|Quest of Memories
Author: EternalFluffy PM
Post JoD, AUish. Now free of Wizeman's control, Reala discovers his true purpose as guardian of the Waking World. And when one teenage girl in Bellbridge decides to take his hand...her life will never be the same again. Art by lacewingRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Friendship - Reala - Chapters: 12 - Words: 163,892 - Reviews: 109 - Favs: 56 - Follows: 13 - Updated: 05-19-09 - Published: 03-20-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4144039
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hey there. This is my first NiGHTS fic, though I say stuff like "this is my first (BLANK) fic" a lot, since I write stories across many different fandoms.
I wasn't going to post this because I had several people expecting another Zelda fic from me, but...well... I can't resist this. And I get even more frustrated since there seems to be a lack of serious, longer-running NiGHTS fics, especially about JoD, and about Reala.
This is about JoD, and as such, contains SPOILERS for the ALL-C ending, right off the bat. Though I actually got spoiled myself, because I didn't understand that there was a different ending once you got all C's. At least I felt a little better, since the whole time when I played the original ending I was thinking "Where is Reala?" I would've been so mad if he hadn't appeared again in the All-C ending.
So, yes! Reala is my next victim! And that means: Fluff! Sappyness! OOC-ness! Long chapters! Light humor! And weird ideas! No, it won't be that bad... (hopefully) Yes, Reala is essentially going to be a "good guy", so it's inevitable that he'll be OOC, but he's uh...still not a very nice good guy.
The AU isn't that this will be taking place in another universe like, say, a high school, but that it's a story which asks a "what if?" question. In this case, "What if Reala and NiGHTS aren't actually Nightmaren? What if they're...something else?"
This will contain an OC as a main character, appearing next chapter, but only one. I generally don't like OC's, but...this storyline required an OC. But she's not a Mary Sue. Seriously. I took her through the test.
I know I talk a lot about Reala's "gloves" and "blue skin", while it looks as if he actually has white skin and no gloves with...pink fingernails... But, actually, I never even noticed that when I was playing JoD. For some reason, I always saw him as having a light blue face with white gloves, sleeves, and tights, and so that's the way I describe him.
And I know some people (in fact, most NiGHTS fans I've seen) believe that the boss Nightmaren can think and talk too, but personally, that never occured to me. It's probably because I'm a JoD convert...
Rated for future disturbing imagery and...the Owl abuse in this chapter. Really, I don't hate him...but Reala sure does. And JoD Reala really does love to strangle people...
Italics used for stressed words, thoughts, foreign words, flashbacks, and whatever else I might decide to use it for.
Reala, Owl, NiGHTS, and all those cool people belong to Sonic Team.
I usually try to update about once a month, but sometimes take longer, unexplainable hiatuses. But I've at least started chapter two!
Chapter 1: The Crystal
Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong. It wasn't just the pain. The pain was nothing. The pain didn't matter. Something was wrong... What...what had just happened again? The details were soft and fuzzy... Something was stabbing, in a very different place. What was that? What was this? This...nothingness. Nothingness. All this was nothingness. He couldn't see. He couldn't remember.
He dimly lifted his head towards the sky. Was that the sky? It was awfully psychedelic. That neon red symbol shouldn't be there... Then...there was something cold. Something frozen, and even a little painful.
That's when he remembered. He had put it there. His name was Reala, first class Nightmaren under Wizeman...and he had just been defeated by his rebellious other half. Yet there was something else...there was something else, but he couldn't lay a finger on it. Something he'd only just remembered. And then, with a stab of panic, he realized what was wrong.
His arm, despite its deep and painful gash, automatically shot forwards, seizing the small, gold, feathered mask that had been lying against the concrete. His long, spindly body scrambled back up into a kneeling position, his arm shooting back up to his head, ready to slam it firmly back over his eyes... And then...they stopped.
He knelt there, holding the mask in front of his face with trembling arms. That frozen icicle stabbed at him, prodding him to continue...but some other part was holding him back. He had just remembered something...but he didn't know what it was. For some reason, those words kept repeating themselves in his mind. "You're the one who's a puppet!" "You're the one who's a puppet!" "You're the one who's a puppet!"
Reala felt his chest constricting. How...? He hadn't even been thinking, so how could he have spoken? He hadn't said anything. The name just slipped out of him by itself. His mind was completely blank, unaware of the battle buzzing dimly from somewhere deep inside him.
And that's when he heard it. That voice... It was real now, not the one echoing automatically in his mind. He was connected...he could hear it over the incredible distance, and he could almost see the moment in his mind. He tipped his head further into his chest to better listen.
NiGHTS was there now...standing before his master, the two little Visitors with him. And he was saying something. "Shut up, Wizeman!" his light, feminine voice sounded out, strangely forceful. "We're not your puppets!"
There it is again. We're not your puppets. The Visitors? That seemed odd to apply to them.
"...We can do things on our own, and we won't be held back by anyone, because we have free will!"
At last, Reala experienced a moment of lucid consciousness He thought...he was genuinely confused. "Who...who are you talking about...?"
And then, he was plunged back into those familiar sounds, visions, and sensations...only something was terribly off. Something was howling...whistling... Gray chunks whirling past, blunt edges standing clearly out against the blur. There was nothing. No speech. Vision blended and merged together like a mirage. Where...? How...? What...? Why...? An echo came from behind. An echo which quivered down into someplace unknown.
At last, a thought surfaced from that well of nothingness. Go. You need to go. Now. It was lost on its way down to the limbs. You are in danger. You are in grave danger. You are going to die now. He is going to die. Everything is going to be destroyed. Do something! It was impossible. The limbs had obviously lost their connection to the mind. Or maybe they had never had one. Either way, it was useless.
Gray...black...blue... Purple... No. He wasn't going to die. He was dying right now. He could feel it. Slowly, gradually...he was dying...bit by bit.
A flash. Wind. The ground. Nothingness. A great void--an enormous vacuum had now been ripped into the fabric of the very universe. And he was going to fall in.
A terrible, deep, shivery coldness spread throughout Reala's entire body. And for a moment, he recovered his mind. "M-M-Master!"
Still holding his mask crushed in one hand, Reala shot himself into the air again. One of his arm guards snapped off his forearm, clanking in an echoing void against the pavement, along with his left flank plate. He'd have a lot to apologize for once he returned...but it didn't matter! If Wizeman died, he would die too! And so would NiGHTS! Why had he never realized that?
Reala sped through the sky of Bellbridge as fast as his weakened power would allow. Faded red sparkles trailed out dimly behind him. He realized what that cold feeling was--panic. The general of the Nightmaren force tried to tell himself he wasn't panicking...but if there ever was a time to paninc, it was now. What had that idiot done?
As he flew desperately higher and higher towards the black mass in the sky which marked the entrance to Nightmare, he began to feel himself weakening even more. He panted hard, closing his eyes to concentrate on maintaining his speed. His other arm plate slipped off, spiraling down into the infinite dark depths below him. He was getting closer now--the electric lights of Bellbridge's skyscrapers had disappeared into the gloom. Just a little further... Reala suddenly realized that his arms were hurting...and the rest of his body felt strangely sore. No...he's dying, I just know it. Wizeman is dying. And so are we... Yes, he was sure now.
He plunged face-first into Nightmare, and felt, for a moment, a stinging shock through his body like he'd never felt before. He'd lived here all his life, as far back as he could remember...he'd been created in Nightmare, he'd lived and breathed in Nightmare...and it had never given him any kind of pain or even discomfort. Normally, it made him feel better. Something was seriously wrong.
Reala took a few deep breaths and found himself gently lowering into the dark throne room of Wizeman. He felt slightly ashamed to be appearing so tattered, weakened, and unmasked in front of his master, but this was an emergency.
The mask... Reala lifted his arm again and found himself dimly wondering why he hadn't put it back on again. He'd had plenty of time in which to do so... But before he did, he took a look around.
That terrible, ice-cold stab of panic shot through him again. There was nothing. The throne room was completely empty. He staggered a bit in the shock. Maybe...maybe it wasn't... No, it couldn't be...it had to be...
"W-Wizeman!" he called out for his pillar of support. "Master Wizeman!"
Nothing. There was nothing but that terrible, icy silence. Even here in Nightmare, there were terrors yet unknown. And for the first time in his life, Reala thought that he was afraid. This was the only thing in the world capable of making him afraid.
"Master Wizeman!" he called, louder...the dreadful panic beginning to creep into his steadfast voice. "Master Wizeman! Please!"
He's alive--he has to still be alive! Nightmare is still here, I'm still alive, I'm sure NiGHTS is still alive too... Where is he?
Reala's weakened body began to waver again...and he tumbled to his knees, completely involuntarily. He felt the heavy armor loosening around his diminishing frame.
Perhaps...perhaps my voice can no longer reach him...
That flash came back again, all at once. It smacked into Reala's mind so hard that he almost toppled backwards, flat onto his back. That something...it was something very important. A profound revelation...and he still didn't really know what it was.
He saw NiGHTS's shocked, pained expression. He remembered that look--it had gradually faded out of use as time went on, but it was still clear as day. But then...there was something else. NiGHTS screaming in the grip of one of Wizeman's metallic hands, stretching his thin arms out for him...the brilliant red sun rising over a country horizon...NiGHTS laughing beside him, turning to watch something in the distance...
And then, it came... Like a resonant hum echoing in the distance, it came... The music... It was the most familiar tune in the world...not just a memory--a piece of his very soul. And it suddenly occured to him that he couldn't recall even one moment when NiGHTS had ever worked under Wizeman in the first place.
Reala gently opened his eyes, turning towards the thin, feathered mask still clutched in his hand. This mask... This mask was...
NiGHTS screamed desperately, struggling violently against the death grip of the massive hand around him. It was a useless battle, but his stubborn nature wouldn't permit him to give up. His voice...his words were forming. Slowly, piece by piece, sentences were forming out of his mouth.
"NO!" That high voice screeched. "NO, STOP IT!"
Without even noticing it, Reala's chest was constricting again in response. This...something about this... It wasn't right...but he was afraid, for some completely unknown reason, and he couldn't understand why. Maybe this was when NiGHTS had first been punished...
That slim purple creature so much like him screamed and bit and tore furiously at the hand, to no avail. And at last, once he finally knew that all of his efforts were fruitless, he turned his head up...looking straight down into his eyes. And he yelled, as loud as his voice would allow. "REALA! RUN! GET OUT OF HERE! DON'T LET HIM GET YOU, REALA!"
An instant later, another of Wizeman's hands zoomed over, slamming angrily against NiGHTS's head. When it pulled away...the little purple creature was hanging limp and lifeless against his fingers...and over his closed eyes...was a round, golden, feathered mask.
A sharp, involunary gasp of air shot down into Reala's body, and his focus plunged back onto the thin sheet of gold just inches from his face. "Th-This...this is...this is really...!"
"...because we have free will", "DON'T LET HIM GET YOU!", "If only you had accepted a new soul...", "You're the one who's a puppet"...
That something in the back of his mind flared up in full force...and this time he knew what it was.
The little golden mask suddenly burst into hateful fire in his hand. No. He couldn't believe it. He should have realized it sooner. He'd always had that tiny smidgeon of doubt, but had starkly refused to even acknowledge its existence. Now he remembered...and all the frustration and rage--at himself as well--violently snapped out of him.
Reala stood again, the weakness temporarily gone from his limbs. His face twisted, his teeth grinding tightly together, as the flames in the center of his palm intensified, consuming the feathered mask by the second. Why? Why had he done this to him? Why had everyone done this to him? Why had he let them do this to him? WHY?
At last, once the mask was twisted, scorched, and melted beyond recognition, he grabbed it fiercely in his fist, snuffing the fire. And then, summoning every remaining ounce of his strength...he hurled it violently into the abyss behind him. It flew, like the remnants of a comet, straight down, merging with the darkness...and at last, disappearing into it altogether.
Instantly, a piece of Reala's mind felt like it was falling with it. What are you doingIt screamed at him from inside. Do you know what you just did? You've deliberately defied the wishes of your master! He'll think you're a traitor! He'll punish you--he'll kill you! You've betrayed the one being who understands you--the one who gave you life! You're no better than that despicable traitor, NiGHTS! Only...only NiGHTS had never been a traitor.
Reala reeled back, as if from the backlash, as he struggled to invoke these new, old memories and stabalize his mind again.
Always, in the very back, buried pits of his mind, he'd known that he was a little...different from the other Nightmaren. He and NiGHTS were the only two of these beings endowed with a consciousness. They were sentient beings--capable of thinking, and reasoning, and feeling something other than blind rage and fear. Reala always attributed this difference to the simple fact that he was superior. He was Wizeman's crowning achievement--the perfect result of years of experiment and fine-tuning. But there had always been that one fact, hovering vaguely in the background... Nightmaren could only be created with pieces of Wizeman's own soul...and how could he be a piece of Wizeman's soul when he had one of his own?
Yes, Reala and NiGHTS were different from all the other Nightmaren...because they had never actually been Nightmaren in the first place. Those masks...those were mere devices, designed to keep them in submission to him, repeatedly transmitting the idea that he was their master, suppressing all their former memories. Only NiGHTS had been able to resist it...
Reala straightened himself again, cofident in these new assertions. But then...a different sort of dread began to chip away a tiny hole in the center of what he assumed to be his soul. Now what was he supposed to do? He knew now that he wasn't a Nightmaren...but what was he? What was he supposed to do and where was he supposed to go? There was no one here anymore to give him orders...not even a guideline to follow. He was completely free to do whatever he wanted. And that was more terrifying than anything else. The thick blackness of what used to be his master's throne room now laid in front of him like an infinite black hole, with no way of knowing where it might lead.
It was then that Reala's body finally caught up with his mind, and the pain of his injuries seared back to his attention. Strange...it seemed to hurt even more now than it had before. Determinedly, he clenched his teeth as he clutched his torn arms. Nearly all of his armor had fallen off by now, and even the thin nylon material of his sleeves was ripped, revealing open, though bloodless, wounds. Apparently, his kind had no blood.
His scarred eyes opened again, scanning the area for anywhere he might be able to rest for a moment. Briefly, they lingered on Wizeman's giant red throne, but the thought was still too repulsive to him to even attempt. Weakly, he forced his body to fly forward a bit, and he carefully sat himself at its base. It was because he'd lost power after Wizeman's defeat, he decided. Had he always been this weak...?
Reala pressed in on his body, discovering a few more wounds on his legs, and a rather nasty one on his stomach. And as he sat there, surveying the damage, another dim awareness crept into his dazed and fuzzy mind. There's...no need for this armor anymore. Wizeman gave it to me. It's just weighing me down...
Reala's long-nailed right hand wrapped around the armored glove covering his left...and pointedly yanked it off. The pale blue skin of his hand emerged, along with a...sleeve? Hmm...had that been there before? He turned to yank off his other glove and discovered another identical sleeve. He quickly turned away from it, confused and disgusted at the sight.
Next, he removed his one remaining flank plate. Lazily, he flicked it down, along with the gloves, into the darkness of Nightmare, watching the pieces spiral down to their demise.
When he tried to remove his breastplate, it felt as if something was snatching his breath away. The further he pulled it away from his chest, the more difficultly he had breathing, and he vaguely felt his consciousness slipping away from him. Quickly, he just gave up on it, letting it fall back to its place, and focused instead on his boots.
On the other hand, Reala found it extremely easy to pull off his thick armored boots. But again, he was shocked into disgust by the discovery that underneath there were...more boots. They looked different, of course, a simple black stripe dividing their thin red exterior just over the toes...but still, they looked startlingly familiar and similarly disgusting.
The metal boots followed the rest of their kin into the abyss, and now Reala was not only in pain, but utterly disgusted. He was disgusting himself.
I can't believe this, he indignantly fumed as he wrapped his arms around his injured body again. I used to be a general--a lord! I was the highest being in all of Nightmare, under Wizeman. ...But that was all a farce, wasn't it? Eeugh, I can't believe I allowed myself to be decieved for so long. Well, it was the brainwashing mask's fault. If I hadn't had to wear that, things would have been different. But of course, he had to disguise it as a "symbol of loyalty" to him... The "symbol" was the thing keeping me loyal. Though I wonder why it didn't work on NiGHTS...
Reala twisted his mouth into a determined scowl and tore his mind away for a moment to simply examine the emptiness of the throne room. He would never admit that NiGHTS had been stronger than him in any way, even to himself.
Hmm... he wondered, as he stared up at the thin, feeble archways surrounding the dark area. If I hadn't been wearing the mask, what would I have done? The thought of starkly rebelling against Wizeman still made him cringe, even though he knew he had lied to him. And there was no way he would've helped NiGHTS. Ah...I'd probably have just left them to battle it out on their own. It's none of my business.
That was an odd thought, and Reala's eyes narrowed a little as he continued staring, distractedly, into the archway. None of his business? Why was it none of his business? If he was a creature of the Dreaming World, he should surely care who ruled it. But he didn't. It didn't make any difference to him.
That's right, he thought, and once more, his pain seemed to fade off into the background as his memories resurfaced. It's none of my business. It has nothing to do with me. I have no connection with it. I don't...belong here. I have no idea where I do belong...but I know it's not here. I never should have been here in the first place...
Reala was so lost in his own thoughts that he didn't even notice the little streams of white sparkles until they were nearly upon him. One landed, lightly, on his shoulder, and he was at last jarred out of his deep insight.
"What the...?" Immediately, he shuddered away from it, trying to brush it off, but it was permanently stuck there. More sparkles poured in from either side of the area, rushing to congregate around him.
"What?" Reala cried in alarm. Millions of little particles of light were wrapping themselves around his body...they were rapidly consuming his feet and crawling up his legs. "St-Stop it!" he yelled, scrambling backwards and nearly bumping his head on the end of Wizeman's throne. Desperately, he thrashed his now-invisible legs, trying uselessly to shake them off. "Stop!"
The clouds of bright white sparkles weren't about to listen to him. They wrapped around his back next, then closed in around his arms. He was beginning to panic now. There were too many sparkles now for him to even see clearly. When he tried to look back at his hands, the glaring white light blinded him. Then, at last, they began to close, surging up from his waist, and down from his head. Soon, he'd be completely incased.
"What is this?" he cried out instead. "What's happening to me?" But, of course, there was nobody to answer him.
Reala squeezed his eyes closed as the light began to eat away at his face. Briefly, he wondered if he was dying. Had his injuries really been that bad?
"Gyyaaaaaaah!" he screamed out as the particles at last covered his entire head. It burned like he'd just been immersed in a pool of steaming liquid. He writhed desperately, trying to tear himself out of them, but it was no use. And finally, they closed completely over his chest.
The terrible burning sensation flared up again, even more piercing, and he chomped down hard on his tongue to stop himself from screaming again. Thank goodness his kind had no blood.
It only lasted a few more seconds, before, mercifully, the light began to gently fade out again...and he suddenly had the odd sensation of cold, smooth stone pressing against his legs and his back.
Reala held perfectly still and waited until the very last prickles of the searing light had gone before he chanced to open his eyes again. Well...apparently, he'd been transported somewhere. Now to find out where and why...and how so that he could avoid traveling this way ever again.
Awkwardly, Reala looked down to examine the damage...only to find that there was none. In fact, on a closer examination of his body, he realized that all of his previous injuries had completely sealed up, as if they had never been there. Even the rips in his clothing were smoothly patched up. Maybe that had been the true cause of the burning. Reala took this pause to get a better look at his own body. It was digustingly thin, his front plate and loosened sleeves hanging off of him, limply. The ends of his newfound sleeves were actually cuffs. They stood out against the baggy white sleeves, patterned like a checkerboard in his own familiar color scheme of red and black.
One of those little sparks jumped up from his insides again. They had been there. They had always been there. They were so new and yet so terribly, terribly familiar. And it wasn't just the colors. But his hands...his hands were suddenly strange to him. They weren't supposed to be like this...this...bluish, pale tint...
He gave another little start when he noticed...but then immediately shook the feelings off. What am I thinking? Since when have my hands not looked like this? My skin is pale blue--it's always been blue. These are my hands, right! But he knew that they had and that they were. He just couldn't imagine it having been any other way.
At last, Reala began to gradually pull himself up again, leaning his back against the blue stone wall. Urgh...his legs looked even more spindly now. He had to rely on these bendy little strings of spaghetti to hold him up. It was one of the most sickeningly pathetic things he'd ever seen.
Mentally, he decided that the first thing he'd do once he got out of this place would be to find he nearest training facility. He'd spend the rest of his time there, building himself back up again as he waited for Master Wizeman to return. No, wait... Reala grunted in frustration when he found himself slipping back into these former thought patterns. Wizeman wasn't his master. He was not a Nightmaren. But he still couldn't truly believe it, because he had no idea what he was.
Surprisingly, his legs held up perfectly fine, and at last, he could get a good look around this strange room where he'd apparently been transported. The entire room was circular, made out of dark stone, with an unusually short domed ceiling. Everything was incredibly plain--the floor was bare rock, the walls made out of deep gray brick, and the ceiling a simple carved white stone. No furniture, no carpeting, no lights...the place didn't even have a single window. No wonder it was so dark in here.
What is this, some kind of storage cellar? Reala ground his teeth together. As if things couldn't get any more degrading... For a moment, he almost wished that the sparkles would come back to transport him somewhere else. At least, when he squinted narrowly at the opposite end of the room, he thought he saw a door. This better not be locked, he testily thought as he awkwardly pulled away from the wall and began to make his way towards it through the darkness. Ah, well, it doesn't really matter if it is locked--I'll blast the stupid thing open. There's no way I'm staying in here any longer.
It took a moment for him to get comfortable walking again, especially on these new spaghetti legs, but he did manage to make it to the door without tripping. This door seemed incredibly out-of-place for its surroundings. Well, it was rounded at the top, slightly fitting the "curved" theme to this room...but it was so intricately designed, with silver metalwork framing and twisting delicatedly over its deep blue surface. It just looked tackily ornate.
Reala scowled. Well, he'd have fun pounding this thing into the ground if it happened to be locked. Awkwardly, he reached out one spaghetti arm and gripped the bumpy, carved silver doorknob. It wasn't locked.
The door swung easily open at his command, letting in a few soft beams of light and illuminating the mysterious new world on the other side.
Reala couldn't help but let out an audible groan. "You've got to be kidding me..." Well, at least he knew where he was now.
The cool, mysterious blue tones of the door were reflected in the atmosphere of his location. Two large and blocky columns bordered this doorway, but there, just in front of them, was a large, round, ornamental fountain. Intricate statues of stone seals spewed streams of silvery water around the waterfall-like column in the center. The blue atmosphere seemed to emit from the very center of this magical fountain, forming a dome of miniscule lighted particles. These reflected off the blackened brownish backdrop of the forest that encircled it, as well as the crumbled stone bricks rimming the circular fountain's perimeter. The Dream Gate. Why?
Reala rolled his eyes. Of all the places for him to end up... Well, I guess it makes sense. If I'm not a Nightmaren, I don't belong in Nightmare...so I have to go to Nightopia. He shuddered. No way. There's just no way I'm staying here. I can't stand it. I'd go insane. Igck...it's so calm and peaceful...
And then, he realized one essential point, and frowned, resigning himself to the fact. But there's really no where else to go. I won't just turn myself back over to Wizeman's control. Ah...well, maybe I can find a not-so-cheerful dream to inhabit somewhere. Do those exist? Something between a good dream and a nightmare? Well, I'll have to find one, that's all.
Decidedly, Reala took a few solid steps out of the doorway and further onto the small floating island which acted as the gateway to the different parts of the Dreaming World. He took a long glance over his shoulder as he did. The building he'd just come out of was a fairly small, circular, stone structure with a flat white top. Two long staircases on either side of him led up to its roof, connecting just at its edge. The whole thing looked incredibly important, for some strange, unknown reason. Why would it? There was nothing inside the building, and nothing at the top of the roof. Reala just shrugged and continued walking, mindlessly, further out towards the fountain. Whatever it was, it didn't concern him.
The peace and serenity didn't last. A large ball of something fluffy had just attacked Reala's head, furiously beating its soft, bristling feathers in his face. Thankfully, he didn't have a nose, or else he would have been sneezing his brains out. Furiously, he smacked the offending creature away from him with all of his diminished strength and stood ready to attack or take flight. "What in the...?"
"Ooogh..." A large brown fuzz-ball turned over in the air just in front of him and slowly flapped itself upright again. It was the big, brown, old Owl, in his little maroon overcoat, blue shirt, and spectacles, a serious frown twisting his tiny beak and making him look even more ridiculous.
Instantly, Reala relaxed his fighting stance and now directed all of his efforts into resisting the urge to burst out laughing at him.
"H-Hoo! Reala!" the bird called out, lifting a little further into the air. "I may not have NiGHTS here anymore to help, but mark my words, I will not let you destroy this realm of dreams!" Owl flapped backwards a little, preparing to dive-bomb his face again, but Reala just crossed his arms and sighed.
"Just go away and don't bother me. I'm not here to attack your idiotic dream realm." Though I do admit, killing you and roasting you over a pit would be quite satisfying.
"Well, if you think that I would be dense enough to fall for that trick then you would be wrong, my friend!" Owl again steadied himself for the dive-bombing, tilting himself and tensing all of his aviary muscles. He poked his beak out straight, to be sure to get in a good peck or two.
Reala raised an eyebrow at him. "If you're that smart, you would've noticed that I'm not wearing a persona mask anymore. Meaning that I am no longer under Wizeman's control and that I must not return to Nightmare. Of course, that doesn't make me any less likely to attack you, but that isn't what I came here for."
Owl completely froze. His beady eyes widened so much that they pushed his little round spectacles halfway down his beak. His attacking position relaxed, his round body falling back into a soft, hovering descent. "Oh..." His widened gray eyes remained fixed on Reala's face the entire time, as he softly floated down to perch on the egde of the fountain. "Oh... Oh, dear... Oh goodness... Oh... Oh my goodness..."
Reala exhaled and turned away from the stricken bird. The rubble rimming ths fountain clearly indicated that the portals to Nightopia were not yet open, but he was sure he could find somewhere else to stay until they were. Somewhere away from him. "That's right. So you just leave me alone and I'll leave you alone. In fact, I'll leave right now. Isn't that convenient? Now good riddance."
He only got to take four steps before a horrible, unholy screeching paralyzed him in his tracks. Dangit. He knew he should've flown.
"Wwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait!" And again, the powder-puff flurry of feathers was smacking furiously against his face.
"Arrrrgh!" That was it. Reala was coming dangerously close to his breaking point. With one hand, he managed to concentrate enough energy to blast the Dream Gate's protector backwards with a crackling red sphere.
Owl gave off another earsplitting shriek of pain as he rocketed back, straight into a nearby stone pillar. Just barely, he managed to hold onto his consciousness, though he could no longer hold himself aloft and slipped slowly onto the ground.
Reala's arm trembled, still holding it pointed directly at him. He had to concentrate what remained of his energy just to stop himself from blasting him into submission. "What did I tell you!" he roared. "You leave me alone! Do that one more time, old man, and you'll be a smoking carcass in two seconds flat!"
"Y-Yih...yes," Owl weakly coughed out, pulling himself to his talons and nursing his injured wings. "I'm sorry. It's just...I-It's just... Y-You are Reala, yes? And...and y-you're...you're not wearing your...m-m-mask..."
"What have we just spent the last five minutes talking about, you idiot? Did you not hear a word I said?"
Owl turned his round head down to the blue stone ground. "Well," he muttered to himself. "At least I'm sure you are Reala..."
"What was that?"
Owl took a deep breath, steadying himself for the revelation to come. Even he was a little bit curious. "I...I have something for you."
Reala didn't lower his hand a centimeter, though his face softened just a little in confusion. "What are you talking about?"
"I have something for you," Owl repeated, his voice a little more steady and sure. "I was told...that if I ever saw you...here, in the Dream Gate...and you weren't wearing a mask...then I was to give you something."
Reala was obviously skeptical. He scowled down at the squat old bird as he tested out his injured wings. "Who told you this?"
"I don't think it would be best to identify him at this moment..."
In one fluid, instantaneous motion, Reala lunged forward to his knees, seizing the frustrating creature by the thick, feathery neck.
"Gaaaaah!" Owl's air choked out of him as the hard, bony fingers squeezed in on his wind pipes.
Reala couldn't help grinning a little at the sight. He's always liked choking things to death. It was so amusing...the way their ridiculous bloated faces slowly began to turn purple, their tongues hanging out of their mouths... "You will tell me now!"
Owl spluttered desperately for a few moments, before Reala finally loosened up on his neck to let him speak. "Um...Yih...You're not going to like it...but...if you insist..."
Reala sighed, waiting for the flustered bird to compose himself enough to get his words out.
Reala wasn't altogether surprised by this revelation. After all, how many other beings were there in Nightopia that might want to give him something? But now that he knew it for sure, it felt just a little uncomfortable. "So...NiGHTS asked you to give me something, huh?" And he asked him to give it to me only when he saw me here and without that mask on. He knew that someday, I would break free of Wizeman's control and come here. Maybe he left me a message... He gradually released pressure on Owl's neck and let his hand drop back down at his side. "So...let's have it."
Owl gave a few short coughs, regaining his breath, and turned his puffy face back up to him with bulging eyes. He'd never thought this moment would ever come, when he would actually meet Reala here without a mask, and he would have to perform this function. Plus, he'd felt absolutely certain that if he ever learned that the gift was from NiGHTS, he would instantly refuse it. Now here the frightful creature was, demanding him to hand it over...not only mask-less but mostly armor-less and oddly thin. Though, obviously, that hadn't made him any less strong or violent.
"A-As you wish..." the bemused bird stumbled...and with that, he swept one wing up to his neck...and carefully detached the round, blue-jeweled brooch that hung there. He balanced the brooch on the end of his flexing wing and gravely, solemnly held it out towards him.
Reala stared at the little round decoration...then scowled back into Owl's face...then snatched the brooch away from him as if he might retract the gift, folding back up to full height. "This is what he asked you to give me? Your old man's brooch? What's the point of that?"
At first, he was completely disgusted and disappointed...but the more he stared down into the item now resting in the folds of his palm, the more a nitpicking familiarity began to crawl into his consciousness. A furtive glance downwards confirmed his suspicions. This brooch was a smaller, blue version of the same round, red jewel he wore across his chest. Ah. It was probably just a freak coincidence. He tapped, absentmindedly on the jewel with one pointed fingernail.
Owl hopped forward a little, still unable to fly, rapidly attempting to access the distant memories of his instructions. It felt like so very long ago, though it really hadn't been more than two months. Time really was indefinite in Nightopia--it was always nighttime, though some separate worlds gave the illusion of daylight.
"Um...um..." the bird uneasily began to speak up. "I...don't remember exactly. NiGHTS wouldn't give me the details of the matter, but... I believe there is something quite important inside of it..."
But Owl really didn't need to say any more. Reala had already discovered the groove at the edge of the jewel where it joined its round, golden frame, and was chipping away at it with his claw-like fingernails. With one final, violent jab, the brooch at last broke open, the jewel snapping along a groove near the top. The "jewel" had really been nothing but a shiny, domed cover. The thing gave way so suddenly that Reala almost lost his grip on it. He clenched it tightly in his left hand and peered down at its contents with puzzled interest.
"I...I really don't know what it's used for or even what it is really...but he acted as if it was really important to him. He told me to guard it with my life." Owl kept spluttering onward, hoping to get some sort of explanation out of the cold Nightmaren, but he hadn't spoken a word yet.
Reala felt a strange little twinge inside of him as he reached down and gently plucked the little object from its cushion inside the brooch. It was important, he knew, but he had absolutely no idea why. Dangling between his thumb and index finger was a tiny blue crystal, shaped like an elongated diamond. Something was shining brilliantly from within it...shimmering...almost pulsating. And it felt strangely warm...almost as if it was alive.
He took a moment to search the inside of the brooch again, hoping NiGHTS had at least left some kind of note or instructions with it. Nothing. He let the brooch drop from his hand, clanking against the stone pathway around the fountain, and turned back to the mysterious little jewel, scowling into its depths. And that's when it suddenly grew four inches.
Owl gasped, and Reala was so startled that he nearly dropped the thing. He cupped it in his palm to get a better grip on it, and it now filled his whole hand, a bit smaller than a football.
"Oh, yes!" Owl suddenly recalled. "Yes, that was its original size! I remember it shrinking in his hands... I used to be worried that it was going to get big again and stab me, hoo!"
Reala grinned. Well, that was an amusing thought. In fact, he could easily use this big, pointy crystal to impale him right now...it was like handing your murderer his weapon. But he suddenly found that he couldn't.
His body began to shudder involuntarily again. What was going on here? Something was wrong with him. He felt suddenly sick to his stomach. He was prickling hot, then icy cold, then prickling hot again...
Owl watched his convulsions with a surprising amount of concern, considering that he'd just attacked him twice. His long, feathery eyebrows scrunched a bit inwards.
All of a sudden, Reala felt a terrible, desperate urge to try taking off his breastplate again. What? I can't do that! His mind yelled at him. I'll suffocate! I won't be able to breathe! I'll pass out! That jewel has something to do with my...life... But it was too late for second thoughts.
His left hand was fumbling with the plate's strings, loosening the shoulder areas. The stiff metallic plate was beginning to fall away from his body like a shell, and automatically, he felt the panic rising again within him, overriding his feelings of sickness. This is insane! But he had to do it. And at last, it broke away altogether, falling and clanking emptily against the stone ground, right next to the brooch. Underneath was a thin red jacket, rimmed with gold.
Reala clenched his eyes closed, holding his breath tightly inside him. How long would he be able to stay like this? How long would he have to live before he had to scramble to reattach it? And that's when he realized, quite obviously, that he was still conscious...he was thinking right now. So if that hadn't happened, then...
He opened his eyes again, exhaled just a little...and slowly, gradually, drew in a deep breath. Nothing. Everything was fine. He could still breathe perfectly fine. His insides fell back into a calm, settled state, and he found himself looking back at the blue crystal in his hand.
Meanwhile, Owl's beak was hanging open, watching this spectacle unfold before him. His mind whirred crazily, just trying to figure out what was going on. It couldn't be that...?
Reala decided to try a little experiment. Maybe this crystal had something to do with the reason he was able to live without his breastplate jewel now. So he turned around and tried to set it down on the edge of the fountain.
Immediately, as soon as his hand ceased contact with the jewel, it came back again. N-No...I'm suffocating...I'm...I'm... Blackness obscured his vision, and desperately, he groped one hand forward, seizing the crystal just in time. Immediately, his vision, his thoughts, and his breath came back to him all at once.
Ah... Owl realized as he observed this little demonstration. So he can't live without one of those crystals close to his body... It's like a life-support system. But...it seems like a little more than that...
Reala frowned dourly at the innocent, sparkling gem. Great. I'm going to have to carry this thing around with me? I can't believe this. It's one thing to lose half my strength, but now I'm dependent on a stupid jewel! This is just plain pathetic! I'd rather put my breastplate back on. Unless...there's somewhere to attach this thing...
He took a moment to examine his newly revealed jacket, but there didn't appear to be any holes or straps with which he could tie the crystal to his body somehow. He nudged the fallen metal shell of his breastplate with his foot, considering...and in a brilliant array of fire and black smog, the red jewel encrusted into its center suddenly burst apart. Oh well. That took care of that. There was only one option now... Maybe there were pockets on the inside...
As Reala lifted the crystal closer to his jacket, searching for a pocket, it began to strangely quiver and tug against his hand, as if something else was attracting it. ...His chest? Staring downward in frustrated confusion, he at last loosened his grip and let the thing do what it wanted to do. And what it wanted to do was to stick itself firmly onto his chest, pressing deeply in on his thin black-strip shirt. It didn't hurt at all...in fact, he didn't even feel the pressure. It felt...completely natural. Reala bent over forward, just to make sure it wasn't going to fall, but it didn't move an inch. The crystal was now plastered to his chest like a magnet.
And Owl was having a fit. The very tips of his feathers quivered. "Oh...oh goodness...gracious...hoo, my..." He could sense it. The transformation was now complete, and he was simply speechless at the wondrous, amazing, unbelievable sight before him. Could it...really be? "R-Rih...Reala...?"
At last, Reala snapped back into his current surroundings and discovered Owl staring up at him from the ground, a disgusting grin spreading over his beak and his eyes bright behind his glasses. "What are you smiling at, you feather-brained Nightopian wannabe? You're lucky I didn't decide to use this crystal to stab you to death, because I really almost did."
Owl's head drooped. Oh well. Too much to hope for. Obviously, the transformation was only skin-deep. "Hoo..excuse me. You just look so different... Much less like...yourself, you see..."
Reala took a quick glimpse into the fountain to see exactly what he was talking about. He'd examined his body already, but he hadn't yet gotten a good look at the full effect. And the moment he did, he noticed what Owl had been talking about. His slimmer body, his thin boots, his loose white sleeves with the cuffs, his rimmed jacket, and that crystal now in the center of his chest...
Abruptly, he whirled away from the sight and fixed Owl with his most furious glare. "I do not look like NiGHTS! For one thing, my skin is blue, I have scars across my eyes, and my sensors are longer and curled in! Don't you even suggest that I look anything like him!"
"Y-Yes...excuse me..." Owl twittered, though his mind was chuckling at him. He just looks like a red-and-black NiGHTS...
Meanwhile, though Reala's tough, threatening stance didn't waver a bit, the back of his mind was whirling again into confusion. ...Sensors? Did I just say "sensors"? Why "sensors"? I've never heard anyone call them that before... Indeed, Reala usually reffered to the long, jester-hat tendrils on his head as his "ears", since he did use them to hear, and also, oddly enough, to smell. He once remembered NiGHTS jokingly calling them "nosears"...but never "sensors". Ah, well. The strange word had just sort of slipped out of him unconsciously, so maybe he'd been thinking of something else.
All he knew was that he didn't belong here. He knew he didn't belong here. He needed to get out of this place right now!
"Where's the exit to this place?" he demanded, causing poor Owl to reel back in shock again. He had an idea himself, but he had to know for sure. "I've got to get out of here. Now."
"B-B-But-but, that's impossible!" Owl stuttered as he hopped a bit closer. "I-It's against the laws of the very universe! Nightmaren can't leave the realm of dreams! Even I myself cannot cross that barrier--only the Visitors are capable of..."
"Well, I'm not a Nightmaren," Reala raised his voice above the flustered bird's chatter, crossing his arms. "I have nothing to worry about. I'm not supposed to be here."
Now, Owl was on the verge of another miniature heart attack. This time, his spectacles actually did slip off the end of his beak. "Wh-Wh-What? Did you just say that...that you're not...?"
"Tell me where the exit is," Reala growled, warningly. "No questions. Is that it back there?" Forcibly, he jabbed one finger back towards the rounded building from which he had come. Maybe that was why it was so important.
Owl fumbled forward, shakily guiding his glasses back over his eyes. "Oh...yes. Yes, actually. That is the building through which Visitors used to pass to return to their own Waking World..."
And that was all Reala needed to hear.
"W-wait!" Owl screeched after him. "That passage is only for Visitors! And even if you say you're not a Nightmaren, you're certainly not a Visitor! The door's not even open anymore!"
Reala paused for just a moment in his flight towards the circular building to turn back and glare at him. "Well, I've got news for you. I came through that door, so I know for a fact it's not closed off. Now, good riddance."
Owl also froze in his furious hopping to boggle again. He'd never been so disconcerted and utterly confused in his life. What in the name of Nightopia was going on here?
Reala snapped back around to continue his flight...but something was tugging him back. There was something he had to say. His mouth furrowed down in a scowl as his gaze fell down on the sparkling blue jewel cemented to his chest. Uggghhhh...I can't believe I'm going to do this...
"...And, uh, make sure you tell NiGHTS that I got this crystal...okay?"
Owl's breath slowed to a halt. Now he was even more baffled than ever...but this time, also a little amazed. The way he'd said that...it wasn't a demand, a threat, or a sarcastic gibe. It was almost as if he was saying. "Thank you." But once Owl finally got up enough composure to make some sort of reply, he was already gone. Of course.
As soon as Reala sped into the circular building, those little sparkling particles of light popped back into existence, converging around his body. They flew towards him, wrapping over him like a blanket...and this time it didn't hurt at all. He closed his eyes, once the light was too bright for him to see through, and relaxed. Now, he knew he was going to the place he belonged. The place he'd been away from for so long...
Owl stared blankly after him, into the stone building. "And, uh, make sure you tell NiGHTS that I got the crystal, okay?"
NiGHTS... Would he even be able to tell him? Owl hadn't seen one hint of the cheerful rebel since he and the children had been attacked by Wizeman. Owl could feel that Will and Helen had returned to the Waking World unscathed...but what had become of NiGHTS?
Somehow, he thought that the news of Reala recieving his crystal would make him very, very happy...and a little sorrow began to creep into his feathered breast when he realized that he might never get to hear it...
"Get away from this place!"
"NOOOO!" The slim figure screamed before him, writhing itself back up into an upright position. "Nooo! Owl! Don't you recognize me?"
"I recognize that you are a Nightmaren, and that you are a danger to this realm of dreams, and that I must not allow you to be here!"
"No! No! I'm NOT a stupid NIGHTMAREN!" The poor creature burst into violent sobs, pressing its round face into the smooth surface of the long blue crystal in its arms. "No...n-n-no one believes me... I'm the only one who...who remembers anything...it's not f-fair...it's just n-not fair..."
Owl's fighting stance softened just a little. Surely, a true Nightmaren wouldn't be able to cry in this way. This creature could only be trying to trick him, but...its voice was so...distressed...so sincere.
It turned its head gently up at him, purple striped horn-tentacles flopping back. Pure, translucent teardrops coated its round cheeks, elegantly plopping off its long eyelashes and making its deep blue eyes shine even more brilliantly. "Owl...? You don't remember me at all? It's NiGHTS...your partner...remember? You've always been my friend...helping me protect the Dreaming World... Don't you remember?"
Frankly, Owl couldn't remember ever seeing NiGHTS before in his life, much less being friends with him. Though, just for his sake, he decided to humor him a bit. "Er...well..." He gently fluttered his wings, bringing himself down to perch at the end of the stone steps where the jester-creature was desperately sprawled on his knees. "...The name does sound slightly familiar... I really can't recall anything else, but...I do have this odd, innate feeling that I can trust you. I know I can trust you somehow..."
At that, a glimmer of a smile broke out of NiGHTS's face--a tiny rainbow glowing through the last raindrops of a storm. "Oh! Oh, thank you, Owl..."
The smile slowly evaporated again once he turned back to the large jewel bundled within his arms. "...But I guess it's already too late for him..."
Owl cocked his large, round head at the sight, curiously. "Mind telling me what's going on? I might be able to help... If this has anything to do with Wizeman or Nightmare..."
NiGHTS swiftly wiped his face on his white, decorated sleeve and rose to his large, thin booted feet, a look of determined resolution now on his face. "Wizeman..." he growled, his light, chirpy voice unusually low. "I have to get rid of him for good... I put it off for too long. This time, I've got to completely defeat him. I never imagined that he would grow this powerful... To have lost all this... I've got to take responsibility and defeat him once and for all myself!"
Owl hovered back up into the air as he began to descend the steps to the central fountain. His long eyebrows scrunched a little behind his glasses. Sure, it was wonderful that this NiGHTS creature wanted to help him defend Nightopia from Wizeman...but to personally defeat the Nightmare Master himself? That was a pretty tall order. Obviously, he had something personal to take up with him.
At last, NiGHTS dared to loosen his grip on the blue crystal. He balanced it within one hand...and oddly enough, it gradually began to shrink.
Owl kept a firm watch on the mysterious object, his eyes gradually growing larger and larger as it grew smaller and smaller. Obviously, this was no ordinary piece of blue crystal.
NiGHTS's face twisted sorrowfully as he watched the crystal withering away within his hand. It was like watching a beautiful flower dying right before your eyes. He closed his eyes and tried to block out the pain. He'd have to put it aside...again...
And as NiGHTS solemnly turned the object over in the center of his palm, Owl thought he heard him whisper something...something sounding like the word "tree".
When NiGHTS looked up again, something immediately, miraculously, caught his eyes, and Owl watched them light up, wonderfully, sparkling with renewed hope.
"What?" he asked, befuddled as always, but still suddenly happy for him. Once again, his misery was lifting.
"I know!" NiGHTS cried out, that light, musical voice back in a flash. "I know how you can help!"
Owl swooped closer, a smile spreading over his own beak. "Well! At last, I am capable of doing something useful to you. And how may I help you?"
"Let me see that brooch of yours."
"What?" Owl was a bit taken aback. After all that, he just wanted to look at a piece of his costume? Well, he supposed, if it could provide any sort of comfort to him... Owl reached up in the middle of his hover, plucked the little round, blue brooch from his jacket's collar, and held it out towards NiGHTS.
He carefully recieved it, holding it in the palm of his other hand...and flipped its surface up, as easily as if it was a jewelry box. Even Owl was a bit stunned. He hadn't exactly been aware that his brooch could open like that...how had NiGHTS been able to tell?
NiGHTS took the tiny blue crystal...and gently set it down inside the brooch, pressing it into the soft cushion inside. It twinkled, just faintly, at him again, and it took all that he had to restrain himself from crying again.
And then, at last...NiGHTS reached up with one white gloved hand...and softly, yet firmly, pressed the brooch's cover back down into place, with a gentle click. A grave, solemn, still atmosphere presided between them for a moment...as if the tiny crystal had been a person...and NiGHTS had just closed the lid of his coffin.
For a brief moment, he pressed his lips against the brooch's smooth surface...and with all the manner of a griever offering up the departed's soul, held the brooch out with both hands for Owl to take.
Owl was firstly hesitant to recieve it. After all, it seemed as if this thing was very precious and personal to him somehow...to be entrusted with its safekeeping seemed a very important job indeed. Yet, he did take it up again...slowly, carefully...and reattached it to his collar, just above his feathered breast.
NiGHTS smiled. And he knew he was doing the right thing.
"Please...please hold on to that for me," he commanded. "It's very important that you make sure nothing ever happens to it. It's something very special and irreplaceable."
Owl nodded, solemnly, truthfully, accepting his duty.
"And..." NiGHTS continued on, a beam of hope playing at the corners of his warm face. "...if you ever see another creature here...at the Dream Gate...who looks kind of like me...and he's not wearing a mask...kind of like this one..." NiGHTS pulled out a small, golden masquerade mask, one long, blue feather extending out of its bridge, and held it out for Owl to get a good look. "Only if he's here, and without one of these masks...then I want you to give that to him."
Again, Owl nodded, scrutinizing the appearance of the mask, before NiGHTS tossed it vehemently beisde the staircase. One of his wings brushed against the brooch at his neck, as if considering his new purpose. He had something very important to do--he knew it. And even as NiGHTS began to lighten up, and was soon zooming around the place like a bird that had just discovered it could fly, this solemn task remained pressed against his mind...and his collar.
He would soon learn the name of this other creature NiGHTS had spoken of--Reala. But it was curious...that he never once thought to ask what the crystal really was
"Mmlllegck..." Reala felt sick to his stomach again, and it wasn't from the crystal or the transportation. That was awful. What in the world made me do that? I know NiGHTS isn't really my enemy...but God...that almost sounded nice
Reala shook himself as he felt the sharp, solid ground materializing under his feet. Well, it doesn't matter. I don't care whether NiGHTS knows or not. I'll never see him again, anyway, because I'm never going back.
And at last, the sparkles flittered away from him again, blinking back out of existence...and he could lift his eyelids to take in the new world around him. Reala couldn't help but start a little bit in shock.
Human beings--more than he had ever seen in one place before--swarmed around him. And most of them were the same size he was. Adults, he realized, twirling around to get a look at the people coming from behind him. There were hardly ever any adults in Nightopia, for some unknown reason.
The adults, their somber, serious faces downcast, marched straight past him, not giving him a second, or even a first glance. They must not be able to see me, Reala thought, scowling at their rushing, weaving, gray forms. Surely, the sight of any creature like me would send them reeling into a panic. ...But then again, maybe not. They don't even seem to be able to see each other, other than to avoid each other.
Indeed, the adults weaved around and across Reala's form, though none of them actually saw it...just as they did with the rest of the people in this drab city square. This was a city, he noticed. The tall buildings squeezed right against each other, the sky was a sick smog-color, lines of different-colored cars inched along, beeping constantly to each other in a chorus, and the people on this gray sidewalk jabbered in raised, often cross voices into little speaker devices pressed to the sides of their faces.
A little part deep inside of Reala began to rejoice. Something was very familiar and very comfortable about this place--it felt as if he'd just returned home after a long journey... I knew I'd belong here, he thought, grinning a little at the drab people and vehicles whirling by. Look at this! No one's happy, no one's spouting any stupid nonsense about love and peace, no one has any time for useless fun and games... This is my kind of place!
With a little spring of celebration, Reala flung himself into the air, pulling upwards towards the roofs of the tall buildings. Again, none of the people noticed, so this time he could be sure that they couldn't see him.
He held out his arms for balance, his ears and his new sleeves flapping back in the wind. He maneuvered his body, diving and weaving around pigeons, security helicopters, antennas, telephone wires, balloons, rotten fruit, cigarette butts, and other scraps of litter. All of a sudden, he thought he understood how NiGHTS felt when he glided through the skies of Nightopia. This was a very similar sensation...
At last, Reala came to the very top of the second-highest tower in the city and gracefully touched down on the edge of its roof. Not too far off, he could plainly make out the giant, square clock at the top of the tallest tower, its tip narrowing into a thin point at the very pinnacle.
So this is still Bellbridge, Reala thought, his scowl falling back over his face. Only, at least, this is the real Bellbridge...not those brats' happy dream version of it. The sight of the familiar clock tower stirred up some resulsion in his heart, since it reminded him of NiGHTS, and inevitably, of his defeat around the false version of the icon. He turned away from that section, settling on another corner of his building's roof.
Reala sat, crouched at the edge of the skyscraper's roof for the next ten minutes, staring down into the sea of cars, people, and buildings below him, thoughtfully. This was the Waking World--he'd known that from the moment he'd recognized the surplus of human adults. But something was not quite right about it. It didn't look...quite the same. All this smog...everyone so distracted...there was...such a startlingly low amount of ideya.
Reala closed his eyes when he realized that he was picking up the presence of ideya. He lifted the back of his head--his sensors--and concentrated, to get a better analysis of the city's ideya. Yes... Every human being here was supposed to have the five ideya...yet most of these people had only two or three--some none at all. Aside from those two bratty children, not even one of them held all five.
That's what's wrong, Reala realized as he opened his eyes again and lifted his head. Everyone is supposed to have their ideya... Here is the place where ideya are born, and only Nightmaren would have been able to take them away. Something is stopping their production.
His gaze fell upon the heavy cloud of smog once again, and with a little flash of light from the center of his blue crystal, he recognized it. It's the Voidables... They're stopping the ideya's production. They've been running rampant and taking over while I've been gone. Oh God, I've been gone for so long...
Wait...Voidables? Yes, Voidables. Coming from the Void. His true enemies. How had he forgotten? He'd been fighting off the Voidables all his life! Maintaining the Balance... It was his very reason for existence. Now the Voidables were spilling over, taking over his realm--his realm--and disrupting the Balance.
The blue crystal at his chest twinkled at him again, fondly.
Reala gently got up again, standing solidly at the edge of the skyscraper, gazing downwards as if to address the entire city itself. Yes. He knew everything now, and felt like an idiot for ever having forgotten it. This was his realm--he belonged here and never anywhere near Nightopia. The place where ideya were born within humans, before they traveled to Nightopia and shaped the landscape, hopefully avoiding the grasp of the Nightmaren. He was a part of this place itself--his very soul felt merged with its essence. And he had a duty to its people...to its continued flourishing life.
He set his face into a determined, solid, resolute stare. He knew now. He knew that he had never been a Nightmaren, and he knew what he had always been.
"My name is Reala," he announced, into the sea of swarming humans below him. "I am the master and guardian of the Waking World."