My Year in Shenkuu: Part Four
Also by heeken
When Tanny woke, she found herself in a dark wooden cell with Aceliane, with only some small windows dotted along the top – nothing they could fit through. The floor was filled with straw. Despite the presence of windows, it was still very humid.
Tanny rubbed her eyes, and shook Aceliane awake. It was not the smartest thing to do, for as soon as the Acara woke, she began insulting and scolding Tanny.
“You crazy idiot! Why didn’t you go get the Defenders of Neopia?!”
“Why didn’t you? I was busy chasing him!”
“So was I! And plus, my home was being robbed! Do you expect me to think that much?”
“Well, I was the one that was in more danger! Would I think about the situation coolly and analyse it, weigh the pros and cons, and then talk myself out of trouble with you, and then go find the Defenders? By that time, he would have been long gone and...”
“It’s your fault! Don’t make excuses for it!”
“As if you had no part in it!”
They stopped abruptly when they heard the sliding of a wooden panel. As they looked in that direction, they saw a small square, about five inches wide, with light pouring through. That was gone when a big fat ugly Skeith face poked in.
“You two, shut up, or else I’ll make some Pteri and Acara steak out of you!”
“NO! Please don’t!” cried Tanny immediately. Aceliane, however, went in the other direction.
“Why?” repeated the Skeith dumbly.
“Why are we here?”
“Because you’ve got a lot of good stuff and we intend to get it all!”
“So when you’re done, you’ll let us out?”
“Pretty much. You see, it’s not that easy...”
“How hard can it be?”
“Well, if you’re willing, it’s not hard at all. All I need is to get ten million Neopoints worth of things. As soon as that’s done, well... out you go!”
Aceliane continued, but no one heard what she said. Not with Tanny’s voice on top of her.
“WHAT?! TEN MILLION! Why don’t you go steal instead!”
The Skeith’s cough sounded more like a laugh. “We were doing that, girlie, until someone interfered...”
Aceliane glared at Tanny, who said angrily, “Well, it isn’t my fault I didn’t know you wanted your home to be raided.”
The Pteri was rewarded with a hard blow on the head. After an awkward pause, Aceliane continued her civilised conversation with the Neopet who was probably the mastermind behind her home’s raiding. She obviously did not care.
“We can’t get that much with you locking us up in here.”
The Skeith’s prisoners did not like his laugh.
“That’s not my problem,” he said with a tone of finality. When Aceliane and Tanny did not reply, he left and shut the hole again, leaving the cell considerably darker than before. They listened to the receding footsteps, then, all was silent.
To Tanny’s surprise, this time, it was Aceliane who broke the silence.
“I don’t suppose this is a very normal day...” she said, mumbling.
“If you were fair about it and just let me win and go to the better competition this afternoon, none of this would have happened—”
“How do you know?” asked Aceliane heatedly, but then held up a paw delicately before Tanny could rebut. “No. We’re stuck here. We should be thinking of a way out.”
“Wow, genius.” Sarcastically, Tanny rolled her eyes and pretended to inspect the cell, tapping at the walls, moving the hay around, and attempting to fly through the windows. After a while, Aceliane took the hint, and directed another hard blow to her head. Tanny exploded.
“Well, you said we should be thinking of a way out! All the walls are wooden, but nice and secure – no hollow sounds for secret passages. There’re no trapdoors or hollow spaces under the floor either, and the windows are too small for us to go through. Or, I have an excellent idea!” she added sarcastically, “What about you just give them their ten million Neopoints?!”
“Tanny, please—” The Acara’s regal posture seemed to droop. Deciding she probably did go to far, Tanny let her continue. Unfortunately, Aceliane seemed to be eager to talk – Tanny ended up learning half of her life story.
“You see, I’m not actually rich. All my clothes are handmade. Most of my jewellery is just glass – not worth enough to fill that ten million Neopoints—”
“What?” Tanny laughed weakly. “That’s a funny joke... Please tell me it was a joke...”
The roll of Aceliane’s eyes told Tanny it was not so. Gaping, she gestured at Aceliane’s clothing, which the Acara smiled sadly at.
“I’m not Royal. I’m actually a Purple pet. Add a bit of makeup to fix the colours, and then make the clothes that Royal Acaras would wear. Simple.”
Tanny shook her head. “You know, that’s all really nice to know you’re a big liar, but it would probably help a lot more if I wasn’t so lost on what you’re talking about.”
Aceliane sighed. She was going to need a lot more patience than she thought. She cast her mind back, far, far back, to her first day of school...
The sun was shining, the skies were clear, the birds were singing – the weather was so stereotypically good Aceliane could not help feeling happy. She brushed some imaginary dust off her new handmade dress, lifted her chin, straightened her back, and strolled through the school gates with an unprecedented air of confidence. As she stalked through the school playgrounds, where other Neopets were playing before school, she saw many heads turn, and smiled secretly. She felt privileged to be the only first-grader to be noticed.
Her day shone just as brightly as the sun did. Within ten minutes of entering the classroom, she had already caught the teacher’s attention a few times with her general knowledge, and the many other classmates that looked at her in awe.
The next few hours went past similarly. She had acted just like she had been taught to – friendly and helpful. Most of the students in the class had become her ‘followers’ by lunchtime, some out of liking of her personality, but the rest hoping to get some benefits. But that did not matter – Aceliane’s day was still good.
Then came lunchtime. Wanting to keep her personal space to herself, Aceliane managed to leave the rest of her friends in the playground while she left to take a few breaths of fresh air. She failed to notice the few fourth-graders that followed her.
When she finally realised that she was being followed, she tried to run back to the playground, but the elder Neopets were faster. A robot Shoyru flew in front of her, blocking her way. As she backed off, two Scorchios, one shadow and one blue, threw her against the wall.
“Give us all your money!” yelled the Shoyru, although it sounded more like a dysfunctional but loud speaker. Nervously, Aceliane shook her head.
She regretted that. At that moment, the Scorchios threw her on the ground, and her wallet fell out of her pocket. The Shoyru immediately grabbed it before she did, whistled squeakily to his friends, and they flew off.
“Don’t you dare tell anyone, or else we’ll keep doing it until you have no money left!” warned the shadow Scorchio just before they left.
However, they did not stick to that. Despite Aceliane keeping her mouth shut about it, they still bothered her every day, taking her money, even when her friends were around. That was until one day, when she began screaming at the top of her lungs when they took her wallet. At once, the Shoyru dropped the wallet and he and his friends ran away before the teachers came along.
After that, they could not get any more money off Aceliane – everyone knew her by then, and popular people were always hard to get money off. Finally, the little Acara could have some peace and quiet – and some lunch.
Tanny had fallen asleep by the end of Aceliane’s narration – well, not quite, but her head had drooped down to the ground and she was breathing heavily – like snoring, but not quite snoring.
“Were you listening?!” said Aceliane as she grabbed the Pteri and shook her. Tanny woke with a start.
“Yes, of course! But now—”
“Good, because I haven’t finished. As I said, they didn’t dare bully me again, because by then, everyone knew them and everyone knew me. And as the good citizens everyone had been trained to be, no one would stand by and watch someone, especially when it was someone they knew, get bullied, especially when the bully had a reputation for it. Now, what’s the quickest way to get everyone to know you? You act stuck-up, rich and snobby, and wear the best clothes you can, whenever you can! Understood?!”
Aceliane had said the last word so forcefully that Tanny could only nod. When she thought about it, though, she could see what Aceliane was driving at.
“I see...” she said slowly, inspecting her feathers out of habit. “Interesting method of survival. But then, wouldn’t it have been much easier to act tough, or just attack the bullies?”
Aceliane smiled regretfully. “I never took an interest to fighting – dancing’s more elegant and pleasing to the eye—”
“You WHAT?!” squawked Tanny. “Fighting’s one of the Shenkuu’s prized arts and you didn’t bother learning it, despite having lived your life here?”
“Well, Shenkese dancing is also very... err... well, native...” Aceliane trailed off as she ran out of arguments. “But either way, I was never good at fighting. And anyway, the only way I could think of to protect myself was the way I used, and if you’re going to act, you might as well keep it up.”
“I see...” said Tanny slowly, although she really did not. Fighting seemed like a more permanent and logical solution to that. Aceliane obviously noticed that – there was a familiar twinkle in her eyes.
Aceliane shrugged, and the twinkle was gone. “I don’t know. Think of a way out first.”
To be continued...