It had been three days since Pudgy departed the Determined. He had visited Fushimi village, met the mayor and townsfolk, and had refreshments. Then escorted by Shima Moyo and Argente, the little hedgehog met the Shinto foxes at the shrine. Two days had passed since arriving at the shrine so far, with light work during the day, and hedgehog stories at night. Argente spent the time catching up with her mother, while occasionally exploring the immediate area surrounding the shrine. Both the silver fox and hedgehog were starting to realize, was that something was off about their situation. Pudgy was not allowed to exit the shrine, and when he would attempt to scamper through the doors, a friendly young fox priest would shoo him inside. Argente experienced the same occurrence, though with her longer legs, she was able to get as far as some planting beds with flowers nearby. The female fox would always bump into the curious fox priests who always led her back to the shrine.
Shima seemed to be allowed freer reign over the area, bringing back light refreshments from an unknown source. But even the white fox was running into resistance after the first night of hedgehog stories, which made her confused. On the second morning, the little hedgehog desperately wanted to head back to the ship to check on his friends. The priests were kind, and questioned him about his home incessantly. While Pudgy answered their questions, soon hours had passed, and he was still no closer to being allowed to leave. Shima offered to check for Pudgy, which the little critter reluctantly agreed to. He hugged her, and waved as she departed the temple. However, in only a matter of minutes, the Kannushi called for her just as she reached the temple’s walls at the main Torii gate. She could not refuse his request, so the white fox padded quickly over to check in with the head priest. The elderly fox made a flowing speech about harmony, and he needed her to restore the balance. The explanation seemed like the task was urgent, but in the end: some flowers had fallen out of a planting bed. The female fox annoyedly went to her task, and when complete, she was escorted back the shrine by a subordinate priest.
Once again, the various fox priests filed into the shrine’s meeting room, and sat down on their favorite cushions around the room. Talk had been hard to contain all day, as excitement was building regarding what would be discussed tonight. The hedgehog stories featured the evil Kaiser, and all the terribly dangerous adventures Pudgy had along the way. The priests listened fascinated, with their mouths open. Revolutionary war ghosts, demons, a World War one submarine adventure, ghost soldiers, Pudgy flying a plane to a gigantic mountain, rescuing his friend from a terrible mine, Santa and his wife needed help again, and many other wonderous things. However, during his tale to the infamous prison camp in Poland, the priests grew visibly upset. Even Kaito put his head on his paws, and closed his eyes. The horrors that the little hedgehog had seen, filled the room with dark imagery. While in the end the day was saved once again, the critter seemed visible shaken by telling the tale. Once more, at the conclusion of the story, Pudgy fell over to sleep once again.
The priests looked at Argente, even her mother with dumbstruck expressions. Kiyoshi stammered out, “Argente … what Pudgy said … it’s just a story right?” The silver fox shook her head, and she started to explain all the terrible things she had seen. When her story collaborated what the hedgehog said, the Kannushi closed his eyes and frowned terribly. “To think … such evil exists in this world … we must all meditate on the nature of the world this evening. Let us head to our respective places to rest, and we will reconvene tomorrow. I assume that there are more stories to tell?” Argente nodded, “yes … unfortunately Pudgy runs into more trouble … though this time I was able to come along and help.” The older fox chuckled softly, and motioning for the others to follow, led the procession out of the room. Argente laid down on her cushion, and closed her eyes. She could hear whispers by the foxes outside, quickly speaking to one another, before one by one they quieted down. There was one more evening of stories to tell, and it was the most important. The little hedgehog would explain what happened to the world? Why the humans disappeared, and then started to return as animals?
When Pudgy awoke the next morning, he found himself still in the meeting room. There was a little pile of what looked like radish slices, and a cup of tea beside him. The radish was all white, and when he reached over to take a piece to nibble, he found it to be quiet mild. The flavor was hard to describe, since he had never tasted anything like it. Shima was sitting across from him, and waved her paw at him. “Good morning Pudgy … that is called a daikon radish. The temple has a farm, where the young priests grow them along with other native vegetables.” As the critter rolled over and sat up, he nodded as he nibbled on the vegetable slice. Swallowing, “where you able to go to the Determined? How is the ship? How is Pudgy’s friends?” The little hedgehog had a hopeful look in his eyes, but it almost seemed to be pleading in a way. The little hedgehog noticed that his silver fox friend Argente was not present, but he knew that she needed to do tasks in the morning.
The white fox shook her head, “no … as soon as I reached the edge of the shrine, they called me to an important task. I had to urgently replant flowers, something … something … harmony of nature. I think it was a waste of time. I respect Kannushi Kaito, but I think he is up to something.” Argente stomped her paws as she entered the room, being escorted by a young red fox with a priest robe on. The visibly upset female silver fox sat down in a huff, and shot the priest an angry look. The dusty brown male fox backed away, and pulled the paper door shut with his mouth. Shima sighed as she looked at her daughter, “didn’t get very far?” Pudgy watched as Argente’s brown eyes flashed angrily as she spoke. “NO! I did not go very far. In fact, I headed to the spot where we were told to go should the need arise to cleanse oneself. No sooner had I arrived, when two young priests arrived to escort me the last 4 steps there. Then they would not leave, stating they had to watch me as I … went. I protested, but they would not leave, though they did agree to close their eyes. Once I had finished, they escorted me back, and here I am!”
The little hedgehog sipped his tea, and looked at his two fox friends. “Pudgy think we’re in trouble,” he said timidly as he wiggled his nose. Shima nodded as she started to speak hesitatingly, “it … would appear … that we are prisoners here. Though … I do not know the reason why?” The hedgehog sighed sadly, “we should not have come to Japan … Pudgy thinks.” Argente sighed, “it would certainly seem that way Pudgy. Mother, how long do we have until Pudgy’s next story time?” The white fox shrugged her shoulder, “I am not sure. It seems that the stories occur right about sunset. This is strange, why are we not doing this during the day, when everyone is awake?” The critter put his paws on his hips, “Pudgy will not tell story! Pudgy want to know what is going on!” No sooner had the protest escaped from his mouth, did the paper door open with Kannushi Kaito standing there looking at the trio.
The older silver fox padded in slowly, and then sat down in his usual spot during the hedgehog’s tales. “Oh, no more stories? I see …did you not care for your meal?” Pudgy scampered over to where the priest sat, and wiggled his nose as he looked up at him. “Pudgy like radish it tasted yummy. The tea is wonderful. But Pudgy thought we friends … what is going on? Why can Pudgy not visit ship, Pudgy worry about friends. Argente just tell Pudgy that she had foxes take her to go to cleansing place. Then they would not leave, and watched her the entire time, before being led back here. Shima can not leave, and we seem to be stuck in this room. Pudgy wanna know why?” The head priest nodded, “I see.” Argente looked at Kaito, and before she could speak, her mother interjected. “Kannnushi, I do not understand our situation. My daughter and her friend truly do appreciate the food and drink, as well as the benefit of your time and attention. Our little hedgehog friend Pudgy here is greatly concerned about his friends, and would very much like to go check on his ship.” The little hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy will tell story only if allowed to visit ship.”
Kaito nodded, “I understand. It is my wish to allow free travel here, I do not enjoy having to do this. However, I am not able to allow you to leave the immediate shrine area. The decree was clear, you are to remain here until further advised.” Argente shot the Kannushi a look, “decree?” Shima frowned as she gasped audibly, “the crane emperor? When did this occur?” Pudgy turned to Shima, “emperor? Is that like a king?” The white fox nodded, “Pudgy … he is the undisputed ruler of this nation. This certainly explains our status here … is it also decreed that Pudgy must complete his tale?” The head priest nodded, “every word spoken …every action made …has been observed and documented. Failure to comply with the story, will result in a less … pleasant experience. It is imperative that the final night of stories commence shortly.” Argente angrily barked at him, “I won’t let you hurt Pudgy!” The older fox looked at her, “I do not wish to do that at all Argente. And I expect you to offer me the respect and dignity that my station deserves.” He paused as Argente quieted down, and then called out, “Kiyoshi call the others. We will begin the next tales at soon as all have assembled.”
Pudgy scampered out into the middle of the room, where he had told his tales for the last 2 days. It was not long, until the various foxes started to enter the room, and took their places on their cushions. They were happily speaking amongst themselves, all set for another long evening of epic tales of adventure. However, there was a feeling in the room, as if there was an unspoken tension. After several minutes had passed, eventually all were in position and looking at the hedgehog with expectant eyes. The Kannushi spoke as he smiled at his fellow priests. “When our friends came here, we did not expect to be told such wonderful stories of adventures in far away lands. We also learned why our little friend Pudgy here reacted the way he did with the symbol on our fountain. Pudgy, I am happy to inform you, that the fountain has been properly adapted to avoid references to that dark and terrible time in our collective pasts. I never did care for that symbol myself, and have started the design work to make our wonderful fountain more properly reflect our shrine. Now that all have assembled, let us hear tonight’s tale. I believe you were going to speak of what happened to the humans?”
The flowing eloquent words of the priest drifted on the air, and soon the room became deathly silent. The hedgehog stood silently, looking at Argente and then Shima. Minutes passed, and the silence was becoming uncomfortable, drawing an annoyed response from Kaito. “Pudgy Hedgehog … your tale … please.” The hedgehog still would not speak, only wiggling his nose. Several more minutes passed, and the young priests started to look at each other, and then at the Kannushi in confusion. Behind the head priest, a creaking noise started to occur. Shima watched as a paper panel started to move behind where the Kaito sat. What she had thought was a wall, was in fact a second room. At first the unseen room was dark, but as the light of sunset filtered in, eventually two animals could be seen inside. Two birds were standing, a bit over four feet tall, on long spindly legs. Their bodies were covered in fine white feathers. One had dark black feathers on its tail, neck, and head. There was also a tuft of red feathers at the crest of his head, with long gray needle like beaks. The other bird instead of black feathers, was adorned with pearly gray ones, and was shorter by a couple of inches.
The black feathered bird took a couple steps forward and angled his head so he could better look at the hedgehog. The male bird started to speak with an authoritative tone, “I so was looking forward to another tale of adventure. What is wrong … Pudgy hedgehog?” Once the initial statement had ended, the foxes surrounding the room immediately bowed, with faces pointed at the floor. The Kannushi turned around to face the bird, bowed, and backed away to sit beside Shima. Shima gasped, and immediately bowed while whispering quickly, “Pudgy … Argente … bow …that’s the crane emperor and princess!” Argente looked up at the tall birds, then quickly did as her mother instructed. Out of the corner of her eye, Argente watched as her hedgehog friend also did the same. A tense minute passed, before the hedgehog started to speak timidly. “Pudgy worried about Pudgy friends. Kannushi tell Pudgy, Pudgy not allow to leave shrine. Kannushi, say you told him not to let Pudgy leave. Pudgy wanna know why?” The crane honked softly as he laughed, “oh …worried about your criminal allies who illegally entered my country? They are safely being held under the watchful eye of my forces. Depending on your actions tonight, this will determine the status of your crew.”
Pudgy was confused, he was being called a criminal? The little hedgehog and his friends had done nothing wrong. They were invited to come here by Shima, if they were not allowed to come, why didn’t anyone tell the ship to leave? As the hedgehog contemplated many things, including where his friends were taken, the crane emperor spoke once again. “I am impatiently waiting for the story to begin. I have observed the first night of your tale, and was fascinated by all the wonderous things you spoke of. I had other business to attend to, and apparently missed one epic night of storytelling. Though my allies brought me up to speed, I would have enjoyed hearing that live. Oh, you may stop bowing, and tell your tale. I can not hear properly if you speak directly to the floor. Now, I wish to know more of what is going on in the world outside of my country. Tell me your tale … Pudgy Hedgehog.”
As the hedgehog started to stand up, for the first time the little critter noticed the black fabric covered rabbits standing in certain places around the room. These animals must be the forces the emperor spoke of, and noticed that they appeared to be black rabbits of varying kinds. The soldiers were carrying swords that he been crafted from appeared to be kitchen knives once. Expertly crafted hilts, with vibrant colors were knitted upon the swords, though dark in nature to assist with stealth. All their collective eyes were locked onto Pudgy, Argente, and Shima. Making a mental note, the hedgehog quickly counted at least a dozen guards and tried to keep track of where they were. Taking a deep breath, Pudgy began to tell his tale at last. The critter told the tale of the owls and birds, who used the Gaia stones to make all the humans disappear from the world. He relayed the tale of destruction, the terror as the humans disappeared, and the quietness of true night returning once again at the Grand Parliament. As the hedgehog explained about the owls and birds attending the great meeting, the cranes looked at each other, and then back at the hedgehog. The story concluded with Pudgy using the ley lines to travel home.
As Pudgy told tales of adapting to a world without humans, the horrific attack of coyotes began to be told. As the foxes put their heads on their paws and shuddered as the critter acted out the attack, Pudgy proudly told the part where his human friend came back as a blue dragon and saved the day. The room grew deathly silent, as the emperor honked as he swallowed wrong and started coughing. Pudgy went on to tell the various stories, of why his human friend returned that way, and then the appeared of the Mother of All Bears. The dragon flew Pudgy all the way to Alaska, thousands of miles, to battle the wolves as they tried to invade Kodiak Island. The stories branched, with an explanation of Pudgy’s actions with the ley line, as well as a shorter version what happened with Cobalt. It was at this point, where Pudgy started whimpering and crying. They saved the day, and the bears were having parties, but Cobalt was seriously hurt. The hedgehog had to stop as he started to wail, resulting in a pause. Argente looked up at the emperor, and then to the princess. The female crane had a look of concern in her eyes. The male crane was looking a bit angry, and his tone confirmed it when he spoke. “How on earth did your friend Cobalt come back as a dragon while I came back as a crane?!? Dry your eyes, and explain this immediately!”
Argente waved her paw respectfully towards the royal family to attract their attention. As the male crane turned his head to look at the silver fox, “That is later in the story Emperor, but I can summarize. Cobalt told us, he could see the coyotes attacking us. He became so angry, that he somehow was able to come back to this world as a dragon. But …” The emperor narrowed his eyes at her, “but …what?” Pudgy sniffed his nose, “but Cobalt died on Kodiak Island when Pudgy went home. The great spirit tells Pudgy that dragons are unnatural, and can not live very long here. Only natural animals can live a long life, before passing on and coming back.” The princess nodded, “I see. Your human friend was so concerned about your safety, he came back in a form that could defend you the best way he knew how. Fascinating, this means that if I were to come back as let us say a phoenix, I would not live very long.” Argenete nodded, “that is correct princess. Cobalt was in a tremendous amount of pain when he was a dragon, but he kept it from Pudgy. I still do not know how he was able to fly all the way to Alaska, let alone fight wolves.”
The female crane nodded, “I can understand that sense of confusion myself. Still, it is a fascinating thought, of being in such a body. But Pudgy also spoke of coming back, little one … do you mean reincarnation?” Argente watched Pudgy nod to acknowledge the question, and then started to cry again. The silver fox spoke with a sigh, “Cobalt did come back to us as an eagle. But his memories were all fragmented, but we are far ahead in the story now, so let us get back to where Pudgy fights the moon dinosaurs.” Once a couple of minutes passed to allow time for the critter to compose himself, the hedgehog continued with the tale of the moon dinosaurs. There were crazy talking cacti, and the attack of the dinosaurs from the moon against the great spirit. As the hedgehog explained what the great spirit was, a gigantic thunder eagle who covered the skies, the two cranes looked at each other. Their collective realization of what they had observed in the sky crystalized as they confirmed that what they had seen was the great spirit. The story ended, with the hedgehog returning home, only to find out that Cobalt had been taken to Iron Wood. This was the military command of the eagle forces, that was far to the north east of Pudgy’s forest.
Despite occasional bouts of sobbing as the stories brought up painful memories of what happened to his human friend, the hedgehog started to be peppered from all sides with question. A flurry of frantic questions started to be spoken all at once, and from all the priests, rabbits, and cranes. Argente noticed a common theme from the emperor and the rabbits: force capability and numbers. The priests wanted to know more of the great spirit, as well as the reincarnation process. The priests’ answers were easier to explain, and as both Pudgy and Argente explained about what happens when an animal dies, the priests understood the process but were still full of questions. The crane’s questions began to be more loudly asked, which quieted the room down. The male bird was not used to having to wait for someone else’s question to be answered first. The princess asked what an eagle was, and how big they were: it became clear to the emperor that they would prove to be a formidable foe should he engage with their forces. The eagles’ forces seemed to outnumber his, and they were formidable birds of prey. Pudgy also spoke of a hawk friend, which was a smaller bird of prey, but still agile and deadly.
Once the questions died down, the hedgehog finished his tale with the return trip from the land of the eagles, and a wonderful visit with Santa and his wife. The return of the magical humans confused the former humans now turned animals presently in attendance. To them: Santa was just a man in a red suit, hired by the shopping mall. There was no special significance to the Japanese people, be it emotional or religious. The story ended on a pleasant note, which was a welcome respite, until Pudgy started to tell the story of the wolves. The horrors of the predators as they destroyed everything in their wake, and the trip to Niagara Falls in wicked winter weather was told to an astonished room. Once more the Great Spirit attacked the embodiment of evil, as the land was destroyed in the titanic battle. The emperor’s beak dropped open, and he listened dumbfounded. Once again, the hedgehog returned home, and the establishment of Friendship Town concluded the tale as the animals started to notice accelerated changes throughout the forest and surrounding lands.
The stories were paused once again, as younger foxes exited the room, and then came back with tea. It took awhile to serve every animal in attendance. The emperor and princess could not hold their cups, so were given taller ones from which they could dip their beaks into and drink. Being here live in person was so much better than reading a report scribbled by rabbit paws. The hedgehog was acting out scenes like the days before, and the story was epic. There were no yawns, nor any wandering eyes, everyone was transfixed on the hedgehog. Once everyone had finished their tea, the little critter started to speak again, this time of the strange ghost fox in his dreams, and the need to head to the Philippines. The construction of the Determined, and the voyage to the island was the next tale to be told. The description of so much of the United States being flooded by hundreds of feet of water, and the extension of the ocean so far inland drew every animal’s attention. The ocean travel was able to be omitted, as it was boring and repetitive, so Pudgy skipped ahead with the emperor’s blessing. Finding the ley line on Mt. Apo, and aligning it with Friendship Town, Pudgy concluded with Shima’s direction to head to Japan.
While Pudgy spoke to the ocean travel from the Philippines to Okinawa, Shima noticed the emperor looking at her with an intense glare. She lowered her head, as Pudgy explained in detail about the island atolls of animals living in buildings surrounded by the ocean, of Okinawa and the sea birds, and the attack by Genghis and his crew of Pallas cats. This drew the attention of the armed forces in the room, and once again the critter was peppered with very pointed questions. The critter attempted to answer as best as he could and continued with the escape from the Ganzaya and its dangerous cat crew. The story concluded with the description of the area surrounding Kyoto to the south west, and the arrival at Fushimi village. As Pudgy started to talk about meeting Mayor Touma, the emperor nodded and clapped his wings together. All noticed that the morning light was just starting to illuminate the room through the window slits at the top of the room. “A truly epic tale Pudgy Hedgehog, I am so glad I did not miss tonight’s tale. Your explanation of what has occurred to our world is an interesting chain of events.”
The princess yawned, “father … I am having trouble staying awake.” The male crane nodded, “yes I believe we should all get some rest. Are you able to fly, daughter?” The female crane yawned again, “yes I will be alright.” The crane emperor nodded, “shinobi, I will be taking my daughter home to the palace. Please escort Pudgy Hedgehog, Argente, and Shima Moyo to the prison … I wish to question them further, in a more secure location. Kaito, I will wish to speak to you as well, later today.” Once again, all of the animals bowed to the emperor, with the exception of Pudgy. “Why are we going to prison,” the little hedgehog asked with a tone. However, before he could speak another word, a rabbit hopped quickly behind him and grabbed the back of the hedgehog’s head and drove his face into the wood floor. “KNEEL BEFORE THE EMPEROR! DO NOT QUESTION HIS DIVINE WILL!” As the rabbit did so, Pudgy’s face started to hurt and he began to whimper. To the astonishment of all, the critter immediately curled up into a ball and his quills started to stick out in all directions. The rabbit shinobi looked in confusion, as one gingerly reached his paw out to touch the spike.
It was not too sharp, but it did hurt slightly when he pressed the rabbit’s paw the further down he pressed. The emperor honked as he chuckled, and exited the room with his daughter through the rear passage that served as a maintenance route for the shrine. Shima frowned as she looked at the shinobi starting to surround Pudgy, she turned to look at her daughter. “How do we get Pudgy to come back out?” Argente giggled, “well … usually I offer a hug. But I do not think the shinobi would be willing to do it …” The rabbits turned towards her, and the one who had reacted harshly to the hedgehog’s refusal to kneel pointed his paw at him. “Criminal Argente fox, you are under arrest for illegal entry into the sovereign nation of Japan.” The rabbits quickly surrounded her, and the silver fox was being tied with restraints. The movements were so quick and fluid, the female fox could not react in time. Her mouth was tied shut, and a team of rabbit shinobi started to pull her out of the room. Shima was more compliant, and after her restraints were tied on, she followed behind the soldiers.
The hedgehog felt his quills being tugged at, and he started to unfurl out of his ball shape when he felt the sword blades starting to poke at his skin. He was tied up, and then ordered to walk forward, with a rabbit guard on each side around him. The hedgehog could see the sad expressions on the Shinto fox priests faces, as the hedgehog and friends were escorted out of the shine. It was hard to move, but Pudgy did as best as he could, while whimpering. It took quiet a while, but eventually the shinobi rabbits assembled the prisoners outside of the shrine’s entrance. Argente and Shima would be taken the standard travel method, through the forest, up the canal, to reach the palace. The foxes and rabbits would be able to make it there by evening. However, the hedgehog was much slower, so the rabbits started to blow a wooden flute. A bird quickly flew out of the trees, that Pudgy had never seen such a bird like this before in his life. Orders were given to fly Pudgy to the prison, and to instruct the guards to keep the hedgehog under heavy guard.
The brown feather covered bird nodded, and quickly took off with the hedgehog dangling from his rope restraints. He started to cry, Pudgy wanted very much to go home. He wanted to be with his friends. Have tea parties, and play games. He did not want to adventure any more, just stay home where it was safe. As the critter wailed, the bird started to feel bad, but carried out its orders. In about an hour, they had traversed the thick forest that stretched in all directions between Fushimi Inari Taisha and the Imperial Palace. The palace complex was quiet a sight to be seen from the air, and the critter wailed as he started to believe he was going to be trapped here for the rest of his life. The bird squeaked, “please calm down. I do not think it will be as bad as you think it is. I had to spend time here myself. The locals found out I was from China. Heck, I used to be a car salesman outside of Beijing. First thing I did when I came back as a bird, was poop on a Mercedes. Just because I could!” The bird started laughing, and it made the hedgehog feel a little better.”
They headed to a series of rectangular buildings with pale green roofs to the east of the main complex of buildings. Flying over what appeared to be huge ventilation fans on the southern side of the complex, the bird flew over a shallow pond that was in the center of the complex. Banking to the right, then came in for a quick landing in front of several shinobi bunny rabbits standing outside of a large human sized set of paper and wood screen doors. The doors were painted with cherry blossom trees, and black Kanji letters that read welcome visitors. The bird gently placed Pudgy down, and landed beside him. “I was ordered by the shinobi to bring Pudgy Hedgehog here. The order is to keep him under heavy guard.” The rabbits nodded, and reached for the rope restraints as the bird released them from his claw. He watched as the rabbits led the hedgehog inside, before flying off as the one rabbit gave him a dirty look.
Once inside, Pudgy looked in amazement at the giant building they were in. Light solid oak beams were holding the roof up, and were ornately carved in places. White paper was held between a similar oak lattice framework to form both window coverings and doors. Many of the doors had been pulled open, and a welcome breeze of warm air was blowing through the building. The dark oak floors soon began to be covered with woven mats of pale fibers. Turning a corner, the rabbits led Pudgy into a wide room with a mahogany table. It was massive, perhaps twenty human feet long. Low chairs were on the ground, with cushions on them. This section of the prison apparently was used as a meeting room for meals and other functions. It seemed strange though, why would the building seem so pleasant, if animals were held here? These questions were soon out of the hedgehog’s mind as he started to see his friends.
The crew of the Determined has been placed into this area, for safe keeping, and observation. As Mrs. Field Mouse spotted Pudgy under restraints, she started to squeak sadly as she pointed. Pudgy started to sob, as he counted 15 animals and realized they were here safe. As the gray fluffy bunnies spotted Pudgy tied up in heavy restraints, they started to sob. “No, the evil bunnies got Pudgy too!” The comment from the young rabbits made his guard stop and turn towards them. “We are not evil, you are the ones who chose to break the law. Your friend here is of special interest to the emperor. I will remind you to watch your tongues. There are less pleasant places we can put you, should you wish?” Their father pulled back his children, and shook his head. “Hoppy …be silent. We are not home; you need to think first before speaking. Pudgy will be ok, just be glad he is still alive.” The crew of the Determined turned and watched as their hedgehog friend was tied in such a way that he could only walk upright. His paws were tied together, and his mouth tied shut for that matter too.
Once again, he was pulled, and was being escorted through the room and down another corridor. Down the hall, make a left, through a propped open set of metal doors, they entered the giant commercial kitchen for the building. On the floor were metal cages, once used to store chickens or other game fowl prior to being slaughtered for their meat. Pudgy was tossed into an empty cage, and then the guards exited with their paws on the hilts of their swords. The cage door was pulled shut, and tied shut in various places along the door. The one shinobi said with a sinister tone, “try anything criminal … and we make your crew start to disappear one at a time.” The scared hedgehog sat down on the floor of the cage, and whimpered terribly. Japan was a scary place, and he desperately wanted to go home. Eventually though, the guards wandered off, and the kitchen became eerily quiet.
As Pudgy rolled over to lay on his side, he started to drift off to sleep. But a strange smell wafted into his nose, and his eyes opened. Beside his cage, was another one, though separated by a stainless-steel metal cart that was once used to move prepared foods to the earlier room with the mahogany table. A set of yellow eyes looked back at the hedgehog, and narrowed. “I see they got you too … “The words had a thick Chinese accent, though a bit more guttural. The long-haired grey fur, was striped in places with black, white, and brown fur; that almost made the creature look like a tiger. The hedgehog realized it was the captain of the mean looking cats from the red ship. Genghis sneered, “they think they are so smart. I am locked up … I am just waiting for my moment to strike. Then I will break out of this place, and escape.” Struggling with his restraints, the hedgehog was able to get the ropes free enough so he could speak with a muffled tone. “What is your name, mister cat?” The Pallas cat laughed, “Genghis, Khan of the Pallas cats. The hedgehog whimpered, “Pudgy remember you. You attacked Pudgy’s ship. Pudgy see that they took your hat.” The cat hissed sharply, “yes, those darn jerks did. I want my bleeping hat back. Darn it all to heck, why can’t I use curse words? What is car door wrong with this tailpipe place?” The hedgehog chuckled as he wiggled a bit more to get as comfortable as he could. The two prisoners settled in for a long period of confinement. The cat hissed again out of annoyance, and then heard the strange quill covered animal speak to him again. “Pudgy need to explain … there is a Great Spirit…. And he makes the bad words go away.” Genghis hissed sharply, “well the Great Spirit can kiss my door knob … darn it! Ok, tell me more of the Great Spirit …” The hedgehog chuckled, and started to tell a tale, as the light began to fade through the windows of the kitchen.