Chapter 1: A Restless Heart
So, where was that little fish headed off to now that he was free? Well, let's just say that Jack and Jumba weren't making things up when they were speaking about Atlantica. It was, true to their word, a real place; a whole other world beneath the sea, where the creatures of the deep lived in harmony with merpeople. In fact, as the fish made his way through forests of sea anenomes, a passing school of angelfish, a field of jellyfish, and a gigantic humpback whale, a family of merpeople followed close behind. One half human, the other half fish, they were strange and beautiful creatures indeed. And they were all headed towards the same destination; a tall, shimmering gold palace that stood in the center of this underwater utopia, acting almost as a beacon to wayward wanderers in the darkness of the ocean.
On this particular day, there was a grand celebration being held in the name of the city's ruler, Cloud Strife. Merpeople and creatures from all around filed into the grand concert hall, finding their spots within a giant arena. As everyone began to settle in, a line of royal guards with long, trumpetlike noses fell in line, pointing their noses high into the air. Then, a young merboy came forward. He had reddish hair that was tied back into a stumpy ponytail, small eyeglasses, and a seahorse's tail that matched the color of his hair. In his hand was a gnarled brown staff that was about as long as he was tall. A little nervous, but at the same time mustering as much courage as he could, Negi Springfield looked around at the crowd, and cleared his throat.
"His royal majesty, King Strife!!" Negi bellowed, motioning his staff to a high opening of the concert hall.
From out of that opening, a seashell carriage pulled by three powerful dolphins emerged to elegant fanfare. Holding the reigns in one hand was a merman in his late 30s with spikey blonde hair, blue eyes, and a golden tail. In his hand was a giant, golden sword of some sort. This was the mighty king of Atlantica himself, the great Cloud Strife. Cloud circled over the crowd once, then guided his chariot to the chandelere in the center of the hall; with his sword sparking with great power, he swung the sword upward, barely missing, and lighting it in a brilliant display of fireworks. The crowds cheered wildly at this before Negi silenced them once again.
"And now, for the royal court composer, and the conductor of tonight's performance," Negi said proudly, "the one and only Blooregard Q. Kazoo!"
A much smaller, yet still lively and uplifting score sounded as a smaller shell-chariot emerged, being drawn by two angelfish. At the helm was a blue crab with a rounded head. Blooregard Q. Kazoo, a bizarre aquatic imaginary friend, waved to the crowd wildly, accidently letting himself flip over. He righted himself as he pulled his chariot up to Cloud's.
"I have to say, Bloo, I've been looking forward to this concert for a while now," Cloud said.
"Oh, I know!" Bloo responded with a smile. "Your Majesty, believe me when I say this, your daughters are going to knock your tail off when you hear them sing! They're going to be fan-TASTIC!!" Bloo's shouting startled his angelfish as they accidentally flipped him over again.
"Yeah," Cloud said as he let his chariot take its place on a balcony and set the dolphins loose. "But you know who I'm looking forward to hearing the most." Cloud winked to Bloo.
"Jaqulin?" Bloo asked. He nodded as he said, "Hah, yeah, she'll be great! She has a beee-autiful singing voice..." As Bloo guided his coach down to the conductor's stand, he mumbled, "If only I heard it more at the rehersals..."
Despite his silent grumblings, Bloo let the angelfish go as he picked up a sheet of paper and set it onto the music stand. Then, almost immediately afterward, he took a conductor's baton in his claw. With a few taps, he set the band in motion with a rousing and uplifting score. Three clamshells rose up on seperate platforms, with two mermaids inside each one. The mermaids themselves sang out in harmony...
Oh-we, are the daughters of Cloud Strife!
Great father who loves us and named us well...
As the six sisters neared the climax of their song, a fourth shell rose up on another platform.
And then there is the youngest in her musical debut,
Our seventh little sister, we're presenting her to you,
To sing a song the Bloo-ster wrote, her voice will make you spin,
The shell slowly began to open up...
She's our sister, Jaq-a-...
...To reveal that there was nobody inside! The six sisters, and the entire crowd, gasped in shock, while Bloo's skin paled greatly and his jaw dropped.
"JAQULIN DANEE STRIIIIIFE!!!" Cloud thundered lividly, his sword radiating with electricity.
Now, I'm sure you're all wondering who this Jaqulin Strife is, right? Well, she was the youngest of Cloud's seven daughters; a 17 year old teenage girl with long, blonde hair that flowed behind her, piercing blue eyes, a deep purple tail, and a pink seashell bra. She was indeed the youngest of the seven, and was said to have the most beautiful singing voice in all of Atlantica. Of course, she DID have a strong sense of curiosity and adventure, one that oftentimes pulled her away from her duties as a princess. Like now, for instance. With a small purselike bag on her shoulder, and peering over a mast, she looked ahead at something in awe.
"He-he-hey, Jaq!" called a nervous, rubbery voice. "Wait up for me!"
A look of annoyance crossed her face as she turned around. "Kermit! Will you hurry up?!" she hissed.
Huffing and puffing along the waters was a green frog with spindly arms and legs, and a sunburst-shaped collar.
"Sorry," Kermit wheezed tiredly. "I'm not exactly Sonic when it comes to swimming, you know!"
Jaqulin shrugged, then turned and pointed to something. "There," she said excitedly. "Look at that!"
Kermit looked in Jaq's direction, and saw what she was pointing towards. It was a shipwreck; one of a massive ship with a row of rusted cannons sticking out of the side, and a tattered black flag that looked similar to a Jolly Roger, but with the face of a monster with bull's horns, and two cutlasses. Kermit swallowed hard just by looking at it; something about it didn't feel quite right.
"Isn't that the greatest thing you've ever seen?" Jaq asked excitedly.
"S-s-sure," Kermit nodded nervously. "Hey, I-I just remembered that, uh, I need to help Gonzo out with a new show he's working on, so, erm, I better be going..." Kermit began to swim away, but didn't get very far before Jaqulin caught him by his leg. "GAH!"
"Oh, come on!" Jaqulin whined as she swam to the ship, dragging the reluctant Kermit along. "Don't you want to see what's inside with me?"
"Uh, not really," Kermit shook his head, "It doesn't look entirely clean...or friendly, for that matter."
"Okay then...I see how it is, Kermit," Jaq smirked. "I'll go in there while you wait out here and watch for sharks."
"Sounds good to me!" Kermit smiled and nodded as Jaq went inside the shipwreck. "I'll just stay out here and watch...for...um..." Realization finally sunk in as Kermit yelped in fear and bolted into the porthole...only to get stuck on the way inside. "Ugh...y'know, I really need to lay off the sweets. Hey, Jaqulin! Little help back here??"
Jaqulin turned around and noticed that her friend was stuck. "Oh, Kermit," she giggled as she swam up to him and attempted to pull him out.
"Um, Jaqulin?" Kermit asked timidly. "Are there really sharks around here?"
"Oh, stop being such a tadpole," Jaqulin sniffed.
"I'm not a tadpole," Kermit grumbled as he finally popped through. Unbeknownst to either Jaq OR Kermit, however, there was something lurking outside...
The duo slowly made their way through the remains of the ship; everything was worn and rusty from not being used in so long. "Y-yeah, just great," Kermit shuddered. "Excitement and danger wherever you go...just movin' right along..." Kermit began to hum a few bars of a song; it wasn't long before he came face to face with the skeletal remains of a turtle-like creature. He screamed loudly, backing into one of the masts of the ship before rocketing forward and rushing right into Jaqulin's arms.
"Aww, Kerm'...are you okay, little guy?" Jaqulin cooed.
"J-j-j-j-just p-p-p-peachy," Kermit gulped, still in a major state of shellshock after being scared by that Dry Bones.
"Shh, shh!" Jaq quickly shushed her friend. She swam upward towards an opening, with Kermit following close behind. Then, looking around, she spotted something; a slender metal object with four prongs on the end.
Jaqulin's face immediately lit up. "Oh, my gosh," she breathed. "Oh, my GOSH! Haven't you seen anything this cool in your entire life?!"
"Nope!" Kermit smiled. "But, uh...what exactly is it?"
Jaqulin thought for a moment. "...No clue," she shrugged, stashing the object in her bag. "But I can bet you anything that Woody does!"
"You know, I don't know about you, Jaq," Kermit said, "But I think Woody isn't what I'd call a credible source on human stuff."
"Oh, come on, Kermit, of course he is!" Jaqulin said as she took a strange-looking whistlelike object and put it in her bag. "Well...at least, he's the only one we know so far. And besides, he saved Bloo from becoming somebody's dinner that one time, remember?"
"I guess that's true," Kermit nodded. A chill went down his spine as he looked around the shipwreck, littered with old, musty-looking turtle shells, discarded missiles with arms on them, and a set of rusted wandlike instruments. "Seriously, Jaqulin, I have a bad feeling about this...and I'm not saying that just to quote Obi Wan, either."
"Hmm...I wonder what this thing is," Jaqulin inspected a strange-looking wooden object.
"Jaqulin..." Kermit trembled, not knowing that something was coming up behind him.
"Kermit, stop whining, will you?" Jaqulin sighed. "I am telling you right now, there's absolutely nothing to worry about! Reminy and I have been out here at least six times, and so far we've encountered nothing. This is my seventh time exploring this part of the ocean, and so far, we haven't seen anything dangerous."
Kermit turned around, and his pupils shrank to microscopic size. "H-h-how about now?" he squeaked.
Jaqulin looked up and noticed what Kermit was looking at: it LOOKED like a shark, but its head was a large, round red bulb with whitish spots all over it, and yellow petals. The rest of its body was a deep shade of green, with leaflike appendeges for fins and a massive tail. Even though it had no eyes, it cast a cold, hungry glare at the duo, its teeth glistening in the pale light.
"Kermit, RUN!!" Jaqulin cried as Kermit raced forward, with Petey the Pirhanna-Shark close on his tail.
"Every frog for himself!!" he cried in fear as he darted up, then down, making Petey slam its massive head on the ceiling.
Kermit accidently bumped into Jaq, and the two of them narrowly avoided being chomped by Petey's jaws. Swimming to the left, and with a quick juke to the right, they escaped through an opening in the ship.
"Alright...I think we lost him," Jaqulin panted as she and Kermit swam for it.
Suddenly, Petey burst from the floor, causing the duo to turn tail and swim away. "You were saying?!" Kermit yelped.
Petey mowed through the floor as Jaqulin and Kermit swam away; unfortunately, Jaqulin lost her bag of collectables on a shard of wood!
"Oh, crud! My stuff!" Jaq swam back to try and pull it off. But it was lodged on rather well, and Petey was closing in. Spying the skeleton of a Hammer Bro. close by, Jaqulin used her tail to flip the hammer right into the side of Petey's head, dazing it for a moment. Jaqulin escaped through a hole in the roof, as did Luigi.
"Quick, there's the exit!" Kermit cried as he sped forward towards an opening. He tried to slip through, but got stuck on the way.
Jaqulin groaned to herself as she pushed on the back of Kermit, forcing him out. Jaqulin slid out of the crack, but Petey Pirhanna decimated the wall of the shipwreck and continued to give chase to the two.
Kermit frantically swam ahead of Jaqulin, who was trying to catch up with him, as Petey followed the two closely around an old mast. Jaqulin managed to pass by Kermit, but didn't notice her friend smash into a pole on the mast. In a daze, Kermit dropped down to the ground, with Petey ready to gobble him up.
"Kerm'?" Jaqulin turned around to look for her friend. Then, she noticed him falling. "Kermit! Hang on, I'm coming for you!" She dropped her bag and bolted down to the bottom of the ocean. Stretching her arms out and slipping through the top ring of an anchor, she caught Kermit.
"It's not easy being green," Kermit mumbled in a sing-song tone. Then he snapped out of it. "Huh? Where am I?"
There was no answer, as Petey came charging forward. Jaqulin pulled herself out of the ring, letting Petey slam right through...and get himself caught inside.
With Petey finally stopped, Jaqulin took up her bag, smirked at Petey, and made her way up to the surface.
"Hmm...not as tough as you look, are ya?" Kermit chuckled.
Petey growled in frustration, snapping at the frog with his powerful jaws. Kermit yelped in terror as he shot upward to follow Jaqulin. "Where's a plumber when you need him?"
Jaqulin giggled. "Kermit, even when you try to be brave, you're still such a tadpole," she called.
"Oh, come on!" Kermit whined as the two made their way to the surface world.
End of Chapter 1