It's also no secret that Polyis had a habit of getting fresh with any woman he laid eyes on. At one point, he got himself sucked into an affair with Anais, the wife of Geddon, god of destruction. She eventually became pregnant with Polyis' child, and when Geddon found out who the father was... well, let's just say the Big Ol' Ocean wasn't always that big and leave it at that.
When the child was born, Anais named him Pandemonium. Though she intended to raise him with her husband, Geddon cursed the boy and cast him into the wild, never to be seen again. His actions caused a dispute between he and his fellow gods; the war that followed caused mass destruction around the World. It is because of this event that the name "Pandemonium" evolved into the word synonymous with chaos and turmoil.
Eventually, the World's inhabitants started to realize that the things they worshiped weren't gods, just superpowered freaks from another world. Once it was clear that they were no longer needed, the not-gods were all like, "Screw you guys! We're going home!" and left the little people to take care of their own dang selves.
Though the stories of these beings remain common knowledge, particularly amongst magic-wielders, very little is known about what happened to Pandemonium after he was cast out. Some believe he simply died with no one to take care of him. However, most believe that through use of the powers he inherited from his father Polyis, Pandemonium's life energy became one with all the World's flora, and that a time will come when he sends a signal to his mother, Anais, not-goddess of destruction, to come and reclaim him.
...Or maybe that's bullcrap. Who the heck knows?
It was a beautiful red-leaf day. The sun was just starting to climb above the treetops, the air was crisp and cool, and the birds were singing... or at least they were until they got into an argument over whether they should sing "Piano Man" or "Bohemian Rhapsody."
A nearby field mouse rolled its eyes at the birds' petty dispute and continued scurrying along the dirt path that ran through the forest. Out here, the noise pollution generated by society was far enough away that it could be ignored. And with no annoying two-legged creatures around and no chance of a bird of prey being out at this time of day, the mouse could easily walk around without fear.
That was the last thing it thought before the silver-blue chaos owl silently swooped down and trapped the mouse between its talons. This action was quickly followed with the mouse being scooped up into the owl's beak and promptly swallowed whole. With a smug, almost human grin, and content with its lunch, the owl lifted itself off the ground and flew back the way it came.
The gentle sounds of nature were penetrated by the repetitive clunks and squeaks of the metal and wood cart being towed along the dirt path. The man pulling it looked no more than nineteen. He wore a green and yellow tunic, brown pants, brown boots and a gold chain necklace. His auburn-brown hair was just long enough to be tied in a ponytail, and his sea green eyes were narrow with strain. He was hot, sweaty and tired, but still Riordan pressed on, lugging his full cart all the while.
The chaos owl returned to him and landed on the edge of the cart. When it looked up and noticed how disheveled its master was, the owl lifted itself back up and started flying in circles to match his pace.
Riordan chuckled. "No, no, Eris, it's fine. You can rest. You don't add that much weight anyway."
Eris let out an indifferent coo and perched between the cart's handles.
As he continued on, Riordan tried to ignore the fact that his arms felt like they would fall off at any minute and his tunic was sticking to his sweaty back. The signs they had passed minutes ago said that the city limits were only four miles away, which had given him all the more reason to go on. But even with his destination oh so close, Riordan couldn't help but yearn for an unscheduled stop.
He opened his mouth and panted. "When that farmer offered us... (pant)... a reward for getting rid of... (pant)... the ghosts in his barn... (pant)... I probably should've capitalized on that. What I wouldn't give... (pant)... for a pack mule."
With a mile down and three more to go, Riordan added a growling stomach to his growing list of physical drawbacks and finally gave in to his screaming body's demands. He let go of the cart, letting it slump back and startle Eris out of her nap. Now that the weight was off of his arms, he lost his balance and fell back against the cart. Eris purred and nuzzled his head in an attempt at comfort.
"Thanks, Eris," Riordan sighed. "Just need a quick break. You... think you could fetch me some food?"
Eris chirped in confirmation and retreated into the cart. There she fished through her master's various belongings until she found the food. She grabbed a roll of bread and a fresh red fruit and brought them back to him.
"Thank you." He weakly reached up and accepted the food, sinking his teeth into the red fruit. Eris reached into the cart again, this time returning with the water basin. "Oh, good thinking." Riordan took this too and quickly drank a hefty amount, glad that he still had enough water to last him until he reached the city.
As Eris settled next to his head, Riordan smiled at the road before them. "You know, I feel kinda sorry for the people who live around here. Think about it: Just a little ways west of here, there are hundreds of people driving along an artificial path, making the trip we took nearly a day to walk in minutes. They're blowing all this off for the sake of convenience."
He looked around at the forest surrounding them. "I wonder just how many people miss out on this kind of beauty by isolating themselves in their concrete jungle."
Eris huffed and rolled her bizarrely human-like eyes, expressing her disdain towards these modern-age city dwellers. It was pretty clear that ever since the duo had entered Unity, Eris had found the atmosphere stifling. It wasn't like the clean, quiet environment back home.
What was also clear was that Eris didn't understand her master's motivation to come to Unity in the first place. She craned her neck and stared questioningly at him.
"Look, I know you don't like it here," Riordan said. "We're not staying long. We're just gonna deal with any business opportunities we find and move on. Maybe after that, we can head back home." His gaze fell to the ground. "Well... not home, but at least back to Olde."
While he was talking, Eris swiveled her head around and stared into the forest, believing she had heard something. Riordan might not have heard it, but he could see that something was distracting her. "What, you see something?"
Eris tilted her head and chirped.
"Go ahead. Check it out if you want."
She took up that offer and flew back into the woods to investigate.
Once he was alone, Riordan finished his lunch and tossed the core of his red fruit into his cart's wastebasket. He then stood up and stretched, loosening his tense muscles. His limber-up routine quickly turned ridiculous, throwing in squat thrusts, rotations, lunges and anything else to make those home workout videos look subtle. He ended on a hamstring stretch, propping his legs up on the cart one at a time.
"Alright..." He took a deep breath and prepared to start walking again.
The moment he turned around, he found himself staring into a pair of upside-down amber eyes.
Riordan toppled backwards, landing ungracefully in his cart. As the initial shock faded, he looked up to find the eyes' owner:
It appeared to be some kind of anthro, though what kind and even what gender, Riordan had no idea. It had brown hair, grey-brown fur, claws and a distinctly canine head, but with a long tail and whiskers. It wore a red and black shirt, baggy jeans, a black belt, black converses and black wristbands with short spikes. It was dangling upside-down from an overhanging tree branch and giving him a wide, almost creepy smile accompanied by a fang jutting out from the bottom of its mouth.
"You lugging that thing all by yourself?" the anthro asked, its voice clearly female. "Talk about a time waster. Two words: minivan."
Riordan stood up, rubbing the sore spot where his back hit the edge of the cart. "That's technically one word."
"Oh, screw you, man! I've had enough Grammar Nazis in my life, if you don't mind!"
"Well, sorry. Now, if you would excuse me..."
The anthro jumped down from the tree. In the brief moment that she was facing away from him, Riordan could see that she had tiny, brown, bird-like wings protruding from her back.
"You going to Metropolis?" the anthro asked.
"Maybe I am."
"And you're going like that? You are aware that you'll stick out like a sore thumb."
"That was kind of my intention." Riordan moved around her and continued along the path.
"What was your intention?" the anthro asked as she walked along beside him. "To make yourself an easy target for muggers?"
"Trust me. No one's gonna be taking anything from me."
She raised a skeptical eyebrow. "...Really?"
"Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight... And why not, exactly?"
"What, is the robe not a dead giveaway?!"
The anthro scanned him from top to bottom several times before it finally sunk in. "You from the country of Olde?"
"Yes, I am..." Riordan grumbled, trying to calm himself down.
"Huh. Never met a wizard before."
"I'm a mage, actually."
"No, it's not the same thing. A mage is the most basic magic practitioner. I have to work my way up the ranks to earn the title of wizard."
Riordan scowled. "Look, we're clearly bothering each other, so if you don't mind, I have to get to the city."
"Fine, whatever." The anthro waved her hand and started walking the other way.
Relieved that she was gone, Riordan let out a deep breath, stopped momentarily and whistled for Eris. Less than a minute later, she flew out of the forest and landed on his shoulder.
"It was nothing," he told the owl. "Just some anthro girl."
Eris chirped and nodded as Riordan continued forward with the cart in tow.
A few seconds into his walk, he noticed that the cart seemed... heavier.
"Whoa, you have purple fruit!"
Riordan went rigid briefly before whirling around to find the anthro girl sitting in his cart and rummaging through his stuff. "I haven't had one of these in forever!"
"Hey, get outta there!"
The anthro looked up at him with a confused expression and a mouthful of purple fruit. "Cool your redhead, dude. We're both heading in the same direction anyway."
Riordan took on a rather hostile look and gripped his fist, sparks of light blue energy pulsating between his fingers. Ultimately, though, he dropped it, his expression downgrading to mere frustration. "Fine. But I'm not carrying you!"
With a shrug, the anthro jumped out and the two started walking again. "Nice owl."
Eris scowled and turned away from her.
"So, what's your name?"
Riordan sighed. "Do we really need to get on a first name basis with each other? The way I travel, we probably won't be meeting again."
"Hey, I travel too." She took a bite of fruit and added, "Besides, it might make this trip easier."
"Fine, whatever. My name is Riordan Lucilius Darwin VonFelden, graduate of the Magias College for Mages and citizen of Magias, capital of Olde."
"Whoa, whoa, slow down!" the anthro cut in. "I don't need the whole spiel. Now just tell me your name again."
Riordan growled lowly. "Riordan Lucilius Darwin-"
"Yeah, great. I'm just gonna call you Rio."
He did a double take and stared flabbergasted at the anthro. "R-Rio...?"
"Why not? It's short and catchy."
"But it's not my name!"
"It's called a nickname, Rio. What, don't they have those in Olde?"
Rio (yeah, I'm gonna call him that too) facepalmed and quickened his pace. The sooner he got away from this girl, the better. He spoke with a seething voice between his teeth. "Alright. So what's your name?"
The anthro took another bite of fruit before plainly answering, "Cat."
An awkward pause fell as if Rio was expecting something more. When it didn't come, he mumbled, "Cat?"
"That's it? Just 'Cat'?"
"That's my name."
"Well... okay. But is it, like, short for something?"
"Of course it is! What moron would name a coyote-weasel-robin anthro 'Cat'?!"
Rio blinked a few times. So that's what she was? A cross between a coyote, weasel and robin? Interesting mix... Her name definitely added to the surrealness of the girl walking alongside him.
"Alright... Cat. What do you say we agree not to talk to each other during the duration of this trip?"
Cat glared at him. "Well, geez. A simple 'sod off' would've sufficed."
"I'm not asking you to leave. I'd just... appreciate it if you tried not to get on my nerves."
"Are you trying to be polite? 'Cause you're really sucking at it."
"Okay, nevermind!" Rio shouted before going silent.
Cat shrugged and went quiet with him. For a while, their trip was devoid of any conversation, but it quickly got to the point where the silence wore on Cat's nerves.
"And now I'm bored," she mumbled. "So tell me, what are you going to Metropolis for?"
Rio couldn't get too mad at her. It was a simple question. "I travel around and use my magic to help those in need. I'm hoping to find some jobs in the city."
"Good luck with that, pal," Cat chuckled, tossing the remains of her purple fruit into the woods. "City people need magic about as much as they need a tornado."
"You'd be surprised. In this day and age, a lot of people out there could use a miracle."
"Meh." Cat shrugged at that. "So what can you do with magic?"
"Plenty," Rio replied. "I could summon creatures from another plane, predict the future, create duplicate images..."
"Could you turn everyone in Central into chickens?"
"And like that, you've lost me."
Rio gritted his teeth. "So what exactly do you intend to do once you get there?"
"Eh..." Cat stared off into space and pondered. "Probably round up some spare parts for new inventions, spread some chaos, maybe even storm the capital building..."
"No reason. Just this master plan I'm still working on."
"Master plan..." Rio repeated under his breath. "What, you plan to overthrow the government?"
"You're gonna seize the Capital and take over the World, huh?"
"Please," Cat scoffed. "Taking over the world is so trivial. I plan to establish anarchy!"
Rio simply nodded. "Well, good luck with that."
Cat ignored his sarcasm and returned to her thoughts. A minute or so later, a bright smile lit up on her face. "Hey!"
"You wanna join me?!"
"Come on, think about it!" Cat wrapped an arm around Rio, forcing Eris to fly off of his shoulder, and swept her other arm across the landscape. "With my genius mind and your magic, we could bring about a new social order! A World where the higher-ups are eliminated and everyone is on the same level! No rules, no tyranny! Everyone will be their own man!"
"And the World will become a raging cesspool of chaos and disorder," Rio added flatly.
"I know!" Cat grabbed Rio's face and looked him in the eyes. "Wouldn't it be awesome?!"
Rio didn't respond. He simply stared right back at Cat with a deadpan expression before pulling her paws off of his face and wordlessly continuing on his way.
"Hey!" Cat followed him in a huff. "You could at least give me a yes or no!"
"I already said no."
"And why not? Are you a government sympathizer too?"
"I have nothing against the government," Rio answered. "They might not always make perfect choices, but they do their job of maintaining control."
"Control?!" Cat repeated. "See, that's the problem! Either they're so careless in keeping peace that they might as well be obsolete, or they're so demanding that their citizens become mindless slaves! I'm sick of it, I tell ya!"
"Well, I can tell you right now that you're not gonna get any help from me in that department!"
Cat scowled and stuck her paws in her pockets. "Someday... Someday you'll be sorry."
"I already am," Rio growled under his breath.
After another brief pause, Cat looked back at him out of the corner of her eye. "Well, at the very least, do you think you could teach me some spells?"
"Magic isn't just something you can learn!" Rio snapped. "You have to be born with it!"
"Sheesh, that's lame."
"Trust me, it's anything but lame. If you saw the full extent of my powers, you'd wish you'd never been born."
"Pfft." Cat turned to him and started tugging on Rio's tunic. "Does your country's government dictate that you have to dress like a gender-confused elf?"
"No, it's just a personal pref- Stop that!" Rio pulled away. "This is an authentic Magias mage robe! It's a privilege to wear it!"
"Well, it makes you look very pretty," Cat teased, twirling Rio's ponytail.
Rio snarled lowly. If this girl didn't shut up inside of two seconds...
"The necklace is a nice touch," Cat said, tracing her claw along his golden chain necklace.
"Don't... touch... that."
"I'll tell you, though," she added, tugging at the chain, "it's not enough to make you look like a normal person."
And there went the camel's back.
With a loud, angry shout, Rio faced Cat and threw his hand up. Immediately, a burst of bright green light burst from his palm and sent Cat flying back into the forest. She stopped inches from the ground, hovering in the open air. The green light was replaced with a blue one, and at the same time, an ethereal cage of the same color started to form around Cat. Once it was formed, she was dropped to the floor and Rio lowered his hand.
Cat sat up and rubbed her back. "Geez! What the heck was that f-?!"
But one look at Rio's enraged face shut her up. "JUST SHUT UP! I don't care about your stupid vendettas against the government! I don't care who you are, where you've been, or what the heck you do! I don't have to put up with this! So just sod off, shut up, and LEAVE ME ALONE!!"
With that, Rio turned around, grabbed his cart handles and continued on his way. "That spell should wear off within the next hour."
Cat grabbed the bars of her magical prison and glared at his back. "Oh, come on! Rio!"
"My name is not Rio!!"
As Rio and his cart disappeared into the forest, the last thing Cat saw was Eris perching herself on the back of the cart and sticking her tongue out at the trapped anthro. Then, when they were out of sight, Cat got to work.
She took a moment to assess her situation, finding that the cage had no lock and the bars looked paper thin. Then she reached into her pocket and pulled out a strange-looking device that seemed to be made from parts of a car jack and a mixer; how that thing fit in her pocket in the first place is beyond this author's comprehension.
She placed the device between two of the bars and started cranking, causing the jack parts to fan out and push against the bars. The pressure built up until the bars were finally bent out of place, and once they were, the magical energy that held them together faltered and started to disappear. Little by little, the bars dissolved into blue sparkles, shortly followed by the cage itself until there was nothing left but Cat.
"Nice," she chuckled deviously, putting her invention away and casting a sinister smirk at where her newfound target had vanished.
"Look out, Rio. Cat's a-comin' for some payback."
However, just as she was starting to follow him, something else caught her attention: an odd flower poking out of the ground by her feet. It had a single leaf on its stem, multiple red petals, and a yellow center with a :3 face. For the longest time, Cat just stared at it. Then she went "Aaaaawww!" and picked it, exchanging a cheery smile with it before sticking it behind her ear.
"Okay, now she's a-comin' for her payback."
And so the coyote-weasel-robin anthro charged towards the city, ready to kick the ever-loving crap out of that mage.
At last, civilization. Rio beamed as he entered the outer limits of Metropolis, strolling through the parks and suburbs that filled it. He ignored the odd looks that people gave him -as he had expected them to be confused by his Olde heritage- and simply smiled and nodded to them. Eris flew above him, taking in the scenery; she might not have had the starry eyes that her master did, but she was fascinated by her surroundings nonetheless.
After another few hours of traveling, they finally reached the edge of the city. Rio stared up at the numerous towers, mesmerized by their size and the light that reflected off their metal and glass structures. They were both amazing and terrifying compared to the stone buildings back home. All around them, cars raced down the concrete roads and highways. Throngs of people walked along the sidewalks, talking on their cell phones or walking their pets.
Rio continued on his way; not even the occasional complaint about his cart taking up most of the sidewalk could alter his mood. "It definitely is a sight, huh, Eris?"
Eris tilted her head and practically shrugged her wings. It might have been a sight, but what kind, she didn't know.
"So... where should we set up? I could just sleep in the cart, so it'll have to be somewhere we can make ourselves known and be protected from the elements."
Eris chirped and elevated herself, flying high enough to thoroughly scan the surrounding areas.
However, in her flight, she noticed something... peculiar. The person she observed didn't hold any familiarity to her, and their face was hard to see through the crowd anyway, but they had something on their head that just rubbed Eris the wrong way. It looked like a flower, and a very strange one at that.
Could it be...?
Alarmed, she flew back down and landed on Rio's shoulder. "Find something?"
Eris shook her head, eyes wide with panic. She looked behind them, then back to Rio, gesturing to someone in the crowd with her wing. She fluffed up her feathers and frantically flapped her wings, then went still and smiled in a discomforting way before finally jumping, throwing her wings up, making a loud shriek and finally hanging limply on her master's arm.
Rio just stared at her, dumbfounded by her display. "O... kay... I have no idea what you're trying to tell me, but I've gotta sit down for a while. My arms are killing me."
He pulled off of the sidewalk, left his cart in an alley and sat down on a nearby bench. Eris perched next to him, still looking shaken, and cautiously scanned the crowd that passed them by. Rio watched her for a while and calmly tried to find what she was looking for, but he eventually let it go with a sigh.
"You know, I've been thinking about what Cat said. What if no one here needs any magical services? Do we just move on or do we go back to Olde?" When he didn't receive a response, he sunk lower onto the bench and sighed again. "No... No, I can't think like that. There's gotta be something I can do here."
At that moment, Rio heard his cart creak. He spun around, expecting to find someone trying to steal something from it, but instead found an angry anthro girl lunging at him.
With no time to react, Rio was tackled, landing hard on the sidewalk with his arms pinned to the ground. Cat sneered at him, her lips curled into a crazed grin. "Darn, you turned around. I was hoping to get you from behind and shout 'SURPRISE BUTTSECKS!'"
Cat then screamed when Eris suddenly attacked her, swatting at her head with her wings and talons. Once his arms were free, Rio lifted his hands, both glowing with green energy, and stirred up a powerful gust of wind that effectively knocked Cat off of him.
He got to his feet and shouted, "What the heck are you doing?!"
"Getting my revenge for trapping me in that cage!" Cat responded, leaping to her feet as well. By now, a crowd was starting to gather around the duo.
"I only did that because you were ticking me off!"
"Yeah, and now you've ticked me off! And since you got to show off and I didn't, I think it's only fair that I even the score!"
Rio took a deep breath and spoke in a much calmer voice, "Cat, I don't want to cause any unnecessary bloodshed, so why don't you just drop it before you or anyone else gets hurt?"
"Oh, how cute," Cat mocked. "You don't think I stand a chance."
"In case you've forgotten, I have freaking magic. And just what do you have that can stand up to that?"
In response, Cat reached into her pocket and pulled out something that did its part to intimidate Rio. On one end was a metal pole that acted as a handle. On the other was what appeared to be an entire car compressed and rolled up into an oversized cylinder.
"What the-?!" Rio choked. "How'd you fit that thing in your pocket?!"
"Screw you, that's how."
In one mighty swing, Cat used her hammer to send Rio flying over the street and into the nearest building. He wound up lodged within the metal, painfully sprawled out four stories above the ground.
"Well, I'm about satisfied," Cat breathed, letting her hammer slump and leaning on the handle.
Rio hadn't heard her remark. He was too busy dealing with his own problems. Purple light spread out over his body, healing whatever injuries he had acquired from that attack. Once it faded and he was whole again, he mumbled "Okay" to himself, mentally accepting this battle. His dignity had been challenged, and no way was he going to let it suffer at the hands of an insane anthro.
His hands lit up with green energy, generating waves of electricity up his arms until his entire body was sparking with white hot bolts. Then, as if he himself was a lightning bolt, he shot towards Cat and struck the ground hard, causing an explosion of electricity that knocked Cat backwards and forced many people -including Eris- to back away for their own safety.
Cat landed half-sprawled over the back of the bench. When she looked up, Rio was generating pure waves of green magical energy from his body. A glowing circle of the same color, patterned with six-pointed stars and runes, rotated beneath his feet. His face was stern and challenging; fire ignited in his right hand, white light in his left.
"You've forced this upon yourself, Cat." He launched a barrage of flames at her, which Cat dodged by using her hammer to swat them away. She then used the hammer's momentum to swing around Rio's light attack and land on her feet.
"Well, this is getting fun!" Cat laughed.
"This isn't 'fun'!" Rio shouted. "This is me trying not to get my butt kicked by some annoying little coyote anthro!"
"WHATEVER!" Rio launched a fireball at her. Cat avoided it and used her hammer as a pole vault, then raised it over her head with the intention of crushing Rio with it. Rio swiftly dodged it, causing the hammer to crash and destroy a good section of the sidewalk. Cat landed on top of it and turned to Rio.
"You know, if you would just leave me alone, this would all be over!" Rio yelled. "But so long as you continue to cross me, I WILL knock you on your butt!"
Cat only laughed mirthlessly. "Yeah, see, that would be intimidating if you were, y'know, intimidating."
"Why do you keep trying to provoke me?!"
Already pretty worn out from having to lug that heavy hammer around, Cat shoved the oversized hunk of metal back in her pocket and turned away from her opponent. "Because you're making it easy for me, Rio."
"My name is not Rio! You're just mocking me, AREN'T YOU?!"
"Oh, no," Cat innocently replied. "No, no no no."
She suddenly turned around and pointed what looked like a cross between a gun and an electromagnet at Rio.
♪SHOT THROUGH THE HEART!♪
The magical energy around Rio died down as his chest was pierced by an invisible force, which seemed to be comprised of a concentrated burst of the magnetic field that surrounded them. Blood spurted from his chest, back and mouth, his eyes rolled back, and finally he collapsed onto the sidewalk, a puddle of blood starting to form beneath him.
"Well, that should wrap things up here," Cat said plainly, putting the weapon away. "Nothing personal, you know, Rio. Just self-defense."
Rio's response was a stifled gurgle as he choked on his own blood.
Cat frowned. "Aw, geez, don't look at me like that."
The "look" that Rio was giving her was nothing more than the same vacant, startled expression from the fact that he was just freaking shot, but somehow it was enough to garner Cat's sympathy.
"Great, now you're gonna go and make me feel all guilty. Listen, Rio, I'm sure if you look deep inside your heart -which is now all over the concrete- you'll find a way to forgive me."
Rio choked again, a tear running down his face.
"Alright, alright! How about I give you this? That way you'll look all pretty when you rest in peace." Cat plucked the :3 face flower from behind her ear and prepared to place it on Rio's chest...
...but as soon as the civilians around them saw it, they either screamed, ran, stared at her in horror, or all of the above.
Cat cast a confused glance at the crowd, wondering what had gotten them so worked up all of a sudden. Was the fact that she had shot Rio just now starting to sink in, or what?
Likewise, Eris was just as stunned as the crowd, if not more so, to see that not only was her master slowly dying, but her fears had been confirmed. She had no time to worry about the latter, though. While Cat was distracted by the panicking crowd, Eris grabbed some herbs from the cart and flew them over to Rio, dropping them into his wound. The herbs immediately started to draw purple magical energy from Rio's body before dissolving into his chest. Slowly but surely, his blood was drawn back into his body and his wounds started to heal themselves.
Cat didn't notice this, as she was busy with the onlookers. "What? What's everyone's problem?"
"Do you not realize what you're holding??" some random dude shakily asked.
"What, this flower?" Cat questioned. "I just thought it was cute. I mean look at it!" She held it up to the man, causing him and those around him to shudder and back away as if she was pointing her gun at them. "It's got a happy face! It's so cuuuute!"
"Careful with that!"
"Why are you all afraid of a little flower?! It's not a shark tooth; it's not gonna bite you!" She started to wave it around and point it towards everyone in the front row of the crowd, and every time she did, they yelped and retreated from it.
With a soft grunt, Rio sat up and felt his chest, relieved to find it whole again. Eris nuzzled his arm and cooed, happy to see that he was still alive. He smiled and patted her head. "Thanks, girl."
"What the...?" Cat raised an eyebrow at him. "How did you...?! Oh, right, magic." Her disappointment didn't last long. "Whatever. Do you know why these people are scared of this?"
When Rio saw the flower she was holding, he too became properly scared. "Where did you find that?!"
"Out in the woods where you left me."
"Don't you know what that is?!"
"NO! How am I supposed to know if you don't freaking tell me?!"
Just then, the flower's single leaf detached from the stem and fluttered silently to the ground.
That's when the chaos really ensued.
Everyone in the crowd screamed and ran for their lives, ducking behind buildings or simply sprinting in the hopes of getting away soon enough. Rio, still a little wobbly from his near-death experience, simply scooted away and erected a magical shield around him and Eris.
Cat stayed rooted where she was, watching as the flower in her hand started to shake and heat up. The red petals were set ablaze and the yellow center turned a glowing red. White and orange light pulsated around it. Finally, the flower's face closed its eyes and let out a childish giggle.
Following the explosion, there was nothing but silence. Rio released his shield and several citizens cautiously peeked out from behind wherever they were hiding.
Cat was still standing in the exact same spot, her survival of the event nothing short of a miracle. Her face was scrunched and covered in black soot, and her hand was still clenched as if she was holding something even though the flower had been totally obliterated. Eventually, she used her arm to wipe the soot off her face and glared down at Rio.
"You know..." she spoke, quietly at first. "Considering all of you knew this was going to happen, instead of just freaking out about it, MAYBE YOU SHOULD'VE TOLD ME!!"
Rio chuckled nervously. "Sorry..." He stood up and started to brush Cat off.
"Don't." Cat lightly pushed him away. "Just... Just don't."
"Sorry." He cleared his throat. "That... That was a Boom Flower. It contains the highest concentrated amounts of pandemonium energy of anything in the World."
"Yep. Definitely would've been nice to know ahead of time."
Cat and Rio turned to find the source of the voice. The first person to have stepped out after the explosion was a police officer, and he didn't look too happy with the duo.
"This is your fault," Cat grumbled, receiving no response from Rio.
"Well, I hope you two are happy," the officer said sternly.
"Sir..." Rio murmured. "I would first like to say that I am deeply sorry for this fight, and if there's anything I can-"
"Nevermind your petty fight!" the officer cut in. "Thanks to you, we now know that it's time to start preparing for the apocalypse!"
"Say what?" Cat squeaked.
"Yeah, here's another thing..." Rio spoke up. "The stories state that when Boom Flowers start to grow anywhere outside of the island of Hedera, it'll be a sign that the End of the World is upon us, as the ancient not-god Pandemonium will summon his parents and the resulting struggle to reclaim him will destroy all life in the World."
"You heard them!" someone shouted. "The End is nigh! We have to prepare!"
With that, the people around them left their hiding place and scattered, most of them heading home while discussing their plans to ration food or build shelters, while a small number of people just ran around and screamed like mentally unstable people. But in the midst of the ensuing fear, one voice spoke up loud enough to demand everyone's attention.
"OH, HECK NO!"
Many raised eyebrows were turned towards Cat, who stood there with her fists gripped and her face in a hard scowl. "Really, people?! Just 'cause some stupid exploding flower started showing up, you're all gonna act like it's the end of the line?!"
"Yeah, it's only a matter of time before this reaches the Capital and the General President takes matters into his own hands!"
"For the love of..." Cat shook her head in frustration. "You're saying the government is actually going to support all of us giving up hope?!"
"What choice do we have?"
"Yeah, it's the End of the World! What else can we do?"
"Well, screw that!" Cat shouted. "I don't care whether the not-gods are coming back or not! There's no way I'm gonna let the World end before I've established anarchy!"
"Oh, God..." Rio covered his face with embarrassment.
"So what do you plan to do about it, kid?" the officer mockingly asked. "Travel the World and destroy all the Boom Flowers?"
"Heck yes!" Cat answered. "I don't care what any of you sheep think! We're not dying anytime soon if we have something to say about it! This isn't the end and we're gonna prove it! Right, Rio?"
Rio went slack-jawed. "When did I get roped into this?!"
"Aw, come on, Rio." Cat grabbed his arm. "This isn't just about overthrowing the World leaders anymore. This is about proving them wrong. It's about proving that we, two little people with no purpose in their eyes, have the power to make a difference! I know that with my genius and your magic, we can show them all that we don't have to fear imminent destruction! We can face it! We can defeat it! We can kick death right in the balls! So whadya say, Rio? Let's save the World!"
Rio didn't answer her for a long time. This speech was reminding him too much of her last attempt to make him join her. Of course, last time it was about plunging the World into anarchy. This time she was rallying him to join what was actually a pretty noble cause, even if in the grand scheme of things, she still wanted to fulfill her original plans.
He had to admit, he was scared too. He didn't want to die. But unlike everyone else, he did want to do something useful rather than stand by and wait for the end. Yes, he really did want to save the World, but so long as Cat was the only other person who agreed with him, it seemed like she was the only help he would get. Besides, that display they put on moments ago proved that she had plenty of potential.
"I'm having a hard time trusting you, Cat."
"What?" Cat actually seemed genuinely hurt. "How come?"
"Well, there's the tiny little fact that you SHOT ME!"
"Oh, yeah. Sorry about that," Cat said as if she had merely knocked him over. "But that's all water under the bridge now, right? We may have our disagreements, but we're practically the same. We're two misfits who wanna do some good when no one else will! So come on..."
She held up her paw, offering a handshake. "Truce?"
Rio stared blankly at her offer, confused by how quickly things had taken a 180 turn. Moments ago, these two were at each other's throats. Now that they shared a common threat, they had a reason to unite. And as crazy as it may have sounded, Rio was slowly starting to form some strange, begrudging respect for Cat.
Anarchist or not, she wanted to save their home. That was reason enough for him to accept her handshake. "Truce."
"Alright!" Cat shook Rio's arm hard enough to make his whole body shudder. Then she let go and pointed a finger at the police officer. "Just you wait! No stupid flower is gonna spell our doom! Let's hit it, Rio!"
"My name is-! Aw, forget it. Eris!"
Eris, just as confused by this turn of events, perched herself on Rio's shoulder as he and Cat fetched the cart and headed off, leaving Metropolis's citizens to prepare for the apocalypse regardless of whether or not it would come.
As the sun started to set, Rio and Eris were guided by Cat the Metropolis landfill, where, much to Rio's dismay, Cat had set up her temporary home. She led them to a run-down, seemingly abandoned trailer shaped like a Triceratops. Lawn chairs were set up in front of it, as were several piles of scrap metal and half-finished inventions.
Cat kicked open the door and called out, "Kicking, Screaming, I'm home!"
At her call, two little fluffy things, one pink and one blue, jumped out from whatever piles of junk they were under and ran up to happily greet their owner.
"Hey, Cat! Welcome home!"
"Didja bring us anything?!"
"Well, I brought these guys." Cat jabbed a thumb towards her guests. "This is Rio and... Eris, right?"
Eris narrowed her eyes and slowly nodded. She wasn't as quick to warm up to Cat as Rio was.
"What are they doing here?" the blue little fluffy thing asked.
"Oh, they're gonna help me prevent the apocalypse."
"Sweet!" the pink little fluffy thing cheered.
Cat turned to Rio. "Guys, this is Kicking, and this is Screaming." She gestured to the pink and blue one respectively. "Be nice to them, alright?"
"Yeah, sure..." Rio answered awkwardly. With names like those, he didn't have to be told twice.
Eris frowned. She had that look of restrained hunger in her eyes, like a predator that couldn't get access to her prey.
"Well, let's rest up," Cat suggested. "Tomorrow, we shove off."
"Sounds like a plan," Rio said, placing a tarp over his cart before he and Eris joined Cat inside her Triceratops home. "So where'd you get this trailer?"
"Oh, it's not mine. I just found it and claimed it."
"ERIS, NO! BAD GIRL! SPIT HIM OUT!"
"Okay, let's promise to sleep as far away from each other as possible. Alright?"
"No argument there."
And thus began the unusual friendship between a coyote-weasel-robin anthro, a human mage, two little fluffy things, and a chaos owl, united under the common cause of destroying the Boom Flowers and saving the World. But before that, they enjoyed a moment of peace and a calm, relaxing night.
...At least until a midget rabbit anthro barged in and ordered them out of his trailer.