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||You are on Week 428
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 Four Hundred Twenty Eight Ends Friday, September 4
"Minsung, you have to get up," the little Kacheek said, shaking his Xweetok friend. "Our new roommate is going to be here soon, and it would be weird for you to be lying there when he arrives."
The Xweetok just jerked out of his friend's grip and rolled over so that he was staring listlessly at the wall instead of the ceiling. Since his best friend had suddenly disappeared, he hadn't felt like doing anything. For a few months, he'd searched all over for her, but it had been useless. Not even her family knew where she'd gone.
There was a knock at the door, and the Kacheek, Ryeo, went to answer it. He returned a few seconds later, followed by a tall, handsome Kyrii.
"Minsung, this is Markus, our new roommate," Ryeo said. Markus looked a little surprised to find someone lying in a heap on the floor, but he leaned over to shake Minsung's paw all the same. The Xweetok just gave him a blank stare and turned away.
"He's been having a rough time," Ryeo whispered to Markus. "His best friend disappeared a few months ago, and he hasn't been the same since."
The weeks passed, and Minsung stayed in his spot on the floor. Listening to Ryeo laughing and talking with his best friend Woon was like a punch in the stomach, reminding him painfully of what he'd lost. Markus, who seemed nice enough, if a little shy, kept trying to bring Minsung out his funk, but his efforts were mostly in vain.
One morning, while Minsung was staring at the floor instead of the wall or the ceiling, some hesitant footsteps approached and then a steaming bowl of hot udon noodles was set down next to his head. In spite of himself, the Xweetok raised his head, his mouth beginning to water.
Markus was smiling down at him. "I made them for you," he said. "I hope you like..." The Kyrii trailed off as Minsung sat up and begin wolfing down the noodles.
"They're delicious," Minsung said between mouthfuls. Then his hand started to tremble, and tears came to his eyes. "They're just like the ones Marika used to make. I didn't know anyone else made them this way." He looked up at Markus, smiling weakly.
Markus grinned back, but Minsung, through the watery lens of his tears, never saw the wicked gleam in the Kyrii's eyes...
Author: Never be taken in by noodles!|
Date: Aug 31st
From that day on, Minsung and Markus spent a lot of time together.
Markus liked to tell stories of his amazing travels. How he had once studied at the Lunar Temple, how he had trained to be a Shenkuu Warrior. Minsung would simply sit and listen in awe of how much his roommate had accomplished, and the Xweetok felt a strange connection to his Kyrii roommate.
Minsung was momentarily distracted by his new friend, and Ryeo felt like things were finally coming back together.
"Minsung," he said one night as the two enjoyed a game of Kou-Jong. "I'm glad you and Markus get along so well."
Minsung nodded, but didn't reply, so Ryeo continued.
"Yes, glad it all worked it. It's funny, but he reminds me so much of..." The Kacheek cut himself off, wondering if his statement would offend his friend.
Minsung frowned but nodded. "He does remind me... he talks like her sometimes, says some of the same things she used to say. And his noodles." Minsung's mouth watered at the thought. "Sometimes it's as if... no." Minsung shook his head.
"What is it?" Ryeo asked.
The Xweetok hesitated, then said, "Sometimes, I forget who I'm speaking to, and it's as if Marika is in the room with me." He shook his head again as if casting off the thought.
One night, as the two were getting ready for bed, Minsung popped into Markus's room to say good night but was distracted by something Markus held in his hand.
Minsung recognised it immediately.
"Hey!" he said, surprised. "That's Marika's..."
Date: Aug 31st
Markus instinctively clasped his paw shut over the tiny golden heart, but the light blue chain still dangled mesmerisingly, swinging gently back and forth with the momentum of his jerk.
Minsung would have recognised that anywhere... but in his mind, it had been draped around a silver Kougra's neck, bouncing joyfully as she laughed, and dancing the the rhythm of her pawsteps as she ran.
A Kougra and a Xweetok were a strange pair, given the latter's inherent distrust of the former. But Minsung and Marika had been the closest of friends, and it was he who stood alongside her in the picture that rested in that tiny golden heart.
Markus's handsome eyes shadowed over when he saw the recognition flicker across Minsung's face.
"No," he said hastily, "this is just a little something I bought at the Gift Shop yesterday--"
The suspiscion that clouded the Xweetok's eyes cut him off.
"No, it isn't." Minsung was almost snarling. His lower lip curled.
Markus held his head high, and locked eyes with the Xweetok. Silently, they stared, and as the moment drew on, a strange blankness replaced Minsung's outrage, his dawning betrayal.
Markus's were almost glowing.
"This is not Marika's locket," the Kyrii repeated carefully.
"No," Minsung replied flatly, his face empty. "It isn't hers."
And he turned around robotically and made for his own room, where he promptly collapsed on his bed into a dark, dreamless sleep.
You're sick, the voice echoed in Markus's head. Twisted. The way you're using my friend like this, gaining his trust by my memories and your magic...
He rolled his eyes, but gave no reply; instead, he scanned the room to make sure it was completely empty.
When he was satisfied, he flipped open Marika's locket.
The age-old picture was there -- Minsung was looking over his shoulder at a mishevious Marika, who was giving him Cybunny ears. Both had wide grins that lit up their faces.
But Minsung in the picture was faint, barely there. It was Marika who was entirely present, shining silver, while Minsung seemed utterly ethereal, like a ghost.
He resided elsewhere.
It's so dark in here, Marika whispered in Markus's head. So lonely.
"Good for you," the Kyrii replied aloud.
In the end, it will be you rotting alone in here. You will not control both of us. I will be free. And he'll never fall to you.
"He already is. But, Marika, I feel the need to ask. Why do you care?"
The rage in her frail voice was shocking. He's my friend, you sorcerer! Do you even know what friendship is?
Markus was unperturbed. "I can't say I understand. I'd always pictured it to be a relationship where both pets cared about each other. And yet, after you mysteriously, ah, vanished, he didn't search for you. He just went on with life as if nothing had ever happened. He was bored, obviously, but I've completely replaced you, Marika. He never mentions you. It's all me now. Because you were just another Neopet to him. That's how it works, doesn't it?"
No! You're lying. He looked... I know he looked...
But the Kougra's picture in the locket flickered, almost uncertainly.
Markus stroked it mockingly with a single finger, velvety fur caressing the face noiselessly.
He smiled as he closed the locket, ignoring the cry the Kougra always gave as darkness shrouded her.
"In time, Marika, you will come to see it my way."
Never, she whispered brokenly.
"All in due time..."
Date: Aug 31st
Marika's voice was barely above a whisper. It echoed strangely in Markus's head -- trapped, just as its speaker was. You still haven't told me what it is that you're after, sorcerer.
The Kyrii idly smoothed back his hair, looking almost thoughtful. The room was utterly cloaked in darkness save for the flickering of a single, dying candle, and he bided his time before giving an unfathomable reply. "As I say, all will be revealed in due time."
Defiance flared in Marika's hiss. Indeed, it will. But not in the way you expect. You will be exposed as the villain you are, and you will never succeed.
Markus rolled his dark eyes in an expression of mock fear, despite the fact that the Kougra could only hear and not see him. "Oh, please," he said impatiently. "You talk like a hero in a faerie tale, and we both know you're not. I doubt you need to be reminded of what you've done, how you came to be ensnared here in my mind."
The Kougra was silent, and Markus dismissed the weakening flame with a puff of breath, leaving her to ponder the question alone.
But Markus did not intend to float into slumber. He had work to do.
Two rooms away, Ryeo found himself staring at the ceiling above his bed, unable to drift off to sleep. Perhaps he had had too much excitement that evening, racing and dashing in the fields with his best friend Woon. He was not ready for the day to end just yet.
The moon was but a sliver that night, and the small Kacheek had long since blown out his candle. As he looked up at the indefinite darkness around him, eyes blinking but refusing to flutter and close for more than a few seconds, his mind wove images, imaginings that hovered for three heartbeats before giving way to another.
He thought of Minsung, the bushy Xweetok tail drooping and his large blue eyes wide with grief the day Marika had gone missing. The illusion faded to be replaced by another, this time with two individuals -- Minsung again, this time with a grin spread across his face, sitting side by side with a silver Kougra, a golden locket around her neck.
But then Marika faded from his mind's image, to be replaced by a taller, darker figure. The Kyrii had an arm around the still-beaming Minsung, and though Markus displayed a smile of his own, it held none of the warmth that had twinkled from Marika's gaze. Ryeo was staring into Markus's handsome eyes, unable to tear himself away...
The Kacheek jolted awake. He had fallen asleep after all, and it was just a dream. Just a dream...
But he could not reassure himself, and the troubling thoughts in his dream refused to evaporate, clinging to his mind. One thing was for certain -- he would not be able to slip back to sleep.
He needed to move, to rid himself of the nagging apprehension. His feet found his slippers on the ground as he sat up, and instinct carried Ryeo's footsteps to Minsung's room...
Date: Sep 1st
...where he was met with a surprise.
Minsung was lying in his bed, his body stiff as a board, his eyes wide open and mouth agape, as if he were in a trance.
"Minsung!" gasped Ryeo. No response from the Xweetok. "Minsung!" he repeated, louder. Minsung just lay in the bed with the same blank expression on his face.
Ryeo stumbled over to the bed and grabbed Minsung's shoulder, trying to shake him awake. The moment that the Kacheek touched him, though, Minsung blinked and closed his mouth.
"Good night, Markus," he said cheerfully.
Now Ryeo was the one staring. "...I'm not Markus," he finally said.
Minsung shook his head vigorously, as if trying to dislodge something in his ear, and sat up. "What -- how did I get to my room? And what are you doing here? The last thing I remember, I was going into Markus's room, and then, suddenly... here I was."
"You mean you lost a piece of your memory?" Ryeo asked worriedly.
"It seems that way," said Minsung, sharing Ryeo's concern.
The Kacheek thought for a while, then said, "I think we should wake Markus. Maybe he's come across something like this in his travels and will know what to do."
"All right, if you think so. It's better than doing nothing, anyway," agreed Minsung.
The two exited Minsung's room and traveled down the hallway to Markus's. They stopped in front of the door, neither one wanting to be the one who would knock and rouse Markus. Finally, Minsung carefully raised a paw, curled it into a fist, and knocked.
From within Markus's room came the sounds of muttering, clatters, and drawers opening and slamming. After several noisy seconds, Markus opened the door. A plume of purple smoke drifted out behind him, but the Kyrii quickly waved it away with his paws. "Yes? What is it?" he asked.
"Oh, you're still up? What were you doing so late at night?" asked Minsung.
Markus's eyes darted back and forth, and he opened his mouth to answer. But Ryeo spoke first: "That doesn't matter right now. Markus, we came to ask if you knew anything about temporary memory loss."
"Memory loss? I've heard some things. Why do you ask?" Markus said innocently.
"It seems I have a touch of it," Minsung said abashedly. "The last thing I remember is going into your room to say goodnight, and then Ryeo woke me up several hours later, in my room. Everything between those two points is... just missing."
Markus frowned in concentration. "Yes, sounds simple enough. I've seen it before; it's more common than you'd expect, actually. Episodic amnesia. Fortunately, there is a cure. And, luckily enough for you, I happen to have some of it with me." The Kyrii darted back into his room and returned with a bottle of cloudy purple liquid. "Here; drink this."
This will be even easier than I hoped, thought Markus. I worried I'd have to trick him into drinking the potion, and now he shows up at my door, asking for a remedy. Isn't it nice how these things work out? He ignored the screams of Marika echoing through his head and smiled.
Minsung unquestioningly accepted the potion and raised it to his lips...
Date: Sep 1st
The world exploded.
It was as if someone had taken every paradox in the world and melted them to make the potion. It was bitter and sweet and sour; it both numbed his mouth and set it on fire. It was everything he loved and everything he hated, liquefied. It was everything and nothing, there and not there, like trying to decipher between a dream and a memory and... and it was familiar, comfortingly, cruelly familiar, almost, like a face in a crowd you weren't sure was a stranger or an enemy or friend or...
He thought he heard someone crying. A voice screaming, pleading -- Marika? -- and then --
The world melted around him and he started to fall.
* * *
Where am I?
Who said that?
Where are you?
Words, voices, echoed endlessly. It look Minsung a moment to realise the echoes were his own thoughts, whispers circling him like a makeshift cocoon.
He tried to open his eyes, only to realise he couldn't: they were already open. Not like it would've made much of a difference. There was only darkness here, wherever it was. But the more he stared, slowly, so bitterly, painfully slowly, things, shapes, came into focus, like eyes adjusting or waking from a dream.
"Where am I?"
... am I ... am I ... am I ... I ... I ...
It was like... like... like he had been tossed into the night sky and gotten stuck among the stars, that was the only way Minsung could describe it. Everything was dark. Not an inky, suffocating dark, but the kind of dark where things are murky and unclear, like haze or mist or something like that. He had the strangest feeling all he had to do was open his eyes and everything would jump back into focus, but, of course, his eyes were already open.
He looked up (or was it down? right? left? his sense of direction was addled; no such thing seemed to exist here, wherever here was.) and saw the glittering things that reminded him of stars. Some flickered feebly, as if they fading, dying, and every so often one would wink out of existence forever. Other shone brightly, displaying a shower of iridescent light. And others... others seemed to move.
"What is this place?"
... place ... place... what is ... this ... this ... place...
And why did it seem so familiar?
And then he realised: Marika was there.
She was standing in front of him, not moving, not saying a word. Just staring, staring at him with her large eyes glittering. With tears, Minsung realised with a terrible jolt. Transfixed, he watched as tears fell from her eyes, swung to the side as if pushed by an unfelt wind... for a fraction of a second, they seemed to change, become something else: snowflakes, flower petals, paper cranes...
"Marika!" The spell broken, he started to run to her, happiness filling him. She was here, she was here! She wasn't gone! Marika, his friend, was here, was alive. He ran and ran, but no matter how many steps he took, she only seemed to draw farther away, like some terrible nightmare.
Because that's exactly what it was.
Oh, Minsung. Her voice, disembodied, floated to him, faint, like muffled shouts from somewhere far away. Minsung... Minsung.. sung... sung... sun...
He got you.
"What?" Minsung stopped running. "Who got me?"
... me ... me ... me ...
Marika didn't say anything. More tears fell from her eyes, becoming flames, cinders, ashes.
He... didn't understand. They were finally together again. No matter how bad things looked, they always turned out okay as long as they were together. So, why? Why was she crying?
"What's wrong, Marika?"
That's what he wanted to ask. But instead he said something more like: "What's happening?"
She didn't answer this time either. Just looked down and bit her lip, like she always did when she wasn't sure if she should tell him something or not. But at least the tears, those horrible, ash, fire, petal tears, had stopped.
He decided to ask one more question, hoping she would answer this time.
"Where are we?"
She looked at him sadly and, just as he was beginning to suspect that he had really lost her, she whispered.
What, doesn't it look familiar to you?
It did, it truly did. He had no idea why, until he looked up.
The darkness wasn't endless, after all. It ended in two strange, curving arcs that joined at the middle, as if grasping hands. Minsung felt as if he had been drenched with cold water. "You don't mean...?"
He looked down, confirming his nagging suspicion. The floor -- ground, whatever it was -- seemed to dip down, form a point directly below where the arches entwined.
Together they formed the perfect, golden shape that Minsung knew so well.
The golden heart of Marika's locket.
"You mean... we're inside it?"
Yes, Marika whispered, then hesitated. And, well, no. Yes and no.
"Yes and no?"
Physically, we are inside the locket. Except... it's not really a locket. She seemed to gesture to the sparkles, the glittering lights...
"Then... where are we?"
The world of... What she said next he didn't quite catch. It sounded like two words -- dreams and memories -- spoken at the same time.
"Which one is it, then? Memories or dreams?"
Doesn't make sense? I know.
Minsung looked up, down, all around him, at the distant glitter. "So those are..."
The memories? Yes. The dreams? Also yes.
"How can you tell them apart?"
It was then that he noticed something different about Marika: she was sparkling. Her fur, her hair, but most of all her eyes, they all shimmered, as if she were constructed of stars.
He raised his hand to his face, to see if he was sparkling too, and was surprised to see it glimmer, although he was fainter than Marika, as if he were one of those stars in the sky that were twinkling, twinkling, then disappearing...
"What's going on, Marika?" he asked once more.
She looked down again, chewing on her lip. This time, however, he knew she would answer him.
And she did.
I... I don't know where to begin, Minsung. There's so little time and Markus... we have to... we have to stop him, Minsung. I don't think I'll be able to explain everything, not now, now now, but I'll try, I'll try...
* * *
If he could've laughed, he would've.
But, no. Laughter was something he had lost a long time ago. Stolen from him, stolen by Marika...
But he could smile. That twisted smile. She hadn't stolen that from him, yet. And now... the vicious smile grew wider. And now she never would.
Markus watched as Minsung's eyes clouded over and he fell, only to shrink, to disappear, sucked into the locket, his prison...
Minsung was his. His. All the Xweetok's memories, all of his dreams, they were his, his, his! And now... now...
There was a gasp, then the sound of a door slamming shut and clattering feet running down the hallway. It violently wrenched Markus from his reverie, pulled him back into reality, reminded him it wasn't over yet.
Ryeo. Ryeo had been in the room. He had forgotten him, too enticed by the thought of finally acquiring Minsung, the crowning accomplishment of his precious collection.
Ryeo. Ryeo had been there, had seen him, had seen everything...
Date: Sep 2nd
The Kacheek's body seemed to be acting of its own accord, refusing to heed his desperate commands to stay and help his friend. He did not know what had happened. All he knew was fear, and all his mind could see was the pure terror in Minsung's eyes as the Xweetok had collapsed and begun to fade away. The sound of the little glass bottle shattering to a thousand shards as it slipped from the weakening grasp, and most haunting of all, the ghost of Markus's sinister smile...
He burst into his room, paws sifting through the contents of his bag. No light nor flame aided him, but a few seconds was all it took to find what he was searching for. Ryeo gripped the ornamental hilt of his old whittling knife. The wooden carvings its blade had created long ago still stood on the Kacheek's dusty shelves amidst the blackness of the room, but all Ryeo's panicked eyes could see at this moment was the door.
With his only means of defense clenched in his hand, Ryeo turned to exit, ready to run.
His choice to flee and leave Minsung was downright cowardly, and he hated himself for it.
Just then, the Kacheek gave a cry as his foot met unexpected resistance. The gasp of a struck match, a sudden burst of light. Ryeo's heart froze; he looked up into his nightmare come true.
Markus leaned casually against the doorframe, the flame in his hand and the locket in the other, his mouth curving into a smile that would never reach his handsome eyes.
"Going somewhere, Ryeo?"
Let me show you, Minsung, was all she would say.
He felt the clasp of the Kougra's paw around his own, and at once, the darkness vanished. The Xweetok gasped.
Onyx gave way to emerald, sapphire. Grass and clouds wove themselves around them. The trickling of water, the whispering of the breeze.
Minsung had no words. He found himself staring, just staring in disbelief. The feeling he had experienced earlier returned -- the strangest notion that he had somehow been here before, but he couldn't quite remember what it was.
"Marika... where are we?"
Us? The same as before. Physically inside the locket, our consciousness in another world. This is a memory, Minsung, one of our memories. Do you remember?
And then it hit him. "The valley."
Beside him, Marika nodded. Yes. The place where we took the photo inside my locket -- you, Ryeo, Woon, and I. I have brought us back to that one afternoon.
Minsung frowned. "I don't understand," he said. "How does this explain anything?"
The Kougra's voice was distant, laced with grief and regret. The locket, the locket was the start of it all... Markus and I had once been the greatest of friends. My magic and his worked wonders when brought together. We thought we had all the power in the world. We were ambitious, Minsung, too ambitious...
Minsung's mouth opened, but no sound came out. Marika... a sorcerer?
We wanted the one thing all sorcerers could only dream of, Markus and I. The power to create. To bring anything and everything we desired into this world. In our greed for power, we didn't realise that magic so strong would take its toll on us. I was close, so close... but our strength ebbed by the hour. I knew that to continue would be fatal.
I sealed the spell into a golden locket. Markus tried to stop me and inadvertently followed the magic into the locket. It was then when I realised that with him trapped in the locket which I held, I had complete access to his magic. His spirit made me strong, and so I kept him there...
Tears filled her shining eyes. He despised me for it and vowed revenge. Now the tables have turned, and both you and I are both in his power. He will have his vengeance.
I was selfish; I deserve my fate. But you do not. Minsung, I don't know how, but you must escape, for Ryeo, too, will be in danger...
Date: Sep 2nd
Minsung frowned in concentration, his mind weighing heavily with this new information. His best friend, whom he trusted and shared everything with was a sorcerer? It was her magic that had done this to him, and now Ryeo was in trouble, at the hands of Markus... her magic.
"It's your magic too!" Minsung tried desperately. "This is your locket, you must know how to control it. You said yourself, you and Markus were equals in the craft!"
The Kougra bowed her head dismally, and Minsung noticed she looked even paler than before, the image of her seemed more transparent, and her eyes were blacker and pained. Was she fading?
She noticed Minsung's worried expression. I have been exerting every ounce of power I have left to try to overcome the sealing spell he put upon the locket. Combined with the fact that Markus has been slowly draining my power for himself, I suppose I'm looking a little worse for wear. She offered a tentative smile which did nothing to reassure the frantic Xweetok.
It's really no use, she continued. As long as Markus holds possession of the locket, he retains my powers along with the magic of creation. All of this... She gestured to the surrounding landscape. ...will be his. And I... will simply cease to exist.
Minsung felt the stinging of tears in his eyes as he stared at the hopeless face of his best friend. Despite any of the past, he knew she would forever hold a special place in his heart and he couldn't bear to see her in pain. The thought of losing her once was hard, having her back was almost just as hard, but the idea of losing her a second time, possibly forever, tore his heart in two.
Ryeo trembled but was determined nonetheless to strike Markus if he needed to. No, he'd never had any special Shenkuu Warrior training like the Kyrii had; he'd cried once from getting a paper cut playing a game of Tangram. But when it came to his friends, he'd fight till the end if he had to. He just sincerely hoped it really didn't come to that...
Markus rolled his eyes. "Put down the knife, you silly Kacheek. Your blade is no match for my powers." As if to demonstrate he whispered something under his breath, and Ryeo felt a sudden pain in his hand as if someone were stabbing hot knives into his fingers. He dropped the knife to the floor, sweating from the pain.
"Who -- what are you? What have you done to Minsung, you monster?!"
"Monster?" Markus asked casually, mocking his displeasure at hearing the word. "I believe the correct term is sorcerer." He hissed the last word, elongating the 's' sound like a Cobrall. "It's too bad I have to do this, Ryeo. I was almost starting to like you... almost." He chuckled, at the same time raising his hands, eyes gleaming maliciously. Flames shot behind them, and Ryeo cried out in shock.
Ryeo composed himself. He wasn't just going to stand here and take Markus's words lightly. Ryeo'd just seen one of his best friends disappear at his hands, and now Markus thought he was just going to do away with Ryeo with the flick of his Kyrii paws? No way! Ryeo was going to fight back!
Markus took note of Ryeo's change in demeanour, the Kacheek's worried expression giving way to determined fury, and Markus growled under his breath. "You think you can match me?"
"I'm sure willing to give it a shot."
Markus took a lethal step toward Ryeo, who was poised, ready for action, but Markus stopped abruptly, eyes closed ears cocked as if concentrating on listening to a conversation only he could hear...
"I still don't understand why Markus wanted me," Minsung said. "He had the locket, he had you, why go to all the trouble for a non-sorcerous Xweetok?"
Marika grimaced guiltily. I admit, this was one of my flaws...
Minsung cocked an eyebrow sarcastically, looking around dramatically, despite the fact their situation warranted no room for humour.
She laughed, a laugh full of joy, so much like old times that even Minsung grinned.
Okay, one of my MANY flaws, but my commitment to our friendship was the last piece of puzzle Markus needed in order to truly secure the magic of the locket. See, I put a sealing spell of companionship upon it. The picture of us was a password of sorts. That day made me so happy, and I knew Markus, who never truly understood the concept of friendship, would never be able to access the locket's contents. I had never performed the spell before, so I guess it must have been somewhat imperfect for Markus to escape and reverse the spell upon me. I've been trying ever since to figure out what kind of spell he performed to keep me in here, but no luck.
I'm so... so sorry, Minsung... Tears formed in her eyes.
"I knew you would never have just left," Minsung said reassuringly. "It doesn't matter what you did in the past, you tried to do the right thing in the end. I forgive you, Marika."
He draped his arms around her in a tight embrace, the glow of their solidarity radiating through the air. Minsung finally felt the missing part of him grow whole once more. The silver Kougra felt more solid than ever in Minsung's grip, and he gasped when he pulled away.
"We aren't... glowing anymore."
Ryeo stood watching Markus struggling, his upper lip curved angrily, his ears jerking rapidly. The Kacheek was waiting for some kind of pain he felt certain was coming, but the Kyrii merely stood still, suspended in that awkward position.
"I don't believe it," Markus seethed. "My sealing spell is broken. He was never supposed to forgive her..."
Date: Sep 3rd
Markus touched the locket, then recoiled as if it were white-hot. "Friendship." He spat the word out as if the formation of it in his mouth were offensive. "I'll just have to cast another sealing spell, one more powerful. If I can do it in time..." The sorcerer closed his eyes and began muttering an arcane chant.
While the Kyrii was preoccupied, Ryeo slowly stooped down and retrieved his knife. What can I do? he thought. I -- I don't think I'm capable of actually hurting another pet, even one as dastardly as Markus. But if I don't... Then it hit him. The locket. The locket was the source of the enchanter's power. Remove the locket...
Ryeo darted forward and grabbed the light blue chain of the locket.
Markus's eyes snapped open. "What?! What are you doing?"
But before the Kyrii could say another word, Ryeo had severed the locket's chain with a flick of his knife.
Markus raised his paws as if to cast another pain-inflicting spell on the Kacheek, but nothing happened.
"Just as I suspected," said Ryeo smugly. "Without this locket, you're nothing."
Markus glared, but knew it was true. He had lost.
Inside the locket, Minsung and Marika felt as if they were in the eye of a storm.
Images flickered around them, constantly shifting and reorganising themselves. Every image was a memory from the time the two friends had spent together. An evening at the coffee shop in the Catacombs. A bright summer day playing tag in a field. Marika crying after reading a sad book; Minsung comforting her. The images were dizzying.
"What's happening?" Minsung wanted to ask.
But what came out of his mouth was, "Do you forgive me?"
Marika looked puzzled. A tree burst from the ground behind her, paper cranes hanging from its branches like fruits. A haunting orange melody echoed through both pets' ears. A leisurely rain of cherry blossoms and ennui drifted down from the sky. "Forgive you?" asked Marika. "What for?"
"For not looking hard enough," replied Minsung, with tears in his eyes. "For not being strong enough to save you. For every moment that I was less than a perfect friend?"
Marika's eyes were moist as well. More images flicked past: a Sunday afternoon on a park bench. A fireplace on the Day of Giving. A pile of Autumn leaves exploding outward as a Kougra and a Xweetok jumped into it. "Of course I forgive you."
The locket began glowing bright blue in Ryeo's hands. "What does this mean?" he asked the sorcerer.
"It means the entrapment spell is almost broken," gasped the Kyrii.
"Good; then at last I'll have my true friends back and you'll be left completely powerless."
However, Markus wasn't ready to give up that easily. An evil glint shone in his eyes and he slowly smiled. "Unless..."
"Unless what?" Ryeo asked, his curiosity winning over his mistrust.
"Unless you were to stop it."
"Why in Neopia would I want to do that?" the Kacheek spat, holding the locket by the chain in one hand and his knife in the other.
"Power," replied Markus simply. "Think of it; with the locket, you could be as powerful as I once was. You would become a mighty sorcerer. In fact, you already have the power; you're holding the locket. Try it out." Markus's smile broadened.
Ryeo hesitantly set the knife down and pointed at a vase of flowers on a nearby endtable. It immediately shattered into thousands of pieces.
"Good, very good," said Markus. "You have power. Are you ready to give all that up just to have your friends back? The two of them never cared for you as much as they cared for each other."
Ryeo hesitated. He knew what Markus said had a grain of truth to it.
"All you have to do is focus your energy on creating another sealing spell. A new one. I know you can do it," Markus whispered. "Think of the power that will be yours. We could rule Neopia..."
Date: Sep 3rd
The Kacheek stood still, the locket sitting innocuously in his palm. He would have power. He would be able to do whatever he wanted to with the magic that both Minsung and Marika could give him.
"All you have to do to the spell is change the key to set them free from friendship to hatred. They would never hate each other, now."
It was true. Minsung had been so lost when he heard that Marika had disappeared. He didn't hate her for it, but to him, it was as if she were dead, and he mourned her loss. Ryeo remembered sitting and watching as the Xweetok had wasted away until Markus had shown up.
He must have used her memories to get close to him. He must have reached in and stolen personal moments from each pet, without their permission. Even now, scenes of friendship blossomed into his mind, such as when Minsung had helped Marika to stand up after she'd tripped over a street curb.
Could he really tear them apart? Could Ryeo really do that to them?
He looked up and glanced at Markus, staring greedily at him from not far away. Even if he did keep them in there, the Kyrii would snatch the power away as soon as he had the chance.
Ryeo stood there, torn, and hated himself for the fact that he couldn't decide between friendship and power. Freedom and captivity.
The locket started to heat up in Ryeo's palm, adding a radioactive quality to his power source. As he stared at it, entranced, and idea came to his mind.
"Tell me how to do the enchantment."
The Kyrii grinned, and something about it unnerved Ryeo. However, he already knew that the Kyrii had nefarious plans that had to do with him, so he steeled himself as Markus came closer.
"All you have to do," he said, pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket, "is read this."
Garble displayed itself before him as Markus unfolded it, but Ryeo didn't balk. He had to speak it, after all. He opened his mouth, and words filled with power started to escape it of his own will.
"What's going on?" asked Marika, gaping as the walls started to solidify around them.
"He must've found a way to change the enchantment!"
"He can't do this!" she shouted, desperate. "He can't! It's not fair!"
"No one ever said life gave anyone a fair chance..." Minsung said sadly.
As he looked at her, he could see her solid form steadily fading away, and even though it frightened him, he knew he couldn't do anything about it.
When he looked down at his palm, he saw that he, too, was becoming transparent.
"There," said Markus, as Ryeo uttered the last few words. "We're done. They're sealed in there, and I've won."
"You've won?" asked the Kacheek, snatching the paper from him. One of his eyebrows raised as the Kyrii snatched at it, and he thrust his paw at him. Markus flew up into the air and was slammed into the wall. He stayed there, pinned.
"You can't do this!" he said, unwittingly echoing what Marika had said.
"Unfortunately for you, I can," said Ryeo. "With both of the power of Minsung and Marika, I don't even need to use a potion."
"No!" shouted the Kyrii as he struggled, trying to free himself from the magic that held him. "NO!"
All of a sudden, there was a burst of light, and as it faded away, there were two figures instead of one. Minsung looked at himself, as if to make sure he was really outside of the locket and in the real world, and when he was finally sure, he looked up to his Kougra friend. They both hugged, happy to be free.
When they were done, the Xweetok walked up to Ryeo.
"Thank you!" he said, smiling. "I know how much you struggled, and I have to say, I appreciate what you've done for us."
"You did more than I could do," said Marika.
Their eyes widened when they saw the locket crumble into dust, and when they looked back up at the Kacheek, it was his turn to grin.
"Let's just say that Markus has a new look on life."
A flood of girls washed into Usukiland, and Markus winced. He would've gasped in pain if he could as an overenthusiastic young Wocky grabbed him off the shelf, but all he could to was wait, and pretend to be nothing more than an average, ordinary Usuki.
And that was all he needed. Time. Eventually he would find his way toward the three pets who had betrayed him and left him in here, and then he would have what he so strongly desired.
Markus the Mermaid Usuki would have his revenge.
Editor's Note: Due to a holiday on Monday, the next Storytelling Contest will begin on Tuesday, September 8th. Thanks!
Date: Sep 4th
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