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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 22nd day of Sleeping, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 138 > New Series > To be a Master: Search For A Red Aisha

To be a Master: Search For A Red Aisha

by shelleylow

The moon hung over Mystery Island, its pale light combined with the stars shining like so many crystal fragments against a backdrop of black velvet, all casting a silver glow upon the world below.

     The jungle was far from asleep. As the day had ended in a fiery sunset, the night creatures had come out to prowl through the shadowy undergrowth, or to flit silently among the dark branches. The tiny flashing lights of Flightning Bugs darted through the ferns and mossy logs, illumining every corner.

     Suddenly, a figure slunk out of a clump of ferns. Long reptilian wings lay folded onto his back, against the cloth of his uniform, a deep red that didn’t show up in the gloom of the jungle. Silently, the Scorchio signaled to his companions.

     Equally silently, they crept out of hollow logs, emerged from the shadows of trees, crawled from the undergrowth, shaking leaves and twigs from their fur and scales, and their deep red uniforms. They congregated where the Scorchio stood, ten of them in all, forbidding shadows in the dark of the night, and then they glided off into the night. Searching.

***

The Aisha was ready. More than ready. Lifeforce energy flowed and sang through every limb; every muscle was relaxed and ready for action. This was the day he would become a Second-degree Master; that is if the test went well and no moves were forgotten. But he had been training long and well in the art of Neo-Kido, and there was a very high chance the rank would be reached.

     Sure enough, in the ensuing test, every technique was performed with light grace and perfect accuracy. The staff, wooden sword and knife moved like spinning lightning in practised paws, not stabbing or slashing of any kind but deflecting the blows from the Aisha’s own Master as they came, turning them in a wide, circling arc to be sent back the way they came.

     At length, it was done, and both bowed to each other. The old Acara smiled gently.

     “Well done, Kokyu. I knew you’d make it.”

     The blue Aisha wiped sweat off his brow with one of his ear stalks. “Thank you, Toreb-Master. Does this mean that I-”

     “Yes, Kokyu,” his Master added, his smile widening across his weathered features. “You are a Second-Degree Master. You did it.”

     “Yay!” cheered a voice from nearby. A red Aisha kit was leaping up and down on a rock, a barking Puppyblew close by him. She scampered over to the other two, the Puppyblew padding eagerly alongside. “Kokyu-Master’s a Second-degree now!”

     “Yes, Shiho.” Toreb’s voice was warm as he gazed at him. “Kokyu-Master has moved up another level.”

     “That was so great,” the young Aisha continued as she padded around Kokyu, looking up with worshipful eyes. “Will I be a Master one day?”

     “Why not, Shiho?” Kokyu ruffled the young one’s ear stalks. “Even though you only joined us a few months ago, you’ve been shaping up great! I even think you can get your blue belt soon…”

     “Wow! Really?”

     “Yeah. But don’t get ahead of yourself, Kit. It’ll take you a much longer time before you’re a Master.” On the word ‘Master’, Kokyu bonked Shiho between the ears with his wooden sword, which he still held in his paw, and darted away, laughing.

     With a shout, Shiho sprang after him.

     Toreb almost rebuked them for being too informal with each other, given their difference in rank, but stopped himself. Smiling, he watched the two Aishas with their Puppyblew play-fight along the noonday beach. It had been so long, he reflected, since he had seen Neo-Kido performed, and now his own students, in the twilight of his years, gave him such hope that the art which he loved so much might be spread to the whole of Neopia, as he and the others that had trained with him on Mystery Island so long ago had hoped. It seemed an impossible dream, but Kokyu, and now Shiho too, were such willing learners, and so skilled, as well… Even if he could not live to see the vision become a reality, he could at least comfort himself in the hope that it would, eventually.

***

Meanwhile, somewhere in the jungle, another Master was overseeing training of the same art.

     The yellow Aisha kit looped his paw over the arm of his partner, and pressed down lightly. The green Gelert dropped to the ground and pounded the mat under his paws violently with his free paw.

     “Ow! That hurts!”

     “You know it’s supposed to hurt, Keiko,” Aihami grinned at the kneeling throwee. “A simple tap of the paw should warn Kaze that he’s causing you pain, and he’ll stop. There’s no need to shout.” Keiko the Gelert looked up at his Master and grinned sheepishly. “Yes, Aihami-Master.”

     “Fine. See that you do that from now on. Teken,” Aihami continued, “that’s good. You picked up the Second Paw-lock very quickly. Now push him backwards and let him roll- Keiko, come on, up you get -and bow. That’s it. Now it’s Keiko’s turn.”

     Leaving the two, Aihami walked around to inspect the other students. There had been a large buzz of excitement in the training hall of late due to the upcoming Neo-Kido test scheduled for two days ahead. Teken would not be able to take the test yet; he had not been training for nearly long enough. If he had been younger, he might have been able to take the test and obtain a junior belt, as the youngest member of the training hall, Faille the Zafara, was. But Teken was old enough for a blue belt and would therefore have to wait and train a little longer before he took the test. So would Aria, an athletic and good-natured young Chomby who had joined the class just the other week.

     Aihami sighed as she left her most senior student, Marko the Kougra, to check on her class while she walked out into the late morning sunlight. Happy as she was that the class was fast expanding, she had to admit that they would soon be getting too much for her to handle. At present it was a comfortable number, but more students would come. And those new ones had to be trained separately until they were proficient enough in the basics to train with the main class. And although Marko was a senior student, and a good teacher, he wasn’t a Master yet. He still had so much to learn himself, and that would take time. The class would not be able to progress as fast as they could.

     The Aisha wondered sadly where extra help would come from. She couldn’t easily manage the class if it was going to be like this, and she hadn’t the heart to tell Shelleylow, her human friend, to stop bringing in unwanted pets to be her live-in students because she felt so badly for them herself.

     Aihami looked up at the clouds drifting across the bright sky. Was her old Master, Naro the Kougra, up there? Or was he somewhere else, some place no one knew of?

     “Naro-Master,” she murmured, “I need help...”

     Feeling rather foolish, she turned around and walked back into the training hall. She’d need to end class. But as she knelt, clapped her paws and they all went through the daily ritual of finishing, she kept thinking.

     Perhaps there were other Neo-Kido Masters out there, out on Mystery Island. After all, who was to say Naro-Master’s contemporaries, the other Kougras and wild Mystery Island pets who had trained with him, hadn’t also found students?

     Suppose those students had become Masters like her?

     As the white-belts changed out of their uniforms and scampered off to play, Aihami padded back out to watch them frolicking and tussling playfully with each other on the grass. The four Petpets of the training hall had tumbled out to join them. There was Didicus, the gleaming indigo Anubis belonging to Mandrake the Jubjub. Her own Meekins, Nage, squeaked and leapt as he joined in the fun. The Bearog Columba, who belonged to Aragon the Lupe cub, her three heads panting and grinning happily. And there was the newest addition, Kyo, an abandoned Snowbunny they had found in the clearing one day, and who had taken a particular liking to Marko.

     Aihami had wondered if the place was going to turn into a menagerie ever since Mandrake had joined the training hall, and her point seemed to be proven by the fact that the number of Petpet residents had gone from zero to four since he had arrived nearly two months ago now. The young Jubjub could not practise Neo-Kido proper, as his lack of arms prevented him from doing techniques, but he had a strong life-force, and could communicate directly with Petpets. She was certain, as he grew older and more experienced, he’d be deriving techniques of his own. Aihami smiled as she watched their antics. Then her dark eyes grew serious as she thought.

     Somehow, she had to know if there were other Masters out there, deep in the jungle. But where should she begin to look?

***

“Kokyu, there is something I have to tell you.”

     The blue Aisha, stretching in the flood of early morning sun streaming into the mouth of the sea cave that was their training hall, wiped his eyes still trying to shut, trying to go back to sleep. Shiho and Ki-ai the Puppyblew were still dozing soundly, curled up in a corner. But there was no time to sleep. He had heard the seriousness in his voice. Yawning, he sat up and faced his Master. He was lying down in a sunbeam, and he looked unusually tired.

     “What is it, Toreb-Master?”

     “Listen closely, Kokyu. I want you to take Shiho and Ki-ai and leave here.”

     “What?”

     “You are a Second-degree Master now, and I know I can trust you to train Shiho and care for both her and the Puppyblew.”

     “But... but what about you?”

     “My time, young one, has come.” The Acara sounded as old and worn out as he looked, but somehow he seemed to Kokyu stronger than he had ever looked before. “It is time for me to return to my old friends, who trained so hard with me in the early days...”

     “You mean... no, no, you can’t! Toreb-Master, I won’t let you...”

     “Peace, Kokyu. I have felt it coming on me for some time now, and I know there is no use fighting it. Besides, I won’t be unhappy, you know. I have lived out a good span and I have been happy. I’ll go peacefully, no fear. Just take Shiho and Ki-ai, and go.”

     “Go where? Where can I go?”

     “Ah... somewhere, deep in the jungle, there is a training hall. The first one I ever trained in. It’s a straight course East from here. I had such fun there in my youth... But all that is past. You must go there. I am certain that, if at least one of my old friends went on to take on students, they would have trained them there. You may find fellow Neo-Kidoka. Now, promise me you’ll go. As soon as you can.”

     A single tear trickled out of the Aisha’s eye as he made his pact.

     “Good.” Toreb’s voice was softening to a whisper. “Good...”

     His old yellow head sank to the sandy floor, and Kokyu saw from his even breathing that he had fallen asleep. Struggling to keep more tears from coming, the Aisha padded silently across to wake Shiho. They would leave as soon as she was ready.

***

“Why are we going?” Shiho asked as they trotted swiftly over the sand.

     Kokyu looked down at the young Aisha, trying to find the words. “Toreb-Master...he’s…tired. He can’t train us anymore. I’ll be the one training you now.”

     “Oh.” They walked in silence for a while more, and then Shiho piped up again.

     “Where are we going?”

     “There’s a proper training hall somewhere in the Mystery Island jungle, though all the directions I have to get there is travel to the East...”

     “Are we traveling to the East now?”

     “Yes, Shiho. We just need to climb up this cliff over here and go straight into the jungle, going towards the place where the sun rises.”

     The sheer rocky face flung its steep sides far up above them. Kokyu looked at Shiho and Ki-ai. “Come on,” he said kindly. “Shiho, keep a tight hold of Ki-ai and climb into this bag on my back which has our weapons. I’ll climb up.”

     The Aisha kit obeyed, but Kokyu could sense her fear of a drop, and the same uneasiness emanating from the Puppyblew.

     “It’s alright,” he said gently, pushing soothing energy from his lifeforce into both of them. He felt them relax considerably. “Now let’s go.”

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

To be a Master: Search For A Red Aisha -- Part Two

To be a Master: Search For A Red Aisha -- Part Three


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