ShootingStar: Hey-o! Who’s up?
PineTree: Seriously? Right now? It’s too late to be starting this…
Shootingstar: Oh hush Dip-Dop, just ignore it!
Pinetree: Kind of hard when my phone beeps every few seconds…
Skull: Yo! I’m still up!
Fox: Greetings, I take it you can’t sleep right now?
Shootingstar: You’re one to talk, have you eaten this time?
Skull: Something tells me it was a while back…
Fox: I must disagree, I did as she told me!
Panther: Can you guys keep it down, some of us are trying to sleep…
Pinetree: Trust me, she means it…
Skull: Yep. I’ve known those two for a while so I can attest to that.
Panther: Ok… Turning my phone off then…
Panther: You’re lucky I love you guys. Good night!
Shootingstar: Fine… See you tomorrow I guess… Enjoy your beauty sleep!
Skull: I think she’s gone and it looks like Haru, Futaba, and Makoto are out right now. So, back to you dude, when was the last time you ate anything?
Fox: I assure you, I am fine.
Shootingstar: Yusuke… Don’t make me march over there and force feed you Smile-Dip…
Fox: I’d rather not have a repeat of that incident thank you very much.
Skull: Still hilarious!
Fox: Anyways, I have actually eaten like she had constantly told me. It was at least Monday if I recall…
Skull: Um… You do realize that was about a day or two ago right?
Shootingstar: OMG! Boy… You need an intervention… ASAP!!
Fox: No need. I am perfectly fine and capable!
Pinetree: I’m on their side for this one… Sorry buddy!
Skull: Hell yeah! Dip-Dop has finally joined the fun side!
Pinetree: Don’t call me that…
Skull: Alright, how ‘bout “Lamby?”
Pinetree: I THOUGHT WE AGREED NOT TO MENTION THAT!!!
Skull: Kidding! Just messing with ya!
Pinetree: I hate you…
Skull: Keep saying that, ya still hang out with me regardless!
Shootingstar: THAT aside… So, the four of us were in town today and there was quite a rumor mill going on…
Skull: Small town, wouldn’t surprise me. Anything about a target?
Shootingstar: Nope, sorry!
Fox: So what are the stories this time?
Skull: Of course you’d be interested…
Shootingstar: Well… Didn’t seem like much at first but then I remembered overhearing Stan talking on the phone and then with Ford the other day and that’s when it finally clicked: We’re gonna be boarding someone at the Shack!
Fox: And how is this relevant? I mean, I guess its fine since I did stay with you folks when I had nowhere to go. Rather shabby, but still nice nonetheless.
Shootingstar: I’ll take that as a compliment!
Shootingstar: But anyway, on to the more juicy part: Apparently, it didn’t take long for our mysterious houseguest to become the talk of the town! Though, I don’t think that’s a good thing…
Shootingstar: Well… Apparently he was a criminal or something… Something about an assault charge… Then again, I did hear different stories like how he had a knife or is a deranged maniac who could kill with a single stare… Stuff like that…
Fox: Rather unfortunate… Really!
Shootingstar: Yeah… I can’t help but be nervous though…
Pinetree: Mabel… I’m sure it’ll be fine and that it’s just harmless rumors… Well then again, even that’s debatable.
Skull: Hey come on May-May! Turn that frown upside down!
Fox: Indeed, it is unlike you. I am with Mason here, it will probably be fine.
Shootingstar: Lol thanks guys! ^_^
Fox: So when is he arriving?
Pinetree: Tomorrow, which means that it’s time to sleep!
Shootingstar: Fiiine! Buzzkill…
Skull: Got work anyways, see you guys tomorrow!
Fox: I bid you all good night!
Shootingstar: Nite all!
Mabel sighed as she places her phone on the nightstand with her twin doing the same. “You still nervous?” He asked.
She nods as she pets Waddles, who simply oinks in response, “Yeah… But not as much anymore.”
They hear a meow and turn to see a cat perching on their window, blue eyes practically illuminated in the moonlight. Mabel smiles as she opens it, “Back from scouting little Morgana?”
The feline jumps in, stretching before speaking in a child-like voice, “Yeah… Same old, same old though. Been really quiet since that apocalypse… Well besides the occasional lull of Momentos… Speaking of which: You guys up for exploring it tomorrow?”
Dipper frowned, “That’s a negative buddy, we’re expecting company and everyone else but Yusuke, Ryuji, and Futaba are busy so…”
Morgana sighed in disappointment, “Right… Guess I should have expected that…”
The twins looked at him sadly, with Mabel saying, “We’re sorry, we really do want to explore Palaces and Momentos like old times but…”
“No… It’s fine… I’ll just keep exploring until something happens I guess…”
Mabel scratched the cat’s ears with Dipper giving him a couple pets, earning a purr.
“In any case, I’m sure things will get better.”
“Wow, didn’t think you had to be the optimistic one bro!”
Mona gives a bit of a smile as he says, “Well, you two have a big day tomorrow so off to bed! And that’s an order!” Waddles makes another noise, "Same goes to you pig!"
They chuckled as they said in unison, “Sir, yes sir!” and stepped into their beds, with the cat joining Dipper while Waddles curls up to Mabel.
“Night stupid.” Dipper said with amusement.
“Hehe! Good night stupid.”
They both doze off, hopeful that things will be ok…
Ren didn’t know how long he had been asleep until he felt someone tap his shoulder and then finally shake him awake.
“Hey kid! Your stop’s here, time to get going!”
He groaned as he slowly sits up, stretching and trying to relieve any aches he had gotten from laying on the seat along with the jet lag he had since hopping on the bus. The driver sighed impatiently, “Seriously? Come on!”
He gives the man an annoyed look but stayed quiet as he picked up his duffel bag and carry-on as he leaves his seat, ignoring the passengers staring at him as the driver comments, “Weird kid…”
Ren rolls his eyes as he reaches the door, pushing his glasses up as he adjusts to the warm morning air and his bus leaves. As soon as it’s out of sight, he brings out his map… Well, a pamphlet that’s not really much help technically but it’s all he has right now. He looks around before moving forward, deciding to take a leap of faith today. As he wanders into the wooded area (not like anyone would care if he got eaten by bear or something), he looks back at the circumstances that led to this: A man trying to assault a woman, him trying to intervene before said man stumbles and gets injured, he gets blamed for “assault,” and now the only thing standing between him and a life behind bars is this old town (which is in another country on top of that). He was actually lucky that the court was willing to put him on probation at all… Unfortunately though, they also won’t hesitate to drag him back should he make one single slip-up. And that’s his plan: play along and spend his summer here like a typical, upstanding citizen and everything will be fine. That’s what he always told himself: Don’t act out and everything will be fine. But if he has to be honest: He hates everything single thing about this plan but if that means his dad won’t treat him like some stain on his reputation then it might be worth it… Now if only he cared enough to give him more clothes and necessities as opposed to dropping a couple bags on him and telling him to just leave before he “causes any more trouble.” He furiously crumples the pamphlet in his hands before stopping himself, taking a couple calming breaths before saying, “Stay calm… It will all be ok in the end…” He then looks around before pulling a necklace out from under his sweater (he didn't expect the weather to be this warm but oh well). Well, it's actually a watch hanging from a red ribbon but it's still very important to him. It's bronze with a lotus design on the center (with a red gem in the middle of the flower along with one black gem in each petal) and when it's open, it shows a clock though it had long been broken. On the back of it is an engraving of a message that reads:
"To our dear sweet child, keep it close to your heart.
With love, Mama and Mummy"
Ren tenderly touches it as he says, “Mama… Mother… Please watch over me…” And tucks it back in as he continues walking. He then hears his phone go off and he checks it to find a strange app pop up, the icon a large eyeball with a red backdrop.
"I don't remember downloading this..." He thought as he immediately deletes it with a sigh. A booming voice suddenly echos in his head not long after:
[Ah... So you have finally arrived. Bienvenue, mon enfant...]
Ren flinched, looking around, "W-Who...?"
[A friend, or should I say, your "real self."]
Huh? "Real self?"
"What are you talking about?"
[Still not quite ready yet. Do not worry mon amie, all will revealed when the time comes. Until then, au revoir!]
The voice was gone before he could ask more questions. He then shakes his head as he decides to pass it off as his mind playing tricks on him and finally finds the town, his shadow taking a different form for a second before reverting back...
Ryuji walks the usual path to the Shack with Yusuke in tow (Sojiro needed help at the diner so Futaba is unavailable now), the latter nose deep in his sketchbook as usual. He actually wasn’t sure about bringing the guy since he could have sworn Stan kicked him out last time (or was it the time before that?) but he felt that Mabel could use the company since she and Yusuke get along quite well along with Dipper. When the place finally comes into view, he brings out his key as he calls out to his companion, “Better keep up or I’m locking ya out!” Yusuke frowned, the attempt at a joke escaping him, “I’d rather you not…” Ryuji sighed, “Ya really need to take a joke man…” He unlocks the door and enters the gift shop area. It’s empty so far, probably because it’s so early right now. He hears chattering coming from the kitchen and smiles, beckoning Yusuke to follow him. He peeks in and sees the twins sitting at the table with their uncles, faces a little serious.
“Must be talking ‘bout the new guy…" He thought as he decides to leave them be and get to his duties. There’s not much to it: keep the gift shop organized and clean and tend to the customers (well, more like scamming them but he doesn’t say anything and just leaves the old man to his showboating). There’s also keeping his friends (save Makoto and Haru) along with the twins out of trouble but he doesn’t mind, sure it seems boring (and it is) but he feels more at home here and wouldn’t change anything for the world. Time goes by and the two stood around in silence after the cleaning was done until they hear the family enter the room. Mabel is the first to notice as she smiles brightly and runs up to the counter.
“Whoa! You guys are early!”
“Yep, actually took me a bit to get this guy to go outside and join me but it was worth it!”
Yusuke gives Ryuji a look at that before smiling, “Good to see you two.”
Stan narrows his eyes, “Didn’t I kick you out for messing with one of my exhibits?”
Ryuji snickered a little bit at the memory, prompting a death glare aimed at him.
Yusuke shrugged, “I was merely trying to help Mr. Pines…”
Stan pinched the bridge of his nose, “Ah whatever, you’re lucky the kids like you. Just don’t touch anything this time!”
Stan then addresses the group, “Alright, you people know the drill: Kids, you handle the dusting and advertising—“
“Am I gonna have to be an exhibit again?” Dipper asked.
“Keep that up and you might. As I was saying: Blondie, you handle the counter and keep mister fancy-pants out of trouble. Ford, well… Just do your usual nerd thing or whatever…”
Ford rolled his eyes and heads to the basement.
“Oh and Mabel sweetie, make sure you let that cat outside alright?”
Mabel pouted, “He has a name and it’s Morgana!”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. He’ll probably let himself out knowing him, at least he could fend for himself unlike that pig."
"Hey! Waddles can-" Mabel tries to counter but suddenly couldn't think of a good argument for that due to thinking back at the "Pterodactyl" incident involving her pig as she then sighs in defeat, "Ok, I will admit, you got me there."
Stan sighs as well as he adds, "And remember: None of that ‘thieves’ business ok? Those days have been over ever since you-know-what happened the other summer, understand?”
The twins nodded sadly. They understand Stan and Ford’s reasons for this but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t bummed out about it. Stan makes a sound of acknowledgment and adjusts his fez and eyepatch and exits the shop to get ready to greet customers (Soos is currently on leave due to Melody finally being able to fully move in with him and the two need time to settle into their new home). The teens are left alone as Morgana exclaims, “Well, guess that’s my cue to go scouting! That and maybe find some fish or something to eat. Also, I can try to keep an eye out for your ‘mystery roommate’ if you like.”
Dipper smiled, “Sure, thanks!”
Morgana nodded as he leaves through the backyard. Ryuji decides to break the ice, “So, take it they gave you the rundown of what’s happening?”
Mabel leaned against the counter, “Yep. Apparently he’s someone named ‘Ren’ and is just staying with us for the summer from Japan."
"Whoa! Seriously? That far?!"
"Yeah, surprised us too actually. Anyways, from we were told about him, he seems to be a pretty normal guy so I’m little relieved... But still I really hope that he’s at least nice.”
“Eh, I’m sure he will be. Just stay positive.”
“I agree, I’m sure he will be good to you two.”
Mabel immediately hugs Yusuke before asking in a serious tone, “Kitagawa? Did you eat like I told you last night? Also, what did you sketch this time?”
Yusuke smiled a bit, “For the first question: Yes, Ryuji actually took me to the diner real quick before getting here. Also, I'm afraid Futaba won't be joining us due to Boss needing her help today..." Ryuji sighed, "Yeah... We were pretty bummed out..."
The twins look disappointed as Mabel said, "Aw, that sucks..."
"Well, I guess that's understandable though. Still, I agree with you sis..." Her brother added to which she nods sadly.
Ryuji immediately notices their deflated looks and gestures for Yusuke to try and cheer them up while he sets up the counter to which he catches on to as he tries to sound a bit more positive, "O-Oh! I still haven't answered your second question though!"
The twins immediately perk up as Mabel grins, "Oh yeah! Well...?"
Ryuji gives him a thumbs-up as he responds, "Heh, well I am actually in the middle of a sketch right now if you would like to see it..."
She happily nods as he shows her the drawing in question. She studies it for a second before saying, “Hmm… It definitely looks good so far but maybe add some glitter to brighten it up a bit?”
"Seriously? Again?" Her brother asks with a chuckle in his voice while she nods enthusiastically.
Yusuke laughs softly glad to see their respective moods improving, “Don't worry, I had a feeling that she was going to say something like that…”
Ryuji gives a relieved smile as he says while he finishes setting up, “Hey! Hate to be that guy but we should probably get started before the boss yells at us.”
The twins smiled at each other before grabbing a broom and duster while Yusuke tends to his own work…
Ren scowled as he continues walking. During his brief visit to the town, he tried asking for directions, but the folks down there actually weren’t much help at all (one was bulky and rather loud, there was another that completely brushed him off, and there was even one that didn’t look very human but that could be his imagination and he’s just creepy. There was also the fact that they seem to know about him somehow but he’ll just have to ignore it)! Thankfully, he finally did get a bit of help from some prospector of some sort so that’s a start. But now he guesses that he may have taken a wrong turn and is even more lost! He stops in his tracks when he hears a twig snap and looks around. Panic begins to take over until he hears a meow and sighs in relief. He then sees a cat approach him and he couldn’t help but smile a little bit as he kneels down. “Hey little guy.” He lets the feline sniff his hand before rubbing against it. “Guess you like me huh?” He scratches its ears, causing it to purr…
Morgana wasn’t sure what to expect from this guy but he could definitely get used to this. “Hmm, doesn’t seem too bad. And I do sense a bit of potential from him…”
Before he could ponder further though, he hears another twig snap and he knows that it wasn’t him this time and looks behind the guy…
Ren notices the cat’s change in expression and looks concerned, “You ok?” He then looks behind him as the cat hisses and runs off to find what appears to be a man wearing a dark hoodie and stands up to address him, “Can I help you sir?”
He gets a better look at him and can tell right away that something is off about this guy: his posture appears stiff and his expression is blank. His jeans appear old along with the hoodie. Overall, he looks like someone who would be found in a dark alley selling drugs. Still, Ren decides to maintain his composure for now as the man answers, “Uh… N-No. You just appear… Lost…”
Ren raised an eyebrow before saying, “You could say that...” He pulls out his pamphlet, “Do you know a good way to a place called ‘The Mystery Shack?’”
He seems quiet for a good minute before saying, “Y-Yes… I could lead you… If you like.”
Ren crosses his arms before sighing, “Alright, lead the way.”
He seems to be almost excited as he says, “Ok… Come with me… My name is Norman by the way…”
Ren shrugs, “Sure, whatever you say… My name is Ren.”
“Thanks I guess…”
Morgana looked baffled as he whispers, “He’s not seriously falling for that is he?!”
He then sees Ren secretly pick up a fallen branch as he follows after “Norman” and smirks a bit. “Heh, guess he isn’t buying it… Definitely smarter than Ryuji.” He then follows them to see where this goes…
They continue walking in silence for a while as Norman asks, “So… Are you from here?”
Ren hides the branch he picked up as he answers, “No, just staying for the summer.”
“Oh… It’s a nice place though…”
“Eh, if you say so Norman…”
They were silent again until Norman stops and clears his throat handing him a flower (albeit slightly wilted). “For you…”
Ren raised an eyebrow again as he takes it, “Um… Thank you…?”
They continue walking before Ren stops, looking around for any sign of his destination when he feels a hand on his, much to his discomfort. He turns to Norman with a deadpan look, “What are you doing?”
“I was just… It was so we don’t end up separated and even more lost…”
Ren now looks skeptical, “I don’t know about that, we don’t seem to be making much progress here.”
“N-No! We are going the right way!”
“Really? I don’t see some sort of Shack here yet. I was told by a local that it shouldn’t be too far and that there should be signs leading to it and I don’t see any here!”
Norman froze before grabbing his hand again, “Just keep going!”
Ren shakes his head, fighting against the man’s grip, “No! Not until you explain what you’re really up to!”
He breaks free before closing his eyes and swinging the branch at the assailant, probation be damned. He then hears not just one but several voices of complaints as he opens his eyes to find several little men in red hats scramble about along with some stilts and fake hands one of which is still gripping his wrist which he immediately shakes off.
“What… The… Hell?!” Was all he could think as he numbly drops his weapon. One of the men grumbled as he dusts himself off, “Oy… So much for that plan…” He then walks up to Ren as if nothing is wrong, “Ok: Obviously, we’re all Gnomes!”
Ren is still shell-shocked which the Gnome took as a cue to continue, “Speechless I see? I like that! Guess we’re making a good impression! Name’s Jeff by the way! Beloved leader of the Gnomes!” It was quiet except for a cough from one his brethren. Jeff sighs, “Really guys? You trying make me look bad here in front of our future queen?!”
Jeff ignores his bewilderment as he cheerfully says, “Ah yes! This leads to our second explanation: Good news for you, we’re looking for a new queen and you fit the bill! Why? Well you got the looks and also a bit of wit to match… We know because we’ve actually been watching you since you’ve entered this here woods! So, anyway…” He claps his hands as the Gnomes return to their original positions as “Norman” and makes it look like they’re kneeling on one knee, complete with a ring.
“Will you join us in holy matrimony?”
Ren is still frozen in place before snapping out of it, “Ok… First off, I’m a guy. Second of all, no and what the hell is this about?!”
“Pretty sure we just explained it to you kid. And really? You don’t seem like it. All you humans look the same to us to be honest. But hey, let’s not be rash here! You got a sweet deal being offered to you here! Plus things are getting a little desperate so… What do you say?”
Ren calms himself down as he says as gently as he could, “Look, I’m sure you guys are probably nice deep down but—“
“’I’m a human girl, you’re a bunch of gnomes so it’s weird.’ Yeah, yeah we’ve been through that song and dance before.”
“I just said that I—“
“Pipe down toots. Look, we get it. This is way too weird and we shouldn’t try to force anything out of you…”
Ren blinked, “Ok… So can I leave now?”
“Actually, this is the part where we kidnap you so you might want to run while you still can.”
Jeff hissed and tries to jump on him, prompting him to jump out of the way in surprise and causing the Gnome to hit a tree. Taking that as his cue to go, he grabs his bags (which had fell during the struggle earlier) and runs, causing the creatures to give chase. He gets a decent amount of distance before tripping and turning to see that a Gnome had grabbed him by the ankle. He kicks it off and tries to get up before another jumps from a tree and lands on top of him, followed by more as he tries to force them off. He growls in frustration as he shouts, “GET OFF YOU LITTLE CREEPS!!”
One of them lands hard on his head, his vision steadily going black…
“Woo! Nice shot Steve! Alright fellas, let’s get this wedding on the road!” Jeff exclaimed in triumph as they carry the young man away. Morgana, who had been watching the whole thing, winced in sympathy.
“Yikes… So close!” He sighs as he jumps down from his hiding place, “Well… Better get back and tell them!” He bolts in the direction of the Shack…
Ryuji yawned as Dipper helps with inventory while Mabel is giving advice to Yusuke regarding his drawing, the latter looking intrigued throughout. A customer approaches him with a souvenir and he does the same old song and dance before successfully making a purchase and the tourist leaves, Stan’s showing-off echoing outside. This continues for a while before they hear a commotion and shouting from the old man as Morgana enters the shop, completely out of breath and startling everyone.
“Whoa, hey! Where’s the fire here?!”
Morgana gives Ryuji a look before saying, “More like Gnomes… Again.”
They all groaned as Mabel says, “I’ll get the leaf blower!” And leaves the room. Dipper then asks, “So, who did they take this time?”
“Well… It was actually the new guy.”
“Really?” Ryuji asked incredulously.
“Yes Ryuji, pay attention.”
He scowled as the cat continues, “So, as I was saying, yes. It was that new guy you guys were worried about. Honestly though, I actually encountered him earlier and he was actually a lot different than I expected… I also sense a bit of potential from him.”
Dipper looked intrigued, “You mean…?”
“Maybe. Can’t assume or tell just yet. Either way, we shouldn’t really leave him to his own devices anyhow.”
Ryuji sighed, “Yeah… Thankfully we’ve dealt with those losers before so it shouldn’t be that hard.”
Yusuke nodded, “Indeed. Do we have the keys to get there?”
“If you mean the golf cart then…” He whips out the cart keys with a grin, “…Here! But I’m driving this time!”
Morgana rolls his eyes, “With how you drive? No way! Dipper has more experience!”
Ryuji pouts, “Aww c’mon man! I hardly ever get to do this nowadays!”
“And with good reason… Mason? You up for a drive?”
Dipper rolls his eyes, “Yeah, I think we should give him a turn this time…”
“Seriously?! After what happened last time?!”
“I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
“Then why does that not reassure me in the slightest?”
Dipper was about to retort when Mabel bursts in, holding a leaf blower like a shotgun, “You guys going to argue or are we going to go kick some Gnome butt?!”
They all gulped as Morgana sighs in defeat, “Fine… Let’s just go already…”
Ryuji whooped as he runs to the door with Yusuke and the twins following after him which Stan immediately notices, “Hey! I thought I told you kids to take care of the shop!”
“SorryGrunkleStanbutthenewguyranintosomeGnomessonowwegottagogethimwe’llhopefullybebacksoonbye!” Mabel called out as they drive away, causing Stan to groan and shout, “Stanford! They went out again! Could use a hand at the shop! And maybe call Soos!”
“I thought he was on leave!”
“Yeah well, I know you might mess something up again so better safe than sorry!”
“…I’m going to try to not take offense to that…”
Ren slowly opens his eyes as he tries to take in his surroundings. First thing he notices is that his glasses are gone and the second thing is that he feels a slight chill.
“A cave or cavern area perhaps?”
He sits up and rubs his aching head. He doesn’t see any sign of those Gnomes and was about ready to assume that they were some dream or hallucination until he looks down and finds that he had somehow been put into a wedding dress. Well, an attempt at one since it looks like that it was stolen or found in a garbage can and is covered in flowers and twigs (no doubt a way to add a nature motif to it). He also notices that he is wearing long white gloves.
He also realizes that his necklace is gone and frantically looks around for it to no luck.
"No... Nononono! Where is it?! Ugh! Wait until I find that little--"
“Oh hey! Looks you finally woke up sweetie!”
He turns to see Jeff standing on a rock with a smile on his face and glares at him.
“Why the long face? This is supposed to be a happy occasion! By the way, I think you look a lot better without those glasses on! Really brings out your eyes more!”
Ren growled, “’Happy occasion?’ You just knocked out and kidnapped me! Where are my clothes and my--”
“Oh relax, they’re all safely tucked away somewhere else! Seriously though, you say that like it’s a bad thing!”
“That’s because it is and I’m--!”
“Details, details. Let’s just get this show on the road shall we?”
“Great! Now let’s—OW!!”
Ren kicks the creature away with an annoyed look, “Finally, now can I just go alrea--Oof!”
He gets blindsided by another Gnome, followed by more as he tries to fend each of them off…
The group speeds through the woods, Ryuji barely hitting a tree or two along with an animal as they find the Gnome’s hideout and stopping at the entrance. Ryuji has brought a bat along with Dipper bringing a shovel along with Mabel still having her leaf blower. Yusuke just brought his sketchbook to see if he could get any ideas for a new painting. They head in and hear a commotion nearby. They give each other serious looks as they start walking in, catching the Gnomes’ attention while Morgana scouts ahead…
Ren squirms as he is now tied to the ground by ropes while Jeff tries to calm him down, “Now darling, you need to relax. The more you struggle, the more difficult it will be to—Wait what’s going on?”
Jeff turns to find a familiar group walking their way through the crowd, much to his dismay, “Ugh… Not this again… Wait here a second sweetheart.”
Jeff enters said crowd them with an annoyed look, “Pines, blondie, blue… As much I like your company, we’re kind of in the middle of something here so you would just--”
“Yeah, yeah we know tough guy! Look, when are you guys going to give up and find a girlfriend the old-fashioned way?” Ryuji asks with annoyance in his voice.
Jeff was silent before indignantly saying, “Meaning? Also, Mabel! Blue! Still looking great I see!”
Mabel rolled her eyes while Yusuke makes a noise of disgust and Ryuji facepalms, “Ugh… You guys are hopeless… Look, we know you took someone again so if you could just—“
“Pretty sure you know the answer to that by now! Listen, how about we forget about this and—“
He suddenly gets sucked into the leaf blower by an increasingly irritated Mabel, “Seriously Jeff?! You guys should just forget about finding a queen and just run things on your own!”
She then launches him into Ryuji who gives a shark-like grin as he hits the little guy with his bat, knocking him into the crowd.
“WOO!! HOME RUN!!”
The other Gnomes scatter as Mabel threateningly blows the leaf blower at them, giving the group a path, “Sorry guys! Nothing too personal!”
They finally reach him with Dipper cutting the ropes with his shovel, causing the young man to sigh in relief as he gets up.
“Phew! Looks like we made it in time! You ok there—“
Ryuji pauses when he notices the state Ren is in before adding, “Oh… Um… Huh, I honestly have no comment there…”
Ren glares at him as Mabel tries to be reassuring, “Hey, I mean it could be worse right? Also I think you look pretty good in a dress!”
He genuinely wasn't sure how to respond to the compliment until he feels something brush against him and looks down to find Morgana and chuckles, “Heh, nice to see you again…” He kneels down to pet him before the cat runs off, beckoning him and the others to follow. They wander the area until Ren sees a couple of familiar bags, “Oh thank god…” He picks them up and gives him a thankful look, “Much obliged little guy.” He goes through them real quick and finds, to his relief, that everything is still accounted for, including his necklace, and slings them both over his shoulders. Ryuji immediately blinks in surprise, “Wait… That’s all you have?”
Ren shrugs, “Yeah…?”
Mabel pats his shoulder sympathetically, “Oh you poor thing…”
Ren raises an eyebrow in confusion, “It’s ok, really! I didn’t need much.”
“Still! Sooner or later, I’m going to take you shopping whether you want to or not!”
Ren looks at Dipper who simply says, “Trust me, she means it and she isn’t backing down.”
He now can’t help but feel a little surprised by the gesture as he responds to her, “T-Thanks. I’ll put that into consideration…”
Mabel smiles as they proceed to head back to the cart only to feel a rumble.
“Again?!” Ryuji whined.
Ren couldn’t help but wonder we he meant by that until he hears stomping and they turn to see a giant red monster which, upon closer inspection, is just a bunch of Gnomes piled onto each other to make a giant version of their species.
“C’mon man! We need to go!” Ryuji shouted as he grabs Ren’s hand before he could even finish asking and bolts out of the cave and into the cart. Ryuji does a quick headcount as he notices a couple of people are missing, “God dammit Yusuke! And where’s—“
He turns to see Mabel dragging Yusuke behind her as she forces him into the cart with her, “Sorry about that! Had a feeling this would happen again and lo and behold I was right!”
Yusuke grumbles a bit as he dusts himself off and Ryuji gives him a scolding look and Ren still looks confused as they speed off into the woods, dodging thrown trees and rocks throughout with everyone hanging on for dear life. Ren feels like he’s going to vomit at any second as the blonde says with a reassuring smile, “So… Probably have a lot of questions huh?” Ren was about to answer when he gags as Ryuji winces, “Ah geez! Not on me please!” Mabel pats his back (much like what she does with her brother when he gets sick) in a comforting matter, “Take it easy, just ride it out…” Ren recovers a bit when Morgana pokes his head out of the container in the back, seeing the giant pick up speed, “They’re gaining on us!”
Ryuji makes a sharp turn as he frustratingly growls, “I can see that!!”
He jumps as a Gnome is launched at the vehicle followed by a couple more as the twins try to fend them off with one tearing through the roof and landing on Ryuji’s head, pulling at his hair.
“H-HEY! OWW! GUYS!! GET THIS THING OFF!!!”
“Watch the road you idiot!!!” The cat shouted in irritation.
“I would if I could you stupid cat!!!”
Ren now can’t help but wonder about how and why he was talking to the cat but brushes that off for the time being as he scrambles for something to pry the creature off the teen before settling with just grabbing and whacking at it until it finally lets go. They make eye contact for a second before it tries to grab at him, causing him to yelp in surprise and toss it out.
The twins finally remove the remaining Gnomes with a bit of help from Yusuke. They pick up speed as they head in the direction the Shack.
“Woo! Try and catch us now you—“
He then sees a deer in front of them and immediately swerves to avoid it. Ryuji lets out breath he was holding as he looks at the group.
“Phew… That was way too close!”
Everyone pales as Ryuji rolls his eyes, “Oh c’mon guys what is… It… This… Time…” He looks in front of him again to find that he had accidentally turned around and is now heading straight for the Gnomes as the giant smashes it’s fists to the ground, causing the ground to shake as the cart loses control a bit before making another sharp turn and head deeper into the woods, hitting a bunch of branches and bushes before finally colliding with a stump. They all groaned as they stumble out of the vehicle with Ryuji looking at the damage, “Welp, guess I better call Soos again… Still, Stan’s definitely gonna tear us a new one.”
Ren tilts his head a bit at the name but before he could ask about it, the creature parts the trees with Jeff looking down from the tip of the “hat.”
“Alright, we tried to make this easy for you dear but now our patience is wearing thin so why don’t you just come back home with us and continue on with the wedding hmm?”
Ren crosses his arms, “How many more times am I going to have to say ‘no’ for you guys to get the hint that I’m not interested?!”
Jeff shrugs, “Beats me. The point is that—“
A shoe gets tossed at him, causing him to fall to the ground, “OWWW! COME ON!!”
The group looks at Mabel who just says, “Wasn’t me.”
They then look at a now pissed off Ren who approaches Jeff with a death glare, causing him to back away until Ren pins him with his foot, “No! The point is this: You guys need to get a life! I will NEVER be your queen! Especially since you: Knocked me out, kidnapped me, and then tied me up when I kept saying 'no!' So just leave. ME! ALONE!”
Jeff was quiet before asking, “So… Take it as a ‘maybe’ then?”
Ren kicked him with an irritated growl as Mabel walks up to him, “Psst!”
He turns to look at her as she gleefully hands him her (slightly damaged but still functional) leaf blower, “You might need this…”
He holds it as a grin spreads across his face and turns it on, with Mabel chipping in by switching it to "reverse" and sucking Jeff in before launching him into the rest of the Gnomes, knocking everyone off balance as they drive them away with the blower. They begin to scatter as Jeff yells, “RETREAT!!”
They promptly flee as Jeff curses at the group, prompting Ren to throw his other shoe at him as he runs the rest of the way with a grumble and a groan of pain. The rest of the guys look shocked while Mabel turns to them and beams, “I like him already!!”
They put the blower down as Ren calms himself and picks up his shoes. He then notices the group staring, much to the Mabel's amusement, “What? That’s how it’s done right?” She nods enthusiastically while her brother says, "Yeah… You ok by the way?”
Ren nods, “I’m fine... More or less anyway.”
He then looks around before awkwardly asking, “Um… Do you guys mind if I change real quick? I think the last thing I want to show up in is this thing… That and I can’t help but think there might be a squirrel in it.”
As if on cue, a squirrel crawls out from under the dress, causing him cry out in surprise.
“Hope you’ve had your shots before coming here buddy…” Ryuji commented with a small snicker as Dipper elbows him and responds with, “Sure, we’ll even give you privacy. Maybe talk a bit as well.”
Ren nods as he says, “Thanks…”
They manage to find an area for Ren to change as they look away (well, Yusuke is already distracted due to him being focused on drawing a peculiar plant so it’s mostly Ryuji, Dipper, and Mabel) to give him some dignity as they try to make small talk.
“So… Like I mentioned earlier, you probably got a lot of questions right now.”
Ren nodded as he starts removing the dress, feeling extemely grateful for the privacy, “Yeah… Honestly though, my biggest questions are: Is this place always like that, why were you talking to that cat, and do you really know someone named, ‘Stan?’”
Ryuji chuckled, “I’m surprised ya didn’t ask who we are!”
“O-Oh… Right. That too! Guess I got too caught up with everything else to ask that, sorry!”
“Eh, it’s all cool! Just joking a bit. Anyways: Yes, it’s always been like that and it doesn’t stop at gnomes I’m afraid.”
Ren grimaced, “Great…”
“Don’t worry, not everyone or everything is like them. I won’t lie though, you were actually the second guy they tried to kidnap and marry against your will!”
“Really? Who was the first, if I may ask?”
Ryuji points at Yusuke, “This guy sketching over there, his name’s Yusuke by the way. Heh, guy was out in the woods sketchin' when they tried to lure him to their hideout." He then lets out a sigh, "Like you, they also thought he was a girl even when told otherwise... Little dumbasses..."
Yusuke lets out a hum, "Ah yes, very rude of them to assume that. Nothing exactly new to me though unfortunately..."
The trio looks at him with sympathy while Ren just feels confused. Dipper was quick to respond as if he could predict what he was going to ask, "Yeah... This kind of thing is a bit of a sore spot for him. Long story."
Ren makes a sound of understanding, “Alright. I won't pry." Yusuke seems to be relieved by that. Ren quickly decides to go back on subject as he puts his sweater on, "So, I now know who he is, what about you three?”
“O-Oh! Right! Well, the name’s Ryuji, this one’s Mason but we call him ‘Dipper,’ and this is his twin sister Mabel."
Mabel smiles as she adds, “As for the cat, we just do and yeah we know Grunkle Stan!”
“Short for ‘Great Uncle,’ kid coined the term herself. They’re his niece and nephew. As for me: I work at the Shack part-time and, sometimes, me and a few more friends would just hang out when we’re able to! I’ll tell you right now, it may not seem like much but… It’s home in a way. Makes oddballs like us feel… I dunno… Validated? Safe? Can’t exactly think of a proper word but I think you’ll grow to like it in the end!”
Ren couldn’t help but smile as he finishes getting dressed, putting his glasses and necklace on before finally leaving his hiding spot with his bags in hand. He still looks a little messy here and there but is at least more comfortable now.
“Well then, if that's so then I’ll try to take your word for it…”
They all turn to face him and smile back, Ryuji giving him an encouraging thumbs-up, “Looks like you’re all set, but..." He notices Ren's attire with concern, "Ain't ya a little warm in that?" Ren rubs the back of his head as he answers, "Well I... I tend to get chills sometimes so..." He internally winced since he knows that's not true but he doesn't want anyone to know the real reason he dresses like this (at least not yet anyway, if he decides to tell them at all). Ryuji shrugs while the twins look a little uncertain but they appear to buy it as well before the blonde finishes with, "Alrighty then... Guess we better get going, burnin’ daylight here! And hey maybe we can engage in a bit more small talk if ya like!”
The twins and Yusuke nodded in agreement as Ren says, “Ok, lead the way.”
They start their trek to the Shack in silence for a moment until Ren clears his throat with a guilty look, "Um... Listen, sorry if I startled or freaked anyone out earlier... I was basically at my wits end with those things at that point. I even whacked them with a branch when they tried to lure me... Ugh, my first day here and I already--"
"Whoa hey, take it easy! You were clearly defending yourself and there ain't nothing wrong with that! As for your little probation thing; A wise old man once told me:" He clears his throat and says in gruffly voice, "'When there's no cops around, anything's legal!'"
The twins snickered at his imitation of their uncle while Yusuke rolls his eyes, "I still don't think that's good advice..."
Ryuji pouts, "Says you!" Yusuke just ignores that response while Ryuji looks back at Ren, who just looks puzzled, "Point is that you're fine and it's all cool alright? No need to worry!"
Ren opens his mouth to ask about how the young man knew about his probation when he beats him to it, "And before you ask, those two told me." He emphasizes his answer by pointing at the twins to which Ren responds with a small, "Oh." He then notices Mabel looking to be in thought and asks in concern, “You ok?”
The girl jumps a bit as she answers, “Y-Yeah! It’s just that you’re a lot different than I expected is all.”
He raises an eyebrow, “Different?”
“Oh! Not in a bad way of course! It’s just that—“
“People talk a lot about me?”
Mabel notices his serious tone and nods, “Pretty much. Especially since you're from somewhere as far away as Japan... To be honest, I was pretty nervous… But after today, I feel like I have nothing to worry about now! I’m sorry if I hurt you by saying that…”
Ren tries to smile again, “It’s… It’s alright. I’m used to it anyways…”
Mabel makes a sad noise but doesn’t comment further. Ryuji then decides to ask the million dollar question, “Um… If ya don’t me askin’: What got ya sent here on probation in the first place?”
“What? I’m pretty sure you were wondering that too Dip-Dop!”
“Still! Not exactly a good or appropriate question to ask!”
Ryuji gives a guilty look as he scratches the back of his head, “You’re right… Sorry man. You don’t have to answer if ya don’t want to…”
Ren shakes his head, “No… It’s fine. I mean, I could just give you the basic story since you guys actually seem nice…”
He then shares his tale with the others listening intently. When he finally finishes, he turns to see them giving him sympathetic looks as Ryuji suddenly yells, “THAT’S… THAT’S JUST EFFED UP DUDE!! I MEAN, WHAT THE HELL?! ALL YOU WERE DOING WAS HELPING SOMEONE, THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT!”
Ren looks at him with surprise as Mabel tries to calm him down, “Take it easy there Ryu—“
“NO WAY! I MEAN HE WAS DOIN’ THE RIGHT THING! AND THIS IS HOW HE’S REPAID?! GEEZ!”
He notices Ren’s slightly startled expression and recomposes himself, “Sorry… It’s just really messed up… Especially since no one, not even your parents, came to your defense!”
Ren swallows, “It’s actually just my dad actually…”
“Still doesn’t justify anything! Bottom line is: Ya did the right thing and shame on them for condemning ya for it!”
Ren is quiet as he looks at the twins, who nod in agreement, “He’s right. You don’t deserve that at all!” Mabel says with conviction.
“Indeed.” Yusuke simply adds.
Ren doesn’t know what to say except, “I... I don't know what to say...”
Ryuji places a hand on his shoulder, "All I can say is that we believe that you did the right thing, regardless of what those assholes said. Don't think otherwise alright?"
Ren just gives a sheepish nod, surprised by how they responded to his explanation but, at the same time, feeling almost validated.
They continue walking until the Shack finally comes into view. Ford steps outside, looking a little worn out when he notices the group and hollers, “Lee! They’re back!”
“’Bout time!” Stan said with a groan as he joins his brother, crossing his arms. They all give slightly guilty looks as he says, “Look, it’s bad enough that this kid we’re supposed to look after is running late and—“
“Right here! Found him!” Mabel declared as she raises Ren’s hand. Stan looks at him before saying, “Yeesh, what happened to you? Fall in a ditch or something?”
“Something like that…” Ren deadpanned.
“Ok then… I’m not gonna even ask more since it’s probably some sorta weird magic thing or whatever. As for you four: Where in the blazes is the cart?!”
Ryuji gulped, “Uh yeah, about that… Is Soos here by any chance?”
Stan growled, “Again?! Why didn’t you let Dipper drive?!”
“Told you so!” Morgana says smugly as Ryuji glares at the cat.
Stan forces himself calm, “I swear, I’d fire you all if I could… Just go get it!”
“What?! But I—“
“Did I stutter kid?! Get moving! I’ll send Soos in a minute.”
Ryuji groaned before turning to Ren, “Welp, guess it’s back to work for me. Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other tomorrow. Hell, I could even introduce ya to more of our friends if ya like!”
Ren quietly nods.
“Sweet! Guess we’ll see ya then!”
He extends a hand out to Ren, who looks confused at first but then gets the message as he does the same and shakes his hand. Ryuji gives a big smile with Ren giving a small one back.
“Um, ya can let go now.”
Ren realizes that he’s been shaking his hand for too long and does so, “Sorry.”
“Eh, no worries!”
They hear a voice calling out to them and turns to see Soos coming outside to greet them, “Sup dudes! Heard there was cart trouble again?”
“Yep, just follow me my good man!” Ryuji says with enthusiasm as he gives Soos a high-five.
“Sweet! Lead the way!”
They both leave to find the cart with Yusuke deciding to leave as well and bidding them goodbye, leaving the remaining kids with the Stans. They were going to explain but Stan cuts them off with, “Don’t wanna know. As for you:” He points at Ren, “I’ve been already given the rundown about you so my basic ground rules is that you don’t cause trouble, at least not in front of the cops, and that you will stay on the condition that you help run this place!”
Ren rolled his eyes, “Anything else?”
“Nope, now all of you get your butts inside! Stanford, show him to his room!”
Ford sighed as he beckons Ren to follow him inside. He attempts to reassure him by saying gently, “Look, don’t take it personally. Stan may seem rough around the edges but he does care deep down.”
Ren makes a sound of acknowledgement as they reach a door, “This room used to be for storage but we were able to clean it up to make it hospitable. At least, we tried anyways.”
He opens the door to reveal a small room with an inflatable mattress, pillows, blankets, a lantern, and a small desk.
“You’re also free to decorate of course! If you like that is.”
“Sure. Thank you.”
Ford couldn’t help but feel that something is wrong and was about to ask until Ren said, “Is it alright if I just shower and sleep the rest of the night?”
Ford looked concerned but nods, “Alright, but I should warn you: Mabel will probably try to get you to eat during the night.”
Ford then leaves him alone to unpack, the feeling of worry still lingering…
Ford enters the living room where Stan is resting, watching television in his usual underwear and tanktop.
“Say Stan? Do you think that something appears to be… I don’t know, off about him?”
Stan makes a small grunt as he shrugs and responds with, “I dunno, seems fine to me.”
Ford sighs as he joins his brother on the couch, “Well, yeah but… He just seemed… Well…”
“’Well’ what? Spit it out already Sixer!”
“Alright, alright! Well... He kind of, in a way, reminds me of you when..."
Stan catches on to what Ford was going to say, "When Pops kicked me out?"
"Yes actually. Sorry for bringing it up by the way.”
“Eh, it's fine. Been over it for a while now… So, what gave you that idea anyway?”
“I'm not sure really, maybe it was because he didn’t have many bags and he just appeared somewhat sad.”
“Well, guess you do have a point there now that I think about it. Maybe that’s why I took this job in the first place.”
Ford looked a little unconvinced, "Really? Didn't you tell me that you were also paid a good amount of money to do it?"
"Well ok, that too but I can also see what you just brought up as being another reason."
Ford shrugged, “Heh, fair enough. By the way, shouldn’t you be making dinner?”
“Eh, decided to do take-out tonight. Pizza should be here soon.”
Ford rolls his eyes, “Alright… Do you think it might turn out ok for him?”
“Eh, kid seems tough. I think things will be fine…”
“If you say so…”
Ren overhears the conversation as he was heading to bathroom and sighs when it goes quiet and continues on. After making sure that the door was locked, he gets the water running and undresses before entering the shower. As the water runs down his body, his mind wanders to the events of today as he cracks a small smile until everything suddenly starts travelling farther back until he reaches a point in his childhood. Fire… Destruction… Death…
“Run…!” A woman shouts.
An explosion followed by a child screaming in pain and then crying as he is being taken away by paramedics.
Ren gasped as he snaps out of the memory. He forces himself to calm down again as he decides to hastily finish cleaning himself up and turns the water off. He steps out and dries off before heading to the mirror, which is fogged up. He clears it up with his hand and looks at himself. He notices that the make-up he wore on his face had washed off in the shower, showing a beauty mark close to his lower lip. He sighs in annoyance as he finds the concealer. He knows that his dad isn’t here but he should still look as “normal” as possible. That and people wouldn’t stop reminding him about how much he resembled his mother. Sure he was flattered and even loved it at first but, according to his dad, the less unusual he looked the better so he had to get into the habit of concealing it to please the man’s wishes. After finishing, he looks back at himself with a grimace: His upper arms was covered by burn scars (that he had received a long time ago) that extends to his back, elbows and parts of his chest (he actually felt lucky that the dress had managed to cover them along with the gloves since those are the last things he wanted people to ask about). He immediately looks away after a second, suddenly feeling nauseous and trying to focus on something else but the taunts that he received since that day still appear in the back of his mind.
“Bet someone tried to burn you at the stake!”
“Serves you right!”
“Where are your mommies? Did they burn too?”
Ren shuddered and panted as he quickly puts his sleepwear and necklace on and finally leaves the bathroom, ignoring the happy sounds from the family downstairs and returns to his room. He slides down against the door, breathing heavily and tears burning his eyes as he removes his glasses. He looks at the engraving again as he says in a choked voice, “Please… Help me…” His shadow changes again before a pair of hands reach out through a portal, holding his face in a comforting gesture like his mother used to do. He looks up to see a pair of red eyes with his own changing from grey to the same shade of red. She was also tall (and is usually a lot taller than that) with blue skin and has an all-around butterfly motif about her.
"It's been too long..." She says, sounding almost stern but slightly gentle.
It really has been, last time he interacted with her was when he was a kid and he actually thought that she was an imaginary friend until something happened that proved otherwise. He decides not to dwell on that as he responds softly, "I guess it has... Why are you here?"
"I'm certain you know the answer to that, child."
Ren nods, "I guess you're right... You know you can return home at any time right?"
"Yes... But I've made a sworn oath and promise so I will not rest until it is fulfilled. Do you understand?"
"Of course you would say that. Just... Just leave me be please."
She looks almost sad as she steps away, "Very well. Sleep well, little lotus..."
Ren flinched at the old nickname as she leaves, "You don't get to call me that..." He responds, voice cracking now as the shadow changes back, leaving him completely alone again...
Time passes and Mabel heads upstairs with a plate of pizza in her hands. She can't help but think back at what Ren said, especially the parts where he said that he was used to people talking about him along with the explanation for his attire (having heard a similar thing from Ford at one point when asked about his own sweater... She still can't believe he wore it because of a tattoo along with some scars). She thinks about what to say or even ask when she finds the door to Ren’s room and was about to knock when she hears… Singing?
“Fly me to the moon… And let me play among the stars.
Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars…”
Mabel feels like she’s heard that song somewhere before… Something that Grunkle Stan played at some point if she remembers correctly. She continues to listen, the voice sounding almost sad now.
“In other words, hold my hand.
In other words, darling kiss me.
Fill my heart with song and let me sing for ever more…
You are all I long for… All I worship and adore...
In other words… Please be true…
In… Other words…”
It stops for second before finishing.
“…I love you…”
Mabel was quiet before sighing, deciding to just leave him be as she leaves the plate by the door and then knocking. She quickly hides in her room, peeking to see Ren answer the door and then looking down to see the food in front of him. He looked like he was crying not too long ago. Perhaps singing that song was meant to calm him down? Either way he picks the plate up with a small smile and returns to his room with the girl heading back downstairs to join her family deciding to focus less on getting answers and more on making him feel as happy as possible!
It didn’t take long for Ren to fall asleep sometime after eating. What he didn’t expect was to wake up in a cell all chained up (which are blue and glowing) and dressed in prison garb! He sits upright and rushes to the bars in a panic. He sees a pair of twins look at him with blank looks as he then looks in front of him to find a man sitting at a desk in the center of the room. There was brief flash of yellow in his eyes as he says in a distorted voice:
“Trickster... Welcome to my Velvet Room…”