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||You are on Week 496
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 Ninety Six Ends Friday, February 25
The Great Hall was a cacophony of music and frenzied hollering; all through the palace of Shenkuu the sounds of feet rushing, bowls clinking, and maids panicking rang out, and the whole length of the Blue Valley seemed to reverberate with the vigour of the citizens' excitement. Overseeing the arrangements at the centre of it all was a rather fastidious Lenny. He sat, poised with brush and paper in his wing as he surveyed with a critical frown the madness that was unfolding in the midst of the New Year preparations.
Somewhere in the halls, something smashed and someone screamed as a muddle of feet scrambled to clear the evidence of their clumsiness. With a sigh of utter disgruntlement, the Official Kobe rose from the stool on which he was sitting and stormed through the centre of the Great Hall, his Official's robes flapping madly by his side with a ferocity that mimicked his inner rage. Seventeen years by the Emperor's side had taught him an invaluable patience and understanding toward his staff, but there were times when even the Official could be provoked.
"What in the name of the Emperor is going on?" His bark was a dreadful sword that cut through the air and struck the terrified maid who had committed the crime.
The Kacheek trembled as she bowed. "I--I'm really sorry, Master Kobe, I didn't mean to." She fell to her knees and bowed her head before the feet of the Official.
The Lenny sighed, rubbing his forehead and indicating for the servant to rise. "Just pick all this up and get on with your work before you start holding everyone up."
"Thank you, Master Kobe, thank you." The maid was overjoyed as she leapt to her feet, directing a series of small bows to the Official, who, as she stood, waved the maid away. "Yes, yes, just get on with it." He removed a scroll from his sleeve and, producing a brush from its sister sleeve, the Official looked to resume his duties but, much to his displeasure, was again disturbed by the sound of a second outburst.
"Be gone! Let me pass, I have important news for Official Kobe!" The voice was hoarse and urgent. The Official watched, at first with annoyance and then perplexity, as an old Gnorbu waddled toward him, a small band of the Palace Guard chasing after him with angry shouts.
Spotting the Lenny, he began making for him. "You!" he yelled, pointing a gnarled finger just as a Grarrl guard grabbed his shoulder. The Official excused him and the Gnorbu was released. "Thank you." The old man's smile was brief as he brushed himself down and then turned to the Lenny with a grim expression. "Official, you must stop this at once; stop all the celebrations. Stop them all before it's too late."
The Official was thoughtful for a moment as he regarded the Gnorbu. "Why? Are you falling behind schedule with the decorations at the Lunar Temple by any chance, Master Yue?"
Apparently he did not detect either the sarcasm or the disinterest in the Official’s voice. "Don't be so ridiculous, Official Kobe; this is a matter of national importance I come with."
At this mention, there was at once silence in the Great Hall as the servants ceased their movements and shifted to hear the words of the wise guardian of the Lunar Temple.
Master Yue cleared his throat.
"I will say this once more, and only once more; you must stop these celebrations immediately. I have looked to the moon and the stars, and I have seen on the horizon of this New Year something that will threaten the safety of our land, something gruesome, something terrible. So terrible..."
Date: Feb 22nd
The servants waited with bated breath.
"We should not be hanging up silly paper streamers for a lunar festival, but rather, preparing for the advent of something of more importance: the Eating of the Moon."
Official Kobe rolled his eyes. "You really believe in those silly things?" he asked condescendingly, causing Yue to speak up in protest.
"It is not silly, even the Emperor himself believes this," said Master Yue. "From our calculations in the Lunar Temple, there shall be an eclipse, caused by a giant Draik eating up the moon. We must do all we can to frighten him away or risk losing our sacred Kreludor."
"A simple eclipse is no reason to call off the Lunar celebrations," scoffed Kobe, gesturing with one feathered wing for the servants to continue on their tasks. The servants, however, exchanged wary glances and remained frozen in place.
"Are you for real?" demanded Kobe. The Lenny seemed as though he was going to have an aneurysm, stomping on the ground and waving his wings around angrily. "We spend all this time decorating, and you say we should tear it all down?"
Yue nodded sagely, and for a second, the Official seemed to calm down a little; even the servants in the hall felt just the slightest bit comforted.
In an attempt to break the silence, Kobe asked, "Are you sure your calculations are accurate?"
"Of course," insisted the Gnorbu, a hint of indignance in his voice. "All of the Royal Astronomers have looked over it, and we have confirmed the eclipse. The Emperor has been informed as well. I speak for everyone when I say that the Draik surely will attempt to eat up our moon, something that must be prevented. Loud firecrackers, shooting arrows into the sky, and yelling -- much yelling -- will shoo away this Draik, whom the Emperor has already nicknamed, 'Sparky'."
"Sparky?" repeated Kobe. "His Majesty named the Draik that would 'eat up our moon'?"
Once again, Master Yue didn't seem to catch the sarcasm; Kobe vaguely wondered if Yue was acting so blissfully ignorant of his scepticism on purpose, just to aggravate him.
"Yes, a nice name, is it not?" asked the Gnorbu happily.
Kobe had to surpress the urge to slap himself with the scroll he carried, or maybe slam his face into a wall...
"Well... I still don't believe this nonsense!" said the Official. "Isn't this a bit far-fetched? A giant Draik eating up the moon?"
"Far-fetched is what everyone said about the prospect of building a giant flying ship," said Yue with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm. "Far-fetched is the idea of building a temple to observe the stars -- oh yes, back when I was young, an observatory was considered a feat of pure insanity. Far-fetched is the possibility of us having a Yooyuball team, and look at us now! Two trophies to our name! Not to mention a team of highly talented--"
"This is unthinkable," insisted Kobe, steadfastly standing by his belief. "Have we learned nothing? Eclipses are caused by the alignment of the Sun, Neopia, and Kreludor -- you taught me that yourself -- not by some silly Draik attempting to have a midnight snack."
"Oh really?" The old Gnorbu narrowed his eyes challengingly. "Would you care to explain to the Emperor your doubts regarding this subject...?"
Date: Feb 22nd
"Doubts? Doubts? Really now?" Kobe shrieked. The delusional old Gnorbu may have been well-respected in the region of Shenkuu, but his taunts made the Official grow tenser with each passing minute. The bitter Lenny's eyes darted around the room, trying to catch a glimpse of some servant, some guard, someone in the Great Hall with just as much of a perplexed face as himself. But those of Shenkuu, the loyal people of His Majesty who lived and bled red and gold in honour of their precious homeland reacted like statues. Either they thought the whole tale of Sparky was ridiculous and were pondering its insanity, or they did not want to offend their Emperor's strict belief.
"I really wouldn't call them doubts," Kobe scoffed, folding his wings in a pompous fashion. "Common sense, well now, that seems like a more suitable reference."
Master Yue's eyes seemed to light up at the Official's challenging words. "So, shall we approach the Emperor and question him?"
There was complete silence, with no servant daring to make even the slightest movement. They watched as the Official bantered about, rolling his eyes and seeming to pass off Master Yue as just another obstacle preventing him from completing his task. Finally, a fuming Kobe's eyes met the Gnorbu's, his voice reduced to a threatening hiss.
"Lead the way, Master Yue."
The sun was beginning to peak, and the faded yellow rays passed the clusters of leaves that towered over the forest. Up ahead, a calm brook carried sparkling blue water down a hill, weaving under a bridge and slipping past a dam and fallen branches. The sight, it could bring the strongest warriors to their knees. It could bring the wisest of scholars to questioning. It could bring the darkest of souls to light.
All... except for one.
A figure draped in a black robe covered with intricate red and gold beading stood over the brook. Slowly he kneeled down, placing a claw on the edge of the grass as his eyes aimlessly wandered past his menacing reflection and to the bottom of the stream. He dipped his black talon into the stunning brook, twirling it as if in deep thought.
In an instant, the water became dark. Silt and murk began to form, tainting the gorgeous blue colour of the brook with black. As the water flowed, it carried the disgusting black matter to every edge and every water particle. In minutes, the brook became undrinkable.
The figure knew the land well, for he left as quickly as he came. But he was not from the land, for no Shenkuuvian would ever have the heart to destroy any part of their beautiful home.
Kobe felt insulted that Master Yue would even question if he was ready to meet the Emperor. The Official had done so numerous times, and this instance was no different from the rest.
"Of course." Kobe faced the majestic golden palace doors leading to the throne, kept shut and watched by two husky Elephantes. "I'll tell him how ridiculous this whole matter is and be on my way."
Master Yue nodded and gave a wave to the guards, who opened the doors without hesitation. As Kobe stepped inside, he was nearly knocked over by a scholar who came running from behind them.
"Help! Someone, get the Emperor! Get the guards!"
"Scholar Rhodes?" Master Yue murmured at the distraught Moehog, who was flailing his hooves and trusted scroll around the air as if he was on fire. "Scholar Rhodes? Is everything all right?"
"No! No, something is going terribly wrong!"
Kobe laughed. "See? Even he agrees the decorations should stay up."
"Official Kobe, please!" Master Yue motioned for the guards to shut the doors. "Scholar Rhodes, what has happened?"
The flushed Moehog gazed up in fear. "I was meditating down by the mountains that are over the marketplace, deep in thought, when I heard something rustle behind me. I turned around... and the ground..." Scholar Rhodes gasped in horror. "The ground, the trees, and the pathway had turned black..."
Date: Feb 23rd
Master Yue whirled and shook a finger at Official Kobe. "You see?" he demanded. "You see? Even now, the shadow of the celestial Draik has been cast across our fair land! It blackness has fallen on our mountain!"
Kobe stared at him, beak agape, too stunned for words at first to reply at all. Finally, though, he snapped his beak shut. "Preposterous foolishness!" he said. "Shadow of the celestial Draik indeed!"
"How can you doubt such evidence?" Yue shouted, waving his forefeet. "What other explanation for the blackening of our lovely land do you have?"
"Just because I haven't leapt to ridiculous conclusions doesn't mean your ridiculous conclusions are correct!" Kobe retorted. He turned his head slightly and fixed Scholar Rhodes with one gimlet eye. "You didn't see any enormous Draiks when you were meditating, did you?" he asked, voice dripping sarcasm. "Perhaps a truly gigantic wingtip? A cavernous footprint? Do tell."
"Yes," Master Yue said, turning his gaze on the unfortunate Moehog. "Do tell?"
"I--I," Rhodes stammered. "I don't know! All I know is that some horrible black thing was creeping over the meadow! The water turned black as ink, the earth turned crumbly and dark, the plants died..." He trembled. "Please! Let's not argue! We need to tell the Emperor and the guards and do something!"
Official Kobe reined in his temper, with some difficulty. "You're right," he said. To Master Yue, he grudgingly said, "Truce until we figure out what's wrong?"
"Truce," the Gnorbu said, after a moment's pause. He held out a forefoot, and Kobe shook it.
"Now," Kobe said, "we must inform the Emperor..."
The stranger made his way slowly down the mountain. He didn't have to look back: he could feel the meadow's blight spreading, turning all to ash and poison and darkness. Even now, his claws dug their subtle poison into the earth he walked over.
He paused on a rocky bluff, looking down over the marketplace. He could lay his tainted touch on the wares of the Exotic Foods shop, or put a single claw in the magical cooking pot and spoil it; he could poison the potions at Remarkable Restoratives or bring rust and ruin to the Wondrous Weaponry.
But... no. His gaze swept the mountainside and then turned inexorably upward to where the Lunar Temple stood on the peak, its observatory shining in the evening light, its banner flapping against the dusky sky.
A wicked voice inside him said, There. Yes, there.
His lips spread back into a fanged smile, but a smile entirely without humour or joy. Yes, he knew where to bring his blasted touch next.
The shadow Kougra drew the hood of his cloak more firmly over his head and began the ascent, tail twitching in anticipation, paying no heed to the grass fading and dying beneath his footsteps.
"Blackness, you say?" the Emperor said, settling himself more firmly on his throne.
"Caused by the shadow of the celestial Draik," Master Yue said. "Sparky."
"Caused," Official Kobe said firmly, "by something unknown to us."
The Emperor frowned. "Well," he said, "the first thing we must do is...."
Date: Feb 23rd
"...mobilise Shenkuu. Draw up a declaration, Official Kobe. Let it say that Shenkuu is in great danger and that everyone must spill into the streets with their bows and their noisemakers to turn aside the Draik."
"This is madness!" Kobe declared. "Your Majesty, you honestly believe this will help? It's probably just a blight, some sickness claiming the mountainside. It's happened in the past, it will go away on its own. Jumping to these conclusions, it's unreasonable!"
"The citizens must feel they are doing something for Shenkuu, especially once the creeping blackness reaches the city proper. Otherwise panic will grip us all and then who knows what will happen? Spread the declaration through the lesser officials of the city. Tell them to pronounce it in the streets. Go, now."
Kobe bowed, his beak nearly touching the floor, and then departed the throne room, backing out so as not to turn his back to the Emperor.
"Scholar Rhodes, do you believe in the celestial Draik?"
"I believe that there is something to fear," the Moehog answered. "I saw the land. This is no normal disease. It moves too quickly. It takes too many things. Always some escape a blight, Your Majesty. This is not the case."
"I have a secret to tell you, and it must not leave this room," the Emperor began.
The Kougra stopped at the steps to the Lunar Temple. He stepped under a tree, bent and ancient, and hunched down to peer out beneath the leaves and branches. Clouds filled the sky, great fluffy ones that, while for the moment not dangerous, threatened a great storm on the horizon. They had come quickly after he stuck his claw in the river, summoned by the sudden crying of the land and the fear that spread through everything he touched.
He took a deep breath, testing the world with smell. It was there, just beyond the clouds, hovering over Neopia. More dangerous even than the coming storm: Sparky. Shaeven closed his eyes and breathed in the sickly sweet smell, then left his hiding place. There were still things in the world that could stop the Draik, forces that could overcome his celestial mandate to swallow up the moon.
The Kougra lowered his hood as he mounted the last few stairs and donned a fake smile. An Aisha greeted him at the door and offered him a white robe.
"For meditation, sir," she said with a grin.
"Thank you." He took it, but as soon as he was out of her sight, he threw it aside and strode deep into the temple's sacred heart.
A giant model of Neopia filled the room, supported on a spinning gold pedestal. Kreludor orbited the globe on a golden ring that spun and swirled, suspended not by wires but by ancient and powerful magic. He walked around the globe and pressed his palm against Shenkuu. He reached for Kreludor and wrapped his warped claw around it.
They both nodded.
"I do not trust that Official Kobe will believe me now, and he has enough power to interfere, but you two must know so that you can help me stop what has begun. You see, this celestial Draik, it isn't a real Draik. It's not a giant Neopet that will swallow the moon; it's a metaphor, a symbol. A dark force, born centuries ago in the turmoil of war and unrest, bided its time through the ages, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. My ancestors tried in vain to stop it then, in their failure lost track of it. Ever since, we have been taught to be wary. Ever since, we have been watching, waiting for these signs. It waited and waited until it thought it would come unexpectedly, when the forces that could stop it were unprepared and it could destroy them one at a time before destroying Kreludor, and Neopia herself.
"That time has come, but we are not unprepared. The first of the safeguards is gone: that creek's water held an old magic that could restore the land, but only as long as it remained pure. The second is now in danger. Master Yue, I believe you know what that is..."
Date: Feb 24th
"The Lunar Temple is next," Master Yue muttered and shook his head wearily, seeming unable to wrap his mind around what was transpiring. "How could this be? My temple was built to observe the beautiful sky and to study the pattern of the moon by curious and dedicated scholars. Now it will be the source of a malicious act."
"What does the Lunar Temple have to do with anything?" the Moehog scholar questioned, but stopped as his eyes suddenly widened at the realisation of what exactly the temple contained. "Of course, the model of Neopia... how could I have forgotten?"
"Legend has it that those gifted could touch an area of the globe and change the seasons, and even make the slightest weather adjustment," Master Yue recited. "But it was never intended to be used for evil."
The Emperor looked above him through the elegantly crafted majestic palace skylight. The groups of white clouds blocked the sun, which was beginning to set. "No one would ever use it for evil, until now."
"Well, we can't just stand here!" Scholar Rhodes
protested, and he bowed slightly at the Emperor to apologise for his outburst.
"Master Yue and Scholar Rhodes, there is still time. I believe that based on what has occurred so far, someone or something is at the Lunar Temple as we speak, or is on their way to cause harm. But even if they do anything, the moon will not be destroyed and the land will not be permanently damaged until midnight when Kreludor is at its highest point in the sky."
"Your Majesty, what are you saying? That we send guards to the temple to inspect it?" the Gnorbu asked.
The Emperor shook his head. "No one else can know of this. I trust that the two of you will investigate the temple yourselves?"
Master Yue could not stop Scholar Rhodes from shrieking and pacing back and forth on the palace floor, cursing to himself as to why he was unfortunate enough to be called to investigate.
"Of course, Your Majesty," the Gnorbu said and bowed, gripping the collar of the scholar's robe and yanking him toward the palace entrance. "We will be on our way."
The Emperor waited until the doors were shut by the two guards, who resumed their motionless positions. He reached for his charcoal-coloured cloak, which was less than stunning compared to the golden ceremonial robe that he usually wore. Draping it over his shoulders, the Emperor stood. "I will be retiring to my chambers briefly. I want not one disturbance during that time," he warned his guards, who bowed in return. With that, the Emperor left his throne and slipped through the back entrance that was connected to his upstairs chamber. But he did not take the flight of stairs up, and instead the beloved Emperor went downstairs, through the back passageway that led him out a secret entrance to the side of the palace that was hidden by well-kept shrubs. His Majesty emerged from the vegetation, pulling his cloak tighter over his shoulders so he could not be easily recognised.
"Shaeven, you will not betray my ancestors," the Emperor murmured, eyes fixed on the sky as he slipped into the nearby forest. "Not this time."
The gait of Official Kobe was no longer lengthy, pompous strides, but instead plodding feet. The Emperor was surely mad to believe the whole tale of Sparky, but it was more of the fact that he had not proven Master Yue wrong. The fact that the Gnorbu was probably gloating in satisfaction while Kobe was rushing through the dirt Shenkuu roads made him sick. The paths were now cluttered with Shenkuuvians, for some were already informed of their duties to stand in the streets to distract "Sparky." The city officials were quick to accept the Emperor's wishes, even though when Kobe gave them the messages he did so in a rather sarcastic and unenthusiastic tone.
He approached the very last of the city temples and rapped on the door with a feeble wing. A moment passed, and a pink Lutari dressed in a black and red floral robe opened the door.
"Official Kobe!" she cried, beaming. "How are you? I presume the decorating for the festival is going well?"
The Lenny winced at her high-pitched voice, which he had constantly endured when both were studying at the palace to become officials. "Well, it's kind of come to a halt. Official Lena, I know you're always rather chipper and nothing seems to bring your spirits down, but this is urgent." Kobe handed her the scroll, which she hastily unrolled and began to read. "It's ridiculous, I know, but you must spread the word as quickly as you can."
Lena gazed up in horror, clutching the scroll in her paw. "I will alert the scribes, scholars, officials, citizens, everyone that has not yet heard! Right away! Don't fret, Official Kobe, the streets will be filled with Shenkuuvians and their noisemakers!"
"All right, thanks, Lena," the Official replied. "But don't you think this is just a little bit far-fetched? Sure, the Emperor issued this warning and all, but really? Even you have to agree that a Draik eating the moon is the most ridiculous claim... hey, Lena, are you feeling all right?"
The Lutari's face was twisted with horror, and her gaze passed directly by Kobe's. He followed her path of sight, and when he did, he froze.
The mountains in the distance that were just moments ago spawning endless green grass and trees were being swallowed by darkness. As if heaps of black paint were being poured down the mountainside, everything it was touching became consumed.
"Lena," Kobe whispered frantically, watching as the destruction of Shenkuu continued to unfold. "Lena, please hurry..."
Shaeven's wicked grin had returned as he stepped back admired his handiwork. The model of Neopia no longer contained just darkness cast over Shenkuu and Kreludor. No, why stop at just those two worlds? Shaeven had the power to cause much more damage, and that was exactly his intent. The Kougra beamed sinisterly, watching as the entire model of Neopia turned black...
Date: Feb 24th
Lena turned back into the temple, returning minutes later with an aged and brittle-looking scroll that Official Kobe just barely glimpsed as the Lutari tucked it into the folds of her robe. Before he had an opportunity to ask any questions, Lena grabbed the Lenny by the sleeve and began to pull him into the street, saying, "I've informed the Bellmaster to begin a series of chimes that will alert the Bellmasters of the other temples to do the same. The combined noise should be fearsome. I have also sent messengers to rouse the rest of the Shenkuuvians to take to the streets. I just hope we're not too late." With a hesitant glance at the horizon, where the sun was quickly sinking away with a gaudy last gasp of purple and orange light, Lena muttered, "We should be able to make it to the Observatory before midnight."
Skidding his feet to a halt in protest, Official Kobe removed his sleeve from the Lutari's grasp with an indignant tug. "And if we don't?"
Lena looked at the Lenny as though he were a thick-headed student. "And if we don't what?"
"What will happen if we don't make it to the Observatory by midnight? I want to know what's going on." Kobe stomped his foot petulantly and immediately cringed with disgust: when his wooden clog made contact with the ground, it sank into a viscous black goo that clung to his foot in sticky strings as he attempted to step away from the inky mud.
"It's spreading faster than I feared."
With a tone of helplessness, Kobe implored, "What is spreading? What is going on?"
"How can you claim to not know what's going on when you were the one who came to warn me about Sparky, Official Kobe?"
"Sparky? The Moon-eating Draik? But surely you don't believe..."
The Lutari gave the Lenny's sleeve a gentle prompt as she turned to resume walking quickly up the now blackened mountain path that led to the Lunar Temple on the summit far above them. Lena called back over her shoulder, "When we were studying together at the palace, do you happen to remember what my field of expertise was?"
Official Kobe thought hard and then began to jog after the Lutari with a grin on his normally serious-looking face.
Master Yue and Scholar Rhodes approached the Lunar Temple in silence, conserving their breath as they completed the long climb up the circuitous mountain path. From their lofty vantage, the pair was horrified to see that all of Shenkuu appeared to now be covered in the black blight, all save for the mountain on which they now stood. Even from this great distance, however, they could hear that all of Shenkuu's citizenry must be in the streets below, ringing bells and banging pots, setting off firecrackers and doing all that they could to scare off the supposed threat of "Sparky."
The wise old Gnorbu turned his gaze to the sky. With a quick glance at Kreludor and some swift mental calculations, Master Yue turned to his companion and said, "It is nearly midnight. If the model of Neopia is in danger, we have little time to save it before the changes are permanent."
The Moehog nodded gravely and replied, "And if it is in danger? What do we do then?"
Master Yue sighed and turned to open the temple's heavy wooden door. "First things first."
As the pair entered the dark chamber, the Gnorbu was alarmed to note that the model of Neopia was not glowing as it always had. Lighting the lamp that he knew was hanging from the wall by the entrance, Master Yue illuminated the room and discovered a sight that sent a chill straight through him: not only was the land of Shenkuu blackened on the magical globe, but all of Neopia, land and sea, looked as dark and lifeless as a meteor in the inky void of deep space. So, too, was the lamp of Kreludor bedimmed, although it continued to orbit the lifeless-looking rock of Neopia on its magically set course. Raising the lamp to shine into the further corners of the room, two yellow eyes appeared from the shadows, along with a low and threatening growl.
"Wh-who's there?" Scholar Rhodes demanded in a voice he hoped sounded stronger than he felt. "Is that you... Sparky?"
"Sparky?" the voice asked mockingly. "You do not know of what you ask. I am..."
"...Shaeven," interrupted a voice from the temple entrance.
Master Yue spun toward the new voice, and using his authority as the temple's keeper, commanded, "Whoever you are, this is no time for visitors. Be gone with you."
The figure in the doorway lowered his hood, revealing himself to be the Emperor. Master Yue flung himself to the floor in prostration, blurting out a stammering apology, but the Emperor waved to the Gnorbu to stand, all the while never taking his eyes off of the shadow Kougra who slowly moved into the light of the lamp. "Please stand, Master Yue. You could not have known that I followed you here, and it may well take all three of us to undo what this scoundrel has wrought."
"You cannot undo this," the Kougra challenged. "Anyway, it would be unwise to try."
"Is that a threat, Shaeven?" the Emperor asked with a chuckle. With an imperious wave of his hand, he added, "No matter. Because this will be undone."
The Emperor reached into the pocket of his cloak and withdrew a phial of clear liquid.
"What do we do, Your Majesty?" Scholar Rhodes asked.
"Not to worry, my faithful servant. With one dose of this water, the last untainted drops of the creek's old magic, Shenkuu and all of Neopia will be restored."
With a pounce and a roar, the Kougra knocked the phial from the Emperor's hand. The fragile glass vessel rolled across the floor to where Scholar Rhodes scooped it up. Turning to the model, the Moehog uncorked the phial and was about to pour out the water onto the darkened globe.
"No, you mustn't!"
Everyone in the room turned to see who the new speaker was: two harried and exhausted Officials, Kobe and Lena.
"What are you talking about?" the Emperor demanded. "We must restore Neopia! Do it, Rhodes, now!"
The Moehog once more tipped the phial and was startled again by Lena's high-pitched squeal. "No! With all respect to the Emperor, leave it dark." The Lutari withdrew the fragile and ancient scroll from her robes and said, "It's the only way we can hide. We must. We must hide from... Sparky!"
Date: Feb 25th
"Hohoho!" the cloaked Emperor laughed cheerfully. "No! No! No! You see, Official Lena, Sparky is only a metaphorical personification of dark forces that are trying to destroy the world we live in. There is no Draik eating the moon. There is no Sparky..."
Kobe gasped in astonishment. "You mean... there was no Draik eating up Kreludor? Ha! See! I knew that a Draik eating up our moon was far-fetched!"
"However," the Emperor added, "that doesn't mean that the dark forces are far-fetched. Scholar Rhodes, go ahead and cure Neopia with the water."
"Are you sure, Your Majesty?" Scholar Rhodes sceptically asked.
"Yes, and hurry! Midnight is near!"
"Not if I can help it!" shrieked a voice from behind. While the Emperor was explaining to the Officials, Shaeven had snuck up on the young Moehog and swiped the phial from the scholar's hands and stuck the cork back into the container.
"No! Get him!" the Emperor cried.
It was a huge chase between Shaeven and the crowd inside the room. Yue tried to waddle as fast as he could, but soon stopped because of fatigue. Lena had grabbed onto the Kougra's cloak, but her grip suddenly slipped after a few seconds. Scholar Rhodes finally caught one of his legs, causing him to fall, but also causing the phial to fly up toward the ceiling...
The phial was flying, flying, and flying in the air. Then, it began to plummet, plummet, and plummet... straight into the hands of... Official Kobe.
Everyone cheered with excitement, until...
"You guys tricked me!" Kobe complained. "I had to tell the village that a Draik was eating up our moon! Now, they're using up all of the firecrackers and making tons of noise in the streets for no reason at all!"
"Kobe," Lena cried, "don't tell me that you're going to betray us!"
"Pour the phial, Official Kobe," Master Yue commanded, "for the sake of Neopia..."
"Allright..." answered the exasperated Lenny.
"Oh, I don't think you're going to make it..." said the maniacal Kougra, pointing at the stars from the nearby window. "Midnight is coming in ten seconds. Oops! I mean nine seconds. Haha!"
"Hurry!" yelled the Emperor.
"Click-clack, click-clack, click-clack, click-clack!" went the Lenny's wooden clogs as he scrambled across the tiled floor.
The seams in Kobe's robe were beginning to break loose due to all the running. The Lenny still did not care...
"Six seconds! Muahaha!"
The poor Lenny's feet were beginning to slow down...
Kobe prepared to unplug the cork...
"Pop!" went the cork from the bottle...
"Three seconds! You'll never make it!"
Suddenly, Kobe's wooden clogs tripped over a small pebble, causing him to let go of the phial.
"No!" cried Lena.
"Two seconds! Yes!" Shaeven's face revealed a sinister smirk.
The open phial emptied its contents onto the floor. Then, miraculously, one drop changed its direction and began to plunge toward the model of Neopia.
"No!" Shaeven cried. "Wait! There's only one second left until midnight! Haha! Goodbye, Neopia! Hello-- What?!"
The drop had landed on the model of Neopia just in time. The contents of that single droplet soon reversed all the black magic across Neopia. The dark storm retreated from the skies. The land was once more tranquil and bright under the glow from Kreludor.
"Wh-wh-what?! How'd that happen?!"
"Pure magic, Shaeven! The power of pure magic!" answered the Emperor, beaming.
"Something that you have yet to master," added Master Yue.
"B-b-but! Oh, whatever! Don't you celebrate anything, because I'll be back! I'll be back, you hear that! Back!" And the Kougra disappeared into the night.
"And now, let us congratulate Master Yue, Officials Kobe and Lena, and Scholar Rhodes for all the good they have done..." declared the Emperor in the Shenkuuvian village.
"Yay!" cheered the crowd below.
"Wait!" interrupted Official Kobe. "The four of us would like to specially thank our beloved Emperor for his great leadership! All hail the Emperor!"
"All hail the Emperor! All hail the Emperor!" applauded the villagers.
"It's just too bad that we can't celebrate the Lunar Festival this year..." said the Lenny sorrowfully.
"Well, because of all the disturbances that happened during our celebrations, I guess we can make an exception!"
The crowd cheered with joy and happiness.
"Well, what are you waiting for?! Happy New Year, everyone!"
That night, the sound of firecrackers crackled through the night. Fireworks drew beautiful images across the starry sky. The sound of drums echoed as dragons dances through the village streets. And the light of the moon shined across the Neopian sky more brightly than ever.
Date: Feb 25th
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