The Kacheek Club: The Haunted Teahouse
"I can't wait to visit the Lunar Temple!" Xana the Disco Kacheek showed her friends a battered piece of parchment with pictures of the different positions of Kreludor. "I've studied all week for this moment."
"Oooh, maybe we'll get to meet Chef Bonju!" Sarina, a Cloud Kacheek, chirped.
"Ew, who'd want to?" Bridgette the Faerie Kacheek reasoned. "I heard he's really touchy since Neopians are always trying to test out different recipes with his cooking pot."
"I totally wanna see the legendary Cyodrake's Gaze exhibit." Gwen, who was an Island Kacheek and the leader of the Kacheek Club, grinned excitedly.
"I remember visiting Shenkuu while I was still a youngster," the Eyrie cab driver said, steering the driving wheel slightly to the left, "I suggest going down the Waterfall of Luck in a barrel. Ya see, my college buddies dared me to go down that waterfall, and they were mighty amazed when they saw me emerging from the barrel... alive."
"Re-ally?" Gwen tried to sound interested while the rest of the Kacheek Club burst into giggles. She made a mental note to put the Eyrie's suggestion at the bottom of the list. After all, it had taken weeks for the Kacheek Club to persuade their parents to let them go on a trip to Shenkuu (Xana even had to promise her parents that she'd read all of the Shenkuu information books available when they got there), and Gwen definitely wasn't going to ruin the experience by going down a waterfall in a wooden barrel.
"Yup. Those were the days," the Eyrie muttered to no one in particular. After he swerved sharply to the right to avoid a stray Dandan, the Kacheek Club gasped at what lay ahead.
Right in front of them lay the Feng Shui Hotel. It wasn't as ancient-looking as the rest of the hotels in Shenkuu because it was practically new; however, it certainly didn't lack any of the Shenkuu spirit. The Feng Shui Hotel was formed out of several pagoda-like buildings with gold triangular roofs. Red flags which swayed in the light breeze were perched on the top of each pagoda.
"It's... it's... beautiful!" stammered Bridgette, looking up at the hotel as if she had just met Hannah the Usul in the Neopian Plaza.
"I can't wait to take a look at the inside," Xana agreed, rubbing her paws together in anticipation.
When the Kacheek Club entered their hotel room, they all agreed that the inside of the Feng Shui Hotel was even more spectacular than the outside. The walls of the room were painted with red paint, and the highly-polished glass windows had ornate gold frames. Four beds with dark red bedspreads and fluffy feather pillows lined the left wall. The paper lanterns which hung from the ceiling finished off the look.
"This place is so cool on so many levels," Gwen said, dragging her suitcase over to a bed.
"I love Shenkuu!" squealed Sarina, who was jumping up and down on her bed.
"Look at this!" Xana held up a red brochure with gold trim that was entitled Shenkuu Sights. "It has all sorts of interesting places that we can visit. Let's stop here for lunch." She pointed to a small red square on the brochure map that was close to the Feng Shui Hotel location. "Red squares mean restaurants," Xana explained once she saw Bridgette's puzzled look.
"No, it's not that," Bridgette said slowly. "Why isn't the Feng Shui Hotel marked on this map?"
"Maybe they forgot to add it," suggested Sarina.
"Or it could be because of the fact that this brochure was manufactured in Y2." Gwen pointed to the bottom left-hand corner of the map. 'Made in Y2' was written in minute writing.
"Ohhh." Xana shrugged. "Oh well, I'm positive that this restaurant is right next to the hotel. We'll only have to walk for a few minutes, then we'll reach it."
"What if it closed down or something?" Sarina asked.
"Imposs." Bridgette waved the idea away. "Hey, why don't we just go right now? I totally want to taste some Shenkuu-themed food right now."
"Great idea." Gwen handed out their sweaters, then they headed out to the restaurant.
"Okay, is it me, or is every single building in Shenkuu beautiful?" Bridgette gazed wistfully up at the restaurant. It was shaped like an enormous teapot, even down to the chimney smoke swirling out of its spout. Delicious, tantalizing smells of tea cakes and sandwiches wafted out of the entrance to the restaurant.
"What are we waiting for? Let's go!" Before anyone could say anything, Sarina dashed ahead of the group and pushed open the door. Pretty soon, the Kacheek Club was right behind her.
"Ummm... where is everyone?" Gwen exchanged puzzled looks with her friends. The restaurant, which had looked so inviting at first, turned out to be completely empty. Sure, the mouth-watering cakes and biscuits looked as good as new inside their display cases, and Shenkuu-themed music was playing through the speakers, but there were no customers or staff in sight.
"Maybe we'd better go," Xana whispered. The empty teahouse was starting to give her the creeps.
"No way. I'm practically starving now, and those cakes look really good." Sarina walked past the bamboo tables and chairs and looked around the empty counter. "Um, hello? I'd like to order, please," she said, eyeing the deserted cash register.
"Okay, you're right, Xana, I think it's time to leave." There was a note of panic in Bridgette's voice.
"Agreed. Sarina, let's go." Gwen was about to walk towards the Cloud Kacheek and pull her along but stopped dead in her tracks.
A ghostly Aisha floated through the 'Staff Only' door and over to the cash register. She smoothed her flowered apron and said in a serene voice, "Hello, and welcome to the Good Fortunes Teahouse. My name is Isabelle, and if you need any sugar or cream with your drink, then feel free to ask me. Now, what would you like to order today?"
Gwen, Bridgette, and Xana all had looks of terror upon their faces. They could tell that Isabelle wasn't just a normal Aisha that was painted with a Ghost Paint Brush.
"Do... do you think she's an actual g-ghost?" whispered Xana anxiously.
"From the looks of her, yes." Bridgette gulped nervously.
Sarina, however, didn't seem unnerved. She glanced at the menu plastered on the wall above her and said, "Hmmm... I think I'll take a Chamomile Tea, please. Anything for you guys?" Sarina turned around and faced her friends.
"N-no, thanks," stammered Gwen.
"One Chamomile Tea coming right up. Please take a seat at one of the bamboo tables." Isabelle's red eyes wandered longingly over to the door of the Good Fortunes Teahouse, but as if to snap back into reality, she quickly began making the tea.
"Sarina, let's get out of here now," Xana said in a nervous voice. She quickly glanced at Isabelle to make sure that the ghost was still making the tea, then continued, "Isn't it a little freaky that Isabelle is a real ghost?"
"But you were the one that insisted on coming here in the first place," Sarina argued back. "Besides, Isabelle doesn't look like the 'evil' type of Neopian."
"That's exactly the point!" whispered Gwen. "Isabelle isn't a Neopian. She's a ghost!"
"Your tea is ready, ma'am."
The Kacheek Club turned around and gasped in unison. Isabelle was standing behind them, clutching a tray with a white china tea cup embroidered with delicate blue flowers.
"Great!" Sarina took a seat at the bamboo table. "Oh, by the way, my name's Sarina. Here's Gwen, that's Xana, and the Kacheek who's biting her nails is Bridgette."
After exchanging a round of worried glances, the rest of the Kacheek Club joined her at the table.
"Would you like sugar with your tea, Ms. Sarina?" asked Isabelle, watching intently as Sarina took a small sip of the tea.
"Sure!" After Isabelle floated away to add the sugar, Sarina said, "Don't you think it's a bit weird how this place is deserted?"
"Hmmm, I can't possibly imagine why," Xana replied sarcastically, rolling her eyes.
"I know, me either." Sarina nodded, evidently not realizing that Xana was being sarcastic. "Maybe it has to do something with their location?"
"Sarina, listen to me," snapped Bridgette, "Isabelle is a ghost. The Good Fortunes Teahouse is haunted. Haunted places don't get many visitors."
Sarina was about to reply, but Isabelle was back with her tea.
"I hope I added enough sugar, Sarina."
Gwen noticed a small secretive smile creep onto Isabelle's face. Nudging Bridgette and Xana, she pointed it out.
Sarina took a gulp of her tea. "Mmmm, deee-lish." She wiped the excess tea off of her mouth with her paw.
Then it happened. Sarina's eyes went blank and she fell sideways out of her chair. Isabelle floated right above Sarina and began swirling and twisting into Sarina's head, as if the Cloud Kacheek's mind had suddenly opened and was emitting an angry black hole.
"Sarina!" Bridgette gasped and slapped her paw over her mouth. She couldn't believe this was happening.
"What do we do?" Gwen urgently asked Xana.
"I don't know! I didn't even realize that ghosts could do this sort of thing!" cried Xana.
As soon as it had begun, it suddenly ended. Isabelle was nowhere in sight. Sarina stood up from the floor, her eyes closed.
"S-Sarina? Are you okay?" asked Bridgette.
"Better than ever, Bridgette." Sarina opened her eyes. Her glowing, red eyes, that is.
"What's happening?" Xana demanded. "Isabelle, you took over Sarina's mind, didn't you?"
"What a clever Kacheek," Isabelle/Sarina said. "You are right. This is all according to plan."
"What plan?" asked Gwen.
"My plans to escape the Good Fortunes Teahouse forever," Isabelle whispered softly. "For ages I have been trapped inside this teahouse, waiting for a customer to come in."
"Wait... let me guess, you added something into Sarina's tea that would let you take control of her mind, right?" Xana said skeptically.
"Correct. This whole story began when I went to the Good Fortunes Teahouse to apply for a job," continued Isabelle, "My grandmother owned the teahouse at the time. The Good Fortunes Teahouse was the best restaurant for miles around, and my grandmother took pride in it. She had her own collection of expensive tea cups that were probably worth over two million Neopoints altogether. I enjoyed working at the teahouse for the first few days, but then I became bored with its atmosphere. I longed for a get-rich-quick plan so that I could finally explore all of the lands in Neopia. My clever grandmother knew that I had my eyes on the most expensive tea cup from her collection, and thus she warned me not to lay a paw on it."
"And then you stole your grandmother's tea cup and sold it at the Trading Post?" guessed Bridgette.
"Not quite. I managed to get her tea cup a week before she died. In her will, she said that she would like her tea cup collection to remain in the Good Fortunes Teahouse," Isabelle said, pacing back and forth. "I was full of guilt for months, wishing that I never had stolen the cup from my grandmother. I then hid it in the Grove of the Seven Sisters which is nearby. However, one thing I hadn't expected was that my grandmother placed a curse on the tea cup, trapping anyone who laid a paw on it in the Good Fortunes Teahouse for the rest of their life until they managed to find a way to return the tea cup back to the teahouse where it belonged. Thus, I was trapped in here because I wasn't able to go outside to bring the tea cup back."
"But what about Sarina? You obviously can't control her mind for the rest of her life," Gwen pointed out, "And plus, we want our friend back."
"I know you do. But please, please just let me go to the Grove of the Seven Sisters to bring back the tea cup. Once I do, then my ghost will finally be able to rest in peace and I can finally move on from the teahouse," begged Isabelle. "I'm really not trying to be the 'evil' person here, I promise."
"Ugh, fine," Xana grumbled. She still didn't trust Isabelle very much.
"Okay, let's see... The Grove of the Seven Sisters is only a walk away from this teahouse," explained Isabelle matter-of-factly. "I just hope it's still there. With all these new buildings and monuments in Shenkuu, it's becoming quite difficult to preserve our natural resources."
"Uhhh... this is awkward." Bridgette, Gwen, and Xana looked stunned. Even though they knew that the person talking was actually Isabelle, it was still a bit strange to see Sarina actually sounding smart.
"What? Is your friend Sarina not that intelligent?" asked Isabelle.
"Kinda," Gwen replied slowly.
"Well, we've got no time to waste. Let's get moving." Full of determination, Isabelle quickly exited the Good Fortunes Teahouse for the first time in centuries with the Kacheek Club at her heels.
"Is this it?" asked Gwen.
"Where are the seven sisters?" Bridgette looked around the area. All she could see was seven pink apple blossom trees lining the grove.
"These are the seven sisters." Isabelle gestured to the trees.
"Riiight." Bridgette nodded slowly. "I knew that."
"So you hid the tea cup in one of these trees?" Xana walked over to the first tree and started searching around its trunk and in its branches. The rest of the Kacheek Club joined in.
A few minutes later, Bridgette's voice broke the silence. "Isn't this box the cutest thing ever?" She showed her friends an old wooden box with gold trim. "I found it in the last tree."
"You... you found it!" Isabelle squealed in excitement and took the box from Bridgette. "This is the box that contains the tea cup. Once I touch it, then it shall be returned to the teahouse."
"And we get Sarina back?" asked Xana.
Isabelle nodded. "I'd just like to thank all of you for helping me find the box."
"You're welcome," Gwen, Bridgette, and Xana said in unison.
Isabelle opened the lid of the box. A small, delicate tea cup was nestled in the velvet lining. It was a light shade of lavender and had baby pink-colored flowers on it. The Kacheek Club gasped and started whispering to each other excitedly.
"Oh, that is so cute!"
"No wonder it's worth a lot of Neopoints!"
"Oooh, I wonder if Osiri's Pottery sells any like these..."
"Once again, thank you." Isabelle smiled at them, touched the tea cup, then her ghost came out from Sarina's body. The afternoon sun rays shone through her, and she became lighter and lighter until finally she was gone.
Sarina groaned and opened her eyes. "So, what'd I miss?" She grinned excitedly.
"Just the weirdest adventure of our lives," muttered Bridgette, still staring at the place where Isabelle once stood.
With one last look at the Good Fortunes Teahouse from the distance, the Kacheek Club turned around and began walking towards the Feng Shui Hotel in silence.
I hope you guys enjoy reading this story! Feedback is appreciated!