The Hasherer's skin ceased tingling as it became a shade of white and pliable like the fresh sheets of rice paper while he half heartedly fiddled with the tip of his smiling bandana mask when he found himself in the middle of yet another forest.

Truly the In Between has sent him to the most alien of places.

At the very least the night air of this world's woods felt soothingly cool as they whistled softly by and there were even a few owls in the nearby trees hooting their calls.

Quite a lot in fact.

Perhaps a tad too much hooting for the Hasherer's increasingly ringing and itching ears.

Well, at least the cook will power on since he'll take the constant hooting as a huge improvement over the complete silence of the last forest. Though he wonders if those tar black creatures had anything to do with that.

Still, the stew he made with one of those birds was deliciously smokey and their wispy meat had the right amount of tenderness though it did leave some bits of grit in his upper teeth. Somehow.

Although now that he thought about it, the now paper white man felt tempted to take off his straw hat to let some of the soothing cool air flow over his shaved head.

But first, he had to focus on a bubbling pot of milk white soup that was just starting to turn blue.

So he picked up a wooden ladle and stirred the pot. The blue soup soon grew a few splotches of purple surrounding the chopped up chunks of electric blue mushrooms that he was given from the last world his hashery ended up.

The saucy smell and the tingling feel this soup gave his nose left a twinge of nostalgia in the cook's heart and had his tongue and what was left of his mouth salivating before he began to stir it.

After he had his smiling mask secured of course, wouldn't do to have it drop into the stew and let his saliva contaminate it. He only saves that for the more despicably rude visitors of his hashery.

The soup's contents became a swirling pattern of purple and blue as small sparks of blue shot out and leapt onto the Hasherer's hand. He hardly flinched though he felt one of his biceps begin to spastically twitch about as he continued to stir the soup some more.

Soon the swirl became a pure milky purple as the masked cook breathed in the soup's steam that was still rather tingly yet it now had a twinge of sweetness to.

Now to see if it actually done right so he decided to take a small test taste with his tongue elongating from beneath his mask to the small spoonful he had.

When the cook suddenly felt a jittery jolt on his tongue that then shot down his spine and his head was filled with a stimulating tingliness, he felt his cheekbones crease up. The wanting itchiness on his now twitching tongue clearly told the masked cook that the soup was just about ready to be served to the next visitor.

Especially when there were some bubbles starting to form on the soup's surface. Ah those always seem to add a little something to those shrooms though the cook still wonders the how, what, and why those are there in the first place.

But that was a question for another time as the Hasherer loosened the chin straps of his hat letting it hang from his neck and over his back before he took in a long deep breath of the cool night air. Well at least the In Between can bring him to the more pleasant parts of the infinite worlds of existence.

From time to time that is. He just knows that it seemingly loves to toy with him.

Although, now that the cook took in some fresh air, this new world he finds himself in certainly has a myriad of energy sources permeating it that ranged from a battered yet still ever shining beacon that just brought out a sense of hope to a ruthless yet dying leech that was still clung to life that should just let go and to the numerous sparks that were seemingly in every nook and cranny of this world.

These energy sources almost remind the masked cook of home though these energy sources were rather close and dim compared to both his people's energies when the end was looming over their home world and the near sun like sources of their creators on their own home worlds.

Though he will concede that they were far more numerous than both his people and the creators right now.

But through it all, the energies of these people were in a constant cycle of growth and decay. Although there was perhaps a bit too much growing going on with them. A rather curious thing but nothing that the masked cook should worry about; he should be long gone by the time the energies start to overflow everywhere.

Hopefully.

Unless the In Between decides to yet again have its fun with him by sending him back to a possible destructive crossfire although there could be some fresh cuts such-

The Hasherer shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.

Best not to dwell on that possibility too much. Might make it more likely if he did.

In any case, the Hasherer has also felt the presence of the relatively mundane who were simply walking about in their lives though barely if the constant looking over their shoulders was anything to indicate.

A rather familiar feeling now that he thinks about it. He too was rather insignificant back home.

And he still is right now.

Especially when the Hasherer had also felt something amongst the energy sources that turned out to be a few energy sources that could blend in just enough but they most certainly didn't belong here.

For they were almost like him and the creators yet they were also unlike him as they roamed about in this one world. Hunting one another and eating some of this world's inhabitants in the meantime.

And one of them felt very familiar and yet the cook couldn't put his finger on who exactly.

For this one wasn't chaotic like that Wanderer's presence yet chaos seems to be magnetized to it.

It was worn out and tired despite its youthfulness compared to the cook's own age.

And it had a hunger that just didn't seem to wane despite the now rusting smell of blood.

In fact, the smell grew stronger as the source made its own approach to his hashery.

The masked cook looked up from his pot and into the surrounding forest with trepidation when he suddenly heard the rustling of leaves from the side of his shack and soon from the bushes came out three figures.

The first of them that the cook noticed were a couple of small girls who looked back at him with uneasy eyes as they clung close together behind the third figure's legs.

Obviously, his inky eyes tended to get that reaction especially from the small ones of the omniverse.

Though he'd rather not see what they would do if they saw his face as a few of the elderly locals suffering fatal strokes when they caught a look underneath his mask could attest. He didn't need another reminder of how he looked without it.

In any case, there was the third who really did catch the cook's attention.

For one, he was the biggest of the trio yet he was a ragged and near skeletal looking man who was most certainly leading the trio. Another thing that stood out was that he wore a silver jumpsuit that had black stained tears on it in addition to a severed stump of a hand that was freshly scabbed over with a cracked blackened surface.

The scabs had a familiar black liquid dribbling from the cracks and onto the dirt below.

The ragged man also had a small messy mane of hair that had seen better days what with all the bits of branches, leaves and seemingly wet clumps of mud, or blood, in it. The cook looked closer at the man's face and to true to the scent, there were a few specks of red in his patchy beard and around his lips.

The cook looked down and he saw the two small girls were still standing behind the ragged man's rather skinny legs but he then noticed that they were barefoot and wore clothing that were rather torn at the sleeves and hems and were stained with streaks of dirt and grass.

Now, compared to the ragged man, the children who accompanied him seemed to be more scared than worn out yet the cook also noted they most certainly had some of the same energies that permeated this world.

To which a small part of the Hasherer naturally wondered what they could do. So, he tilted his head as he studied the little children. It wouldn't hurt to take a look and guess.

Though the girls tried to hide some more behind the ragged man's stick like legs which he thought they would have realized by now but, as he has come to realize during his travels, children usually tend to be a tad slow at times. Especially with a strange man that had eyes that were almost like a hungry shark's eyes.

Now one of the girls was wearing what was once a pretty little yellow dress and had a raven ponytail that was sloppily cut much too short to be called that. In the Hasherer's opinion, it would have been more appropriate to call that little thing a pig tail but not really for even those porkies kept their tails clean. Eh, he will call it a paint brush. An uneven scraggly little paint brush.

Although the cook did notice that paint brush girl had a small bit of sagginess to her face and body despite her youth which was a curious sight for the cook. The paint brush girl didn't seem to be too weak and wobbly from starvation although he did note a small calculating glimmer in her eyes. Perhaps, the cook should keep a sharp eye on her in addition to the ragged man.

Then the paint brush girl's eyes went half lidded as she slumped over to the floor before the ragged man held her up by the shoulder with his remaining hand. Gently shaking her to consciousness.

Or maybe not, the cook decided for himself though he still wonders about her energy which seems a bit more familiar now that he can really feel it this close to his shop. Almost like she was a child of his people.

Now the other girl had a brown bob cut that had a few burnt strands and wore starry pajamas that was now stained and torn up. She was also a tad shorter than the other girl and her cheeks seem to be a permanent shade of pink which were marred by the dried and smeared streaks of tears.

The Hasherer figured that those may have something to do with the way she held a dirty cloth wrapped hand that had some bound sticks lining the swollen fingers close to her chest. A shame to say that it wouldn't be the first time he had seen children hurt in such a way.

But perhaps her tear streaks could be because of the broken lens of a telescope that she easily cradled in the nook of her good arm despite it being nearly twice her size in length despite being collapsed and her hand being too small to fully wrap around it. Must be of sentimental value.

Super strength perhaps? The masked cook then pondered until he remembered a previous visitor; it wouldn't be the first time that he had seen a small child with such a huge well of strength.

Such as that one monkey tailed boy who nearly ate out his entire inventory after bringing him the head of a tyrannosaurus look alike that decided to harass his shop.

Though to be fair to the beast, The Hasherer didn't expect his redwood floors to have the yolk of its eggs to seep through the seams when he arrived at that world.

Though thankfully, his rather handsy pig friend more than made up for that meaty loss for a time. The Hasherer has certainly learned to keep a cleaver at the ready as well as stick to the male form from then on. To this day he still has no idea why he went all in on that whim of his.

Was he really that bored at the time?

But the cook was getting off track as he shook his head, he should stay especially focused around that ragged skeleton man that accompanied the two girls. For who knows what can happen with some visitors.

Now the girls in turn have tried to hide themselves some more behind the man's legs though the man himself simply looked back at the cook when he gave an acknowledging nod as a look of recognition grew in his own eyes.

The exact kind of inky eyes that the Hasherer himself had in his own head were it not for the fact that the man's eyes were instead adorned with a pair of copper coins. An all too familiar pair of copper coins.

Then the ragged man held up the inky scab covered stump and waved it rather amicably to the cook.

In turn, the masked cook's eyes widen and felt his heart skipped many a beat as many thoughts immediately ran through the Hasherer's mind;

Did some sort of apocalypse occur on this world and did that man have anything to do with it whatsoever? Why are these small children sticking with him? Is he saving them for small snack? Are the rest of his copper eyed kin roaming about in this world? If there are more around then who exactly?

Stars forbid that two, let alone all three, of those brothers be on this world at the same time. Their people's homeworld certainly couldn't handle them and the trouble they wrought upon it.

And more importantly, what was hunting him and would they be able trace the man's trail to the cook and his shop?

But then the Hasherer took a trembling breath and shook his head at the thought of that. If an apocalypse had really been the case then these three would have attempted to rob him, eat him and then ransack his hashery the moment they saw him and it.

And in no particular order he would bet.

Not to mention that his hashery should render the trail cold when he'd learn something new from the copper eyed man. If he had anything new to share.

And that's assuming of course that whatever is hunting the copper eyed man couldn't also follow his shop to not fall for a false lead.

Best to not think of that possibility right now.

So, the cook calmed himself with another steadier breath before he had another look at the three outside his shop and took a small whiff of the air surrounding them. He then felt relief when the corners of his mask lift up as he thought to himself, well at least they had no smell of apocalyptic contamination. Should have done that first now that he realizes.

For such meat often came out far too tough and greasy to be eaten enjoyably even with the addition of flavorful herbs, the juices of a freshly plucked and squeezed lemon, and an over generous serving of tenderization from the heaviest and most stud covered of his mini mallets.

But he will have to wait and see if that man had anything new to offer.

So, with that in mind, the Hasherer waved the three of them over and motioned to his pot of mushroom soup though the copper eyed man now held his remaining hand in front of the girls and raised an eyebrow at the cook.

Placatingly, the cook took a small ladle to the steaming pot of soup on his stove and brought it beneath his mask to take a quick sip to which he felt his tongue twitch about for some more again before he waved over some of the steam to the trio.

To which the ragged copper eyed man took in a few whiffs of the mushroom soup's steam before he nodded and let out a small grunt as he gave a somewhat gentle push forward to the hesitant girls who simply stood there in place fidgeting with their hands and items.

That was until their hesitance dwindled to nothingness and was soon replaced with embarrassment as their faces reddened when their stomachs gave out very loud and hungry growls after they caught a whiff of the mushroom soup. The paint brush girl was especially mortified as she covered her mouth and belly with her little hands though the pink cheeked one let out a small titter until her own stomach let out another yet hungrier roar.

Now the paint brush girl was letting out a titter from her hand covered mouth as the other girl attempted to use her bad hand to cover at least one of her pink-red cheeks that immediately became a bright shade akin to ripe red apples.

And now the Hasherer couldn't stop a small chuckle from escaping his maw at their redness while the ragged man shared his own amusement with a grinning grunt before he gave the two girls another yet gentler push forward.

And so with that little kitten out of the bag, the two girls took an available seat and began to patiently await their meal though the paint brush headed girl was still fidgeting with her fingers to while the pink cheeked one ever so gently and slowly took off the strap of her telescope and placed it to the side on her part of the counter.

The ragged man however turned his head about as he looked around the vicinity of the shop even as he walked up to take a seat at the cook's stand. His presence becoming even stronger and began to overwhelm the Hasherer with every one of his staggering steps.

It took a lot for the Hasherer to keep himself steady and not reach for the nearest knife.

So instead the Hasherer brought out a couple of small empty bowls and placed them on the counter top in front of the girls before he plopped in a pair of forks and spoons for each as well as some napkins for cleaning up their hands and faces.

Then the masked cook pulled out another ladle that he used to scoop up some of the purple soup to pour into the empty bowls. He might as well direct his nervous energy to something productive if he isn't going to pull a blade on the ragged man who was still directing his gaze all over his shop and the surrounding forest.

The girls looked at their bowls of purple soup with some bewilderment, to which the Hasherer guessed that they probably haven't seen such a creamy purple soup before now, although the pink cheeked girl took to it faster if the small sniff she gave to her bowl were any indication despite that doing so made her nose do a slight twitch.

Then the pink cheeked girl attempted to clap her hands together for, presumably, a small prayer of sort before her bowl though she did wince a bit while the paint brush girl used one of her napkins to wipe away all the dirt on her face, arms and even a few stringy strands of hair that she pushed to the side of her face.

It was with the first girl that the Hasherer noticed some sort of pink pads on each and every one of her fingertips as she prayed. A bit adorable really now that he spotted them though he wondered why were they there. A mutation of sorts?

The energy of the second girl really did feel really close to home now that she was close, best to wait and see if his hunch is correct.

Now the children took up their spoons though they still looked at their bowls of creamy purple soup with some uncertainty until a few chromatic bubbles then popped off the soup's surface and floated away in the air above. Eliciting coos from both.

Then the bubbles popped sending out small sparks of purple electricity to which the girls let out small cries out jump in their seats.

The ragged man made another amused grunt before he pointed to his own empty part of the counter. The Hasherer looked at him bemusedly until he realized before he plopped down a full large bowl of electric purple soup with a spoon already in in front of him

To which the man took in a long whiff of the purple soup and he let out a content sigh before he gave himself a spoonful. Nothing seemed to happen to the man but he was certainly savoring its tingly sweetness.

Upon seeing this, the girls picked up their spoons full of milky purple cream and, after some more trepidation and another stomach growl, plopped them into their mouths.

Suddenly the crackling sound of static electricity could be heard from the two girls when the soup soaked their tongues before going down to their bellies making them jitter in place with their spoons still in their mouths.

In addition to the jitteriness, their now rattling skeletons began to glow with such an intensity that they could be seen from beneath their skin for just a moment before their hairs just suddenly poof up like little dandelions.

In particular, the paint brush girl's hair made a loud pop thanks to her paint brush tail's bindings. Nearly knocked her off of her chair with a yelp thanks to the suddenness. Though the cook noted that there was something of a red tinged pop of electricity that came along with the pop.

The pink cheeked girl however just coughed out a small puff of smoke though she smacked her lips that made some sparks of lightning, which were now pink for some reason, come out and jumped between her lips.

The Hasherer couldn't help but let another, and heartier, chuckle escape him before he offered the two of them a metal comb. Perhaps he should have added those alongside their bowls the first time around.

The two girls looked at one another for a moment before they started giggling.

The pink cheeked girl then reached for the comb only to yelp from the static shock and that brought out another amused chuckle from the cook.

The copper eyed man meanwhile had a small grin though he remained silent as he still looked over his shoulder at the forest surrounding the shop before he slowly turned his head back to his bowl of purple soup.

It was when the copper eyed man dipped his spoon that the Hasherer noticed quite a few fresh wounds beneath his jumpsuit's tears that still had some dribbling ink that stained them. Those wounds should have closed up by now which means that there could be a chance.

Though those wounds also raise the question; just what exactly is hunting the copper eyed man? What could be strong enough to send the copper eyed man, and perhaps his other kin, running? The masked cook thought to himself only to then try to disregard that question with a small shake of the head.

For it shouldn't matter to him for too long; he and his shop will be long gone by the time those hunting the ragged man make their way here.

It will matter less to the Hasherer a lot sooner especially if the man or either of the children cannot provide the Hasherer anything new for his culinary crafts. If such a thing was possible considering the former's history.

Then the copper eyed man took another, and fuller, spoonful of the purple soup and was seemingly unaffected by the sudden surge of electricity coursing through his body as it also illuminated his skeleton that was must be quite a bizarre sight to the children yet a familiar one to the masked cook.

The copper eyed man's skull had a pair too many mandibles that were folded up in his head in an imitation of a native's lower and upper jaw and his limbs had bones that were akin to a snake's skeleton comprised of the ever interlocking yet fractured bones of a pufferfish.

The girls stopped combing their hair as they shuffled in their seats at the sight of his bones even if they didn't make to move from their spots although the cook himself enviously held a hand over his masked covered missing chin.

Then the comb in the pink cheeked girl's hand began to float out of her hands eliciting a gasp from her until the cook plucked that out of the air. Well that was one question answered, best to give that back.

The copper eyed man then let out a small satisfied hum before he brought the entire bowl to his lips and he began to gulp down the rest of the soup. Spilling a few purple drops onto his jumpsuit as he did so.

Although, the Hasherer could just grab a knife and sink it in the copper eyed man's temple and hopefully strike the right place in his head before he could cut it off. In fact, he felt his fingers inch themselves towards the nearest knife as he eyed the man's head. After all he would need to do is to strike at the right moment and hopefully his aim will be-

The copper eyed man then let out a loud belch before he slammed his bowl back onto the shop counter with a purple mustachioed sigh of relief. The paint brush girl was taken aback as she leaned away from the man while the pink cheeked girl covered her growing smile at the sight of his mane's new form.

The Hasherer personally wasn't sure if he should be relieved that he didn't pull the blade or disappointed that he let the opportunity slip by once again. Especially as the man's wounds began to seal up immediately after he set his bowl down.

Although he was rather confused that his missing hand didn't form anew since it remained a scabbed over stump. Was the man holding onto something important with the old one? Well hopefully it shouldn't matter much to the cook.

Still the Hasherer could take some amusement alongside the girls as the small ones had a small giggle when they saw how the man's mane had become an even more puffed up afro dandelion that was thrice as big as his whole head before they turned back to their bowls.

Although the copper eyed man had certainly noticed the cook's gaze since he brought his stump closer to himself before hiding it underneath the counter all while looking back with narrowed eyes.

And the Hasherer felt his hands reaching for the knives yet again.

Now the two inky eyed men simply stared at one another waiting for the other one to make the first move. The both of them knew that this could be the moment that there could one less of their own people in existence.

Then there was a small noise and a tug on the cook's sleeves causing the two men turned to the source. The paint brush haired girl was shyly holding her bowl up as she tugged on the cook's sleeve while the blushing girl held up hers with a purple mustachioed smile.

And they were still a couple of little dandelions that had small sparks of red and pink electricity jump between the standing hair strands.

The two men looked back at one another as they realized that that moment may come another time. For now, as they both wordlessly agreed, there were some young mouths to feed.

And so, the Hasherer poured the children and the copper eyed man another helping of the lightning mushroom soup. Himself included of course. Even if it were to keep his hands occupied.

It was a silent meal though the two men still looked at one another now and then while they ate.

The silence was broken when the girls let out content sighs as they gently lay down their bowls and the puffy haired pink cheeked girl inadvertently let out a burp to which the equally puffy paint brush haired one had to stifle a giggle as she wiped her mouth with a napkin.

The paint brush girl was starting to fill out and fit her dress while the pink cheeked girl regained some color to which the Hasherer couldn't help but grin.

For if there was one thing that the Hasherer would always find rewarding in his travels for his soul and pride; it was a satisfied visitor with a full belly. Even if some of the visitors could be very unwelcomed.

Then the copper eyed man suddenly shot out his remaining hand to the masked cook, causing him to flinch and warily regard the offered limb as a hissing snake baring its fangs.

To which the copper eyed man gave the cook a curt grunt along with another upraised eyebrow as he overstretched his palm up hand towards the masked man.

The Hasherer still warily regarded the offered hand only to then let out a small sigh and reach for it.

For he knew that the man knew that the Hasherer was not one to turn down new cooking knowledge since he would always accept whatever new bit of culinary knowledge he could find.

Regardless of who and what was offering it.

When two inky eyed men grabbed one another by the elbows the veins and nerves in their arms began to light up to a glowing shade of bright red and purple respectively before an even brighter flash of light burst out and overlapped the both of them causing the girls to flinch and cover their eyes from the sudden brightness.

The pink cheeked girl was the first to get the spots out of her vision and was met with the sight of the masked cook fiddling his mask with a blank look of sorts in his inky eyes while the copper eyed man was very still as he was slumped over the counter.

The paint brush hair girl was still rubbing her eye as she was about to ask what just happened but then the cook suddenly plopped down on the counter a small pack that held two red wood thermos that were warm to the touch and had a clear plastic indicator that was filled to the top with more of the bubbling purple soup.

The two girls were taken aback especially when the masked cook tossed the two girls another pair silver metal combs. Well, more like threw them into the counter where they were buried a couple of teeth deep.

The pink cheeked girl attempted to pull the combs out of the counter though the paint brush girl raised a finger with a questioning eyebrow.

To which the masked cook simply gave the girls a pat on the head and a slap on the pack before he gently nudged the latter towards the paint brush girl's hands.

To which the paint brush girl, after a moment of staring at the bag, picked up and hoisted over her shoulder as the pink cheeked one gathered her telescope before she walked up to the slumped over copper eyed man and gave his sides a tentative poke.

The two girls jumped when the copper eyed man just shot up from his stood up from the counter and grabbed the alarmed cook by the arm, bringing him close to utter out something in some sort of strange tongue to which the cook nodded along.

The girls looked at the two men curiously especially when they simply backed off from one another to then give each other a simple nod before the copper eyed man stood up from his seat to walk off into the forest.

The masked cook looked after him with some sort of look in his eyes before turning back to his shop though he did look up and gave the girls a quirked eyebrow.

The two girls then realized what just happened and turned around to hastily follow the copper eyed man back into the forest. The pack of thermos clacked with every step that the paint brush girl took.

However, the paint brush girl turned right back around to the masked cooked with a held up hand that had a sudden glow that brought forth a small round doll that clattered upon his shop's counter. She bowed again with folded hands while speaking the local language before she turned back to the forest.

The pink cheeked girl was waiting for the other though she did look to the inky eyed cook who in turn still looked at her with a quirked eyebrow. The pink cheeked girl gave him a quick bow of gratitude along with a wave of her telescope before she turned and ran right back into the forest.

The Hasherer was still wary of the copper eyed man despite his leave so he picked up the small round doll which was a tad crude but an effectively cutesy and smiley version of himself. Complete with a mini smiling bandana mask and a mini straw hat.

Well isn't that a pleasant surprise; the paint brush girl was like the rest of his people though a bit downsized.

And that did the trick as relief overcame the cook when he felt himself and his shop become lighter and brighter, he'd rather be out of the hazard zone that this world will become.

Though he did wish those children would stay alive and well but with that copper eyed man and whatever is hunting him around on this world, he had his doubts.