Thirteen Tales From Another World
The Tale of Agartha
Meanwhile, at the airport waiting gate.
“Ugggh I’m worn out.” Dr. Callyco complained as he sat on a bench looking out to the tarmac. There was no sign of the plane that he and his friend were waiting for. “Ugh the only thing more sad than having to leave your vacation, is sitting in the airport waiting on your delayed flight while trying to leave your vacation.”
“So it is a vacation?” Dr. Cutie Pup asked the kitten.
“What? No! I mean… We totally got isekaied to a tropical island.” Dr. Callyco waved his arms. “Just because an airplane delivered us doesn’t change the fact this is a completely different world from what we’re used to. I mean… In our normal world we’d never go this long without misadventure and some kind of transformation happening. There is no possible way that we could be allowed this kind of peace in our normal world.”
“Okay but…” Dr. Cutie Pup raised a hand. And then he lowered it. He raised it once more time, before lowering it again. “Huh, I guess you’re right… This is basically a completely different world from what we’re used to. Even our luck hasn’t been as abysmally bad as normal.”
“Since when do we have bad luck?” Dr. Callyco asked.
“Ah right, you would consider certain events to be a lucky surprise.” Dr. Cutie Pup chuckled.
“Uh okay… Anyway, as we wait for what feels like forever. Something I feel way too many of you feel and… Actually, let’s pull back the curtain for a bit.” Dr. Callyco took a deep breath. “I know this year I am running late on this, and I’ve never had this kind of thing happen in Thirteen Tales before. There was a lot of medical stuff going on, still is, but not as debilitating as it was. I just want to say thank you to everyone who waited patiently for their story to be finished.” He gave a tearful smile. “Anyway… Our final story… Shu, is going to be visiting a place himself like we did. Though not by airplane. No, he’s visiting a place that has been cut off from the normal world. It is only by chance he was able to get there himself. And now that he’s there he’ll have to figure out what to make of his life there. We present our thirteenth and final tale. The Tale of Agartha.”
Thirteen Tales From Another World
The Tale of Agartha
It was always annoying when public funding for a community project ended. Especially when it happened abruptly with no warnings or announcements. Shu was standing outside of what had been the public library. He was dressed simply in a pair of blue jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers and was currently standing on the steps leading up to what had been the library.
Instead, now it was a just a large empty building, most of the windows were boarded up and a sign on the front of the building letting everyone know this facility had been condemned to demolition. It was the latest of many budget cuts lately. Apparently, the local government had decided that anything that resulted in an educated population was a drain on taxpayer dollars and needed to be closed. That was a depressing thought. And to top that, they hadn’t even told anyone it was going to happen. The cynical part of Shu suspected they purposely left the public in the dark so no one could protest the library’s closing till after it had happened.
Well… He had wasted his time walking all the way here. The town he was in wasn’t exactly heavy with bookstores, and the only other location he could go for literature was the opposite direction he had come. So, unless he found some hidden gem of a shop or restaurant today was going to be a complete waste. What a pain.
Shu leaned against the door as he tried to think of if he knew anything in this area that was worth doing, that would make his walk not completely pointless. But nothing came to mind. Not that he had time to think long. The door was unlocked, and as he leaned on it the thing pushed open. He tried to regain his balance, quickly moving backwards before tumbling onto his back inside the abandoned library.
“Ouch.” Shu muttered. There was a loud slam as the door closed. That got him up. It probably wasn’t a good idea to hang out in a condemned building. Aside from the fact the place was going to be bulldozed at some point in the near future, there was the simple fact that since no one was taking care of it the place was probably less than safe. He quickly moved back to the door and tugged on it trying to open it. It didn’t budge.
It had to be pull. He had pushed on it from the outside and fallen inside! Though, just to avoid feeling like an idiot he went ahead and tried to push the door open to see if it would move. Nothing. He pulled on it again. The door moved slightly but made a loud grinding noise. It had become stuck. Because of course it had. So here was Shu, trapped inside a condemned library with no possible way of escape.
Except for all the fire escape doors and the windows of course. Shu gave a heavy sigh. Worst case scenario if nothing would open he could find something to throw at a window to break it and get out that way. The boarding would be a pain, but he could get through it. The place was condemned anyway so who cared if he broke a window? Though as he looked around, the place was pretty baren. There weren’t a lot of options for things he could throw.
Empty bookshelves filled the library. Tables and desk were there with some spare papers scattered among them, but all the chairs were gone. Computers were as well. It was also dark in here thanks to the windows being boarded up. Shu tried flipping the lights on but the place was without power. He supposed that made sense. Still, worse case scenario he could try to lift one of the tables to break a window, or break it himself in the absolute worst case scenario. He’d hopefully wind something he could wrap his hand in to protect it before attempting that.
However, before breaking anything it made sense to try the fire escapes first. Just because Shu didn’t think anyone would care didn’t mean he should just go around and start breaking things. He worked his way to the back of the library, trying very hard not to think about how spooky an abandoned library was. Did they have to board up all the windows? Even a little bit of light would do wonders to make this place look less like the set for a climax of a horror movie.
There was a small bit of light. And to Shu, it was a light that gave hope. An emergency exit at the back wall of the library, light shining in through the glass door windows. Salvation was at hand! Shu rushed to the door and pushed against the bar. His hand encountered a perfectly flat wall.
“What?” Shu asked in a flat voice. His hand was pressed against a flat wall. Yet, he was clearly looking at a door. Except the proportions of the door were all stretched out and weird now. He took a couple of steps back and the door seemed to resume its normal shape and size. Then he held out a hand and touched it again. Definitely a flat wall. This was just a painting, done in such a way to make it look like there was an emergency exit. That would have been surreal enough on its own but there was definitely light shining through the window. And yet when he touched those as well he just felt smooth concrete. What kind of weird glow in the dark paint could perfectly mimic sunlight? And why would someone even paint this in the first place!? This had to be some kind of violation of a fire code. And the window, the light looked so real. There was no way it could just be paint glowing. There had to be some kind of light set up in the wall… Except this place didn’t seem to have any power.
“Alright… This is beyond weird…” Shu took a few steps back. “I Hate to do this, but I think my best bet at this point is breaking a window open… One of the real ones.” He took one look at the door then paused looking at the ‘light’ shining in. It shone down on his hand and even felt warm. Painting a door and making it look like a three-dimensional object by playing with perspective, Shu could understand that. But the light kept bugging his mind. He reached out again and touched it. Just normal concrete. He tried knocking on the window. A hollow sound rang out. That was even weirder. He would have expected a tapping noise if it was glass, or a more solid noise for concrete. It almost as if…
Shu got an idea. He began to knock on the wall along the door. The same hollow sound could be heard. Then after he reached beyond the edge of the door and knocked there was a normal dull thud. He figured it out. There was empty space behind the wall where the painting was. That had to be how the light was coming in! The wall must have been extra thin or made out of some kind of special material that was letting light shine from the other side. He didn’t need to understand how it worked. The point was that if daylight came from the other side, that meant there was a possible exit. Shu took several steps back, got a running start and leaped into the air kicking the wall. He bounced off and landed on his bottom.
“Owwwww. Okay, that wasn’t the best idea.” It may have been a thin wall but it was still made of concrete. A bit more than Shu could simply kick down. He’d need a lot more force applied against it. He looked around the library for what he could use. At this point he was aware that it’d be easier to go back to his other plan of breaking a window. But, this thing just bugged him. He couldn’t explain it and the sooner he saw what was on the other side of this wall the sooner he’d feel better. If only he had some kind of battering ram.
Well, he didn’t have a ram, but there might be something that could work. All the empty bookshelves. These things were solid wood and looked like they weighed a ton. If he could just tip one over near the wall it’d probably slam into it with enough force to break it. Now all he had to do was figure out how to move the stupidly heavy bookcases. He looked around. One of the bookshelves actually had books on it. Could he maybe try to wedge a book under the edge of the case like a lever and push it over? Not likely, he’d need a book that was a lot longer and a lot flatter. Maybe if he climbed to the top of the bookshelf he could lean on the edge and tip it over… And go crashing through the wall himself if that worked.
The books on the shelf looked like pretty heavy tomes. Maybe he could use one of them to beat through the wall. It would take time and several blows… But if the book was heavy enough, he’d eventually bust through. He reached up to grab one of the few books remaining on the shelf. The book tilted off the shelf but refused to come loose from it. Suddenly, the wall with the door painting on it slid upward into the roof.
“SERIOUSLY!?” Shu threw up his hands. “A secret passage operated by pulling a book… In a library? Literally anyone could activate this thing all they’d need is…” Shu looked up at the title of the book he had found. It was ‘An Unabridged History on the Writing of Unabridged History Books.’ Okay, yeah, there was zero chance anyone was going to pull this book off the shelf while the library was still open. Whatever! It didn’t matter! He was free! For behind the wall was…
A dark musty room built from faded green bricks that looked like it might have been part of the sewer. Or possibly some dungeon torture chamber from the 1800s. They didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. The place was dark. There was no exit, or anything for there to be a source of light. The only thing there was a single pedestal with very large book on it. It was thicker than an entire set of encyclopedias put together. Shu wondered how the thing even stayed shut, but that became evident fast. Chains, aged with rust were completely wrapped around the book and pedestal, holding the thing in place. That felt… Excessive.
Alright, Shu was starting to feel like he had stumbled across some kind of secret he definitely wasn’t supposed to know about. And this felt like the part in a horror movie where the victim’s curiosity got them killed. He really just needed to walk away from the secret room, break a window and get out of here. This wasn’t an exit so there was no reason for him to check it out and-
He had already walked into the room and was staring down at the heavy book intensely. Dang it! Was his curiosity trying to get him killed!?
Well, since he had already walked into what was possibly a death trap.
The book had no title. And as far as Shu could tell there was no way to remove the chains. They didn’t seem to actually end or begin anywhere. There was no lock. It almost felt like the chains were somehow part of the book… As if the book itself was somehow clinging to the pedestal trying to prevent itself from being opened. But… That would be silly. Like hiding a secret passage behind a magic painting that somehow produced light silly.
Except, there was no such thing as magic. Right? This just… Had to be for some kind of Halloween event they would hold yearly. It was probably just full of classic horror stories. Really, nothing of interest that warranted further investigation. Besides. He tugged at one of the chains. This thing was locked up tight. He couldn’t read it if he wanted to. The absolute best he could do was maybe if he found a spot the chain was looser would be to try to lift up the corner of the book and see what was written on the pages inside. But there was no reason to do that. And gosh darn it he was going to do that.
Shu fiddled around with the chains trying to find any slack in them. After a few minutes she found a spot near the bottom right-hand corner of the book. He was able to lift the chain slightly making just a tiny amount of room. This was pointless. The book was so thick even if he managed to open it a little it was doubtful, he’d be able to make out the writing. Still, he lifted the book and could make out something. But it didn’t look like any lettering he knew. And then, whatever the letters or symbols in the book were, they lit up a bright green. There was a flash of light and Shu floated into the air.
Now felt like a good time to panic. He flailed unable to move at all or escape. He just floated in the air. Then the book began to rattle in the chains. The tiny section he had seen earlier tried to open by itself, but the chains held the book firmly closed. And then there was another green flash. Suddenly, Shu’s clothing fell to the floor, no sign of the man who had been wearing them remained. The book was closed, and the secret door slowly slid shut.
“Please don’t let me be dead. Please don’t let me be dead.” Shu had his eyes shut. He didn’t know what had happened. But… His voice sounded way too high pitched to belong to him. And… For some reason he was pleasantly warm. He opened his eyes. He was in a forest. Not any forest he recognized though. It was strange, the trees stretched up a log distance and were in all kinds of strange colors. And then there was no sign of the sky. No clouds, no sunlight, no moon or any stars. The area was lit. Various colored lights seemed to radiate from the trees making it bright and easy to see.
“Where…” Shu started to ask as he took a few steps forward and stumbled down falling on his face. Ow! He landed on something hard! What the heck? Why was walking so hard! He looked down at himself and froze. He had a thick coat of green fur that covered his entire body. He slowly turned his neck around to look at the back of his body. He now had four legs and zero arms. Then he had little paws with red glowing beans and a long fluffy tail… And wait what had he landed on that was so hard. Nothing but soft grass in front of him. He moved his forepaws to feel his face. He discovered he had large ears and there was something hard on his forehead.
“Alright, don’t panic… When I fell and hit my head I just fell unconscious. And this is all a dream… While my unconscious body is laying in a building scheduled to be demolished.” Shu paused for a moment as he tried to consider which reality was scarier. The one where he was a small fluffy green thing. Or the one where a wrecking ball might swing through the wall at any moment and collapse the roof on top of his helpless body.
You know… He could live with being green and fluffy. He especially liked the living part. Here’s hoping he wasn’t unconscious and that this was real. A very weird thing to be rooting for. He needed to focus, get a better understanding of this situation. If he could just find something that he could see his reflection in. As he thought about it, his ears twitched. They were quite a bit more sensitive now. He could hear the sound of water running not far off. A stream or river perhaps? It would have to do. He bounded off! Only to fall his face again.
He slowly started off again, working one leg at a time as he got used to the sensation of walking on four legs. As he got more confident, he slowly picked up pace until he reached the stream. It was shallow, and the water was running fast, so it was hard to make out his reflection. But he could see it. He was some green creature that seemed to be about halfway between a cat and a fox. But his ears were as long as a rabbits, but still pyramid shaped like a cat. Those things looked big enough to fly with. For a moment he wondered if he could. It wouldn’t be any weirder than anything else. But, while he could wiggle them, rotate them and twitch them, they did not have enough movement to flap up and down and let him fly.
Back to looking at the reflection, he found the hard object on his head. It was some kind of red stone. A ruby? No, it seemed to dark for that. Suddenly, the gem began to glow. It was a garnet! Wait, how did he know that? He simply did. But he had played enough video games and card games to know what he was. A carbuncle! Why was he a carbuncle and in some kind of weird glowing forest!?
Okay, he needed to take deep breaths. Whatever was going on, he was here now, and this change had happened. For now, there wasn’t anything he could do about that. Not unless he found another book wrapped up in chains. The best he could do was try to find out where he was, as well as what his body was capable of. Carbuncles tended to be magical video games. So maybe he had some magic abilities? Hopefully he had more abilities than just magical gemstone identification.
Shu started to walk through the forest. He stuck close to the stream to use it for guidance so he could find his way back to where he came from if needed. He was getting used to moving on four legs and could trot at a decent speed. But, every now and then his ears would pick up some noise and he’d quickly dive into a bush. He didn’t know what the food chain was here! There could be predators that eat carbuncles! He couldn’t take any chances until he knew more about this place. And so, he continued down the stream.
After some amount of time, the trees began to glow dimmer. Shu supposed this must be what passed for night hear. Again, as he looked up, he saw no actual sky. The place just rose higher than he could see.
As it became night Shu was facing new problems. One was easily solved. He was thirsty, and thanks to the fact he had followed the stream there was plenty of water right there. However, the other two were a bit more difficult. He was also hungry, and tired. He needed food and to find a safe place to take shelter for the night.
Along his exploration Shu had encountered plenty of berries that smelled sweet. And while they certainly looked appetizing, he had no way to know if they were poisonous or not. Come to think of it he didn’t even know what he could digest right now? Was he supposed to eat grass or leaves? Did he need meat? Or maybe the sweet-smelling berries were his natural food?
He sniffed at the air, smelling some nearby. He followed his nose to a bush full of bright red berries. All of them looked delicious. Every instinct was saying to eat them. Again, stuck between two dangers. Starvation and possible poison. Were these safe to eat? His body seemed to think they were. His tail would not stop wagging since he had picked up their scent and he was starting to drool a bit. He decided, it was time to trust his animal instincts. Surely, those wouldn’t mislead him. Unless he had no animal instincts and was just desperately hungry and… No too much overthinking.
He stood up on his hind paws and managed to snatch a berry off the bush with his mouth. The juice flew into his mouse, he wasn’t sure what kind of fruit this was, but it was good. He devoured the bury without a moment’s hesitation. Then, he waited. No stomach problems. He hadn’t fallen over dead. It would seem that these were actually safe to eat. Looks like he was getting the hang of this whole carbuncle thing and was going to make it through the night fine.
And then a terrible scream rang out from the sky. All of Shu’s fur stood on end and he quickly dove into the berry bush to hide. From outside the bush, he heard a loud crash and felt the ground tremble as if something large had just appeared. He didn’t dare stick his head out of the bush to take a look. Whatever it was, he’d just wait it out. His green fur made it easy to blend into the bush. As long as he didn’t move or make a noise whatever was here wouldn’t take any notice of him.
So of course, his garnet started to glow right at that moment.
“Are you kidding me?” Shu hissed. He quickly threw his forepaws over the garnet trying to hide the glowing stone. “Stop it… This is not the time for this! Just… I don’t know what kind of magic you’re working but this is a really bad time.” His paws were too clumsy to completely conceal the garnet’s light. And then a moment later the entire berry bush was ripped up leaving him sitting on the ground exposed.
And standing before him was the creature that had ripped it up. It looked like a gigantic lion, but its mane went all the way down its back to where it had three tails. Then the thing had six white feathered wings. Its fur was gold colored, the main silver and there were streaks of white beneath his belly. Each of his four paws was easily twice as big as Shu.
“Uh… Hi…” Shu’s garnet grew even brighter, and suddenly a glowing red orb appeared around him. Great. He had a shield. Somehow, he doubted it was going to help him against something that big.
“So, you’re the lost child.” The lion-like creature sat down and spoke with a surprisingly gentle voice as it looked down at Shu. “We got a report of a lost child in the Agarthan Forest but even I had my doubts… Don’t you think you’re a bit young to be on an Exploration Venture?”
“Uh… What?” Shu understood very little of what had just been said. He thought he got the name of where he was at least. But the thing had also called him a child. “I’m not a kid!” Great, focus on that. Pick a fight with the thing that could flick him into the stratosphere. Assuming there was such a thing here.
“Heh heh. Trying to act grown up and tough huh?” The lion laughed. “You really don’t think anyone’s gonna buy that do you?”
“Well I really am an adult so why wouldn’t they?” Shu demanded.
“Well aside from your size, your proportions, your voice and obvious immaturity…” The lion grinned. “You don’t have a shell.”
“A shell?” Shu tilted his head.
“Indeed, all adult carbuncles have shells. Yet, you do not.” The lion spoke in a teasing voice.
“Uh-huh. So, what I’m supposed to just grow it in as I get older? What kind of shell are you talking about anyway, a turtle’s?” Shu’s shield disappeared and his gem stopped glowing. In his argument he had forgotten his fear.
“That’d be ridiculous if you grew one. You’re born with one or you’re not.” The lion gave Shu a condescending pat on the head.
“Then why do you think that makes me some kind of little kid!?” Shu demanded.
“Because only new generation carbuncles are shell-less. Come now, surely you wondered why your parents looked different from you. Carbuncles used to have armadillo like shells. But, as human perception changed thanks to pop culture they began to be born without them. Now… That shift happened in the last half a century… Meaning that even if you were exactly fifty, you’d still be in grade school.”
“Literally none of what you said makes sense.” Shu shook his head. “Besides, my parents wouldn’t have shells because they’re not carbuncles.”
“Oh… This should be good.” The lion laid down next to Shu. “So, what were they?”
“Uh-“ Shu paused. Did humans exist here? If they were how good of terms were they with magical flying lions? Well… The thing hadn’t eaten him so far. And while it was rude to keep teasing him and treating him like a child the guy was… Mostly friendly he supposed. “Humans.”
“Humans.” The lion restated. “Well, I’d certainly like to know how that happened since we cut off contact to the humans over a century ago. We bound the summoning tome so it they could never call on us to do their bidding again. A human in Agartha, who then gave birth to a carbuncle. That’d be something. I don’t think a human body can even survive here with all the ambient magic.”
“It can’t?” Shu blinked. Was that why he had transformed? When the book had brought him here it had altered his form to allow him to survive. “Wait, if you cut off humans how do you know about how pop culture depicts of carbuncles?”
“Hey, we may live in Agartha but we still have basic utilities like the internet.” The lion spoke smugly.
“The internet?” Shu gave a quizzical look.
“On the internet no one knows you’re 200 ton flying lion.” He replied simply.
“I suppose that’s true…” Shu paused to briefly consider if any of his online friends might secretly be 200 ton flying lions. Or possibly other things. “But uh… See, I’m human. Or was. I sort of maybe accidentally got myself locked inside a condemned library. Tried to find the emergency exit, but it turned out to be just a painting on a wall. Except it turns out, the wall was an honest to goodness secret passage get this, that could be opened by pulling the right book off the shelf.”
“In a library? Where people come to check out books?” The lion sounded quizzical. “That seems a very poor way to hide a passage.”
“The book you had to pull out was ‘The Unabridged History of Writing Unabridged History Books.’ So…”
“I’m ten thousand years old and I wouldn’t touch that. I withdraw my complaint.” The lion replied.
“Right… So in the secret passage it looked like a sewer, or maybe a dungeon. Maybe both. And then there was the biggest book I ever saw, it was huge… And for some reason it was all chained up to an altar.” Shu continued.
“Sounds like the Summoning Tome. Those chains would be the magical seal we put on it.” The lion sounded amused. “So, what happened next Mr. Human?”
“Well, I realized I should probably just leave that alone… But my curiosity kind of got the better of me…” Shu rubbed the back of his head with a paw. “I started feeling around the chain for a loose area and managed to open just the corner of the book to try and look inside. Then next thing I know, I’m floating in the air, the book is rumbling like its about to explode, and then suddenly I’m here! I’m green! And I’m fluffy!” Shu paused. “And come to think of it where are my clothes? My wallet was in my pocket and had $20 in it!” Shu paused. “But uh, right to reiterate, I was a carbuncle and now here. And I’m an adult thank you very much. If I had my driver’s license, I could prove it. I started wondering around looking for answers, got hungry, ate a berry, and then you showed up and scared me half to death.”
“First off… You’re a cub.” The lion insisted. “You can claim to be as old as you want… And even if you were a human, those things are lucky to make 80. If you did become a carbuncle and your chronological age stayed the same, odds are you’d be just about ready to register for kindergarten.”
“But… It can’t work like that, right?” Shu asked. “I mean I should be my equivalent age?”
“Does your voice sound like an adult’s voice?” The lion asked.
“Well no… But I’m a small squeaky animal! So that’s the reason that-“ Shu didn’t get to finish.
“You’re a little kid. And second off. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. No person in their right mind would ever believe your story. And no kid, no matter how much trouble they might be trying to avoid would make up something so stupid as to obviously give themselves away as lying.” The lion paused. “Which I suppose means it must be true.”
“Wait, you believe me just like that?” Shu tilted his head.
“I mean it was also possible you were just a very stupid carbuncle who didn’t know basic facts.” The lion gave him another condescending head pat.
“Oh, thanks for that. Really.” Shu lowered his ears and growled slightly.
“So… I don’t really care much myself. The worlds are cute off. Mostly.” He looked down at Shu. “You’re here now and you’re a carbuncle now. But I wouldn’t go around telling people you were human. That’s a lot of bad blood between the Eidolons of Agartha and the humans. They used magic to summon us, force us to fight their battles, do menial labor, and in some cases to treat us like pets despite being clearly sapient and above some stuff.” The lion rubbed his hand with a paw. “One tried to call me Whiskers. Me, the Celestial Beast King of the Northern Wood, Whiskers.”
“What is your name anyway?” Shu asked.
“Rude to ask without giving your own.” The lion spoke in a playful manner. “But these days I go by Larry.”
“Larry?” Shu asked.
“Larry.” The lion nodded. “I had a different name back when we served humans. But it was six syllables long and I got tired of spending the first thirty minutes after meeting someone teaching them how to pronounce it, only for them to forget two minutes later. So, Larry is easier. And you are?”
“Uh… Shu.” The tiny carbuncle squeaked.
“Shu huh? A short, reasonable name. Easy to pronounce. You won’t have to train people for hours to get it right.” Larry nodded approvingly.
“Right… So… Um… Since you believe me and you’re some kind of king and I think you said we were Eidolons… Could you explain where the heck am I?”
“The Argarthan Forest.” The lion said. “Even as the King of the North Woods I haven’t explored it all. We never had time. So much of Agartha is unknown even to us. These days, we train our youth to grow up to become explorers so we can understand our world better. Some of us also work on search and rescue duty for when exploration goes wrong. A gryphon reported sightings of a lost child by themselves wondering the forest aimlessly. That would be you. So, being the leader of the Search and Rescue crew of the Northern Woods, I took it upon myself to find you. And now here we are. A 10,000-year-old beast king, and a carbuncle cub.” Larry put extra emphasis on cub.
“You really enjoy saying that…” Shu replied annoyed.
“Of course, it gets such a rise out of you! You shouldn’t make it so easy.” Larry grinned.
“Ok… Fine…” Shu was glad he was covered in green fur and couldn’t blush. Though just as he thought that, his gemstone glowed again. “Et tu garnet? If you’re a part of my body you should be on my side!” He thrashed his tail. “What is Agartha anyway?”
“The Hollow Earth.” Larry explained. “That’s why there’s no sky, cause we’re inside the Earth. If you were to fly straight up, you’d eventually land in another part of Agartha.”
“The Hollow Earth?” Shu gave him a deadpan stare. “That’s not physically possible. I don’t care if magic worked. If Earth was hollow, we’d know. And, it would screw up like all our equations about how the moon and gravity works.”
“I suppose that’d be true if the Earth were really hollow.” Larry shrugged. “But you see, this is Agartha the Hollow Earth, not a hollow Earth.”
“You’re explaining it like this just to mess with me, aren’t you?” Shu asked.
“Hey, I get my fun where I can take it.” Larry grinned. “This place isn’t literally inside the Earth. It’s more like a separate plane of existence, one that overlaps with Earth but is its own world. On your world, the Earth is solid, and life lives on the surface. Here, the surface is uninhabitable due to existing in magical void and all life flourishes inside the hollow shell of the planet instead.”
“I guess that makes sense…” Shu felt like his head was spinning. “But… What happens now?”
“Well…” Larry paused. “Given you have no parents here, after I report you as found you’d likely be placed in a boarding school. Although… You’ll likely soon be put in the remedial classes when you don’t even know the most basic facts about Agartha or future careers…”
“Lovely.” Shu felt frustrated. Everyone was going to treat him like an idiot. But from the sound of things, if he revealed the reason for his ignorance, he might be facing a lot of angry monsters. And considering they could get as big as Larry… Well, he’d rather stay on their good side.
“I suppose there’s an alternative.” Larry shrugged. “I could make you an official member of my court, where you’d receive specialized training to serve in the Search and Rescue teams for when Explorers are in trouble.” Larry considered. “You’d of course still come off as behind… Unless you got some extra tutoring on the side. I could spare the time, under the grounds that a transfer student needs a little extra education to catch up with our specialized curriculum.”
“So basically… I’d come live at a school you run and learn about how to find and help people in trouble?” Shu asked as he considered it. He didn’t know what career options he really had here. But… This was definitely something where he’d me making something of himself and helping people. And it would likely mean seeing more of this strange world. Which, if there was no way back, he should learn as much as possible. And… Now that he had time to process it, he wasn’t sure he wanted to go back. He had already grown used to having a tail, he wasn’t sure he could go back to life without one. “Alright, I think I can give it a shot.”
“Alright kid, go ahead and climb aboard.” Larry laid down low so that Shu could reach his back.
“Not giving you the satisfaction.” Shu tutted, refusing to fall for the ‘kid’ taunt again. Instead, he just climbed atop the lion’s back and dug his claws into Larry’s fur as he soared up into the air. All in all, things could have gone a lot worse. In fact, this might be for the best once he got used to it. Especially if he was going to have Larry watching over him at school. He was hoping there wouldn’t be any incidents. But if there were… Having the 200-ton flying lion on his side was a comforting thought.