“Oh, really?” Heathrow questioned in a level of skepticism unusual for his nature. “How in the world are you gonna change the straw in my head into a brain without magic?”
As Oswald printed something from his laptop, he chuckled, “My dear boy, you already have a brain! You couldn’t function without one! Even the tiniest of bugs have brains! What you have is low self-esteem; you don’t think very highly of yourself, do you?”
Heathrow admitted, “I guess not! But I’m just a dumb drifter, so I-!”
“That’s where you’re wrong!” Oswald interrupted him while opening up the other curtain and digging through some old crates. “Your kindness helpd a lost person find direction, and your bubbly spirit never got tarnished regardless of what negativity came your way! That alone sets you apart from the average citizen, but when it was important, you set your mind to the task and persevered!”
“That’s true!” Nick concurred. “He was the one who came up with the plan to rescue Daphne! The rest of us were clueless!”
Heathrow smiled gratefully, but he didn’t seem convinced. “Goh, that’s awfully nice of ya! But that wouldn’t help me figure out how to get out of poverty and stuff!”
Oswald put the paper he printed into an ornate frame, and he asserted, “What you need is a jolt of confidence! That’s why, due to your quick wits under extraordinary pressure, I am bestowing upon you an honorary degree in thinkology!”
“Is that a real-?” Lionel began to enquire. Daphne elbowed his side, and he clammed up.
“Wow! I have a degree!” Heathrow rejoiced. “Now, I can find myself a wonderful job!”
Oswald assured him, “You always could! You just needed to believe it!” Heathrow grinned, and then Oswald turned his attention to Nick. “Now, you wanted to gain some evidence to put Whitney behind bars, but I believe you’ve already accomplished that.”
Nick nonverbally acknowledged the truth behind that, and when he saw Oswald rummaging through his belongings, he warned him, “Don’t you dare to drum up some kind of a heart for me! I don’t care what you heard- I don’t need emotions!”
“You’ve already got emotions!” Oswald disputed. “You’ve proven that in bits and pieces during your journey!” Heathrow and Lionel nodded vigorously in agreement, and Nick pouted from getting proven incorrect. Oswald went on, “Young man, you’re not an unfeeling robot- you’re depressed. You’ve numbed your feelings in order to protect yourself, but if you’re trying to be productive, that’s not the route to take! If you didn’t possess a strong desire tosave Daphne, you wouldn’t have had the nerve to break into Pumperdink Gulch! You didn’t fare well the first time you faced the Ochre Angel, but you sure bested her with the right motivation guiding you!”
“That’s true,” Nick thoughtfully conceded.
With a twinkle in his eyes, Oswald added, “Besides, I don’t need to give you a heart, you need to give your heart to that beautiful lady behind you!” Nick whipped his neck around and gazed at Daphne. Daphne began to furiously blush, and he followed suit. Oswald handed him a watch and instructed, “If you ever feel guilty for your emotional state, simply read the inscription.”
Nick read out loud, “It’s okay to not be okay! That’s… accurate!” He wiped a tear off of his cheek.
“I doubt you’ve got anything back there to make me into less of a coward!” Lionel morosely expressed.
“You’re under the false impression that having a lot of fear makes you unable to be brave, but it’s quite the opposite!” Oswald resumed sifting through his property once more. “Having no misgivings aout participating in dangerous activities doesn’t make you courageous, it makes you dumb! It’s only human to feel a certain level of apprehension in those situations, and your courage is born when you do the thing that scares you despite your fright! You suffer from anxiety since you’ve been through more horror than most people, but you push past more terror than anyone else! Why, you’re the bravest guy I know!” Lionel beamed with pride, and Oswald went on, “In case you need a reminder of this, I’m presenting you with a championship belt in honor of the heroic feats you pulled off in your quest!”
Lionel put on the ornate belt with glee. “Wow! This outta get the respect of all the other boxers at Suntop!” As he admired his newly acquired gift, he spotted Daphne out of the corner of his eye, and he asked Oswald, “Hey! What about Daphne?”
Daphne bashfully responded, “Oh, it’s okay! I don’t even know what I want!”
“She wants a purpose and the feeling of truly being at home,” Oswald answered Lionel.
“Huh! That is what I want! How did you know that and I didn’t?” Daphne questioned.
Oswald laughed, “I wasn’t lying when I said I know everything!” Proceeding his moment of mirth, he more seriously explained, “You spent many years trying to survive, but you never really considered how you might thrive! You strove to appease society’s standards, but you never truly looked inward and acted on a path that woul please yourself! Clearly, you are passionate about solving mysteries, so why not choose a career in that realm?”
Daphne animatedly chattered, “Jeez, that’s always been a secret dream of mine! But, I never thought I could do it! I don’t have the stamina to pass the police academy, so I couldn’t become a detective!”
“Actually, there are multiple methods of assisting with investigations!” Nick interjected. “You could get certified as a private eye and get hired to work on personal matters, but if you have your heart seriously set on murder cases, there are always crime scene investigators and federal analysts. I’m not positive on what their certification process is like, but based on some of my colleagues’ behavior, they wouldn’t have passed any sort of physical!”
“That makes a lot of sense! I’d love to go that avenue, but I can’t afford the schooling it’d take…” Daphne gave Oswald a wry look. “Hold on, were you planning on offering me some sort of scholarship?”
Oswald’s expression grew pleasantly prideful. “Great deduction! See, you’ll be fantastic in this vocation!”
Daphne cried out, “Yay!”
She did a merry jig, and when Heathrow joined in, she danced with him. Lionel and Nick mimicked that move, and Oswald fondly tittered at their celebratory antics. Once their fervor ebbed slightly genially stated, “I’ll have Henry sned over the necessary forms. I would recommend an online course so you can continue your studies while you return to Vegoz for a visit.”
“Visit? Oh, right! I’ve got to go home! But Aunt Mae’s home blew here! Where are we gonna go? And my friends- Jack, Ray, and Bert! I gotta see if they’re alright! What if we’ve all lost our home?” Daphne fretted.
“Darling, home isn’t a place- it’s a feeling!” Oswald sagely articulated. “As long as you’ve got your loved ones around, you’re home! Whether you choose to reside in Kansas, California or you wind up roosting here, you’ll be surrounded by love and support, and you’ll be home!” Everyone appreciatively drank in his words, and then Oswald offered, “If you’d like to leave, I’ll take you back myself! I’ve been meaning to return Morgan’s balloon anyhow!”
Heathrow puzzled, “If you can’t do real spells, how did you get a balloon to last so long?”
Lionel relayed to him, “I’m assuming he means a hot-air balloon.” He paused and then wondered, “Don’t you?”
Oswald confirmed, “Indeed! That’s where the inspiration for the Emerald Angel stemmed from- everyone was amazed that I flew in!” They all guffawed at that, and Tater let out a happy meow. “What is your wish? A yummy fish?” He opened up a mini fridge and tossed the cat a piece of salmon. As Tater devoured that morsel, Oswald remarked, “And all is well! Nothing else shall go wrong!”
In the courtyard of Emerald City’s Center, Daphne held Tater inside of a basket below a large, green, inflated structure. She stood beside Oswald, who spoke to all of his employees whom had gathered, “Don’t worry yourselves too much! I shall return one day soon! During my absence, I decree that these three will rule in my stead: Heathrow for his superior brain, Lionel for his outstanding bravery, and Nick for his extensive legal background.” Some of the staff politely clapped, but many began to murmur in confusion. The three named men awkwardly stood before them, and Oswald, seemingly oblivious to all of this, carried on, “Treat them as you would myself! Now, I bid you adieu!”
Tater espied another cricket, so he hopped out of Daphne’s grasp and pursued the insect. “Tater, no!” Daphne hopped out of the basket and swiftly retrieved her animal. When she turned back to the balloon, she was horrified to see it ascending into the air! “Come back! Come back!” Daphne beseeched him.
“I can’t! I don’t know how it works!” Oswald shouted.
“What? Then how on Earth were you gonna get me home?” Daphne challenged him. He merely shrugged ash he drifted away, and Daphne commented, “Wow! I’m really glad I missed that opportunity! Oh, but how will I get home now? I don’t have the money to take a plane!”
Nick proposed, “I’ll get you back to California! … Eventually! Apparently, I’m partially in charge of this joint going forward! How’s that gonna work? I gotta go back to my job tomorrow…”
Henry inquired, “How are you three gonna fulfill the Emerald Angel’s duties? You don’t even have any powers!”
“Yeah, that’s not gonna be an issue…” Lionel replied.
“How’s that possible?” Henry shot back.
Lionel didn’t know what to say, but luckily for him, he didn’t have to create any sort of excuse! Heathrow pointed to a speck in the sky, and he announced, “Look! There’s someone who can help us!”
The blue speck gently floated down to the ground, and Sapphire appeared! Charlie gasped, “Lawksamercy me! Is that the Blue Angel?”
“Yes! And she’s the only Angel of Vegoz right now!” Daphne conveyed to him.
“For a short period, I am. I’ve seen plenty of angels come and go from here- trust me, I won’t be alone for long!” Sapphire addressed the crowd. “Anyways, Oswald may be gone, in every sense of the term, for a lengthy stretch, so I’m gonna take over this operation. Unless you fellas would rather do it…?” Nick, Heathrow, and Lionel all vehemently shook their heads. “Sweet! I can finally stay in Summerland without all that hassle! Okay, so what’s the first order of business?”
Nick requested, “Can you get me some transportation so I can take her home?”
Sapphire declined, “I don’t need to. She has the means to travel right there!” She indicated to the Carmine Clogs on Daphne’s feet.
“WHAT?” Daphne roared. “You mean this whole time I could have magicked myself out of here?”
“Technically. But if you had done that, you would’ve missed out on all you’ve gained this city,” Sapphire countered.
Daphne mulld that notion over, and she concluded, “Yeah, I suppose so! I wouldn’t have met my new best friends, and I wouldn’t have found my found my true purpose! I could’ve done without the whole getting kidnapped thing though!”
Nick reckoned, “I guess this is goodbye then!”
“Only for now! I’ll be back! And I can take down your number to…” She pulled out her busted cellphone and instantly changed her tune, “I’ll get a not-broken one in Kansas, and…”
“Here’s my number.” Nick handed her a business card. “Call me as soon as you can!” After Daphne stowed away his info, they gave each other a kiss.
Heathrow let her know, “We’ll miss ya, Daphne!”
Lionel concurred, “We will! Thanks for everything!”
“I love you guys!” She embraced them all, and once they parted, she notified Sapphire, “I’m ready!”
“Tap the Carmine Clogs together three times and say, ‘There’s no place like home!’” Sapphire instructed.
Daphne heeded her advice, and sooner than she anticipated, she and Tater were drifting through a swirling vortex. Flashes of her stint in this town played back to her, and suddenly, it all disappeared!
Quite alleviated, Aunt Mae proclaimed, “She’s awake!”
“How did the house get back from Vegoz?” Daphne pondered. “Did your insurance have it towed?”
“Boy! You can hardly tell you got hit in the skull!” Aunt Mae kidded. Daphne still seemed addled, so she clarified, “You were dreaming, kiddo!”
Daphne disagreed, “It wasn’t a dream! I got captured by pigeons and battled a fallen angel! … I can see what you were saying! Maybe I was dreaming!”
Jack canvassed her, “Was I in your dream?”
Ray echoed, “How about me?”
“Or me?” Bert tacked onto that chain.
“No…” Daphne glanced behind her, and Professor Frank poked his head in. “You were there though!”
Professor Frank blinked in surprise. “I was where? Sorry, I just came to see if you were alright after walking home in that storm!”
Daphne reported, “I’m fine! I had this really strange vision though! Your cousin was gonna take me home in a green balloon!”
“Oh no! He better not have! That’s how he wound up getting lost!” Professor Frank darted off.
“Wait, was that really a hallucination then…?” Daphne pensively glimpsed at the ceiling.
Aunt Mae comfortingly pat her purple footwear. “Get some rest! You’ve been through a lot!” The maintenance men vacated the room, and Aunt Mae paused prior to her departure. “Ooh! Where did you get those new shoes?”
Daphne sat up and was shocked to discover, sitting in her closet, the Carmine Clogs! With a wide smirk, Daphne affirmed, “Over the rainbow…”