A Sea of Fantasy
Linked to "Dream an Ocean Away" from issue #346
Swirls of crystalline water swam across the lake, past the lily pads and the lotus flowers that had bloomed at last. The thick, summer air was cooled by one last spring wind, spinning through the cattails and the leafy cherry trees. But still, amid all of the novelty, remnants of the past autumn littered the grass; leaves that crunched as they were crushed by the shoes of royalty.
Ruru Xiyang, a beautiful yellow Wocky with long magenta curls and dandelion fur, loved this place. It was her thinking spot—a place where she could reflect on anything and everything without having to deal with the people of the palace. She appreciated the scenery and tranquility that the lush forest offered her. It was a haven from the rigid, demanding life that she lived in the palace, and it also happened to be the place where she wrote her weekly letters to her stepsister, Nayuma. That lucky girl. The Xweetok was probably enjoying her freedom somewhere far from the mountains that protected Shenkuu and all of its tedious customs.
Her robin-blue eyes fixed on the blank sheet of rice paper on her clipboard, its white, nutty texture having grown all too familiar in the months since Nayuma’s departure. She had been closer to Nayuma than even her “real” sisters. They had shared that same feeling of misplacement, even though Ruru herself was born into the royal family. She could only imagine how Nayuma must have felt about her place in the palace. She had seen all of the dirty looks that were given to her, heard all of the gossip about how she was still an Island savage that was plotting to overthrow the Emperor.
Her quill, black with ink, quivered in her paw as she pondered what to write about this time. She had to come up with something interesting to tell Nayuma, but what could she write about, really? It was the same old story every week; the Emperor still missed Nayuma and was occasionally caught staring off into space, presumably thinking about her. That she, Ruru, thought her father’s dreams for Shenkuu were too idealistic. The festival they had celebrated, a random birthday party she had been forced to attend, how she wished they could see each other again. That was her life in a nutshell, week by week. Her eyes grew dull as she realized the uneventful things that composed her life, those that she had come to consider “normal.”
She’s probably out there somewhere, saving the world, helping the poor... Nayuma was in Neopia doing something, and Ruru was required to sit pretty and wait twenty years or so before she could inherit the throne and do anything at all.
Nayuma had been different. She didn’t want to wait, Ruru concluded. She didn’t want to have to wait to make something of her life. She left because being princess wasn’t worth the wait.
The thought frightened her. What was she still doing, then, waiting in the palace? Was it truly worth it? The Chrysanthemum Throne? Having to put on even stronger façades than she already did? Being bound by the tradition that was marked in her blood?
She set down her quill and inhaled deeply, not quite ready to convey everything she was feeling to Nayuma just yet. I don’t want to. She didn’t want any of it—the status, the silk clothes, the headdresses, the money. She wanted to be like Nayuma, free as can be, without any tiresome obligations.
The question was, could she be like Nayuma? Would her father accept it if she decided to leave, too? What would her excuse be? “I don’t want to take responsibility as the heir of the Chrysanthemum Throne?”
She didn’t know. She didn’t even know what she should think anymore—she was thinking way too much. Her head throbbed, signaling the headache that she could already feel settling in.
Her guilty eyes shifted to the lake, which had stayed as still and undisturbed as glass. Occasionally, a wave rippled the surface, but the scenery remained peaceful. They were small waves, after all; tiny details that made almost no difference when it came to the big picture.
But Ruru wasn’t like that, no; she was a huge wave, due simply to the fact that she had royal blood flowing within her. Nayuma didn’t have that, and she would never have that, no matter how much the Emperor loved her. She had been adopted; she was not a domino in the line of royal heritage. If she fell, she wouldn’t break anything. If she left, it wouldn’t mean anything, at least, as far as tradition went. If Ruru were to leave, though, it would be a whole different story. The chain of dominoes would undoubtedly collapse.
After all, she was Ruru Xiyang, the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne of Shenkuu. Whether she liked it or not, everyone in her family would be affected by whatever she did. If she said something embarrassing in public, the family would be put to shame. If she committed some atrocity, the family’s reputation would be tainted forever. She was a big deal. Even if she made a simple mistake, one that would have been easily overlooked if she were a commoner, someone would somehow end up making a newspaper headline out of it.
And that’s when she realized that she couldn’t leave. It would be much too shameful, much too selfish. What was she doing, wallowing as she was in selfishness, considering only her own desire to be free? It was time to put a stop to her childish fantasies. No amount of freedom or excitement could ever overtake the consequences of departure for her family, no matter how much she wished it would. And with that, her eyes shut in defeated realization.
A wind, moist and cool, whipped past her long, magenta tresses, singing to her the first notes of a summer tune. The cherry trees rustled; the lake’s water danced. Although it was late, the sky had just begun to redden, painting the clouds in the horizon crimsons and pinks. It was only the beginning of the late summer sunsets, and Shenkuu’s tradition of late-night walks that accompanied those.
Amid the novelty of the season, though, something had been lost. In the depths of the orange sun, squeezed into the crevices of the mountains, something else was setting. A heart was sinking to a place beyond the blooming lotus flowers.
As Ruru picked up her quill, for the first time in her life, after all of the dirty looks and gossip which she had avoided years earlier due to her heritage, she felt an immense envy towards Nayuma.
Nayuma, who had been allowed to become Zalea Labelle instead.
- - -
June 11, Y10
How have you been? Are you still enjoying yourself? What have you been doing? How are your petpets? Are you well? Do you need me to send you anything? Supplies? Books? Anything at all? I have nothing to write today, as you can see. And you’ve probably noticed that I never do; it’s all just useless rambling, anyway... But I can’t be like you, Nayuma. I can’t, no matter how much I want to be.
Chrysanthemum Throne of Shenkuu