The Sorcery Society: Part Twelve
Jhidaya's evil cackling filled the room as Ru and I just stood there, staring at the increasingly large orb of pulsing magical energy. What could we possibly do to escape? We were doomed, doomed, doomed. There was no way we could escape through the metal door - even if we managed to lift it, only one of us would, maybe, be able to escape without getting crushed, and even so, I wasn't leaving without him, and he wasn't going to leave without me. I wasn't leaving without him because I owed him so much and had worked too hard to get there; he wasn't leaving without me because he was a good person.
So, it was painfully clear that we were both doomed to perish at the hands of Jhidaya's magic. The dark faerie would win, and maybe she'd even feel a little mournful at our demise; but she'd get over it, and maybe she'd even go to Neopia Central and try to turn everyone into minions, just to spite those who remained.
Ru grabbed my paw and squeezed it. He smiled at me.
"Thanks, Emme," he said, and I was surprised that he remembered my name. "You did good."
I nodded. It was a good ending, I thought. I even felt a little proud at Ru having praised me, even though the entire thing was, at least partially, my fault. But then Ru did something strange.
He let go of my hand and shoved me, hard, toward the corner of the attic, where a wooden crate lazily sat. I fell over the crate and onto the other side; I hit my head on the ground and was instantly plagued with an awful headache. Dazed, I forced myself into a kneeling position and rubbed my forehead as I looked over the crate, my eyes a little glazed over from the pain.
Ru was charging at Jhidaya.
"NO!" I heard myself scream, and then everything fell to pieces.
As soon as Ru made contact with the ball of energy, which, at that point, was almost taller than Jhidaya, it exploded. The energy was hot and cold and awful, and the sight of it was incredible - incredible and blinding. For some reason, it was white. I don't know why. But it was so blinding and hot and cold that I couldn't take it anymore, and I had to close my eyes and curl myself into a ball, pressing myself into the corner. I'm not quite sure how long I stayed like that - it could've been seconds or minutes or hours.
But by the time my eyelids had grown dark, and I had enough courage to open my eyes, I just felt very, very tired. I slowly uncurled myself and, trembling, pulled myself into a standing position. The wooden crate that had protected me was gone. The chair Ru had been sitting on was gone. The attic was gone. Jhidaya was gone. Ru was gone. Around me, there was nothing but darkness.
The stairs, surprisingly, had survived, but not the metal door at the bottom. Inside my heart, a weight formed, as cold and heavy as stone.
And yet - and yet - there was relief. Jhidaya was gone; she, and the the threat that she posed, was gone. The story that had been begun by her and the Sorcery Society had become complete. It was over.
Merah inherited Ru's treehouse; however, to my own incredible shock and surprise, she gave it to me. I really couldn't accept it - Ru's treehouse, that he had built for himself, Ancti, and his two twin boys? How could I take it, when, in the end, I had contributed to his untimely demise, if only a little? But the Usul insisted - "The boys don't want to be there if it's not with their dad," she told me, somberly. I could tell that she wanted me to accept it - that she didn't want Ru's work to go to waste. And so I did. I explained everything - everything to Trish - and she just hugged me and cried.
Trish adopted Athy, and we all packed our things and moved to Shenkuu. Trish loves how exotic it is, and she especially loves the food; Athy enjoys all the books Shenkuu has to offer; and Citrus spends an awful lot of time with Xav and Zach, and at the Fanciful Fauna. She really wants a Juma, but Trish isn't quite sure that she's ready for the responsibility of having a petpet yet. I'm sure that she'll give in, soon, though - after all, Citrus is the persistent type.
Xav and Zach went to live with their Aunt Merah. Their "Auntie Ko" absolutely loves them to bits, and is constantly showering them with hugs and kisses. Since Merah and Ko are roommates in their building, where the first floor is the bakery and the second floor is their home, that's where Xav and Zach now live. The poor boys miss their father terribly, but they're adjusting well, I think - they like eating some of the bakery's pastries when Merah and Ko aren't looking, and they've actually taking a liking to me. They call me "Emma" for some reason, and are always arguing over if they should spell it "Emma" (Zach) or "Emmah" (Xav).
Vidla, who lives in a lovely house not far from Merah's bakery, has started a brand new fashion line, called "The Ru Vancti", which is a huge hit. When I asked her about the name, she told me its a pun on her previous fashion line, "The New Vancti." I told her that her buyers might not understand it, since they have absolutely no idea who Ru Ralander is, but she just shrugged and said, "I don't care." I really admire Vidla for that - not caring what other people think. She wanted to name her new fashion line "The Ru Vancti", and she did - she didn't bother thinking, or contemplating, on what her buyers might think. Well, I suppose it doesn't matter anyway - they'll probably think it's just some sophisticated name that she made up.
We all paid a visit to the DoN Headquarters in Maraqua in order to testify that the Jhidaya they had locked up is actually her younger twin sister, Jhidayna. It took a few court visits and every witness available, but we eventually proved that Jhidayna was Jhidayna. She still has to serve five more years for lying to authorities, but that's a lot better than her previous sentence. Jhidayna didn't show much emotion when I informed her of her sister's demise; she simply looked away sadly, saying nothing. When she's let out, I think I'll track her down - I'm not sure why. Maybe just to say hello.
Oh, and, by the way, they do know. Before we left Happy Meadows, I stopped at Mira's house and told her that Ru was dead. She cried. I also told her that Mira was alive, and then I gave her the Usul's address so that she could send her a neomail sometime. Mira just thanked me and cried. That's how I left her - in tears. I'm not sure if they were tears of sorrow or joy; maybe they were both.
Then there was Mrs. Maral and her younger daughter, Lora. The pretty blue Lutari looked fairly indifferent as I explained how I learned that Vidla was alive; Mrs. Maral, on the other hand, showed an unusual display of genuine emotion by smiling and dabbing her eyes with a lace handkerchief.
Then there was Marla, the only person of whom I knew to inform of Ancti's passing three years earlier. She cried, and hugged me, and I didn't know whether to embrace her as well or to burst into tears.
I work part-time at Merah's bakery now, which is called "Shenkuuvian Sweets, by Merah & Ko," but most people just call it the Sweetshop, because they mostly sell desserts and candy. A lot of the time, Citrus tags along so that she can play with Xav and Zach. Trish works at the Fanciful Fauna, which isn't a big change from her job in Neopia Central, at the Petpet Shop. Athy only got a job last week, at the little-known Sakura Library, which is located not far from us in the Sakura Woods. She's convinced that the library will be "truly great" someday, and I have no doubt in my mind that, sometime in the future, it will be.
It's been five months since Ru and my's confrontation with Jhidaya. I believe that everyone's adjusted well to the changes that have been made. We don't talk about Ru much - he's sort of one of those awkward subjects where you don't know what to say. But, once in a while, Merah'll say, "Ru must be happy to be back with Ancti again," or Vidla will remark that Ancti would've loved one of her designs. And I might say, "I wish I could've met Ancti," and Merah or Vidla would say, every time, "She would've loved you to pieces."
Yesterday, I talked to them.
I lay down in my bed, unable to sleep. The room that Citrus and I shared used to be Xav and Zach's room, while Trish took up Ru's room, and Athy got the guest room. The darkness that had surrounded the once-standing attic was gone, and the few boards of the attic that remained had been carted away.
After a while of tossing and turning in bed, I looked at my little sister and asked, very gently, "Citrus? Are you awake?"
She snored in response.
I let out a sigh and looked at the wall clock hanging above the door - it was two o'clock in the morning. I closed my eyes and groaned; I was tired, really, I was, but no matter how much I tried, no matter how much I made my mind blank and thoughtless, sleep wouldn't come. It refused to.
I sighed and slipped out of bed, then quickly hugged myself; it was cold, and all I wore to protect myself from the chill was my mint green nightgown. I stumbled through the darkness over to my closet and pulled out what I hoped to be my purple trench coat. After slipping it on and buttoning it up, I tip-toed out of the bedroom - I still can't bring myself to call it "my" bedroom - and into the hallway. At first I considered going downstairs to have a hot cup of Borovan - Borovan really brings back memories - but then I found myself attracted to the ethereal moonlight that was spilling in through the window at the end of the hall.
That window was the only one in the entire treehouse that wasn't a bay one; I spend quite a lot of time just imagining why Ru had made it so.
Slowly, I walked over to the window, allowing myself to be drenched in the cool moonlight. Outside, Shenkuu was sleeping; nothing stirred, not even the wind. The sky that hung like ink and ebony above us was speckled by countless white stars, and, in the distance, I could see the moon, round and full and pale. Soon, it would wane as day broke, but it was always there - silent, omnipresent, beautiful.
After a while, looking up at the stars, I smiled, and said, "I really wish I could've met you, Ancti."
Then, a few moments later: "That was really silly of you, Ru. Playing the hero card."
And, not long after that, in a tiny whisper: "I hope you both are very happy together. Xav and Zach both love you, and miss you."
I was silent for a long while after that. But then I looked up at the stars and said,
"You know what, Ru? Maybe the Sorcery Society wasn't such a bad idea after all."
And, I promise you, I saw one of the stars sparkle. It was so brief, but I saw it, and I'm sure of it - a moment after those words left my lips, it sparkled.
I went to bed and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.