Who is the Kiko Ninja?
PART I OF THE STORY OF NITEN HIRORU
Kiko Lake is one of the safest, simplest, most unassuming places for a young Kiko to grow up in Neopia. One particular young Kiko helped out at his father’s carpentry store everyday after class. Everyday he swam eagerly up from his underwater home, and helped his father assemble bubble tables and coral chairs. He was a curious little Kiko, and held dearly onto the memory of when Holbie Pinnock, legendary Kiko Lake Yooyuball Team Forward, stopped by their store and shook his hand. From that day on, he kept a Holbie Pinnock action figure by his bedside every night, and dreamt of how exciting it must be to travel every year to Altador for the Cup. How exciting it must be to see places that were so different from Kiko Lake! Not that he didn’t love Kiko Lake, but he wondered what different Neopian lands looked like, and what it would be like living somewhere else. Little did he know that he would experience much more than he had bargained for.
One fateful day, the young Kiko popped up out of the clear, blue water, and he bobbed along to the wooden dock leading towards his father’s store. The laughter of tourists taking glass-bottom boat tours echoed across the water and off the mountains surrounding his crater lake home. The vast expanse of sky above him welcomed him once more to the world above the water, and he felt the sun shine warmly on his face. He hopped onto the dock, and hurried along it into his father’s carpentry store, leaving small puddles in his wake. When he entered the store, he was met with the smell of freshly-cut wood, and the chatter of a few customers. He quietly ducked behind a chest of seaweed drawers, and made his way into the back room where he promptly laid down his school backpack. His father was busy managing the front counter in the afternoon, so the young Kiko was often left to his own devices until later in the evening when his father would clean-up the shop, and put the finishing touches on any works of furniture still in progress. He noticed a Blueberry Kiko Lolly that his father left for him, and he happily plopped it into his mouth.
That evening, his father seemed a bit different than usual, as if something serious was running through his mind. He was different than his usual, cheerful self. His father sat him down on a shell stool, and explained to him that one of the tourists who visited their shop was a wealthy individual from Shenkuu who wanted to purchase and transport several complete sets of coral furniture.
“I need to go to Shenkuu for a few days,” his father told the young Kiko. “Now, your mother is against the idea of you missing school, but I was wondering if you would like to come with me. I know how curious you are about the world outside Kiko Lake, and I think that I can find time aside from my business meeting to tour Shenkuu with you, son … What do you say?”
The young Kiko sat upright on the edge of his seat, almost bursting with delight from the thought. For the first time in his life, he was going to have a chance to see the world! But Shenkuu … what did he know about Shenkuu … almost next to nothing at all apart from a rare stamp that he had won from a class contest. That night, sitting on his inflatable Kiko Lake bed shaped like a giant life preserver, he opened up his family stamp collection, and looked again at the one Shenkuu stamp that he owned: the Kazeriu is one of the more magical creatures of Shenkuu the small description read. And so, despite protests from his mother about his alleged safety in Shenkuu, he decided to join his father on his business trip to the unknown Neopian land of Shenkuu.
A few months later, a strange-looking ship flew down to Kiko Lake, having glided over mountains and forest, hovering right above the water next to the dock in front of his father’s Kiko carpentry store. Even to a passive observer, there was no doubt that the ship looked strikingly out of place in the middle of simple Kiko Lake. Its elegant, feather-like sails fluttered as it put out an anchor to its temporary port. The bowsprit of the ship was ornately carved and spoke of a rich and slightly melancholic history. The young Kiko and his father stood awestruck on their carpentry store’s small dock, each holding a shabby but well-loved suitcase. A small, cautious head appeared from the crow’s nest atop the ship, and it called softly for the two Kikos to come aboard. Once on the main deck of the flying ship, a tall, robust-looking blue Gnorbu introduced himself as Captain Tuan.
“The Emperor has not given me the privilege of manning my own ship yet, but someday I will be the Captain of my very own ship, and my crew and I will go where no Shenkuuvian ship has ever gone before!” He puffed.
Captain Tuan explained to them that the Emperor himself had agreed to send one of his own royal ships to pick up the coral furniture sets from Kiko Lake. It was such a honour to travel in one of the most beautiful vessels in all of Shenkuu! Princess Lunara’s birthday was fast approaching, and when he had heard of the import of rare coral furniture, the Emperor had hoped to purchase a few, select pieces as one of her gifts.
The grand ship took flight once more, and the view of Kiko Lake became smaller and smaller, until it was just a small blue circle enclosed by a solemn mountain range. The young Kiko’s heart was beating fast as the ship flew over the landscape below. He snuggled closer to his father’s side, and wondered what adventures awaited him in the land of Shenkuu.
The mist around them cleared as they sailed rapidly through the air, and the young Kiko marvelled at the scene that unravelled before him. Stately towers of rock dressed with bright ribbons of water greeted them as their ship drew closer to Shenkuu. Triple-tiered buildings with ornate roofs jutted out of the rock, and suddenly his world of round, candy-like homes seemed far away now. Tiny dots of neopets went about their business along ascending winding paths, and along outstretched suspension bridges. The ship sharply rounded a corner, and a bold crimson flag emblazoned with trailing amber characters rippled loudly as they past. Captain Tuan’s clear voice called out for the crew to prepare for the ship to land at its designated place, and they soon joined a queue of other moored, flying ships.
At customs, the clerk insisted that they be given Shenkuuvian names that would be easier to remember and pronounce by the Emperor when they met him. The young Kiko was given a card of parchment with the following characters: ニテン・ヒロル (he was told that these were the sounds: “Ni-ten Hi-ro-ru”). Upon hearing the conversation, a sprightly young, orange shoyru piped up with an encouraging smile, “You can go by Hiro for short! Don’t worry!” The shoyru introduced himself as Kentari (“Or you can call me, ‘Ken’ for short,” he added with a playful smirk), and held a wooden sword by his side (“I use this for practice in my samurai training,” he explained, “When I’m older and get better, I’ll get a real sword!”). Kentari bickered a bit with Captain Tuan about the most efficient way to transport the coral furniture from Kiko Lake, and then graciously offered to accompany the young Kiko, now “Hiro”, and his father to their neolodge by rickshaw. One of Kentari’s best friends was a red Nimmo named Young Ryshu, and he was one of the fastest rickshaw drivers in all of Shenkuu - he could get them to their neolodge just in time for them to rest from their long journey. The infamous rickshaw driver waved enthusiastically at Kentari, and hobbled energetically over to them, dragging along the rickshaw behind him like pulling a wheelbarrow. The two Kikos and Kentari hopped on the rickshaw, and their driver Ryshu sped immediately from the port to their neolodge. Ryshu turned out to be a little reckless in his driving, and his occupants every now and then held onto their seats a little tighter as he bounded and swerved on his way. Amazingly enough, he still had enough breath to spare for conversation:
“So you’re all the way from Kiko Lake! Wow! If you’re not too tired tonight, why don’t you come watch my Kendo competition? I think that you’d enjoy it! … Kentari has been to so many that he thinks that they’re boring,” he laughed, followed closely by the chuckles of Hiro and his father. As they continued along, Kentari shared with them his box of rice cakes in case they were hungry. Princess Lunara always gave them out to her friends at the royal palace.
To be continued…