Friends on the Other Side

Worm/The Princess and the Frog

-o-

"Well girl, looks like you're up."

"I-I'm not sure-"

"Don't you give me that drivel about 'not bein' ready' again, girl! You've had your time to practice and prepare, now you have to deliver. It's now or never girl, you don't want to be makin' them angry, now do ya? Look where that got me..."

*Sigh* "Yeah, you're right. It's now or never. Show time!"

-o-

Lung growled as he stared at the door. It was a purple door, with three ornate skulls hanging above it, and an unlit sign shaped like a witch's hat above them.

The sign read "Witch Doctor's Voodoo Emporium".

This was what all the fuss was about? Some of his men had come to him, ranting about how a new cape had set up shop in his territory. Some sort of unfathomably strong Thinker, that had been selling fortunes all day. And apparently, every one of them had come true, without fail. His men had told him to come and get his, so that he could plan out his path to victory.

Lung growled again, cursing himself for following along with this stupidity. He pounded on the door.

Slowly, it opened, revealing a person. She was a teenage girl, dressed in dark canvas robes, the top half of her face hidden by a witch's hat of the same material.

She grinned widely upon seeing him. "Ah, Mr. Lung! I've been expecting you!"

He glared down at her. "Give me my fortune. Now."

"Of course, of course, if you please, step right in." She stood aside and gestured at the door.

Lung all but growled again. What did this girl think he was, some kind of idiot?! "No, give me my fortune. Here, now."

The girl snapped back in shock as if struck. "Mr. Lung, I simply cannot abide by that! There are rules to be followed, ancient protocols that must be perceived!"

Lung really did growl now, several spark wafting from his hands. He'd had enough. "I knew this was a mistake." He turned to walk away. "I should have known better than to listen to some charlatan..."

"DON'T YOU DISRESPECT ME, LITTLE MAN!" The girl was suddenly in front of him, floating at his eye-level, a purple aura wafting off of her, her voice taking on an ethereal quality. "DON'T YOU DEROGATE OR DERIDE!" She span him around to face the door and snapped her fingers. The skulls above the door were suddenly ablaze and the sign had lit up. "You're in my world now, not your world," The door swung open, revealing a darkened shop, shelves lined with varying knick-knacks, strange wooden masks hanging from the ceiling. "And I got friends on the other side!"

"She's got friends on the other side..." Lung took a surprised step back as a chorus of voices wafted out of the door.

Suddenly, the girl had somehow gotten her arms around his shoulders and was gently leading him in. "That's an echo, my good man. Just a little something we have here in the Emporium, a little parlor trick. Don't worry."

She suddenly shoved him, causing him to stumble all the way into the shop. She snapped her fingers again, causing the door to slam shut and plunge the shop into darkness.

Then she snapped her fingers again, causing a light to come on directly above a table deeper into the shop. "Sit down at my table," She said as she flaunted up to him, gesturing forwards, "Put your mind at ease!" Suddenly, his jacket was lifted off his shoulders and tossed onto a nearby skeleton. He stared at in in shock before the girl's strange voice drew his attention back to her.

"If you relax it will enable me to do anything I please..." Something nudged his shoulder, leading him towards the table again. Standing by it, he noted what appeared to be a human skull resting upon it.

"I can read your future," He watched the girl again. He was about to interrupt her, but her next words froze him in his tracks, "I can change it round some, too," His men hadn't mentioned that! The girl was clearly a cape, but did she have such power? "I'll look deep into your heart and soul," She leaned in close and whispered in his ear, "You do have a soul, don't you Kenta?" Lung stumbled back in shock. He was about to yell at her, when, "I'll make your wildest dreams come true!"

"I got Voodoo!" She let a bunch of dolls dangle on strings before his face, "I got Hoodoo!" This time she held a chicken before him, "I got things I ain't even tried!" She opened a small box and was forced to lean back as a being of fire leaped out before being forced back in when the top of the box was shut, "And I got friends," She said as she sat down on the opposite side of the table, her chair sliding forwards to meet her, "On the other side!"

"She's got friends on the other side..." Lung involuntarily shuddered as the echo came again, originating from the skull on the table and the masks hanging from the ceiling. Lung didn't know why he stayed, but something about the girl was... compelling him, whispering at him not to leave. The girl continued to speak.

"The cards, the cards, the cards will tell!" She said as she danced a deck of tarot cards through her hands, "The past, the present, and the future as well!" She enunciated each word by flipping a card between each of her hands, "The cards, the cards, just take three," She splayed them before him, free for him to choose, "Take a little trip into your future with me!"

Lung stared at the cards, debating what to do before finally he reached forwards and grasped three, yanking them out and placing them on the table. He missed the enthusiastic smirk on the girl's lips, and the glint in the skull's empty sockets.

The girl reach out and spread his cards out across the table. "Now you, young man, are from across the sea," She said as she flipped the first card over, displaying a stylized Japan burning on a rock over the ocean, "You come from a long hard life of crime and villainy," She continued, somehow making the card scroll down to show a darkened alley with two men beating on a third.

She leaned in and nudged him jokingly, "I'm a villain on my mother's side," She said displaying a female shrunken head in a mask.

She leaned back as he growled at her, continuing to speak in her mystic voice, "Your dreams are high!" She said as she flipped the second card over, displaying him sitting in an ornate chair, dressed like the yakuza bosses of old, "But your means are low..." She continued, spinning his card around until it pictured him in an old abandoned warehouse, filthy and weak. "Your power needs a fight that's not just for show!" She finished, swiping her hands across the card, causing it to show him in his draconic form, roaring at a silhouetted man carrying a sword and shield.

"Competition's just not up to your standards, huh?" She said with a smirk. Lung growled at her, gesturing for her to continue. She shrugged and moved on. "Now, you wanna get in a fight, but getting in fights takes a while." She emphasized, shuffling her deck. "You wanna be strong right now, fly from place to place!" She flipped the cards in a wide arc, splaying the deck across the table. Her face split into a wide grin. "And power...takes red!"

She flipped the deck over, showing each card to be blood-stained, soaked in crimson. "It's the red, it's the red, it's the red that you need!" She swiped the entire deck up and flicked her wrist, making it vanish into thin air. "And when I look into your future..." She flipped over his third and final card.

Lung's jaw dropped at what was displayed on it. It was himself. Fully transformed, larger than he'd ever been, roaring into the air, fire streaming from his maw, surrounded by blood and blaze. Imprinted into the background was an outline of his mask.

"It's the red that I see!"

Lung worked his jaw as he looked the card over. Could this... could this be him? Could he really become this strong? He looked back up at the smirking Witch Doctor. She held her hand out to him.

"Shake my hand," She pleaded softly. "Come on, kind sir, won't you shake," Her smirk widened by several molars. "A poor sinner's hand?"

Lung stared at her hand for a moment, internally debating what to do. To accept, or to decline? If she could do this... if she could truly change his future...

He grabbed her hand in his far larger one and shook it vigorously.

Witch Doctor's smile all but split her face. "Yes..." She whispered enthusiastically.

Suddenly, the skull jumped off the table and began cackling madly. That's when everything changed. The entire room was filled with a purple light. Lung whipped his head around as the masks began floating off the ceiling and walls, filling the room. Small voodoo dolls came alive, jumping up and down enthusiastically. The masks mouths were moving up and down as a dull chanting erupted from them.

"Bum bum bum bum bum bum bum."

Witch Doctor dashed in front of a curtain and made a grand gesture. In a flash of smoke and light, the curtains flew open, revealing a huge, horned mask that dwarfed everyone present.

"Are you reaaaaady?"Witch Doctor cried out.

Lung tried to stand up, but was caught by a pair of snakes that erupted from the back of his chair, tying themselves across him in a knot. Lung tried to struggle, tried to activate his powers, but it was of no use

"Are you reaaaaady?" A chorus of voices from the the masks and the skull echoed her. The voice from the skull, however, was different. It was richer, and carried an accent.

"Are you reaaaaady?" The huge masks eye-holes lit up in a sickly green light. The jaw snapped open. Inside was a swirling green vortex. Slowly, a shape began to appear from within. Finally, it coalesced into a tangible form. A ceramic mask, hewn in a traditional Japanese style, depicting a dragon. Witch Doctor cackled happily as she snatched it out. "Transformation central!"

"Transformation Central!" The skull concurred as it flew around. The voodoo dolls laughed hysterically as they pounded a rhythm out on a trio of drums.

Witch Doctor whipped around, swiping her hand across her face. A pattern of face-paint like a skull's jaw appeared on the portion of her face visible, grinning madly. "Reformation central!"

Lung struggled wildly, trying desperately to escape the serpents. But it was an exercise in futility. The skull jumped directly in front of his face, cackling at his situation. "Reformation central!"

Witch Doctor spun in front of him, the mask clutched tightly in her hand. "Transmogrification central!" She cried as she whipped his mask off and slammed her own in place.

Lung roared in agony. It burned! It burned worse than any pain he'd ever felt, worse than any torture the Yangban had ever inflicted. His powers activated in a flash, scales encroaching upon his body, flames bursting from his mouth. He struggled in abject horror as he felt the mask begin to fuse to his face.

"Can you feeeel it?" Witch Doctor asked as she watched the process joyously.

Flames began to lick up Lung's limbs, encasing him in a cocoon of fire, from which he roared louder than ever.

"You're changing, you're changing, you're changing all right!"

Lung's struggled to see her through the fire, and his eyes widened in horror at what he saw. Through the smoke, Witch Doctor was swaying madly to and fro. Wherever her face was hidden, it lit up through the miasma, painted in vivid colors, shaped in mad patterns.

"I hope you're satisfied." She intoned ominously.

Lung's struggles weakened as he grew larger still.

"But if you ain't!" Witch Doctor pointed directly at Lung's stilling form. "Don't blame me! You can blame my friends..."

The miasma parted from around her, whipping up and around her. "On the ooootheeeeer siiiiiiiide!"

She laughed happily as her voodoo dolls danced wildly around her. The fire erupted upwards in a geyser of fire and heat, a final roar bellowing out from within.

Her skull laughed insanely as it flew around. "You got what you wanted!" It shouted, "But you lost what you had!"

The dolls screamed joyously as they bounced from conjured drum to conjured drum. The masks chanted on and on and on, and finally, in a bright flash of fireworks, Witch Doctor whipped her finger to her mouth, blowing on it lightly. All the lights went out at once, only her face-paint remaining visible for a moment.

"Hush!"

-o-

Taylor huffed heavily as she gleefully observed her work.

Before her, passed out on the ground, was a dragon. An honest to god dragon. Huge, at least twenty feet long from snout to tail. It was covered in silver scales, a pair of draconic wings sprouting from it's back. Fire licked out of it's nostrils as it breathed out. It's face was covered in Lung's original metal mask, enlarged to cover his newly transformed visage.

"It worked..." She breathed to herself. "HahahahahaHAHAHA! IT WORKED!" She cackled happily as she danced around.

"Hmmm," The skull mused as it floated around the dragon's head. "It would seem it did!" It glanced up at her, it's jaw set in an eternal smirk. "Well done, child!" It tilted itself slightly to the side in a questioning manner. "Still though, I've got to wonder, why'd you worry so much? It wasn't any trouble at all! You handled this lug just as smoothly as you did that nasty ol' bully of yours!"

Taylor shrugged. "Because, this was Lung! He was a parahuman! And a really strong one! Sophia, on the other hand... well, she was just a normal little girl, so far in over her head. There's a world of difference!" She looked over her shoulder at the wall, a smirk on her lips. "Isn't that right?"

Her shadow was cast unto the wall. Unlike a normal shadow, however, it didn't follow it's master. Instead, it moved and gestured violently on it's own, silently promising pain to it's caster and flipping her off. If one were to look close enough, you'd even see that, though it was similar, the person the shadow depicted held a different body shape from Taylor.

The skull chuckled as he watched the shadow's efforts in futility. "So," He inquired, "What's next? The shadow transmutation cost a pretty penny, and that transmogrification mask just racked up your tab. You're gonna need a lot of souls to pay that back. Otherwise..." His grin became vicious. "Ya wind up like me!"

Taylor chuckled to herself. "Patience, my fine Doctor Facilier, patience. I just took a card out of the card tower, now we wait for the rest to fall."

Facilier clacked his jaws together. "Oh ho?" He floated closer to her. "Do tell, do tell!"

Taylor hummed. "Well, let's see. The ABB has lost their top hitter, and are now left with two cape members, but only one will take command."

"That snippy firecracker, Bakuda, right?"

"Right! She'll get impatient and ambitious, try and expand the ABB's territory."

Facilier's cackled in realization. "Startin' a gang war! The blood! the death! The very, very viable souls!" His jaw snapped shut and he whipped around, staring her in the eyes. "Fool! Don't put your eggs all in one basket! What if there ain't enough violence?! Then you end up short! You end up worse than dead!"

Taylor tutted calmly. "That's where part two comes along. The masses in panic, scared for their lives, when oh! Who comes to save the day?" She spread her arms out dramatically. "Me! The Witch Doctor, with her marvelous voodoo!" Her smile grew mischievous. "Riding on her loyal dragon, who cannot help but listen as she whispers sweet nothing in his ears. And so what if a few gang members get fried in the process? They're nazis, druggies, who knows what else! If anything, I'll be doing this city a favour!"

Facilier maintained the glare. "And if that's still not enough?"

Taylor shrugged casually as she walked around the floating skull, which swiveled to follow her. "I'll just volunteer my services at the next Endbringer fight. Nobody will object to a dragon's aid, and nobody can object if I decide to swipe the spirit of anybody who loses their poor immortal soul in the crossfire." She glanced back at the skull. "Satisfied, Doctor?"

The late Doctor Facilier stared at her for a second before bursting out into laughter. "I knew I never should have doubted you, my dear! You've learned more than enough!"

Taylor chuckled grimly as she tipped her hat to him. "It's all thanks to you, Doctor. You..." She smiled up at the array of masks that was grinning down at her eagerly from the walls.

"And my friends on the other side."

-o-

A.N. Well, seeing how so many people enjoyed Clockwork, I've decided, what the hell, I'll post my other two one-shots as well. So, why not? Thanks alot for all the likes you've given Clockwork, I've been working on Piston 2, and chapter 4 of Chronicles will also be out sooner or later! So, well, thanks alot for all your support! Feel free to review!