Breaking the Rules
And to think, I was so excited about the new plot a week ago. My red Xweetok, Ajax, was even more excited. We'd only joined recently, so Ajax's stats were still pretty low. We could hardly hold our own against that freaky clown, much less real opponents. Still, we wanted to do our part for Neopia, so we happily joined the Seekers faction and waited for the battle to start.
In the beginning, it wasn't so bad. Sure, it was a bit chaotic on the field, but that First Wave was so easy to beat! Ajax and I were enjoying ourselves immensely, beating up those pathetic opponents and spending the free codestones on training.
...Then, the Second Assault arrived, and all Tartarus broke loose.
Zombies started rising from the very dirt beneath our feet. Witches and bandits... Brawlers and spies... They were everywhere. Everywhere! Pets were going down left and right, their panicked owners grabbing them and running for shelter. Many were forced to leave their beloved friends in the hands of strangers while they made a mad dash for Faerieland and the Healing Springs. It was mostly newbies, as more seasoned fighters had no problem.
Ajax, however, was not a seasoned fighter.
I wasn't even looking when it happened. I had turned to one of my fellow Seekers, exchanging a few words of encouragement. I can't believe I was so foolish.
During those few seconds of distraction, a Zombie Hooligan clawed its way out of the ground right next to us. Ajax fought bravely, but he... He never had a chance.
I spun around at the sound of his yelp. He was laying on the ground, unnaturally still, as the zombie loomed over him, looking hungrily at his head. I did the only thing I could do to keep the monster from eating Ajax's brains.
I grabbed a rock, and broke one of Neopia's oldest and most scared laws.
I helped my pet in a fight.
I threw that rock with everything I had in me. It didn't hurt the zombie much, just annoyed it. It looked at me with its horribly unfeeling eyes, and I took a step back.
I thought with a sinking heart that most rules exist for a reason, and if I died now, it was my own fault.
I probably wouldn't be writing this now, if it hadn't been for Ajax. It turned out, he hadn't lost all his hit-points. He had one small spark of life left in him, and he used that bit of strength to force himself to his feet. Dizzy but determined, he got between the Hooligan and me and growled threateningly. Before I could try and stop him, he grabbed a nearby sword and dealt the zombie a fatal blow. Unfortunately, it fought back, taking Ajax's final hitpoint.
The fight had ended in a draw. The zombie limped off, defeated but satisfied. Meanwhile, I quickly knelt at my pet's side.
"...Ajax?" I cradled the unconscious Xweetok in my arms. It... It shouldn't be possible for him to die. I was assured no lasting harm could come from a fight. But... This wasn't like the other battles we lost. He had never passed out like this. He had never looked so bruised and beaten up before.
I looked around at the chaos that surrounded us. Pets fought on every side of us, their owners coaching them and cheering them on. They treated it like a... like a game. That was all this war had ever been. A game.
I myself had treated it as such, until now. Yes, the stakes were high. Yes, the result of this war could very well change Neopia forever. But at what cost?
I held Ajax close, tears running down my face and into his fur. I could still hear his heartbeat; he was alive. Why wouldn't he be? Pets can't die. I had been told that many times.
Trying to stay out of the fray, I gently picked up Ajax, (not an easy task, considering he's about the size of a large dog,) and ran for cover. We found relative safety under a rocky outcropping.
He stirred as I set him down. "Lily?" he asked quietly, using his nickname for me, "is that you?"
"Yes, Ajax, it's me." I tried to keep my voice from cracking. "I'm right here. You're safe now."
"That... That zombie..." he began weakly.
"Shh, everything's fine, my love." I decided I could look through my bag without fear of getting attacked. "I thought for sure I had a healing potion on me..."
"...You weren't supposed to do that," he said. "Owners aren't supposed to help..."
"I know," I bit my lip, "but what was I supposed to do? Let you die?"
"I can't die, Lily. You know that."
I didn't answer as I kept looking for the potion. "Ah ha, I found it!" I held up the pale purple bottle of Healing Potion VI.
"If people found out about you helping me like that..." he said nervously.
"Hush," I soothed, "don't worry about it. Drink the potion."
Ajax gave me an anxious look, but didn't argue.
I understand his worry, but I feel no regret for my actions. I did what I had to do. It was no more than what Ajax did for me.
I looked out over the battlefield. All the pain and suffering. The meaningless defeats and the equally hollow victories. The rage. The hatred.
And overlooking it all was the Obelisk. It appeared almost smug to my angry and defeated eyes.
I was tempted to quit. I wanted to take my neopet and go home. Let them all fight it out themselves, I though. It's not our war, really. Who cares about some stupid rock?
But I took one look at Ajax, and I knew there was no going back. After drinking the potion, he was more than ready to fight again. There was a hard light in his eyes, a steely determination. There would be no giving up, that much was clear. On the contrary, if the opponents were getting too hard, then we'd just have to train harder to keep up. We would never quit, not while we were still breathing.
His resolve was contagious.
I gave him a smile. "Come on, boy. Let's go show them they messed with the wrong Xweetok."
He grinned and ran beside me as we reentered the battle.
Ajax made me swear I'd never step in again. It's a promise I'm not sure I can keep.
He means far more to me than an obsolete rule.
If it would save his life, I would throw a dozen rocks. I'd even grab a discarded weapon and fight them off myself. If I had to, I would take a red Xweetok morphing potion and fight in his place.
Cheating, you might think. Well, maybe it is. Maybe I'm a horrible person.
Or maybe I've got the right idea. Who knows, really?
The war will only get worse from here. Ajax and I will continue fighting, but not because we're having fun. We'll fight, because we care about this world of ours. Only through fighting will peace be achieved. Only through tearing Neopia even further apart can it ever be mended back together.
Stay strong, Neopia. Stay strong.