The Magical Rubber Duck: Part Two
“W... w... what just happened?” Aleena finally managed. She viewed her surroundings in awe and confusion. “Where’s the tomb?”
“It’s gone,” Blaze marveled. “It was as if the tomb was never even here.” At that moment, Blaze’s words caught in his throat. He immediately turned his head toward Carissa. “What did you do?”
Carissa was dumbfounded. “Me? I didn’t do anything... I only wished the tomb would never be here... and...” Realization struck Carissa. “...and it seems it never was here.” She shot an alarmed glance at Aleena, then Blaze.
Aleena was taken aback. “You mean your wish came true? How on Neop...” Aleena immediately glanced at the item lying by Carissa’s foot. “Do... do you think it was that?”
Carissa followed her gaze. “The rubber duck?”
Blaze thought for a moment. “Well... the tomb did disappear when you stomped on it.”
“Well, that would explain why it was isolated on a pedestal in the middle of the deserted tomb,” Aleena mused.
Carissa slowly picked up the duck and dusted it off. She now looked at the duck like it was some sort of treasure. “...Well, there is a way to find out, right?” Carissa finally suggested. She paused for a few moments before drawing in a deep breath. “I wish that I...”
“STOP!” Blaze intervened. Carissa and Aleena froze and looked at him expectantly. Blaze took a moment to inhale and exhale before continuing. “Magical items almost always have a catch to them– a trick, a downside.”
Carissa seemed to ponder this thought before replying, “Blaze, it was in a deserted tomb at the end of a tediously long, winding path. That was the catch. Don’t you see? We’ve already braved the storm!”
“Carissa, how do we know that for sure?” Blaze asked her skeptically.
“We don’t,” Carissa said. “But...”
“And that’s why we shouldn’t chance it, Carissa,” Aleena interrupted. “This is how we got lost in the tomb, right?” Aleena chanced a swift glance at Blaze.
Carissa hesitated. “But we have probably the most powerful object on the face of Neopia! We can’t just ignore the gift that has landed right in our laps!”
“No. Carissa, we can’t just...”
But it was too late.
“I wish I was painted Faerie,” Carissa said, squeezing the duck and eagerly bracing herself. Once again, a tingling rippled through Carissa’s fur as her purple fur was suddenly splashed with a bright yellow. The lavender fur around her neck suddenly burst into a bright pink. A pair of vibrant, green wings sprouted from her back.
Blaze and Aleena stood aghast.
“Carissa! I can’t believe you just did that!” Aleena reprimanded.
But Carissa wasn’t paying attention. “Look at me! I’m beautiful!” Carissa twirled herself around, and craned her neck back to admire her lime-green wings.
Blaze’s expression portrayed clear annoyance at Carissa, but also a trace of relief that nothing bad had seemed to happen. “So you don’t feel funny or strange, Carissa?” Blaze asked doubtfully.
“Are you kidding?” Carissa asked, fluttering her wings in amusement. “I feel awesome!”
Blaze and Aleena shared a doubtful glance.
“Well, let’s just be thankful that nothing horrible has occurred... yet,” Aleena said, eyeing Carissa cautiously.
“Believe me,” Carissa assured Aleena. “This thing has no curse or whatever. Look what it did to me!” She squealed with excitement.
“Well, I’m glad it worked out for you,” Blaze started, obviously contemplating something. “But maybe we shouldn’t use it anymore, just in case.” Aleena nodded in agreement.
Carissa turned to her companions, astonished. “Not use it? Why not? We deserve something after plodding through that labyrinth for hours. After all, we should always make the most out of whatever’s given to us.”
“Since when were you the wise one?” Aleena teased playfully.
“Cut it out,” Carissa snapped, still admiring her wings. At that moment, a low grumbling was heard.
“Sorry, guys,” Blaze apologized. “I’m famished.” Then his eye caught sight of a trail of smoke rising upwards from what seemed like a cluster of huts just a few miles away.
Aleena followed his gaze. “A village,” she surmised. “It must be Mystery Island.”
“Food,” Blaze stated simply. He quickly stood up and shouldered his pack. The others followed suit. Blaze pointed. “That’s where we’re going... or at least my stomach says so.” He grinned sheepishly.
It took the threesome only a few minutes to reach the village. Smoke slithered upwards to the endless sky from the many small fires used for cooking. Bamboo frames were mounted over the multiple fires. Herbs and vegetables could be seen floating in the boiling, bubbling broth contained in large, bulky cooking pots hung on the wooden frames. Fruit was abundant both in the village stalls and the numerous trees surrounding the small village.
The trio was greeted by a tantalizing aroma that smelt of rich herbs and sweet, exotic fruit. Another stomach grumbling was heard, this time from Carissa.
“It smells so good...” Carissa said, eyeing the boiling concoctions yearningly.
“Let’s split up and find something to eat,” Blaze suggested. No one complained.
As the other two ran off, Aleena ambled casually through the small village keeping an eye out for anything delicious. After a while, Aleena happened upon a line of fruit stalls. Aleena walked up to one of the stands. Colorful fruits lined the shelves including Elppas, Azzles, Astrannas and Nurakos.
The shopkeeper, a yellow Techo, eyed Aleena cautiously. “Seven hundred neopoints,” he said plainly when Aleena reached for an Azzle.
Aleena quickly withdrew her hand, silently scolding herself about forgetting to pay, and fished through her pocket. She opened her fist revealing a few sparkling coins. “Four, five, six, six-twenty, six twenty-two...” She looked at the shopkeeper, crestfallen.
“Will you take 622 neopoints?” she pleaded.
“I don’t have that mu...”
“Sorry. No deal.” The shopkeeper turned away from Aleena and tended to another customer who had just approached the stall.
Aleena sighed and stuffed her neopoints back in her pocket. She decided to go wait at the rendezvous point on which the three had agreed. As she arrived, she saw both standing there with disappointed expressions.
“Not enough?” she guessed.
Blaze eyed Carissa and Aleena. “What if we pooled our neopoints?” he suggested.
“Yeah, that would be enough for one coconut we can share,” Carissa groaned. She paused before saying very slowly, “I think we should use... it.”
Blaze and Aleena shared an alarmed glance.
“No,” Blaze stated.
“I’m sorry, but no. It’s too risky,” Blaze was adamant. “Come on. Let’s go search for some cheaper food, even if it isn’t as delicious.” Blaze walked off without another word.
Aleena glanced at Carissa, and then briskly strolled off, following Blaze.
Carissa watched doubtfully as the two strolled off. She turned her neck to examine her wings - still as beautiful, translucent and vibrant as ever. “This thing can’t be that bad...” Carissa thought to herself. She quickly glanced around before whispering, “I wish my backpack was full of neopoints.” Carissa squeezed the rubber duck.
Immediately the prickling sensation overcame Carissa and she felt her backpack all of a sudden get dramatically heavier. Carissa smirked to herself and she felt the neopoints against her back. She quickly slipped off her backpack and looked inside at the sparkly, myriad neopoints. It was a goldmine.
Carissa quickly re-shouldered her backpack. “This should buy me an expensive meal... or three.” She grinned greedily.
And off she ran to the fruit stalls, stumbling with the newly acquired weight on her back.
Blaze and Aleena stood impatiently at the fruit stall where they had decided to spend their pooled neopoints.
“One thousand for those two Nurakos,” Blaze said firmly. The shopkeeper eyed Blaze for a long time before saying, “Sorry. One thousand three hundred or no deal.”
Blaze let out an exasperated sigh as he took back his neopoints from the counter. “What are we going to do?” he asked Aleena in desperation. “One fruit won’t be enough for both of us.”
Aleena didn’t get a chance to answer. Instead, a loud clattering was heard as a figure stumbled down the path towards them. Stray neopoints flew from her pack as Carissa hurried on as fast as she could. She stopped abruptly in front of the stall, bending over to catch her breath.
“Three thousand neopoints,” Carissa panted, slamming the neopoints on the counter. “Give us three of those.” She pointed to the Nurako.
The shopkeeper, still shocked at Carissa’s sudden arrival and the amount of neopoints she had offered, slowly took the fruit down from the shelves and handed it over. His gaze portrayed clear astonishment. Blaze and Aleena’s expressions were no different.
“I found them on the ground?” Carissa offered, looking clearly guilty.
“CARISSA!” Blaze and Aleena both scolded in unison. They quickly pulled her behind a tree.
“Carissa! I told you not to use it. There might be repercussions!” Blaze chided in a sharp whisper.
“Does it look like there are any repercussions?” Carissa asked, rolling her eyes. “Look, you were hungry, I solved the problem. You should be thanking me.”
“We won’t be thanking you if some curse befalls us all,” Blaze fumed.
“There is no curse!” Carissa snapped. “You’re so superstitious, Blaze. Now let me get up so we can eat, okay?” Carissa braced her legs under herself and pushed up. But she couldn’t move.
“Ugh, these neopoints are heavy,” Carissa grunted, still struggling to stand up. “Unusually... heavy...” Carissa slipped her pack off her shoulders in disgust.
“Who wants to carry them?” she asked, looking from one to another.
But Aleena wasn’t listening. She was opening the backpack. “Carissa...” Aleena started with a hint of worry in her voice. “These aren’t neopoints.” She glanced from Blaze to Carissa.
To be continued...