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Grian the Grievance

Chapter Text

The air was thick with intensity around the ConCorp courtyard, or what was left of it. There wasn't anymore greenery, instead a thick layer of ash and a few stray pools of lava. Weeks of work reduced to dust and smoke plumes. It was quite clear what had happened- a griefer. Scar and Cub stood with their backs to the damage and a deep scowl on their faces as they glared down at the crowd of hermits. Scar stood straight and tall, arms folded neatly behind his back. Civilized, despite the fury radiating off of them. Cub, however, was another story. His arms were crossed, his back was slightly hunched as he stared angrily into the crowd. If looks could kill, every single one of the hermits would be dead.

"I'm sure you can see why we all gathered  you here." Scar huffed. "What we want from you is very simple." He said, his eyes dark and his voice muddled with restrained anger. He walked forward, staring each and everyone of the hermits in the eyes.

"We want a name. And an apology." Scar hissed. His anger couldn't mask the hurt in his eyes. This was one of Scar's greatest builds, and to wreck it this was downright despicable.

The crowd of hermits were silent. No one spoke up. The laws of griefing in the Hermitcraft server were very clear- don't do it. Everyone had worked far too hard on their bases for someone to wreck it with some cheap TnT and lava. A single act of griefing was enough to get you a permanent ban from the server unless you were able to fix what you destroyed. 

"Well?!" Scar snapped. "Who did it?!" Murmers of denial wormed through the crowd. No one was taking the blame for this.

Cub stood up straighter, apparently just now taking part in the conversation. "We don't need a name, we already know who did it." He growled. His voice was like venom as he spat it at the hermits.

Scar sighed and turned to him. Evidently, this wasn't the first time they had their conversation. "No we don't, Cub. You don't know it was-"

"We all know it was Grian!" Cub cut him off, pointing at the petite, red-sweatered male. 

Everyone gasped and backed away from the accused. Grian looked shocked and almost offended to hear his name. "What?! I didn't do this!" He cried. 

"He's right, Cub, we don't know it was him." Scar replied in a soft but agitated tone as he gently grabbed his arm. 

"Really?" Cub replied curtly. He gestured to Grian with an accusatory finger. "He started an entire civil war because of pranks, has an entire shop dedicated to TnT, and belongs to Sahara- Our rivals!  I wouldn't be surprised if this was a desperate attempt to get ahead." He growled. 

Grian's face only seemed to get redder as he got more and more furious. "I didn't do this!" He snapped, throwing up his hands. "And those were pranks! Not Griefing!"

"Oh and there's such a difference, right?" Cub snarled at him, stepping off the platform and marching towards him and bending down so they were nose to nose. 

Grian didn't back down, crossing his arms. "I. Didn't. Do it." He seethed through clenched teeth.

"Alright, alright. That's enough." Xisuma growled, shoving himself in between them while Mumbo pulled Grian back towards the group and Scar did the same with Cub. He didn't normally sound so serious. "Griefing is a serious crime, Grian, and accusing someone of it is bold, Cub. What proof do you have?" The admin asked, turning to him.

"This has his name written all over it! His pranks have killed people, and we all know he can't help himself when it comes to TnT." Cub snarled, counting out the crimes on his fingers. "Is there really any question?!"

"Now wait just a minute," Mumbo interrupted, his hands still firmly on Grian's shoulders. "Grian doesn't grief. His pranks can go wrong, sure, but he doesn't intentionally hurt people." He said firmly.  "I've known him forever, he doesn't grief."

"Didn't he let Iskall take a demise trap?" Someone piped up. Everyone turned to Jevin, who was near the back. "Even though he knew it would give him a heavy disadvantage?"

Iskall rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "I mean, they aren't wrong."

"That was for fun!" Grian protested. "And I knew it wasn't gonna kill him!"

"Might as well have. I could've survived if it wasn't for that stupid dragon helmet." False muttered loudly to another hermit, reigniting the arguing in the crowd.

Grian whipped around to her. "You were happy to be a Dragon Bro!" He snapped. "And he got me back a few days later!"

"Speaking of Demise, didn't you cause the death of two hermits when you weren't even on the Dead team?" Tango asked, narrowing his eyes. More nods of agreement.

"That was different! No one lost their stuff, and I paid them to do it!" Grian defended. The crowd was now yelling at each other on whether Grian was innocent or not, bringing up seemingly every crime.

"Everybody stop!" Xisuma shouted, his voice loud and booming.  Everyone silenced themselves, but the anger and tension had thickened significantly. "The last thing we need is another war."

"Another war that Grian caused!" Someone yelled. The crowd of hermits began yelling even louder now. Mumbo dragged Grian closer to him, pulling him away from some of the hermits who were now convinced he was guilty. Those who did agree with him were firing back. The arguing was growing louder and louder.

"STOP!" Xisuma shouted again, louder and more violent. The crowd died down yet again. "If Grian says he's innocent, then we have no choice but to believe him unless he's proven otherwise." The admin snarled. Protests surfaced but Xisuma held up a hand for silence.

"That being said, since he is a primary suspect,  he will be placed on probation until the culprit is found. Fair?" Xisuma sighed.

"Wait, what about ConCorp?!" Scar cried.

"We'll fix it as soon as we can, but we can't do anything until an investigation begins." He replied. "Innocent until proven Guilty, right?" There were some mutterings of disagreement, but no one tried to interrupt him.

Xisuma turned to Grian, holding out his hand for him to take. Grian's eyes widened slightly and felt Mumbo's hands grow tighter on his shoulders.. 

"A mark…?" He whispered. Xisuma nodded silently. Mumbo's hands felt ever tighter against Grian's shoulders. The petite man finally took a small step forward, separating himself from Mumbo. Xisuma gently took his wrist and began pushing up the sleeve.

The crowd was silent now. A mark. No one had received that in...well, ever. A mark was like a big symbol that displayed your crime. It was burned onto your hand and throbbed until it was removed. It was a horrible thing to receive. 

"Xisuma, isn't this a little...extreme?" Mumbo asked quietly. Xisuma didn't respond as his hand began to glow a bright red.

"Grian, you're now on probation. You are not allowed near any destructive block or near anyone else's base. Understand?" He said sternly.

Grian scoffed, but there was a look of fear in his eyes. Xisuma held his wrist firmly, despite feeling how much it was trembling. "This isn't fair, I haven't done anything!"

"Then this will be over rather quickly, won't it?" Xisuma sighed, running the red hand across  Grian's wrist. Grian hissed as something burned across his wrist.

"Ow, ow! Xisuma, please, I-I really haven't done anything! Stop!" He cried, tears brimming in his eyes. He tried to pull his hand away, but Xisuma's grip was firm and strong. Grian let out something again to a whimper when his pleas went nowhere. The pain was almost unbearable. Each symbol certainly took it's time to carve itself onto his skin. 

Finally, the sensation stopped and Xisuma released him. Grian wrenched his hand away, panting as he gripped his hand.. A dark ring around his wrist appeared and a creeper's face had been imprinted on it. He stared down at his hand in shock and hurt, but remained silent as he rubbed over it gently. The hermits were silent. The mark was a horrible thing to witness. Even if it would be removed eventually, it was still painful to witness.

Xisuma stepped back "There. Now then, this is a crime scene, so I need everyone to return home." He said. "Are there any questions?" No one spoke up. "Good. Now off you go." He said.

The crowd began to leave, people muttering about what could happen next, some asking each other how to "grian-proof" their builds. Mumbo quickly walked over to Grian, who was still looking down at his hand.

"...Grian?" He asked gently. "You okay?" 

Grian didn't look up at him, instead choosing to stare down at his hand. "You believe me, right, Mumbo?" He asked quietly.

"Of course I do, Grian." Mumbo sighed. "We just need to prove it. Come on, I'll fly you back to the base."

Grian nodded wordlessly. Mumbo stared back at the mess that was ConCorp. There's no way Grian did this…

Right?

Chapter Text

While everyone in Hermitville wanted to know who the griefer was, they didn't exactly enjoy the investigation process. Scar and Cub had declared themselves detectives of the case and had been snooping around in other hermit's bases. False had her entire base searched for nearly three hours, the stock exchange was closed for nearly two days while the two mucked about, and even Joe had to face an interrogation or two. However, it seemed the worst of it had come to Sahara. The duo had barged in during a meeting and demanded they comply with the searches at around noon-ish. Mumbo checked the clock on the wall. It was now 6:17pm.

Mumbo pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to soothe his ever worsening headache. It was no surprise Scar would want to attack Sahara and not just Grian. The mega-store had to be closed to the public while Cub and Scar searched, despite them only investigating the upper levels. Scar wasn't exactly being quick about the search either. 

Mumbo scoffed quietly to himself. He used the word "investigating" lightly. The only thing Scar seemed to be interested in was the inventory of their shop, and Cub only seemed to want to interrogate Grian. He cast a weary glance at the board room and winced as he heard Cub's accusatory screams through the glass.

"So you're selling Beacons, rockets, and sand…nothing destructive." He could hear Scar ask from down the hall.

"As I've told you a million times, no." He heard Iskall reply through gritted teeth. 

"And how much are they selling for...?" Scar asked. The two rounded the corner and Iskall shot an irritated look at Mumbo. 

Mumbo stood up from his chair in the waiting room. He might as well try to help Iskall while he waited to be interrogated. "Scar," he called. "Is all this really necessary?"

Scar frowned and narrowed his eyes, lowering his journal where the investigation notes were kept. "That's Detective Scar to you, and yes, it most certainly is." He huffed. "Griefing is a horrible crime and your CEO is our number one suspect!"

"But you've been here for hours!" Iskall cried, throwing his hands up in rage.

Scar glared back at him. "That courtyard took us days, Iskall. I'm sure you three can spare a few hours to help us." The man replied curtly. Iskall groaned, rubbing a hand down his face. "Besides," he continued. "Xisuma said we could have as much time as we need."

Mumbo sighed. He couldn't argue with that. "Now sit back down." Scar ordered. "Don't make us use force." Mumbo slumped back in his chair, his long legs stretched out onto the coffee table. He really wished Grian had put out a magazine or two. 

Grian.

Mumbo turned towards the board room. His friend looked exhausted as Cub hurled accusations at him. It wasn't the first time Grian had gone through this. It felt like everyday there was someone new to interrogate him. Then, of course, there were whispers and rumors about the whole thing. Hermits would talking almost as soon as the sandy-blonde approached and become silent. Some hermits shunned him while others tried to reassure him that he would be fine. Mumbo could see how much it wore him down. The redstoner had tried to distract him from the whole ordeal by having a business meeting, but of course the Convex Detectives followed them. 

He heard Scar ask another business question before going to snoop around in the redstone building for a fourth time, Iskall racing after him so he didn't mess anything up. There was some shouting and finally Iskall stomped out of the room and over to the waiting area. 

"I can't believe this, he wants to examine my redstone 'in case it was trapped.'" Iskall snarled, plopping angrily into the away beside Mumbo. "He's just going to mess everything up so we're even further behind."

Mumbo reached over and gave him a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. "Patience, Iskall. They can't stay here forever." He sighed, but in his heart he wasn't sure if he believed his own words. 

Iskall was practically red in the face as he turned to face Mumbo. "Xisuma gave them permission. I-I'm gonna kill them. I'm going to murder them, Mumbo!" He cried, before grabbing one of Grian's lovely throw pillows and screaming into it. 

Mumbo sighed tiredly. "Don't worry, Scar will get bored soon and Cub can't possibly ask anymore questions." The two winced as they heard Cub's raise to another volume. Mumbo slumped further in his seat. "I think." 

Iskall released the throw and placed his elbows on his knees as he slumped forward. "I know griefing is a horrible crime, but it's not like griefed their redstone!" He muttered, running his hand back through his hair.

Mumbo scowled at the wall.  "He didn't grief at all."

The Swede's eyebrow shot up. "You believe him?" He asked incredulously.

It was Mumbo's turn to raise an eyebrow. "You don't?"

Iskall looked towards the board room, his eyes focusing on the 'prisoner' at the end of the table. Grian's eyes remained tired and hollow. They had been since the mark had been scorched onto him. "Well, I mean, he did royally screw me in the demise games. And he's got a record of pranks. And he started a civil war." He recounted, turning back towards Mumbo. "While he's my good friend, Grian griefing isn't exactly out of the realm of plausibility."

"This wasn't Grian, though. I mean, come on, Grain's pranks aren't griefing. I should know, he pranks me more than anyone. His pranks are mild annoyances at best." Mumbo explained, thinking back to the multiple chickens stuck in their mail tubes and under the floorboards. 

"Didn't he take your mustache? Multiple times?" Iskall asked, a smug smile crawling on his lips. Mumbo snorted slightly.

"Again, mild annoyances." He replied.  "Grian doesn't destroy builds, he just adds onto them."  

Iskall hummed as he sat back in his chair. "I guess you're right. He never came across as a griefer, per say."

The door to the board room suddenly crashed open, making the two architects jump and turn around. Cub stomped out, leaving Grian at the table. Mumbo and Iskall shared a look of concern and rushed to the board room. Scar, having quickly finished up in the redstone room, followed. Mumbo noticed the investigation journal he was clutching was turned to a page of a hastily-sketched redstone design. He frowned, but pushed the thought aside. They had bigger problems to attend to.

"Get anything, Detective Cub?" Scar panted, shoving the journal into his inventory.

Cub made a low growl as he threw on his coat. "Someone's decided to keep quiet." There was a pause as he shot a glare at Grian, who looked just as frustrated and annoyed as Cub did.

"I'm not keeping quiet if I didn't do anything!" Grian snapped back, standing from his chair. Mumbo winced. It was rare to see his friend angry. He would often get flustered, but never genuinely upset.

Grian suddenly hissed in pain, grabbing at his hand. The mark was glowing and obviously was the source of the pain. Everyone in the room tried not to wince at the way he instantly deflated and slid back in his seat, tears welling in his eyes.

Iskall turned angrily to the detectives. "Get out. I don't care what Xisuma says, you two can leave." He snapped. "Or I'm going to kick you out." 

Cub looked like he was going to argue, but the gleam in Iskall's eye must've scared him off. The bearded man looked away, huffing. "Fine. We were just leaving anyway." He shot a glare at Grian. "You aren't off the hook, Grian." He snarled.

"Out." Iskal hissed lowly. 

Mumbo escorted them downstairs and held the large glass doors open- He wasn't sure why, all things considered- and watched the two file out of the building. Cub turned to look at him. "Your base is pretty close to him, right? I'd find someway to fortify it- and fast." He said quietly.

"Well considering he's innocent, I'm sure I'll have no need." Mumbo replied curtly. "Thank you for your concern, however." 

Cub frowned, but didn't reply. Mumbo watched them fly off before returning inside to the board room. Iskall had taken his seat, the red in his face fading. Grian remained at the table, but it was quite clear he was not paying attention. His eyes were solely on the mark on his hand. The creeper face almost looked like it was staring back.

"Did they leave?" Iskall sighed as Mumbo sat down, or attempted to. Grian had taken away his chair again. 

"For the moment." Mumbo sighed. "But I think Scar was more interested 'investigating' our redstone." 

They both looked at Grian to see if he would comment, but they were met with the top of his head as it bent to inspect the mark on his arm.

"Grian, pal, come on. We know it wasn't you." Mumbo reassured, glaring at Iskall who looked like he was going to object.

Grian sighed and put his chin in his arms. "It doesn't matter, they don't." He muttered. His eyes were dark and sunken in. The ends of his sleeves were a frayed mess from nervous picking. "No one does." He sighed.

Mumbo's eyes hardened with determination. This had gone too far. "We just need to prove it wasn't you, then." He declared.

"How? They're pretty locked in on the verdict." Iskall piped up. "Besides, Xisuma is combing through that courtyard with them. They'll find something before you do."

Mumbo flicked his hand passively. "Maybe, but it's a small courtyard, and there won't be enough evidence to convict someone. Xisuma is a fair guy, he won't call a verdict without enough evidence." 

"Yeah, but-" Iskall started, but Mumbo quickly interrupted him.

"No buts. We've known Xisuma for years, he doesn't take sides on stuff as serious as this." Mumbo flashed a brave smile at Grian. "Everything will be fine, G."

Grian lifted his eyes before raising his head and cracking a small smile.. "You're right. I'm worried for nothing. Cub is just angry, he'll realize it wasn't me." He said, straightening up his back and sitting up. 

 "There he is!" Iskall cheered. "Now, we should start this meeting, for real this time." He looked out the window. "Any more interruptions?"

The trio of Architects laughed and began to talk about the new idea Sahara needed. Mumbo found himself looking at Grian, who was now fully engaged. He smiled softly and focused back on the meeting. His friend would be fine.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Mumbo stretched as he finished his machine. It was early in the morning, and he had been up for hours trying to finish it. His hands and face were covered in Redstone dust, but it was finally done. Of course, there were probably plenty of improvements to be made. The output still took a bit of time to process and the machine itself was a bit clunky, but Mumbo was satisfied with his progress.

 

He hopped down from the machine and reached over at a towel he had set aside and began rubbing off the redstone dust that had stuck to face. He then reached into his sorting system to grab a fresh change of clothes, seeing as his were a right mess.

He looked out across the ocean where Grian's tower was piercing in the sky. He loved his own base, but there was something about the elegance of Grian's build. The pillars stretched to the sky, framing the sun just right at some points. He smiled fondly as he remembered the building process. Grian would always sneak into his base for spare gravel or sand lying around. Mumbo, of course would catch him and simply give the supplies to him after they shared a laugh about the whole thing.

He hadn't actually talked to Grian since the Sahara meeting. He had seen him flying about, but he looked far too busy to sit down and chat. Mumbo didn't blame him, he himself was incredibly busy as of late. He wiped off his hands and face before stepping back to view his handy work. 

Suddenly, his communicator began buzzing rapidly. He frowned, grabbing little machine before his eyes widened. "Oh crap…" He whispered. 

Walls and walls of panicked text and accusations were flooding the inbox. He sent a small message promising to meet everyone in a few seconds before grabbing his coat and elytra. He cast a glance to Grian's tower and winced at the sight of Xisuma and Cubfan flying over to it. He strapped on a few rockets and began the journey to the meeting area.

"Grian, please, for the love of god, don't do anything stupid." He whispered, plumes of smoke appearing over the horizon. The griefer had taken yet another victim, the victim being Cleo's once lovely pirate ship.

Chapter Text

Mumbo's eyes watered and burned as he glided through the ever-thickening smoke. His heart pounded against his rib cage as this ship came closer into view and he could really see the damage. The ConCorp courtyard began to feel more and more like a harmless prank compared to this.

The ship, or what remained of it, was flipped to its side and utterly demolished. The sails had been completely torn and singed, and were doing their best to stay attached to the mast (or what remained of it. It was little more than a burnt twig now.) The deck was, of course, covered in lava. Any scrap of wood that somehow wasn't touched by it had been lit on fire. Gaping holes in its side were pouring in seawater, and it seemed that the entire thing was completely gone.

Mumbo spotted the ghost ship that the hermits were docked on, observing the blaze. There was no arguing, just silence as they stared at the second griefing casualty of the month. The sinking feeling in his chest grew deeper as he flew down to them. Mumbo could barely land in the thick smoke, and when he did he doubled over in coughing. "W-what-" Another set of coughing. "What happened…?" He asked, but the answer was quite obvious.

"Grian happened." A female voice uttered lowly. Her voice was like steel, cold and harsh. It was False. Mumbo looked over at her, his eyes softened and the pit in his stomach growing deeper.

False wasn't turned to face him. She was watching the blaze roar, her hand gently resting on a shaking and trembling Cleo. Her small birds fluttered around her, cheeping and squawking over their lost friends. The hermits could still hear her muffled sobs over the roaring fire.

"But we don't-" Mumbo started, but a firm, metallic hand on his shoulder stopped him. He turned to face Doc, whose face was grim and somber. The creeper-man shook his head, and the words died on Mumbo's tongue. Doc was one of the only people on the server who could stare him eye to eye, and when he did it was terrifying. Doc's message was clear- Now was not the time. 

They all stared at the blaze in a hollow moment of silence. To have a build like this ruined so deliberately, it was heart-breaking. All the labor, all the resources and time, all of it was gone and you could never recover it from this. That didn't even cover what time of conscience it took to do something like this. To know how hard someone worked, and then to absolutely ruin it. It was an awful thing to do.

The sound of elytras brought everyone's attention away from the blaze. It was Xisuma, Cub and… Mumbo cursed silently. It was Grian with them. He didn't look much better than Cleo. His eyes were sunken and grey, his hair wildly messy and greasy. Mumbo had only seen him like this a few times and all of those times were when he was at his absolute limit. Memories of talking Grian off of a build and forcing him to shower and rest surfaced in Mumbo's mind, but he pushed them down. 

Xisuma roughly shoved Grian to the center of the hermits. Looks of concern flashed across the hermits' face. Xisuma was never this harsh. False and Cleo finally turned away from the blaze, and suddenly the mourning had burned into fury.

"You." Cleo whispered. Her voice was hoarse and horrible, but the worst part was the horrible rage that laced her voice.

Grian winced, Horror in his eyes as he stared at the burning wreckage. "C-Cleo-"  His voice was quiet and small. Mumbo had never heard it so soft and so timid. "I-I didn't-" He started.

"LOOK AT ME!" She screamed at him, shouldering off False's hand of sympathy. Grian flinched harshly, his wide eyes zipping back to the angry woman in front of him. 

"Cleo, y-you have to believe me, I didn't-" He pleaded. Something in Cleo snapped, because in a flash Grian was on the floor and False and Ren were holding Cleo back.

Mumbo immediately wrenched out of Doc's hand and ran to his friend's side. Grian rolled onto in knees, His hand cradling his face. Mumbo could see blood fall from his nose. 

"Easy, easy." Mumbo whispered to him, placing a hand on his back. Grian didn't reply or move.

Cleo was screaming as she tried her damndest to break free. "YOU DESTROYED IT! I-I TRUSTED YOU, I-I FOUGHT WITH YOU!" She shrieked. Mumbo could feel Grian cringe under him. "HOW COULD YOU?! H-HOW COULD YOU!? H-HOW-!" Her voice cracked and melted into loud sobbing as she fell against Ren and False. 

"I-I didn't-" Grian whispered quietly. "I didn't-" 

Cub suddenly ripped Mumbo off of him and Xisuma yanked Grian to his feet by his hair. The sandy-blonde cried out, hands rushing to his head in some vain attempt to protect himself. Mumbo shouted, wrestling against the person holding him back. Unsurprisingly, it was Cub, who stared forward with a look of hatred. Scar, who was standing behind him and Cub, made a noise of shock and anger and rushed forward.

"Quit sniveling and speak up." Xisuma hissed at Grian. 

"Stop, stop!" Grian whimpered out. "Please!'

"What the hell, Xisuma?!" Mumbo cried, shoving Cub off of him. "Let him go!" 

"Yeah! You're going way too far!" Scar shouted, grabbing his arm. "Cub!" He cried at his friend for help. Cub only looked on. 

Xisuma stared at the two before shoving Grian at the floor. Grian cried out as he hit the ground roughly, trying to back away from the admin. Scar rushed over to him, trying to help him back to his feet, which was surprising.

"I invited him into our home, and this is how he repays us." The admin snarled loudly, taking a step forward. "This man is nothing but a damned criminal. I will treat him as such."

Mumbo felt his blood boil at the words. He shoved himself in between them. Xisuma glared at him. "Out of my way." He snarled. 

There was nothing of the soft and kind Xisuma that convinced them all that Grian was a welcomed addition to the community. There was no light in his voice and no kindness either. (Had Mumbo ever seen Xisuma genuinely angry? No, he thought. He's never seen Xisuma like this.) 

Mumbo was either incredibly brave or incredibly foolish to snap back at the admin. "No! This is insane, Xisuma!" He cried. "You have no goddamned proof!"

"Neither do you!" Cub shouted back. "How are you so certain he didn't do it?!"

"Because I trust him! Believe it or not, I trust my goddamned friend!" Mumbo shouted. "And the rest of you should to, instead of just jumping to conclusions!" 

Xisuma shook his head. "I've made my decision, Mumbo."

"That isn't fair! At least let him defend himself!" Mumbo shouted back. He and Xisuma would have been nose to nose if it weren't for the helmet in between them. 

"Good idea, Mumbo!" Scar quickly piped up. He was still standing with Grian, who still looked frightened. Scar offered him a nervous smile before turning to Xisuma and Mumbo. "Let's have a trial!" He declared. The hermits began to mutter at the notion.

"No." Xisuma snarled. "I don't need a trial, we all know-"

"Innocent before proven guilty, right?" Scar interrupted, a gleam in his eye. "Your words, Xisuma." The admin didn't reply, but his fists did clench tighter.

Scar continued. "We don't have proof, and neither does Mumbo. No one can prove anything. So, let's have a trial. Then the hermits can decide if he's guilty or not!" He declared boldly.

"And if he isn't?" Ren asked, still holding Cleo. His voice was almost a little hopeful, Mumbo noted. Maybe this wasn't as one-sided as he thought. 

"Then we all owe Grian an apology and we track down whoever is guilty." Mumbo shrugged. 

"And if he is guilty? Which he totally is?"  Cub asked, gaining a sharp and cold glare from Scar.

"If Grian is Guilty, then I will ban him from this server forever." Xisuma's voice cut through. It was dark and cold, and despite the green glass visor shielding his eyes, Mumbo could see how he glared at Grian as he said it. 

The crowd was silent. Xisuma never banned, but then again, no one had ever griefed like this. A ban was like a death penalty; eternal isolation and a mark that lasted forever were just part of it.

"...when is the trial?" Mumbo finally asked. The stakes were incredibly high.

"Let's shoot for this time next week." Cub replied. "Though it really depends on Mumbo. After all, he's going to need a lot of time to prepare." The tone was smug and condescending.

The pit in Mumbo's stomach somehow sank lower and lower. The fact that he'd be the one defending Grian had completely blanked his mind. He turned to his friend. Grian was staring at the ground, his mouth coated in dry blood and tears rolling down his pale cheeks. Mumbo felt his resolve strengthen. 

"Fine by me." He replied, glaring at Cub. His fists were clenched and his heart was filled with determination. 

"Good, good." Cub replied, a faux smile on his lips. "Oh, and one more thing." He pointed at Grian. "I don't trust him to be out alone." 

"Fine. House arrest." The mustached man growled.

"No no, that's not enough." Cub replied. "I don't trust him alone, period. Not without surveillance."

"You're kidding me!" Mumbo cried, throwing up his hands. "A barrier would work just fine and you know it!"

"I agree with Cub." Xisuma said. "We need to be sure so this-" he gestured to the ruins of the pirate ship. "-can't never happen again. I've got a place that will-"

"Area 77!" Scar interrupted. "Me and Doc can watch over him there easy-peasy and Mumbo can discuss the case with him!" 

Mumbo didn't like the way Xisuma almost seemed...disappointed at the notion, but everyone else seemed fine with it. Even Cub.

Scar clapped his hands. "Alright! We'll head there right now then. I guess we'll see everyone next week, right?" He grinned. Everyone muttered in acknowledgement before they began to slowly break off and away from the wreckage. Mumbo walked over to Scar and Grian, the anger and rage he previously felt melting into concern.

"Grian?" He asked quietly, gently placing his hand over Grian's shoulder. "Are you gonna be okay?"

Grian wiped his eyes and nose with the back of his sleeve. "Y-Yeah. I'll...I'll be fine. Area 77 isn't that bad." He whispered. He tried to smile, but the corners of his lips trembled and it died as soon as it had come. 

Mumbo's eyes softened. "I'm going to win this for you, Grian. I promise."

He locked eyes with Mumbo for the first time that day. "I know you will." He replied, a genuine smile cracking across his lips, much better than the one before.

Scar gently nudged him. "Come on, man. Just, head there with Doc and we'll meet you there."

The smile dropped and fear flashed in Grian's eyes as Doc's metallic hand gripped his shoulder. "Don't worry, G." Scar said softly. "He won't hurt you and neither will I." 

Grian still looked hesitant. He looked towards Mumbo, who offered a smile. "I'll be there soon." He assured. Grian hand clenched his sweater, but he nodded in reply and began to follow Doc off the ship. 

Mumbo sighed heavily, his heart tight and his stomach tying itself in knots. What had they gotten into? A shadow loomed over him, and he turned to see Cub. It took every bit of restraint to not deck him like Cleo had done with Grian.

Scar, however, had no restraint as he shoved Cub back roughly. "What the hell was that?! You two took it way too far!" He shouted.

Cub's face flashed with surprise for a second before it turned to anger. "Why are you on their side!? Grian destroyed our courtyard!" Cub yelled back. "You spent days on it, I thought we were a team in this!"

"I'm trying to be a team, but you're not listening to me!" Scar cried. Mumbo stepped back slightly. He felt strange, like this wasn't something he should he seeing. "You're so hellbent on it being Grian! Have you even looked at that folder of evidence?!"

Cub scoffed. "We don't need one when we know it was him!"

"Yes we do! Because if Mumbo proves that he's innocent, then we're back at square one and we all look like assholes!" Scar snapped. "Oh wait! Too late, because you and Xisuma are trying to ban him with no evidence!"

"But he-!"

"I pull pranks all the time! And hell, so do you! Does that mean we're both griefers?!" Scar interrupted.

"Why are you choosing their side?!" Cub cried, his face red and his fists clenched at his sides.

"...Are you making me choose?" Scar whispered.

There was a beat of silence as they glared at eachother. Cub seemed to flounder, a mixture of hurt and surprise painted on his face. Finally, he simply turned and slung on his elytra, flying off without another word.

Mumbo turned Scar. So many feelings seemed to be running through him, but the main one seemed to be hurt. "Scar, are you-?"

"M'fine." He muttered angrily, turning away from Mumbo. Another beat of silence.

"Mumbo?" Scar asked quietly.

"Yeah?"

He turned to Mumbo, his face twisting with some sort of conviction. "Do you really believe him?" 

Mumbo paused. Did he? It would be so easy to say no. Grian had given plenty of reasons for Mumbo not to trust him and logic dictated that Grian would be a likely culprit. But then he thought of the way Grian looked and how a once confident and loyal friend now stood with a permanent hunch and a softness in his voice that Mumbo had never heard. Logic might say it he was guilty, but his heart said otherwise.

"With all my heart." Mumbo replied, his heart blooming with confidence in his answer. Scar didn't reply at first, only staring at the burning wreckage. He then turned to Mumbo, and unreadable expression on his face.

"Then make me believe him too."

Chapter Text

"What do you have to be nervous about?" 

Grian shrugged beside him, lying comfortably on his back. His fingers fiddled with a small yellow flower as they watched clouds drift across the warm red sky. "A lot of things. They could find my building to be rubbish, or my pranks to be mean, or just not like me in general." He muttered. 

The man laying beside him, Taurtis, scoffed and rolled his eyes. "That's it then? You just aren't going?" He asked, turning his head to face the blonde.

Grian groaned. "I don't know, Taurtis. I mean, Hermitcraft is a dream come true, but come on. I'm not-"

"If you try to be humble or modest, I will kill you." Taurtis growled, his eyes morphed into a glared.

"Pearl is so much better than I am, though!" Grian exclaimed, followed by a grunt as Taurtis slapped his chest. "Hey-!"

"Stop being so modest, Gri!" Taurtis asserted. "I know you love doing this thing where you just accept things and never try anything new-"

It was Grian's turn to scoff as he sat up. "Accept things?! I pull all kinds of pranks all the time! Of course I try new things!"

"You know that's not what I meant." Taurtis said, sitting up as well. "Grian, you have to go. It's a once in a lifetime chance."

Grian rolled his eyes, picking at the hem of his green shirt. "Don't you think you're being over dramatic?"

"Maybe." Taurtis said. "But as your friend, I know you. And I know you're going to love it there, and despite what you say, you want to be a hermit."

Grian didn't deny it. The giddiness he had felt when he read Xisuma Void's invitation was genuine. He had wanted to join them for a long while, that was true, but...he could never leave Evo. Why would he? He had a great life here, and even greater friends.

"It's a fun idea, but I'm perfectly fine here! I don't need to join the Hermits, and I love being with you guys." Grian shrugged, lifting his eyes to face a very unamused Taurtis. 

"See what I mean?" Taurtis asked pointedly. "About the whole acceptance thing?" Grian didn't reply, his cheeks burning. "Well?" His friend asked. Grian sighed and stared at the ground.

"You've made your point." He sighed, burying himself into his knees. "Fine, fine. I'm nervous, I admit it. Who wouldn't be?! They're all such great builders, and the redstone work they do is insane! I can barely make a door!"

Taurtis smiled with reassurance, putting his hand on Grian's shoulder. "You'll be perfectly fine. I know it." 

Grian looked up. "How are you so sure?"

"Because you're you." Taurtis grinned. "If I know anyone who can wiggle out of trouble, it's you." 

Grian offered him a small smile but didn't reply. he needed to think. He and his friend sat together for a moment longer. They knew mobs would spawn, but still they still lingered, enjoying the other's company. 

"...I got you something." Taurtis said quietly, not wanting to disturb the concert of cicadas and crickets.

"What's that?" Grian replied, watching him pull a small wrapped box out of his backpack.

Taurtis handed him the small gift, a goofy smile on his face. "A little gift from us here in Evo. I was gonna wait until you leave, but now you're getting cold feet and…" His ramblings died down as Grian unwrapped the box.

Grian lifted the gift up with brightened eyes. It was a hand-knitted crimson red sweater. "Pearl made it. It's so you can take a little piece of Evo into Hermitcraft." Taurtis smiled. "It uh, might be a little big, you're much smaller than we-" He grunted as Grian launched arms around his neck, nearly knocking off his headphones.

Grian squeezed tightly. "I'll miss you guys." He whispered.

"We'll miss you too, you gremlin." He whispered back. "Don't worry though. You'll be fine." Taurtis smiled at him. Grian blinked, the edges of his vision going dark. What was happening? Taurtis kept smiling.

"I just know it."

 

Grian's eyes peeled open and immediately squeezed shut at the bright end rods that illuminated the room. Everything felt heavy, and despite the long slumber he had just awoken from, he felt exhausted. He blinked his eyes open again, they just needed to adjust. He faced a decision now- go back to sleep, or stare at the wall for 12 hours? The choice seemed clear as he tugged the covers over his head. His head was swimming with thoughts as it tried to grasp at the corners of sleep that threatened to escape.

Area 77 wasn't bad, Grian decided.  It wasn't great, mind you, but it had to be better than what Cub and Xisuma had in mind. He shivered at the thought as he rolled over in the small white bed Doc had given him. He tried to ignore the sounds of the camera shifting to focus on him and pulled the pillow over his head, trying to go back to sleep. His mind however, failed to comply and he resorted to simply rolling over onto his back and staring at the ceiling.

The room was small and made of concrete and quartz. It felt a bit like a hospital room and smelled like one too. The thought drifted in his mind to ask for a candle, but it was gone as soon as it had come. He had enough in the room. No need to ask for more. Doc had already given him a bed, a private little bathroom, and even a sketchbook and some crayons if he got bored. The space wasn't bad, he kept telling himself. 'Be grateful it isn't worse.' Was a constant thought that circled in his mind as of late. 

The camera shifted again, and he shot a glare at it. "Still here, still not doing anything." He sighed. There was no response. There never was. He was alone with only his thoughts to keep him company.

That was the one thing Grain hated about this place (Well, one of many), he was always thinking. There wasn't really anything else to do, unfortunately. Sometimes he thought of nice things like building ideas or Mumbo, but those thoughts were always short-lived. Most of the time, his traitorous thoughts drifted back to the dark, grey stormcloud that was this case.

He tried to suppress them. Those horrible thoughts that told him that perhaps the Hermits never actually liked him and that's why they turned on him so quickly. Or the ones that said he was just burdening Mumbo with this. He especially hated the thoughts that crept in and whispered that Grian belonged in Area 77. He fit the criteria perfectly, after all. He was alone, abnormal, and dangerous. He'd fit right in. Who would even miss him? Certainly not the Hermits, it seemed. Why they didn't even care if-

Grian blinked. Was...was he crying? He rubbed the back of his hand to his cheek and felt the hot liquid burning down his even-hotter cheeks. There was a lump in his throat and he felt so...small. 

 

He wiped his eyes and nose. "Come on, pull it together." He whispered. "Keep it positive." 

Positive. He laughed. It was a bitter and hollow sound. He was positive that Xisuma wanted him dead.

Xisuma, he was probably the worst part of all of this. The man who welcomed him in with such warmth and care had dragged him by the scalp and branded him as a criminal. He used to think Xisuma was kind, always vowing to protect the hermits from any world-ending disasters or villains. More tears raced down his cheeks.

Was he a villain? He just be with this brand and this cell. Because it wasn't a room, it was a cell and no amount of happy thoughts would change that. 

He wiped his face. Again. 'Positive, keep it positive. That's all you have left.' He thought harshly. He couldn't afford a mental breakdown, not when Mumbo and Scar needed him. 

"Grian." A voice boomed, scaring Grian nearly out of his seat.

"OH MY GOD-!" He cried, pressing his back to the back wall of his bed. He could feel every muscle tense and his heart in his ears. He forgot the intercom function. "Doc, what the hell?! Give me some warning!" He laughed shakily, looking at the camera. 

"Scar and Mumbo want to see you. I'm going to open your door when you are ready." Doc's crackly voice came through the speakers. 

Grian sat up, wiping the remainder of tears and sleep from his eyes before standing. He raised his arms, stretching until he heard a few pops from his back. He walked over to the desk where his clothes were resting. A treacherous thought crossed his mind to forgo the red sweater, but it was immediately dismissed. He was glad Doc let him keep his clothes instead of forcing him to wear the prison jumpsuit.

"I'm ready." He said, standing by the door with an air of boredom.

Just like Doc had said, the iron door opened and revealed Doc himself. His face was as cold as a stone, but that was normal. It never really expressed that much emotion, except maybe anger. He stood aside as Grian walked out of the room and followed behind him as they began to tread down the large concrete hall.

"So...How's business?" Grian asked, trying to strike up a conversation.

Doc grunted out an answer and Grian frowned slightly. Though, he wasn't sure if that was Doc's naturally cold atmosphere or if he too believed Grian was a criminal.

"...Are you going to the trial?" Grian asked on his second attempt to strike a conversation.

"I have no choice." Doc growled. "Xisuma wants us all there."  

Grian winced at the name. "He uh, he does?"

"Something about 'teaching a lesson.' I don't know, he's been a right pain in the arse recently." Doc growled. Their footsteps echoed through the hall.

"Well, I could've told you that." Grian muttered. Doc let out a small exhale through his nose. Was that a laugh? Maybe. 

"Yeah, he took that a bit far." Doc replied, his eyes getting dark. "I've never seen him like that, but then again, we've never had a real griefer. I guess he's just trying to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Grian nodded, silently. The mark burned on his hand. Doc continued. "He's still been strange, though. I've been trying to get some prismarine from him for a while, and when I asked about it last week, he acted like he'd just forgotten about the whole thing. It's gonna set me back weeks."

Grian made a footnote of this. "He must be really concerned about the trial." He shrugged.

"Something like that." Doc shrugged.

Silence again. They turned down a hall, the footsteps still echoing down the chamber. He hadn't spent much time in Area 77. Plenty of it underground, but never inside. It was a beautiful modern interior. You could never even tell how far underground you were. They reached an iron door that Doc waved a keycard in front of. The door sprang to life, opening quickly.

"Alright. They're right in there." Doc sighed. "I trust you'll find your way."

Grian nodded, but he hesitated. "..Doc?"

"Yeah?'

"Do you think I did it?"

Doc stared at him, surprised by the question. But he sighed and answered. "... Maybe I did at one point. Cub's made one hell of a case against you, after all. But rational thinking says otherwise." Doc said, putting his robotic hand on Grian's shoulder, his eyes softening. "I believe you, Gri. And…" his hand tightened. "Mumbo is right, I should've from the beginning."

Grian's shock melted into a smile, his first genuine smile in a while. "Really?" He asked hopefully.

"Yep. And don't sweat the others." He sighed. "They don't mean what they say, they're just...scared. This has never happened before, and Cub knows how to work a crowd. It's why ConCorp has been in business so long." Doc shrugged. Grian laughed slightly, the cloud around his head lifting slightly. 

"Thanks, Doc." Grian smiled gently.

"No prob, now go on. You won't win the trial staying out here." Doc replied. Grian nodded and made his way through the door. It shut quickly, leaving Grian alone in the hall. He wasn't alone for too long, Mumbo and Scar's voices carried down the hall.

He headed to the source, the source being a large board room where Mumbo and Scar were organizing things. Well, "organizing" was more of a loose term in Grian's opinion. Papers seemed to be everywhere and piles of photos littered the dark oak table. Mumbo's jacket and tie were slung over a chair and the man himself was stringing some photos together with red thread. Scar was sorting through papers, his hat and jacket crumpled up onto the floor.

Grian stepped in. "Mumbo, I don't want to hear a single thing about my poor organization." he joked. They both turned and smiled tiredly. 

"Hey, Gri. Guess who joined the defense?" Mumbo grinned, gesturing to a very tired looking Scar.

"Not officially, but Cub won't listen and Mumbo wanted the case files, so." He finished with a shrug. Grian smiled knowingly and sat down. 

"So?" Grian asked. "What's the plan?"

"The plan," Mumbo started moving aside from the board, "is to prove your innocence through an alibi and facts." He said.

"Sounds easy enough." Grian shrugged.

Scar sighed heavily, handing him a few papers. "Yeah, not quite. Cub has a lot of evidence against you."

"Like what?"

"Well, for starters, your TnT shop was emptied a few nights before the crime and with no payment." Mumbo sighed. "Which means only you could've emptied it." 

Grian paled. "The shop? But I never went there! I'll be completely honest, I forgot it existed."

"I believe you, but we have to convince the others it wasn't you." Scar replied. "I'd check the Area 77 camera feed, but somehow, everytime the culprit strikes, the camera feed just cuts out."

"Which is another pile of evidence against you." Mumbo sighed. "After all, you dug a huge hole into Area 77, giving you direct access."

Grian frowned. "But by that logic, Ren could be the culprit, or Doc and Scar." 

The mustached man shrugged. "Doesn't matter. If they can use it against you, they will. And trust me, Cub will."

Grian picked at the hem of his sweater. "What else?" He sighed.

"All of the locations as of yet have been pretty close to your base, Gri." Scar shrugged. "Again, petty evidence, but it's still evidence against you." 

Grian felt a pit welling in his stomach. "A-Anything else?"

Mumbo shrugged. "Other than your history of pranks, not much. We should be able to argue that one, but the other two will be tricky." 

"We need an alibi." Scar stated. "Where were you when ConCorp was attacked?" 

Grian thought for a second. Where had he been that night? That was a few weeks ago. Then, a memory popped into his head and he flushed pink. 

"Grian. What were you doing." Mumbo demanded more then he asked, his voice low and with a tilt of warning. 

"Uh, I was...I was sort of…" Grian rubbed his neck sheepishly. "I might've put something in your base, Mumbo. Again." He muttered.

Mumbo blinked before groaning. "Oh for God's sake Grian, I just cleaned it out!" Scar began cackling with laughter.

"It, uh, it seemed like a good idea at the time." Grian said, unable to keep a grin from splitting across his face. Scar laughed some more before it settled into a chuckle.

"No no, that's good. That's an Alibi for ConCorp. If Mumbo can find and take a picture of the prank, case closed. You have an alibi and it shows your pranks are harmless." Scar smiled, shutting the folder he had opening.

Grian's smile fell. "Uh, it's not that simple." He replied. "You see, I just threw a few eggs, a-and I've gotten so good at throwing eggs at Mumbo's base, that it's impossible to tell which chickens are new and which one are old."

Scar stared at them for a few seconds before sitting down and opening the folder again. "It still works, but not nearly as well."

Mumbo groaned. "Okay then, what else? What about Cleo's ship?" 

"I was collecting gravel and sand for Sahara. That's what we had that meeting about last week." Grian replied, nodding at Mumbo who nodded back.

"That's true, me and Iskall were probably doing something similar." Mumbo replied. 

"But neither of you were with him?" Scar asked. Mumbo shook his head. Scar sighed heavily. "Well boys, it's not much, but it's a start."

Mumbo sat down beside Grian and smiled tiredly. "A start is all we need. Let's get cracking, gents." He said, cracking his fingers and handing Grian a pen. It was going to be a long night.

 

They worked for hours on end, finally stopping when they felt relatively decent in their defense. Mumbo sat back in his chair, his mustache frayed and his fatigue evident. Scar was staring at the table, his eyes clouded with exhaustion. Whatever he was writing had been reduced to mere scribbles as he dragged the pencil across the paper slowly. Grian himself was a few blinks away from exhaustion, his eyes heavy and he felt like he wanted nothing more than to curl up and sleep.

Mumbo finally stood and rubbed his eyes. "Well, lads, I think we've done all we can do. I've come up with every counter argument I could think of, Grian knows every answer to every question, and Scar has conjured up every piece of evidence he could." He muttered tiredly. His speech was slurred. "The trial is in two days. Let's all get some sleep, yeah?" Mumbo muttered, wiping his eyes. Scar grunted in agreement, his head thudding dully on the table.

Grian groaned sadly. He didn't want to go back to his cell. He wanted to stay here with Mumbo and Scar. "Are you sure?" He slurred. "We can stay, look over the case some more!" 

Mumbo smiled sadly. "Gri, if we look over the case anymore, we'll just be making silly little mistakes." He put a hand on Grian's shoulder. "I know you're scared to go back there, but don't worry, I've got a fool-proof plan to win this. You'll be out of here in no time!" He grinned.

"Care to tell me?" Grian muttered. 

Mumbo hummed, helping him stand. "I can tell you that it involves a very important build I have over near that island on my base." 

Grian frowned. How the hell was that supposed to help? And why did Mumbo look so… smug about it all? "What are you-?" He started, but Scar cut him off.

"Come on, Gri." He muttered, standing up. "I've got a lovely surprise for you." His smile was tired, but genuine all the same.

"I'll see you two soon." Mumbo smiled. "Go ahead and show him, I'll clean up around here."

Grian furrowed his eyebrows. What were they talking about? Scar led him down the corridor, and Grian couldn't help bust to turn back to his friend, who had bent down past the table to pick some papers up. The man and the room disappeared as they walked further down the hall and Grian couldn't figure out where they were going.

"Scar, where-?"

"Shh! Almost there!" Scar grinned at him. They were going faster now. Grian couldn't help but laugh as Scar dragged him along. Their feet resounded along the concrete halls. 

Finally they stopped, both breathless and red in the face. "Alright! Here we are!" Scar grinned, stepping in front of a large glass room. 

Grian stared at it. "What…" he panted for this. "What is this?"

"Your new cell!" Scar said, opening the door. What was inside made Grian's eyes widen and his mouth drop to the floor.

The room was huge and...green. Grass covered the ground and a few trees grew along the back walls. But the most impressive thing was the huge RV that stood in the middle of it all, and an exact replica of the one he built with Ren. He stepped forward into the cell- no, the room- and felt his breath hitch as he heard bird sounds from the speakers and saw a running fountain behind the RV. 

"Scar…" he breathed, turning to look at him but Scar only shook his head. 

"Say nothing about it. It's a gift from me to you." Scar smiled. Grian couldn't help but latch his arms around him, hugging him tightly as warm tears slid down his face.

"Thank you." Grian whispered.

"No problem, Gri. I want you to relax. You're gonna be just fine." Scar hugged him back tightly.

"I just know it."

Chapter Text

As weird as it is to say, this wouldn’t be the first time Grian has woken up in a different place than when he slept. Whether through a bugged respawn or a prank, the man has woken up in all kinds of unexpected places. There was that one time in the nether, a few times in the end, and once he even woke up at the bottom of the ocean. A random field outside of the shopping district was definitely one of the more tamer places, but also the most confusing. How the hell had he gotten here? And why did he have his elytra?

Grian pushed himself up with a low groan. He had to have been there for sometime, because his red sweater and his skin was covered in the morning dew. His head wasn’t hurting, and if it hadn’t been for the dragonfly that had landed on his nose, he likely wouldn’t have woken up. He had always been a heavy sleeper. He looked around, rubbing his eyes. The shopping district was down the hill, illuminated by the rising sun. How had he gotten here? Area 77 was days away from here, and how did he have his elytra? Xisuma had taken his elytra and armor when he arrived at Area 77, how could he have gotten it back? Grian knew it was his, too. The material was worn and damaged from when he clipped the edges of buildings.

He suddenly became aware of how bad this looked. He had escaped Area 77, no idea how he had escaped it, and had somehow gotten his elytra back. Panic began to well in him. No one would believe him if he said that he "woke up here." He scrambled up, eyes darting around. There was no one around him.

Grian threw off his backpack, which he also suddenly had, and threw it in front of him. It was definitely his, the different stains and burn marks practically spelling his name. He threw it open, rummaging through it and hoping to find some kind of answer. His hands brushed against the familiar paper cylinder of rockets and then the smooth surface of a few golden carrots. They were quickly thrown to the side as he dug further. His heart sank as he found an answer, but it certainly wasn't one he wanted. He recognized the feeling of the object almost immediately, but he had to pull it out to be sure.

His breath caught in his lungs as he stared at it- a fresh stack of red TnT.

He dropped it like it had burned him and scooted away from it. His heart began to beat like a drum and his body began to tremble. "That's...that's not possible!" He cried, crushing his sandy blonde hair in his trembling fists. "I-I'm dreaming, I-I'm having a bad dream." He tried to reason to himself, closing his eyes tightly and trying to ignore the hot tears that poured out.

He quickly opened them, hoping to find the ceiling of his RV and hear the fake birds that played over the speakers. He only found that damning TNT. He pinched himself. Again, nothing. Then he grabbed at the grass an tugged. The grass ripped from its roots and covered his hand in the morning dew, telling him once again that this was all real. A strangled sound ripped from Grian's throat as he realized how bad this all was.

"THERE HE IS!" A voice that he could vaguely pick up as Ren shouted and then the sound of several of whooshing elytras.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The room was silent as Grian stared at the table. He'd finally stopped crying, but Mumbo wasn't sure if it was because he had calmed down or if he had no more tears left to cry. The trial had been delayed a few hours in light of the new...Evidence against him.

His own head was a swirling mess. This plan had been foolproof. Tell everyone about a new build, then tell each of them a different location. The real griefer would strike, and then they would know exactly who it was. Grian wasn't supposed to be found outside of his cell with all the damning evidence he could get his hands on. Evidence that Grian shouldn't have even known the location of, or at the very least should have been incredibly hard to get to.

He stared at the pictures of the wreckage. The only person who could've known about this build was Cub. He was the only person that Mumbo gave this specific location to. So how did Grian end up outside of it? Hell, how did Grian get outside of his containment?! Area 77 was supposed to be impenetrable! Scar and Doc had gone to check the footage, if there was any, leaving Mumbo alone with the supposed culprit.

He looked up at said culprit, who was currently destroying his sweater sleeve. His eyes were red and puffy from crying, but they were filled with anxiety and confusion. Mumbo sighed to himself. Was it wrong to start doubting him? It seemed easy before, even with the mob mentality that poisoned each hermit. But now, all he saw was piles and piles of evidence condemning him.

"Grian?" Mumbo asked softly. Grian lifted his eyes. "Please, please be honest with me. Did you do it?" He asked, nearly pleading with him.

Something flashed across those charcoal eyes. Hurt, maybe? Shock? Whatever it was, it struck a sour chord on Mumbo's heartstrings.

"No." Grian whispered, narrowing his eyes as hurt turned to anger. "For the last time, no, I didn't grief Con-Corp, I didn't destroy Cleo's stupid ship, and I didn't wreck your build!" He was yelling now. "I-I don't know how I got there, or how I got my stuff, but-! But I know I'm innocent!" He shouted, his voice breaking. He panted, sliding back down in his seat and covering his face as the redness returned.

"I-I'm, I'm innocent." He whispered, rubbing his eyes. "I-I know I am."

Mumbo bit his lip. He wanted to believe him. He wanted to be reignited that same passion for justice, but with every second he felt more and more dread creeping into his mind. The trial was less than three hours away, and in that time he needed a way to figure out how the hell he would prove Grian innocent.

He took a deep breath and opened the folder, landing on a picture of Grian before this all happened. His skin was healthier, his eyes were filled with optimism and a spark of mischief that only Grian had. Mumbo narrowed his eyes, his resolve strengthening. He was Mumbo Jumbo, dammit. He's famous for solving problems- even problems that didn't exist. And he didn't give up on his friends.

"That's all I need to hear, Gri." He smiled, rolling the chair up beside his friend. "Now, let's get cracking on one hell of a defense."

Grian looked up, his eyes brightening. "Really?"

Mumbo nodded. "Come on. Whatever happens in that courtroom, I'll stand beside you."

The blonde wiped his eyes, a genuine smile creeping into his face. "Thank you, Mumbo."

"Of course, Gri." Mumbo replied, opening the file for him. "Now let's get started!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The courtroom buzzed with anticipation and nerves. The hermits gathered around, each whispering about the case. Cub stood by the side, dressed in a black suit with a black tie and shirt. He looked relatively relaxed, if not determined.

Mumbo flipped through his files, but his mind was going too fast to really read through them. He wasn't used to being the center of attention. He kept sneaking glances at Cub. He had such a nice suit, so much better than his and was his folder laminated? Where was a laminator? It had colored tabs too and dear god this was a horrible idea-

"Hey Mumbo." A swedish voice chirped above him. Mumbo looked up to see Iskall in his green suit that he wore to Sahara meetings. "You nervous?"

Mumbo sighed, pushing his hair back away from his face. "Me? Nervous? Never! I'm only saving Grian's life! No big deal, right?" He laughed nervously, but it quickly died.

Iskall chuckled.and gently placed a shoulder on him. "Hey, you'll be great. I'm not sure if I entirely believe him, but… you two are my best friends." Iskall said, his eyes softening as he looked at the floor. "I want you to succeed. I want my friends back. Prove my computing system wrong- I know you can."

Mumbo blinked. "That's...wow, Iskall. Thank you." He replied. "That was very nice of-"

"I also have money riding on this, so…" Iskall interrupted, a mischievous grin at his lips. Mumbo frowned deeply. Iskall's grin faded.

"Right. Not the time." He exhaled and held out a hand. "Well, good luck."

Mumbo smiled tiredly and shook it. "Thanks, Isk." He replied, watching Iskall take his seat beside Stress. He turned back to the front of the room. Xisuma would be coming in soon, and then the trial would start. Was he ready? Because he certainly didn't feel ready. He felt ready to vomit or pass out or both.

A door opened and the room went deadly silent as Grian came through, being guided- or maybe dragged was the right word- by Wels. All eyes locked onto him and slowly the room filled with gossip-like whispers. The blonde slumped in his seat, trying not to meet Wels harsh gaze as he walked back to his seat.

Mumbo rolled his eyes. "Ignore them, I know we can change their minds." He said, but he didn't believe his own words.

"...I just can't believe how fast everyone turned on me." Grian whispered, picking at his suit jacket sleeve. It was a bit too long on him, but it would work.

Mumbo's eyes softened. "They're just scared, Grian. We've never had a griefer, and Xisuma's never been truly angry. Plus, Cub does know exactly what to say to sell something. Whether it be an idea or a piece of garbage."

Grian looked over at him. "...that's a nice suit that he's wearing."

Mumbo groaned. "Yeah."

"And he laminated his papers."
"I know."
"Are they the color coded?!"

"Grian, I know." Mumbo hissed slightly. "I had three hours, how was I supposed to know we had a laminator-?!"

"Presenting the Judge and Admin, Xisuma Void." Wels declared, stepping out of the way so Xisuma could take his place. Mumbo and Grian collectively cringed. Any ounce of confidence they had was immediately dismissed at the sight of that cold visor. Funny how something that used to make Mumbo feel so safe now terrified him.

"Thank you, Wels." Xisuma replied. "I think we all know why we're here today, so I see no reason to prolong this any further."

"Prolonged? That's a big word." Grian muttered bittely. Mumbo elbowed him and shot him a glare.

Xisuma gestured to Cub. "We will now go into opening statements. As per tradition, the prosecution will state their case first, followed by the…" he laughed. "'Defense.'"

Mumbo narrowed his eyes, feeling his face burn and his hands clench slightly. How dare he?! This time Grian nudged him.

Cub stood, oozing with confidence. "Thank you, your honor." He smiled. "My fellow hermits, for years we have lived in peace and prosperity. Never fearing being griefed or having our trust broken. That was, until Grian came along." He snarled, pointing at Grian.

"I trusted him at first, just like many of you, but then came the constant barrage of pranks and mischief unlike what we've ever seen before. Pranks that evolved to a war, a build off that pushed my partner to exhaustion, a time machine, and then he infiltrated a government controlled building to steal it back! Not to mention a game based solely on griefing your friends!" Cub exclaimed. His speech was passionate and fiery, laying down nearly everything Grian had done and warping it into a bad thing.

"However, I believe he tested our patience quite enough. Ruining our builds with lava and tnt is anything but a harmless prank. We took him in and treated him like family, and what does he give us in return? Betrayed trust and ashes of once beautiful builds." Cub snarled. "It's my goal to restore peace to this server, and if that means putting my old friend behind bars, then I'll do just that." He finished, his voice getting lower and harsher as he glared at Grian.

Xisuma nodded at him, allowing him to sit back down and flash a cocky smile at Mumbo. "Thank you, Cub." He replied. Then he glared at Grian. "Defense?"

Mumbo sighed, trembling slightly as he stood. Grian squeezed his hand and smiled shakily. He tried smiling back, but it probably looked more like a grimace. "U-Uh, hello." He said.

"Please speak up defense, I hardly doubt they can hear you in the back." Xisuma sighed dismissively.

Mumbo winced. "O-Of course." He said, louder this time. "While it's true that Grian has certainly been a chaotic force on the server, I-I hardly doubt that any of it was out of malice. We've always known Grian to be prankster, which is why I'm positive he didn't do it. Grian's pranks are elaborate and are never just griefing for destruction's sake." He stated, the trembling and nerves slowly fading as passion built inside of him. "This whole thing has spiraled out of control, and instead of actually looking for a griefer, we've just pointed fingers at someone!"

"Friends, please, I beg you to see reason today." Mumbo said, panting slightly. "Give us a chance. You've given him one before, please, do it again." He begged, staring at the faces of his friends, his family.

A gavel banged loudly. "Thank you for that… Heartfelt speech, Mr. Jumbo." Xisuma replied. His tone was stiff and unyielding. Mumbo sighed and took his seat beside Grian, appreciating the reassuring smile he was given. Xisuma cleared his throat. "We will now go into the presentation of evidence, which will determine if our culprit is innocent or not. Prosecution?" He read.

Cub stood again, still confident and poised. "Thank you, your honor." He chirped. "Our first piece of evidence is the prank war, a war caused by Grian."

"Objection!" Mumbo stood quickly, his chair scooting back. He blinked. "Oh, sorry, that was a bit too excited, wasn't it?" He laughed slightly before clearing his throat. "Your honor, the prank war wasn't started by Grian. Iskall started it, Grian was just a participant."

Cub rolled his eyes. "Fine. Iskall started it. However, Grian took it to another level by raiding the stock exchange and stealing everything in it. He also ruined hours and hours work by ruining Doc's Bush. Not to mention, he was also the captain of the G-Team!"

"Maybe, but Grian never stole those diamonds. They never even left the building." Mumbo replied quickly. "And by your logic, Doc is just as guilty as Grian. I mean, he did lead Team Star quite a bit, and he's the one that helped make an entire ghost ship to prank Cleo." He shrugged. The hermits began whispering amongst themselves as Cub narrowed his eyes.

"Mr. Jumbo, I must ask that you keep your interruptions at a minimum." Xisuma hissed after banging his gavel. Mumbo smiled sheepishly and sat back down in his seat.

Cub cleared his throat. "This war proved Grian to not only be destructive, but also deceitful. It was him who came up with the idea that you, Mumbo, should act as a mole. It's quite clear that Grian knows how to deceive people, going as far to put his friend on the front line just to get some info." The whispers returned.

Mumbo glared at him. "I didn't have to agree." He snarled.

Cub chuckled. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"I said I didn't have to agree." Mumbo repeated, louder this time. "Grian gave me a choice, and I agreed because I trusted my friend." The room went silent.

Cub stared at them, something flashing across his eyes. Perhaps he wasn't expecting the harshness of Mumbo's tone. "But it was his idea, was it not?" He recovered quickly. "Even if you didn't have to agree, he still came up with the idea and gave you orders, right?"

"Well, yes but-" Mumbo floundered slightly.

"And did those orders require a level of deceit and lying?"
"Yes but-!"

"Then that proves my point. Grian is a master of deceit." Cub replied cockily, now addressing the court. "In fact, he's gotten so good at lying, now he lies about indisputable evidence against him!" Cub glared at them both. "But we'll get to that later." He sneered.

"Thank you Cub." Xisuma replied calmly, nodding for him to sit down. "Defense?"

Mumbo stood up, gripping his papers. "The War may not be the best judgement of character for my client, but by Cub's logic, we're all criminals! Each of us participated in the war in one way or another, and let's not forget, Grian wasn't the one lying to Team Star, I was! And let's face it, I did a piss-poor job of doing it!"

The courtroom began to chuckle. Mumbo smiled before glaring at Cub. "If Grian really is some master of deceit, don't you think he would've picked someone better to do the job? Or at least planned on me mucking it up?" He sat back down, trying not to relish in the way Cub fumed in his chair.

Grian grabbed his arm, his eyes filled with determination for the first time in a long time. "This is going great!" He whispered excitedly.

Mumbo gave him a smile. "Better than I thought it would, at least. But, come on, we aren't out of the woods yet." He sighed. "We still have to explain how the hell you were out in that field." Grian's smiled faded slightly, but he nodded and sat back.

Cub stood again, his confidence had slightly faded, but in its place a fiery determination had settled in. "Not to keep bringing up the past, but I'd like to avert your attention to one of our more recent events here on Hermitcraft. Demise."

Mumbo winced. This one would be tougher to argue for. Cub continued. "Demise was a game started by Grian and built on the premise of trapping and killing your friends for fun." He chuckled. "If trapping your friends and killing them is Grian's idea of fun, do you really believe your builds will be safe from that maniac?"

The courtroom began to murmur again. Xisuma did little to stop them. Grian huffed. "Demise was for fun, everyone who signed up knew what they were getting into. Besides, I wasn't the one who built a mansion death trap." He whispered.

Mumbo nodded absentmindedly, but then he froze. "Wait, Grian, say that again?"

Grian blinked. "...I wasn't the one who built a mansion death trap? But what does that have to-"

"Defense, if there is something you'd like to say, I suggest saying it for the court to hear." Xisuma snarled.

The two silenced, but Mumbo nodded and stood. "Uh, if the court will allow it, I'd like to call a witness." Mumbo stated. The room buzzed yet again, but quickly silenced with a glare from Xisuma.

Xisuma turned his steely glare to Mumbo. "...I'll allow it."

Mumbo smiled. "I'd like to call Cub to the stand." Satisfaction welled within him at Cub's shock. The bearded man groaned and rolled his eyes as he stood and walked to the stand. He slumped in his chair and glared at Mumbo.

Mumbo strolled over to him. "Cub, you were one of the early members of the demised team, right?"

Cub rolled his eyes. "Yes."

Mumbo nodded. "And, do tell who's idea was it to build the Death Mansion?"

Cub opened his mouth, but stopped. "... Mine." he replied with far less sass then before. Mumbo tried to hide the smirk creeping on his face.

"You also gave everyone the idea to use TnT minecarts for a much larger and controlled explosion, right?"

Cub became flustered. "Well, yes but-!"

"Well, Cub, it seems like you have a better knowledge of TnT and Griefing than Grian does." Mumbo shrugged.

"Grian has a whole shop devoted to it!" Cub snarled, standing from his seat in a rage.

"And you and Scar sold TnT to both sides of the civil war for profit! At a higher price!" Mumbo snapped. "Is that true, Cub?!"

"Yes, but-!"

"You keep claiming that Grian is a master of destruction, but you seem to have a thorough knowledge of explosions and traps! One could argue that Grian got his idea for demising Doc from you!" Mumbo cried. The courtroom erupted into noise as Cub tried and failed to defend himself.

Mumbo turned and gave Grian a confident smile. Finally, finally they were getting somewhere. For the first time in a long time, Mumbo felt like they could win this. Suddenly, Xisuma slammed the gavel down rather angrily. The court immediately fell silent. "Are you finished?" He snarled at Mumbo. Some of that shining confidence diminished as cold eyes glared into his own.

"Uh, yes. I believe so." Mumbo stuttered out.

"Then sit down." Xisuma growled. Mumbo did so without any hesitation. Was Xisuma...angry at him for defending Grian? This whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing was Xisuma's idea, wasn't it? Something didn't feel right about Xisuma. They've had trials before, normally over petty disputes or complaints, but never before had he been so...hostile.

Cub stood in the middle of the court, drawing Mumbo's attention back to the case. "I'm going to follow Mumbo's example and call up my own witness." He said with a bitter smile. He whipped his head towards their table and sneered. "Grian."

Mumbo felt Grian tense beside him. The blonde gave him a worried look. "Don't worry," Mumbo whispered. "You'll be okay." Grian bit his lip and nodded, standing and walking slowly to the stand.

Cub was almost immediately in front of him. "Back to the topic of traps, Grian. While I may have given you the idea of using TNT minecarts, was that the only trap you used in Demise?" He said, towering over Grian. The blonde sank into his chair.

"Uh, n-no." Grian shrugged. "Me and Scar used Pufferfish, a-and the original trap for Doc was lava."

"Are those the only traps you know?" Doc asked, though demanded was a better way to describe it.

"N-no, I've done a few videos on how to mess with people." Grian admitted, rubbing the back of his neck.

"That's right. Three in fact. There was one in particular I want to bring up, however." Cub smiled, opening a file. "In your video you describe using lava and scaffolding to cause a fountain of lava to pour on your friend's house. You eagerly state that the best part is watching your friend scramble to save their build."

Grian squirmed. "That...sounds worse than it really is-"

"You know, a lot of those pranks were wrecking a friend's home." Cub muttered.

"But they were all okay with it!" Grian defended. "It was for a video!"

"A video titled 'How to mess with your friends.'" Cub snapped back. "Do you really consider griefing as just 'messing around?'"

Mumbo winced as he heard the others mutter behind him saw Grian squirm in his seat. His fingers tapped against the table anxiously as he waited for Cub's onslaught of questions to cease.

"Now then, back to Demise." Cub said, gaining everyone's attention yet again. "Grian, do you mind explaining to the court what the Demise dares were?"

Grian cringed. "Ah, well, they were like obstacle courses. People would do stunts that...might or might not kill them. I-It was just to get the game started!" He tried to defend himself.

Cub frowned. "That seems rather cruel Grian. Killing your friends just to get a game started?"

"I paid them!" The blonde cried. "I paid them a lot, actually!"

"So that makes it okay?"

"I mean, it certainly helped! I didn't exactly twist their arm behind their back, Cub!" Grian mouthed off, shooting up from his seat.

"What about Iskall, hm?! You shoved a dragon head on him, knowing fully well how much armor it would cost him!" Cub shouted back.

"Iskall won the game! And he got me back the next day!" Grian hissed.

"And when he won, what did you do?! You tried to kill him again, even though the game had finished!?"

"But I knew it wouldn't kill him!" Grian cried.

"Well, griefing someone's build doesn't count as killing either. How are we supposed to know that wasn't another 'harmless prank!?'" Cub snarled.

"Objection!" Mumbo shouted. Grian was letting his temper get the better of him, he needed to pull Grian away from the chair.

"Overruled." Xisuma snarled back, forcing Mumbo to reluctantly sit back down.

"I know the difference between pranks and griefing, Cub!" Grian yelled.

"Do you!? I think Cleo's ship would say otherwise!"

"I didn't do anything!" Grian screamed, his voice cracking and tears welling in his eyes as Cub yelled at him, pushing him further further down and back into his seat.

Mumbo stood again, heart racing. "Cub, stop!" He shouted. "Xisuma, please-!"

"Mumbo, sit down or I'll end this case right now!" Xisuma shouted over them. Mumbo let out a whine as he plopped into his seat, hands gripping the table.

"If you didn't do it, then why were you outside the shopping district, right beside the crime scene?!"
"I don't-!"
"Why were you outside of your containment?!"
"I didn't-!"
"Why did Ren find you with TnT and your confiscated elytra?! How did you get your hands on them!?"

"I DON'T KNOW!" Grian finally erupted, burying his face in his hands and shaking. "I-I don't know-!" He sobbed.

Cub stepped back, but there was no sneer on his face. Mumbo could see that there was some look in his eyes. Surprise? Guilt, maybe? Cub stepped over to his table. "No further questions." He muttered and sat down.

Xisuma nodded. "I'll the defense some time to...calm down. We'll take a two minute recess until then." He declared before banging the gavel. Mumbo immediately sprang up and went to the witness stand.

"Gri, Grian. Look at me." He whispered, grabbing Grian's wrists gently.

"M' sorry, I-I'm sorry-" the blonde hiccupped, sniffling heavily. "I'm so sorry."

"Grian, look at me." Mumbo demanded. Grian finally lifted his head, terror and tears welling in his eyes. "It's okay. It's… a minor setback." He was lying, and he knew Grian could tell. He tried not meet Grian's eyes as he reached into his coat pocket, pulling out the red handkerchief that was tucked into it and handing it to his friend.

Grian took it with trembling hands. Mumbo sighed and looked into his friends eyes. "Grian, w-what if-? What if they're right?"

Grian snapped his head up and blinked. "...W-What?"

Mumbo cringed and looked away. "What if- somehow, you did do it? I mean, we have no idea how you woke up there! And with all that stuff?! What if-" he bit his lip. "What if somehow, you did do all these things?!"

Grian's eyes suddenly narrowed. "Mumbo, stop it."

But Mumbo couldn't stop. The words kept tumbling out. He could feel his anxieties creep up his shoulders and grasp his neck like a vice. He knew it was wrong to doubt his friend, but good lord was Cub making it easy to. He continued. "I mean, maybe you were sleepwalking or something! It would make sense! Maybe we should go for a plea bargain, and you could-"

"Mumbo, stop it." Grian hissed at him. "Stop it right now!" A small pale hand gripped Mumbo's tightly, probably tighter than it should. "I-I can't do this alone. I certainly can't defend myself! Mumbo, I need you to believe me- I didn't do it!"

"But-!"
"You said that was all you needed to hear, was that a lie?!"

The two were silent for a few seconds, just staring at each other and breathing heavily. Mumbo sighed heavily and ran a thumb over Grian's wrist. "N-No, of course it wasn't." Mumbo admitted. "I just...I don't want to lose you, Gri. And...if Cub convinces this court, then-" 'If Cub convinces me…' went unheard.

"Don't." Grian interrupted. "Don't. I-I don't want to think about what happens if we lose."

Mumbo bit his lip. "Neither do I, if I'm being honest."

Grian smiled, but the fear in his eyes betrayed it. There was too much on the line for Mumbo to second guess himself, but...here he was. What kind of friend did that make him? Xisuma banged the gavel and Mumbo saw that everyone had returned to their seats.

"Grian, return to your seat so we may begin." Xisuma snarled. Grian sighed and stood but a hand from Mumbo stopped him.

"Actually Xisuma, I have a few questions I'd like to ask him myself." Mumbo said, putting on a confident smile.

"Fine." Xisuma sighed, leaning back in his chair.

Mumbo looked back at Grian. "Grian, you say that you have no idea how you got to the shopping district, right? That you just woke up there?"

"Right." Grian replied.

"And you claim you didn't know where Xisuma was keeping your elytra and inventory bag?"

"Right." He echoed again, tilting his head and trying to see where Mumbo was going with this.

Mumbo nodded. "What do you know about the latest griefed building?"

Now Grian looked really confused. "Uh, nothing. I'll be honest, I uh, I didn't know it was there."

"That because I didn't build it until after you were imprisoned in Area 77." Mumbo replied coolly. The courtroom filled with gasps and murmurs. "That build was one of many, and all part of an intricate plan to reveal who the real griefer was."

"Objection." Cub called from his table. Xisuma nodded, allowing him to continue. "If that's true, then why was Grian outside of the crime scene with all of his things? Could it be that your plan worked and the real griefer is sitting in front of you?" He chuckled.

Mumbo smiled thinly. "Good question Cub. How was Grian discovered outside of a build no one told him about? Especially one so uninteresting as mine. In fact, the only other person who could've possibly known about this build and it's purpose was you, Cub." He replied. The Hermits once again began to whisper.

Cub frowned. "What exactly are you implying, Mumbo?"

"Like I said- that build was one of many and all apart of one huge plan." Mumbo smiled. "I built around...30 of those little storage areas and told every hermit in this room, including Grian, a different location and how important it was to me. I even said that it was critical to this case." He explained.

"I told Grian that our secret weapon, the storage facility, was on one of the islands around my base. And as of this morning, it was untouched. I told Scar that it was in Sahara. Again, untouched. I told everyone something different, and the only building that was griefed was yours, Cub." Mumbo declared, pointing at Cub.

Cub seethed as the room buzzed with chatter about this new revelation. Xisuma slammed the gavel down, hard. "Are you accusing Cub of bring the Griefer, Mr. Jumbo?" Xisuma asked, his voice angry and low.

"No." Mumbo replied. "Accusing a friend of doing something that awful with little proof would be absolutely heinous of me." He snarled, making sure to glare at his audience. "Also, Cub has an Alibi for last night. He was with Ren and finishing up the final touches on this courtroom."

Xisuma looked at Ren, who was seated in the audience. "Ren, is that true?"

"Yeah, we worked all night on it." Ren replied tiredly. "No idea how he has any energy right now."

"Judging by phantom ashes on the roof, I'll go out on a limb and say he doesn't." Grian interjected. Xisuma shot him a glare, and the room went silent. Xisuma returned his attention to Mumbo.

"Mumbo, why exactly bring this up if you don't have a point?" Xisuma sighed angrily.

Mumbo cringed slightly. This was gonna be hard to worm out of. "Oh I have a point. I don't think Cub did it. I think you did, Xisuma."

If the courtroom was loud before, now it was a cacophony of gasps and chatter. Even Cub looked bewildered by the accusation. Xisuma glared down at him.

"... Excuse me?"

"Like Grian said, he has no idea how he got out of Area 77 and claims he woke up there. Area 77, mind you all, is hours away from the shopping district. It would take him all night to get there, even with the Nether portals!"

"Then how exactly did he get there?!" Xisuma demanded.

"Easy. Console commands. I think you teleported him. It's the only way he could've gotten there in the dead of night and how he could just wake up somewhere. If he was teleported out of his bed, it would make perfect sense." Mumbo explained, trying not to lose confidence over Xisuma increasingly vicious gaze. "And...you're the only person with that ability as admin."

"...That would also explain why he had his stuff back." Cub interjected, his eyes furrowed as he thought along with Mumbo. "And...I told you about what Mumbo said to me, I told you about the location. That's how Grian would know where it was."

Xisuma stood. "That's ridiculous!" He shouted.

"Is it? The one thing that kept my head turning was how exactly Area 77 cameras and my drones capturing Grian's footage." Cub said, going to stand beside Mumbo. "I kept thinking Grian was using that little tunnel he and Ren dug to infiltrate and wipe the footage, but there's no way Grian could do that on such a short amount of time!"

Mumbo blinked. Was...Was Cub on their side now? He couldn't focus on that now. He had to finish this. Xisuma looked like he was about to shout something again, but then he stopped. He sat back down in his chair and crossed his arms.

"That's quite an accusation, you two. But I have one question for you-" Xisuma leaned down to them. "Why the hell would I grief my own server? A server that I've spent years building and making better?"

Mumbo blinked. He didn't have an answer. He looked at Cub, but he just shrugged. They were both clueless. Suddenly, the back doors swung open and Doc and Scar walked in. They looked miserable, like they had just died a little. Cub and Mumbo shared a look before parting so they could cross in between them.

Xisuma sat back. "Ah. Area 77. Back with the footage, I assume?"

Mumbo sat down in his seat, and Grian quickly followed as Doc began setting up a projector. Scar stood to the side, staring at the ground. Mumbo tried to get his attention, but he refused to even look at them. Something was wrong, and a horrible, awful feeling welled in Mumbo's chest.

"This will be the final piece of evidence. Then we will make a verdict." Xisuma stated, stepping down from his stand so he too could see the film.

Doc stepped back from the projector. "This...this was captured in the shopping district last night." He muttered. "I think it reveals a lot." He said, glaring at Grian harshly.

Mumbo really didn't like where this was headed.

The footage began playing. The shopping district came into view, directly in line with Mumbo bait build. Then came the destruction. It was hard to see the criminal in the dark but then they dumped lava over the build. Their face was illuminated, and Mumbo felt like vomiting.

It was Grian.

It continued. It was agonizingly long as everyone watched Grian destroy the small building. Mumbo couldn't breathe. He couldn't think and he certainly couldn't believe what he was seeing. Then, as if to mock him, the Grian in the video took off with his elytra, making sure to fly directly in front of the camera.

The lights on the court room came back on. Everyone was silent. Mumbo turned to Grian, who's eyes were as wide as dinner plates.

"That...that wasn't me…" Grian whispered, his voice trembling. "Th-That wasn't me!" He shouted, standing up quickly, so quickly that his chair clattered behind him.

The room went from shock to anger. People began shouting at him. Mumbo wished he could say something, anything in defense of his friend, but his tongue was dry and so were his excuses.

Xisuma glared at Grian. "I think it's time we gave a verdict." He snarled. "Who thinks he's guilty?"

A few hands shot up immediately. Some were hesitant, but they were still raised. One by one, everyone in the courtroom except Mumbo and Cub held up their hands. Grian's breathing became erratic as he stepped back.

"No, no, no…" he whispered.

"I now pronounce the defendant guilty. The punishment? A permanent ban from this server." Xisuma hissed.

Grian took another step back."No! No, you all have to believe me, I-I didn't do it! I didn't!" He hit a surface and spun around to see Ren and Wels had moved behind him.

"Come on, dude… Don't make his any harder than it has to be." Ren whispered sadly as he grabbed Grian's arm tightly.

Grian immediately ripped it away. His mind was on full panic mode, fight or flight instincts having been kicked in. He squirmed away from them, running back towards Mumbo and gripping his arm for safety.

"M-Mumbo, please, please! I-I didn't do it, you have to believe me!" He shrieked, clawing desperately at Mumbo's arm. His eyes were spilling with tears.

Mumbo stated down at him, unable to say anything. "M-Mumbo?" Grian whispered frantically.

"I...I don't know what to believe." Mumbo whispered brokenly, looking away from his friend.

Grian let out an awful whimper sound as he realized that Mumbo, the last of his friends, had abandoned him. It was Xisuma who ripped him off of Mumbo. Grian shrieked, flailing against him.

"NO! NO, PLEASE WAIT!" He screamed. "PLEASE! M-MUMBO!"

Xisuma was merciless as he opened a small portal to a dark room filled with bedrock. He drug Grian by the collar towards it, despite his screaming.

"Wait! Where are you taking him!?" Cub demanded.

Xisuma glared at them. "To the blacklist room. It's where admins keep their undesirables before we ban them." He hissed before dragging Grian into it before following him into it. The portal shut behind them, and the room was silent. Mumbo stared at the floor, a hollow feeling in his chest.

"Mumbo..." Iskall asked, placing a hand on his shoulder. "You did your best, but-" Mumbo ripped his shoulder away and stood up briskly before storming out of the room, ignoring the hot tears that spilled down his face.

Chapter Text

Grian grunted as he was thrown to the ground. His entire body was trembling and the mark on his hand burned. Another sob tore from his throat as he forced himself up and away from the admin that towered before him. There was nothing protecting him now, no friends, no trial, and certainly no witnesses. Not that the witness would care, no one else seemed to.

“I’m usually a forgiving man, Grian, but you’ve really tested my patience.” Xisuma sighed, like a parent scolding a child. Grian scrambled away from him, grunting as his back hit against the bedrock wall of the blacklist room. 

“X-Xisuma, please!” The blond begged. “I-I didn’t-!” He couldn’t spit the words out he was crying so hard. His throat was burning, his mouth refusing to do anything but gasp for air.

“Oh, please.” Xisuma scoffed. “Face your punishment with some courage.” He snarled, walking away from the mess in front of him. He messed with something, grumbling to himself as he tapped something into the control panel of his communicator. 

Grian couldn’t form words. He was sobbing too hard to do much of anything except try not to vomit. He knew he should just leave with the last shreds of his dignity, but there was truly none left. He was broken, hurt, and utterly lost. How did it come to this? How did it go from silly pranks and family to being banned and hated forever? What would Taurtis say? Would he even believe Grian? Not that Grian would ever be able to explain himself to anyone now. A ban was truly a fate worse than death- eternal isolation. 

Another wail tore from him at the thought. What would he do now? What could he do now? He’d never been truly alone, and when he had he could barely take it. Who would see his builds? Or laugh at his jokes? Or hug him or tell him it would be okay or just smile at him-

“Damn thing, why is he being so difficult…?” Xisuma muttered, punching something else in. Something red flashed across the screen and he rolled his eyes through his visor. Grian didn't try to see what he was typing in, he had a feeling he already knew what it was.

“'S-Suma, ” Grian hiccuped in one final plea. "P-Please don't do this…"

Xisuma sighed and glared at him. “What, my job?”

“Y-You believed me!” Grian cried, staring up at the glow from his visors. “Y-You believed me…!” He repeated, as if that would somehow change anything. 

Xisuma stared down at him. His eyes were cold and hollow, just like the blacklist room itself. "My mistake." He replied cruelly.

The admin turned back to his communicator and huffed as it flashed again. "I'll be back." He sighed. "Why don't you wait here and think about why you're being banned?" 

"W-Wait!" Grian tried, but Xisuma was already gone along with any hope of getting out of the room.

Darkness surrounded Grian, save for the red glow coming from his hand. He stared down at it, soft hiccups coming from his lips as he pulled it to his chest. He didn't want to look at it, didn't want to face it. He didn't want to see the red burn that mocked him from every angle. He didn't want to believe that the only thing that had stayed with him through this entire thing was that damned mark. Everyone had abandoned him, even Mumbo.

"I don't know what to believe anymore."

The words echoed in his head over and over again. Mumbo said he'd never leave him, that all he needed was Grian's word, but Xisuma showed him one video and that was enough? That was the final straw? 

Grian curled into himself, shoulders heaving and body trembling as the darkness began to swallow him whole. Any resemblance of a bright side was gone. All that remained was the cruel scarlet glow from his hand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Mumbo, you couldn't have known!" Iskall cried after him. "He had us all fooled!" Mumbo stormed down the hall. He didn't know where he was going, he didn't need to. He just knew he wanted to get away. However, those words made him freeze.

"Iskall, I love you, but shut the hell up. Please." Mumbo snapped, spinning on his heel. Venom dripped from his mouth and he glared at Iskall.

Iskall flinched slightly. "Mumbo-"

"He didn't have us all fooled, h-he-! He was just-!" Mumbo struggled to come up with anything to say in retaliation. His thoughts were whirling at a hundred miles an hour, each trying to waterfall out of his mouth. 

"Mumbo." Iskall replied softly, touching his shoulder. The hand was gentle, trying so hard to reassure him. "It's okay."

"It's not, though." Mumbo muttered, wiping his eyes. "Grian was either framed or has been taking the mick out of me this entire damned season! And to be quite honest Iskall, I don't like either option!" His voice rose in volume and pitch as his words became more manic. He cursed and wiped his eyes again, turning away from Iskall.

He tried so hard to maintain composure, never truly getting angry or grieving. His parents had drilled into him that there was no use in crying. Whether or not that was a healthy lesson was the least of his concerns. His composure was one of things people respected him for, he couldn't just lose it over...over this.

"Mumbo, mate, you did everything you possibly could've for him." Iskall sighed. "Even going as far as accusing Xisuma. But some people just wear a mask. I'm sorry you had to experience that firsthand." 

Mumbo nodded aimlessly. He knew Iskall was trying to be a good friend, but… Mumbo suddenly froze. "Isk."

"Yeah?"
"Say that again?"

Iskall tilted his head. "I'm sorry you had to experience-"

"The other thing."
"Some people just wear a mask?"

Mumbo turned to look at Iskall as it dawned on him. A mask, a bloody mask. Oh god, he wanted to hit himself. The Grian Head Hunt! Of course those damn things were lying around everywhere! Realization crashed on him like an anvil and Mumbo began sprinting down the hall. He missed Iskall's yelp of surprise as he tried to catch up to him.

"Wait, what are you doing?!" Iskall cried.

"Connecting dots, confronting a very frightening idea, and running solely on adrenaline, but right now? I'm gonna save my friend!" He cried, stopping at the room and Grian had been holed up in before the trial. He threw open the door and froze as he saw Cub rummaging through it already. He looked up and gave them a pointed look.

"Took you long enough." He huffed, slamming the drawers. He must've come here straight after the trial.

Mumbo blinked, partially frozen. "Cub, what are you-?!"

"I'm looking through your notes." He replied nonchalantly, setting a file down. "You were onto something in that courtroom, and the video proved it."

A smile cracked on Mumbo's face. Cub...Cub actually believed him? "The Hsad Hunt. Someone is trying to frame him!" He babbled out.

"Wait!" Iskall cried, trying his best to pick up on the wavelength Cub and Mumbo were sharing. "Grian burned all those heads!"

"For two brilliant engineers, you two sure are dull." Cub groaned. "Let me spell it out- where do you get heads?"

"The Statue of Hermity?" Iskall replied. Mumbo felt his eyes widening. 

"Wait that means-?!" He blurted out. "I-I was right?!"

"Dead center, Mr. Jumbo." Cub replied curtly. "Now that we're all on the same page-"

"Wait, stop!" The Swede barked. "You two can't seriously accuse Xisuma-!"

"Why not?" Cub shrugged. "We all had a field day doing it with Grian." 

Mumbo shot him a glare. "You started this, Cub. Don't try to play the morality card, it's nowhere near your deck." He snapped. Cub bit his lip and huffed, but didn't argue.

"Hey! Focus!" Iskall hissed, the pair’s eyes being drawn back to him. "What I mean is that you can't just accuse an admin of something! How exactly are we supposed to convict him when he's the judge, jury, and executioner?! Besides," he said, going over to some of the files strewn about. "Why would Xisuma do something like this? Mumbo, you've known him for years!"

Mumbo bit his lip. He really didn't know that part. Xisuma had always been a kind and caring mentor to him. He was the one who always pushed Mumbo to succeed, always gave him new ideas. He was the same to Grian, always complimenting his build or providing him with the right materials at the right time. Why did he change? What happened?

"We need to investigate further." Cub muttered. "Maybe his base will have something."

"What?!" Mumbo cried, suddenly jerked from his train of thought. "No! We need to save Grian! He's in that- that room and all alone!"

Iskall shook his head. "Mumbo, only Xisuma has access to that room. And even if you break into it, and if you're right, what makes you think Xisuma won't just ban you too?"

Cub nodded. "We need to be clever about this, and we have a small, small time frame to do this." He sighed. 

Mumbo wanted to argue with them, he really did. But they were right. He was no use to Grian if he was banned. That had to do this right. They each stared at the ground, hoping that it would provide a plan.

"Now," Cub sighed, grabbing a marker and pressing it to the whiteboard. "Who do we know that is a good infiltrator?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"This is insane, this is bloody insane." Mumbo found himself whispering as they stood in front of Xisuma's base. Gone was the atmosphere of wonder and curiosity that always surrounded the magnificent buildings. It was now replaced with a cold sinister feeling as darkness loomed above the group.

The group being Cub, Iskall, Scar and Mumbo himself. Doc was at Area 77 and keeping surveillance on the server. He could see and speak to them from there. It took some heavy convincing getting Doc and Scar back on the team, Doc more so than Scar, but they couldn't deny Xisuma's odd behavior. Mumbo looked at his team and attempted to control his breathing. He was the lead here, he had to be strong. For Grian. 

Scar hugged himself tightly. "Are you three sure you want to do this? If we're wrong-"

"Scar." Cub said firmly. "We aren't. You argued with me for days that Grian was innocent. Don't get cold feet now." Scar looked like he wanted to argue, but he sighed and swallowed whatever he was going to say.

"What's the plan?" He opted to say instead.

"Simple. Get in, look for evidence of tampering, and get out." Doc buzzed through their earpieces. "You're going to want to find the server room. It keeps a detailed list of all of the commands Xisuma has inserted, including teleporting someone."

"And if we find that he teleported Grian-" Mumbo started.

"-Then we have our guilty party." Iskall replied. "Is everyone ready?"

Scar raised his hand. "And if we're caught?"

"I have a list of excuses ready." Doc cracked through. "Now remember, the server room is made of Void magic. When you go in, I lose all contact. Keep someone outside of it so I can keep in contact."

The group gave a few words of agreement. Cub turned to Mumbo. "Any last words?" He sighed, tossing him a potion of invisibility. 

Mumbo fumbled to catch it. He took a deep breath. "Let's put this case to rest." He said, popping off the cork and taking a deep swig of the potion, his team doing the same. Slowly his form went invisible, and all that was left was a floating bottle.

The group began creeping their way into the base. The large city-like buildings loomed above them as the crept through, redstone machines ticking away within them. There was no sign of Xisuma as they crept further into the sprawling base.

Mumbo tried not to think about Grian. About how he's alone in the dark, horrible blacklist room. He tried not to think about the white-knuckled grip Grian had on his suit jacket, or the look of utter betrayal in his eyes when Mumbo's faith in him faltered. Mumbo cringed to himself. He was a horrible friend, wasn't he? He lied to Grian, and now he was going to be banned. He felt his feet moving faster at the thought. The group moved silently down, further and further down the weaving base. They reached a large cave system, Xisuma's own decorative touch surrounding the rock walls, vines and wooden platforms standing there. The most surprising was the layer of bedrock that covered the ground, a strange device sitting in the middle and glowing...ominously. It had a metal door that was slightly ajar.

"Do you see the bedrock layer?" Doc crackled through, his connection getting more and more static-filled.

"Yeah, what now?" Scar asked.

"Alright. Do you see a machine? It should look a bit like an elevator door." Doc replied.

Mumbo and Iskall jumped down towards it. "It's right here."

"Alright, two of you go in while the other two keep watch." Doc cracked through. "Remember, I'll lose all contact when you go in. Be quick about this."

"I'll go." Mumbo said quickly. "I have to see this for myself."

"I will too." Cub muttered. "I started this whole thing, I've got to end it." 

Scar and Iskall shared a look before nodding. "We'll keep watch." Iskall replied. "Be careful in there, okay? We can't lose two friends in one day."

Cub and Mumbo nodded, staring at the elevator before Mumbo opened the heavy door tenderly. The hinges squealed as it opened, and a metal interior greeted them.

"Ladies first." Cub joked, but it was hollow and filled with apprehension. 

They both filed into the machine, nerves creeping up their spine. No one had ever been down below the bedrock. Mumbo wished they were going on better terms. The door closed and the machines whirred to life as they felt the elevator move down. Neither of them spoke during the journey.

The doors opened shortly after. Mumbo's eyes watered as the void air entered the room, and his lungs burned as the void particles filled his nose. It felt similar to the burn of smoke or accidentally inhaling redstone, except constant.

Cub was in a similar state, holding his sleeve to his mouth. He coughed roughly. "N-No wonder 'Suma wears a mask." 

"C-Come on, we need to find that command block." Mumbo wheezed out. 

They stepped out into the Void room, the pull of the void tugging at their cores. The void air was thick and heavy, constantly weighing down on them. It was no wonder why the void dragged you in and was nearly impossible to crawl out of. He resisted his body’s urge to lay down on the cold stone blocks that Xisuma had placed. He hadn’t done much to decorate the void, most of it was a vibrant green wiring that crawled and weaved down the wall, illuminating the metal walls. Mumbo crept forward, desperately wishing he could see his hand but thankful he could’t. A yell of frustration stopped them both cold in their tracks. 

“Why are you making this so difficult!?” A voice, which Mumbo presumed to be Xisuma’s, cried out in fury. 

“Grian?” Mumbo whispered, his heart racing as he stepped closer to the voices. Cub shushed him.

“Do you really think you can stop this? They already hate him, and you’ve already failed.” Xisuma snapped. Mumbo frowned. Wait, what?

“I-I won’t...Ex, please, stop this.” A broken and hollow voice whispered. Mumbo couldn’t help himself as he peered around the corner and stifled a gasp. 

The room had a single command block in it, but that wasn’t what was unnerving. There were currently two Xisumas in front of Mumbo, one ranting and raving as venom spit from his lips, and one suspended from the bedrock ceiling with glowing red chains. His helmet was missing, strands of sweat-matted hair clinging to his face. He lifted his head weakly, and Mumbo saw the brilliant emerald eyes that had first welcomed him to hermitcraft all those years ago. They were exhausted, but still blazing with some sort of determination. 

“You can’t stop what’s already in motion.” The free-Xisuma snapped. “Your precious family tore their youngest apart and left the body for the wolves.” He suddenly chuckled. “You know, I didn’t even have to leave any evidence. Cub immediately blamed him!”

“Y-You deceived him. H-He would’ve-!” The chained one tried to say but was cut off with cruel laughter. 

“I didn’t do anything, Xisuma! I griefed them, sure, and I left some damning evidence, but please! That was only after the hermits watched me throw him to the ground, Xisuma.”

The chained one grunted as he pulled against the restraints. “They....They were scared-!” 

“They were vicious, Xisuma.” The doppelganger sneered. “And I bet they can’t wait for this message to flash across their communicators.” He began to type something into the command block.

/ban Grian

Something sparked in Mumbo. Pure rage and panic as he saw the letters flash on the command block’s interface. He suddenly shot forward, a scream tearing from his lips as he tackled the doppelganger, just as the invisibility potion ran out. The two crashed to the ground and Mumbo felt the man squirm beneath him.

“You?!” The doppelganger shouted angrily, kicking Mumbo off of him. “How the hell did you get in here!?” Mumbo wheezed as pain blossomed in his chest and he fell over. The wind had been completely knocked out of him, but he didn’t care. He had to save Xisuma, he had to save Grian!

“Cub, Mumbo!” Xisuma, the real Xisuma, shouted weakly. “Y-You have to de-op him!”

“What?!” Cub cried from somewhere behind him. “How do I do that!?”

Mumbo couldn’t focus on what they were saying. He had to finish this. He swayed to his feet, glaring at the doppelganger. The man beneath the mask returned the harsh glare before charging at Mumbo, a hand colliding with the side of his face. Mumbo stumbled back, his jaw shooting with agony and the taste of metal filling his mouth. He began to wish desperately that he had taken that self defense course Iskall offered. 

“This is pathetic! Your friend’s life is on the line, and you can’t even fight for him?!” The doppelganger cackled. 

“S-Shut up!” Mumbo cried. He could hear Xisuma’s chains rattling as he tried to break free and Cub’s frantic typing on the console interface. He needed to be strong, he had to do this! He tried to stand up straight, but another blow to the face made him fall back.

“You’re not even trying are you?” The doppelganger snarled. “Is it because you know you’ve already lost?”

“I-I haven’t lost yet…” Mumbo tried to snap back, but a swift kick to the gut sent him crashing into the wall. He wheezed, coughing roughly as blood dribbled down his chin. Everything burned and he couldn’t see straight. He could feel the world spinning around him. He had to be low on health, and a few more hits would send him straight to a respawn point for sure. 

“Mumbo!” Cub cried, his hands leaving the interface to unsheathe his sword. He snarled at the doppelganger. “Fine, you wanna fight?! Let’s fight!”

Ex cackled with cruel laughter. “Take your best shot, Cub.”

“C-Cub! No, y-you can’t-!” Xisuma cried, his voice hoarse and weak as he pulled against the chains. 

Mumbo tried to keep his head up and his eyes opened, but everytime he did he was hit with a wave of nausea. No, they couldn’t lose, they had to rescue Grian! He tried to force himself up, but the void air combined with the constant swirling vision made him quickly regret that idea. He could hear Cub fighting, that screech of diamond against diamond was hard to overlook even in his sorry state. His vision was fading, he could feel his consciousness slipping away. 

There was a sharp crash and a cry, before a message rang out from their communicators. 

Cubfan135 was slain by EvilXisuma

Xisuma felt his entire world stop. His breath caught in his throat. Inside, the rational part of his mind told him Cub was fine. It wasn't permanent. This wasn't hardcore. This wasn't a ban, like Grian was in danger of right now. But the other side of his brain, the irrational, terrified part of his brain, was screaming and it wouldn't shut up. Cub was his friend. One of his oldest, dearest friends. Mumbo was too. To see him bloody and bruised, to see Cub's items floating on the ground…

He couldn't take it. He couldn't fucking take it. Not after weeks chained up, energy sapped away from him, used as a weapon towards his dearest friends— he couldn't take it. He wouldn't take it. Adrenaline shot through his body and he felt fury as he gritted his teeth. A gurgling scream fell past his lips, and he realized it was because he had just broken his thumb. With his thumb broken, he could pull his hand free from the shackle. He reached over and grabbed the other shackle, ignoring the pain that kept jolting through his hand. It was nothing compared to the shit that asshole had put him through. With that thought in mind, he broke the chain connected to the shackle easily, with one loud snap.

Ex turned to the furious deity behind him and sneered. “Well, look who's joined us." He chuckled. Xisuma roared and charged at him, slamming his good arm against his throat.

His counterpart wheezed and cackled. "I-I win, Xisuma." He coughed out. "Hatred and fear.." he coughed again. "Even you." Xisuma stiffened before his face paled. He dropped him like he had been stung.

"No, you're wrong!" He cried, stepping back. God, but he wasn't? The hermits had completely betrayed Grian, and here he was, breaking his code of pacifism.

"It's just a shame you're too easily distracted." Ex snarled, gaining back Xisuma's attention. He slammed his hand onto the Command block, and yet another message flashed onto the screen.

Grian has left the game 

"NO!" Xisuma roared as Ex' laughter filled the room. His power swelled within him before a charge of green magic shot out from his hands and straight into Ex's core. His laughter doubled in volume before it suddenly stopped and was replaced with a flash as items scattered across the ground.

EvilXisuma has been slain by Xisuma

Xisuma panted as he fell to his knees. He looked at Mumbo's body on the wall and sighed. 

God, what has he done?

Chapter Text

When Mumbo opened his eyes, he didn’t recognize the room he was in. Had he respawned? The dull echoes of pain in his cheek said otherwise. He sat up, groaning to himself. Nope, he had definitely not respawned. His sore body and headache helped him come to that realization.

What happened? Where was Xisuma? And Cub?! Mumbo began to sit up, his heart beginning to race. He heard a door click open and turned his head to face...Xisuma. The admin was without his helmet, soft and tired emerald eyes gazing at him.

"I wouldn't do that. You might have a concussion." He said, and immediately Mumbo was reminded of the admin he had always known. Not the one spitting threats and venom or hurting Grian.

"Xisuma? What-? What happened!?" Mumbo cried, despite his head throbbing in protest. His thoughts were spinning, and too many questions needed answers. "Where's Cub?! Where's Grian-?! Who was that?!"

Xisuma held up his hands defensively. "Mumbo, easy, easy." He said gently, going to the side of the bed and gently pushing him back down.

No, this wasn't the man Mumbo had tackled. The softness in his voice and gentleness of his touch proved that. But why did he look so much like him?

"I…" Xisuma sighed, pulling over a chair. "I know you have a lot of questions. All of you do and I promise, I will get to that. But we have a more important matter to discuss."

"Grian?" A sad nod was offered in return. Mumbo cringed slightly. "I-Is he okay?"

"Physically? Yes. A ban is painless. He has simply been placed into a smaller world, single-player if you will." Xisuma explained. "It's either a new world, or one he's left behind."

"But he's okay?" Mumbo asked.

"Yes." Xisuma replied. "But we have to get him back."

Mumbo nodded, but a dark thought entered his mind. "...Xisuma, what if he doesn't want to come back?" He whispered. The admin thought for a minute, guilt and various other emotions flashing across his uncovered eyes.

"...Then we respect his decision. We can't force him. But we need to at least remove the ban." Xisuma finally sighed. "So he'll be able to find another family if he wants."

Families don't ban eachother. The thought whirled in Mumbo's head, but he bit down on his lip to push it away. "How do we find him?"

"Doc and Scar have already worked it out. Apparently, the infinity portal is perfect for this type of thing." Xisuma mused, staring at the door. "Mumbo, when you're well, I think you should be the one to go after him."

Mumbo looked up, surprise going across his face. "Me?"

"You're his best friend, Mumbo. You brought him here, I know you can bring him back." Xisuma replied.

Mumbo was reminded of how much he missed the real Xisuma. The leader who was calm and gentle in any situation, never failing to come up with a solution or answer.. Mumbo shook his head.

"But… I gave up on him. Surely he hates me now?" Mumbo muttered.

"It's not in Grian's nature to truly hate." The admin smiled gently. "He's hurt and angry, sure, but he has every reason to be, Mumbo."

Mumbo didn't reply. In all honesty, he wanted nothing more than to sprint to Grian and beg for his forgiveness. He wanted to see him safe and sound. He wanted to hug him, make him smile and laugh for the first time in weeks, but he knew that he couldn't. He let Grian down, and no matter how much Mumbo wanted those things, he knew he didn't deserve them. Not yet, at least.

Xisuma placed a gentle, yet firm hand on his shoulder and once again Mumbo was reminded that the admin of yesterday was not the man before him.

"Mumbo. Grian is your best friend. If anyone can bring him back, it's going to be you." Xisuma reassured him. There was a tenderness in his voice that Mumbo surely missed. He looked down at his hands. Grian might hate him now but Mumbo couldn't just leave him there to rot because he was scared to face him. Grian had been through too much, they couldn't afford Mumbo's selfishness.

"Okay. I'll go." Mumbo replied, trying to get out of the soft white bed. He was quickly pushed back down.

"When you're well, Mumbo." Xisuma replied sternly. Mumbo huffed angrily, but nodded. Xisuma was right, this throbbing headache wouldn't help him navigate whatever hellscape Grian had been banned to.

Xisuma stood. "I'm going to let the others know you're okay. They have a lot of questions that I can't answer right now, but 'Is Mumbo Okay' is one I'm more than happy to lay to rest." He chuckled.

"Wait." Xisuma turned to face the mustached hermit. "Who...who is Evil Xisuma?" Mumbo asked.

Xisuma looked like he was searching for an answer or maybe debating telling Mumbo, but he sighed and sat back down. "Very well. You deserve the truth, Mumbo." He took a deep breath and began.

"When I became an admin, I...I didn't know how to be a leader. Not a proper one. I had the power, and I could fix things, but I didn't know how to care for the people I was gifted. They wanted a friend, not a god. I couldn't provide. I was incredibly new to emotions, and the idea of sharing those emotions with them was terrifying. I began to take notes on the hermit's interactions. If I could figure out what they liked most, I could become the leader they needed. Anger, hatred, and cruelty was their least favorite type of emotion. Anything that spawned from it always required an apology or another argument. So, I opted to rid myself of these emotions."

Mumbo looked bewildered. "Wait, stop. You can't just get rid of your anger, it's a part of you. It's not something you can control with an on-off switch!" He interrupted.

Xisuma smiled tiredly. "I wish you could've told me that in the beginning." The admin looked out the window with a somber look in his eyes. "I was a young star, I didn't know that becoming a leader was more than restraining emotions."

Mumbo gripped the covers between his fingers. "What happened?"

"Using void magic, I tried to force the anger and rage from my mortal form. It worked, but not in a way I had expected. I ended up splitting myself in two, and my clone was…" Xisuma grimaced. "Vengeful, to say the least. He hated the hermits, and vowed that he could and would destroy them. I tried to make him see reason but there was nothing I could say. He vowed to me that one day, he would turn my family into something horrible, that anyone could become just like him."

Xisuma's gaze had hardened as he finished. "I guess he was right. With enough pushing and prodding, my hermits were ready to devour their newest member."

"Xisuma, stop." Mumbo demanded. "That doesn't make him right. The hermits were scared, sure, but Cub came around! And I know they didn't want to ban Grian, but they thought there was no other option." Xisuma looked ready to protest but Mumbo wasn't finished. "Fear makes people do crazy things, like try and destroy their anger?"

Xisuma opened his mouth but closed it as he began chuckling. "I uh, I suppose it does."

Mumbo sat up. "I know the hermits want him back, I know they'll feel horrible when they realized what happened. Ex is wrong, Xisuma."

The admin pondered this before smiling. "Thank you, Mumbo. That certainly makes me feel a bit better about this awful affair. But what will make me feel much better is knowing that Grian is okay." He sighed.

"You and me both." Mumbo muttered, laying back.

"Rest up, Mumbo. The faster you heal, the faster we get him back." Xisuma smiled before disappearing out of the room, and leaving Mumbo to rest with his thoughts.

 

His recovery was quick. Maybe a day's worth of sleep and a few regeneration potions was all he needed to be back on his feet and ready to tackle the daunting infinity portal. The Hermits were crowded around the entrance to Area 77, muttering with anxiety and worry. Doc had been through it several times for fun, but now? Now it was a rescue mission.

Xisuma stood on the little stage, overlooking his worried hermits and watching Doc tinker with the diamond portal. "How much longer?" He asked.

"Few minutes." Doc replied, rummaging through the toolbox Scar was holding. Xisuma nodded and Mumbo felt his chest tighten. He was getting more and more nervous.

"Are you ready, Mumbo?" The admin asked gently.

"Ready as I'll ever be." Mumbo replied, a nervous grin splitting across his face.

Iskall gently pat his back. "You'll be fine, man. If anyone can get him back, it's you."

The mustached man smiled in reply, but he wasn't sure anyone believed it. He certainly didn't believe himself. Worry and nerves crawled up his spine and clamped around his throat like a vice. They had no idea what he’d uncover in here, and a part of him really didn’t want to find out. However, Grian needed him right now, and he refused to let him down for a second time.

“Can uh, can we review the plan one more time?” Mumbo called to Xisuma. The admin nodded as he turned away from Doc and Scar so he could face his fellow hermits.

“Alright everyone, I need everybody to listen.” He started, the anxious babbling growing silent. “Mumbo, you’re going through the portal with this-”
The group marveled at the bright orange box Xisuma had pulled from his inventory. Mumbo immediately recognized it and winced. A command block, or perhaps a smaller version of it layed in Xisuma’s palm.

“This has the coding that will lift the ban and get you and anyone who touches it home.” Xisuma explained. “However, it’s a one time use. Once you power it, it’ll teleport back to the server. If you aren’t with it, you’ll be stranded. Do you understand?” The admin finished, his voice stern and serious. Mumbo nodded as the fragile thing was placed in his hand.

“What if something does happen?” Mumbo asked tentatively.

“We’ll try to send someone after you after a week. But you need to stay alive until then.” Scar replied.

“Wait, why?” Ren, who was standing in the crowd, asked quickly.

“Grian has been banned to a single-player world. Only he is allowed to enter. Mumbo is a paradox to the world because he doesn’t belong. If he dies, there’s a chance that there’s no coding to respawn him and he’ll be lost to the void forever.” The admin sighed.

“Wait, what?!” Mumbo cried. “You didn’t tell me that!”

“I was worried it would deter you.” Xisuma admitted. “You’re the only one Grian would trust, Mumbo. It has to be you. Besides, the chances of it happening are low, and I don’t think there’s anything seriously dangerous in that world. Grian couldn’t have gone far, and the mob spawn will be pretty low.”

Mumbo felt his confidence drop. Oh god, he wasn’t a fighter! He only got far on the Demise Games by accident! Before he could let his growing nerves get the better of him, a firm and rested on his shoulder. He turned to face Cub, who stood behind him with a solemn look.

He stared Mumbo in the eyes with a blazing determination. “Let me come with you.” He said simply.

“You?!” Tango shouted from the crowd. Impulse, who stood beside him, shot him a glare. “This would’ve never happened if you hadn’t blamed him in the first place!” A few hermits shouted in agreement.

“Tango, we’re all guilty.” Impulse snapped. “Barely any of us tried to argue about it! Besides, we… We all just watched Evil Ex throw Grian to the ground. Hell, Cleo punched Grian without even thinking!”

“Hey, I-I thought he destroyed my base! You would’ve acted the same!” Cleo snarled back. The crowd began erupting into fighting. Blame and accusations being tossed around like a hot potato.

“ENOUGH!” Xisuma snarled, the crowd going silent. “We’re all guilty! We all did something to cause this! Indifference, anger, and fear are the reasons Grian is behind that portal and not here with us! With his family!” He shouted. The crowd was silent, each hermit trying to stare into the ground and avoid eye contact. Xisuma was right, and no amount of bickering would change that.

Mumbo stepped forward. “The least we can do is bring him back. But can’t do that if all we’re doing is fighting. I, for one, have had quite enough arguing.” He turned to face Cub. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Cub nodded. “Whether I caused it or not, I made it worse. All I had to do was swallow my pride, but I built an entire goddamned courtroom. I have to do this.”

Mumbo nodded in understanding. “I could use the hand.” He smiled.

“Wait, let us come with you.” Iskall replied. “Maybe we can-!”

“No!” Doc shouted quickly. “The portal is incredibly sensitive, it can only handle so many people! Even two is pushing it!” Iskall deflated, but nodded in understanding.

Xisuma looked out amongst the hermits. “While they venture out, our job is to find Ex so this never happens again. I need all hands on deck for this one. I’ll give everyone an assignment soon, but for now, we need to send off our rescuers.” He smiled at the duo behind him.

Mumbo and Cub faced the infinity portal with a sense of determination and a slight twinge of fear. Mumbo looked at Cub. “Are you ready?” He asked hesitantly. Cub nodded without a word. It was time to venture into the unknown and pull Grian back out of it. They could do this—they had to. So with a deep breath and clenched fists, Mumbo forced himself to step through the portal. The purple film enveloped him as the world went to a stark white before fading into black.

When he woke, he was laying on top of a gravel path. He recognized Grian’s build style immediately. The varying brown and grey blocks weren’t hard to pick up on. Had Grian already gotten over them? He pushed the thought out of his head and looked around, squinting at the bright sun. The world was quiet here, the faint birdsong riding on the wind as it rustled through the trees. A deep grunt sounded bside him and he turned to face a waking Cub.

“Remind me to never do that again.” He grunted. “That portal certainly packs a punch, doesn’t it?” Mumbo smiled, but it was short lived as he stood and faced the path. A deep forest had been cut through to form the road, and what lied on the other end deeply disturbed him.

“Uh, Cub?” He called hesitantly. Cub turned to face him and his jaw dropped at the sight just beyond the treeline.

Miles and miles of nothing but houses that were very rustic in nature lined the world just beyond the treeline. Each one was identical in style it seemed, and the only ones that weren’t were too far away to make out. Some spiraled into the sky, similar to Grian’s house on Sahara Street. Others were small and flat in nature. But what really took the cake was the large and distinguished rustic...castle that sat dead center of it all.

“Looks like Grian has been busy.” Cub muttered quietly, a mixture of shock and awe painting each syllable. Mumbo nodded in a sort of quiet horror. Cub sighed and stood, offering a hand to Mumbo.

There was a strange warble sound behind them and the duo turned to face…

“Grian?!”