The Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins With One Step: Part Two
Also by drobit
Five years later:
Edric furrowed his eyebrows and stumbled out of his house, viola case in hand. Last night's dream was strange, foreign, but was turning into an inspiration whether he knew it or not. He rubbed his eyes, trying desperately to remember what it was about that dream that was so striking.
"This isn't going to work. Maybe I should just forget about it!" Edric sighed in frustration, and frowned. It was not the first time that he had forgotten a supposedly important dream. For the meantime, he would stop dwelling on the past. The sun was due to rise in a half an hour, and he was determined to catch the first rays shining upon Shenkuu. Edric had a feeling that today was one of those days that the sun would shine through the mist. It has always been a mesmerizing site; from the first time that he had seen it five years ago. Edric walked towards the mountaintops where the view was best. He bounced eagerly on his Blumaroo tail towards the summit—a much faster alternative to walking. He found his favorite spot, with that familiar patch of moss on the right. Eagerly, Edric took out his viola and began tuning it. Without realizing it, he started to hum something. "Weird. No idea where that came from."
Shrugging it off, Edric lifted the viola to his chin. He started to play a few notes, something that sounded unfamiliar but he soon realized that it was the melody in his dream. The sun had begun to rise, the first rays shining on him. Soon, its light would encompass all of Shenkuu, shining through the thick familiar mist. Edric played on—the rising sun became the perfect accompaniment to his melody.
Bouncing slightly, Edric headed back home eager to eat breakfast after his morning journey. He passed a few houses, frowning slightly as he thought of all the Shenkuunians that missed the beautiful sunrise because they were still sleeping. Why live in Shenkuu if you don't intend to enjoy every aspect of it? Morning had broken, and the sun shone through every window and crevice.
"Edric! Playing for the sunrise again?" Saki smiled amusedly from his front porch as Edric passed by.
"No, not quite. Playing with the sunrise. Which you missed, by the way!" Edric answered in mock agitation.
"Ah, youth. Someone elderly like me surely doesn't have the energy to climb all the way to the mountaintop. Did I mention that I have a severe fear of heights?" Saki huffed, with her eyes twinkling.
"Yes, yes you have. Quite a few times, I reckon," Edric muttered under his breath.
"Now that you're here though... I have been thinking... planning on dropping by anytime soon? I do enjoy the company you know, and I've got this new addition to my dumpling recipe that I've been hoping to try out," Saki asked kindly.
"Maybe. I've got to restring my viola though; it's been a while. It just so happens that I have a new song, and I would love an opinion on it," Edric said thoughtfully.
"Great! I'll cook up some negg noodles as well, of course. I know how much you young Neopians love them," Saki said knowledgably. After all, her cooking was quite popular in the neighborhood. At times it seemed like all of Shenkuu was lined up at her door to badger her for some good home-cooked meal.
"Actually, how about now? I haven't had breakfast and well...," Edric grinned sheepishly.
"Oh, all right. That song better be good, then. That's the one thing I miss about living in Tyrannia. All those concerts! It's good to be back in Shenkuu, though... seems like nothing has changed. Well, don't just stand there! Come in and help me prepare the flour," Saki said impatiently.
Saki was one of Edric's many neighbors, a kind elderly Cybunny who was always willing to cook her famous red bean dumplings in exchange for a good song. She arrived suddenly ten years ago in Shenkuu—without any explanation, only saying that she had longed to see it again. Unlike the rest of the village, Edric never questioned Saki about her past. There were many rumors, and Edric caught tidbits of it occasionally. Was she the Princess who disappeared years ago? When was the last time she lived here? What happened? The two met a few years ago, when Saki saw Edric trying to scrape enough neopoints for a meal. She always liked helping others, and the two had been friends ever since. Of course, Edric wasn't renowned for keeping a good secret to himself. Soon, almost all of Shenkuu wanted to taste Saki's cooking. Gradually, the rumors surrounding her past faded away as the rest of Shenkuu began to accept her, each saying that someone so expert at cooking could hardly have been a Princess, since she did not act like one. What many Neopians forgot, however, was that Princess Saki was a renowned cook as well. The two walked inside, each with something to be happy about. One would enjoy a hearty meal and the other would receive the gift of music.
Edric walked towards the shelf, attempting to find the flour. He dug around carelessly and to his dismay, the flour was nowhere to be found.
"What's taking you so long? Unless the flour became alive and is resisting to be taken from the shelf!" Saki yelled sarcastically.
"I can't find it! You're quite unorganized, you know. Here, you look."
"Whoops, now I remember. I ran out a few days ago and never went out to get more. Would you mind going to buy some?"
"Well... since the food is for me, I guess that would be fair," Edric reasoned. Saki handed him a bag of neopoints, and he set off.
Edric walked out of the house, heading towards the marketplace. He bounced along cheerfully, happy to be outside on such a fantastic day. Later, he would try and write down the melody that appeared in his dream. It was a good one-another one to add to the pile.
"Maybe one day I'll actually do something with those," the Blumaroo thought, as he was growing increasingly frustrated. It seemed like no one had any flour today, but he just had to find a bag somewhere. He asked some of his friends, but no luck. Perhaps he wouldn't be getting his dumplings or noodles after all.
"Time to head back, then. Saki will probably be irritated that it took me so long to... er, not find flour."
Meanwhile, in the palace:
Princess Lunara looked out the window while patting her Kazeriu. The palace was busy, and she was growing restless. Last night, she learned about Princess Saki: the one with the viola, the one who had mysteriously disappeared years ago. It was the most intriguing thing she had read about and wanted to know more about what happened. Lunara longed for a breath of fresh air, outside the palace walls. She was not planning on running away, of course. She just wanted to experience the outside world for once. With that thought, she was determined to leave the palace, just for a little while. Lunara planned carefully; slipping past the guards as they were eating noodles.
"Wow. Shenkuu is even more beautiful than it appeared from my balcony! I can't see why the others prefer to spend their day inside the palace," Lunara said curiously. "I can't be out long though, or else those irritating advisors will overreact."
"Oh! I think I'll head down to the village marketplace! I've always wondered what it was like there. Plus, I've heard of the great lotus rice that's sold there..." Lunara opened her Shenkuu-inspired paper parasol. The sun was shining brighter, and it was growing warm.
"I'm sorry, excuse me! Careful, watch your step now." Lunara apologized as a young Mynci bumped into her.
"Why hello there! That's a pretty parasol! Who are you? Are you new here? I haven't seen you before!" The Mynci was quite energetic, and glanced up at Lunara with a questioning face.
"I'm not new to Shenkuu, but I've never been here before. Hmm... do you happen to know where the Exotic Foods shop is?"
"Right there! Orrin just got from sailing the Neopian seas. I wish I could be like him. That sounds like the adventure of a lifetime! Well, it was nice to meet you, miss!" The young Mynci ran off quickly, probably to find her friends. Lunara chuckled and walked into the shop. Neopians here seemed full of energy.
"Excuse me, sir. Do you have any lotus rice?"
"Yes, yes, just a second. 1013 neopoints, please," Orrin replied, while eating a sticky rice cake.
"Here are the neopoints. Thank you very much, sir."
"Enjoy, young one!" With a wave of his arm, Orrin was off to help another Neopet.
Lunara walked out of the shop with a satisfied smile on her face. It was nice being on her own; nobody told her what she could and could not do. Now, she realized why Saki ran away. Lunara would not do that though. A few adventures like this were enough for her. It was time to get back to the palace for her afternoon lessons. While walking, she heard a Neopet talking, a Blumaroo. Being the curious Cybunny she was, Lunara decided to see who was there.
"I can't believe no one has any flour. And I still have to restring my viola. This day is not turning out like I thought," mumbled Edric.
"Flour? Viola?" Lunara thought curiously. "Perhaps I should help?" She walked towards the Blumaroo, happy to help. "I couldn't help hearing... you need flour? I'm sure I could get you some."
Edric stared, puzzled. "Princess Lunara? Did you run away from the palace?"
The Princess had a surprised look on her face. She did not expect anyone to recognize her. "No, I just wanted to see Shenkuu for myself, and experience life outside of the palace for once. It's amazing how sometimes I can feel like a prisoner in my own palace," Lunara quietly stated. "Anyway, just stay here; I can go get some flour from the palace kitchens for you."
"Shenkuu is awesome, right? Thank you so much too!" Edric smiled, and sat down under a tree nearby.
To be continued...