Hero's Diary: Day 1, Part 19
11/02/28 at 12:50 EST

This is, without a doubt, the worst day of my life.

"The Unlosing Ranger came back for more, eh?" the lion-man growled, elated by my reappearance.

The news lady, her camera crew, and the in-studio audience echoed that enthusiasm. "I don't believe it!" she cried into her microphone. "The Unlosing Ranger didn't lose after all! Just when all hope was lost, he returns, ready to again do battle with Darkdeath Evilman! We can only hope that this time, he prevails!"

The creature I was set to destroy was intimidating, to say the least. Even the face engraved in his chest-plate was enough to make a would-be hero back down. If I didn't stop this demon, however, I'd be forced to spend more time with Etranger and Pirohiko, so I had to make a stand. Even though, when standing, I was eye-level with his hips. His clawed hands were larger than my upper torso. I couldn't punch him in the face without a ladder. I had my doubts about this, and the second thoughts started flowing through my mind.

"Maybe this time," Darkdeath growled again, "you'll fight back, and I'll have the satisfaction of killing you in battle!" He laughed, a hoarse, throaty laugh. "Prepare yourself, pitiful hero!" He prepared to strike.

Having telegraphed his intended actions so blatantly, when he swung his arm at me I easily anticipated the attack and jumped backward, allowing a wide enough berth to avoid his claws entirely. After swinging at me, his entire body was left exposed, and I used that opportunity as my time to strike. Fists clenched, I charged in at him. He was noticeably caught off-guard, and without interruption I delivered a punch to his midsection. And it dealt a great deal of damage. To my hand.

Darkdeath did not flinch to a degree that could be measurable by even the most modern tools of science. I backed off, airing out the pain in my knuckles. Darkdeath was still off guard, but this time the apparent reason for it was less flattering. "Really?" he asked. "Is that really the best the Unlosing Ranger has to offer? Pathetic. Truly pathetic!"

He readied his arm for another swing, so I readied myself to dodge it. Just then he stomped his foot against the ground, setting me off balance from the tremors. Using his window of opportunity, he delivered a powerful backhand to my entire body. Just as fast as I had descended to the planet, I was launched into the sky.

Time passed. I didn't know how much time had passed, since I had once again passed out during my travels as a live rag-doll.

"Back to the drawing board," Pirohiko muttered, standing over my aching body. With enough consciousness to look around, I confirmed that I was somehow back on the platform in Outer Space. "Where did the training go wrong? We did everything right!"

"The training isn't the issue," Etranger replied. "He's just too weak, the way he is. You couldn't possibly expect him to put a dent in that armour, as we saw." She moved around me, fastening belts to my legs. At this point, it became clear that I was chained to a table. "What he needs is a new body - one that can only be attained through the power of human experimentation!" She seemed awfully thrilled.

"Turning him into a machine isn't going to make him more of a hero."

"Hey, you said it yourself. 'A hero must use any tool available to win!', or something." Her Pirohiko impression was rather pathetic, but I think that's the point. She then called out to someone else. "Doctor, your assistance is required in the operating room!"

I gotta hand it to those two: they're constantly finding fresh new ways of scaring the life out of me. Etranger had just ushered in the "doctor", a child in an adorable pajama catsuit that didn't even look old enough to ride a bicycle.

The child, probably six or seven years old, climbed up a hollow plastic stepladder in order to get a look at me. "Don't worry about a thing!" she declared as she fit a gas mask over my mouth.

The first thing that worried me was the doctor.

The second thing that worried me was the fact that the gas mask wasn't actually attached to anything.

"If you feel a stinging sensation, that means you're still alive!"

That was the third thing that worried me.

This is, without a doubt, the worst day of my life.

So far.
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Hero's Diary: Day 1, Part 18
11/02/28 at 00:44 EST

Cautiously, I approached the penguin creature that I had been informed was my relation through wedlock. She stared back at me with her beady fish-eyes, watching my every move. I raised my hands defensively.

"We need more money, dood!" She said to me suddenly. She stuck her hand out, though it was more of a flipper - and waited expectantly. "I want to buy a signature-series fanny-pack, and we don't have the cash for that. Hurry up, dood!" She jostled the leather pack that hung at her waist expectantly.

I didn't respond. I couldn't respond - what the hell was this creature? It wasn't a penguin in the most traditional sense, for the wings on its back, and both of its legs had been replaced with wooden stumps.

"What about that girl you're always with? See what she has, dood. She looks rich!"

"Hey!" Etranger was at the door, looking pouty, as always. "Are you and that prinny done yet? Come on, we have work to do."

And then I saw yet another image that would give me nightmares. The penguin creature winked at me, its smooth rubbery flesh folding upon itself, the bulbous eye temporarily collapsed inward.

Without a word, I went after Etranger, making my best effort to avoid vomiting. Etranger led me to the end of a pier where Pirohiko was waiting, arms folded, confident. "Ready to take another crack at it?" he greeted us.

"Seriously?" Etranger responded. "He completes one dungeon, and you think he's ready for Darkdeath Evilman?"

"Listen to you! He handled himself really well back there! He single-handedly put an end to that crooked robot! I think he's ready to show Darkdeath the true hero's spirit! He might not even run away this time!"

"You do realize that he 'defeated' the robot by running away from it, right? But, if you think he's ready..."

As I monitored their bantering back and forth, I briefly wondered why I didn't get a say in this.

Etranger conceded at last. "Fine, maybe you're right. At the very least, if he doesn't run away, we can always just collect the body and send him through some more trials. Not to mention, we'll collect some good data on exactly what we're up against."

Collect the body? I raised a hand in question, my mouth agape and ready to protest, but Etranger was no longer standing at the end of the pier.

"Here we go!" She was standing behind me. I looked over my shoulder as she was in mid-swing, holding the largest hammer I had ever seen; a thick wooden shaft holding aloft a large stone face. The head of the hammer connected squarely with my back, and at the moment of impact, time stood still for a moment. I pondered my current predicament and thought about what lie ahead of me, as I would be rocketing toward it at an incredible speed.

As I hurdled through space and the stars blended into darkness, only the Earth remained, looming, beckoning. It was the last to fade from view as I passed out. The concussive blow to my back might have been responsible for that. The next thing I remembered was pulling my face out of the dirt.

As my senses returned, I had a chance to look around. I was in the park near my house. Etranger said I had tripped on a rock and smacked my head. Was it possible, then, that this entire ordeal was just a dream that I unintentionally subjected myself to? It was true - as I picked myself back up onto my feet, I realized that I hadn't gone anywhere! Just then, a rumbling sound caught my ear. I turned around.

The gigantic lion creature hadn't gone anywhere, either. He looked as though he still wanted to kill me, too.

So much for that.
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Hero's Diary: Day 1, Part 17
11/02/23 at 13:09 EST

"Go on, go see them!" I had just been informed that I now had a wife and daughter in this strange place, and Etranger was encouraging me to visit them. She pointed to my house, but when I followed her direction, there wasn't a house to be seen. "Are you dumb? Get going!"

She was insisting that the piles of sheet metal leaning against one another was, in fact, a humble abode. Not being one to argue, I fought a powerful sigh and wandered over. A warm light was glowing from inside, and it felt rather inviting. I lowered my head to squeeze through the doorway, which had a clearance of just 4 feet, and found that the inside of this one-room home was actually rather spacious - much more so than it appeared from the outside. Hardwood floors, partially furnished, indoor heating - not too shabby for a pile of scrap metal.

There was no sign of my wife and daughter, however. Just a penguin - that beady-eyed creature that was staring at me when I first woke up on this strange platform. It continued to stare at me unflinchingly, and it was creeping me out. I looked away - a moment too late, however: a monster had found its way here and leaped at me. Unarmed and caught off guard, I failed to defend myself as the creature - equal parts human and avian - descended upon me with wide eyes. It shrieked something into my ears that almost deafened me: "Daddy, you're home!"

As the words sank in, I wish it had.

The harpy had pounced on me not with malicious intent of dismemberment, but affection. "Ew, you still smell like rotting flesh!"


She pulled away, covering her human face with a very feathery wing. "Take a bath before coming home, Daddy! Being up to your waist in blood and guts makes you smell like the Hospital across the street!"

This creature is not my child. She actually might be older than me. And the thought of her being of my seed breaks far too may laws - pertaining to both international laws and laws of physics.

She shuddered briefly and turned to one side. "Mom's been worried sick. I haven't seen her budge an inch since you and those other weirdos left for that scary dungeon. Maybe talk to her, then go shower."

I followed her gaze, expecting her to be staring at an occupied bird cage, given her physical appearance. But there wasn't anyone else in the room with us, so what was she looking at? The penguin?

Oh, no.

No, no, no, no, no.

Forget it.
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Hero's Diary: Day 1, Part 16
11/02/17 at 12:46 EST

Pirohiko and I took a seat on some nearby corpses for a moment to rest when Etranger walked over. "Take a look at what's happening back on Earth!"

I had accepted the fact that I was on another planet by now, but I still didn't agree with the notion that Etranger's ability to transmit Earth broadcast signals as video directly into my retinas was in any way believable. This was further troubling because the signals, being transmit directly into my retinas, were also audible. And though I still hadn't gotten used to it, I also couldn't prevent it from happening, so I was once again forced to lower my guard as the world around me was replaced with a scene I didn't belong in.

It was at the hospital again, in the same room where we witnessed Jose Gaspacho die. There he lay, still dead, and there was his granddaughter, still roughly my age.

"The Unlosing Ranger can't lose," Gaspacho murmured from beyond the grave.

This caught the young lady's attention. "Grampa? Grampa!?"

"He can't lose!" Gaspacho shouted, jostling himself awake. The monitor hooked up to his circulatory system was whirring itself back to work and soon began beeping again. "Oh, Maria, I thought we'd lost him!"

"Grampa? I thought you were dead!"

"I thought so, too," he replied. "But then I had a wonderful dream, and in that dream, the Unlosing Ranger was kicking ass!"

Maria adopted a sheepish look. "But, the Unlosing Ranger lost...That's why you almost died in the first place..."

Gaspacho shook his head. "No, Maria. He didn't lose." He reached out, patting her on the head. "He's just...resting. No, he's just preparing for his big victory! You'll see."

The scene vanished, and I was returned to reality.

"I don't believe it," Pirohiko declared. "The Jose Gaspacho of Earth was revived! When we saved the Jose Gaspacho of Bizarro Earth, it brought the Jose Gaspacho of Earth back to life!"

"What do you mean you don't believe it!?" Etranger shouted at him, once again upset by something he'd said. "That was the entire point of this exercise! You're a Guardian Angel; how do you not know about the connection between Earth and Bizarro Earth!?" She sighed, placing her hands on her hips. "Bizarro Earth and Earth are spiritually connected. They're different, but they're also similar. Events in Bizarro Earth can change what happens back on Earth - even reverse changes that couldn't otherwise be reversed, in some cases."

"So it's basically a parallel world," Pirohiko replied thoughtfully. His thinking cap was on again. "When the Gaspacho of Earth died, the Gaspacho of Bizarro Earth became suicidal in order to continue the unity between the two worlds. But when we saved the Gaspacho of Bizarro Earth, the change was made back on Earth to re-balance things. I get it."

"You get it? I'm actually impressed!"

"Hey!" Pirohiko snapped his fingers. He suddenly looked very excited. "Then, if we find the Bizarro version of me, and save his life, then I'll be able to return to life back on Earth!"

"Yeah, in theory," Etranger confirmed. "There's a problem with that, though."

"W-what's...that?" He asked nervously.

"Take a look at what you're sitting on."

Pirohiko leaned to one side, lifting his leg up to check underneath. Some bandages, some rotting flesh - not sanitary, but nothing unexpected. He rose to his feet and turned around to get a closer look at the twice-killed undead creature he was sitting on. "Wait a minute...that hair. That scarf...!?" He dropped to his knees and reached down to reveal something on the corpse that I didn't want to see. I quickly turned away before I could see what he was doing. "That birth mark!? This is..."

"The Pirohiko of Bizarro Earth!" Etranger declared. "You aren't going anywhere, and it's your own damn fault."

"No way!" Pirohiko cried. "This can't be happening to me!"

"We're going back," Etranger stated. "We've completed our mission, the Unlosing Ranger received his training, and there's no reason to stick around. We've still got a planet to save."

Etranger began using some more of her unexplained magical powers to transport us back to the Space Platform. As the blue light surrounded us, I wondered: Do I also have a Bizarro Earth counterpart?

In a flash we were again standing on the platform in Space. "We're back," Etranger pointed out. "Now that you're back home safe and sound, why don't you go visit your wife and daughter?"

Nobody moved. I had no idea Pirohiko had a family - he didn't really seem responsible enough for such a thing. That was when he opened his mouth and, as he had been known to do, made this nightmare of mine even worse.

"She's right," Pirohiko said. "You should let your loved ones know you're alright."

He was talking to me.

She was talking to me.

When did I end up with a wife and daughter!? In no way can this end well. And in no way can it get any more awkward.
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Hero's Diary: Day 1, Part 15
11/02/16 at 14:02 EST

"Stop it!" Maria cried out to me. "It's so hot! Stop making me chase you!"

"Um, look, that's fascinating and all," Etranger told Pirohiko. "I'm sure robotic arms would make him less of a wimp. I really am. But shouldn't you be helping him?" She swung her arm out to the scene that was in progress. "Give him some advice? Maybe, I dunno...Mentor him? Do something useful?"

"You can do it!" Pirohiko then shouted to me. "As long as you don't give up, you can overcome this!"

Does being killed by a lunatic robot count as giving up? Without a definite answer, I wasn't about to take that chance.

"Um," he mumbled to himself, realizing his pedestrian encouragements didn't actually do anything. "Stop that robot, and...I'll buy you a drink!"

I came to a sudden halt. Was he serious? Was that the best he could offer? I throw my life away for a cold beverage? I glared back at him. He was in a difficult position - not any more difficult than mine, of course - but maybe it wasn't fair for me to lose my cool. Other than the fact that he forced the responsibility on me, he sent me to my death against that giant lion-man creature, he sent me into this dungeon, he drew enemy attention to me and he forced the task of saving Maria on me, he was kind of being put on the spot.

"A drink?" I heard Maria echo. The robot had caught up to me, getting ready to destroy me in such a fashion that would ensure the local custodian had work for the next month. "It's so hot in here...I need an iced cappuccino!"

The robot raised one of its arms. The metallic claw for a hand began spinning rapidly, sharp fingers becoming the blur of a saw blade. I closed my eyes and clenched my fists. I was going to die, but at least I made it to the end of the cavern. That's a feather in my cap.

I continued to wait for the end of my precious skull. Nothing had happened, which made me wonder: how will I know when it kills me? Supposing it's instant, what'll happen? I'm assuming I'll lose the ability of conscious thought, but I don't know for sure. What if I end up as a wandering soul, unaware of the fact that I've been killed. Or worse, what if I end up like Pirohiko, making some poor bastard's life a living nightmare? I can't let that happen. I have to put a stop to this war machine!

Maria let out a scream. I opened my eyes and looked up. The robot's hands continued to spin, gradually slowing to a stop. The eyes no longer possessed that eerie glow. It started smoking, and without warning the legs buckeled, dropping it to the ground. When the formerly-floating sphere at the base struck the rock floor, the entire robot broke apart, metal fragments falling all around. Maria was left looking very uncomfortable, covered in some light brown sludgy stuff. "Agh!" she screamed again, wiping as much of it out of her fur as she could. "Ouch..."

"Maria!" Gaspacho cried, running to her. "You...you saved my Maria!"

Etranger leaned in toward Pirohiko. "...No, he didn't. What just happened?"

Pirohiko folded his arms and grinned. "Don't you see, Etranger? That's the power of a hero's spirit! Unyielding Ranger!"

"What happened in there, Maria!?" Gaspacho asked, holding his granddaughter.

"I don't know, I don't know!" she replied. "It broke when I tried to use the cappuccino machine! It wasn't my fault! And now it's all over me!"

"It's all right. Let's go home." Gaspacho turned and took one last look. "Young man, I was wrong about you! Thank you for saving my Maria!" After that, the two of them were gone.

I can't help but feel like I'm being led around. Once again people are attributing events to my lack of involvement...at least it was positive this time. I turned to Pirohiko, who was beaming with pride. Etranger looked distracted, like she was in another world and unaware of our presence.

Pirohiko walked up to me. "Great work out there!" he congratulated me with a slap on my shoulder.

"So now you owe him a drink," Etranger spoke up, finally.

Pirohiko backed off. "Yeah, I sure do..." He stuck his hands in his pockets. "...Can I borrow some money?"

Par for the course.
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Hero's Diary: Day 1, Part 14
11/02/14 at 13:18 EST

As I had assumed, the warning shot amounted to nothing more than the waste of a bullet and further drawing attention to myself. Thanks to the generous size of the magazine clip, however, the cavern arena became a lot less congested: apart from the were-cat creature and the floating jester robot, who seemed more interested in watching their comrades get shot than getting shot alongside their comrades, all the other monsters had been shot. And a good thing, too, because the gun clip had been depleted in the process and any hostility demonstrated from the remaining two would have to be dealt with head-on.

"Good work," Pirohiko declared, stepping over one of the bodies and turning around to face me. "Now that you've heroically dispatched this threat, we can continue our search!"

"Where?" Etranger followed after him. "There's nowhere else to go from here. We're at the bottom of the dungeon, and there's still no sign of Maria. We must have missed her - probably when you two ran ahead!"

"Excuse me?" The were-cat overheard Etranger's finger-pointing and approached us. "Were you looking for me?"

"Um..." Etranger tilted her head. "Are you Maria?"

"Yes, I'm Maria. What are you doing here?"

"We should ask you the same thing," Pirohiko stepped in. "What are you doing in such a dangerous place? Don't you know what this place is?"

"Of course I do," Maria answered confidently. "This arena is the Boss map! It's the perfect place for -"

"Mariiiiaaaa!" Just then, Jose Gaspacho came barreling down the stairs. "Maria, I've finally found you! What are you doing in such a dangerous place? You must come with me, back to where it's s-"

"Grampa!" Maria exclaimed, excitement in her voice. "Look at me! I've become a Boss, just like you've always wanted."

"Maria?" Gaspacho sounded both shocked and confused. He's an old man, so it could also be amnesia, I suppose.

"Yeah! I ran into some superhero guy who said he could make my dreams come true," she explained in a manner that was sure to lead into more trouble for me. "He gave me this robot!" She gestured to the jester. "With Francoise by my side, I have the power to be a Boss! Isn't it wonderful? She follows orders perfectly!"

"Superhero?" Etranger asked. "That doesn't sound like -"

"A double-espresso, please!" Pirohiko interrupted her, turning his focus on the robot. Everybody else stared at him. "Is there a secret code word I need to give her before she'll do it?"

"No, you dummy," Maria replied. "Francoise is a war machine, not a coffee maker!"

"Wars are founded on chemical imbalances caused by caffeine highs!" Pirohiko retorted. "War machines are therefore required to have an Espresso Machine installed on every model!"

"What the HELL kind of wars have you been involved in?" Etranger asked.

"Would you all stop it?" Gaspacho demanded, swinging his hammer. "Get away from that thing, Maria, it's dangerous!"

"No it isn't, Grampa, watch!" Maria turned to the robot. "Francoise! Let's show him our combination attack!"

The robot's eyes grew brighter. It made a mechanical laugh as the entire torso bent backward, revealing a single-user cockpit. Maria climbed inside, and the robot's torso expanded to fit around her, expanding hidden chambers to allow for her arms and legs. "I know it isn't much," Maria called to her grandfather from within the machine, "but I can show you how well we work together by defeating this wimpy-looking hero-type character."

"That robot can transform!?" Etranger blurted in surprise.

"Oh, oh, oh!" Maria cried from within the robot. "It's hot in here! Nevermind, I want out! I want out! I can't control it!"

"She's trapped inside!" Pirohiko declared, thrusting a finger dramatically in Maria's direction.

Etranger, in agreement with Pirohiko, turned to me. "Listen, you need to stop that thing! But be careful not to over-do it, because Maria's still inside. You can't let her come to any harm if we're going to fulfill the mission."

"She's right," Pirohiko responded, also in agreement with Etranger. "And salvage the robot if you can. Think about how cool it would be if we could re-purpose it to work for you! Walking Tech Ranger!"

"There is more than one thing wrong with that," Etranger replied, "and one is enough to make me want to kick your teeth in."

Pirohiko then began to explain his idea to Etranger. I wish I could listen in, but I'm busy running away from a crazy out-of-control war machine while an equally-crazy old man is shouting death threats at me if I manage to live long enough to disable the killer robot.
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Hero's Diary: Day 1, Part 13
11/02/10 at 13:11 EST

From a safe distance I planned my next moves. The Gimp-goons and wolves had been joined by a small handful of Cacti and zombies in bandage wrapping, and the lot of them appeared to be engaged in casual conversation with one another. An ample distraction if necessary, but by sticking to the shadows, I would be able to reach the suspicious duo at the far end of the cavern undetected. It was time to carry out the plan I had spent the last ten minutes formulating.

I rose to my feet, and promptly fell flat on my face. Something had struck me from behind, making me curse my carelessness for a brief moment.

"Whoa, sorry there!" Pirohiko blurted, stooping forward to help me back to my feet. "See, Etranger? He's just fine! He didn't need our help after all!" His pride in me echoed throughout the chamber, catching the attention of everyone else, including the dozen creatures that wanted to kill me. It's the thought that counts, I suppose, but it's the idiot in the red cape that kills.

"He isn't any more," Etranger pointed out as she descended the stairs, catching up to us at her own pace. "Is this your way of cutting his teeth, Pirohiko?"

Pirohiko folded his arms and grinned. "A hero can overcome any odds! Watch and learn!" He extended his hand, offering me something. "Here, take this and show her what I mean!"

The object Pirohiko presented to me was a handgun. I took it in my own hands, giving him a confused look.

"I don't think shooting animals with a gun counts as being heroic," Etranger pointed out.

"No, you don't understand. They're not animals, they're monsters! And...monstrous people!"

"Explain to me how a gun isn't cowardly?"

"A hero must always use the tools available to him to overcome evil!" He encouraged me to make use of the weapon by pointing his fingers forward like a gun and pretending to shoot. "Long Ranger!"

It's his fault that I'm in this mess in the first place, so I don't quite appreciate him putting the blood on my hands. Still, the ordinance will prove useful. I'll just start with a warning shot to see if I can get them to back down, but I'll do what I have to in order to save Maria, wherever she is.
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Hero's Diary: Day 1, Part 12
11/01/26 at 13:23 EST

"That was the third time I had to explain a huge misunderstanding," Pirohiko explained to Etranger. "That's why a lack of privacy can lead to despair."

"I certainly feel unpleasant, having heard that." Etranger shuddered. "So, what is your big master plan for this Gaspacho mission?"

"Everything is already under control, thanks to my charge. Unlimited Bravery Ranger!"

Etranger folded her arms and looked around. "Oh, yeah, him...Where is that little pipsqueak, anyway?"

"Why, he's following -" Pirohiko looked over his shoulder. "Hmm..." He continued to look around. "I'm not sure where he went. MIA Ranger!"

"You're hopeless. You know that, right?"

"No way," he replied. "He and I have established a bond of trust. I was just playing around; he's actually headed deeper into the dungeon to face the untold dangers that lie in wait, to save Gaspacho's granddaughter, Maria."

"And does he trust his Guardian Angel to be a Guardian? Or at least, an Angel?"

"Establishing independence is good for a man's soul!" came the paper-maché retaliation. "He's fine! Still, I should go make sure...to supervise! I'll use my keen eyes to observe any mistakes he might make, so he can work on them and turn those weaknesses into strengths! Let's go!" With a triumphant fist, Pirohiko charged into action.

Etranger sighed, resting her head in her hand. "Some mentor you are. Denial Ranger!" She shuddered again. "Dammit...now I'm starting to talk like him..." She followed after him.

And me? I had reached the bottom of a long staircase, to what I had hoped was the last floor of the dungeon. I sat on the bottom steps, staring into a wide-open cavern. Lava bubbled in the depths below. The cavern was very evenly shaped - nearly a perfect square, in fact. It looked like an arena, even. A handful of familiar faces dwelled within. I had met enough of these gimp-suit goons and wolf-people to know that they all wanted to kill me, but none of them seemed to be aware of my position at the base of the staircase. A tiger-esque looking wolf-lady at the far end of the cavern was engaged in conversation with some kind of jester on a floating ball. Its eyes were very geometric in shape and glowed unnaturally. It was probably a robot of some kind.

There was no sign of Maria, however. Still, maybe one of them knew something about her whereabouts. It couldn't hurt to ask.

Ha, ha, ha. It's going to be an extremely painful question.
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Hero's Diary: Day 1, Part 11
11/01/26 at 12:45 EST

Pirohiko's footsteps echoed as he ran loudly after Etranger. I wasn't half as eager as he was to plunge deeper into the bowels of this hell, in spite of the fact that I'd have to make my way to the bottom eventually. "Etranger, wait up!" he yelled. He never made it out of earshot, though he had gone far enough ahead that I could no longer see him in this dark, twisting cavern full of unorthodox dangers.

I've become rather curious in what gets printed onto the job description for a Guardian Angel.

"Why did you take off like that?" I assumed he managed to catch up to her. "Five minutes ago you were going on about how important it was to find this man, and save his life! Why did you leave without saying anything?"

"He's pathetic." Her words were short, but strong. "That man says he loves his granddaughter. But she could be in real danger, and rather than do something about it, he's choosing instead to do nothing about it and feel sorry for himself. That's no reason to be in despair. He shouldn't be so weak!"

"What is wrong with you!?" That may have been the first time I'd heard Pirohiko sound angry. It was unsettling. "The thought of losing a loved one is a perfectly good reason to feel despair!"

"But it isn't going to solve anything! He could have been spending less time bitching, and more time doing something about it."

"Feeling despair isn't a choice, it's something that can't be helped. Everyone feels despair over something in their lives at some point or another!"

"Nu-uh!" Etranger argued in true brat fashion. "Not me! I've never felt despair over anything!"

"If that's the case, then I feel sorry for you." Pirohiko's voice was soft and remorseful. It was unsettling.

"Huh? Why? I've lived a perfectly happy life, full of -"

"Despair reminds us of what is truly important in our lives. To be deprived of that reminder must be a truly sad thing." Pirohiko sounded very serious. It was unsettling.

I think Pirohiko is just unsettling in general. I had finally caught up to them, pausing briefly to endure more of their irreverent conversation, but decided to press on. I had a job to do.

Let's see what else inside this dungeon is hungry.
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Hero's Diary: Day 1, Part 10
10/12/29 at 00:55 EST

"I'm in despair!"

There it was: an elderly dwarf huddled in the corner of the cavern, banging a large mallet against the stony ground, wallowing in some form of misery.

"Excuse me?" Etranger, at the head of the pack, was the first to lend her concern. "What's the matter?"

"It's my granddaughter!" Gaspacho replied. "She's gone! Why!? Oh, Maria..."

Etranger covered her mouth in shock. "I'm...so sorry for your loss."

"Sorry ain't gonna bring her back to me!" he howled back. "If I can't be with her, I should just kill myself right now!"

"H-hold on!" Pirohiko butt in. "Don't do anything drastic! Your dead granddaughter wouldn't want you to squander your time remaining like this! And," he mumbled to me, "we'll fail the mission, too."

"What're you blathering about, boy?" Gaspacho snapped back. "Maria's not dead."

"...What?" Etranger asked.

"If my dear Maria were actually dead, I'd have killed myself already!"

"But you said she was gone..."

"She is gone! I haven't seen her in over an hour!" Gaspacho slammed his mallet on the ground again. "She ran off into the depths of the dungeon!"

Etranger remained frozen in place for a moment, presumably lost in thought. Then, without a word, she moved onward, deeper into the cavern.

"Etranger?" Pirohiko reached for her. I thought it was a silly gesture; he was nowhere near her and ended up looking like some over-dramatic cartoon character. After she had gone, he turned back to Gaspacho. "Listen, if your granddaughter is still in this dungeon, then we could go find her and bring her back to you!"

"Who's we!?" he snapped back. "You and this pipsqueak?"

Ouch. That was harsh.

"Hold on! He may look like a timid, cowardly, fragile, meek, shrimpy weakling, but he has an indomitable spirit!"

That wasn't much better.

"You're serious!?" Gaspacho began smashing the ground with his mallet again, whining. "Now I'm really in despair!"

Pirohiko clenched his fist. "Just give him a chance! You'll see; he'll bring your granddaughter back without so much as a scratch on her! Come on!"

...There we go: I've been dragged into something else. Thanks for making life so full of opportunity, Guardian Angel Pirohiko. Thanks.
Tagged under: ZHP
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