Paige slid her blades back in her belt and stared down at her fallen enemy. The crimson glow of the archer's eyes died out- he would awaken from his corrupted state soon. "Captain!" Called Sarah from the other side of the room. Paige lifted her blue gaze to see the mouse swashbuckler standing by the door with the others, already waiting to move on. Only a few more floors and we'll be done with this accursed place, Paige thought as she stalked forward to join her crew.
"Moo! Moo Manchu! You still here? I'm waiting for the suffering!" Cooed Monkey King teasingly as they crossed into the hall leading to the next floor of the tower.
"Don't get too cocky now, Monkey," Sarah warned. "If Moo Manchu is as bad as they say, then our final battles may be much more difficult than these have been."
"Sure, sure," Monkey King rolled his eyes. "What could go wrong?" Paige reached down and gripped one of her knives, doing her best to control her agitation. Monkey King always found a way to dig into her skin and if it wasn't for the fear of what chaos would ensue if he wasn't in her custody, she would set him free from his bondage of service in a heartbeat. Subodai was the first to enter, pushing the door open and revealing the next room to them. Five red-eyed pirates stood around a great dragon statue in the center of the room. In its open mouth was a glowing green flask.
Among the pirates, Paige realized, was their target- Moo Manchu himself. "My congratulations, pirate. You have proven yourself a worthy adversary." He spoke in an irritatingly haughty tone. "You have passed the seven-fold test, and now I will reward you." Paige cocked a red brow suspiciously and watched Moo Manchu grab the bottle from within the dragon's mouth. "Look here," he presented it. "Behold the elixir of power- my greatest creation. Drink it and you will know power beyond your wildest dreams." Lies, she thought. Although it does seem a little enticing. "Drink," Manchu repeated, this time in a quieter, almost hypnotic tone. "And you will become my champion."
"Don't do it, captain." She felt Subodai grip her shoulder. She hadn't realized she had taken a step forward. She opened her mouth to say something, but stopped as Manchu went on.
"You pirates are an interesting breed, cunning and tenacious," he said. "In my search for you, I found others. They were able to accept my offer." He held his arms out wide motioning to the pirates standing beside him.
"Drink pirate, you will be strong!" A gruff buccaneer urged her on.
"No! Do not listen captain!" She heard El Toro's faint objection as she stared, dazed, into the eyes of the nefarious 5. Drink, she thought taking an unconscious step forward. I'll be strong.
"Drink captain," insisted a white-haired musketeer. "You'll never miss again."
"No way- don't do it!" Another step.
"Drink and none will resist your will." Promised a well-dressed privateer.
"No, captain! Don't touch it, it's evil!"
"Drink and you'll be faster than lightning," said a masked swashbuckler.
"Drink and the Spiral will fear you." The witchdoctor among them added. Paige knew that her companions behind her were warning her, begging her not to listen, but for some reason, she ignored them. Staring up into the eyes of Moo Manchu himself, she came face to face with him.
"Drink and become the right hand of Moo Manchu." He held the flask up to her lips and she drank. Tiny drops escaped down the sides of her mouth, but she chugged most of it in giant gulps, trusting the promise of her enemies. A second later, she dropped the bottle and stumbled back. She felt dizzy, like the world around her was spinning and her eyes were beginning to lose focus. A red haze came over her vision as she spun around quickly, looking at those who had come into the tower with her. They were the strongest, quickest, bravest of her crew- Subodai, Monkey King, El Toro, and her first mate Sarah Steele. She could hear the muffled, distorted shout of El Toro, "No!" But the haze became more and more solid as she stared into Subodai's eyes. What have I done? She thought with her last bit of consciousness. All that remained was red.
Subodai watched in horror as his captain's blue eyes faded into purple and grew into a bloody, glowing red. He unsheathed his sword quickly, enraged. "Attack!" He shouted.
What will we do with the captain on their side? He wondered, taking on the buccaneer with glowing eyes. He swung his sword at the boy with a single fist balled. He hit the boy's arm, cutting through the delicate fabric of his sleeve. The boy didn't flinch as he moved to charge Subodai head-on. He jumped out of the way, dodging the swinging axe. Out of the corner of his eye, the horse khan spotted El Toro. The bull champion was caught in an altercation with their captain. He'll never win, Subodai knew, locking swords with the nefarious first. Captain Paige is far too strong for him. I'm the only one who's been able to face the captain. If anyone takes her down, it'll have to be me.
As the battle raged on, Subodai continued to steal glances at El Toro. He appeared to be fighting only as a means of defense, but put forth more effort in speaking, probably pleading with the captain. If he kept it up, the captain would knock him out soon. There's no use, Subodai swung his sword at the buccaneer again. He was able to knock the axe out of his hands and throw him to the floor. He winced in pain, but didn't move again. He's going to have to hurt her to break her out of this trance. His heart lurched at the thought of turning on his own captain. All his loyalty belonged to her. Could it be considered betrayal?
He didn't have time to think as the nefarious swashbuckler charged him. He grunted as the swashbuckler boy sent him hurtling back a few feet with a single swift kick. I must focus, Subodai told himself. For the captain I must focus.
El Toro leaped backwards as his captain swung her blades at him. "Captain, please listen to me if you're still there!" He pleaded. Her red eyes burned lifelessly, staring into him. He drew his thin fencing sword and blocked her advance. He pulled out his whip and managed to slap one of the knives from her hand. "Forgive me, captain!" He gasped. It felt so wrong to strike his beloved captain. She recovered quickly, as expected, and retrieved the knife swiftly. He grunted as she cut into his wrist, causing him to drop his whip. "Captain please!" He pleaded again, grasping his bleeding wrist. "Come back to us!"
"Captain, you fool," Monkey King grunted as the others finished off their opponents and circled around her. "You should've known not to trust Moo Manchu! Snap out of it already!"
"Talking to her will not help!" El Toro winced, staying behind with his injured hand. "Believe me, I've already tried."
"Great," the celestial trickster grunted. She's too strong for me anyways, He decided, backing away and taking a seat. The only one of us who can stand a chance against her is that sap Subodai, but if I know anything about him that honor code of his will keep him from laying a hand on her. Monkey King sighed, watching the others contend with the captain. "I guess we're going to be here for a while then."
"Fall back!" Subodai commanded the others, taking a few steps back from his captain. "Talking to her will not work. We have to face her!"
"But Subodai," Sarah objected. "She'll have us on our knees in seconds."
"Not if I fight her," he said, voice trembling with displeasure. "Stay back and let me take care of this." The others obeyed silently. A reluctant tension hung in the air as every part of Subodai's body screamed at him not to attack. He forced himself to raise his sword.
"I will free you, Captain," he said, staring straight into her dead eyes. "Please forgive me." With that, he pulled his scimitar back and charged at her with a howling battle cry. The loud clanging of metal against metal pierced through the heavy atmosphere as the captain and her companion locked blades. It hurt his heart more than being stabbed in the chest would, but it was something he had to do, he didn't have a choice. Forgive me, captain, he kept repeating within. She struck against him, scratching the metal of his breast plate. He swung his blade at her and kicked in her direction, knocking her down. He slapped both of the knives from her hands. "It's time to come back to us captain," He shouted, holding her down. She didn't move, but her eyelids began to sag. "Captain!" he shouted again. To his great relief, the red lights in her eyes began to fade and her eyes fell closed. "Forgive me, Quick Paige," he whispered in her ear.
"I can't believe this happened," El Toro gasped.
"She was being controlled, she couldn't help herself!" Sarah reasoned.
"We need to finish the mission," Subodai grunted. He carefully picked his captain up and hung her over his shoulder.
"Oh, are we done here?" Monkey King stood quickly as Subodai approached.
"You're a disgrace to the captain," Subodai spat. "Spineless coward."
"I've been called worse," the trickster shrugged. Subodai grunted again, but continued on to the next floor. We will rid the world of that scum Moo Manchu for you, my captain.
Paige gasped as her eyes flung open. Her pupils focused on the pink sky above, but her mind raced with confused thoughts. Where was she? Wasn't she just in the tower of Moo Manchu? She looked around, seeing her companions gathered around her. Sarah was at her side, green eyes filled with concern. "Captain, you've come back to us!" She sighed heavily.
"What?" Paige sat up. She looked behind her to see that she had been resting on the life fountain at the Icy Dock. "What do you mean?" She met the mouse swashbuckler's eyes.
"You drank an elixir given to you by Moo Manchu," El Toro explained. "He enticed you and was able to gain control of you. We were forced to fight you."
"What?" Her eyes widened. Her gaze dropped down to El Toro's bloodied glove. "D-did I do that to you?"
"Yes, captain," he looked down at it. "But there's nothing to worry about, it's healing."
"Toro, I'm so sorry," She said. How could I have done such a thing? Play the pawn at the hands of a mad man? "Where is Manchu now?"
"He's dead," Subodai said. "We took care of him."
"Really?" She looked up at the horse khan. He stared down at her with the same intensity as usual.
"Yes," he grunted. "While you were asleep."
"I-" she stopped, gaze falling. I put my entire crew in danger. I was a fool, a puppet. How could I have let my guard down? I could've almost killed them for sure! She hugged her knees. "I'm so sorry."
"You have no reason to apologize. " Sarah rested her hand on her captain's shoulder. Paige met her eyes.
"But what if-"
"Don't worry," the mouse interrupted. "It's over now, all is forgiven." She squeezed her captain affectionately. But what if it happens again? She worried. She looked up at Subodai again. I know he was the one who had to fight me. He's the only one strong enough. But what if he's not there the next time? What if I really do kill someone? What if I'm still under the spell of Moo Manchu? What if I am still the Nefarious Sixth?