When I fell asleep, I found myself once again at the Dream Gate. And to my surprise, the door to the Rose Castle was still there. The question was, where were NiGHTS and the others?
"Guys?" I called. No answer, so I tried again.
"Guys, I'm back!" Again no answer. Then,
"Hoo! Welcome back, Visitor." I turned to face Owl.
"Hi, Owl. Thanks. Hey, I don't suppose you've seen NiGHTS or the others, have you?" I asked.
"Hoo! Why, as a matter of fact, I have. Come with me, I'll take you to them." he replied, flying towards the door to the Rose Castle. I sighed. Why didn't I guess they'd keep searching after I woke up?
When we got to the castle courtyard, I saw Mirage and Reala arguing about something, while NiGHTS was trying unsuccessfully to calm them down.
"Um…what's with these two, NiGHTS?" I asked. He sighed and turned to me.
"Hey, Lorelei. Well…Mirage found a box, but we can't get it open without the key, and these two are arguing about where the key could be hidden. Reala seems to think we won't be able to find it until we open another door to your Nightopia, but Mirage is trying to convince him that if that box he found may have one of your Ideya inside it, then we'll find the key here in the Rose Castle." he explained. I thought a moment and looked down at the box sitting on the edge of the fountain.
"Guys, enough." I said, loud enough to get their attention. Reala turned to me.
"Well, what do you think, Dreamer?" he asked me suddenly. I glared at him.
"Okay, the only one allowed to call me Dreamer or Visitor is Owl. I'd appreciate it if the rest of you would call me by my name. And to answer your question, Reala, I think that Mirage is right, even if there isn't Ideya in that box, it makes sense that the key would be here, too." I said, slight venom in my voice when I spoke his name. He sighed in irritation.
"Alright, past you can't even remember at the moment aside, what may I ask is your problem with me, Vis…Lorelei?" he demanded.
"….Let's just say when I woke up, I got a second opinion, and the person I spoke to told me a thing or two about the you in their Dream World." I replied coldly.
"Well let me just tell you that it can prove to be dangerous to make blind assumptions. Now, jumping back to the key, say Mirage is right and it is here. Do we have any ideas where it would most likely be?" Reala said, turning to NiGHTS.
"Well…Lorelei may not remember, but I do. She had it with her around her neck all the time, until the first time you chased her. I remember she came to me crying that you were after her, and that she had lost the key when she hid in the music room. So….I think it stands to reason that the music room is the best place to look for it." NiGHTS replied.
"Well, what're we waiting for? Shouldn't we go look for it?" Mirage asked. NiGHTS nodded.
Somehow, we ended up splitting up into two teams. Reala and Mirage went to check outside, NiGHTS and I went to the music room. While we were searching, NiGHTS managed to trigger a switch that opened a secret passage behind the fireplace.
"Whoa. What do you think is back there?" I asked. NiGHTS shook his head.
"No idea. But there's only one way to find out. You wait here, I'll go check it out." he said. I nodded, and when he was gone I continued looking around for anything that even resembled a key. All the while, I felt like someone was watching me, but I tried to shake it off as paranoia. After all, no one was there but me.
"Get a grip, Lorelei, you're imagining things. There's no one here but you..." I grumbled to myself.
"I wouldn't be too sure, Dreamer." I jumped and turned to see a jester like creature with black and orange horns pointing forward instead of flopped like NiGHTS, Reala, and Mirage's, and he wore a cape. What also made him different..was that he had no body, just hands, feet, and a head! Before him was a deck of cards.
"Who are you?" I asked, backing away. He smirked and it sent chills up my spine. I didn't like this…
"The name's Jackle. Go on, pick three cards! Any three card!" He said. I backed away even more.
"How come?" I asked.
"Cuz other than card games, fortune telling is my specialty, Dreamer. Don't you want to know what lies ahead for you?" he said, spreading the cards out into a circle in front of him.
". . . Well…." I started hesitantly.
"Come on, what's it going to hurt?" Jackle coaxed. I sighed. Well…I was a little curious…
"Alright. That one." I said, pointing at one. He separated it from the rest, but didn't flip it over for me to see.
"Now pick two more."
"This one." I pointed at the second card. Again, he separated it but didn't flip it.
"Last one, Dreamer." I pointed at the last card, and after separating it out, the other cards disappeared and he flipped over the three I selected.
First card….the Lovers. Suggests love, friendship, and partnership….
Second card…the Magician; reversed. Suggests deception or the need to be careful with whom I put my trust.
Third and final card…Death; reversed. Suggests possible loss of friendship.
"What does it mean?" I asked. Jackle smirked.
"Well, if I had to guess, I'd say you're gonna fall in love, but not all is as it seems to be. And that relationship is going to make you lose a close friend. But like I said, I'm only guessing."
"…Is there any way to change it?" I asked. Jackle's smirk widened and the cards vanished like the rest of the deck did.
"Well…there is one way. …..You'll have to die!" he said. After he spoke those words, cards flew out of his sleeves like throwing knives and in the process of moving out of the way, I was cut by some of them.
Wincing in pain, I tried to make it to the passage where NiGHTS had gone to find him and ask him for help, but Jackle increased the size of some of his cards and blocked my path.
"What do you want from me?!" I demanded, reaching for a poker on the rack above the fireplace. Jackle threw one of his cards and as it cut my hand, he cackled maniacally.
"The less blood you have, the weaker you are. The weaker you are, the less chance you have of escaping, Gate Holder! Hahahahaha!" I gasped and dodged more of his cards as they flew at my head. Me? The Gate Holder? No way!
"You're out of your mind!" I exclaimed, dodging another burst of bladed cards. Jackle grinned wildly.
"Thanks for the compliment, Sweetheart, but you're still coming with me to Master Wizeman!"
"Jackle!" the psychotic Nightmaren froze and turned when we heard Reala's voice. But soon, his terror turned to another psychotic smirk.
"Well…if it isn't Reala. Come to save your little girlfriend, I bet. You know, you were once a high ranking Nightmaren, but now you're all washed up! Beating you should be a breeze! Hahahaha!" Reala smirked coldly and walked over to where I was. Pushing me behind him and holding up a clawed hand, he said,
"I wouldn't be too sure about that, Jackle. You see, just because a chess piece is on the other side of the board, it doesn't change it's rank." he said. I gasped when a black flame appeared in his hand, making Jackle recoil.
"W-wait a minute….c-can't we talk about this? I-I mean, it's nothing personal or anything! I was just doing my job, I swear!" Reala glared.
"Right…nothing personal. You have a job to do, and unfortunately, I do as well. You shouldn't have so blindly assumed your powers could ever hold a candle to mine. Farewell." he said icily, releasing the flame. It engulfed Jackle in seconds, and his screams filled my ears and burned into my memory.
Trembling, I collapsed to my knees. I didn't know if it was because of all the blood I lost, or because I had just seen Reala kill without hesitation, but I felt really woozy. . .
"Dreamer!?" Reala's voice calling out to me was the last thing I heard before I blacked out.
When I came to some time later, my wounds were gone. Someone had healed me. As I sat up and turned to my left, I saw Reala sitting in a chair nearby, reading a book.
"….Were you the one who healed me?" I asked. Without looking up from his book, he responded with,
"What if I was?" I exhaled and ran my fingers through my hair.
"…Why'd you do it? Why didn't you just let him kill me or whatever?" I asked. Reala scoffed and closed the book he was reading. Looking up at me, he said,
"Believe me, I don't care one way or the other what happens to you, Dreamer. NiGHTS however, is not as indifferent, and if I let anything happen to you, I would never hear the end of it from him." he snapped. I scoffed and turned my head away. Cold hearted jerk…
Wait….how long had I been out, exactly?
"Speaking of which, where is NiGHTS? And Mirage too! Weren't we supposed to meet them somewhere?" I asked. I then gasped as the possibilities started listing in my mind.
"Wait, you don't think something could have happened to them?!" Reala sighed and picked up his book again.
"Calm down, Dreamer. I'm sure those two just got distracted. I'm not sure about that new Maren, but that seems to be one of NiGHTS' many flaws." I glared and stood up from the sofa Reala had laid me on.
"First of all, my name is Lorelei! Second, you're hardly one to talk about flaws!" I snapped. He then stood and looked straight into my eyes, his burning with anger.
"You know, you've got an odd way of showing gratitude to someone who just saved your life." He growled. My own glare didn't waver, even though I was starting to get worried about what Reala was really capable of.
"Well maybe I'm just not very trusting when it comes to certain people. After all, you know what they say. Once bitten, twice shy." Reala was about to make another remark, but a certain someone's voice caught his attention and mine.
"Alright you two, stop flirting." We both scoffed and turned to NiGHTS.
"As if! I'd rather jump off the cliff and into Nightmare than flirt with this jerk!" I said shortly, crossing my arms. Reala glared.
"The feeling is all too mutual. That aside NiGHTS, where have you been?" he demanded. NiGHTS rubbed the back of his neck and smiled apologetically.
"Well, there's a secret passage here in the music room. I thought maybe the key to that box might be down there, but…it wasn't." he said. Reala sighed in irritation.
"Well you certainly shouldn't have left her by herself. I had to come and protect her when Jackle came after her!"
"Jackle was here?!"
"Yes. He was. I already took care of him, no need to look so concerned."
"Okay, excuse me? Had to protect me? I could have dealt with him myself, thank you very much! I don't need a baby sitter!" Reala scoffed at me.
"I beg to differ."
"You know what-" It was then that NiGHTS stepped in and broke up our argument.
"Alright you two, let's not have a blood bath. ….Hey Lorelei, you never really got to Duelize with me, did you? Want to give it a go?" he asked, holding his hand out to me. I arched an eyebrow.
"We Duelized once. At the Dream Gate, remember?" NiGHTS smiled sheepishly.
"Well…yeah, but you never got to actually fly, did you?" he said. I sighed. He had a point. Owl thought NiGHTS was getting a little crazy with the flying and got all paranoid that something was going to go wrong, or whatever.
"True enough. Okay, you win. Let's go." I said, touching my hand to his.
I couldn't sleep; for three reasons. One, I'd taken a nap earlier in my physics class. Two, I kept thinking back on that creepy voice calling my name. And three, I also kept thinking on what happened in my Dream World when I had fallen asleep in class. I couldn't shake the conversation NiGHTS and I had at the Dream Gate.
"The Reala in my sister's Dream World alive, and he's claiming he's a changed Nightmaren. What do you think, NiGHTS?" I asked. NiGHTS laid on her back on the edge of the fountain and looked up at the sky.
"Well…it's difficult to say. Honestly, I don't think she should be left alone with him at any time. And if he's alive, that must mean that the Wizeman in her world is alive, too. Even you can't let your guard down, Katie." she said. I cocked my head to the side.
"What do you mean?" I asked. She sat up and turned to me, an unusually serious look on her face.
"I mean that even if you've got your own Night Dimension here that's free of Wizeman, the one in her world could still have great powers, enough to reach out to you and try to use you to get at her." she warned me.
"Do you really think we have that much to worry about? I mean, like I told you before, she's got the NiGHTS in her world to protect her, so…" NiGHTS scoffed and looked up at the sky.
"But you also told me that he thinks Reala is telling the truth about being one of the good guys. And if he's anything like the one here was, he's only trying to gain their trust so he can pick the perfect time to strike. I swear, given the right circumstances, men are so gullible…" she muttered. I stifled a laugh.
"Like we girls are any different. ….But still….what do you think the Wizeman in Lori's Dream World is planning? What does he want with her?" I asked. NiGHTS shook her head.
"Sorry, but since this is a different Night Dimension than that one, I couldn't tell you." she replied.
Even if she was different than the one in my sister's Night Dimension, if NiGHTS couldn't come up with a theory for what Wizeman was planning, then I knew things were serious. I just wished there was some way I could get into her Dream World and help her. Well….since she had a Dream World, that Dream World had a NiGHTS like all the others. So I guess all I could do was leave her protection while she slept up to him, right?
…Why did I have a bad feeling about this?
We had flown up to the roof of the castle before we stopped to rest a minute.
"So…how're you liking it so far?" NiGHTS asked me. I smiled.
"I love it! I've never felt so….relaxed before." I replied. NiGHTS laughed.
"Well, that's one of the many perks of it. But I gotta say, your expression was pretty amusing when I taught you the Paraloop and the Drill Dash." he said. I laughed and stuck my tongue out him in jest.
"I'm still a little miffed that you didn't warn me first!" I said. The two of us laughed again before laying back.
"Hey NiGHTS?" I said after a moment.
"….Are you….are you sure? About Reala, I mean?" I asked. NiGHTS' face took on a serous expression and we sat up.
"Well….at first I wasn't quite sure. But….he did save you when Jackle showed up. I know Reala well enough to know that if he was still working for Wizeman, he'd have made his move when I was out of the room." he replied. I shook my head.
"Well….you could be right. But it seems more logical for him wait until we've all dropped our guard first." I theorized. NiGHTS thought on this for some time before speaking again.
"Well….in any case, he did save you. And instead of thanking him, you only fought with him more."
"Hey, he instigated it!" I said in my defense.
"All the same…I think we should at least give him a chance. …Don't give me that look. I admit I don't trust him completely even though I act like it, but at least I'm trying. You should do the same. It's not like I'm saying we should let our guards down." NiGHTS pressed. I sighed in defeat. Curse him and his persuasive nature….
"Fine. When we regroup with the others again, I'll drag Reala off to the side and talk to him." I said somewhat reluctantly. NiGHTS smiled gratefully.
"Thank you. Speaking of which, do you think we ought to head back now? The hour glasses are half empty already, you know." he said, pointing to the courtyard. I groaned.
"Man….why do the Awakeners get to choose what time I wake up?"
"Because if memory serves me correctly, tomorrow is a week day and you have school. And…you more than likely set an alarm, am I right?"
"…Unfortunately…yes. I did set my alarm."
"Well, let's not waste any more time. Come on." NiGHTS said, getting up.
"NiGHTS, hold up. Before we go down to the courtyard to rendezvous with Reala and Mirage, let's go check the music room again for that key. I…I just have a strange feeling we weren't looking in the right place before." I said. NiGHTS nodded.
"Sure. We have a few minutes to spare." he said.
Once they reached the music room, NiGHTS and Lorelei de-Duelized.
"Over here." she said, walking over to the piano. NiGHTS gave her a confused look.
"We already checked the piano, didn't we?" he asked. Lorelei nodded and traced her finger along the intricately designed border beneath the piano keys until her hand felt what she was looking for. A switch. NiGHTS blinked in surprise when a drawer popped out of the spot where Lorelei's hand had been.
"Oh wow. I never knew there was a secret compartment there." he said. Lorelei smiled sheepishly and shrugged.
"Well….I didn't really know it was there either. I just kind of…felt it." she said, looking back down inside the drawer and removing the only item in it- a silver key adorned in stained glass and diamonds.
"Is this the key?" she asked, holding it up. NiGHTS nodded.
"That's it alright. Now let's go find out what's in that box!" he said excitedly.
NiGHTS had all but dragged me back to the courtyard, where Reala and Mirage were waiting, box in hand.
"You two are late." Reala snapped.
"Come on, don't be like that! We found the key!" NiGHTS said. Reala looked at me and I held it up.
"Well what're we waiting for then, let's get the box open!" Mirage said.
"Hold on." I said, handing the key to NiGHTS. "I gotta talk to Reala for a minute. Don't open the box without us." As I motioned for Reala to follow me, he seemed reluctant to do so.
"What do you want, Dreamer?" he asked when we were out of earshot of the others. I sighed. Between my pride and his cold demeanor, this was SO not gonna be easy…
"…Alright, look, I know you only saved me to keep NiGHTS from being mad at you or whatever, but…you were right. Despite the circumstances, I should have been a little more grateful to you for protecting me. So….thank you, Reala." I said, exhaling. Reala didn't seem to know how to react. I guess the whole 'doing something good and being shown gratitude for it' thing was a new concept to him, despite being offended earlier for my lack of gratitude. After a minute, he said,
"….Let's get back. I'm sure NiGHTS is dying to see what's in that infernal box." he said, floating past me. Wow. He didn't try to instigate another argument. Deciding I would follow him on that, I walked silently with him back over to where NiGHTS and Mirage were waiting.
"Alright, let's see what's in that box." I said, nodding at NiGHTS to open it. NiGHTS nodded back and excitedly inserted the key into the lock and turned. As he opened the lid, a white light shot out and flew towards the fountain. When the three of us turned around, the light took on another shape and faded to reveal a Maren with white and sky blue horns. His clothes were silver and turquoise Chinese style, save for the collar, which was kind of like NiGHTS, Reala, and Mirage's were. The violet gem on his chest was like the ones the others had, too.
"A Maren?" NiGHTS asked, cocking his head to the side. We all tensed when the white Maren opened his cherry blossom eyes and floated gracefully to the ground. Looking up at us, he said,
"I am Spirit, the Guardian of Growth." he said.
"A…Guardian?" I gasped.