Book 1.5: Side Tales – Koko: The Puppet Asylum (Part 6A)
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Eh! Where Did My Pen... Pen... Go!?!

Book 1.5: Amaranthe Guild – Side Stories

Koko's Tale

The Puppet Asylum (Part 6A)

With umbrella and silver bell safely in hands, Demora's eyes scanned the room; Kresh's shredded and ragged body lay strewn across the floor in the near center of the large storage room. His now chubby doll-sized spirit stood amidst all the stuffings and threads within what used to be the center of his chest; His eyes carried water and his trembling lips were turned downwards.

Looking up at her from the mess that was his vessel, he sobbed, “Kresh no want to go back to underplace. It's cold and sad der...”

Demora looked with glowing Nethryn Spider Sight eyes at the crestfallen chibi Kresh spirit, the corner of her mouth lightly twitched and brows furrowed; Ugh, don't give me that look! You have no one to blame for what happened but your own annoying self so I kinda don't want to help you but... Tch, he looks like such a small and pitiful child now... so I guess if there's a way to help him then...

She opened and closed her mouth several times before finally responding, “S-sorry, but I don't know how to... help you. If I could... I would but...”

:giggles: Silly itsy bitsy hare, of course, you can if you really want too. Just call your book. Your book knows the way... :giggles:

:gigglings: Yes, yes... your book is bound to hear your call. Do not let a useful spirit go to waste... They're not as easy to find and bind as you might expect... :gigglings:

:giggles: True... so true. Hard to find they are for the Netherworld is far and wide... Much more so than all mortal oceans combined... :giggles:

:gigglings: As such... fishing for spirits who have stepped off the afterlife path to capture and bind for your spells and summons is the same as finding a needle in a much too large haystack... :gigglings:

Hmm, if that's how it is, and I'm fairly sure it is since I don't think my guides would lie to me, then I better take advantage of this opportunity and capture chibi Kresh... even if he is a bit annoying.

“Okay then, let's do this. First, I'll summon my grimoire...”

“Help Kresh! Kresh scared. Dey coming for Kresh!”

Huh? Coming for him... Who's coming for him? Demora, who had been looking down, lost in thought about how to summon her grimoire, lifted her head and eyes towards chibi Kresh.

What she saw made her gasp and stare in wonder, “S-such a strangely odd little... girl? At least I think its a girl...” Right before her eyes, standing about a half dozen yards away from chibi Kresh, who lay trembling on the floor hiding beneath the remains of his torn and shredded plushie vessel, was the whimsically eccentric 'guest.'

The cute Lil' oddball was stepping around a small ethereal mouth... umm... hole in the floor which was spewing forth cold nethryn mist and soft mournful sounds that reminded one of howling winds.

The ornate darkwood staff of her... butterfly catcher? At least, that's what came to Demora's mind since it was topped with a ghostly chain net. Regardless of its nature, this staff, which she carried in her right hand, rapped on the concrete floor with each step she took.

She was looking around her person, in search of what Demora figured was the little trembling mound on the ground.

The little girl swept the beautiful silvery rose-pink glass lantern, levitating above the palm of her raised left hand, to and fro, lighting the shelvings of dolls and puppets with soft nethryn light like an eyeball shaped flashlight... but this wasn't the reason Demora found the girl to be strangely odd.

Oh, it also wasn't her open pitch-black oversized victorian coat which flickered with ghostly visages when she moved that was oddly strange (okay, maybe just a little); Nor the milky-gray buttoned-down ruffled blouse tied closed with a plum hued bow at the neck.

No, those garments perfectly matched her fluffy black jumper skirt adorned with lacy plum flowers and black striped milky-gray knee socks which she wore with hiking boots.

What was odd, was the whimsical oversized plushie mask-head of some sort of unknown creepy cute beastie concealing her head.

The oblong-shaped mask-head was covered in pitch-black fluffy fur tipped various shades of milky-gray matching its wide latex face. The sides of the mask-head sported downward turned doe-like ears tipped the same inky black that was used to accent around the big round unlit plum eyes that were set wide apart and what appeared to be a large closed eye in the center of its forehead.

And above each ear, sprouting outwards was a wrist-thick horn; The front half was shades of milky-grays with several black stripes before becoming fully black.

The little girl's head turned to and fro as the string of silvery blue bells, tied near the ends of her horns, swayed like wind chimes in a breeze.

“Are those bells broken? Why aren't they ringing?” Demora asked aloud to no one in particular.

The mask-head girl turned towards the sound of Demora's voice causing her to raise her umbrella in case things went sideways...

“Is that her eyes... her real eyes and face?” Demora asked, staring into the wide open-mouthed grin of the beastie mask-head. Judging by what she could see of the little girl's real face, her eyes were a soft glowing icy blue and skin was ghostly white just like her hands.

Demora felt the cold tingling touch of the lantern's light wash over her as the little girl tilted her head inside of her mask-head; Her icy blue eyes blinked a few times, reading the soul light's reaction. After a breath or two, she shook her head and then continued searching.

Oh good, it looks like she has no interest in me. She didn't even attack so I should be safe around her... “But, I don't have time to waste if I want to catch chibi Kresh before this... this... well, I'm not sure what she is or if she's even a she?”

:giggles: Look to see and see to know... Her chest reveals her identity... identity... identity... :giggles:

Huh? Her chest reveals her identity... Oh, maybe they mean she's wearing a name tag of some sort and I missed it since I just gave her a quick looksie. Plus, those ghostly visages swimming about under the surface of her coat were a bit distracting... Anyways, since that's the case, then let's really see what there is to know.

Having been told where to 'see,' Demora quickly moved closer to get a better look... and to stand in front of a still trembling chibi Kresh in order to block her view of him.

She wasn't afraid of the little girl as she once again turned her way, this time sweeping the light across the floor. This gave Demora a clear view, allowing her to easily spot what she had missed before, “Ah, if it were a snake...” /sigh

Demora's eyes focused in on a gray metallic object that was pinned to the right side of the little girl's coat. “How did I miss that... badge.” That tombstone shaped badge with the eye-catching plum ribbon accents... and yet I missed it. And is that an image of scales in the middle? There seem to be words both above and below it...

“Hmm, what does the badge say?...” Demora muttered, squinting to get a better look. “Oh, I see... the words at the top read: Soul Fetcher. And the emblem in the middle is indeed scales of some sort... but I don't know what they mean...”

:gigglings: Those are the Judgement Scales of Life's Deeds of the Netherworld; The scales which all souls deeds are weighed by... :gigglings:

“Oh, that's interesting... thanks,” Demora said, and then continued to read the last two lines at the bottom of the badge silently:

Agent of the Gray


“So then, Soul Fetcher is either their race or... their job? Or maybe title since Agent of the Gray sounds like a job as well... Unless it's the other way around with the bottom being the title and the top is the job. That kind of makes more sense... Either way, I wonder what they mean? What is the Gray?”

Demora tapped her foot on the ground, quietly waiting for a moment or two, hoping that her giggling guides would speak up and feed her the answers... but the only sound coming was the rap, rap, rap of wood on concrete flooring.

Sighing, she looked towards the ethereal hole in the floor and grumped. “And just what might you be? Some sort of mouthy hole... to the Netherworld?”

At least, that's what it looks and sounds like to me... “Well then, about the only thing I'm quite certain of is that this little girl works for the Netherworld... or maybe an organization in the Netherworld?” Demora muttered, lost in thought, failing to notice what was occurring around her...

The little girl with staff butterfly catcher in hand walked around the 'far away eyes' Demora (rap, rap, rap,) coming to a stand near her side. With soul lantern in hand, she began shining the soul light to and fro across the floor, slowly heading in chibi Kresh's direction.

Meanwhile, the bluish-white light from the 'mouth' hole in the floor began to pulse as a pair of milky-gray hands with long thin fingers touched down on the concrete floor; Their black fingernail 'claws' scritch-scratched on the floor as the back of the new arrival's pitch-black furry head began to rise up higher and higher from the cold mist, entering the storage room!

:giggles: Wakesy, Wakesy little itsy bitsy! Looks like your in for quite the treat. Your little chibi Kresh is quite the popular soul. For even the Dark has sent their Soul Fetcher to snatch 'em whole... snatch 'em whole... snatch 'em whole... :giggles:

:gigglings: Oh what fun... what bliss... the Gray and the Dark will soon turn this into a Doll Room Blitz!... Doll Room blitz... doll room blitz... :gigglings:

“Huh? Who... what? The Dark... you mean there's another one of these little strange oddball Soul Fetchers coming... where? OH, I see...” Demora stared, mouth pressed into a firm line, hands clenching her umbrella, watching the new dark arrival's backside climbing up out of the 'mouth' hole.

What is this... this 'thing'? It's not looking anything like the cute little mask-headed girl. This thing is so... so FREAKY WEIRD! I-is it some sort of mutated human-limbed camel-necked hyena... beast? Demora wondered, unable to pull her eyes away from the scene.

With a snarling grunt, the freaky spine-chilling beast climbed free of the pit giving Demora a good side profile view its body.

“Eww!” Demora uttered as she watched the beast stretch, bones popping.

Having had a good stretch, the beast thing sat down, facing the shelves. Its coat of pitch-black fur seemed to absorb the light around it and the blood-red quills down its back and tail tip looked sharp and painful. But that's not what made her go “Eww!” (Although it did look weird because of the long neck and porcupine-like quills.)

No, the reason for the utterance was due to the sight of the thing's lanky humanoid limbs which had milky-gray hairless skin and bug-like joints that greatly increased their range of motions.

Its furry beast ears wiggled, catching her eyes and bringing her attention back to its head which was moving side to side as a light shone on the various dolls, puppets, limbs, and parts stored there. Just what kind of face does it have? Human or dog or maybe porcupine?And that shining light... does it also have a glass lantern?

Gruffing sounds reached her ears as the beast shook its head and stood up on all four limbs; Having not found what it was looking for it turned around...

Time seemed to slow as Demora noticed two things: 1. This freaky Soul Fetcher beast of the Dark did indeed have a beautiful glass lantern; A blood-red one which was embedded in its chest.

And two, its face was truly the stuff of creepy nightmares!

Instead of a face, it had in its place a large roundish parasitical needle-teeth mouth surrounded by a ring of short wiggly worm-like tendrils; Some of these 'face worms' had little eyeballs to see with, some had slits used to smell, and some were used to sense the cold.

They truly were servants of the Dark Netherworld Realms.

“A-ack! What is t-that!?!” Demora half screamed/half asked as shivers ran down her spine causing her back to twitch; Her mouth was half-covered with her left hand, nearly dropping her silver bell, while she pointed at the super creepy Soul Fetcher of the Dark with the umbrella in her right hand.

Taking a few quick stumbling steps back, Demora bumped into a certain little mask-head girl who had seemed to have finally found what she had been looking for. The little girl stumbled and turned a bit causing her body to now partially face the new uninvited and most definitely unwanted arrival.

“Tch! A filthy Nethbadon!” The little girl fumed, voice sounding like an angry piano. Just my luck! A selfish rotten Soul Fetcher Agent of the Dark... again! Shaking her horned mask-head side to side she kicked the ground, cursing her bad luck.

The little Nethdren girl fetcher of the Gray was young and still a bit new to the job. Having only 7 fetches under her belt. But of those 7 she had been assigned, 3 of them had tough run-ins with these filthy Nethbadon soul fetching Agents of the Dark which meant only one thing...

A battle to the death and destruction of one's vessel!

Where winner fetches the assigned soul and dropped spoils of the fallen; And losers limp home in their spirit wisp form where they'll have to work long and hard to earn the spirit money needed to pay for a new vessel and gear. A difficult task in the Netherworld for young nethlyngs.

As such, she really didn't want to fight again but she knew through personal experience and teachings from headquarters that there was just no reasoning with any Agent of the Dark.

No two ways about it. Whenever a newly assigned soul whose scales placed them on the border between Gray and Dark both sides would send their Soul Fetchers out to fetch!

And unlike the gold and white feathery Nethlims of the Light who had an understanding of first come, first fetch with the Nethdrens of the Gray; The Nethbadons of the Dark were a selfish vile 'I come, I fetch!' no good lot! Those who got in the way were nothing more than chew toys. This resulted in the Grays following suit when it came to dealing with the Dark, after all, turnabout is fair play...

As such, the only way to avoid a fight to the death of one's vessel was to be in and out before their arrival if both sides were after the same soul. Unfortunately, due to all of the Nethryn energy that was strangely scattered about in this place, she was unable to quickly locate her soul, fetch, and leave in time to avoid this confrontation... /sigh

“Well, looks like its time to suit up!” The little Nethdren girl, while reluctant to fight, wasn't about to back down. Of the 3 times she had faced off against these filthy fleabags before, she had come away victorious. Sending the fleabags home in their spirit wisp forms, fetching the assigned souls, and gathering their dropped belongings which earned her a little extra income... even after her repair costs.

The Nethbadon, seeing for the first time that a tasty Nethdren chew toy was already here, growled in excitement. This was its chance to earn its third pack kill! Thereby increasing its reputation and honor within the pack, helping it to climb up the rankings from mere whelpling.

Completely ignoring the strange long-eared many-eyes girl standing next to the Nethdren, the Nethbadon jumped in front of the Nethmouth Gate to block off its escape into the Netherworld.

It then lifted its head to the air and released a long mournful wail causing the Nethmouth Gate to flare and puff out billows of cold mist as a new pair of Nethbadons arrived on the scene and stalked over to stand by his sides.

Now faced with a trio of Agents of the Dark, the little Nethdren girl did not panic for she had gifts of her own; Gifts of the Gray, of those who walk between the light and dark, whose very nature held the angelic and the monstrous within... And now she chose to call on her monstrous side.

The closed third eye on her beastie mask's forehead opened, revealing a dark hole. Raising her beautiful Soul Lantern, she pushed it into the empty eye slot with a light pop; Thrumming with an increase of power, she cried out, “Nethryn Morphun Battle Beastie!

A silvery rose-pink burst of energy flashed brightly, temporarily blinding those looking, as the mask's wide-open mouth closed, and the round trio of eyes flared to life, signaling the beginning of her metamorphosis.

Infused with a surge of energy, the fur on the lower half of the mask-head began to writhe and multiply; Quickly growing downwards to meld with her body, undergoing cute and furry changes...

By the time all in the room had regained their sight, the little Nethdren girl was gone. Standing guard in her place was a cute Snorlax-like bodied monster with an overabundance of soft fluffy fur that swayed and fluttered in waves as if alive!

The semi-curled fur at the bottom was about a yard long; Much longer than the shoulder length fur at the top. One couldn't even see her stumpy legs lest the thick silky fur chose to part like curtains allowing them to be seen.

The exception to this furry rule was her big round front, from right below her head down to her legs, in a large oval shape, the fur stayed short but velvety soft and was a washed-out milky-gray color; While the fur everywhere else on her round bouncy body went from pitch-black at the roots to a silvery gray near the middle before melting into beautiful rose-pink hues towards the ends.

With her cute fluffy monster transformation completed, she open mouth smirked, eyeing her creepy foes; Her real ghostly white face and icy blue eyes could no longer be seen within the beast's head as her dark grayish tongue appeared, licking her upper fang. She raised her big paw hand towards the dark fleabag trio and taunted them to come at her if they dared!

The Nethbadons growled and began their attack; Splitting up to surround her but she wasn't just some big furry chew toy waiting to be bitten... No, she was a battle-tested fighter that had plans of her own as she reached up with her left hand and pulled the ghostly chain net off her butterfly catcher.

Now armed with a battle staff in one hand and a ghostly chain net in the other, she made her move...

As for Demora, she was already up on top of the shelves looking down, a pair of doll heads now in her lap, their discarded bodies tossed aside, as she watched the battle beginning below near the trembling mound that was chibi Kresh. She had tried to 'snatch and dash' with little chibi Kresh in tow during her 'getaway' but being a spirit she couldn't grab hold of him, which must be part of the reason the guiding voices advised her to call her book. Well then, since it's gotten to this point... I think its time for me to summon some friends and my grimoire... Then decide on what role we'll play in this fight. Be strong chibi Kresh... we're coming to save you...

Ah, it looks like Demora's celebration loot party has been interrupted by some uninvited party crashers! Party crashers that are here to fetch poor chibi Kresh who's bound to the spot of explosion and can only hide under what used to be his vessel. Now with Soul Fetchers about to battle for the soul of Kresh she worked so hard to defeat, will Demora just sit by and watch the show to see who takes him? Or join in on the fun and find a way to come out the winner increasing the amount of loot to loot! Coming up next in The Puppet Asylum (Part 6B)

Side Note: I received some illustrations from my niece of Big Sister Cara 1 and Big Sister Cara 2 in color! (Same cyberpunk inspired outfits but different colors and poses.) I decided to link to them instead of posting them below since there are some minor spoilers for her upcoming short story (i.e. her game name, nickname, class, race, species). I have also have put up a colored version of the first form of her weapon:  Crescent Moon Spade. She did a wonderful job on these illustrations... :)

Edit Note: Made some small changes/revisions near the bottom of this chapter on 9-26-2020.