Byrd grunted as he shoved Kokoso away, "Kokoso, your elbow's in my ribs!"
"Hey," Kokoso screamed, "what are you trying to do, I don't want to hatch until we stop moving!"
There was a moment of silence before Maria snickered, "Never thought I'd hear a rabbit talk about hatchings."
"I never thought I'd get stuffed into an egg." Cathryn sighed, leaning against the wall of the egg.
"I know a surprisingly lot about birds." Kokoso beamed proudly.
"Why do you know so much about birds?" Maria crossed her arms curiously, and Kokoso turned to Byrd and pointed at him, she sputtered a laugh in response.
Byrd coughed loudly, "You sure you should be leaning on that?"
"Trust me," Cathryn replied, "I know how hard this shell is."
The group looked up as the egg ceased its movement, "I think we stopped." Kokoso whispered.
"Should we get cracking?" Maria grinned.
"Please, no," Kokoso stifled a laugh, "you've got to stop or you'll kill me."
"Why are we whispering?" Byrd hissed, "For the love of all that is lofty, why are we whispering?!"
"Because, that thing out there-" Kokoso gasped and grabbed hold of Byrd's shoulders as they started moving again, "Confession time: I'm scared...honestly, of everything...everything scares me...I just hide it really, really, really well."
"Well, that's not good." Byrd whispered, referring to the fact that something rustled again the sides of the egg, "Huh? Oh!" Byrd turned to Kokoso and held his shoulder, "I know...I have ever since you froze up on the beach that day."
"Is it trying to-" Maria covered her mouth and Cathryn and Byrd watched her intently.
"Trying to what?!" Kokoso cried, "Is it trying to crack the egg? I don't want to be an omelet! But they do say you have to break some eggs to make an omelet," Kokoso sunk to the floor, "you guess the bird's taken it to heart?"
"New most hated food." Byrd grumbled.
"I-is it...it's seriously-" Maria started shaking before leaning against the wall and breaking into a laugh, "She's trying to keep us warm, she must think we're her egg!"
"Technically it could be a guy," Kokoso turned to Byrd and tapped his shoulder, "fun fact: In probably all the species, the male participates in incubating the eggs, too." Kokoso instantly forgot his fear in favor of joking with Byrd, "Are you secretly the type to-"
"Get off me, bunny!" Byrd smacked his elbow against the shell, "Seriously, everyone's laughing like their crazy, must be the heat, time to break out!"
"Sauna time's over!" Kokoso agreed, bashing his shield against the egg.
"In my own defense, I wasn't laughing." Cathryn almost whispered and sharply knocked on her side of the shell, Maria joined her, their knuckles leaving little cracks until Cathryn could press her hands against the shell and crawl out.
Cathryn cracked the shell and pulled it open, then helped Maria out of the hole in the egg and peeked in to find Kokoso and Byrd sitting on the floor of the egg, panting from exertion.
The phoenix flew up, much larger than the hummingbird it started from, and Kokoso fell to the floor at the slight wobble that followed, Byrd turned around as he crawled ahead of the rabbit Animen.
Kokoso slowly crawled out of the hole in the shell and rose to his feet, "This is it, huh?"
Cathryn glanced between Maria and Kokoso as she pulled her axe out of her Pocket Zone, "Might as well use your new favorite word, "Maria."
"Huh?" Maria turned and saw Cathryn watching Kokoso staring at the flying phoenix, "Oh...it's time to send this guy packing!"
"Or girl." Kokoso smirked, glancing at Byrd.
"It's not funny!" Byrd shouted.
"Come to think of it...Byrd!" Kokoso shouted, "Your name is-"
"Nope, look, the bird's landed, let's send it packing!" Maria ran ahead of Cathryn, claws out in front of her, ready to block, while Kokoso led Byrd into battle.
"Okay, so, we need to bring it down here again," Cathryn glanced around as she followed Maria, "maybe I could hook it's talon with my axe."
"I'll slow him down with my wings," Byrd stopped where he was, "when he comes around to stab me, that's your chance."
"We should stay behind with Byrd." Maria turned to Kokoso.
Kokoso agreed and they stood behind Byrd.
The phoenix watched them all with it's dark eyes before darting down, beak first, wings outstretched, body aflame. Byrd leaped up and spread his wings, a mighty gust emitted from him slowed the giant beast, and Maria and Kokoso ran out in front of him, claws and shields ready to guard while Cathryn pounced over the trio, her axe racking down the bird's plumage. Upon landing she turned around and caught the phoenix's foot with her axe, pulling down as she did, sparks dancing from her axe as the other three attacked the fiery monster.
Suddenly the bird launched itself into the air, Cathryn still gripping the axe as they elevated, and exploded.
"Cat!" Byrd shouted, throwing himself into the sky to catch her as ash and cinders rained down upon the mountain.
After seeing to their friend, Kokoso and Maria turned around, a large pack of wolves climbed over the edge of the mountain and darted forward, rushing past the heroes, who turned to see the beast running to a fire, howls of pain were followed by silence before the phoenix arose again.
"This isn't real!" Byrd exclaimed as Cathryn fell out of his arms, "It can't be!"
"Just like the legends," Kokoso mused, "it rose from it's ashes...should we scatter it's ashes?"
Cathryn grunted and shook her head, "Unfortunately it used it's wind to gather it's ashes, I saw the whole thing while Byrd was watching the wolves."
"Then it must be conscious," Maria concluded, "so do we need to burn it up while it's stunned or keep it from blowing itself up?"
"We could try stopping the wolf army." Kokos shrugged, "But there may be many more watching us." Kokoso stood at the cliff, watching shadows move below, "I definitely hear something...either Byrd's hungry, or the phoenix is hungry, or those are hungry monsters down below."
"All of the above," Byrd pulled the rabbit from the edge and pointed his lance at the phoenix, "so let's end this so I can eat!"
"For the food!" Kokoso struck his shield with the pommel of the blade as Byrd and Maria echoed his war cry, Cathryn silently shook her head, a smirk on her lips as they prepared for the second attack.
The phoenix didn't keep them waiting long, swiftly crashing down onto the ground, shaking the ground violently.
"It's raising us up," Byrd alerted, "my sense of altitude never lies! That explains how it constructed this mountain, it can shape the very earth around it...and below it."
"Okay, I think we should just do what we can to stop this thing," Maria turned to the others, "let's attack like crazy until this thing stops trying to crush us!"
"Look, phoenix, you can't crush your prey and eat it, too," Kokoso laughed, "it's just not done!" He sprang up into the air and spun around, bringing his blade down onto the monsters back as he landed, "It's well done!"
A dumbfounded Byrd sighed, "That's what it is, then?" Byrd flew up and spiraled into the phoenix, piercing through it's throat, landing with his feet firmly on the bird, "Alright, I'm freezing this thing's heart...hopefully!"
"Time for it to feel the burn!" Maria cried, arms behind her until she sprang up, swinging herself in a circle, the edges of her claws tearing at the point where the wings joined the body.
Cathryn jumped up and hooked her ax on the other wing's shoulder, yellow glowed as the struggling bird stepped around wildly, swiftly, trying to shake them, which resulted in a deeper cut in its wing.
"Hey, guys, company!" Kokoso alerted the team as a horde of monsters, wolves, squirrels, birds, and tigers approached, "Everyone, I think this bird's about to explode!"
Cathryn kicked against the bird's wing and flipped backwards, turning in midair to face the monsters approaching. She spun as she landed, slicing through a small number of them. As her attack lost speed she raised her ax before her, blunt side guarding her, Byrd lifted her and flew over the sea of monster, landing on the cliff as a wave of orange red radiated from the death of the phoenix.
"It's not dead yet." Cathryn sighed.
Maria and Kokoso ran up to the duo, sweating and exhausted from the run and the blast of heat, "As long as there are monsters to sacrifice themselves," Maria panted, "we can't stop the phoenix from collecting power...and is it me, or is that blast bigger than last time?"
"It's because...it takes magic to come back, the monsters must give it a surplus of power!" Kokoso slammed his fist into his palm, "To do with what it will!"
"And it would stomp us with it's power." Byrd rolled his shoulders, "I hope you're right, because that means it can only explode a fixed number of times before it runs out!"
"That beak also looks a bit different," Cathryn pointed out, "it's curved and blade-like."
"So, it's a hummingbird first, then an insect hunter," Kokoso folded his arms, "and we now have a big game hunter."
"This incarnation might use more power to explode, there's sure to be more monsters waiting to fuel it's fire, we need to plan for them." Cathryn looked around, but came up empty, "If only we could keep the monsters down, cause avalanches or something."
"I'll try to knock them down as they come up," Byrd decided, "berserk might even keep him from exploding!"
"Okay, I'm switching out." Kokoso decided, letting out a sigh as his energy drained into the enchantment, "Let's finish this so Byrd can eat," Kokoso laughed tiredly, "for the food!"
As the battle raged the phoenix slowly tired, but as it did, monsters climbed up the mountain, and the giant bird took them into it's beak and swallowed them.
"Look, I'm peckish, too!" Kokoso stomped, sulking, "And hot and I want a bath, I'm tired, too, so just stop eating everything already!"
"It is annoying, huh?" Cathryn tapped her chin for a moment, "If only we could block it's throat, the best I've got is if I jumped into it's mouth and held to my ax, but if it breaths fire again, then...that would be a mistake."
"All we can do is keep going!" Maria struck the ground with her claws and let out a deep breath as she drew on the ground's healing magic, "For the food!"
Kokoso chuckled as he followed after Maria, nodding at her as she turned to face him, she jumped back as the phoenix started to spew flames and he was ready with his shield, after the flames died down Byrd, carrying Cathryn with his talons. Cathryn caught Maria's arms as she leaped up and swung her back and forth.
"Now!" Kokoso shouted, after catching the phoenix's attention and luring it to turn it's back to the three airborne warriors.
Cathryn let Maria go and the wolf animen crossed her arms like shears, she spun as she fell, and swung her arms open as she closed in on the throat, she continued spinning as she passed the throat and landed next to Kokoso, who shook as the phoenix let out a pained cry, "Yeah, that's definitely where we want to hit it!"
Maria snarled at the glowering beast as it met her eyes, "Why are you looking at me? She's the main event." Maria startled back as the monster raised it's head slightly, as though it realized something, and it started to turn around as Cathryn fell from the sky with a loud cry, a fatal swing of her shoulders and the phoenix erupted into flames.
"Now!" Kokoso cried, turning around to find Maria stepping away from the monster, "Maria, you look like you saw a ghost!"
"I don't...honestly know what I saw." Maria murmured.
"Well, let's put some distance between us and it!" Kokoso shouted, turning to make sure she was behind him, "We've got to keep these things from feeding it!"
"I don't know how to put this, but I get the feeling they're not feeding it, they're joining it, adding their power to it, and there's something...human inside."
"Human?!" Kokoso cried, glancing back again, "Maybe...what do you think it is?"
"I don't know...I'm afraid to ask." Maria stopped and turned around, "I think this is far enough."
"Why aren't there monsters?" Kokoso wondered, staring at the cliff. He turned to find Maria running, and saw that Cathryn and Byrd were also rushing to that point, "Oh, they're stampeding in all at once, huh? Smart."
Cathryn turned to where Kokoso and Maria had planned to guard, and saw Maria running towards her and Byrd, Kokoso catching up fast, "Looks like they caught on that something was off." Byrd remarked.
"Yeah, but this makes it easier to defend this point if we survive." Cathryn pointed out, "If we survive, I meant."
"Ha, we will." Byrd assured her, flying over a line of monsters, striking into the chaotic monsters below, "This is almost too easy!"
Cathryn agreed with him in her following silence, contemplating if this was the last wave of monsters or a ruse. She turned around to see the phoenix's sharp eyes as the air behind her grew warm, reminding her too much of the lava that erupted from the spring earlier.
"Listen to me complaining about this being too-" Byrd turned around to find Cathryn staring into the eyes of the phoenix, her ears folded down in a way that reminded him of Kokoso for the briefest moment, in the next moment she was engulfed in red-orange flames and he had to make an effort to raise himself from the fire that scorched the monsters behind him.547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡvz6aPDqRWI
Time seemed to slow around her, she felt as though she as motionless. She tried to raise her axe in defense, but the weight made the process slow and difficult, she clenched her jaw as a light formed in the back of the monster's mouth and closed her eyes as the light seemed to pull her in, her axe was halfway into a guard, but it was too later and she knew it. She could see the bright light behind her eyelids, but didn't dare open.
She found it curious that she would wonder what adventures her friends would go on after today, or if she would be spared from the chaos the phoenix would rain down upon the world, laying waste to all in its path.
An echoing howl broke her from her thoughts and her eyes flashed open to find the beast stumbling backwards. She felt the wind from Byrd's wings behind her, and saw Kokoso in the corner of her eyes, as astonished as she was that Maria and the phoenix were staring at each other.
Suddenly the feathers on it's back exploded, and in the phoenix's place was a woman clothed in red feathers and flickering flames, a red halberd in her hand.
"Maria...what was that?" Cathryn whispered, eyes never leaving the monster before them.
"I don't know, but if you're need to heal or flee-"
"No...now's not the time for that, I'm fine...not a scratch on me...besides, Mother Goose said there was no way off this mountain as long as she's still flying." Cathryn raised her axe and sighed, "Let's get this over with."547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡsXiEIBlGWx
"What's the plan?" Kokoso asked, raising his shield.
"I doubt she'll fight fair, but she doesn't seem interested in keeping me from flying," Byrd rose off the ground and readied his spear, "before there was always some magical interference, but right now she's either too weak or...what did you do to her?"
Kokoso looked up at Byrd and pointed at Maria, "She has a theory that the monster has a human inside."
"Not quite a human!" Maria corrected, "It just...feels like...I thought there was, but that's silly, right?"
"Either way, leave her to me." Byrd instructed, floating confidently to the red plumed monster that replaced the phoenix while the others battled the monsters that remained among them. He met the eyes of the monster and narrowed his gaze, focusing intently on her verdant eyes, "You may not remember me...but we've fought, haven't we, hummingbird? No way I'm losing to you after all this!"547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡOLvyPtFv0r
The two chased each other around the mountain, stabbing with their lances, though she would also swing her halberd like an axe, for the briefest moment, she reminded him of Cathryn, "Hmm, we beat hummer when Cat decided on how she'd beat me, but how would I beat Cat? Wait for her to swing the axe, she often tells me aim is everything, never let's herself get too absorbed, keep an eye on everything."547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡEe4zvK3Hr6
Byrd landed and smiled up at the monster, flapping his wings as he held his arms up, the woman charged forward, lance upright and swung in a vertical spin, he flitted to the side and struck her shoulder with the blunt side of his lance, then ran it past her arms under her torso, and swung sharply away from her, putting his wings into the motion to send her hurtling onto her back, then used the lance to hook the halberd's blade and pull it from her diminished grasp. Suddenly the sky flashed with red lightning and the ground shook.547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡZJdAv6I9Uq
As he finished blinking away the spots in his eyes, he looked around to find himself in yet another egg. After breaking free, he turned to find the others emerging as well, but he found it odd that there was a forth egg. He glanced down at his feet and quickly did a head count, and then inspected the egg. He looked up to find Mother Goose descending from the sky like an angel, and gave her the questioning glance that the others were giving her.547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡsDoKNNZOsq
"Are you protecting her or encasing her?" Byrd blurted.547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡNXRTZVzImk
"Good question," Mother Goose nodded, "I'm protecting her, the spirits told me that there was 'another' on the mountain with you, and that it would crumble, and that the phoenix 'mustn't be slain', I can only trust the spirits and prepare for the outcome...strange," the white feathered Animen took stock of the surrounding area, "that volcano is still...but not crumbled."547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1YsiUXQiGu
"Would it have crumbled if she'd died?" Kokoso asked nervously.547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡqzKhDDW1Gw
"I believe so...I doubt we'll wait for long," Mother Goose gestured at the egg trembling, "she's hatching." 547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5sBjOx08C0
Byrd turned to find Maria grinning, struggling to keep her lips together as she shook with stifled laughter, "Sorry, I just...can't get over it."547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡlepgOLGbXA
The green haired figure stood on shaky legs, turning to the four explorers with eyes that matched her hair, "Y-you fought me." she pointed looking ill.547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡKUByN8j3TR
"At the time we didn't-" Kokoso stepped forward, but she held her hand up to silence him.547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡmQIdKwGZJH
"Thank you, if not for you, I would have destroyed the Wilds, so...I thank you...all four of you," she fell into the spring and closed her eyes, "Kokoso, Byrd...Maria...and," she let a smirk crawl onto her lips as she closed her weary eyes, "Kitty."547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡGDBXZCNQmP
Mother Goose lifted the girl out of the water and turned to the others, "She just needs rest, you four took the fight out of a deadly monster, she was connected to it and is probably very exhausted, you should all hurry back as well."547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡDW5O2uZZad
"I hope we don't run into more monsters!" Kokoso cried, "I think I'll fall over dead if one of them so much as growls at me!"547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡGV1no33NUp
Byrd laughed and slapped Kokoso's back, "Don't worry, I'll swoop down and save you if need be, just don't have a heart attack, yeah?"547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡfBqtXK4Ml0
"There shouldn't be many monsters," Mother Goose assured, leading them through the woods to the village, "not after what you've accomplished today."547Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0w3EXSha9n