|Hiro knew it wasn't going to be easy to join the Fruit Bunch, even though he met the two requirements. One, he was a Chia. Two, he was fruit Chia -- technically he was an ummagine Chia, the newest one to join the collective of fruit and vegetable Chias.
Of course, being new always meant that it would be hard to fit in. Zan, the pea Chia leader of the bunch, said that he'd have to prove himself with a test of his bravery. Since it was every fruit Chia's dream to get into the Fruit Bunch, he eagerly accepted any challenge that was required of him... which is why he now found himself in The Haunted Woods.
It was bad enough that he needed to be here. Hiro hated spooky things, and he hated to be alone. That was why, when he moved from The Lost Desert to Neopia Central, the first thing he did was to seek out the Fruit Bunch. Still, all he had to do was this one challenge and he'd be in, and then he'd have friends and associates out of all the fruit and vegetable Chias!
"I just have to get a tooth from Luperus..." he said to himself. "I just have to get a tooth from Luperus..."
Date: Feb 17th
...As Hiro continued deeper into the Haunted Woods, he could feel the remaining traces of light behind him fading rapidly from his presence. His chant of self-encouragement grew more frantic as the twisted, dark flora around him thickened.
"I have to get that tooth! I can't let them think I was too afraid!" he whimpered. The problem was, though, that he was afraid. He was very afraid. Every step he took in the black, dense fog caused his heart to skip a beat and his breath to quicken.
Yes, there were two things in the world Hiro feared: darkness and being by himself. His initiation into the Fruit Bunch had an ample amount of both. He swore that Zan must have been some kind of mind reader. On the off chance he survived this nightmare, he made a mental note to ask her about it.
Just as he was considering the possibility of turning around and running for his life back into the sweet, sweet light, there was a rustle a few meters ahead of him. Hiro froze, the Ummagine Juice in his veins feeling like ice under his rind. The rustling moved closer and a shadow appeared, moving steadily towards his purple body.
Oh, he would be jam on some freakish monster's toast now! This was surely the end for him...
Date: Feb 17th
...Hiro tightly shut his eyes and bent against the natural curve of his body into a rough ball. It was difficult with his thick rind, but he was too frightened to move; all he could do was to hope that his tough exterior would shield him from the monster creeping and dragging and sliding its way in his direction. Hiro, having firmly clenched his eyes closed, could only imagine the sorts of body horror that this monster bore... claws sharp enough to slice him with a single touch, tentacles with horrid slime oozing from their suckers, dozens of limbs all moving in discord, pincers reaching for his face... he could only imagine.
Hiro soon opened his eyes timidly. He was shaking, feeling clammier in the dense fog. What he laid his sight upon was not a terrible monster, but rather a friendly-looking Slorg. It blinked at him. He blinked back. After his heart calmed to a less-worrisome pace, Hiro reached a tentative hand out toward the Slorg and drew a sigh of relief.
He patted it on its head. "You live here, don't you? I could never live here, in the mud and fog. In fact, I don't know why I'm here now." He slumped down on a moss-coated log. The Slorg looked up at him quizzically. "I'm doing this to get into the Fruit Bunch," he explained to the Slorg. He sighed again, this time out of exasperation. "Great, now I'm talking to a Slorg!" He clutched his face in both hands. "I've come this far. Once I get into the Fruit Bunch, I'll have a lot more than what I could ever hope to get on my own. Maybe it's time to have the strength to get there..."
He looked at the Slorg with determined eyes. The Slorg blinked at him and made a noise. Hiro chuckled and patted it again. "Well, if friendly things like you live in the fog, then I think I can go on just a little longer."
He felt a new sort of empowerment swell deep within him, then picked up a large rock from the damp ground and put it in the simple sling that he was using as a backpack, nudging aside the Slumberberry Potion inside it that he'd acquired some time ago from a seller in the Lost Desert.
With a plan in his head and newfound hope in the pulp of his heart, he set off into deeper fog, where the trees seemed to blink down at him. To his appreciation, the Slorg followed him, blinking back up at him.
Hiro said under his breath, "I will do this..."
Date: Feb 18th
...He continued on the path, following the moonlight that threw shafts of opaque light through the limbs of the trees like arms trying to hold him back. The only distinctive sounds Hiro heard were the soft rustling from the stalking Slorg and occasional howls from Werelupe packs. Hiro silently hoped that they were very far off.
“Go on now, little guy,” Hiro cooed to the Slorg. He knew that Luperus's cave was nearby and Hiro only wanted the responsibility of dragging himself into danger. "Go home, now. Go on."
The Slorg merely blinked up at him.
"This could get dangerous," Hiro warned. "You must have a home somewhere. Shoo!" When the Slorg continued his muted stare, Hiro shrugged and muttered, "Suit yourself. I wonder if anyone has ever tried Ummagine Slorg Soup."
He consulted a roughly drawn map Zan had given him. According to her scrawls, Luperus's cave was just ahead, shrouded in darkness and swirling fog. He had to remind himself that joining the Fruit Bunch was his lifelong dream several times before his feet finally began to move again.
Slowly through the thick darkness there emerged a semi-circled outline of what Hiro could only deduce was the cave of the infamous Luperus, home to the demon that haunted many Chias' dreams.
"It's only one tooth," Hiro said to the Slorg, who blinked back up at him slowly. With one final gulp, Hiro took a step forward...
Date: Feb 18th
...The cave was damp and even darker than it was outside, if that was even possible. Drops of water fell off the walls and echoed around him, creating an eerie atmosphere. Hiro carried on, trembling more and more with each step. As he got deeper into the cave he began to hear a faint snoring sound. He couldn't believe his luck... the Luperus was asleep!
Hiro reached into his sling and retrieved the rock he had picked up earlier. The thought that the foul beast may not hear him coming gave him a tiny sliver of hope. He squinted and peered down into the darkness to try to see if he could catch sight of it and he could just barely see the outline of the slumbering beast, its three heads lowered to the ground. It was completely vulnerable.
"I think I might just be able to pull this off!" Hiro whispered to his Slorg companion, who he was certain was still following him.
Unfortunately, the whisper was just a little too loud. It echoed off of the cave walls, and the Chia could see an ear on one of the heads twitch. It slowly raised its head and glared into the darkness until it locked eyes with Hiro.
"Oh no!" Hiro said with a gasp. Fear struck through him and froze his feet to the spot. He was Luperus Chow for sure at this point...
Date: Feb 19th
...Hiro stumbled backward in complete panic, his huge, round eyes still locked with Luperus's malevolent stare. He turned to flee, but his physique wasn't exactly built for speed. Instead, he went sprawling toward Luperus's huge, hairy feet.
The three-headed Lupe grinned evilly as he approached the terrified Chia. Hiro was only able to stare, frozen in terror as Luperus stopped a couple of feet away from him. "An Ummagine Chia, hmm..." Luperus's center head growled menacingly as the other two heads licked their lips in anticipation. "It's been so long since I have enjoyed a delicacy such as this!"
Then, the Lupe's three heads suddenly jerked to the left, alerted by some sound too faint for Hiro to pick up on. Hiro squinted into the darkness, trying to make out what had attracted the dangerous predator's attention. To his surprise, he thought he caught a glimpse of a round, white eye, much like that of the friendly Slorg that had been following him. Concerned for his companion, Hiro threw the rock he was still clutching at the center head of Luperus while the beast's attention was still diverted.
With a frightening growl, the beast whipped his heads around to focus their attention on Hiro again.
Oh no, he thought to himself. I probably should have thought that through...
Date: Feb 19th
..."You really should not have done that!" the furious Luperus told Hiro.
Hiro already knew this and he braced himself for Luperus's attack. The three-headed creature licked his lips and lunged himself toward the Chia.
"Noooo!" was all Hiro could cry out, as he was still frozen in fear.
As the Chia put his arms up to defend himself, he heard a very large thudding sound. Peeking through his crossed arms, he saw Luperus laying on the ground, whimpering. It looked like he had slipped on something slimy and fallen hard onto the rocky ground.
Hiro was in shock, but his fear was now leaving him. His adrenaline then started pumping, as the Chia saw something that gave him a dose of bravery. The left-side head of Luperus had taken most of the impact when he'd fallen on his face. Because of this, a tooth had been knocked loose from his jaw. The tooth was laying right beside Luperus's nose and the creature was still writhing in pain.
It was now or never. Hiro took his moment with as much strength as he could muster. The Chia rushed up to Luperus's left head and reached for the tooth as fast as any Chia could go...
Date: Feb 20th