaliate.

“It’s working!” Billy yelled in delight. “His eyes are going back to normal!”

Seconds later, Lisa ceased playing the melody and the last note lingered in the air for a few more seconds before it faded to silence.

George and Harold let out a sigh of relief together as the dragon shook his head in confusion and blinked as he stared at the kids, while Krupp finally let go of him. His eyes were a dark blue and his pupils were large–almost square like.

Lisa moved her instrument away and opened her eyes as she looked at George and Harold. “Hey you did good!” George smiled at her. “It must have liked your playing!”

“Ah–” Lisa nervously smiled. “Well–”

Without warning a flash of black charged at her, causing the kids to yell and move away as she fell over.

Seconds later, they heard laughing and when they looked, they saw that the Night Fury was actually licking Lisa on the face like a dog.

“Hey that tickles!” Lisa shrieked and giggled as the Night Fury moved away and gave her a silly grin. You could see that his teeth retracted in his mouth, leaving behind only his gums with made him look like he was missing all of his teeth. The girl reached out to pet him on the nose, to which the dragon happily allowed as she began to calm down.

“Huh, I guess he’s a friendly dragon after all.” Harold smiled, as did the other two boys. “It’s ok! It’s friendly now!” He yelled to the adult who looked like he suffered a near heart attack when it looked like the dragon was actually going to harm Lisa.

“Oh... that’s... great.” Krupp let out a nervous laugh before he couldn’t take it anymore and collapsed from the stress of the previous few minutes.

“Who’s a good dragon?!” Lisa cooed to the Night Fury who was practically purring by this point. “You are, that’s who!”

“Wow, he’s a really friendly dragon.” Billy smiled.

“I wonder what made him go crazy to begin with.” George thought. “Someone has to have been controlling it if Lisa was able to return his mind back to normal.”

“Who knows?” Harold shrugged as he began to think. “Well... we can’t just leave now since Krupp’s still wet, so we can’t turn him back into Captain Underpants.” He looked at the adult.

“True, but I could fix that.” Billy admitted.

All four kids paused as they began to think.

“But then again, how many kids can say that got to play with a dragon?” Harold smiled as he stepped forward and began to pet the top of the Night Fury’s head.

“You’re right, we don’t need to leave just yet!” George laughed as he joined in.

“Yeah, we can wait!” Billy agreed as he too joined in. The Night Fury enjoyed all the pampering he was getting from the children and his purring only got louder as a result as he closed his eyes in delighted bliss.

“He’s like a big cat!” George laughed.

*** a few minutes later•••

“Look!” George waved the stick at the Night Fury, who was drawn to it. “You want it?!” The boys and Lisa laughed as the Night Fury crouched down and readied himself as he kept looking at the stick. “Catch!” George threw the stick as high as he could. The Night Fury leapt up into the sky and caught the stick in his mouth before flying to the kids and stopped before George, who laughed and patted his head.

* ***another few minutes later****

“What are you looking at?” Harold asked as the Night Fury eyed his wild mess of a hair. To his shock, the Night Fury reached a forefoot out and tried to pat at the top of the hair, only to nearly recoil in shock when the hair sprung back up.

“I think he’s fascinated by your hair!” George laughed.

****Still another few minutes later****

“So it’s all true then?” Billy asked the Night Fury. “Not only is there more of you out there, but you’re descended from that Night Fury?”

The dragon nodded his head.

“I knew it!”

***Still a few–I hope they’re keeping track of the time****

The Night Fury continued to listen to Lisa play on the viola. To the amazement of the kids, he then began to let out a strange throaty sound and made to match pitches with the sounds of the viola.

“That’s incredible!” George was amazed as Harold began to get an idea. “Dragons really are smart!”

Harold whispered something in George’s ear and a mischievous smile grew on the boy’s face. “Oh man–yes we should totally do that!” He looked back at Krupp who was by this point asleep and snoring his head off.

****Come on, you know what they were going to do next****

George and Harold laughed as the Night Fury moved his tail close to Krupp’s face. “Ok, now!” Harold told it.

They were unable to contain their laughter when the Night Fury brushed his tail against the adult’s face. Krupp moaned and tried to swat it away. “No, I need a few more hours!” He complained without opening his eyes.

The Night Fury huffed in annoyance before an idea came to him. To the boys’ surprise, the Night Fury decided to move his tail to Krupp’s side and began to brush that part. The adult began to giggle in his sleep, which the Night Fury took as a sign before he began to rub the tail even faster against his side.

To the amazement of all four kids, the adult began to laugh–not an evil, mean spirited laugh like the kind he’d normally let out, but an honest, genuine light hearted laugh. “S-s-s-stop!” He laughed and wheezed. “Cut it out!” He giggled.

As George and Harold smiled, Lisa and Billy looked at each other with a knowing look in their eyes.

“Ok–th–that’s enough!” The adult finally shot up and was wide awake. The smile quickly dropped off his face when he realized what attacked him with the tickling and he looked from the Night Fury to the still smiling George and Harold.

“Thanks for the help back there.” George told him as Harold readied his fingers.

SNAP!

“Hey what happened?” Captain Underpants asked before turning to face the Night Fury. “Oh hey, you look like that dragon we were facing earlier! Except you have blue eyes and you seem nice!” He smiled at him. “Hi there!” He cheerfully waved.

The Night Fury let out a strange sound, like he was laughing at the adult’s obliviousness.

*****

“Bye-bye!” Lisa waved farewell to the dragon as Captain Underpants stood behind her and the boys by the tree house.

“Bye!” George and Harold waved.

“Be safe, ok?!” Billy told it.

The Night Fury let out a happy noise and nodded before he flew off into the sky that was getting increasingly cloudy by the second.

“The other kids are going to love hearing this one!” Billy smiled.

“That or get jealous.” Lisa admitted before frowning. “Maybe we should have convinced him to stick around for one more day.

“I hope he gets back to where he belongs.” Harold smiled.

“Yeah, but I still wonder if someone really did make him go after Lisa and Billy.” George admitted. “But why?”

******

In a darkened cell with only one window to the outside world, a certain green haired woman scowled as she threw a rock against the wall. She took another rock and threw it against the wall and was about to do the same to a third one when she felt someone’s presence near her beyond the bars.

She turned her head to see a familiar figure garbed in purple with a hood thrown over her head. She couldn’t help but smile at her. “I was wondering if you’d actually notice–”

Within a short span of a few seconds, the woman found herself getting lifted into the air before slamming face first into the bars.

“Go after another child or make a creature of an endangered species do your bidding ever again, and I promise I will have you stripped of all your magic.” The woman’s scowl was clearly visible under her hood, though it was nothing compared to the anger in her eyes which were hidden from sight.

“Tell me who you gave the last of the flower of creation’s magic to, you hag, and maybe I’ll leave those precious little brats alone!” Sarah snarled as she moved away from the cell bars and clutched at them. “The longer you keep the secret, the more desperate I’ll get and there’s no telling what I’ll do next.”

“Those powers belong to one who is genuinely good of heart.” The woman calmly told the younger woman. “Not to someone like you. Not after what you have done to get it. I will not let a repeat of what happened with Tara happen again–her addiction to it caused her downfall and ruined too many lives. That kidnapping and making it so that not even we could find the prince was why we grew to be shunned by most of Piqua in the first place.”

With that, she backed away. “One more thing.” She pointed to the window in the cell. It flashed a shade of purple for a moment before it faded. “No more loopholes for you.” She told Sarah before walking away.

“You can’t protect them, whoever they are!” Sarah snarled after her. “I’ll get those powers one way or another! I’ll figure out who it is and you’ll regret not taking them for yourself when you had the chance!”

The woman sighed and when she was outside, she whispered “Perhaps I should have, seeing as you will eventually find that person no matter what I do.” She looked up at the sky, towards where Piqua was as the clouds steadily approached it. “But when I think about it, those powers are with the safest person out of all of us.”

She thought for a moment. “Perhaps I should put a stop to that giant flying chamber pot before it causes any damage while I am out.”

******

Lisa and Billy sat in stunned silence as the boys finished recounting everything from what happened after they made their escape attempt from the usual hangout to certain events that had happened only yesterday.

“Oh,” Billy could only say.

“So that’s why you guys...” Lisa looked beyond the boys to the (fully dressed again) adult who was sitting against the wall. He wasn’t facing them, but you could tell that he had been quietly listening in.

“I mean, yeah he totally deserved it in the first place.” George admitted. “But it’s at the point where he’s actually done some good things on his own, so we kind of owe him one.”

“We like Captain Underpants and that he’s done a lot for everyone, but we don’t want to see him get treated the way he was yesterday by someone like those people ever again.” Harold added. “It wasn’t fair to see him get picked on like that.”

“We really–I mean I didn’t think it through.” George corrected himself. “I thought it would make a great joke, but it’s going to get too far if this gets worse.”

“He’s got a point.” Billy admitted to Lisa. “If this doesn’t get undone, there’s no telling what could happen next. I can imagine some things myself.”

Lisa looked at Krupp and began to think. “Well, you did manage to help us out back there. I guess George and Harold were telling the truth after all.” She told him.

“So you’ll lift it?” Harold asked.

“The thing is...” Lisa nervously began. “We really don’t know how to lift the spell. It’s a lot different than what I had to do for the Night Fury–it’s kind of more like hypnotism rather than flat out brainwashing.”

“Trust us, we actually did look into it all year, but we couldn’t find a way to reverse it!” Billy added.

The kids nervously looked at Krupp, expecting another outburst.

Instead he let out a sigh and finally looked at them. “But it’s still possible, right?” he asked.

“Our teacher might know!” Lisa quickly reassured him. “She’s the one who gave us that spell book and told us not to use it! She was actually really angry with us when she found out about what we did!”

“And she told us to make sure to let you know if you ever asked about it!” Billy added. “So she’s got to know! In fact, she’s among of the most powerful of the magic folk, so if she knows how the spell can be undone, she might be able to lift it!”

“Also, she said that if you do go to her, you’ll have to bring George and Harold with you.”

That was all it took for the moment of calm to fade for Krupp as George and Harold shot Lisa a confused look. “I’m sorry, what?” He asked.

“She wasn’t specific, she just said you might need them.” Lisa admitted. “Not to mention that she wanted to tell them something really important, but she didn’t tell us what it is.”

“But the thing is, she lives pretty far away from here.” Billy added. “It would take–” He thought for a moment “–almost three days. Two if you’re lucky.”

“Are you nuts?!” George’s eyes widened as Harold dropped his mouth in shock.

“Hey, I don’t need those two!” Krupp snapped as he pointed at the boys. “I’m not going to spend that long with them! Ten minutes is bad enough–!”

“Well, you don’t have a choice and I think she was onto something.” Lisa shrugged. “Plus she might not be around in four days, so I’d act fast if I were you.”

“Well maybe it won’t be so bad!” Harold thought of something and smiled. “Hey, all we have to do is snap our fingers and then we can fly on over in half that–!”

In that instant, there was a crash of thunder followed by the sound of rain. All eyes turned to the window and–sure enough–the sky was completely covered by clouds as a rainfall began to start up.

“–Oh.”

“Yeah, you spoke too soon.” George admitted.

“Oh yeah that’s right, the sky was getting all cloudy earlier.” Lisa recalled with a grimace.

“Well, I hate to say it, but we don’t know any spells that can make you go straight over to her place.” Billy admitted.

“But when you saved us from falling–!” George protested.

“Those spells only last for a few minutes. Trust me, it would be a bad idea.”

There was a long pause of silence as an ominous feeling of a certain dread overcame the room.

“No,” Krupp let out in a small, almost afraid voice.

“So... in the end–” Harold nervously started.

“No.” It was a little louder and more desperate.

“We actually have to work together on this one, even though we hate each other.” George reluctantly finished.

“No!”

“Yup.” Billy admitted.

“NO!”

“Yes!” Lisa added.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH—!” The resulting scream of sheer, overwhelming frustration that Krupp let out in that instant was almost expected, but it was still loud enough to cause all the kids to wince and cover their ears.

“This is almost as bad as when he found out you were the lost prince!” George yelled over the yelling to Harold as he kept his hands over his ears.

“I’m pretty sure someone could hear us from this range!” Harold replied.

“WHY DOES THE WORLD HAVE TO HATE ME SO MUCH?!” Krupp screamed and threw his hands into the air.

Chapter Text

Ah adventuring–the kind that any lover of fantasy and any sort of escape from reality would dream about. The kind full of excitement, wonder, development as a person and and gaining new experience–

–Yeah sorry, this was not that kind of adventuring.

For George and Harold, there were some problems despite having the necessary equipment (with a few additional things thanks to Lisa and Billy) for the long road ahead. One was that it was raining which not only ruined their chance to cut their time short, but it also meant that they would get soaking wet and not even a set of traveling rain cloaks with hoods up would make things easier. The other was–

“Why do I have to go walking for several days out in the rain with these two?!” Krupp (also dressed for the bad weather and well prepared) complained as he gestured to the two boys.

“It’s just three days, it’s just three days.” George reminded himself under his breath as Harold looked at the map given to him and frowned at the instructions.

“Well, to start with, we need to go up that hill.” He pointed. “Uh... are hills supposed to look like that?” He realized that the hill hugging the side of an even larger, rockier hill (which was more like a mountain) was really steep. Even if there were some large rocks to stop and take a breather on, it was still really steep.

“I’m not going up that hill!” Krupp protested.

“That’s what the map says.” Harold held the map up for the adult to read. “Lisa and Billy told us which ways we need to take to get there fast enough. This is the only way!”

“WELL I’M GOING THIS WAY!” The adult decided to storm off in a completely different direction that seemed easier to walk on, but was absolutely not on the map.

“Do you even know where you’re going?!” Harold yelled.

“Well, I guess we got to go after him.” George sighed and went after Krupp. “What’s the worst that could happen?”

****Five minutes later****

“AAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHH!” Krupp let out a loud scream as he was forced to carry both boys under his arms while frantically running away from a giant tiger that seemed dead set on chasing after him.

The scream was loud enough to make a certain young woman in a green cloak look up from her map to watch the large man get chased down by the beast down below the hill she was on. “What kind of idiot takes their kids into the part of the woods where there’s large animals?!” She asked before realizing “Why is there a tiger all the way out here instead of in the East?!”

****Five minutes later... actually good question, why IS there a tiger here?****

“Well, that didn’t work, so we got to take the hill!” Harold jabbed a thumb at the hill.

“I TOLD YOU I’M NOT GOING UP THAT HILL!” Krupp insistently refused.

“Come on, let’s go.” George grabbed Harold by the arm and began to lead him to the steep hill.

“THAT THING’S GOING TO TIRE ME OUT!” Krupp snapped as the two continued on without him and ignored his complaints. “THERE’S GOT TO BE ANOTHER WAY TO–!” He looked around to see that there wasn’t any other pathways in sight except the other one he tried to attempt and he was not ready to get chased down by a large animal again.

“Urgh!” He slapped his face in dismay and prepared himself for the worst as he was forced to follow after the boys.

***About seven minutes later (I hiked up mountains steeper than the one you’re on, you big wuss)***

By the time both boys reached the top, their legs were incredibly sore and they had to collapse on a rock.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt such pain in my legs before.” Harold moaned as it almost felt like his legs were throbbing.

“It’s so much worse than running!” George agreed.

About a minute later, Krupp finally trudged his way to the very top where the boys were. Despite having the increased endurance that came from Captain Underpants’ powers, the adult had never forced himself to this point in a long time and he too was also extremely exhausted. “My lungs... can’t take... any more!” He collapsed on the other side of the boys and didn’t bother to move.

*********

By the time it got too dark to go any further, a tent had to be set up in a spot where there wasn’t a lot of rain falling. Unfortunately there posed a problem all because of who was stuck together and because there was only one tent.

“I’m not sleeping in there with you two!” Krupp snapped at the boys.

“There’s enough room for all three of us!” George threw out. “Sure, it’ll be a tight squeeze, but–!”

“Well I’m not going to sleep on the ground again! I already had to do that three different times thanks to you!”

“I did that way more than you, thanks to you!”

“If I die due to catching a cold out here, my mom’ll have your head.” Harold pointed out. “Also, there’s thunder out tonight.”

Right on cue, there was the sound of thunder.

“And I got some chamber paper in case any of us needs to go to the bathroom.” George took out said paper in question. “I’m not going to use leaves again. You have no idea how risky those are.”

“Forget this, I’m out!” Krupp threw his hands out and walked away. “I’ll just find some other spot!”

“He really doesn’t want to be around us that long, does he?” Harold quietly asked George as they watched the adult go.

“Nope!” George replied as he sat down in the tent. “But I bet you anything he’ll come right back.”

“What makes you say that?” Harold asked as he sat down in the tent beside him. “Give it two minutes.”

Exactly two minutes later, another burst of thunder erupted, but this one sounded close enough to feel as if it were twenty feet away. Exactly fifteen seconds later, a certain someone came running for his life right back to them.

“NEVER MIND I VALUE MY LIFE MORE!” Krupp screamed as he literally dove into the tent and nearly knocked the boys over.

“Hey, you’re suffocating us!” George complained as he felt like the adult’s massive weight would crush him.

“Why’d there have to be thunder?!” The adult freaked out. “Why couldn’t this have just been a normal rain?!”

“This is going to be a long night.” Harold moaned as he slapped his face.

*******

While all three were able to get some sleep, the sound of the rain, plus having to be squeezed in the tent together, plus more than one bathroom break, made it tricky.

But fortunately on the very next day, they all were ready to go again. While there was indeed lots of rain, there was no arguing, no complaining, and certainly no misreading the map and following the wrong pathway–

“Uh, George? This doesn’t look right!”

Harold held up the map to reveal a set of pathways. “Why does that one say ‘Don’t go on this pathway at ten thirty in the morning?’”

“I don’t–wait, which one are we on?” George glanced behind him before glancing in front of him before looking at the map again. “Wait–we’re on the wrong pathway.”

There was a silence.

“What time is it exactly?” Harold nervously asked as he put the map away.

Out of nowhere, a small boulder came shooting through the trees and whacked Krupp on the head.

The two boys turned in time to see the adult scream and grab his head as he flinched and moved away. “DID YOU TWO PLAN THAT?!” He screamed at them.

“No!” George frantically shook his head, as did Harold.

Not fully believing them, Krupp began to unleash another rage filled storm upon the two, when something with an orange feather shot him in the neck.

“I... I...aaaaahhhh, what were weeeeee–?” The anger quickly died into confused loopiness and before the boys eyes, Krupp landed face first onto the ground before them.

“Uh, what just–?” George was about to ask, but before he knew it, he and Harold also got shot by the same darts. “Heyyyyyy my neck feels all tinglyyyyyyy–” He could only say as the world around him began to spin.

“Mine toooooo–” Harold replied with a huge grin.

Within two seconds both boys followed the adults’ example and also collapsed face first onto the muddy ground.

*********

“Hey George?”

“Yes, Harold?”

“Is it my imagination, or did we just get captured by a bunch of cats?”

Both boys were tied up tightly around one tree, as was their adult ‘friend’ who was tied up to the one beside them. For some reason, there was a huge gathering of feral cats gathered under a spot where a small hill and a tree jutted out to prevent the rain from falling onto most of them. All of them were facing a skinny orange cat with faint black stripes on his body.

“My fellow heinous feline brethren!” He began. “We just captured one of the royal human children, along with some random kid! Oh and that fat guy with the weird nose–he was hard to tie up! Do you know what this means?!”

“That we can have a party with them?!” One of them excitedly asked.

“What?! No–!”

“They can give us a warm place to sleep?” Another asked in hope.

“NO! We can get a ransom out of this! Do you know how much a queen can give us for her kid?! We could even take over Piqua and turn it into our own land! And I with my superior intellect will rule over all!”

“What’s going on?” Krupp stared in confusion as all he and the boys could hear was a series of meowing and hissing from the orange cats.

“I guess they’re talking?” Harold suggested.

“What makes you think you can rule a kingdom, Petey?” One cat asked. “What if the kingdom has enemies or allies?”

“What if there’s no mice to eat?”

“Or any nice humans who want to adopt us?”

“What if Greg whoops your butt again?”

“SHUT UP!” Petey hissed at them all. “First off, we’ll adapt and make those allies our allies! There will be mice to eat for those who want to stoop that low because there’s always mice in huge towns! And we don’t need anyone to adopt us!” He hissed at the cat who suggested it. “We’re better off without those stinking humans! Also I told you all to never bring up that mutt’s name again!”

“Yeah, but he’s the one who’s looking after your kid, not you.” One cat muttered under his breath. “At this point, it’s less arch enemies and more like a divorced couple with you two.”

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?!”

“Uh... Meow?”

“DON’T QUESTION MY INTELLECT, SOCKS! I KNOW YOU JUST SAID SOMETHING BEHIND MY–!”

All the cats hear a loud snapping sound and when they looked up, they saw that Krupp managed to break free from his ropes (having super strength, plus the fact that the ropes weren’t tied too well to begin with helped in the long run).

“What the heck?!” Petey was now confused.

“I don’t want to deal with this, I don’t want to deal with this.” Krupp repeated to himself as he shook his head and grabbed his and the boys’ belongings. “It’s too early to deal with this craziness.” He went up the the tree that George and Harold were trapped against, grabbed the knot of the rope, and with one hard tug, he was able to break it, causing the boys to fall back down to the ground.

“WHAT THE HECK?!” Petey and the other cats were now really confused. “DID THAT FAT HUMAN JUST BREAK THOSE ROPES IN HALF?! HEY WHY AREN’T YOU GOING AFTER THEM?!” He realized that all three were walking away and none of the cats were even lifting a paw to stop them. “THEY’RE GETTING AWAY!”

“I don’t want that guy to do to me what he did to the ropes!” One cat protested.

“How the heck were those cats able to tie us up?” Harold asked George as they all hurried out as fast as they could.

“I don’t know, but it’s giving me an idea for another story.” George admitted. “Especially with that angry orange cat.”

*******

“I’m bored!” Harold whined to George. Finally there was a store on the side of the road that they could stop at, rest up, and stock up on supplies and food. Unfortunately the service was terrible as the only two who were on duty didn’t want to be helpful at all and did a bad job handling the customers’ money and purchases. It was to the point that (unsurprisingly) Krupp got into an argument with both of them and it had lasted for almost four minutes by this point. Even the others in the store were getting increasingly annoyed as they were forced to wait.

George then noticed something–a sign inside the store. A sign that said ‘ NEED TO STOP AND REST? YOU’RE IN LUCK!’

“I got an idea.” He grinned as he nudged Harold in the side and pointed at the sign.

Two minutes later, one of the grocers screamed his head off in anger at the boys as they bursted out laughing at the sign which now said ‘ARE NEET TURDS LUCKY?’ (‘neat’ only spelled wrong due to lack of an extra ‘a,’ of course).

Too tired out and angry to bother yelling at the boys himself, Krupp just took what he needed, grabbed both boys, and pulled them out as everyone else (except for the workers) laughed at the sign–among them included a certain young woman in a green cloak with her hood up and she was literally laughing herself to tears.

*****

“Ok, do you have any idea where that thing is taking us?! Because this doesn’t look safe!” A very unamused and uneasy Krupp told the boys. The map had lead them to a very dense forest and where there wasn’t as much rain, the air was filled with a strange fog and it was almost dark enough that the only light came from the gray sky above which barely peaked through the mess of tree tops.

“Yeah, I’m actually agreeing with you for once.” George admitted as he looked at the map. Beside him, Harold nervously looked around and shuddered when he saw a huge snake slither through some rocks on the ground. “But we need to get though here and it says... ‘go find the Witch of the Wasteful Woods.’” He read the note on the map.

“Wasteful woods!” A voice that would have been considered quiet, but was otherwise the loudest sound in this particular area sang out, almost like a wail.

All three screamed, but none could truly compare to Krupp’s scream and seconds later he ended up falling to the ground on his side in a fetal position. “OH GOD THIS PLACE IS GOING TO KILL US!” He screamed in fright as the boys turned to see where the voice came from.

Sitting upon a blue mushroom as large as a barrel was a girl about the boys’ age. She wore a crown of various plants in her curly red hair as well as a necklace and bracelet made of various crystals, but she otherwise wore raggedy looking clothing. “You’re looking for the purple sorceress, aren’t you?” She asked.

“Who’re you?” Harold asked.

“Why’d you scare us?!” George cried out.

“I’m Dressy–also known as the Witch of the Wasteful Woods.” She paused before quietly singing in a high voice. “Wasteful Woods!” She waved her hand as she did. “And I’m sorry I did that. But you’re looking for the purple sorceress, right?”

“Uh, I guess? She’s the one who lives across this lake.” Harold took the map and showed the spot in question to Dressy.

“She’s been hard to find lately, and you do need to go through these woods to get to that lake.” Dressy admitted as Krupp finally recovered his senses and sat up.

“There’s so many trees though!” Harold as he gestured to the map. “We’ll be going for miles and miles!”

“The fastest way to get to her requires going in that direction.” Dressy pointed towards one path to her left. “But I lost the key needed to open the gates in that part of the woods by my garden. By my garden!” She sang as she pointed to her right.

“Ok, that’s fine, I’m ready to get this over with!” Krupp made to get up.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” The girl began to warn him.

“Kid, I’ve done way too much walking in one day and I–”

Within the span of five seconds, Dressy held up her hand, a green ball of magic formed in her palm, and she threw it at the adult, which slammed into his head hard enough to knock him back onto the ground with a startled yelp.

“Wait, what was that for?!” Harold demanded as he and George stared in confusion at Dressy as Krupp moaned in pain.

“Do you see what’s on the ground?” Dressy calmly pointed to the pathway. A few steps away was a series of dead insects and even a few birds. As the boys shuddered, she continued. “Only those who have died or experienced being close to death can go through that pathway safe and sound while the fog of death still lingers. You have to wait until nightfall in order to go onto that path and even then you will have up to an hour to be in that part of the woods before the air suffocates you as if you were under water. But if it helps, you have at least four hours until the sun sets and–wait, where’d the dark haired boy go?”

“Huh?” Harold then realized someone was missing. “George?” He looked around in confusion.

****5 minutes later****

“Whoah!” George laughed as he dusted himself off while holding a golden key in one hand. “Talk about one heck of a fetch quest! But I found it!” He gave everyone a huge grin as he held the key up for them all to see.

Dressy was startled. Harold was surprised, but he quickly understood what was going on and didn’t say anything. Krupp (who had been informed as to why going straight in was a stupid idea) just stared in shock at George.

“Well, I guess that worked for him.” Dressy shrugged. “Worked for him!” She sang as she raised a fist in the air.

******

“It’s never going to stop.” Harold quietly grumbled to George as they stared out of the mouth of the cave they were resting in. Night had fallen and it was dark out but the rain was still going strong. They managed to be safe in their temporary hideout, with a lantern with the top off to allow the glow of the fire to fill up their area, but considering who was also with them, it made it more unbearable than it needed to be.

“No it won’t.” George winced as they turned their heads back to see Krupp trying to squeeze out as much rain water out of his toupee as possible.

“Sick of this... stupid...” The adult was growling as he then tried shaking the water out. “This is why... I keep needing to buy more–HOW MUCH LONGER IS THIS GOING TO TAKE?!” He yelled as he slapped the toupee back onto his head.

“Uh, not much longer?” George tried to reassure him. “We managed to get pretty far–despite a few distractions–” He muttered under his breath before raising his voice again “–So maybe a few more miles tomorrow and we’ll get there.”

“I shouldn’t have to put up with this in the first place.” Krupp grumbled for the umpteenth time as he shook his head and slapped his face.

“Well, we don’t have a choice!” Harold tried to point out. “We can’t just wait until–!”

“Well if he didn’t get that spell put on me, then none of us would have to be stuck together for this extended torture session!” Krupp angrily gestured to George, who merely shrugged.

“Well if the spell wasn’t put on you, George wouldn’t have found me and I wouldn’t have gotten to go back to my family!” Harold defended the other boy before frowning. “Or do you wish that I never came back?”

Krupp opened his mouth to say (more like yell) something to that, but then he stopped midway and just angrily shook his head and grumbled again.

“Out of curiosity,” Harold began upon deciding to change the subject. “What was my dad like?”

“What?” Krupp shot his head up at this unexpected question.

“My dad? The king? Mom doesn’t like talking about him.”

This made the adult think back for a moment.

*****

“For God’s sake Grace, they said that their magic can’t find him! Doesn’t that look like a sign to you?”

“That can’t be true, he’s still out there! I know there’s a reason he was taken from us!”

This was what Krupp heard before he was going to go into Grace’s study. She and her husband were at it again and he hesitated, not knowing what to do.

“You have to think of the future and prepare for the worst! Your people need you to have another heir!”

“How can you say that?! Like Harold is nothing to you?! He’s your son for crying out loud!”

Sensing it was a bad time, Krupp grimaced and walked away.

****

The queen and king were arguing yet again and he couldn’t move from his position. To make matters worse, the queen was holding her sleeping five month old daughter, so he knew it was only a matter of time until the infant would start wailing her head off to add to the chaos.

“IF YOU KEEP WASTING MONEY ON THIS, THE KINGDOM WON’T BE ABLE TO STAND ON ITS OWN!”

“YOU DON’T KNOW FOR SURE! WE STILL HAVE A CHANCE!”

The king just shook his head and walked away.

“NO, DON’T YOU–! Here, take her!” To Krupp’s shock, Grace carefully pressed Heidi into his chest and he had to quickly hold her the correct way before the queen could resume her arguing with the king and before Krupp knew it, they both went into the next room and the door was slammed shut.

“Uh...” Now Krupp was uncomfortable as he was forced to hold onto the tiny blonde infant in the soft pink blanket. “What do I do?” He asked as Heidi sleepily moved her head up to look up at the giant adult in confused wonder. Upon deciding that he seemed somewhat familiar and safe, the infant fell back against him, but this time she moved closer up to him so that her tiny head was against his thick neck so as to get as much warmth and comfort as she could out of the adult.

“H-hey!” Krupp stammered as he realized what was happening and looked down at the infant. “Look, I’m only tolerating you right now because your mom would have my head if she saw me without you! Don’t get comfortable on me!” He angrily warned her.

Heidi only made a small yawning sound as she nuzzled her head further into the adult’s neck and clutched at his chest with her tiny hands while unaware that her parents were still angrily yelling at each other–their marriage rapidly becoming undone.

“Argh, fine, but this is a one time thing, got that?!” He angrily told the infant. “You aren’t going to get me wrapped around your greedy little finger like the others!”

*****

Grace angrily threw books everywhere she could in her study while many were already laying in heaps on the floor, along with the shattered remains of some glass trinket given to her by her husband. Her enraged face–tears still angrily flowing from her eyes–was not a pleasant sight and her Captain of the Guard could only stand outside, not really knowing what to do.

“What an idiot.” One of the guards beside him muttered as he passed by him. “The guy up and ditches a title everyone wants as well as his kingdom because his wife can’t get over one lost kid. I’m surprised he didn’t force her off the throne or even bothered to stay around in the princess’ life.”

He wasn’t sure if it was because he was so used to anger himself, but it was one of those very rare moments where he could feel a small twinge of something–a small twinge of sympathy for the broken hearted woman deep down inside him. But then it quickly faded and he shook his head and continued on his way.

*****

“He was an idiot who left his kingdom and his family behind–honestly he’s not worth talking about.” Krupp flatly told the blonde. “I barely remember the guy nowadays.”

“Oh,” Harold was not impressed, but he shrugged and decided not to dig for any more information.

“Actually,” George recalled something. “Is the queen having any trouble with anyone outside of the kingdom lately?”

“We found–uh, I mean we overheard my mom talk about it.” Harold quickly corrected himself in the nick of time. “Someone wants to get revenge on her and all of Piqua for something?”

Now Krupp was really confused. “No? She would have told me if–”

“Well apparently there’s someone that wants to get revenge on her and they really hate her guts!” George threw out. “How do you not know about that?! Doesn’t she tell you these things?!”

“Of course she does!” The adult angrily snapped as he threw his hands up. “She never told me about this! A lot of people are out to get us, so why would she keep it a secret from me if it was a big deal?! It could be anyone! It could even be that weird little midget with the stupid name I forgot about for all I know!”

“Say what now?” George found that last part odd as Harold replied “Well maybe it’s not as big of a deal as we think! She’s not exactly telling everyone all the things that have happened, like when my sister got kidnapped or–”

“Does she not trust me or something?!” Krupp demanded. “I know she practically threatened me one time over how I was doing my job–!”

“Well maybe its because of how mean you were to everyone that she doesn’t trust you about it.” George bluntly answered as Harold winced upon knowing what was going to happen next.

“OH SO THAT’S HOW IT’S GOING TO GO AGAIN, ISN’T IT?!” Krupp yelled at the two. “THE WHOLE ‘BECAUSE I’M A JERK’ EXCUSE FOR EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO ME?! DESPITE ALL I’VE DONE TO KEEP THE ORDER AROUND HERE, YOU’RE STILL GOING TO USE THAT EXCUSE?!”

“No, but we know she wasn’t happy that you did things behind her back, so maybe that’s why!” George threw out.

“AND THEN NEXT YOU’LL TELL ME SHE’D RATHER TRUST THE IDIOT OVER ME, RIGHT?! JUST LIKE YOU AND EVERYONE ELSE?!”

“Well Captain Underpants has done some good things to make her happy, but–”

“RIGHT, BECAUSE HE’S TRUSTWORTHY ENOUGH DESPITE BEING A TOTAL MORON!” Krupp sarcastically snapped. “YOU GUYS TELL HIM EVERYTHING THAT GOES ON BECAUSE–!”

“STOP CALLING CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS A MORON!” Harold finally couldn’t take it any more. “HE’S YOU! YOU’RE CALLING YOURSELF A MORON WHENEVER YOU CALL HIM THAT INSTEAD OF HIS NAME! AND WE DON’T TELL HIM EVERYTHING! HECK, WE NEVER TOLD HIM THAT GEORGE WAS KILLED BY RIBBLE WHEN HE LEFT THE TOWER TO FIND EDITH AND–!” Harold realized what he was saying aloud and slapped a hand over his mouth in shock as George felt himself grow pale at what was admitted out loud.

Of all the secrets they kept from everyone–from Edith, from their parents, and especially Captain Underpants–this was the one they insisted on keeping to themselves. And it was to Krupp of all people that they accidentally revealed it to.

“Wh... what?” Krupp’s anger died out.

“I–it’s nothing it’s nothing!” George nervously laughed as Harold gulped.

“No wait a second–”Krupp held his hand up and thought for a moment. “Wait–that’s why you were able to get into those woods?! You actually died?!” He stared at George, not believing what he was hearing.

The boys looked at each other and winced. This talk was not going to be fun.

*****One long explanation later (AKA just go read the two semi final chapters of the first fic if you haven’t yet)*****

“So... yeah that wasn’t... that wasn’t red paint on the floor.” George nervously laughed as Harold stared into the fire, trying his hardest to not relive those moments, even after he had to fill in the gaps that George couldn’t fill out.

For once, both of them managed to get Krupp to stay quiet. All he could do was stare at them in shock.

“I mean, it all worked out, so we got to go home and neither Harold or Edith had to suffer a really horrible fate for the rest of their lives.” George added.

Krupp still didn’t say anything.

“If Captain Underpants knew about it, it’d really crush him.” George quietly admitted. “He really cares about protecting others. He doesn’t need to know what happened when he left the tower.”

“But if he hadn’t, Edith might not have been saved in time.” Harold finally admitted as he looked up at the adult. “So it wasn’t all for nothing... and I guess I owe you a thank you for that since it’s thanks to you that she got to be freed.”

George looked at Harold and thought back to something. “By the way, I should be thanking you too.” He looked back to Krupp.

“For what?” The adult finally snapped out of it.

“I know I gave you a hard time and all, but I know you’re the actual reason Captain Underpants and all the kids were able to save me from getting executed earlier that day.” George admitted. “So thank you.” He smiled.

Those were the last words that Krupp ever expected to hear from either boy. They were thanking him for something?

“Uh... sure?” He could only respond.

*****

Some time later when he was still awake, he couldn’t help but stare at the two boys who were dead asleep. Both of them used the emergency cape for Captain Underpants to sleep on. Harold had an arm around George in his sleep while the other boy was resting his head against his once rainbow colored but now blonde hair.

It was a touching sight, he had to admit to himself.

He then frowned. Half the time he wasn’t sure where his changes in thoughts came from–was it him or was it his counterpart influencing him? It made him curious about something and he reached into his things to pull out some paper and something to write with. When he was done with his message, he stared at what he wrote before snapping his fingers.

SNAP!

“Oh!” Captain Underpants looked around in confusion before noticing that the boys were asleep before him. “Aw,” He smiled at the cute sight of the two cuddling up together and rested his head in his hand before he felt a piece of paper in it. Confused, he opened it up.

“Do you actually like George and Harold that much?” It asked.

Captain Underpants’ smile widened at this and he hastily wrote something down on the other side of the paper. His smile only grew wider as he continued to write down what he wanted to say in return (which in his opinion was a nice change). When he was done, he hurried outside–right into the rain.

It only took a split second for the switch to take effect. When Benjamin was able to get over the shock of it and sat by the lantern again, he opened the message up.

“I love them very much! They always help me and tell me what is going on when there is trouble! They look out for me and the others! Also they are funny, brave, creative, and very smart for their age! Those two are my best friends!”

Benjamin couldn’t believe it.

How was it possible?

Captain Underpants thought those two were his best friends? That he loved them?

He looked at the two boys again. Of all the things he could try to understand, this one was too impossible to even believe to be a truth. Those words that were written down didn’t reflect how he felt about the two and yet–

And yet...

And yet in some way, they were like the sort of friends he wished he could of had as a child when no one else would be his friend. He could believe that the two would look out for others when given the chance.

He felt a stab of jealously towards his counterpart, but for a reason he was not expecting. For something that felt incomplete–like he was told he experienced something, but he couldn’t remember it or actually feel the emotions tied to it.

He stared at the message again before noticing something else–the last line.

“I hope you’re good friends with them too by now!”

He stared at it before he sighed and held his face in his hands as many thoughts and feelings went through him.

****

For the final day of the journey, our odd trio had to face a huge lake that seemed to stretch on and on everywhere you looked. Fortunately for them, there was a very conveniently placed boat for them to row across the lake, but there was still the matter of the rain and all they were fed up with it.

“This is going to take forever!” Krupp moaned for the seventh time.

“Yeah, my arms’ll be sore after this!” George agreed.

“I don’t trust this lake.” Harold found the exact size of said lake highly questionable.

About ten minutes later, a miracle suddenly happened.

“Wait a minute.” George realized. “Is it getting quieter?”

“And are the clouds moving away?” Harold realized as the gray clouds gradually moved away from the lake.

Five minutes later, the rain completely ceased as the clouds moved to the side, away from the direction that they needed to go towards. Understanding what this meant, the boys turned to Krupp, who realized at the exact moment George raised his hand what they were intending to do.

Then all of a sudden a huge fish like creature bursted out of the water and swallowed them up along with their boat.

******

***Uh... yeah that happened****

****No seriously that actually happened.****

****Uh.... yeah****

****Hey you think Pilkey ever read these fics? It’s not like there’s over a million like for those books about the kid with the lightning scar.*****

“Ugh.” Harold moaned as he sat up and held his head. “Where are we?”

He looked up to see pinkish, brownish, red walls. They looked shiny and soft all at once, and there was a strange smell in the air that reminded him of when someone forgot to clean their teeth. It was like looking at the inside of one’s mouth.

“George?” Harold quickly turned around to see the other boy beside him. He quickly shook him awake and though the younger boy moaned in protest, Harold didn’t stop until George could finally open his eyes as see Harold.

“Harold?!” George shot up. “Harold, where are we?” He looked around in confusion. “What happened? Why does the ground feel weird?” He made a disgusted face at the spot on the ground that his hand was touching.

“I don’t know, we were on that boat, we were about to bring out Captain Underpants and then it went all dark!” Harold threw his hands out.

“The guardian of this lake swallowed you up.”

Both boys screamed in fear (and almost wet themselves in the process) as they turned to face a young woman in a green cloak with her hood up just enough so that they could see her face. “The guardian is a final barrier for those seeking out the one worthy enough to live by its shores.” She explained. “It usually goes after whatever it deems to be a huge threat.”

“Wait–we got eaten by something?!” Harold panicked.

“So that’s what that thing was!” George realized and shuddered. “Eww! That’s why it smells so gross!”

“I’m surprised it’s not dark in here.” Harold looked around again. “We can see all around us.”

The young woman realized something. “Wait a minute... you two–you’re those boys from yesterday! You did that gag with the sign–no, you gave me directions the other day!”

“I guess?” Harold asked as George smirked at the memory. “Wait a minute!” He looked around in confusion. “Where’s Krupp?!”

“Oh shoot you’re right!” George realized in alarm. “KRUPP?!” He yelled out.

“KRUPP?!” Harold tried.

“KRUPP?!” George tried again.

No response.

“Wow, that’s an ugly name to have.” The girl winced. “But if you mean that big guy you were with, I haven’t seen him since I got stuck here myself. This thing swallowed me and I lost something of mine that I really need in here.”

“Can you help us find him if we help you?” George asked.

“Yeah, I can try.” The girl smiled before she made to undo the clasp on her cloak. “Just give me a sec–” She undid the cloak and tore it off to reveal an incredibly long braid of hair that was not only wrapped around her waist, but was also partly stuffed into her bag.

Both boys stared in shock at the very last thing they expected to see.

“Y–you’re–!” Harold stammered as his eyes widened.

“You–re–you’re–!” George also did the same.

Not only was the young woman’s hair so long, it was composed of seven different colors to make it look like a rainbow. They were the exact same colors that Harold’s hair used to be. She was exactly like how Harold used to appear before his hair had been cut a few months back.

“No way.” Harold shook his head. “No way!” He whispered.

“After all this time–” George asked. “After all this time–?!”

“By the way, you can just call me Cate.” The young woman smiled at the two as she stuffed her cloak into her bag. “Well, we better get a move on!” She turned to the throat of the creature and began to head towards it, unaware that the two boys were staring at her to the point that their eyeballs were close to popping out of their skulls.

*****

“WHERE AM I?!” A very unamused Krupp yelled out in frustration as he wandered around looking for the two boy. “IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE ANOTHER PRANK?!” He angrily demanded, expecting the all too familiar symphony of laughter.

He couldn’t hear anything and longer he couldn’t find them the more uncomfortable he grew.

“Oh god, now I’m actually freaking out over not knowing where they are and I hate it!” Krupp growled and grabbed his head in frustration. “This can’t get any worse, can it?!”

“You know I just realized something.”

Confused, Krupp turned his head up to see two people somehow tied up in ropes and stuck to the wall of whatever it was that he and the boys were trapped in. One appeared to be a twenty something year old male of Hispanic ethnicity and the other was a twenty something blonde haired female with green eyes.

“George supposedly met us in Heaven in the first fic, and then when he spied on us in chapter two of this fic, he didn’t seem to recognize us.” The male was the one who spoke. “Why was that?”

“I forgot about that.” The female shrugged. “There’s a lot to keep track of when you write these things.”

“Hey!” Krupp tried to wave at them, but was ignored as the male said “Yeah, I’d imagine that would be frustrating if you were writing for a series.”

“Which gets problematic for you if your fans notice your slip-up.”

“Hey, who are you two and where am I?!”

“Oh gosh, and then there’s those cinematic universes!” The male pointed out. “I can’t imagine how much planning goes into those, especially when you’re trying to prevent spoilers!”

“Well as long as everything connects together and can make sense. Otherwise–”

“ARE YOU TWO DEAF?! I’M RIGHT HERE YELLING AT YOU!”

“Not now Benny, the adults are talking–!” The female quieted down and both looked down to see a frustrated and confused Krupp glare up at them. There was a long quiet pause between the three before the male realized something was off.

“Wait... is this another creator cameo?” The male asked.

“Yeah.” The female smiled.

“And we’re both inside the monster with them.”

“Well it’s not the worst that’s happened to me in my fics–”

“You didn’t warn me there’d be another creator cameo! And now Krupp can see us and we’re trapped in whatever this thing is, and–actually, how exactly did we even get here?!”

“ARE EITHER OF YOU GOING TO ANSWER ME?! OR AT LEAST TELL ME HOW YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!”

“Oh, you do not want to know that!” The female laughed as the male sighed and snapped his fingers.

SNAP!

*****

“Let’s see, we can’t go too far.” Cate looked around as the boys followed behind her, while still taken by surprise by the state of her hair.

“Harold, I think we found them!” George whispered to Harold. “I think we finally found Regenbogen!”

“I think we did!” Harold was getting excited as he whispered back. “Everything matches up! The length, the color–it’s longer than mine was and she’s older than me!” George hesitated. “But wait, what about the song?”

“Oh right.” Harold remembered–the only sure way to know that they found Regenbogen.

“Oh there it is!” Both boys turned back and hurried towards Cate, who stopped at a ledge. “You see that bag?” Cate pointed as she knelt down to get a better look and the boys followed suit. About twenty feet down below was a small bright yellow bag, shaped like a coin purse with draw strings.

“I’d go down there and use this hair as a rope, but–” Cate frowned at the size of the hole they had to look down. “I can’t fit, I’m not small enough.”

“Well we can do it!” George offered.

“Are you sure?”

“This is nothing!” George laughed. “I had to scale up a tower taller than this!”

“I can go!” Harold offered.

Cate smiled. “Well ok.” She took out a huge mound of the braid from her bag before unraveling it from her body. “You don’t mind–?” She double checked, but the blonde nodded and held his arms up. “All right.” She went over and began to tie one end of the braid around him. “Always make sure you are tied to another if you do something dangerous like this. That way you stay together and you keep them safe, like your both two ends of a rope.” She warned him.

She wound the braid enough times around Harold until she was sure that he was secured and tied up a knot to be safe. “Ok, now just grab the braid and carefully walk down the wall. Talk to me if you get scared, ok?”

“Right!” Harold gave Cate a thumbs up and did what he was told. With a smile, Cate grabbed one end of the braid and held on tight until Harold managed to go over the ledge, before George moved in to help. She and George began to gradually loosen the braid so that Harold could carefully go down.

********

“Oh thank goodness!” The male sighed in relief as Captain Underpants (dressed in his usual attire–or lack of–once more) set him back down on the ground. “I’m going right back home after this. Thanks Captain Underpants!”

“You’re welcome, random unfamiliar citizen who somehow knows my name despite that I never told you!” The hero saluted. “Now about you’re–” There was a scream that caused the hero to look up and quickly catch the falling female (who somehow broke free) before she could hit the ground. “Whoa, that was a close one!” He exclaimed. “Are you alright?!”

The female stared in awe at the hero before she began to blush and grin a silly grin. “Well hello there!” She rested her chin in her hands. “I got to admit, you’re a lot cuter to me now than when I was in fourth grade!”

“Alright that’s it!” The male sighed in annoyance and yanked the female out of a confused Captain Underpants’ grasp. “I don’t like where this is going and I’m going to stop you right now,” He began to drag her away. “Let’s go back to the real world and forget this ever happened.”

“Aw come on!” The female whined just as a strange blue circle opened up that the male headed towards. “Oh yeah, sorry about what happened to you in chapter four!” She yelled, just as they both went through the circle which popped out of existence the moment they were completely through.

“Huh, I have no clue who either of those two are, but they seemed like nice people.” Captain Underpants smiled before turning around. “Now where are my boys?”

******

“Harold!” George hurried to pull Harold up over the ledge and gave his friend a hug once he was safely away from it.

“I got whatever these are!” Harold waved the bag at Cate. Cate went over to take the bag and smiled. “Thanks!”

“So what are those?” George asked as Harold undid the braid from his body.

“Some jerks humiliated my siblings, so I’m giving them these beans.” Cate looked in the bag to make sure they were all there. “I’ll tell them that if they eat them, they can get superior strength in five minutes, but it’ll only give them the worst case of flatulence big enough to make the house smell for days.”

“Uh...” Neither boy understood what she was saying.

“They’re going to have really big, really bad farts.”

Both boys understood and began to laugh their heads off.

“Guys?! Guys is that you?!” Both George and Harold ceased laughing when they heard the familiar voice get louder and louder and, before either of them knew it, Captain Underpants was flying right towards them.

“You’re ok!” He cried out in relief before scooping them up into a big hug. “I was worried when I couldn’t find you guys!”

“We’re fine!” Harold laughed as he and George hugged the hero right back. “We we’re looking for you too!”

“We’re glad you found us first!” George smiled.

Cate gave Captain Underpants a thoughtful look. “Huh, I guess I was wrong about him after all.” She shrugged and smiled. “Ok, so does anyone know how to escape from here?”

Both boys froze.

“Uh...” Harold began.

“That is a good question.” George replied.

******

All four of them stared at the closed mouth and teeth of the beast. “Maybe try brute strength?” George prompted.

“Can you try punching at it or throwing stuff into it’s teeth?” Harold asked Captain Underpants.

“I’ll try!” The hero saluted and flew right to the teeth. “Ok, here it comes!” He pulled his fist back and when he got close enough, he landed the punch.

Nothing happened.

“Nope!”

“Well try something else!” George called out.

“I’ll try more punching!” Captain Underpants tried to repeatedly punch the creature in the teeth, but they wouldn’t open up.

“I’ll kick it!” He flew back as far as he could before he dove feet first against it, but still nothing. “Nope, but now my ankle hurts!”

“HAH!” He threw what was left of the boat into the teeth.

“THIS?!” He threw a random wagon wheel that he found.

“OH HEY I REMEMBER THIS!” He threw the giant flying chamberpot from the last chapter that somehow found its way into the creature.

Neither of those options worked and the teeth remained clenched.

“Ok, maybe if I just kick it one more time!” Captain Underpants flew in the opposite direction again, but this time he was too close to the ground and accidentally caught his foot into Cate’s braid.

“WAIT STOP!” Harold panicked as Cate felt the tug and turned around to see the hero fly away with her braid stuck on his foot.

“YOU GOT HER HAIR STUCK ON YOU!” George yelled, but the hero didn’t listen. He and Harold quickly grabbed the braid and pulled Captain Underpants back as hard as they could.

“WHOA!” The hero yelped and was yanked back. His arms flailed wildly in the air and before Cate could move, he crashed into her–his hands accidentally getting to the topmost part of her head, and to the boys’ equal horror, he accidentally pulled all her hair off her head.

“AAAAAAHHHHH!!” Harold screamed and covered his eyes.

“AAAAAAHHHHH!!” George screamed and shut his eyes.

“Why are you screaming?” Captain Underpants asked before he looked at his hand to see all the hair stuck to his hand. “AAAAAHHHH!!”

“AAAAAAHHHHH!!”

“AAAAAAHHHHH!!”

“AAAAAAHHHHH!!”

“AAAAAAHHHHH–wait a minute, is that a wig?!” George stopped and asked, causing the others to stop screaming too.

The moment they looked back at Cate, they saw that she now had short brown hair. The hair that was stuck in Captain Underpants’ hand (and foot) was still rainbow colored, but they all could clearly see that inside the top part was a hairnet of sorts.

“It is a wig!” Harold gapped before realization struck him. “So you’re not Regenbogen?!” He asked Cate.

“Uh, no?” Cate frowned in confusion.

“Aw man!” Harold held his head in defeat and George sighed in dismay. “We thought we finally found who we were looking for! You had the really long rainbow hair and everything!”

“I’m just a wandering traveler, kids.” Cate admitted. “But come to think of it–” She thought “–There was someone who offered me a huge sum of money if I wore that wig for awhile around Piqua. She said she wanted to distract someone and that I would be a good candidate for it.”

“Distract someone?” Harold asked.

“Who paid you?” George asked.

“I don’t know, but she had these purple eyes and–anyway, I don’t she wanted me to trick you two specifically.”

“Still, that would have been nice.” Harold admitted. “We spent so long trying to find this person with rainbow hair with nothing but pranks and studying and all sorts of monsters in our way.”

“Yeah,” George nodded before a thought struck him. “Pranks... hey Cate? How many of those beans do you have?”

“The beans?” She asked. “About twenty five. Why do you ask?”

The boy gave her a wicked grin.

*****

“Oh... oh no.” Cate realized what he had planned when they were all sitting in a circle right on top of the monster’s tongue.

“He’ll have to spit us out!” George explained as Harold (who had all their things with him) laughed. “No one likes having their mouths open when someone rips one out!”

“Rips what out?” Captain Underpants asked as both boys sat on both of his sides.

“Well, here goes nothing.” Cate sighed as she handed a single bean (guaranteed to give one terrible gas) to one person each before putting the bag away. (Her fake rainbow hair was now stuffed in her traveling bag).

“Yeah, here goes nothing!” Harold grinned as he held his bean. “All ready to eat?”

All at once, all four ate a bean. All they had to do was wait.

And wait.

And wait.

“Hey, my stomach feels weird.” Captain Underpants complained.

******

Thirty seconds later, the monster of the lake felt an awful, horrendous, hard to describe but basically disgusting taste hit his tongue. His eyes bulged wide open and he automatically spat out whatever was in his mouth before trying to swallow in fresh air.

“Hey it worked!” Captain Underpants cheered as he held onto the boys and Cate while he was thrown across the air. While he was fine, the others were green and about ready to hurl.

Meanwhile on land, a woman standing on a pathway stared intently at the now clear blue sky. When she saw that the small group was heading towards the shore near her side of the lake, she nodded and began to walk down there.

At the shore, Captain Underpants was able to stop himself from hitting the ground in the nick of time before carefully landing on the grassy ground where he freed the others.

“We did it!” Harold laughed.

“Yeah, that was gross, but we made it out!” George agreed as he high-fived Harold.

Cate smiled. “I got to admit, you two were really creative back there. I would have never considered that myself.”

“Thanks!” George smiled up at her.

“You’re welcome. And I guess I owe you a thanks for everything too.” Cate then looked around her. “Well... I still get to get a move on, unfortunately. As fun as it would be to hang with you a bit longer, I’m pretty pressed for time at the moment.” She turned back to the boys and smiled. “You two take care.” She waved before looking at Captain Underpants. “And you keep taking care of them!” She told him.

“I always do!” He reassured her before she waved farewell and began heading to the right towards the trees and a pathway.

“Bye!” The boys waved and watched until she vanished out of sight around the trees.

“Well, I’m glad we made it!” Harold sighed in relief, as did George. “We could just fly the rest of the way to Lisa and Billy’s teacher now that there’s no rain.”

“Oh you don’t need to. You finally made it.” A new voice spoke up, causing them all to turn around.

Standing before them was a woman. She wore a strange magenta colored robe and a green and gold scarf around her neck, despite that it was summer. Her black hair was pulled back in a stylish bun with a hairpin with a crystal dragonfly sticking out of it. But was so striking about her appearance were her purple eyes–they seemed warm and mysterious all at once.

The boys and Captain Underpants stared at her in awe as she added “I knew you all would come visit me sooner or later.”

“Are you Lisa and Billy’s teacher?” George asked the woman.

“Yes I am.” The woman smiled and nodded. “I’m glad we can properly meet this time around without any danger to distract us.”

“Wait a minute–” Harold realized something was familiar about this woman. “Have we met before? You sound really familiar.”

“I’m afraid one of my former students kidnapped your sister and gave you all quite a scare until I had to step in.”

“You’re that woman who helped us out that day?!” George gapped as he began to recognize her voice.

“Wait–then you’re also the one who wrote that letter to my mom about my sister’s kidnapper!” Harold gapped. “But that means–!”

“That is right.” Madame Miyuki nodded and placed a hand over her chest. “I am the one who made the potion that healed your mother and transferred the flower of creation’s magic to you.”

Chapter Text

“You’re the one who made the potion that gave me that magic?!” Harold could hardly believe it.

“The last time I saw you, you were almost a year old.” Madame Miyuki smiled fondly. “I recall giving you a blanket as a gift that day–a lovely little red thing with black dots on it.” She then looked at George. “And I’ve heard quite a lot about you, George.”

“Uh,” George nervously wrung his hands as he recalled everything he heard about this woman. “Good things I hope?”

“Well, at least from what my students told me. I hope they didn’t say anything too scary about me in return.” The woman walked up towards the two boys. “But I’m relieved to see you made it after all you’ve had to go through, and I’m glad all of you safely made it out of the lake’s guardian... or... at least I hope it was just you and that woman.” Miyuki frowned. “Unless... it spat something else out...”

*****

Resting isolated among some rocks was a certain giant chamberpot that had previously been inside the lake monster, but it had somehow escaped and found its way back to the outside world.

*****

“Ah never mind, I doubt it’s a cause for worry.” Miyuki shrugged. “But I was hoping I would get the chance to see you two again and I’m glad you were able to bring Benjamin here in one piece. I knew he wasn’t going to last on his own without either of you to keep him out of trouble. Speaking of which...” Madame Miyuki then turned to face Captain Underpants.

“Wait, are you the one who helped us out and exploded into a bunch of purple sparkles?!” Captain Underpants exclaimed as he pointed a surprised finger at the woman.

“Yes, that was me.” She chuckled and held her hand out. “I must say, it’s quite an honor to finally meet you in person. You’ve done some things for Piqua and its citizens that have been both impressive and heartwarming and you’re one of the purest souls I’ve ever had the fortune of encountering.”

“Well you’re welcome!” Captain Underpants happily accepted Madame Miyuki’s hand and shook it. “It hasn’t been easy stopping evil and helping everyone, but I’ve managed and I’ve gotten a lot of help!”

Both George and Harold noticed something strange–Madame Miyuki started to look at the man’s hand the moment she touched it and while he was happily chatting away, her smile quickly faded and a troubled look crossed her eyes.

“Isn’t that right George and Harold?!” He asked the boys, not realizing that the woman was still holding his hand and still having that look in her eyes before she sighed.

“So that’s how it must be for you.”

“Huh?” Captain Underpants turned back in confusion as Miyuki reached into her robe and fiddled with something.

“I’m sorry, but I’m going to need to speak to the other one. We won’t have as much time as I’d like to have.” She explained and, to both George and Harold’s surprise, she splashed a small amount of water onto Captain Underpants’ face from a vial that she quickly took out of her robe.

“Ack!” Krupp flinched as he was changed back to his usual self, not realizing that a new face was in front of him–and who was still holding his hand. “Wait a–are we back outside?!” He picked up on the change of scenery before turning around.

“Good to see you again, Benjamin.” Madame Miyuki calmly greeted.

“What the–?!” Krupp flinched away from her grasp and backed away from her before he realized something. “Wait a minute–don’t I know you from somewhere?!”

“We encountered each other when I was giving a birthday present to Harold many years ago.” When she realized he wouldn’t recognize her, she added. “I was the fortune teller that you insulted and said that was, and I quote ‘just a money grabbing, gibberish spewing hag.’” Moments passed and when she realized that the blank stare he gave her said that he didn’t recall, she gave up.

“Wait, fortune teller?” George finally asked.

“I have the power to see both the past and the future.” Madame Miyuki explained. “That’s why the others believe I’m the most powerful amongst my kind.”

*****

“So let me get this straight–you’ve actually met those two before, and instead of doing this sooner, you didn’t say anything and left, forcing me to get stuck with them for three days out in the rain, dealing with hours upon hours of walking, a bunch of weird things that I still can’t wrap my head around, and probably letting me almost die in the process?!”

Everyone was inside Madame Miyuki’s house and sitting around a table in a small room filled with many books, strange objects in glass jars, a crystal ball resting on a bookshelf, and an iguana was dozing peacefully in the sunlight from the window on a comfy pillow. Krupp (who was fully dressed once more) just had another angry outburst and was glaring at the purple eyed woman who was nonchalantly drinking tea out of a cup without looking at him.

“Well, are you going to answer me?!” He demanded again as George and Harold sat together and were torn between admiring the iguana or the woman’s calm attitude towards the angry adult.

Madame Miyuki finally stopped and set the tea cup beside her on an empty space on the bookshelf. “Yes, you are most correct.” She admitted.

“THEN WHY?! WHAT KIND OF GAME ARE YOU PLAYING AT, LADY?!”

“Because I needed you to be at a certain mindset when this meeting would happen.” She replied without so much as a flinch from his reaction. “As well as–” She looked at the boys and then back to Krupp. “Well, let’s just say that trip did more for all of you than you’ll realize. Anyway–” She held her hand up before Krupp could snap at her again. “I have to start by saying that as a teacher, I am disappointed with what my students had done to you. I told them that spell book was dangerous and had they ruined so much as one word of that specific incantation, you could have been stuck in your other personality forever or worse.”

That managed to keep Krupp from saying anything else as he gapped in white faced horror at the woman.

“I understand that this spell has caused you endless woe and embarrassment. However I cannot deny the upsides that came from it, because if it hadn’t fallen upon you, then the prince would most likely have never been found, which was something my kind tried constantly to do.” Madame Miyuki sighed. “I regret that I didn’t try to foresee what trouble the flower of creation was going to cause–the abduction of Harold, my kind being banished, the kingdom suffering a period of misery, and now the cycle could begin again thanks to one of my former students.”

“You’re talking about the woman who kidnapped Heidi, right?” George asked.

“Yes, that was her.” Madame Miyuki admitted. “But unlike Billy and Lisa, Sarah had a habit of using her magic for personal gain, rather than to help others. You already know how far she was willing to go. And as you both know, this has not been the first time a member of my kind resorted to kidnapping to gain power.”

As Harold listened to this, a thought struck him–the letter he and George found. The one that helped identify who this woman was, but more importantly–

I fear it will endanger more than one life, including that of the one she was trying to seek out–the one who does possess the last of the flower of creation’s magic.

“Wait a second!” Harold began. “If you made that potion that healed my mom, then you know who also has the flower’s magic!”

“Uh, hang on, what’s going on?” Krupp looked at the boy in confusion.

“You wrote a letter to my mom about your old student kidnapping Heidi and you knew exactly why she did it! You know who else has the flower’s magic like I did!”

“Oh yeah, that’s right!” George’s jaw dropped as he looked at Madame Miyuki. “Yeah, we saw that letter! That lady said there was another who has that magic too! And we’ve looked everywhere for them! We’ve been looking for almost two months, and every time we thought we found them, they turned out to be the wrong person!”

“You got to tell us!” Harold pleaded as he leaned over in his spot. “Were you being honest in that letter?! Who are you trying to protect?!”

“Hang on, I have no clue what is going on here, or what you’re talking about!” Krupp angrily cut in. “But we’re here to fix this spell, not whatever the heck this is!”

“It’s true.” Madame Miyuki admitted. “There’s been another, but it was never intended. It was only supposed to be you Harold, but something happened–”

“HANG ON, YOU’RE GOING TO HELP THEM OUT FIRST?!”

“I promise I will be helping you out too, Benjamin–believe me, that is one of my highest priorities today and we will get to it.” She answered without even looking at him.

“Who?!” Harold paced his hands on the table and leaned in more. “Who is it?!”

“Tell us!” George pleaded. “This has been bugging us for ages! We need to know!”

The woman smiled mysteriously. “You already know the person in question. In fact, your fates were already destined to be entwined to theirs.”

“What do you mean we know them?!” George protested.

“That doesn’t help!” Harold protested. “We’ve seen and met all kinds of people in Piqua from the kids at school to the adults on the way over here! No one really has the hair I used to have, and even the one person who did have rainbow hair was actually wearing a wig over her real hair and it wasn’t even rainbow colored! We even sang at a lot of people and it didn’t work! It’s not Heidi, it’s not mom, it’s not Cate–what’s so funny?!” He demanded as Madame Miyuki chuckled in amusement and shook her head.

“I’m sorry, it’s just that you’re sitting right next to them.”

The room fell dead silent.

“Wait.” George began as he and Harold shared a confused look. “Sitting next to–?”

“Well it’s not me!” Harold protested.

“I was healed by the flower, but I didn’t get any powers!” George protested. “Or wait, did I?!” But Madame Miyuki remained silent. “No, not me? Wait, no, it can’t be because I would of had the glowing hair by now and nothing happened whenever I heard the song!” He realized. “But wait... it’s not you is it?!” He asked Madame Miyuki.

The woman shook her head as she patiently waited for them to figure it out.

“Come on, quit playing games with us!” Harold was getting more and more frustrated. “Who else do you–?!”

It then finally hit them.

“Wait...” George’s eyes widened as he and Harold shared a look of disbelief. “No,” He shook his head. “No!”

“No, it–there’s no way!” Harold protested.

They looked at who was sitting next to them... who just so happened to be–

“Uh, why are you looking at me like that?” Krupp (who had barely paid any attention to what was going on) turned his head to see the two boys looking at him.

“WHAT?!” Both Harold and George yelled out in disbelief.

“YOU’RE SAYING IT’S HIM?!” George jabbed a finger at the confused adult. “THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT!”

“You got to be kidding me!” Harold shook his head. “There’s no way that’s possible! Krupp?! There’s no way! In fact, we already tried singing around him and we didn’t even mean to!”

“He doesn’t even have any real hair, let alone rainbow hair!”

“HEY!” Krupp angrily snapped at the two.

“Well,” Madame Miyuki admitted as she realized that they didn’t quite get it yet, “Yes, but also not quite.”

“What do you mean, ‘not quite?’” George demanded.

“We were singing at him and nothing happened!” Harold exclaimed again.

“And even if it was him, where’s all that magic being kept if he doesn’t have any hair?!” George pointed out. “That doesn’t make any sense!”

“WILL YOU STOP POINTING THAT OUT?!” Krupp demanded.

Madame Miyuki stared at Krupp in deep thought. “You really sang to everyone you know in Piqua?” She asked the boys.

“We did!” George replied in frustration. “We’re telling you, nothing happened with him!”

Madame Miyuki thought for another moment. Then without warning she snapped her fingers.

SNAP!

“You forgot someone.” Madame Miyuki rested her chin in one hand and waited.

Even when a shirt went flying and smacked her right in the face, she didn’t even flinch, nor bother to take the toupee off her still dozing iguana when it landed on its head. She only moved to pull the shirt off her face as a certain someone redressed (or more like undressed) himself once more.

“Hello again, strange lady with the purple eyes!” Captain Underpants waved as George and Harold gave him an equally stunned look. “Oh hey guys, what’s up?” He asked as he turned to face them.

The boys looked at at each other–neither of them were sure what to expect by this point. Harold took a deep breath as George could only mutter “Please don’t glow, please don’t glow.” while glancing at Captain Underpants’ bald head.

“Flower gleam and glow,” Harold sang the song he had sung too many times–his disbelief barely contained as he and George stared at Captain Underpants. “Let your power shine, make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine,”

“Oh that’s a lovely song!” Captain Underpants complimented. “I don’t think I’ve heard it before!”

Both boys kept their eyes trained on the large man’s head the whole time while hoping against hope that it wouldn’t suddenly start glowing (even if the idea was something worth having a laugh over for later). Nothing was happening and it seemed like it would be a repeat of the usual routine where they’d just have to keep looking.

That is, until a slightly (or very) familiar rainbow glow did come off the man, but it wasn’t from his head–rather it was somewhere much lower.

Rather, it was at his chest, through his skin, right exactly above where his heart was. It wasn’t large, but it was big enough to be noticeable and clear as day.

“Hmm?” He looked down at the change in his body. “Oh, do I have a rainbow shining off me–?!”

“AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!”

Two very piercing yells (one of them being high enough that it sounded rather girly) scared Captain Underpants to the point he quickly covered his ears and winced. Without the song, the light from his body quickly faded while two very surprised and very confused boys were undergoing one heck of a mind-breaking moment.

“WHAT IS GOING ON?!” Harold yelled as George waved his arms around and also yelled.

*****

***Ten minutes of shock and denial (for the boys and presumably for some of the readers) later***

After ten minutes of being in a state of complete shock, George and Harold were still sitting at the table, with no expression beyond a dazed look in their eyes.

“So–” Harold quietly muttered. “All this time... Regenbogen was actually–” He groaned and rested his face in his hands. “Just... why?”

“It’s like a badly written out story with a twist that we should have seen coming.” George agreed. “Nothing makes any sense.”

Madame Miyuki looked at Krupp–who had been returned to normal and was wearing his clothes again, had just been told what had happened, and was now also in a state of shock of his own–then looked at the sky and frowned at how low the sun was getting.

“Boys, I think you need to accept it now.” She finally told them. “We are getting rather low on time as is.”

Finally both boys looked up. “I don’t understand.” Harold began. “Just... how is this even possible?”

“I guess I should start from the beginning.” Madame Miyuki began. “Do you recall the day I made that potion for Queen Grace with the flower that everyone sought out to find, Benjamin? How it healed her?” Miyuki glanced at Krupp. “The truth is that I didn’t use the entire flower.”

*****

Madame Miyuki stared at the single petal of the flower that she carefully caressed.

“Only those good of heart should use its powers.”

She then carefully pulled the petal off and placed it in a vial that she took off her shelf. She put an enchantment upon the vial to keep the single petal alive and carefully hid it.

*****

“The flower was able to re-grow the lost petal.” Miyuki continued. “The petal would have died if I didn’t act fast enough, but in order for it to be possible to grow more flowers from it in the future, I had to let it sit in another potion.”

*****

Madame Miyuki dropped the petal into the bubbling green liquid and she watched as it made the liquid briefly flash red before another liquid dripped down through a tube and into the vial. It was there that the liquid returned to the original natural green.

*****

“Ok, I guess that makes sense, but how did it end up with him then?” George jabbed a thumb at an increasingly confused Krupp. “All I know is that–uh, what’s with that look?” He saw Miyuki giving him a slightly cross look as she rested her chin in her hand and tapped her face with her finger.

“I wonder why.” She flatly replied.

“What does that–oh,” It hit George and he turned pale. “Oh no. Oh no.” He groaned and held his face in his hands. “Right.... that. I forgot about that.”

“What?” Krupp returned to normal and gave George a suspicious look.

“When Lisa and Billy casted that spell on you... we... we also gave Captain Underpants this green stuff in a vial and... and he drank it. That’s what gave him his powers and why you heal fast and can survive getting hit really hard.” George groaned as he braced himself. “We gave you the last of the flower. On accident.”

The instant burst of anger that came next was almost welcoming for the two boys, yet still terrifying.

“SO NOT ONLY DID YOU PUT THAT SPELL ON ME, YOU ALSO HAD ME INGEST SOMETHING WITHOUT EVEN THINKING THAT IT’D DO SOMETHING TO ME?!” Krupp roared at George who felt as if he was going to fall over from the force of the yell. “YOU BETTER HOPE TO GOD THAT WHEN WE GET BACK, I WON’T GET CREATIVE WITH HOW I’M GOING TO MAKE YOU SUFFER FOR–! AGH!” Without any warning, Madame Miyuki grabbed the man by his shirt collar and was able to pull him towards her despite that he was twice her size.

“I think you better think twice about your actions, and if they had a part to play in this in the first place.” The woman was still calm, but when combined with the hard, icy glare she gave Krupp, she instantly became intimidating in a way that made you feel like you were walking near the edge of a cliff with a steep drop. “I was under the impression that I was talking to a grown man, not an overgrown child who hasn’t learned his lesson.” She looked him in the eye. “Now could you please try to behave for a few minutes and not talk about the very things that put you into this mess in the first place? If you don’t, I might do more than not tell you how to lift the spell.”

Madame Miyuki continued to stare down Krupp, making him increasingly uncomfortable until he finally grumbled and pulled away from her.

Madame Miyuki only continued when the man decided to quietly sulk without saying a word. “Well, that’s also my fault. I told those two it was a power to give a human temporary strength and flight in order to keep them from learning the truth and putting them in danger. Unfortunately, because of the spell you are under and because of what the flower of creation is truly capable of in the right hands, they might have accidentally made those powers into a reality.”

“But he doesn’t have any of my powers or rainbow hair!” Harold reminded her. “How come I did, but he doesn’t?! Why didn’t my mom get the powers too?!”

“Because the flower’s magic was split between her and you, but you were able to absorb almost all of it. And to be honest, I still don’t fully understand how the flower of creation works–I suppose it reacts differently to whoever has its magic. Which now leads into the other reason why you’re here.” Miyuki turned to Krupp. “The spell that my students placed upon you.”

“Oh thank God, finally!” The adult sighed in relief.

“Unfortunately, it’s also what’s keeping the flower’s magic inside of you.”

“...What?”

“And if anyone finds out that the last of the magic is inside you, they will go after you without hesitation.”

“What?! Y–you’re joking right?!” He stammered. “Then can’t you just get it out of me right now?!”

“I can’t because that will kill you.”

No one expected to hear that and a silence fell.

“Like I said, the spell is keeping the magic inside you.” Madame Miyuki explained. “But unfortunately, unlike when Harold possessed it or when the queen was healed by it, the source of the magic is being contained in your heart and is flowing through your veins. If I tried to remove it from you now, it would most likely weaken and eventually stop your heart forever. The only sure way to avoid this would be to lift the spell first.”

“Ok, we can do that.” George smiled. “Should be easy.”

Madame Miyuki shook her head. “It’s not with a spell this powerful, considering its requirements. In fact, I’m afraid it will be hard to lift it for someone like you.”

“How?!” Krupp demanded. “If it’s something I need to do now, I’ll do it! I want to get this over with!”

“The way to lift the spell is tied to what it had done to you.” Madame Miyuki held her hands out. “It brought out the part of you that you’ve constantly buried out of a refusal to show compassion towards others. There is the you as you are now–the one that even now still lashes out–the one that drove many away from you in the past. Then there is the you that could have been all this time–the one who shows compassion and has the appreciation and adoration from those who are grateful for his assistance. And yes, that part of you was tricked into having an identity that’s causing you much embarrassment, but he is still a part of you. Yet while each side is either respected or adored by some, the other that balances them out is still hated by others. You’re both liked and hated at once.”

“So?”

“In order for the spell to be lifted and for you to return to normal,” Madame Miyuki clasped her hands back together to emphasize her point. “There must be at least one person who equally, genuinely, loves both sides of yourself–flaws and all–and they must prove that however they see fit.”

It took a moment for everything to sink in.

George asked “So just to clarify–you’re saying that someone has to really love both Krupp and Captain Underpants–”

“Like, not just like one side and hate the other, but really love both of them.” Harold finished.

“And it has to be real.” Miyuki clarified. “Not forced. Only then can he finally be a complete person again.”

Both boys looked at Krupp, waiting to hear his reaction and expecting the worst.

“You’re joking, right?” He asked in disbelief. “You honestly say that something that stupid and unrealistic is what it’ll take to fix this? Heck, it doesn’t even make any sense!” When she nodded, his anger rose. “So that’s it?! There’s no other option?! Lady, do you even think that someone out there would be that dumb?!”

There was a strange, pained look in Madame Miyuki’s eyes for one moment before she replied. “I’m sorry, but there’s no other way. I tried to find alternatives, but this is the only thing that will break it, provided you can open your eyes and heart and see that it can be possible. But like I said, you can’t force them to love either side of you or it won’t work–which means if you try to make someone like your nephew be the one, it will likely make things worse. And by the way, if you think it could be him, you’ll only be wasting your time–you know he doesn’t so much as respect your other self.”

“I don’t want someone to love me or the other guy, I just want to go back to the way I was before this whole mess! You think I want to keep blacking out every time I hear a finger snap and wake up near naked, knowing that I got another personality running around like an idiot and ruining my dignity?!”

“You won’t truly be able to go back to the way you were–that man died at the moment you chose to try to save George’s life.”

At this point, both George and Harold were ready for another angry outburst. They experienced it several times now and they knew the oncoming explosion that was going to come next would be one of the worst ones they would witness. They could see it in how tense Krupp’s body was getting–how everything about him seemed to be tightening up, how his hands were gripping at the table so hard that his knuckles were turning white, how his eyes were burning and his mouth was tightening up–

–Then he suddenly got up from his chair and walked out of the room, to their great surprise.

“Uh... he’s going to start yelling outside again, isn’t he?” George asked.

Moments passed, yet nothing happened.

“Wait, you said you can see the future, right?” Harold turned to Madame Miyuki. “Is there someone that can actually love him and Captain at the same time that much?”

“I’m afraid I can’t answer that one.” Madame Miyuki shook her head. “If I told you more, I could risk ruining his chances–you’ll have to trust your instincts on this one.”

“This isn’t good.” George was getting worried as Madame Miyuki got up and went over to Harold. “He’s supposed to be yelling his lungs out by now.” He also got up and went towards the door. Yet the moment he opened it, he realized Harold wasn’t following him and he looked behind to see that Madame Miyuki was kneeling beside Harold. She held his hand and was whispering something into the blonde’s ear, but George couldn’t see what it was and he was too far away to hear her. Yet as she pulled away from Harold, he seemed confused by whatever her words were.

“Harold?”

“Huh? Oh yeah!” Harold snapped out of it, shot off his seat, and followed George. Meanwhile Madame Miyuki stared at the window again and frowned at how low the sun was getting.

When George and Harold ran out, they didn’t have to search too far for Krupp. What they did not expect was to see him sitting on the ground, holding his head in his hands. They both shared a nervous look before they cautiously approached him.

“Uh... hey?” George began to address the adult. “Uh... look, if I knew what it was going to take to break the spell or if that the stuff we gave you was the last of the flower, I wouldn’t of done it!” He tried to apologize. “Really, I’m sorry!” Instead of responding, the noticeable scowl on Krupp’s face only deepened. “Maybe we can still fix this!” George quickly added. “I mean, Harold and I could probably–!”

“What, you think you two can lift it?!” The adult finally shot his head up and snapped. “Let me ask you something–do you even like me as much as you like the other one?!”

“We–!” Harold began, but then stopped and even George was unable to find an answer to that. “Uh...” It was a reaction that Krupp fully expected, but it only made him angrier as it slowly seeped out of him.

“Of all the things you’ve both done to me,” Krupp angrily began “Of all your stupid pranks and antics and making me go though more than I’d like to deal with–this has got to be the worst one yet! Not only do I have to get turned into an idiot or end up having something that’s going to make me a target for God knows what kind of trouble, but you made it so that it’s literally impossible for me to undo it all and get my life back to normal!”

“I didn’t know, alright?!” George replied as he grew uneasy.

“I should have just sent you away like you wanted.” Krupp glared at George before he shook his head. “No–I should have just torn up that stupid flower the moment I first saw it all those years ago, when they made us look for it. I knew that thing was going to cause trouble, I just didn’t realize how it was going to effect me personally!”

“Hey don’t say that!” George angrily snapped back as Harold winced and frowned. “That flower was the reason why Harold and his family are alive today! I mean, yeah, it’s caused trouble–!”

“WELL THEN MAYBE IF HAROLD HADN’T HAVE BEEN BORN IN THE FIRST PLACE, THEN HE WOULDN’T HAVE GOTTEN HIMSELF KIDNAPPED, THIS STUPID FLOWER THAT EVERYONE GOES ON ABOUT WOULD HAVE STAYED WHERE IT WAS, AND I WOULDN’T OF HAD TO DEAL WITH YOU AND GOT CURSED! YOU BOTH ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR RUINING MY LIFE AND MAKING ME INTO A JOKE THAT I CAN’T GET RID OF AND AM GOING TO BE STUCK WITH FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE! IN FACT, I THINK YOU BOTH SOLELY EXIST TO RUIN MY LIFE AND I WISH YOU TWO NEVER MET EACH OTHER OR WERE EVER BORN IN THE FIRST PLACE!”

The boys were shocked into silence–it was almost like getting punched in the stomach.

Krupp panted for air after his outburst as he angrily stared down at George and Harold. Both of them kept staring at him. For one moment he realized what he just said and for one moment a huge stab of overwhelming regret and self loathing overcame him, and for three seconds it was evident in his face. Yet as quickly as it came, he angrily scowled and forced it down–he hated that he so much as felt regret–he hated that he was having emotions that he had trouble with that he rarely needed to feel, he hated not knowing if these emotions came from him or from the idiot, and he hated that he was feeling them towards these two troublesome kids.

He got up and made to walk away.

“HEY!” George finally recovered and angrily yelled. “SO WOULD IT HAVE BEEN BETTER IF I HAD DIED AND HAROLD STAYED LOCKED UP?!” But Krupp only scowled and kept walking. “ANSWER ME, YOU COWARD! WOULD IT HAVE BEEN BETTER–?!”

“WHY DON’T YOU JUST SHUT IT AND LEAVE ME ALONE?!” Krupp angrily yelled back without looking.

“WHY DON’T YOU QUIT SNAPPING AT US AND LET US HELP YOU?!” Harold snapped back.

“I SAID LEAVE ME ALONE!”

“Harold, I don’t think we should help him!” George let himself be loud and clear as he watched the adult tense up. “Maybe he doesn’t deserve to be loved because he’ll never change! He’s always going to be a nasty, miserable, lonely old guy! He never cared about anyone then and he’ll never care about anyone now!” He didn’t care how venomous his words were–there was too much anger to unleash.

Both boys could see that the words were effecting Krupp as he came to a complete stop. They could see his body trembling in anger and if they could see his face, they would have seen that he was trying and failing to suppress an eruption that was burning and rising within, threatening to consume him and engulf the two with an overwhelming hatred. He grabbed his head as he began to let out unintelligible sounds and felt himself about to explode.

“JUST! LEAVE ME! ALONE!” He could only force himself to let out before he did something that, for once, he wanted to do if only to escape all of this.

SNAP!

Neither George and Harold expected the finger snap. It momentarily halted their anger when they saw the action and heard the sound, which caused the man’s body to flinch before it relaxed into a more upright position.

“Huh?” Captain Underpants looked around in confusion. He was outside, but why did it feel as if his head was hurting and there was an uncomfortable tension leaving his body? “Hey, why are we outside?” He turned around to face the boys. “Hey, are you guys alright?” He noticed the odd expressions on their faces.

Neither of them responded to him. Harold finally spoke up and began to walk towards him. “It–it’s nothing, we–”

“Everything’s fine.” George sharply beat Harold. “That’s all.” He stared at the grass while refusing to look at the adult.

Madame Miyuki stared from out of a window. She had watched everything and this last scene was breaking her heart. “I tried to strengthen the bonds by not immediately telling them, even though I knew this would happen–that they would come undone again like this.” She sighed to herself. She then looked at the sky and saw just how close to sunset it was getting.

“Hey, is there any way we can get sent back?!” She looked up to see George calling out to her while Harold looked on. George’s own anger was still all too visible as he continued “Like, send us right back to the castle?! Please?!”

“Hey, I can fly us!” Captain Underpants happily offered. “Why not–?!”

There was a flash of purple sparks and all three of them vanished instantly before they were aware that it happened.

Inside, the woman reflected on things.

“Unfortunately there’s no time to try to mend any bonds on my own.” Madame Miyuki had been all too eager to send them back, even though she wanted to try to help them all out while they were still here. “I just hope you all won’t be too late.” She prayed as she thought back to what was waiting in the near future and–more importantly–what was happening right now, back at the castle.

*****

********Earlier that day….*******

Edith quietly hummed to herself as she switched out the dead plant with a new one that was alive and green in Benjamin’s house.

“There, that looks better.” She smiled as she got up and looked around. She didn’t know how long he’d be gone for, but she wanted to be able to do something for Benjamin–she wanted to help brighten the place up a little. Not the whole house of course, she wasn’t sure that he’d be alright with that, but only in certain places downstairs.

She organized things and gathered all the secret messages hidden throughout the room in a bag that she opted to hide under the sofa until they could be thrown away however the owner deemed fit. There was some from each side of the man that she couldn’t help but read–some were clearly from awhile ago and had the usual angry messages written in furious handwriting, and others were not written so well, but were funny and often kind of sweet.

She didn’t do anything too drastic, but the things she did were subtle and made the place look cleaner and brighter. It was as if the sun was finally escaping through the tinted windows and could flood the main room with a light that made it happier.

As she made to leave the room, her eye noticed one plant that had long since dried that was still on the bookshelf. She knew it was once a blue and white flower that she herself wore on the day she first came into this house.

He still had it. He hadn’t thrown it away.

She felt her face grow warm at the thought and nervously walked to the small table where she assumed he ate. She wasn’t sure what color he’d like, but she did get him a nice, bright emerald green tablecloth that was now covering the table, and she left a basket of food on top of it. She and Heidi made some food and she put some of it in there, though there wasn’t anything sweet–Benjamin didn’t really seem like the kind who liked overly sweet things, to be honest.

She wished that she could leave a letter for him when he got back so that he’d know and wouldn’t freak out at the thought of someone breaking into his house, but she had no clue what to write. After a moment or two of serious pondering, she quickly took a piece of paper and a pen and wrote down a short message before resting it halfway under the basket.

She wished there was a bit more she could do for him. What little she had done just didn’t feel enough, but she hoped it could make some difference.

It was so strange, but even if Benjamin wasn’t so well liked and still had moments where he acted like the way he did when she first met him, he was one of the few people that she felt the most comfortable being around in her new life, amongst so many people again. She wondered if it was because he felt the most familiar out of everyone in a world ten years ahead of her, or because... She shook her head and made her way out.

Edith left the house, locked the door, and hid the key where she first saw its hiding place. Outside, it looked like the clouds finally moved away and the day would be sunny once more.

Edith began to walk her way back towards the castle, all the while wondering where exactly Harold and George went off to for nearly three days. Come to think of it, Benjamin had been gone for around that exact time. Was it possible that he was with them–?

A hand roughly clamped over her mouth and before she could realize what was happening, she found herself getting pulled to the side. She tried to pull free and screamed, but then another set of hands grabbed her and she found herself getting pulled into a dark alleyway.

*****

Terror had sized the poor woman’s heart as she found herself tied against a chair, with her arms painfully pulled back and wrists somewhat tied together behind her. Her coat for the rain had been tossed to the side of the heavily shadowed room, which had a few battered looking furniture in it. You could tell that it had been abandoned for quite sometime and it just looked so dull and dark–the only bright thing in it seemed to be her pink dress.

“Wh-what’s going on?!” Edith stammered as she tried looking around behind her for her captors. “What are you going to do to me?!”

“Oh, we just want to have a brief family reunion first.” A voice filled with mock sweetness replied.

Edith’s heart nearly stopped in her chest.

She felt someone grab the back of the chair and before she knew it, she was turned around to face a much older woman. Her hair was messy and clearly in need of a cleaning, her teeth were yellow and some were stained, and her eyes were so large that they almost seemed to be bulging out of her head.

No... please let this be a nightmare. Edith pleaded as her own eyes widened in recognition at the woman.

She heard an awful laugh and looked over the woman’s side to see two more woman who were also in a similar state as the first one. One of them appeared to be missing chunks of once well kept hair and the other had what appeared to be angry red sores across a once well kept face, but like the other woman they also had eyes that seemed too large for their heads. All three of them wore tattered looking clothes that seemed almost even worse than the kind Edith once had to wear, but for one moment her mind’s eye saw them as gaudy clothes belonging to those from a well off middle class family.

No, no, no. Edith felt her skin crawl as she hoped against hope that she was just dreaming, and yet the memories she tried so hard to suppress were coming back to her–memories of a year of suffering, cruelty, and torment before finally being sold off like she was nothing but an object.

“Hello, little baby sister.” The first woman gave Edith a slimy grin. “Did you miss us?”

Chapter Text

“Mama, it’s done!” The little blue eyed girl of nine years cheered.

“Alright, now remember what I taught you.” The woman beside the girl reminded her. She looked like what her daughter would grow up to be, with dark hair, freckles, and deep blue eyes. The girl nodded as she put the bright yellow mittens on and then proceeded to carefully take the blueberry muffins out of the oven.

“And how do we make sure?” The woman asked.

The girl placed the tray on a towel, took a mitten off, and proceeded to poke a knife through one muffin. When she pulled it out, all that came out was a steam that fogged up the metal part of the knife and no dough stuck to it.

“Good job, Edith!” The woman grinned as Edith smiled. “You made them all on your own!”

“Thanks!” The child happily replied before frowning. “But I was hoping Jennifer and the others would bake with me. Maybe they’d start treating me better if we did fun things together.”

The woman frowned as she glanced out a window. Her oldest daughters (about early to mid teens) were gossiping and bragging with friends instead of studying like they were supposed to, which was what they told Edith.

“Sometimes we can’t make people change against their nature.” She told Edith. “That has to be of their own choosing. Maybe one day your sisters will want to have you around more often.” When she saw Edith’s discouraged face, she reassured her. “But to be honest, there’s nothing wrong with trying to reach out and show compassion to others. If they are nice to you in return and won’t try to use you in any way, they are worth keeping as friends.” She then bent over the muffins and smelled them. “Smells good–I think you have one sure way of making friends with your talents.” She smiled at her daughter, who finally smiled back and nodded.

*****

Even now, Edith could remember how everything went horribly wrong when her parents died–how her sisters suddenly turned on her, took every all of her possessions, including her share of their inheritance, forced her to tend to the house even as her body ached or her skin cracked and bled, how they locked her up when company came over or if she wanted to go visit others, and other things she was forced to relive. She could painfully remember the day she was sold off to a horrible witch and lost her freedom for almost one whole decade and she had hoped she would never see her sisters again after that, but it seemed that it was not to be the case.

“What’s a matter? Too surprised to see your big sisters to even say a word?” The eldest sister in front of her asked. “Remember your big sister Jennifer?”

“Or Zorxette?” The sister with the missing chunks of hair sneered.

“Or Klaxette?” The sister with the sores chortled.

Edith was still too terrified to respond back.

“I see old habits die hard!” Jennifer laughed as she examined Edith. “Look at you, all nice and fancy and living in a castle with the queen’s family. You must be loaded! Maybe all those gossipy admirers who’ve been eying you are supplying you with all kinds of expensive gifts.” She grabbed the hairpin with blue flowers upon it that was keeping Edith’s hair out of her face and roughly yanked it out, causing the younger woman to yelp. “Look at this, it’s got to be worth something.” She examined the hairpin before taking a strand of hair off of it and held it out. Zorxette took it and began to put the strand in a small vial filled with a clear liquid.

“What’s this?” Jennifer noticed the mauve chocker with three small precious stones on Edith’s neck–the woman’s hair now covering half of her face. She bent over to take a look and made to grab the chocker too, but then scowled and moved away. “Ugh, rose quartz and lace blue agates? You didn’t even bother with diamonds or pearls? God, you have daddy dearest’s same poor taste in the jewelry that he always gave mother. I don’t know why she bothered wearing those cheap rocks.”

Edith felt a surge of anger at the insult to both her parents, yet she was still unable to find her voice.

“As you can see, we had some hard times since you left the house, but we managed however we could.” Jennifer continued.

“Yeah, but you’re worth a lot more to us now then you ever were back then!” Klaxette gave Edith a crazed grin. “Not only are you sleeping in a building with a lot of valuables inside, but there’s also a set of siblings that’d fetch a good ransom too!” Edith instantly knew why she was kidnapped.

“You leave those children alone!” Edith finally found her voice and angrily yelled. “If you don’t, I swear you’ll regret it! I’ll go after you myself if I have to!”

“Oh sweetie, I’m afraid you won’t be able to.” Jennifer took a vial out of her clothes, only this one had violet colored liquid inside. She then grabbed Edith’s jaw and the youngest sister instantly tried to pull away, yet Klaxette hurried behind Edith and grabbed the back of her chair. No matter how much Edith struggled to keep Jennifer from opening her mouth, the older woman finally forced her mouth open and poured the contents down her throat. She clamped a hand on Edith’s mouth and forced her head back, making her swallow the foul tasting liquid.

“There’s no one to buy you off to get you out of this one.” Jennifer told Edith as she began to feel sick to her stomach. Jennifer then took the vial that Zorxette put the hair strand in, but now the liquid within it was blue. “Oh don’t worry, this won’t be permanent–you’ll be back to normal in about three hours or so.” Edith felt her body burn and–was it her imagination, or was she now being slowly engulfed in a violet smoke?

Before the smoke hid her vision, she watched as her oldest sister drank the liquid without taking her horrible eyes off of her.

******

Near the main entrance to the castle, two animals that were usually at The Crusty Sandbox were playing around. Greg the dog was in a game of tag with Lil’ Petey the kitten, who was dashing right after him. The kitten finally pounced and landed on top of the dog, causing him to come to a stop and to let out a happy bark before turning around and affectionately licked the kitten.

“Oh Miss Edith? You’re finally back from your trip into town?”

They both looked up to see Meaner by the entrance into the castle talking to a familiar figure.

“Of course.” The woman responded as two more woman began to approach from another side, out of Meaner’s sight. “I’d like to go in, if you don’t mind.” She moved so that the man would be facing her and wouldn’t see the two women. “By the way... uh... nice uniform.”

“Oh sure! I get to wear it all the time!” The oblivious guard answered as the two women managed to sneak around him and went through the entrance. “Though I hate it when it gets too hot–I mean, we’re practically wearing a huge chunk of metal over our clothes and it burns up! Not to mention all the sweat that gathers up–”

There was a sound of barking and the two looked to see Greg furiously barking at the woman with a glare in his eyes. The woman made an unpleasant face at him before darting through the entrance.

“Hey knock it off, mutt!” Meaner held his spear out at the dog. “We don’t want your kind around here!” The dog made a displeased whine and was about to go after the woman but then he heard a mewing sound and turned to see Lil’ Petey, who mewed again. The dog looked in distraught at the entrance to the castle one last time before heading after Lil’ Petey.

“Phew! Sorry about–!” Meaner turned around, but the woman already went into the castle grounds and was several feet away now. “Oh... wait, something was different about her.” The guard thought for a few moments. “Oh yeah, she must have bought herself a new outfit!” He smiled and nodded.

The woman he thought was Edith was not wearing the pink dress with blue lace, nor the chocker that he last saw her wearing that day. The gaudy dress she wore was a dark green and her chocker was red. He was right, but the guard did not sense what both animals sensed without even needing to get a proper look at the woman’s face.

A few minutes later the two animals came upon the abandoned looking house tucked away in the more run down part of Piqua. Fortunately for both of them, one window had a hole large enough to crawl through, which they did so after moving a small crate close enough towards it to hop on in order to get inside. This house was where the woman’s scent originated from, but they were picking up another smell that was more familiar.

Neither Lil’ Petey or Greg had to look too far to find the scent they were looking for. On a table in the largest room was a small cage and when the kitten and dog were able to go over and to get a good look inside, they were in for a surprise–the scent was coming from a small green chameleon.

Lil’ Petey meowed in confusion and shared a puzzled look with Greg for a few seconds before it clicked and he mewed again with more certainty. Greg let out a determined woof and looked through the room as throughly and as fast as he could until he came upon a key resting within view upon a chair, as if to mock the creature in the cage. He carefully grabbed the key with his mouth and hurried over to the cage.

******

“Miss Edith, are you alright?”

Edith moaned as she opened her eyes and found herself staring face to face with a very familiar orange kitten, and close beside him was a familiar tan-brown colored dog.

“Oh goodie, you’re alright!” The kitten chirped in delight while sounding like a child around Heidi’s age with the sweetest voice imaginable.

“You’re that kitten and dog from the children’s hideout!” Edith realized. “Wait, you can talk?!” Edith was now shocked. “Wait–you can actually understand me!”

“I think those weird woman we saw did this to you, but now you can talk with us, Miss Edith!”

“Wait a minute! How do you know it’s me?!”

“Even though they turned you into an animal, you still smell the same to us.” Lil’ Petey told Edith as Greg nodded in agreement. “One of them looks like you right now, but she smells icky–you can trick a human’s eyes, but not an animal’s nose! Oh, but you smell nice by the way–like the inside of a kitchen. Not like most of the mean adult humans around this town.”

Greg let out a “Woof!” in agreement. Edith was surprised to not hear him actually talking. “Why does he still sound like a dog to me?”

“He doesn’t talk and I don’t think he can. But we all understand him.” Lil’ Petey smiled at Greg, who affectionately patted his head with a forepaw.“Why were you turned into a chameleon?”

“Jennifer and the twins are trying to pass themselves off as myself and two maids to steal from the royal treasury and–oh no!” The chameleon’s blue eyes widened in horror. “They’re going to kidnap Harold and Heidi if they find them!” The chameleon ran towards the door as fast as she could, but to her dismay the body she was trapped in wasn’t as fast as she would have liked and because she wasn’t used to walking on four feet, she tripped and fell. “I can’t do anything like this!” She wailed. “They said it would wear off in three hours, but by then it’ll be too late!”

“Then let us help you!” Lil Petey approached Edith with a determined smile. “Besides, they shouldn’t have turned you into a chameleon. You know what they do best?” When she didn’t answer, he continued “They make themselves blend in!”

******

“So did you hear? Only a few citizens on the other side of the bridge were allowed to come to the castle for the Summer Ball!” A maid chatted with another maid.

“Yeah, I did.” The other maid nodded. “Apparently the queen found out that most of them were ganging up and throwing rocks at that underwear wearing weirdo, even though he was trying to save them from that weird armor. But it turns out the prince and that cute little friend of his were also with the guy at the time, and they were so close to getting struck too!”

“Oh wow, no wonder she was really mad that day!” The first maid gapped. “Who would be stupid enough to not realize that they are about to harm a ruler’s child?!”

“Hey!” The two maids looked back to see another set of maids. “You want us to take over for a bit?”

“Oh uh, sure that would be nice!” The first maid smiled in relief, not realizing that she had never seen either of the two maids before. “We actually needed to go clean up the room next to the treasury.”

“And where’s the treasury again?”

“Don’t you know? Upstairs in the north wing? It’s kind of hard not to miss.”

“But which door?!”

“Oh my gosh, that reminds me!” The second maid grabbed the other maid’s arm and lead her away. “Remember that time that really awkward looking guy who always whined came around and–?!”

Both maids–actually Zorxette and Klaxette in disguise–were equally annoyed but Klaxette turned to her twin sister and whispered “Perhaps we shouldn’t ask the airheads too many questions. Besides, the last thing I want is to have to actually clean up to make them fall for this, and God forbid if we have to clean any chamber pots.”

“Agreed, sister.” Zorxette grinned. “And even if we can’t find it, Jennifer will be able to find the thing that’ll set us for a life of luxury!”

********

Meanwhile, Lil’ Petey and Greg managed to sneak into the castle grounds through one of the side entrances. Edith was forced to ride the kitten and hold on as much as her form’s two fingered hands could be able to.

“You know Lindsey, when something says ‘keep out,’ someone always goes in anyway.” One guard said to this fellow guard as the animals snuck behind them.

“They’d better not.” Lindsey frowned and she pointed to the highest tower of the castle. “That tower is closed for repairs and it has a keep out sign for a reason.”

“Ok, so what do we do?” Lil’ Petey asked Edith as they approached the entryway into the inside of the castle. “What if those mean people make you look like the thief?”

“I’m more worried about what will happen if they capture Heidi!” Edith answered. “I need you to take me to her! I need Greg to find a girl named Erica and bring her to my sisters so that they can be captured! By the way, Erica is around George and Harold’s age and dressed in a uniform with her hair pulled back with a pink band.” She told Greg.

Greg let out a determined woof and hurried on ahead as Lil Petey asked “What about the queen?”

“She’s not here. I need someone I can trust in her place.”

*********

In the treasury, the greedy twins only saw money in place of the valuables and precious historical objects or family possessions. “We’d be set for two lifetimes!” Zorxette rubbed her hands in anticipation before noticing a certain crown resting on its own pedestal. She was about to grab it when–

“Wait a minute!” Klaxette grabbed her arm. “That’s the crown that was stolen a few months back! The queen was angry enough to execute the thief!”

“Yeesh!” Zorxette pulled a face and moved her hand away. “I don’t want something that’s cursed!”

“We’ll have to go for the smaller things.” Klaxette readied her bag and eyed a bronze and sapphire necklace, along with other sorts of jewelry resting on a display table. She went over and prepared herself as the other sister made to go after a collection of coins.

********

“Where could she be?!” Edith panicked and looked around for Heidi as Lil’ Petey took her through the large halls. The kitten had to hide whenever it appeared someone was going to come by and he hurried out of his hiding spot and went away as soon as they were long gone.

“I kind of know Princess Heidi’s scent.” Lil’ Petey admitted as he hurried up some steps. “Its like Harold’s, but with more flowers.” He thought for a moment as he quickly hid behind a vase.

“So you can tell when someone is good or bad by their scent?” Edith asked. It certainly explained why some animals reacted differently to various people.

“Yup! And a lot of the kids smell nice!” Lil’ Petey agreed.“But you know, there’s one human whose smell really confuses me and Greg. When he’s mean, he doesn’t smell nice. Then when he changes and is good to all the kids, he smells nice, but there’s still enough of the other smell to know that its still him.” He then hurried up the next set of steps. “But that bad smell isn’t as bad as it used to be. It’s starting to smell a bit like the nice smell.”

It took a few moments for Edith to realize who the kitten was referring to as they approached a doorway. “Wait, do you mean–?”

“Do you see the date for the Summer Ball?”

Edith and Lil’ Petey peered though the doorway to see George’s parents looking over an invitation. “It falls right on George’s birthday.” Barbra laughed at Moses. “He’s going to enjoy that!”

The kitten continued on his way. A few minutes later, he saw another person merging from out of a doorway. He darted behind some curtains, but Edith was accidentally knocked off of him.

Edith yelped and covered her head as the person began to emerge, but to the kitten’s amazement, the chameleon suddenly changed colors and vanished into the marble flooring.

The seamstress walked by, unaware of what just happened. “Oh thank goodness it’s almost over.” She smiled at some spools of dark pink thread in her hands. “Me and the girls will have the gown finished in record time once we get that embroidery done. She’s going to be a lovely sight at the ball.”

Edith looked up in confusion, but when she saw that her hands had changed colors she let out a yelp. “How did I do that?!”

“Maybe you got to believe and think really hard about what color you want to be?” Lil Petey offered. He watched as the chameleon stared at herself. She thought for a moment before thinking of changing the color of her form and to her amazement, she turned blue. She thought again and then turned pink with orange hearts.

“That’s amazing!” Edith laughed. She wanted to keep going, but she knew she had to focus.

*******

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” ‘Edith’–really Jennifer in disguise–had nearly torn up Edith’s bedroom in her attempt to see if the woman had acquired anything worth selling or keeping to herself upon leaving the castle. To her surprise, the youngest sister did have money stashed away, but she didn’t have any fancy jewelry or expensive objects at her vanity. All her dresses were too modest or plain and there was nothing on her bookshelf beyond a few books and personal treasures that held zero worth to the older sister. There was a fancy looking blue box, but upon realizing it was a music box, Jennifer scowled and left it alone since it was too much of a risk and didn’t look it it would fetch much.

“God, is she really that stingy?!” Jennifer huffed. “She’s living in a huge castle like a princess and she’s still acting like she did before daddy and mother kicked the bucket!”

Outside in the hallway, Lil’ Petey let out a worried ‘mew.’ “I smell the bad lady who looks like you, but I can smell Heidi–she’s nearby.”

Edith felt her heart race in terror. Heidi was dangerously close to Jennifer.

“She’s in there!” Lil’ Petey finally rushed to Harold’s bedroom, where the door was slightly opened. He squeezed through and the two found the little princess sitting at the round table and reading the homemade illustrated book that Harold and George recently worked on.

Heidi giggled at the pictures of Captain Underpants fighting the bad guys. She was still struggling with reading, but the pictures helped her understand the story. She then heard an odd chirping noise and looked down to see a bright green creature with the prettiest blue eyes she’d ever seen. “Oh, how did you get here?” Heidi set the book aside and carefully picked up the creature. “Are you a baby dragon?” Her eyes shone at the thought.

Despite the urgency, Edith smiled and let out a laugh, which came out as chirping to the girl.

“Harold and George must have snuck you in.” Heidi smiled and gently petted the chameleon’s side. She then heard a “Meow” and looked to see the kitten by the door. “A kitty too?!” She squealed in delight.

“Lead her to the kitchens!” Edith commanded.

Lil’ Petey hopped though the doorway.

“Wait come back!” Heidi protested as she got up and went after the kitten.

Edith let out a sigh of relief as Heidi carried her while going after Lil’ Petey down the hallway. If all went right, they’d avoid her sisters, wait until the potion wore off, and then–

“Your Highness?”

Edith felt her blood turn to ice as she heard her own voice, which made Heidi come to a stop. She had the sense to quickly blend into the colors of Heidi’s arms and her light pink and purple dress, while Lil’ Petey came to a stop and gave them a worried look.

“Edith?” Heidi asked with a smile as she turned around to face who she assumed to be Edith. Her smile dropped the moment she saw the woman’s face.

“I’ve been looking for you.” ‘Edith’ smiled, but Heidi didn’t like the smile. It was too wide and showed too much teeth. Even her eyes looked too huge, which looked wrong on the woman’s face–they were not Edith’s eyes. “Would you like to do something for fun with me for awhile?”

Heidi nervously took a few steps back before turning around and made a run for it.

Jennifer scowled. “Oh you little–” She snarled under her breath before letting out in a forced, cheery tone “Hey don’t be scared! I just want to have fun with my favorite princess!” She then hurried her steps towards Heidi as she and the kitten ran as fast as they could.

“She knows!” Edith realized out loud. ”She knows it’s not me!”

“Should we still hurry to the kitchens?!” Lil’ Petey asked.

“Try going to George’s parents!” Edith knew that she should have had the kitten go to the guards, but she didn’t trust them. With Grace gone, George’s parents were her only other option besides Erica. The only three left she could trust were unfortunately still missing.

****

Greg let out a furious set of barks the moment he spotted Erica reading ’One thousand and one nights’ in French on a bench in the gardens. The sun was getting closer and closer to sunset, making it harder to read outside, but the barking made the girl look up. “Whoa, aren’t you the dog from The Crusty Sandbox?” She asked in amazement.

Greg gently bit her shoe and tugged at it, making her realize that something was up. When she got up, Greg barked and lead her towards the castle when she followed him.

******

Heidi panted as she hurried as fast as she could. “I don’t think I can run much longer!” She confessed.

With quick thinking, Lil’ Petey hurried behind another nearby curtain. The princess took this as a hint and, with Edith still in her arms, she darted behind the curtain seconds before Jennifer made it around the corridor. “Where are you?” She practically sang as she walked down the hallway, not realizing Heidi was standing perfectly still behind one of the curtains. She was small enough that the lump in the curtains was barely noticeable; she stayed quiet and so did the creatures with her.

Klarxette and Zorxette turned a corner and waved when they saw their sister. “We got enough to get set up again!” Klarxette greeted as Zorxette shook what appeared to be a bag of laundry to signal their success.

“Shut it!” Jennifer hissed as she stormed towards the two. “We got bigger problems now! I found the princess, but then she ran off!”

“How did you lose her?” Zorxette asked.

“I don’t know, she got scared of me and ran. Maybe Edith scared her in the past.” Jennifer huffed. “But that girl is worth half the ransom we can get if we don’t get the brother too, and he’ll be worth more than her! We can’t spend all day running after her! Not when the spell on Edith’ll wear off in less than an hour!”

Heidi’s eyes widened at this.

“Well if we can’t find them maybe we can use Edith somehow?” Zorxette offered. “Force her to bring both siblings to us?”

“Find the girl first, then worry about that if we don’t!” Jennifer snarled. “Come on, let’s keep looking.” She continued on her way and the twins followed her.

Moments passed before Lil’ Petey peered out from behind the curtain. He looked up at Edith. “Ok I think they’re gone. Should we still go find George’s parents?”

“Yes, but go another way.” Edith told him. The kitten swatted at Heidi’s dress skirt for her attention and when she gave it to him, he mewed and went out.

“You’re helping me, kitty?” Heidi asked before following out. Lil Petey lead her back towards the same way they came to take another route. As Heidi hurried, she admitted “But I wish George and Harold were also here to come help! And Captain Underpants too!”

******

Hey, it’s George!

Ok, so let’s pause for a second. As you hopefully figured out by now, this chapter is actually taking place around the same time as the previous chapter–you know, where Madame Miyuki told us that Regenbogen was actually Captain Underpants the whole time as well as how to lift the spell? Oh and that Krupp started to hate our guts again after we were starting to do better with him?

So yeah, Madame Miyuki actually knew that all of this was going on while we were at her place and that was why she kept looking at the sky. So now the question remains–when exactly did she drop us into all of this when she sent us back?

****

In one of the many hallways, there was an explosion of purple sparks near the ceiling, followed by a flash of white and–

“WHEEEE!” Captain Underpants cheered as he fell to the floor. Moments later he let out a pained yelp when both George and Harold landed on his stomach.

“Whoa, where are–?!” George asked as he and Harold looked around. “Oh, I guess we made it back.”

“Yeah, that was quick!” Harold agreed. “Hey we got our stuff back!” He realized as everything they had was right beside them.

Then to the surprise of both boys a familiar looking dog charged down the hallway while letting out a series of barks. “Hey, isn’t that–?” George began.

“Where were you guys?!” The boys looked up to see Erica racing into view as she followed the dog. “You were gone for three days!” She paused to stop before the boys while the adult that they were still sitting on waved and greeted her with a “Hello!” “Actually, he was gone for that long too.” She realized as she looked at Captain Underpants (who was still dressed like Krupp at the moment). “Was he–?”

Realizing that Erica wasn’t following her, Greg let out a frantic whine and went back to tug at her shirt with his teeth. “What, what is it?!” Erica asked, but the dog barked and followed the scent he was trying to go after, causing her to hurry after him.

Greg ran as fast as he could go as two of the bad smells got stronger and stronger until finally he saw Klaxette and Zorxette walking as fast as they could away from him. Once he finally got close enough, he leapt forward and latched onto the white bag Zorxette was carrying and bit down into the cloth.

“Let go, you dumb mutt!” Zorxette shrieked as she and Klaxette came to a stop while Greg tore at the bag as much as he could while Jennifer stopped heading down another hallway and watched on in horror. Finally Klaxette went to pull the dog off, but because Greg had a mouthful of the bag in his mouth, this caused a tear to form when the dog was thrown to the side and several coins and a few jewelry began to spill out because of this.

“NO!” Klaxette screamed.

“So that’s why he was leading you to me–you were stealing!” The women looked up to see an alert Erica who quickly took out a whistle and blew on it as hard as she could to alert any and all staff and guards nearby.

“What good will that do you?!” Zorxette laughed as she and Klaxette were about to make a run for it when–

“I got them!” They found themselves grabbed by the wrists by none other than Captain Underpants. “Did I do good?!” He asked Erica as both women struggled to get out of his grasp.

“You did.” The girl smiled while George and Harold caught up in the nick of time. “Wow, we came right in the middle of a theft!” Harold realized. “Talk about not getting a break today!” He grinned at George while the two were unaware as to who was approaching them.

“Oh hello boys, what’s going on?”

The boys turned around, just as a few guards came into the hallway. They came face to face with Jennifer, who still appeared to look like Edith on the outside. “Well, looks like we have some unwanted thieves around the castle!” She laughed “Hopefully they didn’t take anything too valuable!”

Both boys just gave her blank stares.

“Say, you don’t know where your sister ran off to, do you?”

George looked out of the corner of his eye to see Greg growling at the woman and he frowned at this.

“Well, aren’t you going to say something instead of rudely making me wait around for an answer?!”

“Edith.” Harold merely said.

“Yes, that’s me. Now about your–”

“You’re not Edith.”

Jennifer froze for a split second.

“What are you talking about, of course I’m Edith!” She laughed nervously and gave them an uncomfortably large smile.

“No, you aren’t.” George shook his head as he and Harold gave the woman a suspicious look as the guards went to take the twins and arrest them.

“You boys are being ridiculous! You know it’s me, Edith, right?” She asked Captain Underpants, who stood behind the boys.

The boys turned around and expected him to smile and say ‘Why yes it is you!’ as he stared at the impostor for a few moments.

“You aren’t Edith.” Captain Underpants merely said with a frown.

***Five minutes later***

All three women had been tied up and the potion on Jennifer wore off faster than she anticipated, revealing her real appearance to everyone. During that time period, the boys threw what was left of the water in their canteen at Captain Underpants and now a very irritated Krupp was trying to dry his face off with his shirt. He was as far away from the boys as possible since he was still mad at them, but they didn’t care at that moment.

“How did you two not fall for the disguise?!” Jennifer demanded at George and Harold as a handful of guards plus Erica stood around her and her sisters.

“There were so many reasons you weren’t Edith, it wasn’t even funny.” George began. “For one thing, she’s never worn anything super fancy like that since coming here!” He pointed to the gaudy green dress. “And Greg’s never acted that way around her!” He pointed to Greg who was growling at the woman.

“And I’ve lived with her for nearly my whole life, so I know how she’d talk to us or react to what happened just awhile ago, and she never smiles like how you smile!” Harold added as he shuddered at the memory.

“I’m curious as why Captain Underpants wasn’t tricked either.” George whispered to Harold as quietly as possible. “I really thought he was going to fall for it.”

“Oh please, you think you know our little sister better than us?” Klaxette sneered at the boys. “We’ve known her a lot longer than you two!”

This caught both boys off guard. “Wait did you–?” Harold began.

“Did you say ‘sister?’” Harold and George turned to see that Krupp stopped drying his face off and stared at all three women with a strange look.

“That’s what she said, idiot!” Zorxette snapped at the adult. “That little runt who managed to land herself in this place and is living like a queen while we gradually fell into poverty and debt is our sister!”

The boys were shocked. “You’re Edith’s sisters?!” Harold nearly squeaked.

“Where is she?!” George demanded.

“Yeah, what did you do with her?!” Harold recovered and added as he remembered all too well what happened the last time something happened to her.

“Oh like we’ll tell you brats!” Jennifer snorted as Krupp remembered something Edith accidentally admitted to him in regards to her family some time ago, even as the boys asked the questions he had.

“I keep making so many stupid mistakes–I trusted my sisters and they sold me off to a witch like I was nothing to them!” It played in his head over and over again as he grew horrified over the implications of what was going on until that anger he was containing now found something to be directed at for a completely different reason.

“No, but a couple of days locked up will make you.” Krupp finally spoke up and the boys did not like the tone he was using. They could hear the hint of anger in it, but it was like he was trying to hold it back with every fiber of his being or else something much worse than what they were used to was going to come out at any second. “Trust me, you’re not going to like what’ll happen when I’m through with you.” He forced a smile that was very unpleasant to behold, like he was waiting to unleash the worst he could possibly do upon someone and found an unlucky suitable target. “Because I’m going to enjoy every second of it.”

The guards–who more than took the hint and were just as scared as the boys in that instant–began to take all three women away as the boys felt their skin crawl.

“What is going on here?” Barbra asked as she and Moses came in from the other end of the hallway. Heidi was with them and Lil’ Petey was walking beside her, and a certain chameleon who was not in disguise was still in her arms. Yet as they walked towards the others, the guards with the sisters crossed their path and Jennifer saw Edith, who was so busy looking at the boys in relief that she failed to realize she had been spotted.

Jennifer growled in fury–Edith somehow got free and she was going to return to her new life while she and the others were going to prison. Well not on her watch!

She reached into the pockets of her dress and pulled out a vial with a dark green liquid. She and her sisters had done much to get the potions from a certain sorcerer and they were not going to let it all go to waste.

“Have you seen Edith?” Harold asked Erica.

“She was here earlier today, but I don’t know what happened.” Erica shook her head.

“Hey what are you doing?!” All eyes turned to see that the guards were trying to stop Jennifer from drinking out of a vial, but the woman finished it off and threw it to the side.

“THIS ISN’T OVER YET–WE’RE NOT DONE WITH YOU, EDITH!” Jennifer screamed as a green smoke suddenly emitted from her body and began to engulf her. The twins realized what she did and laughed and as the guards were trying to get away from Jennifer, they too pulled out vials filled with a similar liquid.

“Uh oh.” George grimaced as Harold realized that something bad was going to go down and he quickly snapped his fingers at Krupp as the smoke covered all three sisters.

SNAP!

“Whoa hey, I’m back already?!” Captain Underpants asked with a grin, just as something bursted from the smoke.

In place of the oldest sister was a hideous abomination. She was green and misshapen and her arms and legs were replaced with tentacles. It came as such a shock that no one reacted to her until they realized that she was charging after Heidi.

“YOU’RE COMING WITH ME!”

Chapter Text

There was little to no time to keep the once human and now turned monster away from the princess that she was after. Moses tried to quickly jump in front of Heidi, but it was no good as Jennifer swiftly smacked him away with an alarming amount of strength and scooped up Heidi, along with the chameleon in the girl’s arms, and she let out a scream.

“YOU’RE COMING WITH US!” Another one of the creatures that had once been human emerged from the smoke and scooped Harold up.

“OH COME ON!” Harold screamed as he found himself getting taken away.

“HAROLD?!” George screamed as he immediately ran after Harold and the three creatures that rushed away as fast as they could.

“Oh that’s not good.” Erica turned to the guards, only to see that the smoke somehow knocked them out. “Capt–!” She began as she looked the other way, but all she saw was Barbara helping her husband up while Lil’ Petey meowed in worry at Greg. “Uh... where did he go?” Erica looked around for the missing adult.

*****

“GIVE ME THAT LIZARD!” Jennifer yanked the chameleon from Heidi’s hands and held her so that she was at eye level with her as she tried to hurry out of the castle. “WE’RE GOING TO MAKE YOU SUFFER WHEN THIS IS ALL OVER AND YOU’LL NEVER SEE THESE KIDS AGAIN!” She yelled at a very terrified Edith.

“I am not getting kidnapped again!” Harold tried to kick at the creature holding him.

“Well too bad kid, you’re going to make us loads of money real soon!” Zorxette snarled as she tightened her grip on Harold.

“Hey uglies!” George screamed as he finally caught up and threw himself at Zorxette and tightened his arms around her neck.

“UGH! LET GO!” Zorxette stopped and tried to pull George off.

“I’ll help you, sister!” Klaxette went over and grabbed onto George in an attempt to pull him off. As she did, Harold sized his opportunity and bit down on Zorxette’s arm as hard as he could. She screamed and accidentally let go of the blonde, who hurried after Jennifer.

“GIVE MY SISTER BACK!” Harold yelled as he reached for Heidi’s leg, but Jennifer quickly dodged him. “GIVE HER BACK!” He then grabbed Jennifer’s tentacle as Heidi tried to furiously punch her fists into Jennifer’s tentacle with little to no effect.

“Buzz off!” Jennifer made to shove Harold, but accidentally dropped Edith right into his messy hair before she was able to push him away. “Someone grab him!” She commanded.

“With pleasure!” Klaxette made to go after Harold, but George quickly slammed his foot down on one of her tentacles as hard as he could, causing her to scream. Meanwhile, Edith blended into Harold’s hair as he quickly ran away from Klaxette and was forced to dodge Zorxette.

“Now then–!” Jennifer was about to run off before she realized she lost something and looked down at her ‘hand’ to see that Edith was missing. “Wait–WHERE DID SHE GO?!” She looked around for the missing chameleon. “Where’s Edith?!”

“What?!” Harold stopped for a split second, only for Zorxette to wrap a tentacle around his arm and pull him away. “HEY LET GO!” He yelled as George quickly grabbed onto Harold’s arm and tried to pull him back.

“Fat chance, kid!” Zorxette sneered, but then she let out a scream and let go of Harold, leapt into the air, and grabbed her rear. “SOMEONE GOT ME IN THE BUTT!” Behind her, Erica smirked as she drew her sword back. “Ok, that was actually funny.” She admitted.

“Where is that stupid lizard?!” Jennifer yelled at her sisters, but as she was distracted, Heidi grabbed the tentacle that was around her and (like her brother) bit down as hard as she could.

The older sister screamed and let go of the girl, who fell to the floor, yet quickly got up and ran to Erica, who was gesturing for her and yelled “Hurry!”

“The little one is escaping!” Klaxette yelled as Heidi managed to dodge everything and grabbed Erica’s hand. Erica ran off with her away from the chaos, but the abomination made to go after them and moved as fast as she could. “GET BACK HERE, YOU–!”

SMACK!

Klaxette found herself getting kicked in the face by both of Captain Underpants’ feet when he flew into her.

“I’m not too late am I?!” He asked as he remained in the air and was dressed in his usual signature attire (or what little it was made up of). “It’s a good thing I found a cape in that stuff you guys left behind!”

“WHY WEREN’T YOU WITH US?!” George angrily demanded as Harold was forced to run from two of the sisters while the oldest was still trying to search for the chameleon.

“Well I can’t fight evil doers in clothing! It’s too restricting!”

George moaned and slapped his face as Harold stopped and pulled something out of his hair.

“Whoa, how did you get in my hair?!” Harold asked what he assumed was a normal chameleon as she changed from yellow to green.

“Oh cool, a chameleon!” George grinned in admiration.

“THERE SHE IS!” Jennifer yelled and pointed. “GET HER! AND GET THE BOY!”

“Huh?” Both boys looked at the creatures in confusion as Klaxette and Zorxette lunged after both of them. Something in Harold told him not to let them get the chameleon and before the sisters grabbed him and George, he threw her at Captain Underpants. “CAPTAIN, CATCH!” He yelled.

“Whoa!” The hero made to do so, but instead the chameleon latched onto the tie of his cape–briefly turning red with black dots in the process. He took her off, causing her to turn green again. “Oh hi, froggy!” He smiled at it.

“It’s not a frog, its a chameleon!” Harold tried to correct him as the sister who had him held him by his wrists and he tried to kick at her to break free.

Jennifer growled in frustration as she shoved her sisters to the side and grabbed and pulled at Captain Underpants’ ankle, forcing him to go straight down. He yelped and accidentally threw the chameleon, who went soaring through the air. “GIVE HER TO ME!” She screamed at him. “THAT PAIN IN THE NECK IS OURS!”

“Uh, I think I lost her.” The hero sheepishly showed his empty hands to the creature as Edith managed to land right near the door to the kitchens.

“WHERE IS SHE?!” Jennifer picked up Captain Underpants and furiously shook him as Edith slowly crawled into the kitchen and by the time she made it in, the oldest sister was none the wiser.

She was scared, she was a bit tired out, she wanted this all to end, she had violet smoke clouding her eyes–wait. She had violet smoke clouding her eyes?

Meanwhile, George and Harold grimaced as Jennifer thew Captain Underpants repeatedly into a wall in an attempt to get Edith off of him. “WHERE DID YOU PUT HER?!” She paused long enough to let him speak.

“I don’t know.” Captain Underpants moaned in pain. “I think I’m seeing stars floating around my head. Nope, I’m seeing stars and swirly things.” He corrected himself with a laugh.

Jennifer smacked him against the wall, but this time she grabbed him by the throat when she was done. “No one wants you around, so I might as well do everyone a favor and end your life if you won’t tell me!”

“NO!” The boys yelled as Captain Underpants tried to grab at the tentacles and pull them off of him, but the hold was surprisingly too strong for him.

“Why haven’t you idiots run off with the boy?!” Jennifer demanded to her sisters as both boys tried their hardest to break free from them with little success.

“Which one?” Klaxette asked. “You want both?”

Jennifer snarled and turned back to Captain Underpants. “We can’t leave until I take care of this oaf!” She tightened her grip, and the boys panicked as they saw that the man’s face was slowly turning purple. He kept struggling to pull free, but the creature merely laughed.

“Hey, you guys can take me if you just let him go!” Harold quickly pleaded.

“You shut it!” Jennifer snapped at Harold as Captain Underpants looked like he was about to pass out. “If none of you tell me where you put Edith–!”

Seconds later a frying pan went flying out and hit Jennifer very hard right in the side of her face, causing her to let go of Captain Underpants. He dropped to the floor and was gasping for air as the creature was clutching her face in pain.

“What the–?!” The sisters looked to see Edith–completely human now–with one hand out while the other held another frying pan as she glared at her oldest sister.

“Don’t you dare lay a hand on him.” She warned as she moved her hair out of her face and tucked it behind her ear as she began to walk towards them. “Now let go of those boys or else.”

The twins and even Jennifer (whose face was now hurting) were surprised to see their youngest sister be so defiant and angry rather than the fact that she changed back so soon. They barely noticed her shooting a brief, concerned look at the silly looking hero, who was giving her a thankful gaze as the purple faded from his face with each breath he took.

“Oh you little–!” Jennifer growled as she made to get up and go after Edith. Edith quickly dodged and slammed her heel into one of her tentacles, causing the creature to scream in pain before she was smacked in the face a second time by Edith’s second pan as hard as the woman could. When the twins yelled for their sister, Edith threw the second pan into the head of the sister holding Harold, forcing her to let go of him.

“Oh sweet!” Harold grinned as he grabbed the dropped pan. Meanwhile, George did the same thing Heidi and Harold did and bit down on his own captor’s hand and when she let go of him, and Harold smacked her in the side as hard as she could with his new weapon.

“Who knew frying pans could make great weapons?!” Harold grinned as he rushed at Jennifer, who was about ready to go after him. Right as she made to reach out at him, he threw the frying pan right into her face, making it the third time she suffered such a blow.

“Yeah, totally!” George grinned as he picked up the first pan while the other two made to go after him and Harold. He gleefully smacked the one closest to him before he and Harold hurried away.

“I DON’T THINK SO!” Klaxette yelled as she made to go after the boys, but Captain Underpants had recovered enough to quickly grab her by her tentacles and pull at them, causing her to fall painfully to the ground. He then lunged forward and grabbed both boys, but seconds after he accomplished this and flew into the air, George threw his pan at the creatures before they could grab Harold, forcing them to dodge for their lives.

“Get them out of here!” Edith commanded up at Captain Underpants. He obeyed and flew off with the two as fast as he could.

Edith let out a sigh of relief, but the moment all three sisters turned towards her with an awful look in their eyes, she realized that she was once again alone with them. Also she didn’t have any make shift weapons on her any more, which made it worse.

“You,” Jennifer venomously growled. “Our parents loved you more than us, everyone loved you, you always had to be pretty without even trying, after making you our slave and selling you off, you somehow still rose above us, and you just took our only way out of poverty!”

Edith felt her fear once again taking over as she backed away from what once were her sisters–in her eyes there was no difference between now and when they were human. She turned and ran as fast as her feet could take her away from them.

“GET BACK HERE!” They all screamed and chased after her, but she didn’t obey. She had no clue where she was running as the hallways were turning into one long, continuous maze.

“YOU THINK THEY’LL COME BACK FOR YOU?!”

She had to keep running, even as she felt her flats fall off her feet and she found herself barefoot like she had been for too many years.

“YOU’RE NOTHING! NO ONE IS GOING TO HELP YOU BECAUSE YOU AREN’T SPECIAL ENOUGH!”

“DO YOU HEAR THAT?! YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE A WHITE KNIGHT OR A PRINCE CHARMING AROUND TO SAVE YOU!” All three of them cruelly laughed at this.

She had to keep running–as long as the kids were safe (and as long as Benjamin was safe), everything would be fine, but she was still scared for her own life.

She didn’t want to go back to that awful life. Those three were no longer her real family. If they treated her so awfully in the past, she was fearful as to what would happen if they caught her now.

Edith continued to run without thinking of where to go. She heard her sisters getting closer and found herself running to an open door with a warning sign that said ‘ TOP FLOOR IS UNDER REPAIRS! STAY AWAY!’ But she paid no heed and ran through. She found herself running up a dark, spiraling staircase and the longer she ran the longer it seemed to go on forever and ever. Her throat was burning, her sides were hurting, and her legs were aching the more she ran up, but she could hear her sisters taunting her from behind and it forced her to keep going.

Finally she came upon light and found herself running out towards the sunset sky and already it was a lovely image of blues, pinks, purples, and oranges. She would have kept running until she realized where her feet took her to; she found herself at the highest tower of the castle, with only a few narrow stone spouts sticking out around it and some temporary wooden supports for the repairs.

She stopped to catch her breath, but her panic only grew worse as she was now trapped in a familiar scenario–she was stuck at the top of a tower.

“Oh Edith!”

She gasped and forced herself to move, but to her horror she found herself heading onto the nearest narrow spout and within moments she was standing on a stone surface wide enough for her to stand on but it was also several hundred feet above the ground. She looked back to see the ugly abominations laughing at her. “Where do you think you’re going?” Zorxette demanded. “To your death?!”

“Yeah, where else can you go?!” Klaxette giggled.

“You might as well give up. You don’t have anyone left to help you out and you don’t want us to pin the blame on you if something were to happen to the queen’s brats the next time we come back!”Jennifer warned.

Edith remained frozen on the spot. She had so few options and she wasn’t sure what to do. She was scared, but she didn’t want to be taken by her sisters, so what choice did she have–?

“There she is!”

She barely heard the words and looked down around her until she saw them– somewhere close by on one of the rooftops down below were three very familiar figures.

“There she is!” Harold yelled again and pointed to the bright pink figure high above the tower as he stood beside George, while Captain Underpants stood behind them.

Edith stared at the trio before turning to her sisters. “If you won’t come, we’ll make you!” Jennifer one growled and she began to move her way towards Edith.

“Same here!” The other two growled as they readied themselves to move after her.

Edith once again looked down at the small trio who were far away as a thought struck her–she knew what had to be done.

She wasn’t scared at what she would have to do.

After so many years of being held in a tower high above ground and cut off from the rest of the world, she no longer feared heights. In fact, it was welcoming at this point.

It was a long way down to the ground, but that meant plenty of time...

Without even hesitating and upon summoning the courage she wished she had so many years ago, Edith took one final look at her sisters before she turned around and ran the rest of the way before she leapt off the spout and into the empty air.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” The sisters screamed.

Harold screamed as he grabbed his hair, George slammed his hands over his eyes, but Captain Underpants leapt forward and into the air only a split second after experiencing a strong bout of terror.

Edith kept her eyes shut as the wind roared into her ears, as it made her hair fly around her and made her dress flap around her legs, and how it almost tickled her bare arms and feet. Her stomach was flip flopping inside her and her heart beat almost felt non-existent.

Two seconds was all it took.

Two seconds of free falling through the air and away from the nightmare of all those years ago.

Two seconds before she felt a pair of arms quickly and carefully catch her before she found herself slowing down.

She opened her eyes to see who she hoped she would see.

“Are you alright?!” Captain Underpants was still in a panic as Edith looked at him while he was closely holding her with no intention of letting her go.

Instead of immediately answering, Edith smiled and moved in to hug him–wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her face into it. “Sorry I scared you there,” She finally answered. “But I knew you’d come for me.”

He was momentarily stunned at this. Yet it didn’t last for long as he smiled and hugged her back without saying a word. He was just so happy that she was safe and sound and it was all he could ask for in that moment (even if he still couldn’t get over how scary the whole thing had been).

George and Harold stared up at the two flying in mid air before the latter finally collapsed onto the ground in a terrified daze. “I thought something really bad was going to happen.” Harold barely let out.

“Yeah...” George nervously laughed. “Good thing that didn’t.”

The sisters roared and repeatedly slammed their ‘feet’ against the spout in anger. How could their sister once again escape from their punishment?!

However, they were all standing upon the stone water spout which was badly cracked and was only strong enough to hold one adult who was under two hundred pounds. The added weight of all three was too much and they didn’t notice when it had began to tremble and shake.

Finally the spout couldn’t take the weight any longer and it broke off before the three knew what was about to happen.

The air was filled with screaming and the only person who could have saved them was too focused on Edith, and by the time he saw them fall it was too late. Everyone watched as the three nasty sisters fell and–

******

Sorry, but due to the graphic nature of their deaths, the writer’s higher ups insist that she not show it happening in order to keep the story kid friendly. Instead she can show something that serves as a representation of what happened.

******

“And ker-splat!” Bo slammed his clay onto the table, which immediately flattened upon impact. “Now we punch the air holes out!” He told Gooch and repeatedly slammed his fists into them.

“I got to admit, using aggression to create art is a good way to vent out your anger.” Gooch said before smiling. “I want to do it too!” He then proceeded to copy Bo and the two punched the air holes out of the clay.

****

Ok, back to the story.

****

All eyes stared at the ground as everything went dead silent.

Edith could only stare in horror before she quickly hid her face into Captain Underpants who was grossed out and winced at the sight.

George and Harold were both horrified and grossed out.

“Oh no, here it–!” George turned green and turned around to throw up as Harold shook his head and used his hair to cover his eyes.

Farther down below, some unlucky guards were also horrified and grossed out.

“See!” Lindsey told them. “That’s why you don’t go where they tell you to keep out!”

••••

Fortunately the staff worked to fix the issue and while some were forced to clean a certain spot on the castle grounds, others had what remained of the three sisters thrown onto a wagon and their bodies were covered up before they could be taken away.

Elsewhere inside the castle, Heidi was safe with George’s parents, and the queen had yet to return so everyone was uneasy about how to explain what happened to her.

George and Harold were sitting down on some nearby steps while Captain Underpants stood by them, with Edith still wrapped in his arms. The poor woman had fallen asleep during all the chaos, but the boys were equally traumatized over what they saw.

“We just saw three people die.” George could only say.

“We did.” Harold agreed. “I mean, it’s not the first time, but it was a lot worse.”

“Did you know they were her sisters?”

“She never talked much about them, but she didn’t like it whenever she did...” Harold’s voice trailed off when he saw Captain Underpants still holding Edith.

“Hey Captain?” George asked the man, who almost jumped upon being addressed. “How did you know that woman wasn’t Edith?”

Captain Underpants looked at the boys before looking at Edith. “Those weren’t her eyes.” He finally answered. “They weren’t blue.”

The boys instantly understood.

“Hey,” Harold thought for a bit. “Maybe you should take her to Krupp’s house? I don’t think she’ll want to be here for the night. Also tell her we said thank you for helping us and that we’re glad she’s safe.” He quickly added.

Captain Underpants thought before he nodded. “Yeah, I can do that.” He agreed. “Well, good night!” He smiled and went away.

“Night!” The boys waved until he was gone.

“Oh man, this was a long day!” George groaned and held his face in his hands. “I’m glad it’s almost over!”

“Yeah, but now we got new problems.” Harold frowned. “We got to lift that spell off Krupp before anyone finds out Captain Underpants has the last of the flower in him. There’s no telling what’ll happen if that happens.”

“I don’t know if we can.” George admitted as both Greg and Lil’ Petey came up to them. “And now that Krupp hates us again, it’ll make things a lot harder.” He sighed as he picked up Lil’ Petey and petted him, causing the kitten to purr as he nuzzled closer into the boy.

Harold shut his eyes and thought back to what Madame Miyuki whispered to him in his ear. It still didn’t make sense to him, but what if it had to do with their new problem? When he felt Greg rest a forepaw on his leg, the blonde opened his eyes and smiled at the dog before he began to pet his head.

“I hate to say this,” George stared up at the sky. “But I have a feeling that something is coming. Like sooner or later we’ll have something to deal with that we might have forgotten about.”

*****

Edith stared at the half filled cup in her hands as she sat on the sofa. She was wearing a white shirt that was far too large for her while her dress was folded on a nearby chair. She also had a (very rarely used) lilac colored blanket draped upon her legs, which also kept her modestly covered.

Sitting across from her was Benjamin who was casually dressed after he was switched back. She told him what had happened, but it had been so long since she said anything that it was making him uncomfortable. It wasn’t as bad as having to acknowledge that, yes, he gave her one of his shirts and was practically bare legged under that blanket and he was trying to hide his blushing face from her as he stared off elsewhere. This was not how he imagined his day would end, which already went from bad to worse.

“I don’t feel sad.”

He faced her, relieved to hear her speak again, but she had a confused gaze. “They were my sisters–they were once my family–but after all they did, I couldn’t even cry for them when they–” She shuddered. “That doesn’t make me a bad person, does it?”

“No!” Benjamin protested. “Why should you?! They don’t deserve anyone’s pity, especially from you of all people! They should of gotten a lot worse for what they’ve done! I know what it’s like when someone close to you belittles you and lets you down, but what they did–!” He stopped.

He was angry. He would have given anything to make the sisters suffer for what they did to Edith. The moment he had his chance, he wanted to feel in control over something–he wanted to have something to take his anger out over a few things, and giving into that familiar sadistic glee was almost welcoming. He wanted to vent and to correct a wrong in the ways he knew best.They deserved to pay and to suffer a lot more, but they were long gone now, which was preferable considering all that had happened to Edith today.

“No... it doesn’t make you a bad person.” He slowly admitted. But that should have been him that was there when she needed him. Not the other guy. Which reminded him of a certain revelation about his personal problem that was starting to make him angry again. There was just too much to be angry at today.

He got up and began to walk away when Edith reached out to grab his hand. “Wait!”

He looked down–she seemed nervous as she slowly loosened her hold on his hand. It had a strange calming effect on him as he felt that anger gradually fade away.

“Can–” She shyly stammered as she looked up at him. “–Can you just... stay for a bit longer? Or can I just stay here a bit longer? Please?”

Without even thinking about it, he replied “Uh... sure.”

She gave him a grateful smile. “Thank you.”

So he sat by her and stayed put. He sat when she asked him where he was and he somewhat reluctantly began to tell her nearly all that had happened, from Lisa and Billy and that dragon, to the journey he was forced to go on with the boys and all the weird moments that happened. She listened the whole time, even though he wasn’t a great story teller and half the time he was ranting and complaining over one thing or another, and when she laughed over something, he couldn’t help but listen to how unique and pleasant it was. Both of them were able to forget everything they had to go through that they didn’t want to recall until they had to deal with it tomorrow morning.

He sat as she finished her drink and stared at the bottom of it, lost in thought, yet her eyelids were drooping. He dreaded getting to the part with the strange woman with the purple eyes, but before he got to that point she finally shut her eyes and her body gently fell into his side.

He was startled–his heart was beating faster than usual. And as he looked down at her peacefully sleeping against him with mouth slightly opened, he realized that this was surprisingly pleasant and strangely familiar. He was not used to such intimacy and while he heard exaggerated descriptions of how it was supposed to feel–like fire burning at you, or like ocean waves surging through your body–this just felt nice.

He wanted to stay longer, but he saw the cup in her loose hands. He carefully moved her against the sofa before he took her cup and went over to the kitchen table which for some reason now had a green table cloth and a basket of food. He was surprised to see it the first time and he didn’t have time to look at the message by the basket. Now curiosity overtook him and he set the cup down as he picked up the message and read it.

Hey, don’t know when you’ll be back. I hope you don’t mind, but I thought I’d tidy up parts of the first floor and left a few things for you (some of it I made myself). If that’s alright with you that is. Sincerely, Edith.

Benjamin looked up from the letter to look at the basket and the new table cloth before looking at the main room. He didn’t realize it, but now it did look a lot more organized and he saw that the dead plant was replaced with a new one. It looked a lot more open and welcoming.

Edith was now sleeping on the sofa. She was oblivious to him staring at her and wondering why she would want to do something like this for him when he never asked for it. Yet he didn’t feel mad and he did appreciate what she did, even if it confused him. That sofa didn’t look comfortable enough for her to sleep on.

Not realizing what he was doing, Benjamin went over to pick Edith up–blanket and all–and held her close. It was so easy to do it since she felt incredibly light to him, thanks to the increased strength he had. He headed over to the stairs and made sure that she didn’t hit anything as he went up.

After what felt like an eternity, he carefully placed her on his bed. She barely reacted when he moved her hands away from her and somewhat awkwardly tried to make sure that the blanket covered most of her up without trying to touch her. He moved back and stared at his handiwork when he was finished.

She was sleeping in his bed as if it was so natural to her.

Something in his brain clicked.

She was sleeping in his house. While wearing one of his shirts. In his bed. On his pillow.

She was sleeping so peacefully and still looked lovely in this state.

He wanted to reach out and touch her–it was like that day of the festival and the lights all over again, when he wanted to do the same thing and he swore that he was acting too fast. To his dismay those urges returned in full force and when he realized his hand was about to brush her hair out of her face, he had to snap it away as if she were fire.

He slumped to the floor and rested his back against the wall as he stared at her and as he was processing what was happening to him. He was wanting to deny it, but he couldn’t deny how much he wanted to care for her and make sure that she was safe, which was something he would never have felt before meeting her and would have laughed at. He liked having her around and he was terrified over what could of happened if something had happened to her because he wouldn’t have forgiven himself–

He tore his fake hair off and grabbed his head in frustration and shut his eyes. There was a word to sum up what he was going through–he didn’t like being so caring and yet so scared all at once. It was making him feel weird in his stomach and in his chest.

He was supposed to be the guy everyone hated and who he hated right back. He wasn’t supposed to feel these things, yet he was feeling them towards the sweet hearted woman who was currently asleep in his bed thanks to him.

If this was what he thought it was, then he was doomed.

Chapter Text

“FINALLY!” A certain short man yelled as he and a certain general rode in a circular vehicle together as someone else managed its controls. “Tomorrow I shall have my revenge!”

“Of course, Herr Professor.” The general agreed. “Piqua will fall under New Swissland and we will become more powerful.”

“Yes, yes, yes.” The man casually waved. “But more importantly I will have revenge! My honor will be restored!” He laughed. “And there is nothing anyone can do! Try as they might, there will be no one from that insufferable kingdom who can stop me!”

••••••

It had been about two weeks since the incident involving the three sisters at the castle. As of today, George and Harold were hanging out by one of the castle balconies and were enjoying the warmth of the sun in the clear blue sky. They were also re-reading two very special letters that they had forgotten about and didn’t get until today, which decided their very futures.

“‘It is to my great delight that I can confirm that you have passed all tests.’” Harold read his letter.

“‘Starting on the last week of August, you will attend our school at the fourth grade level.’” George also read. “‘I expect you to put in as much effort as possible in your studies, but I also hope that you will have fun and get the most out of this opportunity.’”

“‘We all look forward to seeing you.”” Harold concluded as he grinned at George. “I actually get to go to a school with you!”

“I know!” George cheered. “I thought it wouldn’t be possible, but we did it! And I’m actually looking forward to going to school for a change! There’s so much to do, like make stories for the other kids, play on the school grounds, play pranks–!”

“And no more grouchy adults to be stuck around with!” Harold exclaimed. “We wouldn’t have to deal with Krupp as much anymore!”

George let out a nervous laugh. “Yeah... true...” He sighed and frowned. “He’ll never stop being angry with us. We can avoid him all we want, but–” He scowled. “Why should I even care? He made it clear that he doesn’t want us around!”

“True,” Harold agreed as he stared at the sky. Ever since that one particular day, they had actively tried to avoid Krupp to the point that they didn’t even risk pulling a prank in the castle. They couldn’t fix the mess, so there was no telling what could happen next if they really ticked him off. It didn’t bother the adults too much and they actually welcomed the sudden change of calm in the castle.

“Never mind him.” George forced a smile. “Anyway, about the pranks you can do at school.”

********

“Your Majesty!” Melvin tried to stay calm, though his heart was beating with excitement. “I would like to introduce you to my newest creation! I have been perfecting it to make it better and I am proud to show you the newest model! A model for a creation that will make fighting against future armies safer for us and guarantee an advantage against them!”

Melvin gestured to the newest model of the Knightmare Knight. It took some time, but he was able to build a new model and had a chance to make slight improvements. “All one has to do is enter it and control it as if it were their own body! It’s practically impenetrable and it will carry objects ten times too heavy for a regular human to carry!”

Off to the side, his parents watched on with proud smiles. In front of him was Grace, along with one of her advisors. The queen gave the contraption a cautious, yet curious look. “How exactly is this being powered?” She asked.

“Well, it needs the right fuel.” The boy answered as he went over to a table and took out a glass container where the yellow crystal rested. “Most magic folk use special devices or objects to help increase their power, and I figured one such object could help amplify the machinery. I had someone give this to me and it actually works like a charm!” He grinned. “What do you think?! Should I give you a demonstration right now?!”

The queen frowned and didn’t say a word as she looked at the crystal, then to Melvin, to his parents, then back to the crystal.

“Melvin, you are a bright young man with much potential.” She began. “We will be lucky to have you in our future and your parents speak very often of you to me.” The parents in question smiled at each other. “It’s just...”

“Just what?” Melvin asked and panicked. “I know it needs a few more test runs!”

“I don’t recall you using magic in your work until now and I am questioning your knowledge of it. Do you even know what that crystal is capable of?”

“Yes, it’s a power source! It’s like I just said!”

“I understand. But what happened the last time you tested your invention out with it?”

“It went a bit haywire and developed a mind of it’s own!” Melvin merely shrugged. “I’m working on adjusting how the crystal conducts its energy through the machinery so that it won’t happen again.”

“I’m sure you can, but you are using something that neither you or I have expertise in. I forbid continuing this project until you can find a safer means of testing these things out first.”

Melvin was stunned. Did the queen just forbid him from continuing with one of his greatest achievements?! “B-but-!” He stammered. “You don’t understand! I’m so close to getting this right! And you are telling me to stop?!”

“If that crystal has given you trouble in the past, I’d advise against using it for the time being.” Grace calmly commanded. “In the wrong hands, magic can be highly dangerous or come with an unexpected consequence. I am curious to see how combining both magic and science can change our lives, but it can also bring disaster, which I can’t allow until I know it won’t harm others under proper control. Now if you excuse me, I need to go, but I appreciate what you’ve shown me and would like to hear from you after awhile.” She turned around and walked out, along with her advisor.

“You can’t do that!” Melvin angrily protested. “How can I make it work if I can’t keep testing it out?! You can’t halt progress if you keep us from experimenting!”

“It’s ok, son.” The boy’s mother placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “We can figure something out.”

Once Grace and her advisor was outside and on their way to the castle, the queen was in deep thought. We’ve had enough trouble caused by magic. She reflected. I can’t let another’s life be ruined by it. Not after I lost Harold from it.

“Long time no see, Your Majesty.”

Grace froze at the sound of the deep voice. She turned around to see a face she hadn’t seen for nearly ten years. “Sir Ree?!” She exclaimed.

******

“And we’re done!” The seamstress smiled with pride as she and her assistant stepped away from Edith so that she could turn around to face herself in the mirror and see the newly finished ball gown she had been wearing while the other two could do the finishing touches.

The outer layer of the gown was a lovely pale lemon yellow while the dress split down the middle to reveal a soft blue fabric. The short sleeves were adorned with jewel pink trim as well as on the edges of where the skirt split, while the embroidery alongside it was done with a similar colored thread. At the center of the bodice where there was blue, there were also embellishments of varying shades of pink fabric that seemed to wave down and meet together at the waistline. While the gown was not extravagant like most dresses of the time, the simplicity combined with the color combinations made it lovely. Its owner was rendered speechless.

“I need a moment.” The seamstress sighed as she made to leave. “Give me a few minutes and I’ll be back.”

“I’ll come with you!” Her assistant followed the woman out of the room and left the door wide open.

Edith continued to stare at herself in wonder.

An excited smile grew on her face as she turned this way and that way to see the different angles before a fun idea came to mind. She moved closer to the center of the room and proceeded to spin around, watching as the skirts twirled around with her and they momentarily kept going when as she stopped before they flowed back to their usual position.

Caught up in the moment, Edith grinned and began to spin again, this time without stopping, while imaginary music played in her head. She started to laugh and, as it just so happened, Benjamin had been walking down the hallway and when he heard her, he stopped to peer into the room she was in as she began to hum the tune from her parents’ music box.

He was not expecting her twirling around in a dress that seemed suited for a princess and he was transfixed to the point that he didn’t move.

For some reason, that song she was humming sounded familiar, but he swore he never heard it before.

Edith continued to twirl around with her eyes shut and her arms out. She finally opened her eyes and when she saw who was with her, she quickly stopped and her humming turned to breathless giggling as she stumbled and the skirts stopped moving.

“Oh, uh,” She gave Benjamin an awkward smile and blushed as she fixed her hair and tucked it behind her ears. “Uh–don’t mind me, I was just–” She stammered. “I’ve never worn something this fancy before. I thought I’d have a bit of fun with it.”

“Wha–” Benjamin finally snapped out of it. “I don’t mind!” he quickly replied. “You–” He stared at her appearance again. “You look... nice.” Was all he could say.

He didn’t realize she could be even more beautiful until just then. He knew it would probably take a few more adjustments until she would look as if she belonged to that part of the world that you could only dream about or be a part of with enough money. The more she changed, the more she’d be a part of society that he couldn’t stand, and yet that sweet compassion and playfulness to her would keep her from becoming completely like one of those air-headed idiots. The more she changed, the further and further out of reach she’d be from him until she could do better than be hanging around with him.

“The queen–I mean Grace–invited me to the summer ball awhile ago.” Edith explained. “I told her she didn’t have to do this,” She gestured to the dress “I mean, I never did a lot of social events before–she said she wanted me to at least have something nice to wear–well anyway,” She changed the subject. “I guess I need to work on the dancing part.” She let out a nervous laugh as she walked towards him.

“Well, if everyone is going to spin around in circles at one point, I’m sure you’ll get it down in no time.” He replied, unsure if it was the right thing to say or not, but she chuckled.

“True,” She admitted. “But it is a lot of fun!” She then took Benjamin’s hand and he watched as she raised it high and held on to him as she spun once more, with her skirts fanning out again. “You should try it sometime!” He smiled as he watched her before she finally came to a stop and had to hold onto his hand in order to steady herself.

“I’m sure you’ll have fun.”

“But you’ll be there too, won’t you?” Edith asked. “Well I mean, I suppose you have to if you’re needed to make sure–”

“I never liked dances.” He bluntly admitted. “Too noisy, too much happiness and laughing, and–”

“But what about the festival?” Edith pointed out.

Benjamin hesitated before he finally admitted. “Even if I have to just stand around doing my job, there’s still a chance that–” He raised his free hand and made as if to snap, but didn’t actually make the sound. “And in a place where there’s going to be a lot of annoying rich people who like to talk and travel around? If anyone found out–if one thing goes wrong or if he decides to humiliate me right in the middle of the room–” He shuddered at the thought. So many things could go horribly wrong.

“Oh,” Edith understood Benjamin’s visible discomfort as he stared at the floor. “Well, I’m not forcing you or anything. I mean it would be nice to be able to dance with someone I know–I mean, see someone that I know!” She blushed and, unknown to her, so did he at the thought, yet neither of them saw one of the doors to the room open up. “But I don’t want to put you through it if it makes you uncomfortable!”

“Oh–!” Harold quickly shut his mouth and stopped opening the door as George peered through and froze when he realized who was already in the room. Neither of them dared to move an inch, and as much as they wanted to get the heck out of there, they were too curious and wanted to see what was happening.

Benjamin tried to think of something to say, but all he could do was let out a sigh of dismay, which made Edith think.

“Hey listen,” Edith drew Benjamin’s hand close to her, causing him to look at her. “I told you before, and I’ll tell you again. If I’m around and there’s ever a time you don’t want to change,” She gently squeezed it in reassurance. “Even if it takes longer than you’d like, and no matter how I need to do it, I’ll always bring you right back. Because I don’t want you to feel scared to the point that you miss out on things.”

Benjamin nervously looked at her hand holding his before looking up at her with her reassuring smile. What sacred him was that, despite his fears, a part of him badly wanted a chance to be with her that night and didn’t want to see her dancing with another man. He wanted to just have one normal night with her–with a girl he really liked and cared about.

“Edith,” He adjusted his hand until he was holding hers. His hand clenched a little, but she didn’t try to move it away. “Um,” God, he felt like he was going to sweat like crazy as his heart rate went up. “I–I mean–if you really want–”

Someone walked up to the still wide open door nearest to them. “Hey are you–?”

“DO YOU NOT KNOW HOW TO KNOCK?! I’M HAVING A PRIVATE MOMENT WITH SOMEONE!” And just like that, Krupp went back to his usual self when he turned and yelled with rage at the unsuspecting newcomer, causing Edith as well as the boys to flinch while the latter two were finding themselves thankful that they chose a different door.

The man who opened the door widened his eyes, but he didn’t even flinch and soon relaxed. “I see you’re still the same, Benjamin,” He noticed Edith and gave her a thoughtful look before turning back to him. “Never had much of a chance to talk with you after you replaced me.” He continued as Krupp began to instantly recognize him and internally his anger only increased, along with his old annoyance at the man.

“Oh... it’s you, Ree.” His voice lowered, yet was still harsh.

“Who’s that guy?” Harold whispered to George.

“I guess that’s the previous Captain of the Guard.” George admitted. “Everyone liked him more than Krupp.”

“I know you’re busy and all, but there’s an urgent matter that needs to be attended to at the moment.” Ree explained.

“And what could possibly be important that you’d come running back after so many years?!” Krupp now had a new reason to dislike the man for interrupting his time with Edith.

“It’s a–” Ree paused, sighed, and pinched his nose as if he was going to regret saying it. “It’s.. it’s a Poopypants problem.”

A silence fell.

“A what now?” George asked as he and Harold began to quietly snicker.

“Excuse me?” Krupp raised an eyebrow at this.

“It’s Poo–It’s Professor Poopypants!” Ree finally let it out and threw his arms out for emphasis. “He and New Swissland are coming to attack–!”

The boys couldn’t take it anymore and they ended up laughing at what they were hearing.

“Did he just say–?!” Harold giggled. “Did he just really say ‘Professor Poopypants?!”

“He did!” George laughed. “He really–!”

The boys suddenly realized it was too quiet and that they were the only ones making a sound.

They looked up to see all the adults were looking at them, and the one that they had been trying to avoid was giving them a look as if he was going to explode with a few choice words as he gritted his teeth and barred them at the two.

“RUN!” Harold yelled as he and George did just that.

*****

“Ok, but seriously, I don’t know what’s going on!” George moaned as he and Harold tried to find the queen’s study. “I never even heard of a ‘Professor Poopypants’ until now!” He and Harold couldn’t help but let out another laugh at this.

“Well I never heard of him or ‘New Swissland!’” Harold admitted.

“Well, you missed out on some things, Beard.” Both boys almost screamed as they turned around to face Erica, who was casually resting her back against the wall. “And I guess you’ve never heard of it yet, Harold.” She admitted as she crossed her arms and began to tell the tale. “See, New Swissland is a lesser known and explored kingdom–more so than Piqua. On one hand, it’s known for being a bit more advanced technologic-wise than everyone else. On the other hand, it’s infamous for its citizens having ridiculous names, like ‘Snuffles McTooty’ or ‘Loopy Butterbin–’” She paused when the boys instantly bursted into laughter “Or ‘Crazycoot Rednosehair,’ or ‘Lady Snotzebelle Stinkpit–’” more laughter. “And Professor Poopypants?” She had to stop one more time as the boys laughed once again over the ridiculous sounding name. “He’s the most powerful and respected scientist of that kingdom to the point that he’s almost on equal footing with its rulers.”

“Anyway, the queen invited him to come to our kingdom in hopes of an alliance and maybe even find ways to find Harold, so this was a few years back.” She pointed to Harold. “So there was this big dinner and her and many big shots from this kingdom were all gathered to work out what we both could give to each other. And he was promising all these really cool inventions at the time, so all was well... until... well, the queen didn’t get his name until that very night–”

******** Some years ago**********

“Well, we certainly look forward to working with you, and I will send my best ambassador to come pay a visit to New Swissland.” Grace looked up and smiled at Lady Wang, who smiled back as her daughter quietly observed all that was going on.

“Yes, I’m sure you’ll be more than impressed.” The short scientist nodded as he handed a paper to her. “So here’s this document to give to the king. It covers the basics and you sign this, saying that you’ll agree to everything and more.” Then it hit him. “Ah wait, I need to sign it first! I have to prove I was actually here for all of this!” He took a pen out and got right to it. Nearly everyone and especially the hopeful Sneedly family were watching with anticipation while an incredibly bored Krupp barely held back a yawn as he stood near the queen.

“There!” The scientist grinned and handed the paper back to Grace. The woman smiled as she accepted the document, but then frowned when she saw the name. “Uh... is this a joke?” She raised an eyebrow at the short man. “That’s not really your name, is it?”

“Yes, it is. It’s a traditional New Swissland name.”

“So... your last name... is really... I mean, is it really Poopypants?”

Surprised by hearing such a word from the queen’s mouth, and fully believing that there was indeed some sort of joke, almost everyone in the room began to snicker or laugh behind their hands.

“Uh, no, it’s really my name.” The man frowned. “It really is ‘Poopypants.’”

At this, almost everyone (save a few) laughed.

“So, like, it’s true then?!” Lady Gordon chortled. “You all have ridiculous names like that one?!”

“It’s not ridiculous!” Poopypants’ appointed guard protested as they saw the all too familiar anger grow in the short man. “Poopypants is a respected name in our country!”

“So what else do they call you?!” One lord guffawed. “‘Turd Trousers?!” This caused the laughter to grow.

“Hey, I really don’t think this is helping us out!” Lady Wang protested, but no one heard her over her laughing as she shared an worried look with the queen.

“Or ‘Pee-filled pantaloons?’” Lady Gordon jabbed, making them all laugh some more.

“I AM NOT GOING TO LET YOU ALL DISRESPECT MY NAME LIKE THIS!” Poopypants couldn’t take it any more and roared. “YOU HONESTLY EXPECT ME TO HELP YOU OUT WHEN YOU MAKE FUN OF ME LIKE ALL THE OTHER COUNTRIES?!”

“And what’s that kid’s name?!” The lord pointed to the appointed guard. ‘Dungstain?!’”

“Uh... actually it’s ‘Lumpy Snotrag.” The guard meekly answered, which only caused more laughter and only a few like the queen were aware of the increasing anger of Poopypants.

*******Present day*****

“To make a long story short, your mom wasn’t able to calm things down, everyone acted like an idiot, and he swore revenge for something that could have easily been resolved with an apology.” Erica shrugged. “And that’s why Sir Ree came back to Piqua to prevent it from happening.”

“So...” George and Harold realized as the former spoke. “Someone is actually coming to attack Piqua?”

“Yeah, and from what Ree told me, it will happen right about–”

*****

“TOMORROW?!” Krupp practically screamed as Grace shot Ree a disturbed look, and even the others in the room were hoping against hope it was a joke.

“I’m not joking, he should be coming right around tomorrow.” Ree answered, unaware that Erica had snuck the boys into the room where she and them were hiding under a table covered with a long blue cloth.

“And there’s no border families on that side to warn us if you hadn’t come.” Grace moaned as she held her head in her hands.

“Well it shouldn’t be a problem, right?” One advisor laughed nervously. “Just a quick evacuation and then attack them head on?”

“It wouldn’t be that easy.” Ree frowned at him. “They have military equipment that would make Piqua and any other country look like a complete joke. And even if we had a similar chance, I honestly doubt it would be much. Not only has it been so long since there was an attack on us from another country, but...” His eyes darted towards his successor.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?” Krupp asked.

“I’m sorry, but years of just patrolling the kingdom and trying to focus on crimes and other wrongdoings within it don’t count as being even close to prepared.”

“Are you saying I can’t lead an army to–!” He got mad at first but then he paled “To... oh... oh,” He realized just how bad the situation really was, but then shook his head. “Well at least I stayed! Where were you all these years?!”

“Well, while you stayed and let the Queen’s troops slack off and fall into a false sense of security, I actually did my research and some spy work in New Swissland.” Ree frowned at Krupp.

“I DID NOT LET THEM SLACK OFF! I ACTUALLY DID THINGS–!”

“Please shut up, Krupp!” All eyes stared in surprise at Grace, who was rubbing her fingers against her temples. “I’m not in the mood for your yelling.”

“You’re not going to defend him are you?!” The man spattered out.

“I’m more than willing to have him take over your position for while if it means defending my kingdom.” Grace glared at Krupp. “Now please stop your bickering for five minutes.”

The room was deathly silent.

George elbowed Harold and when the blonde looked, the boy gave him a grin of approval.

“Y–y–ok then...” Krupp nervously gulped and looked elsewhere.

“I will help, but even if you could gather enough people to help fight, they wouldn’t get too far in one day.” Ree admitted. “If any magic folk could help, that would be really useful. Especially if there’s any in particular who you know about.” He gave the queen a meaningful look at this. “What we really need to do to end the fight as soon as possible comes down to doing one simple thing, which I was able to find out when I was spying on them.”

“And that is?” Grace asked. Ree went over to her and whispered something into her ear, but no one could hear it, not even the three kids who tried to lift the cloth up a bit to see what was being said.

“I can arrange for that as long as no one gets endangered.” Grace whispered right back. Ree nodded and moved away as a more confident Grace looked up. “Alright, it appears we can do this after all.” She smiled. “Now it will be short notice to everyone, but I’m sure that if we let the citizens know so that they can be calmly evacuated, everything should start out–”

******

“OH GOD, WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!”

The majority of the town was in complete chaos as almost everyone ran around not knowing what to do or else scrambled to get their things together.

“I knew moving to this town was a bad idea!” One man screamed as he and his family threw things onto his wagon.

“Quick, take the jewels!” One woman threw her small jewelry box onto the wagon.

“I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH NUTS TO LAST ME A TRIP OUT OF TOWN!” A woman shrieked as her eyes twitched like crazy.

“For God’s sake, we can’t take that!” One man tried to pull a huge painting out of his partner’s hands.

“But it was worth a fortune!” His partner protested as he tried to pull back.

“I didn’t make any plans for if this would happen!” Another man screamed as he ran around in circles and a dog near him howled its head off.

On the other side of the bridge, the other citizens were not faring so well.

“Uh, mom what should we take?” Bo looked at all the wares around the store in concern.

“Only what we need to survive off and then a few favorite items, sweetie.” Bo’s mom reassuringly squeezed his shoulder as she hurried out with a box of food and a smaller box of medical supplies.

“We just fixed everything over here!” One woman screamed in protest as she gestured to the roofs while a family and their horse pulled wagon hurried past her.

“I can’t do traveling this summer, I got back pain and I was going to catch up on my reading!” Another man protested as someone hurried by to set up their own wagon.

Back at the castle, Grace, Moses, and Barbara watched everything from a balcony with increasingly concerned expressions.

“I think I made a mistake.” Grace could only say.

“No, you didn’t.” Barbara tried to reassure her. “At least they got one day’s warning in advance.”

“That doesn’t give them a reason to act nuts instead of calming down and putting important matters first.” Moses grumbled.

Both George and Harold watched from another balcony with equally concerned looks as they thought things over. Meanwhile, Grace held her head in her hands. “I just hope everything else is going along fine.”

*****

“Ok, so let me get this straight!” Lindsey yelled up at Krupp, who standing on top of some steps as she and every other guard at the castle were gathered in the courtyard.

“There’s an army coming to attack us and we didn’t know about this until the day before they’d be coming, right?!”

“Uh...” Krupp turned to Ree, who kept a stoic look, before turning back. “Y–yeah, that’s basically it!” He stammered and let out a nervous laugh.

“So you want us to start practicing for something we’ve had little experience with, due to lack of actual wars or attacks, combined with a lack of proper training, because you were so sure this wouldn’t happen?!” Another guard asked.

“Yeah–Wait, what?!”

“Which could take realistically take days, if not months?!” Another asked.

“I really don’t–!”

“Wait, is that my brother?!” All eyes turned in confusion to a rather tall guard who happily waved at Ree. “HEY BRO! YOU CAME BACK!”

“Uh, of course I did, Lavator!” Ree awkwardly waved at the man. He then turned to Krupp and quietly asked. “You rehired him? He doesn’t follow rules that well and you know it.”

“Look I was running low on these guys at the time and he’s at least more willing to do stuff compared to some of the others.” Krupp whispered back. “Any other questions?!” He snapped as he turned back to the others.

“Don’t we, like have this huge lake surrounding us?!” Someone pointed out.

“Don’t count on it protecting everyone for too long!” Ree yelled back.

“Are we going to die if we do this?!” Meaner yelled.

Krupp hesitated. “Well, considering they want to attack us and apparently have better weaponry than us–!”

And with that, nearly all the guards went into a panic like the townsfolk and began running around like crazy.

“OH GOD, WE’RE GOING TO DIE!” Meaner screamed.

“WHY WEREN’T WE BETTER TRAINED FOR THIS?!” Another guard screamed.

“I’D RATHER RUN AWAY LIKE A COWARD AND NEVER RETURN!” Another was in hysterics.

Ree slapped his face as Krupp felt himself break out in a nervous sweat. “This is what I come back to after all these years. I find myself asking once again why it had to be you of all people who succeeded me.” He then took a horn from off his clothes and yelled “HEY! WOULD YOU ALL STOP RUNNING AROUND LIKE HEADLESS CHICKENS AND PAY ATTENTION SO THAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY STAY ALIVE FOR WHAT’S TO COME!”

That shut everyone up and made them look at him.

“Since my successor obviously wasn’t doing his job properly, I’m taking over for him!” He began, which made Krupp alert with fury.

“HEY YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” He snapped.

“Good, because I’d rather trust a blind cow trying to go down a river in a boat filled with snakes over Krupp!” Lindsey yelled.

“EXCUSE ME?!”

“Well if the queen is willing to have me do it, then I’m going to do it, so think of this as a brief break!” Ree moved the horn away to snap right back at Krupp before he returned to look at the guards. “ALSO, YOU WON’T BE ALONE, BECAUSE WE GOT SOME VOLUNTEERS AND THEY ALL SHOW A BETTER CAPACITY TO PAY ATTENTION AND NOT GIVE UP THAN MOST OF YOU!”

Ree pointed and all heads turned to see at least twenty to thirty townsfolk. Most of them were glaring at the guards while others remained calm, except for–

“We actually want to help out!” Luca waved and grinned as he stood beside his twin sister.

“Just give us a sword, some armor, some commands and we are good to go!” Dora added.

“ALSO, WE ARE GOING TO USE AS MUCH OF TODAY AS POSSIBLE TO GET READY FOR TOMORROW AND IF ANY OF YOU TRY TO SNEAK OUT, YOU HAVE THE CHOICE TO EITHER CONTINUE TRAINING OR GET LOCKED UP IN A CELL WITHOUT ANY FOOD, WATER, OR CHAMBER PAPER!” Ree ominously added as if the last item was the most necessary thing out of all three items. “NOW IF YOU ARE DONE WHINING LIKE LITTLE FIVE YEAR OLDS, WE ARE GOING TO START NOW!”

He was aware that Krupp was growling at him, unhappy at losing his power for the day, but he honestly didn’t care.

George and Harold were watching this from elsewhere and they couldn’t help but giggle over Krupp’s unhappiness.

****

The boys watched as a messenger approached an increasingly nervous Grace. “Well?” She asked.

“I’m sorry, but it doesn’t look like there are any magic folk around the kingdom to help out.” She shook her head.

“Hey, maybe we could ask Lisa and Billy!” George suggested to Harold. “I’m sure they would help!”

“They aren’t here.” The boys nearly jumped out of their skins when Erica came right from behind. “I tried to look for them and all I found was a treehouse in the middle of repairs and a sign saying that they’d be gone for a week.” Erica frowned. “And Her Majesty wouldn’t dream of putting a child anywhere near the front lines.”

“Aw man,” George sighed. “This just keeps getting worse and worse.”

****

“Is war that bad?” Harold asked George as he tried to recall what he knew of it from books as they hid out in his room.

“I guess,” George shrugged. “Dad tells me that towns can get destroyed and a lot of people can die or get enslaved.” He shuddered. “I didn’t think it could ever happen here.”

“But it could happen?” Harold asked. “A bunch of people die and homes could get destroyed? All because this guy got mad over people laughing at his name?”

George thought before an idea struck him. “Maybe it won’t have to end up like that.” He grinned. “Most wars end if you can get the head honcho to surrender or if something were to happen to them. If we did that we could end this whole thing before the sun sets.”

“How?” Harold frowned. “There’s going to be lots of people with weapons, right?”

“Not if a certain someone were to fly over them fast enough.” George explained. “Once we can identify who the leader is, all we got to do is get him away from the others, bring him to your mom, and force him to surrender.”

Harold beamed at this. “Oh yeah, you’re right!” He clapped his hands. “We could do that with Captain Underpants!”

“This could be like all those other times if we’re careful enough and then no one will have to get hurt or worse!” George agreed. “But first, we got to make sure our parents don’t make us escape with them right away.”

*****

The next morning, much of Piqua had been abandoned, though some were still hurrying to escape what could easily turn into a battle zone.

“Your Majesty!” Grace turned to face one of her personal guards. “The last of the townsfolk are evacuating.” She saluted. “Miss Edith is taking Princess Heidi somewhere safe, like you wanted. We still haven’t found your son, but we need you to evacuate soon.”

Grace frowned and hesitated as she thought things over.

“Your Majesty?”

Grace reluctantly nodded and followed after the guard.

Elsewhere, Harold and George were secretly hiding as they spied on George’s parents. “So mom wants your parents to take me with you.” Harold quietly recounted as he held onto his satchel. “But we need to stay long enough to keep an eye on Captain Underpants.”

“You take care of him, I’ll talk to my parents.” George agreed. Harold nodded and hurried away as George stepped out and approached his parents.

“Oh thank goodness, you’re here!” Barbara sighed with relief. “We need to find Harold before we can leave. Do you know where he is?”

“About that,” George admitted “He’s going to find Captain Underpants and get him to help first.”

“He’s what?!” Moses asked as he felt his anxiety increase.

“Look, Captain Underpants is our best chance of dealing with this, and Piqua really needs him! Only me and Harold know how to reach him! Once he comes, Harold will come back and go with–!”

There was a loud explosion from outside that startled them all.

“What on Earth?!” Moses freaked out.

*****

Outside, Harold was only midway through reaching the barracks when he heard the explosion and he looked over to see where it came from. From out of almost nowhere appeared a large army all the way in the distance, across the lake and on the fields to the east and they were quickly approaching the lake’s shoreline.

“Oh god, please tell me that’s not it.” One of the guards moaned as he and the other guards awaited their doom. Meanwhile Ree was anxiously waiting for his youngest trainee, but he was now quickly thinking over how to respond to what was soon to come.

On the other side of the lake, many soldiers were wearing ominous, thick armor that made them seem taller than a regular man–

“OH COME ON, THEY HAD THE SAME IDEA TOO?!” Melvin yelled in frustration as he looked at this through a powerful spying glass as he and his parents quickly retreated from the castle.

–Uh... anyway...

What appeared to be metal wagons were circular in shape, resembled two dishes stuck together, and had no horses to pull them. In the biggest one with an open space in the center was the person responsible for bringing them all here.

“I’ve been waiting for this day!” The very short man with hair sticking in different directions rubbed his hands with glee as his spectacles shone in eager anticipation. “The wrongs that have been committed will be made right!” He turned to the woman behind him. “The horn, General?”

“Ja, Herr Professor.” The tall woman handed him the horn, and he had to hop up to take it from her before turning around. With the horn, he spoke into it with the speech that he had prepared for many years.

“YOUR MAJESTY! CITIZENS OF PIQUA!” He yelled and the sound was so loud that the soldiers had to cover their ears. “THE TIME HAS COME! I SAID I WOULD MAKE YOU PAY FOR THE INSULT YOU HAVE CAUSED ME, AND THAT DAY HAS COME!”

“Ugh, I can’t tell what he looks like from this distance!” Harold grumbled as he tried to peer through a spyglass so that he could know how to identify the leader.

“BY INSULTING ME, YOU HAVE INSULTED NEW SWISSLAND! I WILL NOT CEASE UNTIL OUR KINGDOM HAS CLAIMED YOURS AS PART OF ITS LAND! YOU WILL HAVE NO CHANCE AGAINST ME AND MY MACHINES OF PROGRESS FOR A SHINNING NEW FUTURE!”

“Wait a minute, I just realized that we have a huge lake between us!” One of the guards yelled at Ree. Shouldn’t that slow them down, or–?”

The strange vehicles that New Swissland had suddenly went into the water and to the shock of Piqua’s side, they started floating across the lake like they were boats with three times the regular speed as water sprayed out behind them.

“Oh,” That same guard realized as everyone else looked on in dread and wonder. “Never mind!”

“YOU SEE?!” The small man yelled. “WE ARE MORE ADVANCED THAN YOU! LIKE, TWO CENTURIES ADVANCED! HOW’S THAT FOR A JOKE?! SO PREPARE YOURSELF, PIQUA! I’LL GIVE YOU SOME TIME BEFORE I STRIKE, AND THEN I WILL GET VENGEANCE UPON YOU ALL OR ELSE MY NAME ISN’T PROFESSOR POOPYPANTS!”

There was a silence that fell.

Then the laughter from the castle erupted.

“POOPYPANTS?!” One of the guards screamed in disbelief as he and the others laughed their heads off. “WHAT KIND OF NAME IS THAT?!”

Even the evacuees still in the castle were not immune and laughed. George couldn’t stop laughing and so did Moses while Barbra had to fight to hold in her laughter.

Harold fell over and laughed his head off, momentarily forgetting what he was supposed to be doing.

Professor Poopypants growled and gritted his teeth before yelling at his men. “YOU SEE?! THIS IS WHO WE ARE DEALING WITH! IF THEY CAN’T TAKE ME SERIOUSLY AND MOCK ME, THEY’LL DO THE SAME TO YOU, YOUR FAMILIES, AND EVEN YOUR PETS! ESPECIALLY THE FISH! ARE YOU GOING TO LET THEM GET AWAY WITH THIS?!”

“NO!” “NIEN!” “AW, HECK NO!” yelled the New Swissland troops.

“GENERAL!” Poopypants screamed at the General. “NOW IS THE TIME!” He ran towards a button that had metal wires connected to a strange red, black, and yellow device with a huge red sphere with wires was embedded on the top of it while encased in a glass container. He flipped a switch, causing a humming sound before it sent out waves of yellow energy that surged though the tanks and the armor.

“FOR THE MOTHERLAND!” The general screamed to her troops. “GLORY TO NEW SWISSLAND!”

“GLORY TO NEW SWISSLAND!” The troops screamed right back.

All of this of course managed to shut up Piqua and its troops, who realized that maybe laughing at their enemy was indeed a stupid mistake.

“Ree!” Erica yelled as she charged her way towards the man. Ree turned around and demanded “You haven’t found the boys or Captain Underpants yet?”

“No!” Erica shook her head. “They could be anywhere, knowing them!” She had no clue that Harold had just finished racing towards the barracks away from them all.

****

Harold opened the door to Krupp’s room, expecting to not see the man and to get ready to hurry back to the guards to see if he was amongst them. However, he was not expecting the man to be slumped at his desk looking grumpier than usual and not as if all heck was breaking loose outside.

“Uh,” Harold began as the man turned his head to look at him. “Wait, why aren’t you down there with–?”

“Wait,” Krupp stopped him. “Let me guess... you both need the idiot for this stupid mess, rather than me, much like your mom who’d rather let the traitor take things over instead of me.”

“Pretty much.” The boy could not help but bluntly reply.

Krupp blinked at him.

“Look, we can get this over with faster with Captain Underpants, and considering that he was able to survive falling out of a tower, the chances of you dying are super low. And mom will know that you didn’t abandon us, so it’s still a win-win situation.” Krupp blinked, sighed, then pinched his nose. “Ok, just get this over wi–”

SNAP!

*****

“He’ll probably show up any second!” Erica told Ree. “Do you still want me to–?!”

“Just go!” Ree commanded. “If you luck out in seeing them on the way, tell them!”

“Right!” Erica saluted one of the few adults she respected and ran away, just as New Swissland’s men reached the shores of the main town and castle.

“Well shoot, now what?!” Dora asked Ree. He opened his mouth and was about to make the command until–

“GLORY TO PIQUA!” His brother screamed as he ran towards the ongoing troops. “LAVATOR, WAIT!” Ree protested, but the other man laughed his head off. Ree pinched his nose and shook his head. “OK, I GUESS WE NEED TO ATTACK NOW!” He swung a sword out and pointed. “START SHOOTING AT THE TANKS!” He yelled to those who were at the cannons.

“THE WHAT?!” One of the troops behind the cannon asked.

“THE ROUND METAL WAGON VEHICLES!”

“OH OK!” They proceeded to do just that.

The cannons were aimed and shot out cannonballs at some of the vehicles that managed to reach the shore, but the ones that did get hit only suffered dents that momentarily halted their progress. It didn’t stop the New Swissland troops from escaping out of them and they charged towards the town as the Piqua troops started charging towards them.

Lavator laughed his head off as he took one of his many guns out and began shooting. Yet instead of the ammo one would expect, it was in fact made of little balls filled with ink, paint, and other liquids. Whatever he shot at suddenly had ink or paint splats and some of these struck the opposing army members right in the helmet, resulting in temporary blindness.

“AH-HA-HA-HA-HA!” Luca laughed as he and Dora charged towards a couple of troops and started swinging their weapons at them.

“AH!” One of Piqua’s own men tried to smack one of New Swissland’s men, yet because the latter was wearing heavy armor, they didn’t fall and instead they smacked that person as hard as they could.

“YES! GET THEM!” Poopypants screamed as some of the vehicles pressed onward and cannons came out. Some of them started shooting cannonballs at the Piqua troops, forcing them to scatter in a panic.

While all this chaos was going on, a certain figure was hovering in the air while keeping a firm hold on a certain boy.

“Ok, I’m going to figure out where the leader is.” Harold told Captain Underpants as he kept his arms securely around his neck. “Once I figure out who he is, you’re going to take me back to the castle and then you’re going to come back, take him, and bring him back to us. Got that?”

“Of course!” Captain Underpants saluted as he flew towards the battle to assist Harold.

“Captain Underpants is going to help!” Dora grinned and pointed at the sky, alerting Ree who stopped and looked in that direction. He was startled to see Harold of all people with the strange hero amongst the fighting.

“HAROLD!” He yelled at the boy. “COME DOWN HERE! I NEED TO TALK TO YOU!” But his words were drowned out by the loud noises.

“Wait a minute, stop that thing!” Harold saw that one of the vehicles was aiming their cannon at some of Piqua’s troops, who were trying to make a run for it and he tugged at the knot of the hero’s cape to get his attention.

“OK!” Captain Underpants agreed. He flew over to the vehicle and, with one hand, was able to flip the vehicle upside down within three seconds.

“And maybe that one too!” Harold pointed at another vehicle that was getting to close to shooting at more Piqua troops. It wasn’t long until New Swissland’s troops were picking up on this, yet this distraction was a temporary advantage to Piqua’s troops, who were able to try to fight them off a bit. Within moments, Captain Underpants flipped over yet another vehicle and those within it had to try to get out as he flew off to do whatever Harold commanded him to do.

“Captain! Mi píncipe!” Harold looked down to see Luca waving at them. “We get to fight for Piqua too! Isn’t that awesome?!” Harold nervously waved back at the man before Captain Underpants took him back into the air. Luca then let out a curse when he saw that an enemy was coming after him with his weapon raised out and he was forced to block it before he got hurt.

Meanwhile, some guards desperately tried to fight off the opposing army, but not only was it hard to knock anyone over or even land a good blow, but they easily knocked them down with their weapons as if they were much stronger than they really were.

“THAT’S IT!” Poopypants yelled. “CRUSH THEIR SPIRITS! KNOCK THEM DOWN AND SHOW THEM WHO’SE BOSS!”

“That’s it!” Harold pointed to the white haired man in the largest of the tanks with the tall woman beside him. “It’s that guy! That’s the one you need to get!”

“Got it!” Captain Underpants understood and flew back towards town.

“HAROLD, YOU HAVE TO BRING CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS TO ME!” Ree yelled, but again neither of the two could hear him.

A few minutes later, back in the main part of town, Captain Underpants set Harold down beside George. “Whatever you do, don’t stop for anything!” George reminded him.

“Get that guy and bring him right to us!”

“Alright!” Captain Underpants smiled and flew back towards the fight while the boys turned and ran towards George’s parents.

“You guys managed to make it back without any trouble?!” George asked as they followed Moses and Barbara.

“Actually no.” Harold laughed. “We didn’t get shot at even once!”

George frowned at this. “You didn’t get shot at?!” That didn’t make any sense. Captain Underpants was hard not to notice, New Swissland should have figured out he was on their side, yet didn’t even try to attack him? Was it because he had Harold with him?

Captain Underpants hummed to himself, almost oblivious to how dangerous things were getting as he did as the boys commanded him. He wanted to keep helping the people he knew he was supposed to protect, but the boys made it very clear that he had to get that strange man because that could probably put a stop to all of this.

He got closer and closer to the vehicle that had Poopypants. He was preparing himself to grab the small man when–

“HELP!”

Captain Underpants stopped and saw a cloaked figure surrounded by four members of New Swissland’s troops. “SOMEONE HELP!” They screamed again before one of them smacked them in the side with their spear. Captain Underpants instantly forgot what he was supposed to do, shrugged, and went over before grabbing two of the men surrounding the person and threw them into one of their allies. He did the same with the other two and then turned around and picked up the figure.

“Oh no,” Ree noticed this and ran after Captain Underpants as fast as he could.

“Well citizen, I’m glad to se that you are safe!” Captain Underpants set the cloaked person down on the ground away from most of the fighting moments later and stood beside him.

“GET AWAY FROM THEM!” Ree yelled as he hurried to get to Captain Underpants as fast as he could. “THAT’S NOT–!” An enemy troop member came through and swung a sword at him, forcing him to duck.

“Why thank you!” The hooded figure moved as close as possible to Captain Underpants. “Now how about... I reward you!” He yelled and, what happened next was too fast for the hero to do anything–the ‘citizen’ took something out of his cloak and slammed it over Captain Underpants’ head before slamming something on the side of it.

“Hey, what’s going on?!” Captain Underpants’ panicked as a large metal helmet with nothing but a large slit to peer through and strange markings on both sides covered his entire head. He tried to pull the helmet off, but it wouldn’t budge.

“Just doing business, Captain.” The ‘citizen’ flipped his hood off to reveal that it was none other than Rio–New Swissland’s spy who had faced the hero once before. He then took a device out and pressed the button on it. “Nothing personal.”

“NO!” Ree screamed as he knew what was about to happen next and ran as fast as he could to Captain Underpants before it was too late.

A marking on a certain metal box in Poopypants’ craft started glowing blue, causing him to grin evilly. “Just what I needed!” He pressed one of it’s many buttons and a wave of blue light suddenly erupted from it. It went across the battlefield and just before Ree could reach Captain Underpants in time, the wave reached the hero, who suddenly stopped trying to pull the helmet off and dropped his hands to his sides the moment the wave passed over him.

As Harold followed George and his family across the town as fast as possible, he suddenly came to a stop when he felt something strange and unpleasant, like something creepy was crawling across his head.

“Harold?!” George realized the boy wasn’t following him and hurried back. “Harold, why are you stopping?!”

“Something’s wrong.” Harold looked out to where they could see the armies fighting each other. “Something’s very wrong.”

“Oh no,” Ree could only stare as Captain Underpants slowly turned towards him. He couldn’t tell what was going on underneath that helmet, but he instantly knew that the man before him was too quiet and calm to still be Captain Underpants.

Then without warning, Captain Underpants rushed at him and before Ree knew it, he was picked up by the arm and flung away, right into some of his own men, who crashed to the ground.

“OH PIQUA!” Poopypants yelled into his horn. “SO YOU LIKE TO HAVE A GOOD LAUGH WITH YOUR JOKE OF A HERO?!” He laughed. “WELL LET’S SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I TURN THE JOKE ON YOU!”

And to the horror of the Piqua troops, and especially to those nearest Captain Underpants, he turned upon them and flew out with fists ready to hit whoever was close by that was part of Piqua. Some managed to get out of the way in time, but others found themselves getting hit and thrown through the air, while others were picked up and hurled at their friends, or else they were forced towards their opposing enemies. One unlucky person was picked up and spun around by Captain Underpants and was knocked right into a few more. He even picked up one of the cannons that Piqua was using and when he flew up into the sky, he dropped it upon some individuals who are forced to make a run for it and barely got out of the way before the object crashed to the ground.

George and Harold could only stare as their friend floated lifelessly in the air some distance away. “What’s happening?!” George could only ask.

The boys and George’s parents heard panting and they turned to see one of the castle messengers racing towards them. “You have to get out of here, now!” She told them as she stopped to catch her breath.

“What happened to Captain Underpants?!” George demanded.

“I don’t know, but he’s turning against us!” She explained. “Its like he can’t tell friend from foe!”

“That can’t be right!” Harold protested. “He’d never–!”

“YOU’RE SEEING IT RIGHT!” It was as if Poopypants could hear the boys, as his voice was amplified loud enough for them to hear it. “YOUR HERO IS UNDER MY CONTROL AND OBEYS ME!” That was what made the boys fully understand what was happening.

“No,” Harold shook his head as George felt his heart stop for a beat.

“NOW SERVANT!” Poopypants commanded at Captain Underpants. “BRING ME THE HEIR TO THE THRONE! BRING ME THE SON OF QUEEN GRACE!”

“Hurry, I’ll go find the queen!” The messenger ran off ahead of the Beards and Harold.

“RUN!” Moses screamed as he grabbed Harold by the hand and ran as fast as possible while Barbara did the same with George.

“You don’t think he’ll still recognize us, do you?!” Harold asked George.

“I don’t think we should risk it!” George yelled as they reached the bridge.

Harold looked back in worry. He watched as the figure that once inspired hope in him was now under the enemy’s control and was seeking him out for unpleasant reasons. Meanwhile, George was trying to quickly think some things over in regards to their situation. Neither of them knew just what was going on, but they knew that the outcome was not going to be good.

Miraculously, by the time they went across the bridge to the other side, Captain Underpants was still too busy searching around the castle as well as the town. It was when they got to the protection of the trees that George finally cried out “Wait!” and pulled pulled free from his dad.

“George?!” Moses asked in alarm as Barbara and Harold came to a stop.

“We have to split up!” George told him. “That guy will send Captain Underpants after Harold and he’ll be too noticeable if he’s with us out in the open!”

“Split up?!” Barbara asked in alarm.

“We can’t leave Piqua like this! Not if everyone back there gets captured or dies! Not if the enemy takes it for good!”

“That man wants Harold and it’s not safe any more!” Moses pointed out. “George, we don’t even know what that man intends to do to him!”

“Well I’m not going to let him keep Captain Underpants!” Harold let go of Barbara and stood beside George. “He’s not going to be a weapon for some creep!”

“I know these woods like the back of my hand, I can keep Harold safe!” George then scrambled to take a scroll out of his satchel and handed it to his dad. “This map takes you to The Crusty Sandbox. We can meet up there in six days!”

“George, we can’t separate!” Barbara was frantic. “We lost you once, we can’t lose you again!”

George hesitated as Harold shot him a concerned look. He then reached for his neck and took off the pendant that he had for half of his life. “All I wanted for almost five years was to be with you again.” He looked at the familiar crescent moon etched onto the pendant as well as the message ‘With all our love’ on it. He tried to fight the urge to cry as he held it out to his mother. “And I promise, no matter what happens, I will come back! You just have to trust me!”

Barbara gave her husband a worried look–neither of them wanted to do this. Yet she took a deep breath and accepted the pendant. “Please be safe.” She pleaded before grabbing Moses’ hand. Before either of them could react, George grabbed Harold’s hand and ran off into the woods, where there was no pathways to guide them.

“I love you!” George yelled back and only turned his head when he saw that his parents ran off in another direction. It took everything in George to not cry and Harold could feel it by the way he squeezed his hand so tightly.

Meanwhile, Poopypants laughed as everything worked into his favor. With the tide changing, many of Piqua’s troops were either still struggling or were already forced to escape. What’s more, he now had Piqua’s most prized warrior under his control. He could help but crackle with mad laughter as he threw his hands into the air.

“FINALLY!” He screamed. “VENGEANCE IS MINE! LIKE A PIE THAT I CAN TRY TO EAT ALL TO MYSELF AND I’M IN THE PROCESSES OF CONSUMING THE ENTIRE THING! METAPHORICALLY!” He shook his hands and laughed once more.

***To be continued in the next chapter….***

Chapter Text

George and Harold laughed as they worked on their newest story in the castle courtyards. The day was bright and sunny and there was nothing to worry about.

“And then for the next part!” George began as he held his hands out. “A witch with a huge nose with lots of snot and hair coming out of it! Oh, and she’s got a hat made of rats and her broom farts whenever she uses it!”

Harold laughed. “I love it!” He started drawing it out. Moments later, everything suddenly turned dark. “Wait, what the–?” He and George looked up. The sky had turned an ominous red and all the colors of the courtyard had been sapped away, leaving nothing but gray and black husks.

“Wh...what’s happening?” George looked around in alarm.

“HELP!” A familiar voice screamed out from somewhere close by. The boys looked at each other in alarm, got up, and raced out of their courtyard.

“PLEASE HELP!” They saw a huge black tar like pit was smack in the middle of the next courtyard they entered into instead of the fountain that was supposed to be there. But to their horror, they saw a terrified Captain Underpants stuck halfway in it and he was desperately scrambling to get out.

“CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS!” Both boys screamed and ran to the hero as he looked at them with desperation in his eyes. He suddenly started to sink into the ground, but the boys caught him in the nick of time by his hands.

“It’s ok, we got you!” Harold reassured the man as he and George tried to pull him out with all their strength.

“Just hang on!” George pleaded as he dug his feet into the ground and pulled with all of his might.

“George?! Harold?!” Captain Underpants struggled and tried to kick his way out, but not only was he too heavy for them, the ground seemed to try to slowly pull him back in the more he struggled.

“We won’t let go!” George promised as he and Harold kept pulling.

A second later, Harold felt a hand grab his shoulder. “What do you think you’re doing, Harold?” A familiar voice that chilled the boy to his core asked.

Harold froze and turned his head to see Ribble. Her body was decayed to the point that she had only a few strands of hair, bluish skin, and worms crawling from out of her ears and mouth.

“Give me... the... FLOWER!”

Harold was then pulled away from both Captain Underpants and George. “GEORGE!” He screamed as he desperately reached for his friend.

“HAROLD, NO!” George let go of Captain Underpants and made to reach for his friend, but it was a mistake. Captain Underpants began to rapidly sink and his scream made the boy turn back, but before he could try to grab him again, the hero’s head was under the tar and his hand was too far away to grab onto before it too vanished from sight.

“NO!” George screamed. “PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME!” He looked around in fear as everything drew dark. “NO I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE AGAIN!”

******

Both boys sat up in a cold sweat and panted for air.

“No,” George shook his head. “No, don’t–!” He looked at Harold, who looked back. “Oh.” He sighed in relief and spent the next two minutes trying to calm down.

“Bad dream?” Harold asked, still shaken by his. The other boy nodded. “Same here.” He admitted.

“It was almost too real.” George hung his head in his hands.

Harold looked up at the rocky ceiling of the small cave they were hiding in. It was night time, so that meant they were safe for now. It wasn’t easy being on the run, but they managed just fine so far.

“I really hope Captain Underpants is ok.” Harold hugged his legs to his chest. “I hope it’ll be like whenever we snap our fingers when we save him.”

“Same.” George nodded. “I don’t want him to be aware of what that creep is making him do. It’d break his heart.”

*****

“ALL OF PIQUA GOES DOWN!” A New Swissland troop member yelled as they took aim at a Piqua troop member with a crossbow.

“NO, YOU’RE GOING DOWN!” Lavator screamed as he came out of nowhere and shot a pellet from one of his guns. It hit the crossbow with enough force to knock it from its users hands as well as send a jolt of electricity powerful enough to knock them out.

“YES! I AM UNSTOPPABLE!” Lavator laughed with glee as he continued to shoot down as many of New Swissland as possible with his non-lethal ammo. Meanwhile, another of New Swissland’s troops tried to attack another of Piqua’s men with their sword, but when they struck them in their armor covered chest, the blade actually bounced back instead of making a dent as if it were like rubber.

“I don’t know what this is, but I’m loving it!” Dora yelled as she swung a staff at several enemies who were forced to dodge because the last person to get hit was electrocuted to the point that they did a strange improv dance on the spot before they collapsed.

“I got to admit, these new defenses and weapons are coming in a lot of handy!” Erica told Doctor and Lady Sneedly as they quickly finished another set of armor that a troop member quickly put on.

“Yeah, we’re glad we had some things at our secret lab in the woods for this!” Doctor Sneedly agreed as he pushed his glasses up his nose and grabbed another staff. “But we’re running low!” He admitted as he fixed some wiring inside it.

“We’re doing the best we can!” Lady Sneedly added as she too finished fixing up another weapon that was powered through science. She quickly handed it to the next troop member.

“We’ll see you at the secret place if things get too out of hand!” Erica yelled as she hurried away, and even ran past Melvin without saying a word to him. It frustrated the boy as he also tried to ready another object of offense or defense amplified by the power of science, but he knew none of this would be enough.

“We can’t keep doing this forever!” Melvin told his parents. “You know this isn’t enough!”

“We have to do the best we can, Melvin!” Doctor Sneedly reminded Melvin. “Sometimes you can fight science with science! Sometimes you need to contribute what you can, even if its not enough!”

“They won’t last a minute when the brain washed nitwit comes flying in! I need to go back to the castle and get the Knightmare Knight out! I have it so that it’ll move faster and tearing it up will be near impossible now!”

“Melvin we can’t go back!” Lady Sneedly protested. “And besides, even if we could, I do think you need to run a few more tests with your creation!”

“Even you guys?!” Melvin was dismayed. “You’re siding with the queen?!”

“We want you to be safe Melvin!” Doctor Sneedly finished the staff up and held it. “The last thing we want is for you to make a scientific mistake during the worst possible time without having done enough testing!”

“WE GOT TO RUN FOR IT!” A troop member bursted through a bush and nearly scared the family to death. “THEY’RE BRINGING HIM OUT! HE’S COMING AFTER THE QUEEN!”

•••••

“Hurry!” Ree yelled at a small section of Piqua’s troops–about eight in all–as they surrounded a heavily hooded figure who was lead by the hand by Erica, who gripped it tight. “They’re catching up to us!”

“How is it that they keep coming after us?!” Dora yelled in frustration. “It should be like finding a needle in a haystack!”

They all kept running until something came at them and Erica found that the hand she was holding slipped out of her grasp and all of them stopped and looked up in alarm to see a familiar figure hovering in the air while grabbing the neck of the still hooded figure who was struggling to hold onto his wrist for dear life.

“Oh no,” Lindsey grimaced as they all recognized the still brain-washed Captain Underpants, who still had that strange helmet on.

“That’s far enough!” All eyes turned to see one of New Swissland’s own captains glaring at them as he was surrounded by more of New Swisslands troops–at least double the size of Piqua’s current small number. “I know you have the queen with you! Surrender her to us, or else your favorite hero ends her life!”

Those of Piqua looked back at Captain Underpants–his grip tightening on the person he was holding, who was making choking noises.

“Ah, wait a second!” Lindsey couldn’t help but pip up. “Who are you?”

“It’s not important–”

“No, it is. Who are you?”

“Ok, fine! I’m Captain Fuzzygerbilbrains of the–!”

All of Piqua (except Ree, Erica, and Captain Underpants’ captive) started cracking up with laughter.

“Ok, ok, I get it!” Fuzzygerbilbrains rolled his eyes. “I obviously have a silly name that you need to know. Now can we please get onto business?”

“As a matter of fact, yes.” Ree began. “But first, one last question. Do you like smoke?”

“Do I like–?”

At that moment both Erica and Ree tossed out two balls that produced a huge cloud of smoke. Even Captain Underpants found himself at the receiving end of one to the face by his captive. The result caused a huge cloud of smoke to erupt and the moment it happened, the Piqua troops made their quick escape.

Moments later (with lots of coughing) Fuzzygerbilbrains waved the smoke out of the way as he stood by the collapsed cloaked figure laying on the ground. “YOU LET THEM GET AWAY?!” He yelled at Captain Underpants, who remained still and didn’t look down at him. Fuzzygerbilbrains let out an annoyed sigh as he went to the figure. “Well, at least you did one thing right and got the–”

“Oh Senior!” The figure sat up and pulled their hood off to reveal Luca’s mockingly flirtatious face. “You went through all of that trouble to capture my heart?!” He dramatically rested his hand against his forehead. “But my papa will never approve unless you manage to assure him with a steady job and a proper household! With lots of farmland! And a cow! And plenty of goats!”

Fuzzygerbilbrains went dead silent.

Then he screamed up a storm of non-kid friendly curses at the sky.

******

“I guess being on the run isn’t so bad.” Harold admitted as he nibbled on a turnip. “We managed to find some good hiding spots and some food if you know where to look.”

“Yeah, it’s a good thing we conveniently ran into that family that let me stay at their house for a time when I was trying to evade capture last year.” George agreed as he ate some carrots. He then turned around to face a wagon that was going in another direction. “Thanks again, Stanley! We owe you one!” He yelled and waved.

“Aw shucks!” A very, very, very sweaty boy who sat in the back of the wagon bashfully waved back. “Don’t worry George! And Your Highness!” He giggled. “We won’t say a peep to anyone! Long live Piqua!”

“Bye!” Harold waved beside George before they turned around and kept walking. “Yeah, I’m glad we did.” He agreed. “I hadn’t had any meat in ages!”

“We’ll need to get to The Crusty Sandbox tomorrow morning.” George pointed out. “I just hope my parents are ok.” He frowned.

“Same for my mom.” Harold agreed before glancing up at the sky. “And I hope Edith and Heidi are ok too.”

****

“Say, I’ve never seen you around here.” A woman noticed Edith as she quietly feed an apple to a certain black and white draft horse. “Whoa, that’s a fine pony you got!” She whistled at Adamant.

Edith–who was dressed humble civilian clothing not unlike the outfits she had to wear in the tower–turned her head to look at the woman. “Someone is letting me barrow her for awhile.” She confessed. She had taken Heidi beyond the borders and into another country all on her own. While she could have easily taken her to the Gordon manor where they had guaranteed food, shelter, and luxuries, she didn’t trust Lady Gordon or her daughter enough to keep the two in their house a secret. It wasn’t a loss for the princess, who didn’t want to be anywhere near Jessica anytime soon.

“Well she’s certainly in good shape!” The woman grinned and went on her way. Edith let out a sigh of relief as Heidi came from around Adamant’s side. Heidi had to sacrifice being in her adorable dresses for a regular village girl’s dress and her big white cap covered much of her blonde hair. “We won’t have to be on the run for too long, will we Edith?” Heidi asked.

Edith turned to Heidi and gave her a hopeful smile as she reached into the pocket of her apron. “I don’t think so. Something tells me things will work out soon. Only a few people will know where we will be and one of them will come get us when it ends.” She handed a small bag to Heidi, who opened it and began to eat the nuts and dried fruit inside.

******

The next day, both boys came upon The Crusty Sandbox. It looked unchanged, but the boys were still cautious. When Harold saw George’s nervous gaze, he took his hand and squeezed it reassuringly. This made the other boy smile before they walked towards the door.

“Hey, it’s just me and Harold!” George announced himself as he opened the door. “Is my mom and dad–?” He stopped as he and Harold looked in.

While The Crusty Sandbox was filled with its usual young visitors, there were a handful of adults within its walls too, with nearly all of them being what few troop members there were left, but fortunately they were either the nicer guards or the citizens who offered to fight.

“George? Harold?” The sisters Keisha and Kira looked at the boys in surprise as they stood by someone who appeared to be their mother. They even saw Bo and Gooch with their respective families.

“George!” From almost out of nowhere, Moses and Barbara bursted through and ran towards their son, who immediately ran towards them. When Harold entered through and the door shut behind him, he watched as his best friend was engulfed in his parents’ embrace.

“See? Everything worked out fine!” George reassured them with a smile. “I promised I’d come back!”

Harold smiled at the scene until he sensed someone coming towards him. He turned to the side to see his own mother starring at him, though he was surprised to see her dressed in a royal guard’s uniform.

“Mom!” Harold ran up to Grace and hugged her. “You’re alright!”

Grace let out a breathless laugh before she hugged her son back. “I am. And so are you.”

“Is Heidi and Edith here?” Harold asked. “Why are you in a uniform?”

“That’s because she was trying to be in disguise, Your Highness.” Harold and Grace looked to see Erica explain with a frown while the Sneedly family were sitting around a table behind her. Doctor and Lady Sneedly seemed fine, but Melvin didn’t seem to be overly happy to see either Harold or George. “We had to have a decoy to throw off New Swissland.”

“And it’ll be awhile before Heidi and Edith can come back–I had to send them away for your sister’s protection.” Grace told Harold before she frowned. “That is... if I don’t have to–”

“What?” Harold asked as George glanced to him. “Don’t have to what?”

“Surrender all of Piqua to the enemy.” All eyes turned to Ree as he rested against a wall with a troubled frown.

“Surrender?” Keisha and Kira’s mom asked before letting out a biter laugh. “We’ve probably long since lost by now!”

“Hey don’t say that!” Dora scowled. “That only happened because the little old diablo brainwashed Captain Underpants and got an advantage!”

“It’s not a loss just yet.” Ree shook his head before looking at Harold. “What your mother is trying to say is that Poopypants needs her to sign over all of Piqua in paper to New Swissland in order for him to have an actual win, since some surrounding kingdoms might not take too kindly towards having their enemy invade one of their allies.”

“That sounds lame!” George stuck his tongue out. “Why do you have to sign over a country instead of just taking it for yourself?”

“It’s politics.” Erica told him. “It doesn’t always make sense.”

“He’s getting tired of chasing after Her Majesty and wants her to come out.” Ree continued. “If the queen refuses to appear to him within her own castle by the time the sun sets today, all the prisoners they’ve round up will either die or suffer the same fate as that friend of yours–they become his puppets.”

“He’ll what?!” George’s voice almost squeaked in horror. “That’s going too far!”

“That’s not fair!” Harold angrily yelled. “He’s already got so much power! And we can get help from other countries–!”

“There wouldn’t be enough time, Harold.” Erica had to say as she walked to him. “Think about how everyone scrambled in one day to get ready to fight.”

“There’s got to be something we can do!” Harold glanced back to his mom. “Please, there has to be a way! You can’t just sign over Piqua! Where will everyone go?! Will they all have to have ridiculous names if they stay?!”

No one was happy. The room was silent as some gave each other concerned or helpless glances. Not a single person could come up with an idea.

“Why don’t we just storm the castle and shoot everything with paint?!” Lavator suddenly bursted out, scaring the living daylights out of everyone.

“No, Lavator!” Ree had to scold him. “I told you why that’s a bad idea!” He let out a sigh. “Erica and I need to speak to Harold and George in private.”

*******

“See, Ree wasn’t just training me in secret so that Piqua could have better troops in the future.” Erica told the boys as they sat in one of the long abandoned guest rooms as they sat on a lumpy old mattress across from a chair that the adult sat in. “He was also spying on New Swissland when he caught wind that Poopypants was up to something.”

The boys snickered at the choice of words.

“As you know by now, New Swissland is more advanced than most kingdoms and countries.” Ree began. “We may be just now discovering uses for electricity in this century, but Poopypants has been many steps ahead of everyone. I’d even dare say he may of dabbled in magic to make his most dangerous inventions possible.”

“See, all those tanks and the armor have power currents going through them which are being conducted by this.” He pulled out a drawing of a contraption and gave it to the boys. “It’s called the Energy Sphere Conductor. Or you can just call it the E.S.C.” He admitted when the boys looked clueless. “It gives those tools of destruction their energy.”

“Basically, if you destroy it, it shuts down all the power, giving us back our chances.” Erica clarified. “And Ree wanted Captain Underpants specifically for that reason, because he’s the only one who could have gotten close enough to it and actually break it.”

“Oh,” George let out a regretful sigh as Harold frowned. “But how is Poopypants controlling him then?” He asked.

“Apparently one of his spies tipped him off about Captain Underpants, because I saw that he had a device created for him when I got back to spy one more time.” Ree took out another drawing of another contraption and handed it to the boys. “The Cube Regressing one’s Usual Disposition for Supremacy. Or ‘C.R.U.D.S.’”

“Eww.” The boys wrinkled their noses at this.

“And you know now what it does to Captain Underpants and how Poopypants wants to use him.” Erica added. “There’s nothing left of him. He’s now a soulless shell of his former self so long as the machine is in power and he’s got that helmet on.” She saw the boys fearful expressions and quickly added “Ree designed something for that.” She took something from her pocket and revealed a small device with a blue crystal embedded in it. “The Prism Energy-reversing Exploder.”

“P... E... E...” George took note of this before giggling. “P.E.E.?!” He giggled as did Harold.

“You won’t be able to get that helmet off Captain Underpants until its connection to C.R.U.D.S. is sapped.” Ree warned them. “All you have to do is put P.E.E. onto C.R.U.D.S.–”

“EWW!” The boys grimaced and even Erica pulled a face at the unintentional wording.

“–Set it so that it explodes C.R.U.D.S. into several pieces, and your friend will be back to his old self. All you two need to do know is come up with a way to sneak in while I lead what’s left of the troops back in the castle using the secrets tunnels connecting to here. We will free everyone trapped in the castle and ambush Poopypants. If the timing is right, it could even be the perfect distraction for you.”

None of them realized that someone was listening through the door with his head and hands pressed up to it. Melvin frowned with annoyance at what he heard and walked away.

“It’s like your asking us to pull the biggest prank of our lives.” George admitted. “But where everything needs to be just right, and there’s so much against us.”

“And if I’m caught, that could make things a lot worse.” Harold added as he sighed. “It’s not like we can just waltz in there.”

There was a silence that followed when no one added anything in. Harold looked at George who had a huge grin as if he had discovered the world’s largest deposit of gems.

“I know how to get in.”

******

“NO!” Grace angrily refused as the boys stood before her.

“It’s the only way!” Harold told her. “If he has me and thinks you aren’t in the kingdom, that’ll make him think that it’ll take awhile before you come to get me! It’ll buy everyone time!”

“I can’t have you go through this again!” Grace was almost hysterical. “I can’t have you captured again!”

“But I survived and I’ve already dealt with a lot of bad guys and monsters!” Harold told her.

“This is different, this is–!” Grace held her face in her hands. “I need a moment.” She got up and walked towards the stairs to find a room to hide in. As luck would have it, George’s parents also went up after her.

“You’re still going to do it, aren’t you?” George asked Harold.

“Of course!” Harold said. “You can’t just leave this all to the adults!”

“Well I’m still going with Ree and the others.” Erica told the boys as she stepped forward. “I’m not stopping now.”

“I’m coming to help her.” Bo came up to them. “I’d really like to have my family’s store back and I want to turn things around.”

“Uh... ok?” Harold was unsure. “Can you even fight? Or do magic? Because–”

“I can.”

All eyes looked at Gooch in confusion. “Yeah, I can do a little. I forgot.” He shrugged. “Did I mention I was part elf?”

“Wait... wait a minute. What?” George asked.

“What do you mean, you’re part magic?” Harold asked. “You never told us when we first met! When did this come in?”

“Like I said, I forgot. And now you’re putting pressure on me, so I don’t want to talk about–”

“Why are we learning this just now, instead of back then?! It’s like a random twist that was added to a story that was never hinted at before, just because someone wanted to do it out of the blue!”

*****Somewhere beyond the fourth wall*****

“Heh, heh, heh.” A certain male chuckled as he typed something into a laptop that wasn’t his. “Hey, it’s my AU too, you know.” He told the writer, who was too busy sleeping and listening to Broadway musical songs with earbuds in her ears to notice what was happening.

******back to the story******

“Ok, enough about that, we got to act fast before our parents notice and we need to tell Ree what the plan is.” Erica stepped in and looked at Harold. “Now, do you know how to escape in order to help out?”

“Uh,” Harold was stumped on this. “I didn’t think that through.” He let out a nervous laugh.

Erica sighed and glanced at the self of books nearby as she tried to think. She noticed a thick volume of Shakespearean plays and after a few moments, she had an idea. “How familiar are you with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet?”

********

“Ah, I love taking over a huge castle and making it my new base of operations!” Poopypants sighed in delight as he lazily rested himself in Queen Grace’s throne while several of his men were inside the room with him, along with Rio. “Just think–if she surrenders, maybe our kKing will give me this land to rule over! How’s that for a laugh?!” He snickered, as did a few of his men. “What do you think, General?” He turned to the General. “You think I have a good chance?”

“Ja, Herr Professor.” She agreed. “Especially for all your hard work and dedication.”

“Good, because I’ve been thinking about how to redecorate this place–like maybe change the curtains, add some paintings, put a marble bust of myself in that corner–and that’s just the start!” He turned to Rio. “I just might double your pay since you’re guaranteeing me all of this!”

“I wouldn’t guarantee a castle.” Rio began. “I mean, considering–”

“And I’ll make sure no one finds out your involvement, clean your slate, and give you a nice summer house somewhere nearby.”

“Professor!” One of the guards came in, dragging a small figure with a bag on their head into the room. “This kid knows where the crown prince is!”

“Oh?” Poopypants sat up as all eyes turned towards the mysterious person. When they were close enough to the throne, the guard took off the bag to reveal George.

“Uh, hi, Your–uh–Excellency!” George forced a grin as he looked at Poopypants. “Any way, I figured you’d want the prince–see, if you get him, that’ll ensure the queen will come right to you. Uh, see she’s long out of Piqua–”

“Hang on.” Rio cut in as he looked at Poopypants. “I know that kid–he’s a friend of Prince Harold’s.”

George finally noticed Rio and was horrified to see him. Was this man the reason that Captain Underpants was–?

“So?” Poopypants asked.

“He’s his friend. They both tried to stop me from doing my job and Captain Underpants helped them. You know? One of the reasons why I warned you why he needed to be stopped? Because of his connection to the Royal Family?”

George thought fast. “It’s true I am Harold’s friend. Or I was.”

“Was?” Poopypants and Rio asked together.

“Well, you see,” George out on a hurt face. “He’s actually a jerk.”

“What?”

And thus began George’s grandest sob story as well has the hugest lie he ever told.

“I mean he was nothing but a pain in my rear since day one!” George whimpered. “Threatened to turn me in if I didn’t take him out of the tower and acted like his tour guide! For free no less! And it’s not like he made the journey easy. He whined all the time, made me carry his long hair, and ate all my supplies for crying out loud! Told me my tie was stupid and I love my tie! Mom gave me this tie! Then after awhile everything was ok when he came back home, and it was supposed to be a happily ever after... or so I thought! See I thought he reformed and was being truly nice after all we went through! But he was only keeping me around because I amused him! I was only kept around just to make himself look better! ‘Lost prince is friends with the local street rat’–the public ate it up like candy and loved him ten times more!

But behind it all, he was more interested in hanging out with the rich kids and they made fun of me behind my back! They made me stay in a corner while they all got to play with fancy toys and plushies” You could practically hear the sad violin music playing as he was talking. “I nearly died for him three times–I was almost executed here in this very castle because of him–I risked my own life just to get him to see some floating lights, and that was the thanks I got?!”

“I’m not buying this.” Rio interrupted.

“He even promised me a horse with beautiful eyes that could melt! And when he gave it to me, I only had one day to ride it! He sold it off the next day to an evil circus man and told me that he didn’t agree as to how long I’d keep her! Oh no it’s starting again!” Crocodile tears began to appear from the boy’s eyes as his breathing got heavier and heavier. “BETTY!” George wailed as he crashed to his knees and threw his hands into the air. “I’M STILL KEEPING MY WORD, BETTY! I’LL GET YOU BACK SOME DAY! JUST WAIT A LITTLE LONGER FOR YOUR OLD PAL GEORGE, OK?! NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, YOU’RE STILL MY LITTLE PONY!”

“Please mister, you gotta let me help you with this takeover! I just gotta!” George threw himself at the throne and bowed before Poopypants. “You know, for all the lies and suffering I had to live through, the only thing that prince jerk promised and actually kept was for me to reunite with my family! But when we were trying to escape, we got stuck in a huge ditch! It was me, mom, dad, that crazy haired royal brat, and a hole full of potential death! And when I thought that maybe he’d still have some compassion left–that maybe he’d be willing to care about me aver everything we went through–he ditched us! Left us to be bait to the bears! THE BEARS!” He exclaimed for emphasis. “WITH BAD BREATH AND BLOOD IN THEIR TEETH AND CLAWS! AS TALL AS A MIGHTY PINE TREE! THEY COULD LITERALLY CRUSH YOU WITH ONE SINGLE PAW LIKE YOU WERE A FLY!” If that sad violin were real, it would grow in intensity by this point.

In an instant, the boy became silent and his exaggerated face turned somber and calm. “But you know what? I’ve had enough. I’m done with Harold and everything he ever did to my family!” His lips turned into a deep frown. “I’m done with a brat who always gets to decide what to do just because he’s the lost prince!” His eyes furrow down with intense anger. “I’m done with not being able to get the respect I rightfully deserve! I CAN’T DEAL WITH LIFE KNOWING THAT HE’S RUNNING AROUND SCOTT FREE! HE HAS TO BE PUNISHED! FOR ME! FOR MY FAMILY! FOR BETTY!” He howled.

He took a deep breath and looked straight at the diminutive dictator with a more composed demeanor. “I mean, if you were in my shoes and had to suffer through all that stuff, wouldn’t you want a chance at revenge too?”

Poopypants opened his mouth as if to speak.

“HEY WILL YOU STOP PLAYING THAT STUPID VIOLIN?!” he yelled at one of the guards who was playing the saddest violin music imaginable to George’s story, who proceeded to quickly stop.

The whole room was silent, except for George’s exaggerated and high pitched sobs.

“Jesus, kid.” One guard winced.

“Well, as enjoyable and sympathy inducing as your tragic backstory is, I still have yet to believe it.” Poopypants admitted. “Not until you tell me where the prince is and he’s brought right to me. Then we can talk about revenge and getting you back Betty.”

“He’s going to be in the blackberry bush area within the woods, by the creek, where there’s a huge blue rock shaped like a star!” George quickly told him. “I know because I overheard that he’s trying to kill time and make everyone think he went south!” Poopypants thought for a minute.

“Hey you, Chucklemuffins!” He pointed at a guard, forcing George to bite his hand to prevent himself from laughing. “Go send that flying naked man-baby to that area! If the boy is there, he’ll go after him without stopping!”

“Yes sir!” Chucklemuffins saluted and walked away. Meanwhile George had to fight the urge to laugh as Rio still gave him a suspicious look.

****

One good thing about being by so many blackberry bushes was that it meant more to eat, provided you got the early ones that ripened before the others. Harold recalled growing the garden up in the tower with Edith and how tending to it made that time somewhat bearable. At least there was something to look forward to whenever it was time to harvest and there was almost always something to grow for each season.

This was no different, except this wasn’t something he was looking forward to.

He finished eating as much as he could before he sat on the nearby rock near the one shaped like a blue star and waited.

Waited.

He shut his eyes.

Waited.

Waited.

He really wished he heard the made up story George was intending on telling Poopypants. It was sure to be hilarious.

Waited.

Waited.

He didn’t even realize Captain Underpants finally came until he heard the sound of something moving towards him–a slight rustling. He was almost startled when he saw the adult looking at him, but it was hard to tell with that helmet on, which looked so out of place.

The silence was unsettling for the boy.

Even when the brainwashed hero roughly picked Harold up, it felt wrong–it lacked the friendly care that he was used to. Even when he took to the sky, the way he held him felt too tight as if he weren’t an actual person to the man.

Harold wanted to rip that stupid helmet off Captain Underpants and bring him back to his cheerful self–that’s all it could take, right? Once it was off, he’d be back to his happy self. But what would he do if it didn’t work? And what would happen if Poopypants found out that the brainwashing was undone too soon?

Harold could do nothing but silently plea. I promise we’re going to free you, Captain. Just wait a little longer.

****

“Harold?!” Grace continued to call out in alarm. “Harold?!” She looked around but she saw no sign of her son in the inn. Ree left with the Sneedly adults and as many troops as he could through the secret tunnel, saying that he had a sure plan to defeat Poopypants, but George and Harold had vanished too. Those who were left were mainly families.

“He’s not here.” She turned around to see Melvin. “He defied you and did what you told him not to. He’s probably already back at the castle where they’ll eventually tell you that they have him.”

Grace’s eyes widened and her blood froze.

“They won’t get very far with that plan of theirs.” Melvin told her. “Not as long as your preferred choice of a champion sees you as an enemy. Manpower won’t be enough. You might as well have a weapon equal to theirs to have a chance–something that could be equal to him.”

He waited as Grace thought things over.

Finally she shook her head and turned to the boy. “How far in development is that armor you created?”

Melvin kept the innocent mask on, but inside he was grinning wickedly. Finally he made the queen see his way!

*****

Grumpkins (the very aptly named guard) was not in the best of moods. He was on duty to watch over some of the Piqua troops that they managed to capture and lock up behind their own bars in the castle. None of them knew the whereabouts of the queen, but they are also the most annoying of the entire bunch.

“It’s been five days and you still won’t let us out!” Meaner yelled at Grumpkins from his prison cell that he was forced to share with Rected and the other least favored guards of Piqua.

“And the food is awful!” Anthrope huffed. “It looks like puke and it probably tastes like it!”

“For the last time will you ever shut up about that?!” Grumpkins snapped at them. “What kind of kingdom is protected by a bunch of morons like you?!”

He was met with a series of protests and accusations.

Meanwhile, George was also forced to share a cell, but he was having the time of his life watching the evil adults suffer and he couldn’t stop smiling. His cell mate Luca noticed and couldn’t help but ask “Why are you happy?”

“Because I’m having some well deserved revenge.” George gave Luca a sly grin. Luca couldn’t help but role his eyes and chuckle.

There was a knock at the door and a female guard came in bringing Harold by the hand. “He was telling the truth all along–we found him.”

Grumpkins looked at Harold in surprise, but when he saw the woman, he smirked. “Too bad you weren’t the one to find him, Daisy.”

Daisy ignored the man as she lead Harold to the cell opposite George’s. The boys were relieved to see each other again, though they both pretended to share a mean look at each other and had to fight the urge to say anything (as advised by Erica to avoid suspicion). Once Harold was locked behind his cell bars, Daisy unlocked George’s cell and took him out. “Well, I guess the Professor will owe you one.” She admitted. “Come on,” She lead him out.

“Have fun not being the hero of the day, Daisy.” Grumpkins sneered at the woman as she left.

“Wait a minute.” One of the Piqua guards behind bars asked. “She’s from your country, but she’s got a normal sounding name? Not like ‘Barfarina’ or something like that?”

“She doesn’t have a traditional New Swissland name to be proud of because her parents were that stupid!” Grumpkins snapped at the guards. “So she’s no better than any of you!”

“Well at least we weren’t named ‘Grumpkins.’” Meaner chortled, causing the other guards to laugh alongside him to Grumpkins’ annoyance.

******

“More tea, professor?” One of the guards came up to the professor with a tray as he sat on Queen Grace’s throne.

“Of course, Dogchins McBreathmint!” Poopypants gladly took the teacup off the tray as George was forced to sit next to him on a pillow. The boy didn’t know which was the hardest–trying not to give away that he was tricking the old man or trying to hold in his laughter with all of his might. He had to breathe heavily through his nose and puff his cheeks out each time he heard a name more ridiculous than the next one.

A split second after he took a sip of the tea, Poopypants spat it out. “I TOLD YOU NO CITRUS!” He screamed at Dogchins as he hurled the cup, which landed right into the helmet that was still covering Captain Underpants’ head. It shattered upon hitting the helmet and covered the brainwashed hero in hot tea, but he made no reaction to it, much to George’s horror (for the man should have shown pain) and dismay (because he was so sure that the usual trigger could probably snap him out of this state, but it didn’t).

Poopypants then took a whistle out and blew into it. “TOSS HIM OUT!” He yelled in anger at Captain Underpants.

George was forced to watch as Captain Underpants then took the unfortunate guard and, in less than five seconds, threw the screaming man through one of the windows, which shattered into pieces.

George understood that Poopypants was too dangerous to be granted control of Piqua. He was making the worst of the adults that he knew look like perfect angels. George was furious that he turned Captain Underpants into a soulless husk, and apparently even getting doused with water did nothing to snap him out of the brain washing. He couldn’t do anything about it and especially not when Rio was still eying him suspiciously, as if he hadn’t been tricked like Poopypants.

“So, uh, Professor,” George decided to try to fan Poopypants’ ego a bit. “That machinery you use... you didn’t happen to use magic too, did you?”

As if he hadn’t thrown a fit, Poopypants quickly recovered and laughed. “Magic? Ninety percent of my creations are pure science! All magic does is give me a boost!” He then thought for a second. “But the truth is that New Swissland does have crystals that the magic folk want to get their hands on. In fact there was this one lady who helped me power one of my creations in exchange for a special set of crystals.” He grinned. “She said that she needed to build a device that could drain someone of their magic, and apparently our New Swissland crystals were just the thing she needed. What was her name again?” He tried to recall. “It started with an ‘S.’.... Sally? Sadie? Savannah? Sayuri?”

“Sarah?” George couldn’t stop himself from asking as the warning bell rang in his head.

“Yeah, that’s it!” Poopypants pounded his fist into his free hand.

George felt his stomach churn. “Sarah needed those crystals to drain Regenbogen.” He quietly whispered. She needed them to drain the flower of creation’s magic out of Captain Underpants. If she knew back then, he could have been dead by now.

“The last I heard, she was sent to Oberon’s Cage.” Poopypants added. “But only the Piqua Royal Family and the magic folk know where it is. Anyway–I NEED TEA!” He shrieked. “AND THIS TIME GET THE RIGHT KIND!”

Unknown to them all, Melvin was listening around one of the corners, after having snuck into the castle through his own means. He merely threw a certain cloak back on, which completely covered him and then it vanished as if it made its wearer invisible to the naked eye.

“What I could use is a Deus Ex Machina real soon if this all doesn’t work out.” George muttered under his breath.

****

Blueberry the Night Fury–the very same dragon that the boys had the fortune of meeting–came upon the abandoned giant flying chamber pot (from way back in chapter five, to those who forgot). He tilted his head in curiosity at it before pawing at it.

He then let out a cry and jumped away as the giant flying chamber pot suddenly shot out and rocketed into the sky while expelling blue smoke behind it without any warning.

******

Harold let out an overly dramatic sigh. “Well it’s a good thing I got this before I was captured!” He held up a vial of purple liquid. “Probably better than whatever prisoners get around here!”

He then unscrewed the cap of the vial and drank the contents down, which had a bit of a fruity taste. All the while Grumpkins didn’t make any attempt to respond. When Harold finished it off, he put the cap back on and waited.

Five minutes later, the boy was suddenly gagging and clutching his neck.

“What the heck are you doing?” Grumpkins lazily asked Harold as everyone else in their cells turned around in alarm. The boy’s eyes bulged out of a face that was gradually turning red and he fell back on to the floor. He made strangled sounds as if trying to cry out for help.

“Wait, are you–?” Grumpkins asked. “What is this, are you trying to–?”

“You got to help him!” Luca panicked when he realized what was most likely happening to the boy. “Come on, hurry!” He grew frantic as Harold thrashed about. Moments later, the boy suddenly stopped and laid perfectly still.

More moments passed.

“Wait, was he actually choking to death?!” Grumpkins quickly ran to the cell and unlocked it. He darted inside and knelt beside the boy, whose eyes were shut and whose chest didn’t seem to be moving. To be on the safe side, he reached out and touched Harold’s neck for a pulse.

A split second later, Harold suddenly poked a finger at Grumpkin’s eye. The man let out a scream and shot up while grabbing his eye, and accidentally dropped the keys, to which Harold quickly grabbed and used to lock the guard in the cell when he escaped out of it.

“HEY! LET ME OUT!” Grumpkins screamed at the boy as he pulled at the bars of his cell door, but Harold ignored him as he unlocked the door to Luca’s cell door.

“Thanks!” Luca smiled as he hurried out. “What now?”

****five minutes later****

The guard had been knocked out and after Luca stole his uniform, he and Harold left the cells together.

“Hey what about us?!” Anthrope yelled as she and the other angry guards yelled out protests.

“Should we help them?” Luca asked Harold, but the boy shook his head.

*****There’s too many of these cutaways/page breaks in this chapter, isn’t there? *****

After careful sneaking around and using the power of fooling others via a disguise to get information, Harold and Luca found themselves in the castle’s grand library. It was one of the best rooms in the castle, filled top to bottom with all sorts of books, comfy chairs to sit and rest upon, and huge purple curtains for the large stained glass windows. It was one of George and Harold’s favorite rooms and among the very few that remained safe from their pranks. Smack in the center of the room was the object Harold was looking for–a large metal cube with strange markings.

“C.R.U.D.S. is in the library.” Harold whispered before letting out a giggle. “Ok, you go ahead and find Ree. He should be here any minute.”

“Got it!” Luca whispered back before hurrying away and closed the doors behind him.

Harold then began to head towards the C.R.U.D.S., but frowned. “Wait,” He went over to grab a random book of a shelf and, facing the cube, threw it towards it. The book smacked the side of the C.R.U.D.S. and fell to its side without having anything else done to it.

“I guess everything is fine!” Harold shrugged as he walked towards it.

Then without warning, a loud ringing noise erupted from somewhere within the room.

“What the–?!” Harold looked around, only to notice four strange poles that were carefully hidden within a certain amount of feet from the cube and there were black wires above them that were strung together.

Harold panicked and quickly ran up the nearest staircase. He scrambled to get the prism out of his pocket that could destroy the cube, but before he could pull it out, the doors swung open, forcing him to fall to the ground and crawl behind the nearest bookshelf.

“WHO SET OFF MY ALARM?!” Poopypants yelled as he pressed a button on a small box in his hands, which shut the alarm off. “DID ANY OF YOU TRIGGER IT?!” He turned to some guards who were following him into the room.

“No sir.”

“We know better than to go in there, sir.”

“Well unless a rat did it, someone knows about C.R.U.D.S. and was going to destroy it!” He pointed at the cube as Harold glanced around the bookshelf to watch as Rio came into the room. “Now who could have done it?!”

“Professor.” Rio knelt down to whisper to the professor. “Its the boys.”

“WHAT?!” Poopypants was incredulous. “How?! One of them is locked up and the other is still in the throne room!”

Rio whispered something that Harold was unable to hear, but he didn’t like the smile that formed on Poopypants’ face afterwards. The man grabbed something from his pocket and then spoke into it:

“Bring the dark haired child with the tie into the library and hold him up in the air as high as you can.”

At this, Harold felt his heart freeze up.

Within a minute, a familiar figure bursted into the room and Harold could only watch in horror as the brainwashed Captain Underpants was holding George by the front of his shirt and the child was struggling to hold onto his arm for dear life.

“So, you thought you could double cross me, boy?” Poopypants sneered up at George. “Because my spy thought so!”

“I literally warned you about this.” Rio sighed and rolled his eyes at the old man. “Captain Underpants!” George pleaded as he tried to reach out a hand towards the adult, who only stared at him. “It’s me George, remember?! You have to snap out of this!” If only he could be able to take that stupid helmet off of him!

“Apparently my spy says that the prince must have escaped somehow and is trying to rid me of a useful soldier of war!” Poopypants spat. “Which means that he’s probably still here in this room! So if the prince is still truly your friend, and that wasn’t a cake of lies and deceit that you tried to feed me, then he has ten seconds to show up before I have that naked freak end your miserable little life!”

Both George and Harold were now terrified. George was just then able to notice Harold from where he was in that instant, but neither boy could react to each other beyond giving each other a shared look of panic.

Harold then noticed something–if his aim was just right, he could hurl the P.E.E. down at the C.R.U.D.S. and with a bit of luck, it could destroy it on impact.

“TEN! NINE!”

Outside, Ree was cautiously waiting with the rest of the troops, Erica, Bo, Gooch, and Doctor and Lady Sneedly. He told George and Harold that if he either heard Captain Underpants yell out his infamous cry or if it was clear that something inside was getting out of control, he’d run in, but he didn’t tell the boys that he would not hesitate to end Captain Underpants’ life if it had to come down to it.

“EIGHT! SEVEN!”

Melvin smugly swung the doors to the family lab open to see that the Knightmare Knight was still in one piece. Finally he was going to show the queen just how wrong she was!

“SIX! FIVE!”

It then hit Harold as he pulled the prism out–this could all go wrong, He’d have to risk making a horrible choice. He could surrender and save George, but put Piqua at a horrible disadvantage and even let Captain Underpants continue to be Poopypants’ instrument of war if it didn’t work. He could do as he was supposed to do, try to free Captain Underpants, and give Piqua a chance to win back their home, but he’d have to risk losing George all over again by the very hand of the man who once inspired him (the only man who Harold would even think to consider as a replacement father for the one he never knew).

“FOUR! THREE!”

George gritted his teeth and braced himself for the inevitable as Captain Underpants’ grip tightened. He already died for Harold once, and he’d gladly die for him again.

“TWO! TWO AND A HALF! ONE! ONE AND A HALF! ONE AND THREE QUARTERS! AND–!”

*****To be continued in the next chapter*****

Chapter Text

“TWO! TWO AND A HALF! ONE! ONE AND A HALF! ONE AND THREE QUARTERS! AND–!”

“WAIT A SECOND I WOULDN’T DROP ANYONE FROM THE SKY IF I WERE YOU!” George quickly bursted out and interrupted Poopypants while startling Harold at the same time. “THE LAST TIME THAT HAPPENED, WE COULDN’T WASH THE GUNK OFF THE GROUND!”

“What?” Poopypants was about to snap, but was now confused.

“Yeah these monster ladies fell off a tower!” George shot a glance at Harold that told him to ‘Hurry the heck up with it, now!’ “It was really gross and it made me vomit! Ugh!” He grimaced at the memory as Harold glanced at the prism in his hand and then back at the C.R.U.D.S. on the ground. “It took them days to scrub it off and you can still see the stains! Imagine doing that in here! It’d wreck the floors! And this is a nice library!” Harold moved as close as he could as he twisted the P.E.E. in his hand to get it ready. “I mean it’s bad if blood got on the floor, but the books? That would stink! Especially considering that neither of us know which ones are the super rare, over a hundred years old! And I actually like a lot of the books here, so I’d know–!”

At this point, Harold quickly shot out and threw the P.E.E. at the cube down below, and although many troop members saw the blonde and tried to scream out a warning, it was futile. The P.E.E. landed on the cube and a split second later, C.R.U.D.S. exploded into several pieces while sending out several sparks of yellow things out along with a huge burst of smoke.

Everyone else screamed and ducked for cover and one fragment of the cube smacked right into Captain Underpants’ head, causing him to fall while taking a screaming George with him.

There was a lot of coughing and when the smoke cleared up enough, everyone could see that the cube was completely destroyed while everything around it was covered in black soot.

“NO!” Poopypants screamed at the sight. “HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!”

George managed to get out from under Captain Underpants, and as the adult tried to push himself off the floor, the boy didn’t waste a second–he grabbed the helmet and pulled with all of his might until finally the helmet popped right off, causing him to fall to his back as Captain Underpants gasped for air.

Both George and Harold held their breaths as they waited to see if their friend was back to normal.

“Man, does my head and face feel weird!” Captain Underpants cheerfully exclaimed as he rubbed his cheeks (for some unexplained reason, he was still clean shaven despite having had that helmet on for a whole week or so). “It’s like my head was stuck in a huge pot or something of the sort all day!”

“Oh thank God!” Harold let out a deep sigh and ran his hands through his hair.

“YOU!” Poopypants whipped around and pointed up to the blonde. “YOU DID THAT, DIDN’T YOU! YOU AND THAT TALKATIVE PUNK WERE IN ON THIS!” He pointed at George, who ceased smiling at Captain Underpants and the two looked at Poopypants. “YOU THINK YOU CAN OUTSMART ME AND ROB ME OF ONE OF MY BEST HUMAN WEAPONS OF DESTRUCTION?!”

“Yeah.” Harold nonchalantly nodded.

“Pretty much.” George agreed.

Poopypants was practically foaming at the mouth with spit as he angrily commanded to his men. “GET THEM! KILL THEM! I DON’T CARE ANY MORE! I WANT THE THREE OF THEM DEAD!”

“Uh oh!” Captain Underpants quickly scooped up George, flew right towards Harold, picked him up just as Poopypants’ men tried shooting at him with arrows, and flew off through one of the already destroyed windows.

*****

“Any minute now, they should be freeing Captain Underpants!” Luca explained to Ree before quickly resuming a happy reunion hug with his sister.

“Alright.” Ree nodded as the Piqua troops behind him waited. “But what about–?”

“TRA-LA-LAA!” A familiar and much welcomed joyous cry rang out and a certain familiar figure could be seen flying into the air while carefully carrying two smaller figures as equally familiar as the large one.

“Alright, attack!” Ree swung a sword out. “FOR PIQUA!”

“FOR PIQUA!” Everyone else screamed as they charged ahead into the castle grounds. The New Swissland guards were taken completely by surprise, and soon chaos erupted as another battle commenced.

“Oh yeah, and get everyone else who was locked up!” Ree quickly remembered.

Oh and that too, but none of us really cared about those guys, did we?

“Erica!” Erica looked up from her spot with Bo, Gooch, and the Sneedlys to see Captain Underpants come towards her while the boys grinned and waved at her. “We did it! We freed Captain Underpants!” George exclaimed.

“Good!” Erica shot them a smile. “Now do you know where the E.S.C. is?”

At this the boys faces fell. “Uh,” Harold bit his lip. “No?”

Erica slapped her face. “Ok, then we’ll have to just split up and find it. You guys come with me.” She gestured to Bo and Gooch. “You three try to look up top.” She told the trio.

“Got it!” George saluted. “You fly us around the castle and we’ll tell you when we find it.” He told Captain Underpants. The adult nodded and flew off.

“ALRIGHT, THIS IS WHAT I’M LIKING HERE!” Lavator yelled with glee as he shot paintball after paintball at the New Swissland troops, either stunning them or temporarily blinding them as his comrades also completed their work. “NO RULES! JUST GOING COMPLETELY NUTS!”

Poopypants watched from a safe distance and growled. “Two can play this game.” He snapped his head towards the general. “General, you do your thing! I got something to do!”

“Ja, Herr Professor.” The general nodded as the professor walked off in a different direction.

Meanwhile, two very different groups were trying to find the E.S.C.

“No.” George and Harold shook their heads at the kitchen.

“No.” Erica, Bo, and Gooch, shook their heads at the royal treasury.

“No.” George and Harold shook their heads at the queen’s study.

“No.” Erica, Bo, and Gooch shook their heads at the ballroom.

“No.” George and Harold shook their heads at a spare room.

“No.” Erica, Bo, and Gooch shook their heads at the semi destroyed library.

“N–” The boys stopped and could only stare as a painter was completing a portrait depicting an unusually tall and muscular Poopypants riding a horse to victory. It made both boys want to vomit as they were taken out of the room.

“No.” Erica sighed as she glanced around the hallway where the Royal Family’s personal chambers were. “Seriously, where–”

“You three!” The kids turned their heads to see one of New Swissland’s men pointing a sword at them as he was flanked by four others. “If you don’t want to die, you’ll all–!”

A pinkish-purple flame like object shot out and crashed into the man and created a burst of sparks that made him and the others collapse.

Erica and Bo turned their stunned eyes to Gooch as he aimed a crossbow aimed right at the opposing group.

“So, I told you guys that I was magic in the last chapter, right?” He asked. “I completely forgot until now.”

****

Meanwhile the fight amongst the armies within the castle walls were getting hectic as many of New Swissland’s troops regained their armor, which made them that much harder to fight. The boys and Captain Underpants were watching on from the topmost tower as they continued their search.

“Argh, it could be anywhere!” Harold threw his hand out. “If I were a crazy scientist guy with a machine that could power a bunch of stuff, where would I put it?!”

George thought for a moment, then smiled. “I think I know exactly where.”

As Captain Underpants took them away, Ree was forced to fight the New Swissland’s general, except the armor she wore was barely let him make any dents and her swords were surging with some kind of electrical blue current that, while no different from the weapons provided by the Sneedlys, was capable to sending strong jolts of agonizing pain that overpowered their weapons by just one touch.

“We shall claim this land as our own and we shall be the glory of all of Europe!” The general boasted to Ree. “You will not win!”

“Hey, I get that you’re all upset that everyone else makes fun of your name!” Ree protested. “I got made fun of for my name all the time–!”

“They will not laugh at my name when it goes down in history!” The general swung her sword. “Kids of hundreds of years from now will quake at the name of General Skunkatina Bunnybutts! They will know fear when they–!”

“Whoah, whoah, wait!” Dora and Luca quickly stopped and came up behind Ree as they stared at the general in disbelief. “You mean after all this time of not knowing your name,” Dora asked. “It’s... actually Skunaktina Bunnybutts?!”

“General Bunnybutts?!” Luca snorted before collapsing with laughter. “BUNNYBUTTS?!”

“SHUT UP, I WILL KILL YOU HERE AND NOW!” General Bunnybutts snarled as she charged towards the twins with her swords out and ready.

“AGH!” One of Piqua’s men screamed when they saw the familiar round vehicles crash through the stone walls. “It’s those weird vehicles again!” He ran as one of them shot a cannon ball out and almost crash into him and some others. The sight of three of the vehicles sent everyone on Piqua’s side into a panic as they were forced to make a run for it.

There was a loud crash and suddenly Melvin came bursting though one of the castle walls while controlling his own large suit of armor.

“HA! It’s working!” The boy laughed. “SEE?! IT WORKS! I TOLD YOU ALL–HEY!” He yelled as a few of Piqua’s men rushed to attack him. “I’M ON YOUR SIDE, DUMMIES!” Yet they kept attacking him and the boy had no choice but to try to move his hand as if to hit them to scare them off. Then he tried moving towards one of the strange vehicles and tried to grab it and flip it on it’s side.

It didn’t work. It was too heavy to lift.

“OH COME ON!” He yelled in frustration and made the armor smash a fist into the vehicle, causing it to damage the controls within it as the person inside screamed. “Or... that works too.” He shrugged and continued on his way.

****

“Told you!” George grinned as Captain Underpants set them down inside the Sneedly residence. Harold took a look and sure enough, he saw the E.S.C. resting in one of those round vehicles that somehow managed to get inside the house.

“I guess that makes sense.” Harold agreed. “Now how do we take care of this?”

“First things first.” George turned to Captain Underpants as he relaxed and smiled at him.

Captain Underpants found himself getting hugged tightly by George and Harold. “Oh hey! What’s up?” He asked them.

“We’re just glad you’re here!” George hugged the man as tightly as he could.

“Same!” Harold agreed as he buried his head into Captain Underpants’ stomach. “You have no idea how much we missed you!”

“Well, it’s a good thing I’m here then.” Captain Underpants smiled as he tossled the boys’ hair. They both were relieved to see him back to normal–they had missed his goofy nature, his silly antics, his smile, and just how comforting it could be to be with him. They never wanted him to be like that soulless version of himself ever again.

The boys let go of Captain Underpants and they all turned back to the E.S.C. “Ok.” George commanded. “So I guess just punch it into bits and see what happens!”

“Got it!” Captain Underpants saluted and flew towards the tank.

Just as he reached the E.S.C. a dark blur crashed right into him, knocking him right into the nearest wall where he broke through it with a loud crash.

“You aren’t getting your hands on that!” The boys turned around to see another of New Swissland’s armor, yet this one was four times an average man’s size and they could see Poopypants’ small head sticking out of the top of it as he pulled at a bunch of levers and pushed some buttons.

“Oh no,” Harold gulped.

“Oh come on!” George threw his hands out. “He has to keep making this harder!” “Why don’t you ever make like flies and buzz off!” The armor moved a hand back and the boys realized what was about to happen and they made a run for it before they got smacked.

******

The battle in the castle had changed tides somewhat with Melvin’s help, but as the boy was quick to find out, that meant he was a target for the other vehicles who tried shooting cannons at him.

“MELVIN!” Lady Sneedly screamed when she saw what was happening. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! GET BACK HERE THIS INSTANT!”

“WE TOLD YOU NOT TO USE THAT!” Doctor Sneedly also screamed. Yet both their screams went unheard as the boy inside the armor was forced to make a run for it and everyone else was trying to run from him to avoid being struck.

One cannon ball that was fired managed to hit the armor. Fortunately for the terrified Melvin it only made a noticeable hole though the left side, though it had been dangerously close to hitting the crystal powering the armor. It let out an ominous spark as if it sensed what had happened.

“FORGET THIS, I’M OUT OF HERE!” THe boy yelled as he hurried back to his parent’s house.

Meanwhile, the battle was not in favor for Piqua in the front courtyard. With two vehicles and double the amount of New Swissland troops compared to Piqua, the latter was outnumbered.

“I could really use a deus ex machina right now!” One of Piqua’s men screamed in frustration as he was losing his stamina against fighting his own opponent. “Can’t we just have one for once for this stupid fight?!”

Then without any warning, a stampede of various animals broke through the opened gates to the front courtyard.

“WHAT THE HECK?!” One of New Swissland’s troops screamed at the unexpected addition as many members of both sides could only watch in confusion.

“Remember, fellow animals!” Lil Petey yelled from the side as the animals–from dogs and cats, to hogs, horses, and cows–flooded into the castle towards the fighting. “The enemy will all give us pet names far more embarrassing than what we have! This is our time! Do not throw away your shot!”

Then to the further surprise of all of Piqua’s troops, the animals began to attack the New Swissland troops. Animals that could bite tried to bite, animals that could scratch tried to scratch, and those with tusks or horns charged at humans who screamed for their lives as they ran for it.

At the entrance to the front courtyard, Petey was sitting with Greg and watching everything with stunned eyes. He gave the dog a side glare and huffed. “Ok... I guess leaving him with you wasn’t a bad idea... but this is a one time thing, got it?!”

***** somewhere beyond the fourth wall*****

“Now that random moment you just witnessed? That was actually my idea.” The male grinned from the laptop before looking back at the writer. “She’s still sleeping and listening to musicals?!” He was amazed. “Those must be some pretty good show tunes.”

****back to the story***

“GET BACK HERE!” Poopypants screamed as the fists of his machine swung at the boys, but the two ran as fast as they could before they could get flattened into the floor.

“Get away!” George screamed as he grabbed a random vial of liquid and threw it at the armor. Poopypants smacked it away and when it hit a wall instead, it sent out a cloud of pink smoke and candy scented fumes.

“Hey guys, I’m back!” Captain Underpants waved as he let out a weak laugh and flew towards the E.S.C. again.

Poopypants noticed in time and quickly smacked the hero away, causing him to let out a cry of protest as he crashed through another wall.

“Hey, take this!” Harold yelled as he also grabbed a vial and threw it at Poopypants. All it did was explode on the armor’s body and left a huge green splat on it.

“OH GO TAKE A REST!” Poopypants screamed as he swung at whoever he could, which happened to be Harold.

“HAROLD!” George screamed when the armor’s hand made contact and smacked the blonde into the air. He could do nothing but watch as his friend went crashing into a set of crates and knocked hard against them.

“One brat down, another to go!” Poopypants crackled as George turned around and growled in anger. He grabbed another vial and when the old man tried to take a swing at him, this time he ran straight to the legs. He then ran under as Poopypants let out confused sounds and tried to turn around, but as he did, George ran around him.

“Whoah, that was twice in a row!” Captain Underpants shook his head as he came back in. “Now where were we?”

“HEY!” George screamed at Poopypants. When the scientist finally turned around, George threw the vial at him and when it was close enough to break against the topmost part of the armor, a huge cloud of strawberry smelling red gas erupted out of it.

“WILL YOU TWO EVER STOP IT WITH YOUR PLEASANTLY SCENTED CLOUDS?!” Poopypants tried to frantically wave the clouds away before he spotted George rushing over to Harold. He grinned and ran after the boys and when he was close enough, he pounded the ground hard enough with the armor’s fist to send the boy flying up before falling to the ground. He let out a laugh as he raised his hand, preparing to crush the boy–

“Hey guys, should I still punch this?!”

Poopypants turned around and let out a scream when he saw Captain Underpants flying with the E.S.C. over his head.

“YOU GIVE THAT BACK!”

“Whoops!” Captain Underpants panicked and quickly flew outside, forcing Poopypants to go after him though the hole in the wall he had made.

“Oh thank god!” Meanwhile, Melvin was in the process of hurrying back to the house. “As soon as I–WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY HOUSE?!” He screamed as he saw Captain Underpants flying with the cube in his hands.

“Oh, another enemy!” Captain Underpants grinned and hurled the E.S.C. right at Melvin, causing both him and Poopypants to scream for different reasons. The boy made a quick dodge for it and the cube hit the ground, sending up sparks upon impact, yet it remained intact.

“I’M ON YOUR SIDE, MORON!” Melvin screamed at Captain Underpants before he ran to his house.

“GIVE THAT BACK!” Poopypants screamed at Captain Underpants as he went to pick up the cube once more.

“Harold?!” George flipped Harold over and was horrified to see that not only did the blonde have a nasty cut on his forehead, but he also was developing a noticeable black eye that was already darkening around his right eye. “Oh no,” He gulped as the blonde stirred and tried to wake up.

“G... George? I can’t–” Harold tried to touch the right side of his face, but cried out and withdraw his hand when the touch stung him.

“Get that idiot out of here!” Melvin screamed at the two as Captain Underpants was forced to play a game of chase with Poopypants outside.

“AGH!” Harold screamed as grabbed another one of the vials and chucked it against Melvin’s armor, and it too broke upon impact.

“HEY DON’T!” Melvin screamed at the blonde as green fumes escaped from the vial. “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THOSE THINGS CAN DO!”

“Let’s get out of here!” George had Harold rest an arm around him before he quickly lead the boy out of the house.

“Ugh, how many idiots do I have to deal with today?!” Melvin growled as he pressed the button to open up the door of the armor to get back outside. Yet seconds later, nothing happened. “What?” He confusedly pressed it again, but nothing happened. “What is happening?!” He screamed as he pounded at it. He failed to see the yellow crystal slowly turning orange as it became exposed to the green fumes.

*****

“YOU GIVE ME THAT BACK IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU!” Poopypants screamed as he chased after Captain Underpants, who flew over some courtyards. Some walls of said courtyards were destroyed when the armor Poopypants was controlling broke though them.

“Uh, what do I do with this?!” Captain Underpants frantically asked himself as glanced at the E.S.C. he was holding. “I’m supposed to punch it, but I can’t right now!”

“HEY!” Poopypants screamed at flying man in his underwear. “IF YOU DON’T GIVE THAT BACK TO ME, I’M GOING BACK TO THOSE TWO AND I’LL CRUSH THEM UNDER MY FEET!” This made Captain Underpants stop and look back. “NOW DROP IT!”

“NO DON’T!” George screamed as he and Harold finally caught up to Captain Underpants. “YOU GOTTA DESTROY IT!”

“I can’t punch it while I’m holding it!” Captain Underpants protested.

“GIVE IT TO ME NOW!” Poopypants demanded. “DROP IT!”

“DON’T!” George screamed.

“Do drop it!” Harold suddenly yelled.

All eyes turned in confusion at the blonde.

“What?!” George squeaked.

“Drop it,” Harold commanded before ginning. “But fly up as high as you can first!”

“Ok!” Captain Underpants grinned as Poopypants shrieked in horror. The short man could only watch as the hero then took to the air.

“YOU THREE ARE NOT GOING TO END YEARS OF HARD WORK!” Poopypants pressed something and all of a sudden one hand of the armor flipped open and a cannon came out which was then aimed at the boys. “I’M TAKING YOU DOWN FIRST!” He pressed a button, causing the boys to make a run for it before the cannon ball could strike them and instead it hit an ugly looking bush shaped like an awkward looking swan. He let out maniacal laughter as he took aim and shot again, forcing the boys to dodge and an innocent birdbath suffered the blow instead. He made to press another button–

The E.S.C. came crashing down from the sky right upon the armor, shattering it into pieces as it also shattered into fragments and sent out blue sparks before they faded and died.

*****

Elsewhere, where most of the fighting was taking place, many of New Swissland were finding themselves unable to move their vehicles, their armor, and even activate some of their weapons.

“What the–I can’t control this!” One person tried to press a lever to make their vehicle go, but it didn’t budge.

“I can’t move!” A soldier could barely move his feet in time to avoid getting hit by a charging bull.

Meanwhile, General Bunnybutts panicked as her weapons were unable to shock her opponents. “What ze heck?!” She demanded, only for her to get stuck in the helmet by a random paint ball that exploded and temporarily blinded her vision.

Ree moved away from her and sighed as his brother let out a victory cheer. “Finally... they actually did it.”

*****

“Finally!” Harold let out a breathless laugh as he and George stared at Captain Underpants’ handiwork. “It’s over!”

“We didn’t accidentally kill him, did we?” George frowned as Captain Underpants landed behind the boys.

They all stared at the wreckage.

“Eh, maybe?” Harold shrugged.

“YOU CERTAINLY DID NOT!” The boys and even Captain Underpants screamed as Poopypants bursted from the wreckage. He was covered in black smudges and soot, his glasses were cracked in one frame, and he was aiming a strange looking gun at the two boys. “THIS ISN’T OVER UNTIL I SAY IT IS OVER! I WILL STILL GET MY REVENGE, AND LIKE I SAID, I WILL TAKE YOU DOWN WITH–!”

WIthout any warning, a giant flying chamberpot–the same one from chapter five and which was sent flying somewhere in the last chapter–crashed to the ground and perfectly trapped the small man within its confines when it landed hole down, while startling everyone else at the exact same time.

They all stared as the small man inside screamed in terror.

“Isn’t that the giant chamber pot Billy created?” George asked Harold.

“Yeah I think it is.” Harold agreed as the screams of terror turned into cursing.

More silence followed as the cursing and anger within the chamber pot increased.

“I guess there’s a different sort of poop inside that pot.” George commented.

Seconds passed before both boys burst into laughter.

****

“I STILL CAN’T GET OUT!” Melvin screamed as he pounded at the controls. “WHAT IS HAPPENING?!”

“MELVIN!” Both his parents came running into the house.

“MOTHER! FATHER!” He cried out as they approached him. “I CAN’T GET OUT! HELP ME!”

They instantly knew he meant it even before they saw the state he was in. While Doctor Sneedly hurried to get something, Lady Sneedly rushed to the armor. “It’s alright sweetheart, we’ll help!” She frantically reassured him as she tried to peer through the hole in the armor to see her son, who was giving her a terrified look. “We’ll just–!”

She saw the crystal. So did Melvin.

It was letting out a series of sparks and it sounded as if someone was repeatedly stepping on a bunch of sticks.

“Ok, hang on!” Docotr Sneedly came with a special pen used to melt through metal and cut through wood without sending out sparks. He aimed it at the hole and a red light shot out.

“Gaylord be careful!” Lady Sneedly warned. “The crystal inside is doing something!”

“I will, Cindy!” He promised as he focused and kept his eyes on the increasingly worried Melvin, who tried to stay as far from the crystal as possible. “Melvin, once you see that I cut though the door, you’ll have to push on it and be prepared to fall, ok?!”

The crystal kept sending out more sparks.

Seconds later, the cut was complete and Melvin wasted no time in forcing himself against the metal. The fall wasn’t pleasant and it banged up his shoulder and side, but he managed to fall to the ground before his parents with nothing more. Yet the sparks inside the armor were now increasing and getting larger, and now it was starting to shoot out even more sparks of light.

Both parents instantly realized there was little time to do much. Only one thing mattered now.

Even as Melvin tried to lift himself up, his father quickly grabbed Melvin and hurled him right into the debris of boxes that had been caused by Harold. He managed to get behind him, but it was already too late for his own parents.

It happened all too fast.

The crystal exploded and orange light that filled the room which engulfed the parents as the shards struck them and other parts of the room.

****

With the fates drastically changed thanks to the destruction of the E.S.C., New Swissland eventually had no choice but to surrender. Many were forced to leave the castle grounds as well as leave back to their home country, yet there was one exception.

“YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME!” A handcuffed Professor Poopypants screamed as two Piqua guards were forced to drag him away. “I SWEAR YOU’LL ALL PAY FOR THIS SOMEDAY! JUST YOU WAIT!”

“Yeah, tell it to someone else.” Ree rolled his eyes as he followed the guards, yet for some reason they weren’t heading to the cells.

“Hey, why aren’t they locking him up in the cells?” George asked Erica as he, Harold, and Captain Underpants watched everything.

“He’s too dangerous to keep here, but there’s no telling what’ll happen if he goes back to New Swissland.” Erica informed them. “The magic folk will be keeping an eye on him for a bit at Oberon’s Cage until things can be settled between us and his home country.”

“Wait, isn’t that place where–?” Harold shot George a knowing look.

They both noticed that Poopypants wasn’t the only one getting dragged away–Rio was also getting dragged away by some guards but it was towards the cells. He didn’t seem unhappy by the whole thing, but he didn’t notice the two looking at him. They didn’t care–whatever was going to happen to him, he had it coming for him.

“Any way, things should be settling down soon.” Erica then walked away and headed off. “See you guys later!” She waved and headed towards the front courtyard where many of the animals were heading back out.

Meanwhile, George looked at the canteen of water he was holding, looked at Harold, and then looked at the oblivious Captain Underpants who was waving farewell to Erica. “We just got him back,” He was a bit regretful that this had to be done. “I don’t want to change him back so soon.”

“Always next time though.” Harold smiled, even though he felt exactly the same way. “I’m just glad that Poopypants never found out about you-know-what and used Captain Underpants that way.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” George smiled. He then unscrewed the lid to the canteen and then quickly hurled the contents at the back of Captain Underpants’ head.

Within fifteen seconds, everyone was soon treated to the sight of who they assumed to be Captain Underpants screaming his head off and he tried to make a run for it away from everyone’s gaze while trying to use the cape to cover as much of himself as he could. The speed at which he shot out was quite impressive to behold.

“Oh,” Harold bit his lip. “Krupp isn’t going to like that he’s lost about an entire week of his life, isn’t he?”

“Err,” George also realized this and grimaced. “Yeah... yeah he won’t... But at least everyone will be fine, right?”

“Harold?!” The boys glanced over to see Grace entering the courtyard, but then she picked up her pace when she saw her son.

“Oh hi mom!” Harold smiled and waved. It was only right then that George remembered that Harold still had a nasty cut on his forehead as well as a black eye which had darkened and swollen up pretty good, and he couldn’t help but panic as he looked to back to see Grace stop just feet away from the boys with a horrified look on her face upon seeing the state that her son was in. “Hey, is everything ok?” Harold asked.

George severely regretted not getting Harold to use what was left of the flower inside of Captain Underpants to heal himself.

******

The laboratory of the Sneedly household was a disaster. Much of it had been destroyed thanks to the fight with Poopypants and now there was a huge misshapen mass of hardened crystal the color of amber. It might as well have been amber, considering what it had swallowed up.

Melvin could only stare in horror at it.

“Mom.... Dad?” He asked, hoping against hope that he was just dreaming.

Both Doctor and Lady Sneedly were trapped within the crystal. Though there features were darkened up by the crystal, he could still make out what they were doing–shielding themselves from the blast, with his father keeping an arm around his wife while pressed against her as if he had hoped to take the full blow in her place.

They had been overtaken by the same crystal he was using to power the armor. The same crystal that somehow reacted to those fumes Harold carelessly caused.

In a fit of anger, the boy slammed his fist hard against the crystal. A part of him hoped it would shatter, but it did not. It didn’t keep him from repeatedly slamming his fists against it, hoping that this was all some joke, but it wasn’t it.

Seconds passed and his fists hurt, but it was hard to calm down even when he needed to catch his breath.

“This wouldn’t of happened if your mom let me work on it more...” Melvin growled through his teeth. “This wouldn’t of happened if you hadn’t been messing with my stuff like I told you not to... if you all could have just taken the fighting elsewhere!”

“You better hope I can find a way to fix this soon, Harold.” Melvin curled his fists so tightly his nails cut into his palms. “Because if I don’t... THE ENTIRE ROYAL FAMILY AND EVERYONE ELSE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HAPPENED TO MY PARENTS IS GOING TO PAY!” He screamed up at the sky. “STARTING WITH YOU AND YOUR BEST FRIEND!”

Chapter Text

It had been a certain amount of time since Piqua was invaded and won the fight against New Swissland. The damages done upon the main town and the castle were not too severe, but there was still quite a bit of cleaning up and repairing to do.

One of the guards looking at the town from the top of the bailey winced before turning to the other guard. “Man, I’m glad all the fighting is over.” He began. “Too bad it wasn’t one of those weird monsters that started showing up around here, or else it could have taken just a day.”

“Yeah if it wasn’t for Captain Underpants and those two boys again, who knows what could of happened.” The other guard agreed as she scratched her cheek. “I wish he didn’t get brainwashed and made things go for almost a whole week when that midget scientist was controlling him.”

“And it was a good thing we all managed to fight back. Well, except for those guys who like being jerks to the kids. I never got why we needed to be so harsh on those kids–honestly I’m glad they didn’t mess things up. It was nice that we had Sir Ree back for a brief time.”

“Yeah, too bad he left right after. I would of taken him over Krupp any day–I don’t think he’s ever managed all of us during a previous attack before and honestly he looks like the kind of guy who would have ran away the moment they all arrived.”

“He probably did.” The male guard agreed. “I never saw him even once since the fighting began. The only thing I heard he did was help get the princess and that cute lady out of Piqua undetected, but when did he show up again?”

“I bet he hid somewhere.”

“Yeah. We’re probably better off without him. I heard that not only did the queen threaten to kick him out, but she deliberately chose Ree over him.” He let out a laugh as the female guard noticed something behind him and tried to wave her hands in warning. “I don’t think any of us would miss him if he were–what?” He finally noticed the female guard’s reactions. “What are you doing?!”

Unknown to him and especially to his companion until she noticed first, Krupp had heard everything and happened to be standing right within one of the stone towers connected to the bailey. The female guard waited in anticipation for the usual burst of anger and accusations or denials, but to her surprise the man just gave them a blank look and turned back.

As he walked down the steps, he ran a hand over his face and when he reached the bottom of the steps, he glanced at a letter that he found in his quarters that was making him feel happy up until he overheard that conversation.

Would you like to look around town and relax for awhile tomorrow afternoon? –Edith

*****

“Uh, hi mom!” Harold let out a nervous laugh as he entered Grace’s study. “You wanted to see me about something? Am I ungrounded yet?” He asked. “I mean, I know I went against what you told me and not only served as bait, but I got involved with the fighting in the castle, got into trouble and–” He stopped himself with another nervous chuckle and rubbed his arm. He could see his mother standing by the window with an unreadable expression.

“Look, I helped everyone win, alright?” He continued. “Piqua is back to normal, everyone is safe, and George and I freed Captain Underpants, which wouldn’t of happened if we didn’t agree to Ree’s plan! But things are going back to normal again, and then pretty soon I’ll get to go to school, so George and I won’t be bothering anyone here too much anymore!”

Grace finally turned to face Harold. “I can’t let you go to the school.”

Harold was not expecting that. “What?”

“I’m going to have tutors for both you and Heidi here at the castle.”

“Wait–what are you talking about, I don’t understand! Here at the castle?! I studied with George for a really long time to get into the school with him! And now you’re saying I can’t be with him?! With the other kids?!” He felt his heart sink as he hoped he was just having a bad dream.

“You disobeyed me and you got injured in the process.” Grace answered. “There’s no telling what could of happened if something even worse came to pass! You could have died! You could have been taken away from me again!”

“You’re doing this because I didn’t obey you?! Because I had to help?!”

“I can’t lose you again, Harold! I can’t live with that heartache anymore! You have no idea what it is like to lose someone dear to you!”

“I do! I thought I lost George when he tried to save me! And you’re going to keep me locked up away from him if he gets to go to school without me?! That’s not fair!”

“If it’s to protect you, then yes! You may have not known me your whole life, but you are still my child! And because of that, there will be dangers outside that will try to harm you and someone will try to kidnap you and harm you again! You think life is fair and that you can do anything you want because you’re now a prince?!”

“No! That’s not what I–!” Harold felt a wide range of emotions bubbling and boiling inside of him. He felt so many things going through his head at once and there were so many things he wanted to say. He stared at the floor and, in the most cold, venomous voice that he could dare use, said “You know what? You’re no better than Ribble if you’re just going to lock me up my whole life away from everyone!”

Grace stared in shock and before she could do anything, Harold quickly opened the door and ran out as fast as he could.

*****

“Wait, what do you mean ‘might need to go back to our town?!’” George squeaked as he sat in front of his parents.

“We can’t live in this castle forever.” Moses tried to be gentle. “I know being here means you get to be so close to Harold, but we need to find our own home and truly start our lives back up.”

“Why can’t we live in the town here?!”

“Sweetie, it’s really hard to find a job around here.” Barbara explained. “The odd job here and there helps, but there isn’t anything that’s a little more permanent that pays enough. It would take a miracle if a job was available for either of us. That’s why we may need to go back to our old town to see if there’s any jobs there.”

“I don’t want to leave Harold!” George protested. “We went through a lot together and there’s things we need to keep an eye out for, like with Cap–!”

“I know you don’t want to leave him.” Moses cut in. “But just because you both may end up having to separate for a bit, it doesn’t mean you can’t still be friends. I’m sure you can stay in contact together if you write to each other and he can still send you drawings.”

George was quiet for a bit before he then got up and left the room.

“George?”

“George, wait! Please come back!”

****

“I can’t go through this again.” Harold frantically mumbled to himself as he wandered the hallways. “How is she not seeing it?!”

“I already went through separation with Harold and it ended up with me dying!”

George also frantically mumbled to himself. “I can’t handle another separation!”

“She’s turning into Ribble! I wish she wasn’t the queen!”

“I can’t handle feeling all alone again! Like no one understands me!”

“But at least George will still be around and he’ll be close by at the school.”

“But at least Harold will still get to be a normal kid and go to the school.”

“But how am I–?”

“How will I–?”

Both boys stopped as they found themselves about ready to bump into each other.

“Oh, hey Harold!” George gave a half-hearted wave.

“Hey George!” Harold waved and gave him a half smile.

Both boys stared at each other.

“So I got something to tell you and you might not like it.”

“I need to tell you something. You might not like it even less.”

“Well it can’t be worse than what I need to tell you. You want to go first?”

“Nah, you go first.”

“Uh, maybe it’s best if you go.”

“No it’s ok, you do it.”

“Why don’t we just tell each other on the count of three?”

“Ok. Then one... two... three–”

A few seconds later, anyone who was near the hallway was treated to the sound of terrified screaming. It made a maid look up in alarm, it made the guards downstairs look up in confusion, and it made the nearest rat accidentally bang its head into the wall when it was trying to go into the mouse hole, and it made Krupp do a glorious spit take when he was trying to drink some water while contemplating things.

***

“You’re moving away?!”

“You’re not going to the school?!”

“NOOOOOOOOOO!” Both boys wailed inside of Harold’s bedroom.

“I can’t live like this again!” Harold grabbed his hair. “I can’t be locked up for years and years! I want to be around people and be outside! I want to be with you! I want to have fun and just be a kid who doesn’t need someone always telling him no!”

“And I don’t want to be without you!” George cried. “You’re my best friend! I don’t want to leave you behind or give you up! I don’t want to go back to feeling alone and miserable again!”

“Maybe we can fix this somehow! Maybe we could convince our parents why we want to stick together!”

“That won’t work! My parents wouldn’t listen and I bet your mom will keep the castle from letting me in!”

“Then let’s run away! We both did it and we could do it again! We could go across the country and do what you did! We could go on all these adventures without any adults with us and we could come up with more stories! We’ll even change our names if we have to!”

“We can’t just leave our families like that and your mom would just send people after you again!”

“Well we–!” Harold gave up and kicked the table. “There’s no way out of this, is there?”

“Yeah.” George was dismayed. “Why is it that bad things have to keep happening to us? Why do we have to keep getting separated again and again?! I mean, I’m glad to be with mom and dad again, but I don’t want to lose you!”

“And I don’t want to be a prince if I can’t be with other kids or be with you! I don’t know if I even want to rule a kingdom!”

George hung his head. “Well... it’s not like someone is going to come waltzing in here with a solution for us.”

“Or is there?!”

Both boys screamed as they turned around to come face to face with Melvin of all people who had to be outside the room.

“If I had a coin for every time you both act like an old married couple.” Melvin pinched his nose. “Anyway, I–”

“Go away Melvin, we want to be miserable together!” Harold scowled.

“Yeah, Melvin. We–wait, what did you say?” George was confused.

“As loathe as I am to do this... I can help you.” Melvin gave the boys a fake smile. “I can build a device that can help you. I can make it so that neither of your parents will remember making the decisions that’ll separate either of you–you get to stay here George, and Harold gets to go to the school with him–”

“What’s in it for you?” Harold demanded.

“I don’t want you pranking everyone out of misery and I have no desire to be your substitute best friend because I can’t stand you.” Melvin bluntly answered. “Also, you have to do something for me first. I need the exact handcuffs that they use on the magic folk.”

“The what now?” George was confused.

“Oh mom told me about those.” Harold recalled. “If they had managed to catch Ribble with those before she took me away, they would have taken her right to Oberon’s Cage. But why do you want them?” He asked Melvin.

“To study their magical properties for an experiment!” Melvin spat. “Now do we have a deal?!”

*****

The boys looked around Grace’s study for the magic handcuffs.

“So why do they call it ‘Oberon’s Cage?’” Harold wondered out loud as he rummaged through some of his mom’s papers.

“Oberon is supposed to be this fairy king. He’s in Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’” George answered as he shoved some books aside. “That one’s my favorite because there’s pranks involved. I’m more curious as to why they’d keep the cuffs around in the castle to begin with.”

“Well, you told me my mom didn’t have a great history with the magic folk after I got kidnapped, and there’s no telling who would come into the castle.”

After a few moments, the boys gave up searching. “The only other place would be your mom’s room.” George told Harold. “Unless they keep them somewhere else.”

“Yeah, but where else would we find those handcuffs?” Harold thought. “If mom owns them, she’d have to entrust them to someone she’d know who wouldn’t misuse them. Someone who’d always be ready to use them and have more than one on hand. Someone who’d either have a lot of power or be good at keeping a secret or–”

They both realized it. They gave each other a look and groaned.

“Of course.”

“It’d figure he’d have them.”

*****

The boys picked the lock to Krupp’s room in the barracks and entered. “Oh man, if only we could prank him while he’s gone!” George moaned. “It’s a free country for us!”

“Come on, let’s look!” Harold quickly rushed to the desk as George shut the door and looked through the shelfs.

“He’s a lot tidier than I thought.” Harold realized as he looked through the drawers. He grabbed a list of names and frowned at it. “‘Suspected kids who might be assisting Beard.’” He was able to recognize half the names from The Crusty Sandbox, but Lisa and Billy’s were at the top of the list, with their names underlined and a note next to them that said ‘Confirmed magic folk–more dangerous than they look!’

“Wow.” George pulled a face at the number of toupees hidden behind the books. “How is he able to get all of these?”

Harold found another list and this one said ‘Confirmed magic folk.’ He recognized many names–Lisa and Billy were more recent, as was Daemyra’s. He was surprised to see Madame Miyuki’s name with a note saying ‘Helped save the queen, but creeps me out.’ There was a series of question marks, but one of them that made him shudder said ‘Suspected to be the prince’s kidnapper. Is to be captured alive per order of the Queen. Any form of torture is allowed on them.’

“Hmm,” George frowned at the town map that had a bunch of scribbles on it. He saw a bunch of wanted posters attached to the wall and he had to grin at the one with his face, where his eyes were scribbled out and there were numerous holes and ink markings on it. “Ah, good times.”

Harold turned to a few chests. He opened one and smiled at the familiar sight of red and black polka dot curtains that were tossed in there. He then opened the next one and found a series of handcuffs. “George I think I found them!”

“Let’s see!” George dashed over and looked in. “Ok, so which is it?”

They stared. A lot of them looked very identical to each other.

“Makes me wonder if Krupp had to lock them up so that he can’t accidentally use them on himself.” George got up. “Keep looking through them!” He went to look around a bit more as Harold sorted through them. They all looked different, but none of them looked like something they could use on a magical person.

“If only we knew what cuffs were used on Poopypants.” Harold sighed. “But he wasn’t magic, so–”

“Need help?”

The boys screamed and prepared for the worst. “We were totally going to prank you!” George panicked as he turned around.

“Yeah, we weren’t snooping around your personal stuff!” Harold cried out as he turned around.

Erica was standing in the door frame and raised an eyebrow at them.

“Oh,” The boys relaxed and laughed.

••••five minutes later•••

“There!” Erica took out a pair of handcuffs with markings etched onto the surface. “This is what you wanted to see?”

“Yes!” Harold grabbed them. “Thank you so much!”

“You know that if you accidentally send yourself over there and tell the adults that I gave them to you, I’ll deny everything and make you suffer beyond your imagination, right?”

“Right!” George nervously chuckled. “You know, I was really sure that Krupp would catch us–I think he’s normally around during this time. So this is all weird.”

“He’s taking time off this afternoon. And I wouldn’t do anything to get him angry at you–ever since the battle, a lot of people think he ran away and didn’t do anything to help, so it’s getting under his skin. But then again,” She looked right at them. “You can’t just tell everyone that you were helping out as Captain Underpants, can you?”

Everything came to a fast stop for the boys as they heard the last thing they expected Erica to say.

“Wait...” Harold began.

“How...” George continued.

“WHAT?!” Harold shrieked.

“WHAT?!” George shrieked.

“HUSH!” Erica slammed her hands over their mouths to get them to shut up as they stared at her with shocked eyes.

“Yeah, of course I know Krupp and Captain Underpants are the same.” She answered. “And before you ask, I figured it out on my own. They both look alike, I know that isn’t real hair on Krupp’s head, and the timing of a lot of things made too much sense. Surprisingly all the adults are too thick to see it. But your secret is safe with me because there’s really nothing to gain out of it besides a few laughs and a bit of dramatic irony to have fun with. Any questions?” She asked. “Because that’s all I’m telling you, so good day.” She then turned around and headed out, leaving behind two very shocked boys.

****

“Oh this is new!” Edith pulled Benjamin by the hand as she lead him through the town. Her companion had no other option but to follow along as she lead him to a cart with all sorts of fruit in each basket. “Oh these would be good for making a summer galette!” She eyed some berries and some peaches. “Too bad blackberries aren’t ripe around this time yet, or else they’d be perfect!”

“What’s a galette?”

“Oh it’s almost like a pie, except flatter and you can see all the fruit inside!” She was happy to tell him. “They’re actually fun to make if you ever want to sometime.”

“I–wait... you want to–?” He thought about this. “Are you–I mean, I’m not great at it like you or anything! I’d burn the kitchen down before I–”

“It’s ok, I can show you.” Edith smiled at him and squeezed his hand reassuringly.

“Uh... sure then.” As she turned away to look at the fruit, Benjamin glanced at their entwined hands. It felt pleasant, and to anyone else they’d look like a couple (the thought made him blush). He had to tell himself that no–it was more like a friendly gesture and it did have a purpose, which was to make sure that she’d have a hold on him if the change was triggered in public. It still made him feel a lot easier though, knowing at least someone was keeping an eye on him and it made things feel a lot less lonely than it used to be.

“Thank you!” He looked up to see that she bought some fruit already, which she put in her basket. “Come on.” She smiled and tugged at his hand to lead him elsewhere.

He’d been though this town thousands of times, and yet with Edith it was a lot more enjoyable and less predictable. She didn’t lead him towards places he didn’t frequent that often or even at all.

“You know I still can’t believe we need to have stores like these.” Edith couldn’t help but comment at the store that sold only chamber pots. “And it’s not like anyone would want to buy anything that was returned if the buyer wasn’t satisfied.”

“As long as they’re not full of it.” He couldn’t help but comment.

They instantly realized the double meaning to what he said and the two burst into a fit of childish laughter.

“‘As long as they’re not full of–’ that’s a good one!” Edith chortled as she rested a hand over her chest.

“I mean it’s true both ways! Wait, I mean–!” Benjamin couldn’t correct his mistake and laughed harder. “I don’t know what I’m saying anymore!”

Edith was able to take a breath long enough to hear his laughter–his genuine, truly happy sounding laughter–as well as see that smile on his face. It made her smile widen as well as her heart flutter a bit. She didn’t even mind that his grip was a little tighter than she was comfortable with as he kept laughing.

Benjamin looked up for a second and when he did, he saw a couple of people staring at them, he couldn’t help but shoot a glare at them before looking back at Edith and he thought for a bit.

“Hey, say for one moment that everything had been different ten years ago.”

Benjamin began. “That your parents were still alive or that you got a job or you weren’t a part of the Royal Family. What would of happened?”

Edith was surprised by this, but she thought on it. “I suppose I thought about it many times before.” She admitted. “It wasn’t always under happy circumstances... but if things had been different, I suppose I would have gotten a job somewhere. Most likely making food for a living. But I wouldn’t have been there for Harold when he needed me, so it’d be hard to make that change if I had the choice.” She turned and smiled. “What about you? What if you had a different career?”

He was surprised by this. “To be honest, I never gave that much thought. I mean I guess I thought I’d be a teacher or something like that when I was a kid.” He pulled a face at the thought of that. “I’m glad I didn’t go that route.”

“You don’t strike me as the type.” She admitted, before smiling. “But that’s fine. Sometimes we’re best at other things, right?”

“I’m not really good at anything. Except maybe getting angry and yelling at everyone.”

“Well you’re far better motivated to do anything you set your mind on compared to others.” She smiled. “I don’t think I’ve seen you give up too easily on anything, which is a good thing.” This made him blush a bit.

He thought more about what could of happened if they had met earlier. Would he have treated her no differently than the others, or would he have changed for the better? Would she have frowned, walked away, and never looked at him again? Would not as many men be looking at her? Would he have been prevented from being cursed to begin with?

“I wish I met you a lot sooner.” He couldn’t help admit before glancing the other way out of nervousness, not realizing that she blushed a little at his words.

After awhile, the two just casually strolled before Edith saw a flower stall. “Oh it’s like the one at the festival!” She smiled and glanced at it. “That blue flower I got last time was one of my new favorites the second I laid my eyes on it.”

Said flower had long since dried up and was still at Benjamin’s house. It was a relic of the first time in a long time that he felt happy and normal for a change. Where he did things he normally hated, like dancing.

As she stared at the flowers, he thought back to her in that ball gown and her dancing in it. He thought of her wanting to be with him at the Summer Ball–an event he never liked, would not have fit in, and might never will due to the spell. But if that were like this–where she was with him holding his hand... then maybe–

She wanted him to be there with her.

“Uh,” He gulped. “Edi–”

“Can you believe that almost all of our side of the town wasn’t invited to the ball because we wanted to get rid of that half naked idiot?” Benjamin turned his head to see two men talking to each other. “Why does the queen even like him?” One of them asked. “Why do any of the kids like him? After all the destruction he caused–did you hear that the midget was controlling him when New Swissland attacked?!”

“Yeah, but get this–you know that woman that came with with lost prince? That really cute one with the blue eyes that all the noblemen got their eyes on?” (Benjamin felt his anger begin to rise at this). “Get this–I heard that she’s friends with him!”

“Seriously? There’s no way that’s possible!”

“One of the guards said he saved her during some incident in the castle, so they clearly know each other.”

Benjamin felt himself breaking out in figurative sweat at this. He was about to yell at the two to shut up and mind their own business when–

SNAP!

It was hard to pinpoint where that finger snap came from, but once again it brought out Captain Underpants, who looked around in confusion. “Hey am I–?!”

“Ah, dragon!” He turned his head to see what appeared to be a dragon attacking someone on the other side of the street. In reality it was just a person in a poorly made costume acting out a scene with a fellow actor for a small group of kids, but the clueless hero was not aware of it.

“DON’T WORRY CITIZEN, I’LL HELP YOU!” He cried out and yanked free from Edith’s hold which nearly made her fall over. She had to quickly adjust herself, but she instantly knew what happened the second she heard the change in his voice.

“Oh no!” She turned her head to see Captain Underpants race towards the ‘dragon’ and was reaching for his shirt and starting to pull at it. She quickly thought for a moment before yelling. “OH NO, I’M IN TROUBLE! SOMEONE HELP ME!” This caused a lot of people to turn their heads in confusion at the perfectly fine woman, but it made the hero skid to a halt and stop himself before he could remove his clothes.

“EDITH!” He grinned and quickly charged after her as she gave him a nervous wave, not bothering to notice the people who had to dart away from him before he ran over them without stopping. She then realized he wasn’t slowing himself down and she was ready to brace herself for an inevitable crash without realizing that there was a cart right behind her.

“HI!” Captain Underpants greeted as he crashed into Edith and swung his arms around her, but unintentionally knocked them right inside the cart, which was pushed from the impact and began to start going down the small hill that it happened to be two feet away from.

Captain Underpants managed to get himself off of Edith and looked up. “Whoa, this is fun!” He grinned as many the citizens who were in the way screamed and darted away while Edith looked up and immediately panicked.

“GET US OFF THIS THING!” She cried out, startling him.

Not knowing what else to do, he grabbed her and hopped out, but upon landing on the ground, they both tumbled the rest of the way down as the cart sped down and came upon flat ground again, but it picked up speed and crashed right into a bull that someone was trying to lead into town. The bull was alright, but the sudden hit gave him a startle bad enough to get out of control and pull free from his owner’s grasp.

“Are you ok?” Captain Underpants had used his own body to once again keep Edith from getting too much injuries from the tumble and he moved away to examine her. He then heard an angry sound and looked up to see the bull charging right at them.

He let out a scream and quickly picked up the startled woman before running away as fast as he could. “Why is that horned cow chasing after us?!” He ran as fast as he could as the enraged animal went after him and sent everyone into a panic and they all had to make a run for it while he trampled over a cart or two of various goods.

“Whatever you do, don’t fly until we are out of sight!” Edith was severely regretting telling him this as she looked around to see others around them.

“What do you mean–?”

“Just don’t until no one is around, ok?!”

Finally Captain Underpants came to the docks and he frantically looked left and right before flying up onto the nearest wooden pole. “Phew, that was a close one!” He laughed as Edith watched the bull come right towards the post.

“He’s going to run into the–!” She tried to warn him but it was too late.

The bull crashed right into the pole, causing it to break and fall over and send down the two people on top of it screaming before Captain Underpants finally had the sense to practically throw himself and Edith off to the side and into the nearest boat in the water. Meanwhile the bull fell over from the impact and was knocked out cold, but the tremor it sent out caused several fruits in a box to fall out and land on the wooden planks or into the water.

“I take that back–that was a close one!” Captain Underpants laughed as Edith held her face in her hands and tried to calm her heart down as she surveyed the damage behind them. “We should do that again some time!”

“What?!” Edith shot him a horrified look. “Why?! We could have died! You almost gave yourself away!”

“What do you mean?” He was confused.

“You crashed into me instead of slowing down, and that’s how we got into the cart! I really appreciated your enthusiasm and it was sweet, but–!”

“But you were more important than the dragon!” He was confused.

“That wasn’t a dragon, that was someone in costume!”

“Oh... it was?”

Edith let out a frustrated sigh. She forgot about this part of himself sometimes. “Look, I need to see Benjamin again.” She reached her hand into the water causing him to panic.

“Wait no, don’t!” He frantically protested. “I haven’t seen you in a long time! Can’t we hang out a little longer?!”

“Please don’t do this.” She pleaded as she shook her head. “Not right now.”

“Look, I promise whatever it is you didn’t like, I won’t do it again! Just please give me one more hour with you!”

“Ben–Captain, I can’t do this right now!” She protested–no matter how much a part of her didn’t want to do this, she just could not give in this time. “You don’t know what just happened! We could of gotten killed! You could have realized that person was just in a costume, or you could of slowed down or something, but you didn’t!”

“Edith, wait! Please let me–!”

She shut her eyes as she flung the water right at his face. The resulting startled gasp told her the change occurred.

“Oh God–where are–?!” Benjamin looked around in confusion until he saw the destroyed pole, the fainted bull, and several people hurrying over to figure out what just happened. “Oh no...” He realized something had happened and when he turned to see Edith’s uncomfortable look, it made his suspicions worse. “Edith, what did he do this time?”

******

It wasn’t a major catastrophe, but what he found out was enough that it might as well have been one. At least five separate accounts of property damage and several angry or terrified citizens demanding to know what just happened to start such a chain reaction.

Benjamin held his head in his hands as he and Edith sat down on the bench, both trying to calm down after what had happened. He was still fuming in anger and would have allowed it to consume him until he heard Edith humming something.

He glanced up as she stared at the sky while humming it. “What song is that?” He asked.

“It’s the song from my parents’ music box, remember?”

“No, no I don’t.” This caused her to turn her head and give him a confused look until it hit her. Of course–Captain Underpants would have known that. Not Benjamin.

“I mean, I heard you hum it that day in your dress, and it sounded familiar, but I’ve never heard it before.”

This made her heart skip a beat. “Are you sure you’ve never heard it before?” She asked.

“Positive. Never heard it. It felt like I was going to know how it went, but I never remember hearing before.”

Was it possible that–no it couldn’t be. There was no way Benjamin would retain any memories as Captain Underpants when he had been with her. “I see...” She looked at her lap.

“Wait a minute–he’s heard it, but not me?”

Edith gave him a half reluctant nod.

How was it that he knew something about her, but he didn’t? Something that obviously meant a lot to her. How come she didn’t tell him about it?

It made him think things over again–about the last few days, about what he heard before the switch happened.

“Um, listen.” He began. “I have a question I need to ask. Does... does the other me bother you in any way? Like are you uncomfortable being seen with him?” He avoided her gaze as he dreaded the answer.

Edith thought. “Well... no he doesn’t bother me.” She shook her head. “Things to get a little chaotic sometimes and I have to keep an eye on him.” She admitted, forcing herself to not admit the full truth of how she felt earlier. “But he doesn’t bother me–he’s one of the sweetest, kindest people I’ve ever known. If it wasn’t for him, I would have died more than once.” She didn’t know how to tell him that because he was also a part of Benjamin that she enjoyed being with the other one.

“But are you uncomfortable being around him?” He pressed. “What if he suddenly changed and ran around public like how he normally looks, and then all of the sudden he recognizes you and then everyone sees that you’re friends with the weird half naked man? What if that really humiliated you, and people started talking, or if someone controls him like last time and he does something to hurt you, or if–?!”

“Benjamin!” She squeezed his hand, causing him to stop. “So what if that happened? I’d be happy to be his friend and I would rather be his friend than most of the noblemen and women I’ve had to encounter ever since I came to live in the castle!”

“He’d jeopardize your future! He’d humiliate you to the point no sane person would want to be with you! You’d be a source of gossip!” He was getting frantic.

“And so what?! I don’t care about gossip! People who do don’t understand privacy or respect!”

He tried to calm himself down as he hung his head. “The point is... I don’t think the spell is going to be lifted.”

“What?”

“I found out how and its not going to work! The possibilities are as likely as–I don’t know, finding a way for everyone to fly without this magic stuff!” He let out a humorless laugh and held his face in his hands for a moment before he looked up. “I lost an entire week of my life. That little monster brainwashed the other guy and I could have been his mindless slave for the rest of my life and never would have realized it if those two–!” He shook his head. “I don’t think I can do it any more. No one wants me around anyway, so why bother sticking around?” He got up and started to walk away, to Edith’s increasing concern.

“Wait, Benjamin!” She ran over and grabbed his hand again, causing him to stop. “Just tell me how to undo the spell!” She pleaded. “Maybe its not as bad as you make it out to be! I don’t want you to suffer if you’re not happy like this! You saved me when I needed it the most! Let me save you back so you can be happy!” She tried to smile.“You’re a good person. You deserve to be happy. Can’t you see that?”

It pained him to see this. He couldn’t tell her the truth–she’d either laugh or flat out reject him. A part of him wanted to believe that she liked him and the other guy, but it was hard to imagine her loving them equally.

“I’m not a good person.” He didn’t care if his voice was starting to sound harsh. “You knew that the day you first saw me. I’m the bad guy to every single child, who got punished for all of it, and still didn’t learn anything from it until I hit rock bottom. And the way things were back then makes it so that I can’t undo this half-life I got stuck with, and I’m not dragging you down with me. I’m always going to be the bad guy, no matter what.”

“Ben–!”

“DON’T–!” He stopped himself before he could unleash his infamous anger upon her. He couldn’t even bring himself to put her through that again–it sickened him the moment he realized it. “Just... don’t.” He sounded exhausted as he pulled his hand from her and didn’t look back as she gave him a saddened look. “Don’t say I’m anything else–you know it’s true.” He then walked away.

He couldn’t look back. He couldn’t apologize for that sudden switch back to his old self.

****

“Here.” Harold held the hand cuffs out to Melvin. “Just like you asked.”

The red head snatched the handcuffs from Harold without even saying thank you. He stared at them with a strange look that neither Harold or George liked. “Do you even know where these could take someone with magic?” He asked.

“Yeah, it’s to–”

“I bet your mom never told you the exact location, did she?”

“Yeah she did! It’s in the gorge northwest of here! Or one of them.” Harold added. “I don’t know which one.”

“Figures.” Melvin rolled his eyes as he pocketed the cuffs. “Anyway, if you promise to wait until July tenth, I’ll keep my end of the bargain.”

“July tenth?! But that’s my birthday!” George pointed out. “That’s the day of the ball!”

“Well, I guess you have one more thing to look forward to!” Melvin waved as he walked away. When he was sure the boys weren’t looking, he let out a cruel smile. “Oh, I certainly will.” He whispered under his breath.

“Oh man.” George pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. “I really hope he keeps his promise.”

“Same.” Harold agreed before the two began to walk away.

Had they known what the consequences were from trusting Melvin–what they were going to risk losing in return for staying together–they would not have done what they just did.

It was a few minutes later that they both saw a familiar face. “Oh hi, Edith!” Harold was able to smile and wave, but as they got closer, they saw that something was wrong. Edith looked incredibly melancholic, with her head hung low and her hair was once again covering half her face, which was not a promising sign. “Edith?” Harold asked again.

The woman looked up and the boys realized that she had been crying. Her face had tear streaks on it.

“Hey is everything ok?” George asked as he and Harold grew worried. Instead the woman just went over and hugged the boys tightly before suddenly moving away from them.

“What’s wrong?” Harold asked again, but the woman didn’t answer. “Edith?!”

The truth was that Edith didn’t know how to answer that question because a part of her felt like she made a huge mistake.

“Look, I promise whatever it is you didn’t like, I won’t do it again! Just please give me one more hour with you!”

“I’m always going to be the bad guy, no matter what.”

She thought of both reactions. How one who was almost like a child in mind was so terrified of being sent away by her–was begging her to not send him away. How one was so bitter about something that she wanted to help with, but he would not let her. It pained her heart so much to see those reactions and see the pain in their (his?) eyes, but she had no full control over how to make them both happy. Especially if that were to mean denying one of their happiness over the other’s.

She did want to spend more time with one, so that he could be with her like everyone else like he wanted, but that meant being dishonest to the other and denying him his free will and control.

She wanted to break the spell for one so that he could live a normal life again and be less afraid, and that he knew he was wanted, but that meant completely erasing the other into oblivion and forever bar him away from being with those he cared about.

She hung her head as she felt her chest and throat tighten up. There was no way to truly help both sides of Benjamin, was there?

****

When Benjamin got to his house, he waited until the door was shut and he was sitting on his sofa. Then he could finally brake down.

None of this was fair.

All he wanted–more than anything–was to be able to tell her how he really felt. He had fallen in love with her, he adored everything about her, and she didn’t turn him away like everyone else. She wasn’t afraid to be open with him and she was so sweet and–

But that’s not how it was supposed to work. Even with the stupid spell, it wouldn’t have worked. He ruined his chances within the first five minutes of knowing her because he couldn’t stop being a jerk to others.

Princesses, maidens, heroines–they never ended up with people like him. Not with someone who was meant to be the villain of someone else’s story. They deserved better. At least he was able to realize it as soon as he could, but it didn’t stop the hurt.

Just thinking about it made his rage come out–he just had to be caught up in a huge mess and get cursed in the process. And now he’d never be happy! He was forever stuck with that idiot!

He went over to grab some paper and something to write before he furiously scribbled down words hard enough that the paper ripped a couple of times, but he didn’t care. He spent more than one teeth clenched minute of spewing out hateful words before he finally snapped his fingers.

SNAP!

“Wait don’t–!” Captain Underpants realized where he was and that Edith wasn’t there. “Oh,” He let out in quiet dismay. He then saw the paper in his hands and read it, but was not expecting the antagonistic messages.

I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU SO MUCH! IT’S BECAUSE OF YOU I CAN’T LIVE A NORMAL LIFE! YOU RUIN EVERYTHING! I CAN’T EVEN TELL EDITH HOW I FEEL ABOUT HER BECAUSE OF YOU! BECAUSE YOU’LL RUIN HER LIFE AS MUCH AS MINE! NO ONE WANT’S YOU! I DON’T WANT YOU! SHE DOESN’T WANT YOU! I WISH YOU’D JUST DISAPPEAR FOREVER!

He stared at the words which filled him with very unpleasant emotions.

“Th-that’s not true.” He shook his head. “That’s not true!” He shouted at the paper. “The boys want me around! The children want me around! Heidi wants me around!” He grew increasingly angry as he yelled “Edith wants me around–!”

He stopped as he remembered what happened earlier. How upset Edith was at him for something he wasn’t fully understanding and even now he still didn’t. She was so upset that she made him go away.

“Th... that’s... not...”

She wasn’t like the others. She couldn’t be! She was there for him when the others said mean things and threw rocks at him! She knew he was going to catch her when she jumped off the tower, so she trusted him!

“Not... not...”

But she never let him stick around for more than an hour or two. He always had to be sent away. She never let him stay for a whole day. The boys didn’t let him stay for too long either–they seemed to like him, but they never let him stick around either.

“No...” He shook his head. “No, no, no!” He frantically denied as he felt his eyes well up with tears. “You can’t say that!”

All he wanted... the only selfish thing he could ever ask for... was to be free to be with the people he cared about without being sent away. He wanted to be with the boys forever and ever. He wanted to be with Edith forever and ever. She made him feel such wonderful feelings and she was fun to be around... she was so sweet...

He loved her so much. He loved her and everything about her, but she probably didn’t love him back.

He broke down and held his face in his hands as the tears fell from his face and he let go of the paper in the process. “I just want to be with them... I love them... I love her–!” He sobbed. “Why can’t I be with everyone?! Why can’t I be the one who stays?!” He had a hard time breathing and he ran his tear covered hands over his eyes and upon his forehead, accidentally triggering the change.

But one thing didn’t stop.

Benjamin found himself crying and somehow he knew why. He continued to sob for something that he dearly wanted, yet couldn’t truly have.

No one wanted him around.

***

Sarah sighed as she heard the footsteps while resting on her mattress in her cell. “Oh great, what do you want now–?” She turned her head and saw through the bars a small red haired child in glasses. “A little too young to be here, aren’t you kid? Wait,” She shot up to take a better look at him. “You’re Gaylord and Cindy Sneedly’s boy, aren’t you?”

“So you know who I am.” Melvin sighed in relief. “This makes things easier. And I thought trying to adjust the cuffs so that I wouldn’t get put in a jail cell was going to be less difficult.”

“You scientist types amuse us magic folk.” Sarah chuckled. “Always thinking that you can try to understand the world around you and cut it up to try to make sense of everything, yet you narrow your mind towards the possibility of magic itself. What are you here for, a tip on how to invent something? Or make a chemical reaction work?”

Melvin took the small parts of the crystal he could collect from his house. “I used one of your people’s crystals to power an invention of mine.” He began. “I don’t know for sure what happened, but it had an unforeseen reaction and not only did it explode and expand, but my parents are trapped within it.” He held it up for her to see. “It used to be yellow and it was supposed to power a machine.”

“Ah you foolish kid.” Sarah shook her head. “That was one of the crystals you shouldn’t have been messing with without one of us to tell you how to use it properly, otherwise that was bound to happen sooner or later.”

“Anyway, I’m here to make a deal!” Melvin put the crystal away. “I get you out of here and you free my parents! Simple as that!”

Sarah stared at him before she laughed.

“What?! What’s so funny?!”

“Oh, it’s really not that simple!” She shook her head again. “The only thing that might save your parents is the very thing I’ve been after–the magic of the flower of creation.”

“Yeah, well it’s gone!” Melvin snapped. “And I’m not in the mood for games, so you tell me–!”

“Hang on a moment kiddo. Let me explain–”

**One explanation later••

“Ok, so you think it’s still around, but you don’t know who has it?!” Melvin was annoyed as he sat on the ground in front of the bars. “Some help you are!”

Sarah then explained. “Miyuki is so determined to protect the new human container, but it never occurred to her that I’d eventually figure it out on my own.” She snorted. “And of all the people in Piqua, it’d figure it’d be the one person I doubted the most above all others! The one person who was there when I thought I knew it was the princess!” She grinned at Melvin. “You see, it was around February of this year. I put a curse on the princess in order to test my theory out, and she came down with a raging fever. If my theory was going to be correct and she had the magic inside her, it would overcome the sickness like it was a common illness.”

*********

Grace was panicking as a female doctor stood by Heidi’s bedside.

“This is bad.” The doctor frowned as she touched the princess’ forehead. “She’s burning up. No child her age should feel this warm.”

Heidi was heavily breathing as she lay on her bed. The poor child was all red, her eyes were a bit bloodshot, was far too warm to the touch, and was visibly shaking.

“There’s got to be a member of the magic folk that can cure this!” Grace was overcome with fear. “What if the medicine won’t be enough?!”

“I’ll do what I can.” The doctor quickly put a wet cloth on Heidi’s forehead and moved away from her. “There might be some medication I can give her, but I’ll have to adjust it for her size. I’ll need to head to my house so I can bring everything I need to mix it up.”

“Please hurry!” Grace begged as she and the doctor hurried out of the room.

“Mama,” Heidi tried to lift a shaky hand towards the queen as she cried out in a small, weakened voice, but the door shut closed and she was left alone.

Unknown to the queen or the doctor, a maid was hovering outside Heidi’s door. She grinned as she searched for a crystal. “Oh it won’t be long now, little one.” The heavily disguised Sarah reassured the child. “Just need to make sure it’s you first.”

At that moment, Heidi heard familiar tapping on the window. She instantly knew who it was, but she really didn’t want to get up–her body was shaking so bad, she could barely walk when she wasn’t in bed.

She took a deep breath and forced herself out of the bed–the cloth slipping off her in the process. Her trembling legs made it towards the window and she struggled to lift the latch open. When she finally did and was able to open it by a few inches, her body couldn’t take it anymore and she collapsed to the floor, which hurt her shaky body more than it should have and she wanted to cry.

It completely caught Captain Underpants off guard and he instantly lost his smile. Realizing that something was horribly wrong, the hero quickly threw the window open and once he got inside, he scooped up the child in his arms and closed the window before hurrying to her bed.

“Ca...” Heidi wheezed as she struggled to reach out to him.

“Oh no,” He quietly exclaimed in alarm when he became aware as to how hot the child was in his grasp. “Why are you so warm?!”

“Don’t leave... please...” Her eyes began to droop as she curled in towards him as he sat down on her bed. His mostly exposed body felt cool to the touch after he was outside in the late winter air for so long.

“No, I won’t.” He gently reassured her as he sat on her bed. “I promise.” He watched as the little princess fell asleep in his hold and huddled as close to his body as she could. “You’re going to be ok... right?” He asked as his huge hand touched her forehead and felt the fire under her skin while her misery was clear on her face. It was one of the few times in his life where he felt incredibly terrified. This wasn’t something he could easily fix.

“Flower gleam and glow,” Sarah sang as she eyed the small crystal in her hands. “Let your power shine...” Her eyes widened when she saw the crystal give off multiple colors like it was an opal or a rainbow quartz. “Make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine.”

Inside the bedroom, both Heidi and Captain Underpants didn’t see the glow coming from the latter’s chest where his heart was. The adult was struggling to think as to what to do to help the child and his eyes were shut tight. Heidi was asleep once more and she was positioned against his chest, which blocked most of the glow from either of them.

“Heal what has been hurt, change the fates design. Save what has been lost–”

Gradually Heidi felt the aching fade away and it was as if the fire in her skin was doused with water and the heat began to fade. “H...hey...” She struggled to speak and she opened her eyes just as the glow faded away. “I don’t feel as hot.”

Captain Underpants snapped his eyes open. He placed a hand and to his surprise, she wasn’t as hot anymore. “Yeah, you’re right!” He was surprised.

Sarah was startled to hear the voice and cursed. She quickly turned around and ran away.

***

“All that time, the long coveted magic of the flower of creation was inside that pathetic excuse of a hero this whole time!” Sarah snarled. “He has no idea what he possesses! It’s being wasted on him!”

“Ok, so what should I do?” Melvin asked.

Sarah gave the boy a dark grin. “You know, I did pick up a few things when I had to swing by New Swissland to build a special device. Something tells me you can improve upon it.” She took out another crystal from her pocket that was identical to the one in her old device. “All you need to do is build an invention that can not only identify who has the flower of creation within them, but is also capable of extracting magic out of someone. I promise that I’ll help you with your parents if you give that magic me, but first you got to drain that freak dry till there’s nothing left.”

Melvin didn’t even hesitate to hold his hand out. “More than happy too.” He grinned.

Chapter Text

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” The children inside The Crusty Sandbox cheered for George as they all sat together at a long series of tables pushed together.

“Ta-da!” Sugar presented a cupcake for George. “It’s chocolate!”

“Here, let’s get you a candle!” Another child rushed to find one as George beamed at the sweet treat.

“I can’t wait to eat it!” George admitted as Sugar set the treat down in front of him. He turned to Harold and saw the small package in his hands. “Hey, you didn’t have to get me a gift!” He laughed. “I already got you as my best friend!”

“I know, but I wanted to get you one!” Harold admitted as he handed it over. George tore the paper off and was surprised to see a leather bound book. “It’s a new book to write stories and any ideas you have for them.” Harold continued. George opened it up and stopped at the first page.

Inside was a drawing of himself with Harold holding hands together. Below were the words “Happy birthday to the greatest friend I could ever ask for. Love Harold.”

George slowly turned to Harold before drawing the boy in a tight hug. “Thanks.” He whispered.

Harold smiled and hugged the boy back.

“OK!” The candle was found and inserted into the cupcake. “Make a wish George!” The child who lit it told him.

“Yeah, make it a good one!” Gooch cheered.

“Yeah, make it good!” Bo added.

George stared at the candle as it flickered with the promise of one wish that could possibly come true. There was only one thing he truly wanted.

I wish to always be with Harold. I want to go to school with him, I want to make stories with him, I want to grow up with him. I don’t care if I have to give something up in exchange–I just want to be with my best friend.

George took a deep breathe and blew as hard as he could. As everyone cheered around him, he watched the smoke drift into the air.

*****

The night of the ball finally arrived. The sun had just set and the guests were coming into the castle for a night of elegance and fun. It was where classes from the rich to the few lucky chosen lower class could mingle together.

It was in the grand ballroom where they all could be together–a huge, two floored room with two grand staircases and a long balcony circling most of the second floor. Many golden candelabras and shimmering chandeliers gave off a pleasant, almost romantic yellow glow within the room. Large green curtains were drawn to grant a glimpse of the courtyards and the lake outside and banners bearing the kingdom insignia were strung upon the walls. The rich were dressed in outfits and gowns that looked as if they costed two lifetimes worth of fortunes, while those not as well off dressed in their best or what they could get from in town danced on brown and white marble flooring. Of course the rich and the noble stayed as far from those under them as far as they could, but not all of them since many of the children mingled together.

“Ugh, I didn’t want to wear the whole thing!”

“Yeah, and I still feel out of place here.”

George and Harold were wearing nicer outfits than usual (that just happened to use their preferred colors), but both boys refused to go to the extent that most of the rich kids did. “I feel like we were supposed to be in one kind of story, but then we got thrown into a completely different one!” George looked at his surroundings. “It’s too fancy and I’d rather be pranking half of these people! Its almost like some sort of author appeal!”

“But it’s not so bad.” Harold looked at the candelabras and admired the glow that they gave off. “Everything here looks nice. And you know, it might help give you inspiration for another story, only it could be as ridiculous as you want!”

“Yeah, I could see everyone wearing silly hats or outfits, and they’d have to do a stupid dance instead!” George perked up at this as they looked around. “They’d all have to shake their butts!”

“And dolphins would be performing the music instead!”

“And the food is just a bunch of sweets!”

Elsewhere, some were having an easier time enjoying themselves than others.

“So I, like, said ‘Well your har looks like a bear’s backside!’” Lady Gordon gossiped to some friends, who let out obnoxious laughter as her daughter nearby huffed and smoothed out her dress.

“Uh, I might totally catch the eye of someone tonight!” Jessica turned to Sophie One. “Sophie One, you stick with me and, like, be my wing girl! Other Sophie, you go away and don’t embarrass me–!” She turned around, but to her shock, Other Sophie wasn’t there.

“Oh my gosh, look at all that food!” Bo’s mouth watered as he and Gooch’s eyes the finger food on the long table. “I don’t know where to start!”

“I don’t think I can last on finger food, so I might have to risk my dignity and stuff my face!” Gooch agreed. The two then sensed someone behind them and they turned to see Other Sophie, who gave them a shy wave.

“Hi, you want to join us?” Bo gave the girl a kindly smile, to which she beamed with delight.

“Oh I don’t think we’ve ever been to a dance as nice as this!” Barbara beamed at her husband. “I feel like a little kid again!”

“I don’t know if this is something I’d want to do too often.” Moses admitted before he noticed his son. “But I hope George is enjoying himself.”

“Same.” Barbara agreed before sighing. “We missed half of his life. I’m so happy that we could celebrate his birthday, but it would be nice if there was a way we could give him what he really wanted.”

“I know. It hasn’t been easy, but we’ll make it up to him somehow. Besides, as long as he doesn’t get into any trouble for awhile, things won’t need to get any harder.”

“George look!” Harold noticed a sign with arrows nearby that said ‘Summer ball. Bathrooms this way. refreshments that way.’ And it appeared to be the kind where you could move the letters around. George and Harold both gave each other knowing looks and grinned.

Seconds later, they laughed as the sign now said ‘Butt washes in bathrooms away.’

“Now it’s a lot more fun!” George giggled.

“Hi Harold! Hi George!” The boys turned to see Heidi coming up to them while wearing a cute sky blue dress. “It’s pretty fun isn’t it?” She smiled. “I always liked the summer ball!”

“I guess it can be.” Harold admitted as he and George snickered at the sign. “By the way, where’s Edith?” He couldn’t help but ask and his sister pointed to the second floor. They took a look and they were in for a pleasant surprise.

Edith wore the ball gown that they saw her wear before and she had her hair done up with small white flowers that were woven into braids that were tied together in a neat bun at the back of her head. She was the most beautiful the boys had ever seen of her and it appeared that other guests couldn’t help but stare in awe at her. Even a few men were already eying her with the desire to get to know her.

“That’s the woman who lives with the Royal Family now?” One guest asked another. “She’s a lot prettier than I imagined!”

“Yeah, some are even saying that she’s already got men lined up for her!” Their friend excitedly replied.

Edith shyly waved as some guests greeted her.

“I’m glad she’s getting to do this too.” Harold smiled as George frowned and looked at the sign before looking around.

“I’m going to look around!” Heidi told the boys before darting off.

“Hey, Harold?” George looked at Harold. “Something’s wrong. Wouldn’t Krupp be on us in like five seconds?”

“Yeah.” Harold frowned. “Come to think of it–” He looked around, expecting to see the easily angered adult. “I don’t see him anywhere.”

“Me neither. I haven’t seen him at all. You’d think he’d be here for something like this.” But he grinned. “Not having him around on my birthday is kind of nice though. I mean, who needs him?”

“That’s right!” Harold smiled as he swung an arm around George. “Happy birthday, pal!”

“Thanks! You know, as long as nothing goes horribly wrong tonight, I’ll be happy with this!”

“HEY!” The boys turned to see an angry guard. “WHAT DID YOU DO TO THE SIGN?!”

They quickly ran away and laughed as the guard chased after them.

*****

In the Sneedly residence, Melvin was feverishly at work putting together a certain contraption that was shaped like a crossbow. He was so lost in thought that he didn’t hear a voice call out to him.

“Melvin?!”

For one split second, he thought it was his mom and he turned around, only to come face to face with Erica.

“Erica?!” Melvin stammered. “How come you aren’t at the ball?!” While she was wearing a nice teal dress, he had a feeling she had some kind of hidden weapon on her.

“How come you aren’t at the ball?” Erica asked back. “I thought it was weird that you and your parents didn’t show up. In fact, I’ve never seen your parents for weeks!”

“That’s none of your business!” Melvin spat with more venom than usual, which surprised Erica. “And if you’re here to ask for a dance at the ball, I need to take a rain check!”

“You’ve been acting stranger than usual!” Erica noticed a glint of orange from the crack of the door to the main laboratory. “What are you–?” She went over to go through the door before Melvin could stop her and what she saw stunned her.

Doctor Sneedly and his wife were trapped in an amber like crystal–the largest among those scattered throughout the room. Yet tucked in one corner were six sets of armor almost eerily similar to the one Melvin had been working on, yet somehow a bit larger than usual.

“Wh-what?” Erica stammered and turned around to see Melvin standing right behind her, with his glasses practically glinting in the light. “What happened to your parents?”

“George and Harold were what happened to them.” Melvin growled. “Piqua and its inability to take science seriously were what happened to them! And once I get what I need from their idiot of a hero, I’ll be able to save them! Who knows–maybe I’ll take the whole Royal Family out of the picture while I’m at it! Re-write history so that science prevails! There’s no telling what I’ll do!” He let out a crazed laugh.

“Melvin, what are you planning to do?!” Erica. “This isn’t you talking! Just let me help you!”

“You can help me by telling me where Captain Underpants is!”

“How would I know?! The only ones’ who–” Erica quickly stopped herself, but it was too late and Melvin grinned.

“Right–George and Harold know. Why am I not surprised?”

“Melvin,” Erica got scared. “What exactly do you need from Captain Underpants?”

Melvin fiddled around with something in his pocket. “Well, let’s just say science will triumph over magic tonight!”

Seconds later, Erica felt something hit her in the arm. She looked down to see a dart stuck in it and she gave Melvin an alarmed look as he pulled out a contraption with a series of buttons on it from his pocket. “Melvin, don’t hurt anyone! There’s still...” She felt the world spin around her and she promptly collapsed to the ground.

“You know, I really hoped to dance with you tonight, my beautiful brained Erica.” Melvin pocketed the contraption. “But tonight I’m making George and Harold dance a waltz of woe and I’m making Captain Underpants dance to his doom!”

*****

The orchestra began to play a slow waltz. Gradually couple after couple went to the dance floor and began to dance to the music.

“Oh I can’t remember the last time we were this happy at a dance!” Barbara smiled at her husband as they spun around together.

“Why dance with one when you can dance with two?!” Bo smiled as he held the hands of both Gooch and other Sophie as they danced together.

The boys stared at all the dancing before they turned to one of the open windows. “You don’t think Melvin will keep his promise, will you?” Harold asked.

“It’s Melvin, he’ll probably use it as an excuse for something or tattle on us.” George rolled his eyes. “But if he’s honest, then it’d make a good birthday gift–growing up with you would be one of the best birthday gifts I could have ever gotten. And I never had a lot of gifts in the last four years.”

“I wish I could give you that gift.” Harold admitted. “I wish it could be like with the lights–that it could be that easy.”

“We almost died and had to deal with an angry Krupp before that could happen.” George pointed out. “Too bad its not as simple as singing a song.”

Harold was quiet.

“Harold?”

“Something’s been bothering me, now that I remember what Madame Miyuki whispered to me when we met her.”

George thought for a moment and then he recalled it. That strange woman pulled Harold aside to tell Harold something and he completely forgot about asking him. “Oh yeah, I remember! I meant to ask you about it.”

“Well,” Harold began, “What she said was–”

*****

“Should you find yourself in the possession of something great, but are about to lose something of much greater value in exchange,” Madame Miyuki whispered into Harold’s ear. “You must be ready to sing as if a life depended upon it.”

*****

“Huh? What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. I thought of it over and over again and when you said that your parents would take you to another town, I thought she meant that. But I can’t think of anything I could get out of losing you in exchange and I wouldn’t want it if that was the case. And singing doesn’t do me any good. Not after I lost my powers.” Harold pulled at his blonde hair for emphasis.

“Yeah,” George thought. “There’s nothing that could possibly replace me.” He smiled. “Well, unless you get married to someone and have kids.”

“Hey, you’d still be my friend no matter what! I’d even make you God-dad to my kids if I ever have any!” Harold grinned as he turned back to the dancing. It was then that he noticed Edith again.

He knew when she was sad or upset. She didn’t show it that often, but he could see that she looked withdrawn and lost. She looked at the dancers and there was a longing in her eyes. He instantly knew she wanted to join in, but she never accepted any of the guys that most likely had offered to dance with her. Considering that they were either bland looking or obviously not a good match for her, he didn’t blame her.

“What are you–?” George noticed who Harold was looking at. “Oh. She should be able to join in, right? I thought she liked dancing.”

“She does, but–” Harold thought about it. The last time he sawing her doing that, she was very happy. It was almost a shame it had to be with Kr–

He then realized it. He didn’t want it to be true, but it made too much sense.

“Krupp’s the one she wants to be with tonight.” Harold reluctantly answered.

“WHAT?!”

“Look, for whatever reason, she likes him. Like, ‘like-like’s’ him. I don’t know how much they like each other, but something isn’t adding up tonight and not everything is perfect. We have to find him and fix this! And yeah, I don’t want to do it, but we got to. In a way, we both owe them that–especially for him.”

George stared at Harold before letting about a sigh. “This was the last thing I wanted to do today, but we need to make sure we do as much as we can before our fates are sealed one way or another, don’t we?”

****

Krupp stared at the letter of resignation that he finished only yesterday.

Tomorrow he would give it to Grace. Tomorrow he would free himself from this part of his life. After that... well...

He looked up before noticing it–the long dead flower on the bookshelf. The symbol of that one day where he felt so many things all at once that both stunned and terrified him, but when he was also the happiest he had been in a long, long time. He got up and went over to grab it and examine it. He could barely remember the exact shade of blue, but he knew how it brought out the blue of Edith’s eyes.

Those beautiful blue eyes... how they sparkled with life... how they made his heart race... how they were filled with desperation when she wanted to help him–

He took a deep breath as he curled his fingers around it. Just one movement and he could crush it, like the memory never happened. He felt his grip tighten on it, but then there was a knock at his door.

With an annoyed sigh, he went over to open the door, only to find–

“WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING HERE?!” Krupp screamed and nearly jumped out of his skin before pointing a finger at George and Harold.

“Look, we don’t know what’s going on right now.” George began.

“But you owe Edith at least one dance with her tonight.” Harold added. “So you’re coming with us.”

“Wh–what?!” Krupp gapped at the two before he shook his head. “What are you two even thinking?! And no, you can’t make me!” He made to close the door, but George threw himself in the door frame and stopped the door while Harold held himself against it. “Hey stop!” He growled and tried to force the door closed, but the boys wouldn’t budge. “Get out of the way!”

“She’s not happy and we know it has to do with you!” George protested. “You need to make it up to her!”

“Maybe we can’t brake the curse and our own happiness is on the line right now, but we’ll be darned if we can’t at least try to do one thing right!” Harold explained. “And that’s at least making sure Edith is happy tonight!”

“I’m not even dressed for that stupid party!” Which was true–Krupp was dressed in his casual around-town attire. “And after all that you’ve done, you’d think I’d want to do what you tell me to do?!”

The boys both slammed against the door hard enough to force the door open–almost knocking Krupp over in the process–and they tumbled into the house and onto the floor. “We know you hate us, but we honestly don’t care!” Harold snapped after pushing himself off the ground.

“This is all your fault too!” Krupp roared. “It’s your magic that’s ruined my life! And you think I want to risk turning into an idiot and humiliate myself, humiliate her, and ruin any chance I’d ever have with her?! No, I’m leaving this all behind tomorrow! I’m resigning and getting out of this God-forsaken place so that I don’t have to deal with any of you! Especially you two and I’ll be glad to never see you both ever again! So I hope you’re happy because you got what you wanted!”

Both boys stared at Krupp as he glared at them. “What?!” He snapped. “Go ahead and start gloating–!”

“You really do love her, don’t you?” Harold asked, causing the grown man to flinch. “Wha–no, I didn’t say–!” He got flustered and backed away. “Y–you’re just–No! No I don’t!” But the boys shared a knowing grin.

“Yeah you do.” Harold nearly sang. “You love her a lot!”

“NO I DON’T! No wait, I–ARGH! I mean I respect her and like her as a friend who happens to be nice and pretty and actually likes being around me and–DANG IT!” He yelled and grabbed his head. “STOP PLAYING WITH MY HEAD!”

“You know what?” George said. “Maybe we need to use that last resort.” He raised his hand.

“Oh no you don’t! Don’t you dare snap your–!”

SNAP!

Captain Underpants blinked–the toupee was slightly askew on his head upon flinching from the change. “Uh... Hi guys?” He shyly waved at the boys.

“Krupp is going to try to resign and leave.” George began.

“And he’ll leave us and Edith forever.” Harold added.

“So we need to force him to the ball where she is to get him to change his mind.”

“We need your help for that!”

Instead of the expected reaction, Captain Underpants was quiet.

“Captain?” George asked as the adult stared at the ground.

“You just called me to do something for him.” He stated. “You didn’t call me to invite me to hang out... did you?”

Both boys were confused. “Well yeah.” George replied. “We–”

“Would you ever bring me out so that I can get to hang out with you guys, instead of going to fight a bad guy? Or let me be with Edith?”

This made both boys hesitate.

“I know you don’t like him, but what about me? Why does he get to be free, but I can’t? When can I ever get to have fun? Why can’t I be the one who gets to do fun things?” He pulled a face as he looked like he was trying not to cry. It made the boys understand then and there and they gave each other a pained look. “Do any of you really want me around? Is it because I’m too weird for everyone or too stupid?”

“Look–” Harold began before he thought over his words. “I know what that’s like. I was told almost all my life that no one would want me around because of the powers I had and when I had that rainbow hair. You remember it, right? And you aren’t stupid! You’re better than that!”

“I had to deal with a lot of angry adults who didn’t want me around either and I felt alone for a long time because of that.” George added and frowned. “I guess... we just keep forgetting that you aren’t just another personality sometimes. But you wanted us around and didn’t find us weird! Weird people are the best people and you know what? You’re a lot braver and you have a bigger heart than most people we know!”

“If you do this one thing–” Harold continued “–if not for you or for Krupp or us, you do it for Edith. If you do it and all goes well, then no matter what happens, we will make sure you get a moment where you can be with us as long as you want. Not just an hour, but a whole day.”

“Really?” Captain Underpants smiled a little.

“Of course! We owe you big time for everything you’ve done after all!”

“We’ll need to try to figure something out with Krupp.” George pointed out.

“Eh, we’ll worry about that another time.”

******

Edith stared out from her spot on the balcony at the dancing and conversing below. She was finally living out a fantasy almost every young girl and woman desired by being here, in this gorgeous dress, with many wanting to dance with her to the lovely music that played. No one would have guessed that ten years ago she was a poor, dirty orphan forced into slavery. To them she was like a princess and they weren’t seeing her any other way. She could have everything she could ever want here and now.

And yet...

“Is everything alright?” Grace came over to Edith, who glanced to the queen. Edith could only smile and nod before turning her head back to watch everyone.

Grace could tell something was troubling the younger woman–she knew that look before. “At these parties, I have so many guests from around the kingdom and even outside of it. This is usually a highlight of their lives and there’s almost always something here for everyone. Though not everyone enjoys them.” She admitted. “Not even my Captain. I think he’s the only one I know who hates these events. He’s the only thing that’s missing from here for you, isn’t he?”

“I–!” Edith stopped.

Grace was right–all the dancing here ever did was remind her of Benjamin. For every man that came up to her, it didn’t matter how fit and handsome or wealthy and polite he was–none of them had the same awkwardness, the same temper, or the same sweetness or joy that needed patience to come out, but radiated when it did all on its own. None of them had those eyes that could burn in anger one moment but then soften in wonder or shine with happiness the next. None of them had the same determination or persevering nature.

It didn’t even matter if it was Benjamin or his counterpart–so drastically different and yet so strangely similar to him where it mattered the most–she wished he had the courage to feel safe enough to be here. He was more familiar than any of these other men who she didn’t know or could trust–he was like a character plucked out of a fantastical story, but he was more real to her than any of them. It didn’t matter which side of him she’d get to see–she just wished that he could be here tonight without any fear to hold him back.

“You know, I never thought it would be possible for that man to genuinely care for another.” Grace admitted. “But something about you makes him change like Eros struck him hard with an arrow.” She smiled. “After all that I’ve heard about him as himself and also as the unusual protector of Piqua... I would willingly give this all up for him if it had been me. That is if I felt more than just tolerance for him.” She quickly added.

“I don’t know if he really lo–likes me that way.” Edith tried to correct herself, but it was too late. “But I think he’s going to do something and I’m scared that he’s going to leave for good.”

“Well, I’d say something as soon as possible.” Grace warned her. “I’ve lost those I’ve loved too many times to count and I was lucky when those that mattered the most came back. So from one friend to another–don’t waste this chance. Tell him before it’s too late.”

Little did Edith know was that five minutes later...

“Oh wow, how fancy!” The boys had to pull Captain Underpants by the hands to the castle and had succeeded (not without some difficulty and major reluctance) in getting him to dress like Krupp in his uniform. They managed to bring him into the ballroom and he eyed everything in amazement like a child, though something about it made him a little nervous for a reason he couldn’t put his finger on. As he looked around, he instantly saw a familiar face on the second floor–Edith.

His jaw dropped at the sight of her. He’d never seen her look so fancy before! She looked beautiful! He could practically feel the butterflies in his stomach and he was sure that he didn’t eat any on accident! He suddenly wanted nothing more than to rush over and get a better look at her in her lovely dress.

“Ok, now!” Harold hissed as George readied his canteen. As he did, the hero was about ready to run straight to Edith until he was greeted with a splash of water to the face.

“WILL YOU TWO STOP DOING THAT?!” Krupp whipped around and snapped at the boys loud enough that everyone who heard him looked their way. He rubbed his face with his sleeve, and seconds later he realized something was wrong. “Wait–” He looked at what he was wearing. “No–” He looked up to see where he was. He looked down at the boys who gave him huge grins. “You,” He growled. “I told you I didn’t want to be here!”

“We didn’t listen.” George cheekily replied as Harold turned around and waved at something.

“CLEARLY–hey, what are you doing?!” Krupp glanced at Harold. “I’m talking to you! What are you–?!” He turned to where Harold was waving and immediately stopped.

From atop the second floor, Edith was staring at them, but she was especially looking at him in surprise.

She couldn’t believe it–she thought she was imagining it, but she saw him yelling at the boys and instantly knew she wasn’t.

He stared back at her–she was wearing the dress and she looked as if she belonged in this event that always made him uncomfortable, and yet she was only looking at him and no one else. He watched as she took off towards the staircase to get towards him.

Edith ignored everything as she gathered up her skirts and raced towards the stairs. He said he didn’t want to be here and yet despite everything, he actually came. She couldn’t help but let out a grin as it felt like she had butterflies in her stomach and soon she began running down the steps despite all eyes looking at her in confusion.

Benjamin forgot why he didn’t want to be here and in that instant he found himself wanting to go to her. He slowly began to walk towards the staircase without realizing it as she got closer and closer to him.

She was three steps away from reaching the floor and was ready to launch herself at him and give him a huge hug the moment she could get close enough. He was just a few feet away from reaching the stairs to be at her side.

A part of a wall suddenly bursted apart, followed by a window and another wall.

The guests panicked and screamed when it happened as they backed away from the projectiles of glass and large wall chunks as the music came right to a halt. Krupp came to a stop and looked back in alarm as Edith tumbled and ended up sitting on the stairs in the confusion.

What came bursting through the ballroom uninvited were a set of suits or armor eerily identical to the one Melvin had designed. “Aren’t those–?!” George realized as he and Harold backed away while Edith scrambled to get back up on her feet.

One of the armors headed towards the middle as several guests tried to run for safety, yet the other armors saw this and they immediately blocked the doors or else more of them bursted through the other doors and kept the screaming guests from leaving while those who were more fortunate got out in the nick of time ran as fast as they could.

“Sorry to come late to the party!” A voice boomed out. The armor in the middle of the room came to a stop and the top opened up to reveal a familiar red headed boy at a series of controls. “But now were playing my kind of music–screaming for your lives!”

“MELVIN?!” Grace demanded as all eyes turned to the boy. “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!”

“I’M HERE TO GET PAYBACK AND THEN SOME!” Melvin yelled at the queen. “IT’S THANKS TO YOUR SON AND HIS BEST FRIEND THAT MY PARENTS ARE TRAPPED IN LIMBO! IT’S THANKS TO YOU AND EVERYONE NOT TAKING PEOPLE LIKE US SERIOUSLY ENOUGH THAT YOU HAD YOUR STUPID WAR!”

“What is he talking about?” Harold asked as he and George exchanged confused looks.

“I don’t know, but let’s just take care of this quickly.” George whispered before they glanced over to Krupp. He realized what they were thinking and sighed.

“This is not my night...” Krupp ran a hand over his face. “You both owe after this!” He warned.

“Yeah, whatever.” Harold nonchalantly replied as George snapped his fingers.

SNAP!

“Oh I’m back!” Captain Underpants looked around. “Hey they invited giants to the party!” He grinned at the armor.

“We’ll explain later!” Harold grabbed his hand as he and George lead him away. “Now break though a wall and let’s get you ready!”

“Melvin, if you’d just speak rationally!” Grace pleaded and barely heard the sound of another wall breaking seconds later. “What do you mean about your parents?! Why are you attacking us?!”

“Because I’m giving you an ultimatum!” Melvin snarled at her. “Either you tell me where I can find Captain Underpants and surrender him to me, or I’ll throw this room into complete chaos and take your son and his friend instead! Or just have George and Harold tell me and this’ll be much easier!”

“Oh no!” Barbara gasped as she and her husband hurried up the stairs to safety.

Meanwhile, the boys lead Captain Underpants to a huge painting. “Right here?” He asked.

“Yup!” George nodded. Captain Underpants took the painting down, flipped it over to reveal one of his capes hidden behind it, and he darted behind a curtain to change.

Back at the ballroom, Heidi had been trying to reach the stairs to get back to her mother. She noticed Edith and hurried to the stairs as the woman kept shooting cautious glances at her surroundings.

“You want Captain Underpants?!” Grace was confused and even handfuls of the guests were surprised at the demand. “But why?! He hasn’t done anything wrong!”

“That’s none of your business!” Melvin snapped. “Now where is he?!”

“I honestly don’t know!” Grace shook her head. Melvin growled as he made the robot move closer towards the queen, but then he saw Edith race towards her and George’s parents, while holding Heidi’s hand. He grinned and pressed a button, and seconds later, Edith let out a scream as a large arm crashed in front of her.

“You!” Edith and Heidi turned to face Melvin. “I think you know where he is too! I know he’s friends with you and the princess!” Edith made to try to go the other way, but Melvin made the other arm block that way too as Grace screamed “HEIDI!”

“Even if we did, we wouldn’t tell you, you butt-face!” Heidi stuck her tongue out at Melvin, who flinched and gapped at this.

“Butt-face?! WHO ARE YOU CALLING A BUTT-FACE?!” He growled as he slammed the arms down upon the balcony, causing it to let out an ominous rumble that made Edith hold Heidi close to her. “NOW YOU TELL ME WHERE OR–!”

“TRA-LA-LAA!”

All eyes turned to see Captain Underpants grinning as he hovered in the middle of the room. “Hey, is there food at this party? Cause I may need some later!”

“GET HIM!” Melvin jabbed a finger at the hero and all the armors besides his started heading towards him.

“You got the distractions?” George asked Harold, who pulled out a slingshot and some ammo.

“Yup, now we got to figure out what exactly Melvin wants!” Harold replied before he and George made a run for it.

“Whoa!” Captain Underpants had to dodge a punch from one of the armors. “Hey!” He protested as he dodged a punch by another one as all the guests tried to get as far away from the fight as possible. “I thought parties involved dancing, not fighting!” He then had to quickly punch another armor out of the way, causing it to stumble and step onto the table with food, destroying it and sending whatever was left to the floor.

“NOT THE SNACKS!” Bo wailed as most other guests were trying to get as far from the fight as possible.

“I CAME TO THIS PARTY FOR DANCING AND TO SHOW OFF MY HAR! NOT NEARLY GET KILLED BY GIANTS AND A FLYING GIANT UNDERDRESSED IDIOT!” Lady Gordon screamed.

“OH SHUT UP, NO ONE CARES!” Dora (one of the invited guests) snapped back as Captain Underpants was forced to dodge another punch.

“I got to get a clear shot at him.” Melvin growled as he felt the crossbow attached to his back. He just needed the right moment, but the hero was constantly moving around!

“AH!” The hero flew between the legs of one armor, causing it to fall over when it tried to reach for him and then he flew as high as he could towards the ceiling.

“Ok, I got him right where I need him to!” Harold readied his slingshot and aimed at Melvin as he and George stood on the steps. “If we do this just right, he’ll go to us and that’ll give Edith and Heidi a chance to escape–”

“HAROLD!” The boys flinched as their parents noticed them. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! GET OUT OF HERE!” Grace screamed at her son. Unfortunately, this alerted Melvin to the boys and he grinned at them. “Get them!” He commanded at the armor nearest to the boys.

The boys yelped and ran away as the armor headed towards them.

“LEAVE HIM OUT OF THIS!” Grace panicked.

“AH SHUT IT, LADY!” Melvin yelled at Grace. “YOU THINK THE CASTLE IS THE SAFEST PLACE?! AFTER ALL THE ATTACKS?! AFTER WHAT HAPPENED TO MY PARENTS?!”

“Seriously, what are you talking about?!” George yelled. “What did we do to your parents?!”

“YOUR MESSING AROUND WITH THE LAB CRYSTALIZED THEM LIKE A BUG TRAPPED IN AMBER!” Melvin screamed at the boys as all the armors went after them. Just when it seemed that the boys were about to be trapped in a small space by at least three of them, Captain Underpants quickly swooped down and picked them up. When one of them tried to grab at them, the hero gave himself a boost by jumping onto the head of another armor and shot into the air as the other armor accidentally crashed into it.

“Hurry!” Edith was close to hoisting Heidi up over one of Melvin’s armor’s arms. “Just a little more–! AGH!” She screamed as the armor suddenly moved and she was forced to take the girl as far away as possible before it slammed down on the flooring and broke a hole through it. She let go of Heidi and ran to the other side, which was not blocked. As they were heading down the stairs, one of the robots that Captain Underpants had to kick away went stumbling towards the stairs and the woman had to pull the girl away in the nick of time before they got crushed. However they were now trapped on the remaining section of that part of the staircase.

“Look!” Harold pointed at the trapped duo for Captain Underpants. “Put us down and get them to my mom!”

The hero nodded and quickly set them down by the stairs before the oncoming armor could go after them.

“I got an idea!” George turned to the guests. “Hey, help us get the curtains down!” He pointed to the largest curtains closest to them.

“Sure!” Luca (who was also among those to get invited) agreed as he and his sister hurried over. Even some of the kids like Bo, Gooch, and Other Sophie hurried over to provide assistance.

“Come on!” Melvin yelled as Captain Underpants kept trying to dodge the armors while unaware as to what the boys and a few brave guests were doing. “How hard can it be to stop such an idiot?!”

At the moment he had his chance, the hero quickly flew over to Edith and Heidi, gathered the two up under his arms, and flew off into the air–all the while forced to dodge more of the armor.

Finally the curtain was pulled down. “Ok, go!” Harold told the guests and they hurried towards the armor Melvin was using.

“Here!” Captain Underpants tried to set Heidi down upon the ground on the other side of the second floor near her mother and George’s parents seconds later. He yelped when he saw that one of the armors was about to go after him and he had to take Edith away with him.

“By the way, I’m sorry about whatever I did to make you mad the other day!” Captain Underpants told Edith as he hurried as fast as he could.

“We can talk about this later!” Edith noticed an armor coming towards them and she screamed. Captain Underpants quickly reacted and punched it out of the way with enough force to knock it over onto its back.

Finally he found a safe spot and set her down on the ground near some of the guests.

“Oh thank goodness!” Edith sighed in relief as she touched the ground again. Strands of hair were starting to come out of her stylized bun but other than that she was ok. She did panic when she saw the armor coming towards them. “Uh... Captain?!” She turned around to see the hero was staring at her in awe. “Captain Underpants?!”

She was even more beautiful up close. He started to smile until she realized what she was saying and he turned around in time to see the armor’s hand before it smacked him clear across the room and into a wall, causing her to let out a horrified gasp.

“FINALLY!” Melvin sighed in relief and began to make his armor move. But then, without any warning, the armor barely made one step before it fell over, causing him to let out a scream before it landed on the ground and he tumbled out.

The reason? A huge cloth of curtain had been tied around the armor’s legs thanks to the boys and a handful of guests who were running to safety.

“Nice!” The boys gave each other high fives before they hurried to where Melvin was. Without something to control them or give verbal commands, the armors went completely still and many of the guests were trying to hurry out of the room while they had the chance though others remained.

“Ok seriously Melvin, what gives?!” George demanded as they stood before the red head, who struggled to get up. “If you wanted to get revenge, you should of done it without putting everyone else in danger!”

“Hey guys?!” The boys turned to see Captain Underpants hover a foot off the ground as as came towards them. He was a bit bruised from hitting the wall, but was otherwise fine while the wall itself had a huge dent in it “What do you want me to do now?!”

That was when Melvin saw his chance–the boys were distracted and he had a clear shot. With a grin, he took the crossbow out as fast as he could and aimed it at the underdressed man.

“We need to get rid of these armor things first!” Harold began. “And then we need to–!”

A beam of white light shot out from between the boys and hit Captain Underpants right in the chest.

The boys found themselves watching in shock as the adult let out a terrible scream and began to writhe in what looked like pain in the air.

“CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS?!” They cried out.

“NO!” Heidi screamed as her mother held onto her while she and George’s parents could only stare in shock. Edith had her hands clamped over her mouth as she and the others could do nothing but watch.

The white light turned into a dazzling array of colors and a second later, it pulled away from the hero who then crashed onto the floor.

George and Harold hurried to Captain Underpants’ side and knelt beside him. “Are you alright?!” George asked as the adult let out a pained moan. “Please tell me you’re alright!”

“No because his powers are mine now!” The boys turned to Melvin as he waved a familiar looking crossbow in the air. “The flower of creation’s magic are no longer wasted on him!”

“No,” George turned back to Captain Underpants.

“Without the flower of creation’s magic...” Harold remembered. “He’s going to–!”

If the flower of creation’s magic was taken from him while it was still entwined with the spell, it was going to kill him. They remembered the warning all too well.

“Ha!” Melvin boasted as he pulled the crossbow device close to him and looked to see that the crystal was sparkling with rainbow colors. “It’s all mine now! Science beats magic!”

“It’s ok!” Captain Underpants let out a weak laugh and made to get back up. “I can still–” He then made a strange face. “I don’t... I don’t feel so...” His eyes widened before he crashed to his knees.

“Captain?!” George frantically asked as he knelt beside the adult.

Captain Underpants was starting to look pale as he moaned and held his face in his hands. “Why... why is the world all swirling around me?” He stammered as he looked up to see the scenery around him was starting to twist and blur. “My chest is feeling weird...”

“You know, maybe if you hadn’t of helped me find that witch who told me how to take it out of him, this wouldn’t of happened!” Melvin snarled. “Or maybe if you hadn’t of thrown around all those supplies in the lab, which wouldn’t of made my parents stuck in the state they’re in!” The boys turned towards him in horror. “And since I’d rather see you both be miserable, I won’t help you stay together and I’ve turned your hero from an overpowered moron into a regular moron!”

“No,” Harold shook his head.

“Not like this,” George also shook his head. “We didn’t mean...”

As George gave Captain Underpants a worried look–the man was getting whiter by the second–Harold felt his anger rise. He growled before he ran to Melvin. “Give those powers back!” He launched himself at Melvin and grabbed the crossbow.

“No way!” Melvin snapped as he tried to pull the crossbow away from Harold, but the blonde’s grip was too tight. “I need them more than him!”

“He needs them or he’ll die!” Harold screamed as he frantically tried to grab the crystal. “I’m not going to lose another person again!”

“Let go, you moron!” Melvin snarled as his hand got too close to the trigger. As he and Harold continued to struggle, his finger slipped and it accidentally pulled at the trigger while Harold was right in front of the invention.

The boy found himself getting blasted by the same exact beam of light, only this time it glowed as a vibrant rainbow.

“HAROLD!” George screamed as he watched while staying by a gradually weakening Captain Underpants’ side.

“HAROLD?!” Grace screamed as she tightened her hold on Heidi.

“WHAT IS HAPPENING?!” Melvin screamed.

The light faded seconds later, granting those involved the sight of the reaction the invention had on Harold.

“Oh man, I’m glad I shut my eyes in time!” Harold sighed in relief as he moved his hands away from his eyes. As he did, his fingers ran through his hair and all of a sudden he realized something was off. “Wait...” He moved his hands back, but to his shock he saw very familiar looking strands of different colors. Come to think of it, his head felt as if there was a noticeable and very familiar weight to it.

Hoping against hope that he wasn’t imagining things, he turned around to see a familiar trail of rainbow hair–all of which was attached to him.

The flower of creation’s magic had transferred back into one of its previous users. With that magic it returned the long rainbow hair that once had been part of Harold.

“WHAT?!” Harold let out a confused yell.

“Oh that’s not good.” George winced.

Chapter Text

No one could believe it.

Melvin had managed to take away Captain Underpants’ powers, but somehow they transferred into Harold, which restored his hair to the long rainbow that it once was.

“WHAT?!” Harold let out another confused yell as he grabbed the long locks and tugged at them.

“Yeah, that’s really not good.” George winced as he remained at the gradually weakening Captain Underpants side.

Melvin growled at Harold. “What did you do?!”

“Well, I know what I’m going to do now–which is run away!” Harold gathered up his hair as he swiftly ran to George.

“That’s a good plan!” George yelled as he forced Captain Underpants to his feet and to make a run for it.

“Oh no you don’t!” Melvin turned to the armors. “GET THEM!” He pulled out a device and pressed a button on it. The eyes of the armors started to glow red and they all charged after the trio as they ran out the nearest doorway.

“NO!” Grace, Barbara, and Moses then ran towards the stairs, but a few guards came by and stopped them.

“Your safety is important right now!” The guard argued.

“OUR CHILDREN’S SAFTEY IS MORE IMPORTANT!” Barbara screamed at the guard.

“EVERYONE EVACUATE AS FAR FROM THE CASTLE AS YOU CAN!” Another guard yelled at the guests, who wasted no time in making a run for it. Edith herself tried to go the other way towards the royal family and George’s parents, but she found herself getting swept away by the others.

*****

“So it gave you the powers?!” George demanded as he and Harold ran for the nearest hiding place they could find and all the while they lead the way for their adult friend by the hand.

“Well this happened, what do you think?!” Harold held up the long rainbow hair he had gathered in his arms as they turned a corner.

All of a sudden, Captain Underpants stumbled and fell.

“Hey you got to–!” George and Harold stopped when they saw that the adult’s skin was taking on a sickly grayish tone as if he were severely ill.

“Guys... I don’t...” The adult moaned as he tried to look at the two, but everything was such a blur that he couldn’t make out their faces. Worse yet, they all could hear loud noises charging towards them.

“QUICK!” Harold grabbed the adult’s hand and pulled him through the nearest convenient room and George followed before the first of the armors could see them.

They found themselves in the large kitchen and while they could hear the armor outside, their focus was on Captain Underpants who held his face and shut his eyes as he sat on the floor. His breath was sounding shallower by the second.

“What do we do?!” George panicked as Harold looked at his hair and had an idea.

“Please work!” Harold begged as he knelt beside Captain Underpants and pressed the hair against the adult. “Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine, make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine!”

As Harold sang, the hair glowed as it once did and to the boys’ great relief the adult’s coloring started to rapidly change back to a natural color.

“Heal what has been hurt, change the fate’s design, save what has been lost, bring back what once was mine, what once was mine.” Harold watched as Captain Underpants returned to a healthier state and his eyes had life in them again.

“Hey, the room’s not spinning anymore!” He exclaimed. “You guys don’t look like blurs! I feel spectacular again!” He cheered as he shot into the air and threw his arms out as he hovered a foot off the ground.

“It actually worked!” George grinned as he turned to Harold. “You still got it!”

“I do?!” Harold then thought of something and concentrated. A small glowing flower suddenly appeared in between the boys. “I DO!” Harold cheered, happy to see that he regained the best part of those powers again. He made the flower change from a dog that ran around the two, a dragon, a cat, a dolphin and then back to a flower. “This is amazing!”

“Oh pretty flower!” Captain Underpants cooed as he flew over to get a closer look. Then without any warning he began to frown. “Wait, I don’t–” To the shock of both boys, he crashed onto the ground again.

“Captain Underpants?” George and Harold knelt beside him again and the imaginary flower faded as the man started to turn pale again.

“I don’t feel good again... I can’t stay up.” Captain Underpants moaned.

“I don’t understand!” Harold panicked. “I healed him! I sang and everything! Why is he getting ill again?”

George thought quickly. “Harold! What Madame Miyuki told you–this was what she meant!” He turned to Captain Underpants. “You got your powers back, but Captain Underpants will die without them!”

“Unless I sing as if a life depended on it.” Harold then understood as the adult moaned. He knew what he had to do. “Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine.” He sang as he grabbed his hair and quickly tied the other end to Captain Underpants’ arm.

“Always make sure you are tied to another if you do something dangerous like this. That way you stay together and you keep them safe, like your both two ends of a rope that can’t be pulled apart.” He remembered what Cate told the boys when she did the same thing he was doing with his hair.

“There–as long as he’s tied to me, we can keep him alive.”

****

“WHERE ARE THEY?!” Melvin screamed as he was once again in his armor and was looking around the halls where the other armors roamed around.

Elsewhere, the boys were riding Captain Underpants as he flew through the halls. The hair that was tied to his arm and connected to Harold was like a glowing lifeline between the child and adult as the boy kept singing. Meanwhile George was the one who had to think, but he kept shooting nervous glances around him as well as at his friend.

“We can’t let Melvin find us!” George began. “He kept saying something about his parents, right? We should try to swing by his place in case it’s something we can fix real fast! Plus it might be the last place he’d try looking for us!”

Harold kept singing but gave the boy a thumbs up.

“Can you take us to the Sneedly residence?!” George asked Captain Underpants.

“Of course!” The man saluted. “Where is it?”

“THERE YOU ARE!” They turned their heads to see Melvin. “GIVE THAT MAGIC BACK!”

“NO WAY!” George yelled as Captain Underpants took him and Harold away as the armors charged after them. “Go left!” He told Captain Underpants.

They swung left, went straight, and eventually turned right, but then one of the armors caught up to them and hurled a large vase at them.

“LOOK OUT!” George screamed.

Captain Underpants panicked and did a sharp turn to avoid getting hit, but George and Harold accidentally tumbled off of him and screamed as they fell.

“NO!” He yelled and quickly grabbed the hair that kept him tied to Harold as the glow faded away. Harold and George managed to grab onto each other (as well as the hair) in time and were both quickly pulled back up before they could hit the ground.

“Got you!” Captain Underpants cheered as he managed to catch both boys in his arms. “That was a close–”

At that moment the magic was fading out of him and he began to drop, causing all three to scream.

“FLOWER GLEAM AND GLOW, LET YOUR POWER SHINE!” Harold quickly sang again and Captain Underpants managed to stop himself before they made impact, but this caused the armor to catch up and so did another one. It reached out to grab the adult, but he noticed and jolted away as fast as he could.

“JUST BREAK THROUGH A WALL OR SOMETHING!” George panicked.

“OK!” Captain Underpants agreed and rammed himself through the nearest wall while holding onto the boys.

“THIS IS JUST A RANDOM ROOM! GO OUTSIDE!”

There was another crash and Captain Underpants managed to get outside before shooting up into the sky as fast as he could.

****

“Ok, we made it!”

The door was kicked right off its hinges and was sent shooting across the room.

“I didn’t know you could knock on a door with your foot!” Captain Underpants walked in and set the boys down. “Hey this place looks familiar!”

“Harold, are you ok?” George saw that the glowing stopped and Harold was panting for air.

“Yeah... just... need a moment.” Harold took some breaths. “Need water.”

“On it!” George hurried to where he assumed the kitchen was.

Harold turned to Captain Underpants, who smiled and asked “Hey, as nice as that song is, do you know any other good ones?” But Harold couldn’t respond–he realized that he couldn’t sing forever, but if he stopped for too long, it was a guaranteed death for Captain Underpants.

“Got it!” George swung by with a full cup which Harold quickly took and drank from. Meanwhile Captain Underpants began to feel out of it again and sat down. “Ok, so what happened to Doctor Sneedly and his wife and where are they?”

“They’re trapped in a crystal.” A voice spoke out, startling both boys to the point that they screamed and Harold accidentally tossed his water right into Captain Underpants’ face.

“AAAHHH–! Oh no.” Harold moaned as he and George turned to see Krupp freaking out as he found himself in control again.

“WILL YOU TWO STOP DOING THAT?!” Krupp angrily yelled at them. “EVERY TIME WITH YOU–!” He pulled a face and grasped his head as the color faded from him.

“Wh-what’s happening?! I don’t feel good–!”

“Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine!” Harold wasted no time and the hair lit up once again.

“What are you–what the–?!” The adult freaked out when he saw one end of the hair was tied to him and the glow was reaching towards him. “GET THIS OFF ME!” He made to grab at it, but George stopped him with “NO DON’T DO IT OR YOU’LL DIE!”

“WHAT?!”

“TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT, MELVIN RIPPED THE MAGIC OUT OF YOU, IT GOT BACK INTO HAROLD, AND THE ONLY WAY TO KEEP YOU ALIVE IS TO BE ATTACHED TO HIM!”

“WHAT?!” The adult screamed even louder.

“Well, that answered my questions.” They all looked (Harold included) to see Erica tied up with rope that she had been trying to cut with a well placed knife and she was looking them. “And Melvin’s parents are that way.” She gestured with her head.

George helped Erica up before he and Harold moved to the door and opened it to see the couple trapped in the crystal. “Whoa, how could we have done that?!” He asked.

“Melvin must have been using that magic crystal for his Knightmare Knight and it had a negative reaction to something in this room.” Erica voiced her theory. “But you’d need something powerful to break it apart. He said he needed something from Captain Underpants–”

“The flower of creation.” George turned to Harold as it all clicked. “He thinks it’ll save them. I mean, we could try–and then he’ll leave us alone.”

Harold ceased singing. “But that means–” He looked at Krupp who was starting to pick things up.

“Wait–wait a minute!” He began to protest as the kid hurried over to pull the hair off of him.

“We don’t have time to argue!” George protested and snapped his fingers.

SNAP!

“Hey guys, the party will still be going when this is all over, right?” Captain Underpants asked. “I want to dance too! But maybe to something more upbeat!”

“Got it!” Harold undid the knot and then hurried towards the crystal as fast as he could. “Help me get this on them!” He tossed the strands as hard as he could and George quickly helped drape them over the crystal.

“This better work or else Melvin is going to be pranked for the rest of his life!” George pleaded.

“What if it doesn’t?” Harold worried. “What if I have to have a completely different set of magic or sing a different song–?”

“Its too late for that, we got what we got and we’ll have to try! Now sing!”

Harold glanced back to the crystal and began to sing.

“Please work, please work.” George pleaded.

“If it cures everything, it should.” Erica reassured him.

“Everything is all spinning around... even that rainbow.” Captain Underpants moaned. “Are we all made of rainbows?”

Moments later, the crystal suddenly started to glow. Then cracks began to form, which emitted yellow light. Then it completely shattered into several fragments.

Doctor Sneedly and his wife crashed to the floor–both free from the crystal, both laying in a heap, and both seemingly fine.

“YES–! OH SHOOT!” Harold quickly pulled his hair away, and hurried over to Captain Underpants, who had collapsed onto the floor and was turning a sickly gray again.

“Wow, that was almost too easy.” George commented as Erica finally pulled free from her ropes. “I almost thought he’d have to sing a different song.”

“Yeah and my hair is going to magically turn blue.” Erica shrugged. “But hey, you got the easy way out.”

“Melvin’s mom? Melvin’s dad?” George asked as he went to the two while Harold revived Captain Underpants. The boy shook the two and frowned as Erica checked Lady Sneedly’s pulse.

“They’re fine–they still got a heartbeat.”

“But they need to wake up or else Melvin won’t leave us alone!” George gestured to Harold as he finished singing and had to take a break after tying his hair to Captain Underpants again. “And if we can’t put the magic back into Captain Underpants, he’ll die!”

Erica thought for a moment. “What did Melvin use to extract it?”

“Some sort of weird crossbow! A light came out and it hit Captain Underpants and then it pulled it out of him! Then Harold tried to pull it away from Melvin and it him and he got the powers instead!” George realized something. “Wait–that was the same kind of thing that green haired lady tried to use on Heidi! That’s why he wanted to know where Oberon’s Cage was! She must have made some kind of deal with him to get that magic for herself! He must have made it on his own!”

“Well there’s your answer!” Erica smiled. “Get Melvin’s invention from him, get the magic out of Harold, and then put it back into Captain Underpants!”

“Just like that?!” Harold stopped singing again and grinned but then they all heard loud stomping sounds.

“LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!” George raced towards Harold and Captain Underpants, who quickly picked the two up and Harold started to sing again.

***

The armors were storming around the castle trying to find their target, but with little success.

“We need to get that crossbow, but we don’t know which armor has Melvin in it!” George tried to think as he and the others hid in an abandoned room. He turned to Harold, who was still singing as Captain Underpants played with the hair that was connecting him to the boy.

“It’s like I’m playing with a rainbow!” His eyes almost sparkled at the sight. George stared at the hair and got an idea. “So you can make illusions again, right?”

“Yeah?” Harold stopped himself mid-song.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Harold realized it and smiled.

****

As the armors wandered around the castle, one of them found itself coming face to face with what appeared to be none other than a–

“NIGHT FURY!” A random guest who was trying to get away conveniently screamed and ran off.

The dragon started to attack the armor who tried to strike it down. Yet its hands only went through it like it was nothing but mist as Captain Underpants came charging towards it while both boys were tightly wrapped around him by the hair.

“SURPRISE ATTACK He yelled as he grabbed its arm and yanked it off, which also sent it crashing to the ground where the hero quickly jumped onto its chest, causing it to cave in and break before doing the same to its head. The impact caused it to die then and there.

“Nice!” George approved as Harold was stuck with singing as a way to power the hero again. “Now let’s narrow down the list!”

And so with the regained powers of illusion, the boys and Captain Underpants gradually took out each armor–one illusion was a dragon, another was a giant toy snake, one was another armor like theirs, and even an illusion of the giant flying chamber pot was used to harass each one. It was basically the same process with a different illusion each time.

“Another one down!” Captain Underpants cheered a little too loudly as he made to pull another arm off, but this one then slapped him hard in the back, sending him flying through a window with the boys in tow and straight to the gardens–specifically one of the smaller ones filled with lots of flowers and one tree as well as a pond–and they all screamed the entire way.

Captain Underpants tumbled across the ground, unraveling himself from the hair, freed the boys from himself, and then promptly stopped with his head landing in the pond.

“AGH!” Krupp shot up as he found himself once again in a completely different setting.

“Ok, we got nearly all of them, but Melvin wasn’t in any of them!” George then realized Harold seemed a bit tired looking. “Whoa, are you ok?!”

“Yeah... I’m fine.” The boy tried to smile. “Just way too much singing, I guess.”

“I know Melvin has some sort of weakness, but it needs to be the right one or else we won’t win.” George turned around and struggled to think as an irritated Krupp tried to dry off his head and Harold went back to singing. He racked his brains and thought of everything he knew and tried to think back to if any of the past pranks pulled on Melvin worked, but nothing seemed promising for the situation at hand. He couldn’t use Melvin’s occasional lack of common sense or occasional lack of humor against him. He also had some allergies, but–

“That’s it!” George remembered with a grin. “Harold I know how to–!” He turned around in time to see the boy kneeling over and coughing onto the ground as the glow in his hair ceased. “Harold?!”

Harold looked up–he looked like he was starting to get as pale as Captain Underpants did–and George felt like he was going to be sick when he saw an all too familiar red liquid splattered on the ground. Some of it was still drizzling from the corner of Harold’s mouth.

“H...hey,” Harold’s voice sounded shaky as he licked the blood off the corner of his mouth. “That... never happened to me before...” He let out a weak laugh and let out another cough.

“Uh, Harold?” George realized this wasn’t good–was the constant singing and using magic effecting Harold in a bad way?

“It’s ok I can still sing.” Harold then tried to sing again, only his voice sounded a bit weaker than normal. “Flower gleam and glow, let your power–MPH?!” A huge hand clamped over his mouth.

“What are you doing?!” George was shocked to see that Krupp clasped a hand over Harold’s mouth and was struggling to hold on as the boy tried to pull away. “Let go, he’s trying to save your life!”

“Are you blind?! He’s not going to last if he’s hacking up blood!” Krupp snapped. “You aren’t going to save the other guy in time at this rate–!”

“We’re trying to save you, you dummy!” George tried to pull the man’s hand away–despite that he was clearly weakening by the second, Krupp was still surprisingly strong.

“If he’s just going to keep doing this until he drops, then just get this over with and let me–!”

“No! For once in your life, stop being stubborn and let us do something for you because this was the last thing either of us wanted!” George then quickly snapped his fingers before the adult could do anything else.

SNAP!

“Whoa that thing had a good hand!” Captain Underpants laughed as he let go of Harold. Both boys realized that they were running out of time–Harold was going to drain himself dry and the hero would die if they didn’t act fast enough.

****

“WHERE ARE YOU?!” Melvin yelled for what had to be the seventh time as he searched everywhere. “How hard can it be to spot a grown man flying in his–!”

“MELVIN!”

“Oh finally!” Melvin sighed as his armor turned around to face the boy and Captain Underpants as they hovered in the air while Harold’s hair glowed again. He grinned and took out the crossbow. “But you shouldn’t have told me where you were!” He took aim and shot it at the hero, but when the white light struck him nothing happened.

“What?” Melvin was understandably confused. “NO!” He shot it again, but the hero wasn’t writhing in pain and plummeting to the ground. “Why isn’t it working?!” He demanded without realizing there was another version of the trio right behind him.

“Ok, now.” George whispered to Harold, who had to slowly sing in a whisper, though he was trying to take deep breaths to avoid coughing up blood again. He shut his eyes and focused as hard as he could.

Without warning, a cat jumped onto Melvin’s crossbow. “Mew?” it asked.

“What?” Melvin flatly asked as he stared at the cat.

“Mew?” Melvin turned to the side to see another cat looking at him in amusement. “Mew?” It asked again.

“Meow!” He looked and to his horror there were three more cats.

“C-c-c-cats?!” Melvin stammered as his eyes widened in fear. “BUT I’M ALLERGIC TO CATS!” He screamed as all the kitties pounced upon him. The boy screamed and flailed around as numerous cats piled upon him while never noticing when the trio behind him swooped over him or when the crossbow was yanked out of his hands.

“ESCAPE! ESCAPE!” Melvin went down and worked to pull the armor door open as George held the crossbow while Captain Underpants took him and Harold away.

*****

All the escaped guests had gotten as far away from the castle as possible, with most of them right by the gate that lead into town.

“This is the worst summer ball ever!” Lady Gordon huffed.

“All this stampeding has ruined my har!” Jessica howled as her huge mane had deflated and strands were sticking out everywhere. “Where’s Sophie One and Other Sophie?!”

Said two girls were hugging each other and were happy to be alive.

“At least we all got out ok.” Gooch spoke to Bo. “This’ll make quite a story for the other kids at the hideout.”

“Hey, you think Captain Underpants will be ok?” Luca asked his sister. “Whatever that kid did to him, it didn’t look good.”

“Yeah, you have a point.” Dora agreed. “I hope he didn’t try to fight those things.

Especially if that kid did take his powers away.”

Neither of the siblings saw that Edith was close by and listening in. The chaos caused more of her hair to be freed from the pins with the white flowers still clinging to it. Up until then she was divided between trying to look for Heidi and the others while worrying about the boys and the hero, but what the two said made her fears grow.

Benjamin wasn’t going to be safe this time, wasn’t he? Would the boys helping him even be enough?

Determination seized her as she then forced herself through the crowd as if they were thorn bushes that couldn’t hurt her any more. She had to get to him.

*****

The ballroom was a complete wreck when the boys and Captain Underpants returned to it.

“I think I got this figured out.” George turned to Harold, who was still singing, but getting tired out by the second as was coughing up more blood, much to everyone’s horror. “Ready?”

“Save what has been–!” Harold coughed out onto the floor and more blood came splattering out, making his best friend fight the urge to vomit over it. “Just hit me with your best shot!” He held his hands out.

George didn’t waste any time–he took aim at his friend and pulled the trigger.

A blast of white light came out of the crossbow and stuck the boy who felt as if something was ripping his insides out of him and he had to fight the urge to yell in pain. Thankfully the moment passed and the light soon turned into a rainbow which was then sucked back into the crossbow.

When the light faded, Harold once again retained his shorter, yet messy blonde curls. “Oh good!” He sighed as he felt much better as if he wasn’t coughing up blood just a few seconds ago. “I think I prefer having shorter hair!”

“Are you ok?!” George demanded. “You aren’t going to–?!”

“I’m fine, lets hurry this up!”

“Alright, alright!” George turned to Captain Underpants as Harold made to stand beside the former. The adult was looking a bit tired again, but he smiled and waved.

At that moment, Melvin charged into the abandoned room and scowled. “Oh I don’t think so.” He pulled out one final weapon–a crossbow similar to the other one, but with a dark blue crystal. “You aren’t getting your happy ending!”

Right as George aimed the crossbow at Captain Underpants, Melvin raised his at the trio and pressed the trigger first.

Chapter Text

“You aren’t getting your happy ending!” Melvin yelled as he took aim. He pressed the trigger right as George aimed the crossbow at Captain Underpants.

All three turned in confusion in one split second, yet it was Captain Underpants who reacted the fastest out of an instinct to protect George and Harold no matter what. He noticed before they did that the weapon was pointed at the two.

When a blue blast of something like fire (yet not quite) shot out of the other crossbow, he lunged forward and shoved the boys out of the way as hard as he could.

The action caused George to lose his grip on the other crossbow and it was thrown into the air as a result.

As they fell, the boys could only watch as the blue fire crashed into Captain Underpants, who was sent right across the room and into a pile of rubble from when one of the walls was destroyed. There was a terrible sound when the impact was made and some of the rubble ended up landing right on top of him even before he fell to the ground.

The blue fire finally ceased and vanished, revealing that the hero was buried amongst the rubble.

“NO!” The boys yelled as they ran over to Captain Underpants as Melvin ran over to the abandoned crossbow.

“Are you alright?!” George asked as he and Harold reached Captain Underpants, but then a horrified yell made them look back to Melvin.

“LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE DONE!” Melvin held the crossbow up. “YOU BROKE THE CRYSTAL!” To their alarm, they could not see that familiar rainbow glow where the crystal should have been. “I WAS GOING TO USE THAT ON MY PARENTS! NOW THEY’LL BE STUCK IN THAT CRYSTAL FORVER THANKS TO YOU TWO!”

“THEY JUST SAVED THEM!” All eyes turned to see Erica rushing towards Melvin as she was flanked by two guards. “IF YOU HAD JUST ASKED, WE COULD HAVE AVOIDED ALL OF THIS! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!”

“What are you talking about?!” Melvin snapped just as Erica approached him. Erica grabbed him by the arm and pulled the crossbow out of his hand. “Hey–!”

“Here, we’ll deal with him tomorrow.” Erica told the adult guards as she handed Melvin over to them. They pulled him out of the destroyed ballroom as he let out a series of protests and demands as Harold ran up to her to pull the crossbow out of her hands.

“No,” He shook his head when he saw that the crystal was chattered into several fragments. “No it can’t be!” He shook his head as George came over and was greeted with the terrible sight.

“But if it’s destroyed, then–!” George looked up to Harold. “Can you still–?!”

“Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine!” Harold tried singing once more, but nothing happened. “Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine!” He tried again, but still nothing happened. Erica frowned at the two and, upon sensing what was happening, began to leave.

The boys heard a moaning sound from the rubble, dropped the crossbow, and hurried back to Captain Underpants to resume what they intended to do. They removed the rubble and debris off of him as fast as possible and when they finished, it was not a promising sight.

He had what appeared to be a huge burn mark on his side from where he was struck by whatever Melvin’s contraption was. Certain parts of his body were already bruised from where the rubble struck him and in some cases it was to the point that he was bleeding. Worse yet, his skin was slowly getting paler and sickly looking with each passing moment and they could hear him struggling to breathe.

“No, no, no, no,” Harold shook his head. “No it can’t end like this! Not after all we did!”

“Hey it’s alright,” The adult gave them a sickly, yet reassuring smile. “You did the best you could.”

“No we didn’t!” George protested as he knelt beside Captain Underpants and grabbed his shoulders. “It wasn’t enough! That crystal was the only way to keep you alive–now it’s destroyed and we can’t break the spell to save you!”

“But everyone is safe, right?”

“Not you!” Harold also knelt beside Captain Underpants and grabbed his hand. “I already nearly lost George, but I can’t bring another person back to life again!” He was in tears. “If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t have meet each other! I wouldn’t have found my family! You’re the reason we got a happy ending, but its not going to be if you have to die!”

“Same here!” George felt it hard to breathe as his own tears came to his eyes. “You can’t go!” He buried himself into the adult’s body in a huge hug and could feel it slowly moving the more his heart rate slowed down. “I should have hung with you more often–we both should have! We didn’t get to keep our promise to you!”

“It’s ok,” Captain Underpants reached out and carefully tousled the boy’s hair. “It’s ok.” When Harold couldn’t take it anymore and clung to him too, he also tousled his hair. It was getting harder to breathe and everything around the two boys were starting to blur and twist. It was taking his all to focus on the two things that mattered the most right now. He tried to hold onto them with what diminishing strength he had and never wanted to let go. “You’re safe, and that’s all that matters to me.”

“Please.” Harold begged, wishing with all his heart that he could summon the last of the magic as the battered man he was hugging was slowly losing his reassuring warmth. “Let us keep our promise. Please don’t leave us.”

“Don’t go,” George also pleaded as he shut his eyes as he felt the adult’s fingers leave his hair so that he could loosely hug him and his best friend. “Don’t go.”

The adult smiled and shut his eyes. “I’m so happy you guys are my best friends.” The smile became sad and distant. “I just wish...”

I wish I had more time with you.

There was nothing they could do.

Just hold on to him until it was over.

He held on with all of those precious few seconds left.

They didn’t notice when Edith hurried into the destroyed room.

Thanks to struggling to get through the crowd and running as fast as she could, Edith’s hair was completely free from the pins, yet the white flowers still clung to various strands. When she saw the hero laying amongst the rubble, hugging the two boys who were clutching at him, she stopped and let go of her skirts.

“Harold? George?” She nervously asked.

The two boys looked back as her voice reached the slowly fading mind of the hero, who instantly recognized it as he struggled to see her, only to see a swirling shape of yellow, pink and blue.

Edith walked towards the trio and almost let out a gasp at just how awful Captain Underpants looked. It was heart breaking and it was as if it were the thorn bush again, but...

Both George and Harold slowly moved away from Captain Underpants, whose eyes were still trying to see the figure approaching him. Both boys remained right at his side and he watched as the figure finally became clear enough for him to see her face and her beautiful eyes that were bluer than anything else imaginable.

Edith knelt beside him and reached out to carefully hold his face in her hands. “Is he...?” She turned to look at Harold, who frowned and avoided her gaze as she realized what was happening.

“Edith?” She turned her head back to see Captain Underpants struggling to keep his eyes open as he slowly reached up to cover his hand over one of hers. Her touch felt so soft and comforting–he could feel how small her hand was under his own. “Is... everyone alright?” He struggled to ask as his breathing became shallower.

“Yes,” She forced herself to nod and smile as she felt her eyes well up. “You saved the day.”

“Oh good,” He smiled back. “By the way... you look really pretty tonight.” And she did–she was the most beautiful person he’d ever seen, even if she was starting to blur away, and if she was going to be the last thing he ever saw, then he was fine with that. “That party looked like fun... but I guess no one would of wanted me around.” He let out a weak laugh as Edith felt a stab of regret. “I would of out-funned them.”

“No... it wasn’t fun without you.” Edith finally admitted. “And I don’t care if you have to be two different people, or if you’re stuck with this spell your whole life. You’re still the same sweet person inside that I was lucky enough to meet. I’m happy when I’m with you, I want you to be happy, and I want to be there for you Benjamin, even if you probably don’t feel the same way I feel towards you because–” She took a breath as her heart felt like it was going to burst from her chest from all the pounding.

“–Because I really, really, really love you that much.”

She then moved forward, hands still holding his face, and gently kissed him on the mouth.

He was startled as his eyes widened and he momentarily moved his hand away. Even the boys had not expected the gesture, yet they couldn’t stop watching.

He felt her kiss–he never experienced something like this before, yet it was so gentle and so sweet. The pads of her thumbs gently caressed his cheeks and it only brought him closer to a state of something he couldn’t understand, yet felt comforted by and which made his dying heart soar in a way that was like flying. It was like a pleasant serenity he had never experienced until this point.

Almost as if he knew what to do, he slowly shut his eyes and returned the kiss right back as his hands slowly reached out before they were able to return the gesture and he could hold her face too. She let go of one of his cheeks so that she could hold her hand over one of his own.

He wanted this for so long. When did he want this one moment with her without realizing it? Was it when he first saw her laugh as she enjoyed the freedom of flying with him? Or was it on the bridge, while watching the lights in the night sky and seeing how their glow upon her made her radiant–?

Something clicked.

It only took one memory–a memory he shouldn’t of had or experienced–for everything to start coming back together. It took one memory for the rest of the gaps to fill up and it was making his head hurt.

He pulled away with a cry and gripped his head in both hands.

“Hey are you alright?!” Both George asked as he and Harold grabbed at his arms as Edith could only watch with worry.

“Wait a minute,” Harold noticed it before anyone else did–his sickly skin tone was reverting back to a more natural hue.

They waited as his breathing became less shallow, and as his natural color returned. Seconds passed before he lifted his hands from his head and they could see the confusion in his eyes.

“H... hey,” George asked with slight uncertainty. The adult looked at him before looking at Harold and then at Edith.

He had no idea if all the new memories in his head were all just a dream when he woke up, yet he still felt wide awake. He ran his hands over his face and head to feel for something, and he became increasingly confused when he couldn’t feel the sensation that signaled his usual return.

“Am I...?” He finally asked before staring at his hands. Almost hesitantly he snapped his fingers.

Nothing happened. Everything was staying exactly the same.

Understanding dawned on him and he let out a breathless laugh.

To the equal shock of both boys, he let out a laugh and drew them both into a tight hug. “Whoa, hey!” George protested as he and Harold felt as if they were about to have their insides squeezed out.

“It’s gone!” Benjamin laughed with delight. “I’m not under it any more!” He took a breath of air and buried his head between the boys. “I actually remember it all this time, I–!”

In that moment, he felt too many things at once–guilt and regret was one.

Understanding and relief was another.

“I–” He had no clue what to tell the boys. There were too many things to say–too much that came with memories both new and not quite–and he momentarily struggled until finally he settled with “Thank you.” He let out a sigh as they heard the fireworks being set off outside.

How could they have forgotten? There were supposed to be fireworks and yet everyone outside managed to set them off. Explosions of colors outside, so similar to the lanterns, were bursting in the night sky.

“Told you we were trying to save you.” George smiled as he and Harold returned the hug.

“And it paid off.” Harold added as he tightened his own hug a bit.

“Benjamin?” Edith asked, causing all three to look at her. “Are... are you here? I mean when you say you aren’t under it any more... does that mean–?”

“All he needed was someone who loved both sides of him in order for the spell to break.” Harold grinned before anything could be said.

“And on that note, we’ll leave you guys alone!” George also grinned as he and Harold moved away from Benjamin, grabbed each other’s hands, and ran out of the room as fast as they could.

There was a silence between the blushing adults before Benjamin realized what just happened and stammered “So wait–you actually do love me?! You really meant what you said?!”

Edith smiled. “I do Benjamin. I really meant it.”

He beamed at her and, before she knew it, he drew her in a huge embrace and kissed her. Her eyes widened in surprise, but she closed them and returned the kiss as she hugged him back.

She didn’t need to hear him say it back–she knew then and there.

****

Both George and Harold stared at the fireworks in the night sky. Everyone else had calmed down and was watching them as if nothing else had happened that night. They watched as green, blue, yellow, and all other colors bursted and joined the stars in their brilliant light, yet it was red that seemed to shine brightly above all the others.

“This was a good birthday.” George smiled at Harold. “It ended up being a lot better than I thought it would be.”

“It beats mine out.” Harold admitted as he squeezed his best friend’s hand.

They both could see their respective families watching the fireworks–George’s parents sitting side by side, and Heidi holding Harold’s mother’s hand.

The boys both sat down on the stairs to just watch the scene in a calm that they hadn’t felt in awhile. Nothing mattered any more–all they wanted now was to just be together and enjoy the last of the day.

*****

Harold’s birthday was the day that we became best friends. My birthday was the day the flower of creation’s magic finally left the kingdom for good. Looking back, I think its influence effected everyone for good and for bad, but those who truly needed its power the most were the ones who benefited from it in the end.

However, that was also the final time anyone would have ever seen Captain Underpants in action ever again. Rumors would turn into stories, but the truth was always in front of their unsuspecting eyes when they didn’t suspect it.

In the end we were able to do two things for him after all–we lifted his spell and he was able to be with us in times of peace like he wanted.

The Sneedlys eventually woke up and they were fine as if they hadn’t been spending several days stuck in a crystal. Queen Grace went easy on Melvin and decided to just have him be placed under house arrest for a few months, but he was banned from ever mixing magic with science ever again. Like Erica, he had already finished school before anyone else did, so missing school wasn’t a loss and he had his family back, which was what he wanted any way. Though we never really forgave him for almost killing our friend.

Erica would later tell us that she had been trying to see if a university could accept her at her age that year, but she decided to wait another year and stick around until she and Ree could help make the guards better prepared to deal with what we had to go through. That started with hiring new guards that were nicer and less cowardly than the others. I guess it was a good start since Harold and I didn’t want to try to save Piqua on our own without Captain Underpants.

After that day, the castle was such a huge mess that some like my parents stuck around or were hired to help rebuild the parts that got destroyed. It delayed my parents from leaving Piqua long enough until...

*****

“What do you mean you found a job in town?” George couldn’t believe it. He wanted to know if he was dreaming it or not.

“Madame Esme said she needs more teachers at her school and she mentioned the possibility of a weekly night school for adults.” Barbara explained as she and Moses faced their son while sitting outside by the town bridge.

“And enough money is saved up that we could buy a small house in town.” Moses added. “It wouldn’t be anything like the castle, but it would be enough for all of us.”

“That’s great!” George grinned. “That means I can still see Harold!” He ran up to his mom and hugged her tightly, and his parents smiled in return.

“Out of curiosity...” Barbara asked as she stroked her son’s head. “Was Harold the only reason why you wanted to stay here?”

George thought for a while. For many years, he had hated Piqua and only stayed for specific reasons. But what was here for him besides Harold? “I guess... I guess I’ve grown attached to a lot of the other kids here... and some adults.” He admitted. “And I’ve never had as much fun or inspiration here compared to where we used to live. It’s not boring, that’s for sure.”

*****

“Are... are you sure?” Harold asked as he and Heidi stared in amazement at their mother in the library where they all sat down together.

Grace sighed. “For too long, I’ve been afraid of bad things happening to both of you. I wanted to keep you close to me and never have to risk losing either of you. Yet I can never seem to keep you away from the outside world–not when you need to know about it or when it will need you. I can’t keep either of you from growing up and being the best you both can be.”

“So we can go to school for real?!” Heidi’s eyes shone as she smiled, yet Harold was more hesitant.

“Harold, is everything alright?” Grace wondered.

“Yeah... well, I guess.” Harold frowned. “I mean, that’s great but I don’t know if George will be around to go to school with me.”

Grace then smiled. “Well, from what I heard–”

•••••

The halls were filled with screams of joy as Harold ran as fast as he could while trying to find George. It were those screams that alerted George to him and the other boy raced around trying to find the blonde.

Eventually they literally crashed into each other and Harold drew George into a huge hug as he exclaimed “We’re still going to school together! We’re still going to school together!”

“Calm down!” George laughed. “What do you mean?!”

“My mom is letting me and Heidi go to school after all! At first I was happy, but then I was bummed out because I was sure you wouldn’t be living in town anymore, but then she told me your mom got a job, so that means we get to stay together!” Harold panted for air as George stared at him.

“THAT’S AMAZING!” George yelled and tightly hugged Harold before lifting him off the ground a few inches and spun him around. “WE GET TO STAY TOGETHER!”

“YES!” Harold also yelled as the two laughed with delight. “YES WE DO!”

The two were so excited that they didn’t realize that they accidentally revealed this bit of news to someone in particular. When they finally did, they looked up and were surprised to see Benjamin with a very stunned look on his face.

“Oh,” The boys let go of each other and gave him awkward smiles as Harold spoke first. “Well–I mean that’s good for you since we won’t be bothering you as much any more, right?”

He stared at them for a few long moments before he raised both hands over their heads.

Then unexpectedly, he slowly tousled their hair in a familiar, comforting way and gave them a smile that was less him and more of a certain hero.

“Good for you guys.”

He then walked away from them. Had he turned back, he would have seen the two of them shoot each other smiles before they ran out with full intent to yell out their good fortune for everyone to hear from inside the castle and all the way to the hideout where the other kids were.

As Benjamin kept walking, he noticed Edith peering from around a doorway. He stopped as she gave him a knowing smile before rushing towards him and wrapped her arms around his neck. She gave him a sweet kiss and when she parted and saw the huge smile on his face and that familiar light in his eyes, she giggled and grabbed his hands before leading him outside for a day of fun together. This time, the hand holding would not need to be for out of security–this time it would hold far more meaning for both of them.

****

As August was drawing to an end on a certain day, George and Harold stood side by side as they stared at the school. Kids raced around them to get inside or chatted about their summer, and Harold watched as Heidi was greeted by other children. With a huge smile, she joined them and hurried inside.

“Something about this feels right.” Harold admitted. “Do you think that’s weird?”

“Not really.” George admitted before he noticed the school sign. It said ‘Welcome to school, children’ but the words were arrangeable. Yet he had an idea. “One more thing.”

Moments later, both boys chuckled as it said ‘Wee children toes.’

“Ok, now it feels right.” George turned to Harold and held his arm out. “Ready for a new chapter in our lives and loads of new readers and pranks?”

“Ready!” Harold took his arm.

The boys laughed as they went towards the school–away from a year of adventure and insanity and into a more normal, yet still promising year. Things were going to be much different at the school with them around, but it was never going to be boring.