The Art of Self-Centering
A neopet, green in color and a Kougra by nature, hurried down a long and winding pathway, directed towards Faerie City, giving hurried hellos and goodbyes to any passersby that he knew, obviously moving with a purpose. There was a wide, excited-looking grin on his face, as if he had recently won thousands of neopoints in some lucky drawing. He hadn't, but the feeling of sheer excitement and cheer that was coursing swiftly through him was similar, if not better, than one who would have. As strangely cheerful as this Kougra was, it was nothing if compared to the Zomutt perching on his shoulder, leaning forwards as if that would somehow help speed up the process of moving. The pair certainly looked motivated enough.
Hurry, Zarden, the Zomutt thought, glancing at the Kougra, smiling slightly, amused by his excitement it seemed.
"The city isn't going to vanish anytime soon," the Kougra retorted, head twisting toward the Zomutt as well. Somehow he was hearing the petpet's thoughts... He hurried nonetheless, and they approached the city gates within a few moments. A light faerie was lounging next to it, leaning against one of the great pillars surrounding the city and linking its walls. She stood hurriedly when she noted them approaching, shifting so that she was standing at attention. When the pair approached, she put her hands up, and the Kougra skidded to a halt with a slight grimace.
“Hold up, there,” the faerie said, chuckling. “You know what entry requires, kiddo. Name?” she asked.
“I’m Zarden, and my petpet’s name is Harringt- Er, Bitey,” he said impatiently, flashing red for a moment as he stuttered over his Zomutt’s name. He was unamused.
Bitey? he thought indignantly. Why did you change my name to ‘Bitey’ of all things?
Sorry, the Kougra apologized in his own thoughts. It’s a more common name than Harrington. And besides, most neopets don’t name their petpets actual names. You know that.
The only sort of reply Zarden got was a huffy noise from his shoulder. The faerie glanced at the petpet, frowned, and scrawled something on a clipboard she was carrying.
“We don’t allow untrained petpets within the walls, kid. You know that,” she said after a moment, accusingly, and Zarden grimaced, feeling his petpet's anger towards the accusation.
“He’s trained,” Zarden assured a somewhat unbelieving faerie. “We named him when he was just given to us,” he tried to explain. The faerie rolled her eyes, giving up, before pressing a red button on the side of the wall. The gates leading to faerie city swung open, and Zarden thanked her quickly before entering, grin returning. He punched Harrington lightly, cheerful.
“See, buddy?” he said quietly, rolling his eyes. “Piece of cake, like I said. Now you tell me where it is, eh?” he said. Harrington, meanwhile, made another huffy sort of noise.
Fine, the voice thought. If a Zomutt could have grimaced, he would have. Take a left, towards the queen Fyora’s castle. Once you get to her gates, take a right. The third alleyway on the left is it. He nodded towards his general suggested direction. Zarden set off, grinning cheerfully, scrambling around corners and various places, and occasionally accidentally running into a high-class stranger and quickly apologizing.
After a while, he approached the very place Harrington had spoken of, looking around for a moment before entering the alleyway nervously. Suddenly his former excitement had been eaten away. Replacing it were jelly limbs and a slowly growing sense of anxiousness.
Stop, Harrington thought suddenly, hopping from his shoulder and circling an area behind a bright pink trash can. This is it, Zarden. Excited? he thought, smiling awkwardly at the Kougra, who was staring in disbelief at the small, shadowy corner of the alleyway.
“This is it?” he asked in disbelief. “But it’s just a little corner! I thought that it’d be... you know, bigger or mystical looking or something.” He did not bother to keep his voice low. Nobody else was around, anyways, so there was no point to keep quiet. Harrington winced and looked around nonetheless, barking, annoyed, at Zarden.
Quiet! he thought irritably. Yes, this is it. If it looked like you seem to think it would have, everyone would know about it by now, wouldn’t they? He raised an eyebrow at a suddenly abashed Zarden. I thought so, he thought smugly, sniffing deeply before he placed a paw on a certain stone. As he did so, Zarden’s surroundings seemed to blur, twisting from their former bright pinks and purples into a mix of the colors before vanishing entirely and being replaced by darker blues and greens. Zarden had gone from sitting in the middle of a Faerieland alleyway to being smack-dab in the center of the Haunted Woods, though it looked like any other part of the forest, wailing trees included. Harrington was still on the ground, looking smug, paw now placed over a small and unexceptional twig that was lying on the ground.
“Whoa! It worked!” Zarden exclaimed, grin reappearing as he twisted around himself to look around, stumbling on his own four feet, looking very silly indeed. Harrington’s voice in his mind was self-satisfied and cheerful.
Of course it worked- I told you it would, didn’t I? he asked, giving the equivalent of a chuckle in Zarden’s mind. Places like these are in the center of each land. If it’s a rock, twig, stone, or even piece of trash, it doesn’t matter. Press on it with the intention of teleporting, and you will, though the place you teleport to is quite random. Zarden was quite flabbergasted, still grinning and twisting his head this way and that. A trip that would have usually taken three weeks or so had just taken three seconds. This was amazing, and he told Harrington that it was so. Smiling that awkward, Zomutt smile again, Harrington continued on, a bit more hurriedly now, as if he was afraid that Zarden would suddenly dart off and disappear before he was finished. And in truth, at this point, it was quite possible.
Now, Zarden, he thought, nervousness barely managing to tinge his thoughts, I’ve shown others this before, you know, and many of them reacted well. They travel through the worlds now, like you wanted to do when I first met you. But you can’t use this too often. You should always wait at least three days before teleporting again... Before you ask, it’s because sometimes things can go wrong if you mess with it too much. Got all that, Zarden? the voice asked, expectant and as worried as a mom sending her neopet off to school for the first time.
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll be sure to wait,” Zarden said, still excited, though facing Harrington again, which seemed to put him slightly at ease. “This is so cool, though, Harrington! I’m so glad I found you!” he exclaimed, picking up the petpet and hugging him tightly in a sudden burst. Harrington himself looked startled, before snorting quietly and squirming around in Zarden’s grip for a moment before he let him go. Harrington was glad, too, though he’d never admit it- Zarden had such potential. When he met him a near week ago, he had simply been a young Kougra in Faerieland, hoping to one day see the world and claim treasure and riches for himself. And now... Well, Harrington thought with a sense of pride, Well, now, he’s become one of the elite teleporters, a very prestigious title indeed. I just hope...
He shook the last thought off, wincing as he did so. Zarden was different, he told himself. The boy had real potential to be great.
They left, at that. Harrington had other neopets to teach about the wonders of teleporting, and Zarden, well, Zarden had places to explore and things to do. Now that he could get around so much quicker...
It had been about three weeks or so since the pair had departed. Zarden had, as he had hoped, found a few treasures, though not much in today’s standards, but certainly a lot for a simple Kougra. As time had passed, he had started to use the teleporters more and more often, until he used them almost every other day. Nothing had happened yet, and Zarden had assumed that Harrington was simply being too cautious. He was starting to assume a lot of other things, too, because along with his newfound power came a newfound sense of pride... A sense of pride that wasn’t always good. Zarden had started to believe that most neopets were cheap, were cowards for staying in their huts or living simple lives when there was so much more out there. He had started to think that maybe, just maybe, he was better than all of the rest because he was brave enough to move and explore...
So today had passed like all of the others. Explore, learn some possible treasure locations, and move on, as simple as that. That was when it happened.
Zarden had been, up to now, resting in the Lost Desert. At the moment, he was standing behind a fruit stand, leaning over a small mound of sand, on paw pressed on it gently, a smirk growing on his lips as the world around him began to blur.
It was longer than the last time, he noted, glancing up. Usually teleportation took a few seconds... But now, it was taking longer. Much longer... It had already been a few minutes, and the world was still blurring, still twisting around him, and he wondered if he was traveling farther- Perhaps to Kreludor?
No... The world was still twisting. Even after ten minutes it was still twisting around him. He had used it yesterday- Could this have been what Harrington had talked about? What happened if he used it too much? Oh, no, oh, no, oh no...
The world stopped. Finally. Zarden relaxed, grinning to himself- All Harrington was warning about was a longer time to move, after all. He had been pulling his le-
His self-satisfied grin vanished abruptly. Because he wasn’t in the Haunted Woods, or the Lost Desert, or anywhere else for the matter. Surrounding him were rocks. He was in a cavern. And he knew, with a sickening feeling in his gut, exactly where he was.
He was in the center of Neopia, the planet. And as far as he could tell, there was no way out.
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