You Won't Win
It had been a year already. It was hard to believe how fast time flies, especially when you stand day after day in a graveyard. Magax was lonely; he missed battling Hubrid Nox. It was just too quiet around the woods now.
That lonely grey day in the month of Collecting wasn't something so easily forgotten. Magax had been walking through the woods when he had heard a scream. It was a very familiar scream at that. The blue Wocky made a dash to the source of the sound, only to fall silent and stand in shock at the sight before him; Hubrid Nox was lying on the ground. The barely alive Chia was Magax's long-standing enemy. Magax in his shock and horror quickly rushed the Chia to the closest clinic. But it wasn't enough in the end. Hubrid was gone.
* * *
Magax stood at the grave sight of his arch-enemy, like he did every day. He stood gazing sadly at the tombstone of Nox. Queen Fyora had made it clear to him who had done this terrible deed. She had made the announcement to all of Neopia through an article in the Neopian Times, explaining everything that had happened and why. Xandra was the one responsible for Neopia's near destruction. She had gotten what she deserved at the hands of a thief gone noble. Hanso had started everything, but made things right again in a whirlwind adventure and a race against time.
"I guess I'll be going now, Nox," Magax whispered to the gravestone. He turned and started walking towards town. Last holiday season he had left a gift on the grave; it had disappeared the next day. He could only guess someone made off with it during the night. Magax was lonely without having anyone to do battle with; his legendary clashes with the infamous Hubrid Nox had inspired popular games, Neopian children everywhere loved. Magax thought about these things as he shuffled away. It had been a whole year, a long year. He still didn't know what to do.
His victory was a hollow one, as he wasn't the one who had done away with Nox. He made his way out of the graveyard, and down into the main town of the Haunted Woods. People often came up to him to offer their love and support. In the end it just made him feel even lonelier. Balthazar the bounty hunter was the only one who could talk to him without making him feel worse, and without sounding like an obsessed fan.
* * *
The Cafe was quiet today; Magax ordered a hot chocolate. He was freezing. It had been raining the last three days, and Magax had been caught out in the rain all three days. It was a cold autumn rain too. He never noticed the dark clouds drift over his head until he was soaking wet. He never packed an umbrella, but he was strongly considering on buying one.
"Nox would have never been caught out in the rain." Magax sighed. It felt as if someone had painted him grey and dumped freezing water on him. He gazed down into his hot chocolate; the whipped cream was slowly melting into the rich chocolate drink. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw person after person enter and leave the café from his seat. He thought of what Balthazar had told him. Balthazar was usually right, but then again, he had his moments.
"I was happy when the Faeries were turned to stone," Balthazar had said to him one day. "But the thing I would have never realized is that Neopia actually needs them alive."
Balthazar wasn't one to mince words or feelings; he was the type to tell you everything you didn't want to hear. And what people don't want to hear most often is the truth. However, Balthazar took an artistic licence when dealing with Magax. This was only because of how upset the Blue Wocky was. Balthazar's only lie had been; "it will be alright, don't you worry."
Magax snapped out of his thoughts when he heard someone pull up a chair beside him. He lifted his gaze from his drink to see Balthazar. He looked grim and feverish; it must have been a hard night catching faeries. He was drinking some warm spiced pumpkin tea in small sips.
"So, how are you today?" He asked. He sounded like he had a stuffy nose, he was also tired. Magax could tell.
"I'm fine; I'm just really bored," Magax said. "It's been a year already, you know."
Magax sighed softly. He gazed at Balthazar; the big Lupe was fixedly gazing into his own cup of tea. He looked as though he was falling asleep. It wasn't uncommon for Balthazar to be tired; today he looked beyond tired.
"Yeah, I remember. The fifth day in the month of Collecting, right," Balthazar said. "You gonna put flowers on his grave?" The big Lupe let out a thunderous sneeze.
Magax looked at his friend; he hadn't really thought about it before now. Yes, of course he was going to. He had to put some flowers at Nox's grave; everyone in the Haunted Woods would probably do the same thing.
"Are you feeling ok, Balthazar?" Magax asked, looking at his friend.
"I'm probably comin' down with a bug," Balthazar said. "Too many all-nighters can be very unhealthy." He finished his tea and got up to leave. Magax had finished his hot chocolate too and left the café with Balthazar. The two continued to chat until Balthazar turned to head home, leaving Magax to wander around alone.
* * *
Magax was tired of wandering around town being bored. He often caught himself gazing at Castle Nox up on the hill-side. He missed Nox; he remembered a time when he had been no more than a slave to the once mighty Chia. It was eons ago, but the memories came to him. It was as clear as if everything had happened just yesterday. He shuffled his feet as he walked home. The one memory that kept jumping to the forefront of his mind was the day Hubrid had caught a nasty flu bug. He was sick in bed for nearly a week and Magax had been there for him. This was before Magax had become the hero he was today. Magax decided to go home; it was getting late, and no one wanted to be out after dark. Monsters lurked the woods after dark. He just wasn't in the mood to deal with monsters right now.
* * *
It was a warm fall afternoon. From a tree nearby, a ghostly figure watched the unhappy Wocky shuffle on past. The spirit had been watching this sad fellow for some time, in-between haunting the Haunted Woods and just existing as any specter could. The Wocky marched past the tree the ghost was sitting in. Today he looked pale and tired, and it was rounding on supper time. So he was probably heading home to eat.
The one thing the ghost enjoyed was throwing things. With a spectral hand, the ghost plucked some leaves from the tree and floated above the Wocky. Magax didn't notice a thing; he was still stumbling along on his way home. So the ghost dropped the leaves into Magax's fur. When there was no reaction, the ghost poked Magax on the shoulder. This got the Wocky's attention immediately. He turned around to see who was there, but there was no one.
The ghost also loved turning invisible. It made pranking so much more fun, as well as easy. The specter followed Magax all the way home; it was a good thing too. The Blue Wocky didn't even make into his house. He unlocked the door and opened it, but chose to fall asleep in the doorway, how silly of him. Falling asleep in the doorway can't be very comfortable.
The ghost decided to help out the Wocky. It was the least the ghost could do; there wasn't anyone else around who could help. The ghost liked this Wocky; he seemed interesting.
* * *
Magax was dreaming. He knew he was dreaming because Hubrid Nox was standing before him. He was reciting an evil scheme. As Nox's gallery of evil page said, in plain truth, the Chia had a plan for every day of the week. Nox of all people had a bad habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Well, today I guess you and I shall go on an evil shopping trip!" Hubrid laughed. Magax knew this would turn into one hilarious adventure. Shopping with Nox was always fun. It was the only time he wasn't being evil, but he did have a love for pulling pranks. His one favourite thing to do was make toys dance and shriek to frighten their buyers. Nox's magic was pretty good at making kids laugh too. There was the odd time or two that the spell backfired and several flowers shot out of the Chia's nicely combed hair.
Magax was just starting to enjoy this dream, even if he was aware it was only a dream. It hit a sour note when Xandra showed her speckled head. The Xweetok had a mean look on her face, just like her gallery of evil page. She started shooting magical bolts of lightning at Nox. Hubrid dodged with expert speed, as she chased him and continued firing. They ran circles around Magax. All he could see was a blue blur, closely followed by a green and white one. They ran in circles until the colours melded together. He suddenly felt very dizzy. He watched the world spin out of control in a haze of blue and green colours, until everything went black.
* * *
Magax sat up suddenly; he was in his own bed. He tried to remember how he had gotten here. The last thing he remembered was his front door. He remembered the dream too. Suddenly feeling dizzy, he grabbed the garbage basket he kept beside his bed. His head pounded and ached. It felt like he'd been in a battle and lost.
"Oh my, you haven't been taking very good care of yourself," said a familiar voice from out of nowhere. The voice was gentle and calm. Whoever spoke did not want to add to Magax's pounding headache.
"I think I caught Balthazar's cold," Magax moaned.
He looked around the room for the source of the voice. He saw nobody. He was starting to think he was hearing things, when a shape materialized beside him. It was a ghost, a ghost of the one and only Hubrid Nox. The ghost was holding a thermometer and shaking his ghostly head. He didn't look pleased at all.
"How am I supposed to defeat you, if you're sick?" Nox complained to the bed ridden Wocky. He was careful not to raise his voice or sound angry. He wasn't looking to stress out Magax further. Magax stared, unbelieving; his head was pounding and he felt very cold. He didn't realize he was shivering. He reached out a hand to touch the ghost Nox's hand; it only proved that the ghost was indeed a ghost. It didn't register in the tired and feverish brain of Magax.
"Hubrid....?" Magax sighed. He placed his throbbing head onto the pillow and pulled the covers over himself. He continued to stare at the specter. Ghost Hubrid moved to place a spectral hand on the Wocky's forehead.
"Yes, that's right!" the Chia said proudly, "Did you really think I'd leave you all alone? I still need to win our age old battle."
The Chia looked sympathetically at his arch-enemy. Magax's usually bright green eyes were dull, and he was shivering. Hubrid moved to draw another blanket over Magax. The Wocky really needed to get his windows fixed. They were letting cold air in.
"But you're a ghost now," Magax stated weakly. He looked tired, and was on the verge of falling asleep. He was burning up pretty bad and needed to rest. Hubrid continued to float beside the bed. He looked at Magax with an air of arrogance. Just because he was a ghost didn't mean he was totally different.
"Well then, you're going to have to learn some new tricks," Hubrid said. "That means a trip to the library in Neovia."
"I guess so. I haven't been to the library in years," Magax said as he tried to stay awake. Try as he might to stay awake, he was losing. He was too weak to stay awake. Magax and Hubrid stared at each other for a few minutes, Magax was falling asleep. He looked terrible. Surely Hubrid hadn't been gone from the world that long. Being a ghost, he had no concept of time anymore. He had been meaning to do some reading through the Neopian Times. He just never got around to it.
"You won't win, Magax," Hubrid said with a smile. "Now rest! I can't battle you if you're sick in bed with a cold and fever."
"I... really missed you... Nox," Magax said. "It's been too quiet around the woods... without your villainy."
Magax fell asleep. Hubrid doubted anything would be able to wake him for a few hours. Hubrid floated beside the bed a minute longer. He was thinking of the time he'd caught a cold, how far away the memory seemed. He brushed off the memory and looked at the sleeping Magax.
"You won't win," Nox stated a final time, even if he wasn't heard by the hero. Nox drifted from Magax's bedside. He was going to make some soup. He smiled and whispered to himself.
"I will win."