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Week 366
You are on Week 367
Week 368

Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...

We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!

Story Three Hundred Sixty Seven Ends Friday, May 2

Cylette carefully wrapped the ribbons of her ballet slippers around her ankles and tied them in a perfect bow. The pink silk of the slippers looked pretty against her soft white fur, she thought. Even if she only had a bit part in this year's recital, it was still a solo, so she wanted to look her best.

As the Cybunny was lacing up her other slipper, the door to the dressing room opened and Arisu, an elegant Aisha, and Chay, a nimble Xweetok, (both of whom were in the advanced ballet class) walked in. Cylette smiled and was about to say hello to them, even though the pair had a bad reputation for bullying the younger dancers, when the two ballerinas eyed her up and down and pointedly turned away to continue their conversation.

"I wish we didn't have to perform with the lower-level dancers," Arisu drawled, rolling her eyes. "I mean, I guess we'll look better by comparison, but it's really just lowering the quality of the whole performance to have them clomping around the stage."

The Xweetok nodded. "And what was Madame Snedra thinking when she gave that Cybunny a solo?" she asked in a voice loud enough for Cylette to overhear.

Cylette's shoulders slumped sadly. She had been so excited for the recital and her solo part as a Lazydel. Though she may not have been as good as Arisu and Chay yet, she was just a beginner.

Arisu laughed in a sharp, disdainful way. "I know! She's going to look like an explorer climbing up Terror Mountain in snowshoes instead of a flower!"

How can they be so mean? Cylette thought, anger heating her cheeks. They may be good dancers now, but I'll catch up to them someday, especially if they spend all their time bullying the beginners. They need someone to prove that they're not as great as they think they are. Her paws tightened on the ribbons of her slipper. She then tied the last one and gathered her things.

"Good luck at the recital!" Cylette said cheerily to the Aisha and the Xweetok as she passed them. It'll be the last one you ever star in, she finished to herself...

Author: *Twinkle Toes*
Date: Apr 28th
...little did she know, that wish was about to be granted.

Cylette's heart started to pound as she wove her way through the crowd. Colourful costume-clad Neopets were everywhere, their eyes bright with excitement and their hands shaking with apprehension. Cylette knew she must look exactly like them, only perhaps a little more nervous. After all, it wasn't every day you danced the solo.

The white Cybunny drew in a shaky breath. For as long as she could remember, she had always loved dancing. The ballerinas always looked so graceful and perfect up onstage, their movements serene, their dances beautiful. Cylette had always wanted to be just like them.

And now she was finally getting her chance.

Cylette tried to make her breathing normal. Thoughts of doubt flooded through her mind. What if she messed up? Missed a step? Went too fast?

No. She closed her eyes. She would make it through. She had to. After all, she had promised...

A voice called out. Cylette was so nervous that she could barely register the words it spoke. But somehow, she knew what was said.

It was time.

A Kougra was ushering dancers through a narrow door that led to the stage. He flashed her an encouraging smile as she passed. Cylette tried to return the smile, but she knew it faltered, somehow. She had never been so nervous in her life.

Backstage, all was quiet, save for the hushed, almost rhythmic whispering of the stagehands and teachers, making sure everyone was in place. Ahead, Cylette could see the glossy red curtain, the only thing that kept her separate from her audience. She gulped. Soon, that curtain would rise, and then...

"Cylette, hurry up and get on!" someone hissed, and Cylette nodded dumbly, scrambling as silently as she could to the centre of the stage, her starting point for the dance.

She raised her arms into position and carefully placed her foot behind her, staring straight ahead into the fiery depths of the crimson curtain. Cylette found it so ironic she was supposed to start onstage, all alone. When the curtains rose, she would be the first and only thing that anyone would see.

Anxiety clawed at her savagely, but Cylette refused to let it get to her. She had to make it through. She had to do well. She had to...

She heard the soft sound of muffled giggling and glanced to the side. The shadowy figures of Chay and Arisu appeared to be shaking as they stood among the drapes, waiting for their moment to step into the spotlight.

Cylette felt a hot wave of rage. She knew they were laughing at her.

"Just you wait," she mumbled to herself. "I'll show you. I'll be greater than you, much greater. Greater than you'll ever be." Her eyes narrowed slightly. "Compared to me, you... you will be nothing."

Everything grew silent then, and Cylette knew that it was almost time. Her pounding heart seemed to muffle every other sound, but she swore that she heard a voice, whispering in her ear.

"As you wish..."

But she had no time to investigate, to even look around, for the scarlet curtains trembled once, then started to rise...

Author: reveirie
Date: Apr 28th
She too trembled -- but only once, and then, like the silky fabric of the curtain, she rose into the air, all muscles in her legs tight and her toes flexing, until she stood on pointe, balancing like the flower that Cylette knew that she must embody with mind and soul.

She held the position. A moment of intense silence pressed down upon her, but the Cybunny stayed firm. She would be incredible. This was her time to shine.

The music began.

It filled her body, and like the first note that rang out through the auditorium, Cylette began to move, first slowly, lifting one leg, foot pointed, and then faster, stronger, stretching out her leg as the note stretched through the air; she perched upon what felt like one silky-slippered toe.

And then the true music began, and Cylette danced.

Her legs flew as if guided by the sound itself, leaping and twirling and spinning like a flower caught in a spring breeze. She was graceful, bowing, raising her arms and reaching for the spotlight that shone down on her as if reaching for the sun and moon. She was powerful, every muscle flexed and controlled, bounding across the dance floor and yet gliding through turns and pivots. She spun and kicked and posed and dove, and everything around her seemed to vanish as Cylette performed.

It was like she was not even herself, like she had changed as soon as the curtain had lifted. In fact, the Cybunny was so filled with the energy and spirit of her dance that it seemed like no time at all before the music reached a crescendo, and she was spinning and twirling, arms up in the air, one leg out, her costume twisting in what was surely more turns than had been choreographed. But it didn't matter. Cylette was giving the performance of a lifetime, and when she finished, arms out, feet pointed, chest heaving -- the auditorium erupted.

Even though the show was far from over, the audience was on its feet, cheering and clapping wildly as Cylette stood there, beaming with a newfound joy brought upon by the knowledge that she had been perfection in every way.

Even as the Cybunny turned to look offstage, where Chay and Arisu were gaping at her, looking ridiculous with their floral costumes hanging limp in shock, the audience still did not cease their applause. It was not until several of the other beginners filed onstage that they finally quieted down and waited for the next performance to begin.

Cylette flounced offstage and flashed a grin at the Aisha and Xweetok. "Good luck," she said, and they were too amazed to reply.

Backstage, as she was unlacing her shoes, many of the other dancers were congratulating Cylette vigorously. But among the praise, the Cybunny was certain that she could hear a voice, whether from far away or from inside her own head, she could not discern.

"You owe me..."

Author: reggieman721
Date: Apr 29th
Cylette drew in a sharp breath. She should have seen this coming. Mysterious, seemingly invisible sources of help generally did not do so without a price.

She looked around quickly. There were too many Neopets in the dressing room, praising her vigorously as they got ready for their own dances.

She needed to get out of the room, somewhere quiet and empty, if she were to negotiate with somebody who didn't seem to be there.

"Thanks!" she said quickly to a reverent-looking white Kougra by the name of Daisy. "But I really need to go to the bathroom, so if you'll excuse me..."

Without waiting for a response, she turned away and threaded her way through the throng of dancers, finally making it to the door. Briskly, she walked down the miniature backstage hallway, ducking into the first room she saw.

Luckily for Cylette, it was completely empty. It appeared to be a storage room of some sort, so nobody else was probably headed here, either.

"All right," she panted to nobody, locking the door. "What do you need?"

She flinched slightly as the voice whispered in her ear, even though she'd been expecting it. The feeling of an invisible, insubstantial creature following her every step she took was quite disconcerting.

"First," her erstwhile helper began, "I wish to inform you of what would happen if you didn't do this little favour for me. You see, you also asked for the Aisha and the Xweetok to perform badly. I shall grant that also, whether you wish for that now or not. I'm afraid I'd have to reveal to the crowd that you cheated and spread a Slippery Floor Potion on their dance shoes. You'll find an empty potion bottle in your locker if you go look right now, actually. They'd ban you from ever performing with them again. And we wouldn't want that to happen, would we?"

Cylette's breath caught in her chest, her expression halfway between outrage and fear. If this mysterious voice needed to resort to blackmail, then they had to be asking her to do something she really didn't want to.

She finally forced out words. "What do you want me to do?"

There was a pause. And then...

"It's not much of a favour, really, barely anything," the voice assured her. "It'll be very quick, and then you can return to the dressing room and the reception and move on.

"There's a tiara," it continued. "Just a prop, nothing more, I assure you. Silver, with some fake rubies embedded in it. It's for Arisu's dance as a princess."

Cylette frowned. "What about it?"

"Nothing, really. If you look to your left, you'll see another tiara, one that looks exactly like it. I want you to go to the dressing room and replace the old one with the new."

This sounded very suspicious to the Cybunny. "And why do you want me to do that?"

"I'm quite afraid that's confidential. Or had you forgotten my terms?"...

Author: dianacat777
Date: Apr 29th
Cylette scowled. How could she forget? Now that she'd finally gotten to the top of the class, the threat of being sent crashing back down was a heavy one.

And Arisu... it would be what she deserved, if something bad happened to her. Perfectly justifiable to her conscience -- in about twenty years.

She bit her lip in indecision, torn between what was right and moral and honest, and her own hopes and dreams -- and fears.

"Why are you asking me?" Cylette mumbled, frowning as she weighed each option, carefully considering each aspect.

The voice laughed loftily. "That's confidential as well."

"No, I'm quite sure it's not," the Cybunny said carefully. "There are others much more desperate to dance well and get back at Arisu than me, and you know that. There's some special reason why you chose me, why only I can replace that tiara. I think, for that reason, you ought to tell me exactly why I'm doing this -- or, I think I'll risk the Slippery Floor Potion fiasco." Honestly, she was ready to do no such thing. But if she was going to have Arisu on her conscience, she may as well know why.

"Darling, you completely flatter yourself."

Cylette smiled. The edge of desperation was there -- well-hidden, but still there.

The voice instantly deflated. "Fine," it mumbled glumly. "I still can't tell you about the tiara -- still utterly confidential -- but I can see it's no good trying to convince you without first buying your trust."

"Get on with it."

"All right, keep your tutu on. What do you want to know the most right now? About this whole business. I'll answer it, fully, truthfully, and you have my word."

"Wow," Cylette said sarcastically. "Your word. I can really take that one to the bank." She fell silent, trying to choose one question, the right question, from the billions swimming dizzily around her mind. "Um, who are you?"

She could almost hear the frown in the voice. "I told you I'd answer fully and honestly. So I will -- and don't laugh." The voice sighed. "I have many names. The one you know me as is Arisu. And the one the rest of Neopia knows me as is the Court Dancer..."

Author: mithril_mithrandir
Date: Apr 30th
Cylette blinked and frowned back, or around, or generally wherever she was facing since she couldn't see who she was talking to. "Um."

"What, don't you believe me?" The voice actually sounded affronted.

"Er, well...." Arisu was a Darigan Aisha. And however nasty she might be about Madame Snedra's insistence on giving the lower-level dancers encouragement and a chance in the spotlight, she really was a very, very good dancer. Better than Cylette, certainly, but almost as far beyond Chay, even if she treated the Xweetok as an equal and looked down on Cylette. Her grace, elegance, and skill had gotten her a lot of status in the classes in spite of the fact that she was... well... not exactly traditionally pretty.

"I'm surprised you wouldn't disguise yourself with some other paintbrush or illusion like you did in Meridell," Cylette said at last, "but, um, isn't that... well... isn't Arisu awfully young to be you?"

"That's the disguise," the voice said crossly.

Cylette flicked one long ear. She could hear a lie there. "No, it isn't. And there's something awfully weird about it if you can sneak empty potion bottles into my locker, but you need me to move the tiara. Especially," she emphasised the word sternly, "since -- as I said -- there's got to be some reason you picked me."

"You made the wish," the voice said. "That's all."

"A lot of Neopians have probably wished that. If you're Arisu, frankly, you're really a jerk! If you're really the Court Dancer, you're...." Her stomach sank abruptly. "Worse than that."

Cylette swallowed hard. Worse than that, indeed. Maybe this was that Aisha sorceress. Maybe it was somebody else, somebody scarier. Maybe it was still playing with her somehow. But could she really help someone who even claimed to be able to... to enchant and control minds the way the Court Dancer had? All that destruction!

A decision settled into her mind, along with a cold lump in her stomach. "I think you're trapped," she said, very softly.

Sullen silence.

"I don't think I trust you at all. I didn't make a bargain with you--"

"You did. You've already had my help."

"Then I'll have to break it! And take--" She gulped. "Take the consequences. Me getting accused of cheating is better than you being able to enchant everybody into attacking those who ought to be their friends like you did in Meridell. And I don't even know if I believe you about that! Why would you promise to humiliate Arisu if she's you? And what is that tiara really going to do?"

"I told you, I can't tell you!" The voice definitely had an edge of desperation again. "I was cruel to you to try to get you to make the wish. It's--"

Dead stop.

"It's what?" Cylette asked suspiciously.

"It's a sacrifice. You're right, I'm being punished. You're like everyone else, you side with Meridell when they're the ones who destroyed our home and turned us into monsters!" A low hiss. "I'm not going to hurt anything. Well, maybe my own tail. Now don't ask anything else about the tiara."

Cylette shivered. "You can destroy me if you want to. I won't do it." She felt sick, she'd never thought doing the right thing would feel so awful.

There was no answer. The tiara winked and glimmered, beckoning her.

"I said no," Cylette snarled.

And the voice said, almost meekly, "Please...?"

Author: schefflera
Date: Apr 30th
Please? What kind of evil shadow fiend said please?

Cylette gazed around slowly -- it required some intense effort to wretch her eyes away from the alluring tiara -- searching the shadowed corners of the room with suspicion.

"Can't you just do it yourself? If you're Arisu, you have much more in the way of opportunity than I do..."

Something about the story didn't ring true. Perhaps this was a strange conclusion to draw when standing in a shadowy room talking to a mysterious presence that couldn't be seen, but the basic facts remained the same. The story didn't add up.

If the Court Dancer was Arisu, why did she not simply switch the tiaras herself? Cylette had seen the Aisha twirl and float around the rehearsal room thousands of times over the past few weeks, each time wearing that plastic tiara that all the other dancers secretly coveted. No one had better access to the thing than Arisu, yet supposedly here she was, invisible in the shadows and claiming to be the Court Dancer. No. Cylette was a beginner when it came to dance, but she was not as naïve as some would have thought.

Silence hung thick in the air like the draped crimson curtain that concealed the stage. Perhaps the mysterious voice was thinking of another excuse. Perhaps it was considering telling the truth. Cylette had begun to hopefully entertain the idea that it had vanished altogether when it again sounded softly from the shadows.

"I can't... touch it."

The Cybunny glanced over at the shimmering temptation, raising an eyebrow slowly.

"But Arisu would be able to. She takes solid form and it appears you do not."

There was an anguished groan from somewhere within the murky shroud of darkness. For a brief, fleeting moment Cylette forget that this... creature had blackmailed her, threatened her and tormented her. For a brief, fleeting moment she felt pity. Soft, sad eyes searched the room in vain.

"So you're not Arisu, are you?" She waited so long for a response that she had almost given up hope. Again, Cylette's gaze was drawn back to the glimmering lure of the tiara that nestled so snugly nearby. The voice softly murmured from the shadows as it confessed bitterly.

"No. Not anymore."

The reply sent sudden chills down Cylette's spine. Not anymore? What did that mean?

"I was once Arisu. Before you even joined the dance class, Cylette." That soft, enigmatic voice no longer seemed tinted with malice. It sounded tired and defeated. "I suppose I still am Arisu. But my form isn't my own anymore. The Aisha you see twirling and dancing as if in a dream is the one you know as the Court Dancer. So I suppose, in a way, I'm both."

The Cybunny felt as if her mind were going a million miles an hour. In class they had recently been rehearsing a very difficult step, which involved balancing upon one foot, lifting onto your toes and spinning so rapidly that your features were lost in a shimmering blur. The step was dramatically beautiful but left the dancer dizzy and disoriented afterward.

Cylette felt that way now.

"So the Court Dancer took your form, leaving you as what, exactly?" Cylette paused. She had a million questions and no guarantee this entity, Arisu, if that was who she really was, would reply to them. "How did it happen? How did you make me dance like that?"

Soft laughter echoed from the nothingness around the Cybunny.

"You always had it in you to dance like that, Cylette. But it was thinking that some magical wish allowed it that gave you the confidence. The only one who made a deal with the dancer was I. I suppose like every other young ballerina, I let ambition get the better of me. I agreed to wear the tiara offered to me, told that it would enchant my steps. Instead, it reduced me to this."

Cylette's eyes filled with tears of pity. She knew what it was to be consumed by ambition. Even now, pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. Of course, had she replaced the tiaras, Arisu would have been hoping that a switch back would have occurred. The Aisha would have regained her form, the Court Dancer would dwell in shadow again, and all would be set right. Could it be that simple? One nagging question gnawed at the back of her mind. Such an easily overlooked issue, one tiny little aspect of the tale that seemed unimportant right now but tied the entire thing together. If the dancer had originally been condemned to shadow as Arisu was now...

"Arisu? Who gave you the tiara to begin with?"

Author: anjie
Date: May 1st
The voice was silent. Cylette could almost feel it trembling, its disembodied fear and hate was palpable. When Arisu finally spoke again, her voice was a whisper, barely audible in her ear.

"Morguss," she sighed, her voice sorrowful and wretched. "You've heard of her, perhaps?"

Cylette nodded, a chill running down her spine. Of course she knew of the evil Moehog who had helped the once corrupted Darigan and then the power-hungry Lord Kass rise to power. The Court Dancer was her own daughter, but after the war, both Morguss and her offspring had disappeared.

"I was young and foolish," the voice said ruefully. "Morguss needed a host for her daughter, after the Court Dancer's real body was destroyed in a spell gone wrong. I was so easily fooled. I took the tiara and became like this."

"I'm so sorry," Cylette murmured regretfully, apologising for Arisu's situation, as well as her initial doubt. She instinctively reached out in the direction of the voice with one white paw. All she wanted to do was take the poor Aisha and hold her tight, but her paw met with nothingness. Arisu had no body to be hugged, no way to be comforted.

But Cylette could change that. She would change that.

They would only have one shot at this. The odds of a tiara, identical to the one that had torn Arisu from her body, being used as a prop for the very performance her body needed to perform... it was more likely she'd be struck by lightning. And the odds of lightning striking twice were beyond dismal. The plan had to work and work well, or Arisu would be stuck like this, separated from her true body forever.

Cylette would not let that happen.

"Don't worry, Arisu. I'll help you," she declared, her voice filled with newfound determination. She grabbed the tiara and jumped to her feet, glancing quickly at the clock in the room. Panic blossomed in her chest.

"We have to hurry!" she exclaimed, running for the door and bolting out of the room. "You -- I mean, your body -- is due onstage in less than five minutes. She's probably already-"

But she never got the chance to finish her sentence, because at that moment, she rounded the corner and crashed headlong into Arisu's body.

The Court Dancer yelped in surprise as she and Cylette collapsed to the ground, rolling together into a tangled heap of white and purple.

Cylette was barely conscious, her vision was blotchy and her head hurt. In the midst of her confusion, she couldn't even tell which way was up, not to mention where the tiara was. Wait... the tiara!

The burst of panic was enough to shock her back to her senses. She scrambled to her feet, disentangling herself from Arisu, or the Court Dancer.

"Watch it, you clumsy Slorg!" the Court Dancer protested as she too pulled herself up. Cylette didn't hear her. She was too busy panicking, searching for the tiara, Arisu's only hope.

"Where's the tiara!?" she cried out in despair, but her voice wasn't the only one that echoed down the hall. She whirled, meeting the eyes of the Court Dancer, who had cried out at the exact same moment. The Aisha's paws were snatching at the air above her head where the plastic tiara was conspicuously absent.

"I'll get you for this!" the Court Dancer screamed through Arisu's mouth. But instead of lunging for Cylette, she turned to search the floor behind her for the most precious piece of her costume.

Cylette, swallowing hard, clutching both her hopes and her fears to her heart, prayed the Court Dancer would turn up with nothing. She could only hope that the tiaras had fallen on her half of the hall. Holding her breath, she turned to glance at the floor.

At first, her hopes soared to the heavens. Then they crashed back to the earth.

On the floor at her feet, side by side, lay the two identical tiaras...

Author: dark_angel72792
Date: May 1st
...with no way of telling them apart.

In the instant that her eyes fell upon the two props, a million thoughts flashed through Cylette's mind.

One tiara was the one that the Court Dancer in Arisu's body had been wearing. It was the one that she had worn for weeks in rehearsal, silver-painted plastic with glittering fake rubies. The second one, the one that Arisu's voice had guided Cylette to, was the one that had stolen Arisu's mind from her body and replaced it with the dancing daughter of Morguss. That was the one that needed to be put back on the Aisha's head, the one that would change everything back and cast out the Court Dancer forever.

But which was which?

The seething Aisha had spotted the pair at the same time as Cylette, and her hesitation made it clear to the Cybunny that she couldn't tell the tiaras apart either. And, Cylette knew, she wouldn't dare put one of them on, lest it be the one that would reverse the spell.

Should Cylette take them both and try to make the Aisha put them on? Wouldn't she be able to get the right one by default, if she tried both? But somehow, the Cybunny knew it wouldn't be that easy.

"Arisu!"

Both the Cybunny and the Aisha turned to stare at Chay. The Xweetok had just run into the hallway, looking worried. "You're supposed to be onstage in two minutes," said Chay, glancing curiously from Arisu to Cylette. "What's going on?"

"I just have to put my costume on," said the Court Dancer in Arisu's voice. But she didn't take a step toward the tiaras, for fear -- as Cylette knew -- that she might grab the wrong one.

As the three Neopets stood in a brief moment of awkward silence, Cylette's mind was working furiously. So one tiara would switch out the Court Dancer and replace Arisu in her body. The other one was just a regular prop and would do nothing but complete the Court Dancer's costume.

So what did that mean?

Before the Cybunny could run over any more scenarios in her mind, Chay glanced at the two tiaras and said, "Oh, I didn't know we had an extra one of these!"

The Xweetok's eyes grew wide, and the sparkling tiaras seemed to grow even more alluring. Before Arisu or Cylette could even react, Chay stepped forward and reached for one of them.

The Xweetok picked up a tiara and placed it on her head, and immediately Cylette realised that things were going to get complicated...

Author: reggieman721
Date: May 2nd
"Stop!" Cylette cried, but it was too late. The Xweetok had already nestled the tiara between her two brown ears.

Cylette's heart thumped unevenly as a frozen moment passed, the three dancers staring tensely at one another.

Please, oh please, let it be the fake one, the Cybunny prayed.

But of course, it's never that easy.

Chay suddenly screamed, clutching at her head with her paws as a jolt of energy slashed through her, setting every hair on her pelt on end. The scream seemed to fade, as if Chay were getting farther and farther away...

...which she was, Cylette realised with a flash of horror. Arisu was free... into the wrong body. And now Chay was the tiara's prisoner.

The Xweetok's shriek abruptly ended, leaving her staring blankly across the hall.

After a handful of moments, the Neopet blinked.

"Cylette?" It was Chay's voice, certainly, but not Chay's tone. This was quieter, more mournful. "What's going on?"

Chay, who was not Chay, looked up, her expression freezing in place as she saw her tormentor.

The Court Dancer gave a cold smile. "Ah. If it isn't you, Arisu."

The Xweetok shot Arisu's body a look of pure hatred. "You tricked me!" she growled.

"No," the Court Dancer said sweetly. "My mother did. And I suppose I should thank you. Spellweaving is beautifully easy in this form. So if you'll please excuse me, I have a dance to perform."

With that, the Court Dancer whirled around and flounced away as if nothing remotely out of the ordinary had happened.

Arisu lunged for her, but Cylette stuck out a hand to bar her way.

"Let me at her!"

Cylette shook her head. "No. There's nothing we can do."

"You don't understand!" Arisu was frantic. "Now that I'm back, she'll do anything to keep this secret a secret. And you know what she's capable of!"

Cylette gasped. "She's going to enchant the audience?"

Arisu nodded grimly. "Just like she did with Meridell. She's been planning this for some time now, actually. What, did you think she was just going to settle into a normal dancer's life? She's the Court Dancer, for Fyora's sake."

"No," the Cybunny murmured, her eyes drifting to the tiara on formerly Chay's head. An idea began to form...

***

The Court Dancer smiled as the audience stared up at her, eagerly expecting another wonderful dance from their star dancer.

Well, they were certainly going to get one. One so beautiful, they'd be mesmerised for all eternity.

Her princess outfit was dazzling in the spotlight, the tiara -- fake, obviously -- glittered upon her head, sending silver sparkles cascading all around her. The dress fanned out around her, white with silver trim.

The music began to play, and her steps began to weave the dark spell.

***

In the darkness of the storage room, Arisu stared at the tiara apprehensively.

"Are you sure this is going to work? If it doesn't, I'll never get my real body back, and Chay will never have one again."

Cylette took in a deep breath, testing the metal rod she held in her hands. It was heavy and a bit unwieldy, but it should do.

"No," she sighed. "But it's all we've got."

With all her might, the Cybunny brought the pole down on the silver tiara.

For a second, nothing happened. Two. Three...

The tiara cracked open with a flash of purple light, releasing a stream of black tar that oozed out.

Beside her, Arisu gave a soft sigh and slumped to the ground.

"Arisu!" Cylette dropped the rod, scrambling to her newfound friend's side. "Arisu! Are you all right?"

"Arisu?" the Xweetok mumbled in the haughty tones Cylette was more familiar with. "Do I look like Arisu to you, you dimwit?"

Normally, the Cybunny would have been deeply offended, but now, all she could manage was a relieved sigh.

"What just happened?" The Xweetok was pushing herself to her feet, beginning to regain her bearings. "It got all dark for a few minutes there, and it was so cold..."

But Cylette was already gone, scrambling down the hallways toward the auditorium. Chay was back, but was Arisu?

***

Raptly, the audience watched as the Court Dancer danced.

Their glazed eyes drank in every pirouette, every step, every leap, every slide. The beauty was shocking, appalling, even, how one could master the grace of every element. The wind's agility, the water's flow, the leaping flames, the bending flowers, the cascading light, the veil of darkness, all unified in something beyond mortality.

"No longer," whispered a voice in her head.

The Court Dancer froze.

Why did she feel so cold suddenly?

Nothingness lanced through her with startling agility, crashing through her frame and ripping her apart, tearing her mind from the form she'd so unjustly claimed for her own...

Arisu gasped as she staggered forward, clutching at her head. She was herself again. It was so hard to believe, so hard to accept that it could happen so quickly after years of emptiness and imprisonment...

"I'll get you," a fading voice hissed, only caught by her ears, and then it was gone.

Cylette had been right. The Court Dancer had starred in her last performance.

The audience blinked. Awake again.

And then, they were quite confused as a small white Cybunny ran forth through the aisles and leapt onto the stage, hugging the Aisha tightly. If you were close enough, you'd have seen they were both crying. Tears of joy.

Arisu's performance wasn't over, though. And she wasn't going to have it end with the Court Dancer's sorcery.

She looked at Cylette, who nodded, a smile dawning on her face like the sun breaking over the horizon.

Together, they danced.

The End.

Author: dianacat777
Date: May 2nd



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