Faithful (and doting!) assistant LiarXAgerate here, with a long-awaited chapter excerpt. Warning: I’m about to screw with your mental image of EarthBound’s shyest characters something fierce. On a scale of one to ten, with one being “Harry Potter’s chapter illustrations made Snape look a little more like a pirate than I thought he would”, five being “I just watched Sorcerer’s Stone and I could have sworn her name was pronounced Her-me-own”, and ten being, hypothetically, “Wait, Harry Potter chain-smokes and is also an unrepentant racist?”, this is a fifteen.
You know the Tenda—about yay tall, green, sticks for arms, hate talking. Saori Kumi, on the other hand, saw them as an opportunity to anticipate that weird Japanese hyper-real-videogame-character meme by about ten years.
Because while you may think of Tenda as a race whose existence is predicated on firing Chekhov’s Library and looking like plushies before Fangamer even got to them—a race so cute that their name, in Japan, evokes gummy bears, fruit snacks, and other things you might find packed next to the note in your elementary-school lunchbox—Saori Kumi has different ideas.
Saori Kumi thinks they look like tiny, creepy men.
Take a trip with me to the area just past Tenda Village, nestled deep within the Uncanny Valley.
The hallways finally opened up into a remarkably large room. Poo was already inside with a group of small people with heads sharpened into a point like a chestnut. Both men and women were garbed in simple, primitive fabrics woven from tree bark. Their black hair, dangling down to their shoulders, looked wet and shiny and was pulled together in the back. None of the people had any facial hair, but their feet looked strong and muscular.
Wet hair, muscular feet, sharpened heads, shut up shut up shut up!!!!!
Among all of them was a single elder with a white necklace of bones draped around his neck. Well, wrinkles from prolonged exposure to the sun might give a person the appearance of an old person, but his hair was also thin and frizzy, although still an elegant jet black. His posture was also still impeccable. A dignified expression graced his face, so he was probably the elder-role in the community, at least.
Saori Kumi won’t shut up with all these physical details—I can’t stop thinking about their strong feet, ughhhhhh—but the Menda, as is their way, won’t start talking.
Welcome, Ness. We are the Tenda tribe.
A stern voice—no, a thought that felt like a voice—echoed clear as day through his head!
Angry, we are not. We are mute. We hold not words with sounds.
“Telepathy!” Paula cried. “These guys are sending telepathic signals!”
Of all the people on earth Paula should actually find this the least exciting. But after she breaks their years-long silence by telling them something they already know—right into their muscular ears—the Tenda are given a dose of Kumi backstory. Exposition dump:
For tens of thousands of years, Tendas have lived across every corner of this jungle called the Underworld. They lived a quiet and peaceful life… However, one day their land was invaded by outsiders who, to the Tenda, were a deafening group, yakking incessantly.
The Tenda tribe hated fights, but they would not just be driven out from their own homes. They had no choice but to learn the language of the enemy. First they had to practice pronunciation, which in itself was an incredibly daunting task. After all, the Tendas were the kind of people who would even snore via telepathy!
Eventually they managed to interpret; at that point they quietly suggested everyone respect the interests of one another. For the Tenda that was a given. The enemy, too, nodded at the advice. Yes, you’re quite right, they said. But actually, those villains had told a flat-out lie. They spoke sweet words to the Tendas, and smiled as they offered their friendship to the tribe, but all the while their hearts cackled as they thought to themselves, Look at you chumps! We’ll wipe your stupid race off the planet!
Kicking, punching, hitting, looting. They envisioned these scenes of violence in their imaginations—wouldn’t you know it, they were actually looking forward to it!
Now then, these violence-loving enemies, naturally, had no idea that every single sly thought in their minds was leaking right to the Tenda tribe. Had they known, they would have flown off the handle even more. And the Tenda tribe would have received a shock like a violent slap across the cheek.
But the Tenda tribe had already forfeited before the battle had begun. Either way, the outcome was clear for these creatures who were not only unwilling to hurt another being, but could feel the pain inflicted upon others—even a group of people who actively sought out violence.
It was sad, but they ran away. They left the forest and went into hiding. The enemies, having gotten excited about wiping out the tribe in a sweeping war, set out on a furious search for the creatures. It was impossible, though, for them to sneak up on the telepaths.
The enemies snapped into a fit of rage at the sudden disappearances; their trifling arguments escalated into heated fights until finally they turned on one another, punching and gnashing about until they eventually killed each other. Hundreds of lives were lost, all in vain. Hundreds of children lost their parents, hundreds of wives lost their husbands, and hundreds of parents lost their children.
The wails and cries of despair filled the entire forest. The kind-hearted Tenda were greatly affected by this and fell into a deep despair that emptied their hearts. They descended further into hiding. Never again would they be caught up in the affairs of anyone else. Never again would they be seen by another creature…
Until Paula said, “Hey, you guys!!! You’re mind-readers!!!”
I can’t blame her for ruining the poignant moment, though; I, too, get talky when I’m thrown into a situation with terrifying, pseudoreal homuculi. Especially when I was told they were going to be adorable.