Four hot and tired maids stood in the kitchen, chopping the various vegetables that would soon become a part of that night's dinner stew. They had gathered them an hour prior, and had washed and scrubbed them, taking care to make sure that everything had been rinsed well.
It was while chopping up some mushrooms, Doria came across a bunch that looked rather odder than normal. Instead of the rounded caps that she was used to using as an ingredient, their caps were more flared out – like that weird thing that His Majesty insisted on calling an "umbrella".
"Sangria? These mushrooms look... different. Should I still use them?"
"Will you have enough for the stew without them?" Sangria asked.
"I could stretch it, I suppose," she said, unsurely.
Lasagna and Effie both squinted at the mushrooms. "Just throw them in," they both said.
"I doubt it will matter," Sangria said. "Maybe they got a little too much sun?"
"Very well," Doria said with a shrug. She sliced them, and dropped them over into the stew with the others.
Soon the kitchen was filled with what the maids all agreed was a pleasanter scent than normal.
A group of well-fed people sat around the dinner table, too sluggish to move.
"Man, they really outdid themselves. That was the best stew I've had in ages!" Murata said.
"Perhaps you shouldn't eat so much, you're starting to get a little roll there," Yuuri said, and pinched at Murata's stomach.
For some reason, this was hilarious to everyone, and they all started to chuckle.
"I can't move," Wolfram moaned after the laughter died down.
"Neither can I," Yuuri complained. "Murata, roll us upstairs will you?"
"An unlikely solution to your problem! If anyone's going to be rolled, it's going to be me. Rolled right up on the floor here. Someone bring me a blanket," he said, causing everyone to laugh again.
"I have the giggles tonight," Anissina said.
"So do I, though I think it's because I'm deliriously sleepy. I'm going to turn in early tonight," Conrart said.
"So am I. I seem to be having the same problem," Gwendal said.
"If I could move, I'd do the same," Wolfram said.
"You shouldn't have ate so much, either," Yuuri scolded. "Though, that's the most I've ever seen you eat. You eat like a bird most of the time."
"It was good, I couldn't help myself," Wolfram mock-whined.
"I think I'm going to sleep in the castle tonight. I can't make it anywhere else," Murata said.
"Of all the lazy..." Yuuri started.
"I'll help you to a room, Your Highness," Gwendal said as he stood.
"And I'll help you two as well," Conrart said as he did the same.
"You help Wolfram. I need to check on Greta before I go to bed," Yuuri said. The young girl had come down with something similar to the flu a day prior. Günter had come down with it a week earlier, and had been unable to get out of bed since.
"I hate it when the little ones get sick like that," Anissina said. "I'm working on an experiment that should help her out..."
"I'm pretty sure sleep and light fluids will be more than enough to get her over it," Yuuri said, quickly.
"Goodnight, everyone," the Sage mumbled as Gwendal started to lead him out of the room.
"Goodnight," they chimed together.
"You can sleep in this room tonight, Your Highness," Gwendal said in a tired voice.
Murata, who had briefly slipped into sleep during the walk, shook his head to awaken himself.
"Thanks," he said. He didn't bother to take off his clothing before flopping onto the bed and burying his head into the pillow.
He was about to doze off, but realized that Gwendal was still standing there in the room. "You need something?" he asked, not bothering to open his eyes.
"Yes," Gwendal said.
"And that would be?"
"You, you screwy wabbit!"
Murata shot up in bed, and looked over to where an animated Gwendal stood, a rifle in his hands and dressed in a hunting costume ala Elmer Fudd.
He looked down at his skin, and was horrified to find that he was also animated, and covered in gray fur. He patted his head, and found that he now had two very long rabbit ears. The room started to shift into an animated forest around him, and he was now sitting on a log instead of the comfortable bed he had been on.
"Say your prayers, wabbit!" Gwendal exclaimed.
An extremely-tired Conrart looked down at where his equally-sleepy baby brother was about to fall out of the dining room chair.
"Wolfram, are you ready to go to bed?"
He heard Wolfram mumble something about "coming to bed" and realized that he probably wouldn't be able to be walked to the bed like the Sage had been.
Conrart sighed as he put his hands underneath his brother's underarms, and lifted him to a standing position. As his own eyelids briefly drooped, he wondered if he could even make it with him to the bedroom.
He was startled awake when Wolfram wrapped his hands around his neck, and he stared down into lidded green eyes.
Conrart stiffened, and blinked. In an instant, he was no longer in the dining room, but was outside in a field full of wildflowers. The sky was a vivid blue, and the grass greener than he had ever seen it. He watched as Wolfram's hair grew longer, and he noticed that his own had done so also.
Both he and Wolfram were now naked as well, and Wolfram pulled him closer.
"You know, you're quite sexy when you want to be," Wolfram said, huskily.
Yuuri sat on the edge of Greta's bed, and stared down at his darling daughter, who was sleeping peacefully. He felt her forehead, and was satisfied that she no longer felt as warm as she had earlier that day.
He briefly considered checking in on Günter, but didn't want to cause him to get overly-excited and send him into a sneezing fit.
He yawned as the tiredness that had hit the others started to affect him. He closed his eyes briefly, trying to find the energy to get up off the bed and go to his room.
When he found himself starting to nod off, he shook himself awake. He glanced at the sleeping Greta once more before getting off the bed and making his way to the door.
Just as he was about to open it, he heard a small voice behind him that startled him.
"Yes?" he asked as he turned.
He stared in horror at where his young daughter had been replaced by what looked like an aged version of her.
An extremely aged version.
She wore a white silky ballroom halter-top gown that barely contained her age-spotted, gravity-beaten, elongated boobs – which flopped all over the place. A yellow feather boa was wrapped around her neck, and she had on sunglasses that had diamonds in the frames. An old-fashioned fancy cigarette holder was pursed between her ruby red lips. She puffed on her cigarette, and took the stem of the holder out of her mouth as she exhaled the smoke.
The room shifted from the old bedroom with antique furniture to an movie set that looked like it came straight out of the early twentieth century; even the colors he was seeing were Technicolor.
"I'm ready for my close-up," the elderly Greta said with a creepy, yellow-toothed smile - the wrinkles in her face tripling and becoming a horror all of their own.
"Just a few more hours of work before I go to sleep," Anissina said under her breath as she made her way to her lab. She then yawned, and realized that it might not be possible after all.
"Shoot! And I was almost finished with it as well!" she said, referring to her latest invention. "I guess I'll have to leave it until tomorrow after all."
She turned away, opting to go to her bedroom after all. As she passed Günter's cracked door, she peaked in and saw the man propped up in bed, reading.
"Are you feeling better?" she asked him.
"Much better, though I'll be glad when I can eat good food again!" Günter said.
"You don't know what you missed. The stew tonight was excellent!"
"Don't remind me. I could smell it," he complained. "Instead I had to eat that nasty, thin, okra puree. Ugh," he said, in disgust.
"Ugh, indeed," she agreed. "I'll let you get back to reading," she mumbled. She briefly closed her eyes, and leaned against the frame of the door.
"Anissina," Günter said, gently shaking her. She hadn't realized that he had gotten out of bed.
"I'm sorry," she said, her eyes fluttering open. She stared in horror at Günter, who was now dressed in a uniform of Big Shimaron. The scenery around her shifted from the bedroom to the almost surreal, shadowy hues of King Lanzhil's castle.
"I have captured you finally!" Günter said with glee. "My true King will be delighted with me for finally bringing to him Shin Makoku's most important person! Without your experiments, all is lost and Big Shimaron will rule over everything!"
Wolfram, who had briefly dozed in the dining room chair, felt a pair of hands go underneath his underarms and pull him to a standing position.
His eyes fluttered open, and he looked up at Conrart.
"Wolfram, wake up! You're going to be late for your wedding!" his brother said.
Wolfram blinked and realized that he wasn't in the dining room anymore, but was in his bedroom. He wondered why the colors of his room seemed so drab and dreary.
"Wedding? What? It's today?" he asked, startled. He didn't recall Yuuri setting a date or even acting like he wanted to do so.
"Yes! You're already dressed, come on, let's go!"
He looked down, and sighed in relief. So he wouldn't be the one that had to wear the dress, after all. He couldn't wait to see Yuuri in one, however.
"I can't believe I'm actually getting married to Yuuri," Wolfram said, unable to believe it.
"Silly goose! You aren't getting married to Yuuri!"
Wolfram looked up at Conrart. "Just who the Hell am I marrying if I'm not marrying Yuuri?"
"Why Dakaskos, of course!" his brother said with an elated grin.
Gwendal exited the Sage's temporary room after watching him flop down on the bed. He was beyond tired, and wanted nothing more than to flop down in his own bed in an imitation of Murata.
He passed the dining room on his way to his room, and noted that both of his brothers were curled up on the floor like two idiots. He walked over to them, and bent down to shake them both awake. He felt a little dizzy, and closed his eyes for a few moments.
He opened them, and was horrified to find that their sleeping forms had been replaced with two bloody forms.
The dining room flickered away, revealing what looked to be a battlefield. The air was heavy and the setting sun gave the sky various shades of orange. The three of them were down in a ditch, and he could hear other soldiers fighting beyond their location.
"I've been wounded," Conrart said. Gwendal stared down to where he was holding his torso.
"So have I," Wolfram whispered out. He was bleeding from his shoulder.
"Listen Gwendal, you have to carry on the battle. Don't worry about us," Conrart said.
"We'll be fine, just go on!" Wolfram said. He moaned in pain, and clutched his shoulder.
"How can I leave you two like this? I could never forgive myself!"
"If you don't leave us, we'll lose and they will win! Don't let them win, Gwendal!" Conrart said, forcefully. He gasped in agony.
"Go on, Gwendal, I'll heal him the best I can in this condition," Wolfram said.
Gwendal looked at the two forms one last time before exiting their hiding place. He readied his maryoku, unsheathed his sword, and ran in the direction his men were headed.
He halted upon seeing who his opponents were.
An army... of Bearbees?
"Surrender now, Lord von Voltaire, and we shall go easy on you," the Bearbee-in-command said in a cutesy voice.
"No!" Murata yelled, as Gwendal Fudd shot him in the butt with that wretched rifle.
"No!" Conrart hollered, as Wolfram presented him with their first-born child.
"No!" Yuuri screamed, as elderly Greta took off her bra for her nude scene.
"No!" Anissina cried, as traitorous Günter lopped off the Maou's head with his sword.
"No!" Wolfram shrieked, as his new husband Dakaskos chased him around the room, attempting to consummate their marriage.
"No!" Gwendal gasped, as the cuteness of the Bearbees bound him in place so that he could do nothing as they destroyed his comrades.
All six of them awoke at the same time, their hearts racing as their respective nightmares still ran vivid through their minds.
"I'll never eat stew again!" they declared, simultaneously.
The next day, Anissina stood in the dark, woody area of the garden, staring at where an ingredient of her latest experiment should have been growing.
As Doria was about to pass her, she tapped the girl on the shoulder.
"Do you happen to know where the patch of mushrooms that were growing right there went?"she asked, pointing at the section where she had planted them. "They were slightly different than the other ones, the caps had a flare to them."
She watched as Doria's face reddened. "I'm sorry, but I think they got accidentally used in last night's stew."
Anissina looked at her, and immediately understood. "Well, if anyone asks you, they were just a bad batch. Nothing to do with me, alright?" she coughed.
Doria quickly nodded. "I got you," she said.
Anissina knew that it was one secret that the other woman wouldn't soon reveal. The maids had already been chewed out by several people wondering just what they put in the prior night's stew to cause so many crazy nightmares. Revealing her own part in the matter only guaranteed that she would go harder on them the next time she was forced to take charge in the castle, and they surely didn't want that.
She watched the young woman scurry away, her thoughts on the amusing and absolutely terrifying nightmares that the others had shared with her that morning. She thought of her own, and remembered how evil Günter had looked in it.
She glanced over to where the mushrooms had once thrived. "I declare this experiment a failure," she said, with a slight shudder.