Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 142,874,434 Issue: 200 | 22nd day of Swimming, Y7
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Lucky Two Hundred


by taipeiss

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The early summer air whirled through the Ixi's room and rustled the feathers of her chocolatey brown Airax. He swirled into the curl of air and floated gracefully in downward spirals until he landed on the sleeping Ixi's head. He lifted his long, noble beak and parted it to sound his morning call.

     "AIIRAAH AIRAAAAH! AAIIIRRRAAAAAAAHHHH!"

     Veralidaine's brilliantly green eyes shot open in alarm, her hooves quickly clamping around the Airax's beak and pulling him down to eye level. "NUMAIR. Stop it right now!" The Airax protested in muffled squawks, his long wings flapping frantically and legs tearing at the air. Daine let him go and he hopped to the window seat, trying to hide behind a Red Shoyru Plushie.

     Daine stretched and yawned, watching the crazed bird with narrowed eyes. "You think you're so cool just because the calendar says you're the Petpet of the month." Indeed, the picture of a graceful white Airax perching on a branch sat atop the dated grid for the month. Daine slipped out of bed and regarded herself in a mirror, smoothing down a tuft of maroon fur that stuck out between her shiny black horns. She fluttered her leathery black wings, and then glanced back at the calendar before breaking into a grin. "Krawk Island with Jay" was penned for the day in dark green ink. The Ixi sprang excitedly from her room, down the stairs, through the living room, and past the kitchen where Taipei and Thayet sat eating breakfast. Thayet turned to Taipei with an eyebrow raised.

     "Krawk Island with Jason," Taipei informed the faerie Kacheek before returning to her tea.

     Daine turned sharply at the entrance hall, the rug shifting as she skidded to the side. She sprang into her brother's bedroom to find it empty but for the stone and bamboo furniture. Springing onto his Fresh Bamboo Bed, she jumped up and down and watched the door to his bathroom across the hall. It soon opened to reveal a Blue Bruce padding across the floor. Daine broke into laughter.

     "The Lab Ray hasn't turned you back into a Shoyru yet, Jaysiewaysie?"

     "No," he replied, catching Daine in mid-jump and twirling her around to the floor, "but at least I'm a boy again, and today I gained enough health that I'm at one hundred now."

     "Yay!" Daine cheered as she hugged her brother closely. Jason smiled.

     "You ready to explore Krawk Island today, Ver?"

     "Oh, you know how we do," came her reply with a grin and a slight nose scrunch.

     "You're the best, cutest little sister, you know that?"

     "Roffle iron," was her response.

     ---

     A charming little ferry cut through cerulean waters as it glided towards Krawk Island. Jason and Daine peered over the railing into the deep ocean, pointing out the brightly colored fish that darted about. The same waters, however, quickly clouded into a murky, steely-blue hue as the piratey island loomed ahead. Cargo ships and pirate cruisers lazed about the harbor, bobbling atop the surface with a yawn's frequency. The ferry sashayed cheerfully up to a dock, and the traveling guide spoke her parting lines with equal mirth.

     "Welcome to Krawk Island," the Peophin pronounced with a cheek-cracking grin, "and thank you for using the Neopian Ferry Service. A list of parting times back to Neopian Central is listed on the ferry kiosk to your right," she motioned, "and the ferry gift shop is to your left. Thank you, and have a nice day!"

     Jason had to drag Daine off of the ferry as she gawked at the overly-gleeful Peophin. "Daine, it's not nice to stare!"

     "But Jay, she never. Stops. Smiling. Look at her! She's standing there waving and smiling and smiling and waving and she just keeps doing it! Lemme poke her face! Sweet Fyora, Jay, I bet she'd a splode! Please Jay, pleeeasse..."

     The Bruce, nonetheless, was able to pull his sister from the boat and onto land. Sparing one final stare at the guide, Daine finally turned her head, linked her arm in her brother's, and began to skip. Jay skipped too, his strength able to easily overcome his made-for-winter body. They navigated the island in this fashion, ignoring the stares and looks from natives and tourists alike. The muggy heat soon reduced them to a walk, however, and they soon had made their way to the training academy. They passed through the large, oaken doors and down long halls until they came to Cap'n Threelegs' office. The Eyrie looked up from his paperwork and took off his small reading glasses.

     "Jason! Is that really you?" he greeted him with a smile.

     "Sure is, Captain! Been a long year since we fought in the second Meridell war, hasn't it?"

     The Eyrie chuckled as he walked towards the siblings and regarded the Bruce. "Apparently longer for some than others. You looked great as a rainbow Shoyru, Jason. Has Taipei, ya know, lost it?" His broad wings stretched widely and majestically to the sides.

     Jason and Daine laughed. "No, she's still fairly sane," the Bruce replied, "just gotten a little Lab Ray happy."

     "Happens to the best of us," Threelegs said as he clapped Jason gently on the shoulder, and then bent down to be closer to Daine's eye level. "And how are you, Miss Veralidaine? Did you enjoy gracing me with your presence on your birthday for that bit of free training?"

     The Ixi grinned widely. "Yessir! I might train something different next year, though, because I'm already faster than Jay."

     "Haha, very funny," Jason smirked as he ruffled Daine's hair. "It's a risk with the ray, I s'pose."

     Cap'n Threelegs smiled. "Sure is. Hey, are you two up for an adventure? The basement under the academy is a bunch of winding tunnels, and lately there've been sounds coming up through the floorboards. Me an' the crew think there's something stuck down there, maybe a lost Hasee or something. We can't go down there, though, because the few of us who are small enough are always wrapped up in teaching courses. Unless you're too busy..."

     "Oh no, we've got nothing to do!" Daine assured him with wide eyes and a gently shaking head. Jason laughed.

     "Actually, she's right. We'd be happy to help you out, Captain."

     "Great," the Eyrie said with a grin. "Here, lemme show you the trapdoor down to the basements..." He led them out of the room and down the hall, stopping at a supply closet near the entrance.

     Daine skipped excitedly alongside Jason, her shiny black hooves clacking cheerfully along the wooden floorboards. Stopping beside Threelegs, they watched as he wrenched a metal ring from the floor. A hinged, square panel of floor swung back and a gust of cool, moist air billowed up. The earthy smell of the dirt below settled over the small room. Threelegs pointed to a sturdy ladder poked its head up right below the floor.

     "That goes all the way to the bottom. Watch your step! I'll leave the trapdoor open, but I'll close the door to the supply closet so nobody wanders in and trips or something. If you need to find me, I'll be in my office. Jay, you've got your Faerie light, right?"

     The Bruce nodded and produced a flare of clear-glowing light at his fingertips. "I'll go first, Dainey, and you follow me down." Threelegs nodded and left the room, closing the door behind him. Jason climbed down carefully, keeping one hand free to light the way. Daine followed him, and they soon stood on the springy earth beneath. Jason's light showed a brown, dirt tunnel that stretched out into far blackness. A gust of moist air rattled past them from the darkness and up the ladder. A feeling washed over Jason, and he narrowed his eyes.

     "Normally a breeze like that would make me feel nervous or spooked, Ver, but, well, silly as it sounds, it made me feel..."

     "Lucky," Daine muttered as if she could read his mind. He nodded. She shrugged with one shoulder and held his free hand with her other hoof. "It's almost..."

     "Suspicious," he finished. Without another word they trudged further into tunnel and around the corner.

     The tunnels were, indeed, long and winding. Occasionally one led to a dirt room with a few boxes, buckets, or nothing at all. They sometimes found a smaller path that lead off to another room, but found nothing there, so most of their time stretched over the wide main path. They had peered into handfuls of rooms and alcoves when...

     "Hooooooommmmmmmm..."

     Jason's eyebrows shot up and Daine stopped dead in her tracks, her sudden halt jerking her brother back. "What was that?" she whispered. Her voice lilted not with fear but with suspicious curiosity.

     "It sounded like a someone," he replied, "or a living something. And it sounded..."

     "Smart," she finished, "and it came from way down there." She led him straight forward into the darkness of the main path, first absentmindedly letting go of his hand, then stopping cold after a few yards. Jason jogged to catch up to her and lay a hand on her arm.

     "Are you okay, Ver?" Her face was rigid as she suddenly clung to his arm.

     "I just remembered how scared I am of the dark," her voice quivered fearfully. "Make sure you stay a little ahead of me, just maybe a centimeter or two."

     Jason smirked. "You're scared of the dark, but not the weird breeze and the humming."

     Daine made a face at him. "Oh shush, you. Just keep walking."

     They strode quickly down the main corridor, the hum sounding every so often and growing louder each time. Before they knew it, they stood opposite to a wall with a room a few feet forwards and off to the side. The humming seemed to be coming from that same room. Jay let out a small sound of slight disgust.

     "Of course, Ver, the noise is going to come from the spot furthest from the entrance. It's never at the beginning, never in the middle. It's always at the end of some long, creepy tunnel."

     Daine rolled her eyes. "Ch, duh."

     Linked arm in arm, they turned the corner. And halted abruptly. And stared.

     Before them was the ragged ghost of a Chia dressed in piratey garb. His eyes were closed as he floated before them and, surprise surprise, hummed.

     His eyes suddenly flashed open to reveal two piercing flares of red. They suddenly dimmed, however, to a pink, and the ghost spoke kindly. "Well hello. Am I to believe that after all this time, you have come to free my spirit from this place?"

     "That depends," Jay answered. "Have you been making noises down here?"

     The ghost shrugged. "Only when I try to get someone to realize that I'm down here. I used to be the owner of this academy, you see, and I came down here one day, without telling anyone, to find some extra practice swords. I s'pose I shouldn't have eaten that last piece of slumberberry pie, because I fell asleep down here and woke up a few weeks ago as a ghost. I didn't want to venture back through the tunnel because it was so cold and dark, and I had no way of relighting my old lantern. Somehow I know it's been exactly two hundred years today that I first got trapped. But it seems you guys have Faerie light. If you could light my lantern for me, please, I'd be ever grateful."

     Jay helped the ghost light his lantern and the ghost flitted behind a rock for a moment, then drew out something shiny and handed it to the two.

     "Here you are. That's a two hundred dubloon coin. Not just any coin, but an enchanted one that can grant you a wish that will last for two hundred days. Two hundred has always been a lucky number for pirates, mind ye. Use it as a reward for helping me, and then it'll whisk you back outside."

     Jay raised an eyebrow at the ghost. "Wait a second. If all we have to do is wish on the coin, and then we'll have it granted and be back outside, why didn't you do it?"

     The ghost shrugged. "I tried. The dubloon doesn't like me. It likes the Ixi, though. It told me."

     Daine snorted. "The coin likes me. The coin told you it likes me?"

     "Yes ma'am."

     "Riiiiiight." Nonetheless, Jay handed the dubloon to Daine, and she held it on her hoof.

     "Think about it, Daine. You could wish for anything to happen for two hundred days. Anything you wanted at all."

     Daine thought for a few long moments, then closed her eyes and whispered. "I wish that, for two hundred days, all the poor Neopians in the world and on the moon will have warm blankets, plenty of food, and clean water."

     Jay opened his mouth and was about to ask her a question when the colors of the room began to spin and whirr like they were being windblown. When they stopped, Daine and Jason stood outside of the Academy. The sun was beginning to set, and the last ferry to Neopian Central was pulling up to the dock. Jason and Daine walked towards it in the cool, early evening.

     "Dainey?"

     "Yeah, Jasey?"

     "Back there, in the room, you know you could've asked for anything you wanted. It was great that you wished to help others, but why?"

     Daine shrugged. "I thought about it, and I realized that I don't really need anything. I have my own room with my own bed and all the toys I want, we have a super nice home to stay in, lots of good food, and we have enough Neopoints. I have my petpets and my friends and I have Mommy and Thayet and Zel, and I have you, Jay. It's all I need, and everything I want. And then I thought about everyone out there who doesn't..."

     Daine looked towards an unfortunate Nimmo who was crouched up between buildings. His dulled eyes suddenly brightened as he looked next to him to find a Faerie offering a blue, fuzzy blanket, a Bottle of Water, and a Steak Platter. A tear rolled down his cheek as he wrapped the blanket around him and began to eat. Daine smiled softly.

     "...and I figured that they'd need the wish way more than I ever could. And it was worth it."

     Jason smiled, unable to utter a word after his sister's act of compassion and maturity. He never thought her growing up could be so wonderful.

     They had stepped onto the ferry and leaned against the railing when Daine gasped.

     "JAY!" Daine was wide-eyed.

     "What? What?"

     "That's... the... LADY WHO CAN'T STOP SMILING!" Jason burst into laughter as Daine stared. Tilting his head to the side, he suddenly stopped and watched.

     A spirit with a lantern of Faerie light glided over the water and into the setting sun.

The End

 
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