Chapter Nineteen- Normal, Redefined

Everything was peaceful at Burgundy Village. The sky was an excellent baby blue, with rolling white clouds. The water from the ocean was beautiful and crystal clear, with sea-green ripples rolling over the different shades of blue. In the middle of the water, toward the shallow embankment just before the sandbank, was the red airship of Gladiator and Chocomuro. The man and chocolate bar stood front-and-center near Max, who was truly unprepared to say goodbye.

"You guys have...truly helped me so much. If I hadn't met you in the chocolate factory," she said, turning to Chocomuro, "or you in the forest," she said to Gladiator, "I wouldn't have made it to my friends in time. Thank you guys so much...I really don't know what to say."

Gladiator folded his arms. "Hey, we all benefitted from this trip. You got to see new sights and get your friends back, and we got to see new sights and insult Dr. D Jay. Above all, it was really fun." Chocomuro smiled, revealing his two golden teeth in his row of white ones.

"Yeah. It reminds me of when I was your age." Max rolled her eyes, then gave both Chocomuro and Gladiator a friendly kiss on the cheek. "Thank you, okay? Do you really have to go, though? You could stay for a little while longer. Kenji and LaCienega wanted to give you guys a proper 'thank you.'"

Chocomuro and Gladiator waved their hands. "Ah, we don't need it. Just tell them that we said hi...and it was a pleasure to meet them. We gotta get going." Max sighed and crossed her arms.

"Hey, it's been fun." She smiled, giving both of them a friendly clap on the shoulder. Chocomuro and Gladiator turned around and walked to the ship, and both of them laughed rather loudly. "Gotcha!" they yelled, smiling. Max rolled her eyes at the joke.

"You mean you guys aren't leaving?" she asked, making the guys laugh harder. Chocomuro clutched his sides, then shook his head. "You thought we were leaving? Heck no, we were only fooling! You think we're gonna pass up a chance to live in a place like this? It's luxurious compared to where we were five years ago!"

Max raised an eyebrow. "Where were you five years ago, again?" Chocomuro leaned over and whispered in her ear. "I think you really don't want to know." Gladiator gave a friendly smile, and gave Chocomuro a friendly punch on the arm.

"What Chocomuro means is, we want to stay here in Burgundy Village with you three. We can build a tower, something classy that stands out. Maybe a gold tower, where we can produce albums and steal the fame from Dr. D Jay." Chocomuro's gold medallions jingled as he walked over to Gladiator.

"Hey, man, make it in the shape of a C. So the world will know exactly who the heck we are." Gladiator and Chocomuro grinned. Max shook her head, walking out of the water. "Comical. Absolutely comical."

Max walked over to the oak tree, only to be stopped by LaCienega. She looked better, her black hair put up in a knot behind her head. On the side of her face was a long bandage, but other than that, she had no apparent injuries. Max smiled, and hugged her friend. "Hey, are you okay?" she asked. LaCienega shrugged one shoulder, her green eyes showing contentment.

"I guess so. Hey, don't tell him I said this, but your friend with the orange hair and the black vest...he's a bit on the handsome side," LaCienega said, resting a finger beside her chin. Max ran a hand through her spiky brown hair.

"You like Gladiator?" she asked. LaCienega shrugged, looking with interest out at the water where Gladiator was goofing around with Chocomuro. "I suppose...anyway, Kenji wanted to talk to you."

Max brightened. "Really? Where is he?" LaCienega pointed over to the boardwalk, where the water was the prettiest at sunset. Max thanked her, and set off through the green grass past the oak tree. She took off her boots and socks, and let her feet sink into the powdery sand that she had grown to love so much. She walked over and climbed up on the dock, where Kenji was standing alone.

"You, uh, wanted to see me?" she asked, her feet thumping slightly on the wood. Kenji turned, and nodded to her. Max approached slowly and sat down beside him, rinsing the sand from her feet. She then stood to her full height, and tried her best to keep from smiling too much.

Kenji smiled, however, leaving Max feeling foolish at having a straight face. "I wanted to thank you...you know, for everything that happened. I also wanted to thank your friends Gladiator and Chocomuro, but they seem to be a bit preoccupied."

Max turned to look at the two guys, who seemed to be wrestling in the water. She saw LaCienega kick off her heels and run daintily to the water, trying to break them up. "They're goofballs," she said, turning back to Kenji.

"I wanted to thank you, too," she said, looking straight at him. "For the information about Otu. If you hadn't pulled me into the room and told me, we all probably wouldn't be here right now." Kenji looked over at the sky, then at his watch.

"It's going to be sunset soon," he exclaimed. "I've heard that it's very nice to watch it from here." Max smiled and came a bit closer to him. She felt a bit nervous when he turned his attention back to her. She felt her mouth go dry, and she looked at the sky to avoid Kenji's eyes.

Kenji sighed. "Max...?" Max turned her head back to him, and blinked. She put her hand over his, and listened. "Do you want to go with me?" At first Max didn't know what he meant, but she let out a cry of surprise when she remembered.

"Oh yeah, the dance...uh, sure," Max said, her ears going red again. "Are you sure LaCienega won't mind?" Kenji shook his head, pointing to the waterfront.

"I think she has another idea," he said, glancing at Gladiator. Max smiled, and hugged Kenji tightly. "Thanks...I will." She pulled away from him, and looked at him momentarily before leaning closer to kiss him. They stood for a brief moment, then broke apart just as the sky began to turn a dark reddish-pink. The tone mixed with orange, and the two best friends stood hand-in-hand to watch, before being joined by the other three.

LaCienega pulled Max by the back of the vest. "Hey, did you just do what it looked like you did?" Max blushed, and waved her hand. Gladiator and Chocomuro continued their wrestling match, and when no one else was looking, she nodded her head. LaCienega let out a noise that sounded like a cross between a squeal of excitement and a cry of shock as she was accidentally splashed with water. Max and Kenji looked at each other and laughed, then hugged again as LaCienega began to complain about the salt water and her new hairstyle.

Max looked at the sky, reflecting back on everything that had happened in the last month. She had made more friends, crossed the country, defeated a villain, fallen in love, and returned to her home in paradise. Gladiator had been right...it was a grand journey. For now, though, she thought, I think I'll just stay the same old Max Parasite...the most far from normal girl in the whole world.