The Dark Faeries' Apprentice: Part Five
“So who wanted to talk to me?”
The silence in the living room had been broken. Neofaerie glanced up from where he lay curled behind the couch. Tick-tock said the clock. NSQ sat down cross-legged on the carpeted floor and made Happiness sit in front of her. The owner considered her pet for a few minutes, twirling a lock of thick black hair around her finger. Tick-tock.
“Who wanted to talk to me?” repeated Happiness. There was a clueless smile on her face, and her voice was full of innocent curiosity. Tick-tock. She waved her ears from side to side as she waited. “Nesquuuu? Are you sleeping?”
“Happiness, you can’t go near Denriada,” said NSQ suddenly. Her fingers tightened around her strand of hair.
There was a thump as Neofaerie stood up. He came around the couch, and in spite of himself, posed his question to NSQ. “What was that?”
“No, that’s not what I meant to say!” said NSQ, a hint of anger in her voice. She slapped a hand to her face. “I... Happiness, don’t you remember Denriada? Don’t you remember... what she did?”
“Has Happiness been with Denriada?” demanded Neofaerie, his tail swishing from side to side agitatedly.
Happiness blinked innocently. “I thought she said that she had changed?”
“Ugh!” Neofaerie slammed a paw against the floor. “Happiness! You can’t believe everything that people say!”
“Why would she lie to us?” asked Happiness, getting more and more bewildered.
NSQ placed her hands over the Cybunny’s tiny paws. “Happiness, just be careful, alright?” she said. “We don’t know for sure that she’s changed. Not even Neoangel does. If you want to talk to Denriada, make sure that you’re not alone. In fact, it’s best just to leave her be.”
Happiness pouted. “Won’t she be lonely?”
“Maybe not,” countered NSQ. “There are some people who just prefer being alone, Happiness. They function better that way. It’s best to simply let those people be by themselves. Do you understand, Happiness?”
“Sure,” chirped the Cybunny, looking out the window distractedly. “Ooh, it’s a nice day for a picnic! Makes me want to eat cookies.” She giggled, stood up and skipped off.
NSQ stared after her and let out a sigh. “Do you think she got a single word of that?”
Instead of answering, Neofaerie sloped back to his spot behind the couch.
Giving up again, NSQ picked up the Neopian Times yet again.
An hour later, Denriada looked up from her first journal entry with a start. Someone was coming back up the stairs. She waved the leaf frantically in the air to stop it from smoking, and shoved it under her mattress again. She had been reading the paragraphs over, adding on and correcting. Denriada sat back down just as Happiness poked her head above the stairs opening.
The Cybunny giggled, pressed a paw hurriedly to her mouth, and then tiptoed over to the makeshift bed, clearly trying to make as little noise as possible. When she was right up beside Denriada, she whispered loudly, “I think Nesqu likes you.”
Denriada didn’t answer. She gazed sadly at the floor, the owner’s frightened stare still etched in her mind. The family had every right to be scared. They had every right to forbid Denriada from staying in the house. ’Why am I still here?’ the Draik realized miserably.
“This room is pretty stuffy,” noted Happiness, bouncing gently on the mattress. “Why don’t you go outside?”
“Go... outside?” Denriada looked up, her back hunched over.
“Ye-es! See that window? It’s just big enough for Neoangel to fly through, and you’re around the same size as her. You must be bored, I know I am! We could go out for a while. I can show you around Neopia Central!” The Cybunny bounced over and hopped up onto the windowsill. “I know it pretty well, living here and all. NSQ said that when they built our neohome, Neofaerie really wanted to live on Mystery Island, but since she- Nesqu, I mean- was new in Neopia she wanted to be close to- Oh! I’m rambling again.” Happiness chuckled and nearly fell out the open window. “Well, Denri? Do you want to go?”
Do you want to go? It seemed like such a simple question, and Denriada truly wished that she could give a simple answer. Yes, I do. She did want to. No matter how much she deserved it, she didn’t want to stay imprisoned in this suffocating room. Who would? But only children could do things without considering the consequences. And Denriada... had not been a child for a very long time. It was best to stay quietly put and do what she was told.
“It’s a beautiful day,” said Happiness brightly.
It was. But Denriada huddled in the corner of her mattress. She had forgotten the consequences. She had done a terrible thing, and now she had to pay for it. Defeated, the Draik murmured in her tiniest voice, “No thank you.”
Happiness tilted her head. “Are you scared, Denri?”
Before Denriada could answer, she heard the door swing open loudly, and hurried footsteps were heard coming up the narrow staircase. NSQ entered through the opening in the floor again, crossed the room and snatched Happiness.
“Hiiii Nesqu,” the Cybunny greeted her. “Do you want to come out to play too? The sunshine is calling us!”
Denriada couldn’t help but stare. She might have just imagined it, but there was something different in the small pet’s voice. No, there was definitely something different between the way that Happiness had said hello to NSQ, and the way that the Cybunny had asked Denriada if she was scared. What was this? Just a show that Happiness put on, to make people think that she was dumb?
No... as Denriada watched NSQ carry the Cybunny stiffly to the door, the Draik knew that it was real. Happiness was real. And yet... she wasn’t as clueless as she seemed.
“By the way,” said NSQ suddenly, as if she had just made up her mind to speak. “Neoangel is back. Just so you know.”
“Okay,” said Denriada quickly. “Th-thank you.”
NSQ clomped down the stairs and shut the wooden door. Happiness in her arms, she made her way to the kitchen silently.
“Are you mad at me, NSQ?” asked Happiness cheerfully.
Unlike Denriada, NSQ was very much used to her pet’s quick personality change. “No,” she grumbled. “I know I can’t stop you from talking to people. You wouldn’t listen to me.”
Happiness beamed. “I like Denri. She’s very nice. A bit quiet, but I can tell that she means no harm.”
NSQ smiled in exasperation. “Never change, Happiness,” she chuckled, as they entered the kitchen.
Neoangel was sitting at the table, her arms folded. One of her paws was surrounded by a familiar glowing orange light.
NSQ sat down across from her and frowned. “Are you healing yourself?”
“It’s nothing,” replied Neoangel. “Where is Denriada?”
“She’s still in your room.”
“I thought so.” Neoangel nodded. “I suppose I’ll find something else for her to do. She cannot stay in my room all day.”
“I guess it is pretty boring,” muttered NSQ guiltily.
“No, I mean that she cannot stay in my room for too long,” Neoangel said mysteriously. “It smothers her and rejects her at the same time.” The Zafara didn’t elaborate.
“Cookies!” said Happiness suddenly, dragging NSQ off her chair. “I want to bake cookies! Come on, Nesqu!”
NSQ jerked upright. “Okay!” She looked slightly more cheery than before at the idea of baking. “Let’s make chocolate chip ones this time.”
Neoangel watched them. “I wonder... NSQ, do you mind if Denriada joins you? I hate to dump her on you, but suddenly I feel...” she nearly slipped off the side of the chair, “tired...”
NSQ rushed forward anxiously. “It’s fine, Neoangel. You just go rest, and we’ll take care of it.”
“Yes... thank you,” murmured the Zafara. She went into the next room, the living room. Leaning over the couch, she found Neofaerie in a sulking position. “Neofaerie... NSQ and Happiness are attempting to cook. May I ask you to keep an eye on them? We don’t want the house burning down.”
“Yeah,” grumbled Neofaerie, standing up, “I guess.” He trudged off to the kitchen.
Neoangel then went up to her room, where sure enough, she found Denriada sitting on her mattress. “Denriada, would you mind going down to the kitchen for now? I feel rather tired.”
“Umm, of course,” replied the Draik, standing up hastily. She clambered down the steps awkwardly and found herself in the main hallway.
Finally, Neoangel sank onto her mattress, rubbing her left arm wearily. She hated manipulating her family like this, but something had to be done. They needed to accept Denriada, now that Neoangel was almost certainly sure that the Draik had, after all, changed for the better. But Neoangel had very little time to bring Denriada and her family closer together.
The Zafara smiled dolefully. What was she thinking? Her family was friendly and always inviting. The only problem was that they had to forgive Denriada for something that she had already done to them, and that was never easy. ’It has started, though,’ she thought. ’It has begun.’
She felt a sudden sharp pain near her stomach. Gritting her teeth, the Zafara lay down. Her paw instinctively reached up to the cloak-clasp at her neck as she fell instantly asleep.
“I found the recipe!” said NSQ brightly, waving a piece of paper in the air. Her earlier worries seemed to have melted away for the moment, and she danced about the kitchen, searching for ingredients with Happiness. Neofaerie sat at the table, and he also looked slightly less grumpy as he flipped through a comic book.
“I found the peanut butter!” announced Happiness as she lifted the jar over her head with both paws.
“But we’re makick chockit chip cookith!” NSQ reminded her, a bag of sugar dangling from her teeth.
Happiness teetered dangerously on the edge of the kitchen counter. “We can make peanut butter chocolate chip cookies,” she suggested. “And with marshmallow fluff too!”
The owner was about to respond, but suddenly her eyes widened. “Oh!” she said in surprise. The bag of sugar dropped from her open mouth and landed on the tiled floor.
In the doorway of the kitchen, her head bent over and her paws clamped together, stood Denriada. “S-sorry,” she murmured. She sounded on the verge of tears again.
NSQ couldn’t speak for a few seconds. Then she remembered that she had agreed to let Denriada join the baking, and felt ashamed at once. “Uhh... well,” she stuttered.
Happiness giggled. “Sugar on the floor,” she sang.
NSQ looked down and saw that the bag had ripped open, spilling white sugar all over the floor. “Oh no!” she cried. “H-hang on, I’ll clean this up.” She bent down, realized that she had nothing to clean with, stood up again, grabbed a brush and dustpan and began to sweep. Neofaerie watched from the corner of his eye, his tail waving restlessly.
Denriada took a small step backwards. She hadn’t even entered the room, and the joyful mood had died instantly. People simply could not be happy around her. She couldn’t stand causing good people so much pain, not after what she had already done. It would be best if she stayed locked up somewhere far away from others...
NSQ was talking, but her voice seemed so far away to Denriada. Something about being clumsy, always dropping things... it wasn’t real. It didn’t matter.
All of a sudden, a voice broke into her thoughts, but not like a knife through butter, more like the sudden light when a candle is lit in the dark. “You’re finally here, Denri!” said Happiness. “Now we can start.”
Denriada stared at her for a while, the little rainbow Cybunny that seemed to be the only figure in the room, her smile as colourful as her fur. The Draik stepped back into the kitchen. “Yes,” she said quietly.
A pile of sugar sitting neatly on the dustpan in her hand, NSQ shot up. “Hah, I’m done,” she said, her face flushed. “Sorry. I always do this. Umm, it’s alright, we still have sugar in the cupboard! And, so, we have all the ingredients! We’re making peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, I guess...”
“Denri?” Neofaerie’s disgusted voice broke through his owner’s babbling. “What is that, a nickname?”
“Yes,” said Happiness merrily, “just like ‘Nesqu’ and ‘Faer’. Isn’t it pretty, Neofaerie?” She smiled, her light blue eyes looking directly at his chocolate brown ones.
The Kougra looked back at his comic without answering.
“So, let’s get baking!” coughed NSQ. She looked at the recipe. “Well, we need to break four eggs, get two cups of peanut butter, three and a half cups of flour...”
NSQ and Happiness started measuring ingredients. Denriada wondered for about four nanoseconds what she should do, but before she knew it she had a jar of peanut butter in one paw and a spoon in the other, and was being told to ladle it into a measuring cup.
“We’re using a lot more ingredients than usual,” noted Happiness cheerfully. “Do we get to put more chocolate chips in it too?”
“More is better,” replied NSQ. “We always eat them so fast. And we have more mouths to feed now!”
Denriada scraped the spoon against the edge of the measuring cup. The owner didn’t sound disappointed or irritated about having to make extra meals. It was a relief to Denriada to, for once, not be talked about as if she was a burden.
“You’re good at cooking, Denri,” said Happiness cheerfully.
To the Draik’s surprise, NSQ added, “Yeah, it’s tough to measure peanut butter.”
“Thank you,” said Denriada softly. She waited as the other two females finished their own tasks, chatting to each other and pouring ingredients into the big silver bowl. NSQ poured her flour over the edge of the bowl and into the sink. She announced that she was the clumsiest person in Neopia, and Denriada felt slightly better.
This was something that she could do, at least. She had always been good at cooking, cleaning, and other household chores. ’Something that Neoangel was never able to do properly.’ The thought broke free of its own accord, and Denriada felt guilty at once. ’So? She’s better than me at everything else,’ the Draik reminded herself viciously. ’Everyone is better than me. I’m useless. Useless, useless...’
Her hands shook uncontrollably over the measuring cup. As she tried fruitlessly to steady herself, NSQ glanced over. “Oh, are you cold?” Wrong. “Neofaerie, do you mind turning up the heat?”
The Kougra sniffed edgily, but stood up. He stalked over to the side of the counter, where Denriada was. “Move,” he growled. Too impatient to wait, he elbowed her arm away from the small box on the side of the wall.
“ARGH!” Neofaerie stumbled backwards, clutching his own arm. He seemed to be in pain, with his body low to the ground, his teeth clenched and his eyes shut tight.
“Faer? What’s wrong, did you burn yourself?” asked NSQ stupidly.
The Kougra didn’t answer. Opening his eyes just a little, he stared at Denriada in disbelief. She had dropped a wooden spoon on the floor.
Realizing that Neofaerie had not merely burned himself, NSQ bent down by his side and held up his arm. His outstretched nails scratched at her pants, but she didn’t seem to notice. She ran her fingers along his arm and asked hollowly, “Does that hurt?”
“No, it’s... it’s okay,” he panted. Tearing his gaze away from the Draik, he inspected his arm. There were purple lines etched into it, visible through his fur. At first they looked like gashes, but as he parted his fur, he couldn’t feel them at all.
Both Neofaerie and NSQ turned their faces towards Denriada. She trembled as she stared back at them, not able to look away. Her mouth hung open, her eyes wide and fearful.
“Denri didn’t do anything,” piped up Happiness. “I saw.”
“She could have used magic,” countered Neofaerie angrily.
“Let’s not jump to conclusions here,” started NSQ apprehensively, desperate to break off the conflict before it got ugly.
But it was too late. “Jump to conclusions!?” roared Neofaerie. “What other possibility is there, NSQ? It happened right when I brushed against her arm! You’re so ignorant!”
Right on time, Neoangel strolled into the kitchen. “Is there something wrong here?” she inquired calmly.
“Take a look at this,” snarled Neofaerie, throwing out his injured arm. Neoangel examined the cuts silently. She ran her thumb gently over his soft fur, and the cuts seemed to melt away.
“It will be fine,” she said cautiously. “They are already fading.” But she seemed quite perplexed. “I know what you all are thinking,” she said, looking up. “But Denriada did not do this. Well... she did. Before. When they first... met. Neofaerie was sent into the cursed lava by Denriada’s hand, so until he forgives her, they will not be able to touch each other without feeling pain.”
Denriada stretched out her arm, and the group finally noticed that she had vanishing plum coloured lines there as well.
“Do not be so quick to judge, Neofaerie,” finished Neoangel.
“Too quick to judge!?” repeated the Kougra in frustration. “What does it matter; it’s all the same in the end! It’s still her fault! Why won’t you listen to me!?” With that, he stomped away. They heard him pound down the hallway to his room and slam the door.
“Urghhh!” NSQ exclaimed. “He is so full of himself! I’m sorry, Neoangel.” She threw the tray of cookies into the oven haphazardly. Happiness started to clean up. Denriada still looked shaken.
“That’s alright. It was my fault. I should not have said that to him.” Neoangel drew her owner outside the kitchen. “You cannot blame him for the way that he is acting,” she continued quietly. “You must know how he feels. He only wants to protect us. It is very difficult for him to trust Denriada, and rightfully so.”
“I guess,” sighed NSQ. “I don’t know, it’s all very confusing. I don’t want Neofaerie to feel like no one is listening to him, but Denriada really does seem like she’s changed.”
“He will come around eventually,” the Zafara reassured her.
“Does that mean you think that Denriada is good now?”
“I did not say that.”
“You confuse me too,” NSQ groaned as they went back into the kitchen, passing a frozen Denriada.
Neoangel chuckled. “I don’t do it intentionally,” she said. She picked up Happiness and played with the Cybunny’s ears. “Happiness, how would you like to go to Meridell with me right now? We could stop by Meri Acre farms.”
“Oh, fun!” the Cybunny cheered. “Yes, I want to go!”
“Hang on,” started NSQ, putting one and one together.
Neoangel took Happiness to the door. “Is there something wrong?” asked Neoangel innocently.
The owner ran up to the door as well, flapping her arms wildly. “Wait!” she hissed in a low voice. “Oh Neoangel, you’re leaving me with Denriada? Come on, that’s just cruel! You know we’ll just sit across from each other for like hours and hours and every time I try to say something I’ll just end up squeaking nervously or rambling on and on in a really panicked way like I am right now and I’ll keep saying ‘like’ and-“
“Calm down, NSQ,” the Zafara said soothingly. “We won’t be gone for more then a few hours.”
“You can call us if you feel scared,” giggled Happiness.
“What!” said NSQ, hissing like a kettle. “Yeah, how am I supposed to do that? Send a message with Daydream? That thing is as slow as a rock, seriously, she doesn’t even move-” Her hair was practically standing on end.
“I’m sorry,” said Neoangel blandly, “we have to go now. Just relax and enjoy the rest of your afternoon. We’ll bring some fresh fruit and vegetables back, okay?”
She hefted Happiness higher in her arms and made her way through the grass. NSQ jittered by the door nervously. “You can’t do this, Neoangel!” she whispered loudly. “Please! I practically saved your life! Ahh, Happiness! You can’t leave me behind! Come on, I cook for you! Well, I try! Come back!”
But they left anyways, leaving NSQ standing awkwardly in the doorframe, a nearly empty house behind her and a former criminal in her kitchen.
To be continued...