The Secret of Geraptiku: Part Nine
"What?" Cydon demanded. "That is so not fair."
Milk looked at Vahara. "I've heard that exact same thing. With two golden keys and a group of people, half of them can leave, but the other half has to stay and keep the golden key until someone else comes and opens the door from the outside."
"But wait," I said, "Doesn't that mean whoever left can just turn around and open the door?"
"No." Milk shook his head. "It has to be someone else."
"So we could ask someone to open the door?"
"Yes, but it would be hard to find someone willing around here."
I sighed. "But we opened the door coming here."
"Yes," Vahara explained. "Other than the dark faerie and her chosen few, every Neopian can only ever open that door once in their lifetime." She sighed bitterly. "She has taken great measures that I do not escape."
"Indeed," Cydon muttered.
"So who's going to go?" Vahara asked, getting off the subject. "Akeelyla must go, of course; she has an outside family that's missing her."
"Actually, there's just Xaea, and I don't even know where she is." Mentioning my owner sent a throb of pain in my heart. What if I never saw her again? "Do you think I could bring Luna? If only half can go, and there's five of us..."
"Maybe," Milk shrugged. "Who else should go with you and Luna?"
"I think that you should, Milk," Cydon said slowly. "I'll be fine here with Vahara. We're just prisoners. You're the dark faerie's servant."
"So shouldn't that mean that you should go?" Milk asked, frowning. He didn't seem reluctant to leave; he looked like he just wanted to know what was going through Cydon's head.
"Maybe," Cydon muttered. "But I think you should go, all the same. You won't be able to keep the charade of being loyal to the dark faerie much longer."
"Yeah, and she already knows you're not her servant anymore," I said. "So Milk, Luna, and I will go?"
"Yes." Vahara smiled to reassure me. "Don't worry, we'll be fine." I smiled back weakly.
"So which key is the one for the door?" I asked.
"Well," Milk said, studying the keys that were still wound in his ribbon-like tail, then looking at both the gold keys in the box. He picked one up. "I think it's this one. Yes, I am certain this one's it." We walked over to the door, and Milk pushed the key in the lock, and turned it. The door creaked open, and all I could see was darkness.
"Well, let's go," I said nervously. Luna clung to my back tighter. Milk shut the door after we walked out. We both walked forward, at least, I'm pretty sure it was forward and in a straight line. Whatever had scratched us when we first walked that way didn't bother us this time.
"Ow!" Milk complained. "I hit my nose again."
"Good? This isn't good; my nose is going to get broken if I hit it another time. That's... three times today that's happened. "
"No, not that," I said, rolling my eyes in the dark. "I mean, we found the wall. We're probably going to find the door soon now." I felt around in the dark. All I could feel was stone. I walked to my left, and I assumed Milk walked to his right.
"I found it!" Milk called. I ran to his voice. "Okay, here's the doorknob, so all I have to do is..." His voice trailed off. A beam of light lit up the far side of the room from the open doorway. We were in the musty, dank, unused room.
"How will we get down?" I wondered. "Cydon carried us up, but it's a long fall..." Milk unlatched the trap door and looked down. He winced.
"I think... that we just might be able to jump without getting seriously hurt," he said hesitantly. "But if it isn't..."
"I'll help you."
Milk looked at me. I hadn't talked. I glanced around the room. Behind Milk, a ghost Cybunny smiled at me. "You helped break the mind control the dark faerie had on me; now I'll help you go down there."
"Erm... okay," I agreed. The ghost Cybunny grabbed Milk's and my paws and floated down through the black cavern. I guess not all ghosts are insubstantial all the time. His paw didn't feel like fur and skin, but more feathery, and I could barely feel it.
"Now, you must listen to me now," the ghost Cybunny said intently after we reached the ground. His paws made no noise as they brushed the cold stone. "Not everybody you appear to trust is showing their true intentions."
"Wait! What do you mean?" Milk asked. The ghost Cybunny shook his head.
"I'm sorry, but I can't tell you anymore." The ghost Cybunny looked at us pityingly. "Truly sorry. Goodbye and good luck." He soared upwards and flew through the wall, like before. I glanced around the black room, that had light shining from nowhere, and yet everywhere at once. I saw the door that we had walked out of.
"So, I'm guessing we'll have to pass through the Peophins' tank to get through?"
Milk sighed. "Unfortunately. Their feelings won't be any warmer towards us."
"How will we get through the door without all the water spilling on us?" I frowned.
"Cydon did it. Maybe the dark faerie's magic is holding the water back." Milk shrugged and I slowly opened the door. No water poured out. What looked like glass was holding it back, I reached out to touch it, but my paw went right through. "The dark faerie probably blackmailed a water faerie to get her to put this on here."
"Oh, so that's why..."
"When the white Peophin threw us out, no water fell out or anything."
"Yeah, I wasn't really paying attention..." Milk muttered. He stared off into space for a few moments, then he snapped out of it. "She probably forced a water faerie to cast a spell over here..."
"That's what I just said." I couldn't see much into the water, but I could see colors moving around and others standing still. I took a deep breath, forgetting for a moment I would be able to breathe, and Milk, Luna, and I walked right through what looked like solid glass.
"There they are! Get them!" a female voice screamed. Instantly, we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of Peophins, hurriedly tying ropes around us.
"Hey!" Milk shouted. "What are you doing!?"
The white Peophin swam forward furiously. "You stole our keys! Filthy traitor! We made a deal!"
"Yeah, and we beat the magma Cybunny! He's gone!" I replied angrily.
"No, he isn't!" she hissed. "He's right there! Look!" I rolled my eyes and twisted my head around and looked through the open door. I gasped.
"Wh-what?" I could see the silhouette of a huge flaming beast pacing back and forth. "But... we beat him. He turned into a ghost... and... and..."
"Lies!" the royal Peophin hissed. He swam up closer to us, right beside the white Peophin. "You can see with your own eyes that the Cybunny is right there."
"No!" Milk said fiercely. "This is a trick! The glass... The glass! That's it! The dark faerie put this glass stuff keeping the water back, and put an illusion into the glass so that you won't let us go!"
The royal Peophin shook his head. "Liar. Both of you are just soiled, foul liars."
My nose itched. Being tied up made some things so inconvenient, I couldn't scratch my nose because my paws were tied behind my back, both my ankles were tied together, and there was a rope around my waist keeping my fluffy tail pinned. Milk and Luna were tied up similarly. As I looked around the water tank, I was once again dazzled by the array of colors, they were so beautiful.
"Akeelyla?" the white Peophin snapped. "Hello?"
"Oh, sorry," I said sheepishly, shaking my head slightly to get me to concentrate. "I was just..."
"We want the keys back," the white Peophin insisted. "Then we might consider, just maybe, letting you go unscathed."
"No," Milk said angrily, his eyes glittering. "We had a deal, and we deserve to borrow these keys. Just because you Peophins are too stubborn and dimwitted to go out of your water to see that that picture isn't real, doesn't mean that we aren't telling the truth."
I held my breath. The white Peophin looked so livid...
Unexpectedly, I could hear... laughing? A small faerie Peophin that looked a lot like Cydon was sniggering playfully.
"What are you giggling about?" I snapped.
The white Peophin turned around and rolled her eyes. "Tillie, this is not a laughing matter." The faerie Peophin just giggled harder.
A desert Peophin who looked about the same age slapped Tillie. "Your older brother is gone, and these Neopets are the reason." Tillie struggled to keep a straight face and succeeded, but I could still see the merriment in his eyes.
"So you're Cydon's younger brother?" I asked him.
"Okay, look kid, it's not our fault, Cydon is going to come back, just not right now." Tillie nodded again. I frowned; why was he nodding as if he understood what was going on?
"Give us our keys back," the white Peophin ordered.
Milk's tail tightened around the bronze, silver, and gold keys. "No. Look outside, and actually go, and you'll see that that isn't real."
The white Peophin narrowed her eyes. "Not being surrounded by water... you don't know what you're asking."
"Cydon could do it," I said. "So you all can too." The white Peophin was shaking her head even before I finished speaking.
"Cydon is different. He can breathe the air you find so easy to. The dark faerie blessed him."
"Wait, what?" I said, confused. "Dark faeries can't do that; only water faeries can."
"Is that what's bothering you?" Milk snapped. "That only water faeries can do that? The fact that for some reason she did that to Cydon, our friend, that faerie Peophin that we know, doesn't bother you?"
"She had a potion..." the white Peophin muttered.
"The magma Cybunny isn't really there, please, just look," I begged, getting back to our conversation. "P-please...? If anything bad happens, then I'll let you pin all the blame on me, a-and w-we'll give you the keys back." I stared with wide eyes and bit my lip, hoping they would feel sorry for me and stick their head out the door.
An electric Peophin frowned. "Are you sure that we can't breathe the air?" he asked the royal Peophin. "Positively certain? Couldn't I just hold my breath while doing it?"
The white Peophin shrugged callously. "But be my guest if you want to experiment."
The electric Peophin glanced at me once before taking a deep breath of water and put just enough of his head outside to be able to see. He was still for a few moments, then he reeled back and stared at me openmouthed. His mouth moved, but he didn't talk. He glanced at the royal Peophin, and he stared back in worry.
"Are these Neopets telling the truth?" the royal Peophin asked.
The electric Peophin glanced at me with pain in his eyes, and nodded. There was something about him that reminded me strangely of Cydon. Both seemed to be thinking of something else than what was going on.
"What?" I whined. "There is no Cybunny out there. You liar," I added for good measure.
That comment seemed to sting the electric Peophin. He looked like he was about to cry. He averted his head from me and swam away from everyone. "H-he... he is lying, isn't he?" I gasped. "Why is he lying?" I asked to nobody in particular.
The white Peophin glared at me. "Toomin just is very shy and gentle. He didn't like causing harm to you."
"Harm?" Milk asked.
"Yes," the white Peophin said with a smirk. "Harm."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the silhouette of someone or something strolling towards the doorway. I turned to get a better look. The Peophins and Milk saw me staring and looked to see what held my gaze. I could get a better angle of whatever was walking towards us, and with a startle, I realized I knew who was walking towards us.
I swear, I could feel my heart stop for a few beats, as I recognized the figure's grey hair and ratty dress through the distortion of the glass doorway.
Vahara? What in Neopia was going on? Why was she walking to the Peophin fish tank? Where was Cydon? What was it that she was holding? And most importantly, how did she get out when she had clearly stated there was no possible way?
To be continued...