Disclaimer: not mine
Summary: The, eh, trip continues.
Chapitre 8: The Country of Hearts
I do not consider drugs necessary for a funny story, but I do not consider them to be evil, either.
Heading in the direction the Cheshire Wizard had specified, it was not long before Syaoran encountered what he supposed was the garden of the March Hare-thing. Much to his disappointment, the garden was not filled with pheromone-drunk coeds, but rather with a long table surrounded by many chairs and piled high with bottles of strong ale. The March Hare-thing (he noted here that "Hare-thing" was a most accurate description of the being, which took the general form of a hare, but was also in possession of some decidedly non-hare-like claws and fangs and a long, bushy tail; the black patch covering its right eye also spoke of some decidedly non-hare-like tendencies) sat glaring at what appeared to be a blue plush dog with remarkably sharp teeth. Between the pair a girl with long pink hair held back by a pair of dormouse ears on a headband rested her head on the table.
"No room!" the Plushie yelled, as he saw Syaoran approach. This was followed by a loud belch and a sudden spurt of flame from its mouth.
"Oh, shut the hell up, Ioryogi," the March Hare-thing spat, "It's my party and you can take your bimbo friend and leave if you don't like who I invite. She's already passed out anyway."
Syaoran approached the table, carefully watching the Pissed-off Plushie as he pulled up a seat.
"Have some whiskey," the March Hare-thing invited, "It's a very nice single malt."
Syaoran scoured the table. "There isn't any…"
"Oh, right, I forgot. Have some tequila instead."
"I'll pass, thank you." Syaoran noted with some disappointment that there was also no tequila gracing the table.
The Pissed-off Plushie looked the boy up and down. "How is a Christmas tree like a Catholic priest?" He asked.
Syaoran was a bit put-off that this was the first thing the plushie had said to him that wasn't a threat, but upon noting the pleading look from the March Hare-thing, decided to have a stab at the riddle. "Both their balls are just for decoration...?" he managed after only a short pause.
"That's DISGUSTING!" the March Hare-thing spat, leaping up onto the table and extracting his fearful, decidedly-un-hare-like claws. The Pissed-off Plushie appeared to roll his beady eyes as he opened his mouth to spew flames at the March Hare-thing.
"Oy, Ginsei. Now it's your turn to shut the hell up, you fucker."
"You fuck her, you brought her."
"I know a riddle!" the girl in the dormouse ears said, suddenly lifting her head from the table. The Plushie and the March Hare-thing appeared very surprised by this statement and turned to look toward the girl. She began:
"A blue-eyed young man with a hex
Proclaimed that he wanted some Smex
He got down on his knees
And begged Doumeki please
But you see, archers don't like boys in specs."
The Plushie growled. "Dorbato! That's not a riddle, that's just a filthy limerick! Minus 100 points!" Here he dipped a well-chewed straw into pot of ink and scrawled "-100" across the girl's cheek. The girl in the dormouse ears seemed very nonplussed by all of this and laid her head back on the table and began snoring softly once again.
"Oh! Oh!" the March Hare-thing shouted, bounding back up onto the table, "I have one as well;
There was a blue plushie Ioryo-nag
Whose rage made him kind of a tool-bag
He shot flames from his head
And he filled us with dread
But man was he good for a shag!"
The Plushie seemed to consider the implications of this "riddle" for a moment before turning to glower at the March Hare-thing. Fortunately, before he was able to loose another rush of flames from his throat, a high-pitched staccato alarm began to sound from a cell phone hiding beneath the clutter and empty bottles filling the table.
"CLEAN CUP! MOVE DOWN!" the Plushie announced, pushing the sleeping girl several seats down.
Syaoran was confused by all of this. "But you haven't actually used the cups in front of you…"
"It's TIME," the Plushie insisted.
"Time for what? What time is it?"
"It's Beer-o'clock of course!" the March Hare-thing proclaimed and began pouring a draft into their new, cleanish cups.
"But how can you tell?" Syaoran wondered.
"It's always Beer-o'clock here – ever since that bastard Hare-thing dropped my phone into a toilet. The clock hasn't worked properly since."
"Couldn't you just get a different clock…?"
The Plushie and the Hare-thing ruminated on this question for a moment. "But then it wouldn't be Beer-o'clock," the Plushie said plainly.
"Yeah, what are you, some kind of teatotaling, party-crashing killjoy?"
"No! I just think that if you want to go on a bender, you should call it that!"
"Who's getting bent?"
"YOU go get bent, you machine-washed, lint-infested, piss-poor excuse for a Care Bear Cousin!"
"I'll have your other eye as well, you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Easter Bunny with a boner!"
"YOU SAID YOU LOVED ME, YOU BASTARD!"
Syaoran saw the sleeping girl with the dormouse ears lift her head to take in the commotion. "Is everyone here barking mad?" he asked when he'd caught her eye.
"No," she replied sleepily, "Just pissy." And with that she laid her head back on the table and resumed her surprisingly peaceful slumber.
"Oy, Ginsei," the Plushie chuckled, disentangling himself from the furious hurricane of arms, legs, and claws he was addressing. "She's out again. Watch this…"
Syaoran decided it was best to leave this little party as he saw the beginnings of a moustache being drawn across the girl's lip by the now-giggling duo. He hoped for her sake that they would at least draw some eyebrows as well to replace the ones the March Hare-thing was giggling maniacally as he shaved away…
* * * * *
Not far from the March Hare-thing's garden, Syaoran ran face-first into the end of the world. Or at least, he assumed this was the end of the world; what he actually ran into was a great wall, spanning out in each direction as far as the eye could see, with the word "ARMAGEDDON" painted in large, friendly letters across its face. He supposed Kamui and his followers had had some success in drying off, at any rate, though he was confused as to why they had left a door in the wall. Deciding he has already seen enough strange sights today, Syaoran decided to pass through the door and on to the other side.
He knew he was in heaven the moment he stepped through the door, for there could be no mistaking the immaculately groomed hedges or the exotic array of flowers that bloomed around him; this was the Promised Garden of Bouncing Bazongas he had stumbled upon earlier in his travels. He stumbled about the place, his head swimming with pure, exuberant lechery at finally having found his way back to the Garden of Generous Jugs, eager to introduce himself to the legion of voluptuous vixens he had spied just this morning…
His heart sank as he realized he was alone in the garden.
He decided to wander on, now anxious to find any exit from this strange place and make his way back to his companions at the river bank. The hedges seemed to form a maze, which he navigated with an eye toward the sky; assuring he continued to head in a consistent direction. Before he had gone far he began to hear the distinct sound of human voices, but as he approached he was dismayed to realize they were masculine. Resignedly, Syaoran decided to head toward them anyway.
As he rounded the final hedgerow to the courtyard where he was certain the voices were originating, Syaoran caught his breath in surprise; he had previously been informed, on more than one occasion, that money did not grow on trees, so it was a bit of a shock to discover that denim pants apparently did. Even more surprising was the pair of bickering gardeners who were running about frantically trimming the legs off of the blooms.
"I can't believe you planted the full-legged bulbs!" the gardener with the mismatched eyes shouted at the other. The taller gardener took no notice of this, however, as he readjusted the foam plugs stuffed into his ears. This only seemed to further incense the first gardener, however, who dropped his shears and rather roughly ripped the plugs from his comrade's ears. "Oy, DOUMEKI!" he shouted as his face contorted into something that loosely resembled a rabid hyena, "Did you hear me? She'll have your eye for this! She'll have my eye for this – which is actually your eye as well! We're completely screwed and it's all your fault!"
The taller gardener only rolled his eyes and muttered, "So noisy!" before continuing to trim the legs off of the denim blossoms.
"She's been exceptionally pissy lately as well!" the first gardener continued, "There's no amount of sake in this kingdom that can satisfy her anymore! Every night it's more and more! And now that the denim bushes are FUBARed, I can't imagine what she'll do next!" Here the gardener with the mismatched eyes stopped to stare at Syaoran, who had taken up residence beneath the shade of one of the larger bushes and was rather enjoying watching someone other than himself freak out over the eccentricities of this world's inhabitants. "And what do you think you're doing?" the gardener demanded. "Get off your ass, slacker! And help us! Or it will be your eye as well!"
"But I…" Syaoran began.
"You are a gardener, aren't you? You're wearing the uniform – get some shears and get to work!"
Syaoran noted with some alarm that the gardeners were indeed clad in cut-off shorts and tank tops which were disturbingly similar to his own. He stood up, grumbling to himself, but it was too late; roaring trumpet blasts were already announcing the arrival of whomever the gardeners so feared. He was pulled flat on his face by the one with the mismatched eyes as the cacophony of marching footsteps and shouts of the "The Queen! The Queen!" moved closer. "Just keep your head down and your mouth shut," the gardener hissed in his ear.
Syaoran was not particularly inclined to heed the instructions of someone who wore cut-off shorts of his own volition, and so lifted his head that he might watch as the procession advanced. First came a legion of ninjas, which Syaoran had to squint to see as they moved at lightning speed across the courtyard, ducking behind bushes and deftly dispatching any stray creatures that fell in their path. Behind these followed what Syaoran assumed were the nobles; all dressed in matching moon and heart patterned garments, they bobbed and wove through the courtyard, chattering noisily to themselves and being a general nuisance to the ninjas they followed. Next came the White Rabbit-Eared Mokona, who had now been joined by a Black Rabbit-Eared Mokona; both carried large, sparkling magnums of sake atop jewel encrusted pillows and bounced haphazardly along their way. Last of all in this grand process came the Queen of Hearts, who scowled menacing at the rest of her court.
The sight of the Queen was awesome (in the original sense of the word, not the one that might be used to describe some particularly magnificent milk fountains; though she certainly wasn't lacking those either) and terrifying; Syaoran was filled with a sudden urge to rearrange himself into the fetal position and empty his suddenly and urgently bursting bladder. She was remarkably tall, towering over the rest of the procession; her wide shoulders commanded a respect that was only matched by the authoritative gaze of her crimson eyes. She wore only a simple headdress to signify her status – a stark red piece that accentuated the color of her eyes emblazoned with the crest of the lunar heart in the center of her forehead. Around this, her immaculately waxed and spiked ebony hair stood stiffly to attention.
Upon approaching the prostrate trio the Queen paused, upper lip curling into a ferocious snarl.
"Shiro manjuu – katana!"
At this command the White Rabbit-Eared Mokona paused, bracing itself against the nearest denim bush, and coughed up an exceptionally long sword with a gleaming silver hilt in the form of a dragon's head. The sword landed quite comfortably in the Queen's hand was in short order pointed toward Syaoran's head.
"Who's been cutting my Wranglers short?" the Queen demanded.
"I-it w-was Doumeki, the rotten bastard!" the mismatch-eyed gardener cried, curling into a ball.
The other gardener rolled his eyes and simply pointed toward the pair of shears in the other's hand. At this the first gardener flew into a fit of rage and began assailing the taller with hands, fists, and the occasional denim pant leg.
"Oi! What is this happy horseshit?" the Queen demanded, raising her blade above her head. The two gardeners folded into themselves in fear.
"N-nothing your Majesty."
"OUT WITH THEIR EYES!"
"Calm down now, Quee-tan."
Syaoran opened one of his eyes at the sound of this lyrical and familiar voice and was very much relieved to see the Cheshire Wizard sitting upon the Queen's shoulders.
"That's QUEEN, you damned mage. And what the hell are you doing on my back?"
"Enjoying the view Quee-pipi. And a most spectacular view it is as well. Have you switched to underwires?"
"Oh, nothing," the wizard shifted so that his elbows rested on the crown of the Queens head, his own head balanced on his palms above. "Don't you think you're being a bit harsh? They're only teenagers, after all."
"Fine. OFF WITH THEIR ARM!"
"Now, now," the wizard patted the Queen's head. "Why don't you just invite them to play croquet with us?"
"Can't I just chop something off?"
The wizard giggled and wrapped his arms tightly around the Queen's face. "Control….control! You must learn control! No one likes a violent Quee-sama!"
"That's settled then! Let's begin!"
Syaoran got to his feet as the crowd began to take their positions. Across the field, miniature battle robots formed wickets by bending over backward into bridge formations while white rabbits with suspiciously long, rat-like tails curled themselves into balls.
"I go first!" the Queen declared, whacking the closest ratbit ball to her with the broad side of her sword and sending it coursing through three of the wickets. She grinned, very pleased with her effort, and snorted. "Beat that, wizard."
The Cheshire Wizard was next and took a most spirited swing at his ratbit ball, only to recoil moments later in fear and return to his perch on the Queen's shoulders, shrieking incoherently about white death and terrible pointy teeth.
Syaoran assumed from the expectant stares he was getting that he was meant to go next, but he had not been given a mallet. Not wanting to lose an eye (or an arm for that matter), he followed the Queen's lead and drew his sword from his hand. He painstakingly coordinated his shot, drew his arm back…
And proceeded to slice the squealing ratbit in two.
"Destruction of public property!" screamed the Queen, "Drunk and disorderly! Indecent exposure! OUT WITH HIS EYE!"
Syaoran was immediately seized by the ninja guard and held in place while the wizard tried desperately to calm the overexcited Queen. This proved to be of no avail, as the Queen had been worked into a terrible frenzy and was currently slashing wildly at the denim bushes with her sword and howling very much like a dog in a crowded suburban neighborhood at three in the morning. Syaoran was almost relieved when the guard began to drag him away, as he was quite sure he had just witnessed the Queen split her dress down the front and begin to beat against her chest her with her fists.
* * * * *
"Hello again, strange young man."
Syaoran opened his eyes (and was thankful to still be in possession of the pair) to find himself face to face once again with the Duchess. "Sakura!" he breathlessly exclaimed.
"I'm not your Sakura, I'm afraid," the Duchess confessed sadly.
"Nope, just someone who looks like both and has the same name. Trust me, it's better this way."
"I suppose so," he agreed, "Why are you in prison?"
"Destruction of public property, drunk and disorderly, indecent exposure…the usual. I'm not sure the Queen knows any other charges."
"No, just the ones he's usually arrested for."
"But you mustn't worry too much," the Duchess continued, "They never actually execute anyone here. The Queen has a superstition that she grows weaker every time she orders someone's death."
The Duchess shrugged. "Who knows? They've never actually executed anyone."
Syaoran's attention was captured by a shadow moving in the corner of their dank and dusty cell. "Hello?" he asked tentatively.
"It's alright, you should come out," the Duchess encouraged. Slowly, a familiar face emerged from the darkness, and Syaoran was once again compelled to curl into the fetal position as he met his own gaze. "This is the Mock-Syaoran," the Duchess supplied, smiling from ear to ear and joining their hands together.
Syaoran and the Mock-Syaoran stared at one another for a momentary eternity. Then, smiling broadly, the Mock-Syaoran clapped his hand on his doppelganger's back and exclaimed "Long time, no see!"
"But I don't think we've ever met…"
"Of course we've met!" the Mock-Syaoran insisted, "For I am you and you are me."
"Nope, just someone who looks like him and has the same name. Trust me, it's better this way."
"Better than what…?" Syaoran wondered aloud. Thoughts began dancing around in his head. Wasn't one of them supposed to go on a murderous rampage, possibly killing several thousand goats in the process…? Or something…?
"Don't you remember?" the Duchess seemed very worried. "We were all together, and we used to dance the Cloney Troisdrille…"
"The Cloney what…?"
"The Cloney Troisdrille!" the Duchess was now very insistant. "We must show him!" She grasped the Syaoran's hands, beginning to turn the three of them in a poorly contained circle, and along with the Mock-Syaoran began to sing:
""Will you clone a little faster?"
Said the Ass-chin to the boy.
"There's a witch who's watching closely,
And she's starting to annoy.
"See how eagerly she studies
All the ways to end my plot!
But your clone shall be my brainless,
Violent servant – will it not?
Mindless violence, mindless violence, blood spatters look hot!
Mindless violence, mindless violence, no more cutesy plot!
"You really have no notion
How delightful it will be
When you have mauled and killed
And brought the feathers back to me!"
But the struggling boy replied
"Now just wait a second, Bub"
And into the forming Cloney
His left eyeball did he shove!
Tempered violence, tempered violence – well, at least sort of!
Tempered violence, tempered violence – well, maybe, kind of!
"You stupid little bastard,
Into a tank you shall now go,
Where you can sit and stew
And watch the whole macabre show.
Your clone will get down and dirty
With your precious little girl
(Who looks just like your mother;
This plot does make my poor brain whorl…)
Stored up violence, stored up violence, from watching her toes curl!
Stored up violence, stored up violence, you'll want to feckin' hurl!"
"Wait, so you got it on with my Sakura?" Syaoran stammered.
The Mock-Syaoran looked offended. "Dude, you have a hard enough time getting it on with your Sakura, what makes you think I'd mess with that?"
"But you just said…"
"It's just a song," the Mock-Syaoran shrugged.
"Yes," the Duchess agreed, "Just a song."
A heavy silence filled the air.
"But now that we're all back together…" the Mock-Syaoran began.
"Back together? I thought you said it was just a song."
"It was just a song. Our time together was much more…squelchy." The Duchess batted her eyelashes.
Syaoran threw his hands up. "I think I would remember something like that…"
"But it hasn't happened yet," the Mock-Syaoran said seriously, draping an arm around the Duchess and bringing the other up to caress the curve of Syaoran's jaw, "So how could you remember?"
"What do you me…!" Syaoran was cut off as the Duchess pulled him closer and began nibbling at his earlobes. He felt a second warm tongue begin to trace the curve of his neck and wondered what it was that he had felt was so important to say just seconds earlier.
"Wait. Wait! WAIT!" he screamed, breaking away suddenly. "This isn't how this story is supposed to end! This is too messed up, even for this series!"
The Duchess pouted. "Oh sure, I suppose you'd rather leave this cell, sit through a boring trial, and eventually wake up back on the river bank with your friends. You're so predictably boring Syaoran!"
The Mock-Syaoran eyed his twin suspiciously. "Seriously. What's wrong with you, man? I think we've proven time and time again that nothing is too messed up for this series."
"Except for people stealing my pants."
"Well, yes, except for that."
Syaoran considered. It was true that this series had rolled directly over many lines clearly labeled "WTF, mate?" without ever looking back. It was also true that most of these lines had been driven over to advance storylines about other, supposedly "supporting" characters. It was also also true that he hadn't gotten any action in a long time. Wasn't he supposed to be the star here? Shouldn't he be getting the most action? Isn't that what the almighty Nanase had in mind? Weren't these two emphatically not his parents?
Without further hesitation Syaoran succumbed to his cell-mates, overwhelmed by their none-too-subtle and oddly persuasive groping hands. His eyes rolled back, opening only slightly when hear heard a loud WHOOSH from the corner of the cell.
The cat-eared face staring wide-eyed at the trio from the shadows of the corner began to grin as the rune-like characters dancing in a ring around it began to dissipate. The Duchess landed flat on her face as both Syaoran and the Mock-Syaoran plastered themselves against the opposite wall, hands desperately crafted into make-shift cod-pieces. The doppelgangers stared in horror at the smiling face in the corner and began to cry in unison, "I can't with the cat watching!"
The Cheshire Wizard stepped into the light, suddenly looking less amused. Wordlessly, he closed the gap between himself and the Syaorans and with a single smooth motion slapped the duo across the face. And again. And again. And again…
* * * * *
He opened his eyes to find a very distressed mage staring down at him. "What happened?" he asked slowly, rubbing his eyes.
Fay flopped over onto the grass next to him. "We told you not to eat that brownie…"
Syaoran squinted. He was fairly certain that he had not been wearing an entire pancake breakfast on the front of his shirt when he had left their lodgings this morning. "But it was packed in with the lunch…"
"Um, yeah," the lighter haired of their two nervous looking hosts started, absentmindedly scratching his head. "That was Kakei's brownie…"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Syaoran wondered, sitting up and beginning to peel a strip of strawberry syrup that had dried to his face. "You all ate the brownies, too."
"Yes, well, the rest weren't quite as…potent," their host continued, staring at his hands, "No one should take what Kakei takes…"
The taller of their hosts stifled a chuckle, "But you have to admit, it was pretty funny when he sliced the plastic rabbit in half and then ran to hide from the cops…"
"You are such a bastard, Rikuou," the lighter haired man said, offering Syaoran a hand up.
"Pssht. You're just worried that you moan as much in your sleep as he does."
"I DON'T MOAN!"
"Naw, they're mostly lustful cries of passion." Rikuou deftly avoided the shorter man's fists. "Come on, Kazahaya, we'd better get them back; it's getting dark and Kakei's going to want help closing the store."