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
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
“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…”
“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,
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
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
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
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
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
“What is it, Toreb-Master?”
“Listen closely, Kokyu. I want you to take Shiho
and Ki-ai and leave here.”
“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.
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
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...