Chapter 4: The Sugar Rush Princess?

Rancis felt his eyes widening in a mixture of shock and horror as he had an epiphany which rocked him to his very core.

"Oh my mod…" he muttered, his breath hitching as he felt the urge to slap himself. "I've worked it out…" Rancis continued in a soft voice, one that made it appear as though he was talking to himself. It almost seemed like he was afraid that saying it any louder would have devastating consequences. "I know exactly who the princess that Tapper is talking about really is. Melted caramel and chocolates, it's so obvious in retrospect!"

Swizzle raised a brow, stopping next to Rancis on the chocolate-dirt road. "Really? Who is it, Rancis?" he tentatively asked, an edge of caution in his voice. He got the feeling that Rancis' sudden mood change had nothing to do with the fact that Rancis managed to catch Gloyd a few minutes earlier, forcing him to apologize after the prankster's Cherry Bomb had detonated prematurely and singed Rancis' hair.

Rancis smugly gave his friend a wink. "Who else could it be? It's gotta be Taffyta!"

"Uh, no."

Both Gloyd and Swizzle said the same two words back at Rancis in unison, equal looks of exasperation and disappointment on their faces.

Gloyd was the first to pound on him before Rancis could even try to defend his stand. "Nuh-uh! I see you raising your hand there," he interjected before Rancis could argue back. "Don't you even start, Rancis."


Gloyd facepalmed. "Look, if Taffyta is secretly the Sugar Rush princess that lying bartender was insinuating about, I'd eat my hat."

Rancis folded his arms, furrowing his brow in response. After all, the prankster loved candy corn and pumpkins, so eating his own hat was not really a threat to Gloyd's well-being since he'd enjoy it. But before he could comment, Swizzle concurred with Gloyd by shooting Rancis an 'are you serious?' look.

"Yeah, dude. Like, really? Taffyta… Princess Taffyta? Like, you're sure we are talking about same Taffyta here?" Swizzle shook his head, traces of amused disappointment very clear on his face. "Hate to break it to you buddy, but I think you spent way too much time hanging out with her, man. You're clearly seeing something that Gloyd and I do not."

"Well, I hang out with Taffyta by forced necessity," Rancis said as he dragged his feet. "Taffyta, Candlehead, and I are a trio," he continued, now trying to convince himself with his current words that the hypothesis that he'd blurted out earlier was the truth.

It didn't work.

The more Rancis thought about it, the more he realized that though it made sense at first glance, the illusion fell apart like shattered glass when put up to scrutiny.

Now that he was actually analyzing her character, he couldn't see someone like Taffyta being all prim and demure. Even when he was humoring a theoretical possibility, the very idea that Taffyta would behave like that was absurd — being humble and nice to others simply wasn't in Taffyta's dictionary.

The more thought he put into it, the more his bold and admittedly farfetched claim from earlier seemed like a hasty hypothesis. Rancis was forced to admit that Taffyta was, like, the furthest thing from a princess-esque behavior.

But if it wasn't Taffyta, then who could it be?

The reason that Taffyta had crossed his mind in the first place was because she was the closest thing to an impromptu leader that the racers had. Outside of King Candy's watchful eye, Taffyta Muttonfudge was undeniably the de facto leader of their posse, commanding the other racers like she owned the entire game. And to add icing on the cake, if her sharp tongue wasn't enough to convince everyone of her status, she genuinely had the racing skills to back it up.

Ah, her racing skills.

Loath as Rancis was to admit it, Taffyta's was truly remarkable. She'd made fools of any dissenters who doubted her skill behind the wheel time and time again, proving her ability by making quite a few impressive victories in the Random Roster Races.

Rancis fought back a grimace at the unpleasant bouts of memory. Yeah, quite a few impressive victories. Shame it always had to come from his losses.

"It's not Taffyta, is it?" Gloyd deadpanned with a scowl when he saw that Rancis—who'd suggested Taffyta in the first place—was having doubts about his very own idea.

Rancis sighed. "I suppose not…"

"Be realistic, Rancis. How many times must I adamantly insist that there's no princess here in Sugar Rush?" Gloyd's condescending frown slowly gave way to a soft smile as he tapped his temple with his index finger, massaging the spot directly under the rim of his pumpkin hat. "No matter how outlandish some of my pranks might seem, my little gray cells keep my ideas firmly within the realms of reality. Hoping for a princess in shining armor to come and save our sorry hinds is simply wishful thinking…"

Rancis lifted a hand to interject, but Gloyd raised his voice to shut him down before he could even get a word out. "The point is, can we kindly refrain from talking about any matters pertaining to a princess?" Gloyd offered, his opinion as tactless as one of his pranks. "A princess that, I must continue to stress, we aren't even sure exists in the first place?" he added for emphasis.

"Gloyd's right, bro." Swizzle dragged himself towards the arguing duo. "It can't possibly have remained a secret for this long without the jelly beans being spilled. It makes no sense that someone who's a princess wouldn't flaunt her status. I mean, just look at me… I invite all of you guys to witness my every stunt!" A rare goofy smile was plastered on his face as he proceeded to reminiscence about his many daredevil acts with fondness. "If there genuinely was a princess, I think we'll all know by now."

"…unless the princess is trying to maintain a low profile!" Rancis hissed in excitement. "A secret princess…!" he gasped, unable to believe his own hypothesis.

"What the…" Gloyd muttered, exasperated. "Are you actually serious right now?" he asked, regarding Rancis with a face of complete and utter disbelief.

Rancis raised a confused brow. "Yes…" he tentatively replied, causing Swizzle to let out a restrained chuckle.

Gloyd flung his arms out in irritation. "Come on!" he shot back, the tone of disdain and disappointment clearly laced in his tone. "Assuming your first guess with Taffyta being a princess was somehow actually right on the mark, can you really believe that she of all people can keep something like this under wraps and not brag or let the knowledge about her princess status slip even once—be it accidentally or deliberately—for every single day in fifteen entire years?"

The question hung in the air, causing Rancis to flinch, his involuntary movement inadvertently betraying his true thoughts on Gloyd's comeback. Gloyd smirked in response, knowing that the answer to his "what-if" question was rhetorical.

"You do have a point there…" Rancis bemoaned. "I can't see Taffyta in that role." But before Gloyd could smugly declare his victory, Rancis added an addendum with an excited voice, "But I can see some of the other girls in that position!"

Gloyd tripped, almost falling flat to the ground as he registered the words. "Are you kidding me!?"

"Heh." Swizzle snapped his fingers, banging his head. "Though I don't believe the part about the princess, I can't deny that your idea actually sounds pretty cool."

"Don't worry, Swizz. If one of the girls in this game is secretly a princess, my suave looks will make her drop dead," Rancis preened with an exaggerated bow, before recovering back to his normal position and raising his eyebrows seductively. "And then, voilà! You can consider that debt as good as paid! The problem will be solved as easily as an obstacle blasted apart by a Sweet Seeker!"

Gloyd frowned at the apt comparison, his face turning black. "I kindly implore you not to talk to me about Sweet Seekers, Rancis…" the racer mumbled as he tugged on his jacket, hissing a few muffled obscenities under his breath about the accursed powerups. "I mean, let's be real here. The only legitimate way to get out of this in one piece is to pay that Tapper off with our own petty cash."

"Hate to be the bearer of bad news, dude, but I just blew my measly savings on stunt preparation. I'm flat broke." Swizzle raised his arms in surrender when he saw Rancis' glare, before sighing and giving an explanation to placate his friend. "Sorry, bro. 15th anniversary of our game, remember? Of course I was going to celebrate it by blowing some cash."

"I'm not that much of a thrifty saver myself… spent all of mine on candy corn or prank gadgets," Gloyd admitted. "And that sheepish look on your face tells me that you're dirt broke as well, Rancis," he deadpanned before jerking his head in the general direction of the race course. "So that means we don't have any spare cash to fall back on. Looks like we have to earn the cash back with prize money."

"Oh yeah, that's right! Our prize money if we win a race!" Swizzle snapped his fingers in realization. "When the Quarter Alert is sounded, the point system is in effect. Depending on how someone does during a race, they get a certain number of coins credited to them at the end of it," he spoke matter-of-factly, rubbing his hands in jubilant glee. "Does anyone need a reminder of what the monetary award is?"

"Seven coins if you get first place, five coins for second, four for third, three for fourth and fifth, two for sixth and seventh, one for eighth and ninth, and nothing but a 'better luck next time' for tenth place and below," Rancis recited from memory. Considering that he'd secretly been saving and scrimping to get materials for a better kart, he had the exact prize money that one would receive based on their race placings seared into his brain.

Gloyd tapped his chin contemplatively as he processed the figures, before pumping his fist up into the air. "Alright! Sweet! That's all I need to know. I'm headed back home to fix up my kart for the races. Catch ya 'round, Rancis."

"Wh-what?" Rancis managed to splutter at the retreating Gloyd before Swizzle's eyes glinted. "Actually, I see what you're getting at. Later, Rancis," Swizzle said as he bid his farewell, strutting off with a careless wave of his hand. "I'm headed back too. Need to make sure that my Tongue Twister's all raring to go."

Rancis could only gawk at the other boys before he was left alone on the choco-paved walkway, with colorful gum drops off the road being the only thing that surrounded him. With disdain, he let out a tired breath and shot a passing glance towards Diet Cola Mountain, the large landmark looming in the distance.

Were they that confident that they'd manage to earn a thousand coins?

After all, the prize if they got first place was only a paltry seven coins. Rancis furrowed his brow, massaging his temple in frustration.

Now that was a problem, considering that the money they needed to gain by the end of the week was a quota of one thousand. To make matters worse, the race positions were mutually exclusive—there were no such things as ties in Sugar Rush, as individual race timings went down to split seconds—which meant that there was only ever one racer who could net first place in every race.

Even a moron could see that the absolute best that Rancis, Gloyd and Swizzle could do was for all three of them to come in first, second, and third place per race — allowing for a total of sixteen (7+5+4=16) coins of combined winnings in a single race to be placed into a pool of money that was to be solely used to keep Tapper's mouth shut about their escapade.

A normal day at Litwak's could pull in up to twenty games, so that was twenty chances for them to rack up their money, as the game only kept track of scores and money when a credit was inserted, which obviously could only happen if the arcade was open. That meant that if they consistently came in top three on an average day, they could potentially win up to three hundred and twenty coins.

Simple, right? In about three or four days, their debt could be repaid! Gloyd must have come to the same conclusion, which had to be why he'd left for his home in such a cheerful mood, with Swizzle following suit when he saw that his friend appeared to have everything under control.

But the issue was that achieving a consistent top three was the best-case scenario that they could hope for. However, there were multiple complications to this outlook.

For starters, he and Gloyd were on the roster list for the day. While Rancis would normally whoop in joy if he was given the opportunity to be picked as a player's avatar, being chosen was now a double-edged sword with his current objective of trying to get as much prize money as possible.

If he ended up being selected, how well he played in the race was entirely dependent on the skill level of the player, which could range from anywhere between 'pretty good' to 'absolutely terrible'. The same went for Gloyd too if he was selected, which meant that the only one who could reliably give his all for every single race of the day was Swizzle, who hadn't made it on the roster.

The other main issue he could foresee was that the amount of coins he'd calculated was only if he was being unrealistically optimistic — sixteen coins per race was true only if they were consistently in the top three. And with other veterans like King Candy and Taffyta blitzing around the track, the chances of them making such a cut… was virtually nil.

Rancis had never won first place on his own, for starters, and even in the hands of an experienced player he usually only made third or fourth at best. Of the trio, Gloyd probably had the best chance of making it far due to his kart's speedy acceleration, but if he went down to a Sweet Seeker—which happened far too often—he would end up way behind in late-game. Swizzle had a similar issue as he liked taking risky stunts and shortcuts — high risk, high reward. Either his daredevil playstyle payed off… or it resulted in him botching up and finishing dead last alongside some of the recolors — most of which were by far the slowest racers in the game.

And to make matters worse, his prediction of their placements in the races was only if they were in control! For Gloyd and Rancis, who were both on the roster board, how well they played if they ended up being picked was entirely up to fate…

Long story short, their performance was only likely to be mediocre and not top-notch, which severely inhibited the number of coins that they could save up. This was a major problem as the prize money credited at the end of a race was exponentially smaller the lower their placings were. Assuming they consistently scored around the mid-range in rankings, their combined earnings may only be a paltry three to seven coins instead of sixteen… which might not be enough to hit the one-thousand-coin debt owed to Tapper by the deadline the barkeep had given.

With these conditions, even if the three of them colluded all of their earnings, hitting a thousand in such a short span of time was an outlandish goal unless they did something drastic like pull all the racers in on their cause to maximize their earnings, a last resort that they couldn't afford lest the beans were spilled.

As a result, Rancis couldn't help but to wistfully say something that he hadn't intended to say out loud. "I mean, for there to be a princess in our game is our easy way out of this mess. All we gotta do is send the bill to her! Problem solved!"

"Eh? Since when was there a princess in Sugar Rush, Fluggerbutter?"

Rancis jumped at the sudden intrusion, the racer spinning on his heel and turning to his back to come face-to-face with the source of the voice. He felt cold sweat breaking out on his forehead when his brain registered the smug girl in green who had just made her presence known.

It was the glitch, Vanellope von Schweetz.

"Isn't that wishful thinking, Rancis? I highly doubt that a princess will come in and solve all your problems. That sort of thing only happens in fairy tales," the glitch continued, amusement embedded in every word of her voice. "And we're in a racing game, not a fantasy game. So keep on dreaming, Fluggerbutter."

Rancis nervously took a step back. "How long have you been following us?" Rancis tentatively asked, changing the subject. His eyes betrayed his apprehensiveness.

His question was rewarded by an innocuous expression from Vanellope. "Long enough." She used a hand to tousle her ponytail, flipping her candy-coated hair with a smirk. "Long enough to hear that you guys are in some major trouble, that is! Ahahahaha!"

Just great. As if Tapper wasn't bad enough… now the glitch, of all people, managed to overhear even more information about this!

Evidently Gloyd's Cherry Bomb from earlier hadn't done the trick in keeping her away. Rancis scowled, mentally likening her to a persistent blemish that wouldn't leave his face.

"So you just came to rub it in?" Rancis found himself clinging on to Gloyd's words from earlier for comfort — that any blackmail from Vanellope would be useless because she would be considered an unreliable source. No one would believe a word that she said… after all, the glitch was beneath them.

Vanellope fake-gasped at his accusation. "How could you say that? Did you really assume the worst out of me? Man, you're mean. My feelings are hurt." Though her retort was made in jest, there was, however, a hint of genuineness in her final words.

"Kindly shut it, glitch." Rancis wasn't in the mood to deal with this. Normally he'd shoot her a snide remark or two, but he was too tired and stressed to do that this time round.

Besides, he felt hesitant to do so without Taffyta's explicit orders. As always, he was a follower.

"Anyway…" Vanellope inflected the word, causing Rancis to snap his head at her. "That wasn't what I came to you for. I mean, if I had a choice, I'll just stay away from the lot of you bullies."

"The feeling is mutual," Rancis sassed, his arms by the sides of his chocolate blazer.

Vanellope glared at him, letting out a chuckle as she placed her hands in the pockets of her hoodie. The furious look only lasted for a second though, as she quickly dropped her expression, a chirpy grin adorning her face as she began pacing up and down.

"You see…" Vanellope drawled, "I couldn't help but feel a pang of sympathy for your unfortunate plight." She scoffed, folding her arms. "I mean, really? It doesn't seem all that fair for y'all to get blackmailed by some nobody just because of a tad bit of rotten luck."

He remained still as Vanellope went on with her tirade, selling her sweet words like caramel candy. What bugged Rancis about this whole conversation was that the glitch's reasoning for wanting to lend him a hand seemed perfectly sound at first, the motive standing up to even the harshest of scrutiny — it was just her feeling bad for their unfortunate luck and willing to let bygones be bygones by lending him a helping hand.

So why was it that Rancis could feel literal alarm bells going off in his head while she was speaking?

"So I just got this brilliant idea." Vanellope inflected the word 'brilliant' in such a way that Rancis couldn't tell if she was actually serious or just being sardonically sarcastic. "Whoosh!" she spread her arms wide open, a huge grin splitting her face. "Listen to my glorious plan and you'll soon be rich! Fret not, you have nothing to fear, for your debt will soon be completely repaid!"

"Alright, let me get this straight. You—" he gestured his hands around to hush Vanellope, before shakily pointing at her in disbelief, "—actually want to help me?"

"Uh-huh!" Vanellope nodded fervently in response to Rancis, humming a jolly tune as she bobbed her head.

Rancis raised a brow in suspicion. "Really, huh?" She warily gazed at Vanellope with a skeptical look, trying to extrapolate exactly why the glitch was willing to help him out of the blue. She wasn't this nice… heck, she was downright nasty at times! Given all the warnings King Candy had given them regarding this hazardous girl, there had to be some kind of catch!

Why was the glitch willing to help him, just like that? It was such an idiosyncratic move for her to make. Although an innate part of Rancis screamed at him to run way and ditch the glitch, there was a portion of his mind that forced him to freeze in place, wanting its curiosity sated on what exactly she had to say.

Rancis was not especially enthused by either option. "So what exactly is your big plan?" he asked cautiously. He didn't have a good feeling about this, but now Rancis was loath to admit that his curiosity was piqued.

"Man, you're incorrigible. Don't get ahead of yourself, choco boy." Vanellope's tongue was as sharp as always, a teasing smirk embellishing her face, one which gave way to a chortle when she saw Rancis groaning at her words.

Yep. On his part, Rancis shuddered at her taunt. Licking his lips, he felt that they were now dry and parched.

"Let me state my master plan, okay?" she said, her eyes glinting mischievously. "I know that the three of you are flat broke. Now, I don't have any money on hand, but I can certainly steal you some."

"Steal?" Rancis gaped at her as though she had grown a second head.

"That's right," she affirmed. "I'm as sneaky as a fox! I can simply sneak around the other racers' houses and nab you a bunch of coins." At this point she pat Rancis on the back, the racer withdrawing slightly from her touch. "But I can't do it alone, so I need your help as a distraction to pull this off. All I ask for payment is that I be allowed to keep one gold coin in the exchange. Everything else you can take. Sound like a dream deal?"

Rancis simply stared at her. He'd never known that her argumentative and persuasive skills were so potent. But then again, he'd never had a reason to maintain an actual non-condescending conversation with the glitch for a span of more than five seconds in the past.

"What's the matter, Rancis? It's just a simple exchange." Vanellope winked at him, reaching her hand out to his. "Am I making you nervous? Cat got your tongue?"

Rancis balked at the insinuation. "Bleah!" he pantomimed gagging. Even so, he couldn't help but to let his mind wander off.

It's worth a shot, a sinful part of Rancis' brain tempted. Anything is better than Tapper throwing us under King Candy's royal race kart. That'll end up with us in a large heaped serving of hot fudge Fungeon.

Shut up, the rational part of his brain replied, the synapses in his mind surging to overthrow his earlier treasonous thoughts. If you agree, that means you'll be voluntarily working with the glitch… the glitch!

Accepting Vanellope's deal and going along with her idea was like taking a poisoned chalice to Rancis. Though her plan was sound and highly likely to work, if any of the others ever managed to trace the deed back to him… his fate would practically be sealed. They wouldn't hesitate to sell him out to King Candy.

And if King Candy himself or any of his guards found out about his secret agreement with the glitch, well… the resulting punishment doled out would be a thousand times worse than if he had been caught for sneaking out in the first place.

"Come on, Rancis!" she pleaded, extending her hand even further out as Rancis snapped back to reality. "What's there to think about? I mean, it's a piece of cake on your end! I'll be the one doing all the hard work. Just accept the deal and all your problems will be solved. Why are you even hesitating, huh?"

Rancis froze up on the spot. The glitch was certainly asking a lot of pertinent questions. If he were to be perfectly honest, she was getting a wee bit too close for comfort.

The girl continued to obstinately extend her hand, though it was becoming clear from her increasingly forced smile that her patience was quickly dwindling. Soon her lips tightened into a straight line, her expression becoming exasperated.

"Look, Rancis. Are you in or not?" Vanellope grumbled, before a firm scowl lit up her face. "Okay, buster. Limited time offer," she said, annoyed. "I'm going to count to three…" She raised her right fist before continuing, "…and my offer will rescind if I make it to three. Hurry up already, ya slowpoke!"

Rancis blinked in shock. Molten toffees, she was actually using time pressure to psyche him into taking the deal prematurely.

"One…" Vanellope began the countdown with a commanding voice, practically coercing Rancis to accept her terms. All it would take for him to agree with her now was a little push, and then—

But why was she being so pushy and adamant for him to accept? That just screamed of suspicion. Making an offer like this seemed counter-intuitive to her — after all, the glitch would gain nothing out of helping him…

Rancis' eyes bugged out when the answer smacked him in the face.

"All I ask for payment is that I be allowed to keep one gold coin in the exchange."

Oh, no. She would gain something out of the exchange, and it was something that could devastate all of Sugar Rush.

One gold coin.

That was what she was really after.

It'd been in plain sight all along. Vanellope wanted to trick him into accepting the bargain so that she could scoot off in the aftermath with a gold coin in her possession — the price of entry into a Random Roster Race.

Rancis felt a mounting headache coming on, King Candy's words from fifteen years ago reverberating throughout his head.

"See to it that the glitch will never be allowed to race! She's nothing more than a glitch! We must get rid of her for the game's stability!"

Their ruler had never gotten into specifics as to why they couldn't have the glitch race besides a brief 'she'll ruin our game' explanation, but the innate pride within Rancis caused him to jeer at her along with the others.

But he wasn't used to her snarking back at him in a one-on-one conversation like this. Previously, he'd always had Taffyta or Candlehead or someone else backing him up, but this time, her fiery and determined personality overshadowed his laid-back one.

It was no wonder he hadn't noticed the glitch's true goal until she got careless, trying to goad him to accept in a more hostile manner. She'd distracted him with the allure of being able to fix their problem, and if he had been slightly less cautious, he knew that he wouldn't have questioned her as to why she only wanted a single gold coin instead of going for an equivalent fifty-fifty split.

Because it was obvious why now. She only needed one coin to enter.

That was why she'd tried to ward off suspicion by minimizing her earnings to a single coin, letting Rancis keep every single other coin — so as to make the offer enticing for him. Rather ironically, her generous terms had been what tipped him off in the end.

It was an underhanded tactic.

It was certainly an unorthodox way of manipulation.

But really, what else did he expect from the conniving little glitch of Sugar Rush?

"Two…" Vanellope continued, a cheeky smirk tugging on her lips as she flashed him the peace sign, aka the number 2.

Firmly making up his mind that the glitch would not get her way, Rancis shook his head disparagingly. He refused to accede to her demands now that he knew what the wily girl was really after.

A brief look of alarm crossed her face, quickly hidden behind a mask of curiosity. "What? You won't help me? Why not, Fluggerbutter?" she questioned.

Though she kept her body language guarded, now that Rancis knew that she was lying about being in his best interests, he could spot quite a few telltale signs that told him that she was feigning ignorance — the slight tremble of her fingers, idly shifting her weight from side to side…

…and a crooked smile plastered on her face, one which screamed of insincerity and deceit. That crooked smile perfectly encapsulated Vanellope von Schweetz, the unwanted glitch of Sugar Rush — a cunning trickster who wanted nothing more than to cause mayhem and anarchy.

She'd never cared for him. She only cared about herself.

"I know that everything you just told me was a load of crock." Rancis didn't know where he'd gotten the courage to speak like this, but he was guessing that his anger was fueling him. "It was never about me or trying to help me pay back my debt. You only need my help as a distraction solely so that you can steal a gold coin for yourself."

Vanellope's lips straightened into a line, the corners pursed to a borderline frown. That said, she tried her best to refrain from outwardly displaying her frustration. She didn't even have the dignity of looking abashed at his claims of being manipulated. "What makes you think that?" she started, taking a step forward.

"You know it's true," Rancis scowled at her, tapping his foot impatiently against the ground.

Vanellope—the glitch, Rancis had to remind himself—scoffed at him, her hands pointedly by her hips. She snarled, her feelings volatile and easily readable for once.

And to think that she'd almost trapped him in her web of sweet lies, ensnaring him with her promise of getting him out of trouble that he almost missed her manipulative catch in the Faustian bargain he'd been handed on a silver platter. Rancis was inwardly glad that he'd seen her true colors before he did something that he'd regret.

Once Vanellope knew that Rancis wasn't going to change his stance, she howled in frustration. Having no sense of personal space in the slightest, she marched right up to Rancis and prodded him on his button-shaped nose with her index finger, her scornful brown eyes viciously glaring into his blue ones. "Fine then, refuse me! But you'll regret this! I hope that the whole lot of you stay stuck in your stupid gargantuan debt!" she swore before twirling around and storming away.

Curt and tactless. Ouch. That was the glitch for ya. Still, Rancis maintained his calm exterior when he saw the formerly gleeful Vanellope throwing a fit, the glitch knowing that he'd seen right through her sneaky plan.

"Mark my words, Rancis!" She yelled at him from the distance. "It's been fifteen years to the day, but eventually Lady Luck's gonna smile upon poor ol' Vanellope here!" She held her arms wide open for emphasis as she proceeded to hurl more insults at him. "One of these days, I'll find myself a gold coin and buy my way into a race! And I'll do it with or without your crummy help, Fluggerbutter! Just you wait!"

And with that final bout of insults, the steadfast Vanellope turned tail and scooted off, leaving Rancis by himself once more.

Rancis cautiously used one hand to comb his blond fringe—being careful not to mess up his hair, of course—while placing his free hand up to his chin in contemplation. For better or worse, one possible method of repaying the debt to Tapper was now closed off. He was now right back to square one of his little thousand-coin conundrum.

With a forlorn sigh, he continued to trudge back to his home.

Author's Note:

Sorry for the wait, I was down with the common cold.

Tension's now ramping up… the stakes are slowly falling into place. Also, this chapter marks the end of the introductory arc. Rejoice.

Wonder how many of you saw right through Vanellope's plan before Rancis managed to catch on?