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Blackberry Bun's Journal: Chapter 31
Quote:Chapter 31: Sour Plum

One month have passed after the journey west. Over the month I noticed Watermelon Kiss coming to Strawberryland from time to time, although I didn't see Carmel Corn at all. I could understand though, that she was busy tending her farm. The weather was naturally cool with rains every few days, and piles of dried leaves could be found under most trees over Strawberryland, except lollipop trees of course.

I was walking around Strawberryland alone when I decided to stop by a tree. The tree was just an ordinary tree which had lost quite an amount of its leaves because of the autumn season. The tree was located quite far from the central area of Strawberryland and the closest house was Blueberry's house, so it was less likely that anybody else would come there anytime soon. The tree stood without any other similar trees close by. Its size was quite big and the remaining leaves were still plenty, enough to cover me from sunlight. Because of the mild condition, I decided to lie down under the tree and relax. I was almost asleep under that tree, when I suddenly heard a voice.

"Psst! Hey, kid!" the voice said, which sounded familiar to me. I got up into sitting position and found out that the voice was from Sour Grapes.

"You're Sour Grapes," I said.

"Oh, you know me?" she asked.

"I have seen you and heard about you a few times," I replied. "But we have never met for real before."

"Oh, I see. Anyway, I need you to do me a favor!" she said, seeming in a hurry.

"What is it?" I asked.

"There will be a newcomer in Strawberryland soon. I need you befriend and also watch her," she replied.

"Why should I? I mean, I'm sure everyone else in Strawberryland will be her friends with pleasure," I asked again.

"I'm worried about her. She is my..." she replied before suddenly interrupted by a loud voice from somewhere.

"Sour Grapes! Where are you?!" the voice yelled, which I recognized as Pie Man's voice. Sour Grapes seemed surprised and stopped her speech.

"There's no time! I need to go now! Please, just do me that favor!" she said in a hurry, and then she immediately left the place.

What had just happened left me wondering. What was so special about this new girl that Sour Grapes needed to ask me to befriend her, even though everybody else would most likely do so without being asked? She also had asked me to watch the new girl. What did that mean? Was she a type of girl who caused a lot of mischief? There were a lot of questions in my head, but then I decided to let it by and see what would happen next. With that in mind, I walked home.

At the next day, words spread across Strawberryland that there was a newcomer. Honey Pie Pony was the one who had found out the presence of the newcomer, and she spread the news to everyone. The newcomer lived in Plum Prairie, which was not too far from Punch Bowl Pond. Everyone then arranged a group to go there and throw a warm welcome to the newcomer. I joined the group, which consisted of the main four girls, and went with them to the newcomer's house.

The walk to Plum Prairie passed without any trouble. Not too long after passing Rainbow's boat, we arrived at the area and saw the house where the newcomer lived. As the area's name suggested, the house was shaped like a plum fruit, and right next to it was a tall plum tree. Strawberry then approached the front door and pressed the doorbell button she found.

"Coming!" a voice was heard from inside.

We waited a little bit, then suddenly we heard a loud noise of things falling down to the floor.

"What happened? Are you okay?" Strawberry shouted.

"Uh... Yeah, I'm just fine! I'm coming now!" the voice replied. Soon, the door opened and we saw a girl in purple wearing glasses with green frames. Her purple hair was a mess, and her shirts weren't any better.

"Hello, how can I help you?" the girl greeted.

"We want to say welcome to you. I'm Strawberry Shortcake, and this is Angel Cake, Ginger Snap, Orange Blossom, and Blackberry Bun," Strawberry replied.

"Oh, I'm Plum Puddin'. Sorry, but my home is a mess right now. I'm still unpacking things," the girl said.

"And the noise just then...?" Orange asked.

"...I tripped and fell down bumping my wardrobe, then everything fell out from it..." Plum replied, blushing.

"Sounds like you're having problems," Angel commented.

"You want us to help?" Strawberry offered.

"Well... I'd like to... that is, if you don't mind..." Plum said timidly.

"Why should we? Right everyone?" Strawberry said, looking at the rest of us.

"Of course I will help!" Angel said.

"Yep, you can count on me, yessire!" Ginger said.

"I will help too!" Orange said.

"I will too," I said.

It was settled quickly that by the next minute all of us were already busy tidying Plum's house up. It actually could be done faster, but I, along with the rest of the group, learned that Plum was quite a walking chaos. She tripped and fell down quite often that some places we had tidied up became a mess again. None of us complained, although I noticed Angel Cake starting to get upset. The activity continued until we heard Angel Cake shouting.

"Hey, look at this!" Angel shouted, and everyone else approached her. She was holding something that seemed like a photo frame which she had found along with other things in the cardboard box she was taking care of.

"What is it?" Strawberry asked.

"Look at this photo!" Angel replied, pointing at the photo. Everyone looked at the photo, and at the next second everyone except me and Plum gasped. Plum was in the photo, between two other persons we knew very well: Purple Pie Man and Sour Grapes.

"Woow, are my eyes playing with me, Or they are really The Peculiar Purple Pie Man from Porcupine Peak and his sister Sour Grapes?" Ginger asked.

"It does seem so..." Angel said.

"You know them, Plum Puddin'?" Orange asked.

"Well..." Plum replied, pausing for a moment. "They are my cousins..."

"What? They are your family?!" Angel said, surprised.

"Yeah... Is there... something wrong...?" Plum asked.

I then began to understand what Sour Grapes had asked. Both Sour Grapes and her brother had quite a bad reputation in Strawberryland, and it might affect everyone's affection towards Plum. Perhaps Sour Grapes had asked me because she had been worried about Plum, and had hoped someone would be willing to be Plum's friend if the worst happened. However, I felt that it had not been needed after all.

"There's nothing wrong at all! Isn't that berry right, everybody?" Strawberry said, just as I had thought.

"Yeah, nothing really wrong," Orange said slowly with doubt.

"I guess..." Angel said.

"Yeah, nothing wrong at all! They only tried to rob us one, two, three times! Other than that nothing wrong at all yessire!" Ginger said.

"Ginger! No!" Strawberry shouted and Ginger realized it, covering her mouth with her own hands, but it was already too late.

"They... tried to rob you all...?" Plum asked. She seemed surprised and sad. "What did they stole?"

"Umm... yeah... they did..." Strawberry said. "But they didn't steal anything."

"Oh... I guess, I have no place here after all..." Plum said, lowering her head and starting to leak tears.

"Why not? You're always welcome here!" Strawberry said.

"But my cousins..." Plum said.

"I don't really care who your cousins are! They are they! You are you!" Strawberry said, taking hold of Plum's hands.

"That's right, Plum. You are always welcome here," Orange said. There was a silence for a few seconds, but then Plum started to smile.

"Thanks, everyone," Plum said.

"Hey, don't mention it! Now let's finish our work here so we will not be late for the party, am I right?" Ginger said.

"Party? What party?" Plum asked.

"We're gonna have a welcome party for you!" Angel said.

"A party... for me?" Plum asked, not believing what she had just heard.

"Everybody deserves a warm welcome," Strawberry said, smiling.

Soon all of us finished tidying up and then we went to the clubhouse where the rest of the kids had prepared a welcome party. The party itself was a good one, but it could have been better if Plum hadn't mistakenly tripped and hit a table, destroying the cake the kids had made. During the party I learned that Plum was quite a clumsy girl that she often made mistakes left and right. But all in all every kids in Strawberryland were more than happy to have another friend.

One week later, something seemed weird. The berries in the fields seemed to have reduced in amount. The difference was not so significant though, so everyone agreed that some rabbits or squirrels or such might had eaten the berries. However, I still doubted it so I made a device to watch over the berry fields and brought it there. When I arrived, I met some kids who are Plum, Orange, Strawberry, and Blueberry.

"Hey, everyone," I greeted.

"Hi, Blackberry!" Strawberry greeted back, followed by the rest of the kids.

"What are you all doing here?" I asked.

"We are picking some berries for making cakes," Orange replied. "Strawberry is going to make a garden party tomorrow."

"It'll be a berry great party! I hope you can come!" Strawberry said.

"Uh... I'm here just to... take photos," Plum said, showing her camera which she had been hiding behind her back.

"Hey, what a nice camera you have there," I commented. "Can you take a picture of the four of us?"

"Um... Yeah, okay..." she said, and then the other kids stood in line. She then took a picture of us.

"When will we have the picture?" Blueberry asked.

"Umm... Tomorrow... I'll give you the picture tomorrow," Plum replied.

"Okay. By the way..." Blueberry said, looking at me. "I have been wondering what that thing is."

"Oh, this?" I said, showing the device I had been holding. "I'm sure you all remember my Eagle Eye, right?"

"Yes," Blueberry replied.

"I modified it so it can move around on its own," I replied. "This is so it can watch over the berry fields 24/7"

"Oh, like a... what was the name...? Surlev... Surf..." Blueberry said.

"Surveillance camera," Plum said.

"That's right! Wow... you sure know a lot of things," Blueberry said.

"Ah... No, not really..." Plum said timidly.

"Anyway, why do you want it to watch over the berry fields?" Blueberry asked me.

"I'm still curious about the decreasing of the berries' amount lately," I replied. "With this hopefully we can find out the cause."

"That's berry nice of you!" Strawberry said.

I then turned the device on and let it go. It moved in circles for a few seconds, and then it went away.

"Where is it going?" Plum asked.

"The berry fields are quite large, so I think it will need around five minutes to go around the fields," I said.

"Oh, how long it will last?" she asked again.

"Its energy comes from sunlight, so there's no problem," I replied. "While at night it will have enough energy in reserve to last until dawn."

"That means it really can watch over the berry fields 24/7 like you said, right?" she said.

"That's right. Although, there's one problem," I said, pausing for a moment. "If it rains at noon, the device won't have enough energy to last throughout the night. If that happens the device will automatically return to my house once the energy reaches critical level."

"I see..." Plum said.

The conversation between Plum and I continued for quite a while. Both of us were so into the conversation that we didn't realize that at a not-so-far distance the other three girls were looking at us in confusion. We didn't even hear their own conversation.

"Strawberry, do you understand what they are talking about?" Orange asked.

"Uhh... Not exactly... Not precisely..." Strawberry replied.

"Not at all," Blueberry said. "It seems they make a good couple, huh?"

"Huh? What couple?" Orange asked.

"A brainy four-eyed couple," Blueberry said, and the trio giggled.

"But now I'm berry glad that Blackberry now has a friend who can understand him more than us," Strawberry said.

"I second that," Blueberry said.

"Me too," Orange said.

Plum complimented me on how great my Eagle Eye was, but I said, "It's still not perfect. And now because it can see at night better than before, I renamed it into... Midnight Eye."

So, over the next few days Midnight Eye watched over the berry fields 24/7 like I had said. Every morning I checked the monitor on my working table if the satellite had seen anything suspicious. It hadn't found anything suspicious, but the amount of berries stayed the same so I was still not convinced.

One day, it rained hard at noon and the rain had been lasting for over three hours. I looked at the cloudy sky, thinking that the satellite would probably return to my house that night. I ran out of materials so I couldn't make a second satellite or anything else to overcome the situation. So, I had no choice other than hoping that the amount of berries would stay the same at the next day.

In the next morning, I woke up with worries in my head. Indeed I found the satellite lying on my working table. I then checked the monitor if there was anything suspicious caught on tape before the satellite had to retreat. I found nothing suspicious so I took the satellite and brought it with me to the berry fields. When I arrived there, I immediately turned the device on and threw it upwards. Then, I also walked around the fields to check if there was any berries missing.

My fear came out to be true. Some patches had lost quite an amount of berries. The thieves stole the berries right after the satellite retreated. It was really a bad coincidence, so I decided to call the satellite and do a few settings. While I was setting the satellite up, some kids came. They were Apricot, Peppermint, Plum, and Lemon.

"Hey, what are you doing here? And what's that thing?" Peppermint asked.

"Oh, hi Peppermint, Apricot, Plum, and Lemon," I replied, then I repeated most things I had said to Plum the day before.

"Umm... what...?" Lemon asked, confused.

"That sounds... totally cool... I think..." Apricot said, seeming confused as well.

"Hmph, you've just made smokes to come out from my head, you know," Peppermint said.

"So, have you found the thief?" Plum asked.

"Bad coincidence, the thief stole some berries again after the satellite came back to my house last night," I said.

"Oh..." Plum said.

"So now I'm setting it to slow down the lower its battery gets instead of returning to me. Hopefully this time the thief will be caught in action," I said.

"I see, but how much slower?" she asked.

"Well, can't say for sure but maybe around twenty minutes for one cycle at night if it rains at noon again. Otherwise it stays the same," I replied.

"I see," Plum said. "Oh, here's the picture," she continued, taking something from her small bag and giving it to me.

"Picture? Oh, that picture," I said, taking the picture she had given.

Both of us didn't realize that the same thing happened again like a few days before. The other three girls had their conversation as Plum and I had ours, and both of us hadn't realized it.

"Hmph! That kid sure is weird, and the other kid is just as weird," Peppermint said.

"They are?" Lemon asked.

"Yeah, who else?" Peppermint replied. "But somehow I like his weirdness."

"Yeah, me too. Totally cool," Apricot said.

"Me too," Lemon said.

"But I still can't trust that girl," Peppermint said.

"Really? Why?" Apricot asked.

"There's something wrong with her. I can feel it," Peppermint replied.

"You can?" Lemon asked.

"Can you just stop asking like that every time? That's sorta annoying!" Peppermint said. "Yes, I can! And now I'm leaving!"

So, once again Midnight Eye patrolled the berry fields 24/7 without fail, until one day it rained again at noon. Like the previous rain, it lasted for around three hours so I was sure Midnight Eye would slow down at night. There was nothing I could do so I just went to sleep that night.

At the next morning, I checked the monitor to see if the berries have disappeared again. At first there was nothing wrong, but when it came to night time and the satellite slowed down, I was surprised that the amount of berries in one part of the field had reduced after one cycle of the satellite. That meant the thief took the berries while the satellite was away for its cycle.

"Now this is weird. It almost seems that the thief knows the gap in the satellite's watch," I thought. "Looks like I need to talk with Strawberry."

I then walked to Strawberry's house, still thinking about all possibilities that could happen. One thing came to my mind but I could not believe it so I tried to forget it. Later, I arrived at Strawberry's house and pressed the doorbell button. Soon, the door opened and I met Strawberry.

"Hi, Blackberry! It's nice that you came! Please come in!" She welcomed me.

"Thanks Strawberry," I said, walking into the house.

Inside the house, Strawberry offered me drinks and I accepted. Then I sat on her sofa and asked her to sit beside me. While each of us was holding a glass of juice, a conversation happened.

"The berries have disappeared again," I said, taking a sip.

"Really? Did you find the thief?" Strawberry asked.

"No," I replied, shaking my head. "Somehow the thief took the berries while my satellite wasn't watching."

"How come?" she asked.

"I don't know. It happened two times with different conditions and it seems like the thief knows the gap of the satellite's watch," I replied.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"It seems the thief knows the right time when he can steal the berries without being seen by my satellite," I replied, taking another sip. "Midnight Eye is not perfect, but for the thief to exactly know its weakness even after I changed it..."

"Well... I don't exactly understand, not precisely..." she said, taking a sip. "But there must be a way. Don't give up now."

"Actually, I have one thing in mind," I said. "But you probably won't agree with me."

"What is it?" she asked.

"There's someone who knows and understands Midnight Eye's weakness, and I also told her the new weakness after I had changed it," I said. "Not to mention that the berries started to disappear after she came."

"No, Blackberry! Don't tell me that you suspect Plum Puddin'! She's our friend!" Strawberry said.

"That's why I said you probably won't agree with me," I said, taking the last sip. "Of course I don't want to suspect her, but the situation says otherwise."

"Well... maybe you're right..." she said, pausing for a moment. "But think of another possibility. Maybe the thief eavesdropped when you told Plum!"

"That's impossible. Midnight Eye would spot the thief right away because it was already on watch by that time," I replied. "Don't worry, Strawberry. I won't say anything about it to anyone else for now. I will look for evidence first."

"I hope the thief is really not Plum..." Strawberry said, lowering her head.

"Me too, Strawberry. Whatever evidence I will find, I hope it will prove that Plum is not the thief," I said.

Soon, I left Strawberry's house. Because I wanted to find the truth as soon as possible, I began my investigation on Plum immediately. I began by walking to her house to see if she was home. Once I arrived at her house, I pressed the doorbell button and waited. There was no response and the door was locked so I could say that she was not at home. However, just to make sure I replaced my glasses with Vision to look at the inside of Plum's house. I was surprised by what I saw next. Inside the house I saw Purple Pie Man handgagging Plum, and Sour Grapes standing next to them. Then, I noticed Purple Pie Man using body language to Sour Grapes, who seemed to understand and walked towards the door. I quickly took Blind Spot from my pocket and put it on my shirt just in time so she didn't notice me when she opened the door slightly and looked through it.

Once she returned back inside without forgetting to lock the door, I took Key Master and used it to open the lock. Then I opened the door slowly and walked in without making any noise. Purple Pie Man noticed the opening door but he didn't see me because Blind Spot worked perfectly to keep me invisible.

"Close the door, Sour Grapes!" Pie Man ordered, still handgagging Plum.

"I could have sworn I have locked the door!" Sour Grapes replied.

"But you didn't. Close the door now!" Pie Man said.

"Alright, alright," Sour Grapes replied with upset face, walking to the door and locked it again. After the door was locked, Pie Man released his hand from Plum's mouth.

"Okay now, kid! Do you have any new information?" Pie Man asked. There was no answer from Plum. "Answer me now!"

Plum kept silent, and that infuriated Pie Man even more.

"Do I have to remind you about your task?!" Pie Man said. "Your task is to spy on the kids, note their activities, and find the weaknesses I can use to my advantage so I can get all the berries in this land and get my factory!"

"But you didn't say that you would steal the berries every night!" Plum replied.

"Why should I tell you? I just wanted to take some myself for a start!" Pie man replied back. "But thanks to that meddling kid with his annoying device, I couldn't take the berries anymore!"

Plum kept silent, and so did Sour Grapes.

"However, now I want to see that kid's face when he knows his device is just a failure!" Pie Man said, followed with a laugh. "And that was thanks to you, for telling me that the device will go away at night if it rains at noon!"

"But..." Plum said, but she couldn't continue.

"Also thanks to you for telling me yesterday that the kid made the device to slow down at night instead of going away. Twenty minutes is more than enough for me to take some berries!" Pie Man said. "Now tell me your information!"

"I..." Plum said, and once again she couldn't continue.

"Do I have to remind you that we are cousins? We are families! Choose! Your family or those kids?!" Pie Man said.

Everything I saw and heard made everything clear to me. Pie Man had a plan to spy on every Strawberryland kids, and for that he used his own cousin who had just moved to Strawberryland. Sour Grapes had asked me that favor probably because in her heart she hadn't agreed on that plan and had wanted me to befriend and watch over Plum so there would be someone to keep her company in case she was found and shunned by other kids. My thought could be wrong, but I was very sure that both Plum and Sour Grapes actually didn't agree about this plan but they didn't have the heart to refuse.

I then took Inner Heart from my pocket and shot both Plum Puddin' and Sour Grapes with it. All I could do next was just hope.

"I... I don't want to do this!" Plum said.

"What? So you choose those kids rather than your own family?!" Pie man said, seeming infuriated.

"No! I love you, cousin. That's why I told you about that surveillance satellite, because I didn't want you to get caught," Plum said, starting to sound determined. "But I cannot betray them! They are the first friends I have who still like me, even though they know how careless I am!"

Pie Man was silent, seeming surprised by Plum's reply.

"I love you, cousin, I really do. But please, just this once, love me back and leave me alone to be their friends for real, not their spy!" Plum said with tears leaking.

"You...!" Pie Man said, even more infuriated than before.

"She's right!" Sour Grapes suddenly said. "I can no longer agree to this anymore!"

"Sour Grapes! Now you're against me too?!" Pie Man said, still looking upset.

"Yes! Just because I no longer wanted to help you, you used her instead! Do you remember how I used to be the same like her, having no friends at all because they thought I was weird? Now she is so close to avoiding that same fate and you're going to ruin it?! Where's the loving brother I used to know, who kept me company when I was alone?!" Sour Grapes replied with her arms on her hip.

There was a silence for a few seconds. Pie Man still seemed upset.

"All right! Here's a deal! Forget this plan altogether, and I will help you again in any of your future plans, forever!" Sour Grapes said.

Hearing Sour Grapes' sentence surprised Pie Man quite much. He then thought about it for a moment and a few minutes later he turned his back towards the other two.

"Are you coming or not... Sour Grapes?! I have just got an idea, a plan, much better than this! Let's go now and put it into practice!" Pie Man said, then he immediately left the house.

"I'm sorry... Now you have to help him again... because of me" Plum said, and then Sour Grapes kneeled in front of her and smiled.

"No. I'm sorry, for making you to do all those. I should have refused his plan from the beginning," Sour Grapes said.

"Are you going to be fine?" Plum asked.

"I will be fine. Don't worry about me. Now go and enjoy your new life with your friends," Sour Grapes said, and the two had a big hug.

"Is he going to steal more berries with his new plan?" Plum asked as Sour Grapes stood up.

"The way he said it seems more like he actually doesn't have any plan at all, and he won't have any for quite a long time," Sour Grapes said, giving a wink.

"Sour Grapes! Are you coming or not!" Pie Man's voice could be heard from outside.

"Time to go. Goodbye, dear," Sour Grapes said, walking to the front door and waving her hand to Plum.

"Love you, cousin. Bye!" Plum said as Sour Grapes left the house.

I also left the house immediately because Blind Spot started to lose its effect and I didn't want anyone to know that I had heard everything. Later, I met Strawberry at the berry fields when she was collecting some.

"Hi, Strawberry," I greeted.

"Hi, Blackberry!" Strawberry greeted back.

"I found out who the thief is," I said, and she suddenly paused. I could see that she started to worry about what I would say next.

"Really...? Who...?" she asked.

"As we have agreed before, the thiefs were really just some animals. I have been worrying too much," I lied, and I could see Strawberry being so relieved. Did this count as a "White Lie"?

--End of Chapter 31--
[Image: TheGrapesChildrenSig.png]
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