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Part 5 -- Inside Henchmen Tryouts Gym. Shrek couldn’t believe it, but somehow he managed to stagger Bowser. One last punch to the big oaf's snout was enough to send him backwards into the wrestling ring ropes and rebound to the mat. The crowd, full of wannabe henchmen, had finally turned against him and cheered ‘Ogre! Ogre! Ogre!’. Their excitement was palpable. Shrek could feel their energy and it made the pain in his knuckles and face lessen. He roared to the crowd, feeding off their energy and made their cheers grow louder. He saw Bowser move out of the corner of his eye, beginning to rouse. “Oh no you don’t,” said Shrek as he reached for his opponent’s leg. In seconds, he had him locked into a one-legged Boston crab. The big turtle howled in pain as he clawed at the mat, trying desperately to reach the ropes to give himself leverage and break the hold. But Shrek’s grip was firm and held him in place. "Ya like that ya big--" He started to mock until Bowser pushed up off the mat. The strength surprised him. He had more in the tank than he was letting on. So Shrek focused, tightening his hold and sat down to increase the pressure. The strain was too much however, and he broke wind. The fart carried with it a green mist that wafted under Bowser’s nose. The big oaf went limp. He dropped back to the mat, wheezing and coughing. "Oh please noooo! The smell! Make it stop!" Shrek let go of the hold and watched the big guy roll around the mat in agony. "You just got Shrek’d!” He said then laughed. He turned to face the crowd who weren’t amused, just disgusted. “Get it? Shrek’d? Oh, nevermind.” He waved them off as Bowser managed to crawl to the corner of the ring. “So, are we done now?” Shrek asked. "Yes!" Said Bowser, breathing out of his mouth. "Well then," Shrek wiped his hands clean and dusted off his shabby vest. "Looks like you're paying for my way home." There was a long pause between them, then Bowser picked himself up to his knees and buried his face in his hands. Shrek heard the sound of whimpering. "Oh. Are… you crying? Oh come on. There's no crying in wrestling!" Well now I feel bad. He placed a hand on the big oaf’s shoulder. "Look buddy, you're a tough guy. Don’t let this get ya down. Come on, people are watching.” Shrek pointed out the crowd to Bowser, whose expression seemed like he hadn’t realized they were even there. “I’m sure they’re still afraid of ya, too.” He added encouragingly. "You really think so?" Bowser said, wiping away his tears. He didn’t see Shrek cringe when he replied, "Yeaaah. And you know what I bet they respect you too." "Really?" Bowser’s demeanor started to brighten up. “Yeah. So, how about you keep your word like the respectable, terrifying turtle you are and send me on my way?” "My word? Oh--" Bowser let himself be helped to his feet. "I need to get back to my swamp and I got to pay to use one of those portal… things." Shrek said. "But,” Bowser gave him a wide-eyed look. “You'd make such a great henchmen. Why leave when you could work for me!?" Shrek put his hand up, rejecting the idea. "I don’t work for anyone other than me and my own. So if you could please--" "But, I have no money…" Bowser admitted. Shrek couldn’t believe what he just heard. Did he really have no money? Looking at the crowd of would-be grunts, they didn’t seem too surprised by this revelation. Why do all of this if he didn’t have money in the first place? He exhaled in frustration, “Oh come on! You have to be kidding me? All of that fighting and you were just bluffing?” Bowser placed his hand on Shrek’s shoulder this time, “Look, I didn’t expect anyone to actually beat me. I was just recruiting for a big job I have here in Verse City. The money was going to come after. But I understand, you want to go home. I can help.” “Forgive me for not exactly believing you.” Shrek removed the hand. “And you could have started with that.” Bowser waved for him to follow outside the ring. “All my riches are back home in the Mushroom Kingdom. There, we use what is called warp pipes. That’s how I traveled here. They work better than those over-priced portals out on the street anyway.” “And it can take me back to my swamp?” Shrek asked. “Yes,” came the reply. He considered this. It sounded far fetched, but he didn’t have much choice in the matter. This was his best shot at getting home. The audience parted as the two exited the gym. They walked through double doors, following down winding hallways until they reached another door. This one was guarded by several little people made up of only faces and feet. Shrek thought they looked like mushrooms. With a flick of Bowser’s wrist, the guards open the door and move aside for them to enter. Shrek followed him into what looked to be some kind of underground cellar that was being used as a base of operations. It was big and spacious, with more of those mushroom guards wandering around. Shrek immediately saw the pipe. It was a large green tunnel sticking straight out of the floor. “Portals in and out of Verse City are controlled by the city.” The big oaf explained. “This one is mine and they don’t know about it. I’d like to keep it that way.” “Sure but... I’m just supposed to slide down this pipe?” Shrek asked, inspecting the pipe closely. Bowser leaned up against the pipe like he was cool and wasn’t just crying like a child minutes ago. “Like you said, I keep my word.” Shrek gave him another disbelieving glare, “How about you go first? I’m pipe shy.” “Fine. Let me show you.” Bowser agreed as he jumped on top of the pipe then slid down. After a couple of seconds, the ogre followed. He couldn’t explain the strange sensation that came with traveling between worlds, he only knew that it seemed both instantaneous and perpetual. When he came out the other side, Shrek found that he was not back in his swamp. This world was colorful and filled with castles and fluffy clouds and mushrooms and bricks and-- CHOMP! “AAAHH!” Shrek shrieked in pain. A potted plant now attached to his arm with sharp teeth. He tried to yank it off but he couldn’t get a good grip on the thing. It was alive, this piranha plant. Shrek fell to his knees but not before seeing Bowser standing over him, wearing the biggest grin on his face. “Haha! You're a bigger fool than that plumber! I never keep my word!” Bowser’s foot connected with Shrek’s jaw. A blow strong enough to send the piranha plant across the floor and put Shrek down for good. The last thing he’d see was Bowser walking back through the pipe. “Good luck getting home, loser!” ___________________________________ “Hey!” A voice cut through the dark of unconsciousness. “Hey, Vern!” “Ya best be getting on up now!” the voice shouted again.. Light finally caught Shrek’s eyes. He awoke with his head and arm throbbing. Standing over him where that bastard Bowser used to be was now a gangly human with an incredibly stretchy face and big eyes. “Come on, Vern! We need to get outta here, ya hear?” “Where am I?” Shrek asked, sitting up to rub his head. He quickly noticed they were in the world that Bowser led him too. “I’ll tell ya later. First, ma name’s Ernest P. Worrell. It’s a pleasure to meet ya. Second, we’re sittin’ ducks if we don’t high tail it outta here!” “What do you mean?” Shrek asked. Ernest turned around to show the ogre just what he meant. In the distance, those little mushroom people were racing toward them. “They won’t stop chasing me, Vern!” Realizing the danger, Shrek jumped to his feet. He felt flush for a moment but recovered. His jaw was sore but intact. And his arm was stiff but he could move it fine. Looks like this Ernest bandaged him up while he was out. Looking around, the pipe was gone. No way back home. Or back to Verse City. This was turning into another shitty adventure, wasn’t it? “We find shelter… there.” Shrek pointed out the castle far past the oncoming enemies. “Oh but, that’s so far away.” Ernest said. “Trust me. We want to go to the castle. It’s how you finish a quest. Come on, fella.” Shrek said, leading the way toward the castle. ____________________