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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 26th day of Awakening, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 120 > Continuing Series > All The Colours: Part Twelve

All The Colours: Part Twelve

by hot_pink_lizard

The Magnificent Seven

It was big. It was brown. I would have liked to say it was ugly, but it was the most welcome thing in the world to have appeared at exactly that moment.

     It was a whale.

     Standing on it's back, seaweed reins held in both paws, was a Spotted Kougra. An Island Peophin and a Pirate Kyrii, a rather familiar Pirate Kyrii, were perched just behind him. As the Kougra announced their arrival with a yell, the Kyrii raised a crossbow and shot a Dark Shark through the back.

     To us, the coral was all but impenetrable. To the whale, it was just so many cobwebs. It was like watching a giant aquatic bulldozer at work. I grabbed onto Elenna's tail as she shot for the entrance the whale had made us, which I'm sure was painful, but she dragged me along anyhow. Hina and Immacolata were swimming for their lives.

     The Dark Sharks scattered before the whale like Chia before a ravenous Lupe. Diving low, it brushed a dozen or more than were threateningly close to Ramei and Keeragh away, the Kougra tugging gently on the seaweed reins to guide it. The Peophin leapt and dived, Kyrii clinging to her mane, and shot for the Fire Uni standing proudly on top of the black rock arch. But Elenna got there first.

     The Uni, a tatter of red, white and green, slammed into her fiery opponent, knocking her to the ground while the battle raged all around them. Two Dark Sharks swam toward her, but one of Luaunoau's crossbow bolts finished one and an impressive tail slap from Perilo got the other. Elenna drew her rapier, wheeling to kick out with her back legs, the Fire Uni barely twisting aside in time. Mumbling around the sword handle in her mouth, Elenna's question was still clear.

     "What have you done with Waterlily?"

     She lunged, pinning her opponent. The Fire Uni twisted, kicking Elenna in the chest, but the Christmas Uni forced the tip of her rapier under her chin.

     "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH WATERLILY?"

     "Nothing!" The Uni was taller but somehow smaller than Elenna, probably undernourished by the shabby condition of her coat. She wriggled, but Elenna pricked her jaw with the rapier. "She's alright, I swear, we haven't hurt her!"

     "Then why did you steal her?" The Christmas Uni's expression was fiercer than I've ever seen it. Sharks were closing in around her and the other Uni. Once the Fire Uni managed to wriggle free, they'd attack and tear her to shreds. What was more, I couldn't see Malania at all. A shark dove strait for me and I pulled off a vault that would have made a Bull-Leaper proud, slicing its tail off as I passed. Hina rolled under another, slashing open its underbelly with his Snowager-tooth dagger, and leapt up to protect my back. Ramei, wielding his trident, and Keeragh, swinging a sword, quickly joined us, slicing through the Dark Sharks with practiced skill. We fought as a carousel, a manoeuvre I remembered dimly from a book on military tactics, myself and the two Eyries forming the main circle while Hina dove into any gap to quickly use his dagger and retreat behind one of us. Immacolata vaulted over Ramei's head to land beside me, using her spear with surprising ease. "We've got to get to Elenna!"

     "What does it look like we're doing?" I disembowelled a Shark that had almost snatched Keeragh's tail in its teeth, punching another hard on the nose. I must admit, it was a rather pathetic move, but the closest I ever came to martial arts was fighting with my brothers. "If I knew you could fight so well, I'd have made you train with Waterlily!"

     "I only really know the principle." The Aisha whacked a Dark Shark in the eye with her spear butt. "I did read Sun Tzu's 'The Principle of War', though it didn't cover battles with demonic fish."

     Perilo and Lu dropped in beside us, Perilo sporting a series of holes in her tail fin and Luaunoau wielding a rapier, completely out of crossbow bolts. "Stupid Sharks, this hurts." The Peophin muttered, cracking yet another Shark with her tail.

     Elenna had suddenly become aware of the Sharks surrounding her. They didn't seem to want to come too close, or attack her, probably just in case they accidentally hurt the Uni. "Why did you steal Waterlily?" She repeated, giving the Fire Uni a hard jab in the throat, causing the Dark Sharks to stir uneasily.

     "She can do magic!" The Uni burst out. "Anuina wants her so she can take over Neopia! I tried to stop her, I tried… please, don't kill me, this wasn't my fault!"

     "Oh. You're just a grunt. Thought so." Elenna flicked the rapier point back and forth in front of her eyes. "Right. You're our hostage, and you're going to take us to this Anuina…"

     "Look out!"

     A black lightning bolt shot out of nowhere. Elenna dove to one side with a roll, strait into a pack of Sharks, but saved from the lightning by the Uni's warning. When the black light faded, the Fire Uni was gone, and Elenna was in trouble.

     Almost instantly, my vision blacked out completely. I had the sudden, vivid sense of movement, and then I was falling… falling into a confusing muddle of images seen through eyes that weren't my own…

* * * * *

"She's dead."

     I blinked my eyes open. I was flat on my back, lying on what felt like sand, and half a dozen pets were staring down at me.

     "No she isn't! Dudette, are you, like, okay? That was totally out there!"

     "Eh?" I rubbed my eyes, trying to sit up while my brain was turning summersaults inside my skull. "What happened? Did someone hit me?"

     "No…" Perilo glanced at Immacolata and Elenna, who shared a dark look. "You… you… it was like you'd totally flipped. You just dove strait into the middle of those Dark Sharks, and Sweet Ghostkerchief, you could fight!"

     "Uh oh." I glanced at my hand. I was still holding the Spectrum. Lu gave an embarrassed shrug.

     "We couldn't get you to let go of it." she scratched the back of her neck. "What is it, anyway? It looks a bit, you know, unwieldy. Not something you want to be hauling around. Or fighting sharks with, if you catch my drift."

     "Just something I really wish I didn't have." I replied. A Spotted Kougra handed me a healing potion, bouncing around me with manic energy.

     "I think it was cool. You are cool. I like you. Between you and my whale, we showed those Sharks whose boss! Where'd you come from, anyway? How did your Uni know the evil Uni? And where…"

     "Shut up, Kunila." Keeragh whacked him round the head with one paw, only causing the Kougra to turn several summersaults and land sprawled on the sand. After a few seconds, he started snoring, the Eyrie shaking his head in mock disgust. "You'll have to excuse him."

     "Anyone else hurt?" I asked, downing the potion in one. I've never much liked the taste of them. My clothes and hair were a right state. Being drenched in Shark blood didn't help much, either.

     "We aren't, but… well, you'll have to see for yourself." Elenna wasn't much better off than I was, her clothes in tatters and her white fur turned pink. Kneeling, she let my grab her mane and scramble to my feet, head pounding. We staggered a few paces up the beach, me leaning on Elenna heavily, and then I saw.

     "Oh, no…"

     An Eyrie, almost identical in looks to Ramei, was lying on the sand. Her eyes were closed, and she looked for all the world like she was sleeping. Except I knew, just as everyone else knew, that she wasn't.

     "What… what happened?" Ramei, who had been curled up beside her, crying softly, glanced at me briefly. I felt like scum. This was my fault.

     "She was poisoned. As far as we can tell, there's nothing actually wrong with her… except that she's not breathing, she hasn't got a pulse... she, she… she's dead." Keeragh hung his head, the Island Eyrie looking totally dejected. I gasped, as a sudden flurry of handkerchiefs appeared.

     "That's… that's not possible! I didn't think Neopets could die, don't they…"

     "It's rather complicated," Immacolata explained, chewing her lip and pretending she wasn't almost crying. "There is a deep lying magic in Neopia, where pets who are registered with owners cannot die… or at least, they are reborn again within a few days. There is often some small change in appearance. However, Malania does not have an owner… so…" She sniffed hard, breaking off her explanation.

     "Oh." I stared at the sand. Despite myself, I have this stupid problem about crying in public. It's times like this I wish I didn't. "Ramei, I… I'm sorry. I know that sounds really stupid, but this is my fault, if we weren't looking for the Compass this never would have…"

     "Don't," he uncurled, scrubbing his beak against one foreleg. "It wasn't your fault. You did everything you could, without you we'd all be dead. I don't blame you."

     And yet, that was possibly the worst thing he could have said.

     "And as for the Compass…" he uncurled one paw, showing me a small gold circle, about three centimetres across, on a thin gold chain. The circle glowed with a strange, blue light, which seemed vague familiar. It was the same colour as the light that had surrounded Malania. "You can have it. Elenna explained about Black Waterlily. You need it."

     "But, I can't…" I stared at Ramei in disbelief. "You can't give it to me, Ramei. It's yours. Besides, I can't use it…"

     "I know." He closed his paw, a grim expression on the black Eyrie's face. "That's why I'm coming with you. For one thing, you need me to use the Compass, and secondly, I'll be able to get the person responsible for killing Malania!"

     There was a moment's silence. I could see Keeragh, Hina and Perilo opening their mouths to argue against it, but I spoke first. "Okay, Ramei. If that's what you want to do, I'm not going to stop you. We need you."

     He nodded. I glanced at the other pets, and they shut their mouths. Keeragh shrugged, with a sigh of long sufferance. "I'll get my sword."

     "What?" Ramei blinked, surprised. Keeragh put his head on one side, raising one eyebrow incredulously.

     "You didn't think I'd let you go on your own? I'm coming; Ramei, and you can't stop me. Of course, if you want me coming." He glanced at me. I shrugged. "The more the merrier. Besides, I don't know how many soldiers this Anuina has. We need everyone we can get."

     "Well, that's sorted then." Perilo tossed her mane, which has lost a few beads and miraculously changed from fiery red to aquamarine blue with white lightning highlights at some point during my unconsciousness. "Kunila, calm down and help me find some food. Luaunoau, I think you ought to get that ship of yours, since we'll be leaving pretty soon."

     "Eh?" I raised my eyebrows. Perilo snorted. "What, you think I'd let my two best friends run off on some adventure with a bunch of people I only just met? Like or not, Chrissy, you bring one of us, you bring us all."

     I grinned, holding out my hand. Perilo held out her hoof and I shook it. "Perilo, I like you. You're in, all of you." I glanced at Malania's body again. "I think, though, that we ought to leave tomorrow."

     "You're right," Lu mumbled. "Gotta have a funereal. Gotta do things properly. Malania would have wanted that, you know?"

     I nodded, a tight feeling in my throat. Someone had already died because of my pets and me. Even though it wasn't directly the Spectrum's fault, I hated it because of it. They could have prevented it. Some way, somehow, I knew that the spirits must have been able to do something. And they hadn't.

     

     You're wrong, I thought. You can't justify death. The destination isn't all-important; it's the journey that gets remembered.

Lit By Fireflies

Fireflies danced around us as we stood on the sands, flaming torches held high in the darkness. Malania lay on a raft, surrounded by flowers. Elenna was sobbing uncontrollably into her handkerchief. Luaunoau and Immacolata both stared at the sand, chewing their claws and pretending that they weren't crying. Perilo wasn't even trying to stop the tears that streamed down her face. Hina was sniffing every few seconds, scrubbing at his face with the back of one paw. Kunila had his face buried into Keeragh's mane so we couldn't see him crying, and Keeragh himself was blinking away fat tears that rolled over his beak. Ramei was beyond tears, just watching with a numb expression. I almost wished I could cry, but the tears wouldn't come. They just burned the back of my throat and prickled my eyes.

     We didn't say anything. Everything had already been said. There was just a minute of silence, and then Ramei and myself pushed the raft into the water. Perilo grasped a loose length of vine between her teeth and swam into the darkness, pulling the raft out until the current caught it and pulled Malania out to sea. We watched the torchlight until it sank to a pinprick, a firefly in the dark ocean. Ramei blinked, a single tear trickling down the side of his face.

     "Goodbye, Malania."

     And that was all.

* * * * *

"You failed."

     Anuina was practically shaking with anger. Deathstrike cowered on the floor, while Nightwing watched impassively. Waterlily hid behind a column, not wanting to become the object of Anuina's anger for no particular reason.

     "You failed. A simple little task, you had almost a thousand Dark Sharks at your back. And yet you failed. Why must I be surrounded by IDIOTS?" This last sentence was almost a screech as Anuina flung her arms wide. "You useless little fool! Can I trust you with anything? NO! So far, you have done nothing right! This is your last chance, you stupid Uni! Mess up another order and I will have you dipped in honey and suspended over a hive of Fiery Buzzers! Now get out of my sight!"

     With a single, frightened look, the Uni fled. Anuina stormed out another door, Nightwing fluttering at her side. After a few moments of silence, Waterlily crept out and tiptoed through the door Deathstrike had ran through.

     "Hey, Dea-, I mean, Fabialla?"

     She was snuffling quietly in a corner. She looked a mess. Her coat was shabbier than normal, dripping slightly pinkish seawater onto the floor, and her wings were missing several feathers. Waterlily crept a little closer.

     "Hey, you know, I hate to say this, but I told you so."

     Deathstrike, or Fabialla, gave a particularly violent sniff. "You're tactless, you know that?"

     "Chrissy used to say so." The Ixi sat down next to the Uni with a sigh. "But I'm right, aren't I? I notice Nightwing isn't here trying to console you."

     "Shut up," she mumbled. "He used to be nice. He's not permanently changed, he can go back…"

     "Go back to what? Go back to before you joined Anuina, or was he horrid then too? Go back to before your owner left you?"

     "That's what he told you?" Fabialla blinked. "Our owner didn't leave us, he died…"

     "Died? He didn't tell me he died. She made out he was some no-good scum who just abandoned you without a backwards glance…"

     "Stop that! He was nice! He was really kind to me and my sister…"

     "Sister? What, did Nightwing get zapped by the Lab Ray or something?"

     "No, I had… oh, forget it." Fabialla curled into a tighter ball. Waterlily wasn't about to let the subject drop, however.

     "Fine." She scratched one ear, changing tact. "Though the fact he didn't tell me is somewhat suspicious, don't you think? Hey, here's a crazy thought; you don't think he had something to do with it, do you?"

     Even Fabialla couldn't miss the sarcasm in her voice. "No! Danno died trying to save Mercedes, there! I had a sister, Okay? She was a Uni, just like me, and someone killed her. An Assassin. I never found out why, but Nightwing knows and he won't tell me. I told him he shouldn't let Mercedes go out for food on her own! Danno told him, Danno wanted me to go with her… but Nightwing wouldn't let me! Happy?"

     Waterlily gaped, but recovered spectacularly. "And you didn't think that was a bit fishy? Nightwing arranged it! Let me guess, your sister was the rebel in the family?" When Fabialla nodded, the Ixi continued with grim certainty. "Nightwing arranged to have your sister killed so he could control you without interference! He probably didn't mean for your owner to die because he needed him, for food and protection. But it went wrong and that's how you ended up here, because Anuina took Danno's place, and now that Nightwing doesn't need Anuina anymore he's relying on MY owner to do his dirty work and kill her so he can take over!"

     Fabialla gaped, as astonished as Waterlily had been a minute before. She started to say something several times, but always stopped before the words actually left her mouth. Finally, the Fire Uni mumbled. "You're right."

* * * * *

I sat on a cliff edge, overlooking the ocean. The pets were sleeping in a copse of trees near the shore, a good mile or two from my current position. After Ramei and Elenna had volunteered to go for firewood and, surprisingly, Kunila had rustled up some tasty tropical fruit to go with the fishy delights Perilo had got, I had left them to dinner and started walking. This was where I had ended up, watching the moon rise over the ocean and the speckle of lights that was Virtupets Space Station cross the sky.

     I was crying.

     I've already told you I can't cry in public. I don't know why, but if there's anyone with me, even my pets, I can't cry. Physically incapable of it. There are times I wish I could, partly because it's so hopelessly macho, and partly because there is a good reason why we cry. It heals the soul. When you're mourned what's gone before, you can move on. That's why I had to be alone. I hadn't even brought the Spectrum.

     I've never had a problem with loneliness before, but I was lonely now. I wanted someone to talk to, to dig my fingers into their fur and cry. I've never had someone I could trust that much. Never had someone I could feel that comfortable with. Never had someone I loved that much…

     Loki.

     That wasn't true. There had been Loki. He had been my partner, back in the days when I was just another human Agent for HQ, admittedly a good one. We had been a great team. Half my reputation was because of him, I just got all the glory because I blew up the door, charged in and fought the bad guys, while Loki disabled the alarms and picked the locks, ran up the files on his computer, traced emails, and everything else that never got remembered when you told the story to your mates over a couple of cans of Neocola. His codename had been Spyder, and he had deserved it. My fingers brushed the pendant I always wore, a silver Dragon. I wore it in honour of him. He had been a beautiful Silver Shoyru.

     He had died.

     It had been a trap, I had seen that, later. A lead that was too good to pass up. It had seemed so easy; we hadn't even called for back up. The pathetic alarms on the warehouse and the two goons, easily subdued, had given us no clue. We were so proud of our reputation that we never paused to think that this could be a set up. We never thought, when we stood in that warehouse full of artefacts warped by dark power, that we might be attacked.

     The assassin had planned it all. As Loki and I began searching the shelves, they had attacked. All I had known about it was a sudden tinkle of glass as he dropped the bottle he was holding. I had sprinted to the end of the row, ran until I reached the set of shelves he had been investigating, but by then, it was too late.

     He had only been able to hold on long enough to see me one last time. Deep red eyes, almost brown, not quite, had stared up into mine as I cradled him in my arms. All he said, that last time we ever saw each other, was 'Goodbye, Chrissy.'

     Afterwards, I hadn't cried. Luna and Solar, HQs techno-geniuses, had searched all of Neopia relentlessly for him. Their searches, the near constant whirring of computers as the whole world was reduced to letters on a screen, turned up blank every time. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, my hope had faded. I still didn't cry. My hope had burned away to fuel my anger. I had caught a glimpse of the assassin, and I used that to start my search. For almost a month I had relentlessly pursued every clue, every piece of evidence, which might lead to my partner's killer, to no end.

     Finally, my rage burnt itself out, and I had run. You weren't supposed to be able to leave HQ, but I did, and not in good graces. Shadow, a Lupe I had worked under on many occasions, and several other pets that I had respected and liked still bore the scars from that fight. I had left my past behind me and started a new life. That first day I held a baby Blue Ixi in my arms; I vowed never to go back.

     And yet I had. When the existence of two nations had been in jeopardy, I had stepped in to end it. It hadn't gone well, and the result was unsuccessful, which had only strengthened my resolve. And now here I was, endangering my life and that of my pets, of pets who I had barely met, and already causing the death of a Neopet who had done nothing worse in her life than trick treasure hunters into thinking she was a sea monster.

     Why couldn't I cry with my pets? I wasn't able to let go. I still, despite everything, was bound to Loki's death. I had never mourned for him. I was making up for it now. If I survived this, I would change. It was wrong to flee from HQ. I would go back and make up for it. I would make sure that no one else died in vain.

     "Black Waterlily," I whispered. "I'll find you, wherever you are. I love you."

     I love you too, Chrissy.

     "Waterlily?" My head lifted off my arms. "How did you get here?" I could see her, almost. Just a shimmering outline of a small Blue Ixi. I could see stars though her.

     I'm not really here. I can't stay long. But I love you, Chrissy. You, and Elenna, and Hina, and Immacolata, and I know you can save me. You're on the right track, don't worry, Anuina's as worried as a long-tailed Meowclops in a rocking chair factory. I can't stay long, but I wanted to say… I wanted to tell you… I'm missing you so much. I promise, when I get back, I'll never be a stupid little minx ever again.

     I blinked tears out of my eyes. I didn't try and stop them anymore. Putting my arms around her neck, at the same time there and not there, I dug my fingers into her fur and hugged her tight.

     "I don't care if you are, Waterlily. I love you just the way you are."

     Why were you crying? Is someone hurt? You don't cry. I've never seen you cry.

     "I know. Someone died, Waterlily. You don't know her, and neither did I, really, but she was poisoned by the Faerie that captured you."

     Oh no! I didn't think anyone got hurt…this is my fault…

     "No, it isn't. Don't blame yourself, Waterlily."

     I'm sorry, Chrissy… I've got to go… I love you… tell everyone else I love them too…goodbye…

     She dissolved, right under my arms. I stared at empty space in disbelief for a few seconds, and then walked back to camp, my mind blank. My pets were curled into one bundle of fur, still sniffling quietly. I lay down beside them, twisted my arms around Elenna's neck with Hina and Immacolata flopped over my stomach, and cried myself to sleep.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

All The Colours: Part One

All The Colours: Part Two

All The Colours: Part Three

All The Colours: Part Four

All The Colours: Part Five

All The Colours: Part Six

All The Colours: Part Seven

All The Colours: Part Eight

All The Colours: Part Nine

All The Colours: Part Ten

All The Colours: Part Eleven

All The Colours: Part Thirteen

All The Colours: Part Fourteen

All The Colours: Part Fifteen

All The Colours: Part Sixteen

All The Colours: Part Seventeen

All The Colours: Part Eighteen

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