"Why is it that we're always wandering through a forest?" I asked. I had given up asking questions about the baddies. Maybe it was just coincidence, but they always seemed to show up right after I asked. I didn't want to jinx us again, not after what had happened with Crab Dragon.
"Oh, just be quiet," Pixie said.
"I've never listened to ya before," I said. "What makes ya think I'll start now?"
"GIGIFLAME!" came a voice out of nowhere. A tree beside us was blown to smithereens. What the hell?! I looked up and saw a blue-skinned Pixie type swooping down on us, with pointy ears and raven black hair. The sunlight glinted off her Moo emblem. Lilim.
I looked from the smoldering ruins of a tree to the monster beside me.
"Do ya always have to blow something up?" I asked.
"Always," Lilim replied, smiling and baring two small white fangs.
I had absolutely no idea what to make of this, so I pushed it to the back of my mind to puzzle out later.
"Lilim," Pixie hissed, as a host of Vanities dropped from the sky, surrounding us.
"Ya know her?" I asked.
Pixie shook her head. "I've only heard about her. Naga was constantly complaining about what a little witch she was."
Lilim threw back her head and laughed hysterically. This continued for several minutes as all of us stared at her, including the Vanities. What a psychopath….
Finally she stopped and said, "Now that I have your attention, traitors, I suggest you leave. I'm only here for Nemesis."
She pointed straight at me.
As you can imagine, I was very confused. Me? Nemesis? Was that my real name? Probably was…unless Lilim had screwed up big time. Did I know this Lilim? Was she the one from the flashback? Oh, that doesn't matter now! What the hell did Moo want me for? Whatever it was, it couldn't be good.
"Nemesis?" I asked. "I'm not Nemesis. My name's Thorn." Maybe I could get out of this if I acted as clueless as I felt.
"It doesn't matter what you call yourself, you're still Nemesis," Lilim said. "You wouldn't remember a thing, anyway."
Or maybe not. I was hoping she'd elaborate a little, give me some clue as to what this was all about. But she didn't.
"Well, traitors?" she asked. "I'm only going to offer this once. Leave now, and we won't come after you. All I want is the girl. So, what's it gonna be?"
I looked up at Pixie, and I waited. Waited for her to say, "Let's go, Blue." Waited for them to just walk off. I was just an annoying human brat, after all. Nothing worth them risking their lives over.
But they didn't leave. I thought back to that time when I had pushed Pixie out of the way of Bazula's attack. She had said I would always be an annoying human brat… "But maybe you're something more than that." She really had meant it, then. I'd never call her a snob-bucket again…no, actually, both Pixie and Big Blue really were snob-buckets, and there was no denying it. I guess Pixie felt the same way - to her, there was no denying that I was an annoying human brat. So we'd just all go on acting like we always did, except that we were friends now, although none of us would ever admit it.
Lilim soon saw that Pixie and Big Blue had no intention of leaving. "Fine, just make my job more difficult." She turned to the Vanities. "Well, what are you waiting for? Attack!"
Pixie leapt off Big Blue's shoulder and went straight for Lilim. "LIGHTNING!"
Lilim simply dodged and hovered in mid-air, grinning as several Vanities surrounded Pixie and used Bolt. Pixie fell, unconscious, to the ground.
Big Blue would've run to help her, but he was having problems of his own. Thirty or so of the Vanities were flying around him, dodging his blows, and all the while never letting up their Lightning attacks.
I ran over to help him, but from behind me I heard, "TORPEDO!" and soon I had fallen into darkness, in no condition to help anybody.
Big Blue fell at last as Lilim silently thanked no one in particular that Nemesis didn't remember her powers.
"Should we finish them off, Mistress Lilim?" asked one of the Vanities.
Lilim shook her head. "No. Moo will want them alive. Carry the traitors. I'll take Nemesis."
Moo wouldn't care whether or not the traitors were alive, but Lilim was sure Nemesis…Thorn would. Thorn…funny, Nemesis had always said she hated her name, that she wanted something shorter and easier to say.
Lilim lifted up the girl in her arms and took off, trying to figure out a way to save her from her fate without Moo realizing that Lilim was the one responsible. You weren't able to help the last time, Lilim thought angrily to herself. What makes you think that this time will be any different? But you have to try, don't you? You have to try, so you can watch as your friend gets tortured and turn away, saying, "Well, I tried." Why do things have to be like this?! I hope that Wyvlo's rotting in hell for what he did to her…
The Vanities left her to fly ahead, alone with her thoughts. Pixie was light and easy to carry, but Big Blue was a different matter entirely. It was a good thing they weren't far from Moo's floating castle…
Later, Moo's floating castle…
I opened my eyes and sat up slowly, half-afraid of what I might see. It was hard to believe that I was still alive, and I didn't think it likely that I would stay that way much longer.
"Master Pixie, are you all right?" Big Blue asked. He was just sitting there, in front of me. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I realized that there were bars behind him. Everything was a purple-black color. So, Moo himself was interested in dealing with us? I didn't think we were that important.
"I'm okay, Big Blue," I replied. He had always been there for me, through everything, ever since the day I met him. And I had never said a word. And now we were both doomed.
"So, this is it, huh?" I asked, already knowing the answer. I had escaped once before, but Moo wasn't a fool; he wouldn't make the same mistake twice.
Big Blue said nothing, only looked at me with regret in his ice blue eyes.
"Hey, Blue, I, uh…" I couldn't say it. I tried again. "If this is the end…" I wasn't going to get another chance. I had to say it. "I just wanted you to know that…" The words refused to come. Hell, I couldn't let him die without knowing! "Oh, hell with it all!"
He looked up at me, confused.
"I love you," I said at last. It was scarcely more than a whisper, but I know he heard it because his whole face lit up with joy, and I swear I saw tears in his eyes.
"Master Pixie…" he said. He didn't need to say anything more for me to know he felt the same way.
We were silent for a long time. I began to wonder what had happened to Thorn. What was it Lilim had called her? Nemesis? What was so important about one human girl?
I heard a groan from somewhere to my left. "Pixie…Big Blue…ya here?" a voice asked.
"Thorn?!" I couldn't believe it. She was here. Moo hadn't done anything to her yet.
"Pixie?" she asked.
"Is Big Blue there, too?"
"I'm here," Big Blue said.
"Oh," Thorn let out a sigh of relief. "I'm so glad ya guys are alive."
"Yeah, but now we're just gonna get fried by Moo himself," I said. There was no sense in getting her hopes up, only to have them crushed. I knew from experience, crushed hopes were the worst thing in the world.
"There must be some way out, right?" Thorn asked, almost pleading.
She wanted me to say yes, to reassure her, even if it was a lie. But I couldn't just lie outright like that. So I did the best I could. "It would take a miracle."
"Well, miracles happen, sometimes," she said. "Just as long as there's still a chance."
No one said anything for a long time.
"Thorn, I…" I began, but again, the words wouldn't come. I had treated her so cruelly, and I was sorry. I knew she was more than just an annoying human brat. She didn't deserve to be here, like this. She was just a kid.
After a while, I think Thorn realized what I was trying to say.
"Don't say it," she said. "Ya wouldn't be Pixie if ya did. It's enough for me that ya didn't just leave when that Lilim showed up."
"You really are an idiot if you thought I would just abandon you," I said. For once, she was silent. "About this Nemesis thing…what can you remember?"
"Not a thing," Thorn replied. "But I had a weird flashback when I saw that Lilim."
"It was nothing important, really. I just asked her if she always had to blow something up. She said she did. And before, when I was talking to Holly that time, I said that I couldn't figure out whether Lilim was good or evil, and I had been trying for years. But after I said it, I couldn't remember a thing about her, or even why I said it."
"So you knew Lilim?"
"I guess I must've."
Strange…where could they have met? Anywhere, if you believed Naga about how unreliable Lilim was. Which still wasn't any help in figuring out Thorn's past.
"I've been trying and trying to remember," Thorn continued. "But nothing, nothing has come to me. I just wish I knew who the hell I was and why Moo wants me so bad."
Just then, a couple of Weeds (Plant/Naga) walked by our cell. I heard the sound of a key turning in a lock, then Thorn shouted, "Let go of me, ya freaks!" The two Weeds walked by again, this time dragging a struggling Thorn between them.
The Weeds deposited me in a large room, then scurried out. I heard deep, evil laughter, and when I got to my feet, I saw Moo was in front of me, glaring at me through evil red eyes. So there I stood, facing the most powerful, most evil monster that ever lived, and all I could think was: Why the hell does he have pink hair?!
An entire squadron of Black Dinos (Dino/Monol) came to escort us. We knew better than to fight them. Even if we won, where would we go? Big Blue couldn't fly, and I wasn't going to leave him. Besides, Moo would probably stop us before we even got to a window. I had pulled off an escape once; but then I had the element of surprise, and Genki and the Dragons were there to back me up.
The Black Dinos marched us to the back of a large room, then scrambled out quickly the way they had come. Moo stepped out of the shadows and stood in front of the door, blocking the only exit. He gestured, and another figure stepped into the light.
"Thorn?!" What the hell was she listening to Moo for?! Unless she had been working for him all along…but then why would she have saved me from Bazula, or come back for us when we were captured by Crab Dragon?
"Thorn?" Moo asked, amused. "This is Nemesis, created as a weapon during the Ancient War. She obeys only me. Don't believe me? I'll demonstrate."
He turned to Thorn. "Nemesis! Destroy them!"
Thorn raised her hands over her head. A huge ball of pale green energy began to build between them.
Even if there had been somewhere to go, Big Blue and I were too shocked to move.
My master ordered me, and I moved to obey. They would be destroyed…
What the hell?! That's Pixie and Big Blue; they're my friends! And who the hell said you were my master, and why the hell should I be obeying you?!
Suddenly I was plunged into darkness, that evil, suffocating darkness from my dreams. My nightmare was coming true. Moo was still controlling me; he was going to make me kill Pixie and Big Blue, and all I could do was rage away at the darkness.
No. I wouldn't let him. I began to struggle frantically, trying to get through the darkness. It was like trying to walk through jelly. It didn't seem like I was getting anywhere, but I didn't stop fighting. Pixie and Big Blue's lives were at stake.
It couldn't have been more than a few seconds, but for me it stretched into an eternity. Then suddenly I was through, and I was in control again. It wasn't too late. I smiled at Pixie and Big Blue.
"Just kidding," I said.
I turned to Moo, who was staring at me in shock.
"And by the way, Moo," I said, bringing my hands down, the ball of energy still held between them. "The name is Thorn." I shot the attack out of my hands, aiming straight at him.
Moo flew about ten feet and smashed into the wall from the force of Thorn's attack. He didn't move.
Thorn collapsed. That attack must have taken everything she had. Big Blue, with me on his shoulder, ran over and scooped up the unconscious girl, then ran out the door Moo had been blocking. Luckily, we didn't encounter any baddies in the hallways. Maybe we could make it out of here alive.
"Master Pixie," Big Blue said. "How are we going to get down?"
I cursed myself for a fool. I had forgotten that. We were who knows how high up in the air, and while I could fly, Big Blue and Thorn couldn't.
"Why not try the iron birds?" a voice suggested out of nowhere. "They're down the corridor to your right."
"Who are you?" I demanded. "Show yourself!" There was no answer.
Big Blue stopped. We had reached the corridor. "Should we…?" he asked.
"It's worth a shot," I said. It was at least better than running blindly around the castle. And whoever had spoken wouldn't have had time to set up an ambush…would they?
We reached the end of the corridor and there were the iron birds, just as our little helper had said. Big Blue looked at them dubiously.
"Here," I said, leaping off his shoulder. "I'll take Thorn. Looks like you'll need your hands free to fly one of those things."
Big Blue nodded and handed her to me, then climbed into the nearest iron bird. I waited until he figured out the controls and took off, then followed after him. To my surprise, no one followed us, or shot at us, or anything. It was like the entire floating castle was asleep.
Lilim watched the traitors go with a smile on her face. Things had worked out perfectly. Moo hadn't wanted everyone knowing about Nemesis, so he had ordered Lilim to tell everyone that he was not to be disturbed. She had delivered the message, adding that Moo looked furious and was likely to kill anyone who so much as dropped a pin. So all the monsters in the castle were sitting very still in their rooms, trying not to make any noise that might anger Moo. Lilim had decided to hang around, just in case they needed any more help in escaping, although whether or not they succeeded had really depended on Nem…Thorn. Lilim hadn't expected her to be able to fight off Moo so well. Good job, kid, Lilim thought. You're finally free, and I don't have to feel guilty about capturing you anymore.
Thorn groaned in Big Blue's arms as we wandered through the forest. "Why is it that we're always wandering through a forest?" she had asked. Why was I thinking of that now? I hopes she wasn't starting to rub off on me…
"Pixie…?" Thorn opened her eyes slowly. "Looks like we got a miracle, huh?" she asked weakly.
"You stupid human brat!" I snapped. "You nearly got us killed!"
I expected her to smile, like she always did, but she turned away from me, trying to burrow deeper into Big Blue's arms. "I know," she half-whispered, shaking a little. "I'm so scared…what am I?"
"You're Thorn," Big Blue said.
She stopped shaking and looked up at him. "Huh?"
"You're Thorn," I said. "You're as annoying as hell, but…you're our friend. That's all that matters."
Now she smiled. "Thanks, both of ya," she said before her eyes closed once more.
Created as a weapon during the Ancient War…if I hadn't seen what she did to Moo, I would never have believed it. Who would've thought that some annoying human brat had so much power? But despite all that, she was still Thorn. And that was all that really mattered.