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Blackberry's Second Journal: Chapter 12
Quote:Chapter 12: Brotherly Love

About one week after the trip to Greenhill, I woke up in the morning like usual, changed my pajamas into my daily outfit, and went out from the bedroom. Like any days before, I expected to see Almond sitting on the sofa in the living room, doing his usual life-watching. However, this morning I was quite surprised to see Almond wearing new outfit. His top was a combination of unbuttoned brown square pattern shirt and white short sleeve T-Shirt, and his knee shorts had been changed into full pants. He also wore a necklace with black chain and golden head which I couldn't recognize at first, but upon closer looking I noticed that the shape of the head was like Albatross.

"Good morning!" he greeted.

"Alright, that's surprising. Where did you get that?" I asked.

"Oh, this?" he said, looking at his new outfit. "Last night I chatted with him instead of watching life. In the end he offered to change my clothes."

"And I see you accepted," I said.

"Yeah! Even though he warned me that the change would be random like when he morphed me, but I kinda like the excitement of it!" he said happily.

"So, do you like the new outfit?" I asked.

"Definitely! See? Now I wear pants!" he said in high excitement.

"Well, I do think you now look much nicer than before," I said. "But why the overexcitement about pants?"

"Well, it's just that I have been feeling awkward being the only one wearing shorts while the others wear pants," he said.

"I don't think you should have been feeling like that. I mean, look at Peach Streusel," I said.

"Don't compare me with a girl!" he said with a laugh.

"And the necklace looks nice too," I said.

"Ah, this is actually the only rather bad part of the change," he said.

"Really? Why is that?" I asked.

"The Sun Stone was used to be inside my body," he said. "But now this necklace is the Sun Stone."

"What? Then what will happen if the necklace is removed?" I asked.

"I actually tried it before you woke up," he replied. "I won't be able to morph into Albatross, and I will lose my infinite stamina. In fact, at worst I won't even able to stand up without this necklace."

"That sounds dangerous!" I said. "Can you ask him to change back?"

"No! I like these new clothes! I don't want to wear those strange clothes again!" he refused.

"Those clothes were not strange, and nobody really cares about your looks anyway!" I said. "But everybody cares about each other's safety, including yours!"

"I'm not listening!" he said, shutting both his ears with his hands. I only could sigh.

"Fine, but promise me that you'll be careful," I said.

"Yay!" he shouted happily. "Yes, I promise!"

"Alright, let me have some breakfast and then we can go," I said. "Or you can go there first if you like."

"Nah, take your time," he said. Soon enough, both of us departed from my house to the place of the event taking place in Strawberryland. The event was a career fair, where there were a lot of stands, each representing a certain job. When we arrived, we saw that some of our other friends were already there, and they were also excited about the event.

"Hey there, everyone," I said as we approached the group.

"Hi, Blackberry! Hi, Almond!" Strawberry greeted back. "Wow, you look berry nice, Almond!"

"Do you think so? I really like my new clothes myself," Almond said. "Anyway, let's have a look around!"

"Yeah! You're right! Let's go!" Orange said.

"Right behind you!" Ginger said.

So, all of us went off to look for a booth which interested us the most. I myself didn't find anything interesting, so I just walked around greeting other friends I met. Some time after, I met Almond and the usual group near a small bridge.

"I never realized how many different careers there were!" Orange said.

"I can't wait till I'm older and actually have a job!" Angel said.

"Well, why should we wait?" Strawberry said.

"What are you talking about, Strawberry?" Peppermint asked.

"We could pretend we have the jobs!" Strawberry said. "For a few days we can be anything we want!"

"That sounds like fun!" Almond said.

"A lot of fun!" Orange said.

"Alright! Let's do it!" Ginger said in excitement.

"It'll be great! You'll see, we'll be everything we wanted to be!" Strawberry said, and then the group started singing a song about the thing they wanna be. Both me and Almond only watched because none of us could sing.

"I know what I wanna be!" Ginger said after the song was finished. "I wanna be a firefighter!"

"I want to be a doctor!" Orange said.

"I think I'll open a restaurant!" Angel said.

"And I would love to be a teacher!" Strawberry said.

"What about you, Peppermint?" Angel asked. "What are you going to be?"

"Well," Peppermint said, thinking. "The mayor of all Strawberryland! The boss of everything! That'll be me!"

Peppermint's line surprised everyone.

"Can she, be that, Strawberry?" Angel whispered to Strawberry.

"Well sure! Why not?" Strawberry said.

"Yes!" Peppermint said in excitement.

"How about you two, Blackberry and Almond?" Strawberry asked.

"I actually have no idea, so I'll just be myself. An inventor," I said.

"As for me, I know what I want to be!" Almond said.

"What is it?" Angel asked.

"Hunter!" Almond replied, and everyone was surprised again.

"You mean, the one who hunt animals?" Orange asked, and Almond nodded without hesitation.

"Isn't it... kinda bad?" Ginger said. "I've never thought of harming animals in Strawberryland! Nope! Never!"

"Hey, I've never said about harming the animals!" Almond said.

"But you said that you would be a hunter," Angel said.

"Yes, a hunter, with a camera! I'm going to take pictures of animals deep in the jungle of Strawberryland!" Almond said, and everyone was relieved.

At the next day, Almond was ready for his hunt with my camera he borrowed hanging around his neck. He was very excited about what he was going to do. I also had a special drinking bottle I made myself hanged around my shoulder and a regular backpack on my back.

"Wait a second! You're going too?" he asked.

"Yeah," I replied.

"Aren't you an inventor? So, shouldn't you be right here, you know, inventing?" he asked.

"I need ideas first, and I usually get one if I go out," I said.

"Oh yeah?" he said with suspicious face. "Even without reading your mind I can tell that you're lying."

"I can't lie to you, can I?" I said after sighing. "Alright, I'm worried about you so I'm going with you."

"I'm not a helpless little kid," he said. "And I'm thousands of centuries older than you."

"But now you can easily become one," I said. "And as human you're not even a month old."

"Heh, alright, fine, you can come," he said.

"I'd come anyway, no matter what you said," I said.

So, the two of us went off to hunt for pictures of animals living in Strawberryland. Though actually Almond did all the hunting while I just followed him and watched over him. I just couldn't shake off the fact that Almond could get into danger much more easily this time because his Sun Stone was then much easier to remove than before. Just a bit of bad luck or careless move and he would be in grave danger.

"Brother, I appreciate that you're concerned about me but..." Almond said while aiming the camera towards a chirping bird above.

"But what?" I asked as he took a picture.

"I'm probably the one concerned, about you," he said, looking at me and sighing. I looked really messed up. My clothes were all covered in burrs, and I was wet from my own sweat. Not to mention that I was extremely exhausted from all the hours of walking.

"Nah... Just ignore me and continue hunting..." I said while panting heavily. "I'll keep following."

"Your condition says otherwise," he said. "Though I find it strange that this morphed Sun Stone doesn't work for other people anymore."

"It was meant for you anyway," I said, still panting.

"At this rate you won't be able to continue much further," he said. "Let's sit down under this tree and take a break. I insist."

"Can't deny you," I said, and both of us sat down under the nearby tree. I sighed in relief as I sat down, and then I drank a lot from my bottle.

"That bottle looks interesting. Where did you get that? How does it work?" Almond asked.

"I made it," I said. "It's actually simple. Put tea leaves inside this removable filter here, and then every time I put water into this bottle it will become tea."

"That's cool," he said. "So you have more water for this in the backpack?"

"Yeah, and also my namesake," I said. "But I've eaten and drunk them all during the trip here, so it's totally empty now."

"And you've just drunk the last drop of your bottle," he said.

"Yeah," I said, pouring the last drops into my mouth. Suddenly, the filter lid came off and all wet tea leaves fell to the ground.

"Don't worry. The leaves will become natural fertilizer over time," he said. "Where did you get them, by the way?"

"A few days ago Peppermint came and gave these to me when you were away playing," I replied. "She wanted me to try her favorite drink. It sure tastes good."

"Let me try it some time," he said, and then suddenly both of us felt a tremor.

"What was that? An earthquake?" I asked after the tremor stopped.

"I don't know," he said as the tremor started again. "But I do know that we better get out of here now."

After saying the line, Almond immediately transformed into Albatross, sucked me into his cockpit, and flew away from the place. None of us knew that a swarm of beetles came out right from the ground where the peppermint tea leaves had fallen. They ate the leaves and also every single plant around, and then they marched towards Strawberryland while still eating any plants they came across.

Meanwhile, the two of us arrived home safely, not knowing about the marching swarm. I was still very exhausted, so before reverting to human form, Almond brought me into my house with his gravity field and put me sitting on the sofa. I then put down my backpack and drinking bottle on the floor and immediately fell half-asleep on the sofa. Almond came in soon after, already in his human form.

"You will catch a cold if you sleep there with your clothes still wet from your sweat," he said.

"Don't worry," I said weakly, and then I fell fully asleep.

"Heh..." he said with a sigh. He then went into my bedroom and came back bringing a blanket, which he then used to cover me. After doing that, he suddenly got a bad feeling about something outside and then he left the house immediately. I didn't know what happened, but he then returned and woke me up.

"Brother! Wake up! Something bad is happening!" he shouted, shaking my body.

"Huh? What happened?" I asked in surprise with my eyelids still felt heavy.

"Quick! Come here!" he said, dragging me to the window of the house. Outside the window I saw a horrible sight. There was a large purple cloud-like thing crawling around Strawberryland, eating any plants they came across. I then took my binoculars from a nearby table and used it to see what the cloud actually was.

"A swarm of beetles?" I said while looking through the binoculars. "Could they be... Berry beetles?"

"Berry beetles? What are they?" he asked.

"I only have read about them," I said. "They eat almost anything they come across. They're not supposed to be here at all! They should be in an island where every single plant magically grows within minutes!"

"Well, they are here in Strawberryland now, and they're heading right here," he said. "Alright, then."

"Where are you going?" I asked as he ran to the entrance.

"To protect our home!" he replied, jumping out. I hurried to follow him, and right outside I saw him standing towards the incoming swarm. His necklace then started to glow brightly, and so did his hands which let out red glow. I then immediately realized what he was going to do.

"No! Don't use the Flame Stones!" I shouted, but it was too late. Almond unleashed a stream of fire from both his hands, which immediately started to show burn damage. It was clear from his face that he was in pain, but he kept streaming fire from his hands against the incoming swarm. The beetles seemed to realize that danger was near, and then they immediately escaped by burrowing to the ground before any of them got burned. Almond then stopped his flame throwing, then he fell down kneeling on the ground and panting. His hands from finger to elbow showed severe burn damage.

"Heh... Now they're gone..." he said, still panting heavily. The burn damage began to heal, but the healing rate was very slow.

"Almond! Are you alright?" I asked, running to him. "Why are your hands not healing fast?"

"It seems the magical power from the Flame Stones is a bit too strong for my regeneration to handle," he said, looking at his hands. "Don't worry, they'll heal in about... tonight."

"Thank you, brother," I said. "But please, no more doing anything like that. You had me worried sick."

"If you say so," he replied, and then we went home. Later, I walked around Strawberryland bringing Nature's Blessing to restore all plants the beetles had eaten.

At the next day, Almond went hunting again. He had fully healed his hands like he had said, but I was still worried about him so I followed him again. This time, I had prepared a way not to get exhausted like the day before.

"Brother, I appreciate that you're concerned about me but..." Almond said while carefully and silently aiming the camera towards a raccoon at a distance.

"But what?" I asked as the raccoon noticed something and escaped from sight.

"Following me by riding Arrowhead makes a lot of noise and scares the animals," Almond said with a sigh. Like he had said, I was riding Arrowhead, which I had modified to be able to run on any solid surface.

"Uh... Sorry," I said.

"Let's just sit down there and relax," he said, pointing towards a large tree. We then sat down under the tree and relaxed for a while.

"So, how your job as a hunter has been so far?" I asked.

"It was fine, except the continuous disturbing from one paranoid guy," he replied, then he smirked to me. "And how about your job as... inventor?"

"Very good. Yesterday I made that filter bottle, and today I made a new modification for my vehicle," I said, and we both laughed.

"I wonder how the others are doing now," he said.

"You can know right away, can't you?" I said.

"Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you," he said. "I can't watch life anymore."

"What? Why?" I asked.

"Ever since I got my new clothes, connecting myself to him without morphing to Albatross gives me painful headache," he said.

"Another downside? I'm now even more convinced that your new clothes aren't worth all the things you lost," I said.

"Well, while watching life I learned that people can go out of their way just to look better," he said. "I'm still sure that this is worth all the loss."

"Whatever you say," I said. "Still, I'm worried about those Berry Beetles. They only escaped underground, they might return again sooner or later."

"If they dare to return, I will exterminate them with fire for real," he said.

"No, don't you dare. Don't you dare burn yourself up again," I said.

"I didn't burn myself up. Only my hands! And I healed them overnight. See?" he said, showing me his healed hands.

"I know! But I don't want to risk you losing control of the Flame Stones and burning yourself up completely!" I said. "I lost you once, and I don't want it to happen again!"

"Losing control? You don't need to worry about that because..." he said before suddenly stopping.

"Because what?" I asked.

"Never mind. Alright, I won't use the stones," he said. The rest of the day passed without any of us saying much.

At the next day, Almond went hunting again. This time I had prepared a way to follow him without either getting exhausted or scaring animals away from him.

"Brother, I appreciate that you're concerned about me but..." Almond said while walking straight.

"But what?" I asked, and he stopped walking.

"Watching me through Midnight Eye... I'm just speechless now..." he said, and he started walking again. The Midnight Eye satellite kept following him while I watched the monitor at home. Everything seemed fine for a while, but then he stopped again. This time, he turned his head and looked straight at the camera. He looked really upset.

"I can't take this anymore, brother!" he said, and then he transformed into Albatross and flew away, quickly disappearing from sight.

"Maybe I really have overdone it," I said. I then decided to call the satellite back. However, on the way home, the satellite spotted something terrible. The berry beetles had returned and they marched towards Strawberryland again.

"Brother, can you hear me?" I said, hoping that he still heard what I said and heard like he used to be, but there was no response. "I have to tell everyone else!"

I then ran out from the house and straight to the outfield of Strawberryland. While on the way, I suddenly noticed a trail of peppermint tea leaves. I wondered why there was that trail there, but then I looked to the left and saw the swarm of beetles following the trail. I quickly ran away from the swarm while still following the trail. I knew that I could just run to the side, but I felt that I had to know where the trail led to and who made the trail. Not too far later, the trail of peppermint tea leaves ended, but immediately followed by a trail of what seemed to be candy shards. I kept running along the trail until I saw that the trail led to the other side of a river through a bridge made from a single tree log.

"Hey, Blackberry! Here!" I suddenly heard a voice. I looked around and saw Peppermint waving hand at me while hiding in a bush. I then went to the bush and found that along wih her there were Angel, Orange, Ginger, and Strawberry. They were all crouching to hide behind the bush.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, kneeling with one knee.

"We are luring the berry beetles to the other side of the river," Peppermint said.

"Once they are at the other side, we will push the log into the river," Angel said.

"I see," I said. "Well, we better be ready. They are already here."

Just after my last sentence, the swarm of beetles came and went across the river. All of us then immediately ran towards the log bridge and pushed it into the river. However, when the log fell down I lost my balance and fell down into the river. I then got dragged by the river's current.

"Blackberry! Oh no!" Strawberry shouted, and everyone there started running to chase me.

"This is bad, it sure is!" Ginger said. "We are not too far from a waterfall!"

"Take my hand!" Peppermint shouted, reaching her hand out to me while running along the river. I tried to reach her hand, but failed. The river kept dragging me, who helplessly tried to swim to the side. I actually could swim, but it was the first time I had to swim in a river with such strong current. Not to mention that I had to swim with all my clothes on. I struggled to swim to the side, but my clothes which had absorbed water heavily burdened me.

"Is this... the end?" I thought. My arms and legs were exhausted, and I could feel that I started sinking into the water. I still could hear my friends shouting at me, reaching their hands out, but their voices were getting lower and lower. Maybe this would really be the end of me...

--To be continued--
[Image: TheGrapesChildrenSig.png]
Interesting beginning. I would definitely not take the risk Almond took, with the change of attire. I wonder what this will lead to. He is going to lose the necklace, isn't he? I like that you have returned to incorporating episodes. My imagination imagined someone shooting bunnies in Strawberryland, and that was rather disturbing. =P

The adventure is intriguing, with a great episodic tie-in, and I look forward to seeing what happens next. I also feel very badly for Blackberry and Almond!

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