Chapter 1:

Chapter One

Henry Rider and the NuYu Prescription

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Chapter One

"Sticky Mickey. The Rhombus. Pie Master Supreme of the Manure Nebula."

I paused to shovel a spoonful of Chocolate Frosted Cocobutts (with marshmallow turds) into my mouth. The crunch sounded like a fat guy in rubber boots walking through a swamp made of potato salad.

My name is Henry Rider, but you might know me better as the Maiam Hunter, the Blue Haired Butcher, the Clown Crusher, or, if you live in a small town somewhere in Iowa, the Bare-Butted Land Squid.

I…don't like to talk about that one.

"Donkeyface McScuttlebutt the Sixteenth," I went on. "Chicken Skittles. He Who Must Not Be Shaved. Larry."

Picking up my bowl, I drank everything that was left with a magnificently irritating SLURRRRRP, and then slammed it triumphantly back down on the table. Then, after letting out an award winning burp, I looked across the table to see what Ethan thought of the terrible nicknames I'd been suggesting.

But he wasn't even listening to me.

“I dunno,” he said, absentmindedly stirring his corn flakes with his spoon, “I’ve just never been into sports. What about you?”

“I totally understand. Today’s sports are so boring,” answered the violet-eyed girl sitting beside him. Her dark hair fell to cover her right eye, but the way her left eye rolled was unmistakable. “One of my old masters always went to the gladiator fights, and I would watch from inside my core. Now that was exciting!”

Ethan blinked. “Gladiators? As in, from ancient Rome?”

“I told you, I’m older than I look,” Jade said with a smirk. “Would you believe me if I said I’ve ridden on the backs of dinosaurs?”

“I don’t…” he paused. “Have you really?”

“Ex-CUSE me,” I interrupted. “I am trying to do something important here!”

Ethan turned to give me a blank look, as if he’d completely forgotten I was there. “Huh? You are?”

Beneath the table, I clenched my spoon hard enough to bend it in half.

Easy, easy, I thought to myself. This is good. This is what you wanted to happen.

That was true, but watching Ethan make googoo eyes at Jade still curdled my girdles. Yes, I had pushed Ethan and Jade to grow closer. Yes, I had hoped that they could help each other out of their shells. Yes, I should have been happy that that was exactly what had happened.

But that was before I'd fallen in love with Ethan myself.

Why can't you look at me that way? I thought glumly as Ethan went back to his conversation with Jade. Sure, Jade is beautiful, smart, funny, and a freaking genie, but what does she have that I don't?

You know, besides all the stuff I just listed?

I looked down at my empty bowl so that he wouldn't see my cheeks turn as blue as my hair.

"So, Ethan," Jade spoke up a minute later, "Have you thought about what your second wish is going to be?"

I perked up a little at that, and tuned back into their conversation again. It had been two months since he'd become Jade's master and used his first wish to keep me…well, Legion wearing my body…from murdering the Council of Shnoob.

He nervously cleared his throat. "I, uh…no, I haven't. Am I on, like, a time limit or something?"

Jade shook her head. "No, nothing like that. I've just never had a master go so long without making a wish."

"Don't call me that!" Ethan snapped, and then cringed. "Sorry. But you know I hate it when you call me your master. It sounds like I own you or something. So please, stop."

"Is that a wish?" she asked with a smirk.

"No, it's a threat." Ethan grinned back at her. "Because if you don't, I'll flush your necklace down the toilet."

Jade laughed. "You wouldn't dare!"

And just like that, I’d been forgotten again.

There's still one thing you can do to get his attention, the voice in my head whispered.


Trying to act natural, I leaned forward in my seat and focused all of my attention on Ethan. Then I…did something I’m really bad at explaining. You know how you can make your vision blurry just by flexing a certain muscle in your eyeballs? It's kind of like that, except that instead of turning everything fuzzy, I see inside whoever I'm looking at—specifically, into their sense of humor.

Images started to appear around him. Most of them were fuzzy, like I was watching a tv that could only pick up half a signal, but every once in a while they would solidify into something I could make out. There was Backfire, the superhero he sometimes drew comics about. I saw my friend Aesop being kicked by a horse. And, for a split second, I thought I saw me in there, doing a…

Actually, you know what? Let’s forget that one.

What I didn’t get was anything I could use to make him laugh. Maybe I just didn’t know how to use my new power yet. Maybe the trauma of seeing his parents die had messed up his sense of humor too much. Or maybe Ethan’s laughter hadn’t healed me as much as I’d thought, and I was overclocking my poor brain like a cheap laptop with a billion internet tabs open. Whatever it was, seeing bits and pieces of things he thought were funny wasn’t enough. I still had to figure out how to turn those things into a joke, like how a blacksmith takes a bunch of little rocks and hammers them into a sword. At least, I think that’s how it works. I haven’t really done much research into blacksmithing, if you can believe it.

Luckily, I was saved from actually having to think when the doorbell rang. My head immediately swiveled to look into the living room, my heart skipping a beat, and I saw an envelope get pushed through the mail slot—the mail slot that only existed on the inside of our door. It fell to the floor, and Ethan and I shared a look.

Yeah, now he remembers I’m here, I thought.

“Henry,” my mom called from down the hall, “is someone at the door?”

I swallowed. “No, Mom, it’s just an assignment.”

I went and got the letter, opening it as I made my way to the kitchen. McGus, the council’s old Maiam Hunter, had gotten clobbered two months ago (by me) and taken out of commission. He was alive, thank the whoopie cushion in the sky, but even his doctors didn’t know if he would ever be able to walk again, much less fight. He had named me Acting Hunter—and a few other less nice things—in his absence and I’d come home that night to find his mail slot on my door.

“What’ve we got?” Ethan asked.

I wadded up the letter and threw it, scoring a hit on Ethan’s forehead. “Same as always: trouble. Let’s go.”

“You haven’t lost the Cube, have you?”

I frowned. “Of course I haven’t! I keep it in the safest place in the whole house!”

“And where’s that?” Ethan asked skeptically.

“In my…” I paused, then scowled at him. “If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore, would it?”

"It's in your underwear drawer, isn't it?"

My mouth snapped shut and I glowered at him before turning and racing upstairs to my room.

"It's in your underwear drawer," I mimicked him as I opened my, um, high tech security safe that's disguised to look like a common underwear drawer. The fact that I also kept my underwear in there helped further the illusion.

With the Escher Cube in my pocket, my Nasally Operated Semblance Emitter on my face, and my trusty warhammer/ping pong paddle Splatsy hanging from my belt, I stepped back into the hallway just in time to see Ethan emerge from his own room, armed with his crystal spellhammer. Jade was waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs.

"Ready to maim some maiams?" I asked.

He smirked. "Always."

We went downstairs, and I held the Escher Cube in both hands, ready to—

"Henry?" my mom called again.

Footsteps. She was coming this way! I looked at Jade, but before I could say anything, she dematerialized into a beam of bright green energy and whooshed into the gem that hung around Ethan's neck. And not a moment too soon, either.

"Henry," Mom said again, appearing in the living room door. Her skin was as pasty white as mine, but her vibrant purple hair was as different from my blue as anything could be. "When you're done, could you run to the pharmacy?"

My eyes widened a little. "By pharmacy, do you mean…"

"Yes, the pharmacy. Con just called to say he's coming home for a visit. He should be here sometime tonight."

"Con?" Ethan echoed. "As in, your brother?"

"Adopted brother, technically,” I said. "But technicalities are for nerds."

"The brother whose room I've been sleeping in for half a year now?"

"That's the one!"

Unease flickered on Ethan's face. "The brother whose room is filled with skulls, bats, and scary movie posters?"

"I'll swing past New You on the way back, Mom," I said. "We’ve gotta go now, though."

"Henry, what's New You?" Ethan asked.

"Fart at ya later!"

"Don't ignore me! What—"

I twisted the Escher Cube, and we vanished in a flash of light.

Next Chapter: 2/17/24