The Merry Puppy: ‘It’s so beautiful here! Grumpy, come here, sniff this! They all smell so good!’
The Grumpy Puppy: ‘Please don’t get over excited, okay...? What’s the difference between these and those we’ve seen along our journey?’
The Merry Puppy: ‘They’re not the same! These have distinct aroma; even their colors are different!’
The Grumpy Puppy: ‘Got it, got it. They are different. Satisfied?’
Merry Puppy and Grumpy Puppy had lived together since they were born. They had no family, only each other. To find where they belong and answer the questions in their mind, they had set off on a seemingly endless journey. The puppies once planned to join a tribe that consisted of animals only; yet, during their short stay there, they found their host and themselves do not share interest. Hence, they continued their journey.
Everything in the realm looked strange but interesting to them— flowing water, burning flame, towering trees, sweet-smelling flowers... Merry loved to immerse itself in every experience; that way, it could memorize the feelings by heart, and live them again and again. Grumpy, on the contrary, was a little resistant towards the exploration. The mere presence of Merry Puppy was enough to provide it with satisfaction.
During their journey, encountering different creatures was a common occurrence. Each interaction between the puppies and other creatures would increase their knowledge about this realm...
One day, they happened to see a swarm of interesting but weird creatures that seemed to be formed by the convergence of elements. Tiny in size, they sluggishly moved forward. Merry could not help dashing towards them, wishing to play with them. Yet, its passion had scared off these unique creatures...
The Merry Puppy: ‘Can I play with you?’
Aqueous Slime: Help! Help!
Flaming Slime: Monster! Monster!
The Grumpy Puppy: ‘We are not monsters! Don’t attack us for no reason!’
The Merry Puppy: ‘We are friends. Do you want to play together?’
Blooming Slime: Play together? Friends?
The Merry Puppy: ‘Right! Friends!’
Sensing the amiability of Merry and Grumpy, the slimes started to surround them. They all had fun frolicking. The puppies did not leave the slimes until the sun gradually went down. Once again, they continued their journey.
Nello: Behave yourselves and wait for me here. Got it?
Stroking the puppies’ heads, Nello spoke to them in a stern manner. They were standing on a knoll near the village; the home which they knew so well was already covered in a sea of flames.^ Nello had to return to his house to rescue his aged grandma. It would be a dangerous trip. and Nello did not want his beloved puppies to go with him. Therefore, he asked them to wait for his return.
This would perhaps be a trip of no return. Reluctant to leave Merry Puppy and Grumpy Puppy alone, Nello embraced them and patted their heads before he turned and left for the village. As Nello’s figure shrunk, Merry’s desire to stay beside him grew stronger and stronger. It decided to ignore Nello’s order, and started running after him...
The Grumpy Puppy: ‘Merry! What’re you doing?’
The Merry Puppy: ‘I have to go find Nello! How can we leave him alone? Aren’t we going to stay together forever?’
The Grumpy Puppy: ‘But, Nello asked us to wait here!’
The Grumpy Puppy: ‘If we separate, Nello will be unable to find us when he returns!’
The Merry Puppy: ‘No... Nello needs me. I can feel it!’
The Merry Puppy: ‘No matter what happens, I’ll stay by his side! Wasn’t that our promise?’
The Merry Puppy: ‘Nello... Where’re you?’
Glacier Lizard Warrior: Look! There’re delicacies over there!
Forest Lizard Warrior: What great timing. My belly is growling!
Merry Puppy knew very well that it was no match for the werelizards. Therefore, it carefully avoided them while searching for Nello. The houses started collapsing under the heat of fire; the environment became increasingly dangerous. Yet, Merry was determined to protect Nello and keep its promise; that was what sustained Merry’s courage and willingness to keep going. Just then, the call which it was longing for sounded behind it...
Nello: Merry? What’re you doing here?
It finally saw Nello. Unable to hide its excitement, Merry dashed into his arms. Nello caught it tightly; he was so touched that tears ran down his cheeks and dripped onto Merry’s body. Merry thought that Nello’s crying was out of fear, and hurriedly licked his face to comfort him.
Nello: We better leave now. Otherwise, we would get into trouble if those Demons found us.
Nello carefully supported his grandma while she limped along; Merry scouted ahead to ensure their safety. They had to endure much hardship to leave the village. Afterwards, an injury to Nello compelled them to journey to yet another town to treat his injury. Throughout the trip, he missed Grumpy Puppy. Sleeplessness brought on by worry plagued him and thoughts of Grumpy being battered by winds and rain was overwhelming.
When his injury lessened, he hurriedly set off with Merry Puppy to the knoll where he and the puppies had promised to meet. Yet by then, there was already no sign of Grumpy Puppy...
Nello and Merry had set off on a journey to look for Grumpy since the day they found it wasn’t there on the knoll. Holding a portrait of Grumpy drawn by Nello, they travelled across myriad places, asked different people about it and searched in every corner of the realm; yet, they still could not find any clue...
Nello: Grumpy is not here either...?
Nello crossed off an area on his map as he said... Though he was often dissuaded from continuing, Nello disregarded everything they said, and insisted upon finding Grumpy Puppy. Every time his thoughts drifted back to how cute but scared Grumpy looked when thunder left it shivering, Nello would be more determined in his decision to find Grumpy. After that, they could return home together, ending Grumpy’s lonely wait.
Every time when Nello was discouraged from being unable to find Grumpy Puppy this whole time, Merry walked to his side, lightly touching his hand with its nose. Its heartfelt expression encouraged him. Embracing the puppy, he muttered seemingly telling himself and Merry:
Nello: Right... We cannot give up like this.
At that time, the sound of quick and numerous footsteps emanated from the woods. Detecting the intense maliciousness, Merry Puppy recognized that the approaching party did not come in peace. Humans were too fragile to survive in this realm, for a slightest mistake could take away their lives. To protect Nello, Merry Puppy immediately dashed ahead of Nello and growled towards the source of the footsteps — it was ready for battle at any time.
Gnome Bonecrusher: A team comprised of a Human and his pet dog? That’s hilarious!
Gnome Slasher: Seems like we won't need to think about what we want for dinner!
The Merry Puppy: ‘Don’t you dare! I will not let anyone hurt Nello!’
Merry fought as hard as it could against the gnomes, but it was greatly outnumbered. Suddenly, Grumpy leapt out from the bush at the gnomes, and drove them away. Nello and Merry were overwhelmed with joy at the sight. However, Grumpy was staring at them with bared teeth before charging at them.
The Grumpy Puppy: ‘Humph! Stop faking it, I won’t get fooled again!’
The Merry Puppy: ‘Grumpy, wake up! You don’t remember us?’
The Grumpy Puppy: ‘How could I possibly forget you...! It is the two of you who abandoned me!’
The Grumpy Puppy: ‘Do you know how I felt as I waited there for you two to return? It was one disappointment after another...’
The Grumpy Puppy: ‘I’ve been... I’ve been waiting there for so long!’
The Merry Puppy: ‘Nello was hurt at that time, and he had to recover before he could come for you.’
The Merry Puppy: ‘Once he got better, he brought me along to search for you! It’s just...’
The Merry Puppy: ‘...that there was no sign of you at that knoll. Since then, we’ve been roaming across numerous towns to look for you!’
The Grumpy Puppy: ‘Really...?’
Grumpy Puppy’s eyes softened, while the strange mystical power exuding from it gradually dispersed. At that moment, Nello approached it. He squatted down and embraced Grumpy Puppy, said...
Nello: Sorry... I didn’t come at once to pick you up. It’s all my fault! You were forced to live by yourself for so long...
Tears were running down from their eyes. Merry Puppy walked to their side; Nello pulled it into his arms as well. Merry and Grumpy licked on his cheeks at the same time. Nello could not help laughing out. Their laughter rung across the forest and broke the silence. They could finally put an end to their long suffering — none of them would be lonely anymore.
Since they found Grumpy, Nello with his two dogs continued their journey. They set a goal of travelling around the realm: passing by every corner; exploring to their heart’s desire; broadening their view. They travelled from the countries in the west to those in the east. One day, they arrived at a village in where the people were all living in trepidation...
Nello: Excuse me, how could I go to the next town?
Elderly Villager: You just have to walk along this river, and you will arrive there in two or three days.
Nello: It would take another two or three days?! I heard that the town is celebrating a festival though!
Elderly Villager: You can take the shortcut by crossing over this hill. But...
Elderly Villager: A man-eating fiend couple lives up there!
Elderly Villager: If I were you, I would not go there.
Bringing Merry and Grumpy along with him, Nello came to the foot of the hill in where the fiend couple supposedly lived. Nello was hesitant, as the villager’s warning surfaced in his mind. The dogs soon sensed waves of maliciousness and immense mystical power. They barked and charged uphill...
Nello: Merry! Grumpy! Wait!
Myoudouki the Shikigami: What on earth are you? You’re exuding repellent mystical power!
The Komainu of Fortune: ‘So you’re that man-eating fiend the villagers have been talking about?’
The Komainu of Retribution: ‘Your sins are unforgivable! Life is important and priceless!’
Zendouki the Shikigami: Darn beast! You dare hurt my husband?
Zendouki the Shikigami: I won’t go easy on you!
The fiend couple were confined to the hill by the inherent mystical power of Merry and Grumpy. As a result, Merry suddenly realized the difference between them and other animals — they possessed mystical power which allowed them to restrict evil creatures’ movement.
If each life in the realm has its own value and purpose, then perhaps for the dogs, it would be to protect the masses from evil’s harm. That is the true value of the dogs, and their purpose in this realm.
At that moment, they heard Nello’ s voice from behind...
Nello: I finally found you! Why did you two suddenly run off? It’s so dangerous!
It was not until Nello calmed himself down did he notice the injured fiend couple, panickedly attempting to sneak away.
Nello: Did the two of you defeat them? Terrific!
Nello exclaimed with excitement; yet, Merry and Grumpy did not act as they would in the past — they used to immediately fling themselves at Nello, cuddle in his embrace and await his compliments.
Merry Puppy and Grumpy Puppy just stood there looking at each other. In the silence, only the exasperated exhaling remained. After they had exchanged eye contact, Grumpy lowered its head down and faced away. Finding it difficult to take the first step, Merry haltingly approached Nello.
With its head lowered, it slowly walked towards Nello, while avoiding eye contact. Nello took a deep breath, and said in a choked voice...
Nello: What’s it? Are you too old to want to be held?
Nello: When did you grow so big, Merry? Come on! Give me a hug, just like before...
Memories flooded back into their mind frame by frame like a recording , as if all they experienced together had just happened yesterday. Merry took a few steps back before flinging itself at Nello. It was no longer as tiny as it had been as a puppy. Nello was no longer able to put its arm around it; all he could do was hold it from the side...
Nello: You two want to stay here, right? You finally found your mission, didn’t you?
Merry rubbed its head against Nello in a display of affection. Originally, Grumpy and it had journeyed in search of both the difference between them and other animals, and also where they belonged. They never thought that their mission would compel them to part with Nello — their favorite companion, with whom they belonged.
Reluctant to leave the dogs, Nello once again patted on Merry’s back; holding back his tears, he said in a hoarse voice...
Nello: It’s okay. I understand! It’s just...
Nello: Promise me. Live your life to the fullest, no matter what happens in the future.
Nello: Someday we’ll see one another again. It’s our perpetual promise.
Merry, Grumpy and Nello crossed the hill together. Before leaving, Nello gently stroked their heads again and gave a little smile before walking away. They did not say goodbye, for they believed their separation would only be temporary. Some day, they would meet again...