My Rematch with Balthazar
Urasina's Note: For the prequel to this story, look in NT Issue 445.
Some years ago, I challenged Balthazar the bounty hunter over the fate of a Light Faerie he had caught. The battle was a draw, as my owner had to help me drive the evil Lupe away. Ever since, I had known he'd be back to settle the score, and had been training hard.
Back then, I was a young Green Uni trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. That battle made my path clear: become a warrior and fight for the Light Faeries.
Now, I'm a Speckled Uni, a highly skilled warrior, and an elite-ranked fighter in the Sakhmet Arena.
And maybe... even a match for Balthazar.
Rumors that I heard on the streets of Sakhmet claimed that Balthazar was in the area for the first time since I fought him. I knew that it would only be a matter of time before he tried to find me. But now that I was a different color, and much older, he probably wouldn't know who I was even if we did cross paths.
I was going to set a trap for him, and finish him off for good.
Two of my younger sisters, Pyoga the Royal Girl Peophin and Cali the Maraquan Bori, listened closely as I detailed my plan.
"It's going to put all of our Petpets at risk," I warned them, "But if it works, Balthazar will be easy prey. Can I count on your help?"
"I don't like putting Aphrodite in danger, after all she's done for me," Pyoga admitted, "But I trust you, and I know you'll keep her safe. Besides, she can just fly away if there's a problem."
Cali was also agreeable.
"I remember the story of your first fight with Balthazar," she said. "I hope this time you really deal with him for good."
The plan was simple. I would go for a walk around the neighborhoods outside Sakhmet proper. Three of the family's Petpets: Pegasus the Black Alabriss, Aphrodite the Tanizard, and Courier the Christmas Yooyu, would be with me. When Balthazar came to try and steal the Petpets, they'd flee into the sky, leaving Balthazar empty-pawed and vulnerable to my attacks.
So the Petpets and I began to make that walk a part of our daily routine.
For two weeks, nothing happened. We attracted a lot of attention, which was good, as I knew that information would reach Balthazar soon.
On the first day of the third week, he came.
I sensed the evil bounty hunter hiding behind an old abandoned house. But I pretended I hadn't noticed him, and kept walking. I did, however, make a quiet noise in my throat, the signal to the Petpets. They had been riding on my back, but now they obediently took off, to fly above my head.
As planned, Balthazar jumped out at me and tried to swipe the Petpets. But I blinded him with a blast of Light magic as the Petpets fled, zooming off into the sky and heading back home.
When Balthazar got his vision back, he looked infuriated.
"You set me up!" he growled.
I glared at him.
"That's right, I did," I spat. "Get a good look at me, creep. I'll be the last thing you ever lay eyes on!"
He roared with laughter.
"Do you really think you can defeat me, mare?" he said.
"I know I can!" I snarled. "Don't you recognize me?"
Balthazar stopped laughing and looked me over.
"Can't say that I do..." he mumbled. Then he sniffed at the air, and I saw recognition appear in his eyes. If he had been angry before, now he was REALLY steamed.
"YOU!" he bellowed. "You stole that Light Faerie from me years ago! I've been looking for you! I've got a score to settle!"
He lunged at me, but I spun around and kicked him right in the face. He yelped in pain and spat out several broken teeth, then glared at me.
"You're not as helpless as you once were," he hissed.
"I dare say I'm stronger than you!" I yelled, charging right at him.
Balthazar didn't have a chance to react before my horn went right into his chest. The impact staggered him. Since my horn curves sharply, I thrust my head upwards, dealing significant damage with the tip. Then I jumped backwards, pulling my horn free. He clutched at his chest, gasping for breath and glaring like I had never seen anyone glare before.
"I will destroy you!" he screamed, leaping towards me.
I charged to meet him, nailing him in the chest with a full shoulder tackle and slamming him to the ground.
"Say that again?" I snickered, leering at him.
With incredible speed, he lashed out with his front claws, trying to slash my legs. But I dodged easily, then brought all four hooves down on him with all the force I could muster before jumping off him again.
Balthazar was fading fast. He managed to get back up, but his next attack came slowly. I evaded with ease and lashed out with my wings. Due to an unusual "gift," my wings are large dragon wings tipped with toxic spikes, and I drove the spikes on my right wing into his neck. But I silently cursed myself; I hadn't removed the Light magic "cap" on the spikes that prevented me from poisoning others by mistake. So I hadn't poisoned him. I struck with my other wing, raking those spikes across his muzzle, before jumping back again.
Balthazar lay on the ground, seriously injured yet still defiant. I was uninjured.
"It's been ages since I've faced someone like you..." he growled. "You're tougher than you look."
He got up once more, staring at me warily.
"I'll make a deal with you, Uni," he said. "You let me go, and I'll never come back to the Lost Desert again."
I glared at him.
"I made a promise to myself to destroy you once and for all, for the good of all the Faeries," I roared. "And I intend to keep that promise!"
My next strike did the job. Balthazar crashed to the ground and didn't rise again.
I stood over him, enjoying the feeling of victory, before rearing up to slam both front hooves down on his skull.
But as I went to strike, I suddenly found that I couldn't move!
"What are you doing?" I snarled at the Lupe.
"I'm not doing anything," he replied, also unable to move.
"This is my doing," came a familiar female's voice from behind me.
Moments later, a Light Faerie stepped into my field of vision. It was my Guardian Light Faerie, Kouren, the very same Faerie I had saved from Balthazar.
"Kouren, what are you doing?" I asked, struggling to break the charm she had placed on me. "Don't you want me to finish this vicious predator of Faeries?"
To my absolute shock, she sadly shook her head.
"I don't approve of Faeries being bottled and sold, but there's a reason it happens," she sighed. "I'll explain it to you in a moment. But first..."
And with that, Balthazar vanished in a blast of Light magic.
I suddenly found that I could move again.
"Kouren, why?" I asked. "He would have done the same to you! Why did you let him get away?!"
She knelt down in front of me and began to stroke my nose before she spoke.
"While the Faeries may not like being captured by that Lupe, there is a reason why we've let him continue his work," she began. "When a Bottled Faerie ends up on the market, they're effectively a test of anyone who comes into possession of them. If a Neopet sets the Faerie free, then there is one more free Faerie in Neopia, and one more Neopet with a bit more power. If a Neopet passes the Faerie by, or sells her, then there is an exchange of Neopoints and the Faerie stays trapped."
I mulled Kouren's words over.
"It's a test of morality," my Guardian went on. "If you free the Faerie, then you're rewarded. If you pass her by, or sell her, then you're not rewarded by her, but by the person you sell her to. Which will a Neopet serve: the cause of mercy and goodness, or the cause of Neopoints?"
I finally saw what Kouren was getting at.
"But what Balthazar does is just so... so... wrong!" I finally blurted out.
My Guardian nodded sadly.
"I know," she said softly, cradling my head in her arms. "When I got caught, I thought I'd end up on the market too. But you put your life on the line to save me, and that was enough to convince me that you're more than worthy of the greatest Light magic I can give you. Look at you now, Urasina: you're a champion of the Light Faeries, and strong enough to face and defeat someone even we can't hope to win against."
She wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a firm hug. I felt her Light magic flowing into my body, granting me back the strength I had used fighting Balthazar.
"Now, it's time for you to head back home," Kouren told me. "I will meet you there. And I will spread word of your victory among the other Light Faeries. Rest assured, you will be rewarded for your heroic actions today."
She bowed to me. I bowed back.
"You truly are a hero, Urasina dear," she said quietly before vanishing.
I stared at the spot where Kouren had vanished from, then sighed and spread my wings, ready to fly back home.
While I wouldn't call that fight a victory, I knew it was a better outcome than my last battle with Balthazar. And I knew that he'd never come bother me again.
That felt good, in a way. While I would have loved to finish him once and for all, I knew I had to take what I could get. Kouren certainly seemed right about the bottled Faeries. And my family would love to hear the story of this fight.