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To Be A Master: Dreams - Part One


by shelleylow

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To be understand this story, read the previous To Be A Master series' in older issues.

She was standing on a sea-cliff, one that she knew well. It had been the site where her old Master had bestowed that last title on her before he had taken his leave of Neopia, as well as his last resting place. Many times had she made the trek from her training hall in the depths of the jungle to pay her respects to the old Kougra, who had guided her along the path to becoming a Neo-Kido Master on so many levels, and with so much care and kindness.

She gazed up at the sky, wondering if it was his gentle amber eyes she was looking into, high up among the twinkling lights. She had missed him so much, especially these previous days...

Those days had been short, but it was as if a thousand years had gone by; so much had been altered in her life. She had always been surrounded by love, had never been exposed to real hate. Of course there had been conflict in her past. Fights, too. But never hate. Certainly, she had never encountered a hatred as blasting and condemning as that that smouldered in the blazing eyes of Horak, that old Techo, Head Champion of Neo-Rak, martial art of violence.

The Neo-Rakarr. Despite the Aisha's normally rather passive and gentle nature a knot tightened in her stomach as she thought of them. Their philosophy of selfishness and cruelty had haunted her ever since she had returned home. She thought of poor Otau, the young Nimmo they had rescued from that dreaded place, remembered his fear, his pain... She thought of the Neo-Rakarr whom she had tried to reach through her lifeforce energy...remembered that it was as if they were on the opposite side of a closed, locked door, shutting out their feelings... She remembered the old Techo, how he had exulted as she and Otau were led to what would have been their deaths...

The Neo-Rakarr had taken her away, mistaking her for someone else. The old Techo himself had thought she was someone else, someone he hated. He had danced around her, mocked her, spat at her, hated her...

And he would have disposed of her, too, and Otau along with her, without a second thought. She had mentally chided herself so many times since then for letting herself be captured, for risking both hers and Otau's lives, for wanting to know why the Neo-Rakarr had wanted her so badly. If it hadn't been for Kokyu...

The thought of the blue Aisha gave her temporary relief from the hardness in her gut. He had been such a friend over the past few days. He had taken over the class for the previous few days following their return from the Forgotten Mountains, leaving her to her own thoughts in the spare dormitory. The times that he did run into her, perhaps when she left for a slow stroll outside to think or mull over events, he always had a smile and a friendly pat on the shoulder for her, his lifeforce energy flowing into her with his touch, reassuring her that he'd be there if she needed him. And how she had.

He had taken care that she was left by herself, both by the rest of the training hall - Marko, the Senior Kougra, the curious, anxious white-belts, the rowdy Petpets - and himself. Though she had appreciated this for a time, she found herself wishing that she could see them all again.

Otau was the only pet she had spent any proper amount of time with for the past few days. He and she were alike: they both knew the true nature of the Neo-Rakarr. Though the Nimmo was gentle and soft-spoken to the rest of the training hall, he nonetheless harboured inner scars from his time with the Neo-Rakarr, which flared up from time to time. She helped ease his pain, pushing her soothing lifeforce energy into him, burning away the bad memories with its cleansing fire each time they returned. She, too, found comfort in this exercise; it was as if she was purging the poison from her own scars by cleansing Otau's. But perhaps the pain would always return to haunt them both, even after the wounds had long faded and healed over by time.

All of a sudden it became clear to her that she missed spending time with all she held dear... with Kokyu, with Marko, and with the white-belts - no, wait, they would be blue belts now. Kokyu would have distributed their new belts already, knowing him. She hadn't been for the presentation ceremony, hadn't watched the students she had trained with her own paws receive their first belts. She hadn't even seen Nage, her faithful Meekins, for so long. She would have to get back to them. She would go, now. Her time of segregation in order to contemplate what she had seen had finally run its course. Now she must get back to her responsibilities. She turned, to make her way back into the depths of the jungle.

A cool breeze played about her ear-stalks. As she walked purposefully down the sandy path, it picked up, slowly. First it was a breeze, then a wind, and then suddenly it was a gale of such a force she had not encountered since the Forgotten Mountains. Yet it wasn't a fierce gale. It was so powerful, so powerful and strong, and somehow more gentle than the lightest and smallest of feathers falling.

It whirled her off her paws, carrying her along in its passing. She was startled, but oddly unafraid, and she flew with it as it lifted her higher. Higher, higher, up past the moon-tinted clouds, up to where the stars laughed and danced…

And then she was in the midst of them in the black velvet sky, as they whizzed around her like so many dynamic little sparkling suns. She floated, enthralled, watching them at their play.

Several of them were drawing together now. They were forming a shape... it was an Neopet of some kind, a sinuous, slender one, and it burned with the fire and energy of the stars, bold stripes of diamond brightness shimmering along its sides...

She gasped in astonishment and disbelief. It was the shape of a Kougra. A Kougra she knew.

The iridescent starry creature turned its face to her and smiled; spoke her name in a voice that echoed throughout the endlessly vast night skies.

Aihami.

'N-Naro-Master…'

And then she fell to earth.

***

Kokyu burst through the screen door, his eyes wide with concern.

"Aihami! Are you alright?"

The red Aisha groggily wiped a paw across her eyes. She was lying on the hard wooden floor of the spare dormitory. "Kokyu? What...what happened?"

He ran to her side, offering his paw. "You must have fallen out of your hammock...did you have a bad dream or-"

"Naro-Master!" Aihami burst out suddenly. She leapt to her feet.

The Blue Aisha looked at her in shock. "Naro-Master?"

"My Master, Kokyu," Aihami breathed, regaining her composure. "My old Master. I saw him."

"Saw him? What...where...when?"

"My dream, Kokyu. He was there...It must mean something is about to happen…"

She broke off, remembering. "What time is it?"

"The sun's been up for quite a while. We were just about to start class when I heard…"

"Good. Today, I'm joining you all."

Aihami grasped his paw. A new and purposeful brightness was shining from her eyes. He could feel her lifeforce surging under her skin, with more vitality than he had felt from it for so long.

"Kokyu-Master," called Marko's voice from the training hall. There was the scuffle of paws, and presently the Kougra's blue, dark-striped head appeared around the screen door, followed by a gaggle of curious Junior Students, as they should be called now.

"What's the matt... Aihami-Master!"

A ball of apricot fur bounced past the throng into the room, squeaking wildly and happily, and leapt up to Aihami's shoulder, nuzzling her cheek with a quivering nose.

Aihami smiled widely at all of them, as she reached up a paw to scratch Nage on the head. "Come on, all of you. Let's get this class started."

With whoops of joy, the Juniors made their noisy way back to the training hall. Turning her smile upon Kokyu, Aihami tugged on his paw with all the eagerness of a kit.

"Let's not keep them waiting, Master."

Joy and relief flooding his being in a welcomed torrent, Kokyu let himself be led to class.

***

Late that night, after the Juniors had gone to bed, Aihami and Kokyu sat up talking in the training hall.

"You really saw your Master?"

"Yes, Kokyu, I did. I know I did. Even though he was all made out of stars, and he looked like some kind of strange new faerie creature, I knew it was him. I'd know Naro-Master anywhere. You know, the funny thing is, it didn't feel like a dream, somehow, at least not like any other dream I had. I know it's crazy, but it felt...real."

"Maybe he wants to tell you something? Maybe there's something we should know?" Suddenly he snapped his paw.

"The red-clothed pets...the Neo-Rakarr, did you call them? Maybe it has something...to..."

"Yes, Kokyu. Maybe it does."

She rose, her face solemn. "Well, let's get to sleep. Maybe he'll come again tonight..."

To be continued...

 
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