Chapter 8 Page 42
Posted October 13, 2023 at 06:32 pm

This is my third attempt to get this news post to not get eaten by a glitch so excuse me if I keep it short and sweet. Here is the little blue spirit's first appearance, on this page. Please consider supporting Paranatural on Patreon, I quite literally cannot continue this project without your/more support! Thank you very much, and thanks for reading!



        Crush knew the danger he’d be facing if his duel became a full-fledged tag team match. His fight with Ape had taken everything he’d had, and he was too spent for another clash with a combatant of Ape’s caliber. A twinge of punishing regret spread through him—if he hadn’t been ravaged by that Sidesplitter punch, it might have been a different story. Master Guerra was going to be furious when he heard that Crush’s tempering had shattered in a single strike... if he ever got over Crush letting himself get hit in the first place.

        Crush was no stranger to unlikely odds, however—the living students at the dojo could use tools, a feat no ghost but Master Guerra could pull off without getting devoured, and so Crush had honed his Spectral Fist fundamentals to overcome this disadvantage. It was his hard-earned knack for upsets and for reading his opponents that had made him Master Guerra’s third-strongest student, surpassed only by Scabs and Richard Spender. He’d already worked out his next move in this fight.

        Any opponent relying on ambush as a tactic feared his strength. They’d been waiting for the moment that his guard was down—he’d sensed them in the shadows minutes back—because they couldn’t take a hit the same way Ape could. Now that he’d lured them out at last, Crush simply had to spring his ambush first.

        His fist was sailing towards the figure even as his spectral energy restraints were still coiling closer. The cultist—for Crush had glimpsed another skull mask as he spun—would be both bound and bludgeoned in the same split second, before they had a moment to react.

        “Get CRUSHED!!” he shouted.

        Both Crush’s fist and spectral energy passed right through the new arrival.

        “HA! Whoops!” she cackled, halfway phased through Crush’s arm. Her mask was feline, lean and wide-eyed with a grin of slender fangs. “Sorry! Not a spectral!”

        Not a spectral?? Crush thought, reeling. His mind was racing to plan his next move even as his fist retracted. But she sees me—?

        “MY turn, hot stuff!~<3 Special move time!”

        She knows I’m hot stuff! Crush thought. She CAN see me—!

        The cat-masked cultist dipped in close, stealing the space still left between them. Both her fists rose to her face, a fighting stance—

        “Slaphappy Boxing...”

        Crush’s whole body went tense. Some kind of copycat? He couldn’t take another Sidesplitter! Crush thrust off air, flying back out of reach—

        “ SO not my style,” finished the cultist, dropping her stance except for one extended finger. “I prefer CHEAP SHOTS, so let’s tryyy...”

        Crush knew what pointing like that meant: some kind of blasé Frieza beam attack. Shoot, he’d given a ranged fighter all the room she needed to get a bead on him! He had to dodge. The first grunt of a warning burst from Ape—

        “Lifetaker Laser...”

        “...which is THAT GUY’S special move.”

        Crush only saw the tiny spirit hidden in the boughs of the tree behind him as the beam it fired struck him in the back. One last pang of regret spread through him... and then everything went dark.

        THUNK!! Something heavy and shiny fell to the ground, a blur of gleaming bronze and tasteful woodgrain. Its creator leapt from its perch, landed gracefully beside it, and began to grimly survey its power’s handiwork. The spirit had turned Crush into a polished third-place trophy.

        In an instant, the prize was scooped up by the cat-masked cultist, who was doubled over laughing. “AHAHAHA!! Well, THAT was easy!” she cackled. “I’d say I didn’t lift a finger, but HEY—at least that’s ALL I had to do! Haha!” Her eyes caught Ape’s unmasked glare as his shock became resentment, staring at her with grit teeth, blinking back remorseful fury. “Hey, don’t get any IDEAS, champ!” she chastised him. “This trophy’s mine! I stole your kill unfair and square!” Her mask’s grin seemed to stretch in the shadow, an optical illusion. “Plus you’ve got PLENTY of bronze left over from your glory days—isn’t that right... Coach Ape?”

        “DON’T call me that!” snarled Coach Oop, shaking his jowls in disgust. More shards of his mask fell away, and Mister Sun’s tool, Coach Oop’s whistle, jingled like a bell that craved attention.

        “EEP!” the other cultist screeched, cowering behind Crush’s shiny new silhouette. “B-b-but we’re ALONE, Oopsy! What’s the harm in using your real name? Er, your first name IS Coach, right?” She peeked around the corner of the trophy. “Ah!~<3 Unless... you’d prefer I call you darling—”

        “Friggin’ shuddup for ONCE, Cat...!” Coach Oop growled, checking his nose to see if it was broken. He couldn’t even hear himself think. His pet doctopi had slinked back beneath his robes now that the fight was over, and a dull ache had begun to rise up through him. They were close to having eaten their fill of his pain, a first since he’d first trained them to be boxing gloves.

        “Hey, what’s the matter??” Cat asked. She leaned in close. “Aren’t you divorced yet?? You’re already in a secret cult, family man—a little FLIRTING isn’t gonna be what makes your WIFE LEAVE.” The cold bone of Cat’s mask smushed against Coach Oop’s bruised cheek. “C’mon, Oopsy, gimme a victory smooch!~<3”

        With a furious snort, he swatted her away, which jostled her mask loose

        Mayview Middle School’s very own Miss Rose “Disaster” Baxter slipped out of his reach, laughing with a giddy glee she’d never shown in math class

        “AH-hahaHA! You’re flashing your REAL FACE in more ways than one tonight, aren’t you, partner?” Miss Baxter twirled her hair. “Boooo, I like hardened henchman Ape better! Now you’re all flaccid and fussy.”

        Coach Oop’s fingers dug deep into the grass and dirt beneath it. “...You ain’t so pretty under your skull either, toots,” he rumbled, leering. He’d never understood Rose Baxter, never liked her, and he was fed up with the Death Cult. What proof did he have that Razor Rex would ever give him what she’d promised? All he’d earned so far was guilt that he could no longer repress. The ghost was right. Coach Oop wanted out. He eyed the trophy.

        “Liar,” sneered Miss Baxter. She was basking in herself, the night, her element. “Not that I’m desperate for the compliment! After all...”—she pulled her mask down, trading one grin for another—“THIS is my real face.”