The Bird at Miss Puffy’s right had an arrow sticking through its head, a piece of mail on her back and a balding tail with a single white feather on its end. The other Bird to her left was all black with a Kestrel on top its head, and had tiny black wings and a long swallow tail. The group moved in further, going round the side to the area where Nightshade and Poysenberry sat.
Miss Puffy stopped and looked at Woodman on the ground. ‘Well, you all have already made our job easier to fly you back,’ she said. ‘One down, two to go.’
Poysenberry jumped down from his stool with Nightshade at his side.
‘What do you Birds want?’ said Nightshade. ‘You bunch of scammers. Why don’t you fly along and bother someone else huh?’
‘Ooo,’ said Arrowhead. ‘Big talk for a little Dusk.’
‘You want a piece of me?’ said Nightshade.
‘What’s your plan lady?’ said the Black Bird. ‘Whack me with that carrot?’
The three Birds laughed. Then after several seconds, Miss Puffy chopped her paw in the air, signalling for them to stop.
‘Last warning,’ said Miss Puffy. ‘Come with us or we’ll tear you up limb to limb and let your farmer reassemble you all.’
At that, Poysenberry moved in front of Nightshade and bared his teeth at them. Arrowhead shot into the air, bumping her head on the ceiling as she twisted her body, then flung the last feather on her tail at him. The feather hit Poysenberry’s shell and slid down its side. It pierced into his flesh, causing him to bleed. Arrowhead continued to target him, this time with her sharp beak. Her tail was gushing blood from the missing feather and her eyes were set firmly on Poysenberry’s soft green skin.
Poysenberry braced himself for impact when, out of nowhere, a black frying pan appeared, whacking Arrowhead in the face and stopping her from flying any closer to the Plant. Arrowhead crashed to the floor, stars floating over her head.
Everyone gasped. The tiny Dawn glared at them as she held the frying pan firmly in her paws, measuring everyone in the room with a cold stare. The little Dawn harrumphed and pointed the frying pan at the sign on the wall that said: NO FIGHTING.
Miss Puffy rolled her eyes. ‘Would you take that stupid half-breed out Blackie? So we can get our SLP from that dumb farmer.’ She snapped her paw at him.
The Black Bird rose into the air and sped toward them. With a snort, the Dawn lowered her frying pan to the ground then opened her large beak, singing a soft and soothing song. It was the most pleasant thing Poysenberry had ever heard, so sweet in fact that all his concerns seemed to melt away as an incredible sleepiness fell over him. His eyelids began to droop until Nightshade grabbed his paws and covered his ears with them.
Blackie crashed into the floor beside Woodman, fast asleep. Miss Puffy panicked and tried to make a run for the door, but the Dawn turned her song onto her, causing Miss Puffy to fall to the ground as well, fast asleep. After a few more seconds, the Dawn quit singing, crossed her arms and shook her head at them. She stomped over to Arrowhead, took her by the back of her neck and threw the Axie outside. She proceeded to gather up the other two and tossed them out the same door.
Then in a flash, she went outside, pulled the rope string to close the bamboo curtains and brought the sign back indoors. She set it in the corner, wiping it gently, then went to a metal lever sticking out from the wall. She pulled the lever and the restaurant started to move. Without another word, she scurried behind the bar, crossing her arms and shaking her head while staring at her sign that said: NO FIGHTING.
When things had cooled down inside the bar, the small Dawn took it upon herself to put Woodman in a hammock, and set up two others in the corner for both Nightshade and Poysenberry to sleep in. After that, she pulled another lever and a spiral staircase descended from the roof. The Dawn went up the stairs into a nice little coop above the restaurant where she had various cukoo clocks lining the wall.
For most of the night, Poysenberry sat in his hammock trying to sleep, listening to Woodman snore up a storm and the random sounds coming from outside the moving restaurant.
‘Nightshade?’ he whispered. ‘Hey, Nightshade?’
But she didn’t respond.
He crossed his arms and tried to shut his eyes once more. It was no use. Thinking about Miss Puffy and her cronies made him uneasy. He knew this would not stop the bird but only piss her off more.
Poysenberry rolled out from his hammock to the floor and crept to a round window cover. He checked to make sure no one was awake, then opened the wooden cover and gazed at the outside world passing them by. He saw moonlight glimmering on the river’s surface, a patch of trees coming closer, and what looked like Axies running around trying to catch the restaurant. Poysenberry let out a loud sigh. He had no clue where they were headed. It made him feel insecure, and at the same time overwhelmed by choice.
When he caught a glimpse of the moon above, he thought of his family. For a brief moment, he made a wish to find them. His mother and father. Siblings too, if he had them.
As they moved by a patch of trees he could have sworn he saw a tree walking about amongst the other trees. He rubbed his eyes and checked once more, this time seeing only trees swaying in the breeze.
Poysenberry sighed again. ‘You trees don’t have much to worry about, do you?’ he said. ‘No matter how far the seed may fall you always find other trees to grow amongst.’
From the corner of his eye, he saw a tree step into the patch. He quickly looked in that direction, but found no walking tree.
‘There must be a place I belong to,’ he said. ‘Surrounded by a family that understands me. And maybe even a couple of humans who treat Axies well.’
The restaurant rolled by a broken statue that was half-buried in the sand.
‘Sometimes I imagine you in a beautiful place,’ he said, thinking of his mother. ‘A place where you left behind all the toiling, the arena battles, and constant fighting. I sometimes imagine you’re there, waiting for me to join you.’
He saw a group of toadies hopping through the desert, thumping up and down in a small group.
‘If anyone were to make it to the Mystic lands, I bet it would be you. I just hope you’ll save a spot for me there, and treat me the same as you would any of your pure-bred children. Because I want to be part of the family too.’
With that, he backed away from the window, lowered the cover and bowed his head. In his heart, he knew he had already made the first step to finding where he belonged, and that no Bird could ever drag him back to the farm.
The restaurant came to a sudden halt, waking the three Axies in their hammocks. Poysenberry sat up, seeing the little Dawn scurry to a dangling chain in the diner. She yanked the chain, opening at once all the windows and turning on every single light.
She put a whistle in her mouth and gave it a blow. Then she held a sign that said in Lunacian: END OF THE LINE.
Woodman groaned as he rubbed his head.
‘Is it morning already?’ said Poysenberry. ‘Can’t we ride this thing for another day or so?’
‘We can,’ said Nightshade. ‘But we wouldn’t want to.’
‘Why not? I’m so tired and would you look at Woodman? His eyes are redder than the devil.’
‘They’re red like that because somebody did not know when to stop ordering drinks,’ she said. ‘Anyhow, this diner must run on a set loop. So it’s either we get out here and keep going forward or start going back to where we came from.’
Stumbling to his feet, Woodman ambled over to the Dawn while trying to soothe his head. He tilted his timber pile on his back, shaking it until three blue shard fragments fell onto the ground. He counted them out and handed them to the Dawn, who bowed after accepting the payment.
‘Let’s go you two,’ he said. ‘We got a long way to go until we reach Sand City.’
‘Huh?’ said Poysenberry, sliding himself toward the exit.
‘One of the biggest cities in the Savannah,’ said Nightshade. ‘Lots of things to do there.’
They nodded their thanks to the Dawn as they stepped outside into the desert. She waited for some time before closing up her doors and moving the diner along in the opposite direction.
‘One of the most dangerous cities in Savannah too,’ said Woodman. ‘It’s full of casinos and bars and underground arenas. Not to mention gangsters. Loads of gangsters running the streets.’
‘There are nice things too,’ said Nightshade. ‘The world’s largest desert biome for us Plants to enjoy, with a waterfall and a nice hot spring.’
‘Meh,’ said Woodman. ‘Filth.’
The sun began to make itself known in the twilight. A long pink layer stretched across the horizon. And still they carried on walking. Never breaking pace until they reach the unseen destination.
‘Why exactly are we going to this place then?’ said Poysenberry. ‘Are we going to be safe there?’
Before Woodman could open his mouth, a shout rang out ahead of them and stopped them in their tracks. A Blue Aqua emerged from the nearby river screaming his head off. Poysenberry raised an eyebrow as he watched the Axie. Then the Aqua ran out into the desert, heading straight for them.
To be continued…