Folds, A Shenkuu Legend
This is a legend of Shenkuu, the land of mountains and clouds. It is a story of two Shoyrus, and many paper Quintilcs.
In the illustrious land of Shenkuu, paper meant many things. Scrolls of wisdom that mapped the stars and moon were written on paper. There were swords, helmets, and throwing stars were made of paper sold at the Weapons shop.
There was even a petpet with affinities to paper, the Quintilc.
And along with the petpet, there was a festival. Every year, just as summer was beginning to slip away and the nights would begin to grow longer, a celebration was held to welcome in tourists and to welcome in the first full moon of autumn. The Quintilc, Shenkuu’s symbol of friendship, was a common sight during this festival.
The festival also had a contest.
The task, year after year, was to fold one hundred paper Quintilcs and display them in the courtyard of the Lunar Temple. The creations would then be judged, and a winner would be chosen based on not only the beauty of the display, but the heart that went into it as well.
However, as time wore on, heart began to have less and less influence over pure perfection.
Yue, the royal Shoyru, took advantage of that.
She spent her time honing her skills alone in her lofty mansion among the finer houses of Shenkuu. There were whispers that she used only the finest gilded paper, and settled for nothing less than perfectly folded creations. But nobody knew these things for sure, as Yue kept to herself and rarely associated with others outside her home. She never passed on her skills to others, and she kept all of creations.
Every year she would attend the festival, and every year she would win the contest. Gradually most of her competition thinned out or disappeared. After all, her paper Quintilcs were never anything less than coldly, calculatedly perfect.
With the approach of yet another Quintilc festival, it seemed that the year had finally come where Yue would have no opposition at all in the contest.
That is, until a certain cloud Shoyru appeared in the city one day...
“Tai, will you help me fold the wings? Please, Tai?” A young Kacheek asked, holding up a half-finished paper Quintilc to his teacher.
“Of course. Here, this is how it is done...”
No one knew where he came from or why, but Tai the cloud Shoyru was a kind soul, and those of Shenkuu welcomed him. He lived among the common villagers, but still was a skilled origami folder in his own right. The colored paper he used was a common, simple kind, but he taught young neopets to fold Quintilcs and often gave away his creations to spread the message of friendship among neighbors and friends.
Yue hated him.
Tai had only been living in Shenkuu for a few weeks, but Yue couldn’t stand the cloud Shoyru’s philosophy. She heard stories of him from the villages, of the cloud Shoyru who folded simple creations that inspired greater meanings; the cloud Shoyru who shared his knowledge and cared more about the fun of folding than perfection.
Yue couldn’t understand—she had always developed her skills alone.
She would often look around her mansion, decorated abundantly with her perfectly-folded shining Quintilcs, and wonder if Tai could surpass them with average folding technique. She herself had spent hours alone folding, straightening every little crease that she made; settling for nothing less than flawless.
How dare that cloud Shoyru try to upstage her perfection with heart?
But Yue was patient, and she told herself to wait. At the festival, if Tai entered the contest, she would put him in his place.
“Watch where you’re going!” Yue sneered at a commoner who had accidentally bumped into her on the way to the Lunar Temple. A frightened-looking Xweetok ran back into the crowd, and Yue continued resolutely on.
She finally reached the Temple a few moments later. Muttering irritably to herself, Yue carefully set her display case on a table in the courtyard. She then took a seat next to it, waiting. Alone.
As predicted, Tai had showed up. However, he was not carrying a display of any kind, nor did he seem nervous at all. Both of these observations irked Yue. She would show him not to act so nonchalant in the presence of a superior folder.
The royal Shoyru fingered the silk screen that hid her display from view.
When all of Shenkuu had gathered at the Temple to watch the fireworks of the festival, the contest began. It was a relatively simple process, but nevertheless the crowd was tense. No one knew exactly what to expect.
Yue, however, stepped forward first and proudly pulled back the silk screen to reveal her masterpiece—one hundred shining paper Quintilcs, folded skillfully from the finest gilded paper Shenkuu possessed. A sparkling metallic rainbow met the crowd’s eyes, dazzling them. The villagers breathed inwards as one, so flawless was the royal Shoyru’s creation.
Looking smugly at Tai, Yue basked in the glory of her work. It had taken her many painstaking hours to fold each paper Quintilc perfectly and arrange them into a careful pattern of a flower, and she had a feeling that she had already won.
The villagers looked to Tai, who rose from his seat, bowed to Yue, and stepped into the courtyard. In his hands was a single silver paper Quintilc.
Yue, trying her hardest to be polite, stifled her smirk; but then Tai pulled several smaller paper Quintilcs from his robes. They were folded from simple pieces of colored paper; not as solidly perfect as Yue’s creations, but not clumsily made either.
Tai began setting his paper Quintilcs on the floor of the courtyard, and beckoned to someone in the crowd. A little Kacheek wandered up to him, a paper Quintilc in his hands. He placed it on the ground lovingly, and stood by Tai. The cloud Shoyru beckoned once more to the crowd, and another neopet came and placed their Quintilc beside the others on the ground.
One by one, each villager stepped forward to place a paper Quintilc next to Tai’s. From the merchants to the nobles, from the shopkeepers to the commoners, each neopet that came forward added their own piece to Tai’s work of art. Each paper Quintilc was made from simple colored paper, but the promise that each had to its owner outweighed the material value.
In the end, when everyone stepped back, it was revealed that the word “friendship” had been outlined on the ground in paper Quintilcs. Each villager smiled at the creation of hopeful color that spoke the true message of the paper petpet; and Tai nodded to himself, satisfied.
Yue, however, lowered her head.
She knew she had lost.
When the sun had set and the villagers had brought their paper Quintilcs back to their homes, Yue was still at the temple, packing away her display.
The royal Shoyru sighed. Those countless hours spent making every fold perfect, the quality of the paper she had used... it meant nothing. Nothing, next to heartfelt kindness that each creation of Tai’s possessed.
Yue was beginning to leave when she realized that someone was standing behind her. She turned around impatiently, hoping that she could go home soon to forget today’s embarrassment. She hoped that whoever wanted to talk to her would just leave her alone.
It was Tai.
Yue’s eyes narrowed. “What are you doing here?” She was surprised that he wasn’t surrounded by the young neopets that always looked up to him.
The cloud Shoyru shrugged, holding up something up to the late evening light. It was the silver paper Quintilc; the most precious of his creations.
“I have one extra to give away.” He offered it to Yue.
Yue hesitated. “I... I can’t accept this,” the royal Shoyru murmured, pushing away the folded Quintilc. Her voice was uncharacteristically shaky; she couldn’t understand why. “I don’t deserve it.”
Tai shook his head. The cloud Shoyru smiled gently, easing the silver Quintilc into Yue’s hands.
“Everyone deserves a friend.”