Where was he?
Ness knew he couldn’t be on Earth. Yeah, Earth had geometric shapes, but they usually had some structure to them, like the towers in Fourside, the department stores he frequented with Paula and Jeff… heck, even his own house was geometric! They weren’t just some plain ol’ cubes and rectangles sitting in the middle of nowhere… or, well, not nowhere, because he was technically somewhere, but… he was also nowhere.
A field of blocks and cubes surrounded Ness like it was the most boring playground in the world. Some of the shapes laid on their sides, looking like they barely reached Ness’s waist; yet, whenever Ness tried to climb them, he found that it felt like he was scaling a mountain without hiking gear, almost like they’d suddenly grown in height. Other shapes pointed upwards, as tall as skyscrapers and reaching the nonexistent sky above them.
Frowning, Ness used his fist to knock against one of the blocks. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Nobody.
Ness glanced down at… whatever he was standing on. He didn’t want to call it a floor because it didn’t look like a floor, but no other word seemed to fit. “Eldritch flowing void that was solid enough to stand on” described it better than a simple “floor,” but since that’d be a mouthful to say, he stuck with ‘“floor.”
He watched as the ground shifted, the pitch-black nothingness flowing like water yet not moving him an inch. A giant white monkey floated by and he grimaced at the haunted expression on its face.
Where was he? Did Doctor Andonuts send him here without his knowledge? Did one of Jeff’s machines malfunction?
… Was he back in Giygas’s dimension?
Visions of a screaming, crimson abomination flashed before his eyes, and a wave of panic swept over him. His hands flew towards his baseball cap as he breathed shakily, his fingers desperately stroking the fabric underneath them— “something to ground himself,” as Paula once put it.
After a moment, he felt well enough to let go of his head, letting out one last exhale as he did so.
Okay. Nope, nope, he wasn’t going down that rabbit hole again. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts…
He forced himself to conjure up some good memories—playing baseball with the Onett kids and Tracy, eating steak with his mom and dad, exploring Twoson with Paula, acting as a guinea pig for Jeff’s experiments—until he was able to think reasonably. Which he could do, by the way, Tracy.
Okay! Okay Ness, think of all the reasons why this isn’t Giygas’s dimension! I mean, it’s not like you’re seeing Porky running around—gah! Okay, nope, we do NOT bring up that name unless we’re having a midnight pity party. Uhh, okay, what else… there isn’t anything trying to kill you?
That was a pretty good point, actually. If Giygas had found him, it would’ve tried to kill him already—it had no problem doing that in the past. Oh sure, the place he was in had a similar atmosphere to Giygas’s dimension, all gloom and doom, but that was it—nothing had tried to kill him yet, and his soul wasn’t stuffed inside a robot like the last time he went. If anything, it felt… dreamy, almost. Ness existed, he was lucid enough to think and move by himself, but there was just something about it that felt unreal.
A pair of shoes squeaked behind him, bringing him back to reality (or whatever passed for reality at that moment, anyway). Blinking, he turned around, unsure if he should prematurely use his PSI if the new presence posed a threat.
Much to his shock, Ness saw a girl silently staring at him.
She looked like the same age as Ness, although he couldn’t definitely say that—her face and height looked youthful, but the blank expression she wore wasn’t. Her brown hair was tied in two braids that reached her shoulders, except for the pair of bangs that just stopped short of covering her closed eyes. She wore a loose pink sweater that had a strange design on the chest area (what was it? A window? A chessboard?) and a maroon skirt. Ness glanced down and saw that the shoes that’d caught his attention were bright red, almost like a fire hydrant.
The girl shuffled forward, staring at him… somehow. How could she see him with her eyes shut? Did she have some kind of PSI that allowed her to do that?
… That’d actually be pretty cool. Maybe Ness should try that…
The whoosh of air hit him, making him jump back. His PSI powers acted on reflex, a shield of light appearing to protect himself before he consciously processed the threat.
The girl looked up at him. Her hand clutched onto a knife, poised to strike before it’d been thwarted by his shield. Although her eyes were still closed, he could see the bafflement on her face as she glanced at the summoned PSI.
Curious, the girl tapped at the shield with her knife. The steel clinked against the light harmlessly. Ness watched her warily, unsure if she intended on challenging him.
Fortunately, it seemed like the shield distracted her from committing Nessicide. There was a twinkle of light before she re-appeared again, this time without the knife. Carefully, she touched the shield with her finger, feeling its smooth surface.
Surprised, Ness watched her tap at the light, looking every bit like a kid tapping the glass of a fish tank. It was almost… cute, in a weird way. It probably would’ve been cuter if she hadn’t tried to stab him earlier, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
A tiny smile lit up the girl’s face. She stepped back, and, with another twinkle of light, her head was replaced with a lamp.
“Whoa!” Startled, Ness allowed his shield to drop. “What the heck?!”
Another twinkle of light and the girl’s head returned to its normal state. She looked proud of herself, doubtlessly pleased with Ness’s surprised reaction.
Well, she wasn’t wrong. Ness was surprised—and impressed. Sure, he had PSI, but his powers didn’t change his body—even Paula and Poo couldn’t do that, and they were both way better at PSI than Ness!
“Wow!” Ness said. “Wow, I—how did you do that? Was that PSI? Why’d you turned into a lamp? Can you only do lamps? Can you turn into—I dunno, a frog? Ooooh, ooooh, do you take requests? Wait, no, don’t answer that yet! Do you know how to do anything else like that? Heck, can you do anything else that isn’t like that?!”
Ness finally shut up when he saw the girl shrinking back, overwhelmed by his improv game of twenty questions. Ness felt a pang of guilt before remembering that she did try to stab him, so… it wasn’t like he did anything worse than she did.
Then again… once Ness thought about it, there was a possibility that if he was confused by his environment, she probably was too. After all, this place wasn’t exactly a carefree paradise—for all she knew, everything and everyone posed a threat to her, and Ness wasn’t an exception. Actually, considering his PSI powers, he was probably even more dangerous than anything else here, because he could actually hurt her if he wanted to.
...Well, that just made Ness feel like a jerk. And he was many things, but he never tried to be a jerk on purpose (by accident, though? That’s a whole other story). He promised himself that he would at least try to be nice to her unless she tried to kill him a second time; that’d just be really rude of her.
“Hey,” Ness tried to adopt the gentle tone Paula usually used when she talked to the shy kids attending her preschool. “Sorry about that. I just got really excited.”
The girl watched him cautiously, but she didn’t try to run away. That was a good start, right?
“‘Cause I mean, you’ve probably already guessed it, but I have powers too,” He continued. “I can’t turn my head into a lamp—and that was seriously wicked cool, by the way—but I can do this!”
Ness reached backward and stuck his hand inside his backpack, rummaging around until his fingers closed around a banana. With a wide grin, he pulled out the fruit and held it in front of him.
“Look!” He said. He closed his eyes and focused his PSI on the object in his hand. Once he felt like he had a decent grip on the banana, he dropped his arms to rest at his sides, levitating the banana with only his telekinesis. “No hands!”
There were a few seconds of silence. Briefly, he worried that the girl hadn’t been impressed by his trick (and gee, wasn’t that kick in his ego’s pants); however, the sound of clapping soon reached his ears, and he cracked open his eyes to see the girl eagerly applauding with a wide smile on her face.
“Pretty cool, right?” Ness asked, sporting a matching grin.
The girl nodded and gestured with her hands, motioning ‘more! More!’ And, well, since Ness was always ready to impress, he laughed and split his PSI powers in half; the banana remained in the air, but its peel slowly began to strip down, exposing the white fruit inside its coat. Soon, there was a pile of banana peels hovering a few inches above the floor. Still using his PSI, Ness snapped the now-naked banana in half and floated one half to the awestruck girl in front of him.
The girl squealed happily and snatched the banana away from Ness, who laughed again.
“Thank you, thank you!” Ness gave an exaggerated bow and grabbed his half of the banana, throwing it and the peels into his backpack. “I’ll be here all week!”
The girl giggled and nibbled on her fruit. Her wonder both confused and flattered Ness—if he was being perfectly honest, what he did was basically a parlor trick, something he and Paula did to entertain the kids that lived in her neighborhood. He saved the really impressive PSI powers for battles, but considering how the girl had a knife on her, it probably wasn’t a good idea to whip out a PK Rockin’ and risk getting a knife in his gut. Besides, the girl’s happy reaction was… kind of sweet, in a way. It lit up her entire face with a childish sort of glee, something that was sorely needed in this depressing void.
Oh, yeah. That reminded Ness of his—well, their—current predicament. Namely that he still had no idea where he was.
“Hey, can I ask you something?” He asked.
The girl tilted her head. Ness took that as a “yeah.”
“Do you know where we are?” He said, gesturing at their weird surroundings. “I mean, I have a couple of guesses, but I’m not entirely sure.”
The girl thought for a moment. Finally, she tapped the side of her head with a finger.
“Your… head?” Ness wrinkled his brow. “Your… brain?”
The girl made a “so-so” gesture and pretended to snore.
“No, wait! Your dreams!”
The girl nodded.
“Huh.” Ness thought about it for a minute. It did make sense, kind of—come to think of it, his PSI had been pretty unstable that day, and he had gone to bed to deal with a PSI-induced migraine. Maybe his PSI connected with the dreams the girl was having? Still, that explanation didn’t entirely sit well with him. Call it a hunch, but the two of them seemed too lucid to just be in a dream; maybe they’d actually been transported into her Magicant instead? Did other people even have Magicants in the first place? Did her dreamworld double as her Magicant? Or—
His pondering was cut short by someone tugging at his hand. With a start, Ness realized that the girl was trying to pull him away.
“Yip!” He squeaked. “What are you—?”
The girl shook her head and gestured to the space before them that stretched on for miles.
“Huh?” Ness blinked. “You want to… explore a bit?”
The girl nodded.
“And I’m guessing you… want me to follow you?”
The girl nodded again and yanked on his hand a second time.
“Ow! Okay, okay… uh, so I guess I am going with you, right?” Truth be told, he didn’t entirely mind. He was an adventurer at heart, after all; that’s what kick-started his battle with Giygas (okay, Giygas started it by being a huge butt, but that was beside the point). Besides, it wasn’t like he knew what he was supposed to do or if he had to go somewhere—at least following her would give him some sort of direction. Maybe he could help uncover the mystery behind this place or lend aid if the girl got into a fight: if it was a Magicant, then there was a chance that they’d have to battle some sort of bad guy to make progress.
Huh. Ness hadn’t considered that before. If her dark side took form, what would it appear as? He guessed it wouldn’t look like the Mani-Mani statue...
Apparently, the girl became tired of waiting for his response, seeing how she resumed pulling on his hand impatiently. If she kept it up, Ness was honestly concerned she’d pull his arm out of his socket.
“Alright, alright! I’m coming!” He allowed himself to be dragged along for a few steps before skidding to a halt. “Wait, can you tell me your name?”
The girl turned to face him. She blinked owlishly, confused by his request.
“I mean, if we’re going on an adventure together, we have to know each other's’ names, right?” Ness said. Explaining it that way made him feel kind of stupid, but the baffled look the girl was giving him made him think that she wasn’t used to people asking for her name. Which was weird, because in Ness’s experience, exchanging names with someone he’d just met was a basic icebreaker. Was the girl just… not used to human interaction in general?
… Wow. Just thinking that sentence made Ness feel sad.
With a twinkle of light, the girl had the knife back in her hand. Ness flinched back, but he found that he didn’t have anything to worry about—the girl seemed less interested in carving Ness like a turkey and more interested in stabbing the poor, defenseless cube standing next to them.
It took a bit for him to realize that the girl was carving letters on the surface of the cube, rather like how he carved his initials into trees. Once she finished, she stepped back, allowing Ness an unobstructed view of her handiwork.
Ness read it once, then twice. He moved his lips as he read, rolling the syllables around on his tongue.
“... Madotsuki?” He glanced at her, unsure if he pronounced it correctly. “That’s your name, right?”
Slowly, the girl nodded.
“... That’s a nice name!” Ness grinned and stuck his hand out. “I’m Ness. Nice to meet ya, Madotsuki!”
The girl—Madotsuki—stared at his hand warily. After Ness wondered if he’d accidentally scared her off, her face split into a huge smile that rivaled the one she wore earlier. Eagerly, she grabbed his hand and shook it with enthusiasm, and if she hadn’t pulled his arm out before she’d wind up finishing the job.
“Okay, okay!” Ness let out a strained laugh and pried his hand out of Madotsuki’s iron grip. “I get it! I’m happy to meet you too!” He paused and glanced around. “So… anywhere you wanna go? Just say a place and I’ll be ready to jam!”
Madotsuki thought for a moment. A hypothetical light bulb popped above her head, followed by yet another twinkle of light. When it faded, Ness was suddenly face-to-face with a hand that had somehow replaced Madotsuki’s head, the eyeball smack-dab in the middle of the palm blinking at him.
Ness was only slightly ashamed of screaming like a little girl.