"POPO, WAKE UP!"
Apparently, that still isn't enough to get me up: with the voice sounding so dreamily distant, I only quiver my lips before letting my half-lid eyes sink back down like a rock on water. So, to ensure that my eyes would remain on her, she shakes my body harder than the cold could then slapped me across my face.
"Wh-what is it, Nana!?" I jolt awake, rubbing my red cheek. I turned towards the assailant with her hand raised like catching someone with her hands in the cookie jar. Her large mittens did very little to cushion the blow, but at least she didn't use her wooden mallet.
"Oh, thank the Goddess you're up!" Nana hugs me so tight that I could feel her chest pressing against mine even through her thick jacket. "I was so worried!" she cries out louder than the blizzard outside, "I called your name a few times, but you didn't respond so I thought.... so I thought..."
"...Hey, calm down, it's okay," she clearly doesn't want to finish that statement, so I stopped her from doing so.
With the harsh weather outside, we took shelter in a cave in order to escape freezing to death, and she must've thought it wasn't enough when she saw that I was still slumbering. With a breath of relief, she retracts from the embrace, all sense of worry from her gone.
"Come on, we should get going soon," I say to her as I get up to gather our belongings. I didn't notice at first, too preoccupied to make sure our stuff's okay for the trek ahead, but as soon as I grab my bag and turn to her did I see her concern for me replastered across her face.
"Wait, you wanna head back out now!?" Nana is shocked to hear such a suggestion, and even more so that I was serious. "You just woke up! You need to rest more!"
I couldn't blame her for being worried about me: we've been together all our lives, and as the older sibling, she must see me as someone to protect. However, I have to explain to her why waiting is simply out of the question.
"I can't," I tell her as I resecure my backpack across my shoulders, taking care that it wouldn't slip off so easily. "The condor took the vegetables from the village, remember?" I ask if she recalls the entire reason why we're on this mountain in the first place. "Its the only supply we have for the winter, and the longer we wait, the more it's going to eat," I try to reason.
"But it's not going to eat it all, at least not so soon," Nana raises a counterpoint, hoping to deter me from being what she perceives as reckless. "Besides, even if it eats enough that there's not enough to go around, I'll just give you my share!" she even offers, but that reasoning isn't working in her favor.
"I'm not going to let that happen," I don't want to see my sister hungry anymore than she wants to see me starving. "I'm going to get that food back," I say it with such determination that she is now convinced that there's no talking me out of it. "So, are you with me?" I ask if my dear sibling is going along.
"...You gotta ask?" she isn't smirking because she knows that I already know what her answer would be, but because she finds it surprising that I'm the one asking. "I'm the one who volunteered for this mission, and I'm the one who asked you to tag along, remember?" she reminds me of the reality of the situation.
"...Is that a 'yes'?" I mirror her smirk. I didn't hear a clear confirmation.
"Lead the way," she tussles the top of my head as we walk out of the cave, knowing that we'd be doing this together. As we head out into the raging blizzard, whose cold stings the uncovered skin worse than a dozen bees, I couldn't help but voice something on my mind.
"So, why did you ask me to come with you?" I cock my head to the side as though tilting my ears to better hear her response. It appears to have been completely unnecessary though: whenever I ask her why she was so adamant in bringing me along, she would only smile and blush before quickly changing the subject.
"...You know, for all that talk back in the cave, you better have a plan for taking down that condor," she wonders if I was just being headstrong. Even though she might not have answered the question, she seems to be placing a great deal of faith on me. Could that be the reason why?
"There it is," Nana alerts me to the condor's location, prompting us both to crouch down to avoid early detection. The blizzard has subsided, so the weather is much clearer and warmer.
As we quietly take cover by a couple of rocks, our feet crunching the snow as we leave footprints, we peak out through the cracks to see the giant bird placing the vegetables in its nest as though getting ready for a big banquet. Unforunately, due to the troubles the Toppies were giving us, we didn't have time to come up with a plan of attack.
"What do we do?" Nana asks me for any ideas, but I am a little too in awe of the condor to really come up with anything. The bird looks much, much bigger in person, now that we're getting more than the fleeting glance we did when it swiped our supplies. But that size could also be to its disadvantage, as inspiration strikes me when I spot an opening.
"...I got it," Nana turns to me to hear what I have to say. "There's a spot over there I can hide in," she rotates her head to follow my finger as I pointed it towards something that looks like another cave. "If I can get its attention and run there, it should be too big to grab me," I may not know the exact measurements just using my eyes, but it seems very plausible.
"...And that's when I'll sneak over and steal the vegetables back!" Nana hushly exclaims, already knowing the second half of my plan before I got a chance to say it. In her giddyness, she attempts to snap her fingers like a genius for figuring it out, but her mittens prevents any audible sound to emit. As I snicker at her failure, she only lowers her eyebrows at me.
"Anyway..." she causes me to nervously smile as I try to avoid her gaze, and her ire, by getting into position. "Be careful, Popo," she couldn't stress this enough: as much as she would want to trade places with me, she trusts that I know what I'm doing.
"I will," I put her mind at ease as she awaits for my signal. Despite the heavy boots I'm wearing, I might be getting cold feet, but as soon as I see the condor pick up an eggplant to devour did I call out to it. "Hey, over here!" I immediately get its attention by running out with my arms flailing.
Just as we thought, once the bird set its sight on me did it drop the vegetable, shriek a shrilling caw, and launch itself in the air to nab me. As Nana sets out to snag the stuff, I sprint as fast as my feet could in the relatively thick snow towards the cave. Right before its claws could snatch me away, I slide into the cave just barely out of its reach, careful not to lose my wooden mallet.
"Ah!" I'm not out of danger just yet, as in its desperation did the condor try to pull me with its feet before shoving its beak into the cave. Using the wooden mallet, I smack the sharp beak away, causing it to retract itself from the pain. "Whew," I sigh a breath of relief, thinking that the everything is going swimmingly.
However, things rarely go according to plan, and no sooner did I catch my breath did I lose it to the growling roar echoing in the caves. As it turns out, I'm not the only one in here, and once I turn my head did I see a polar bear who is not happy to see me in its home. I don't know why it was wearing pink shorts and sunglasses, but I couldn't ask it as I didn't speak its language, as demonstrated by its bloodcurdling roar.
Without much hesitation, I use the mallet to smack it hands as it tries to swipe at me, but I know I couldn't take it alone. As I try to run out of the cave, however, the condor appears to be guarding it, knowing I would need to leave eventually. With the bird outside and the bear inside, I couldn't even begin to decide which is the lesser of two evils.
"Oh no..." I mutter to myself once I realize the position that I am in. As the bear inches closer, as though to draw me closer to the condor, I couldn't help but scream out for my sister. "Nana!" I might have provoked the bear as it decides to start charging at me.
As I ready the mallet in my hands, tightening the grip as best as my mittens could, I get ready to smack the bear... only to hear my hero reply back.
"I'm coming!" I could hear her from behind the condor, and as all three of us turn towards the direction of the voice did we see the condor get bonked on the head so hard that it crashes into the snow. "Tag me in!" Nana raises her hand, and as soon as I narrowly avoided the bear's lunge when it sees me trying to escape did I "tag" her in.
Changing targets as though it doesn't care who it gets, the bear decides Nana would be sufficient enough, and tries to pounce on her. However, much better at this than me, Nana uses her mallet to repel the attack away, and quickly follows up with an upwards swing. Knocking the bear back so hard that it lands on its side, it attempts to try again, only to meet the same fate. It didn't feel like trying a third time.
"Look out!" I call out, hoping that Nana would respond in time, but I noticed it too late: the fight caused Nana to be pushed back towards the entrance of the cave, well within reach of the waking condor. As it grabs the back of her jacket with its beak, I immediately leap into action. Right as Nana gets picked up do I come in and slam the mallet down at its feet, causing it to caw out in pain, dropping my sister in the process.
"My turn!" Nana calls out as she spins around and smack the condor with the side of her mallet, causing its head to crash into the side of the cave. "Whew," Nana uses her hand to wipe some sweat from her forehead to signify that all the fighting is over.
"Thanks for the help," Nana smiles as me, prompting a slight blush across my face. "Come on, we got a village to feed," she leads as we make our way out of the cave, careful not to trip over the bird.
When I glance over at the nest, I could see that every single one of the vegetables sitting at the nest are gone, all safely tucked away in two bags hidden off to the side. As she picks up the bag of over dozens vegetables, and I the other half, we start trekking down the mountain.
"..." I could hear my stomach rumbling, having worked up quite the appetite from the fight moments before. In fear of embarassment, I hope Nana couldn't hear it herself, but as soon as I see the smile on her lips did a blush of red sweep across my face. The blizzard ended too early.
"Somebody's hungry," my sister is always coddling me... but she isn't wrong in this case, despite how much I would want my stomach to stop giving her something to talk about. "When we get back, I'll make you my famous eggplant parmesan," she promises, giving me a surge of enegy necessary to make the trip back.
"Really?" I ask with anticipation until she nods her head in confirmation, her cooking every bit as delicious as she claims it's famous to be. "Then I'll be..." I stop to pull something out of my pockets to wear, "Looking forward to it!"
"...Are you serious?" Nana couldn't help but chuckle when she sees the sun shining off the pair of sunglasses across my face, the very same one that I took from the polar bear earlier. "You're such a goofball," she playfully pushes me on the shoulder as payback for making her laugh.
"Here you go..." I gaze in awe as Nana sets down a plate of her eggplant parmesan right in front of me, the steam still wafting into the air as it arrives fresh from the oven. I take a whiff of her homemade meal, the scent is so overwhelmingly tempting that I readily grab my fork about to dig in, only to be stopped by my sister.
"Not yet," Nana smacks the back of my hand with the back of her spoon as she takes a seat across the table. "We say grace first, remember?" she reminds me as she stretches her arms towards me, gesturing my hand to be held in hers. Begrudgingly, I set my fork down and accept.
"Dear Goddess, thank you for allowing us to bring food back to the village," Nana acts as though we only succeeded due to Her divine assistence. "And we thank you, Goddess, for seeing us from our mission safely," I could hear her praying, and see her eyes already glancing at me as I peek open, prompting me to shut them tight. "Especially my brother Popo," she adds at the end, "Amen."
"Amen," I mean that, because that means I can finally eat. As I pick up the fork a second time to cut off a piece of eggplant and wrap it around the spaghetti, I immediately bring it to my mouth... only to hear a knock on the door. "..." I look at the bite reluctantly, with it being so close yet so far.
"Hehe, I'll get it," Nana smiles at me warmer than the fresh food as she gets up out of her chair to answer. Even though she's allowing me to continue eating, I couldn't help but feel curious as to who would be interrupting dinner, so I decide to take a peek myself.
"Hello?" Nana cocks her head to the side quizzingly as she opens the door and sees the person behind it. "How can I help you?" she asks politely, only to remember how cold it is outside. "Uh, we can talk inside, if that's what you prefer," she offers, and the stranger seems to agree. The second he arrives does he immediately know what it is he wants to talk about.
"Aren't you Nana? The one who climbed the mountain and save the village food supply from a condor?" he appears as though he doesn't need a response despite asking, but Nana nods her head anyway. "Alright, let me explain why I'm here: my company wants to invite you to compete in a new fighting tournament called 'Super Smash Brothers'. We think you will be an excellent addition to the roster, and we hope that you will attend."
"Me? In a... fighting tournament?" Nana is surprised to hear that, and it's quite visible from the look on her face. It's true that she knows how to handle herself with her wooden mallet, as evident by how she took down the bear in the cave, a tale which has been told numerous times around the village. However, whether or not she wants to compete or not, all it takes is one look at me to make up her mind.
"Thanks for the offer, but I'll have to decline," Nana causes the man's eyebrows to raise, as though he hadn't expected a refusal. "I don't go anywhere without my brother Popo," I couldn't see my sister's face from here when she turns back to the stranger, but I could just tell she's smiling as though it is so radiant that her aura shines through her back.
"Oh no, don't worry, we can accommodate him as well," the stranger doesn't think that it's a big deal if one more tags along for the ride. "We can arrange for him to stay at a hotel with you, if that's what you would like," the stranger really seems to be bending over backwards for Nana, but she shakes her head, thinking that the offer isn't enough.
"No, I'm afraid you don't understand," Nana decides to clarify what she means. "My brother and I do everything together, and that includes fighting," Nana reveals the truth behind the refusal of the invitation. "Unless he's out there in the ring with me, I'm going to have sit this fight out," Nana finishes any and all talks on the matter right then and there.
"...I see," the stranger could completely understand, and he is sure that the tournament wouldn't allow tag-team fighters. "Well, I'm sure the company will regret this turn of events, but perhaps we will try this again another time," the stranger accepts the decision and turns towards the door. "I'll just take my leave," he opens the door and walks through the opening, "Good day."
"Good day to you as well," Nana closes the door behind him before turning back around to face me. "I'm surprised you didn't keep eating," she sees nary a spot of sauce across my lips. "Come on, the food's getting cold," she gestures me to return to the dining room table where we can resume our dinner.
"..." there is an awkward silence that fills the atmosphere, but it's quite clear to me that my sister Nana really values my presence here. While it would've been interesting to see how she would fare in a tournament of other fighters given her skill, we say nothing more on the subject for the rest of the evening, having other things to talk about.