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Beauty of the Snow: Part Four

by extreme_fj0rd


"Inga! You made it!"

      The Techo grinned at the speaker, a young Kyrii with tousled hair. "Of course I did," she said. "What, didn't I say I would come?"

      "Well, no..." He pouted and ran away again into the crowd. Grinning, Inga divested herself of her coat and slung it over a nearby chair.

      "Just sit anywhere," she said to the white Aisha following her, and gestured at the long rows of chairs spread out around the walls. "We stand to sing, so you won't be in our way here."

      The Aisha nodded obediently, but remained standing, watching the many pets--and even owners--that formed the choir. They were chattering, laughing, putting their heads back to the ceiling. It was a more vibrant form of life than that of her woodland.

      She had come out of simple curiosity, or at least that was what she told herself. Deep within herself she knew that upon her return to Neopia Central Park it would seem to her a dull place, divested of all its magic and wonder, but she did not consider that. That thought she buried deep, and her mind skimmed over it quickly when it chanced upon it.

      Lia sat quietly on one of the plain wooden chairs after a moment, still looking out and across the large room. The ceiling was low, making it seem cramped, but the other pets and even the owners seemed to find no fault with the space.

      "So, you're Inga's mysterious friend." The voice was light and softly amused.

      Lia jumped and turned quickly, surprised out of her reverie. "I--yes?" she said, perplexed.

      The Eyrie grinned, mantling her wings. "Inga never misses choir. For anything. We knew you had to be special when she went off with you. So, what's the story?"

      "I..." Lia paused. "What?"

      A laugh. "Okay, okay. Let's start this over. I'm Rachel. Who are you?"

      "Lia Snow," the Aisha said, confidently. This was one answer she knew.

      "Lia Snow," the Eyrie repeated, musing. "So, is your owner Snow?"


      Rachel raised her eyebrows. "Guess not."

      The choir director, an old Moehog with glasses perched on the tip of his nose, rapped sharply on the top of the pianoforte. "Come, come! It is time to begin!" he called over the noise.

      "Aah, have to go." Rachel made a face and slid out of a jacket, dropping it on the chair next to Lia's. She headed towards the others, who were quickly forming a contingent much like the one of the previous day in the park.

      "Right," the Moehog said, and cleared his throat. "Let us start with some warm-ups to loosen our voices..."

      Lia regarded the choir solemnly, listening silently to the voices running up and down the scale, repeating nonsense words and syllables as they sang the exercises. She leaned carefully back in her chair, resting against the metal and wood back, and watched.

      The choir moved on from warmups to some of the easier songs; Lia sat bolt upright as they began on a bell carol. Many first snowfalls ago, a group of singers had sung this to her and to her woods... the haunting phrases, the notes that slid into each other and yet did not collide, washed over her, and Lia leaned back carefully and closed her eyes to listen better.

      After a few minutes she opened her eyes again, and watched the choir sing through the rest of their songs with an impartial gaze.

      When the rehearsal ended, pets and owners quickly spread out around the room, picking up their coats and piling belongings high in their arms.

      "Yeah, see you, Rache," Inga said, walking with the Eyrie towards the chairs their coats were spread out over.

      "Yep," the Eyrie responded happily. "And a merry Christmas to you, too!"

      "Merry Christmas," Inga said, grinning. "Rache, we're going to see each other tonight, and tons more times after that, too."

      "Well, just in case." Rachel grinned back and plucked her coat off the chair next to Lia's. "So, how did you like the singing?"

      "It was fine," the Aisha said, her light voice unusually dulled.

      "Good, good. Are you going to join?" the Eyrie asked.

      It was a perfectly innocent question, and meant to be friendly. Nevertheless, the Aisha suppressed a shudder. "No," she said after a moment, standing slowly. "I don't sing."

      Rachel looked at Inga and raised her eyebrows. "You'll have to train this one better, Inga."

      The Techo gave her friend a quick smile. "I suppose so."

      "I do not wish to be trained," Lia said, wistfully.

      Rachel looked at her, perplexed. "Ah... see you later, Ing."

      "See you." The Techo wrapped a scarf around her neck and the lower portion of her face.

      "Are you going to train me?" Lia asked as Rachel strode away to the door.

      "No... no," Inga said distractedly. "I... Rachel was making a joke."

      "I see," said the Aisha, but she did not. She trailed thoughtfully after the Techo to the door, looking around at the other singers preparing to leave. Then, with a sigh, she glanced down at the ground and hurried to catch up with Inga.

      She caught up with the Techo just at the door of the building; Inga turned back and gave her a perfunctory smile.

      "So, what did you really think?" she asked Lia.

      "It was good," the Aisha acknowledged.

      "You want to come next time we have a rehearsal?"

      Lia paused. "No," she said after a moment, "thank you."

      Inga nodded. "That's fine," she said, but she was disappointed that the Aisha didn't want to come again. She busied herself with putting on her gloves, and glanced back at Lia after a moment. "Ready to go?"

      The Aisha nodded. "Ready," she said lightly.

      "Cool." The Techo pushed through the doors and into a solid wall of cold air. Shivering a little, she held the door for Lia and then started off up the street, the Aisha following.


     Inga unlocked the door to her apartment and stepped inside, stomping her boots on the mat to get the snow off. She moved away a few steps to let Lia in after her, and leaned against the wall to slide her boots off.

      The Aisha stepped cautiously in and pushed the door closed behind her. She watched the Techo for a moment and then replicated her movements, untying the laces of her boots and then slipping them off, one at a time.

      Inga was done first; she lined her boots up precisely along the wall and stepped away from them, yawning. She stretched her paws up over her head and then let them down with a sigh.

      "So." She strode down the hall to the living room and stood there for a moment, drinking in the sunlight. After a moment she heard Lia's soft footsteps on the carpet behind her, and turned.

      The Aisha stared past Inga at the uncovered window, a faint note of puzzlement in her eyes, and none of the longing she had previously shown.

      "Something wrong?" Inga said, tossing her keys up in the air and then catching them again.

      Lia turned to look at the Techo, and shook her head. "No," she said simply. Her gaze quickly returned to the windows; after a moment she shook herself and strode briskly past Inga and across the living room to pull the drapes across the window.

      She turned back, to see Inga watching her with complete surprise, and gave the Techo a slightly wistful smile.

      "Right," Inga said after a moment. "Ah..." She stepped over to the bookcase that stood against one wall, and ran her paw across the spines of the books. "Do you read?" she asked, pulling a slim volume out.

      "I... yes," Lia said, a perplexed frown on her small face.

      "Cool. Catch." The Techo tossed the book across to Lia; she didn't think, for a moment, that the Aisha would catch it. Then she stretched up, her paw met the pages, and it fell neatly into her hand.

      "Good catch," Inga said, admiringly.

      The Aisha shrugged equably and turned her attention to the book. The title was printed on the dark cover in silver lettering; "Library Tales".

      Inga pulled another book off of the shelf, inspected it, and nodded. She crossed to the couch with the volume clasped tightly in her paw. Motioning Lia to the other sofa, she plopped down and opened the book she held, flicking idly through the pages.

      Lia moved quickly to the indicated spot; sitting docilely on the couch, she drew the cover open and flipped to the beginning of the first story.

      The few times that the Techo glanced up from her own book, the Aisha was staring down at the book, frowning in concentration and occasionally turning a page. After a while Inga ceased even that perfunctory glance at the other, and looked instead at her own book.

      When she finished the book, she sat silent for a moment before closing the volume with a snap and standing up, tossing the book lightly in the air.

      To her surprise, when she turned back from putting A Tale of Two Lupes back on the bookshelf, Lia was watching her. Library Tales was open on her lap; one of the Aisha's white paws rested lightly on the page.

      Inga gave the Aisha a slight smile. "Would you like some lunch?" she asked, moving towards the kitchen.

      Lia studied the Techo for a moment, and then nodded. She ducked her head and returned to reading.

      Shaking her head, Inga strode quickly into the kitchen and prepared lunch, rattling the pots and pans more than was truly necessary. When she emerged again, Lia was standing by the bookshelf, Library Tales half-open in her paws.

      Inga gave a sigh and set the tray quickly and smoothly onto the coffee table. She hurried over to the Aisha and plucked the book out of her paws. Closing it quickly, she gave Lia a stern look.

      The Aisha bowed her shoulders meekly, ducking her head, and moved away from the bookcase a little.

      With an annoyed grimace, the Techo shelved Library Tales. She hastened back to serve lunch to Lia, and only calmed after the first few spoonfuls of the soup she had made for them. She set her spoon down after a minute or so, and swallowed her last mouthful of soup before speaking.

      "What would you like to do this afternoon?"

      The Aisha stared down at her own bowl of soup, her spoon poised halfway to her mouth.

      Inga gave the other a half-smile. "You don't have to answer right away," she said kindly, picking up her spoon again.

      Lia nodded and put the spoon in her mouth. She took another sip of soup before replying. "What is there to do?"

      "Well," the Techo said, grinning. She set her spoon down again and patted at her mouth with a napkin. "There are lots of little clothes shops on Market Street; we could go there and get some better clothes for you, a coat that fits for when it gets really cold and the like."

      The Aisha opened her mouth, and then nodded. "I would like that," she said.

      "Okay. Well, finish your soup, and then we can go," Inga said, feeling rather a fool for the maternal tone that crept into her voice.

      Lia didn't seem to have noticed; she nodded subserviently and dipped her spoon once more into her bowl.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Beauty of the Snow: Part One
» Beauty of the Snow: Part Two
» Beauty of the Snow: Part Three
» Beauty of the Snow: Part Five

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