The Poossession: Part Five
"What?" Huval exclaimed. Collux's mouth hung open in shock. "How could—"
"Look," Leowinn said. "I don't know much more than you. I certainly don't know why I'm the only ghost to escape. But I do know that the fear the MSPPs had for me, that kept me safe and unbothered, will now be replaced by anger. I'll be chased out of this forest before the week ends. So if you two have any better plans, you better share now. Because until I'm chased out of this forest, I'm all in."
"Okay," Huval mused. "Well our attempt at trickery failed. What was the other option you suggested? Bribery?"
"But Huval, we don't have any money," Collux protested.
Leowinn shook her head. "Don't even think about using counterfeit Neopoints. They can smell the stuff."
Huval sighed and rubbed his face. He was running out of ideas.
"Wait, I got it!" Collux exclaimed. "We won't trick them with counterfeit money but a counterfeit—"
"Treasure map! Collux, you're a genius," Huval said. He thought back to the treasure map Collux was referring to. Huval had been annoyed by another one of his plans failing when he'd realized the map was fake, but it looked like it would come in handy after all!
"Treasure map?" Leowinn asked. Huval quickly gave a recap of the map's history. "Interesting. That's just crazy enough that it might work."
"Yeah, and maybe we can find a way to trap them on the island too!" Collux added. "It's deserted, so they'd have a hard time getting off. That way, we get them off our backs without having to dissipate the ghosts or the plushies!"
Leowinn nodded. "I approve, but you two can't present the map to them. They already know you were faking."
Huval waited. Something about the way Leowinn paused told him that she'd already come up with a solution to their problem.
"I'll give it to them," she said. "This time, Huval and I will be the MSPP."
"But Leowinn, you just defended Collux and me. They know you're on our side. And I'm pretty sure they'll recognize me on sight," Huval said.
"Don't doubt me. I've thought this through. Since there's no precedent for my kind, it's reasonable to believe I could have been turned into an MSPP again. You're right about being recognized, but you'll just have to wear a wig. Trust me, I can convince them if you leave the all the talking to me."
Collux was shaking his head, and Huval felt the same way. This plan was completely ridiculous and relied a lot on factors they couldn't control (not that all Huval's plans weren't like that, but hey, that's probably why they always failed).
"Do you have any better ideas?" Leowinn snapped.
Huval shook his head. "No, and I'm starting to think this isn't a good idea after all. C'mon Collux. Maybe we should just go home."
Collux, for the first time in their friendship, discovered that it was his turn to be the brave one. "Huval, I agree that this plan is completely insane, but you remember what's waiting at home, don't you? A bunch of neighbors with no Neopoints and ransacked homes. If we leave now, we probably won't ever see those MSPPs again, but they'll do exactly what they did to us to the other nearby towns. I think," he choked a bit at those words, "we need to go through with it."
"It's a good thing Collux has some sense," Leowinn grumbled. "Since I risked my livelihood for you two, I'm not letting you leave this forest until you agree to do the same for me."
The two other Poogles glowered at her. Sure, saving their lives had probably ruined hers, but that didn't mean she could hold them hostage. Regardless, Huval agreed going through with the convoluted plan was the right thing to do.
"Fine, I'll do it, but for the record, my plans are way better than this."
Once she was sure they were going to help her, Leowinn led the boys out of the forest and back to their village. "Now, don't take too long, or I'll think you've chickened out on me. Just get the map and return to this spot, okay?"
When they were out of her earshot, Huval said, "Last chance to run for it." Collux glared at him, but Huval just laughed. "Don't worry, I'm just kidding. We're gonna be the best MSPP exterminators in history." Even though Huval said he was kidding, all his instincts were screaming to run. They'd just narrowly escaped with their lives, and they were going back to aggravate the MSPPs again? Huval took one look at Collux's determined face and knew that he'd made up his mind to see it through, and if Collux was going to try this crazy plan, then Huval had to be there for him. Huval had meant it when he'd said he'd help Collux with anything anytime.
It didn't take the pair long to find the treasure map, and thankfully they didn't have to dig through any old rotten left shoes to find it. The map was even more convincing than they remembered. "I can't believe you realized this was a fake," Huval said, "but I'm glad you did. Now we can put it to another use!"
Leowinn managed to tap her foot impatiently despite the fact that she was levitating in midair. "Made the right choice I see. Good for you two. While you were off digging for buried treasure maps, I found a wig for our disguise. Now, come here, Huval, and let me put it on you."
Huval begrudgingly allowed her to put the wig on him. It looked a lot like Leowinn's hair, pink and curly. Collux snickered, but Huval gave him the stink eye.
"There, you're all set. Now, I've procured a boat for the MSPPs to use to sail to the island on your map. Don't ask how. I'm a ghost. I have my ways. The important thing is, we need a way of sinking this boat once they get to the island, so they can't escape." Leowinn let this sit for a minute. Once again, Huval got the impression she knew exactly how to solve this. "Collux, I'll need you to sail the boat to the island. Once they all get off, drop an anchor through the deck and sink it. Since you can levitate, getting back shouldn't be a problem."
"What?" Collux exclaimed. "This is even more ridiculous than the rest of your plan! Aren't they going to notice that the ship is sailing itself anyway?"
Leowinn smiled. "I'll tell them it's haunted. I mean, what else would it be doing abandoned and in the middle of nowhere?" Huval suddenly had an excellent idea of how she had acquired the ship.
Collux crossed his arms, voice shaking. "Why can't you do it? You're a ghost!"
Leowinn smiled regretfully, but Huval figured she wasn't regretful at all. "They would recognize my aura as a ghost and know it was a trick. They haven't met you outside of your disguise with Huval. They might leave you alone."
"Might?" Collux choked, but his fear dissipated with a whisper of "be brave" from Leowinn.
Leowinn pointed Collux towards the ship and watched through the forest until he boarded. Then she turned her attention to Huval. "Ready?" He nodded and felt another mind enter his own.
Leowinn was so adept at summoning the MSPPs, Huval was worried this had been an ambush. The telltale red eyes glowed from behind the trees, and he had to force himself not to run. They wouldn't recognize him. At least, not as himself.
"Leowinn?" Cloezi cried. "What are you doing here? Especially after associating yourself with that nasty plushie."
Why I oughta— Huval thought, but Leowinn shut him up. He felt a wave of her disgust roll over him, confirming that he was a nasty plushie.
"I can't imagine why I would associate with the likes of a plushie. Being zapped by the lab ray makes things fuzzy like that. I can assure you, I am the same Leowinn you remember, and I wish to return to my position in the clan."
A burst of whispers (and some chatter louder than whispers) broke out in the clan. "Silence!" Cloezi yelled. "We have no reason to trust you and certainly no reason to restore you to your former rank."
"She was a better leader than you ever were," cried an MSPP. Cloezi opened her mouth to speak, but she was cut off with more shouts.
Leader? Huval thought. Leowinn used to be like Cloezi? At this point, Huval was pretty convinced that this was in fact an ambush and that instead of trying to clear her forest of MSPPs, she was trying to become their leader again. If I'm going down, she's going down with me, he thought. "I'm not—"
Leowinn forced him to eat his words before he revealed her secret. He put his all into trying to run, but he just couldn't do it. He fought Leowinn. He fought her hard, but frankly, she had done this before and she was simply better at it.
Huval was resigning himself to his fate as the head MSPP when Leowinn brought out the map. "I know that I was led astray from my clan, and for that I am sorry. I come bearing a map to more treasure than we have ever stolen before!"
"She is a liar!" Cloezi cried.
"You had your chance," an MSPP grumbled. "All we ever got from you was spare Neopoints tucked under dirty mattresses. We prospered under Leowinn!"
"You will regret this," Cloezi said before backing into the crowd of MSPPs. She melted into the mob until Huval could no longer distinguish her from any of the others.
Leowinn smiled a perfect MSPP smile, and it seemed to Huval like she wasn't acting. "I've already arranged a ride. Follow me." Leowinn led them through the forest and to the ship. She let the MSPPs board before her, and the ship set sail before she could get on. Thankfully, the MSPPs were too preoccupied with the idea of treasure to notice. Except, Huval thought he saw Cloezi materialize out of the crowd and smile straight at them.
Collux's heart pounded the entire trip, and he constantly thought the sound was an MSPP pounding at the door. Their chatter sounded like snarls, and he jumped occasionally when he thought they said the word wraith. He told himself it was all in his head.
The journey was shorter than he expected, thankfully, but he had dreaded every minute of it. Collux wasn't sure how to tell the MSPPs they'd arrived, but by the sound of it, they were already getting off. Collux waited until he was sure the ship was silent, and he cautiously went above deck. The only MSPPs in sight were excitedly pawing at the sand on the island. Collux found the anchor and raised it in the air as high as he could. He was grateful he could levitate objects or else he wouldn't be able to lift the heavy anchor. He let it drop.
CRASH! The anchor broke through the deck and the ship began to fill with water. Collux looked nervously at the MSPPs to see if they'd spotted him, but they were all too preoccupied digging in the sand. Then he saw Cloezi, standing perfectly still amidst the motion, her red eyes trained unmistakably on him despite the distance between them. Collux fled and never looked back.
When Collux arrived, Huval ruffled the purple flames on his head. "I knew you could do it, buddy!"
Leowinn smiled, and this time it was much warmer, not at all like the smile of an MSPP. "I thank you for clearing my forest of them. Now I can live my days in peace."
Collux and Huval waved as Leowinn disappeared into the forest. As they began their journey home, Collux noticed a flag appearing in the sea, not far from the island they'd marooned the MSPPs on. It bore the unmistakable mark of a skull and crossbones. Collux pointed out the flag to Huval. "You don't think… the treasure map?"
Huval shook his head, laughing. "There's no way. Let's head home."