I'm just gonna come right out and say it. I hates me some shoppin. I hate everything about the shopping experience. I hate drivin all the way over to the Wal-Mart in the next town (which I gotta go to because of my aforementioned troubles). I hate walkin in and havin some guy who looks like an unwrapped mummy and smells like a truck carryin Vick's crashed into a truck carryin cream cheese tries to say hi to one last person before shufflin off this mortal coil. I hate seein roughly eight metric tons of back fat wanderin around stuffed into a half ounce of tank top. I hate how they're always tryin to reorganize everything so it's easier to find. I just wanna scream at Mr. Wal "Hey, doofus! Thing'd be a lot easier to find if ya quit movin 'em all over hither and yon."
A couple months ago, I went to get myself some toothpaste and they had it next to the candy aisle, which I thought was a pretty good lesson for the kids. But then, I went back in there a couple weeks ago and it was almost within reaching distance of the angry tentacle beasts. First, I had to wander all over the store to heck and back to find where it was, then I had to go into the garden center to grab myself a shovel with which to fend off the unwanted touch of them accursed pseudopods. Then, I had to get myself a plastic sandwich bag or a glove or something to pick up the toothpaste so the acid from the tentacle beasts' spit didn't eat right through my hand. I decided to use the sandwich bag. But, just as I was pullin the bag outta the box, this employee came around the corner and started tellin me that I was stealin and I had to buy that whole box of bags now even though I already had about a hundred boxes at home from when Douggy was tryin to make himself a floaty suit for the pool. But that's neither here nor there, just so long as you know I warn't wanderin in there ever intendin to buy me no sandwich bags. But I sure as heck walked out with some. That and they charged me for the tentacle beast that I had to whack in the head with the shovel because he was gettin a mite close to the Crest. And then they had the gall to charge me for the shovel, as if it was my fault that the blade dissolved after it met tentacle beast face. In the end, I went in for toothpaste and came out with a shovel handle, a box of sandwich bags I didn't need and a dead tentacle beast in a plastic bag. In all the excitement, I'd forgotten to buy the toothpaste and so I still ended up brushin my teeth with baking soda for the next week.
I'm just tellin ya all this so that when I say that Haruki's collectin everything on his shoppin list what the Grimoire of Necrography gave him sounds to me like the worst thing that could happen to a guy, you'll be able to keep it in perspective and not go yellin about how he coulda been devoured by a Sarlak or somethin stupid like that. I know that it might be a touch more painful to get digested for a thousand years in the belly of a sand worm, I ain't stupid. But it still wouldn't match the sheer frustration of findin some of the stuff that Hatayama kid had to find to help out his pinball wizard friend.
I mean, sure, the first stuff was easy and he just had to pop on down to the seven-eleven or the eight-twelve or the thirty six-twenty four-thirty six or whatever convenience store they had on his crazy planet. He could just go on down there and pick up all the coffee and gummy worms and actual worms and dried newt's eyes that he needed. Plus he coulda picked himself up a Powerball ticket while he was at it. I know, I know. He was super rich and inherited his dad's crazy big pile of money when his dad ran off, but it's still nice to win somethin once in awhile.
His first big problem was in findin the, ahem, privates of a turtle what had killed a man. He looked all over high and low for that thing. He musta been in and out of a thousand stores and weird medicine shops. He saw enough turtle privates to last a normal person a lifetime, but none were labeled as to whether they'd been attached to a man-killer or not.
He was gettin mighty despondent and started considerin himself a different career path. In that spirit, he bought a self-help book that urged him to "think outside the box" and "solve problems creatively". It was really inspirational. And not in that "Eatin Chicken Soup With Five Maurys on Tuesdays in Heaven" sorta inspirational, but inspirational in that it taught him somethin he didn't know before and inspired him to act. So, he acted. He killed a guy with a turtle, then "harvested" what he needed. Bing, bang, boom. Problem solved.
In this way, Hiroki got himself all but one of the ingredients. Not in the "killin a guy with a turtle" way, mind you, but in a "thinkin creatively" sorta way. His final task was to get a perfectly straight stick, six feet in length, off an ash tree. And it couldn't be no trunk, either, but had to be a genuine branch of the tree. Now, I ain't no horticulturalist but I'm pretty sure that's near well impossible to do. I ain't even totally convinced you could grow yourself a tree with a perfectly straight six foot branch if you really wanted to.
I gotta say, though, until I got mixed up in this whole squirrel versus ninja business, I wasn't what you'd call a great success in life. And I been told that I gave up a lot of stuff to easily but, really, tryin all the time to get yourself a bunch of stuff is a lot harder than pickin up a jar of "I don't care" moonshine and watchin the sun set from your front porch. People say the secret to success is persistence. Well, persistence and inheritin a giant pile of money. So I guess Hiroki had all the ingredients to be successful.
So, he wandered around from planet to planet until he found the biggest durned ash tree in the universe. This thing was, at rough estimate, the size of a million, billion suns. I ain't seen it for myself or nothin, so I'm just goin on word of mouth here, but I'm relatin it as I heard it, so you can choose to believe that about its size or not.
Hiroki came up on this tree and saw these three old women sittin underneath in havin themselves a sewin circle. He politely introduced himself and clarified with them that this was, indeed, an ash tree. To which they responded that they knew durned well who he was and they knew that if he couldn't tell an ash tree from a hole in the ground, then he was about to have a lot more trouble than he realized. He just went on the assumption that these grumpy women weren't gonna tell him a whole lot more and so he might as well just go ahead and start lookin for the straightest branch he could find.