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Blackberry's Second Journal: Chapter 4
#1
Quote:Chapter 4: "That's what friends are for."


We all walked through the plains of Porcupine Peak Island. As I had previously mentioned, it was a nearly lifeless plain without many trees. Most of the land were occupied by weed. Lightnings roar regularly from the storm clouds above, which made sunlight dim, but there was no rain at all. Many of the plants were dying from drought. Some houses stand on the plain quite distant from each other, and all of them are in poor condition they were better said as shacks. I could see that everyone else were stunned by the rather horrible scenery compared to Strawberryland. It was comparable to a gloomy part of Oz we had visited, but it was still hard to believe that such gloomy place existed in our world. While still walking, a conversation happened.

"Cinnamon, could you tell us about this place?" Strawberry asked.

"Well..." Cinnamon replied. "This place is the western region. I used to live here with some others, but father said that not too long after he brought me, everyone else moved to the northern region."

"Northern region?" Angel asked.

"I don't know much about that place, but father also said that now most people live there," Cinnamon said. "One funny thing about this island is that no matter how hard it is carried by waves and winds, it never spins."

"What about the eastern and southern parts?" Orange asked.

"I don't know. I have never been told about those regions and I have never been there," Cinnamon said.

"Have you heard anything about the mountain?" Huck asked, looking at the mountain which was covered with storm clouds.

"No, everyone were too afraid of the storm clouds," Cinnamon said.

"So, most likely your father and the mermaids are at the northern part now?" I asked.

"I think so," Cinnamon replied. We kept walking for some more minutes until suddenly I heard Strawberry shouting. I was at the very front of the group at that moment.

"Seaberry!" she shouted. I quickly looked behind and saw that Seaberry had collapsed and Strawberry had to hold her to prevent her from hitting the ground. She was still not fainted yet, but she seemed very weak.

"What's the matter?" Coco asked, looking worried.

"No fever," I said, touching Seaberry's forehead. "You must be still exhausted from using your magic back then."

"Is there a place to rest here?" Angel asked. "This plain does not look like a good place to rest."

Cinnamon looked around, seeming to recognize the place. She then said, "My house is nearby. Let's go there."

We then continued walking with Cinnamon leading at the front while I and Huck had to hold Seaberry, who could barely walk, to our shoulders.

"You shouldn't hide that you were tired," I said.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't want to slow everyone down."

"Now we're slowed down anyway," I said. "No difference."

"Here we are," Cinnamon said. We looked at the house we have just arrived at. The shape of the house was a bit similar to Blueberry's house before tidied up, which made sense because they both had the word 'Muffin' in their names. We entered the house and got a bit surprised because the inside of the house was much cleaner than we had expected. The furnitures were placed neatly, and there was no dust. We then brought Seaberry to the bedroom and laid her down on the bed. After that, we gathered in the living room.

"Hey Cinnamon. Your house doesn't look abandoned. Nope, not at all! There is no dust here, am I right? A house abandoned for a long long time should have a lot of dust, am I right again?" Ginger said.

"At the day I left this house, I told father that I was worried about this house. He then said that he would take care of this house everytime he comes back to this island," Cinnamon replied. "I doubted him at first, so he made a pinky promise."

"Pinky Promise? Like this?" Peppermint asked, suddenly hitching her little finger to mine, who was the closest from her position. Cinnamon nodded.

"It looks like he kept the promise," Coco said, looking around the house. "I can't believe that he's the same man who kidnapped me and the mermaids."

I didn't hear the conversations afterwards. I went outside the house alone and sat on a stone large enough for me to sit on. I mused on the storming sky for a moment, and then I took something from my pocket. It was Albatross' remote, which had become useless because Albatross was no more. I pressed the button to call the ship, but a red light flashed above the button, indicating that Albatross could not be called. I then mused at the remote for some more seconds.

"May I sit here?" A voice I recognized as Huck said from my left.

"Yeah..." I replied while musing to the front, right hand still holding the remote.

"Is that the remote?" he asked, sitting on the ground next to me. I only nodded and then I put it back into my pocket. There was a silence for a few minutes until he spoke again. "You know, I think you have been acting weird recently."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"The way you have been talking," he said. "It made everyone else feel..."

"Bad?" I interrupted.

"Not really..." he said. "It's just that you have been... not you."

"Oh..." I said. "Sorry about that."

"You have been hiding it, am I correct?" he asked. "Your feeling about your ship."

"How can you say that?" I asked back.

"Hey, I'm the one who has been your friend the longest," he replied. "Alright, only longer by two days. Or one day if we don't count the day where I erased my memory. But still long enough to notice that you have been acting weird."

"Well..." I said with doubt.

"And long enough for me to know why you have been hiding it," he said.

"Really...?" I said.

"Yeah, two reasons. You don't want to be pitied by anyone, and you don't want anyone else to see you cry," he said, which was true. I kept silent and he spoke again. "You'll have pain in your chest if you keep doing that. Let them all out to me. Don't worry, nobody else is here."

"You know..." I said. "It took a long time to build Albatross,"

"Yeah, four years," he said.

"It also took a lot of trips to get the materials," I said.

"Yeah, I remember the adventure in the Sun Temple to get the Sun Stone. That was really exciting,"

"And it took a lot of efforts to make use of them," I said.

"Oh yes, I remember you blowing up something in the workshop. You inhaled a lot of smoke and fainted for hours. You have no idea how everyone else were worried about you," he said.

"Yeah, I was glad that Glinda knew a spell to drain all smoke from my lungs," I said. "Four years of memories, four years of joy and sorrow... and it's now gone..."

As I said the last line, I started to sob and leak tears. I couldn't speak any further. I tried to hold myself from crying, but it only caused pain on my chest. Huck seemed to notice and he stood up.

"Come here, Blackberry. You can cry on my shoulder," he said, giving me his hand. I looked at his hand, kept silent for some seconds, and finally took his hand. I then stood up, looked at his face for another few seconds, and began to burst out in tears. He then hugged me tight and I cried on his shoulder. It lasted for around one minute until I finally managed to stop my tears. I then released the hug, wiped my tears, and took a deep breath.

"Feel better now?" he asked.

"Yeah... Thanks," I said.

"Hey, that's what friends are for!" he said. Both of us then returned to Cinnamon's house.

It took about two hours of resting until Seaberry regained enough strength to walk again. The two hours were spent mostly telling Cinnamon about how great Strawberryland was, how nice the friends were, and many other things. Nothing was told about our recent journey to Oz, probably because they didn't want to accidentally remind me about the loss of my ship. But they seemed to have noticed that I had gotten over it.

We then continued walking towards the northern part of the island. The trip took about one hour and nothing significant happened along the way. When we arrived there we saw that the northern region was filled with quite a number of people. As we walked through the place, we noticed that the environment was quite similar to most villages in Oz where the inhabitants walk around doing their own businesses, but the difference here was that most people have sore face. There were many adults but children were there as well. We could notice that some of them looked at us in suspicion and whispered to each other.

"We don't seem to fit in here, I think," Huck said.

"I think so too," Orange said.

"Yeah me too, but I have no idea why. Nope, not at all," Ginger said.

"Apple Dumplin' doesn't like the look of this," Apple said.

"I think I know," I said. "Our group is a bit too colorful, and you can notice that all people here has something purple worn on them."

"I think that can be right," Peppermint said, looking around. "In any case, where should we go now?"

"I think that answers the question," Cinnamon said, looking at a poster placed on a wall. The poster advertised about a circus having a new spectacular attraction. There was a picture of Licorice whip and a silhouette of a mermaid on the poster, so we were convinced that we have just found what we were looking for. To our convenience, the poster included a map of where the circus tent was located, so we went to the location immediately. On the way there was a conversation.

"By the way, has any of us figured out what to do once we find them?" Strawberry asked.

"No, I have not," Seaberry said.

"I haven't either," Orange said.

"Neither have I," Angel said.

"Nope, not me," Ginger said.

"Apple still has no idea," Apple said.

"Don't ask me. I don't even have a clue," Peppermint said.

"Don't ask me either," Raven said.

"Sorry, I still have no idea," Coco said.

"I don't know..." Cinnamon said.

"Hey, does that mean none of us have any idea?" Huck asked.

"Well, there are two options," I said. "Convince him to give the mermaids back, or sneak them out at night."

"I don't think we can do the first option," Peppermint said.

"Yeah, he won't just give them back," Angel said.

"So we will sneak them out at night then," I said. "But that makes another question."

"What is it?" Coco asked.

"Well, where should we bring the mermaids once we have them?" I replied. "My ship is no more, so that's out of the options."

"I'm thinking of bringing them to the nearest beach and throwing them into the sea so they can swim away," Peppermint said.

"That can be done, but I don't think they are willing to leave us," I said.

"Well..." Cinnamon said. "I have an idea but..."

"Tell us, Cinnamon! Any idea is berry worth hearing!" Strawberry said.

"My father once said that he always docks his boat at the port. Maybe you can... borrow his boat to bring everyone out of this island?" Cinnamon said.

"That's a great idea, yep it sure is! You should have said that sooner!" Ginger said.

"But that feels like stealing from him..." Cinnamon said.

"Hey, listen!" Peppermint said. "He stole our friends, so we will steal his boat to get our friends back. That's fair for me."

"Peppermint, I don't think that's a berry good way to say that," Strawberry said. "We will only borrow the boat."

"Alright, sorry about that," Peppermint said.

"Let's put it this way," I said. "We are going to borrow his boat and hope that he will realize how bad it feels to be stolen from. Hopefully that way he will realize the mistakes he has been making."

"I don't think that would work. He has felt that feeling already when we rescued the horses," Angel said. "But we don't have any other choice, so yeah..."

With the new plan set in mind, we continued walking to the circus tent. We arrived at the tent 15 minutes later. The tent was just like any other circus tent I have seen in books, although the size of the tent was rather small. The tent was situated near the bottom of a small hill, and there were no other buildings near it. According to the poster, at that day there would be a promotional performance which was free of charge. That could explain the crowd entering the tent.

"How about going in and watch the performance?" I suggested. "We still can't rescue them at this time anyway, so we can use this to rest a bit and also to see the situation."

Everyone agreed to my idea, so we entered the tent and took our seats. In the middle of the tent, we could see a huge box-shaped thing covered in cloth. I could guess that the thing was a huge aquarium and the mermaids were put there. Not too long after, Licorice Whip himself came out to the middle stage and officially started the circus.

"Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the most spectacular, most unique, and the best circus in Porcupine Peak!" he shouted, and the crowd cheered. "Today, in this special performance, I will show you something very spectacular! These are the legendary creatures we have been believing to exist only in fairy tales, but they are really real!"

"Creatures? How dare him mentioning them as creatures!" Peppermint said.

"Well, they are not humans like us so he has a point," I said. "But it still doesn't sound right indeed."

"Boss... You haven't changed at all..." Raven said.

"Now, without further speech, I will show you..." Licorice said, holding a rope connected to the huge box. "Mermaids!"

As he said the last word, he strongly pulled the rope. The cloth covering the box fell down, and as I had guessed it revealed a huge aquarium with all five mermaids in there. I was a bit surprised that the mermaids had not changed at all since the last time I had seen them. It just seemed that they had not aged at all after being cured from petrification. The mermaids then started to swim around in a stylish way that all of us were dazzled by their performance. They were smiling during the performance, but I could notice that their smiles were not true smiles. Soon, Licorice pulled a different rope and a huge cloth fell from above the aquarium, covering it once again.

"Alright, that's all for this promotional performance!" he shouted. "Come back tomorrow for the real performance, of course not free of charge!"

All of us then left the tent. Before leaving, I could see Licorice moving the huge aquarium towards the back of the tent.

"I'm going to sneak to the back and check on them. Meet me again on top of that hill in one hour," I said, pointing at the small hill nearby.

"You can't go alone. I'll go with you," Huck said.

"No, I must go alone," I said, taking Blind Spot from my pocket. "I only have one of this."

"Oh, your invisibility badge. I see," he said. "Be careful then."

"I will," I said, putting the badge on my shirt and disappearing.

As they had promised, everyone else went to the top of the small hill located not far to the front left of the circus tent and waited there. From that place, they could see the circus tent on the right and the port on the left. The port itself seemed not to have many boats docked, but the distance was still too far to recognize if Licorice Whip's boat was docked there. They then waited for me to come, but I didn't came even though one hour almost passed.

"Where's Blackberry?" Coco asked. "It's almost one hour."

"None of us know," Peppermint said.

"I'm worried about him," Angel said. "Licorice might have caught him."

"It's still not one hour yet," Huck said. "He will come. Believe him."

"Sorry to keep you waiting," a voice they recognized as my voice spoke. I then took Blind Spot from my shirt and revealed myself.

"See?" Huck said. "So, what did you find out there?"

"This won't be as hard as we have expected," I said. "He separated them to five smaller aquariums and put all the aquariums into five separate cage carriages, the same type he once used to keep the horses he horsenapped. Probably to prevent them from talking to each other and making any escape plan."

"So, first we have to look for the keys?" Seaberry asked.

"No, I have my Key Master. We don't need to look for any keys," I said.

"How should we carry them out? I don't think we are all strong enough to carry all aquariums for long," Peppermint said.

"Fortunately, there is a wheelbarrow left in front of each carriage. We can use them to carry the aquariums," I said.

"That sounds good! Let's do it right now, shall we?!" Ginger said.

"No, we should wait until nightfall," I said.

"I will be just slowing you down then," Cinnamon said. "I'll be blind again at that time."

"You will wait at the entrance and watch if someone is coming," I said. "Your hearing is very helpful in this case. Raven can help watching as well."

"I see," Cinnamon said.

"Ok, boss," Raven said.

"With Cinnamon and Raven watching, there are ten of us going in. Two of us for each aquarium will be best to save time. After we get them out, we will bring them to the port and use his boat to carry us out," I said.

"What about the barrier?" Seaberry asked.

"I saw in Albatross' monitor that the barrier only works one way. We can't get in but we can get out," I said. "So, I think we are settled?"

Everyone agreed that the plan was settled, and then we waited until nightfall. Once the time came, we slowly sneaked into the back of the circus tent. Cinnamon and Raven stayed near the entrance to watch as planned, and everyone else continued sneaking towards the cage carriages. Soon, we arrived at the first carriage where Mermaid Strawberry was held. She was asleep, but she soon woke up and saw us. She seemed very relieved and excited, but I immediately put my finger on my mouth, signaling her to keep quiet. She seemed to understand. I then used Key Master to unlock the carriage.

"Here, take this and use it to unlock the next carriage," I said, giving Key Master to Strawberry. "Remember, two persons for each aquarium."

Soon, one by one the carriages were unlocked and the aquariums were put on the wheelbarrows. We then quietly pushed the wheelbarrows to the entrance, where Cinnamon and Raven was still keeping watch. I was glad that nothing happened to get in our way. However, I got relieved too early. Suddenly there was a loud noise of clanking cans. It seemed somehow one of us had activated some kind of alarm without knowing.

"What's that noise?" Coco asked.

"Sounds like an alarm," Orange said.

"What we're gonna do?" Angel asked.

"Run to the port as fast as you can and don't look back!" I shouted, and all of us started running towards the port. It was hard to run fast while pushing the wheelbarrows. Cinnamon ran hand in hand with Coco, so there was no need to worry about her. Soon, we arrived at the port. There was no people because it was still in the middle of the night, but there were enough lightings for us to see our way. We immediately went to the only pier the port had, and as we had expected we saw Licorice's boat there.

"Alright, let's bring them into the boat and..." I said before there was an interruption.

"That is as far as you go, meddling kids!" a voice shouted. We looked at the source and found that the voice came from Licorice Whip himself. Standing next to him was Seaberry. Her arms were tied with a rope around her body, and Licorice held an extension of the rope with his hand.

"Seaberry? Since when..?" Coco said in shock. Everyone were surprised as well.

"Ha! All of you were so focused in running that none of you noticed this kid tripping and falling. That was an easy catch for me!" Licorice said, laughing.

"I'm sorry, everyone," Seaberry said.

"Don't do this, boss!" Raven said.

"Heh, why should I listen to you, no good bird? You betrayed me!" Licorice said.

"Father, please stop this!" Cinnamon said.

"No, Cinnamon. I need the mermaids for my circus, so I can become silly rich!" Licorice said. "Now give the mermaids back to me, or I'll have her in the performance tomorrow instead."

"Father, please!" Cinnamon begged with some tears leaking, but Licorice seemed unaffected.

"You will understand in time, Cinnamon," he said. "Come on! Quickly!"

"Ugh..." I said, looking at the bad situation. None of us would leave Seaberry behind, but if we gave the mermaids back our whole effort would be just for nothing. None of the options were good, and even if we gave back the mermaids there was no guarantee he would return Seaberry to us. We were totally out of luck.

However, suddenly a lightning strike fell down to the space between our group and Licorice, surprising everyone. Immediately, more lightning strikes fell down all over the port, tearing some buildings down and starting fire. All of us looked upwards and saw a large spiraling fire floating above the sea towards us, firing more lightning strikes.

"What is that thing?!" Peppermint asked.

"Don't ask me! I have no idea!" I replied.

Suddenly, the fire increased its speed and flew towards us. Without even having time to think, all of us including the mermaids and Seaberry were sucked by the fire. Most of us screamed in fear, and then everything went dark.

I didn't faint at all. After hitting some sort of solid ground, I attempted to stand up. I could feel that the space I was in was crowded with everyone else lying down there. After I managed to stand up, the next thing I noticed was the most surprising thing I have ever experienced.

"Albatross...?" I said in disbelief. "But how...?"

"What, we're inside Albatross right now? That couldn't be, am I right? The ship has exploded into pieces, am I right again?" Ginger said, getting up.

"Is this real? How could it happen?" Orange asked. I then immediately went to sit on the pilot seat.

"Everyone, I know you all have a lot of questions, but believe me that I am as clueless as you are," I said. Then, without me touching anything on the cockpit, Albatross flew by itself away from the island. As expected, the barrier only worked one way so there was no trouble getting past it. I then turned my pilot seat around so I could see everyone else being cramped in the passenger space because of the five additional passengers who were the mermaids.

"We should untie Seaberry now," I said, looking towards Seaberry, whose arms were still tied up. The extension of the rope were clamped at the place where the canopy and the body were attached whenever the canopy was closed. Apple, who was the closest to Seaberry, quickly untied the ropes.

"HELP!!!" suddenly we heard someone yelling for help. The scream seemed to come from behind. I tried turning on the monitor to see the source, but there was no response. I then tried looking through the glass of the canopy, and saw that the one screaming was Licorice Whip. He was dangling on the rope extension, pushed to the back because of Albatross' high speed.

"Father!" Cinnamon shouted.

"At this speed he will be crushed by the sea water if he falls down!" I said.

"Blackberry! Stop this ship!" Strawberry shouted.

"I'm trying, but the controls are not responding!" I said, trying to stop Albatross in futile attempt.

"Then there's only one way!" Huck said. "Everyone, grab the rope! Open the canopy, and we pull him in together!"

"Okay!" I said, manually opening the canopy. We then pulled the rope with all our strength.

"H-HELP! I CAN'T HOLD ON MUCH LONGER!" Licorice shouted, his grip were starting to slip towards the end of the rope.

"Hang in there! We are pulling you in!" Strawberry said.

"I C-CAN'T HOLD ON ANYMORE!" Licorice shouted, dangling on the very end of the rope.

"Father! Please! Don't let go! I don't want to lose you!" Cinnamon shouted. "I love you, father! So please! Don't leave me alone!"

Cinnamon's lines seemed to have become an additional strength for Licorice. He then started to climb the rope while we kept pulling the rope into the ship. Soon, he reached the passenger space and climbed into it. After he was safe, I closed the canopy. Everyone then fell into sitting position, panting a lot.

"Why...?" Licorice said, still panting. "Why did you help me? After what I have done?"

There was a silence for a few seconds.

"Do we need a reason?" I asked back. "We don't need a reason to help someone. Everybody are basically born to help each other. If someone is in danger and needs help, we will help without any question."

"Yeah, that's right," Peppermint said. "And besides, you're not as bad as we have been thinking. Cinnamon told us a lot about you."

"Eh, Cinnamon?" Licorice asked, looking at Cinnamon. She then started to sob and jumped to hug Licorice. "Hey, what are you...?"

"Father! I'm so glad you are safe!" Cinnamon said. Licorice was silent for a while.

"Maybe I have been wrong all this time," he said. "I wanted to earn a lot of money and become silly rich," he continued. "I wanted to make my daughter happy by becoming rich. That has been my goal."

"Father, I don't need you to be rich!" Cinnamon said. "I only need you to stay with me! Like how we have been doing!"

"I understand, dear. I won't leave you again," Licorice said, hugging Cinnamon back. Soon, Albatross suddenly stopped. I looked outside and it turned out that it had landed right in front of Licorice's house. Cinnamon and Licorice then jumped off and looked at us. Raven followed them.

"I will continue to live here with my daughter," Licorice said. "I think I will just forget the idea of making a big circus."

"I have decided to trust my boss once more. Please tell the horses on Ice Cream Island that I will come to visit them sometimes," Raven said.

"Thank you for your help, everyone!" Cinnamon said.

"That's what friends are for," I replied.

"Come visit us some time if you can. We will gladly welcome you," Licorice said.

"Of course we will!" Strawberry said with a smile. I then closed the canopy and Albatross flew away by itself. Both Cinnamon and Licorice waved their hands at us. Soon, Albatross stopped and floated above the sea near Coco's house. I then opened the canopy.

"Thank you berry much for helping us!" Mermaid Strawberry said.

"I absolooootely have no idea what would have happened if you didn't come," Mermaid Blueberry said.

"You can say that again, matey," Mermaid Rainbow said. Mermaid Coco and Mermaid Seaberry hugged their 'twins' and then all mermaids jumped into the sea. Albatross then flew by itself again and landed on the beach next to Coco's house. I hadn't even gotten the chance to close the canopy, so we all got off immediately.

"You know, I didn't think that your ship could do those things," Huck said. "Making lightning strikes, becoming a spiraling fire. Those were amazing!"

"Yeah, Albatross has a lightning cannon and two flamethrowers," I said. "Henry said that I would need some sort of defense sooner or later, so he put those weapons into it."

"And he was totally right!" Ginger said.

"Now comes the big question," Peppermint said. "How did this ship come back together? I mean, it exploded into burning pieces!"

"Well," I said. "If I think about it, the material I used to build the whole body came from a strange stone which can regenerate."

"Regenerate?" Orange asked.

"You don't say..." Huck said. "The stone from the Center of The Planet?"

"Yes, that one," I said. "Whenever I scratch it, the scratch mark disappears within an hour. But I didn't care much about that ability because the stone was nearly as light as feather while as strong and durable as steel. That was the most important thing for me."

"Alright, maybe that answers the first question," Apple said. "But Apple still wonders why the ship flew by itself."

"Yeah, it was like it is alive and can think by itself," Angel said.

"I have no idea about that," I said. "But we are now here, safe and sound. Everything ended well."

"Yeah, that's the most important thing!" Strawberry said.

"Thank you everyone," Coco said. "I couldn't have done it without you."

"Yeah, me too," Seaberry said.

"That's what friends are for," Strawberry said, and we all had a big group hug.

--End of Chapter 4--
[Image: TheGrapesChildrenSig.png]
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#2
  • Western region Smile
  • I love it that you brought a group to Porcupine Peak, by the way
  • Angel Cake is half-purple à la (in the style of) Mango Jubilee. But I doubt something like that would be on the residents' minds. The group is too colorful.
  • This really was suspenseful!
  • So many parents want to be amazing impressive providers. For that I can certainly sympathize with Licorice Whip.
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