A FRUITSYLVANIAN LOONIE FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?
The locker room of the PRIME tag team champions is uncharacteristically quiet. The reason for this is simple: the loud half isn’t saying much. He sits on a chair slowly taping his left hand, flexing each finger as it’s wrapped. The old injury flares up from time to time, though it’s been less noticeable in the Vegas heat.
On the floor beside him is the latest in a string of anxiety-induced arts ‘n crafts projects. What appears to be the skeleton of a plastic bird (pigeon, if you must know) has been crudely duct-taped to both a fishing rod and half of a dark brown fright wig. If you’re wondering whether they make wigs small enough to fit a plastic bird corpse, the answer is no. This explains the scissors. For now, the Frankenstein’s puppet he’s named “Caw-Cawbry Deadbirds” lays still on the floor, but she’ll fly again soon, and when she does you will not be able to look at anything else that’s happening.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the sensible berry doesn’t think the whole thing is anything other than fucking bizarre.
Reina Raspberry: Okay, I need to know – where do you keep finding this stuff?
She nudges the bird away with her foot.
Reina Raspberry: And why do you keep looking for it in the first place?
The Blueberry doesn’t look up. He simply continues about his task, now having fallen into a rhythm. Wrap. Tear. Flex. Repeat.
King Blueberry: There was a crate full of swords in the middle of the hallway two weeks ago. Dead plastic pigeon doesn’t seem as weird in comparison.
The rhythm breaks just long enough to rub at the palm of his left hand, the wound one of those swords inflicted having only recently healed.
Wrap. Tear. Flex.
Reina Raspberry: I’m going to have to ask you to stop making sense. It’s very disconcerting. Think you can do that for me?
King Blueberry: Sorry.
Reina Raspberry: You never answered my question. Do you want me to second you tonight?
He sets the roll of tape aside, finally looking up at his partner.
King Blueberry: Always. Wanted to ask something in return. Is it cool if I borrow your walk-out song for this? Not really feeling the weirdo Russian dance pop tonight. I know we’ve been using it for team entrances and stuff, but I think tonight I could really use…
Baron von Blackberry: …A Fruitsylvanian loonie for your thoughts?
The camera pans suddenly to the side as Baron von Blackberry walks into frame. The Devil Fruit, whose presence is usually every bit as loud as King Blueberry’s, is unusually less animated than he usually is. Indeed, he is making no strange, grandiose gestures. He is not laughing maniacally. He is… calm.
This should worry some people. Probably.
He turns to Reina Raspberry, and nods to her.
Baron von Blackberry: Ah, yes. Hello, Calvin Raspberry. Love what you’re doing with the hair tonight.
For the record, she has done nothing of note with her hair. It’s just pulled back in a loose ponytail.
Reina Raspberry: Umm… thanks.
She turns a glance towards her partner.
Reina Raspberry: (mouthing the words) Calvin Raspberry?
King Blueberry: Joe and Sid think my name is actually Jared Blueberry, so welcome to the club. Having a second member is going to make the meetings a lot more interesting. Guess this means I have to start bringing refreshments.
Reina Raspberry: Aaaaanyway, what can we do for you, Co… umm… Baron?
Baron von Blackberry: Well, I was hoping to have a chat with this guy, if you don’t mind.
He gestures towards the blue of the berries.
Baron von Blackberry: Nothing untoward, of course. Scout’s honor.
He holds up his hand. No, we don’t know what “scouts” he’s really referring to. Knowing him, he probably got the “Lava Crocodile Observation” badge and he’s very proud of it.
Reina Raspberry: Yeah. Yeah, of course.
She stands, giving Ms. Deadbirds another solid kick as she moves towards the door.
Reina Raspberry: Be careful of whatever-the-fuck that thing is, though. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing it in my dreams. Or, if I’m really unlucky, the hotel room later on.
Or literally everywhere when it happens to be on screen.
She pauses at the doorway before stepping into the hall. And while she points to her partner, it’s Blackberry she speaks to.
Reina Raspberry: Try not to let him do anything stupid while I’m out, okay?
Baron von Blackberry: Ah, no promises. We are berries, after all.
With Reina Raspberry making her exit, Blackberry turns his attention to Blueberry.
Baron von Blackberry: So, what’s on your mind?
King Blueberry: Well that’s a loaded question. Not really sure it’s an answer you want, to be honest. There’s a lot swirling around in there about tonight, for sure. First time going solo on the big stage in over a decade. Looooot of thoughts about that.
It’s a brief pause, but a pause nonetheless.
King Blueberry: And what it means. Not just for me, but for the team. I don’t want Cal to think that I’m walking out on what we have, because I’m not. I just… I need to know if I can still do this, you know?
And then, a sigh.
King Blueberry: And then we can just file the rest of those thoughts under “other shit”, or whatever.
Baron von Blackberry: I mean, would you want advice on how to deal with surfer bros and their vicious hang tens, or do you think you’ve got that covered? Ah, who am I kidding? I believe you’ve got that covered.
There’s a pause.
Baron von Blackberry: So, I actually came here to apologize in advance. I mean, regardless of whatever happens at UltraViolence. Well, it’s kindasorta UltraViolence-related. Like, 50% related. I ran a poll, it was most enlightening.
King Blueberry: How many of the responses came back “powerbomb”?
Baron von Blackberry: Just the one, which… that wasn’t even an option in the poll, I’m not even sure how it came back as “powerbomb”. Hell, I’m not even convinced that the response itself wasn’t powerbombed into the poll box. The box definitely appears to have taken some powerbomb-related damages, so I might need to consult my powerbomb lawyer. Who might be the same person. His e-mail is at firstname.lastname@example.org if you must know.
King Blueberry: That’s… okay, sure. Is this a different lawyer than the one they had that sign for? The “Crimes” guy?
He shakes his head.
King Blueberry: You know what? Don’t answer that. A little confused though. Not entirely sure what you’re apologizing for. Wait. Did Sid learn another move? Am I about to be the first victim of “that other thing that Sid Phillips knows how to do now”? Is this how I die? Shit, I should have my will redone.
Blackberry throws his hands up into the air.
Baron von Blackberry: Who knows? It’s a mystery to me how he keeps turning the thing I’m teaching him into more powerbombs. Maybe he’ll be ready. Maybe it’ll just be “Oops! All Powerbombs!” again, and I’ll be very upset and write a strongly-worded letter to his dad. In 9pt Tahoma. That’s how you’ll know I’m serious.
Baron von Blackberry: No, actually. That’s not what I’m apologizing for.
King Blueberry: You’re going to make me come out and ask, aren’t you? Okay. What are you apologizing for?
Baron von Blackberry: Well. I both can and can’t tell you the exact thing I might have done with Joe. What I can tell you? He’s over the mannequin thing.
Blueberry leans back in his seat, takes a deep breath, and lets it out slow.
King Blueberry: Okay, so there’s a couple ways I can go with this. Either I can assume that the guy I know under that mask started leaning on the skills he’s known for, and turned Joe into a weapon. Like the swords he was strapped with a few weeks ago, only with wrestling. Or, and honestly I dunno if this is scarier, I can assume that the guy in the mask is talking, and Joe is now a cyborg.
Baron von Blackberry: So, would you want me to tell you that he now knows what Fruitsylvanian Scientific Strong Style is all about, or would you want me to tell you that he has been upgraded to be 60% more efficient and can now poop at greater capacity?
King Blueberry: How about “no”? Is “no” on the table?
Baron von Blackberry: No is on the table, but be quick. It is going fast.
There is a pause.
Baron von Blackberry: Seriously, though. I can’t tell you all of my secrets. But I know you. And I don’t know Cal very well, but you picked her for a reason. And Joe and Sid are very new at this, all told. So if I have to teach them things that might piss you off later, that’s something I’m going to apologize for early.
King Blueberry: There’s a new thought that just appeared in my head. One about what buttons a guy who made his name off leveraging other people’s moves might press. Few faces sprung to mind, and none of ‘em are particularly fun. But I don’t think you have to worry. My circle isn’t big. There aren’t a lot of folks that I invite in. The ones I do? It’s because I trust them. So, and you can choose to believe this or not, whatever happens in a few weeks? We’re good.
He sucks the next breath in through his teeth.
King Blueberry: But here’s the other thing… I know that Joe and Sid have been on an absolute tear. I know they had to beat genuine legends to earn this shot. They’ve got the pedigree. They’ve got the trainer. It is literally impossible for them to fail long term. And I don’t want to be in the position of having to slam the brakes on all that. But…
The Blueberry leans forward, elbows resting on his knees.
King Blueberry: I made a promise to someone, and it’s one that I take very seriously. Justine didn’t get the same opportunities that your boys did. Just weren’t there for her when she was that age. I told her that this team – regardless of what happens later tonight – is my first priority. I intend to honor my word. Whatever it takes. Joe and Sid? They might have to kill me.
The Blackberry nods, solemnly.
Baron von Blackberry: Well said.
He crosses his arms.
Baron von Blackberry: One other thing, then. It won’t be I, the great and mighty and absolutely PERFECT Baron von Blackberry, that shall accompany those two to the ring. Sorry to disappoint. The Berry Civil War, and he shall not be there to witness it.
King Blueberry: I’ve got a sneaky feeling like I know where this is going.
Baron von Blackberry: Oh, you probably do. You might know my replacement very well, seeing as he, too, is royalty.
The smile that spreads across the face of Jared Blueberry is bright, genuine. It doesn’t beam though; that’s someone else’s gimmick.
King Blueberry: In that case, if it’s what I think it is, then let me say in advance… It’s about goddamn time.
Baron von Blackberry: Tell me about it.
King Blueberry: Do me a favor, okay?
Blueberry runs a hand across his jaw, fingers dancing along the mask that covers his own face. There’s a new weight to it, one he’s only just noticing. One he’ll have to reconcile himself later on.
King Blueberry: Regardless of what happens in that match, lemme know how it feels.
Baron von Blackberry: Of course. Maybe someday, I’ll see that Jared Sykes fellow instead of that Jared Blueberry fellow. Sorry, King Blueberry. Getting my nomenclature mixed up. Sorry. I think I spoiled who you were under that mask. Ssh. Don’t tell anyone. It’s supposed to be a secret.
A single thought plays over and over inside Blueberry’s head: Don’t hold your breath.