Secrets of Shiryoku: The Gift - Part One
*AUTHOR’S NOTE*--This is the sequel to my short story “The Last Faerie”. I recommend that you read that story first, as it will help you understand parts of this story.
I fluttered across a barren plain. There was only grass in plain sight, and a gentle breeze swept the landscape. All I had with me was a musty, old messenger bag strapped across my right shoulder, the bag bouncing on my left hip as I travelled to my destination. My hair was a brown, tangled mess. I was dressed in a tattered, old grey T-shirt, a pair of ripped, heavily-faded jeans, and a pair of boots with mud dried onto them—quite an unusual getup for my urbane faerie Draik colouring. Where I was heading is a secret, but my objective was crucial: to find the artefact before Hanso and Brynn did.
I bet you that my objective seems irrational and unorthodox. Here, let me explain from the beginning.
Hi, my name is Sibunai. I’m a female faerie Draik working to prevent another apocalypse with my faerie mentor, Nikkou. The two of us go way back...
...Story time, anyone?
After the faeries had been petrified, the whole of Faerieland was silent and ominous. The Neopian citizens of the majestic land were feeling a rush of emotions; some were scared, some were confused, and others didn’t know what to think. Me? I felt motivated to find out what was the cause of this tragedy.
So, I did. Once I had heard the news, I went to the Faerieland Library to do some research. As I walked in, a speckled Xweetok and the Ogrin Master scurried in. It had appeared to be that the duo had just heard about the freezing of our precious faeries. “Xandra,” the elder Ogrin asked the Xweetok, “what on Neopia are you doing?”
“I-I need a closer look,” Xandra, the Xweetok, insisted. She focused her attention on the Library Faerie, who had never even left the library at the time of the disaster. She was hard as a rock, and her once-dainty faerie body was now made up of some kind of strong stone with a gentle sparkle. Xandra pulled a magnifying glass out of her skirt pocket and examined the stone of the Library Faerie.
I was within a close distance, pretending to read a book on Shrubberies, when I heard her mutter, “It worked. It worked stronger than I expected it to, but it worked!”
The Ogrin Master tapped her shoulder. “What was that, dear? My hearing is failing, I apologize.”
She covered up her previous dialogue by lying, “I said that whoever did this has completed a powerful spell. I wouldn’t be surprised if this spell was irreversible.”
“Oh. That’s not good.”
I rolled my eyes and continued “reading.” Xandra tried to go back to examining the faerie, but she seemed distracted. Her head shot in my direction. I looked up from the book. “What are you looking at, Draik?” the Xweetok asked me.
My eyes widened with shock. Why is that BRAT talking to me? I didn’t say anything! I thought.
“I wasn’t looking at you; I was reading this interesting book called...” I looked at the book cover. The title of the book was 404 Ways to Arrange Shrubberies for that Layered Effect. I was about to tell her the name of the title, when she interrupted me with: “Don’t play games with me. I saw you roll your eyes.”
The Ogrin Master shook her arm. “Dear, can we focus on the matter at hand?”
“Of course.” Xandra gave me an evil look from behind her glasses and then went back to her work.
She asked the Master, “When did you first notice that the faeries were petrified?”
“Well, I was visiting the Faerie Festival, planning on saying hello to some of my winged friends up here. I approached the Battle Faerie and greeted her, and she didn’t respond. I tried saying hi to some of the other faeries, but none of them were talking to me! Of course, I didn’t even notice they were stone until I happened to bump into one. I just thought none of them wanted to chat!”
It was then when King Altador came in, calling for Xandra’s help. I decided that it was my time to slip away from the scene unnoticed. I didn’t want to become involved in something that caught the attention as someone as influential as Altador.
I snuck out the back door of the library and walked down the alley behind the building. The area was bright, unlike the alleys in, say, Neopia Central. However, it was not as brightly illuminated as the rest of Faerieland.
Emerged from the Faerieland-grade shadows was a figure concealed by a heavy, dark cloak with a hood that shaded her face. The unusual part was that her body gave off some sort of light that brightened up the alley. Her figure seemed dainty and frail. She had a messenger bag strapped across her shoulder and a Wand of Nova in her hand. There was something about her that just didn’t fit into the theme of Faerieland’s current demise. I had all the right to be afraid.
“Who—who are you?” I asked in timidity.
“I am Nikkou,” she introduced herself as she revealed the face that she had hidden under the dark hood, “and I’m the last faerie.”
She had bright yellow hair that was tied back in a high Uni tail. Her eyes were a sparkling crystal-like colour, and her face was very narrow and seemed malnourished.
In all honesty, I couldn’t believe it at first. Anyone probably would’ve been the same, especially since all of the faeries were frozen not too long before. The fact that Nikkou was not frozen like the others... it just seemed so strange and impossible! However, it couldn’t have been if she was standing right in front of me, faerie-like and not a heap of granite. I reached out to touch her arm, just to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.
It was tangible flesh. Guess I just confirmed the impossible, I thought.
“You seem confused,” she pointed out.
“Naturally,” I replied as I rolled my eyes. “Way to point out the obvious.”
The light faerie sauntered gracefully deeper inside of the alley. She stopped for a moment, turned her head towards me, and told me, “I know what caused this. I taught what caused this for crying out loud! If you trust me, we can save the whole of Neopia. Follow me and I’ll tell you my story. I’d tell you here, but it’s far too dangerous. Someone could see me. She could see me, for all I know.”
The way that the light faerie stressed the word she was kind of intriguing. I wanted to know who she was.
I followed her down the tunnel. Little did I know that this one choice would introduce me to my destiny.
Together, we walked down to the end of the alley. It got strangely darker the deeper we got inside of it, but Nikkou’s light washed away the darkness around her.
I asked her as we walked, “If you’re a faerie, then where did your wings go?”
She frowned and replied, “I wish I knew. I think that it is because all of the faeries were frozen by... her. The loss of the faeries seems to have caused a dearth in faerie magic in Neopia, and I believe that’s why my wings have disintegrated.”
I asked another question: “That’s terrible to think about. Just one thing doesn’t make sense. Who is 'her'?”
She bowed her head and grinned. “We’re far enough into the alley. Now I can tell you my story.”
She thoroughly explained everything. She told me about her days instructing students in the Hidden Tower, about how the cranky speckled Xweetok that I ran into earlier was really the sinister adversary in this crime, and she even explained why she no longer trusts Queen Fyora. (I’m not even kidding you; she really hates the Faerie Queen! I was able to understand why Nikkou would have a reason to, though. If Fyora listened, then Faerieland wouldn’t be in a crater at the moment.)
She finished off by telling me, “I need help trying to thwart Xandra’s evil plans before Faerieland crashes due to lack of magic.”
“Faerieland can do that?” I asked.
“Only under extreme circumstances such as this. Would you be willing to help me?”
“I’ve never had the chance to be the hero. In fact, I’ve never had the chance to do anything exciting. I’ll do it.”
“A wise choice, Sibunai.”
Some sort of a shocked and confused grimace washed my content face away. “You know my name? But... how?”
“I know a lot of things... things that you wouldn’t understand. I can see the past, the present, and the future, you see. It’s a special ability that only a few faeries have, and it’s called Shiryoku. I don’t choose when I see these visions, but they seem to choose me.”
“Does that mean you know other things about me?”
“Indeed I do. You’re incredibly stealthy. You ran away from your original owner because you were forced to be the family lab rat. As a result of using the lab ray, you are incredibly strong. You steal books for a living—quite odd and devious, but at least you’re stealing something educational. Your only source of food is whatever you can find at the Meridell Rubbish Dump, and you don’t mind eating the almost-rancid food that you find. You’re not only powerful, but you’re disciplined; now, that was just an educated guess. You would be perfect to join me on this adventure.”
“You know, if Faerieland weren’t in danger, and all of the faeries weren’t frozen, then I’d probably throw a coconut at you and scream to the heavens. However, I feel like it’d be stupid to do so in this case. With that much on the line, I can’t help but accept your request.”
She smiled and lit up brighter than I’ve seen any light faerie do before.
I eagerly asked, “So, what’s our first plan of action?”
Xandra cried from inside the library, “STOP! THIEF!”
“Find out what’s going on,” Nikkou ordered. “That must be Xandra. It’s impossible to forget yelling as vociferous and spiteful as hers. If you can spy on her, we might be able to get a lead.”
I nodded my head in agreement and dashed down the alleyway. Nikkou sure was accurate about my power and stealth; sprinting down the passage was an effortless task for me. I ran into the library’s interior and skidded on the shiny library floor. Xandra, the Ogrin Master, Altador, and the rest were not there. I assumed that they were outside, so I peeked out the front door of the library. I saw a fray gathering. Xandra was accusing a blue Ixi dressed in tattered clothing (like myself) for stealing an artefact of some sort. They took turns trying to tell the story, but, as each pet did, one would disagree with the other’s retelling of the tale. It took them a while to finally agree on the correct story. More occurred during this scene of great intensity, but it ended with them leaving for Nox’s Castle in the Haunted Woods. I fled the library through the alleyway exit and met up with Nikkou at the end of the alley like before. “Did you hear anything important?” the light faerie asked.
“Yes. An Ixi apparently stole an artefact from Xandra.”
“That must be the artefact that Xandra used to freeze the faeries. She must’ve got it back somehow, but how?
“Oh well. I’ll worry about that fact later. What else, Sibunai?”
“That’s about it.” I pondered over everything one last time, then remembering that the group was headed to the Haunted Woods. “No, wait! I lied. (Okay, not really, but you get the idea.) They’re headed to Hubrid Nox’s castle in the Haunted Woods. The blue Ixi confessed to selling the artefact to Nox.”
“That’s it!” Nikkou bellowed. “He sold it to the disguised Xandra! That fool. I’ll get him one day for that, that is, if I remember who the sophomoric idiot is.”
“So, if Xandra was disguised as Nox, and everyone thinks that the real Nox was behind it all... Oh boy, that can’t possibly be good.”
“We need to leave immediately and follow them,” instructed Nikkou. “Come, Sibunai.”
She held her hand out to me, and I grabbed it. Before I knew it, we had teleported to the Haunted Woods, right in front of Nox’s castle. “Whoa,” I said in shock, “how long has this thing been here?”
“No time for that!” Nikkou insisted. “They could be here any second! We need to—”
The sounds of a group of foreigners echoed in the distance of the dank woods. Nikkou grabbed my arm and pulled me aside. When we were shrouded behind countless numbers of dark trees, she used her cloak to hide her naturally-emanating light. We carefully examined the scene from afar. It was Xandra, along with the people that she was deceiving. Two of the members—the blue Ixi and a red Kougra—strayed away from the group and invaded the fortress. Eventually, the rest of the group entered the castle through the gates... everyone except Xandra, that is. After some screams came from the castle, the real Nox came out from the back entrance and scurried through the woods in our direction. Nikkou grabbed me again and pulled me farther away from the Chia. Xandra caught up to Nox, and we saw his unfortunate demise.
I sneezed, and Xandra whipped her head around (almost one-hundred-and-eighty degrees around, which was rather disturbing). Nikkou again grabbed me and ran, but Xandra was catching up to us faster than we could do so. “Can’t you fly?!” I cried.
“No,” she explained. “Don’t you remember me telling you this? There’s not enough power to allow me to fly. We’ll just have to wing it, no pun intended.”
“—But you can teleport!”
“Yeah, I have no clue why I can even do that anymore. Let me try that one again. Hopefully I can still do that!”
She closed her eyes as she ran, which wasn’t the best idea in my perspective, and focused hard. Before we knew it, we had teleported away from Xandra, who was close enough to notice the bright aura of Nikkou’s light faerie body by the time we did so. The last words that we heard from her were, “Nikkou, wait!!!”
“Excuse me... excuse me,” someone whispered in my ear.
I blinked a few times. I felt a bit woozy after all of this teleporting. “Excuse me, you two,” the voice whispered again.
The voice got impatient. “WAKE UP ALREADY!”
My eyes shot open faster than rockets heading to Kreludor. I pushed myself off of the floor and looked around. The environment that I was in was very ornate, yet simple. The floor was lined with tatami mats, and the walls were painted a light orange. There was fancy Shenkuuvian calligraphy painted onto the wall in black paint. There was a single, yet powerful, lightbulb illuminating the room. There were a few glass windows that were cracked open a smidge, letting in the cold, nighttime air. I was sitting on a thin mattress that was lying on the floor, as was the sleeping Nikkou beside me. The room smelled of sakura—cherry blossoms—and some kind of exotic tea of some sort.
In front of me was a cheerful little white Aisha dressed in a silky yellow kimono with a red flower pattern on it. “Thank goodness you’re okay, but I’m not quite sure about your friend over there,” the Aisha said.
I looked at Nikkou. She must’ve been exhausted from all of that teleporting, especially since she teleported us all the way to what seemed to be Shenkuu. The woman who took us in must’ve taken the dark shroud off of Nikkou to keep her from overheating, considering how hot and humid it was in Shenkuu that day. Nikkou wore an old and slightly tattered, sleeveless, and asymmetrical yellow dress that was a yellow as bright as the sun. However, its brightness was dulled a few tones due to many countless spots of mud and grime that downgraded its beauty. Her golden wings were large and majestic, but also seemed to have diminished in glory. I was unsure as to why that was, but I assumed that it had something to do with the freezing of the faeries.
“She should be okay,” I pointed out. “Nikkou’s been using her magic too much and probably just needs rest, if anything.”
The woman understood. “I thought that the faeries were frozen,” the Aisha confessed. “Why is it that your friend is the exception?”
“Look, lady,” I said, “I just met her, like, today. I don’t quite understand her either.”
The lady gave me a warm smile. “It takes a good friend to stand by a friend in times of conflict. I think that you two will end up knowing each other like the back of each of your hands in no time.
“Now come, let me make you some green tea. You appear to be tense.”
“Sure, why not. I could go for some tea. Green tea is my favorite anyhow.”
I sat at a table on the far end of the room. It was pressed against the middle of the back wall. It was very low, and there were oriental pillows to sit on rather than chairs. Before she left the room, I pointed out, “I have a feeling that we might be here a while.”
“Why, of course. Stay as long as you and your faerie friend need to.”
“Yes, but I think it’d be best if Nikkou’s secret stayed a secret. It would probably be better for us to stay here until things clear up so we don’t frighten any Neopians with the sight of the last extant faerie. I think the last thing Nikkou wants is attention during this time.”
The lady thought about the request, then said, “Fine, but you must help me by fetching groceries once every week. That will be how you pay off your rent.”
“And Nikkou and I would be able to stay here for free?”
“Well, you two would have to keep the place tidy. Otherwise, yes. It’s the least I could do for the last faerie.”
I smiled. “Thanks, kind lady.”
The Aisha smiled back. “Please, call me Heiwa.”
“Well, thank you, Heiwa. Thank you for agreeing to keep Nikkou’s secret.”
“It’s only a small price to pay to be such a big help to your friend. I esteem faeries very highly, and you two will expect nothing less than royal treatment while you stay with me. Again, you’ll just have to go grocery shopping every week so I can cook for you two.”
“Thank you, thank you again!”
“I’ll go get that tea that I promised you. I’ll bring a large pot, just in case your friend wakes up.”
I bowed my head respectfully as Heiwa went to steep the pot of tea. Nikkou woke up not too much later. She pushed herself up into a sitting position and looked around. “Where—where are we?”
“We’re in Shenkuu. This nice lady, Heiwa, is caring for us. She’s letting us hide here until everything clears up with Faerieland.”
“But... what if it doesn’t?”
We got silent. The quietness droned on until Heiwa came in with a large, porcelain teapot that spewed steam from the spout. “Tea, anyone? Oh, hello. Looks like you’re alright. Great to hear. Faeries and their friends are always welcomed in my abode.”
The white Aisha looked at the both of us for a second. “What are your names? I don’t think I’ve caught them yet.”
We introduced ourselves, and the kindly lady lit up. “Nice to meet you both, Sibunai and Nikkou. Enjoy your tea.”
“Thank you!” Nikkou and I said simultaneously with gratitude.
We realized that Heiwa forgot to bring us teacups, so we just took in the warm steam that flowed from the pot. It was both relaxing and fragrant.
“So,” I asked Nikkou, “what’s our next course of action?”
“It’s highly unlikely that we’ll catch up to Xandra and the others now, but I have a feeling that the Ixi and the Kougra are capable of handling everything themselves.”
I cocked my head to the side in confusion. “How can you be so sure?”
“Just a feeling.”
Nikkou winked at me. I knew exactly what she was talking about.
To be continued...