It took Kokyu a long time to make his way up the sea
cliff, and the sun was shining brightly over their heads when they reached the
top and faced the jungle. It looked deep, green, forbidding, the trees looming
far over their heads to form a leafy canopy through which little sunlight penetrated,
and the vegetation that grew on the ground were all vines and tendrils and thorny
bushes, like grasping arms ready to catch them. Shiho crouched against Kokyu’s
“It’s okay, Shiho. Everything will be fine.
We’ll just trek through the jungle and find the place.”
“But there might be... things in there.”
“We’ll just have to risk it, Kit. I’m sure we’ll
be all right. Now come on. Remember you are a Neo-Kidoka.”
Pulling herself together, Shiho nodded firmly,
and the two Aishas and their Puppyblew ventured into the unknown gloom.
Not being pets raised in the jungle, they weren’t
used to the dim light filtering through the branches overhead and the vines
and shrubs on the ground twined themselves around their limbs, getting in their
way. As if to make matters worse, everything was wrapped in a steamy, stifling
heat. Finally, Kokyu heard the sound of running water coming from straight ahead.
Evidently, Shiho heard it, too. With a shout of “Water!” she dashed forward.
“Shiho, wait!” Kokyu chased after the young
Aisha. “It might not be safe!”
Shiho cast about as he went, her sensitive ears
twitching here and there, trying to pinpoint the exact source of the cheery
bubbling. Driven by thirst, she charged straight for the sound, heedless of
the hampering vines or her Master’s calls.
Kokyu kept up a strong pursuit, Ki-ai clutched
tight in his paws. His lifeforce senses had picked out something, something
there. It was just a faint touch in his awareness, like the brush of a Flightning
Bug’s wing flicking gently across the surface of a pond, but as he pushed down
the chilling fear he felt for his charge and extended his perception forward,
he knew it was there. He couldn’t tell what, but it was unmistakably danger,
and that knowledge spurred him on.
Aihami started as she emerged from the training hall. Something was wrong
out there in the jungle. The white-belts had long since finished their practice,
stacked up the straw mats that carpeted the floor during practice and swept
the hall clean. They were presently playing their games with the three Petpets.
Marko meditated in a sunbeam, his blue, striped tail flicking to and fro. Everything
seemed peaceful. And yet...
The Aisha breathed gently, sharpening her senses.
Yes. Like the time when she had sensed Marko, his old, violent, bad-tempered
self, coming through the bushes. Like the time when she had saved Mandrake and
Aragon, two of her white-belts, from that Monocerous. Something was definitely
She’d have to go check it out.
Shiho pulled her hind paw out of the clinging grip of a particularly tenacious
vine and trotted out of the last of the bushes. She was in a clearing in the
jungle, it seemed. At the far side was a spring from which flowed, the young
Aisha felt, the most pure, clear water in Neopia. With a glad cry, she sprang
for the refreshing liquid.
Suddenly, the air exploded in front of her.
With a start, she saw a large red paw, all claws extended like black daggers,
shooting straight for her face. Shiho’s Neo-Kidoka instincts took over. She
tucked her body into a tight ball, flung herself backwards in a desperate roll
and got to her feet, the razor tips of the claws barely missing her. Looking
up, she saw the snarling face of an enormous red Kougra, the expression on his
face caught in the midst of changing from cruel triumph to sudden bewilderment.
The Kougra was strong and powerfully built, muscles
standing out hard and clear under his fur. He was wearing a uniform not unlike
the Neo-Kidoka’s, but it was a deep, intense red in colour, with a belt of coal
black around his waist. There was something in his eyes that froze Shiho. In
those golden-brown eyes there blazed hatred and anger; they were the eyes of
a creature that wouldn’t think twice about hurting or injuring another.
The Kougra got over his surprise quickly and
sprang at her again, roaring. Shiho shook herself out of her trance and pivoted,
letting the Kougra’s hurtling force bypass him. At that same instant a blue
form leapt out of the brush in a flurry. Kokyu sized up the situation in a flash.
Moving swiftly on his knees, he made his way to Shiho and stood in front of
him, shielding him. “Climb on my back, Kit, hurry!” The Kougra came at him again,
snarling his rage. Kokyu, with Shiho clinging tightly to him, pivoted, grabbed
a paw as the creature passed him at lightning speed, and gave it an effortless
twist. The Kougra went flying into a clump of thorn bushes. He landed with a
crash and a shower of leaves and sharp twigs and sat up, yowling his pain.
Kokyu pricked his sensitive ears, quickly enhancing
their reception with lifeforce energy. He could tell it wasn’t over yet. He
could hear whispering now, coming from the bushes all around them.
“He beat Weorr...and by barely moving...”
“Weorr was the strongest among us. Perhaps we
should retreat now.”
“No! Champion told us not to return without
the Aisha. And Champion is dangerous when he is angry...”
“You’re right. There’s strength in numbers.
Let’s all get him now!”
Instantly several other red-clothed figures
darted out of the brush, some of them brandishing swords, spears and sharp daggers,
their razor edged blades gleaming. Kokyu quietly drew his wooden sword. It was
by far the one he favoured in the training hall, and it would be useful in deflecting
the forces of those blades. They wanted an Aisha. He didn’t know if they meant
him or Shiho, but he wasn’t about to let them get either.
They all converged on him in a rush and found
themselves slashing at empty air: Kokyu had somehow leapt out of the fray. He
stood, resolutely, with Shiho trembling violently on his back. The blue Aisha
poured some life-force energy into her, reassuring him that he was in control.
He felt the young Aisha relax perceptibly, and then leapt away again as they
came at him. There would be no shaking them; he could sense their determination
to get to him or Shiho. And avoiding would eventually lay waste to his energy.
Even if he drew upon his life-force to give him extra stamina, he would be exhausted
when he stopped. And they might still be after him by then, there were too many
of them. There was no sense in wasting energy of any kind. He would have to
get rid of them. All of them. And soon.
Raising his sword, its wooden tip pointed at
the nearest attacker’s throat, he stood in his Neo-Kidoka stance, breathing
deeply as his life-force energy coursed through every muscle, calm and prepared
inside. He was ready for them. Just let them try to take Shiho.
They came at him again. Kokyu pivoted and diverted
a punishing blow, sending one of his attackers crashing to the ground. Another
raised his sword to slash at Shiho. Kokyu whirled sharply and pushed the attacking
paw forwards, causing the red-clothed figure to fall over with a yell. Still
another attacker leapt from a tree branch, bringing his sword to bear down on
Kokyu’s head between the ears. The Aisha darted backwards, hearing the thump
and shout as his attacker fell to the ground.
But they kept coming. They kept coming at him
despite everything, and Kokyu knew he might not last. He’d have to escape somehow..
.but they were all around him... get Shiho to safety at least...
A red-clad Quiggle, with a shout of triumph
at seeing his hesitation, headed straight for him, blade glinting at the ready.
But as the pet raised his weapon above his head, a swift flash of red, black
and white flew out of the brush and pushed the upraised arm backwards before
the blow could gather strength, causing the attacker to lose his balance and
fall backwards, whereupon he landed on the ground with a heavy thud and a shout
Aihami was shocked at the sight that met her eyes as she came upon her clearing.
There must have been about six or seven pets wearing a uniform similar to her
own, in every aspect but colour: they were a dark red, and all with black belts
around their waists. All of them were converging on a young blue Aisha about
her own age, perhaps slightly older, with a much younger Aisha kit clinging
to his back. The Aisha was a Neo-Kido Master, she could tell from his clothing,
and she had no doubt he’d make quick work of them if he had been fighting alone,
but he was trying so hard to protect the young one at his back that he was hardly
She knew she had to do something, and when the
pet had charged at him with his sword held high, ready to deal the killing blow,
she had darted out and pushed the arm back before the blow could fall. Her attacker
fell backwards, and she turned to face the other Master.
Kokyu gazed in surprise at the newcomer. The red-clad pets seemed surprised
as well, because they fell back and muttered among themselves. The Aisha was
obviously a Neo-Kido Master, if not by that move, then by her training uniform.
As Kokyu stared, the Aisha looked back at him, her dark eyes earnest. “They’re
regrouping to attack,” she said quickly. “Hurry. I’ll stand at your back and
help defend the young one. We can do this together.”
Kokyu nodded, resolutely, as the aggressors
came in. The two Aishas together moved swiftly as they both defended Shiho,
diverting forces, bringing them back around to boomerang hard and fast on their
assailants. But the tenacious creatures wouldn’t give up.
The red Aisha leapt and scaled a tree. “Follow
me,” she called as she disappeared into the canopy, but as Kokyu began to come
after her, the red-clothed pets left the clearing and swarmed up the tree on
her tail. Kokyu watched, astonished, as Shiho peeked out from behind his shoulder.
So they were after her? The Aisha lost no time but darted swiftly through the
foliage, the rest haring after her.
Frightened at the thought of what might happen
to her, Kokyu tried to calm himself. Desperately as he wanted to help his strange
new ally, he dared not leave Shiho alone. The young Aisha was visibly shaken,
and Kokyu rubbed her ear stalks, letting more of his reassuring power surge
through her. Eventually, after several minutes, Shiho calmed, and Kokyu was
just trying to sense where the strange Aisha had gotten to when the nearby shrubs
parted and she glided out of them with all the grace and confidence of the wind.
“Gave them a good run,” she said, dusting leaves
off her uniform. “They’ll be following a false trail once they wake up from
their nasty tumble out of a particularly tall tree.”
Kokyu tucked his wooden sword through his belt
and looked admiringly at his new comrade.
“You fight well. What rank are you, a Fifth-Degree?”
She grinned at him, looking somewhat embarrassed.
“Actually, I’m only a First. And you? You’ve got to be a Fifth-Degree
at least, fending them off with a young one with you like you did.”
“No, I just became a Second yesterday.”
An interested flare grew in her eyes. “You have
Sharp pain, the pain of loss, lanced through
Kokyu. “No... That is, well... not anymore...”
She put a comforting paw on his shoulder. “That’s
alright. I’ve been through it too. Only I didn’t make it to Second-Degree before
Kokyu felt the pain evaporating swiftly from
his system. Wonderingly, he recognized lifeforce energy, soothing his soul at
a very fast rate.
“What’s your name?”
The female Aisha looked at him. “It’s Aihami.
“Kokyu. And this is Shiho,” he added as the
red kit got up and walked over to them, gazing with awe at Aihami. A yap issued
from a particularly thick, thorny bush, but nevertheless with a hollow space
at its heart that was just big enough to hide a Puppyblew and a bag of weapons.
Kokyu grinned as the Puppyblew in question came
trotting out of the bush as he sensed the coast was clear, dragging the weapon
bag in his jaws. “And that’s Ki-ai.”
“You have a Puppyblew?” Aihami smiled. “Manny
will be pleased.”
Kokyu looked at her quizzically, and she ran
a paw across her face. “Never mind. Hey, why don’t you come back to my training
hall, near east of here? I’m sure my students would welcome you with open paws,
and you could get some food into you.”
Kokyu smiled. “That sounds fine. What do you
“Yay!” Shiho yelled, dancing about. “It’s the
training hall! We’ve found it!”
It was Aihami’s turn to give Kokyu a questioning
look. “It’s okay,” she said, holding up a paw, as the blue Aisha started to
explain. “You can tell me everything when we get to the training hall. We’ll
To be continued...