With a flick of a tail, Daren Crevan leaned back within a diner of an isolated town. The fox, bright red with a white torso and black arms and legs down the elbows and knees, looked unusual at this diner with even an occasional person glancing at him. Other than his clothing, a red with white flowers button-up shirt over a green one and blue jeans, there wasn’t anything off. And yet, there was something unusual about him that everyone there sensed.
The simple truth of the matter was that this fox with sea-blue eyes wasn’t from this universe at all, having come from another one. With the help of the TF, Daren hopped from his own universe to another for weekly vacations. It wasn’t something that Daren does regularly, but Zelda insisted on it. Although, of all the worlds he went to, this one was one of the more unusual ones he went to because the physics followed cartoon physics. It was one heck of a shock for him when he saw a coyote who got flattened by a massive roller and was still alright, even walking way despite being paper-thin.
For the past six days, Daren had done the odd jobs here and there just to support himself since the TF was set up (by Zelda’s insistence) to hop back into its original universe until his week is up. As such, he is pretty much stranded in this universe until it comes back tomorrow and thus cannot get any extra resources until then. The red fox was also lucky since he managed to avoid getting himself flattened for the past six days, though Daren was also sure he can survive it. While the universe he came from doesn’t have ‘toon physics,’ his biology was also unique. Athrú’s biology allowed him to adapt to another universe’s environment, even if it contradicted the rules of his original universe’s laws. Of course, this also meant that the fox had to follow this universe’s rules and learned how it works, and he cannot just use his own universe’s laws to bypass it. The exception to it was his magic in a magicless world; even then, his magic would be diminished while at such a universe. Daren was confident that his
body would allow him to survive being squashed or crushed while within this universe, but he wasn’t in any rush to find out.
The red fox then leaned forward, his eyes looking at his breakfast, a stack of pancakes with sweet strawberry syrup on it (with the syrup spelling out 219), and sliced it with a knife. He then picked up a fork, cool to the touch, and pierced through the pancake chunks and, lifting them up to his jaws, eat them. His tongue tasted the strawberries and the soft pancakes as his tail wagged behind him. His knife then sliced up another when the brown door opened, emitting a cracking sound.
Daren looked at where the sound came friend, his eyes observing the other patrons in the meantime and noticing that they weren’t reacting to the sudden noise. The newcomer who came in wore a cloak, black in color, and with a hood up so that one could only see a shadow of a muzzle. Yet, despite that, Daren’s left arm flinched when he recognized the snout shape. This wolf seemed to look at the red fox, with Daren blinking in response, before the wolf’s light blue hand-paws went up to the hood and lowered it behind him.
Daren tilted his head while he blinked more, realizing that this light blue wolf was a young one, a teenager from the looks of it. The cloak’s parting also allowed Daren to noticed an unusual combination of gadgets if seen in his own universe; a few Pokéballs and a Digivice. Of course, Daren had seen a few Digimon and Pokémon while on this world of various shapes and sizes. One of the more memorable ones he saw was a giant Absol with a green bandanna and yellow eyes. The red fox even theorized that this universe was used as an in-between universe to others. Still, despite the others doing their best to ignore this wolf, Daren couldn’t help but be curious about this wolf.
The wolf then approached the red fox, grabbing him by the right arm.
“Maf,” the wolf said, his yellow eyes shining bright. “Could you help me, sir?”
Daren raised an eyebrow. “Sorry? Who are you, and what do you need help with?”
“Oh, sorry,” the wolf said, letting go of Daren’s arm and sitting across from him. “My name is Aleph. I like to travel and explore dungeons and temples for temples. I found one that wasn’t too far away from here and I was hoping that you can help me.”
“Huh,” Daren said, flicking an ear before looking around again. Aleph's voice wasn’t loud, but ‘treasure’ tended to be one of those magnet words that everyone in the room would hear within a minute. However, the others seemed to be doing their best to ignore the wolf, like this was some sort of con and they caught on. Still, the red fox was curious since he had one last day here. “Care to explain more? Especially on why you needed me since I saw that you have the help you can call on.”
“Maf,” the wolf answered as he gave out a slight blush, rubbing his Digivice. “My buddies are elsewhere, mostly out of town on a job. Because of that, I’m alone here and I needed as much help as I can get.”
“I see,” Daren said before looking down at his breakfast. “If you don’t mind, let me eat my food and then I’ll think about it.”
“Yay!” Aleph said, swinging his arms up, which tilted the table forward so much that the foods and drink slid towards Daren. The red fox reacted quick enough to prevent them from falling on top of him, his eyes wide and his teeth shut tight and exposed, as the wolf hopped off. “Thank you, mister. I’ll be waiting outside.”
Daren watched the wolf exit the diner, Aleph’s silver with light blue tip tail wagging behind him. Soon enough, the light blue wolf disappeared and then a rush of movements happened all at once. Daren’s ears twitched, hearing many hushed whispers that he had a hard time discerning on what was being said. Although what was the weirdest part about this wasn’t that they finally discussed about him and that wolf, but how they seem to be betting on the outcome.
Among the noise came a clicking sound and Daren looked up, seeing a waitress appearing, her beak curled into an amused grin. She paused to look at him for a few seconds before she walked up to him, one of her wing-hands within her pocket. Daren craned his head up at the anthro grebe, who patted his back almost in sympathy.
“Sorry to see that you’re the latest target of Aleph,” she said in a sarcastic tone.
“Care to explain?” Daren asked, one of his ears flattened to the sides as he squinted one of his eyes. “Is this some sort of con?”
“A scam? That is a definite no,” she answered as she chuckled. “However, this Aleph is a bit of a klutz and oblivious to his surroundings. Half of the people here got flattened up along with him.”
“Huh,” Daren said. “I’m guessing that he has been here for a while.”
“Wrong again, foxy boy,” the grebe said. “He had only been here for two days. Really, the most surprising thing about this is how Aleph chose to approach you over all the others here. Perhaps he thought that word had spread out too much and it’s best to stick with someone who couldn’t possibly know.”
Daren blinked at the grebe. “He has been trying to get through that temple for two days? And despite all the help here, he still couldn’t get through?”
“I doubt that it’s the same temple he’s leading you to,” she answered. “This place has a lot of ancient temples ready to be plundered and guarded by traps. Though given his track record, it might be the same one. As I said, Aleph is just that clumsy. It’s almost like he wanted to be flattened.”
“What do you advise me to do?” the red fox asked as he rubbed the back of his head.
“I won’t urge you either for or against joining the wolf to explore that temple,” the grebe replied with a light shrug. “That part is up to you. All I can suggest is that, if you DO decide to help Aleph, be sure to bring an air tank.”
Daren gave out a sigh as he looked back at his breakfast, cooling down fast from the time passing by. On the one hand, he wasn’t in the mood to get flattened up. Though there were plenty of near-misses that Daren encountered during his break here, the red fox managed to avoid getting flattened up so far. Yet, on the other hand, he doesn’t have anything better to do and Aleph seemed sincere.
Ten minutes, an eaten breakfast, and a few gold coins spent later, Daren exited the diner and reencountered the wolf. He stood a foot and a half shorter than the red fox, with him removing the cloak and stuffing it into a khaki-colored backpack. Though part of Daren wished that he kept it on since the rest of Aleph’s clothing seem almost mundane in comparison, with a black hoodie and blue jeans.
Aleph’s tail wagged quick when his yellow eyes saw the fox before him and, with a leap, hugged Daren. “Maf!”
Daren blinked, looking down at the shorter wolf. “Um, you haven’t heard my answer yet.”
Aleph wagged more while he nuzzled up to Daren’s Hawaiian shirt. “It’s no worries. It’s just a hug. But wow, your shirt is so soft.”
The red fox tilted his head, grabbing a bit of his red with white flowers’ shirt. “This old thing? It’s been taken well care of, but I haven’t thought of it being soft like that.”
The light blue wolf gave out a blush, letting go of Daren. “Sorry. I can get too affectionate, maf. But yes, your shirt there is so good and soft! I want a shirt like that! Though have you decided? Will you help me out with this temple?”
Daren looked at the light blue wolf at his yellow eyes, his mind taking notes on him. Could he ever have been as innocent at this wolf before him when he was at that age? The red fox knew at the bottom of his heart that he was already broken at that point several times over. It has always been a question he asked himself that, if things go well and if “L” never entered his life, would he be happy and content with little struggle?
But whatever could and should have happened, Daren knew that such innocence should be preserved if possible. “Very well. I accept your quest.”
“Yay!” Aleph said in a loud voice before leaping up and hugging Daren again. “Thank you very much, Mr.-”
“My name is Daren. Daren Crevan,” the red fox said, somewhat hugging Aleph back. “Of course, there is one thing we should get before we go into this temple.
“It’s a good idea that you brought that air tank, Mr. Crevan!” Aleph said, standing in front of the temple entrance with hand-paws to his waist. On his back, the wolf carried that backpack, which Daren noticed was large and stuffed to the brim with items with some he thought were too large for it. Its khaki color was far lighter than the temple’s sandy colors, with one of its pockets holding on halfway a rolling pin.
Daren rolled his eyes and yet could not suppress a smile from his muzzle while he leaned against a five feet tall air tank. The temple before them was made with light brown stone, aged into a sandy color and with cracks on the walls and plants curled around the columns. Daren observed the stone ground before them and saw that it was worn down by a few inches deep and curved upwards the farther he investigated the entrance.
“Looks like we weren’t the first team who tried to search this place,” Daren said before looking at the wolf, whose eyes were closed. “Have you tried searching within this place before?”
“This specific temple? No. Maf,” Aleph said, raising his arms up and towards the temple itself. “I just found it a few hours ago. There were other temples nearby, which the town helpfully searched with me yesterday. They were filled with all sorts of traps, but there were also treasure!”
“Traps, eh?” Daren said, gripping on the air tank. “And it was mentioned to me that you asked the other townsfolks for help with them. Is it related to why you chose me to help you?”
“Oh, far from the truth!” Aleph said as he grinned, waving his arms around with gentle care. “I’m sure that the folks back there will help me out if I ask. One of the real reasons why I noticed you and thought that you’ll be a good helper is that you have a strong aura.”
Aleph opened his eyes, which glowered for a couple of seconds before fading back to normal. “Yes! One of the strongest I’ve seen. I also saw that this maze is straightforward, not a maze like that last one, but this one is filled with many kinds of traps. It’s best to be careful.”
“Um, what are you talking about, Aleph?” Daren asked, tilting his head.
The light blue wolf turned his head back at the red fox and snapped his fingers with a grin on his face. Soon, a blue and black flame-like substance emitted from the hand. Daren blinked at the sight before the flames faded away and the wolf turned back at the entrance.
“Yup! Aura. Like a Riolu and Lucario,” Aleph explained with a confident aura, walking towards the open entrance. “It allows me to see others’ aura and my surroundings within half a mile. I saw that you have a good and strong aura, though that wasn’t the deciding factor. What was are your eyes.”
“Um, Aleph,” Daren said with increasing horror as the wolf passed under the arch over the entry. “Be careful.”
“But in any case, with my aura, I can see traps ahead and even see what triggers them. There’s no way this temple can sur-”
The stone under Aleph’s foot-paw clicked and pushed downwards. Half a second passed before the two slabs of walls closed in onto the light blue wolf, with his eyes wide and stunned. The walls soon enough encompassed the wolf as Daren looked on, just as shocked and with an arm extended.
A couple of seconds passed, with not even Daren seeing the thin line that separates the two walls from each other, before they slid back to their original place. The red fox blinked, his sea-blue eyes not seeing the wolf ahead or even on the walls that crushed him. Then a fluttering sound, like paper, came from that spot and Aleph’s twisted and flat form showed itself, flatten at thin as paper.
Daren breathed a sigh of relief, happy that this didn’t happen in his world, as he walked forward and carrying that air tank. The paper Aleph wiggled in the air, trying to stay upright as he turned towards the red fox, his eyes as wide as baseballs. The fox grabbed a hold on the flat Aleph and paused, realizing that despite how paper-like the wolf looks, he felt like a silk cloth. He then grabbed the air tank’s hose with the other hand and stuffed it into the wolf’s muzzle before turning it on.
Seconds passed, and the wolf expanded, with his limbs filling up and his chest moving sideways. Creeks, like an expanding rubber balloon, emitted from Aleph as his head grew more full, with his cheeks blushing red. His tail snapped upwards, like air rushing to fill it up, as his legs and feet-paws unfused from each other. Even the backpack he carried made popping sounds as it somehow filled up with air; Daren wondered if this was a regular occurrence in this world. Soon enough, the light blue wolf popped back into shape and Daren shut off the valve.
“Maf,” Aleph said, his eyes spinning and with him grabbing a hold on Daren.
“Are you alright?” Daren asked, rubbing the wolf’s ears.
“Never better,” Aleph replied before he shook his dizziness away. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
“I was, and it’s because of the floor,” Daren said as he pulled out a torch from his pants pocket.
“Woooooah,” Aleph said, looking at the wooden torch the red fox carried with stars within his eyes. “I didn’t expect you to have your own hammerspace as well. That is so cool!”
Daren opened his mouth, about to explain about the Fóntais belt and its properties to Aleph, before he stopped and his eyes looked upwards. He then closed his mouth and shook his head a bit. “I guess I do have what you call a hammerspace.”
“Nice!” Aleph said with a bit of a hop before he rubbed his chin. “Although, you were expecting a trap where I stood. How did the floor lead you to figure that one out?”
Daren grinned a bit before getting onto his knees and rubbing the floor with his hand-paws. “You see, the floor here is worn down, which suggests that loads of people have tried to come into this temple at any given time. You can tell by the walks, where their intricate structure curved downwards to a craggy side, as if this was meant to be a floor instead. But it curved an inch upwards by this point, which shows that this location was the first obstacle that explorers encountered. The fact that the pressure slab you stepped on is also unusually tall by a few inches compared to its surroundings tells me that this is the trigger.”
“Oh, wow!” Aleph said, his tail wagging fast. “You’re very smart!”
Daren chucked before he stood up, grabbing a hold on the tall air tank and slinging it onto his back. “I learned a thing or two from my travels. Of course, the deeper we get into this temple, the fewer clues I can pick up since fewer explorers will leave them one way or another. We should be careful.”
“Don’t worry about me, Mr. Crevan!” Aleph said as he walked forward with a childish grin. “I’m always careful!”
Daren chuckled as he looked at the unlit torch and, with a snap of his fingers, red and orange flames emitted from the fingertips and he pressed them onto the torch. The tip of the torch lighened up, with a fire brighter than the one on his hand, which he quenched. He then followed the light blue wolf with a kind yet cheeky grin.
“Then why didn’t you spot the trap from before?”
“I was distracted!”
Outside of the temple, over three hundred feet away, sat in a white vehicle two figures. One held up a pair of binoculars against his eyes, looking at the temp entry, as the other wrote down notes in her notebook. Soon, the male figure placed down the binoculars onto his lap and looked at the anthro bird.
“You sure about this?” He asked. “Shouldn’t we follow them?”
“I’m sure,” she answered, placing her pencil down onto the car cupholder. “We’ll be ready when they come out for help.”
An hour passed by as both wolf and fox traveled through and down the trapped-filled temple. The walls within it containing some form of drawings at times, abet with some drawing style inconsistency with each other; Daren guessed that they were made by explorers and not by the architect of this place. It helped that they gave out crude illustrations of the coming traps and their appearance became infrequent as they travel deeper into the temple. Daren, for his part, found it to help in expecting a trap and get the air tank ready.
“Maf,” A flat disk that is Aleph said, eyes dazed with his head the only visible body part.
Daren gave out a hearty laugh as he hovered the torch over the circular wolf. “Doing alright there?”
The red fox didn’t wait for a response and instead stuffed Aleph’s flat muzzle with the air tank’s hose, his sea-blue eyes gleaming in the fire-lit chamber. His hand then turned the nozzle and watched as the light blue wolf creek and stretched out from air back into shape. Aleph’s height grew taller by the second, though it slowed down by the time he reached half his height. Daren frowned at this before removing the air tank from his back and looking at the gauge. His eyes widened, seeing the pointer leaning at the red E, as the rest of the air filled up Aleph back to normal.
“Whew. I think that is the most time I’ve been flat in a single day,” Aleph said before stretching out his arms.
“I hope that it’s the last time today,” Daren said as he turned back at the wolf. “The air-tank has run out.”
Aleph blinked as he looked at the air tank himself and gave out a slight whimper. “Eep. Oh geez, I’m sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?” Daren asked as one of his ears flattened to the side.
“For not paying enough attention, maf,” Aleph answered as he rubbed the back of his head. “I’m sure you think that I’m a nuisance, don’t you, Mr. Crevan?”
Daren gave out a light laugh. “To me? Not really. I’m sure some people might. I know one friend who would. But you’ve given me one heck of a show. How can I stay angry at you?”
“Maf,” Aleph said, wagging his tail and leaping up, giving Daren a big hug. The red fox blinked before hugging back with one arm. “Thank you, Mr. Crevan!”
“Please, call me Daren,” Daren said as he rubbed Aleph’s hair-fur. He then lowered the torch to Aleph. “In any case, we should be nearly at the end of the temple. I think you should be the one who lights the way from here on out.”
Aleph nodded, giving out a light pink blush on his cheeks before both of them looked forward. His muzzle then curled into a confident grin as he walked forward, lifting the torch up above his head. The red fox smiled as well as he extended one of his arms and a jet of flames, while reformed into a sword, appeared that Daren grabbed. He then followed the wolf, the red-orange light bobbing up and down.
A few minutes passed before they reached the end of the pathway, where they encountered the heart of the temple. So important that there was a series of glass opening from above, lighting up the room with sunlight. Daren blinked at the ceiling, wondering how did the builders of this temple create glass, before shrugging and looking in front of him. At the center of the treasure room sat a pedestal, which held the object that this temple guarded.
The treasure was a gem, carved in a brilliant diamond shape and purple in color. The red fox tilted his head at the purple diamond before his eyes looked over the room. No real signs of decay or travel-worn from what the red fox could see. Nor were there any signs of other pieces of treasure outside of this gem. Despite finding the treasure, Daren couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
“Would’ve thought that there would be more considering how many traps we had to get through to get here,” Daren said before he gave out a slight sigh. He then looked over at the light blue wolf, who has stars in his eyes that brightened more from the torch’s flames. “In any case, it’s best that we be careful. Care to use your aura to find out any signs of traps or even other rooms?”
“Maf? Oh, sure!” Aleph said before closing his yellow eyes and waving his free arm around. The wolf frowned a bit as the seconds passed, and his eyes opened up. “That’s weird.”
“What is?” Daren asked as he walked over to Aleph’s side, gripping onto his sword tight.
“I don’t see any other rooms we can get to,” Aleph answered as he rubbed his chin. “But the walls here have some sort of gears behind them. And I don’t see any signs of triggering them. Not on the floors or even the walls. It’s like they’re there for no reason.”
“No reason?” Daren said in a half-whisper while lifting up his sword. “I always hate it when something is made and has no point in existing. That’s just a set up for a surprise.”
Aleph looked at the purple diamond as he tiptoed his way to it, having a mischievous grin on his face.
“OK, Daren,” the ref fox said to himself. “If there are no triggers on the floor and walls, what can be the trigger? And what will it do if it does? Hmm.” He closed his eyes. “Given the theme of this temple, it’ll most likely try to flatten the trespassers. But where is the trigger if it’s not anywhere near the purple dia-” The red fox opened his eyes. “Unless it is the diamond!” His head then turned towards toe light blue wolf, who’s hand-paw were inches away from touching it. Daren’s eyes widened as his legs leap out into a sprint. “Stop!”
The wolf looked back, confused, as he picked up the diamond.
Several things happened during that one moment.
The pedestal where the diamond sat on for who knows how long lowered itself into the ground, half a foot reduced than the floor. The room darkened a bit as the room rumbled, with dust gathering up. The walls between them then closed in, far faster than any person could run. Aleph turned towards one of the walls, lifting up both gem and torch, while Daren stared at the wolf, arm extended. The walls then consumed them with a thundering thoom that echoed throughout the temple.
The walls then moved back, making a grinding sound with one of them, the one Aleph found himself stuck flattened to, stopping halfway. The other wall continued to move back to its original position as the flat form of Daren fluttered down to the ground.
Daren’s eyes still contained the last emotion he felt when the walls flattened him: pure horror. And yet, despite finding himself as flat as a paper, he was surprised as how painless being this flat was. Even more so since he felt nothing but pain and saw nothing but darkness when the walls squash him. At the very least, he did confirm that his Athrú’s biology would allow him to survive a flattening while in this universe.
Daren’s eyes then moved up to where Aleph was, just as flat and with cracks on the wall around his body. The red fox sighed a bit, seeing the diamond just as flat as they were along with the torch. Even his sword was paper-flat before it burst into flat-looking flames and entering into his chest. Though at least the torch’s flames got put out due to the walls. Still, Daren grumbled, wondering how they will get out while this flat.
“Maf,” Aleph said, his eyes wide and his expression frozen.
The red fox’s eye then shifted back to the opening, where they came in, as he focused his mind on moving an arm. A slick sound emitting from his arm as he shifted it, removing it off from the rest of his body. He blinked, only to blink again when he realized what his eyes just did. Though he may be as flat as paper, perhaps he wasn’t as immobile in this shape as he thought.
Hope swelled up within Daren’s chest as his hand-paw pressed down against the rough floor, gritting his teeth as his other eye lifted off from the dirt and dust. His other arm made another sticking sound while it was unfused from the rest of his body. The red fox then winced; his vision split into seeing two opposite sides at the same time. To think that some paper-like characters could have such view from his universe’s fictional works and still see normal.
The fox closed one of his eyes, the one staring at the floor, as he moved his head up, his senses feeling overwhelmed from relearning how to move. The smell of the room felt powerful and dusty, his movements sounding like paper flying in the breeze sounding much louder, and his touch feeling wrong. His hand-paw lifted him up higher and higher until his legs separated themselves from each other, and he spread them out. They then touch the floor by the very edge, and he leaned upwards until he stood up. From a certain angle, he looked normal, but his movements showcase just how flat he was.
His head twisted over ninety-degrees until his open eye saw Aleph, who looked back with admiration.
“Woah!” the light blue wolf said with starry eyes. “You’re back on your feet so quickly. You’re a real natural!”
“Um, thanks,” Daren said as he moved towards the wolf with an unusual level of caution, trying not to fall. He then shifted his hand-paws under one of the wolf’s feet-paws and pulled while gritting his teeth. Despite the lack of mass between each of them, it was difficult to peel off someone flat from the wall. Yet, after a few minutes of struggle, Daren managed to lift the entire leg off, and the rest of the wolf’s body slid off. “In any case, we should get out of here as soon as possible.”
“Don’t forget the diamond!” Aleph said as he moved one of his legs down, stretching it out while it remained flat.
Daren wiggled in a nod and, sliding his fingers under the gem and his thumb over it, pressed them together and pulled it off from the wall. “Forget the torch. We can’t light it back up like this. Let us just get out of here.”
“Yup! After you,” Aleph said with a silly grin that did not hide his blush.
While Daren may think that traveling out of the temple would be difficult with the traps and their limited movements, they didn’t trigger any pitfalls in the process. It confused the red fox when he saw Aleph walked on top of a trigger. Yet, the trap was not activated despite it being one of the many traps the wolf fell for. Although, as Daren thought about it, their mass was lost from being paper-flat somehow and, as such, any chances of triggering any traps were small.
Still, it wasn’t a smooth trip back. Daren gritted his teeth as he does his best to keep his balance, not helped by the occasional draft that knocked Aleph off from his own paws. His limbs felt tired, almost like he traveled around the world in one walk, and his head felt light. The times that Daren fell down himself took several minutes for him to get back up along with the diamond, which for some reason felt burdensome to him.
After two hours of walking as fast as paper can go, Daren’s open eye saw a bright light from the outside. Daren curled his arm in a half-circle behind Aleph’s back as he half-lifted the wolf in their travel to the sunlight. The air felt hotter as they go, with Daren emitting a sigh, and soon enough, they exited out from the temple.
Daren’s grin of relief shifted into horror as he felt a powerful gust of wind, knocking him to the side along with Aleph. His other eye opened, his head ached, and the mouth opened in shock as they brushed against the ground several times. He then felt something landed on top of him, like a giant claw, and his eye looked up. It saw two figures over him and Aleph, though he couldn’t see as clear as he would have due to his overwhelmed senses form the travel. His mouth was forced open, and he felt something stuffed into it while he blinked.
“Don’t worry. We got you.”
Daren’s eyes widened as he felt air forced down into his maw, the fox emitting a massive blush on his face. His body made popping sounds as air forced its way around his body, encompassing every space it could get. His limbs enlarged back to normal, his chest expanded sideways, and his head popped back into shape. The hose was then removed from his mouth, with him giving out a loud gasp for air as he felt restored to normal.
“Are you alright?” a female voice asked.
His vision readjusted itself as he shook his head. He then turned towards the two figured who helped filled him up with air and were doing the same to Aleph with the same hose and air tank. He tilted his head, not recognizing the male anthro horse but knowing who the female was.
“You’re that waitress from that diner,” Daren said.
“Yup,” the anthro grebe said. “I thought that you’ll need our help. Aleph here means well, but he attracts trouble like honey to a bear.”
“That makes something we have in common,” Daren said as Aleph popped back into shape. The grebe looked at the red fox with an odd eye, but he just shrugged his shoulders. She then shrugged back before patting Aleph on the air.
“Maf,” Aleph said with spiraling eyes. He then shook his head and looked straight ahead. “Where is the treasure?”
“Oh, um,” Daren said before looking down at his hand-paw. The purple diamond, which was once paper-flat, had also snapped back to its standard shape with the sunlight giving it a light glow. He then smiled before giving it to Aleph. “Here you go.”
Aleph took the diamond as his body shook a little, and he tossed it into the air as he grinned, the canine tooth shining in the light. The gem then fell and, with a speed that Daren didn’t believe the wolf had, he unzipped the backpack while remaining on his back and not exploding from being overstuffed. The gem then landed within the pack and, just as quick, Aleph zipped up the bag before he leaped up and pounced the red fox.
“Maf!” Aleph said, hugging Daren as he wagged his silver tail. “Thanks a lot!”
Daren smiled back before hugging Aleph in return. “You’re welcome. Is there any more help you need?”
Aleph shook his head. “Nope! This was the last temple that I needed to explore.” His hand then rubbed Daren’s Hawaiian outer shirt. “Wow, this shirt is still so soft!”
Daren chuckled a bit. “You seem to like this shirt, eh? In that case,” Daren slid the shirt off from his shoulders and arms before giving it to the wolf, “take it as a gift.”
Aleph looked down at the red with white flowers button-up shirt with wide yellow eyes before looking up at Daren, now only wearing the green shirt. “You really want to give it to me?”
Daren grinned at the wolf before patting his head. “Hey, you gave me a neat adventure I never thought I’ll experience. Plus, it was a peaceful and mostly harmless one, something that rarely happens to me. I think it’s worth it to give you something in return for it.”
Aleph gave out a massive blush on his face before giving him a thumbs up. “Thank you very much, Daren! I’ll always treasure it.”
Daren nodded before turning to the anthro grebe and horse. “Thank you for helping us when we came out from that Temple of Pancakes.”
The grebe gave out a laugh. “The Temple of Pancakes? Is that what you decide to call it?”
“Why not?” Daren responded before bowing and waving at them and Aleph. “In any case, it’s time for me to leave. Thank you. I hope to see you another time.”
Daren then turned around, his head pointing upwards as his sea-blue eyes shined in the sunlight.
The three remaining anthros remained there for several minutes as they watched the red fox left them and faded into the distance. The grebe gave out a half-smile as she placed a wing-hand into her pocket, her tail feathers spread out behind her. She then turned back at the light blue wolf and her eyes widened a bit, the wolf already taken off his hoodie and having on the shirt Daren gave him.
“That was quick,” she said before shrugging. “Where will you go now?”
Aleph rubbed his chin for a moment. “I think I have enough fun exploring temples for now. Instead, I’ll hang out at your town and see what fun will happen next.”
The grebe gave out a bitter laugh. “If you can find any fun there. I guess you can ride with us. Right, hon?”
The anthro horse nodded as he crossed his arms.
“Oh, thank you so much!” Aleph said as he wagged his tail and pressed his hand-paws together. “Everyone there is really kind.”
“If you say so,” she said as she patted Aleph’s head and lead him to the white car. “Though, if you don’t mind me asking, if you do feel that our folks are so helpful, why did you ask the one outsider for the last temple?”
Aleph’s face glowed as he smiled. “A couple of reasons, in fact. One is that he has a strong and kind aura that I sensed even at my max distance. The other is his eyes.”
“Yeah,” Aleph answered as he pulled out a Pokéball. “They are exactly like that Ninetales I know, who was a companion that I captured before he left on his own journey. A-Ninetales is what he is called, though I know that wasn’t his actual name. In fact, I just met him a few days ago, along with his giant Absol friend.”
Aleph rubbed the Hawaiian shirt as the anthro grebe and horse gave him an odd look.
“Exactly the same eyes despite being two different species?” the anthro horse asked.
“Yeah!” Aleph said as they came to the car, and they hopped into it. “Small world, isn’t it?”