Voice of the Neopian Pound Circulation: 187,903,463 Issue: 527 | 6th day of Sleeping, Y14
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Possibility: Part Two

by virtuosoe


The desert can be very windy at night. It is tonight; it's so windy that I'm reminded deeply of when I used to be able to sleep in the upper tower in the palace. The wind would vibrate throughout my entire room. Now in the desert it just threatens to break my windows down. The sand creates a storm outside. I turn over in my bed. This is the place I've called home for two weeks now.

      The half moon in the midnight darkness through little flurries of sand tells me I need to go back.

      I can't fall asleep, which is unlike me. I try to assess what Jules and I have agreed to, which is just a list in the huge possibility that it will all work out.

      Step one: Jules will be my personal escort back to Shenkuu. We'll (inanely) attempt to recover my glider and go back. If that doesn't work, we can trek through Altador. We hope.

      Step two: When/if we get there, we'll turn me in. No one gets the reward for my return, and no one gets too much of a shock.

      Step three: Jules gets an escort of his own back to the Lost Desert.

      I sigh. This is much easier said than done. We mulled over "what ifs" and random possibilities for about an hour. We came to a stalemate after Jules irately mumbled, "We'll cross that bridge when we get there. For now, you're here and not there. That's a huge bridge in itself."

      I can't help but think of how my repatriation will go over. My sisters will probably laugh. My father will likely be furious. He's probably put so much money into alerting the public about my disappearance.

      My heart leaps. Something so stupidly obvious dawns on me. My father must not have been the one to release the posters because no one knows that he has anything to do with me. Why would he release missing posters for a phantom girl? So it must have been someone else. But who? My faux guard father, Galtof, probably doesn't have the coinage or the brains to. And... neither Lunara nor Terrana would. No one else would notice me. So it must have been my father.

      This insight is so severe I have to huddle down into my sheets. When and if I get back, things will be overwhelmingly atypical.

      I try to get my thoughts back on track. I know I was thinking about... my father.... The emperor. I love him so much. Every time I got to see him, I felt immediately better; my heart lit up. But sometimes he seems so indifferent to my condition. I convince myself he does it out of love.... Love that I will never understand.

      But there was something else I was thinking about....

      Two seconds later, it seems, the sun is shining and Jules is preparing himself for the day. I am not feeling bright or primed for the things to come.

      When I emerge from my room I hug Jules. I'm too shaken to joke around like I normally do in the mornings. I go into the bathroom and freshen up, even though I don't need to.

      I catch sight of myself in the mirror. I don't own a mirror, so I like to look at myself in Jules's whenever I can. Today I can't bring myself to smile and act pretty. Because I'm not. Maybe compared to others I'm merely appealing. But compared to... my sisters, perhaps, I'm an unattractive striped Kougra. I grab a flower that's somehow stayed with me all the way from Shenkuu and stick it behind my ear. This does nothing but make me look younger. I throw the flower back onto the ground (probably stepping on it, too) and leave the mirror.

      When I emerge from the bathroom maybe a half hour later, Jules is sitting in the living room reading a book.

      "You're ready?" I ask.

      "I suppose. I was just wondering, because I don't do these types of things, what should we pack?"

      I raise an eyebrow. Jules says it like I would know. "A map, some victuals, a glider, and some hope."

      "I'm not asking for a recipe," Jules hisses. "I thought we were over being bratty."

      "I'm not being bratty. It's just I don't know what to do, Jules. I don't know anything. I guess we'll need food, and a map.... I don't know!"

      Jules rolls his eyes. From behind the chair he pulls a large cardboard box. "Volts stopped by. I told him everything we'd discussed. After clearing his emotions, he came back with this box. Turns out I don't know as much about Volts as I thought I had; his father traveled the world, and Volts went with him sometimes. Now that Volts's father isn't with us, Volts kept all his things in this box. And guess who's thankful and lucky enough to use them."

      After I wonder how long I'd actually spent in the bathroom, I kneel down to examine the contents of the box. There is really more than I ever imagined we'd need. "Let's go through this just this once." I don't want to imagine whose the items were; Volts is so admirable for donating them to us.

      "Fine," Jules answers.

      A compass. I suppose this will be more useful than a map. I place this on the right of the box. "Keep. Definite keep."

      Jules folds up what's next: clothes. They seem to suit a place more like Terror Mountain. They would be suitable for Shenkuu in winter, but it's the middle of July. July. I snap my head up. "Jules, what is today?"

      "July fifteenth," Jules answers without looking up. I was right. "Why?"

      I smile slightly. "My birthday is July eighteenth, three days from now...."

      Jules doesn't say anything. This is strange. Jules is always vocal about his feelings, but he isn't now. I turn my attention back to the box. Jules has placed a journal with a pen attached to it in my pile. I know he's annoyed with me, but I ask him if he checked to see if there was any writing in it and if he was aware it would be disrespectful to use it if there was. He only said he didn't check it. I did, but I didn't tell Jules anything about it.

      Our pile grows with a tent, a backpack, a knife, various healing potions along with bandages and other medicinal needs, and a survival book. It is the book Jules was reading when I came out of the bathroom. I snicker a little at another book: Desert Survival Guide. Then I realize a huge part of our trip may be journeying through empty desert, so I go ahead and add it to the hoard.

      "Astrea, why would we ever need that book?" Jules says.

      "Because if I recall correctly, most of our walk will be through the desert," I retort.

      Jules sighs. "I know the desert like the back of my hand, Astrea. Don't you worry your pretty little head about getting through the desert because we will be just fine."

      "I can't rely on you to do everything for me," I reply with a low voice. I glare at him. "Believe it or not, I was independent once upon a time."

      "Like I said earlier, I'm ready. Whenever you stop acting like a child, meet me at Volts's house." With this abrupt reply, Jules leaves.

      I stand up. Ugh. Jules is an emotional rollercoaster. It's like being back at home. I pack the items we've collected into the backpack. It dawns on me that we have no food, even when I told Jules we'd need some. Since Jules is not only well-off but handy with sand, I don't think much else about it.

      The backpack has many small compartments for tiny cargo. I utilize them to the best of my ability. I pack my hairbrush and even my flower in case I need them. The journal and pen can fit into the pocket of my coat, so I put them there. I throw on my headdress, put on the backpack, and leave.

      It's then when I remember I'm supposed to be in hiding. So if I get snatched up, I'll blame Jules for not being there.

      No, I won't. No one needs Jules.

      I take off. Undoubtedly, I'm still going toward Volts's house. I hate that I'm stuck with Jules when he's in such a bad mood, and we obviously have some unspoken tenseness between us. Maybe if we both don't say anything we can work something out.... That doesn't even make sense.

      Volts lives close to us, but not close enough. He lives out in the open, secluded from everything else. Figures. I pull out the compass and see that Volts lives east to Jules's house. We're going in the wrong direction. I wonder if Jules knows that. Actually, I'm sure he does.

      Just as I near Volts's home, I notice that both boys are sitting outside on the balcony drinking something. I approach the balcony hoping that at least Volts will be glad to see me.

      "Good evening, Astrea," Volts calls. "How's your health?"

      "Fine," I answer. "I'm feeling much better."

      "Awful bad weather to be wrapped up like that."

      I fake a laugh. "Better safe than sorry!"

      That's an understatement, I realize, as I crash to the ground. The sand does as much as it can in cushioning the fall, but it doesn't help much. I'm picked up by the feet. I hear two similar crashes: hopefully Volts and Jules coming to my rescue from whatever is happening. Footsteps crowd around me. I'm turned around to face a... maybe Darigan Aisha glaring at me. It points something in my face, and I lose my grip on actuality immediately.

To be continued...

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