AN: Alternate retelling of episodes 46-47. I tried my hardest to make it fit into the canon, so the five episodes after it would still be able to work out.

All names used are from the English version, even though I prefer the Japanese. Pairings included are Hunter/Corona with slight Hunter/Aqune and Buguese/Aqune.

Corona could hardly believe what had happened. Hunter was gone, just like that. There was no way that he could’ve been killed though, right? Not her Hunter. Not the one who would never give up. Cliffs had never stopped hum before. Of course, those ones weren’t bottomless.
She wanted to have faith, but it was hard for Corona to remain hopeful. She stared up ahead, at the place where Hunter fell. The girl had managed to convince the other Riders to return to this spot, now that the area was safer. The next step would be to actually go down and look for Hunter. The problem with that was, Corona was afraid of what she might find. Even if there was a bottom, that just meant that Hunter had taken quite a fall, and the cave was far from soft.
“Corona,” she heard someone call, temporarily distracting her worried thought process. It was Igneous. Corona turned around in response.
“Please, try not to worry so much,” requested Igneous. “We will find Hunter.”
“But what if…” Corona started, not wanting to finish the statement. The possibility of Hunter’s death bothered her too much.
“Don’t lose hope,” replied Igneous. He held out the Oracle Key in his hand to Corona.
She took it, looking at it in confusion.
“Take mine too,” said Magma. “I’m sure you can help Hunter more than anyone. We’ll definitely find him.”
“Thank you,” said Corona, holding both keys. They didn’t help much to ease her apprehension though. “Hunter…” she said worriedly.
“Let’s go look for Hunter,” Sparkle suggested. “I’m sure he’s okay, right Uncle Hop?”
“Uh… well…” said Grasshop, not happy to have this question pinned on him. He questioned whether Hunter really had a chance of surviving the fall, but he couldn’t just tell Sparkle that her friend might’ve been killed. “Yeah, I’m sure he is,” he replied.
Yeah,” said Corona. “We have to keep looking. Venus, I need you to help me climb down.”
“Right,” said Venus. “Spider thread!” She unleashed a web, which Corona could grab onto and climb down. The others followed and finally, reached the bottom. So there was one.
“Hunter!” Corona called. “Are you there?!” she received no response though. In fact, Hunter and Shadow were nowhere to be found. It almost would’ve been simpler if they had found a body, be it alive or not, because all they knew now is that Hunter was somewhere else. That would require more searching, though they didn’t really know their way around the labyrinth in the first place. It may have been convenient to split up and continue searching in that manner, but that might mean losing others.

Hunter, of course, was not in the labyrinth at all. He had been taken to Mantid’s citadel by Aqune. Much to the Spider Rider’s surprise, Mantid didn’t seem to be immediately hostile.
“Mantid, why have you done so many terrible things to the Inner World?” Hunter questioned. He believed that this kind of question at least owed a response. Whether or not it was one Hunter would accept was a different matter. While he wished to negotiate with the Invectids and build a better future, he wasn’t sure if they could be forgiven for their past misdeeds.
“It is interesting that you asked this, Hunter Steele,” said Mantid. “I was planning to tell you of our reason. First, however, we must take care of something else. I’d like for you to give me the Oracle Keys.”
“No way,” Hunter exclaimed. “Besides, I still don’t know what you need them for. If you’re planning to conquer the Inner World with them, I won’t just hand them to you.”
“What makes you think I want to conquer the Inner World?” Mantid asked.
“You Invectids are always taking over the villages of innocent people,” replied Hunter.
“A lot of people have gotten hurt or killed in doing this!” Shadow added.
“You’re right,” Mantid said. “We can discuss this manner in more depth, but not here. If you could negotiate more calmly, that would be one thing, but it seems that the two of you can only see the bad we’ve done.”
“We have a right to be angry,” argued Shadow.
“That’s because you haven’t told us the good,” Hunter stated. “If there is any. All you did was ask for the Oracle Keys.”
“I know,” said Mantid. “And until you give me the oracle keys, I will have to keep you locked up. You will be prisoners now, but I promise to treat you well.” Mantid signaled to several guards to enter the room. With their assistance, he led Hunter down a flight of stairs, and into a cold, dimly lit room.
“This is my dungeon,” Mantid stated.
Hunter looked at him angrily, but wasn’t going to protest immediately. He knew he had somewhat of an advantage, due to the fact that he didn’t actually have the Oracle Keys. No matter what Mantid did to him, he couldn’t lose them. This also put him at a great disadvantage though, because if he had to fight (and he really wanted to at this point) he’d be without his greatest weapon.
Mantid’s guards forced the boy and his spider into an empty cell. Because it was fairly cramped, Hunter had to return Shadow to the manacle.
“You are not going to get away with this,” Hunter declared. “I never give up!”
“Well,” said Mantid. “You wanted to know why the oracle Keys are needed by my people, right?”
“I do,” yelled Hunter.
“You may not believe it, but the Invectid land was once beautiful and prosperous. However, now it is barren and cursed to be under an eternal darkness. This was done to us by none other than Spirit Oracle, and for no reason we know of. With the Oracle Keys, we can restore our world.”
“What?” questioned Hunter. “The Oracle destroyed your land? Why should I believe that?”
‘Well, what other reason do you have to describe how ruined our world is?” Mantid questioned. “Think of how the labyrinth looked. The majority of our land is even more abysmal a place than that. Who else do you think would be capable of causing such a change?”
“But the Oracle brings hope to the people of the Inner World,” Hunter replied. “She gave the humans the power to become partners with spiders to fight for this world’s safety. It wouldn’t make sense for her to let half her people suffer.”
“At least you can see why we are angry now, and why we require the Oracle Keys.”
“I still can’t give them to you,” stated Hunter.
“And that is why you’re being kept locked up,” Mantid replied. “I need the remaining two Oracle keys. Until you give them to me, I will not let you free.”
“Fine, keep me locked up if you want,” said Hunter. “I won’t try and escape. But I want you to free Aqune in exchange. I saw her before I was taken here. Are you also keeping her locked up?”
“You are very mistaken if you think Aqune is a prisoner here,” replied Mantid. “She is an Oracle handmaiden who has volunteered her service to us.”
“If she’s really here volunteering her help, then why control her?” Hunter asked.
“A valid argument,” Mantid commented. “She is more reluctant to assist us in battle than she is in providing us with light. If you still don’t belive me though, I could let you see her.”
“Okay,” said Hunter. “Without her mask on,” he added.
Mantid left the Spider Rider, going to find the Oracle handmaiden. He first found Buguese though, who looked quite irritated.
“Great Mantid, why is it that you’ve allowed Hunter Steele into our castle?” Buguese asked.
“It’s simple,” said Mantid. “He has the Oracle Keys. Unfortunately, he still has no intention of giving them to me.”
“Then I will fight him,” Buguese declared. “It may require force for him to give up the Oracle Keys.”
“I’d prefer to keep Hunter Steele alive,” Mantid stated. “Keeping him prisoner might have some use to us.”
“Fine,” said Buguese. “But I would like to see him anyway.”
“I understand,” said Mantid. “Please proceed to the dungeon then. I have to get someone.”
“Yes, Great Mantid,” Buguese responded. He went down the stairs and located Hunter’s cell. He was satisfied to see that it was at least being heavily guarded. He didn’t trust his rival not to come up with some way of escaping. Buguese motioned for the guards to move aside, and stood in front of the cell.
“Hunter Steele,” he began. “So, you are finally at my mercy.”
“I’m not afraid of you!” Hunter shouted.
“While I’m not surprised, you should be,” said Buguese. “I am not allowed to kill you right now, but I will take pleasure in hurting you as much as I can.” He then took out his sword and aimed it at Hunter, through an opening between bars. He shot out a blast of energy, but Hunter jumped out of the way. The walls were sturdy enough that they weren’t too damaged.
Buguese growled at Hunter. “I see you still have the strength to resist me, despite being injured and locked up,” This didn’t surprise him either. It was just disappointing. “Very well then,” he added. “You’re still helpless to do anything now, until Great Mantid lets you free. If your allies are attacked by the creatures within the labyrinth again, they won’t be able to depend on your protection.”
“You’d be surprised,” said Hunter. He still didn’t want to bring up the fact that they were the ones holding the Oracle Keys. Because of this, they would actually be quite capable of defending themselves. He stopped his train of thought, when he saw two figures approaching them in the distance.
“Aqune?” he questioned.
“What?” Buguese questioned, turning and noticing her, as well as Mantid.
“Hunter?” asked Aqune, not expecting to see him. “Buguese, what’s going on?”
“We now have Hunter Steele as our prisoner,” Buguese answered. “Why aren’t you wearing your mask?” Not that he was complaining, but Buguese hadn’t expected to see it removed.
“I don’t know,” stated Aqune. “Mantid bought me down here, because he said that somebody wanted to see me.”
“Yes,” said Hunter. “I did. Aqune, I want you to be free. You can escape now!”
“Hunter, I can’t,” stated Aqune. “I want to help the Invectids, like I want to help everyone else in the Inner World.”
Hunter looked suspiciously at Mantid, even though he had heard this from Aqune beforehand. “You didn’t force her to say that, did you?” he asked.
“He didn’t.” Aqune responded.
“Now that we’ve gotten that cleared up, will you give me the Oracle Keys?” asked Mantid. “If you are still too suspicious of me, which I would understand, why not give them to Aqune?”
“I-” said Hunter, unsure of how to respond. “I’m not giving them up.”
“Then I will force you to,” said Buguese.
“Don’t,” Aqune responded, grabbing his hand before he could make an attack.
“Why shouldn’t I?” he questioned.
“Please,” said Aqune, not being able to think of a reason that Buguese would accept.
“Let me deal with the earthen myself,” Mantid interrupted. “The two of you can settle your personal disputes elsewhere, while I settle mine with Hunter.”
Buguese nodded. “Yes,” he said in acknowledgement. He looked at Aqune in disapproval for a moment, though was more annoyed at hunter and Mantid than he was at her. He pulled her closer to him, so that she would come. While Aqune wanted to see Hunter for longer, she submissively allowed Buguese to take her up the stairs.
“Thanks for not hurting Hunter,” she said.
“I only did it because Mantid ordered me not to,” replied Buguese. He watched Aqune’s expression, seeing that she looked very troubled. “What’s wrong?” he asked her.
“It’s Hunter,” said Aqune. “I want to help him. You can’t keep him locked up here.”
“If this was my decision, I would have done much worse than keep him locked up, my dear,” he replied. “But if you have any ideas as to how to defy Mantid by freeing Hunter Steele, I won’t stop you. At least I may be able to kill him sooner if he’s freed. I just wouldn’t advise it and I certainly won’t help.”
She looked at him pleadingly anyway.

Meanwhile, the Spider Riders continued searching through the labyrinth. There was no sign of Hunter, much less an exit. Corona was becoming even more desperate. The Riders had finally come across a new path, or at least they thought it was new, but it was hard to tell. Suddenly, they heard the sound of something moving.
“Hunter!” Corona called, becoming somewhat hopeful. She didn’t get a response, but saw a figure approaching them. However, it wasn’t Hunter. It was the hero Quake.
“Hero Quake!” Magma exclaimed, running up to him. “We’ve been apart for too long!”
Quake flinched, frightened to see him. “We don’t have time to waste now,” he said. “Hunter is in danger, am I right?”
“Yes,” said Corona. “We can’t find him.”
“I can help with that,” he replied. He used his staff to create a path to the end of the labyrinth. “I believe that Hunter is in Invectid territory.”
Corona looked to him worriedly. “We’ll save him then,” she said.
“Yes, but we can’t be rash,” warned the hero.
“Of course,” Magma said. “It would be foolish not to do as the hero Quake would.”
“Right,” said Quake. He led the Spider Riders through his path, until finally they reached Invectid land.
“Hero Quake, do you think it’s a good idea to just march into mantid’s castle,” Lumen questioned. “It will probably be guarded.”
“That’s true,” said Quake. “But I have other methods.” He then created a portal. “I can’t risk bringing all of you inside. We won’t be staying long, without a better plan. I just want to find Hunter and escape.”
“Let me come,” said Corona. “I have the Oracle Keys, so maybe they can be of help.”
“Alright,” said Quake.
“Please forgive me for questioning your plans, hero Quake, but what about saving Portia and Aqune?” Magma asked.
“That can be dealt with soon,” Quake responded. “But we probably won’t have the time now.”
He entered the portal with Corona, and it closed.

“I’ll admit it,” Hunter said grudgingly. “I do feel bad for you and your people. I’ll do whatever I can to help you, once I have the four Oracle Keys. But the reason I can’t trust you is because you insist on being the one to use them.”
“I see,” said Mantid.
“besides,” Hunter stated. “Even if I wanted to give you the Oracle Keys, I really can’t. I don’t have them in my possession right now.”
“What?!” Mantid yelled.
“Sorry,” Hunter said. “I decided I shouldn’t keep lying to you, if we’re both trying to reach a common goal.”
“That’s fine,” Mantid stated. “But I still can’t let you free. Whoever does hold the Keys can trade them for you.

Corona and Quake appeared in a vacant corridor of the fortress. The hero noticed that Corona’s worry hadn’t faded much. “This shouldn’t take too much longer if we’re not found,” Quake sated. “Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly where Hunter is.”
“Right,” said Corona. They headed down the hall cautiously, but heard voices nearby. “That sounds like Aqune,” she whispered. Looking around the corner carefully, she saw that Aqune was indeed there, talking with Portia. However, Buguese was also there, seemingly keeping a close watch on them. What interested Corona most though (if not also serving to make her a tiny bit jealous) is that her sister seemed to be contemplating ideas to rescue Hunter.
“Why don’t we go and speak to Aqune?” Quake suggested.
“But… what about Buguese?” Corona questioned
“I’ll be able to deal with him,” said Quake. “While I hoped for minimal confrontation, Aqune may be of assistance to us.”
“Okay,” said Corona. She stepped out, revealing herself. “Aqune!” she called.
“Corona?” Aqune questioned, looking shocked. “How did you get here?”
“I had help,” said Corona. “From the hero Quake.”
“Spider Riders!” Buguese said angrily.
“That’s right,” said Corona. “We’ve come to rescue Hunter.”
“Then I’ll have to stop you,” Buguese replied.
“You can’t,” said Aqune. Buguese looked surprised. “You said that you wouldn’t stop me if I found a way to help Hunter.”
“I didn’t mean-” Buguese started to say, but stopped, realizing that Aqune had somehow defeated him. Why did he have to be soft with her? “Fine,” he said.
“Let’s go save Hunter,” said Aqune.
“And you too, right?” Corona asked.
“No,” Aqune replied. “I can’t leave this place yet. It’s complicated.”
Quake was impressed as to how simple that turned out, especially with the knowledge of how much of a handful Buguese could be. Acting quickly, in the hopes that the Invectid wouldn’t change his mind, he took the two girls down to the dungeon, which Aqune had informed him was the place where Hunter was being held.
Once inside, they were opposed by a few guards. Corona and Aqune looked at each other with concern, unsure of what to do.
“We don’t have to fight them,” Quake assured. “Watch this, girls.” He transformed his staff into a large blade. “Sword of surrender!” He used it, crushing the fighting spirit of the guards in their path.
“What was that?” Mantid questioned. “It… can’t be!”
“It is,” said Quake
“The hero Quake?” questioned Hunter, who then looked ahead. “Corona! Aqune!”
“We can have a reunion later,” Quake interrupted. “Aqune, thank you for helping us locate Hunter quickly.” He then used his staff to destroy Hunter’s cell.
Mantid was furious. That is, until he noticed the Keys in Corona’s hand. “Give them to me,” he said, pointing to them. “In exchange for Hunter’s life!” He put one of his pincers up to Hunter’s throat.
Corona was shocked by this. She couldn’t give him the keys, but she definitely couldn’t let Hunter get hurt. “I…” she began, “I can’t let you hurt Hunter!” her Oracle powers then activated. A light emerged, and she, Hunter and Quake were pulled into it, being taken back where they left the others outside the castle.
“Hunter!” Corona exclaimed joyously, once they were safe. She hugged her battle partner for a moment, then let go, blushing madly. She noticed that Hunter was blushing as well. Embarrassed and wanting to change their focus, Corona held out the two Oracle Keys. “Here you go,” she said.
“Thanks Corona,” Hunter replied. “You kept these safe.”
“I was so worried about you,” Corona stated. “If I had to, I would have given the Keys to Mantid for your safety.”
“But you didn’t have to,” said Hunter. “Don’t worry about it.”
“This all turned out surprisingly well,” said Quake. “Now all of us our safe. We are one step closer to putting a stop to Mantid.”

1 Comment so far

Best ever. Loved the end with H/C. You gave me what i wanted…but a little more would’ve been great! When we saw that episode, and were wondering what would happen, i was thinking that for a little while.

Comment by Vicky 05.23.07 @ 4:11 pm

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