The Princess of Flowers: Part Eleven
PART ELEVEN: WHAT MATTERS MOST
Rose entered Nathaniel’s bedroom and tried to ignore the wooden bed and tacky green Shoyru poster placed beside the closet. Still burning with questions—and anger—she sat down on the bed’s blue and white checked bedspread. She cringed when Nathaniel decided to sit beside her. "Alright, here I am," Rose sighed. "Now then, how about you [finally] open your mouth and tell me who the heck you are!"
Nathaniel nodded. "I was orphaned when I was little, and Ms. Margo took me in. She knew I was born with some magical abilities, and had a keen interest in showing me how to develop and control my powers. She was also very adventurous and would poof us to every corner of Neopia: even to the most remote locations, such as Lutari Island, Wobbleshire and even Floritua."
"So you already knew of my homeland, then," Rose mused.
"Yes, and it’s a very beautiful place," said Nathaniel, smiling fondly. "I remember when Ms. Margo first took me to see the royal gardens; I was quite young, yet I will never forget how much the sight of those delicately-pruned flowers and trees touched my heart. It was truly love at first sight for me, and it’s why I kept visiting the gardens years later—even when the weather was terrible."
Rose shrugged. "I suppose the gardens are wonderful." She narrowed her eyebrows. "Now I want to know how you came to know about [me] and why you said those awful things!"
"That was only because I listened to the comments of Floritua’s citizens whenever I visited the village," Nathaniel insisted. "Ms. Margo befriended many of the villagers, and they had many unpleasant things to say about your family—and yes, even you, Rose." He gave her a sympathetic glance. "From what I heard growing up, you were nothing but a vain individual who cared very little about the wellbeing of others—especially those of your own citizens. Mostly everybody we spoke with had negative things to say about your family and it was because of how vain and distant you acted towards them."
"And you actually decided to side with [them]?" Rose gasped.
Nathaniel nodded. "It was also why I decided to confront you on that rainy day. I believed that, for the sake of your kingdom, you needed to understand how unimportant your quest for ‘true beauty’ was. Especially," he blushed, "because you were already quite beautiful."
Rose didn’t know whether to whack him in the head with the pillow or throw him out the window. Everything Nathaniel said was highly unreasonable—yet at the same time, some of the things sort of sounded true. Even though Rose viewed the villagers as a bunch of filthy, greedy lowlifes, was there any truth to what they had said about her family? Should her parents be more proactive with their citizens, or should they continue acting as distant as possible? "I suppose…we haven’t been the best rulers in Neopia," Rose found herself confiding.
"There’s always time to improve," Nathaniel insisted.
"But my…my appearance," Rose gulped. "I’m still not completely satisfied with it." She shook her head. "I know I can make myself look much better."
Nathaniel took her hand. "Don’t say that, Rose," he urged. "You [are] beautiful, and not just in appearances. You’re quite brave, actually, and very tough." He grinned wider. "I also think you’re the cleverest princess I’ve ever met! And I don’t think any other royal member in Neopia would risk her life for the sake of her subjects."
"I suppose," Rose said doubtfully. Now Nathaniel’s comments were making her mind swim with various thoughts. Did he really mean all of the nice adjectives he used? And was he right when he said she—and, believe it or not, Mildred—were risking their lives for Floritua? Rose has never thought deeply about the purpose of their quest. Mildred was surely trying to get her grandfather back, but what about Rose? Was she trying to get her own parents back—the same parents who dictated her every move, every decision, every thought, every word and every outfit? Or did she have another reason to partake in such an exhausting—and possibly pointless—journey?
"Rose?" Nathaniel said softly. "Are you alright?"
"I-I think so," Rose stammered. She looked over at Nathaniel’s kind eyes. "There’s just one thing I wish to know: why did the Rose Rod choose me as its master? Why have I been able to poof it up, and where does it actually reside?"
Nathanial shrugged. "I think the rod—because it was made of Earth Faerie magic—was seeking a strong-hearted Neopian to possess its powers. It’s also possible that the rod was delivered to Floritua and, once it sensed your presence, decided to reside in your heart, where it could be protected by the strength of its user."
"Sounds plausible." Rose stood up and headed to the window. She gasped at the sight of a figure standing in the snow and hurried to Nathaniel’s side. "There’s somebody out there!" she shrieked. "I think it’s a Faerie!!"
Nathaniel raised an eyebrow and headed to the window. His face fell and he immediately headed downstairs, with Rose at his heels. The figure was still standing in the same spot when Nathaniel flung the door open and shouted, "What are you doing here, Mira??"
[Mira?] Rose looked the figure over: she was a tall, lean Darkest Faerie whose hair was tied up in a bun. She wore a long, black dress with webbed sleeves and a sparkling ruby necklace around her neck. [Is this the same Mira that Jill was working for?] Rose wondered.
"Well, what are you doing here?" Nathaniel barked.
Mira laughed. "Foolish Ixi," she scoffed. "It’s not you that I want!" She narrowed her eyes at Rose and smirked with her blood-red lips. "Well, isn’t this an extraordinary honour? The princess of Floritua, all alone in the Terror Mountain tundra! How surprising!"
"What did you do with my subjects?" Rose demanded.
"Why, I simply poofed them away," Mira explained, admiring her fingernails. "You kept going on and on about how unattractive you felt that I decided to assist you by, oh I don’t know, poofing away everyone who perceived you as being ugly." She beamed. "You see? I’m actually your hero, and thus am deserving of your thanks."
"I…I can’t believe it…" Rose was baffled. She reflected on what Mira had said and a sudden wave of dread appeared to swallow her whole. Had it not been her own insecurities, Mira wouldn’t have heard her frustrations…and had she didn’t commit the stupidest mistake of her life, Mira wouldn’t have been freed. [But I can’t keep dwelling on these mistakes forever,] Rose told herself. [There will be plenty of time to take blame after Mira’s defeated.]
Nathaniel poofed up two blue orbs and aimed them at Mira. The Darkest Faerie dodged the attack and cackled. "Is that the best you can do?" she scoffed, poofing up two purple fire orbs.
Rose poofed up the Rose Rod and, after Mira threw her orbs at them, shouted, "Rose Protection!" Instantly, a rose-shaped shield appeared in front of Nathaniel and protected him from the purple flames. Although she was relieved Nathaniel was alright, the attack had exhausted her tremendously, and she found herself collapsing to her knees. "Are you…okay?" she panted.
Nathaniel sank to the ground. "Are you alright?" He gripped her hands and, to Rose’s surprise, she found herself recovering her strength. "I can perform healing spells," Nathaniel explained. "It’s also how you were able to recover following the attack at Wobbleshire."
"Why, aren’t you the sweetest Ixi around," Mia crowed, poofing up two more fire orbs. "If your little friend enjoyed playing saviour, then she’ll just adore my next plan of attack!"
"I’ll be your opponent!" Nathaniel sprang up and glared at Mira. "I won’t hold anything back," he warned, "so you better be prepared!"
[Is he seriously going to fight her alone?] Rose wondered. [And for MY sake?]
Mira smirked. "My, you do seem like a worthy opponent," she said, poofing her orbs away, "but I think I’ll just be wasting my time if I battled with you—and your princess friend—in this tundra." She smiled and added, "I’m sure we’ll meet again sometime soon, though. Then we can have a [real] showdown."
"Wait!" Rose leapt up just as Mira poofed herself away. At first Rose thought it was very anticlimactic—for a Darkest Faerie, Mira didn’t seem like one who’d partake in confrontations. Still, the thought of Mira disappearing was also quite relieving, as Rose didn’t need to waste any more energy fighting a worthless foe. "I guess she decided to retreat for now, huh?" she remarked to Nathaniel.
Nathaniel shook his head. "I don’t think our encounter with Mira is over yet," he sighed.
Before Rose could respond, the ground beneath them began to shake violently. She and Nathaniel sank to the ground and watched as deep cracks began to take shape. At first Rose thought it was just an ordinary, violent earthquake. Then, as if hit by a snowball, a realization struck her hard. "Oh no..." Rose breathed. She looked up at Nathaniel with wide eyes and exclaimed, "It’s the miracle flowers! They’re in trouble!"
"Yes, I believe so," said Nathaniel, nodding.
"You have to poof us to Floritua immediately!" Rose urged. "Only I can stabilize the miracle flowers! I’ll have to work extra hard, but I’m certain everything will be okay…though only if we hurry!"
"Alright," Nathaniel agreed. "We’ll go." He gave her a worried look. "Just promise me that you’ll be okay, Rose."
Rose nodded firmly. "I will. Just place all your faith in me, and I’ll get the job done. Then—if she’s still around—we’ll take on Mira and defeat her. Together."
To be continued…