The White Rose of Fiorazzurro
Chapter 25 (or, "The Final Battle Begins")
Gallathia hadn't changed under Rosa's rule...yet. The tropical beach was still standing, although the castle was still gone, and Daisy and Tama still hadn’t returned yet.
Jason and Jen jumped through time and space to get to the Crystal Palace, using the approximate coordinates Rifka had sent them. She had never been to the Palace, and therefore had to rely on Calimero’s directions to get them there…but it was as close as she could manage for the time being.
“Stay behind me,” Jason whispered as they materialized into space.
Jen nodded, holding Jason’s boombox close. “I can do that.”
Jason looked out over the castle’s courtyard, awestruck at the high glass walls and flags flown at high mast. Was this really where Rosa was now? How had she managed to take control so quickly? Was Dvorak really with Sarah? Couldn’t he fix all of this?
He just about whispered for Jen to stay close again, but the sky filled with the sound of what must have been bees — no, birds. Jason lifted his head up and saw the clouds fill with what must have been thousands upon thousands of birds.
“I’m sorry,” he heard a voice say, and then Rosa Elena Meira Querida was upon Jason, regal in her long dark dress, pointing her scepter at him. “I guess I’m not going to be able to hear you over these birds I called down.”
“You did that on purpose.” Jason gritted his teeth. Rifka had been right. This wasn’t the normal Rosa. “What are you gonna do next? Send us to limbo?”
She shook her head. “Oh, no, I can’t actually send anybody to limbo. I’m not Dvorak. But I can change this world as I see fit.” She waved her staff, and the parrots turned into postcards, falling onto the ground like snow. “That means I can manipulate anything, including you, dear sweetheart.”
Jason wrinkled his nose. “I’m not your dear sweetheart.” He grabbed one of the postcards and noted that there was a green apple on the front of each and every one, with crinkled edges. They looked like they had been printed ages ago. “What are these for?”
“They are notification to the inhabitants of this world that Rosa is ultimate queen.”
Jason turned and found Tamasine Matsumoto, his best friend, standing behind him. He was still wearing the traditional Japanese outfit he had arrived on this world in. “Thank God —“
“And now that you have received that notification, you will bow down to Queen Rosa and all of Fiorazzurro.” Tama moved so quickly that Jason didn’t even catch him. One moment, he was in front of Jason, and the next, he had him in a locked grip, one arm around his waist, the other with a long sword around Jason’s neck.
Jason tried to force himself out. This wasn’t Tama — was it? Rosa was acting too fast for even him. She couldn’t be human.
“It’s so much fun to play around with you guys,” Rosa said, taking a few steps forward. “Your good friend is now my little playmate. He’ll do whatever I say as long as I’m ruling over this world. And so will you, once I rework you into my puppet strings.”
“Nii-chan?” Jason heard Jen’s voice from behind him.
“Nuh-uh,” he yelled, “take the boombox and — actually, turn the boombox on!”
Jen fumbled with the controls and snapped it on; the Latin beats of Una Madre Por la Pais started echoing out into the courtyard. Since the parrots had been turned into postcards, it worked perfectly; Tama let go of Jason and backed off, though still didn’t lose that strange, brainwashed look in his eyes.
Jason cracked his knuckles. This strange, controlled version of Tama wasn’t flying with him. “I do not want to fight you.”
“Then don’t,” Rosa said with a chuckle, leaning against her staff. “Stay here with us for all of eternity. Let me rule in peace, and I’ll even let you have this world as it is. I’ll tell Dvorak to leave the other world alone, and if he disagrees, I’ll just stop him from changing anything here.”
“He’s already been stopped, Miss Querida.” Sarah Dealey stood behind Rosa. “You can stop now.”
And, without a movement otherwise, the entire courtyard is surrounded by magic users, people dressed in outfits Jason has never seen before, groups of strong men, ladies all in a row, mothers and fathers and children and orphans, all standing together, many magicks becoming one. And at the front of the crowd was Rifka, back in her corset, standing guard, pointing out at Rosa.
“Dvorak is ours and does not wish to assist you. Give it up, Dark Rosa. You have no power here.”
Jason smiled. “That’s our Rifka.” He looked around, taking note that, at least physically, all of his friends were here together. As long as they were all physically in the same place, he knew they could pull it off. None of this limbo business they had to deal with before. They’d get Tama out of his funk and Rosa back, and make sure this world merged perfectly.
Especially with Dvorak out of the way and Sarah assisting.
“Oh, but I do!” Rosa yelled, standing on guard again and waving her wand to the sky. The clouds darkened, and random animals started to fall from the clouds. Jason reached for what he thought was a goldfish, but was instead a whale the size of his communicator.
“You couldn’t have come up with anything else?” he yelled.
Rosa tapped her scepter again, and the world changed around them. The sky was dark as night, and the ground around them was now made of gold. “Come at me, if you want to,” she said. “There’s not much you can do about it anyway.”
“I wouldn’t bank on that,” Jason heard Rifka call out. “For now is when we claim this world back to our side. Jen, start up the music!”