Dusk's Enterprise: Research Inc. - Part Four
I couldn’t help hanging out at the rails, watching the sea and wildlife sweep past beneath me. All my traveling over the summer hadn’t completely taken care of my hunger for things that were fascinating and new. And the warm, brisk sea breeze refreshed me like nothing else could have.
Twilight simply complained in an undertone about the brightness of everything and ducked into the shade.
Several tourists stared openly at us and some didn’t work very hard to conceal a level of hostility. Several protective grownups, both Neopian and Human, gripped their children and pets firmly and guided them to ‘safer’ spots on the boat.
I felt a small sting somewhere in my chest, but only for a moment. Then a Flotsam exploded to the surface, did a forward flip and plunged back underwater; leaving only the warm spray of water behind her flipping tail. Pleasure sang through me again as a group of them raced past my position to ride the waves that the front of the boat made while cutting through the ocean.
Several tourists were exclaiming excitedly and sprinting past to snap pictures of the playful Neopets. I smiled. Let them have their fun. It’s one thing to take pictures from above as they race along, keeping pace. It’s another to have one leap up right in front of you, close enough to catch the gleam of a merry eye and feel the spray of water from her flippers.
Mystery Island, one I can only guess was a ‘mystery’ because of all the jungle hiding most of it, is as hot as Tyrannia... and extremely humid. Twilight hid behind incredibly dark glasses and hopped off the boat.
I followed, breathing in the perfumed air hungrily. Exotic plants. Intoxicating flowers. Fragrant fruits. The tang of sea salt and seaweed. The hush of waves over sand. If I had been a Lupe I would have taken off right then and there, letting my nose drag me off to whatever discoveries it would dredge up.
As it was, Twilight actually had to come back and pull me along to get to the path leading to the Trading Post. “Come on, Dusk! Look, I know you got to go all over during the summer and the sun doesn’t bother you so much, but I’m still not used to this bright light.”
I couldn’t blame her, and I could see her eyes were starting to water from the sun reflecting on the white sand.
We ambled along, and I did my best not to hold my classmate back, but it’s so hard not to gawp like a tourist when you take a few steps and find yourself looking at a bright Jewel Blossom bigger than your head. Or have a butterfly the size of a dinner plate land on your nose... which itches like crazy, by the way...
Still we arrived at the Trading Post in good time and Twilight began searching for a Faerie Paint Brush and an Island Niptor. Remembering that I was the one writing the report for the entire group’s efforts, I scribbled notes like crazy. On her part, Twilight immediately perked up in the shade of the Hut where we were searching for items. She was in her element; hunting for items and getting the biggest results for her coins.
Twilight checked the asking prices for the Faerie Paint Brush, and then did a quick lookup to make sure the User hadn’t been offline for the whole week or anything.
“Okay,” Twilight glanced at me to make sure I was paying attention, “the cheapest Faerie Paint Brush is one million, seven hundred thousand Neopoints. We can’t afford to go chasing items to offer, so what I do is Neomail the User for a Neofriends Only auction so I can pay pure. This is usually the best way since most people like pure anyway.”
I waited while Twilight made the Neomail and sent it off.
“Next, we look up ‘Island Niptor’ and see what comes up.”
But that turned out to be a dead end, there weren’t any Island Niptors up for trade.
“Ahh, don’t get down,” Twilight reassured me cheerfully. “That happens sometimes. So we just buy the paint brush and the Niptor separately.”
Soon we had an Island Petpet Paint brush, worth about one hundred eighty thousand Neopoints, and a rather nasty little monster known as a Niptor, worth ninety five thousand Neopoints. The petpet made some rather loud spitting and snarling noises at us at first, and then just settled for a long drawn out hiss when it realized it couldn’t nip us from its carrier.
Twilight sighed irritably as she snagged the carrier by its handle – hisssssss – and turned away from the huts toward the jungle, trying not to jostle – grrrrrrrrrr – the travel cage too much – rrrrowr — and make the creature any more noisy than it already was.
Silently I thanked my lucky star, lucky faerie, and lucky charm that Obsidian was back in Brightvale with Migga. Darigan knew what kind of roar fest there would be with the two of them snarling petpet insults back and forth at each other.
As it was, Twilight yelped a few times as the petpet thrust a clawed paw through the bars and took a swipe at her hands. Between the ruckus the Niptor was making and the somewhat poorly marked paths we were trying to follow without getting blood drawn, it took us quite a while before we realized that we weren’t on the main path back to the dock.
“Hmm, maybe we should go back to that last – Ouch!” Twilight complained, “Why you nasty little... KNOCK IT OFF!” She smacked the top of the carrier sharply in combination with her angry snap. The carrier made a sharp ‘whack’ sound and the startled petpet fell silent.
“Thank you. If you would just stop being such a mean biter, I would have let you get some exercise, but noooo, you had to cop an attitude, so you know what? You can stay in there for a while!” I hid a smile as my classmate scolded the petpet like a misbehaving child.
The little creature cocked its head at her for a moment, either wondering what the strange Neopet was jabbering about, or actually considering the strange concept of ‘how I behave affects what I get?’
In the blessed silence, I looked around in the deepening shadows. “Okay, there was a sign about five minutes walk back that way.” I jabbed a paw in the proper direction. “I’m not afraid of the nighttime, but darkness does make it harder to read signs.”
Twilight nodded in agreement and we turned around to retrace our steps. The Niptor remained quiet for the whole five minutes and didn’t even try to bite one of us when we got too close.
Luck however, seemed as flighty as a leaf in autumn winds; the signs pointed in four different directions and the writing had faded away to practically nothing in the tropical weather.
“You two are lost, ya?”
I jumped and Twilight gave a muffled yelp. Even the Niptor gave a piercing whistle of surprise.
I turned around and saw an enormous Island Skeith standing on one of the pathways leading into the deepening darkness. The plants seemed to cast a sinister shadow on his features. I swallowed hard. He was a stranger, and he was bigger than either of us. But we were lost, and he could be our best hope to getting home before the last ferry took off for the mainland.
“Ah, yes, I think we’ve gone a little astray. Do you know the nearest path to the docks?” I managed to ask this without too much trembling in my voice.
The sinister face suddenly split into a boyish grin that changed his entire demeanor. “Ooh, you’re in luck. The path, it is quite close to here. You follow, I’ll get you there safely, ya?”
“Th-Thank you,” Twilight managed.
As we followed the Skeith along a new path, the shadows seemed to glide along his hide; sometimes sinister, sometimes simply there.
“I appreciate your help,” I offered by way of conversation as we continued walking and the first tang of the ocean came to my nose.
“Ahh, it’s all good. People say this Island is very big, but if you follow the beach, it all eventually comes around, and around and around again.” His voice was cheerful.
“Ooh, the finger point rule,” I said, catching on.
He glanced at me curiously.
“See,” I moved up so I could walk next to him, “all you do comes back to you more. Pretend you want to show me where food is.”
He immediately pointed to a tree where ripening fruit was hanging.
“Okay, now hold it. Look at your paw. Only one finger points at the food. Where do the rest of your fingers point back to?”
He glanced down in surprise and pleasure. “They point back to me.”
“So one finger points to help, but even more fingers will come back to you.” I held back from mentioning the other side of that statement. A finger pointed in anger or accusation also sent several fingers straight back at the accuser. No need to spoil the delighted expression on the friendly fellow’s face.
“Very good analogy,” he agreed happily, and banged a powerful hip against the fruit tree in question. “Then let me feed three of you food, for my own return in the future.” Several shaken Doughnutfruits plummeted down into his deft paws, which caught each one as they came down.
He passed them around and I couldn’t help but purr at the delicious smell wafting up from the treat in my paws. Ever helpful, the Skeith split a Doughnutfruit into pieces and passed then through the bars to the Niptor.
Either he got the idea that behaving was in his best interest or he was simply too hungry to bite fingers over food. The Niptor accepted the food without a snap or even a hiss.
“We’re close. You’re good company, but we may want to hurry if you want to catch the last ferry back,” the Skeith continued as we started walking again, with a slightly quicker pace.
“Oh yes, we have someone who will want to buy the things we got at the Trading Post soon,” Twilight agreed, swallowing the last crumb of her snack.
“Augh!” I exclaimed, clutching my head, “The Island stuff! We haven’t gotten the supplies for the display yet!”
“What do you need?” the Skeith asked immediately.
“Sand, palm fronds, shells... any old ones will do... and kelp.” I ticked them off worriedly.
“Is not a problem. You just breathe easy, ya? Those things are practically free and you can pick them right up on the beach.” Even as he spoke, we rounded a bend and found ourselves just a few feet from the dock.
Moving with a speed I didn’t think possible for such a big fellow, our guide bounded across the sand, scooping up some kelp from the shore.
I shoveled several pawfulls of sand into a small container while Twilight set down the carrier and bounded about, snatching up shells strewn about.
“Here,” the Skeith said suddenly. “This should be plenty for you.”
I save a small ‘oof’ as the Skeith handed over a small armful – which was a LOT by my standards – of items for us.
The boat gave a resounding blast at the docks, followed by the shout of “All boarding for the final ferry to Brightvale!”
“Ack... I... Thank you very much,” I said warmly to the friendly native. “You really helped us out.”
“It all comes around,” he replied, with equal warmth. “Now hurry, you do not want to miss your ride home.”
We waved goodbye to him from the rails and continued until the boat pulled away from the shore and the island was lost to the evening darkness.
“You know, we never did ask him for his name,” Twilight said, absently anchoring the petpet carrier on the deck with a foot.
“Somehow, I don’t think that was the important part of our meeting.” I smiled back.
To be continued...