Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 103,901,843 Issue: 205 | 26th day of Hiding, Y7
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The Rainbow and the Wind: Part One


by neo_star_queen

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Author's note: A big thank you to divisible_by_zero and scarrift for helping me get this into the NT!

Her name was Cirsha, because she called herself Cirsha. No one had given her that name; who could name the wind? Who had the authority to do so? No one could control the wind like that. You couldn't call her to you, either. She went where she wanted to. She'd sweep by your ear; you'd feel a light breeze encircle you, and sometimes it was cool, and sometimes it was cold. And you'd hear that voice whispering in your ear: "Cirsha." Then that's when you knew, the wind had just spoken to you. It was too late, by then, of course. She was gone. No one had a chance of catching her. You'd spin around, hopeful, but at the same time knowing that you wouldn't even catch a glimpse of her. You'd continue on to wherever you were going… you were much too busy to spend much time pondering the matter. Maybe you've even forgotten that you'd met her. If the name rings a bell, then maybe you have… Cirsha.

     ***

     "Happiness! NSQ! Come on, we're gonna be late!" A Kougra with forest green fur and glossy black stripes waited impatiently by the open door to his neohome.

     Crashing noises came from the end of the hallway. A teenaged human girl with messy black hair came running frantically to the door, a backpack slung haphazardly over one arm. She tripped over the rug and yelped, causing a piece of toast to fall from her mouth. Without hesitation, she picked it back up with her teeth, seeing as how she had no free hands, a stack of papers in one hand and a shoe in the other.

     "NSQ!" groaned the Kougra, addressing the girl. "Where's your other shoe!?"

     The girl stared at her hand, sincere surprise in her eyes. "What the toothbrush?" she said in disbelief. "I had it just a second ago! Hang on, Neofaerie!"

     She hurtled off back down the hallway. "Get Happiness while you're there!" yelled Neofaerie, the Kougra.

     "What!?" came the incredulous reply. "I thought she was already outside! She's not in her room!"

     Neofaerie twisted around and, bounding outside, shouted, "She's not here!"

     "Well then where is she!?"

     "I've got her," answered a calm voice. A Christmas Zafara in a tattered brown cloak hovered over the bottom of the staircase. In her arms was a cheerful rainbow Cybunny with cookie crumbs all over her mouth.

     Neofaerie sprang up to the pair. "Neoangel, Happiness, you're both here. Now where's NSQ!?"

     The human girl ran up to the group, nearly crashing into them. "Okay, let's go!" she panted breathlessly.

     They all ran out the front door onto the grass. Neoangel, the Zafara, soared high up into the air, her wings folded. The Cybunny in her arms, Happiness, giggled in delight.

     Neoangel paused and shielded her eyes with her hand, gazing out into the distance. "It is already here!" she called down.

     "What!?" yelped NSQ, pulling on her shoe and locking the door at the same time. "Oh man, it's early! Neoangel, you go ahead of us and stop the boat!"

     The cloaked pet took off, clutching Happiness tightly. Back on the ground, Neofaerie raced off, with NSQ straggling along awkwardly behind him.

     ***

     The small red boat bobbed up and down patiently, but the passengers inside were not so kind. If the boat could have sighed, it would have. It was such a burden to carry Neopets and their owners to and from Neopia. Once they'd even had a Dark Faerie on board… now THAT had been catastrophic.

     "This boat was supposed to leave fifteen minutes ago!" complained one checkered Tonu. "What's going on?"

     "I have to get down to the Maraquan recruitment centre NOW!" screeched a Korbat. "Sign-up for the Curse of Maraqua war ends in twenty minutes!" There were many fervent nods and shouts of agreement.

     Neoangel, still on dock, flew a bit higher. NSQ was clearly not alone in forgetting to sign up for the war. But where were they, NSQ and Neofaerie? 'They should have arrived by now,' thought Neoangel. The boat driver was obviously not going to wait much longer. Why were they taking so long?

     ***

     Happiness kept her nose low to the ground, her fluffy tail wiggling expectantly. One more second… and wham! The Moach was caught between her paws. It scrambled about desperately, looking for a way out.

     "Hello there!" said Happiness cheerfully. "Oh, don't be afraid… I just want to play!" The Moach didn't seem to be convinced. "Well… alright." Reluctantly, Happiness let the petpetpet go. "Have a nice day!" she called, as the Moach zipped off.

     Happiness turned and looked back at the dock. The boat full of passengers was still there, Neoangel was still there, and Neofaerie and NSQ were still not there. Happiness looked back at the forest she was currently entering. Neoangel had said not to venture in too far… but how far was "too far"? Neoangel hadn't quite specified that. Happiness tilted her head, and then bounded into the forest merrily.

     Trees of varying sizes surrounded her, but there was still an orderly dirt path for her to follow, so she supposed that she hadn't gone "too far" into the forest yet. And if she hadn't gone "too far", then Neoangel could still call her when NSQ and Neofaerie arrived, right?

     The Cybunny came to a sudden stop and blinked. She'd come to the end of the path, and a hole in the ground was right in front of her. Happiness peered down the hole. No sign of the path continuing down there. It was too dark to see. Happiness looked around. No sign of any friends to play with… she supposed they were all hiding in the trees. But which was less likely to be "too far": going off the path and into the trees, or hopping down this dark hole?

     Happiness stuck her head down the hole. "Hello?" she called. "Is there anyone down there?" She was answered by a rustling noise. Happiness smiled and hopped down the hole.

     It turned out to be a sort of tunnel or slide, which she glided down easily. If she had been as big as her siblings or owner, she wouldn't have fit. She landed gently on a soft bed of grass. The Cybunny sat back on her haunches and gazed around.

     This part of the forest was different from the rest. Instead of the evergreen trees with their dark green leaves, this section of the forest was surrounded by exotic trees, many of which Happiness did not recognize, their leaves coloured many different shades of green, and even strange colours like purple and orange.

     Beside Happiness, a small creek trickled down a series of small ridges, like steps on a staircase. The creek opened up into a larger stream, which curved around a large pink bush and disappeared.

     "Wow… I think I must have entered a different world!" exclaimed Happiness in amazement. "I'm not even in Neopia anymore!" Happiness winced as she realized that she was definitely "too far" into the forest, and her older sister would be worrying. "I know," decided Happiness, "I'll go back and get Neoangel, and we can explore together!"

     Happiness wormed her way into the slide and tried to crawl back up to the top, but her small paws slipped on the smooth surface. The inside of the tunnel was clearly not made of dirt like she'd expected. She slid back down to the grass. Now what?

     Happiness leapt to her feet and began to walk forward, following the river. No one in sight… "Is anyone here?" called the Cybunny. "I'm bored. I want to play!"

     Other than the gentle trickling of water, there was no reply. Happiness dipped a paw in the stream. The cool water splashed her rainbow fur playfully, and Happiness giggled. "I wish you could play with me, water," she said.

     She turned around and flopped onto her back. "Won't someone pleeeease come play with me?" she called out.

     WHOOSH! Before she knew it, Happiness had been swept off the ground. She fell into the brook with a loud splash.

     Happiness stuck her head above the water and spouted water from her mouth. She shook her ears and looked up in surprise.

     A transparent Kyrii was hovering a few feet above the grass. No, hovering was what Neoangel did… this strange Neopet seemed to be standing on thin air. The Kyrii was slim and had longer legs than most of her kind, making her look quite tall. Her mane, instead of being neatly slicked back, had been combed into a bun on the back of her head, with a single wavy lock dangling down to her chest. She was clad in clothes that were made of an amazingly light material, similar to what the young female pets in the Lost Desert often wore. Happiness was still young and inexperienced, so she couldn't read anything from the Kyrii's sharp, thin blue eyes. All she could see was the Kyrii's beauty and youth. The new pet seemed younger than Neoangel, but older than Neofaerie and NSQ.

     "Hello," Happiness greeted the Kyrii, baffled. "Did you just push me into the water?"

     The floating pet didn't reply. She gazed down at Happiness with a slight frown on her face, her eyes seeming to take in every aspect of the little Cybunny.

     "I really don't mind," said Happiness, smiling to show that she meant it. "I'm just curious. The water is very refreshing." She bobbed up and down, splashing the water with her paws.

     "Stop that," said the Kyrii, looking rather annoyed. "How did you manage to get to this place?"

     Happiness stopped splashing obediently. "Umm… I jumped down a hole in the middle of a forest path. It was this big-" she made a circle with her arms- "and it looked really dark."

     "I can see that you are just small enough to fit… but you shouldn't even have been able to see that hole. It was made for petpets."

     "Oh," said Happiness, not knowing how else to respond. She dragged herself back onto the bank and shook her fur. She sat on her back legs and looked up at the Kyrii. "It's very nice to meet you," she said brightly. "I'm Happiness. What's your name? Do you live here? Would you like to play with me?"

     "Yes, I live here," answered the Kyrii. "I don't feel like playing right now."

     "Okay," said Happiness reluctantly. "Can you tell me what your name is though, in case you feel like playing later?"

     The Kyrii folded her arms. Suddenly, her clear legs seemed to diffuse into gas, which blended into her torso like a Maraquan's tail. "I tell no one my name on command," she said icily. "And I simply don't want to play with you."

     Happiness's ears drooped, but her smile reappeared quickly. "That's alright, I understand. If you change your mind, you can always find me. I live in Neopia Central, if you know where that is. I'm not quite sure where we are right now. You can ask the Pizzaroo guy where I live, he always delivers to my house. We order pizza a lot because NSQ- my owner- can't cook, and pizza is good because there's lots of different toppings, so everyone-"

     Sploosh! A blast of air picked Happiness up and tossed her right back into the stream. Happiness surfaced, her tiny paws treading water.

     "You talk too much," said the Kyrii tersely. Wind spun around her, and Happiness felt it on her wet fur. A flick of her transparent tail and the Kyrii was flying off, disappearing almost immediately, so that Happiness quickly found herself alone again.

     "Oh… wait!" called Happiness, suddenly remembering her predicament, other than having no one to play with, of course. "Come back, please! I need a favour! My sister is waiting for me!"

     ***

     "Ten minutes!" screeched a Lenny. "We only have ten minutes before sign-ups close! I've been training for months for this! I can't miss it!" More voices started up, shouting and protesting.

     Spotting two figures coming through the trees, Neoangel flew back down to the ground. "They're here," she told the driver calmly.

     Neofaerie bounded up to the boat first. He panted a bit as he placed one paw against the frame of the boat, but otherwise, seemed to be fine. "NSQ!" he called impatiently.

     The owner crawled over and collapsed onto one of the boat seats. Neoangel and Neofaerie squeezed in as well, and the boat sped off.

     "Mumbo Pango," groaned NSQ, "You will not believe the trouble we had getting here! So first, we tried to take a shortcut through-"

     "Neoangel," interrupted Neofaerie anxiously, "where's Happiness?"

     Neoangel seemed uncharacteristically surprised. She glanced around the boat, and then quickly, flew into the air. "I-" she shook her head. "You two go to Maraqua. I'll go find her." She spread her feathery white wings and soared back to the shore.

     ***

     "Helloooo? Miss flying Kyrii? Are you still here?" Happiness found herself plodding through two rows of trees with gentle pink and purple flowers. She blinked. Only a second ago, she had been wandering through a patch of daisies. She spun around; there were the daisies. Amazed, Happiness hopped from the lane of trees into the cluster of daisies, and then back. It was like crossing from one world to another.

     "What a neat place," said Happiness, tasting a daisy. "I hafta come back here to explore sometime." She bounded over to the stream only a few feet away, and took a sip of fresh water. Then she fell onto her back with a soft 'flump', and gazed up at the clear blue sky. "I hope Neoangel isn't too worried."

     Happiness's sensitive ears twitched. Something was padding towards her slowly… she sat up and turned around hopefully, looking for any friends that wanted to play, but there was no one there. Happiness stood back up on all fours. "Hello? Anyone there?"

     Step by step, a tiny Noil crept up to the Cybunny. Its shy black eyes gazed at her cautiously.

     Happiness giggled and let the Noil play with one of her long rainbow ears. The petpet seemed apprehensive at first, but soon it was playing with Happiness blithely.

     High overhead, the floating Kyrii watched. She frowned, arms crossed, and watched the strange Cybunny closely. Something was not right. After a little while, any pet or human owner who came to this place should start to feel like they had stayed too long, and feel pressured to leave. But this pet, playing away without a care in the world…

     The Kyrii swooped down to the ground and snatched the young Noil, cradling it in her arms. She rose into the air slightly, looking down at Happiness over the Noils shaggy mane. The petpet began to cry at once.

     The Kyrii narrowed her eyes. That was another odd thing… this particular Noil was usually terrified of visitors. Why had he trusted the Cybunny so easily? Who was this young Neopet who had ventured so boldly into her home? The Kyrii ran her paws soothingly through the Noils mane, and soon the petpet was merely sniffling.

     "Hello again," said Happiness cheerfully. "Did you come back to play?"

     The Kyrii didn't answer her. Happiness was getting used to it. Letting her petpet leap back to the ground, the Kyrii said warily, "If I tell you my name, you must never speak of me or this place to anyone else. Understood?"

     Happiness thought about this agreement. She had been planning to tell her family everything about this fantastic place once she'd found them, since she knew that NSQ and Neofaerie at least would be very eager to explore. She also thought that Neoangel would have liked to talk to the Kyrii, since they seemed to have a few things in common, although Happiness couldn't quite determine what.

     Still, Happiness was very curious to find out who this mysterious Kyrii was. "Okay," she consented, sticking out her paw, "I promise I won't tell anyone about you or anything I saw here!"

     The Kyrii kept her arms folded. She gazed up at the sky and said reluctantly, "My name is Cirsha."

     "Cir-sha," repeated Happiness, testing out the name. "That's very pretty. Did your mother name you that, or your owner? I got my name from my owner, but my brother Neofaerie was named by his mom back on Mystery Island. Do you know where that is?"

     Cirsha was still looking up at the sky. "The air faeries gave me my name," she muttered. "They weren't really my owners though…"

     Happiness cocked her head curiously. "What air faeries? Were you raised by air faeries? Were you born in Faerieland?"

     The Kyrii glared down at Happiness. "You always ask so many questions at once. How do you expect people to answer them all?"

     Happiness stood up on her back feet. "I just get very curious," she said. "Everyone has such interesting stories to tell, but some people won't share those stories with me. I wonder why? Maybe it's because they think their stories aren't worth telling." Happiness smiled at Cirsha brightly. "I want to hear everyone's story."

     The Kyrii looked away the minute her eyes met Happiness's. "You… you said something about needing a favour, right?" she asked quickly, changing the subject. The fact was, everyone was too busy to listen to her story. This little Cybunny was probably just being polite, and Cirsha didn't want her pity, or anybody else's.

     "Oh! That's right," said Happiness, nodding vigourously, her ears flapping about. "My big sister is waiting for me. Do you think you could take me back up to the surface? The place where I fell through that hole? I could probably find my sister from there."

     Cirsha frowned. "That forest? You can't go back now. Now is when the creatures of the woods are coming out. They're not very friendly."

     "I didn't see anything on the way here," stated Happiness, surprised.

     Cirsha's frown deepened. Didn't see anything in the forest… was the young Cybunny lying? She had an honest look in her eyes…

     "In any case, you can't go back now. Wait for three hours, at least."

     "How long is that?"

     Cirsha sighed. "Don't you know how long an hour is?"

     Happiness flopped on to her back, so that she could be in a comfortable position while still looking at the floating Kyrii. "An hour always takes a different amount of time. I'm wondering how fast time passes in this strange place." Happiness hopped to her feet. "Would you like to play with me now?" she asked hopefully.

     Cirsha fingered her only lock of hair that wasn't tied up in a bun. The Cybunny was so persistent. Normally, Cirsha would have sent lost visitors on their way. What concern of hers was it that they would be attacked by the creatures of the forest? They should never have entered this place. But this Cybunny… why did Cirsha feel like she wanted to know more about the furry pet? Why did Cirsha feel like she just couldn't send the pet back to that dark forest?

     'She did manage to get in here through the hole,' Cirsha reasoned. 'I should find out how she did it so that I can make sure it doesn't happen again.' Yes, that made sense.

     Happiness felt a gust of wind blow under her. She braced herself for the cool water, but this time, the wind lifted her into the air and up to Cirsha's eye-level.

     A wide smile adorned Happiness's face. "Yay!" she said cheerfully. "What do you want to play? This is your home, so you can decide."

     "Your name's Happiness, am I right?" asked Cirsha. The Cybunny nodded.

     "Cirsha... are you made of wind?" asked Happiness curiously.

     "I'm not. I can only control the wind. And now, I will ask you a question, for once."

     Happiness giggled. "Okay," she replied, waving her paws through the air.

     "How did you get in here? I know, the hole in the ground, but I enchanted it so that only petpets could see it and enter. That means they have to have basic emotions, basic thoughts of survival and happiness…" Cirsha watched Happiness closely. The Cybunny was trying to do a flip. 'Maybe I need to work on that barrier some more,' thought Cirsha.

     "Any more questions?" inquired Happiness.

     "Not for now."

     "Okay then!" Managing to flip herself over, Happiness grabbed Cirsha's arm. "Let's do something fun!"

     Cirsha's body reacted immediately to the Cybunny's touch. Her muscles tensed, and in the blink of an eye, her legs had turned into a tail made of air once again. Happiness's paws fell right through Cirsha's arm.

     Cirsha shuddered, impulsively folding her arm against her chest. "I… d-don't… why don't I show you around?" she suggested, struggling to sound enthusiastic. She rubbed her paw up and down the spot that Happiness had touched.

     "Umm, okay," responded Happiness. Cirsha flicked her tail and flew off, the gust of wind carrying Happiness beside her, although they were rather far apart for companions. Happiness watched Cirsha curiously. Was the Kyrii cold? NSQ always told Happiness that her paws were so warm. So why had Cirsha reacted like that? Happiness spun onto her back, gazing up happily at the sky overhead as the wind whisked her away to wherever Cirsha was planning to take her. Cirsha looked slightly less shaken than she had a minute ago. Happiness wanted to know more about her. She wanted to be the Kyrii's friend.

     ***

     The creatures were hungry, starving even, but they didn't dare go near Neoangel. She walked down the dirt path slowly, holding blinding light in her cupped paws. Her brow was furrowed, and she looked deeply troubled.

     She was walking straight, but her eyes flickered from side to side, glancing through the cover of the trees. Happiness could not have possibly come through here… it was too dangerous. The hungry creatures were everywhere, waiting… Happiness was smarter than that.

     Neoangel looked down as she felt grass instead of dirt under her feet. The path had ended. She could feel the aura of an enchantment, but it was too strong for her to lift. She knelt down, feeling the dirt with her paws. What was the spell hiding? She turned her head and peered into the darkness beyond the path, unsure of what to do next. If Happiness had really strayed off the path, it was almost certain that the forest creatures already had her… Neoangel's fists clenched. Standing, her mind made up, Neoangel flew deeper into the forest.

To be continued...

 
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