Ellis, Rhombus, and I were wandering aimlessly through Shenkuu. Though the city is breathtaking and idyllic, it’s huge. We were lost. We had been looking for food at the Exotic Foods store, but our map was either outdated or misprinted.
“There’s a shop,” Rhombus, my younger brother, a Kougra, pointed out. Ellis looked relieved. She hurried into the shop, and Rhombus and I followed.
“Welcome,” said an ancient-looking Ruki, “to Remarkable Restoratives.” Ellis’s shoulders fell at the comment. “Anything I could assist with?” the Ruki inquired.
“It’s just...” Ellis began, picking up her ‘complaining tone’. “We’ve been looking everywhere but cannot find Exotic Foods. This is our first night in Shenkuu.”
The Ruki grinned. He explained to us where the food shop was. He even supplied us with a map. Ellis was overwhelmed by his generosity. We made it to Exotic Foods and home before the sun disappeared. Our new home in Shenkuu was flawless. It sat on a ledge that jutted out from a hill, but it was sturdy enough for Ellis to call home. We were just getting used to it. The furniture was from our old home, so it was all Desert. The food was different in Shenkuu, and we had to adjust our wardrobe. It was all worth it, though.
Shenkuu at night is gorgeous. Some of the homes are illuminated by little lamps. The mist still lingers in the sky. I saw it all from our balcony, which is something we’d never had before. The wind picked up. Ellis wanted me inside, so I went to sleep knowing that things would probably get better, and we’d adapt to Shenkuu life.
When I woke up, I could hear two things: the wind rustling through the leaves and someone coughing. I got up to investigate. The coughing came from Rhombus’s room.
“Eldus,” Ellis called. She was in Rhombus’s room, tending to him. “Eldus, your brother is sick.”
I approached my brother’s bed where a sick Kougra lay. I was cautious to keep distance. “What’s the matter?”
In answer, Rhombus stuck his swollen tongue out. Ellis shook her head.
“Floppy Tongue,” I confirmed. I took interest in pharmacy and other science while in the Lost Desert. I thought, one day, that the knowledge may come in handy.
“Eldus, do you remember the Ruki at Remarkable Restoratives?” Ellis asked. “He’d have something.”
“Could you... go for me?”
My heart raced. Not once have I been alone in Shenkuu. I was rarely alone outside in the Lost Desert. “Um... I guess,” I replied meekly. To this, Rhombus spluttered out something I couldn’t understand.
“Great!” Ellis replied. She supplied me with money and a stylish coat to keep me warm. She told me to be safe. Within ten minutes, I was set for the shop. The map the Ruki gave us helped, even though our house wasn’t on there. I knew I could just focus on the falls and I would get there, perhaps.
I passed by a slew of conspicuous buildings that looked more like huts than carefully constructed houses. I kept my head down when I padded them. Hanging around one was a surly-looking Skeith. He was behind a stand. I suspected he was trying to sell something. “Hey there!” he called to me.
Something reeled me in. I wasn’t sure if it was my wobbly knees, the shadiness of the stand, the discouraging smirk of the Skeith, or my want to quickly get back home, but it was something.
The Skeith guffawed and said, “What do you need?!”
“I... my brother’s sick. He has Floppy Tongue,” I said, unsure of myself.
The Skeith reached into the inner pockets of his jacket. He pulled out a syringe with purple liquid in it. “Sounds like you need this,” he said. He sneered because he’d just reeled in a buyer.
“Well. Thank you!” I exclaimed as I reached for the syringe.
“Whoa!” the Skeith cried, stopping my hand. “Not for free, my friend.”
I felt my coat pocket. “How much?”
“Four thousand,” he barked. Ouch. Ellis had given me a little more than half that amount. The Skeith detected my worry and said, “No deal then.” He crossed his arms and closed his eyes smugly. “Goodbye.”
I left in a hurry. I had just burnt up part of my time wit that encounter. If I hadn’t returned in a timely manner, Ellis would be anxious. I also feared that the Skeith would realize the Tongue Shrinker was gone and was in one of my coat pockets. I smiled at my success. I turned around to go home. I pulled the map out of my coat pocket. As soon as I began to unroll it, the wind took it between its fingers. I grabbed at the map, but a gust of air carried the map too high in the sky. Great. Now that I knew for sure where I was going, I started walking again. The sound of rushing water grew closer with each step. Before I reached the water I came up to a flight of steps. I’d remembered these from the night before! I climbed up the steps and before I knew it, Remarkable Restoratives stood in front of me and between us was a bridge. I crossed the bridge and entered the store cautiously.
The Ruki said, “Welcome. Again.” He smiled.
I smiled back. “My brother has Floppy Tongue. Do you have anything to help him? In case this doesn’t work.” I pulled out the Tongue Shrinker.
The Ruki frowned while scrutinizing what I had in my hand. “Neezles Jab? That won’t help Floppy Tongue. I have no Seaweed Paste, either.”
What! I had stolen the syringe from the Skeith to discover that it was the wrong medicine. I suddenly felt like the Ruki knew I had stolen it. I tried to forget about it. “So, my brother will stay sick?!”
The Ruki only turned his head up as an answer. After a moment he opened his mouth, hopefully to respond to my question. “That’s a dashing coat. It looks foreign.”
“Thanks,” I said flatly. “I think it’s from Moltara.”
I groaned. “Okay. Thank you.”
The Ruki looked me in the eyes. “I could give you something. You can cure anything with knowledge.”
I sighed at the word ‘knowledge’. We were getting nowhere.
“Hmm. How about this? Ignorance is never bliss. Especial--”
“Could you tell me what you think about stealing?” I blurted out. I was hoping that he had a good answer so I could clear my head. I felt exposed while in the shop. I felt guilty.
“Stealing!” he gasped. “Stealing is terrible. It is never praised, never honorable, never wise. You haven’t stolen anything, have you?”
I nodded slightly. “Only this.” I held out the syringe.
“Return it to its owner,” he commanded. His eyes seemed to turn darker.
I nodded again. “Thank you.”
I groaned again. The guy must not have had anything important to do. He went to the back of the store. He came back carrying a box. He set the things in the box in a large glass case. The medicines. “I have Seaweed Paste now.”
I shoved a few thousand Neopoints in his direction. In exchange he gave me the paste and more wisdom. “Return that Neezles Jab.”
I thanked him and left the shop. Outside it was still daylight so it was still before noon, thankfully. I knew how to get home from the Remarkable Restoratives. On the way home I stopped by the stand where the Skeith was at. He was gone, peculiarly enough. I kept on, though.
When I got home Ellis was still fretting. “You’re back!” she cried. “Do you have the cure?”
“Yes,” I replied. We went to Rhombus’s room. He was still sick and almost swimming in drool. Ellis took the Seaweed Paste. She applied it to Rhombus’s tongue. Nearly immediately, Rhombus sat up straighter and felt better. He laughed. “Thanks, Eldus,” he said.
“No problem,” I replied. Ellis thanked me as well. Rhombus asked me a bit about my “journey”, but I just told him that I got a little off-track because I lost the map. Ellis chided me for a moment but then forgave me. We ate something that looked like squid and after a while the day was over. I spent some time on the balcony again. The Neezles Jab was in my pocket. I wondered how and when I would return it. It was then that I realized the lanterns adorned not only houses but huts and stands. I gauged the distance from the ground and the balcony. The jump wasn’t too high, so I made it easily. I ran toward the huts. I could see the Skeith from where I was. I could hear the Ruki’s words in my head: “stealing is terrible”. The set of huts were calm and noiseless.
“Back so soon?” called the Skeith. I approached him semi-confidently. “You need that cure?”
I shook my head. “I have something of yours.”
“I have... that cure.” Hesitantly I pulled the syringe out of my pocket.
Instead of shouting, going into a fit of rage, or making me pay up, the Skeith smiled. The smile was sincere and lighthearted, unlike the avaricious and nasty smile I’d seen before. “How honorable,” he said quietly. He took the jab from me. “How... courageous,” he continued.
“You aren’t angry?” I asked, incredulous.
“No,” he answered. “Listen. Part of the reason I do what I do is to spread wisdom. Besides, you can cure anything with knowledge, right?”
I could only babble in answer.
He laughed. “Go home. Spend time with your family. Is your brother still sick?”
“No,” I responded. “I went to Remarkable Restoratives.”
“Good choice,” he replied. “My work here is done.”
I walked back home. My heart was warm, but I was till flabbergasted. I smiled. It turned out that I would learn a lot more than I expected in Shenkuu. It wouldn’t take long for me to adapt, and things got better quickly.
I came near my home. The balcony was too high to try to enter. I wondered what I would tell Ellis. Maybe that I fell out of the window. No, I decided as I walked to the front door of the house. For now, I would stick with honesty. For the most part.